The Basketball Prospectus, the yearly almanac that profiled every NBA player participating in the upcoming season, quietly died when Kevin Pelton and Bradford Doolittle, authors of the Prospectus, joined ESPN.com full-time covering the NBA.
But while the paper edition of The Basketball Prospectus is gone, the content has undergone a digital metamorphosis and now lives on ESPN Insider (a yearly subscription to Insider is less than the cost of The Basketball Prospectus, so thank Kevin for saving you a bit of money). Pelton’s player profiles for the Trail Blazers came out on Tuesday. Here’s a little taste.
On Damian Lillard …
He set a rookie record for 3-pointers and ranked third in the league behind Stephen Curry and James Harden with 86 unassisted 3-pointers, per Basketball-Reference.com. That ability to pull up off the dribble kept opponents from going under screens and gave Lillard a head-start to the basket. Because of his small stature, Lillard shot just 53.1 percent at the rim, and developing an in-between game or kicking out more than shooting will be key to his future development. Though right-handed, Lillard did prove especially adept at finishing going to his left.
As advanced as Lillard was offensively, his defensive effort was more typical for a rookie. He plays smaller than his size and tends to get hung up on screens, which was the start of Portland’s difficulty defending the pick-and-roll. Teams also had success simply isolating Lillard and beating him off the dribble, illustrating the need for him to improve his footwork in addition to adding strength.
On Wesley Matthews …
A physical defender, Matthews relishes the challenge of matching up with the league’s best players. He’s not quite quick enough to be a lockdown one-on-one defender, but the Blazers can generally feel comfortable with him against almost any opposing shooting guard. Matthews’ rebound rate declined last season at both ends of the floor.
On LaMarcus Aldridge …
Per Basketball-Reference.com, Aldridge took more long 2-pointers (from 16 feet or farther) than any other NBA player. While he hit them at a solid 41.8 percent clip, Aldridge is more effective when he’s in the post and can use his long arms to shoot over smaller defenders. Post-ups also tend to translate into more free-throw attempts, which Aldridge cashes in at better than 80 percent accuracy.
That quibble aside, it’s easy to see why contenders will be lining up for Aldridge if the Blazers decide to trade him before he reaches unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2015. No power forward in the NBA is better at both ends than Aldridge, who is a fine defender. He battles well in the post and can block shots from the weak side, but Aldridge’s defensive strength is matching up with guards after switching the pick-and-roll. He moves well laterally and forces them to try to shoot over his long arms.
And on Dorell Wright …
Wright is a good fit for the Blazers because his game is similar stylistically to starting small forward Nicolas Batum. Like Batum, Wright has some ability to make plays — he averaged a respectable 3.0 assists per 36 minutes last season — but spends most of his time spotting up. Slightly more than 60 percent of Wright’s shot attempts last season came beyond the arc, and he made them at a solid 37.4 percent clip, in line with his career average. Wright is also good at running the floor for transition finishes.
Pelton goes through the entire roster, so if you’re interested in reading the entire post, head over to ESPN.com and consider purchasing Insider.
According to Shams Charania of The Vertical, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard will not play for Team USA at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in order to rest and continue rehabilitating the plantar fasciitis injury that dogged the 6-3 for much of the 2015-16 season. I can confirm this report.
Though Lillard was able to play through the injury after missing seven games in late December, the pain caused by the plantar fasciitis in his left foot never really went away. He received treatment on his foot throughout the season, though the most effective approach to the injury, which causes extreme pain on the bottom of the foot and heel, is rest, which is obviously hard to get when you’re the leader and best player on a team trying to make the postseason. By forgoing the month-long lead up to the Olympics and the Games themselves, Lillard should have the recuperation time he’ll need to go into Portland’s 2016 training camp completely healthy.
Charnania is also reporting that Lillard was hoping for more time to make the decision before being pressed by Team USA for a commitment one way or another. This could very well be true, though if being completely healthy and rested for the start of the 2016-17 NBA season is Lillard’s motivation for declining a Team USA invite, it’s hard to figure how another week or two would change his decision.
Lillard initially declined being a part of the pool that Team USA draws their roster from, though he ultimately relented despite not feeling particularly optimistic about his chances of being named to the Olympic team after being passed over for the FIBA World Cup team in 2014. But between players opting to rest in preparation for the upcoming season and the myriad of concerns regarding the 2016 Games, the number of candidates has dwindled to the point where Lillard would have been a lock to make the Olympic team had he chosen to participate.
But Lillard opting for rest over Rio doesn’t mean you won’t have a Trail Blazer to root for during the Olympics, as Al-Farouq Aminu and the rest of Team Nigeria (a team that also includes former Trail Blazer Ike Diogu and former Oregon Duck Chamberlain Oguchi) have qualified for the 2016 Games after winning AfroBasket 2015 in Tunisia. And CJ McCollum has also been invited to play on the USA Select Team, whose purpose is to help the USA National Team prepare for international events, though players from the Select team have been promoted to the National team, with the most recent example being Mason Plumlee making the 2014 World Cup team.
Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is currently barnstorming through Asia as a part of the adidas “Take On Summer” tour. He’s meeting fans, instructing young players, working on his dance moves and generally having a good time in one of the most basketball-obsessed places in the world.
But even though it’s already Tuesday in Asia, it’s still Monday here in the United States, which means Lillard has a new track to post on his Soundcloud account under his nom de rap “DameDOLLA.” And this week, it’s a freestyle featuring V.I.P., one of Lillard’s regular collaborators, entitled “Shook Ones”…
A few select four bars from Lillard’s latest offering…
Last of a dying breed and they’re taking me for granted
I represent the ones working for it, nothing handed
The world is all backwards. How we lazy and demanding?
We ain’t working towards dreams we’re just working towards mansions
I see my people struggle when they still don’t ask for nothing
We always gonna keep it solid, I know when the times are toughest
I know when they gonna be fine and i know when to give them something
Don’t ever try to finesse me, I know when a sucker bluffing
Good stuff. “Shook Ones” is just the latest of Lillard’s growing number of tracks, which include Soldier In The Game, Full Stomach, Why?, Free Bands, The Villains and last week’s Isley. All of these tracks and more can be found on Lillard’s Soundcloud page.
In between playing a few rounds of golf and enjoying some of Oregon’s finest beverages (I’m assuming), Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts joined Chris Mannix on “The Vertical” podcast to discuss his past as a player and coach and Portland’s unexpected 2015-16 season…
Adrian Wojnarowski, NBA oracle and head of “The Vertical,” leads off the podcast, with Stotts’ segment with Mannix starting just before the 42 minute mark. Whoever put the post together was kind enough to break down the topics in case you don’t have time to listen to the whole thing, and I’ve transcribed a few segments for your reading pleasure…
Stotts on CJ McCollum’s season, which culminated with the third-year guard being named the NBA’s Most Improved Player…
“I knew he was going to have a good year and I knew he would probably be in the conversation for Most Improved. Now, I wouldn’t have said how many points he was going to average or anything else, but I knew that the opportunity was going to be there and he was going to take full advantage of it because he’s extremely skilled, he can put the ball in the basket and. There were some question marks — one was his health — because he had had injuries each of the three previous seasons, we made him our backup point guard, that was something that he hadn’t done at this level. So there were certainly question marks in certain areas, but the fact that he could score and do what he can do well, I don’t think that surprised anybody within our organization.”
Stotts on Damian Lillard using slights from the media, perceived or otherwise, as motivation…
“I will say in this day and age, I think everybody knows what everybody is saying about everybody. If they don’t read it, a friend reads it or a friend retweets it or forwards the tweet. It’s really hard not to know what’s going on out there and people can try and say, ‘No, I don’t pay any attention to that’ but Damian is a very honest person and he’s true to himself. To say that he doesn’t know what is being said, it wouldn’t be truthful. I think a lot of players and a lot of people in general use that as motivation. I find it funny how people think that Damian is alone with that because you have goals and he wants to do well, he wants to prove what he can do. I think it’s more about what he’s capable of rather than what people are saying.”