It has been far from a good start to the season for the Portland Trailblazers. After reaching the second round of the playoffs a year ago, followed by a busy spending offseason, expectations were rising fast.
Now 50 games into the season, things have gone far from the plan.
While they still remain in the playoff picture as of now, the distance between the seventh and eighth seed seem further away, especially because the Oklahoma City Thunder hold it.
The Denver Nuggets sit one game back of Portland for the eighth spot, but after that, four teams currently sit with 19 wins – three away from the Blazers total.
After a rough stretch, Portland has been playing better as of late, starting to maybe see things turn around. Over the last 10 games, the Blazers have won half of them. While that may not be overly impressive, they have improved their win percentage from .425 to .440.
Part of the reason that can be attributed to their recent success has been the alterations to the lineup, injecting Evan Turner and Noah Vonleh. Turner was the team’s big free agent addition, signing him to 4 years $70 million in the offseason.
Turner, the former second overall pick in 2011, has never been known for being a big shooter, is good at a lot of things, but not great at any one of them.
Plugging him into the starting lineup has obviously had an impact on his numbers, seeing a spike in minutes played as well as his base stats.
Obviously, playing the extra six minutes is going to give him an opportunity to score and make more plays, all though he hasn’t really taken complete advantage of it. His points and assists only went up by one, and his rebounds are down.
With C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard in town, the majority of points scored are going to go through their hands. So the points available are limited as it is.
His per-36 minutes played stats, as well as his shooting percentage, will paint another picture on his effectiveness as a starter compared to off the bench.
|Starter||11.8 ppg||5.1 apg|
Handling the ball and feeding it to Lillard and McCollum will obviously help the assists, which he does have a better mark as a starter in per-36 averages. Coming off the bench when likely at least one of Dame and C.J. are not on the court presented the opportunity for more scoring.
A lot could be taken into account with the shooting percentages. Turner has never been a big three-point guy, and as a reserve player, he gets better matchups most of the time than he would as a starter.
Still, if Turner’s numbers aren’t actually saying that he is making a significant impact in the starting lineup, what explains the recent success seen by the Trailblazers? Could it be that it was just the timing of it, and the Blazers were always going to start shooting better?
That may seem a little unfair when just a few nights ago he registered 18 points and nearly won the game for Portland against the Golden State Warriors. He shot 8-of-17 from the field in the near upset. He came back down to earth the following game, shooting 2-of-7 while registering just four points against the Charlotte Hornetts.
Turner has still played far more off the bench than he has a starter, so his numbers can be a little skewed at this point. The more he plays, the better we will get on his true impact.
Even it was just the shakeup involved in changing the lineup, it was a much-needed move for the Blazers, and one that may have kept their season from collapsing.