Patrick Beverly Likely Done for Season

Lillard (right) and Beverly (left) fight for a loose ball. (Sports Illustrated)

Lillard (right) and Beverly (left) fight for a loose ball. (Sports Illustrated)

It was reported earlier today by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports that Houston Rockets G Patrick Beverly sustained a tear in the meniscus in his knee.

You may be questioning why I am reporting news not related to the Blazers. In fact, the news of Beverly’s injury heavily impacts much of the Western Conference. Beverly, known for his physical defense and mind tricks, is the Rockets’ best perimeter defender, and they have nobody to replace him. Any good guard, like Portland Trail Blazers G Damian Lillard or Golden State Warriors G Stephen Curry, now have the ability to drive through the paint against the Rockets, something that was near impossible earlier. It makes the match-up against Houston easier for every team.

Because Beverly is so important to the Rockets, this news could potentially change the standings and playoff seeds in the last 9 games. Here are the standings as of March 28, 2014 (click on the image to enlarge it):

Western Conference Standings as of 3-28-14

As you can see, the battle between (4) Houston and (3) Los Angeles is very close. There is also a battle for the last four playoff spots among five teams: (5) Portland, (6) Golden State, (7) Memphis, (8) Phoenix, and (9) Dallas. There is a drop-off between seeds 3-4 and 5-9. That is why I think the possibility for Portland and Houston to switch spots, giving Portland home-court advantage, is unlikely. However, it is worth noting that Beverly’s absence, coupled with a potential surge by the Blazers, could lead to a switch (it’s just unlikely).

There are two methods to treat torn meniscus in the knee. The more common and advised method of treatment would sideline Beverly for the final 9 games of the season and the playoffs. The second option, which was used by other NBA players like Ex-Blazer G Brandon Roy and Oklahoma City Thunder G Russell Westbrook, would keep Beverly off the court for 3-4 weeks, allowing him to return and play in the playoffs.

I think Beverly would be ill-advised to try and play in the postseason this year. Not only will it jeopardize his future (as it did with Roy), but it also makes life a lot harder for the Blazers.

What do you think Beverly should do? What do you think will happen in the standings now that Beverly is out? Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time,

~BlazersBySagar

Looking to the Future

NBA.com

NBA.com

The Trail Blazers have been in a slump over the last few weeks (click here for my article on it), and it has showed the major problems that distance the team for being a contender in the NBA. I am going to explain Portland’s major problems and how Blazers GM Neil Olshey can solve the problems this summer.

Next summer, only one current player on contract will become a free agent, and that is G Earl Watson. He was brought in this season as a third-string guard, only to be used in the case of an injury to a different guard. I don’t expect him to return to Portland next season, and while it’s impact isn’t very big, his salary coming off the books helps Portland in signing a new free agent this summer.

Portland’s two major holes on the roster are a big man and a guard, both of which would ideally be defensive-oriented. I’ve taken a look at the free agent pool for this summer (full list here) and have been able to identify players that the Blazers should be targeting, whether through a signing or a sign-and-trade.

The first player I think Portland should try and get is Oklahoma City Thunder G Thabo Sefolosha, who is making $3.9 million this season. Sefolosha is widely considered one of the better defensive guards in the league. When he is open enough, he can hit an open three-point shot, which fits in well with the Trail Blazers offense. Bringing in Sefolosha, either off the bench, or starting him from the start, would provide bench scoring to the Trail Blazer’s dismal bench.

I do not think Sefolosha is worth the $3.9 million he is making this season. However, even if we go cheaper than the $3.9 million per year, Portland will likely be above the salary cap. That is why I propose the idea of doing a sign-and-trade with the Thunder that would land Sefolosha in Portland. In this theoretical deal, Portland would send C Meyers Leonard and G Allen Crabbe to the Thunder, along with cash or draft picks if needed.

Another player Portland could target this summer is Houston Rockets F-C Greg Smith. This season, Smith is making less than $1 million, which I feel is a fair price. If the Blazers were to play him at center, he would be undersized, standing at just 6’10”. However, he can rebound fairly well and takes high percentage shots. Ideally, he would be used to provide a defensive presence down in the paint. While that may not be his strong suit, I think over the course of a season, the Blazer training staff could add a defensive component to his skill set.

I find it highly unlikely that Houston would prefer to engage in a sign-and-trade. Smith was a victim of the Dwight Howard signing last summer, and as of late, he has seen his role diminish. While he is not the perfect fit for the Trail Blazers, I think he could greatly help the team’s second unit.

What do you think are the team’s major weaknesses, and using the link above, who do you think Portland should target this summer? Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time,

~BlazersBySagar

Why the Slump? How do we Fix It?

Bruce Ely/The Oregonian

Bruce Ely/The Oregonian

As is well known among Blazer fans, Portland (43-23) has endured a mini-slump, losing five of their last seven games. The slump, which encompassed a four-game losing streak on a five-game road trip, pushed Portland out of the third seed in the Western Conference, and dropped them in fifth place. There are a few reasons Portland has endured this slump, as well as two important factors that may make the future bright for Blazers’ fans.

As of late, the Blazers have been VERY careless with their ball handling and passing. In Portland’s last five losses, the team averaged a horrendous, appalling 15.8 turnovers. Teams don’t win often when turning the ball over 15+ times in a single game. Turning the ball over not only wastes your possession, but also allows the opponent to score. However, that is not the only reason the team has been in a slump over the last one and a half weeks.

Portland thrives on the 3-point shot, and often times, those shots are open. Open shots on the perimeter are generally caused by two events occurring in-game. The more common of the two options occurs when F LaMarcus Aldridge gets double-teamed in the post, allowing the team to swing the ball on the perimeter for open shots. If this isn’t the case, the open shots are created by dribble-drive penetration by Blazers guards, such as Damian Lillard and Mo Williams. When Portland is getting and hitting the open shots, the team clicks together like a well-oiled machine. However, if the team isn’t getting or hitting the open shots, things can get ugly.

In these last few games, Aldridge has been struggling shooting from the field. This means teams are not required to double-team him every time he gets the ball in the post. Blazers shooters such as Lillard, G Wesley Matthews, and F Nicolas Batum are not getting the open shots they often take and make. As of late, when these players do get a shot off, it misses. In the last five losses, Lillard averaged 21.2 points per game while shooting 41.2% (35-85) from the field (season averages: 21.1 points on 43.2% shooting). In the same time span, Matthews averaged 15.4 points per game while shooting 39.1% (25-64) from the field (season averages: 16.3 points on 44.3% shooting). Batum, who has arguable suffered the most in the time span, averaged a mere 12.4 points per game while shooting 39.3% (22-56) from the field (season averages: 13.0 points on 45.4% shooting). These players need to shoot better from the field in order to make opponents respect the team’s outside shooting.

Luckily for the Blazers, the schedule lightens up to become arguably one of the easiest in the league to close out the season (click here to see the schedule). Of the teams’s final 16 games, 9 will be played in the Moda Center. Portland’s next three games are all at home, and I think the Blazers should win at least two of the three games. The home stand is followed by a five-game road trip, in which I think the team should win at least three games, if not four. The Blazers will make a pit stop home after the trip for a quick game against the Memphis Grizzlies (38-27), which is a very winnable game. This game is followed by a one-game trip to Los Angeles to face the Lakers, which should be a win as well. After the quick trip, Portland plays three straight games against three mediocre western teams, in which Portland should win at least two. The final road game will be played in Salt Lake City against the Utah Jazz (22-44), which is most likely win. The Blazers then finish out the season with two straight games at home against Western Conference playoff teams, both of which will affect the standings. Portland needs to win at least one of those two games, if not both.

I gave the Blazers a 11-5 record in the final 16 games, which would leave Portland with a very respectable 54-28 record, which will probably be good enough for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

What do you think has caused the slump the Blazers have been as of late, and how do you think they can be fixed? How do you see Portland finishing the season? Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time,

~BlazersBySagar

Blazers Suffer Heart-Breaker in Dallas

Aldridge Over Marion (103-98 L on 3-7)

Tonight, the Blazers came out slow and sluggish. They couldn’t score, pass, or play defense, and at the end of the first quarter, they found themselves down 33-10. Dallas would extend that lead to 30 on 3 different occasions. At half time, the Blazers were down 57-38.

Luckily for the Blazers, this was a game of two halves. In the third quarter, LaMarcus Aldridge caught on fire and the Blazers flipped the switch. In that period, the Blazers lead by as many as 4. The final quarter was a roller coaster. Portland lead by as many as 7 in the fourth quarter, and Rip City was rocking! But then, the refs happened.

With 4:24 left in the game, Portland held a RELATIVELY comfortable 98-92 lead. However, two no-calls, a bad charge call against Blazers G Damian Lillard, and offensive rebound given up changed the game. From the time Portland held that six point lead to the sounding of the final horn, the Blazers let Dallas go on an 11-0 run. Dallas took the lead and never looked back.

Wesley Matthews had a spectacular outing, finishing with 26 points. LaMarcus Aldridge also played well for the most part, but he gave up a very important offensive rebound near the end of the game. He finished with 30 points and 17 rebounds. The back court tandem of Damian Lillard and Mo Williams had an atrocious outing. The duo finished with combined stats of 17 points (6-19 from the field) and 6 turnovers.

The Blazers will head over to Houston tonight to take on the Rockets, who dismantled the Indiana Pacers tonight. That game will most likely have a large affect on playoff positioning in the Western Conference. Coming into tonight, the fifth placed Blazers and third placed Rockets were tied (the Los Angeles Clippers hold the fourth seed — they have a worse record than Portland and Houston, but because the Clippers are a division leader, they automatically get a top 4 seed). Sunday’s game could drastically change the playoff match-ups.

If Portland wants to win on Sunday, they have to come out with intensity and a sense of urgency. They can’t come out as slowly as they did today. Unlike Dallas, Houston will kill you and take you out of the game early.

What are your thoughts on the game? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time,

~BlazersBySagar