Blazers grades are in

It’s been a tough season for many Blazers players

By Matt Calkins, Columbian Sports Reporter

Published:

 

It’s not the end of the season, but it might as well be for the Blazers whose playoff hopes are becoming more and more dismal by the day.

Considering that upcoming games will soon be meaningless, we decided now is as good a time as any to hand out grades for the season.

LaMarcus Aldridge

Grade: A-

Aldridge is averaging 21.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game while shooting better than 50 percent from the field. Last year, these numbers would have warranted an A. This year, he falls just short. Considering the 26-year-old is in the prime of his career, we expect him to improve every year. The fact that he held steady is admirable, but not quite good enough for the perfect grade.

Wesley Matthews

Grade: C

Credit the shooting guard for his durability. He has never missed a game in his three-year career and is the only Blazer to have played in every game this season. But based on the precedent he set last year, this season has been a disappointment. Wesley’s 13 points per game is three lower than last year’s total, and his field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage have waned as well. Add to the fact that he has passed approximately six times in his life, and he’s hardly an All-Star in waiting.

Nicolas Batum

Grade: B+

He has shown the most improvement out of any Blazer who has been in Portland the whole season — upping his scoring average (14.0 ppg), 3-point percentage (.389) and blocks (1.0) from last year. However, as the man who was expected to become the No. 2 option after breaking out in late January, Batum has had too many single-digit scoring nights to be viewed as a consistent contributor. Nicest guy on the team, though. Hands down.

Joel Przybilla

Grade: C-

Przybilla received a huge ovation when he checked in for his first game with the Blazers since re-signing with the team. But that buzz had more to do with loyalty than it did Joel’s actual potential.

Nearly two weeks ago, the big man was stuffed by his own rim and clearly doesn’t have the spring in his step he once did. Still — he is averaging 4.9 rebounds in less than 16 minutes per game. Those are much-needed boards for this undersized team.

Raymond Felton

Grade: D+

He’s been bad. Really bad. But not quite as bad as everyone thinks. Has hit shooting been atrocious? Sure, but his 3-point percentage has climbed back into the realm of respectability (.297). Are his number down compared to the rest of his career? Absolutely. But he has been decent since the All-Star break and even good since Nate McMillan was let go. However, given the fact that he has played nowhere near the level of his predecessor, Andre Miller, has committed key turnovers and has been allegedly associated in locker-room controversies, most fans don’t think he can leave this town fast enough.

Jamal Crawford

Grade: C-

Crawford is probably the lone Blazer who can create his own shot, and as a result, the team will often go to him when a set or play gets broken up and the shot clock is down to four or five seconds. This will affect a player’s shooting percentage. At the same time, Crawford tends to take those same tough shots with 15 seconds left on the shot clock, and, in turn, is shooting .381 from the field. Far from efficient, and far from acceptable for someone whose defense is in dire need of improvement.

J.J. Hickson

Grade: A

The man averaged 4.7 points in 35 games with the Kings this year, and is at 13.4 in 10 games with the Blazers. He also scored 29 points in a one-point loss to the Clippers last month with Aldridge out of the lineup. So often, success is about finding the right situation, and as antsy as Blazer fans are to send Felton packing, they are just as eager to keep Hickson in black and red.

Luke Babbitt

Grade: A-

Babbitt has gone from a punchline to a fan favorite in about three weeks — and for good reason. Ever since Kaleb Canales unleashed the second-year player, he has shown that he is not only the team’s best outside shooter, but one of the NBA’s elite.

Heading into today’s game against Houston, Babbitt is shooting .519 from 3-point distance, and if he ends up with enough attempts to qualify, could finish the season with the 3-point title. Still needs to learn to play defense, though.

Nolan Smith

Grade: C-

The expectations weren’t through the roof given how he was the 21st pick, but as someone who played four-years at Duke, Smith was drafted based on production, not potential, and he hasn’t delivered.

In 8.8 minutes per game, the rookie is averaging just 2.7 points and one assist while shooting .346 from the field. Smith is a smart guy, and a hard worker, so he will likely improve. But it needs to happen quickly.

Elliot Williams

Grade: A-

Williams was almost always the last to leave the practice facility before a shoulder injury knocked him out for the season, as the rookie (he didn’t step on the court last year) continually worked with player development coach Dan Dickau to improve his game.

It seemed to pay off. In the two games in which Williams played at least 10 minutes, he scored 10 and 17 points respectively. And in the 6.2 minutes he played per game, he averaged a respectable 3.7 points. Certainly something to build on.

Kurt Thomas

Grade: B-

At point this season, the 39-year-old was the best shooting forward from between 15 and 22 feet. That’s right — better than Kevin Durant or Dirk Nowitzki. But lately, his production has dwindled, as has his playing time. It’s clear that head coach Kaleb Kanales is trying to get some of the younger guys minutes, and when you’re the oldest player in the league, that’s not the most beneficial thing.

Craig Smith

Grade: B

You can’t fault Smith for what he does during his time on the court — 3.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and a .515 FG percentage in 10 minutes a game. But since Hickson came to Portland, “The Rhino” has been pushed out of the rotation.

Last week, Smith went to the Oregon Zoo to meet Zuri — a fellow Rhinoceros, and said “us Rhinos think alike.” Perhaps he was referring to the feeling of being in captivity.

Jonny Flynn

Grade: C-

Flynn has not benefited from new surroundings the way that Hickson has. In Houston, the point guard averaged 3.4 points per game while shooting .293 from the field. In Portland, he is averaging 3.5 points while shooting .353. Whether or not his hip still bothers him is unknown, but he is yet to show flashes of the rookie who averaged more than 13 points with Minnesota.

Hasheem Thabeet

Grade: incomplete

Nicest guy, so it’s hard to bash on him, but Thabeet simply hasn’t gotten any quality minutes with Portland. His career grade would probably be an F considering he is a former No. 2 overall pick who has twice been to the D-League, but in Portland, he simply hasn’t had the chance to be either good or bad.