With the Blazers going 3-0 heading into Sunday, there wasn’t a whole lot to dislike. At least on the surface. Even traditional baseline statistics, such as point differential, point to an excellent start.
But in guarding pick-and-rolls, which has become the NBA’s go-to action, the Blazers have been one of the league’s worst. Head coach Terry Stotts called it “inconsistent.” They’re tied with the Nets and Celtics for second-to-last in the league in points allowed per possession to ball handlers, trailing only New Orleans according to Synergy Sports Technology. When it comes to guarding the screener in those scenarios, the Blazers have allowed the fourth-highest points per possession.
There are more positives for the Blazers than negatives considering their youth and expectations. But their execution in pick-and-roll defense is dragging down an otherwise successful start.
Al-Farouq Aminu’s play, which has wildly exceeded his production over the course of his career so far, has been nearly as important to Portland’s great start as the play of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
Aminu is the team’s third leading scorer at 13.7 points per game and leads the team in rebounds at 8.7 per game. Aminu is also shooting a career-best 42 percent on 3-pointers going into Sunday while also dishing out more assists than he has before.
Aminu is also third on the team in minutes behind Lillard and McCollum.
Moe Harkless has impressed over the past week as well. Harkless helped close their road win at Utah with 15 points and 10 rebounds. He had 10 points while tying a career-high four assists against Memphis the next night.
By The Numbers
5 — The Blazers are fifth in the league in net-rating, point differential measured per 100 possessions, with a plus-6.8.
4 — The Blazers are fourth in the league in points scored per possession.
The Week Ahead
Monday at Denver Nuggets (6 p.m., CSN): The Blazers get their first look at Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay, the 7th pick from the 2015 draft who played professionally in China after high school.
Wednesday vs. San Antonio Spurs (7:30 p.m., KGW, ESPN): LaMarcus Aldridge makes his one and only return trip to the Northwest this season.
Friday at Memphis Grizzlies (5 p.m., CSN): Marc Gasol has been fighting a neck injury and his player efficiency rating and field goal percentage have cratered to career-worst levels though six games.
Sunday at Charlotte Hornets (2 p.m., CSN): The Blazers face Nicolas Batum for the first time since trading him in June. It will also mark the return of Portland’s Gerald Henderson — whether he’s healthy or not — to the place where he spent his first five pro seasons.