Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 11/8/14
Back to Vegas The Portland Trail Blazers are set to enter the Las Vegas Summer League, and while fans can be excited that the NBA has returned, there are a few questions we’ll have in mind as the competition begins. The first question, which we won’t include below, is: Can the Blazers win the Las Vegas Summer League championship? We’ll skip over the answer for now, as the sad truth is that most fans will completely forget who won by the time the regular season tips off. But while that may be a query worth skipping, there are a handful of storylines that we can’t ignore as summer play begins. How Much Have the Second-Year Players Improved? Meyers Leonard has worked on his offensive game during the offseason. (Photo: Trailblazers.com) The Trail Blazers had hands-down the worst bench in the NBA during the 2012-13 season, and a number of the reserves responsible will be playing in Las Vegas. Will Barton, Victor Claver and Joel Freeland will be on the roster, and it will be interesting to see if they’ve refined their often-frenzied games at this stage. Damian Lillard will also be on the roster, but we’ll hit on that a bit later. While there are a number of names to look out for, the big one is Meyers Leonard. News out of the team’s camp is that he’s worked on both his low-post and long-range shot, and the question now becomes how much has he improved? As much as everybody wants to see a polished offensive game, the bigger question mark is defense. If he’s worked on his rim protection over the summer, things will go his way during preseason competition. What will Damian Lillard’s Role Be? It’s not very often that a summer league squad features a top-two player from a team’s finalized roster. So is the case, though, for Portland, as Lillard will be on display for the crowd in Vegas. While Lillard will certainly be fun to watch, don’t expect him to put on the same kind of show he did last season. He’s no longer trying to prove himself, and chances are, he’s been put on the roster to see what he can do playing alongside CJ McCollum. The two point guards talked extensively during the offseason about playing with each other, and both expressed positive sentiments both before and after the draft. Now is the time for the two to prove they can coexist, and if they can, the question becomes: Who plays the point? Can CJ McCollum Run an Offense? We all know McCollum can score. He put up 23.9 points during his final year at Lehigh University, and he shot 51.6 percent from long range in the process. “One of the biggest things is I want to try to be is consistent.” – @CJMcCollum on his No. 1 goal heading into Summer League #RipCity — Trail Blazers (@pdxtrailblazers) July 9, 2013 The question, as it was with Lillard a year ago, is whether or not he can run an offense as an NBA point guard. During summer league, we won’t see him against top-caliber competition, but we will see him act as a floor general alongside Lillard. The two will likely share time at the 1-spot, but don’t be surprised if the second-year player spends more time off the ball in order to test McCollum’s ability to facilitate early in his career. Can Allen Crabbe and Thomas Robinson Really Contribute? One of the major questions moving forward is whether or not Thomas Robinson is a bust or a project waiting to burst on to the scene. We won’t have that answer leaving Las Vegas, but we will have a good idea of what he’s capable of when given a chance to play. Thomas Robinson puts poor Joel Freeland on a poster. (Photo: Trailblazers.com) After being drafted by the Sacramento Kings—one of the worst-managed organizations in the league—the big man fell into a pit of lost minutes. He was playing behind bigs who had seemingly earned minutes ahead of him, and then he was traded to the Houston Rockets where he was nothing but a bargaining chip toward acquiring Dwight Howard. Now in Portland, Robinson has a chance to prove his worth. If he’s as hungry to succeed as he says he is, Las Vegas is the first stop on a path toward a solid career. Allen Crabbe, on the other hand, is being given his first chance to succeed. He was passed over by a number of teams in the draft, and it was Neil Olshey who saw a chance for him to flourish on Portland’s roster. The question, of course, is whether or not he’s ready to contribute. Like Will Barton before him, he was a versatile scorer at the collegiate level. Now is the time for him to put that shot to use, and in summer league, he’ll have a chance to prove to so many teams that he was a valuable pick in 2013. Who Will Make the Final Cut? This is the ultimate question when it comes to any summer league roster, but the truth is that it shouldn’t be a tough one for Portland to answer. The team’s official Las Vegas roster has two types of players: ones you’ve heard of, and ones you haven’t. If you’ve never heard of a player on the team’s roster, he probably won’t make the cut. Sorry, Olek Czyz; we’re talking about you. But not just Czyz. There are a number of players on this year’s team that will be overshadowed by the returning players from 2012-13. The Blazers are finally starting to figure out what their long-term picture looks like, and those youngsters from the year before—and this year’s draft—are all likely to be a part of the organization moving forward. There shouldn’t be many surprises once the season tips off, which is a good thing for fans craving consistency in Rip City. CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Kentucky seeks one kind of history, Coach K makes another

Matt Stafford's fiancee rips newspaper over article

Craig Sager's leukemia has returned

Frozen Four: Providence earns first bid since 1985

Report: Discussions to bring NFL team to L.A. are progressing

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Chris Mullin expected to take St. John's job

Michigan State beats Louisville, punches Final Four ticket

Ex-NHL player viciously attacks opponent before game

Rick Barnes a possibility for Tennessee coaching job?

Report: NFL looking into Bill Belichick's camera ideas

Saints CB Brian Dixon arrested in Miami

WrestleMania 31 results: Rollins cashes in, Rousey appears

Five soon-to-be NBA free agents with a lot on the line

WATCH: Russell Wilson hits home run during Rangers BP

Hooked 'em: Why Texas had to fire Rick Barnes

Adam Morrison trolled fan who made JJ Redick comment

Jim Harbaugh finished fourth in student government election

WATCH: Notre Dame gets warm reception upon return home

WATCH: Kris Letang hospitalized after hit

Aaron Rodgers, sportswriter get into it over on-court access

Sam Dekker's hot shooting sends Wisconsin to Final Four

Jim McElwain complains about Florida roster

Mark Few: I put Coach K up there with John Wooden

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Full WrestleMania 31 recap and results

Why Texas had to fire Rick Barnes

Craig Sager's leukemia has returned

Report: Chris Mullin to take St. John's job

Report: NFL looking into more cameras

CC Sabathia goes off about spring stats

John Fox: Cutler will have to earn job

Texas eyeing Shaka Smart, Gregg Marshall?

WATCH: Brady jumps off cliff in Costa Rica

WATCH: 2 Chainz beats Nique in HORSE

NFL owners chose cost over game integrity

Be careful how loudly you cheer on Mo'ne Davis' olive branch

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.