Terry Stotts is in his second season as the Portland Trail Blazers head coach. In his first season as head coach, the Blazers recorded a disappointing 33 wins. This season however, the team has 24 wins in 30 games. Last season’s disappointing record, however, cannot be pinned on Stotts, as the Blazers had the worst bench that had been seen in the NBA in years. This season Stotts is showing off his full arsenal of knowledge, in an attempt to play the starters less, and get productive minutes from the bench players. Having much more to work with than he ever had before, we are seeing that Terry Stotts lead a Blazers team that some are calling championship contenders.
Terry Stotts has implemented an offense that you may have seen in the past, a championship offense. Portland’s offense this year, is much like the 2011 championship Dallas team (where Stotts was assistant coaching at the time). The offense is focused around a stretch 4, which would of course be LaMarcus Aldridge, who shoots the mid-range jumper and tries to draw a double team. From this plan, two scenarios can occur. Either the opposing team will double team Aldridge, stunting his scoring, or they will continue to guard the excellent three-point shooters on the team, allowing the way for Aldridge to light up the scoreboard. When teams double the stretch 4, he has two options, to get them in foul trouble while taking the risk of losing the ball, or to kick out to the open player, who will then proceed to take the shot, or swing the ball around the perimeter until someone is comfortable taking it. In the Blazers case, this is most of the time, Nicolas Batum’s defender is the one to make the double team on Aldridge. Batum is number 12 in the league in three pointers made, so most of the time teams prefer not to double Aldridge, thus leading him to an astonishing 23PPG. This has thrown Aldridge into the MVP picture, when really, he just has better teammates forcing the opposing defense away from him. The Blazers most-used inbounds play, is actually a lob from Nicolas Batum to Blazer’s guard Wesley Matthews. Nobody really knows the reasoning behind this play, but we can see that it works because, well, it’s just unusual. Guards just aren’t used to trying to deflect a lob pass, especially off of an inbounds play. Another thing that Stotts has done recently, is to add Meyers Leonard into the rotation, which spaces the floor, allowing other players to run isolation plays, and be confident enough to let Leonard shoot a mid-range jumper. Stotts’ offensive system has been a huge success, allowing the Blazers to have one of the most efficient offenses in the league.
Offensive Rating: A+
This offseason, Stotts has implemented an all-new defense system, forcing the other teams off of the three point line and stuffing the paint when they drive. The system hasn’t been completely successful, as the Blazers are allowing 102 points per game, however they are one of the best teams in the association at guarding the three point line. Some nights we can see the system at working, but other times, the Blazers just seem confused when the opposing team drives to the paint. Often times we see that the guards look on in confusion when the opposing team drives, not knowing whether to sag off, or deny the ball to the three point shooters. This is part of the reason that the Suns are so successful against the Blazers. Any player on the floor can shoot the three ball, but Aldridge is used to sagging off and playing help defense on the cutter. Then the Suns proceed to attack the three-point line. So the real weakness is the stretch four. The Blazers are hopelessly confused when the opposing team has a post player that can shoot the three ball. Then there is the issue of Damian Lillard. Lillard’s defense is improving, however it is still below average and he often has to reach in to stop a drive. Lillard isn’t really involved in the defensive system, rather he is an isolation defender, whose sole purpose in the defense is to bother passes. Stotts’ defense hasn’t been hugely successful, the Blazers have one of the lower defensive rating in the league, but it seems to be doing the job.
Defensive Rating: C+
Terry Stotts new system is making the players happy and the team successful, so I would say that it has been a success. But the Blazers seem to be cooling off as of late. The real question is how the starters will hold up later in the season, because even though the Blazers have a bench, they have a TERRIBLE third string. Any injury to a starter could really hurt this team. Another little thing that Stotts does that at least explains a little bit of the unbelievable Blazers chemistry, is the fact that he doesn’t call out other players in front of the team, and instead he talks to them in a one-on-one private session. This keeps each players esteem high, and allows players to accept their roles, because they aren’t criticized for the job that they are doing, Instead players can focus on the things that they are doing wrong without being taunted or criticized by other team members. This is a very good idea on Stotts part, and is most likely the explanation for the Blazers chemistry, even though most of their team is new.
Overall Team Rating: A-
Improvements that need to be made:
- More defensive effort
- Lillard getting involved on the defensive end
- Dorel Wright scoring off of the bench
- A decision on Leonard or Robinson
Things that are going well:
- Offensive efficiency
- Three point field goals
- Inbounds Plays
- Backcourt Rotation
- Starters Scoring
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