• Last offseason the Blazers lost four of their five starters and were penciled in by most experts as a lottery team in the West—boy were they wrong. They were able to finish the season with the fifth seed and had an impressive 44-38 record under the incredible coaching of Terry Stotts, proving you can win with the right personnel. Hoop Ball’s Post-Mortem series takes a look at what happened in Rip City.

    OVERVIEW

    For the third straight season the Blazers were able to make the playoffs, this year being the most surprising considering the organization just started the rebuilding process around their franchise superstar Damian Lillard. With Lillard as the definitive leader after losing LaMarcus Aldridge to the Spurs, the team proved that they could still hang in the West with great leadership and culture.

    Last offseason GM Neil Olshey decided it was time to develop his young talent and start rebuilding the Blazers. They started off by giving Lillard a 5-year extension and signing good role players that did their part for the team, coming to terms with players such as Al-Farouq Aminu, Ed Davis and Gerald Henderson. Although none of the signings blew anyone out of the water statistically, they were all able to contribute in their own way and helped to lead this team back to the playoffs.

    With the Blazers losing four of their five starters, this opened up room for upcoming talent including the immergence of Lillard’s new running mate, C.J McCollum. 3.J shined under the spotlight and took advantage of every opportunity he received. With his nasty handles, ability to spread the floor and score, he was able to win the NBA Most Improved Player Award by a landslide.

    Although the Blazers were winning games, it was clear that they go as far as their backcourt takes them. As a result, they look to gather more talent this summer in free agency to help out the dynamic duo. With names like Evan Turner and Dwight Howard lurking around, the Blazers can be a really interesting team to watch if they were to land a big name free agent. Until then, Portland looks to surprise and prove doubters wrong once again.

    Coaching

    Over his four year tenure as the head coach of the Blazers, Terry Stotts has earned the respect of his players, the league and the fans. This year he made it clear that he is one of the league’s primer coaches by leading a team in the rebuilding process to the playoffs—in the Western Conference.

    What makes Stotts an outstanding coach is his ability to look at his players and design systems that put players in a position to succeed. The level of trust he has in his players allows him to go deep down his bench and have confidence the next guy up will be ready. The most important thing was, he held his team accountable and had the same high standards for them as any other year.

    Even with the change of players, Stotts made no excuses, figuring out a way to lead his team back to the playoffs. He finished a close second in the NBA’s Coach of the Year voting to Steve Kerr and his 73-9 Warriors, and earned the contract extension the Blazers gave him. The team is in good hands.

    The Players

    Damian Lillard

    ADP: 9/14 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 16/18 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 16/20 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 75

    In 2015-16 it was made clear that Lillard was the definitive leader of the Blazers and that this was his team. With four new starters on the floor, he found himself surrounded by new and younger players. Unlike in 2014-15 where there were veterans and proven talent on the team, it was more reliant on Lillard to make sure he and his teammates embraces one another and accepts a more team-centric game plan.

    Although it was a more team-centric focus, Lillard was still the man and lead his team in points per game (25.1), assists per game (6.8) and 3-pointers made (229). With the offence running through him, he also averaged 3.2 turnovers per game, still improving from last season. As for his defensive stats, they were not as stellar as his offensive stats only averaging 0.9 steals and 0.4 blocks per game. His play has lead him to be a top player and fantasy option.

    Recently Lillard has said that there were points towards the end of the season where his foot hurt so much from plantar fasciitis that he could only play during the game. This explains why for the first time in his career he did not play the full 82 games. With this summer to recover, his health will not be an issue for next season.

    The 25-year-old has improved his numbers every year in the league, and with him being the future of the Blazers, next year should be no different. His ability to knock down the three and get to the free-throw line really helps his value. With Lillard taking more shots, a dip in field goal percentage should be nothing to worry about. He should be off the board in most leagues by the first-round if not early second.

    C.J McCollum

    ADP: 80/103 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 26/28 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 31/39 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 80

    With Wesley Matthews leaving for the Dallas Mavericks, it was time for McCollum to step up and seize the Blazers’ starting shooting guard spot. Going into the season many were high on the potential and fantasy value that McCollum could have. He did not disappoint those who believed in him as he became a must start player by the end of the season.

    McCollum was more than just a 3-point specialist in fantasy. He was able to average 20.8 points, 4.3 assists, 3.2 boards, 1.2 steals and 2.5 3-pointers per game. These are solid overall numbers that had him returning top-50 value in standard leagues. In his breakout season you couldn’t ask for anything more. The man was a stud.

    Looking ahead, McCollum will continue to be the second option next to Lillard unless something big happens in free agency. Until then, there is little reason to assume he can’t repeat the same performance as this year. Expect the NBA’s Most Improved Player to put up even better numbers next season.

    Al-Farouq Aminu

    ADP: 118/114 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 77/77 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 110/109 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 82

    Aminu went from being a role player in Dallas, to being the starting small forward on the Blazers replacing Nicolas Batum. He was able to play a lot more minutes this season, which helped his fantasy value. Although his fantasy value was not amazing, he was pretty consistent in terms of hovering around 100 on the season in standard leagues.

    Throughout the season it was clear that his usage rate wasn’t going to be quite as attractive as it was in the preseason. He came out of the season only averaging 10.2 points per game and 6.1 rebounds per game as a starter. These numbers are clearly not Batum—like numbers offensively, but he was also lack-luster on defense only averaging 0.9 steals and 0.6 blocks. With such low money counter stats, it made sense that Aminu was hovering around 100 the whole season.

    Although we expected him to be a late round guy, it was hard not to hope he would put up bigger numbers. His ability to knock down 1.5 3-pointers a game would look awfully nicer if he were able to put up better numbers.

    Ed Davis

    ADP: 110/119 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 123/101 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 166/144 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 81

    For the most part of the season Davis came off the bench and provided solid numbers in a back-up role. With injuries to the Blazers frontcourt, Davis saw more run later in the second half of the season. He was able to average a respectable 6.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game. Davis will always be a capable shot blocker and rebounder; he just needs the minutes to be a fantasy option. He should be no more than a late round flier.

    Mason Plumlee

    ADP: 119/136 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 75/88 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 112/132 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 82

    Plumlee had some good opportunities but could not take any big step forward in terms of his fantasy value for this season. Even as a starter he only managed to be a low-end big man for majority of the season. He averaged 9.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1 block per game, but he is a big athletic man capable of doing more. He’ll need to take another step forward in order to be considered anything more than a low-end big in most fantasy leagues.

    Allen Crabbe

    ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 128/108 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 167/142 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 81

    Crabbe played a key role off the bench for the Blazers in 2015-16, taking large strides this season. He was able to average 10.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.4 treys in only 26 minutes per game. If he decided to stay in Portland, you can be assured that his role will be larger. But for now, just keep him on your radar.

    Meyers Leonard

    ADP: 119/103 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 213/217 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 205/209 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 61

    One word to describe Leonard’s season: disappointing. After having such high expectations for him both in terms of fantasy and reality, his season was filled with disappointment. From injuries to seemingly not fitting in, he was only able to average 8.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.4 3-pointers made per game. The upside is there, but he would need one heck of a bounce back season for us to trust him again.

    Maurice Harkless

    ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 208/206 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 259/259 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 78

    Harkless showed flashes during the 2015-16 season, but remains inconsistent. In 21.6 minutes per game he averaged 6.4 points, 3.6 boards, 0.9 assists, 0.4 blocks, 0.6 steals and 0.5 3-pointers. At 23-years-old he has a long way to go to offer any real upside to owners next year.

    Gerald Henderson

    ADP: 119/149 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 223/224 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 258/269 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 72

    Henderson is nothing more than a veteran presence on the bench that can come off and give the Blazers a little spark. He averaged 8.7 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1 assist in 19.9 minutes per game. He won’t have fantasy value being behind such a deep backcourt.

    Doctor’s Orders

    After shocking the Western Conference and landing the fifth seed, this offseason may determine whether or not the Blazers can stay in the playoff picture. They have an excellent coach in Stotts and a solid backcourt to lead the way, but every other position can be upgraded. The Blazers can be an interesting team if they can land the right free agent. No matter what happens, look for Dame D.O.L.L.A to be dropping more than just bars this upcoming season. Never doubt.

Fantasy News

  • Emmanuel Mudiay
    PG, Utah Jazz

    The Jazz have officially announced the signing of Emmanuel Mudiay, Jeff Green and Ed Davis.

    All three project to come off the bench this season with Green and Davis part of the frontcourt second string while it is unclear if Mudiay or Dante Exum will assume the backup point guard duties. Davis is coming off a career-high 8.6 rebounds per game in only 17.9 minutes last season while Mudiay enjoyed his best year as a pro with the Knicks but all three players can be left undrafted in standard leagues for the time being.

    Source: NBA.com

  • CJ McCollum
    SG, Trail Blazers

    C.J. McCollum has withdrawn his name from the Team USA training camp and 2019 FIBA World Cup.

    Following the trend, McCollumn is the fourth player to withdraw his name this week in order to focus on the upcoming season. The original 20 invites are now down to 16 with the final 12-man roster expected to be announced on August 17.

    Source: Chris Haynes on Twitter

  • Frank Mason
    PG, Milwaukee Bucks

    The Bucks have agreed on a two-way contract with Frank Mason III.

    Mason did not get much opportunity with the Kings last year and sat out all of Summer League with a sore hip. He projects to spend most of his time in the G-League and called up only if Eric Bledsoe or George Hill need to miss time. The Bucks recently signed Cameron Reynolds to a two-way deal and still have Bonzie Colson on one from last season so they are one over the limit. They still have an empty roster even after signing Kyle Korver so maybe one of their two-ways gets a standard deal instead. Otherwise, one of them will need to be waived.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Kyle Korver
    SF, Milwaukee Bucks

    Kyle Korver has agreed to a one-year deal with the Bucks per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN

    This is not the worst landing spot for Korver but he will strictly be a backup and entering his 17th season, he should not be relevant in standard leagues. He was able to knock down 2.1 triples per game in only 20.1 minutes last season so he may have value as a specialist in super-deep leagues however.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Chris Paul
    PG, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Chris Paul has reportedly settled on the idea of starting the season for the Thunder.

    Although Oklahoma City and Miami did not have formal discussions regarding a Chris Paul trade according to Brian Windhorst, the Thunder were willing to discuss giving back the Heat some picks but the Heat would have also wanted Paul to decline his $44 million player option in 2021-2022, which is not going to happen. The Heat want to remain flexible in the next big free agent class of 2021 and adding Paul on his current deal would take that away. Paul's usage rate will likely increase on the Thunder but keep in mind that he has missed at least 21 games in each of the three seasons before drafting him as the 9-time All-Star enters his 15th season in the league.

    Source: ESPN.com

  • Eric Gordon
    SG, Houston Rockets

    Eric Gordon withdraws from Team USA training camp for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

    Gordon is the third player to withdraw this week after James Harden and Anthony Davis. The original training camp list of 20 is now down to 17 and the official 12-team roster will be announced on August 17.

    Source: Shams Charanis on Twitter

  • Luke Kornet
    PF-C, Chicago Bulls

    The Bulls have officially announced the signings of Luke Kornet and Shaquille Harrison.

    Kornet can provide threes and blocks as a backup big for the Bulls. He is currently behind Lauri Markkanen, Thaddeus Young and Wendell Carter Jr. but may be able to carve out some minutes for deep-league owners. Harrison will be fighting for minutes with the Bulls' plethora of point guards at the moment. If he can find some minutes during the season, he can be a source of steals as a player to stream or for deep leagues.

    Source: Bulls.com

  • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
    SF, Toronto Raptors

    Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Raptors.

    Hollis-Jefferson's deal was originally reported as a minimum contract however it is now a $2.5 million contract which comes out of the Raptors' non-taxpayer mid-level. He will likely play some minutes behind Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. He is capable of defending multiple positions and might be able to provide some deep-league value in rebounds, steals and blocks.

    Source: Jeff Siegel on Twitter

  • Mike Muscala
    PF, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Mike Muscala has signed with the Thunder on a two-year, $4.31 million deal with a player option.

    Muscala could step in with the Thunder to be their stretch four behind Danilo Gallinari or back up Steven Adams. He could potentially earn some minutes especially with Jeremi Grant no longer on the team. He averaged around 20 mpg in his last two seasons with the Lakers and Hawks, providing threes and blocks that were useful to deep-league owners.

    Source: OKC Thunder Wire

  • Russell Westbrook
    PG, Houston Rockets

    Mike D'Antoni "would be disappointed" if Russell Westbrook didn't improve his 3-point percentage this season.

    D'Antoni added, "I think we can do that. I think that just by knowing that that's kind of how we play and him having the green light to (shoot) and not worry about it." Westbrook shot just 29.0 percent from deep last season and has been under 30.0 percent in four of his last five campaigns, so there is definite room for improvement. It's possible that Westbrook will find more catch-and-shoot looks available next to James Harden, and moving away from pull-up threes could help him improve his efficiency, but we won't be able to tell for sure until we see the duo take the court in preseason. Improving his deep shooting would definitely help, but there are serious questions about the rest of Westbrook's stat set. Rebounds and assists may not be as available in a system that isn't specifically tailored to him, and free throws and turnovers still look like problem areas. It's not a bad on-court fit but Westbrook seems unlikely to return to his former top-30 glory.

    Source: Salman Ali on Twitter