Allen Crabbe is gone, his contract and three-point shot shipped off to Brooklyn by the Trail Blazers. And if you had to choose one player on the Portland roster who has the best chance to fit into that off-the-bench scorer role, who would it be?
My pick would be Pat Connaughton. The third-year pro out of Notre Dame came on at the end of last season and became a part of the team's regular rotation on some nights. He even got court time in the playoffs. At 6-5, 210 he's a physical player who shows promise as an outside shooter and defender. He shot 51.5 percent from three-point range in limited duty last season and is at 40.7 percent for his 73-game career.
What say you, Pat? Are you ready to step into Crabbe's role?
"Obviously that's a coach's decision," he said after Tuesday's morning practice, the first of two workouts for the day. "But I learned a lot from AC. I was close to him and still am, I'm ready to do whatever needs to be done. I think I can step up, help the team win, make shots and do the things he did."
Connaughton is a big jumper and very physical. An athlete. But let him tell you what kind of player he aspires to be.
"I pride myself on being active," he said. "Use my athleticism on the defensive end and on the rebounding side of things and then making jump shots and being able to create a little bit off the dribble. Summer League was a short stint for me this year but I had the ball in my hands a lot and I learned those type of (playmaking) things from CJ and Dame. Obviously they are a little bit different players but you'd like to be a mix of AC and them. You want to shoot for that type of ceiling -- knock down shots and handle the ball when it's called for.
"Within the flow of the offense be a playmaker and make some shots."
There is a big emphasis on defense in Portland's camp and that plays into Connaughton's skillset.
"I think I've learned a lot in my two years in the league on the defensive end," he said. "It's not about picking a guy up full court, it's about your angles."
And Pat, I would say you are a little more physical than the average guy, right?
"Yeah, I would say so, too," he said. "I can use my athleticism to have an impact at the defensive end, both from an on-ball defender, a help defender and a rebounder."
Coach Terry Stotts showed confidence in Connaughton last season and gaining the trust of your coach is a big part of a young player's development.
"I really like Pat," Stotts said. "He's really improved his shooting. He played on the front line in college and he's really developed his guard skills -- his shooting, his passing, his out-on-the-floor skills. There are minutes to be had with AC gone. Pat knows the opportunity is there.
"I think last year showed I wasn't afraid to put Pat in games. You can trust him. He knows all the plays from every position. He's a smart player. He talks, He's a good teammate.There's a lot of trust in Pat, not only from me but but his teammates. And for a young player, that's important."