This is what we’ve learned so far from talking with players over the past week following their individual workouts:
The Trail Blazers are not concerned about which five guys are out on the floor at one time.
They know in order to have success, which ultimately means make it to the postseason in this unique bubble restart situation, they will have to do it by committee.
And this works out just fine in the current NBA.
Over the past few seasons, the league has gone away from true 1-5 positions of players out on the court at one time. Honestly, if a team has a solid point guard and a center the rest of the pieces will fall into place no matter their ‘true position.’
This is why the Blazers aren’t too worried that Trevor Ariza is not making the trip to Orlando to resume the 2019-20 season.
That doesn’t mean they won’t miss his perimeter defense, his veteran leadership, and his consistent three, but right now the Blazers are dialed in on their current roster makeup and that’s it.
[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon.]
Shooting guard CJ McCollum even said this week that he could see some minutes at small forward.
Tuesday, Carmelo Anthony, who will presumably start in Ariza’s place at the three, discussed how he sees his role changing, moving from the four to the three.
The three is where he made his bread and butter, so as one would imagine he’s ready for it.
Yeah, well, the good thing is that I get to go back to my original position which is playing at the three where I'm actually very comfortable at. I've been doing that my whole life. Just over the past couple years is where I started moving, transitioning towards playing the four more. We've got teams that is going small, so… That was to my advantage as well, but I think today in this game it’s positionless. There's no positions, no more today. So it doesn't matter when people put an emphasis on you're playing the three or you're playing the four, we out there playing at the end of the day. The schemes are going to be the same. We're going to figure it out. -- Trail Blazers veteran Carmelo Anthony
Despite Melo and the Blazers confidence to fill in the missing piece of Ariza, that doesn’t mean this team won’t feel that void.
“As far as missing Trevor, hell yeah, we’re going to miss Trevor. Especially in this time because this is where his veteranship and his leadership would have come into play… Experience plays a big part in what we're trying to accomplish here. So we're going to miss him from that standpoint.”
With Portland losing Ariza, but gaining a healthy Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic that has been a big topic of conversation.
Adding two healthy 7-footers to the roster is always helpful.
Plus, Melo reiterated that as long as the Blazers have one center on the court the rest of the pieces don’t have to be a typical looking starting lineup.
“As far as position skills, it's no more positions in the NBA no more at all. You just go out there, put your five out there to go and see what happens.”
Plus, the rotation will look more like playoff basketball as Blazers head coach Terry Stotts has discussed he will most likely play eight players.
That playoff mentality is what Anthony, as a 17-year veteran, is looking to instill in this Trail Blazers team.
The way that I'm approaching it and I'm trying to get everybody else on our team to approach it this way is -- we gotta go right out of the gate. We don't have time to get loose, and get ready, and give away the first two games, like -- No, we got to have a great camp, we’ve got to have a great three weeks… two and a half weeks or whatever down in Orlando. And that first game -- we have to go. We’ve got to be ready to go. There's no waiting, laying back, and seeing. We got to have our plan. We got to have a clear-cut plan and we have to be ready to attack straight out the gate. -- Carmelo Anthony
Melo also mentioned that he and his teammates have focused on various keys to winning games in Orlando, which includes knowing the sets, communication, and trusting each other on both ends of the court.
Positions don’t need to be the focus for the Blazers even if that is the focus in storylines heading into the resumption of the season.