NBA GMs Survey: Where Damian Lillard ranks among point guards

NBA GMs Survey: Where Damian Lillard ranks among point guards

We are just days away from the NBA regular season tipping off, and general managers around the league have voiced their opinions on the upcoming season.

In the 18th annual NBA.com GM Survey, the GMs responded to 50 different questions in regards to the best teams, players, coaches, fans, offseason moves, and more.

In the annual survey handed out by NBA.com, general managers are not allowed to vote for their own team or personnel.

The final results of percentages are based on the pool of votes to that particular question, rather than on all 30 GMs. Meaning, not all 30 GMs may have casted a vote on a particular question. 

The Trail Blazers as team and individually received major props in a few of the categories, and in other categories they can use this survey as some bulletin board material.

VOTES ARE IN FOR BEST POINT GUARDS:

Damian Lillard was voted second best point guard in the league for the 2019-20 season.

Last season Lillard didn’t make the list.

The GMs voted Steph Curry with 57 percent of the vote last year, followed by Russell Westbrook with 17 percent, while Kyrie Irving and Chris Paul each had 10 percent of the votes.  

Lillard is entering his eighth season with career averages of 23.5 points, 6.3 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per game.  The 29-year-old said at Trail Blazers Media Day, the focus is to win a Championship.

Lillard has led the Blazers to the playoffs in six consecutive seasons. The next step for Lillard -- taking his team to the NBA Finals.

Check back here later for more GM analysis on the Blazers.

Social Media Reacts to Nassir Little’s first career start

Social Media Reacts to Nassir Little’s first career start

Early season injuries have forced Coach Stotts to try multiple starting lineups. With starting power forward Zach Collins out with a dislocated shoulder, Stotts has turned to both Anthony Tolliver and Mario Hezonja to start in his place. The results, however, have not been what he had hoped.

So, looking in infuse some more energy and a spark into the lineup, Stotts chose to give rookie Nassir Little the first start of his career against the Raptors:

Before the game even tipped off, the news of Little getting the start had Trail Blazers fans hyped:

The hype didn’t stop there. Once the game got rolling, the fans were electric anytime Little made a play.  A few nice shots, a monster block, and hustle all around. Little ended the night with seven points, a block, and a career-high five rebounds. Rip City was in love with Little and took to social media to tell about it.

Said Coach Stotts after the game, "I thought he had a really good game, I thought he held his own with (Pascal) Siakam defensively, brought a lot of energy, and played hard. So I was very pleased with the way he played."

So was Rip City. The question now is, will he get the start again when the Blazers take on the Spurs this Saturday? 

Raptors take Damian Lillard away and what was left couldn't win the game

Raptors take Damian Lillard away and what was left couldn't win the game

The Toronto Raptors obviously came out Wednesday night with the intent of not letting Damian Lillard beat them. They defended him full court, denying him the ball, then double-teamed him whenever he got the ball on the pick-and-roll and often triple-teamed him on drives to the basket. He even saw a little box-and-one.

And make no mistake, the Raptors were good at all of it. They’re one of the best defensive teams in the NBA and all but took Lillard away from the Blazers.

Lillard has become so accomplished at scoring near the basket, somehow getting his shots up against defenders when it seemed impossible. But the Raptors made it impossible, putting Lillard in jail when he got to the basket – fencing him in with long arms and big bodies.

Lillard ended up with nine points on 2-12 shooting and when the chips were down, in the final stretch of the game, his teammates couldn’t hit big shots when left open and Portland lost 114-106.

“You know, we’re rolling the dice a little bit with these schemes, right?” Toronto Coach Nick Nurse said. “But if you do the work on the primary player first of all, and then you get the rest of the guys to do what they’re supposed to do in their help situations on them, whether it’s blitz or drives or whatever, and make it difficult for them, you’re opening up some other stuff. But we rolled the dice here on these guys and it turned out pretty good.”

And in spite of all the recent defensive problems, Portland didn’t score well enough in this game.

Rodney Hood, Anfernee Simons and CJ McCollum all had reasonable shooting nights but the Trail Blazers shot only 39.6 percent from the field overall and 17-48 from three-point range.

And the offensive standouts in Moda Center were both wearing Toronto uniforms. Pascal Siakam scored 36 with a marvelous combination of inside and outside play and Fred VanVleet did a terrific job of dogging Lillard and scoring 30 at the other end.

The Raptors have had success in their last three games taking Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James and now Lillard out of their offensive game.

“The good thing about our game is most of the superstars are pretty unselfish,” VanVleet said, “So we throw two or three guys at the names you just mentioned and we just want to make them pass and make somebody else make the shots. Rodney Hood came in and made some big shots and got hot but overall, we just didn’t want to let Dame Lillard shoot. That’s the best way to guard those guys on not many attempts.”

Siakam was held in check by rookie Nassir Little in the first half but got loose in the lane over the last two quarters. And while Lillard was seeing all sorts of players thrown at him at one end, the Blazers let Siakam back them down in the lane one-on-one and never got to him with any double-teams.

The disturbing trend of the undersized Trail Blazers getting outscored in the paint continued, as Toronto posted a 50-22 edge in paint points.

“They outworked us,” Lillard said. “We gave them second, third and fourth opportunities. We couldn’t score. We needed to score and the game got away from us. It’s the fourth team in a row to come out and deny me fullcourt.”

Is it frustrating that you are seeing all those bodies coming at you on one end and then your team isn’t double-teaming Siakam at the other end?

“Yeah. It’s frustrating, But this is the hand we’re dealt.”

 

The return of Rodney Hood: His fresh legs were welcomed by all

The return of Rodney Hood: His fresh legs were welcomed by all

The Trail Blazers welcomed back their starting small forward Rodney Hood on Wednesday night as the Blazers hosted the Toronto Raptors.  

Hood had missed two consecutive games dealing with back spasms.

“He had fresh legs,” CJ McCollum said postgame.

The Blazers were in dire need Hood’s fresh legs and knock down jumper with Portland playing in the second night of a back-to-back.

“It was nice to have Rodney out there. He helped us big time… We needed it,” McCollum said.

The Blazers kept it close until lapses on both ends midway through the fourth quarter. Toronto came on strong late to take the 114-106 win, but it was Hood to the rescue in helping give the Blazers a fighting chance.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said postgame, “You could really tell we were a different team with Rodney out there, adding another scoring threat.”

“Getting Rodney back was good for us tonight, he certainly made a difference for us,” Stotts said.

Hood finished with 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field, including 5-of-10 from three.

Hood’s 25 points tied his season-high, which he had notched against the 76ers on November 2nd.

Over the last couple of days at shootaround, Hood expressed how he was trying to be patient with his body and get back to feeling as close to 100% as possible.

After Wednesday’s game he said his back is better, however, he will continue to get treatment.

“I’m pretty sore right now, but I felt good once I got going up and down a couple times throughout the game. It’s feeling better,” Hood said.

Hood had also made it clear this week that he was very eager to get back out there and help his team.

He helped out in a big way in his return, scoring in multiple ways.

Yet, he was disappointed in himself late in the game when he missed two three-pointers that he said felt good leaving his hand.

“I wish we could take back those last five, six minutes but other than that, I think we played well enough to win or to be in the game. Give credit to them. They did a hell of a job in the last six minutes executing, particularly on the offensive end and they were tough to guard in those closing moments,” Hood added.

Portland now hits the road for six games in 12 nights. Hood and the Blazers know that back spasms can flare up at any moment. The road will test the Blazers and test Hood’s back.  

“It’s something I’m going to have to deal with – just continue to get treatment and hopefully by the road trip, it’ll be feeling better and all the way back to normal.”

Instant Analysis: Raptors come on strong late to beat Blazers at home

Instant Analysis: Raptors come on strong late to beat Blazers at home

With the Moda Center crowd behind them, the Trail Blazers got out to a quick start with multiple players getting involved on the offensive end as Portland hosted the banged-up Raptors on Wednesday night.

The game was tied 94-94 late, but then the Raptors went on a 14-0 run. Portland wasn’t able to recover after that.

Toronto showed how good of a defensive team it can be. The Raptors locked down on Damian Lillard all night. They held Lillard to just nine points. The last time Lillard was held to single-digit scoring was November 9th, 2016 vs. the L.A. Clippers.

FINAL BOX SCORE: Raptors 114, Trail Blazers 106 

Here are three quick takeaways from the Blazers loss to the Raptors:

1.  Another hot start for Portland

Despite being the team who was on the second night of a back-to-back, the Blazers jumped out to a 14-2 lead over the Raptors. Toronto, as NBA teams do, responded quickly and got back in the game after hitting a couple of threes and by the three-minute mark of the first quarter, the game looked in reach for both teams.

2. Hood looked like himself and then some

The Trail Blazers welcomed back their starting small forward Rodney Hood on Wednesday night after Hood had missed the last two games dealing with back spasms.

Over the last couple of days, it was apparent that Hood was trying to be patient and get back to feeling as close to 100 percent as possible, but it was also clear that he was very eager to get back out there and help his team. He helped out in a big way in his return -- scoring in multiple ways, and being that knockdown three-pointer shooter the Blazers have really missed over the last couple of games.

3. Raptors dealing with just as many injuries as Blazers

The defending champs looked a bit different on Wednesday night due to offseason moves and current injuries.

For Toronto, the Raptors were without OG Anunoby (Right eye contusion), Serge Ibaka (Sprained right ankle), Kyle Lowry (Distal phalanx fracture – left thumb), and Patrick McCaw (Left knee surgery).

The Raptors relied on Pascal Siakam, which they have done a lot so far in this early season. Blazers rookie Nassir Little saw a good majority of minutes guarding Siakam. Little proved he could hang with the four-year power forward. Hassan Whiteside also helped off Marc Gasol to alter Siakam’s shots at the rim.  

Siakam, however, got it going later with pull-up jumpers, fadeaways, and buckets at the rim.

Up Next: Portland will hit the road once again. This time for a six-game, 12-day trip. The Blazers will tip-off the trip in San Antonio. The Blazers and Spurs battle it out on Saturday night at 5:30p.m. PT.

Check back throughout tonight and tomorrow for more articles and videos from the players!

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: So many injuries for both squads!

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USA Today Images

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: So many injuries for both squads!

The Toronto Raptors (7-3) had the day off in Portland on Tuesday, while the Trail Blazers (4-7) were in Sacramento playing the Kings. Now the two banged-up teams will battle it out on Wednesday night.

Before the Trail Blazers and Raptors tip-off at 7:00 p.m. tonight on NBC Sports Northwest and on the 'My Teams' App, both coaches gave their thoughts on the matchup during their pregame media availability.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts discussed how his team “is a middle of the road team” right now. He added that they are still “trying to find their way.”

Blazers listed Rodney Hood (back spasms) and Hassan Whiteside (right foot sprain) as probable early in the afternoon, but have both since been upgraded to available for tonight’s game vs. Toronto.

HEAR FROM COACH STOTTS HERE:

For Toronto, OG Anunoby (Right eye contusion), Serge Ibaka (Sprained right ankle), Kyle Lowry (Distal phalanx fracture – left thumb), and Patrick McCaw (Left knee surgery) are OUT.

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse had plenty to say pregame about the challenges that Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum bring. He also mentioned that Anfernee Simons has been impressive and he added Simons “isn’t bashful.”

HEAR FROM COACH NURSE HERE:

Headstrong: How CJ McCollum believes Kevin Love has helped further the discussion on mental health

Headstrong: How CJ McCollum believes Kevin Love has helped further the discussion on mental health

The month of November is Men's Health Awareness Month. ‘The Movember Foundation’ uses November to bring awareness to various men’s physical and mental health issues, as well as support to those tackling prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health, and more.

 

Throughout this month, NBC Sports will be releasing numerous videos that feature sports superstars discussing the importance of mental health as well as how they approach the subject. Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum was one such athlete that participated in the nationwide project.

 

“I think it’s important the NBA has extended more [on] mental health for players because there’s a lot of issues going on in the professional sports world through players, through things they’ve experienced in their childhood, through the stress -- maybe it’s injuries, maybe it’s depression, maybe it’s anxiety, there’s a lot of different things... Sometimes they may suppress it. That can create bigger problems and larger problems down the road once the game is taken away from you,” McCollum said.

 

Local Portland native and current Cleveland Cavaliers star Kevin Love has opened up recently about his longtime struggle with anxiety and depression. His decision to go public with his journey of mental health was to try to help others and advocate awareness around these issues.

 

“I think it’s important to have players like Kevin Love coming out and being outspoken about mental health and being an advocate because it shows that we’re just humans with real feelings,” McCollum said.

 

The Trail Blazers shooting guard also understands how important it is not just for professional athletes to talk about their mental health, but adults and children everywhere to be able to feel like they can openly discuss their anxiety, depression, or anything else that they are going through. You can watch the full video above.

For the Trail Blazers, it’s all about ‘staying in the moment’ in a very difficult month of November

For the Trail Blazers, it’s all about ‘staying in the moment’ in a very difficult month of November

 

SACRAMENTO – When the 2019-20 regular season schedule came out in August, the month of November was circled, as a month Portland would need to ‘survive.’

As the Blazers now work towards getting back to .500 basketball, with their 4-7 record after Tuesday’s 107-99 loss to the Kings, the team is on the same page:

Don’t look too far ahead.

Portland will now have just one home game before setting its sights on a six-game, 11-day trip.

At this point in November, the Blazers are focused on ‘staying in the moment.’

Damian Lillard, who was voted top leader in the league by NBA GMs this season, has made it clear to his team they must have a certain approach to this month of travel.

“Because we know it’s a difficult month for us, so, I think that makes it even more important to stay in the moment. When you look ahead and start talking about how hard it is, and what type of challenge it is, it only makes it more difficult,” Lillard said.

Tuesday in Sacramento marked start of seven of the Blazers’ following eight games on the road. Seven of eight, that’s not for the weak.

Yes, players and coaches consistently talk about taking it ‘one game at a time,’ but even Blazers head coach Terry Stotts mentioned that’s really how it has to be right now.

“It’s cliché, but worry about the next game. I know we’ve got a lot of games on the road, we’ve got a road trip coming up… But [we need to] prepare for each game,” Stotts said.

“When you just focus on what’s in front of you and handle it that way, I think it makes it less stressful, easier to deal with, and I think that’s what our approach is – just one game at a time, just work our way through it, and keep our heads above water,” Lillard added.

As Lillard expressed it can be ‘stressful’ to look too far ahead, CJ McCollum explained how he gets anxiety if he doesn’t take the advice of staying in the moment.

“I try not to (look ahead at this month of road games)," McCollum said.

“It gives me anxiety. It’s too many games, so I just try to look at one or two games at a time, understanding when I need to pack, when I don’t need to pack, but we’ve just got to take advantage of the present.”  

McCollum continued, “We’ve only played four games at home. We’ve got a lot of road games ahead of us.”

Yes, the Blazers realize how grueling the month of November has been and will continue to be, but there best advice to each other is staying true to the cliché of taking it game-by-game. 

How to watch, stream Trail Blazers vs. Raptors tonight at 7pm

How to watch, stream Trail Blazers vs. Raptors tonight at 7pm

The Toronto Raptors (7-3) had the day off in Portland on Tuesday, while the Trail Blazers (4-7) were in Sacramento playing the Kings.

Portland will have a tough task against a well-rested Raptors team as the Blazers look to bounce back on Wednesday. Portland was down by as many as 15 to Sacramento. Costly turnovers meant the Blazers were never able to get over the hump and complete the comeback.

You can watch the Blazers and Raptors on NBC Sports Northwest, the Official Network of the Portland Trail Blazers and you can stream the game on our website or by downloading the MyTeams app!

And, have you heard about Blazers Pass?

You can get 15 live Trail Blazers games, pre and postgame shows, and on-demand full-game replays with Blazers Pass! (Only available to fans located in Blazers Territory, pursuant to NBA rules and agreements. No TV provider required. Subscription Period: November 4, 2019 - April 16, 2020. Subscription auto-renews prior to start of next season.)

Don't miss any of the coverage of tonight's game:

4:30pm Blazers Game Day with Chad Doing

6:00pm Blazers Warm-Up

6:30pm Trail Blazers Pregame Show

7:00pm Trail Blazers vs. Raptors

After the game catch Blazers Outsiders with hosts Joe Simons and Dan Marang!

And, full coverage of the game from Dwight JaynesJamie Hudson and our digital team. Follow us on social throughout the night for the latest updates. 

QUOTABLES

“I felt like we should have had a bigger lead at halftime. We had some trouble with matchups in the third quarter. We couldn’t recover from that initial burst in the third quarter.” -- Portland Coach Terry Stotts after Tuesday’s loss to the Kings

Trail Blazers attribute ‘lack of execution’ and ‘careless' turnovers to Tuesday’s loss to Kings

Trail Blazers attribute ‘lack of execution’ and ‘careless' turnovers to Tuesday’s loss to Kings

SACRAMENTO – Through the first 10 games of the 2019-20 season, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts has been known to keep his starters in the game because the Blazers never feel they should be counted out, no matter the deficit.

But Tuesday’s turnovers were too costly.

Portland dug themselves a hole too big that they were unable to climb out of it. Postgame, they pointed to the ‘carless mistakes’ as a big reason why.   

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts believes there were a variety of reasons for his teams’ 17 turnovers on the night.  

“Some of it was carelessness. Got to give credit to Sacramento’s defense – they were aggressive, they were trapping Damian [Lillard], but I think we made some careless turnovers trying to make plays that weren’t necessarily there,” Stotts said.

After the Kings outscored the Blazers 35-21 in the third quarter, it was apparent Sacramento had the confidence and the momentum to closeout the game.

With 27 points on an efficient 6-of-10 shooting, along with five assists, and four rebounds, Lillard explained after Tuesday’s loss that there were certain aspects of the game he and his teammates did not execute well enough, which in turn lead to so many turnovers.

“Sometimes it was our spacing, sometimes it was our understanding of what to look for, I think when there is so much attention on the ball and you get it out, we’ve got to be able to read and react quicker. Guys in the league are long and athletic, and quick, so, when you see one guy guarding two, you’ve got to make a quick decision. Even if you don’t score, you’ve got to get a quality shot up and I think in those situations we just didn’t put enough pressure on their defense,” Lillard said.

The Trail Blazers All-Star point guard went onto say, “sometimes [it was] just bad passes, misreads, getting passes deflected, we just allowed them to have too much of an impact as far as turnovers.”

CJ McCollum had it going offensively for the second game in a row. He finished with 24 points on 11-of-21 shooting, but he knows there was a lot the Blazers did not do right against the Kings.

“The lack of execution at times throughout the game was costly and then we were playing catch up,” McCollum said.

For McCollum, he believes it was ‘a little bit of everything’ as far as the turnovers go.  

“Sometimes we were careless with the ball, like one time, I was just dribbling it, and I was looking up to make a decision, and I kicked the ball right to the other team. Sometimes when we were trying to make the right plays in the pick-and-roll and the defense was rotating over, and other times just kind of throwing the ball to the other team or playing in a crowd. It’s a combination of things. We’ve just got to get better. We’ve got to tighten up our spacing, tighten up our offensive play calls.”

Portland’s biggest lead was 11, while Sacramento’s biggest lead was 15.

The Blazers have come from behind down bigger deficits than that this season. Enter -- the Blazers 19-point comeback win at Dallas

But, Tuesday’s turnovers kept adding up.

McCollum mentioned how the Kings were also able to execute well off the Blazers' mistakes, saying, “we got a lot of turnovers where they were able to get out and run, knock down threes, get to the hole, they got to the free-throw line and a little bit of everything.”