The Trail Blazers are 3-1 this season and in large part they have the bench unit to thank for it. Through four games the bench has been a strength, when in previous years it was a weakness. Is the unit for real? Can we expect this all reason long? The Blazers Outsiders give us their thoughts...
JOE SIMONS: If you're going to love, love with your whole heart. Throw caution to the wind. There is no 'I' in Sauce. And other such cliches. This bench is everything I could ask for: ET, the vet who seems to have finally found his role; Zach, growing into a reliable two-way player; Seth and Sauce, the latest in a long line of Rip City reclamation projects; and (maybe?) Moe in a new role. Yeah, it's only been four games, but so what? Life's too short to be rational. I say the bench is for real, at least until it isn't.
SHAIN BRENDEN: Yes, the Trail Blazers bench has been pivotal in these early games of the season. Yes, Nick Stauskas has been dripping with savory Canadian sauce. Yes, ET has found his role as a facilitator much like a Front of House manager at a Michelin star restaurant carrying multiple plates at one time, delivering them to the right customers efficiently and effortlessly without compromising the plate presentation. Yes, it’s true Zach Collins has been throwing better block parties, (avg 2.7 along with the 5 against LaBrakers), than that neighborhood from the movie The Sandlot… remember that scene? The 4th of July block party when the gang played at night at the lot because the sky was lit with fireworks? Yeah… such a great movie. It’s true, Seth Curry is showing Portland that having a Curry on your team is better than having no curry at all. I love curry, my taste pallet is above average so I’m able to truly appreciate the various flavor explosions it offers. But the big takeaway the Blazers bench has shown us early on in the season is this... The Blazers Outsiders is a good show now with more Outsiders to choose from. Watch it every night, download the My Teams app, and be nice to Dan, Shain, Joe, Chris, Alex and Jake online and in real life.
DAN MARANG: This is the best (offensive) bench unit the Trail Blazers have had under Terry Stotts. It’s literally been a decade since the Blazers could count on their bench to produce points the way Portland has through 4 games. I don’t know if it’s sustainable, but here are the things I like so far:
1. Evan Turner is in the best possible role/position with the Blazers since he signed here in 2016 and it shows. Turner is getting to his spots inside/midrange and finding his teammates on the perimeter
2. Nik Stauskas is on a redemption tour. Early on his ability to drive and create off the bounce is the single most revelatory thing for me this season. I don’t think anyone saw this coming and it’s a welcome surprise.
3. Maurice Harkless is better coming off the bench. With the bench unit Harkless moves up in the pecking order and he’s able to pick his spots without worrying about stepping on anyone’s toes in the starting lineup.
4. Zach Collins is impacting the box score much more than I anticipated. If Collins keeps putting up counting stats alongside his weakside defense, he’ll be ready for more minutes and a bigger role real soon.
The bench isn’t without their defensive warts, especially on the perimeter, but if they can continue to contribute 35+ points a night and keep or even grow leads, then Portland has a great chance to end up in the top four of the conference this season.
ALEX HAIGH: Ok, look: it’s not like I didn’t like our bench last season. Don’t get me started on Pat, Ed and Bazz. Just don’t. But this season, our bench is just a second starting five. Every one of those guys could start and I would feel comfortable with it. Zach shot a perfect game for 17 points against Orlando (even with that banked-in 3-point buzzer beater), ET had 6 assists (it’s nice to see him settle into his role as offensive orchestrator for the second unit) and Seth Curry (before the season started, I called him mild Curry, but now, he might be a spice level 3-4?) came through with a couple dimes and 11 points. Stauskas may not give us consistent Lakers game-esque performances, but I still trust in his shot selection and ability to become open and help space the floor. I’m more than happy, I’m OPTIMISTIC ABOUT OUR FUTURE. I know how dangerous positivity can be as a fan early on, but I’m going all-in this season because, why the hell not?
JAKE MCGRADY: What can I say... I’m extremely surprised and very optimistic from what I have seen from this team and the bench in these last 4 games. Let’s just say scoring does not appear to be a problem for this squad in the slightest. Teamwork makes the dream work, and we are FINALLY seeing some reliable production outside of Dame / CJ / Nurk. ET is actually averaging more than 10pts a game (yes we’re all surprised), Zach is looking outstanding, Nik has had his flashes, Seth is warming up, and Aminu has been strong as well. I’ll take 40pts from the bench ANY game. Screw it, I’m all in.
CHRIS BURKHARDT: It's still very, very early in the season so let's keep this all in perspective. That being said, the Blazers bench has been phenomenal. According to Hoopstats.com the Blazers bench ranked 27th in the league last season averaging 27.6 points per game. This season the bench is averaging 44.0 points per game, making it the fourth best bench scoring unit in the league. The bench is also third in the league in rebounds (20.8), third in assists (11.5), and first in blocks (4.0) per game. This is all because guys are having career years. Zach Collins has nearly doubled his production from last season, Nik Stauskas is averaging career highs across the board, and Evan Turner is having his best statistical season since 2014-15 and is shooting the best field goal percentage of his career (.581). It will be tough to sustain this level of play all season, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they can.