Preseason Evaluations: The positives from the five games
Evaluating the Preseason: What do the players take away?
ET running point for the 2nd unit looks good
In his postgame press conference it was clear that Coach Terry Stotts has been pleased having a point-forward in Evan Turner this preseason.
“I think he's a very good playmaker, handles the ball well for his size, he can get us into the offense. It takes the handling pressure off whoever he's out there with. I think more and more comfortable he’s gotten each year. He's taken ownership of the second group," Stotts said.
He also feels that “He (Turner), Nik and Seth have developed good chemistry”. Coach isn’t the only one taking notice of Turner's facilitation of the second unit...
“He’s a smart basketball player. He knows how to make plays and read the offense. He’s the type of player you can put him in different types of situations and when he’s surrounded by shooters that makes the game that much easier for him, “ CJ McCollum said.
Next: Ball Movement...
Ball movement looks good, assists are up
After the way the Blazers season ended last year with the Pelicans sweeping Portland, a lot was made of the Blazers offense and Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum taking it all on themselves to score vs. the team playing more as one. For Meyers Leonard this is the biggest change and takeaway from the preseason--
“The ball movement, the trust in each other...Last year, I think, maybe we pressed as individuals trying to make plays and that’s everybody from top to bottom and now I feel like there’s just a new of trust”.
“Our passing has been pretty good. Four out of five games with 25 or more assists. Our offense has a nice flow to it,” Stotts said.
Next: Meyers Leonard...
Meyers Leonard looks solid and confident
The Moda Center crowd watched a confident and efficient Meyers Leonard on Friday night in the win over the Kings and they loved it. Leonard is very happy about his preseason performances.
“I’ve felt really good about what I’ve done to be completely honest… I feel a vastly changed player and just a level of confidence that has been there throughout parts of my career, but it’s just solid and day-to-day now. I feel good. I feel like I can really help our team win… I feel really good out there, the most confident I’ve ever felt,” Leonard said.
Coach Stotts was pleased with the backup center’s play through the five exhibition games as well.
“Solid. He had a couple good shooting nights. He's playing with a lot of confidence. I'd say solid,” Stotts said.
No new injuries
When training camp started everyone found out that Maurice Harkless still wasn’t 100 percent after having arthroscopic knee surgery last March.
Besides Harkless’ lingering knee issues, Evan Turner suffered a shoulder strain and rookie Gary Trent Jr. has been dealing with a quad injury for the last couple of days, which happened during practice. Turner suffered his injury before training camp even started and says the shoulder “is cool” now and he isn’t worried about.
So at least in preseason games, there were no big injuries to the Trail Blazers and for CJ McCollum that is the biggest positive takeaway.
“I’m glad we were able to get through without any major injuries… I just set one goal to not get hurt and I’m glad I didn’t do that,” McCollum said.
Next: The Returners...
The 11 returners feel comfortable
Lasty, but certainy not least, let's not forget to overlook the cohesion of the returning players.
“I think our chemistry is really solid, I think we returned 11 guys or something like that, we’re certainly very aware of what each other wants to do on the floor… Guys know what’s expected of them. There’s a level of professionalism that we come with everyday,” Leonard said.
“We’ve got a lot of different players who can contribute in different ways, a lot of good shooting,” McCollum added.
“Our depth. I think there are 12 guys that can really step up and score and do a lot of good thing. I’m kind of excited about that for sure,” Turner said.
The Blazers will need to lean on that depth come the regular season to survive the brutal Western Conference.