Evan Turner has been out of the lineup for the Portland Trail Blazers since mid-February, only recently playing sporadically thanks to left knee soreness. He’s the leader of that second unit, so him missing time was slated to be a big deal.
But the Blazers have largely been winners over this recent stretch with Turner out, and that’s perhaps raised some eyebrows about his value in the face of new additions in Rodney Hood and Enes Kanter.
What’s really been happening is an interesting adaptation by Terry Stotts when it comes to his lineups, one that could have an effect on the team once Turner returns to full strength.
Turner was typically checking into games with around four minutes left in the first quarter, and he would typically take a larger role in handling the ball with Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum still on the court.
The difference lately has come in the lack of staggering for Lillard and McCollum in the first quarter. That’s been coupled with a platooning of Rodney Hood, Enes Kanter, and Jake Layman, who in recent games have come in as a group around that four minute mark to play with Portland’s star guards.
The result is that Portland is now giving opponents a smaller, better-shooting lineup earlier in the game than they were with Turner.
So what happens when Turner comes back? His role as a strict bench player has helped our eye test, one that tells us that he is a better fit this year on this Blazers team despite his limitations in the modern NBA
The takeaway from these past couple of weeks is that we now know that the Blazers have options for some dynamism heading into the playoffs they didn’t have before. Add a hungry Moe Harkless and solid minutes from Jake Layman, and I'm definitely going to be interested in seeing the kinds of looks Portland throws at opponents come playoff time.