Brook Lopez

Hassan Whiteside isn't one of the league's best defenders, according to NBA coaches

Hassan Whiteside isn't one of the league's best defenders, according to NBA coaches

The Trail Blazers defense has struggled at times this season, but one person has been a standout from day one: Hassan Whiteside. 

Whiteside, who came over in an offseason trade with the Miami Heat, has done an incredible job filling in for the injured Jusuf Nurkic all season.

His very first night as a Blazer was a 16 point, 19 rebound performance against the Denver Nuggets on opening night. 

From there, he just kept climbing. 

Whitside is statistically having one of the best seasons of his career, averaging 16.3 points and career-highs of 14.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game.

Whiteside is the league's second-leading rebounder, trailing only Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons (15.2 rpg).

But where he is most untouchable is defensively at the rim. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon]

Whiteside leads the entire league in blocks per game at 3.1. That is nearly a full block more than the two players tied for second, Anthony Davis and Brook Lopez (2.5 bpg). 

Whiteside has 187 blocks on the season, compared to 147 for Lopez and 138 for Davis. Both Lopez and Whiteside have played 61 games, while Davis has played 55. 

Regardless, you think the league's second-leading rebounder and leading shot-blocker would be recognized for their defensive prowess, right? You'd be wrong. 

Jon Krawczynski and Josh Robbins of The Athletic anonymously polled 33 NBA coaches, some head coaches, some assistant coaches, to get their expert opinions. 

The coaches had to vote for the first-team and second-team all-league defensive teams, while 23 of the coaches also voted on Defensive Player of the Year. 

The only rule was they had to vote for two guards, two forwards, and one center for the all-league teams. 

So, where did Whiteside fall?

He fell all the way out of the coaches consciousness. 

Whiteside did not earn first of second-team All-League Defense, he also was not named Defensive Player of Year. 

The really surprising part, however, is that Whiteside didn't even receive a single vote for any of the lists. 

How can the league's leading blocker not even receive a vote for All-League defense? 

According to the coaches' vote, Rudy Gobert was the Center on the first-team, and Bam Adebayo was the Center on the second team. Other centers receiving votes included Brook Lopez, Joel Embiid, Myles Turner, Tristan Thompson, Steven Adams, Andre Drummond, Jarrett Allen, and Domantas Sabonis. 

[READ THE ENTIRE LIST HERE]

As for the Defensive Player of the Year, the coaches picked Rudy Gobert, with Brook Lopez and Bam Adebayo being the only other centers to receive votes. 

Here is how Whiteside compares to those three centers:

HASSAN WHITESIDE: 16.3 ppg, 14.2 rpg (10.2 drpg), 3.1 bpg

RUDY GOBERT: 15.1 ppg, 13.7 rpg (10.3 drpg), 2.0  bpg

BAM ADEBAYO: 16.2 ppg, 10.5 rpg (8.0 drpg), 1.3  bpg

BROOK LOPEZ: 11.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg (3.8 drpg), 2.4  bpg

Whiteside averages more points (though that doesn't matter for defense), rebounds, and blocks than the three centers that made the list. The only category any of those centers beat Whiteside in is defensive rebounds, where Gobert averages 0.1 more per game... 0.1! 

When averaged out to a per 36, Whiteside leads in all categories.

HASSAN WHITESIDE PER 36: 18.7 ppg, 16.4 rpg (11.8 drpg), 3.5 bpg

RUDY GOBERT PER 36: 17.9 ppg, 14.5 rpg (10.2 drpg), 2.6 bpg

BAM ADEBAYO PER 36: 17.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg (8.3 drpg), 1.4 bpg

BROOK LOPEZ PER 36: 14.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg (5.1 drpg), 3.3 bpg

However, Whiteside lags behind all three of those players in overall defensive rating: Lopez (99.1), Gobert (106.8), Adebayo(107.7), Whiteside (112.2)

More telling is that his individual defense hasn't led to overall improvements in team defense.

The Bucks lead the league in defensive efficiency (101.6), Utah is 11th (108.8), and Miami is 14th (109.2). The Blazers fall near the bottom, ranked 27th (113.6).

While the Blazers' struggles on defense aren't Whiteside's fault, the numbers show he isn't necessarily helping either.

As for the coaches, they value how a player impacts and changes the team defense over a player's individual numbers. Based on individual numbers alone, Whiteside should be in the conversation with those other centers, not an afterthought.

Again, how does the league's leading shot-blocker not even receive a vote for all-league defense? 

Luckily for Whiteside, the Blazers have at least eight more games for him to put on a defensive show.

Trail Blazers put away pesky Nets behind McCollum's hot shooting

Trail Blazers put away pesky Nets behind McCollum's hot shooting

It took longer than they would have liked, but the Trail Blazers on Saturday finally dispatched the Brooklyn Nets when CJ McCollum punctuated a 31-point night with back-to-back three-pointers in the fourth quarter that sealed a 130-116 win at the Moda Center.

It was the second straight win for Portland (26-35), which moved within 1.5 games of Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot with 21 games remaining. Denver lost at home earlier in the night to Charlotte.

After the game, coach Terry Stotts said it was a game the Blazers had to secure.

"We have to,'' Stotts said. "We don’t have a lot of wiggle room anyway, but with all due respect to Brooklyn, this was a game we had to have.''

Portland led for all but the first minute of the game, but despite building leads as large as 15, they could never put away the team with the NBA’s worst record. Brooklyn (10-51) erased the 15-point deficit by tying the game at 55 in the final minute before halftime and were within 100-92 with nine minutes left before McCollum made back-to-back threes that pushed the lead back to double digits.

While McCollum was the finisher late – he scored 12 of his 31 points in the fourth – center Jusuf Nurkic was the spark early, scoring eight of his 17 points in the first quarter. Nurkic added five rebounds and five assists and continued his resurgence since arriving in a trade from Denver on Feb. 12. In six games with the Blazers, Nurkic is averaging 14.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists.

Starters Damian Lillard (19 points, 11 assists) and Maurice Harkless (18 points) were key as were big contributions from the bench as Al-Farouq Aminu scored 23, which included hitting 5-of-6 from three-point range. 

"I'm glad he had night like tonight when all those people in December told him to stop shooting,'' Stotts said. "He's playing at a very good level right now.''

Brooklyn stayed in the game behind the inside play of center Brook Lopez (26 points) and the outside shooting of Sean Kilpatrick, who hit six of his seven three point attempts, en route to a 20-point night. All told, Brooklyn shot 52.9 percent, which included making 14-of-30 from three-point range.

The Blazers led 58-57 at halftime, but that lead came with some frustration and an injury scare. The frustration came in losing a 15-point lead and the scare came from Allen Crabbe, who had to be carried off the court with a left leg injury. Crabbe later returned after being diagnosed with a bruised leg and played 19 minutes, finishing with eight points.

Portland built its 15 point lead as it took advantage of a sloppy and careless Nets team that had eight turnovers in the first quarter. Brooklyn fought back to tie the game at 55 with 29 seconds left thanks to the three-point shooting of reserve Sean Kilpatrick, who hit all four of his three-point attempts, and the inside play of center Brook Lopez.

Notes: Damian Lillard for the  41st consecutive game made a three-pointer, tying him for the franchise record with Clifford Robinson (1995-1996). It also ties Ersan Ilyasova for the longest streak in the NBA this season … The Blazers announced before the game that center Festus Ezeli will have surgery on his left knee next week in Vail, Colorado. Ezeli, signed to a free agent contract in July, never played for the Blazers. He signed a two-year deal, which paid him $7 million this season. Only $1 million is guaranteed for next season … Evan Turner had the cast on his broken right hand removed Friday and is now fitted with a splint. The Blazers still target Turner for their original 5-to-6 week recovery timeline, which would place his return between March 14-March 21. 

Next up: Blazers at Minnesota, 5 p.m. Monday (CSN).

 

CJ McCollum gets hot, helps Trail Blazers beat Brooklyn and end losing streak

CJ McCollum gets hot, helps Trail Blazers beat Brooklyn and end losing streak

BROOKLYN -- Damian Lillard on Friday said he could sense the Trail Blazers were close to clicking, and on Sunday the Blazers did just that against the Brooklyn Nets. 

Behind a breakaway third quarter that mixed a blend of hot shooting and active defense, the Blazers beat Brooklyn 129-109 at the Barclays Center to end a three game losing streak. 

CJ McCollum had 33 points, including a third-quarter stretch when he hit three three-pointers in a row, and Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard led a productive bench that helped the Blazers (8-7) score a season high.

Brooklyn (4-9) lost its fourth straight despite 21 points from center Brook Lopez.  

Part of the Blazers' third-quarter run was fueled by its much-maligned defense, which entered the game with the NBA's worst defensive rating. Portland had seven consecutive stops in the third, which helped push an 89-78 lead to 97-78.

The Blazers scored a season-high 70 points in the first half, thanks in large part to a prolific effort from the bench. Turner hit 7-of-9 shots and scored 14 and Allen Crabbe (11 points) and Meyers Leonard (9 points, five rebounds). All told, the bench combined to shoot 11 of 15 in the second quarter, when the Blazers scored 38 points and extended their 32-29 lead after the first quarter by three points.

Turner finished with 19 points -- his most since joining Portland in the offseason -- while Leonard added 14 points and 11 rebounds. Both Leonard and Crabbe hit four three pointers and the bench rotation went 18-for-30 from the field before the end of the bench played the final four minutes. 

But it was the offensive excellence of McCollum, who made 12-of-19 shots -- including 6-of-10 from three-point range -- that fueled Portland. It was McCollum's fourth game this season scoring 30 or more points.  His third quarter push allowed Lillard to sit out the fourth quarter after scoring 18 points in 28 minutes. 

Ed Davis started his second consecutive game at power forward, and for the second straight game the Blazers outrebounded their opponent, which hadn't happened since opening night. Davis had three points, six rebounds and two blocks in 18 minutes. The Blazers' defense also held Brooklyn to 39.8 percent shooting

Next up: Blazers at New York, 4:30 p.m. Tuesday (CSN)

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