Hassan Whiteside

Trail Blazers big man depth provides unparalleled internal competition

Trail Blazers big man depth provides unparalleled internal competition

Having a plethora of bigs is always a good problem to have for any NBA team.  

It’s a ‘problem’ that the Trail Blazers haven’t encountered this season.

Portland relied on Hassan Whiteside for a majority of the year, which was to be expected with Jusuf Nurkic still rehabbing his broken left leg until Mar.

But, nobody anticipated the Blazers other 7-footer Zach Collins would suffer a shoulder injury during the third game of the season that ultimately required surgery on Nov. 5 and meant four months of rehab for Collins.   

[RELATED]: Hassan Whiteside had a lot of reasons not to go to Orlando, but he went

Now during the resumption of the 2019-20 season, Whiteside is not only getting help down low, he’s getting better and is also looking to make everyone else in the frontcourt better.  

Competition breeds excellence, right?

Yep. 

The Blazer bigs came to play.

No horsing around.

(Even if Whiteisde says he has horse-like tendencies on the court and does a mean horse impersonation.) 

The battles between these three, plus 23-year-old 6’9 rookie power forward Wenyen Gabriel, who the Blazers acquired mid-season during a trade with Sacramento, has meant the competition on the block is fierce.

Collins, who has always taken pride in his defense since before his Gonzaga days, explained how having so many big bodies out there has locked down the paint. 

Practice is real physical in general. I think a lot of guys came in [in] shape and they’re ready to trust their bodies and get physical and actually get down and play really good defense. And on the offensive end a lot of guys – we were able to work on our game for a long time and no defense, so everybody is coming back a little bit more polished and real physical and really competitive. Obviously, with me and Nurk back there’s more bodies in the paint so it’s harder to score. It’s just been really competitive and tough to score down there. -- Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins

[Listen to the latest Talking’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon].

Whiteside already had time to develop chemistry with Collins after the two went through training camp together last fall and played in the first three games of the season alongside each other. He believes the bigs’ chemistry is coming along. Plus, playing two bigs at all times is something he and many of his teammates are looking forward to that could lead to many favorable mismatches.

The way the Blazers play [with] two bigs – it’s easy. It’s not a thing of spacing or anything. Both of us can shoot the ball if we need to, but with Dame [Lillard] and CJ [McCollum] and them guys running around, running flow, running different actions, I think it’s great. -- Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside on the bigs chemistry

Whiteside admitted that a lot of players were sore after the first practice on Saturday.

Bodying each other up, fighting for a rebound, getting up and down the court as a big man in the NBA is not something that can truly be simulated during a four-month quarantine.  

“Just getting your body back to used to pushing guys and wrestling guys for rebounds, and coming off pick and rolls, and just different things – running up and down,” Whiteside said. “You can’t substitute that at your house. You can try to try to stay as the best shape as you can, but it’s not like the real thing.”

But, what is the real thing with the Blazers right now? -- The battles down low.

Now that Whiteside and Nurkic could see time on the floor together, as Blazers Coach Terry Stotts has already noted, the two will seemingly elevate each other’s game.   

Whiteside is up for the challenge. 

Pushing Nurk around is not an easy feat. He got thirty, forty pounds on everybody. I got to push him around and Zach and just wrestling with them guys. Those are great scoring guys. It’s really good. -- Hassan Whiteside

Coach Stotts has not only been pleased with his big men’s physicality and competitive nature, but he also noted that by playing Carmelo Anthony at the three, Portland will not only be a bigger team than we saw this season, but there could definitely be plenty more post ups.

“I’d say they’re relatively physical just by nature of all the big bodies out there,” Stotts said. “There’s limited space on the court and those three guys out there a lot, you throw in Wenyen, Melo, who is a physical player and he’s playing the three… We’re gonna be a different looking team, but yeah, it’s not dirty or anything, but it’s like I said, a lot of big bodies.”

NBA Bubble: Meyers Leonard chugs beer, Hassan Whiteside is a captain

NBA Bubble: Meyers Leonard chugs beer, Hassan Whiteside is a captain

The NBA’s three-week training camp is underway in Orlando, Florida! And players are already losing it.

Life in the Orlando Bubble for the participating 22-teams has consisted of three-hour time slots to practice, workout, take advantage of the weight room, and get extra shots up.

But outside of team meetings and those three-hour time slots in the gym at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports on the Disney World Resort Campus, the players are keeping themselves entertained.

And by doing so, they’re keeping us all entertained.

[Listen to the latest Talking’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon].

This season has been chalk full of jokes, horse noises, and off the wall comments from Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside.  

It’s good to see he still has his sense of humor in the bubble.

And, we all better watch out because Whiteside is the captain now…

 

As for former Trail Blazers big man Meyers Leonard, who is now with the Miami Heat, he has been playing his video games per usual, but he has also shown off another skill.

Leonard posted a video of himself chugging a Coors Light beer in the bubble. Does this make him even more of a Legend now?

Well, I guess it makes Leonard the “king of the bubble.”

Apparently, the NBA competition right now is beer slamming since scrimmages don’t start for another two weeks.

[RELATED]: Carmelo Anthony has evolved into 'Skinny Melo’-- and he’s taking over social media

Pelicans guard JJ Redick got in on the beer-chugging action. Redick posted a video of himself shotgunning a Bud Light while sitting in an ice bath after Sunday’s practice.

Leonard also challenged his NBA colleagues to beat his time. His first challenger is Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson.

Our guess is that the beer competition will continue, as will the use of Instagram and Snapchat filters.

But, what will the NBA players do next in the Bubble?

You know we will keep you posted here at NBC Sports Northwest.

Bring on more of these social media videos! 

Jusuf Nurkic could see some power forward minutes, wants to shoot more threes

Jusuf Nurkic could see some power forward minutes, wants to shoot more threes

“I’m [as] healthy as possible.” -- That is how Trail Blazers big man Jusuf Nurkic started off his Friday morning Zoom interview.

And that’s what all of Rip City loves to hear.

The talk of the town lately has been all about getting a healthy Nurk and Zach Collins back as the Trail Blazers get set to head to Orlando to resume the 2019-20 season.

The starting lineup will of course look different.

Blazers Coach Terry Stotts has some decisions to make, but has already said he anticipates a couple of big lineups.

So, does Nurk view Hassan Whiteside as a threat for starting minutes?

Nah, he knows he and Whiteside can and should work together.  

“You can look at [it] whatever you want. It ain’t no competition, it’s my teammate. All my teammates… should be here to win the game. And, you know, coach obviously has one job to figure out all the minutes and the roles,” Nurkic said Friday.

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

The Blazers starting lineup will probably vary depending on matchups, but one possibility is Nurk and Whiteside playing alongside each other.

The Bosnian Beast mentioned how he could see some action at the power forward position.

To have Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum along with Carmelo Anthony and Nurkic and then Whiteside anchoring the middle would be a lineup that a lot of team’s would need to adjust their own lineup to in order to defend such a big team.

Nurkic says he is ready to fill whatever role Coach Stotts decides for him.

“I think we just need to fill in role with what the coach supposed to give us and what he think is the best for us and for the team,” Nurk added. “That's his part of the job, but I went down as a center, so I'll be back at the center. If I'm going to play some minutes at the four – yeah, I think [after] talking to the coach, I will definitely play some four.”

The 7-footer understands that in the few days left before the Blazers travel to Orlando to enter the quarantine bubble, he has one job:

Get in the best shape possible before Portland tips off its first game against Memphis on July 31, while Stotts figures out the rest.

“It’s just a matter of what [Coach Stotts] thinks is the best for the team -- that’s his part of the job to figure out. My part is -- I'm going to be as healthy as I’ve probably ever been.”

Whiteside has already pushed for the twin towers idea before the season was suspended.

Melo posts up 80% of the time, so it’s not going to be a spacing issue or anything. I think we’ll be a force out there. Even when we’re in a game, I think we can play minutes together and then we can rotate in and out.  -- Trail Blazers big man Hassan Whiteside on playing alongside Jusuf Nurkic

Nurkic acknowledged that with the global pandemic, and thus the NBA hiatus, it has been extremely helpful for him to continue to work on getting his body right. 

“We'll see… what's my wind look like, but I definitely think, going to [training] camp and to the games with no restrictions, especially minutes, it's just a huge part in this and [the coronavirus pandemic] gave it to me,” Nurkic said.

Nurkic also says he “knows” he’s going to come back “a better player.”

In 72 games during the Trail Blazers 2018-19 season, the Blazers starting center averaged a career high 15.6 points, to go along with 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.4 blocks per game.
[RELATED]: Trail Blazers return to play schedule in Orlando released

And now that we’ve seen the social media videos of the Bosnian Beast getting up plenty of threes, the question remains: Will Nurkic be more of a threat from deep now?

Over his six-year career, he has attempted a total of 42 three-pointers.

Of those 42, he has made three, which all came in the 2018-19 season with Portland.

He went 3-of-29 that season.

So while coach Stotts will most likely need to see a little more consistency out of Nurk to give him the green light from deep, Nurkic says his shooting touch has always been there, but he plans to take more threes when he finally makes his return. 

I feel great. I mean, like I said, during this process and then just being on a bench in a suit and you see a lot of different perspectives…. I feel… I have [had] a great touch from day one I arrived to the league. So, I think the shooting part, I guess is just about coach and what the team needs, and I definitely feel I'm going to shoot more this year now. And I'm capable of shooting those, I just, you know, need to consistently, and I've been working for a while now and it’s just not something I really consider a new thing. It just now more allowed me to work on it. -- Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic

We’ll have to wait and see if the big fella will be letting ‘em rip from long distance, but for Coach Stotts, he is most looking forward to Nurk being back as a facilitator on that end of the floor; however he is open to the idea of Nurk putting up more threes.

Nurk’s been getting his threes up. I’ve said for a long time I think he has a really good-looking stroke. I think he’s going to continue to improve. He’s still a young guy and I think his three-point shooting will evolve. His strength is still going to be in the paint… But, I’ve never discouraged him from shooting threes. -- Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts

“We’ve definitely missed Nurk’s passing for sure,” Stotts added. “Dame and CJ really had to work hard for their points, and I think with [Nurk's] passing both out of the post and on our spacing sets, that’s going to make things a little bit easier… Dame and Nurk’s pick-and-roll was one of the best in the league for the last couple of years. So, that’s going to be an important part of our offense.” 

But, we all know that having Nurkic back in general is an important part of the Blazers push for the playoffs. 

Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins are back and the Trail Blazers are PUMPED

Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins are back and the Trail Blazers are PUMPED

Since March 6, when it was first reported that Trail Blazers big man Jusuf Nurkic was set to make his return following nearly a year-long rehab, Blazers fans have been anticipating the moment of seeing Nurk step on the court once again.   

And instead of Nurkic lacing up his shoes to take on the Houston Rockets in front of the home crowd at Moda Center on Mar. 15, the coronavirus pandemic hit and the NBA was suspended.

But now, with the NBA returning to action in Orlando, Florida at the end of the month, Nurkic along with Zach Collins will be returning to the court.

There's plenty of excitement and anticipation from the Trail Blazers as the two 7-footers get set to return.

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

Damian Lillard wouldn’t share too many details on Portland’s newly-added secret weapons, but judging by the smile on his face during Wednesday’s Zoom call, it’s apparent he couldn’t be happier to get his two teammates back.

They look great. They make me feel way more confident going in just from seeing them -- both of them. Like I forgot, I didn’t forget, but I forgot who they were. Like it's been so long that I almost forgot… You’ve just got to see, man. I can’t share these things. -- Damian Lillard on Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins

Blazers coach Terry Stotts added “they both look great… Zach is 100 percent cleared. He looks great. He’s been working out… Zach will be able to play this season without any limitations.”

Coach Stotts doesn’t believe Nurkic or Collins will be on any type of minutes restriction when the team begins play in Orlando. 

[RELATED]: Trail Blazers return to play schedule in Orlando released

It was on March 25, 2019 when Nurk suffered a compound fracture of his left tibia and fibula late in a home game against the Brooklyn Nets.

Prior to the injury, the Trail Blazers big man averaged 15.6 points and 10.4 rebounds, both of which were career-highs.

As for Collins, he had successful surgery to repair his left labrum on Nov. 5. 

He was then to be re-evaluated in approximately four months.

And now with the NBA’s long layoff, the Blazers feel confident that bringing back their two big men will be even more advantageous since they won’t be the only players needing to shake off some rust.  

Lillard said, “I think it really helps that everybody is coming back rusty, for one. Nobody’s been playing. You know, our team is really familiar with each other, and I think that just the fact that our starting four and five are coming back from injuries... They’re coming back into a situation where everybody’s in the same boat, so it’s more comfortable. I think it’ll be a little bit more seamless for them. And I think that’s good for our team. So, once we do start playing I think we’ll be able to get it going pretty quick."

Stotts says he is still playing out different starting lineups in his head, saying, “I haven’t ruled out starting Hassan [Whiteside] and Nurk together.”

Think about that starting lineup for a moment:

  1. Damian Lillard
  2. CJ McCollum
  3. Carmelo Anthony
  4. Hassan Whiteside
  5. Jusuf Nurkic

That’d be a big lineup.

Whiteside has already pushed for the twin towers idea.

Melo posts up 80% of the time, so it’s not going to be a spacing issue or anything. I think we’ll be a force out there. Even when we’re in a game, I think we can play minutes together and then we can rotate in and out.  -- Trail Blazers big man Hassan Whiteside on playing alongside Jusuf Nurkic

There’s no doubt that these two bigs have different games.

Both will alter shots at the rim, but of course, Whiteside is the better shot-blocker.

Nurkic is more of a facilitator than Whiteside on the other end allowing Lillard to play more off the ball in the pick-and-roll.

Whiteside does have four more years in the league on Nurkic. Hassan had no problem comparing his game to Nurk's back in March. 

He’s more a pitching big. He passes the ball a little more. He’s more at the free throw line area with his pitches and passes and stuff. I’m more in the paint and under the rim. I’ve been shooting threes a little bit, but I’m more of a guy who likes to get straight to the Baja. -- Hassan Whiteside explaining the difference between his game and Jusuf Nurkic’s game

Nurkic’s “pitches and passes” will be key.

And Coach Stotts agrees.

“We’ve definitely missed Nurk’s passing for sure,” Stotts said Wednesday. “Dame and CJ really had to work hard for their points, and I think with [Nurk's] passing both out of the post and on our spacing sets that’s going to make things a little bit easier… Dame and Nurk’s pick and roll was one of the best in the league for the last couple of years. So, that’s going to be an important part of our offense.”  

And at the other end of the floor, there’s no doubt these two bigs will quickly make an impact.

“One of the things we are going to be better at with the addition of Nurk and Zach is we are going to have more paint protection," Stotts added. "We are going to be a better rebounding team. And I don’t know how much it comes down to necessarily individual defense as much as it does to being a better defensive team."

Portland fans have been chomping at the bit to see a healthy Nurk and Collins.

And so have the Blazers.

“I think everybody is looking forward to what they both bring,” Stotts said. “They have both been out a long time, and both are anxious to get on the court, so they both will have a lot of energy. I think that is going to be contagious.”

As if thinking about getting Nurk back after seeing him sidelined for more than a year isn’t exciting enough, Coach Stotts offered up this salivating nugget on Nurkic:

“I think physically, it’s the best I’ve seen him look. He has good muscle tone, he doesn’t look thin, he looks strong. I don’t know what his body-fat [percentage] is, but honestly, from a physical standpoint, it’s the best I’ve seen him.”

Is the best Beast yet to come? That's intriguing. 

Also, is it July 31 yet? 

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.

Some reasons the Trail Blazers signed a point guard rather than a small forward

Some reasons the Trail Blazers signed a point guard rather than a small forward

The Trail Blazers signed a replacement player for Trevor Ariza Monday -- point guard Jaylen Adams -- and a whole lot of Portland fans seem upset about it.

Ariza, who opted out of going to Orlando for the NBA’s resumption of the season, is a small forward. Why a point guard? Who will play small forward? And what about bringing former Trail Blazers such as Allen Crabbe or Evan Turner back to fill that spot? Or what about signing some of the “name” players who are out there?

Well, I think I can help you with some answers here, based on logic and the experience of being around this franchise for a few days.

Let me make some points and you can pick out what you need. First, the small forward position:

  • The idea of Crabbe or Turner is a non-starter. Turner is still on Minnesota’s roster. He played in only 19 games this season and just one after Jan. 1.

  • Crabbe played in 37 games this season and started just once. He had a miserable season. And he's one of those players who seems to need the ball a lot, which isn't going to happen here.

  • Those “name” players people are talking about? The likes of Iman Shumpert and Gerald Green? Shumpert isn’t good enough to help and Green is hurt.

  • Veteran players who finished last season without a team would be going to Orlando in search of long-term employment -- a chance to showcase for a deal next season. That means they’re going to want playing time and if they don’t get it, that will be a problem.

  • There has never been a time I can remember where team chemistry and togetherness will be tested like it will be in Orlando. Players will have very little freedom of movement and contact with family or friends. Their stress level is likely to be off the charts. Adding players with excess baggage is not something a lot of teams will be willing to do. Not sure the Trail Blazers -- or many of the other teams in Orlando -- want to take chances with players who might be a disruption.

  • If this team gets eliminated quickly in the seeding games, which is a possibility, don’t be surprised if the team’s core players see their minutes cut down so that the coaches and front office can see the others play. They certainly wouldn’t be interested in watching over-the-hill vets looking for a contract from another team.

  • There has been an open transaction window since June 23 and if a veteran player hasn’t been signed by now, odds are he’s not valued by any of the 22 teams.

And now for Adams and the reasons for signing him:

  • Again, if the Trail Blazers can’t hang in the race for the final playoff berth, I would expect Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum’s minutes to be drastically cut -- or see them even shut down. Why risk injury if the team is out of the running? If that’s the case, help is needed at point guard.

  • I don’t expect Anfernee Simons to play 48 minutes in the absence of Dame and CJ, so Adams would be there to back up.

  • There is nothing wrong with getting an early look at one of the G-League’s best players prior to next season.

  • Adams will also help lighten the load for the starters during the three-week camp leading up to the seeding games.

And so, who do I expect to see playing small forward, with Ariza absent?:

  • Depending on matchups, I would expect Carmelo Anthony to get those minutes, alongside Zach Collins and either Jusuf Nurkic or Hassan Whiteside. I would also expect Gary Trent to get time at small forward, where he has spent time previously this season.

  • The league seems to grow more positionless each season and all sorts of big and small lineups are possible with what this team has on its roster.

  • Terry Stotts likes to stick with a tidy rotation in the postseason -- eight players, if possible. I think those eight would obviously include Lillard, McCollum, Collins, Nurkic, Whiteside, Anthony, Trent and Simons -- with Nassir Little and Mario Hezonja used for specific matchups. There is not much room there for additions unless somebody else opts out.

Trevor Ariza is a no-go, where does that leave the Trail Blazers in Orlando?

Trevor Ariza is a no-go, where does that leave the Trail Blazers in Orlando?

With Trevor Ariza opting out of the resumption of the NBA regular season in Orlando, where does that leave the Trail Blazers?

Well, still better off than they were when the season went on hiatus.

They have lost Ariza, who had been their starting small forward, but they will be adding Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins, which still promises to make them a better team, overall, than the group in Portland uniforms when the season went on its extended break.

And don’t get too hung up on positions. Yes, Ariza is a small forward and that’s not a spot with a lot of depth. But keep in mind, positions don’t matter so much these days in the NBA with so many teams going with small or unconventional lineups. Coach Terry Stotts will have the option of using his five best players, regardless of perceived position, very often.

And Collins provides depth at several positions because of his defensive versatility.

One of the team’s two-way players, Jaylen Hoard, is the likely replacement for Ariza, not as the starter but if needed in the rotation. He is comfortable in the Trail Blazer system and with his teammates.

I don’t expect Portland to sign someone to replace Ariza, because there isn’t much out there on the free-agent market now and why add another salary when the new player is not likely to play much, if not at all?

The real question, though, is whether Ariza is the only Trail Blazer who will opt out? Players have until Tuesday to exercise their option not to participate in the resumption of play in Orlando. If another chooses to stay home, Portland may then decide to make a move.

Who might join Ariza on the No-Go list?

My guess -- just a guess -- would be Carmelo Anthony and/or Hassan Whiteside. Melo might decide that at his age he would not have anything to prove in Orlando and why risk injury? He may already have options for next season that he wouldn’t want to damage with an injury,

Whiteside knows that Nurkic is going to be on the roster and could reasonably assume that as a pending free agent, the numbers he put up this season will help him get a new contract without the added pressure of what’s to come for the team in Florida.

But in reality, I wouldn’t be surprised if those players decide to stick with the team and ride this season out. Melo is a competitor and a shot at the playoffs would probably be fun for him. I believe he likes and respects his teammates and the organization and would have trouble leaving them behind.

Whiteside has had a much better season than what was expected of him and might want to stick around and see what happens. And the challenge would be to see if can carve out playing time alongside Nurkic.

Whatever happens, the Trail Blazers, with the return of Collins and Nurkic, will be a fun watch when the season resumes. And the experience of the core group having played together for some time could be a big thing.

It's still so difficult to figure out what's ahead -- not only with the roster, but with the league's tentative plan for resumption in Orlando.

The Trail Blazers will be playing with ‘house money’ in the postseason

The Trail Blazers will be playing with ‘house money’ in the postseason

Imagine a world where you are Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and have Hassan Whiteside, a full-strength Jusuf Nurkic and a healthy Zach Collins at your disposal. 

Portland, as well as the rest of the NBA, has yet to see this three-headed monster suited up.

It is the biggest (quite literally) kept secret in the NBA that opposing teams will have a tough time scouting. Why? Because it is yet to happen.

Jusuf Nurkic, who broke his leg in March of last season, was one game away from making his 2020 season debut before the NBA suspended the season. Zach Collins, who hasn't played since he suffered a dislocated shoulder on October 27th, will be back as well once the postseason resumes. Nurk and Collins are two big pieces of the puzzle that the Blazers will have back on the court.

And think about it: opposing teams haven’t had the opportunity to scout these two for quite some time now. There’s no recent film on either Collins or Nurk and you have to go back at least one year to see the two on the court together. Their games have changed since then.

They [Portland] have just as good opportunity as anyone else. With a healthy Nurk back, we don’t know how healthy Zach is but he’s been working, so their motivation is a little bit different than everyone else’s. They are playing with house money. Nobody has film on Zach; nobody has film on Nurk. And to get enough film on both of them to really matter is going to be after. Even then, it’s only ten games. — Channing Frye

Portland will finally be near full strength and a different team once the NBA resumes play.

Now let’s take a look at what it would be like if the Blazers do end up making that eight-seed in the Western Conference. Portland would face the Los Angeles Lakers, and in case you haven’t seen the comments, LeBron James has said about facing Portland in the first round, enjoy.

[RELATED]: LeBron James thinks the Portland Trail Blazers would be a tough 8th seed to beat

For me, I think the Blazers have the best chance of making noise. Am I going to say ‘They’re going to beat the Lakers?’ I would say of any team, they have the best chance by far. — Channing Frye 

Before the NBA suspension, the Trail Blazers and Lakers faced one another three times, Los Angeles winning two out of the three. However, the Lakers had little answer for a man named Damian Lillard who dropped 29, 31 and 48 points in those three games. Not to mention Lillard was one rebound away from a triple-double in their last meeting: 48 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.

Dame and LeBron have great respect for one another and it would be a treat to see their two teams in the first round of the NBA postseason.

When that will be is still very much up in the air. Yes, the NBA's return date is July 30, however, the players (including Portland's Carmelo Anthony) are skeptical to resume play given the circumstances and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But once play does resume, beware of the Portland Trail Blazers along with that three-headed monster.

Miami Heat throws shade at Hassan Whiteside with social media post

Miami Heat throws shade at Hassan Whiteside with social media post

When Hassan Whiteside got traded to the Portland Trail Blazers on the second day of 2019 free agency, he took to his Instagram to announce his pleasure with the move.

'WE GOT SHOOTERS."

Of course, Whiteside was referring to guards Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Rodney Hood, and more which looked much more promising than Whiteside's previous stop, the Miami Heat, which ranked 20th in three-point percentage that prior season. He seemed hyped to have more open space in the paint to operate created by the spacing from playing with one of the league's elite backcourts.

Well, that prior season may have been an anomaly in Miami because in their first season since trading Hassan Whiteside, the Heat are tied for first in the NBA in three-point percentage at 38.3%. (In Whiteside's defense the Blazers are sixth which isn't shabby at all.)

Part of the Heat's newfound success from distance has been the emergence of second-year player Duncan Robinson who's shooting a scorching 44.8% from beyond the arc, good for fourth in the NBA. 

The Miami Heat decided to give a shoutout to their sensational sophomore by comparing him to NBA legend Ray Allen who shot 41.3% from three in 2012-13 for Miami...and also threw some shade towards Whiteside in the process.

"We (always) got shooters" is obviously a reference to Whiteside quote, and while it may just be referring to how over they had elite shooting this season and with Ray Allen. It also can be shading the Portland center by saying the franchise has always had shooting and he shouldn't have acted liked he didn't have any when he got traded. 

Who you got? Here are the Players Only NBA 2K Tournament odds

Who you got? Here are the Players Only NBA 2K Tournament odds

Get ready to watch some of your favorite NBA stars in action!

With the NBA hiatus going on three weeks now, fans will get a chance to watch virtual basketball with NBA players competing against each other while playing the video game, NBA 2K.

The tournament will feature 16 of the NBA's best 2K players with Kevin Durant, Donovan Mitchell, DeMarcus Cousins, and Andre Drummond some of the featured names.

Trail Blazers starting center Hassan Whiteside will represent Portland in the first-ever 2K Players Only Tournament. 

And you can bet there are already odds out there with the tournament tipping off Friday.

Tuesday evening, SportsBetting.ag set odds for the 16-team tournament.

Devin Booker is the favorite, while Kevin Durant is right behind him, according to SportsBetting.ag. Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks announced Wednesday, that Durant has been cleared of coronavirus after testing positive a couple of weeks ago. 

As for Whiteside, he comes in sixth on the odds-on favorite list, but he is the No. 3 seed in the tournament with a 2K rating of 87.

NBA 2K Players Tournament SportsBetting.Ag Odds

Devin Booker        +350  

Kevin Durant        +400    
Deandre Ayton     +600    
Trae Young            +800    
Donovan Mitchell  +900    

Hassan Whiteside  +1000    
Rui Hachimura        +1200    
Andre Drummond   +1600    
Pat Beverley             +1600    

Demarcus Cousins    +1800    
Zach Lavine                +1800    
Harrison Barnes         +2000    
Michael Porter Jr.        +2000    
Montrezl Harrell         +2000    
Derrick Jones Jr.         +2200    
Domantas Sabonis    +2250    

Not only can bets be placed on players, there will also be a handful of prop bets, including which conference will have more players advance to Round 2 and whether or not any games will go to overtime.
You can check out the updated odds right here.

The tournament will air on ESPN this weekend.