Elle Leonard inks a “A Dry Goodbye”

Elle Leonard inks a “A Dry Goodbye”

Meyers Leonard and his wife Elle are moving to Miami and moving on.

A heartfelt message from Elle Leonard has been trending on social media.

Elle took to her website, elleleonard.com, on Sunday to say goodbye to Portland, and to say goodbye to the Leonards’ anxiety and depression that was ensued during a rough stretch in his career.

But she also wanted to share the good times over the last seven years in Portland, while wading through the three stages of being traded.

It was on July 1st when Meyers and Elle found out that Meyers was traded to Miami in a three-team trade that included Maurice Harkless heading to the Clippers, and the Blazers receiving Hassan Whiteside in return.

Elle shared her thoughts on how her husband’s commitment to the Trail Blazers organization had her blindsided by the trade.

“Over the last seven years, I’ve watched him commit his heart to a city, community, and organization. There have been hard times and good times, but ultimately there was an undeniably special bond,” Elle wrote.

“This is why on July 1, 2019––the drop we felt would never come, dropped the hardest,” Elle continued.

Elle found out about the trade like most people: ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski’s breaking news tweet.

Elle wrote, “People wanted answers. But, I only knew as much as Woj’s 133-character tweet explained.”

This is a goodbye story that includes the past and the present of Meyers and Elle’s life story from moving to Portland to getting married in Portland to both of them battling depression and anxiety.

Elle expressed her feelings on the 2016-17 season and why she stopped going to Moda Center that year. 

“During any true growth, there are setbacks. And for us, the 2016-2017 season was when everything fell apart.

 

Until recently, Meyers never spoke publicly about that year. Actually, he never told any friends or family about what he had gone through. But on a local Portland podcast, I heard Meyers finally admit that he had battled severe depression and anxiety.

 

We never had a conversation about him telling this story prior to the podcast. So when I heard him speak openly about it, I was both proud and scared.”

Elle went onto say, “the 2016-2017 season was the year that I slowly stopped attending games. I knew Meyers wasn’t healthy. So sitting in that arena felt like absolute torture. Each opportunity seemed to be coupled with an injury or heartache. Each game, it was like I had a front-row seat to watch my husband’s pain on public display.”

After having “hit rock bottom” during those struggles of that season, Elle and Meyers leaned on their support group named the “Dream Team.”

With Elle and Meyers calling Portland home, Elle wrote “what we realized is that rock bottom can actually be a trampoline as long as you’re willing to jump.”

Elle also made sure to show her gratitude of her and her husband’s time in Portland:

“You will always hold a special place in our hearts and a beautiful chapter in our story.”

READ the entire goodbye right here.

Trail Blazers Social Media Roundup: Don't steal Meyers Leonard's AirPods and don't call Damian Lillard a Trump supporter

Trail Blazers Social Media Roundup: Don't steal Meyers Leonard's AirPods and don't call Damian Lillard a Trump supporter

In case you were out and about on this nice Northwest weekend, here's what you might have missed on social media this weekend in the world of the Portland Trail Blazers. 

Damian Lillard responded to a tweet claiming he was a Trump supporter. Needless to say, the thread that followed was filled with entertaining GIFs:

Former Trail Blazer Meyers Leonard apparently had his AirPods stolen...and then found them for sale online! The special branded "Hammer" logo gave them away:

The Godfather Dwight Jaynes is currently traveling Europe and made a stop in Croatia, only to find Damian Lillard jerseys for sale...but Nurkic ones, as expected, all sold out!

The Rip City 3 on 3 Event continues at the Rose Quarter today with final brackets, the 3 point contest and the Slam Dunk Challenge. Head Coach Terry Stotts made an appearance this morning:

Finally, Trail Blazers first round draft pick Nassir Little signed a deal with Nike in recent days and announced the partnership on his Instagram page:

An exclusive with Meyers Leonard: Farewell, Portland

An exclusive with Meyers Leonard: Farewell, Portland

Right from the start of his time in Portland, Meyers Leonard was misunderstood in Portland.

“A seven-footer out there at the three-point line launching bombs?"

“Why isn’t he inside at the post?"

“Why isn’t he in the paint where he belongs?"

Leonard was ahead of his time, of course. Big guys are shooting threes routinely these days and traditional low-post centers are not as common as they used to be. The NBA is all about threes, nowdays, like it or not.

Leonard’s playing time went up and down through his time as a Trail Blazer, even in his seventh and best season in a Portland uniform. The backup center shot 54.5 percent from the floor last year, 45 percent from three-point range and 84.3 percent from the free-throw line but still played in only 61 games and averaged just 14.4 minutes per game. Even in the playoffs, when he would show his value as a scorer, he did not play in five of the team’s 16 postseason games.

Throughout that final season as a Trail Blazer, though, Leonard seemed to finally win over the fans. They noticed his athletic ability, dunking skills and confidence in clutch situations. And they probably also took note of his sideline demeanor – even when he wasn’t playing, he was the first man off the bench to congratulate teammates and cheer good plays.

When he exploded in the final game of the conference finals against Golden State, it was a vindication of sorts for those who believed all along he deserved playing time on a team that so often struggled to find floor spacing and outside shooting. Those people who never understood how he could have been playing behind the likes of Thomas Robinson and Joel Freeland.

Leonard played 40 minutes and 17 seconds in his finale in a Portland uniform. He made 12 of his 16 shots from the floor while missing just three of his eight three-point attempts. He had 25 points by halftime and 30 for the game, while grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing three assists with just two turnovers.

More than that, he gave the team what it had been lacking the entire series – somebody with the gravity to keep the floor spread for his guards to operate.

That game proved to be a fond farewell for a player the Portland fans were slow to take into their hearts. The fans chanted his name, cheered his every move and he just continued to do what he’d always done – shoot threes and play as hard as anyone on the court.

“The Hammer” as he was called, nailed it in his final game. And it was obvious how much that meant to him – not only how well he played but how he was embraced by the Trail Blazer fans.

But listen to him talk about it in the accompanying video feature as he reflects on growing up in Portland. See the emotion on his face and hear it in his voice – and understand how much this team and this city meant to Meyers Leonard.

In Meyers Leonard, Blazers fans were made to reflect on themselves outside of basketball

In Meyers Leonard, Blazers fans were made to reflect on themselves outside of basketball

Truth be told, I’ve had some iteration of this column written for some time. 

Its details have changed, naturally, as Meyers Leonard’s story has taken shape: first as an unremarkable rookie, then as a sweet-shooting stretch five. Eventually, Leonard became a vessel for catching of all Rip City’s vitriol, most of it undeserved. It’s led us to the 2018-19 version of Leonard — his best iteration yet — and a sort of unsteady rewriting of how harshly he was viewed by much of the Portland Trail Blazers fanbase. It’s difficult to explain what to make of that.

Leonard is with the Miami Heat now, his expiring contract a cog in the machine that wheeled Jimmy Butler in from the Philadelphia 76ers to South Beach. His legacy with the Heat, and any team that comes after, will never be held in as much contempt as it was here in Oregon. Leonard is 27 now, and as close to his final form as an NBA player as ever. For that reason, he’ll never be as unabashedly loved as he was here, either.

His final season with the Blazers was, for many, a chance to reconcile with the former No. 11 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Leonard was a source of disappointment for much of his time in Blazer Land, but this year his offensive prowess allowed Portland fans to find purchase in their hearts for a man they’d cast out so long ago. It helped that the team’s Western Conference Finals run put Leonard back into fan’s good graces. He deserved it, too.


Leonard ranked in the 99th percentile for spot-up shooters this past season, with his work as a cutter and pick-and-roll man equally as impressive, according to Synergy. Leonard had something more to give, his decisions quicker on each side of the ball. His advanced statistics in the playoffs were some of the best for a team whose front line needed his floor-spacing talents. Finally, the way in which the Blazers needed Meyers Leonard was the way in which Meyers Leonard could provide for the Blazers.

In the playoffs, Leonard did what he needed to do: rotate the ball, absorb fouls, contest at the rim, and shoot from deep. In his final game of the year — the final game he’d ever play for Portland — Leonard scored 30 points, going 5-of-8 from 3-point range while grabbing 12 rebounds and three assists in 40 minutes against the Golden State Warriors. It was Leonard putting all his skills into action at once, and the hot-and-cold love affair for Meyers was back on the stove.

The only problem was that it wasn’t clear if Blazers fans deserved to be let back into Leonard’s heart. 

...

In Portland, fans are true to their extremes. The word fanatic means something on the banks of the Willamette. It’s what happens when an indoor city like Portland is mixed with an NBA team as the only game in town: “Blazermania” was the original iteration of this, and the modern version takes the form of Favorite Son and Scapegoat. 

Each season, Portland fans pick one player to love and one to rail against, both unconditionally. In the past decade alone, Favorite Sons have been: Jake Layman, Thomas Robinson, Will Barton, Luke Babbitt, Allen Crabbe, Meyers Leonard, Shabazz Napier, Tim Frazier, Noah Vonleh, and Pat Connaughton. Scapegoats included but were not limited to Leonard, Vonleh, Crabbe, Joel Freeland, Mo Williams, JJ Hickson, and Evan Turner.

Players have flipped between this informal designation, usually from year-to-year but sometimes during the course of a season. Leonard is the lone player of this ilk that has cumulatively made each list more than any other. It’s this relationship that, since his rookie season in 2012-13, has been difficult to explain to those who have not experienced Leonard’s career.

His first season in Portland, Leonard was plunked at the center position out of necessity. He was the Blazers’ sixth man, playing the most minutes outside of any starter thanks to JJ Hickson’s inability to do anything other than rebound and score for himself. Neil Olshey and Terry Stotts wanted to see what they had in the athletic, high-flying Leonard. They soon found out what was always likely: he was a project.


Meanwhile, Damian Lillard took off like a rocket. The 2013 NBA Rookie of the Year was an immediate star, the franchise cornerstone that was destined to take the reigns from Aldridge sooner rather than later. Lillard’s rise made Leonard — taken just five spots later in that draft — look like a weaker choice by comparison. Aldridge was a star, Lillard was too. Portlanders didn’t want to wait for the Illinois product to develop, a process for that for NBA big men usually takes through their first contract to complete. Thus was born the impatience for Leonard, and pressure started to mount.

The arrival of Robin Lopez in the summer of 2013 and the unexpected rise of Freeland from the dregs of frontcourt development purgatory pushed Leonard to the bench. His minutes were cut in half his sophomore year, and Leonard scored fewer than 100 points. The saber-rattling about trading Leonard began among fans, and drafts were written, ready to be inked over later, labeling him a bust.

Rip City searched for grace after Leonard’s second season in 2013-14, but found nothing of the sort despite his minutes and impact waning. He stormed back offensively, and his 40/50/90 season in 2014-15 should have shifted for the masses who Leonard was, and where he was useful. But it didn’t. 

Because Leonard crested the 7-footer mark (with shoes only: his actual height is a quarter inch short of that vaunted threshold), he was held to a different standard. The refrain on the streets and blog posts of Portland was If he’s that tall he must block shots and score with his back to the basket. This was a holdover from a different era, the same kind of conventional thinking that had led to the drafting of Greg Oden over Kevin Durant five years earlier. At least partly, this wasn’t completely laughable.

The year before Leonard was drafted, NBA teams combined to attempt 36,395 shots from beyond the 3-point line. By the time Leonard notched his best shooting season ever — just three years later — that number had gone up by more than 50 percent. Now, as Leonard makes his way to Florida, it’s more than doubled.

A change in how the NBA valued 3-pointers coincided with how Leonard shot the ball. We saw him fire from deep during Las Vegas Summer League a couple of years into his tenure. Between his second and third season, Leonard went from shooting single-digit threes to triple-digits.

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“Stop.. Hammer Time” 🔨⏰

A post shared by Meyers Leonard (@meyersleonard) on


Running alongside this, outpacing Portland’s young big man, was how social media was used in sports. We adopted Facebook and Twitter as a means to communicate about our favorite leagues. Early NBA Twitter was the Wild West, with anyone and everyone able to suddenly speak directly — and loudly — to their favorite stars instantaneously.

If you wanted to explain to outsiders the complexity of emotion surrounding seven years of Meyers Leonard in Portland, this would be it: height, 3-point shooting, and Twitter.

In this regard, Leonard was drafted not only too early for his own age, but for the era in which he began his career. GMs began reaching for shooting a few seasons after Leonard was drafted. Had he been born in 1995 instead of 1992, he might be seen as another P.J. Hairston, Juancho Hernangomez, Sam Dekker, Nik Stauskas, or Doug McDermott. As the 3-point revolution took over the NBA, it became more acceptable to swing-and-miss on shooting. But that wasn’t the case in 2012, and as a group fans have struggled to understand who he is, and what to expect of him.

...

When draft mate Lillard continued to excel, the rancor surrounding Leonard grew to a cacophony. Each year, the expectations for Leonard appeared to turn more ludicrous, with the fanbase uninterested in taking into account context and prior performance as a projection of what was to come. No matter what, Portland couldn’t get it out of their heads. Block shots! Post up! Stop shooting! they clamored as one of the league’s best long-range gunners went underutilized in the Blazers offense. It was baffling.

Despite some hope after Leonard’s 2014-15 campaign, things wavered. That summer the team fired big man coach Kim Hughes, a Meyers confidant, who let it slip that LaMarcus Aldridge was leaving the team in free agency. Leonard’s defensive development stagnated the next year, and his season ended with a shoulder injury in late 2016.

An injury-confined season followed in 2016-17. His minutes remained steady but the bungee effect of Leonard’s inability to train after surgery delayed his progress. Surprisingly, it wasn’t his left shoulder that was holding him back.

  
In February of 2017, Leonard told me in an interview that his lower body wasn’t ready to perform. Because he couldn’t hold any weights or even run following surgery in spring of 2016, Leonard came into the next season physically unprepared to battle at the center position. That led to an acute, nagging discrepancy in capacity as he struggled to catch up against high-caliber big men.

“All of a sudden my back was starting to really bug me, and that was because I just hadn't taken any type of load whatsoever,” Leonard said in a February 2017 edition of the Locked on Blazers podcast. “It probably took me until mid-January to even really feel like I had my legs back under me.”

The next season an ankle sprain kept Leonard out here and there, and he fell out of Stotts’ rotation as Zach Collins came on strong. He performed in fits and starts, playing double-digit minutes three times in 2018. When last summer came, and with the team declining to re-sign Ed Davis, it appeared to be Leonard’s time to shine yet again. 

And we know how that turned out.

...

There’s been an outpouring of support in the wake of Leonard’s trade to Miami. Twitter, perhaps for the first time ever, has been positive toward Leonard, wishing him well on his way. This endearment, while on the surface healing, has acted as a mirror reflecting back on two sides the analogous journey taken by Leonard and Blazers fans over these past seven years.

To the left is the journey from boy to man. It’s the timeline of Leonard going through the conventional maturation process of a Millennial in America while at the same time bearing the weight of an unnatural public life which capital itself could not ever be expected to wholly assuage. It’s every slight, every Bieber-ism, every joke about his wife’s shooting. It’s also every friend made, every smile from summer camp kids, and every trip to one of Oregon's greatest landmarks that colored Leonard's life.

On the right of this mirror is the growth of each fan, their own follies individually considered as they’ve matured in their own lifetimes: the mind’s camera flashing back, indiscriminately, to how they might have handled events differently over time by dint of experience, not just with Leonard but with anyone. 


There comes stages in life where it feels as though Yes, finally I am fully formed! My opinions and actions are resolute! only to look back and understand, undoubtedly, that was not the case. Given how fans feel today, with Leonard gone and his growth as a player and as a person considered, would each side have made the same decisions?

Portland fans received several chances to make right by Meyers Leonard. It’s felt as though his dearth of production, contrasted to expectations, were projected as a totem of fans’ own collective irritation with their lives; of infelicity due to failure, happenstance, or qualms that couldn’t be publicized save for as invective toward a 7-foot-1 center from a tiny hamlet in corn country.

That part might remain inexplicable. Or perhaps, this transference is exactly the explanation. From here, the only thing to do — as it is with any complex, adult relationship that didn’t end up quite the way either party had hoped — is to understand that moving forward is the only option, and to hope that time does indeed heal the wound.

For Leonard, he has more to learn and more to show. Blazers fans will give him a standing ovation when he returns to Moda Center next season. In the meantime, Leonard’s ethic and ethos, steeled by his time in this city, is exemplified by his final response about his shoulder injury in 2017, the very thing that marked the beginning of the end of his tenure in Portland.

“I’m working, I’m doing my best,” said Leonard. “I can say that — I know that — and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”

Outsiders: Not here for the Meyers Leonard hate

Outsiders: Not here for the Meyers Leonard hate

Early in the morning on July 1, Trail Blazers fans woke up to the news that Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless had been traded to Miami (Harkless was later shipped to the Clippers) in return for Hassan Whiteside. 

It was a good trade for the Blazers, helping to fill a void that will be left until Jusuf Nurkic returns from his fractured leg. 

While most of Rip City took the time to wish both Leonard and Harkless well as they headed to new homes, others took joy in them leaving. 

The Blazers Outsiders were in the former group. 

While taking the time to thank the recently departed Blazers, the Outsiders talked about how Leonard had helped build a special locker room culture over his seven seasons in Portland. 

One fan in particular disagreed, and the Outsiders wouldn't stand for it.

You can hear what they had to say in the video above. 

 

Trail Blazers take their home-run swing with Hassan Whiteside

Trail Blazers take their home-run swing with Hassan Whiteside

Neil Olshey should just go take a nap. He’s earned it.

Olshey’s Trail Blazers engineered a blockbuster trade Monday morning, finishing off – unless he’s got something else up his sleeve – the team’s major off-season work with a flourish.

Already this summer, Olshey has upgraded the team’s shooting from the wing, drafted a promising rookie with just the No. 25 pick, signed Damian Lillard to a supermax contract and Monday, brought in a starting center, Hassan Whiteside, on an expiring contract to stand in for Jusuf Nurkic.

And Whiteside isn’t just another center. He has led the league in blocked shots and rebounds per game and has a career true shooting percentage of .589. Last season he averaged only 23.3 minutes per game but chalked up a double-double, 12.3 points and 11.3 rebounds along with 1.9 blocked shots per game.

Portland made the trade without touching its core players, sending Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless to Miami in return for Whiteside. All three are embarking on the final season of their deals. The Heat are trying to clear cap space in order to complete a complicated deal for free agent Jimmy Butler and they will gain about $4 million with this trade.

Sunday, Portland added free agents Rodney Hood and Mario Herzonja, bolstering the small-forward position already strengthened by the addition of Kent Bazemore in an earlier deal for Evan Turner.

Whiteside does not come without some baggage. The 7-foot, 265-pounder has complained about playing time in Miami, where he became another big man who was a casualty of small-ball lineups and eventually lost his starting job to Bam Adebayo. Famously, he came under fire from Miami President Pat Riley after the 2018 playoffs:

“There's no doubt he was in a bad state in the playoffs,” Riley said of Whiteside. “Whatever the reasons why, I have not really sat down with Spo and really talked about all of these things. Hassan was less than without a doubt in the playoffs. I'm not going to give him any kind of excuse. But the season started with an injury and all year long there was a dilemma of some kind. By the time we got to the playoffs I don't think he was ready. He wasn't in great shape. He wasn't fully conditioned for a playoff battle mentally. He and we got our heads handed to us.

“The disconnect between he and Spo (Coach Erik Spoelstra) that's going to take a discussion between them and it’s going to take thought on the part of Coach and also Hassan. How will Hassan transform his thinking – 99 percent of it – to get the kind of improvement that Spo wants so he can be effective? How can Spo transform his thinking when it comes to offense and defense or minutes or whatever? However he uses him, that's what you do. I have the same problem with Hassan. That problem is that he's going to have to do something to change because he's a helluva player.”

In Portland, where the Trail Blazers are accustomed to using Nurkic (and then Enes Kanter) in the post, Whiteside should be a much happier player. And if he isn’t, he’s a $27 million expiring contract at the trade deadline.

Leonard was a polarizing player in Portland for fans who wanted seven-footers playing inside instead of shooting three-pointers. He did not get consistent playing time in Terry Stotts’ system. But he made a big splash in the playoffs last season in the final two games against Golden State and has a career 47.9 field-goal percentage and a 38.5 percentage from three-point range. Harkless, a starter for most of the last three seasons, has averaged 7.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game for his career. He was a solid defender, especially when used in concert with Al-Farouq Aminu, for the Trail Blazers.

The Trail Blazers made it to the Western Conference finals last season without Nurkic, who sustained a broken leg late in the season. It would be hard to argue that they aren't a better team now, after the flurry of activity the past few days.

 

 

 

Trail Blazers reportedly trading Moe Harkless and Meyers Leonard for Hassan Whiteside

Trail Blazers reportedly trading Moe Harkless and Meyers Leonard for Hassan Whiteside

Updated at 2:37 p.m. ---- Harkless heading to the Los Angeles Clippers as a part of the Jimmy Butler trade to Miami.

---------------------------------------------

It looks like the Portland Trail Blazers have their new starting center until Jusuf Nurkic returns.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, a trade between the Blazers and Miami Heat has been agreed upon.

In the reported deal, the Heat will send center Hassan Whiteside to Portland for forward Maurice Harkless and center Meyers Leonard.

With Nurkic’s timetable still up in the air, this gives the Blazers a starting caliber big in Whiteside who is on an expiring contract.

Whiteside averaged 12.3 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks last season for the Heat. Over the past five seasons in Miami, he has averaged 14.1 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.

His 2015-16 season with Miami, he was named second-team all-defense after averaging 3.7 blocks. Following that season, Whiteside earned a four-year max contract worth $98.4 million from the Heat.

The 30-year-old will bring rim protection, and be a much-needed defensive stopper as Portland looks to build on its Western Conference Finals run from last season.  

What should we expect from the Blazers' young bigs without Jusuf Nurkic?

What should we expect from the Blazers' young bigs without Jusuf Nurkic?

Next season won't start out with much clarity for the Portland Trail Blazers. We don't know when Jusuf Nurkic will return to the court, as his broken leg carries a wide array of potential recovery times. It’s been posited that Nurkic might not return until the All-Star break in 2020. 

That means the Blazers will have to make do with the big man rotation they have on hand. We don't know whether Enes Kanter will return to Rip City, although his strong play throughout his time in Oregon suggests he will be too expensive.

That leaves the Blazers with both Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard under contract and presumably opening the season in Multnomah county, barring any trades.

Last season was the best value over replacement player year in Leonard's career, and he saw little upticks that increased his effectiveness. Leonard had a monster year from 3-point range, shooting 45 percent from beyond the arc. He got to the free-throw line more, and had his best-ever assist percentage. Leonard's increased production came with a decreased usage rate, meaning he got better despite touching the ball less. If you’ve paid attention to his career, you know that’s a leap for the big man from Illinois.

Leonard is in the 99th percentile in terms of 3-point shooting for big men, but it's not all come from behind the arc. Leonard also shot 76 percent at the rim this season according to Cleaning the Glass, putting him in the 92nd percentile. His eFG% was through the roof, and his assist percentage was excellent for his position.

The complaint Blazers fans may have at this point is Leonard's defense. But Leonard doesn’t defend the rim all that often based on where he’s at on the floor. In fact, for bench players over 6-foot-10 who logged at least 55 games, Leonard defended the rim the third-least according to NBA.com. He was only behind Jonas Jerebko and Davis Bertans, which is an example of how and where he’s used on the basketball court. It’s just not that important for Leonard to be a shot-blocking rim stopper despite the conventional attachment to that role given his size.

Most importantly, Leonard was a shooter at the forward position when Portland needed it. Leonard’s 3-point acumen was a cup of water in a desert, particularly in the playoffs. Terry Stotts’ rotation shortened, and wing minutes concentrated between Moe Harkless, Evan Turner, and Al-Farouq Aminu. All three had poor shooting postseasons, and Leonard's ability to stretch the floor helped the Blazers.

So where does that slot him next season? 

Leonard has remained with Portland because Neil Olshey has made a specific gamble on value in terms of shooting. The Blazers can’t easily add a two-way wing player who can shoot the basketball. Make no bones about it — they are definitely looking — but Portland has been searching for that player for several years. In the meantime, it seems the front office has decided the most available option is to continue to round Leonard into shape. It makes sense: he's already on the roster, and his contract isn’t in question.

Collins has supercharged his already accelerated schedule. He played heavy minutes in his first year, then intermittently over the course of last season. He saw more action after Nurkic's injury in March, and was particularly useful as Kanter’s shoulder bothered him during the playoffs.

Although a thumb injury bothered him and started to affect his shooting in the postseason, Collins was one of the best defenders for his size and role. The second-year big man had an excellent block percentage, and performed well as a bench player over 6-foot-10 in defending the rim. He had the sixth-best defensive field goal percentage inside of six feet this season. That was critical as Collins was one of the NBA’s most-used bench bigs in defending the painted area this season.

As was expected for a player of his age and at his position, Collins struggled with both turnovers and fouling at various points over the year. His foul rate was poor, and he ranked in the 18th percentile in turnover percentage for players at his position. 

In opposition to Leonard, the biggest problem for Collins was his offense. His monthly splits fluctuated, in one month shooting 50 percent from 3-point range and another 20%. He didn't make a single 3-pointer in 82 minutes played in the month of February. Collins’ confidence seemed to leave him from week-to-week, and his 3-point attempt rate was indicative of that. He shot 39% of his attempts as threes last season, but that dipped to 30 percent this year. 

When Collins was given steady playing time in the playoffs, he looked like a more confident shooter. He hit about the same rate of long buckets (probably because of his thumb) but his gravity shifted opposing defenses and allowed the Blazers more chances to roam.

Both Collins and Leonard represent different challenges for Stotts' rotation next season. Leonard is a more rounded out player, but is less impactful depending on the defensive matchup. Still, we don't know who will return to the Blazers next season and whether the team will be able to fix their fatal flaw in wing 3-point shooting. As long as that remains, Leonard has a place on this team.

Collins is on a normal arc for an NBA big man. He has struggled... looked lost… and dominated in ways that have surprised fans in Rip City. 

Earlier in the year, I did a video on Collins’ sudden drop in defensive usefulness. My conclusion, oddly, was that there was a shift in the benefit NBA referees were giving him on defense. As players become more established in this league, they often get called for fewer fouls if they are known as defensive stoppers. That seems like the path that Collins is heading down, so I expect to see him be even more effective next year.

The Blazers will have a hard time filling the role of Jusuf Nurkic. He's an excellent defender, and his position as a passer in the high post was a real treat to watch last season. It opened up Portland's offense, which has grown slightly stale. Both Leonard and Collins can add more shooting to this Blazers roster, but they won't be able to make up for everything Nurkic provides. 

It's easy to get lost in the fact that Portland still needs help on the wing. But the Blazers big men are coming along, and this season’s effort should mean some guarantee of production in 2019-20.

ET and Moe take on Paris

turner.jpeg
USA Today

ET and Moe take on Paris

The Blazers offseason is in full swing and thanks to social media we have a great idea of what our favorite players are doing all summer long. 

Meyers Leonard is taking his talents to YouTube, Evan Turner and Maurice Harkless are taking over Paris, while CJ McCollum is in China. 

Here is a quick look back at some of the Blazers best social media posts of the last week. 

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Merci!

A post shared by Maurice Harkless (@moe_harkless) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/Byfnk0fnKge/?igshid=u58rnb6b7j8x

Damian Lillard wasn't hitting the vacation road, but he did stop on Instagram to take the time to say goodbye to assistant coach David Vanterpool. Vanterpool is leaving the organization to become an assistant coach in Minnesota, and Lillard had some parting words for this friend and mentor. 

Meyers Leonard joining FaZe Clan

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USA Today

Meyers Leonard joining FaZe Clan

Remember when you were growing up and your parents always yelled at you for playing video games? "Video games won't pay the bills" they would say. Oh, how wrong they were.

In 2019 eSports is a billion dollar industry that attracts celebrities and pro athletes to its corner of video game world. 

On Wednesday, Trail Blazers center Meyers Leonard announced that he is taking his love for video games to the next level, by joining professional eSports organization, FaZe Clan.

Leonard has been streaming on Twitch all season long, and has become a must watch for those that are both fans of the Blazers and the gaming community. 

For those who don't what Twitch is, it's a streaming service where people can go to watch other people play video games, not just to watch, but to learn and enjoy the social aspects of the community. 

You can watch Leonard here. 

We know when we will see Leonard on the court repping the Blazers again, but when we will see him in the eSports arena repping Faze Clan?