Trail Blazers

Carmelo Anthony, Robert Covington & Derrick Jones Jr. make Trail Blazers positionless

Trail Blazers
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The Trail Blazers have accomplished a lot over the last week:

They added versatility.

They added defensive assets.

And they added/retained veterans.

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Portland was quick to make moves in the shortened offseason. Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey explained Monday how the Trail Blazers reached one of their main goals in gaining more depth at wing.  

“We’re happy with the offseason,” Olshey said. “We’re not traditionally a free agent destination. But based on what we had to offer which was a defined negotiation of the mid-level, we accomplished one of our goals we wanted to be more athletic, we wanted to be better defensively this year, we wanted more versatility on the perimeter, we wanted to be able to switch more and we wanted to more disruptive on the defense.”  

 

[RELATED]: Trail Blazers won the offseason with key moves, signings

Olshey also explained that the roster will stand at 14 and they will not add one more player.

What is most intriguing about the 2020-21 Trail Blazers roster is the depth on the perimeter.

Rodney Hood, who re-signed with the Blazers and has been rehabbing his torn left Achilles for nearly a year now, is expected to be ready to start when the season opens on Dec. 22.

With Rodney, he’s certainly tracking towards being available opening night. He’ll basically be one-year post surgery by the time opening night comes around. He’s done a great job with his rehab.

Neil Olshey on Rodney Hood

But the Blazers don’t really view him as forward on this roster.  

“We look at Rodney as a guard, like as a shooting guard-small forward.” Olshey said.

Yes, at first glance, the Trail Blazers additions and re-signings make it seem like the logjam at the forward position could present issues when it comes to distributing minutes.  

But one -- that’s never a bad thing.

And two -- that’s not how the Blazers look at it.

They didn’t add small forwards and power forwards.

They added veteran, versatile wings.

Robert Covington, who in some ways has been thought of as the missing piece, was acquired on November 16th for Trevor Ariza and Portland's 2020 and 2021 (protected) first round picks.

The Trail Blazers also agreed to a two-year, $19M deal with forward Derrick Jones Jr.

Plus, Carmelo Anthony re-signed with the Trail Blazers to a one-year minimum deal Saturday. 

 

And big man Harry Giles signed Sunday morning. 

Obviously, we added two elite defenders with Robert Covington and Derrick Jones. We’re certainly getting better rebounding.

Neil Olshey

Between Covington, Jones, and trading for Enes Kanter there’s no doubt that this Blazes squad could be lethal on the glass.

As for Zach Collins, who had played more at the four than the five last season, his ankle rehab has been progressing, but don’t expect him to be ready to start the season.

Collins underwent season-ending surgery this summer to address a left ankle injury he suffered on Aug. 15 during the NBA restart.

He’s in here working out everyday, but his timeline is probably closer to the second or third week of Jan. than it is to opening night.

Neil Olshey on Zach Collins

When Collins is healthy, the Blazers will have plenty of forwards on the current roster:

  • Covington
  • Hood
  • Jones Jr.
  • Melo
  • Collins
  • Trent Jr.
  • Giles

But, it’s time to get away from thinking of, ‘oh he’s a power forward or he only plays the three.'

A lot of it is we want the versatility. The league is going more positionless. What we wanted really was guys that can play multiple positions that have defensive versatility, that are more athletic, that are longer, they can shrink the court, they’re more switchable, they can be more disruptive defensively.

Neil Olshey

Sound familiar?     

The Trail Blazers found a lot of success with Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless.

And now they’ve brought that type of wing back, but with even more versatility.  

I think we look at DJ and Cov a little bit not dissimilar to the old Farouq-Moe model, right? They can switch, they can both play either position. Both guys are elite defenders. They’ve got length.

Neil Olshey

While both Collins and Giles could see minutes backing up Jusuf Nurkic.

“Zach is a four or five,” Olshey explained. “But starting the season… We’ve only got two guys over 6’8” that are healthy right now with Nurk and Enes and that’s why we added Harry. He gives us a different look. He gives us that athletic mobile center that can play against some of the more undersized guys that we’ve had trouble with at times.”

And what about Carmelo Anthony coming off the bench?

The Blazers have had those discussions.

 

“Melo understands right now,” Olshey said. “He’ll probably come off the bench. I think he can be featured more with the second unit. Depending who starts at three, we assume it’s Cov and Derrick, there may not be as many shots there for him. So being able to feature him with the second group, getting him some post ups, have him be more of a target for plays with that second group, probably gives him a higher usage.”

Olshey also mentioned it’s not about who starts the game, but who finishes the game.

But while there may still be confusion on how Portland will present their starting lineup or any lineups for that matter, one thing is certain -- the Blazers have brought in players who complement Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.  

“Cov is more of a catch and shoot guy," Olshey added. "And I think Derrick is going to be more pass, cut, move without the ball, slash --generate a lot of his offensive production through his energy and athleticism."

But I think those guys are interchangeable.

Olshey continued, “We start either of them – there’s an argument that one could be called power forward. The other could be called small forward. It really doesn’t change how we play on either end of the floor… Either one can slide to four with Hoodie at three or Gary [Trent Jr.] at three and either one can move back to three with Carmelo at four or one of the bigs at four.”

Just remember when thinking about Covington and Jones Jr:

Positionless is more how I would describe them than position specific.

Neil Olshey

The NBA and the Trail Blazers are set to tip-off the 2020-21 training camp on Dec. 1 with the season slated to begin Dec. 22.

And that’s when coach Terry Stotts can make his decision on how to distribute minutes to all of his positionless players.