When the 2020-21 season opens, the Trail Blazers will feature some personnel changes. And almost every one of the new players comes to Portland to help solve one problem:
Coach Terry Stotts addressed that situation head-on during a media availability Monday.
“Well, one of the reasons last year was a disappointing season, in general, was because of our defense. We never got on track defensively,” Stotts said. “We had an outstanding year offensively, both before the bubble and in the bubble.
“We're going to be a good offensive team again, but I think getting some active wing defenders is really going to help us defensively. I think our personnel is more geared towards the defensive end.”
And in the modern NBA, good defense has evolved. The era of the dominating shotblocker in the middle has just about ended.
“I was having a conversation with some coaches and, you know, back in the day when I got in the league in the ‘90s, the best defensive teams were the ones that had a dominant defensive center,” Stotts said. “And those were the teams that had the best defensive field goal percentage and they impacted the game.
“I think the game has evolved where I think the better defensive teams are the ones that have versatility and some length on the perimeter, which is what we got with Derrick (Jones) and Robert (Covington). And then throw Rodney Hood into the mix, coming off an injury.
“And then you look at the way Gary Trent was able to come on as a defender last season, so hopefully with our versatility and our length and some quickness on the perimeter, it'll take some of the pressure off Dame and CJ. “Obviously our big guys allow us to do more things defensively than maybe we've done in the past.”
Lillard and McCollum each talked about the possibility of the defense growing in flexibility.
“I think with the personnel we have now, having Nurk back, eventually getting Zach back, having two wings like we have, I think we will be a much more versatile defensive team,” Lillard said. “We’ll be able to switch up our coverages and do some things different this year.
“I think we just did some things in the bubble that didn’t show in our defensive numbers, but it was beneficial for us and we’ll be better at it with the personnel changes we made.”
McCollum is looking forward to improvement, too.
“I think for us as a team, it's about the guards and the guards doing a better job,” he said. “So that's myself and Dame. The offense kind of starts there and from a pick-and-roll standpoint, being engaged and active. And I think collectively we’ve just got to do a better job of mixing things up from an aggressive standpoint -- you know maybe sometimes trapping, sometimes hedging, giving them different looks.”
Mixing it up is something the Trail Blazers haven’t done frequently in the past. But maybe now is the time.
“It’s obvious to everybody that we have to be better defensively,” Stotts said. “I'm glad that Dame and CJ are taking responsibility in that and it will carry over to the rest of the team.”