The Portland Trail Blazers’ 2016-17 season was a year defined by high ambitions and unmet expectations. The team saw a regression to the norm after shocking the league just a year prior, but there is plenty of talent on the roster that can help it improve.
Ahead of 2017-18, Oregon Sports News’ Jared Wright and Bryant Knox will be breaking down the strengths, weaknesses and recent showings from each and every Trail Blazers player. Today we take a look at a two-sport athlete who’s trying to make a name for himself in the NBA—not the MLB—entering his third season.
Pat Connaughton’s 2016-17 season was underwhelming, but it offered a glimpse into where he can have his biggest impact. (And no, we’re not talking about his Bazemore-esque reputation for celebrating everything from a poster dunk to an uncontested layup from the bench…although that is mighy impressive as well.)
The Notre Dame product knocked down a ridiculous 51.5 percent of his three-point attempts last year. While that number came on just 0.8 shots per contest, it was a drastic improvement from his 23.8 long-range percentage during 2015-16.
Everywhere else, Connaughton failed to make an impression. That’s not to say he was bad—just overshadowed.
For instance: He was 13th on the roster in total rebounds last season, but he jumped up to eighth when looking at total rebounds per 36 minutes. His assists also jump from 12th to eighth when translating to 36 minutes, showing that he wasn’t awful…just awfully average.
What He Brings To The Table
On the court, Connaughton has the potential to be more than just a spot-up shooter. He has sneaky athleticism that allows him to play in transition, and his ability to get above the rim makes him a threat to score down low and snag the boards most 6’5” guards only dream of.
Unfortunately for Connaughton, he’s not going to get an opportunity to shine unless he carves out a niche for himself.
Simply put: His three-point shot is going to be his ticket into games. He has to prove that he’s able to knock down shots in practice, and if he can do that, the Moda Center floor will be a showcase for him to strut his stuff.
Hitting 50-plus percent isn’t sustainable, but it has to be a target. If Pat can get this Trail Blazers team to give him an opportunity, he has to capitalize from behind the rainbow at—let’s say—43 percent or better.
What To Expect in 2017-18
Entering 2017-18, Connaughton has as little national spotlight on him as anyone across the league. But fortunately for him, the local media isn’t counting him out just yet.
According to NBCSNorthwest’s Jason Quick, the former Fighting Irish is “ready to contribute.”
Dwight Jaynes of the same publication has said, “He’s ready for a breakout season…I believe he’s a better player than Allen Crabbe.”
Unfortunately for Connaughton, we’re just not buying into it.
In order for Connaughton to truly break out, he’s going to need to carve out a niche. He’s not going to become a Swiss army knife over the course of an offseason, meaning he likely has to become someone who’s known for his three-point shot.
For that to happen, he must up his long-range attempts from 0.8 per game. He needs minutes…but in reality he also needs to take at least three shots per game from behind the arc.
Emphasis on “at least.”
If Connaughton can take advantage of a thin reserve backcourt core, it will mean more minutes and (much) more three-point shots.
We here at OSN aren’t buying into the idea that this is his breakout season. But if he can up his three-point shots to 3.0-plus per game while shooting anything above 38 percent, he’ll be well on his way to proving he belongs in this league.
Check out the rest of our series down below: