It’s the first week of NBA preseason. So naturally, the early assumption hot takes have already begun. If this were football, jumping the gun this early would warrant a flag for being offsides. But sometimes it’s fun to get sucked into the hype of a new season with the rest of the critics and make bold predictions that will be outdated soon enough. Like building a house on the sand, fun to speculate now but it will for sure be washed away by January.
The Portland Trail Blazers opened up against the Toronto Raptors and the newly acquired Kawhi Leonard (did anyone else forget Danny Green was forced to buy a winter coat and go with Kawhi?). The game stayed close throughout, even with both CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard limited to 12 minutes a piece. That was long enough for CJ to shoot 50 percent for eight attempts and Dame to secure two three-pointers of his three made shots. With Dame and CJ limited to one quarter of playing time, it left time for the rest of the team to give their best third man audition.
Jusuf Nurkic, the most recent Blazer attempt to fill the much needed third man slot, was able to do what we’ve come to expect of the big man. With nine points and five rebounds in 15 minutes, my first overreaction is that Nurk will only ever be as good as he is now. We’ve had time for the “growth and development” arguments to settle in and my best instincts tell me if it was going to happen, it would have happened by now. He is a plenty fine center in a league that doesn’t value big men like it once did, and the Blazers should capitalize on it before all the former 5s of the league are limited to an Aleve sponsorship.
Next on the review list is Seth Curry and Nik Stauskus, our newest perimeter guys filling the gap that Shabazz Napier and Pat Connaughton left in their absence. With Curry shooting 1-of-2 and Stauskus 1-of-5, I saw myself shrugging in their debuts. While neither was bad enough to leave a noticeable stain, their lack of improvement on what we previously had left me wondering if the Blazers actually thought this one through or if they were merely bargain shopping and cutting corners where they thought no one would notice.
Evan Turner—ugh. He went 1-of-5 in 16 minutes. Congrats on the having the best seats in the Moda Center, Evan. Please continue to boost morale and don’t take any bench moves from Nerlens Noel’s playbook. (There is no overreacting here, this is merely me humoring myself to stop from crying at the sight of his paychecks.)
Last but not least, and by far the hottest take of them all…Meyers Leonard: Welcome to Rip City and we’re happy to have you aboard. Leonard was able to make a rare 14-point appearance with 80 percent shooting, making 3-of-4 three-point attempts in the process. While clocking in occasionally isn’t quite the solar eclipse, we haven’t seen it happen in many moons in Portland. I am one of Leonard’s number one critics, but mostly because I think his talent should match his Greek god-like appearance. Leonard was recently named MVP at the Blazers intra-squad FanFest tournament and these two things are any indication of momentum to come, it’s possible Leonard may be Portland’s best option for a third man this season. Past performance doesn’t indicate future success, but I can think of just over 10 million reasons why Meyers have the motivation to be the guy.