Right from the start, I want to give credit where credit is due this topic was brought up to me by my friend Josh Laurie. When Josh calls, I usually start off by answering the phone with a name of a Portland Trail Blazers player, Damian Lillard, go! We then get into an in depth conversation about the Blazers roster and in last week’s conversation, Josh brought up how healthy the Blazers have been and he credited the jump shooting offense for a healthy roster. I’m calling it the workplace injury prevention offense.
All Blazers fans are aware of the history of injuries the franchise has endured over the years. There are some Blazers like Sam Bowie, Brandon Roy and Greg Oden who came into the league with preexisting injuries and it got me to thinking, what if they played in the system the Blazers have now? It may or may not have extended their careers, we will never know but the Blazers offense this season has me looking at the rest of the NBA today. Injuries are part of the game but if you look around the NBA this season and you look at the style of play, teams are playing you notice players like Tony Parker (a high points-in-the-paint scorer), Dwayne Wade (sits out back-to-backs), Gerald Wallace (aka Crash), Rajon Rondo (IR), Derrick Rose (IR), Eric Bledsoe (IR), Chris Paul (IR), Deron Williams (IR), Jrue Holiday (IR), Russell Westbrook (IR), Devin Harris (IR) and Steve Nash (IR) seem to spend a lot of time healing rather than playing.
If you look at the Blazers offense this year you see Damian Lillard shooting more 3’s rather than attacking the basket every play. The same goes for Wes Matthews who in the last couple of seasons, always seems to be banged up one way or another as a result of driving to the basket every other play. The Blazers are picking and choosing when to attack the basket. This is possible from all the ball movement to open shooters, 3’s and top of the key jumpers by Aldridge. To me this is a much more exciting style of play as you get the more dramatic drive to basket when the game is on the line as we have seen Lillard/Aldridge do so well this season. With this offense you also get to see Lillard, Mathews and Aldridge on the court instead of wearing street clothes on the bench. There is the Nicolas Batum exception; somehow he seems to get hurt no matter what the style of play is but everyone is healthy and happy this season as other teams in the NBA have their point guards in street clothes.
I know others are saying the Blazers style of play is unpredictable but I disagree as they have the weapons to play inside and out. But why do that two man game when you have four weapons out there that can shoot the 3 and a bench that can score? This all adds up to a healthy playoff roster. Let’s take a look at some healthy offenses of the past. Do you remember the confusing triangle offense? Well, that offense was all about creating good spacing between players and allowing each one to pass to four teammates and that made for a healthy Michael Jordan and a healthy Kobe Bryant that won 11 NBA titles between them. I know Kobe is older now but he did start getting hurt when the triangle went away. Michael Jordan got hurt pre-triangle offense as well and developed a killer jump shot while playing in the triangle offense. The jump shot by way of ball movement and getting everyone involved seems to be old school as the isolation and two man pick-n-rolls have taken over the NBA the last 10 years but If you look at the all the championship teams since 1990-91, you see teams that are all about ball movement. You have Steve Kerr and John Paxson with the Chicago Bulls hitting championship game winning jump shots, Robert Horry and Kenny Smith with the Houston Rockets, Robert Horry with Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs. Dirk and Jason Terry with the Dallas Mavericks, Ray Allen and Eddie House with the Boston Celtics and all the Detroit Pistons players were involved when they won their title in 2003-04. And who could forget Michael Jordan shrugging his shoulders after hitting all those 3’s over Cliff Robinson in the 1990-91 NBA finals vs the Blazers.
The Rockets, Spurs and Lakers had Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan and Shaq in the middle but they all worked with in an offense that was about ball movement, spacing and open 3’s. The Blazers style of play this season is on the level of those championship teams of the Mavericks, Spurs, Pistons and Celtics. I believe the Blazers will join that list of championship teams with the style of play they have now along with hard work on defense! A healthy offense seems to work.