In the offseason before the “2017-2018” NBA season, the Portland Trail Blazers made a bad decision by trading Allen Crabbe. The Blazers were trying to clear up cap space to sign a superstar free agent in last year’s offseason, however they gave away their third best shot maker for essentially nothing in return.
Crabbe was the only real scoring threat that Portland had off the bench in the 2016-2017 season. His ability to shoot the ball from deep stretched the floor and allowed other players room to create shots for themselves. With other teams focusing most of their defensive strategy on Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, Crabbe would get open looks and score points in bunches. He averaged 10.7 points per game on 47% field goal shooting and 44% from the three-point line.
Now I will be the first person to admit that Crabbe is not a consistent player. Some nights he makes every shot, while on other nights he can’t buy a basket. However, he is who he is and his shooting in totality helped the Blazers. Ever since Portland traded him they have not found a consistent bench scorer.
If you look at last year’s roster there is not one player who could be considered a reliable bench scorer. The only player who showed an ability to take and make big shots off the bench last year was Shabazz Napier who averaged 8.7 points per game. However, he took extremely wild shots that hurt the offensive flow. He only shot 42% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc.
As I continue to sift through last year’s roster there is no one who could fill the void left by the Crabbe trade. Pat Connaughton is supposedly a good three-point shooter but he only shot 35% from three-point land last year. Connaughton also lacks the play-making ability that Crabbe displays on the court. Crabbe is not an elite play maker with the ball in his hands but he does have the ability to get to the free throw line every once in a while.
Terry Stotts head coach of Portland, switched around the starting line-up many times last season trying to find a viable third scoring option from the wing position, in an attempt to replace Crabbe. They never found it. Al-Farouq Aminu, Maurice Harkless, and Evan Turner, are all solid defensive players but struggle to score the ball. None of these players have the ability to consistently make open three-pointers, this allows defenses to sag off and clog the paint.
Harkless did shoot an impressive 50% from the field last year and 42% from behind the line, however, he only averaged 6.5 points per game. This is not enough points for a player who started in over 30 games last year.
Turner is a solid play maker with the ball in his hands however he is an atrocious three-point shooter. He shot a measly 32% from three-point land last season. He averaged 8.5 points per game on 45% from the field.
Aminu also struggles to shoot the ball from beyond the arc. He only shot 33% from three-point land and averaged 8.7 points per game on 39% from the field.
During the regular season it was easy to forget about the Crabbe trade. The Blazers cruised to an impressive 49-33 record and grabbed the 3rd seed in a tough western conference. It appeared that Portland had a real opportunity to make it to the 2nd round of the NBA Playoffs. But then they met a tough defensive minded New Orleans Pelicans team in the first round, the Pelicans swept Portland and exposed their weaknesses.
The Trail Blazers’ biggest weakness in this series was the lack of ability to score the ball outside of Lillard and McCollum. This is where Crabbe would have been a huge benefit to the Blazers. His ability to hit open shots would’ve stretched the floor and taken a huge amount of pressure off of Lillard and McCollum.
Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo are both elite defensive players and they made it extremely difficult for McCollum and Lillard to get in any sort of offensive rhythm. The Pelicans also had Anthony Davis defending the basket which caused further problems for Portland’s two star players. If Crabbe was still on Portland he would have been a real offensive threat that the Pelicans couldn’t ignore.
In this series Aminu was the third leading scorer for Portland at 17.3 points per game. This is unlikely to ever happen again.
I don’t think that the Blazers would have made it past the 2ndround last season even if they did have Crabbe on their roster. Nevertheless, if Portland kept him and added one more star player they would have had a real opportunity to compete with the best teams in the west. I hope that Portland is able to fill the void left by the Crabbe trade and find a reliable third wing scorer. I know that Lillard and McCollum would appreciate the help.