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Portland Trail Blazers Need A Consistent Third Scoring Option

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

 

Damian Lillard

When you think of a third wheel, endearing thoughts rarely come to mind. But for the Portland Trail Blazers, finding someone to consistently complement the scoring tandem of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum is far from an awkward addition—it’s a necessity.

Entering Saturday’s contest against the New York Knicks, the duo of Lillard and McCollum had accounted for 43.4 percent of the team’s total scoring on the year. Against the ‘Bockers, they combined for 51 (46.4 percent), and yet the team dropped a close one 112-110.

The moral of the story here is that while these two have become a top-tier backcourt that provides endless entertainment, they simply can’t do it on their own. The team’s 10-15 record is admittedly better than most anticipated at this point in the process, but a spot in the postseason still seems unrealistic despite its current position two spots out of the eighth seed. 

Assuming the Blazers have no interest in tanking, a push for that eighth seed is going to take priority to avoid the purgatory that comes from being a middling organization in the Association. That means the team needs to establish a consistent third option, but the question is: Who is most ready to become that tertiary scoring threat?

Following the game against New York, Al-Farouq Aminu and Allen Crabbe are the two options behind Lillard and McCollum scoring in double figures. The former is averaging a career-best 10.9 points per night, while the latter is also obliterating his previous career high (3.3 PPG) with 10.2. 

The problem is that both of those are clear dropoffs from the 24.4 and 19.9 points per game that Lillard and McCollum are averaging, respectively, creating an obvious gap for third fiddle that used to be occupied by the likes of Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum.

Of the two, Crabbe appears to be the more likely option to have a higher scoring ceiling. Aminu has been more consistent from Day 1, but Crabbe has shown the ability to score in bunches and appears to have a more deadly set of weapons on that side of the floor.

After these two, it’s a guessing game. Will Meyers Leonard ever become more than just a threat when open on the perimeter? Can Noah Vonleh expedite his development with more looks in his second season?

Banking on development will be an impossible task for this franchise if nobody steps up organically, but that’s where the “break glass in case of emergency” option kicks in. General manager Neil Olshey designed this roster with flexibility in mind. There is plenty of cap space for free-agent pursuits in the coming offseasons, but there’s also the option to swing a lopsided trade with a team looking to unload a star or disgruntled prospect.

Whether or not Portland makes that move to accelerate the process, the fact is simple: Portland’s dynamic duo in the backcourt needs help. This team has blown too many big leads (a la Knicks) and lost too many close games (a la Knicks again) for a squad that isn’t realistically in position for a top draft pick. 

Another piece to the puzzle doesn't have to be a third wheel, and the Blazers need all the help they can get if they hope to contend in the near future.

{image_2}GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.

 

Related Slideshow: Oregon’s Most Devastating Sports Injuries

Here is GoLocalPDX's list of Oregon's most devastating injuries that have occured within the past 10 years.

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Greg Oden

Sept. 2007 — Micro fracture surgery on right knee

Dec. 2009 — Fractured left patella 

Nov. 2010 — Micro fracture surgery on left knee

Dec. 2011 — Arthroscopic surgery on right knee

Unfortunately, Trail Blazer fans everywhere already know how drafting Greg Oden over Kevin Durant worked out for their team. After being be the #1 selection in the 2007 NBA Draft, Oden was never able to play a full season due to ongoing knee injuries. The team eventually waived him in March of 2012.

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
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Dennis Dixon

Nov. 2007 — Torn left ACL

During the 2007 season Dixon had the Oregon Ducks as the #2 team in the country. That was until he suffered a torn ACL against Arizona State and attempted to play on it the following week against Arizona. After Dixon went down for the season the Ducks lost their remaining two regular season games. Fortunately, they were able to end their season on a high note with a victory over South Florida in the 2007 Sun Bowl.

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
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Brandon Roy

Sept. 2008 — Cartilage removed from left knee

April 2010 — Meniscus tear in right knee

Jan. 2011 — Arthroscopic surgery on both knees

Brandon Roy is perhaps one of the most beloved Trail Blazers in the history of the franchise. After being drafted in 2006, and leading the team out of the "Jail-Blazer" era, he had to make the tough decision to retire at the young age of 28. His degenerative knees prevented Rip City from seeing their superstar ever play to his full potential.

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
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Jacquizz Rodgers

Nov. 2008 — Grade II separation of the acromioclavicular joint

During the second to last game in 2008 Jacquizz Rodgers suffered a separated shoulder that ended his season. Unfortunately, this meant that he wasn't able to play in the Civil War, which was perhaps the biggest game of the year for the Beavers. If the Beavers had been able to defeat the Ducks they would've been able to book their tickets to play in the Rose Bowl. Instead, they went to the Sun Bowl where they defeated the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
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James Rodgers

Oct. 2009 — Torn left ACL

After participating in only 4 games during the 2009 season Rodgers went down with a torn ACL while playing against #9 Arizona. This couldn't have come at a worse time for Rodgers considering he was expected to have a breakout season. Rodgers, who was a senior at the time, was able to end his career at Oregon State as the career leader in all-purpose yards.

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
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Joel Pryzbilla

Dec. 2009 — Ruptured right patella tendon and dislocated patella

In December of 2009 the Trail Blazers' backup center, Joel Pryzbilla, was lost for the season with a ruptured and dislocated patella. This was a huge blow to the Trailblazers' frontcourt because they had already lost Oden for the season a few weeks before. Pryzbilla was also the team's defensive anchor who provided an inside presence. "The Vanilla Gorilla" was sorely missed for the rest of the year.

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropepd)
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LaMichael James

Oct. 2011 — Dislocated right elbow

The 2011 season couldn't have started any better for LaMichael James. After the first game James became Oregon's career rushing leader, surpassing Derek Loville. During the second game he rushed for over 200 yards against Missouri State. Unfortunately, James' year was slowed by a dislocated elbow suffered against Cal. Luckily for Duck fans he was able to return to end the season.

Photo via Facebook (image cropped)
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Nate Costa

Nov. 2010 —Torn Right ACL

After suffering a multitude of knee injuries throughout his career at Oregon Costa was forced to officially retire from football after tearing his ACL for the third time in agame against Washington. Although Costa's career was hobbled by injuries many of his teammates looked to him as their leader. Oregon's coaching staff referred to Costa as the "heart and soul" of the 2010 team that won the Rose Bowl.

Photo via Addictedtoquack (image cropped)
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Sean Mannion

Oct. 2012 — Torn Left Meniscus

During the beginning of the 2012-2013 season, Sean Mannion was enjoying one of his best as a Beaver. Unfortunately, he tore his left meniscus against Washington State that resulted in him missing around half the season. With Mannion leading the way the Beavers had the Pac-12's fourth rated offense, averaging 459.5 yeards per game. With Mannion sidelined Cody Vaz became the starting quarterback

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
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Marcus Mariota

Oct. 2013 — Partial MCL Tear

Marcus Mariota is widely regarded as one of the greatest Oregon Duck quarterbacks to ever play at Autzen. Unfortunately a knee injury hobbled his sophomore season. After Mariota suffered a partial MCL tear against UCLA he conintued to play the remainder of the season. With Mariota's knee not allowing him to be as mobile as he was accustomed to teams were able to take advantage. In the weeks following the injury the Ducks suffered losses to Stanford and Arizona. Duck fans everywhere would like to know what that season woud've loked like if Mariota had stayed healthy.

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
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CJ McCollum

Oct. 2013 — Broken fifth Metatarsal In Left Foot

After being taken 10th overall during the 2013 NBA Draft the shooting guard out of Lehigh wasn't able to start his career the way many had hoped. After breaking the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot the rookie wasn't able to take the court until January of 2014. Before the injury McCollum was in consideration for playing time behind Lillard. 

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
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Alex Morgan

Oct. 2013 — Stress reaction in talus bone

During the 2013 season Morgan suffered an injury that doctors misdiagnosed as a mildly sprained ankle. After a few additional tests were performed it turned out that Morgan had suffered a far more serious injury. She actually suffered a stress reaction in the talus bone that put her immediate future with Team USA in question. After rehabbing for 7 months Morgan was able to make a full recovery.

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Bralon Addison

April 2014 — Torn left ACL

After exceeding expectations as a freshman and sophomore at the University of Oregon Addison was expecting big things from his junior year. Unfortunately, Addison suffered a torn ACL during last year's spring practice that kept him sidelined the entire year. Without Addison in the lineup the receiving core never lived up to their full potential. If he had been able to play this season the National Championship may have wielded a different outcome.

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Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

Dec. 2014 — Torn ACL

In preparation for the first ever college football playoffs Ekpre-Olomu ended up tearing his ACL during a routine practice. This was a huge blow to the Ducks considering Ekpre-Olomu was one of the team's better defenders. He was also one of the best corners in the country who many analysists expected to be selected as high as the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
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Wesley Matthews

March 2015 — Torn left achilles

Just 2 months before Matthews suffered a torn achilles he had become the Trailblazers' all-time leader in 3-point field goals made. It looked as though the Trailblazers were poised to make a deep playoff run. Things took a drastic turn when Matthews was lost for the season. With the team in a 0-2 hole against the Memphis Grizzlies it doesn't look as though they will be making it to the second round of the playoffs this year.

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
 
 

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