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Portland Trail Blazers Roster Breakdown: Phil Pressey

Friday, October 23, 2015


Phil Pressey; via wikimedia commons

Ushering in a new era of Portland Trail Blazers basketball seems to be the theme of the 2015 NBA offseason. The Rip City roster no longer resembles the crew that had back-to-back 50-win seasons over the past two years, but one thing it can hang its hat on is that youth and potential have become the beacons of hope in an otherwise confusing time.

In a 15-part series, Oregon Sports News’ Bryant Knox and Jared Wright will be breaking down each player on the Trail Blazers roster. The series will conclude with an OSN Roundtable in October covering the state of the franchise entering the 2015-16 campaign. 

Today, we take a look at a likely end-of-the-bench guy who was signed as insurance. He probably won’t play much this season, but in the rebuilding state the Blazers are in, never say never.

(Stats provided by nba.com and basketball-reference.com)

Where He’s Been

Phil Pressey was an undrafted three-year college player out of the University of Missouri in 2013. He was signed by the Boston Celtics in July of that year, mostly because the Celtics, like the current-day Blazers, were a team exploring any and all avenues in the search for quality players.

Pressey got some playing time in his rookie year, averaging 15 minutes a game. From January 15, 2014, to April 2014, Pressey played his best basketball for Boston. He registered two double-doubles, recorded six or more assists nine times, and toward the end of that season, he played consistent minutes.

Unfortunately for Pressey, Boston drafted Marcus Smart the ensuing summer, and gave Pressey’s minutes to the lottery-pick point guard. After playing in 75 games (and starting 11) for the Celtics in 2013-14, Pressey appeared in only 50 games last season, with no starts and his total minutes cut almost in half.

How He Got Here

Boston let Pressey go to help alleviate their glut of guards, and Portland General Manager Neil Olshey decided to scoop up Pressey to serve as a third point guard.

Pressey signed a one-year deal for the minimum, which for him is just under $950,000. The deal is non-guaranteed, just like his contract with Boston was. The road for non-first-round picks is rough in the NBA, and it’s even more so for undrafted players. For every Wesley Matthews, you get 1,000 nameless guys that either go play in Europe, China, the D-League, or give up basketball altogether.

The odds are very against Pressey even becoming a rotation player, especially since he stands just 5’11”, and weighs a very skinny 175 pounds. Unless you’re an absolute wizard with the basketball or quicker than a frog on a hot rock, you won’t survive in the NBA at 5-11.

Phil Pressey; via wikimedia commons

What He Brings To The Table

One thing Pressey does well is pass. His per-game stats don’t really reflect that, but he did average 7.7 assists per 36 minutes in 2013-14. Given that he’s usually achieved double-digit assist totals when given around 36 minutes of action, I’d call that an accurate stat.

His assist rate for his career is a tidy 30%; that means that while Pressey was on the floor, three out of 10 of his teammate’s field goals were assisted by Pressey. Since Celtics coach Brad Stevens is basically a young, shaven basketball Gandalf, it’s fair to assume that he and Pressey put guys in good position to score more times than what Pressey’s stats indicate.

What Pressey doesn’t do well is…everything else.

His shooting is disgusting and vomitous. Pressey’s a career 33% field-goal shooter, including a barf-worthy 26% from three-point range. He didn’t shoot often, but when he did, the defense rejoiced like it was Christmas. He stank from the field in college, as well. 

His short, slight stature meant that he was at a constant disadvantage on defense, and on a Celtics team that has defensive issues amongst its big men to this day, having a weakness at the point of attack was crippling--and Smart and Avery Bradley, the two guys Pressey was fighting for playing time, happen to be very good on-ball defenders.

Pressey is a good floor leader, but his Wins Above Replacement Player is a minus-1.89. His overall performances detracted from his team’s ability to win games, which led in part to Boston drafting Smart, then letting Pressey go. 

Being small in and of itself isn’t an immediate career-killer in the NBA; you only have to look at Pressey’s former Boston Teammate, 5-foot-10 Isaiah Thomas, for proof of that. What led Pressey to go undrafted in 2013 was his poor shooting. In a league that emphasizes shooting skill at every position (especially on the perimeter), lacking shooting ability is a huge problem, doubly so for a little guy.

What To Expect

Phil Pressey has the air of a guy who will struggle to carve out a career in the NBA. It’s an American tradition to root for the underdog, and I’m rooting for Pressey to stick in the NBA despite everything I just said about him.

He may see the court this season for the Blazers, but it will be under one of two scenarios: either CJ McCollum does so poorly as a reserve point that Portland coach Terry Stotts is forced to call on Pressey, or *frantic knocking on cherry wood desk* Damian Lillard or McCollum get hurt. Neither situation would be ideal, but Pressey has been a minutes-sopping machine on young rebuilding teams before.

Like I said above, Pressey was signed as insurance. Let’s hope the Trail Blazers don’t have to use it.

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: 12 of the Greatest Sports Movies of All Time

Hank Stern ranks his top twelve favorite sports films. 

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#12 Rollerball

Some of the non-athletic scenes in this dystopian classic show their age, but Rollerball is a strangely prescient film that anticipated both the corporatization of sport and fans’ limitless taste for violence. Bonus points for the ominous intro music.

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#11 A League of Their Own

A comedy that looks back to the antithesis of corporate sport – a women’s baseball league during World War II with many memorable lines to choose from (e.g.,”There’s no crying in baseball.”)

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#10 Remember The Titans

Yes, filmmakers took liberties with some of the facts dealing with the integration of a high school football team in Virginia. But there’s a reason football teams often screen this film on the eve of big games. It’s a damn inspirational tale.

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#9 The Natural

This film has grown on me over time. Originally, it seemed slow and schmaltzy. Now, it seems well-paced and charming. Then and now, the re-created scenes of pre-World War II ballparks arrive like perfectly preserved postcards from the past.  

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#8 The Longest Yard

Not the remake with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. But the hilarious original with Burt Reynolds and Eddie Albert as a wonderfully villainous warden who pits the guards against the inmates in a grudge football game that includes former Green Bay linebacker Ray Nitschke and other ex-football players like Sonny Sixkiller and Joe Kapp, both stalwart Pac-8 quarterbacks long, long ago.  

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#7 Slap Shot

The Hanson brothers. Enough said.

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#6 Rocky

Often imitated, but never replicated. The definitive underdog boxing story featuring Sylvester Stallone before he became a self-caricature in multiple sequels. Impossible to hear the theme song without being motivated to get off the couch.

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#5 Seabiscuit

A fantastic book as well as a great movie. Like “The Natural,” Seabiscuit captures its Depression-era setting for modern-day viewers taken back to an era when horse racing actually meant something in America. 

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#4 Requiem for a Heavywei

A too often-forgotten film these days but a wonderful boxing drama that shows the sport’s underside with memorable  performances by Mickey Rooney, Jackie Gleason and Anthony Quinn.

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#3 Hoosiers

Want to know something about small-town America in the 1950s and about Indiana basketball? This hoops movie does all of that with a healthy dose of redemption throughout. 

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#2 Bull Durham

There’s a pretty good case to be made this movie played a huge part in the rebirth and re-marketing of minor league baseball. As written by former minor leaguer Ron Shelton, there are many great scenes to choose from but this one is a favorite. 

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#1 Raging Bull

A rags-to-riches-to-rags story of boxer Jake LaMotta meets the actor born to play him, Robert De Niro. Not a false moment in this black-and-white powerhouse.


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