The Portland Trailblazers visit the Dallas Mavericks
How many jump shots does a jump shooting team have to jump shoot to define a jump shooting team as a jump shooting team?
It’s a valid question. And one that everyone should be asking themselves about the Blazers. Take a hard look up and down that roster. There’s a boatload of talent and promise galore, but you might also notice one small caveat: there isn’t a lot in the way of interior scoring. Greg Oden has his nights, and by “his nights” I mean the ones where he looks less like an animatronic T-Rex. Joel Przybilla is probably the best backup center in the game, but his offensive game is generally limited to putbacks and bunnies. But where a lot of public knowledge steers into the wrong is with LaMarcus Aldridge. In theory, a long, strong, 6’11” beast would be a killer pivot man. Don’t call him ‘soft,’ but Aldridge’s game is definitely of the face-up variety. He lingers in midrange, excelling in the supposed ‘lost art’ of the game (how that was ever considered a legitimate criticism of the league is beyond me). Dirk is 2nd in the league in 2-point jumpshot attempts percentage (it’s exactly what it sounds like: what percentage of a player’s attempts are 2-point jumpers) at 71%. LaMarcus Aldridge isn’t far behind, at #11 with 64%. Travis Outlaw and Brandon Roy, Portland’s other top shooters in terms of attempts, don’t share Aldridge’s lust for le jumpehr, but that doesn’t mean they are devoid of jumpshooting passion in their own rights.
So what separates the 2nd best offensive outfit in the league from the 9th? You’ve got a jumpshooting power forwards, offensively animatronic centers, and small forwards that have fallen in love with their shot…what exactly is missing from the equation that places the Mavs on one side and the Blazers on the other? The obvious difference lies at the guard positions. Jason Kidd gets the upper hand against Steve Blake, Sergio Rodriguez, and Jerryd Bayless, but Brandon Roy absolutely puts the Mavs 2 guard rotation to shame. Jason Kidd does things to help his team, but Brandon Roy is the team. If you want the basic element that limits the Mavs to this day and will eventually thrust the Blazers into championship contention, it’s scoring in the post. Interior scoring isn’t some mythical fourth quarter beast that a contender make, though. Rather, it’s the horse that you mount to get you through the rough stretches. Lucky for Portland, they have the third best post-up guard in the game. Kobe. Wade. Roy. That’s it. Meanwhile, the Mavs are twiddling their thumbs with Antoine Wright. It could be worse, but it’s not exactly the same.
Does Dirk’s way work? I think it can. Doesn’t hurt that he’s a unique beast. Is Roy’s way easier, even if it means lacking a true scoring big man? We’ll see.
Oh, and in the name of shameless self-promotion: I answered a few questions for the crew at Bust a Bucket for today’s game. Take a looksie if you dare.