Portland Trail Blazers: Terry Stotts Overplaying Starters

Dorell Wright

Wright was brought in to provide quality minutes off the bench, but Stotts hasn’t given him ample opportunity as of yet. (NBA.com photo)

Let me preface this column by stating that I am not going all George Constanza and overreacting to a mere three games played so far this season. However, there are warning signs of a glaring repeat offense that Terry Stotts is committing right under our noses. The 2012-13 Blazer team was touted as having a great starting lineup, but no production off the bench; Stotts & Co. supposedly had nowhere else to turn for support. Now they have the support they need and they simply are not being used.

Will They Hold Up?

Stotts is only using a six-man rotation when he has weapons to use this time around. Mo Williams is averaging 23.7 minutes off the bench and no other Blazer is averaging more than 13 minutes in a reserve role. Why did general manager Neil Olshey go out and nab this highly regarded supporting cast, if they are not going to be allowed to serve their purpose? Their purpose, you ask? Not to go out and put up a bunch of gaudy numbers — their purpose is simple and that’s to give the starters much needed breaks so that when the playoffs come around they are fresh. That is why you add depth right?! I feel like I’m taking crazy pills here, people.

So, now you have read two paragraphs and you’re definitely thinking, “I thought he said he was NOT going to go Constanza on us?” Honestly I just don’t see the logic behind what Olshey brought in and the strategy that Stotts has employed. Let’s take a look at some comparisons and you can decide for yourself if this strategy is wise. The Blazers are a playoff team this season, so let’s take a look at some other top playoff teams and how their starters are used.

Player Age MP FG% FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PTS
LaMarcus Aldridge 28 37.7 .538 .636 6.7 3.3 0.7 1.0 1.7 25.7
Damian Lillard 23 37.3 .469 .895 5.0 5.3 0.3 0.3 1.3 25.0
Wesley Matthews 27 35.7 .514 .857 7.3 3.0 0.7 0.3 1.0 16.7
Nicolas Batum 25 36.0 .441 .667 10.0 6.0 0.3 1.0 3.3 13.0
Robin Lopez 25 31.7 .421 .250 4.3 1.0 0.7 2.0 0.3 5.7
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/4/2013.

Blazers starters average 35.5 minutes per game. Next closest would be the Rockets at 33.8, then Wolves at 33.7, Bulls at 33.5 and Clippers at 33.4. These aren’t huge discrepancies but they certainly add up over an 82-game season. Here’s where the top four teams from last season stack up: Heat 32.9, Pacers 31.9, Thunder 28.9 and Spurs at 27.5. Hammering this point home is the fact that so far this season the Blazers are the ONLY playoff contender where every single starter is averaging more than 30 minutes per game — in fact they are all averaging 32 minutes per game or more! (Again – Mugatu moment, “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”)

Injuries Can Happen at Any Time

Limiting minutes cannot completely rule out the chance that a starter, or key player, will get hurt. However, the more minutes someone is out on the court, the higher the risk. Last season alone Blazer starters missed a combined 32 games due to injury — Matthews 13, Batum nine, Aldridge eight and J.J. Hickson two — Damian Lillard is the Blazers’ Cal Ripken Jr. as he played and started in all 82 games last season.

This is a playoff team; however, they cannot afford to lose any of their key pieces. If any of the starters or Mo Williams were to miss substantial time, there is no backup plan. Stotts has not allowed the younger players to develop and this could rear it’s head as we move further and further into a grueling NBA campaign. My recommendation — Dorell Wright and Thomas Robinson need increased workload. Wright is only playing 12.7 minutes and Robinson only 10.0 minutes per night. Let these guys serve their purpose and save your starters for stretch runs of games and the playoff run in the last quarter of the season.

Will Stotts figure it out in time? If not, and the Blazers fail to make the playoffs for the fourth straight season, then I fear he could be the next NBA coach searching for new digs. This is the time to win for the Blazers — take heed Coach Stotts — for your own sake.

**Agree or disagree? Let me know on twitter @Chris_Reichert or comment below.

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Tags: Bench Damian Lillard Depth Injuries Lamarcus Aldridge Mo Williams NBA Nba Playoffs Neil Olshey Nicolas Batum Robin Lopez Terry Stotts

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