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Apr 27, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers forward Thomas Robinson (41) ignites the fans against Houston Rockets in the second half in game four of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Blazers Using Summer League to Develop Bench

The NBA Summer League is an amazing event put on every single summer where fans can come out and watch budding stars and guys just looking for one last chance playing at the same time. What that means is — take what you see with a grain of salt, especially when it comes to statistics.

What you want to look for is how guys are playing. Are they cutting with intention, are they moving off the ball or just standing around, are they setting solid screens, and maybe most importantly how are they being used by the staff? Keep in mind, that most of the time the staff knows what players do well, so they want to see guys keep doing those things but really they want to see them improve and work on the things the players struggle with.

With that said, let’s take a look at what Portland is obviously focusing on this summer with their team.

Will Barton

Though there have only been two games played (Blazers went 1-1), it is clear to see that Barton is not capable of playing the backup point guard spot. Barton is a fan favorite and has talked all summer about how he can fill the need at backup point guard for Portland and he’s gotten his chance to run that position a little bit at summer league and it has not gone well.

It’s clear that the ball handling and decision-making is just not there for Barton on a full-time basis. He can make plays for others out of the course of his normal play, but bringing the ball up against pressure and administering an offense is completely different from finding some open guys from time to time.

Barton is averaging 33 minutes per game so far in Las Vegas and has averaged 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists while coughing it up 2.5 times a game — that’s not the assist to turnover ratio a coach wants from a backup point guard. Again, the stats don’t really mean much but they do show (along with what anyone can see watching) that Barton would most likely struggle if he was asked to play 20-25 minutes a night at point guard.

The Blazers obviously noticed this as well, so they went out and signed backup point guard Steve Blake to do the job.

Thomas Robinson

Robinson has been a man amongst boys (as he should be being that he will be going into his third NBA season) and is posting 16.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in 29.5 minutes. I don’t think there is any doubt that if Robinson were given 30 minutes a night that he would average double figure rebounding numbers — he’s an animal on the glass and that’s where he will find his niche in this league.

Robinson has continued to be a ball of energy, as he was for much of last season, and that is precisely what the Blazers need from him.

He’s also been quite efficient from the floor, shooting 55 percent; however he’s been inversely as bad from the free throw line, only shooting 50 percent. This isn’t too surprising as Robinson only shot 56.4 percent from the stripe in 2013-14 but you would certainly like to see some improvement.

The silver lining regarding the free throw shooting is that he is getting to the line at a very high pace as he has taken 22 free throws over the first two games.

C.J. McCollum

McCollum is the perfect example of a guy who you might think is struggling if you only looked at the box score. He’s played 33.5 minutes over the first two games and averaged 17.5 points per game; however, he’s only shot 37 percent overall, 18.2 percent from deep and 68.4 percent from the free throw line — just imagine if he was hitting his shots!

Good thing we look at more than a box score. C.J. has looked poised and much more comfortable this time around, and you can tell that he’s been working very hard on his defense as well.

McCollum is going to be a player in this league for many, many years but he is still improving and that’s obvious. Look for his shooting to pick up as summer league rolls on and I expect he will be averaging 20-plus points before it’s all said and done.

Portland is clearly using the summer league as an avenue to develop their young talent in hopes that they will contribute mightily in this upcoming season. They’ve added Chris Kaman and Steve Blake to help shore up the bench, but that still leaves two spots open for young guys to step up and produce.

For my money those guys will be Thomas Robinson and C.J. McCollum.

The only non-roster player getting substantial minutes for the Blazers has been Bobby Brown and he has been wildly disappointing. He’s playing 31 minutes a game as the starting point guard and averaging 7.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists with shooting splits of .214/.400/.875.

Tags: Bobby Brown C.j. Mccollum Las Vegas Summer League Portland Trail Blazers Thomas Robinson Will Barton

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