PORTLAND, Ore. – This wasn’t a good season for the Blazers. The team didn’t live up to expectations and the majority of the players on the team came up short in that department as well.
The Blazers, however, finished the regular season with 41 wins, the picture of mediocrity. The team played much better after the All-Star break with an 18-8 record, fourth-best in the NBA. The Blazers were especially lifted by their performance in March, when Portland won 13 of 16 games. But even though the Blazers finished the regular season strong and made the playoffs, the season was a disappointment overall.
Some of the grades for the Blazers for this season won’t be pretty. They reflect the reality of what happened all season, not just in March.
The good news is the book has closed on the 2016-17 season. The players can work this summer to improve their games. The front office can make smart moves to improve the roster. Everyone gets a fresh slate, a blank report card, when training camp begins next October.
GRAPHIC INSTRUCTIONS: Take a stroll around the court and check out the player cards for the nine rotation members of the 2016-17 Portland Trail Blazers. Click on each card to open a larger version. Click on the card again to flip it over and see the back. To close the card you’re looking at, click it one more time. Mobile users, rotate your phone to see the full graphic.
Before the season, the Blazers signed Evan Turner to a four-year, $70 million contract. That kind of a contract comes with big expectations and Turner did not live up to them. When a team pays a player that kind of money, they should expect more than nine points, four rebounds and three assists per game.
Defense and playmaking were two big reasons the Blazers signed Turner. They wanted a versatile wing defender and a player on offense who could handle the ball and take pressure off Blazers guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
On defense, Turner proved his worth. He showed some defensive versatility, often drawing the assignment against the opponent’s best offensive perimeter player. Turner allowed 0.83 points per possession in isolation defense, which ranked in the top third of the league. Only Al-Farouq Aminu, Noah Vonleh and Jusuf Nurkic were better on defense for the Blazers.
On offense, the team bogged down considerably when Turner was on the court, scoring only 103.0 points per 100 possessions, tied for worst on the team. Turner’s poor 3-point shooting (26 percent) meant opposing defenders didn’t have to guard him unless he had the ball in his hands. With the ball in his hands, he was an inefficient scorer (42.6 percent from the field) and a mediocre playmaker – his 3.2 assists per game was his lowest average since his second season in the league.
To fit the Blazers’ offensive scheme, Turner has to improve as a 3-point shooter. It’s not unprecedented for a player at this stage in his career to improve their outside shooting. Players like Andre Iguodala and Jason Kidd have proven that it can be done.
Before age 28, Iguodala shot about 31 percent on 3-pointers. Since then, he’s a 35-percent shooter from distance. Kidd was a 33 percent 3-point shooter through age 30, but improved to 37.2 percent the rest of his career, including three consecutive seasons after he turned 34 when he shot better than 40 percent. For his career, Turner is a 30 percent 3-point shooter. He can improve.
Blazers report cards
Note: Report cards weren’t made for Ed Davis, Pat Connaughton, Jake Layman, Shabazz Napier or Tim Quarterman, because they played too few games and minutes for an accurate assessment of their value.
How we determined each player's grade
These grades reflect where each player fits within the hierarchy of the league, as judged by statistical data. The NBA statistic “Player Impact Estimate” (PIE) was the data point used to calculate each grade.
According to NBA.com, PIE “measures a player’s overall statistical contribution” while they’re on the court. It is a comparable stat to Player Efficiency Rating (PER).
The formula to compute the statistic incorporates points, field goals made and attempted, free throws made and attempted, defensive rebounds, offensive rebounds, assists, steals, blocked shots, personal fouls and turnovers.
For context, Russell Westbrook had the highest PIE in the NBA with a score of 23, followed by Anthony Davis with a score of 19.2. An average player in the NBA, according to the PIE statistic, had a score between 10 and 11 and included players like Otto Porter Jr. and Marcin Gortat.
19 PIE and up — A+
17.7-18.9 — A
16.4-17.6 — A-
15.1-16.3 — B+
13.8-15.0 — B
12.5-13.7 — B-
11.2-12.4 — C+
9.9-11.1 — C
8.6-9.8 — C-
7.3-8.5 — D+
6-7.2 — D
4.7-5.9 — D-
3.4-4.6 — F+
2.1-3.3 — F
0-2.0 — F-
Jared Cowley is a digital producer at KGW. Follow him on Twitter here.