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.
No player drew the ire of Portland fans more often this season than Meyers Leonard. The criticism was somewhat unjustified, because not everything that went wrong with the Blazers this season could be blamed on just one player. But the fact remains that this was Leonard’s worst of his five seasons in Portland.
Leonard averaged 5.4 points and 3.2 rebounds this season in 16.5 minutes per game. His 3-point shooting, allegedly Leonard’s greatest strength as an NBA player, regressed again. His long-distance percentage has decreased each of the past three seasons, from 42 to 38 to 35 percent. In addition, his overall shooting percentage fell to a career-low 39 percent this season. He entered the season as a career 49-percent shooter.
On the defensive end, Leonard regressed this season as well. He allowed 1.0 point per possession in isolation defense, which ranked as the second-worst mark on the team and in the bottom quarter of the league. That mark was down from last season, when he allowed 0.9 points per possession in isolation, which ranked in the 37th percentile. Opponents shot 48 percent on 2-point attempts when defended by Leonard, down from 45 percent last season and 42 percent two seasons ago.
The most frustrating aspect of Leonard’s season was that when the Blazers needed him, after Jusuf Nurkic and Ed Davis were lost to injuries during the second half of the season, he was unable to step up. He was given the opportunity to do so. Coach Terry Stotts inserted him into the starting lineup against Phoenix on April 1, the game after Nurkic’s injury was revealed. Leonard responded by missing four of his five shot attempts and finishing with seven points, four rebounds and four fouls in 22 minutes.
Leonard was afforded nearly 25 minutes per game in the last month of the season as the Blazers were desperate for anyone to step in at center, but he floundered with the increased playing time, averaging 6.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.1 fouls in the final month of the season. He shot 38 percent from the field and 33 percent on 3-point attempts. Leonard had his chance and squandered it.
During his first five seasons, Leonard has shown that he can be a reliable 3-point shooter who can be an adequate defender in the post. Those two skills are enough to make him a valuable rotation player on any team. To fulfill that potential and regain the trust of the Blazers’ coaches, players, front office and fans, he can’t continue to regress. A player as young as Leonard is supposed to improve every season, but his trajectory has advanced in the opposite direction the past two seasons.
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.