PORTLAND, Ore. — After a sloppy 134-118 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night, Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard was honest about the team's performance. He criticized the Blazers' communication, perimeter defense and careless passing.
But the Blazers leader also knows it's early October and the regular season hasn't even started yet. So he followed his critique with this message, delivered to The Athletic's Jason Quick: "But it is only preseason."
Lillard is right. The results in these exhibition games don't matter. Preseason performance doesn't change a thing about the Blazers' season outlook.
But, these are the only results available for dissection right now. So with the disclaimer that these numbers don't really matter — it is only preseason — here's a look at some interesting individual stats after three exhibition games.
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SO FAR, SO GOOD FOR COLLINS, SIMONS
Anfernee Simons and Zach Collins rank second and third in scoring for the Blazers in the preseason. Portland’s talented youngsters are getting plenty of playing time: Simons leads the team with 25.3 minutes per game and Collins is second with 23.7.
Simons is averaging 15.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists. He’s shooting 58.8% from the 3-point line (making a ridiculous 10 of 17 attempts through three games), though he’s not shooting as well from inside the 3-point line, shooting 43.2% from the field.
Collins is averaging 14.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 blocks per game. He's shooting 45.9% from the field but has yet to make a 3-pointer (0 for 6) in the three exhibition games.
WHITESIDE ROUNDING INTO SHAPE
Through two exhibition games, new Blazers center Hassan Whiteside is shooting 72.7% from the field. Whiteside has made three of his four free-throw attempts, which is nice considering his career 59.3% free-throw percentage.
Whiteside is averaging 9.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 0.5 blocks and 0.5 steals. The rebounding and blocks numbers are below average for Whiteside, who has averaged 11.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game over the past five seasons.
After coughing up the ball six times Saturday against Phoenix, Whiteside is averaging three turnovers per game. He’s generally been good at taking care of the ball over the past five seasons, averaging just 1.6 turnovers per game, so this statistic isn't a concern.
MIXED BAG FOR HEZONJA, BAZEMORE
Mario Hezonja has lived up to the preseason hype about his playmaking so far, leading the team in assists with nine. He’s averaging 8.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 20.5 minutes per game. He's been an inefficient scorer, shooting 42.1% from the field, and missing all six of his 3-point attempts.
Bazemore certainly looks the part of a 3-and-D wing, averaging 3.3 steals per game and hitting half of his eight 3-point attempts so far. He’s averaging 6.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 18.7 minutes per game. His efficiency inside the 3-point line leaves much to be desired. He’s shooting 37.5% from the field overall.
LET IT FLY, HOOD
Rodney Hood, who’s expected to start at small forward this season, is averaging 7.5 points, 1.0 rebound, 1.0 assist and 0.5 steals in 18.6 minutes per game. He’s scoring efficiently, shooting 62.5% from the field, but surprisingly, he has yet to attempt a 3-pointer. So much of Hood’s value comes from his ability to stretch the floor, so it’s confusing to see him with zero 3-point attempts through the first three exhibition games.
CJ McCollum has been on fire, averaging 17.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and a steal in 22.8 minutes per game. He’s shooting 52% from the field and 45.5% from the 3-point line. McCollum is a good free-throw shooter, so it’s odd to see him shooting 42.9% from the charity stripe, but it's not a concern.
Lillard is averaging 11.5 points, 3.0 assists and 2.5 rebounds. He hasn't shot the ball well, making 41.2% of his field-goal attempts and 20% of his 3-pointers, but it doesn't matter. Lillard's reminder that "it is only preseason" applies to him more than anyone else. Lillard is fine.