Rumors of Damian Lillard wanting out of the clasp of the Portland Trail Blazers have been abundant of late, and that’s even though the star has not officially asked for the Blazers’ management to trade him. Lillard has denied these trade rumors as well, but that’s also probably because he’s just mindful of the feelings of Portland fans who’ve been just as loyal to him as he is to the franchise through the years.
Enter Chauncey Billups, who’s the new boss on the sidelines for the Blazers. There will surely be a change in philosophy if you believe in what the former NBA Finals MVP said recently, per Jay Allen of Rip City Radio 620.
Billups’ message is clear, but the change he wants might not happen right away because instilling such a significant shift in approach on the team and making the focal point (or franchise player) of the offense AKA Damian Lillard adhere to it is one thing that should take time. The Blazers will still go as far as where Lillard takes them, and if the familiar way with which the best player operates gets altered, regardless of how big or small that change is, the entire offense could potentially be put on shaky ground.
Last season, the Blazers were the third-highest scoring team in the league with 116.4 points per game. They were also second in both 3-point attempts and 3-pointers made, with 40.7 and 15.8 points, respectively. The Blazers were third in 3-point field goal attempts percentage (44.8). At the same time, Portland was eighth with 1.151 points per possession.
The Blazers did all that with minimal ball rotation. They only had 0.517 assists per field goal made, which was 30th in the NBA last season, and that’s what Billups wants to improve on. Lillard and CJ McCollum are incredible scorers on their own but the Blazers’ offense as a whole had not been optimized by Stotts.
Billups isn’t out to reset everything in Portland and/or greatly limit the team’s reliance on the outside shot, though. In fact, he even told ESPN that he wants to see the Blazers maximize the corner 3-point shot, believing that the only way to do that is to have better ball movement and more touches in the paint — a point he so perfectly nailed in the head because last season, the Blazers were last in the league in that area with just 17.4 paint touches per game.
After coming up short with one playoff disappointment after another in the past, the Blazers decided to go a different way in hiring Billups as Stotts’ replacement. We’ll just have to wait and see whether this is the ultimate change that will put Portland over the hump.