Stotts’ Blazers are going to run, launch a lot of threes

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There were a lot of shrugs and even some eye rolls when Portland said they were going to hire Terry Stotts as head coach — this is a guy who has had two head coaching jobs before and his career winning percentage is well below .500. Another recycled coach.

But that’s not entirely fair — winning in the NBA is about talent on the roster and his previous teams didn’t have much. Neither does his new team right now. Trail Blazers are rebuilding. They have a couple nice pieces but they are not going to be contenders. If the Blazers had hired Phil Jackson they still wouldn’t have been very good this year.

But with Stotts they might be fun to watch.

At his introductory press conference, Stotts talked about having a team that plays an up-tempo game, moves the ball and launches threes. Here are his quotes, via the fantastic Blazers Edge.

“Three-point shooting, I’m a big believer in three-point shooting, to space the court. Between Nic [Batum], Wes [Matthews] and Luke [Babbitt], the young players improving their three-point shooting, I’m excited about that. I do want to play at a pace.

“I’m a big believer in trusting the pass, I want to push it up — not for crazy shots — but I want to push it up, if we’ve got a good one, take it. If not, move the ball around. Part of my offensive philosophy, and we did this with Dallas when we won the championship, is trusting the players to make good decisions. Giving them a freedom to play within a structure and to make basketball plays.”

It’s a trend in the NBA, something that Mike D’Antoni brought to the forefront — letting players create outside of organized plays. In today’s NBA with detailed video scouting, plenty of advanced scouts, and with a lot of teams running similar sets, team defenses know what is coming. If you let a defense get set, they will make it much harder to score. But push the ball up and start to create before the defense sets, force mismatches, get good ball movement and some shooters to space the floor and you can get good looks earlier in the clock.

Stotts also knows he does have some good players to work with.

LaMarcus Aldridge is a stud. He’s an All-Star performer. Hopefully I’ll be able to use him in a lot of similar ways that we used Dirk Nowitzki. Damian Lillard had a terrific Summer League. He’s going to give the Blazers a pick-and-roll game they haven’t had in recent years.

The Blazers are a couple years and a couple players away from winning a whole lot of games. And we’ll see how Stotts pans out. But it sounds like they could be a fun offensive team to watch play night after night. A young team that is going to have some freedom and get improve as time goes on.

That’s something that can be fun to watch for Blazers fans.

Donovan Mitchell throws alley-oop to himself – off second backboard (video)

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LOS ANGELES – Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell set a high standard with the first slam of the 2018 dunk contest.

Very creative. Very well-executed.

Looks like all that preparation paid off.

Devin Booker’s 3-point-contest victory bright spot for Suns (video)

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Los Angeles – Devin Booker‘s Suns have the NBA’s worst record (18-41).

“I think everyone is fed up with the losing, from the top to the bottom of the organization,” Booker said this afternoon. “So, for us, it’s what’s next?”

A 3-point contest victory.

Overcoming Phoenix’s poor record to draw an invite to All-Star Saturday Night, Booker won the 3-point contest with a whopping 29 points in the final round.

That score left little margin for 2016 champion Klay Thompson, who capped the event with a 25-point round that was otherwise the night’s high. Clippers forward Tobias Harris, in his new home arena, finished third.

Booker was all smiles after the rare victory.

“Season not going how we planned, but I know a lot of the city was ready for this All-Star Weekend, having somebody participate,” Booker said. “So, I’m glad I could win it.

Where he and the Suns go from here is still questionable, but he has a plan.

“I’m going to win the dunk contest next year,” Booker said. “No, I’m just kidding.”

Full results

First round

Klay Thompson 19

Devin Booker 19

Tobias Harris 18

Wayne Ellington 17

Bradley Beal 15

Eric Gordon 12

Kyle Lowry 11

Paul George 9

Second round

Devin Booker 29

Klay Thompson 25

Tobias Harris 17

Spencer Dinwiddie not just happy to be here, wins All-Star Skills Contest

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LOS ANGELES — Anyone who knew the Spencer Dinwiddie story knew not to count him out when he looked down.

That was true when at Colorado he had played his way into the first round of the draft, maybe the 2014 lottery, until an ACL injury derailed him. He had to battle back from a devastating injury, push his way back through the then D-League to the NBA, and wait for his chance. When he got it this season in Brooklyn (after the Jeremy Lin injury) he grabbed it and has had a quality NBA season for the Nets.

So when Dinwiddie was behind the Kings’ Buddy Hield in the first round of the All-Star Saturday Night Skills Contest, he needed a little help. Dinwiddie got it when Hield missed his first three (you have to close out the race with a made three), Dinwiddie caught up and drained his on a pull-up jumper.

Forget the fact Dinwiddie is shooting 28.5 percent on pull-up threes this season, he did the same thing to Jamal Murray in the semi-finals.

Dinwiddie boat raced Bulls’ rookie Lauri Markkanen in the finals when the big man struggled with the passing skill and got so far behind it was over.

“It’s big for me to even be at All-Star Weekend considering the road that’s been in my career, very up and down, Dinwiddie said. “Obviously being in the G-League both on assignment and as a G-League player, thank you to the Brooklyn Nets for giving me this opportunity to play and be here.

Then it all really feels and seems full circle because I got to come home and do it in front of my family.”

Dinwiddie was born in Los Angeles and played his high school ball at Taft High School in Woodland Hills (in LA’s San Fernando Valley). He went against the likes of Jrue Holiday and DeMarre Carroll, and he learned some hard lessons there.

It’s all paying off now for Dinwiddie, who has proven he belongs in the NBA.

And that he’s got skills.

Back in the dunk contest, Victor Oladipo has come a long way

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
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LOS ANGELES – A few weeks into the season, Victor Oladipo acknowledged he hadn’t proven whether he was just off to a hot start or had actually made a significant leap in ability.

The results are in: Oladipo is a star.

Favored to win Most Improved Player, Oladipo is leading the Pacers toward a surprisingly likely playoff berth. He’s averaging 24.4 points and 2.1 steals per game, a combination unmatched the last couple years. He has developed the skills to maximize the athleticism and drive that made him the No. 2 pick five years go.

The biggest advancement has come beyond the arc. Not only is he shooting a career-high 38% on 3-pointers, he has become a threat off the dribble.

Oladipo is one of just 18 players making more than one pull-up 3-pointer per game:

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He has made 35% of those pull-up 3s, well above league average (32%). But even just threat of the shot is effective.

Defenses must go over screens more often when Oladipo runs the pick-and-roll, opening other holes for him and his teammates. Indiana has scored 5.9 more points per 100 possessions with Oladipo on the floor than off.

But, for all his skill development, Oladipo is still back in the dunk contest tonight. He also participated as a second-year player in 2015, when he played for the Magic.

“It’s a little different,” Oladipo said. “I wouldn’t say I’m a high-flyer like I used to be, I guess you could say. Because I can do it all now.”

Oladipo added that he was joking, but he can. He, Jimmy Butler and Chris Paul are the only players who rate even one point per 100 possessions better than average both offensively and defensively by ESPN’s real plus-minus, and Oladipo – +2.96 offensively, +2.12 defensively – clears the bar easily.

Will he also leap over the field in the dunk contest?

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to just go out there and jump as high as I can and see what works, see what happens,” Oladipo said.

That used to somewhat describe his game. Not anymore.