The first thing you should know about the +/- stat is that is says as much about the person who replaces a player as it does the player himself.
Which makes sense when you look at a fantastic bit of work by NBA.com’s John Schuhmann, a list of the NBA’s biggest difference makers — a statistical list of players whose teams have the most offensive drop off when they leave the court. It’s not just that these players are having good years, it’s that the guy replacing them is a huge step down. Like Kobe Bryant to Jodie Meeks down (hence Kobe makes Schuhmann’s list).
But the biggest drop off is in Portland — the Blazers offense is 13.3 points per 100 possessions better when Damian Lillard is on the floor, the highest number in the league. Fourth highest is LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers are 12.4 points per 100 better when he is on the floor. Schuhmann explains:
Breaking news: The Portland Trail Blazers have an awful, awful bench. Their starting lineup is good offensively, but not great, scoring 104.3 points per 100 possessions. They have lineups with three or four starters on the floor that are better. But they have no suitable back-ups for either Lillard or Aldridge. When both have been off the floor (just 127 minutes), Portland has scored less than 90 points per 100 possessions.
What they needed were guys like Jamal Crawford, except he’s with the Clippers and playing well after a terrible season last year in Portland. Same with Raymond Felton. It is maddening to Blazers fans to watch them succeed elsewhere this season.
Portland is building a team, right now they are a fringe playoff team (at 16-15 they are the eight seed as you reed this) but they are a long way from where they want to be. They have good players like Nicolas Batum and the energized J.J. Hickson, but they are a long way from competing with the best in the West. It’s a process. One that includes building a bench (if you don’t think the bench matters watch a Clippers game).
But with Lillard and Aldridge the Blazers have cornerstone guys to build around. They just have a lot of building to do, and the numbers show it.
Through the first two weeks of training camp, the Pelicans have seen their frontcourt depth decimated by injuries to Alexis Ajinca and Omer Asik, both of whom are out for a few weeks. A deal with Greg Smith fell through after he failed a physical. Now, Yahoo’s Marc Spears reports that they’re signing former Knicks and Nets center Jerome Jordan as a short-term solution:
Jordan has only played 65 games in his career and hasn’t been spectacular, but the Pelicans need a body while their two centers are out. Anthony Davis will spend some time at center, but considering the contracts Asik and Ajinca got this summer, Alvin Gentry clearly plans on playing him at power forward as well, and they need a center to at least fill time before Asik and Ajinca get back.
He’s back in practice with the Cavaliers, but there’s still no clarity on whether Kevin Love will be available for the season opener. Love had shoulder surgery in April after suffering a torn labrum in Game 4 of the Cavs’ first-round series against the Celtics, and doctors initially gave him a timetable of four to six months for a return. The six-month end of that is right around opening night (October 27), but Love still doesn’t know whether he’ll be able to play against the Bulls—although he is hopeful.
Via the Sporting News‘ Sean Deveney:
“I feel pretty good,” Love told Sporting News. “As far as the opener goes, I am not completely sure. I’ll probably get with the doctors and see what they have to say. I know that my six-month post-op is coming up here pretty fast. As far as getting the strength back, getting the range of motion, I feel pretty good, so I am looking forward to getting into some more contact, getting into a rhythm and getting out there as quickly as I can.”
Love has been cleared for 3-on-3 practices, but not yet for 5-on-5. If it were up to him, he’d be back on the court, but he understands he needs to follow the rehab protocol for his injury.
“(Six months is) just a ballpark figure that has generally been thrown out there by anybody who has talked about the rehab process for this kind of an injury,” Love said. “I like to think that I am ahead of the game, but there’s different tests and the due diligence that the doctor will go through and the training staff will go through. So all I can do is go out there every day and attack my rehab and hopefully I will be able to go out there and help these guys as soon as possible.”
At the very least, the Cavs will be without Kyrie Irving (still recovering from knee surgery) and Iman Shumpert (out up to three months with a wrist injury), and probably Tristan Thompson too, unless his contract situation changes unexpectedly. So having Love available would be some much-needed good news. But it’s more important that Love (and everyone else) is healthy for the playoffs. If he’s not ready to play, there’s no need to rush back for an October game.