Offering up New Year’s resolutions for every team in the Western Conference
Portland Trail Blazers: Know when to say “no” to three-pointers.
Look, it’s the holidays. We’ve all indulged a little more than we should have. But that doesn’t mean we have to go on some kind of crazy diet (right?). Instead, it’s all about moderation, which is exactly what the Blazers need to realize.
The facts: Portland is an incredibly talented offensive team. They lead the league in points per possession, points per game and a host of other categories. One of those is three-pointers made per game, with an impressive 10.3 per contest. They also rank second in three-point percentage (39.6), a sign that they are taking good shots.
But there is such thing as too much of a good thing and that’s wherein lies the problem for the Blazers. While Portland is a terrific perimeter shooting team, it suffers when it relies too much on the three-pointer. The team is 11-6 when shooting 26 three-pointers or more in a game and 14-1 when putting up 25 or less.
With shooters like Wes Matthews, Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum, it’d be foolish for the Blazers not to feature a steady diet of three-pointers. They just need to learn when to walk away from the table.
Sacramento Kings: Free Jimmer.
Jimmer Fredette took the country by storm during his senior year at BYU, averaging 28.9 points and blowing us away with his three-point range and the Cougars’ magical Sweet 16 run. “Jimmer” became a household name. Fans would gasp in anticipation every time he would even touch the ball. He was drafted by the Kings with the 10th overall pick in 2011 — and has toiled in anonymity ever since.
Fredette showed plenty of promise off the bench last season, appearing in 69 games and averaging an economical 7.2 points in 14.0 minutes and hitting 41.7 of his three-point attempts. But he has barely seen the light of day under new head coach Michael Malone this year, playing just 10.1 minutes per game and appearing in only 17 of the team’s 29 games. But it’s not as if Fredette is mired in a shooting slump, he’s hit 9-of-18 from behind the arc this season.
It’s obvious Fredette isn’t in Sacramento’s future plans. It’s time for the Kings to let go of Jimmer in 2014 and let the country enjoy Jimmermania again.
San Antonio Spurs: Stay well rested, but also stay sharp.
We already know Gregg Popovich and the Spurs view the regular season as an 82-game dress rehearsal, and they deserve the right to cruise after so many postseason runs. Tony Parker (30.6 minutes), Tim Duncan (28.8) and Manu Ginobili (23.7) have been monitored carefully this season, with San Antonio even going as far as to give them the occasional night off. Nonetheless, the Spurs have amassed a 25-7 record to start the season, and top-10 outfits on both offense and defense.
But there is some concern about Popovich going too easy on his players. As valuable as health and rest are to the Spurs, they are ultimately trumped by wins, which San Antonio hasn’t recorded many of against the NBA’s elite this season. The team’s seven losses have come against the Blazers, Thunder, Rockets, Pacers and Clippers, all contenders the Spurs could potentially face in the playoffs.
We’ll give Pop the benefit of the doubt, but a few wins down the stretch against some fellow contenders would put some of our concerns to rest.
Utah Jazz: Work Enes Kanter back into the starting lineup.
His struggles most definitely warranted demotion, but when you’re a rebuilding squad what’s the sense in having the center of your future ride the pine in favor of veterans on expiring contracts?
After starting the first 14 games of the year, Kanter has seen sporadic playing time ever since, playing less than 20 minutes in 12 of hia team’s last 18 games. His per-36-minutes numbers are down across the board, going from 16.9 ppg and 10.2 rpg last season to 15.1 ppg and 8.3 rpg this season. His shooting percentage has slipped from 54.4 to 46.2 and his PER has plummeted from 17.6 to 12.6.
That said, the Jazz used the third overall pick in the 2011 draft on Kanter. They’ve invested too heavily in the 21-year-old — remember, they let Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap walk this summer — to bench him just for a mediocre start. Kanter’s getting his first taste of big minutes since high school, so an adjustment period should be expected.
Worst of all are the players Tyrone Corbin is giving minutes to over Kanter. Marvin Williams, 27, has been inserted at power forward, with Derrick Favors moving over to center. Williams (41.0 percent from three-point range) has helped spread the floor for the Jazz, but the short-term benefits of improving the offense of a 10-24 team are trumped massively by the plusses of letting one of your franchise building blocks play through his first batch of NBA adversity.