Portland Trail Blazers Take One Step Into Candidate Status By Adding Robert Covington | NBA.com Canada

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Almost lost in the successful deal reshuffle, the Portland Trail Blazers have added a Robert Covington player who could elevate them to the rank of contender for the Western Conference, according to Adrian Wojnarowski.

The 2019-20 season saw the Blazers turn up the hot hand of Damian Lillard for a seventh straight playoff appearance despite the team’s 248 men’s games missing due to a regular season injury, according to the list of wounded from Spotrac. Now, back at full strength and with Covington in the fold, we’re looking at a very different team than the one that gave the future champion Los Angeles Lakers some trouble to open the playoffs.

How does this affect Portland’s outlook for the 2020-21 season? Let’s start with the new addition.

Covington responds to a specific need

We have reached the point in his career where Covington’s reputation as a 3-D player precedes him, and that is a well-deserved reputation.

While shooting 31.5% of 3 in 22 regular-season games with Houston, Covington found his playoff pace, reversing 50% of his 68 3-point attempts in 12 games, including a stifling 53, 2% of its catch-and-. shooting attempts.

Let’s be clear, you shouldn’t expect him to continue converting at such a level, but Covington is still a career 36.5% 3-point shooter, a welcome addition to one of the top teams. 3-point league shooting. Portland placed 10th in 3s per game and did so with a 37.7% clip, with the third highest rate in the league. If Covington converts at a rate similar to the 36.5% he cut for his career, you can count on Lillard and CJ McCollum to have even more room in the half court to operate.

That being said, it’s the “3-and-D” defensive element that really makes this deal for the Blazers.

Covington, who will turn 30 at the start of the 2020-21 season, has just two more years to earn a selection to the fully defensive first team. At 6ft 7in with a 7ft 2in wingspan, Covington uses his length and instinct to be one of the best defensemen in the league.

A concrete example? He led the league in deflections per game in the 2016-17 season and has been in the top 10 every season since. Last season, Covington averaged 3.4 deflections per game, tied with Jimmy Butler for seventh place in the league.

Portland’s abysmal defensive rating of 114.3 in the 2019-20 season was better than that of the Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers alone. It is not the best company.

Covington should help that out right away.

Consider that the Rockets posted a defensive rating of 112.6 with Covington on the ground and a defensive rating of 106.0 with him on the ground, and you’ll see the kind of impact he’s capable of making on a defense.

While Covington alone might not have this have a tangible impact on the Blazers’ defense, he will certainly do his part to improve it. His defensive versatility was on full display as he averaged 1.6 interceptions and 2.2 blocks per game while serving as the Rockets’ small ball defensive anchor.

With Portland back at full strength, Covington will have less of a burden when it comes to custody of the big boys. Those responsibilities will fall on the guys who are back to full force.

They are healthy now

As mentioned above, Portland missed the second-most men’s injury game last season, with key contributors Jusuf Nurkic (66), Zach Collins (63) and Rodney Hood (45) combining to miss 174 , by Spotrac.

While Hood somewhat surprisingly chose not to participate in his final year with the team after tearing his Achilles tendon, Nurkic and Collins return after a long offseason period as well as a chance to get to know the team during training camp.

After missing more than a calendar year of action with a devastating leg injury, Nurkic immediately looked like him on his return, averaging 17.6 points, 10.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 blocks in Portland’s eight ranking games.

Nurkic does a bit of everything and will also help on the defensive side thanks to his size and ability to make things difficult for opponents on the edge.

It’s no secret that I’m on Collins. Ahead of the 2019-20 season, I named him the most improved player in the league because I thought he would be more than capable of playing a big role as Nurkic recovered. Collins would suffer from a shoulder injury just three games into the season, ending discussions over the PIM and although he returned for Portland’s standings games when the NBA restarted, an ankle injury Stopped him from playing in the playoffs.

Collins, who will be 23 at the start of the season, is entering his fourth season after being drafted 10th in the 2017 NBA Draft. Until this point in his career, he hasn’t really had the opportunity to. show the advantages that have earned him being in the top 10.

This year is the year.

All things considered, a healthy Hood could always return to Portland if he doesn’t like what he sees in the free agent market, it’s no longer a given he’s coming back.

Competition in the West

Ultimately, the question is: how well does that make the Blazers compared to the rest of the Western Conference?

Despite all the struggles and obstacles of last season, this is a team that has managed to fight their way through to clinch last playoff spot in the West. Much of this was because, based on sheer talent, this team had the profile of a No.4 or No.5 seed in a typical year.

Now they are healthier and their young players are a year better.

Of course, it all starts with the team’s own version of the Big Three in Lillard, McCollum and Nurkic, a trio as talented as any other trio in the West, especially since most of the teams follow the model of construction around duos. .

That list is now populated with Covington, Collins as well as key depth pieces in Gary Trent Jr., Anfernee Simons, Nassir Little and Mario Hezonja, as free agent decisions loom for Hood and Carmelo Anthony. If we learned anything last season, it’s that it’s not for granted, but Portland should be right in the mix for a spot in the West.

With both Los Angeles and Denver teams as essential keys to finishing up the standings, Portland joins a group that also includes the Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets (depending on their All- backcourt status). Star), Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz as teams that will scramble to make the playoffs.

If they add another complementary piece, the Blazers climb to the top of this list to make eight straight playoff trips.

The opinions on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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