HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU — Where do the Portland Trail Blazers stand in the Western Conference hierarchy this season? Brandon Roy has retired, but the Blazers still have a pretty strong rotation that goes at least nine deep, and maybe more if their young guards can prove themselves.
And in the end, they’ll go as far as LaMarcus Aldridge can taken them.
Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune asks some key questions surrounding the Blazers, and he puts Aldridge’s ability to close games at the top of the list…
The Closer, Roy, has retired. Few players in franchise history have come through in the clutch more often than Roy, whose chronic knee problems forced him to have played his final game at age 26.
Step up, LaMarcus Aldridge.
“I need to be that guy for us,” Portland’s 6-11 forward says.
After playing with a tight collar late in games through his first four seasons, Aldridge looked more comfortable in the fourth quarter last season. He’ll be the go-to guy with the game on the line.
The Blazers had the 11th-most efficient offense last season and the 13th-most efficient offense in clutch time (last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime with a score differential — either way — of five points or less).
When it comes to taking an important shot, Aldridge was already the Blazers’ go-to guy. In fact, only seven players in the league attempted more clutch time field goals than Aldridge did.
Most clutch time FGA, 2010-11
Aldridge’s usage rate (percentage of team’s possessions used while he’s on the floor) was higher in clutch time (27.0 percent) than it was overall (23.8 percent). But Andre Miller actually led the Blazers in clutch time usage rate, attempting 65 shots and dishing out 32 assists. With Miller being swapped for Raymond Felton, perhaps the Portland offense will run more through Aldridge.
The one thing Aldridge will need to do better is shoot free throws when the game is on the line. His free throw rate was much higher in clutch time (which is a good thing), but 62.3 percent from the line isn’t going to cut it.