The Portland Offense

John Hollinger explains how last year’s Trailblazers put together one of the best offenses in the league:

The Blazers succeeded with the unusual style that Nate McMillan imported from Seattle. His teams have a unique signature — they regularly rank among the league leaders in offensive efficiency and offensive rebound rate while simultaneously finishing among the league’s slowest-paced teams. Most people think of offensive juggernauts as wild run-and-gun outfits, but the Blazers succeeded with half-court execution and second shots much as McMillan’s outfits with the Sonics did.

Portland played the league’s second-slowest pace, averaging only 89.3 trips per side, and that both muted the players’ averages and obscured how devastating they were offensively. The Blazers were deadly efficient, averaging 110.3 points per 100 possessions — ranking second only to Phoenix in offensive efficiency. Despite a lack of brand-name players, they placed ahead of both the Lakers and Cleveland.

People tend not to believe that Portland had a great offense last year. This is in part because the slow pace led to low per game totals, but also because of the perception that they lack effective offensive players beyond Brandon Roy. This in turn stems in part from the quirk whereby people tend to think of put-backs and such as a kind of second-class scoring. The reality, however, is that grabbing offensive rebounds that lead to easy points is a way of putting points on the board that count toward the final tally. “Believe it or not,” Hollinger writes “they did it while barely shooting better than the league average.” But the minimized turnovers and maximized offensive rebounds and that got the job done.