Can Ed Davis and Anthony Morrow be the Trail Blazers 'X-factors' in 2017/18?


Despite the emergence of Jusuf Nurkic at the trade deadline, sparking "Nurk Fever", Portland was unable to acquire another big-name player to further bolster their roster this past offseason. Both of their primary trade targets (Paul George and Carmelo Anthony) ended up being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and with no real cap space, Portland was stuck as an anxious observer as other Western Conference teams improved their rosters (Houston, Oklahoma City). While the Trail Blazers are still a talented team with three potential All-Stars on their roster, the team will need other players to step up if they hope to challenge the best teams in the Western Conference.

Primarily forgotten after an injury-plagued season, one player who had been very effective for Portland was Ed Davis. When healthy, Davis provides the team with energy, both on defense and on the glass. Davis is also a solid screen-setter and has the lateral quickness to play some minutes at center (in addition to his more natural power forward) when opposing teams go small. While rookies Caleb Swanigan and Zach Collins both have higher ceilings, and Meyers Leonard has a bigger contract, Davis should be able to provide the team with the most consistent minutes. While Swanigan has proven himself to be a capable rotation player with his summer league play and in training camp, I do believe that Davis will regain his form from the 2015-2016 season. Jusuf Nurkic was a force last season, but Portland was exposed up front during the playoffs with him out, as the team lacked any interior defense. Should Nurkic get injured or find himself in foul trouble, Davis is Portland's best bet to provide steady minutes.

An underrated addition, general manager Neil Olshey signed shooting guard Anthony Morrow to a non-guaranteed deal. While Morrow will technically be competing with Archie Goodwin, Isaiah Briscoe, and C.J. Wilcox for the final roster spot, there is little doubt that the 9th year pro will make the roster. After Portland traded Allen Crabbe in what was a salary dump, the team needed to find another three-point shooting threat to take Crabbe's place.

Head coach Terry Stotts' offense is predicated on spacing, and there were few options better on the market that fit the team's need and salary cap situation better than Morrow. While both Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum can play off the ball, the team needed a floor-spacer that could keep opposing defenses honest, or make them pay should they cheat off their man. A career 41.7% shooter from beyond the arc, Morrow should be able to replace the three-point shooting that left when Allen Crabbe was traded. Morrow seemed to regress last season, shooting just 30.8% over 46 games with Chicago and Oklahoma City. Despite the dip in production, I have found zero reasons to believe that Morrow suddenly forgot how to shoot the basketball. In his eight previous seasons, Morrow never shot below 37.1% from beyond the arc. The fact that he is on a much smaller contract than his predecessor Allen Crabbe also allows Terry Stotts the ability to sit Morrow should his play, or the matchups warrant it, without criticism from the fanbase, or pressure from a front office that gave out the contract.

While Davis and Morrow are hardly flashy or exciting, both players have the skillsets to mesh well with Portland's other rotation pieces, and should both have a positive impact on the Trail Blazers' fortunes this season.

Like what you've read? Share it with your friends on      or