The Trail Blazers prioritized talent over size and traditional lineup construction when acquiring Norman Powell. Terry Stotts then committed his team to that ideal even further, naming Portland's newest guard a permanent fixture of the starting lineup alongside Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
Four games into fully embracing a three-guard lineup, Stotts is encouraged by early returns of playing Lillard, McCollum and Powell together.
"I think Norm, CJ and Dame have played really well together," he said on Monday. "If you just look at the analytics and things like that, they've played well together. We've been pretty good when they're on the court together. It passes the eye test."
The numbers are as rosy as Stotts suggests.
Lineups with Lillard, McCollum and Powell on the floor have outscored opponents by a whopping 46 points in 83 minutes, per NBA.com/stats. They've been equally dominant on both ends, too, sporting a 121.4 offensive rating and 93.1 defensive rating.
Caveat: That's a tiny sample size. Take out Portland's 48-point drubbing of the tanking Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Lillard-McCollum-Powell triumvirate has a +5 plus-minus – tied for ninth among all Blazers trios, per NBA.com/stats.
The eye test has indeed been promising, especially when Portland pushes the pace. Powell adds an explosive transition element to the Blazers, and Lillard and McCollum are clearly making an effort to find him in the open floor and early in the shot clock.
The occasional "your turn, my turn" dynamic at play for those three-guard lineups predates Powell's arrival by years. Portland won't ever be a movement-heavy team with Lillard and McCollum at the helm, but there have been several possessions of late the ball has pinged around the court after initial penetration. Powell is a quick decision-maker, whether passing, shooting or driving – an attribute that smooths the rougher edges of his offensive fit with the Blazers' stars.
Defense is a different story altogether. In wake of units featuring Lillard, McCollum and Powell dominating inferior competition and getting run off the floor by the Milwaukee Bucks, they'll face another huge test on Tuesday versus the LA Clippers.
Can Portland's three-guard lineup really string together stops consistently against Kawhi Leonard and Paul George? Stotts wouldn't guarantee it, but seems confident the Blazers are good enough to do it.
"Look, Dame, CJ and Norm are gonna play. That's one of our strengths, and hopefully that lineup outplays their lineup," he said on Monday. "We have our roster, they have their roster, and you go from there."