Whiteside to be Tested in Blazers’ Early Schedule

The Trail Blazers will feature three new starters in their lineup for the 2019-20 regular season. Zach Collins, Rodney Hood, and newcomer Hassan Whiteside are tasked with rounding out Terry Stotts’ opening rotation that features a star-studded backcourt. Whiteside, who was acquired from the Heat, has the cumbersome duty of filling the vacancy created by Jusuf Nurkic’s absence.

Last week’s schedule announcement provided a look at the road that Whiteside must travel along in order to win over coaches and pundits. Looking back at last year’s results, here is look at what the former Heat big man will face in the first 10 days of the regular season.

Nuggets at Blazers | Oct. 23 | Center Matchup: Nikola Jokic

Nikola Jokic was last seen putting up stellar numbers against the Blazers in a hard-fought postseason series. In his return to Portland, Jokic will find a capable post defender waiting for him. Jokic, a burgeoning MVP candidate, found success against Whiteside last season. The Nuggets journey to Miami in January saw Jokic produce an impressive triple-double.

Numbers aside, it is clear that Whiteside’s size bothers Jokic in the paint.

The next sequence is one that should get Blazers fans excited: Whiteside slides over to stop Jamal Murray’s drive and recovers to block Jokic’s attempt in the paint.

Blazers at Kings | Oct. 25 | Center Matchup: Dewayne Dedmon

The Kings’ new center crossed paths with Whiteside on a few occasions over the last two seasons in the Eastern Conference. Last year, Dedmon quietly blossomed into an effective three-point shooter. The former Hawks big man converted 38.2 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc in the 2018-19 season.

Like last year, Dedmon will keep Whiteside on his toes. Here are two occasions where Whiteside was late to close out on Dedmon.

In the next clip, Whiteside gets caught deep in the paint as Dedmon makes his way down the court. Given Stotts’ defensive system, this is a sequence Whiteside should encounter against the Kings.

The Next Three: Mavericks, Spurs, Thunder

Whiteside does not have an extensive history with any of the centers he will meet during this stretch. Mavericks big man Dwight Powell operates inside the arc, which presents a favorable matchup on defense. The Spurs’ center rotation is not set in stone and Steven Adams is a traditional center that aligns with Whiteside’s comfort zone.

76ers at Blazers | Nov. 2 | Center Matchup: Joel Embiid

The Blazers will return home from an early-season road trip to meet the Sixers. Joel Embiid and Whiteside have a lengthy history, making this a must-watch matchup. The two big men have exchanged barbs after preseason matchups and went to battle against each other in the playoffs.

In the 2018 Eastern Conference Playoffs, Whiteside and Embiid treated fans to a throwback exchange between post players.

With the home crowd behind him for only the second time in the regular season, Whiteside could be poised to replicate the same postseason intensity.

What early-season matchup are you looking forward to that most? Tell us in the comments below.

Original Article Source

Steve Dewald
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