Sunday, September 16, 2012

What's next for Elliot Williams, Trail Blazers after latest injury?

After hearing that third-year shooting guard Elliot Williams will likely miss the entire 2012-2013 season with a ruptured Achilles tendon, you can't help but feel bad for him. After missing his entire rookie season due to a knee surgery, and the last couple months of his sophomore campaign with a shoulder injury, Williams was primed to be a rotation player for the rebuilding Trail Blazers. His explosive athleticism and ability to attack the basket are things that previous backcourt players seemingly lacked, and while he still needed to refine his ball-handling and defense, was headed in the right direction.

For Williams (23), this was the opportunity he's waited for since entering the league, and now the young man has another long rehabilitation ahead of him. The Trail Blazers must now decide whether to pick up the fourth-year option on Williams' contract. If the team does, they are gambling on a player with the physical tools to be a solid player in the league, but has an injury history that is worrisome, as Williams has played in just 26 career games.

With the Williams injury, new head coach Terry Stotts will have to figure out how to distribute the available two-guard minutes. Second-year combo guard Nolan Smith largely played shooting guard while in college, and looked more ready to contribute in that role than at the point. The team also has 2012 2nd round pick Will Barton in the fold, who has a well-rounded game but will need to add muscle for his slight frame to hold up against NBA-level players.

New coach Terry Stotts has stressed the need for Portland to play solid defense, and former interim coach Kaleb Canales will work as the "defensive coordinator" for Stotts this season. If Stotts is serious about the importance of defense, it's likely that Barton will get the edge, as his length and solid athleticism give him the potential to be a respectable-to-good defender in the league. Barton also has shown the ability to be a facilitator, and playing alongside Nolan Smith could allow both players to contribute both with the ball in their hands, as well as playing off the ball.

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