May 2, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers center Robin Lopez (42) ties up Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) in the second half in game six of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Moda Center.Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
Center: Robin Lopez, Joel Freeland, Chris Kaman, Meyers Leonard vs. Dwight Howard, Donatas Motiejunas and Clint Capela
The Blazers have one very good thing going at the 5-spot: crazy depth. While none of the Blazers’ big men are premier players by any stretch of the imagination, between the four of them they have 24 fouls to throw at Dwight Howard. Last we checked, Howard is still a horrible free throw shooter. Don’t think the Blazers will hesitate to put Dwight on the line at each and every opportunity.
Robin Lopez isn’t much of a scorer, but he’s a very good defender. And if Dwight gets a little too happy with his weak-side defense, Lopez is a good finisher and will make the Rockets pay for it.
Additionally, while Chris Kaman may be injury prone and aging, he has a unique skill set down low and is as ambidextrous as any NBA big. If he’s healthy, there’s an outside chance he could start. But, he’s rarely healthy.
Meyers Leonard and Joel Freeland are both third and fourth string fodder. But they are big bodies, and they have six fouls to give. While Donatas Motiejunas may bring more offense than both, he’s also the first 5-man off the bench for Houston.
The Rockets do have a healthy advantage here, but it’s really not as dramatic as a simple comparison of names would indicate. Portland’s assortment of bigs means trouble for Howard, not only because of the foul-driven strategy, but also because the Blazers’ bigs will have the chance to stay fresher. Meanwhile, Howard will be pressed into major minutes, until and unless the Rockets fortify the frontcourt.
Advantage: Rockets, but not as big as one might think