Photo / Bruce Ely

The Ringer: Connaughton One Of 'Six NBA Players Showing Major Progress'

by Cody Sharrett

Enter the 2017-18 season, perhaps the biggest question concerning the Portland Trail Blazers was replacing Allen Crabbe's 44.4% shooting from three-point range -- the second-best mark in the NBA last season. Following Crabbe's trade to Brooklyn in the summer, third-year guard Pat Connaughton has risen to the occasion in replacing Crabbe in the Blazer rotation. 

Highlighted by a career-high 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting and 4-of-7 shooting from deep, Portland hasn't missed a beat with Connaughton in his new role. The 24-year-old out of Notre Dame is averaging 7.6 points per game on 44.1% shooting from the field and 42.5% from three-point land. Connaughton has caught attention from around NBA media, earning the distinction of 'Six Players Showing Major Progress' from The Ringer. 

Kevin O'Connor writes of Connaughton: 

"Connaughton is a joy to watch off the ball. He does an excellent job of making himself available with cuts, misdirections, and screens. Most importantly, he makes the shots, whether he’s off balance or shooting from a standstill. Sometimes, Connaughton looks like he has been watching and learning from J.J. Redick footage... Connaughton isn’t on Redick’s level. (Duh.) But the Blazers should be happy with what they have. Losing Crabbe, a 40.8 percent career shooter from 3, could’ve been detrimental to their spacing, but Connaughton has provided a spark off the bench and a valuable target on inbound plays. For as long as Connaughton shoots the lights out, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum will have more than enough room to penetrate into the paint and wreak havoc for opponents."

Connuaughton likely won't be a year-end candidate for Most Impoved or Sixth Man of the Year (though we can hope). Regardless, his emergence is a welcome addition to the Blazers' quest for Western Conference surpemacy.