Portland Trail Blazers Weekly Preview – Welcome Aboard, Rodney Hood … Now Here’s Luka Doncic

0

The Portland Trail Blazers have done it. They’ve actually made a trade.

Not a big one, mind you. No earth-shattering, slam dunk move that’s shaking the NBA to its very roots (like the heist Dallas pulled off last week for Kristaps Porzingis; if that works out, the Mavericks could be major players in the 2020s). There was no clever fleecing of dipstick rival general managers. Just a slight upgrade, like switching from Jack Daniels to Wild Turkey, or going from Jameson to Knappogue Castle.

Portland traded Nik Stauskas, Wade Baldwin IV and second-round picks in 2021 and 2023 to the Cleveland Cavaliers for wing player Rodney Hood. If Hood’s name sounds familiar, it’s either because he started his career playing for the Northwest Division rival Utah Jazz, or because he was on the “Can’t” side of “Guys Who Can/Can’t Play with LeBron James.”

You can find his Basketball-Reference.com profile here, but it isn’t just raw numbers Rip City should concern itself with.

Over the last couple seasons, Hood has developed a reputation as a dude who comes up small in pressure situations—or when he’s counted on. Sure, he’s a fine shooter, but given how bad the Cavs are (when the Blazers played them, half my analysis on the preview was tire fire GIFs), I was disappointed to discover that Hood’s Usage Rate was under 20 percent. He isn’t a “good stats, bad team,”guy, which is “good” because the Blazers traded for him to play a role, yet “bad” since the Cavs are such a horrid team and Hood couldn’t distinguish himself.

He also didn’t really stand out when the Jazz were searching for a replacement for Gordon Hayward, their former All-Star wing who left for Boston in 2017. Hood put up 17 points a game in his final season in Utah, so he was useful, but Utah didn’t want to pay him star-level money for third-option or fourth-option production—and the emergence of Donovan Mitchell as a star player made the future restricted free agent expendable in a trade.

Hood’s time in Cleveland tanked whatever value he had, and he ended up taking the qualifying offer of one year and $3.4 million in September; the market for Hood’s services was colder than local brewery Widmer’s Brrr.

One quirk of the QO rules is that it has a built-in no-trade clause—meaning that Hood had to agree to the trade that sent him back West, which is good. At least he wants to be here, for this season anyway.

Maybe Utah Hood will show up, and he’ll feast on good looks served up by Damian Lillard, instead of floundering after watching Collin Sexton pound the air out of the ball, then catch a panicked pass from the rookie with three seconds left on the shot clock. Maybe the pressure of playing with LeBron, and the hangover Cleveland’s suffering from watching him leave (again), had settled on his psyche like a miasma, and the pristine Oregon air will clear it. Maybe he’ll become the undisputed starting 3 for the Blazers and beat out the banged-up Moe Harkless and the callow Jake Layman—and resuscitate his career in the process.

Or maybe he’ll just be yet another guy who can’t create his own shot and will be standing around, helpless like the Blazers of last year were, as Lillard and CJ McCollum get swallowed up by opposing playoff defenses focused solely on stopping them.

Honestly, the onus is all on Hood to perform. The Blazers gave up almost nothing for a guy who could help them. Baldwin was shuttling between the NBA and the G-League, while Stauskas was as effective at defense as a knitted condom would be at birth control.

Hood’s contract expires in July. He’ll have 30-odd games, plus the playoffs, to prove he should be a rotation NBA player, instead of serving as a litmus test for the Next Big Things in Europe.

Doesn’t mean that the Trail Blazers wouldn’t like him to have a mini-Nurk Fever episode, or that they’re done dealing. They still have assets to play with, including their first-round pick.

This won’t be over until Thursday afternoon.

All games are available on AM 620 Rip City Radio.


Tuesday, Feb. 5: vs. the Miami Heat, 7:30 PM, TNT

The Skinny: Portland is the first stop on a five-game West Coast swing for Miami before the All-Star break, and with the Heat sitting at 24-27 and eighth in the East, it could go a long way toward deciding their prospects for the playoffs.

While Detroit is two games back, with Washington and Orlando both within a game of the Pistons, the Heat are currently on a three-game losing streak after losing a ‘90s Special to the Victor Oladipo-less Indiana Pacers on Groundhog Day. They can ill afford any kind of slippage, which makes this trip out West—which includes a murderous back-to-back against Golden State and Denver—very poorly timed indeed.

(Side note: I call a game that finished without a team that scored at least 100 points a “90s Special,” since you saw those games all the time in the slowpoke, plodding games of the 1990s. Nowadays, when you see a game like that, both teams are struggling super hard—it’s basically a slap fight.)

Miami is trying to hang on until they get Goran Dragic back; the veteran point guard is supposed to be back after the All-Star break. With the Slovenian in the fold, they should be able to out-depth the Pistons, Wizards and Magic, and they should serve as the first sacrifice to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. Yahoo.

Matchup to Watch: Hassan Whiteside vs. Jusuf Nurkic. Whiteside’s counting numbers look pretty solid: He’s posting 12-12, 54 percent shooting, 21.5 PER, 2.2 blocks per game—but like the man himself, dive deeper and you find nothing but hot air, empty promises, and B.S. He shoots just 41 percent from the free-throw line, his Value Over Replacement Player is almost zero, and he has a negative Box Plus-Minus and Offensive BPM (which stands at -3.4).

He also is the current Dwight Howard Award winner for blocking shots out of bounds instead of toward his own team. The dimwit would rather swat a shot to the seventh row and flex than make a proper basketball play, guaranteeing the ending of his opponent’s possession. Grandstanding donkey.

Whiteside is still a physical presence, so Nurk will have to either out-maneuver him, or just make him commit silly fouls with cagey pump-fakes. Getting Whiteside in the pick-and-roll should also be advantageous for Portland; as mentioned before, Whiteside isn’t the most attentive or sound defender.

Prediction: Fresh off of six days rest—and a reinvigorating trade—Portland beats the Heat…as the city is likely covered in snow.


Thursday, Feb. 7: vs. the San Antonio Spurs, 7:30 PM, TNT

The Skinny: Two TNT games in one week? What wizardry is this!?

The Blazers and Spurs are fourth and fifth in the Western standings, respectively, as of Sunday night, so this game is critical for playoff positioning. They split two early meetings back in October and November, and have a final game coming up at San Antonio in March. The head-to-head tiebreakers are still to be decided.

At least winning a division isn’t a guarantee of a higher seed nowadays; despite being at No. 5, the Spurs lead the Southwest Division, while Portland is only the third-best team in their own damn division.

In other Spurs news, LaMarcus Aldridge has made his seventh All-Star team this season. There’s an argument to be made that DeMar DeRozan was more deserving, but I think LMA was the right choice. Their scoring averages are almost identical, with Aldridge shooting two fewer shots per game and shooting five percentage points better than DeRozan. As a big man, Aldridge also contributes more on defense and on the boards, though he’s lost a step as he edges into his mid-30s.

As for his place among the all-time greats: Aldridge just hit 18,000 career points the other day  and is a virtual lock to record 20,000 points, an important number. Only 44 players in NBA history have recorded 20K points, and all of them except Joe Johnson and Antawn Jamison (shout-out to ‘Twan!) are either in or are locks for the Hall of Fame. He’s also got an outside chance to amass 10,000 rebounds (which only 40 players have ever done), and 20K-10K puts him in Bill Simmons’ Pyramid discussion for the top 100 players of all time—though, as Simmons himself pointed out in his Trade Value column, “(Aldridge) will make the Hall of Fame one day, and it will leave you feeling cold.”

Guess that’s why he made his own HoF in his book, The Book of Basketball.

Matchup to Watch: DeMar DeRozan vs. CJ McCollum. In this era of pace-and-space, 3s-and-dunks, and other Warriors-related nonsense, we get to watch two masters of the midrange cook against each other. We should see big games from both if they guard one another—CJ is too short to bother DeRozan’s shot, while DeRozan is too disinclined to play defense.

Prediction: It’s close, but the Blazers catch the old Spurs on the second night of a back-to-back, and gains a leg up in the standings.


Sunday, Feb. 10: @ the Dallas Mavericks, 12:00 PM, NBCSNW

The Skinny: And now, the team that stole the Trade Deadline. The heist Donnie Nelson pulled off to acquire Kristaps Porzingis was a ballsy move, and one that could not only set his franchise up for sustained success, but could also land the executive in the Hall of Fame.

The Mavs already had the likely Rookie of the Year, Luka Doncic, on the perimeter. Pairing the skilled Slovenian wunderkind with a healthy Porzingis would be a strong two-man foundation upon which Dallas could build its post-Dirk Nowitzki future—if KP recovers fully from his torn ACL from a year ago, if Porzingis and Doncic can co-exist (no small issue; big men are moody, especially when they’re injury-prone), if Nelson can fill out the roster around them with good players while Doncic is making peanuts on his rookie deal, and if Porzingis re-signs with Dallas in the first place.

That is way too many ifs to be comfortable if you’re the Mavericks, but to win a championship, risks must be taken. Ever since they let Tyson Chandler leave in free agency right after winning the 2011 NBA title, Dallas has struck out on free agency, made some questionable trades, and treated the NBA Draft—the one surefire way to acquire cheap young talent—like toilet paper. They needed to make a splash, and the Mavs made a freakin’ tsunami.

Matchup to Watch: Luka Doncic vs. Damian Lillard. I’m still angry that Klay Thompson made the All-Star Team over Doncic this season. I understand why the coaches picked Thompson—and didn’t pick Doncic. Klay is an established name, while Luka is still a rookie, and coaches LOVE to make the kids pay their dues.

Still, that the coaches ignored the stats Doncic is putting up (we literally haven’t seen a rookie do stuff like this since Larry F–king Bird) AND failed to realize that Thompson couldn’t throw the ball into the Bay for two solid months, it grinds my particular gears. The Avatar of Thicc will eventually get his. I just hope he isn’t denied next year because of a splashy name that isn’t doing much splashing.

Prediction: Time to hop out on a limb. Dallas wins.


Trail Blazers’ Record Last Week: 1-0

Trail Blazers’ Record Overall: 32-20

Jared’s Picks Record Last Week: 0-1

Jared’s Picks Overall: 30-21

Share.

About Author

Jared Wright

Jared Wright is a Portland Trail Blazers writer for Oregon Sports News, though he also writes about other stuff when the mood takes him. He also apparently enjoys talking about himself in the third person. He lives in Southeast Portland.

Leave A Reply