Last night, it was better just not to write about this game.
I slept on it and haven’t changed my mind; we won’t do a full Re-Thoughts. The game was, apart from a couple “Wooooooww” dunks (Hello, Sonny Weems), completely forgettable, and you could tell the crowd in attendance knew it. What I took away from the night was that Jeff Pendergraph is going to be a dependable short-to-mid range threat off pick-and-pops and the occasional post-up, and that nobody quite gets the crowd buzzing with a simple pullup jumper like Jerryd Bayless can.
Looking at the bigger picture, we’ve seen what we need to see from the two rookies. Both have the tools to earn some playing with the roster as it is currently assembled, and depending on future moves I could see both getting minutes at the backup 4, each playing depending on matchups and whether the team needs rebounding or more guard-oriented play. A platoon, if you will.
As for Bayless, that 12/18 assist-to-turnover ratio must be sticking in a lot of people’s minds, but I’m going to disregard the numbers. That number could easily be reversed if a handful of open shots are converted and if a couple more players come to the ball or hold on to passes. Sure, they sound like excuses, but you can tell in Cox Pavillion that most plays are being run fairly loosely, the spacing is terrible and the chemistry is non-existent. Bayless struggled with the half-court trap, but the Nuggets were able to throw just about anything they wanted at him because there were approximately .98 actual threats on the floor with Jerryd at any given time.
Which brings us to the main point. This is not the right situation for Bayless to be “learning” how to play point or “proving” how he can play point. This is a poorly constructed roster with no real center and no playmakers other than Bayless. There’s nobody who can do an ounce of the things Brandon Roy can, or draw nearly the same amount of attention that Aldridge or Oden can. It’s Bayless and everyone else, and you can see it in his frustrated expressions (not to be confused with his “I’m going to eat you” expressions). Even against the other crummy Summer League teams, the Blazers clearly have not only a lower level of talent, but a lower range of dynamic talents. Couple all that with the fact that Portland’s offense has never really been constructed for high assist totals, and I’m willing to throw most of the numbers out the doggie door. I’m much more interested to hear if Bayless gets any time running the point with the USA Select Team and how he does there, and looking ahead how he fares in training camp in Fall.
The question I want to ask is, what exactly do we want from Bayless? Are we comparing him to his primary competition, Steve Blake, and thus trying to make him more like Steve Blake? Do we want him to make safe, low-risk passes and thus limit his turnovers, or do we want Bayless to be aggressive and try to make plays rather than just start or facilitate them? Before we make any snap judgments based on this Summer League — which we shouldn’t do anyways but it will happen regardless because that’s the nature of the media at large — I think we need to know what we want from the guy. Just saying “He should be able to run the point” isn’t enough. There are many good point guards in the NBA and a handful of great ones, and they each run the position differently. If Bayless is going to carve out a role as an impact player for the Blazers, it’s going to be because Nate McMillan and the “system” adjusted to Jerryd’s unique set of skills, not because the Blazers handcuffed his talents with a system.