In 2008 the Portland Trailblazers drafted Jerryd Bayless with the eleventh pick in the draft. It was, at the time, considered to be a moderate reach, but some described it as a “best player available” type move. What was curious was that the Blazers already had All-Star Brandon Roy at shooting guard. They had drafted Rudy Fernandez the year before. So why then would they acquire an undersized combo-guard with devastating offensive capabilities but no real point-guard-sense to speak of?
Because they were going to force him to be a point guard. Naturally.
Kevin Pritchard did a lot of good things during his time in Portland. Similarly, Nate McMillan has done a great job with a younger squad in Portland. But the management of Bayless was bungled from the start. Getting players to switch positions in the NBA is neither uncommon nor an inherently bad move. Each year dozens of players switch positions successfully. And if you have a player that is only marginally talented, sometimes those kinds of moves can help them to become the best player they can be. Portland’s problem with Bayless is that they underestimated his talent due to his size. And so they turned him into a point guard. Which is a lot like telling a gun to be a fire hydrant. Not really going to help with the fire.
This wasn’t a “we’d like to see him play at the 1” either. In SummerLeague 2008, McMillan out and out said that the Blazers had a shooting guard, and his name is Brandon Roy. So Bayless would have to play point guard, or not play at all. And sure enough, that’s how the Blazers approached him. Not letting his talents mold on their own to help the team, not allowing his natural abilities actually help the team. It wasn’t any big loss for the Blazers, after all, they’ve been one of the better high-efficiency offensive teams in the league. But at the same time, that doesn’t negate it being a waste of talent.
Enter Rich Cho. In a quote to the Oregonian, said this last night:
“Jerryd is not a true point guard,” Cho said. “And at two guard on this team, he’s stuck, probably as the fourth guy.”
Rich Cho, you are a reasonable man. Cho also described the move as a good one for both Bayless and the team. Bayless himself seems excited about the new location. And in New Orleans, maybe coach Monty Williams will let Bayless do what he does best.
According to Synergy Sports, Bayless had a .89 Points Per Possession mark out of the pick and roll last season, just on the cusp of being considered good. He also had a 1.17 PPP out of the spot-up. His ISO numbers were only average last year, with a .81 PPP. But with a more wide-open attack, it’s possible Bayless could improve there, given his penchant for getting to the rim.
Here’s the bizarre one. Defensively, the result is the exact opposite. Bayless gave up a .89 PPP out of the pick and roll, which is not good. But in ISO, he only gave up a .79 PPP out of the ISO, holding opponents to 34.8% shooting. Color me surprised. So the Hornets are getting a mixed bag, but with Bayless’ speed, scoring instincts and polish he’s added, as a bench player, he could make a big difference.
Even backing up Chris Paul in New Orleans, it’s unlikely he’ll be expected to play the same role as Chris Paul. Williams knows what he’s getting in Bayless having seen him, and the bench unit will need scoring. Additionally, he can likely split point duties with Marco Belinelli. Hopefully this era of Bayless’ career will make a little more sense than the last.