Progress Report: Jerryd Bayless
28% field goal percentage, 1 of 3 from three-point range this season, 78% freethrow percentage, and half as many turnovers per game as points (imagine if Kobe suffered from this!).
Ouch – the boxscore doesn’t love you Jerryd, but I do.
First things first, I love to watch Jerryd Bayless play defense. Yes, he’s a little too hand-happy right now. The guy gets 7 minutes a game – I'd feel like every play needed to be a big one, too. I guarantee Nate laughs about it; having a freak athlete come in and frustrate the hell out of some crafty veterans is worth 2 fouls in 5 minutes. As he gains experience, he will learn how to better navigate around screens (he certainly has the athleticism to do so) and where to best place his hands. What’s impressive is that his athleticism has allowed him to firmly plant himself at the hip of every defensive assignment he’s had, including especially impressive performances against Baron Davis and Ray Allen. Look at how Jerryd’s hand is lodged into Allen’s wrist… I love it!
It’s all about cultivation. With Greg, I’m just about ready to slap him on the butt and say "you’re on your own, kid." I don’t mean anything about Greg’s evolution as a player; I mean emotionally. The training wheels are about ready to be taken off – the man is announcing and becoming himself at the same time. He showed last night that he doesn't need anybody feeling sorry for him.
But Bayless – now here’s a whole new flower that I get to watch blossom. You don’t combine the physical gifts, killer instinct, and extreme work ethic of Jerryd Bayless to produce a failure. And when you merge those attributes with a team-player, you produce a winner. Jerryd Bayless has shown me that he wants to be a winner.
As far as improving his game is concerned, all you can ask him to do right now is to pay attention to his shot selection. A rookie doesn’t just "improve" his shot selection like a veteran does; they’re still getting a feel for the game. You ask that they pay attention to it - recognize good and bad shots - and move on. Bayless hasn’t even amassed enough minutes to fill two full NBA games! Clearly he still has an extraordinary amount of growing ahead of him.
What’s more important is that he is buying into philosophy of doing what’s best for the team. He needs to let go of "what he does," and try to do whatever puts points on the board, again, for the team. From what I have seen, he has does an extraordinary job of letting himself be coached. The only ugly shots I’ve seen him take have been in times when it feels like our offense was stagnant (you can’t blame the guy for trying to create some offense for the team). He seems to genuinely be trying to run the offense. We even saw some Brandon plays run for him – high pick-and-pops with LaMarcus.
Oh boy, and aren’t you excited for it to happen? That stretch of games where he announces to the Blazer fans that he is going to be a serious contributor to this team… man it will be sweet. He may be a long way away; those kinds of stretches only happen when you get minutes. We should be mindful of timing, as right now we’re about to enter a period where we find out what the team looks like with Martell. The other, other, other rookie will get his minutes once we feel comfortable with the main pieces. But don’t worry – I don’t think Jerryd is going anywhere. Kevin Pritchard knows these players. There is no way he circles the boxscore every time Bayless goes 0 for 4 – he must see an already sensational kid who spends all of his time in the gym getting better.
So, maybe we won’t see him much this year. Maybe we’ll only see him as a defensive stopper on certain types of players, like Batum does. Or maybe we’ll see him a lot – I don’t know. I understand that we have other issues to sort through first, and eventually Jerryd Bayless will be given an opportunity to make a real name for himself in the NBA. When that time comes, I have no doubt that he will take advantage of the opportunity, and I could no be more excited to watch him do it.
I do consider his performance in the Summer League a part of his NBA resume. It is true that you can't give it too much credit because he was just playing against the scrubs. However, if you are the Most Valuable Scrub, that says something. Beating up on all the reserves makes you good - the Summer League makes it difficult to say how good.