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The Season in Review: Jerryd Bayless

We continue our romp through the "B" players today with Jerryd Bayless.

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Jerryd Bayless 2008-09 stats:

Games Played


Games Started


Minutes per Game


Points per Game


FG ATT per Game




3PT ATT per Game




FT ATT per Game




Off Rebs per Game


Def Rebs per Game


Total Rebs per Game










Personal Fouls


Effective FG%






Asst/TO Ratio


The moment he began lighting up the Vegas Summer League like a Peacock Lane windowpane it became apparent that Jerryd Bayless had gifts that distinguished him not only from his fellow Blazer point guards but most of the team--gifts in short supply and thus potentially valuable.  His chiseled physique and heft allowed him to bully opposing players and absorb contact on both ends of the floor.  His aggressive drives netted whistle after whistle, which he converted into points via his excellent foul shooting.  Whether he got fouled or not his knack for finding seams in the defense allowed him the opportunity to demonstrate his strong finishing skills at the rim...demonstrations which were met by the sounds of jaws hitting floors instead of the normal applause.  He also showed some agility on defense and more importantly the desire to make use of it.  Finally he evidenced a fire inside, usually leaked through a glare.  The emotion was raw, unbridled, hinting at an aura of danger and unpredictability.  Blazer players come in two basic flavors.  Some of them will deftly parry your strike and riposte with consummate skill, flourishing the saber with a smirk as they sheath it in triumph.  Others will just club you until you hurt enough to let them have your way.  Bayless is different.  Bayless explodes.  Observers and fans alike were speculating about the effect this new wrinkle would have on Portland's production.  That speculation ran the gamut from astonishment to giddiness to jealousy.

So what happened?

Sure, we saw some great games from Jerryd during the season.  He scored 23 in a win in New Jersey on January 15th and followed it with 14 in a loss to the Bobcats two days later.  He scored 19 in a victory against the Hornets on February 2nd and followed that with 14 again two days later in a loss to the Mavericks.  All of this happened in Steve Blake's absence, however.  Before Steve left and after he returned Bayless' minutes and contributions remained uniformly low.  We never saw the revolution.  We barely got a glimpse of its promise.

The stock answer in these situations is that there's something wrong with the coach.  There's this brilliant talent just waiting to jump in and change the team and for some reason the coach just won't open his eyes and play him.  (Or play him more, or play him in better situations, or change the style of game to fit him, or whatever else you care to insert here.)  There are a couple of overarching fallacies here.  First, three of the four rookies played reasonably big minutes this season, so Nate doesn't have an aversion to using them.  Jerryd himself averaged 12.4 minutes per game, roughly equal to what Sergio Rodriguez got in his rookie season and considerably more minutes than Sergio got his sophomore year.  Also the back-up point guard spot and even some of the starting minutes (minutes, not position) were wide open this year.  They were begging to be taken.  The only guy who could claim them with any consistency was Blake.  I suspect there were moments when Coach McMillan would have loved to see another point guard on the horizon...anywhere.  It never happened.

What did happen?  Jerryd Bayless was a rookie, that's what happened.  Rookies occasionally play well.  Rookies also have a hard time holding onto regular playing time on good teams...teams whose focus is winning.  Jerryd wasn't a bad rookie.  He wasn't a "let's amaze everyone because we've been pros for six years" rookie in the mold of Nicolas Batum or Rudy Fernandez either.  He was just a rookie.  Nothing wrong with that.  Three years ago he might have gotten plenty of minutes to blow through in a quest to develop him.  This year he might have gotten plenty of minutes with the Clippers or Kings.  The 2008-09 Portland Trail Blazers chasing 54 wins and the playoffs couldn't afford those minutes.  There's nothing wrong with that either.

Jerryd's stats provide a clue as to why he didn't get more opportunity to grow or showcase his stuff when the outcome of the games mattered.  His eye-popping performances in Summer League were defined by scoring, mostly off of penetrating drives peppered by the occasional jump shot.  In the big show, however, his field goal percentage was 36.5% and his three-point percentage fell just short of 26%.  His effective field goal percentage (factors in the value of three-pointers) was 38.4%.  His true field goal percentage (factors in threes and free throws) was 48.7%.  Compare those to Steve Blake's 53.6% and 55.7% and you see why Jerryd didn't threaten the status quo offensively.  Opposing teams found that he couldn't hit the jumper with regularity so they dared him to shoot it, playing off of him against the drive.  He mostly missed.   When he did try to take the lane he was met by a couple defenders, bigger and faster than those he faced in Las Vegas.  Not even his cup-ward wizardry could avail.  He was just stuck and that was the end of the offensive threat.

Jerryd's style also kept the ball in his hands on most possessions where he made a difference.  This was not entirely unacceptable for second-unit play, as scoring is valued among the reserves.  But you had Travis Outlaw in the white unit with the same idea, more seniority, and more demonstrated scoring power.  You had Rudy Fernandez who both needed to be set up and was willing to set up others.  A point guard who can't get the ball out of his hands playing next to those guys had better be scoring like gangbusters.  Jerryd wasn't.  His assist percentage was 18.2% next to Blake's 25.1%.  Jerryd's turnovers per 100 plays also worked out to 19.3 (compared to Blake's 13.6) and his turnovers per minute were almost double Steve's.  Jerryd's assist-to-turnover ratio ended up at 1.36.  That's not a confidence-inspiring number for a point guard.

The place where Bayless had success offensively was the same place he made his bones in Summer League: at the free throw line.  He drew 1.9 attempts per game which is great for a relatively unknown rookie playing 12 minutes.  He hit over 80% of his attempts as well.

Bayless also has great defensive potential.  With his body and movement I'm pretty sure I'd pick him over any of the other current point guards if I had to defend one play and I could be sure he was comfortable with the scheme and his role among the other four players.  However over time his lack of experience and comfort siphoned off much of the results of his individual defensive chops.  The team allowed fewer points per minute, lower effective field goal percentage, fewer assists, and rebounded better on the defensive end when Jerryd was off the court than when he played.  His overall plus-minus ended in the negative.

If you're measuring individual production Jerryd lost the overall battle to opposing point guards in almost every category leading to a gap of -5.9 in PER by position.  The gap was -13.8 when he moved to shooting guard...a position in which his own PER totaled 0.7.

Again, this is not to bag on Jerryd.  This isn't unexpected.  He just wasn't ready to be a point guard on this team this year and sliding him to off-guard to take advantage of his scoring tendencies brought no relief.

As far as the future, it still holds the same promise it did before this season started.  Those gifts and distinctive qualities are still there.  Jerryd clearly needs to work on his shot.  A reliable jumper from any distance will do wonders in opening up his offensive game.  The commitment to defense has to endure and be demonstrated in Summer League and next pre-season.  I'm not sure you can become an NBA point guard over a summer.  You need to run in practice with your specific teammates to make that happen.  You also need game experience eventually.  Jerryd's goal needs to be to do enough things well that he can earn the time to get that experience.

Most of all, Jerryd has to keep the aggressive attitude that got him this far without letting that attitude spill over into unproductive territory.  It would be easy to become frustrated with the situation or possibly with himself, particularly when he's not playing perfectly or not getting the desired results.  Neither option is helpful.  He needs to be mean on the drive, relaxed and in control elsewhere.  Nobody expects this to go perfectly.  Even guys who are born and bred point guards take a couple years to develop in this league.  The important thing is to see progress, including lumps taken, without giving up and without imploding.

As far as the Blazers' commitment to him, it's there for sure, but probably not to the level of a Batum or Fernandez.  Depending on the moves to be made at point guard this summer (if any) they may be willing to part with Bayless to make a deal happen.  He has the advantage of having a decent reputation for his raw ability and not having disproven that reputation repeatedly on the court.  Even to GM's that can be attractive.  But the Blazers would be happy having Jerryd return as well.  There's no real downside from the team's perspective.  Either they're going to have an exciting young prospect or they're going to get more experienced help in return for that prospect.  That's a win-win. 

See more stats at and

--Dave (