After two rough outings for the 47th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Jake Layman appeared to find his footing in the Portland Trail Blazers' final preliminary game Tuesday afternoon. Layman finished with 11 points, 3 rebounds and 4 steals while shooting 5-for-10 from the field. Downside? Layman was only able to connect once from behind the 3-point line.
Layman has labored from distance through the first three games shooting 2-for-13. His stroke looks smooth, his follow through pure, but something just doesn't look totally right at this point. It appears he may have a small case of the rookie jitters from deep, but he's certainly making hay inside.
Early in Tuesday's match up with the Utah Jazz, Layman got the ball on the left block 10 feet out. He bodied his defender back, inside pivot, drove across the lane with his right hand and hit a running, contested hook shot. It was an incredibly decisive and pure post move. He looked strong, confident, and determined. Everything that had been missing from his perimeter game manifested itself in that solitary possession.
Layman wasn't done though. He again went down into the post and called for the ball. This time he backed his defender down three times. Solid footwork and a low center of balance allowed him to push his defender back to where he wanted. Layman gave an inside fake, turned over his left shoulder, kicked out and went to the fade-away. Swish. It was as pure as any turn and fade as I've seen in the NBA. While Layman may be known for his shooting in college, his interior game packaged with a perimeter threat may allow him to develop into a serviceable NBA player.
Let's not forget that for Layman to touch the court during the regular season a number of people have to fall off the face of the planet, or he has to become Kevin Durant. On the depth chart Layman slots in as probably seventh among the bigs, following Mason Plumlee, Festus Ezeli, Meyers Leonard, Ed Davis, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Noah Vonleh. If you look at the forward spots it's Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner, Aminu, the possibility of Maurice Harkless, and then Layman.
This is where the Blazers having a D-League affiliate team would be huge. A player like Layman isn't going to sniff the court unless disaster strikes. That's not a bad thing. After watching him for the past week it's clear he has some NBA level skills. They just need some work. Problem is, outside of practice it's going to be awfully tough for the rookie to get some on-court experience.