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Trail Blazers Reserves 2016-17 NBA Season in Review

While Ed Davis looks to return from an injury next season, the futures of Shabazz Napier, Pat Connaughton, and Jake Layman remain questionable.

NBA: Playoffs-Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Quarterman, Jake Layman, Pat Connaughton, Ed Davis, and Shabazz Napier—one of these names is not like the others.

‘Phys. Ed.’ Had Some Physical Issues This Year

A fan-favorite last season by sheer force of hustle, Ed Davis had a hard go of it this season, playing in just 46 games. Davis was one of the steadiest players off coach Terry Stotts’ bench, but an injury he sustained during the 2015-16 campaign doomed him this season.

Across the board, Davis’ numbers dipped and time will tell how much of that regression was due to his ailing shoulder. He had a decent stretch of games from late November to early December, including a 14-point (all in the first half), 10-rebound performance against the Knicks in New York, showcasing glimpses of the player the Blazers hope to get back next season.

In many aspects, Davis is the perfect Rip City performer; a blue-collar player who doesn’t look to score often, but hustles after every rebound, scraps after every loose ball and earns his points not by set plays but broken ones.

Davis was like a basketball version of Steve Carell before he got too famous: you could throw him in at any time and you were guaranteed a solid eight points, seven rebounds, a block or two, automatic energy, and a smile on your face.

If Davis can get healthy and return to the player we knew from last season—or better yet, the season before when he was with the Lakers—the Blazers will have another solid presence in the paint to go alongside the Bosnian beast and constant photo bomber, Jusuf Nurkic.

The Blazers Find a Competent Backup Point Guard

Of the remaining players at the end of the bench, only Napier saw quality playing time near the end of the regular season and into the postseason.

It can be argued that Napier was Portland’s second-best player off the bench in the playoffs in their lone round against the Golden State Warriors, averaging nearly seven points a game with zero turnovers. He was the second-leading scorer for the reserves, behind Al-Farouq Aminu and ahead of $70 million man Allen Crabbe.

(That news will either make you happy for Napier or cringe at Portland’s depth).

Napier’s numbers were pretty much on par with his previous two seasons with the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic, if not identical, averaging about four points a game with an assist and a rebound.

His best game this season came against his former team in Orlando where he put up 10 points, six assist, two steals and seven rebounds. Still, Napier has yet to live up to the hype of him winning most outstanding player of the 2014 NCAA tournament when his UConn Huskies won the championship.

He’s been with three teams in each of his three seasons thus far. The Blazers, however, have picked up the option to retain Napier through the 2017-18 season. Perhaps, if he can find some solid ground to play on, he can be a long-term, steady backup point.

Next season will be big for Napier, assuming he sticks around. If he can fill in some quality minutes while relieving Damian Lillard it would be a boon for both Napier and Lillard, not to mention a godsend for the organization which has longed to find a decent backup for Lillard.

In Layman’s Terms

Remember that time when rookie Jake Layman debuted against the Golden State Warriors and it was the like we were witnessing the second coming?

Layman provided one of the more memorable highlights of the season when he went off against the Warriors in a blowout loss in November. After that game, however, there wasn’t much more of Jake to be seen. He did follow his 17-point performance with with a nine-point effort a week later, but from there it was a slow decline back to the end of the bench.

Despite the above highlights, Layman’s numbers in 35 games this season were very unremarkable. Layman shot less than 30 percent from the field, including a stretch of 2-for-21 shooting over 13 appearances...but at least he wasn’t afraid to huck it up.

Besides Davis and Napier, Layman is the strongest bet to be back next season. He has proven a knack for catching fire at times and it would be fun to see if the Blazers could harness it for something more productive and long-term.

Luck of the Irish

Pat Connaughton logged 39 games this season, his second in the NBA, and though he didn’t have any games as memorable as Layman’s, his stats were up a tick while his shooting percentages drastically improved over his rookie season.

Connaughton has a reputation for being a phenomenal athlete, and every once in a while we get to witness the man with a 44-inch vertical:

But, so far, he has yet to distinguish himself on the court as a bona-fide basketball player, and by that I mean someone who can take to the court and make a real difference in a meaningful game. Like this!

The NBA is a league that adores shooters more than my daughter adores kitten videos, and Connaughton shot over 40 percent this season from deep; demand for his skill set is high. He just needs to shoot more and find the minutes to do it. The problem? Connaughton has yet to have a Layman-type impact game to earn more minutes for an extended period of time. And, the clock is ticking.

Connaughton’s contract is not guaranteed next season, so his future in Portland and in the NBA is uncertain. But, fear not for Connaughton, for if he doesn’t catch on in the NBA, he can always return to baseball.

Quarterman Performed the D-League

Per 48 tweets, Tim Quarterman had more dismissive tweets directed at him than any other Blazer besides Meyers Leonard and maybe Evan Turner.

Appearing in just 16 games this season, he did the most damage in game No. 80 against the New Orleans Pelicans, when he scored 10 points to go along with four rebounds, three assists and seven (oops) turnovers.

If you wanted to see the kind of player the Blazers saw in Quarterman, you had to look for it in the D-League where he was frequently spotted. He averaged 11 points, seven assists, and six rebounds with the Windy City Bulls and Long Island Nets.

Quarterman’s contract, like Connaughton, is not guaranteed and he has the toughest hill to climb if he wants to earn a spot on the roster next season.

Who’ll be Back in Portland Next Year?

So, who returns? Expect Davis to be back in the regular rotation next season, barring a trade. As for Napier, Connaughton, and Layman, their futures are very much up in the air. Whether it be with the Blazers or with another squad, each of them as shown they can have a career in the NBA. It’s up to them for how long that career will be.