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Early Season Trail Blazers Trends that are Likely to Continue

Which developments herald a change and which will regress to the mean?

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Dallas Mavericks Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA season is young, but it’s not too early for preliminary conclusion. Plenty of early-season trends will fade away, but others will stick; surprise teams and players will no longer be surprises – one way or another. The difficult part, of course, is determining what’s for real and what’s not. Here’s a quick look at three Portland Trail Blazers players and how likely their current play is to be representative of their season.

Rodney Hood’s Three Point Shooting

Rodney Hood has scorched the nets thus far this season, hitting 47.6% of his threes while attempting 4.2 per game. While the attempts are a little low, the rate of makes is unbelievable – not many players have hit that percentage of their threes even at just a decent volume like Hood. Is it sustainable? Almost certainly not. Hood’s current pace would poise him for one of the better shooting seasons in NBA history. While Hood is a solid NBA three-point shooter, he’s certainly not Kyle Korver, J.J. Redick, or Klay Thompson. In his five year career before this season, Hood fell somewhere between 35.6% and 38.1% while shooting a fairly similar volume from deep – good, not great. Damian Lillard is the best point guard Hood has played with, which could boost his numbers a bit, but the likeliest outcome is that he falls back to his usual range from three.

Kent Bazemore’s Scoring Efficiency

By contrast to Hood, new Blazer Kent Bazemore has underwhelmed through five games. Almost all his numbers are down from prior seasons except rebounding, and he’s been unable to score efficiently, shooting 37.5% from the field, 33.3% from three, and 66.7% from the line. Those numbers seem mighty low, especially from a player who was heralded as a scoring and shooting upgrade over Evan Turner. However, they’re not *that* out of line with Bazemore’s career averages. Yes, they’re all somewhat below, but Bazemore has been an inconsistent free throw shooter in his career, and his shooting numbers have dipped two of the past three seasons in Atlanta. He’s a somewhat better outside shooter for his career than he’s been so far, so he might positively regress a little bit, and his overall field goal percentage might tick up as well, but this isn’t too far below a reasonable threshold for Baze. He’s good defensively, but his shooting has never been better than “ok” outside the 2018 season, and that likely won’t change in his age 30 season. His volume is a fair amount lower than in recent seasons, however, so it is likely that he will at the least take more threes as he gets accustomed to Terry Stotts’ system.

Hassan Whiteside’s Free Throw Shooting

Hassan Whiteside has been a good pickup for the Blazers thus far. He’s rebounding the hell out of the ball, finishing a high percentage of his looks around the rim, and blocking some shots. All those things were expected. The unexpected? Whiteside is shooting a very good 77.8% on his free throws a mere season after bricking them at a 44.9% rate. While that jump looks frankly astonishing, it’s not as out of place as it might seem. Before last year’s abomination, Whiteside had hit above 62.8% three straight seasons, with a previous career high of 70.3% occurring in 2018. Therefore, while his current rate is probably unsustainable, he’s proven capable of being at least a mediocre free throw shooter before, and there’s no reason he couldn’t be one again this season.