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How the Trail Blazers Can Get More out of Rodney Hood

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Hood’s reputation is on the rise again in Portland. Here’s how the short-handed Blazers can capitalize.

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

During his tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the price of Rodney Hood stock drastically dropped. So much so that the Portland Trail Blazers managed to trade two non-rotation players for him. So much so that The Ringer released a video in April titled “The NBA Fans Support Group: When Believing in a Player Goes Wrong,” which led in with Chris Ryan not being able to shake his support for Hood.

Hood’s stock plummet ended during his brief stint with the Blazers last year. A strong showing in the Western Conference Semifinals, as well as a rejuvenated passion for the game and a guaranteed starting spot for Portland in the upcoming season, led to a modest increase in its price.

Nagging injuries and the same inconsistency that plagued his stops in Utah and Cleveland has prevented Hood’s stock from resembling Pascal Siakam’s, which is making hypothetical investors hypothetical millions.

This season, in 30 minutes per game as the team’s third offensive option, Hood is only averaging 11.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.7 three-pointers.

Although Hood’s inconsistency does rear its head every few games, his underwhelming stats aren’t the result of poor play. In fact, he’s shooting a career high from the field and from three – 50.4% and 49% respectively.

The trouble lies in how the Blazers are utilizing his strengths as a scorer. His opportunities this year have generally come in two manners:

  • As a product of the offense in which he’s the second or third option.
  • Shot creation by himself as the other four players stand around and watch.

The first bullet stems from Portland’s reliance on pick and rolls. The ball handler – Lillard or CJ McCollum – getting off a shot is the best outcome of these pick and rolls. The second-best outcome is finding the screener – usually Hassan Whiteside – on the roll. The third option is Hood, who waits for his defender to blow up either of the initial options and abandon him in the corner.

(The same goes for when the ball handler drives without a screen. It makes a kick out to Hood the second option as there’s no roll man.)

Hood has provided Lillard and McCollum with their first reliable corner shooter in quite some time; he’s made 9/16 triples from the corner this season, all of which have been assisted.

The second bullet comes in the form of a post-up due to a mismatch. As a strong 6-foot-8 wing, he can back down most guards to a comfortable spot and rise up over them for a high-percentage jumper.

Nonetheless, Hood ranks in the 29th percentile in post-up points per possession. Improving his court awareness could raise this number; every post-up doesn’t need to result in a shot attempt, especially if the defense sends help and leaves a teammate open.

Making Changes

To diversify Hood’s role in the offense, the Blazers should run set plays for him. In light of Portland’s encounter with the injury bug, he’s the team’s third (or fourth, depending on how high you are on Anfernee Simons) best scorer and should therefore carry a heavier offensive load.

The easiest way to supply the wing with favorable shot opportunities is to run him around off-ball screens; so many other NBA teams do this with their best catch-and-shoot guy.

According to the NBA stats site, Hood doesn’t qualify for the “off screen” play type data, which requires at least 10 such possessions. Lillard and McCollum are the only Blazers players to have surpassed that threshold this year.

Here’s a rare example of Hood getting a wide open three thanks to an off-ball screen.

He’s shooting 51.5% from three after taking zero dribbles, better than he shoots after putting the ball on the floor. A good screen will give him a couple feet of separation as well, and you guessed it: Hood shoots better as defenders get farther away.

The defender must chase Hood and then fight through a screen, which commonly leads to bad close outs. Hood has demonstrated an awareness for these overcommitted defenders by pump faking and stepping in for an easy midrange jumper.

Another way to involve Hood without forcing wholesale changes in Coach Terry Stotts’ offense is to let the wing occasionally run pick and rolls. He can attack downhill and force the switched big man to retreat, leaving plenty of room to pull up in the midrange. He’s shooting 51.2% on pull-up jumpers, which constitutes more than one-third of his field goal attempts this year.

And with Lillard and McCollum in each corner, the lane will be as clear as ever.

Hood shoots three-pointers well off the dribble, so if the defending big man drops in anticipation of a drive and the on-ball defender goes under the screen, Hood can knock down the open triple.

There have been plenty of stories about how Hood can play too shy offensively. By running plays designed to create easy looks for him – rather than making him create for himself – Hood’s confidence can continue to improve alongside the team’s new personnel. That confidence and aggression positively affects the more frequent aspects of his offense: corner threes and post ups.

Injuries are forcing the Blazers to reach deep into their bench. Being able to optimize the reliable and experienced players will lighten the load on guys like Simons and Nassir Little and enable them to play their best offense. We’ve seen Mt. Hood erupt a few times in a Blazers uniform – it’s time to make that a more common occurrence.