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Rodney Hood’s Underrated Impact with the Portland Trail Blazers

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Hood plays off the bench and sometimes off the radar, but he matters.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Toronto Raptors Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Rodney Hood has made an impact since joining the Portland Trail Blazers on February 4th, but it’s been subtle enough that people are still up in the air over his value. Has Hood been good, and is he playing to type in Portland? That’s the subject of today’s Blazer’s Edge Mailbag.

Hey Dave,

Thanks for the opportunity to pick your brain with the mailbag segment. I propose a true or false segment identifying Rodney Hood’s role with the team.

Thanks,...and go Blazers!

Ned

Fair enough. Let’s go at it!

True or False - Enes Kanter’s ability to feast in the post against backup power forwards masquerading as centers will prove to be a more valuable addition to the rotation than Rodney Hood’s scoring ability.

True, until CJ McCollum went down...but probably still true.

The Blazers need outside shooting, else their entire attack will collapse, but they can spread that shooting among multiple players. Damian Lillard keys the offense, but they’re not shy about distributing shots to Jake Layman, Moe Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, Seth Curry, and Hood. Though each comes from a different angle, in the big picture the Blazers are fairly agnostic about who takes the shot. If Hood doesn’t, Layman will.

Up until now, Portland has had considerably more trouble generating consistent offense inside. Jusuf Nurkic has ranged from passable to great, depending on the night. He’s only averaging 27 minutes per game, though. In the pre-Kanter era, the options in the middle after that were as bankable as a sub-prime mortgage. Meyers Leonard didn’t score inside; Zach Collins was neither reliable nor a banger. Evan Turner was by far the best option. But as good as Turner was, running the offense through him in the middle changed the way Portland played.

Kanter allows the Blazers to remain consistent, generating three-point shots alongside a live post threat, even in their second unit. The ball has moved faster and with better purpose over the last four weeks than we’ve seen since...well...forever. Even when Kanter isn’t a direct passer, the inside threat he generates bends defenses farther and to greater effect.

True or False - Rodney Hood is a “volume” scorer, not a spot up shooter, and is effective only when he can attain rhythm in shooting 10-15 shots per game.

I’m going to say false, with an asterisk. I think you could make that argument based on how he was used in Cleveland and, to some extent, in Utah. The Cavaliers mismanaged and under-utilized him; he may have had too free of a rein with the Jazz.

Hood is actually getting fewer shots per minute in Portland than he has at any time in his career, by a significant margin. He’s getting more quality shots, though. His three-point percentage is at a near-career-high and his two-point percentage blows away any season he’s had. I wouldn’t argue that he’s a pure spot-up guy or that he’ll ever want to be one. Rhythm matters to his game. But you’re never embarrassed to pass him the ball and most of his shots look like they’re going in, even without the dribble.

In general, as Hood’s volume of shots has gone up, his efficiency has gone down. I think he’s proving in Portland that his role can extend beyond not-quite-good-enough main scorer. He’s showing he can be an effective weapon in a supporting cast whether in a starting or bench role.

True or False - With the improved play of Jake Layman, Rodney Hood will only be an impact player for the Blazers if an injury opens up an opportunity to join the starting lineup and get more consistent shot opportunities.

So YOU’RE the one who cursed CJ, eh? Way to go with your March 2nd Mailbag question, Ned.

You’re going to have to define “impact”. Hood is not going to become a main cog for the Blazers. He’s not well-rounded enough to crack the starting lineup at small forward; he’s not talented enough to displace one of the guards.

Hood is versatile and can score. That recommends him highly as a second-unit player, either as a substitute for McCollum or in a three-guard set-up. The more scorers the Blazers can bring off the bench, the fewer things can do wrong. (#redundancy) He might not be here for long, but he’s going to fit in well while he is here.

The big hope for Portland is that the new supporting cast players will give them an extra few strokes of buoyancy, allowing them to touch the wall of the pool before the opponent. They couldn’t revolutionize themselves with trade-deadline pick-ups, but they probably didn’t think they needed to. They still see themselves as one or two breaks away from significance. If that’s so, five critical minutes from Hood and Kanter could turn a playoff loss into a victory...not significant in the grand scope of time, but plenty meaningful in a seven-game series.

Hey folks, Ned had a decent idea! I’m doing another Mailbag tomorrow. If you’ve got some true-or-false set-ups, list them in the comments or send them to blazersub@gmail.com and I’ll try to answer tomorrow!

—Dave / @davedeckard / @blazersedge / blazersub@gmail.com