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NBA Summer League Candidates for the Trail Blazers’ Two-Way spot

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The Blazers have an available two-way contract. Which players have distinguished themselves enough in Las Vegas to get it?

2019 Las Vegas Summer League - Croatia v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

NBA Summer League is coming to a close in the next few days. Summer League teams are entering the playoff bracket and parent clubs are narrowing their options for players to add to their roster for training camp and the 2019-20 season. The Portland Trail Blazers aren’t necessarily looking in Las Vegas to fill their final two roster spots on the full 15-man roster, but they do have an open Two-Way spot to fill and Summer League is a fantastic opportunity to find the right player for that role on the roster.

It should be noted that the Trail Blazers have an unorthodox relationship with Two-Way contracts – since Portland doesn’t have a direct affiliation with a G League club, they don’t have a specific team to which they send their Two-Way players when they’re not with the big team. As a result, the Trail Blazers have not taken full advantage of the new Two-Way rules under the 2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement, but the signing of Hoard immediately after the draft may indicate a shift in priorities for the club’s front office with respect to these extra roster spots.

Jaylen Hoard, an undrafted free agent out of Wake Forest, occupies the first of Portland’s two Two-Way spots. After just one year in college, Hoard elected to keep his name in the draft process and landed with the Trail Blazers right after the draft was completed. A week and a half into July, the other spot is still empty, as the team is weighing their options across a few different players.

Portland’s Summer League roster is full of players who have had short stints in the NBA, from Gian Clavell to Demetrius Jackson to Isaiah Whitehead to Jarnell Stokes. The team has been led by Anfernee Simons, Gary Trent, and Nassir Little, all of whom are already under contract for 2019-20 with the full team, but they’re getting a lot of contributions from a number of ex-NBA players who could fill the team’s second Two-Way spot or the last two spots on the 15-man roster.

Among the players on the Trail Blazers’ Summer League roster, Devin Robinson has stood out thus far as the player to watch. Robinson recently finished a two-year Two-Way deal with the Washington Wizards before he landed with Portland for their Summer League outings. Robinson is averaging about 20 minutes per game through three Summer League contests and has acquitted himself well in a Trail Blazers jersey. He got very few chances with the Wizards over the last two years, but he’s played well in the G League and would be a strong addition to the squad as a Two-Way player in Portland. The three-point shot will have to come along for him to realize his potential as an NBA player, but the Trail Blazers have had some luck with developing jumpers over the years.

Should the team look elsewhere, there are a number of players who have played well or have a longer pedigree. Tahjere McCall has dominated defensively for the Summer Hawks and could contribute to the Trail Blazers as a defensive presence at both guard positions. DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell has been overseas for the last two years outside of a short stint in Denver to begin the 2018-19 season. He’s with the Indiana Pacers in this year’s edition of Summer League and has put on some impressive performances. Antonius Cleveland, who has bounced around between NBA teams over the last two years, has landed with the Dallas Mavericks in Summer League and brings a lot of energy and athleticism to both ends of the floor.

If the Trail Blazers want to target a stretch big man, Shayne Whittington would be a good fit; he’s shooting the ball well with the Mavericks in Summer League and plays a strong team-based game as a stretch power forward or center. In terms of roster fit, Whittington would be a strong addition because of the early absence of Jusuf Nurkic. To begin the year, Portland will be down to just Hassan Whiteside and Zach Collins at the center spot and Anthony Tolliver as a stretch 4 option, so Whittington could make some sense as a player who would perform well within their system. Additionally, Whittington can add some playmaking prowess, both as a standstill passer in Portland’s flare screen sets and on the short roll when Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum is trapped out past the three-point line. Given Nurkic’s absence and the dynamism Whittington could bring to the stretch big role for Portland, using one of their two remaining full roster spots to sign him may also be in the cards.

The Trail Blazers haven’t always used their Two-Way spots due to their lack of an affiliated G League club, but they have some good options this year if they’re interested in adding depth to their team with no cost to the luxury tax. A lack of depth may be an issue early in the season, particularly until Nurkic makes his return, so expending their second Two-Way position on a big man who can swing between the 4 and 5 would be a smart use of their remaining roster flexibility.