With the offseason looming, the Blazers need to clean up the small forward position. Trevor Ariza and Rodney Hood are the main options at the three, but they need more depth. Ariza can still defend at a high level and shoot from deep at a high clip (40% while with the Blazers last season), but he’s playing on a non-guaranteed, one-year contract. Hood is still coming off of a torn Achilles injury and nobody knows if he’ll be the same. He’s also on a single-year deal.
Here are some options the Blazers might pursue to shore up the position now and in the long term.
Chris Boucher is a 27-year-old Canadian talent who has performed well with the Raptors. He has LENGTH! He stands at 6’9” and boasts an impressive 7’4” wingspan to be disruptive defensively and shoot over the top of defenders with his versatility. You don’t necessarily want him switching onto quicker players, but he can block, alter shots, and hold his own. He is a restricted free agent, but he does have two rings already (Warriors 2018, Raptors 2019).
Being the first Canadian to be a part of a Championship team with the Raptors, Boucher has shown potential in limited minutes. Last season, he averaged 6.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.0 block with the ability to hit the long-ball at 32.2%. With his versatility, he could play multiple positions (3-5). Being the first player to ever win MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the G-League concurrently, he would provide optimism and potential to boost the Blazers’ second unit.
A former 2015 first-round pick of the Blazers—traded on draft night to the Brooklyn Nets—Rondae Hollis-Jefferson looked like he was a part of Brooklyn’s future until he signed a one-year deal with the Raptors last season. He is 6’6”, athletic, and possesses an incredible 7’2” wingspan which he uses to wreak havoc on the defensive end. Although he’s not a great shooter, he is a solid converter in the two-point range (49.7% last season).
Hollis-Jefferson doesn’t require the ball, but can still contribute in limited time. Last year he averaged 7.0 points and 4.7 rebounds in 18.7 minutes on 47.1% shooting. He and Scary Gary would wreak havoc on opposing benches — and in smaller lineups, Hollis-Jefferson could be a four-man as well. Remember, he’s still only 25 years old.
James Ennis has one year left in his contract of $2,130,023, but it’s a player option. At 30 years old, he does much of the dirty work, nabbing rebounds, playing off the ball, spreading the floor, and simply hustling to make winning plays. He’s a veteran player who has adept defensive abilities using his length. Like other candidates in this list, he boasts a 6’6” frame with an impressive 7’0” wingspan to be disruptive.
Offensively, Ennis is a career 35% three-point shooter and 53.9% shooter from two-point range. Earlier last season with the 76ers, he was shooting 40+% from the corner threes, which would be helpful with drive-and-kick penetration from Damian Lillard and/or CJ McCollum. He is underrated as an excellent cutter, where he uses his athleticism and explosiveness. That creates continuity within the offense with player movement. He’s a solid role player who can be obtained at a minimal contract. It’s a low-risk, high-reward situation for the Blazers.
Justin Holiday is a great shooter and defensive weapon that the Blazers could utilize with the second unit. Once again, he’s 6’6”, but has a 7’0” wingspan and the footwork to stay in front of his man. He also rotates effectively on the defensive end, which the Blazers struggle with mightily. This will prevent breakdowns defensively so they can get stops. This past season with the Pacers, Holiday averaged 8.3 points and 1.3 steals on 40.5% shooting from beyond the arc. During the first round of the playoffs against the Heat, he averaged 7.3 points, 1.5 steals, and 1.3 blocks on 50% three-point shooting. This man is the ultimate sniper. His stats aren’t overwhelming, but he does things that don’t show up in the box score. He’s an unrestricted free agent.
JaKarr Sampson does all the dirty work every time he touches the floor. Having a high-energy player like him is a must because it motivates the rest of the team to play hard and lay it all on the court. He won’t wow you with his averages from last season with 4.6 points and 2.6 rebounds per game, but he only played 13.9 minutes per game and really spearheaded the Pacers’ defense. He was also efficient with his scoring at 59.1%. People have to remember in the 2018-19 season he averaged 20.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.0 steal, and 0.8 block per game with the Chicago Bulls. He’s got game. He also runs the floor well. The Blazers could probably get Sampson on a veteran-minimum deal. The second unit could use a player that possesses this high-energy level of play.
Derrick Jones Jr.
Derrick Jones Jr. Is as athletic as they come. The 2020 NBA Dunk Contest Champion is also able to use that athletic ability as a stout defender. He can guard many opposing guards and wings at a high level since he has the footwork to do so. He can jump out the gym, whether it’s to dunk, get deflections, or block shots. Jones Jr.’s stats were very solid off the bench as he averaged 8.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.0 steals. Again, in a reserve role with the Blazers, he’ll have many opportunities for alley-oop dunks with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. He’s not a great three-point shooter (28.2% for career), but he has time to improve in that regard. Derrick Jones Jr. is still only 23 years old with an abundance of time left to live up to his potential. He’s an unrestricted free agent.
The small-forward position has been a weak spot for the Blazers for several years, from lack of depth or needing a replacement to start alongside the dynamic backcourt. Having a solid small forward that can defend and shoot is a must. Outside of Gary Trent Jr. and Trevor Ariza (if they keep him), they don’t have any dominant perimeter defenders. Adding more defensive forwards would do wonders for the club especially if they can shoot to pose a threat away from Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.