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G League Bubble Could Hold Hidden Options for the Blazers

Armed with an open roster spot and a vacant two-way contract slot, the Trail Blazers have options if they turn their attention to the G League bubble.

Erie Bayhawks v Raptors 905 Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

The injury-depleted Trail Blazers have three available avenues to bolster their roster for the second half of the season. Outside of executing a pre-deadline trade, Portland can sign multiple players to fill out the bottom of its roster. The Blazers currently possess a vacant traditional roster spot and an open two-way contract slot.

The Blazers should be active in the buyout market later this season, but due to the NBA’s increased playoff field—they could face stiff competition from other teams. But even if they miss out on a top-tier buyout option, a plethora of players from the G League have emerged over the last few weeks.

Yes. Mining the G League for talent is not flashy, nor does it look ideal when piecing together a roster around Damian Lillard’s prime years. That said, it is important to note that two of the Blazers’ current starters gained their professional footing in the NBA’s development league. The players listed below might not blossom into Derrick Jones Jr. or Robert Covington, but they could provide much-needed depth for Portland’s stretch run.

Here is a look at three players that should be on the Blazers’ radar after strong performances in the G League’s bubble competition.

Jordan Bell | F/C

Bell is a familiar face for fans in the Pacific Northwest. The former Ducks big man is producing 17.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in the bubble. Fueled by his consistent output, the Bayhawks have amassed an 8-2 overall record. Bell is still undersized and lacks polish in halfcourt offensive sets, but there is no denying his hustle in the margins.

On Saturday, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony explained that Bell’s efficient production in Orlando could trigger a second look from NBA teams.

Still fairly thin and not particularly long or explosive for a center, while not possessing the type of shooting range you might hope from a power forward, Bell remains a tricky fit for some NBA lineups, as he doesn’t fit into any one neat box. Still, he’s such a smart, creative, versatile player that there surely is a spot for him somewhere in the league, especially considering the amount of experience he brings to the table. NBA scouts say concerns surrounding his maturity and approach are likely more of what’s keeping him out of the NBA than basketball reasons, but at age 26, Bell’s recent play could very well cause someone to kick the tires on him to see if he’s deserving of another shot — provided his recent injury isn’t too serious.

Due to his previous experience in the NBA, Bell cannot be signed to a two-way contract.

Simisola (Simi) Shittu | F/C

It appears that Simi Shittu has found stable ground in the G League after his plummet down draft boards earlier in his career. Listed as a top 20 prospect in ESPN’s Top 100 for 2018 (11 spots behind Anfernee Simons), Shittu went undrafted in 2019 after an underwhelming one-year stint at Vanderbilt. Now with the Westchester Knicks, the 21-year-old big fella has blossomed into a double-double machine. Through 10 outings, Shittu is averaging 14.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. In terms of efficiency, he is connecting on 57.3 percent of his attempts from the field.

Buoyed by his 6-foot-10 and 240-pound frame (7-foot wingspan, too), Shittu has shown that he can produce points by getting downhill.

Shittu’s game still needs developing, but he is eligible for a two-way contract. Even if his overall growth stalls, his frame and post-centric skills could provide the Blazers with emergency depth.

Henry Ellenson | F/C

Ellenson, a former first-round pick, is finally delivering on his floor-spacing label as a member of Raptors’ G League affiliate. The 24-year-old big man is attempting eight three-pointers per game and connecting on a sturdy 37.5 percent of those shots. Inside the arc, Ellenson is pulling down 9.2 rebounds per game.

Earlier this week, Ellenson delivered 27 points and a game-winning moment in the Raptors 905 victory over the Hustle.

Defensively, Ellenson leaves a lot to be desired. But his upside as a floor-spacing specialist could earn him a re-occurring place on a NBA roster.

One Last Thing

Moses Brown has been an absolute monster for the Oklahoma City Blue. Signed to a two-way contract with the Thunder this season, the former Blazers prospect tops the G League’s leaderboard for rebounds per game with a 13.8 average. Outside of his work on the glass, Brown is producing 20.3 points and 2.0 blocks per game.