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Is Anyone at the End of the Trail Blazers Bench Worth Keeping?

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“Keep or Yeet” reaches its penultimate post with the players everyone forgets about.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Portland Trail Blazers Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers have an interesting trade and free agency period ahead in the summer of 2021. They’ll need to make several decisions regarding their current roster, including how much they value nearly every member thereof.

In preparation for the big summer, Dave Deckard and Dia Miller of the Dave and Dia Podcast are asking each other — and you — whether to “Keep or Yeet” each member of the team.

The concept is pretty much like it sounds. Take one Blazers player. Do you keep him around for next season or show him the door?

Today we cover the bottom end of Portland’s roster, with small forward Nassir Little, power forwards Harry Giles III and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and young guard CJ Elleby. Is anyone in that group worthy of the “keep” designation?

We hasten to point out that voting “Yeet” (colloquially: to toss away with authority, somewhat gleefully) does not mean that Dave and Dia dislike the player, think the player has no talent, or regret the player being a Blazer. There can be a thousand reasons to yeet your resident shooting guard, only some of which have to do with him.

Similarly, voting “Keep” does not indicate that Dave and Dia think the player is perfect, just that the reasons for keeping him outweigh the reasons for letting him go.

Dave: Ok, Dia, let’s start with Nassir Little. Keep or Yeet, and why?

Dia: Nassir is a no brainer for me. Keep keep keep. He’s SO talented and still so young. I think he will be a big part of the team’s future. We talked a little bit about this on the podcast this week, but even though we are hoping to push for a championship now with Dame, we still need to keep the future in mind. Nassir is perfect in this role because he’s valuable off the bench for us now, and will continue to grow and get better for the future.

Dave: I kind of thought that too. This article by Kyle Garcia made me think about it harder. Is Little the player the Blazers need, or is our highlight-reel memory of Little obscuring a non-completed growth curve and a fair about of “Meh”? I’m waffling on this one.

Things I Like: He’s a small forward. He pays attention to defense. His three-point shot improved this season. He’s shown signs of being able to handle the ball. And did I mention he’s a small forward?

That said, this isn’t time to stand on ceremony. If another teams says, “We need Little in this deal,” I’ll be, “Okie dokie.” How much ceiling do you think he has?

Dia: I think he’s got a pretty high ceiling if I’m being honest. He’s still so young—Just finished his 2nd year. It seems like by the time the season was ending, he had grown so much. To me, at this stage if you’re seeing growth like that it’s a good sign. It’s when the growth stops that you start questioning his ceiling. I like that he’s being molded by the franchise in the sense that he will know the ins and outs of the players and the staff and how things are done. I think that also builds confidence when there’s a level of comfort. I tend to agree with you if something big comes along, we make a move. But Nassir is in my top 3 don’t trade along with Robert Covington and Damian Lillard.

Dave: I wouldn’t put him that high in terms of importance to the team right now, but I tend to agree with you a little (no pun intended) that his “keep” value is higher than his actual value right now, if nothing else because of his position and Portland’s need to keep some of their youth pipeline intact. I’ll do keep, with an asterisk.

How about the other players? Since we’re getting towards the bottom of the rotation here, it’s going to be easier to re-frame the question. Of the non-Little players listed above—Giles, Elleby, Hollis-Jefferson—who would you be most excited about keeping and why? And does that assessment lead you to a firm “keep” overall, or is it just in comparison to this group? Or hey, are you good with yeeting them all?

Dia: Giles, Elleby, and Hollis-Jefferson are all players that have flown kind of under the radar but could be of use. I think when it comes to these guys, you keep them unless they can be packaged for a big move. I want to see Giles get more minutes. I think he can be a valuable asset to the team, and honestly I really enjoy watching him play. Elleby proved himself to be helpful more than once this season, and actually really surprised me. I think he’s another one that can really go places and grow as he spends more time in the league. Hollis-Jefferson wasn't someone I felt like I got to see enough of. But he adds much needed defense. Depending on potential moves, maybe holding onto players simply because they play decent defense will no longer be a factor. But right now, it is.

Dave: I like all three players, but yeet, yeety-yeet yeet. Not for no reason, of course. I’d be happy to see any or all return. But if there’s a trade to be made or a slot needs to open up, you have to hold lightly. The main reason to keep these players is that they’re inexpensive. And I still think Giles can do more. But that’s not enough to make me commit.

That’s all of our Keep or Yeets except for one. Can’t wait until the next and last time. Until then, here’s our summary of the action so far. And let us know what you think of Nassir Little and the rest of the crew below!

The Tally So Far...

CJ McCollum— Dave and Dia “yeet”

Norman Powell— Dave and Dia “keep”

Robert Covington— Dave and Dia “keep”

Jusuf Nurkic— Dave and Dia “yeet”

Derrick Jones, Jr.Dia “keep”, Dave “yeet”

Anfernee Simons— Dave and Dia “keep”

Carmelo Anthony Dia “keep”, Dave “yeet”

Nassir Little— Dia “keep”, Dave “keep with an asterisk”

CJ Elleby, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Harry Giles III— Dia “keep, keep, keep”, Dave “yeet, yeet, yeet”.