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How Important is Nassir Little to the Trail Blazers?

The small forward is growing, but does that earn him a longer-term spot with the team?

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers’ 2021-22 season has come to an end. The summer ahead will hold plenty of decisions for the club. They put 27 difference players on the court during the regular season. Not all are still with the team, but enough are that there’s no way the Blazers could retain them all...if they even wanted to. A 27-55 record would argue against a high retention rate, but asterisks abound despite the dismal performance.

Into this question-filled swamp stride Dave Deckard and Dia Miller with their annual review of Portland’s roster. They talk about each player, then decide whether they would keep or yeet (toss) the player in the coming year. Performance, fit, age, salary, and team priorities/direction are all open for discussion.

Today we look at one of the bright spots in Portland’s season: Nassir Little. Little averaged 9.8 points and 5.6 rebounds over 42 appearances, averaging 25.9 minutes per game. It was a big step up from his previous role, nearly doubling his time on the floor each evening. Does that make him an automatic keeper?

Dave: Well, what about it? Little only got to play half a season, but he started for half of that half. I thought he looked good!


Dave: You won’t find any argument here. Little getting injured was one of the worst moments of the season, in my mind. He was coming into his own. His always-opportunistic (but sometimes frantic) defense had started to become more refined. His offense was rounding into form too. He only shot 33% from the arc, despite more than doubling his attempts from that range. That’s the only demerit. His overall 46% field goal percentage was great. And can we say again, defense? How many Blazers can you really count on to play hard on that end of the floor nowadays?

Dia: I thought “keep” was the end of this conversation. Nassir was having himself a season before he got hurt and didn’t get to finish. Can you imagine how valuable a season like we just had would have been for a developing player like Nassir? It makes me so sad to think about. But even without that, I can’t wait to see him take the floor again this season, I know he’s going to be fantastic. He’s going to be a solid player on this team, Hopefully for the foreseeable future.

Dave: He is one of the two bright, young hopes on the roster. Portland has plenty of youth. I love Trendon Watford and Greg Brown III for what they’ve shown. I can be talked into Drew Eubanks and even Brandon Williams. But none of them besides Eubanks has hit the steep part of their growth curve yet, and Eubanks probably doesn’t have a huge upside left. Little might not become a star in this league, but it’s not impossible that he’d become one of those wonderful, “Love to have him on this roster!” players...the kind of player you don’t have to run plays for, but will always be a decent outlet and fill in every other aspect of the game. Right now, there’s nothing not to like about Little, which makes him an easy Keep unless he becomes a balancing piece in a critical trade.

Dia: I would argue that Nassir absolutely has the potential to become a star in this league. I think his ceiling is high and I think we got a brief glimpse into what could be at the beginning of the season. He might be the player I’m most excited to watch on the team next season, assuming he stays.

Dave: Imagine the Blazers would need a pretty good offer to move him, unless he became part of a deal to bring a more veteran small forward in. He’s young, he’s cheap, and his game is growing. That combination makes him valuable whether or not he becomes a star.

What say you, dear readers? Are we over-valuing Nassir Little? Would you keep him for sure, or under what circumstances would you let him go? The comment section is set for you to chime in!

Our story so far...

Anfernee Simons: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep

Jusuf Nurkic: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep

Ben McLemore: Dave—Yeet, Dia—Keep

CJ Elleby: Dave—Yeet, Dia—Yeet

Nassir Little: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep