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 Trendon Watford, a young forward who played well enough to make the team convert his two-way contract into a multi-year deal. Watford played in 48 games, averaging 18.1 minutes per, shooting 53.2% from the field for 7.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. The Blazers can keep Watford through 2025 should they wish to, but is that a good idea? Dave Deckard and Dia Miller discuss.
Dave: So... the Blazers already made a decision on this, at least halfway, converting Watford from a two-way contract to a longer-term contract. They like him! Do you, as well? I suspect we’re going to both select “keep” on this one, but how upset would you be if Portland threw Watford into a deal? And why do you like him?
Dia: Watford was a really happy surprise. He just really exploded on the court this season. I think he has absolutely earned his place on this team and I’m excited to see him playing next to Dame and Nurk next season. I’m always going to root for young talent.
Dave: Sure, but Portland has a bunch of young players who, forgive me, don’t really belong on the team. Watford was different. His potential showed through not in his explosive highlights, but in the substrata normality. He wasn’t often the best player on the floor. He wasn’t the high scorer or the defensive wizard. He did everything well, and did it consistently. You could tell he was young. He had ups and downs! But night after night, you knew he was going to play hard, attack, and do the little things. He was going to set a screen and roll aggressively. He would box out on rebounds. He’d pick his shots. His shooting range expanded during the season, even!
That was the exciting part for me. You could watch him learning, but the learning stuck. By the end of his year, I was looking at him more like a veteran than a rookie. Sometimes it was hard to believe he only had 48 games under his belt.
Dia: He has been one of those guys who has had good stats but the stats don’t tell the whole story. He was thrown into a position of having to play like a vet, even as a rookie. I think his ability to learn and adjust and fill that role puts him in a higher category going forward. Clearly the franchise agreed because he walked away from the season with a solid contract and essentially a nearly guaranteed place in the NBA for the coming years.
Dave: I don’t think the Blazers would have any trouble including Watford in a significant deal, nor should they. That’s the reality of the business. But he’s one of the very few “other” players on this team that I’d keep on his own merits.
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
Trendon Watford: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep