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How Salvageable are Portland’s Deep Bench Players?

Dave Deckard and Dia Miller discuss the lower end of the Blazers roster.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

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 different 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 plumb the depths of the Blazers roster, covering Brandon Williams, Keljin Blevins, Kris Dunn, Elijah Hughes, Reggie Perry, and Didi Louzada. Almost all of them got a chance to shine this year, with injuries and general non-competitiveness making extra minutes plentiful. None are making big money. Are any of them worth keeping?

Dave: So, Dia, we arrive at the bottom of the roster. Given the list above, which players are you most interested in the Blazers bringing back and why?

Dia: Elijah Hughes. I know this is going to seem biased because of my time shooting him in the G-League, but truthfully when you look at that list and think about what the Blazers need, he makes the most sense. He’s got some height. He isn’t a guard. That’s a start.

Dave: Brandon Williams showed offensive chops. At this level, you’re looking at third point guards and 14th men. I don’t think he’d be bad. Any others for you? What do you think of Didi Louzada? He’s under contract for $1.9 million next year. He’s only played 12 games in his entire NBA career and 7 were for Portland this season, but he did shoot 45% from the arc with the Blazers.

Dia: It’s so hard to judge someone with so little experience but I liked what I saw from him when he was playing. I think it’s kind of like what we have said in this series before; we need to fill a roster and these guys are affordable, and familiar now. That’s not a bad thing for the end of the roster. I don’t think there are many names on the roster that you keep at all costs, but I think if they aren’t needed in a trade package, then they’re worth keeping. Kris Dunn is another name I’d throw out there. I mean, again, he’s not playing a position we are short on, but I like his grit and his defense. I liked him on the court this season.

Dave: I feel like we’re digging deep here. And fair enough. That’s what we’re supposed to do. Also, seeing many sides of an issue—or a player’s probability curve—is intrinsic to good analysis. BUT...I’ve got to confess that I’m off the train here. I’m happy to talk about any of these players. If the Blazers think any are good enough to bring back—and I suspect they will, particularly those on extended minimum or rookie contracts—that’s fine. But I can’t, in good faith, make an argument why the Blazers have to keep any of them. I don’t see any way in which the bottom reaches of Portland’s roster is superior to the bottom end of any other team’s roster. In other words, I feel like we could make these arguments for just about any set of six NBA-qualifying players that were set in front of us. Everybody will have some reason they’re in the league. That doesn’t mean every player should qualify for your team. So here’s the big question. In the end, will you make a stand on the hilltop for any of these players, saying that the Blazers absolutely should keep them? I know I can’t. How about you?

Dia: I have to agree with you here. At the end of the day, these guys are all good enough to play in the NBA. They’re all young and have the potential to develop into key players on a team. But ultimately, there are other options you could switch them out for and that would be okay. Just like they could find a place on another roster and fit there well. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think that’s the nature of being a young, somewhat inexperienced NBA player. I do think there are guys here we will watch in the NBA for years to come. Will It be on the Blazers? Maybe, and I’d be okay with that. But if they go somewhere else, I’ll wish them well there too.

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

Drew Eubanks: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep

Justise Winslow: Dave—Yeet, Dia—Keep

Josh Hart: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep

Greg Brown III: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep

Keon Johnson: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep

Joe Ingles: Dave—Yeet, Dia—Keep

The Rest of the Roster: Dave—Yeet, Dia—Keep Elijah Hughes, Yeet Others As Necessary