Somewhere in between the final minutes of Portland’s 107-100 loss to Miami last night, I was left wondering, where is Jerryd Bayless? Not for the reason that he should have been in this specific game, but because his all-around NBA presence should be much bigger at this point. In the Miami scorecard, he was only able to log three minutes, contributing two points and a foul in that span.
For all accounts, the relationship between Bayless and the Portland Trail Blazers is not working out. The 6-3 guard from Arizona, and former 2008 11th overall pick, is only averaging 9.2 minutes a game in his second season. On occasion he is summoned by Coach Nate McMillan to play – 14 points and 3 dimes in 22 minutes for a loss at Utah last Saturday – but he mostly racks up garbage time.
Coming out of ‘Zona in 2008 as a freshman, Bayless was as fearless and dynamic as any other point guard in the Draft. When Indiana selected him and then traded away his rights to Portland along with Ike Diogu for Jarrett Jack, Brandon Rush and Josh McRoberts, I thought Portland had made another great move. For a couple years, it seemed like Paul Allen and the Blazers were playing in a video game fantasy league the way they were drafting and making moves. Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge in the same draft, persuading Rudy Fernandez to enjoy rain, and trading for Bayless are all great decisions.
Bayless possesses a superior first-step and his athleticism is off the charts. He has a vicious scorer’s mentality and can trade off between both guard positions. He lit up the Summer League in his 2008 rookie debut – averaging over 29 points a game and nabbing the Most Valuable Player award – and showed flashes during his rookie year. The fact that Portland has not better involved Bayless into their half-court offense or permanent future plans is not ridiculous though.
For all of Jerryd’s positive attributes, he does not fit into the Blazers’ system. Portland already has Roy, who needs the ball in his hands, and a trio of offensive wingmen in Fernandez, Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw (Who may miss the rest of this season to a foot injury). Bayless is also stuck behind a point guard rotation of Andre Miller and Steve Blake. Unless injuries further hamper Portland’s guard core or Bayless grows a few inches and switches to 2-guard, I don’t see him prospering in the Northwest.
Bayless shouldn’t be worried.
It’s not uncommon for young players – who have been scooped up by successful teams – to get lost at the end of an NBA bench. They come into the League with a good reputation and mixed results in practice, only to find themselves never really given the opportunity to play. Just ask Troy Bell, Ndudi Ebi or more recently, Washington’s Javaris Crittenton. These guys may not have the skill set to match Bayless – although Crittenton is raw – but nonetheless, were never given much of an opportunity to develop. Bayless does have the potential and skills to be very good in the NBA, which still makes him valuable to another suitor.
If he can find a new situation away from Portland, his potential could quickly materialize into production. Shannon Brown and Chauncey Billups come to mind as two guys who took a few years and a new team in order to find success. Billups bounced around from Boston, Toronto, Denver and Minnesota before finding his niche in Detroit – and has since become a premier point guard in the L.
Being in the bay, I find myself watching the Warriors more – while also growing sick of Jim Barnett‘s thoughts – and cannot stop from imagining how Bayless could be just as potent as Monta Ellis someday. If Portland wants to add another pure scorer to their schemes and live with the headaches of developing a young talent, then Bayless needs to start playing more. He’s that good. Otherwise, I think that Bayless is much better suited bouncing out of Rip City and finding a new home to prosper. Trade him while he is still high in value and give him a chance to succeed. If not, we may be seeing a new face on our Dime milk cartons in a few years.
Bayless, your time will come.
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