Friday, May 21, 2010

Blazers Improvement '10: Jerryd Bayless

Logging only 65 minutes and appearing in 53 games during his rookie year, Jerryd Bayless was determined to make a bigger impact on the Trail Blazers in 2010. But after the team brought in a free agent and fellow point guard Andre Miller, it was unsure just how much playing time he'd be able to muster by being 5th on the depth chart amongst the guards. No one took advantage of the injury-plagued season more than Bayless. In a one week span right before Christmas, Jerryd showed why he was a heavily coveted lottery pick in 2008, scoring 29 points in 29 minutes in a comeback victory over the Suns and then six days later, with Brandon sidelined, scored a career-high 31 to upset the Spurs in San Antonio. With Roy out again to start the playoffs, it was Jerryd who once again rose to the occasion, averaging 13.5 points, on .431 field goal shooting, 4.0 assists, only 1.3 turnovers, and saw his three-point percentage increase from .315 during the regular season to .400 this postseason. The flashes of brilliance were evident in 2010, but how can he sustain his lightning in the bottle outbursts over the duration of an entire season?
  1. Long-Range Shooting
  2. One of the prerequisites to playing successfully alongside Brandon Roy is the ability to spread the floor and knock down open shots, disallowing the defense to swarm Brandon at every given chance. Jerryd had some success keeping the opposing defenses at bay, but it was mostly sporadic as seen from his shooting percentages of .414 and .315 from the field and three-point range respectively. Granted the NBA three-point line is four feet further away from the basket than in college [23'9", 19'9"] and professional level defenders are a different animal than the ones Jerryd saw at Arizona, but he was a great perimeter shooter in his lone season in college proven by knocking down .458 from the field and .407 from downtown, prompting these rave reviews from NBADraft.Net in his pre-draft report:
    Gets great lift on his jump-shot, with range well out to the NBA three. His pull up jumper is magnificent; with the elevation, balance, and quick release, he is virtually able to shoot whenever, and over whomever he desires

    Jerryd didn't all of a sudden forget how to shoot a basketball. The discrepancies in percentage can be attributed to time spent on the floor. There is no coincidence he played his best basketball when he saw 20+ minutes of action, because he is a rhythm player who takes time to get into the flow of the game. After his remarkable play against Phoenix in the playoffs, consistent minutes for the 2011 look promising, but unfortunately, there are no guarantees in the league. If Bayless can continue to be the gym rat that he is widely recognized as and continue to work on his jump shot, either off of the dribble or spotting up, it may not matter how frequent he sees the court, because he'll produce regardless.
  3. Court Vision
  4. Known for his fearless drives into the lane, teams have now keyed in on Bayless when he enters the game and catered their defenses to deny him access to those buckets which get him energized. Having the target on your back can be both a gift and a curse, but a way for Jerryd to make teams pay for sending the house at him as soon as he makes his move towards to goal is to hit the open man, spoon feeding them with a wide open dunk or jump shot. Running the pick and roll and finding shooters in transition are turning into strengths for Jerryd, but too many times this season saw him seemingly go straight to the hoop without a plan in mind to execute. If Bayless attacks the film room relentlessly to study when and where the openings will occur as soon as the defense doubles him, just as he does with any other basketball-related activity, there should be no doubt he'll be able to piggyback off of his impressive playoff run, which included an astounding 3:1 assist/turnover ratio.

With the addition of a more consistent jump shot, Bayless fills the void of dynamic scorer off the bench and by adding the ability to find the open man in traffic, it completes his game offensively. Along with his defensive intensity, he can now make the transition from role player to the next great, young Trail Blazer.

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