The Portland Trail Blazers have crammed 14 common roster spots and have one free two-way contract as we get nearer to the 2022-23 season. Whether General Manager Joe Cronin intends to fill the 2 remaining vacancies earlier than opening evening is unknown, however he has introduced in 4 younger our bodies to, on the very least, compete in coaching camp.
Point guard Isaiah Miller, wing Jared Rhoden, energy ahead Devontae Cacok and heart Olivier Sarr are additionally set to line up for the Blazers by way of the preseason. Veteran massive man Norvel Pelle had a momentary dalliance with the group however was waived earlier than a preseason ball was bounced.
For the needs of this piece, we will assume the quartet doesn’t contribute sufficient to earn the fifteenth common roster spot — particularly if Cronin has his coronary heart set on going into the season with 14 on the participant sheet. Let’s simply say the candidates are competing to affix Brandon Williams because the second two-way contract.
This might be an excellent time to remind everybody concerning the standards for two-way contracts.
Players with fewer than 4 years of NBA expertise can signal a two-way contract with a group. However, groups can’t signal a participant to a two-way contract for 3 seasons. The offers are restricted to 2 years, and may’t embody choices.
Although two-way contracts could be for as much as two years, a participant who has three years of NBA expertise can’t signal such a deal, since he has 4 years of service after the primary season. As such, two-way contracts for gamers with three years of expertise are restricted to 1 12 months.
Of the 4, Caco has had essentially the most expertise. A member of the Los Angeles Lakers 2019-20 Orlando Bubble championship earlier than spending a 12 months with the San Antonio Spurs. Last season, Sarr performed for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Miller was with the Minnesota Timberwolves’ G-League affiliate Iowa whereas Rhoden solely got here out of Seton Hall this 12 months.
The different issue to contemplate when deciding between the 4 is the present make up of the Blazers roster, with the group wealthy in guards and energy forwards and slightly slim at small ahead and heart. So match would possibly win over expertise when deciding which of the 4 has the perfect likelihood.
So, let’s take a look at the candidates.
Measurements: 6 foot, 190lb
Draft: undrafted 2021
College: UNC Greensboro
Previous stops: Iowa Wolves (2021-22), Utah Jazz Summer League 2022
The tiny two-time Southern Conference Player of the Year put up four-year faculty averages of 14.9 factors on an inaccurate 24 p.c three level share, 4.8 boards, 2.6 assists, nevertheless redeeming himself with 2.4 steals.
Once within the G-League, he maintained averages of 12.7 factors on 26.5 p.c three level capturing, 4.7 boards, 3.2 assists and 1.6 steals. Miller makes up for his lack of peak and long-range capturing with stunning athleticism and a ridiculous 6-8 wingspan serving to him each compete on protection and end on the rim on offense.
While Brandon Williams is not the defensive participant Miller is, it is arduous to think about the Blazers carrying one other smallish guard into opening evening.
Measurements: 6’6, 210lbs
Draft: undrafted 2022
College: Seton Hall
Previous stops: Sacramento Kings Summer League 2022
Rhoden loved a profitable five-game stint with the Kings in July, registering 11.8 factors on 39 p.c three-point capturing, 5.4 boards, 1.6 assists and 1.4 steals. But I’m cautious taking an excessive amount of from his Summer League long-range capturing with the four-year Seton Hall standout averaging solely 31 p.c from three over a extra reflective 72 video games.
Despite that, Rhoden’s motion and bodily items share an uncanny resemblance to Philadelphia 76ers wing Matisse Thybulle. Like the defensively-minded Australian wing, Rhoden owns a ridiculous wingspan at near 7 toes and shows spectacular lateral motion.
Unfortunately, Rhoden has solely proven glimpses of three level capturing, as an alternative leaning on his defensive skills to see the ground. I nonetheless do not assume the 23-year-old is the favourite of the 4 to make the Blazers roster, however he would not be the worst choice if he proved he was in a position to play small ahead competently and persistently.
Measurements: 6’7, 240lbs
Draft: undrafted 2019
College: UNC Wilmington
Previous stops: Los Angeles Lakers (2019-21), San Antonio Spurs (2021-22).
The most skilled of the quartet, Cacok has an NBA championship subsequent to his identify, regardless of not contributing one playoff minute to the Lakers’ 2022 banner. Unlike the apparent exceptions, particularly Gary Payton II, as soon as a participant reaches his mid 20s, we just about know what he’s and what he can do.
As far as comps go, I can undoubtedly see shades of a barely smaller Thomas Robinson because of his spectacular bodily profile and ferocity. But Cacok’s lack of ability to unfold the ground cancels out any likelihood he performs the small ahead whereas standing solely 6’7 he is virtually too small to play the 4. We cannot actually glean something from his NBA minutes, averaging a tad over six minutes a recreation. However, his G-League stint with the Austin Spurs final season wasn’t terrible, with the 25-year-old placing up 20.9 factors, 12.4 boards, 2.7 assists and 0.9 steals in half-hour over 14 video games.
But undecided it occurs for Cacok, particularly given the glut of energy forwards already on the roster.
Measurements: 7 toes, 240 lbs
Draft: undrafted 2021
College: Wake Forrest/Kentucky (French)
Previous stops: Oklahoma City Thunder (2021-22), Phoenix Suns Summer League 2022
One factor is obvious, Sarr has the potential to be a type of sought-after seven footers who can shoot from past the arc. His shot mechanics are clean for a man his dimension, to not point out first rate sufficient composure and shot choice. He’s a stable defender and has little bother defending the rim.
In his 22 video games with the Thunder final season, Sarr registered 7 factors on a whopping 44 p.c capturing from three, 4.2 boards, 0.9 assists and 0.7 blocks in 10 minutes a recreation. The peak of his season got here in an April 3 contest in opposition to the Phoenix Suns, the place he put up 24 factors on 5 of six from three, six boards, one help and two blocks.
One other thing, Jusuf Nurkic is the one Blazer at the moment standing above 6’9. And with the massive Bosnian vulnerable to harm and foul bother, having one other seven footer ready within the wings would not damage.
Before we decide our winner, we must also put together ourselves for the chance that not one of the 4 make the minimize by the tip of the preseason, with Cronin doubtlessly wanting additional afield for younger expertise that addresses this group’s wants.
However, if we’re selecting from this group, it is Sarr by a rustic mile with Rhoden being my outdoors wager. It’s no shock they’re additionally the youngest of the 4, proudly owning skillsets at positions of relative want for this Portland group.
While Cacok has power, athleticism and the power to complete, he is been given each likelihood to show that he belongs within the league with none actual success as he heads into his late 20s. Miller has first rate sufficient defensive chops however his lack of dimension or capturing will hinder him getting him over the road.
If Rhoden can fill that defensive function and never be hopeless from three, I truthfully would not be stunned if he was profitable. But ideally, 7’0 Sarr will get that second two-way spot, giving the Blazers a modicum of insurance coverage if Nurkic goes down. Sarr has the offensive and defensive items to at the least have a shot at common taking part in time however first he has to indicate that he deserves that vacant two-way contract.