Is Jerryd Bayless's Future with the Blazers Up in the Air?

Jim TruesdaleCorrespondent IMay 28, 2009

TARRYTOWN, NY - JULY 29:  Jerryd Bayless of the Portland Trail Blazers poses for a portrait during the 2008 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot on July 29, 2008 at the MSG Training Facility in Tarrytown, New York.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

About one year ago the Portland Trail Blazers pulled off a trade that sent the rights to the 13th overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft, Jarrett Jack and Josh McRoberts to the Indiana Pacers for one of the more promising prospects in the whole draft.

That of course being Jerryd Bayless from the University Of Arizona. After the trade, many Trail Blazer fans believed they had obtained their “Point Guard of The Future.” Now one year and 655 regular season minutes played later, some Rip City fans are singing a different tune.

Bayless has fell victim to a lot of criticism over the course of his rookie season. Most of which is due to his erratic play and inability to solidify regular playing time in the rotation. With the offseason here for the Trail Blazers and the NBA draft looming there are many questions about their roster that need to be answered.

For instance, is Jerryd Bayless STILL their “point guard of the future”? Do they need to look at Free-Agency as an avenue to upgrade the position? How about the draft?

One thing is for certain, depending on the moves (or lack thereof) made this summer, we as fans should be able to fill in the blanks and get a good feel as to the direction that the position is heading.

Many Blazer fans had lofty expectations for the young Point Guard that was pegged to go as high as No. 3 in the draft, in the months leading up to the NBA draft. Many thought that over the course of the season, Bayless would solidify the backup PG position and even start digging into Steve Blake’s ration of starting minutes.

With Bayless struggling to get on the court even toward the end of the season, many Blazer fans began to question whether he was going to be the answer heading toward the future. Rumors started circulating and before long every Blazer fan had their own theory as to why Bayless wasn’t seeing the the playing time that so many had envisioned.

Some people said it was because he was a shooting guard stuck in a point guard’s body. Some said that he couldn’t grasp the offense. Whatever the reason, the moves that the Trail Blazer’s organization make in the coming month should give us a better idea of what the future holds for this once “point guard of the future.”

From what I can gather, there are four different options for the Trail Blazers when it comes to the point guard position this summer. They can sign an Andre Miller or Jason Kidd to come in and be a “band-aid” fix for the position for the next couple of years.

They can draft yet another young and promising point guard in the draft. They could sign a younger point guard upgrade, like Raymond Felton or Ramon Sessions. Or not touch anything and come into next season with the same rotation (Blake Starting and Bayless behind him) and hope for improvement.

Each option for the team says something different about the teams plans for Jerryd Bayless and how they view his future with the team. Here’s what they mean.

Option No. 1:  Band-Aid fix: Signing Andre Miller or Jason Kidd and having Bayless as their backup is saying that the time to win is now, though Bayless isn’t ready to be handed the keys quite yet.  Give him a year or two behind one of these successful vets then he’s our man.

Option No. 2: Draft Another Young PG: This option tell us fans that Jerryd hasn’t improved the way the team had wished and adding another young PG will open up a competition for the position. May the best man win. In other words, the jury is still out on his future.

Option No. 3: Young Upgrade: The signing of a Raymond Felton or Ramon Sessions tells us that Bayless’s learning curve isn’t as steep as the Blazers were hoping. They want an upgrade now and one that is still young enough to grow with the team.

Option No. 4: Stand Pat: This means picking up Blake’s option and going into next season with the same point guard rotation. This is the most difficult scenario to read but thankfully least likely to unfold IMO.

With cap-space and assets that are more than likely to be moved (Second round picks/Sergio Rodriguez), I think it’s safe to say that some sort of change is inevitable.


Now that we have a general idea of what to look for this summer let’s make some predictions. I for one am very optimistic that Jerryd Bayless will be able to make the necessary changes and become a solid player in this league.

It’s not often you see a point guard as strong as him, with that kind of speed and able to get up the way he does. He has all of the physical tools to be the ideal fit at point guard for this franchise.

He’s fast enough to stick with the premier point guards in the league, can get to the rim any time he pleases and is tough. The question is, can he put it all together?

Now most Trail Blazer fans are quick to write Bayless off because of his lack of playing time. I myself like to stay optimistic because Nate has never been big on playing rookies and when Bayless was on the floor he made things happen.

With Jerryd being another year older and having a year under his belt and in Nate’s system, it’s granted that he’s going to have a bit of a longer leash.

After watching a lot of Bayless’s games the past couple of years (At UofA as well as all 655 minutes he played in the regular season) I’ve found myself trying to decipher the difference between his successful stint in college, versus his rough start to his pro career.

The biggest variable between the two was obviously playing time. Now when you figure that he was playing over 35 minutes a game at Arizona you start to correlate how his time on the court effects his production.

Bayless had a field goal percentage of almost 46 percent while in college versus 36 percent in the pros. He shot a solid 40 percent from three-point range in college, yet a frigid 26 percent in his rookie year (I have a hard time believing a measly three feet is the root cause of this).  

Upon reviewing the differences between these numbers it becomes apparent that the more he’s on the floor, the more he contributes and is able to do so more efficiently.

This summer, look for Jerryd Bayless to be his normal “gym rat” self.  There’s even a good chance that his lack of playing time will help spark an even greater fire/urge within him to improve his game. His participation in the Las Vegas Summer League should also help his improvement.

Naturally, Jerryd Bayless WILL improve his game. Look for Nate to gain more confidence in his young PG’s abilities this fall and supply him with more playing time next season to prove himself. While on the floor longer it’s going to allow more time for Bayless to get into his rhythm.

If you’ve been paying attention to this article you already know that with more playing time supplied to Bayless, the more he produces and the more efficient he is able to do so.

A lot of basketball fans were surprised at how quiet this talented point guards rookie season was but with natural improvement producing more time for him to prove himself, his sophomore year is setting up to be anything but.