• Leading up to the Portland Trail Blazers’ season-opener against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers at Moda Center on October 18, HoopBall is profiling the team’s 15 players with guaranteed contracts, in reverse order of price.

    Prior entries: Gary Trent, Jr.

    Player: Jake Layman

    2018-19 salary: $1,544,951 (via spotrac)

    Position: wing, forward

    Age, experience: 24, third year

    Measureables: 6-foot-9, 210 pounds (6-foot-9 and 1/4 inch wingspan)

    Strengths: leaping, transition finishing, cutting

    Weaknesseslateral quickness, length, ball handling, shooting

    Swing factor: 3-point shooting

    Likely role: 10th man, spot minutes

    Layman has always been intriguing as a modern-day combo forward, despite that promise being rooted in his natural gifts far more than his actual on-court impact since he was drafted in 2016. Fortunately, his eye-popping play at Summer League – which came shortly after Portland made the surprising decision to guarantee his contract right before free agency, remember – makes the third-year wing a viable candidate to crack Terry Stotts’ rotation than ever before.

    At 6-foot-9 with explosive leaping ability and a knack for making himself available at the rim in transition and off cuts, Layman has the tools to provide the Blazers with some much-needed athletic dynamism. He threatens the basket as a finisher, especially on lobs, more so than any of his teammates save for the possible exception of Moe Harkless. Unlike Harkless, though, the scope of Layman’s athleticism doesn’t extend much beyond leaping. He doesn’t have the quickness to stick with guards off the dribble, and lacks the necessary fluidity with the ball to break down his defender. Those weaknesses would be debilitating for any wing, but especially for a player whose wingspan is barely longer than his height. It’s not like Layman has the build to make up for those deficiencies with physicality when he slides down to power forward, either.

    As such, his most realistic path to playing time is as a specialist, which finally seems a realistic outcome given his performance over the summer. Layman was one of the most impressive shooters who took the floor in Las Vegas, from no matter where he was launching. He shot 54.2 percent from beyond the arc on 3.4 attempts per game, connecting on spot-ups or after running around screens, and looked similarly comfortable shooting off the dribble from mid-range – sometimes even as a second-side ball-screen operator. Combined with his own personal highlight-reel of aerial finishes, Layman’s scorching-hot jumper resulted in a head-turning true shooting percentage of 69.3, over 24 points higher than his mark from the previous summer.

    Let’s pump the brakes on affording him the label of marksman, though. Layman has shot 17-of-71 from deep in limited playing time over his first two years in the NBA, and didn’t fare much better during his first two trips to Las Vegas or during a brief G-League appearance as a rookie. Based on every available data point, his shooting binge this summer should be treated as an aberration instead of the conclusion of his developmental arc. But there’s a reason the Blazers believed enough in Layman to give him guaranteed money this season as Paul Allen is poised to pay the luxury tax, and long-running whispers of him shooting well in practice and individual workouts are probably the chief means behind it. There just isn’t much justification for that surprising decision otherwise, considering Layman will perpetually be stuck between positions, unable to consistently affect the game in a meaningful manner unless he’s stretching the defense.

    Portland’s failure to live up to Olshey’s expectations of acquiring a playoff-ready wing this offseason looms large for his chance at meaningful playing time, too. Layman won’t be passing Al-Farouq Aminu or Harkless in Portland’s short pecking order of combo forwards, nor play ahead of Evan Turner on the wing or Zach Collins inside when Stotts plays a traditional center. He’ll likely fight with Gary Trent, Jr. and Caleb Swanigan for spot minutes on the periphery of the Blazers’ rotation, and the coaching staff is undoubtedly hoping he beats them out. Lineup versatility is of utmost importance in today’s league, and as Portland looks to pick up the pace and perhaps embrace more switching defensively, a player with Layman’s tools – despite those obvious deficiencies of foot speed and length – could be of great use.

    But it all depends on the jumper. If Layman proves this summer was a harbinger of things to come as a 3-point shooter, he could account for a significant portion of the internal improvement necessary to make up for the Blazers’ underwhelming slate of offseason acquisitions. Absent him emerging as a reliable option from long-range, though, it’s hard to see Layman making an impact in 2018-19, his last chance to cement himself as a bonafide NBA player before hitting restricted free agency next July.

Fantasy News

  • Kawhi Leonard
    SF, Los Angeles Clippers

    Kawhi Leonard checked in for Thursday's preseason finale against the Mavs and put up 13 points, three rebounds, four steals and two 3-pointers in 22 minutes.

    Leonard took full advantage of some sloppy play from Luka Doncic to help make up for his poor 5-of-19 shooting performance. Kawhi's inching up closer to the middle points of the first round in fantasy drafts, and where you select him depends entirely on your tolerance for potential nights off.

  • Landry Shamet
    SG, Los Angeles Clippers

    Despite 37 minutes in Thursday's preseason game, Landry Shamet finished with five points, two rebounds, two assists, two steals, a 3-pointer and a 2-of-10 shooting line.

    The Clippers look prepared to give Shamet major minutes this season on the wing and at point guard, but his preseason play has been lackluster. We're going to chalk this up to a weirdly-timed slump and continue drafting Shamet in the later rounds of all drafts.

  • Patrick Beverley
    PG, Los Angeles Clippers

    Patrick Beverley (calf) and Lou Williams (rest) sat out of Thursday's preseason game with the Mavs.

    No need for the Clippers, who figure to do lots of load managing, to force either of their vets through a meaningless game. Beverley's calf injury is suspected to be minor but we'll keep an eye on it as the season approaches.

  • Justin Jackson
    SF, Dallas Mavericks

    Justin Jackson notched 18 points off the bench in Thursday's 102-87 win over the Clippers, adding six rebounds and three triples to round out his game.

    Jackson ends his preseason on a strong note and it looks like he'll hold a solid rotation role for Dallas, and may even start if the forward core suffers injuries. That said, he's always been a weak fantasy play and would need immense volume to change anyone's mind.

  • Moses Brown
    C, Portland Trail Blazers

    The Blazers have converted Moses Brown's training camp deal into a two-way contract.

    It's a nice climb for Brown, who went undrafted out of UCLA. Portland's center depth could be tested if Hassan Whiteside misses time because of his sprained ankle but we'd be surprised if Brown saw much action at the NBA level this year.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Dorian Finney-Smith
    SF, Dallas Mavericks

    Neither Dorian Finney-Smith (hip flexor) nor Seth Curry (right knee contusion) played in Thursday's preseason finale.

    There's no reason for the Mavs to push either player through this, though we'll keep an eye out for updates before the real games begin. Both figure to be important reserves and should be able to deliver top-250 value in fantasy, if that means anything to you.

  • Kristaps Porzingis
    PF-C, Dallas Mavericks

    Kristaps Porzingis needed only 23 minutes to produce 18 points, 13 rebounds, a block and a 3-pointer in Thursday's preseason win over the Clippers.

    Luka Doncic, not to be outdone, added 13 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and four 3-pointers of his own, though nine turnovers were pretty ugly. It wasn't always pretty but it's obvious that this young dynamic duo will threaten early-round value for as long as they're on the court. How much they're on the court, Porzingis is particular, is the question.

  • Delon Wright
    PG, Dallas Mavericks

    Delon Wright put a fitting end to a quiet preseason on Thursday, scoring six points with three rebounds, two assists and two 3-pointers in 22 minutes of action.

    Wright was looking like a major breakout candidate but a poor preseason looks to have took some wind out of his sails. We still believe in his ability to rack up defensive stats out of a guard spot and his solid middle-round upside, so Wright's still worth a look sometime after pick No. 80.

  • Jalen Brunson
    PG, Dallas Mavericks

    Jalen Brunson (sore left hamstring) posted six points, five rebounds, seven assists and a steal in 15 minutes on Thursday night.

    Brunson started next to Delon Wright, which is something to remember in case the Mavs deal with injuries that force them to reshuffle the starting five during the year. He's only a deep-league option but did have some stints of relevance last season, so he's not someone to completely write off if injuries strike.

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
    PF, Milwaukee Bucks

    Giannis Antetokounmpo blitzed the Wolves in Thursday's preseason win, racking up 26 points, 14 rebounds, two steals, three blocks and a 3-pointer in 27 minutes of work.

    It's safe to say Giannis is ready for the regular season and is locked in as a top-5 pick in all formats. He went 9-of-15 from the field and a solid 7-of-9 from the line, and if that kept up all season fantasy players would be overjoyed. There's not much else to take from this one. Khris Middleton also had a good game with 18 points and seven assists.