September 13, 2018, 1:30 pm
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
Weaknesses: lateral 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.
September 21, 2018, 10:29 pmGorgui Dieng - C - Minnesota Timberwolves
ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported that league sources indicate that the Timberwolves prefer to package Jimmy Butler with Gorgui Dieng and the $48 million he’s owed over the next three years.
Dieng was routinely pulling in top-60 value in 9-cat before Taj Gibson vame to town so a trade to a better situation might do him some good. We’re sure there will be a lot more updates on the Jimmy Butler situation so stay tuned.
September 21, 2018, 9:12 pmTyler Ulis - G - Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors have signed Tyler Ulis to an Exhibit 10 deal according to Anthony Slater at The Althletic.
ESPN’s Marc J. Spears also reported that Ulis chose the Warriors over the Rockets and the Kings. Ulis will get to join the team for training camp and the Exhibit 10 deal offers a little more protection from the Warriors’ end, but it’s hard to see how Ulis will fit in their plans. If he sticks, he won’t have any fantasy value barring an injury, and if he ends up getting waived we’ll have to see if he signs with the Dubbs’ G-League squad or pursues other opportunities.
Source: Anthony Slater on Twitter
September 21, 2018, 8:39 pmEmeka Okafor - C - Philadelphia Sixers
The Philadelphia Sixers have signed Emeka Okafor to a training camp deal one day before the start of camp.
Even if the ancient Okafor manages to stick on the roster, he shouldn’t be anything more than a veteran presence.
September 21, 2018, 7:38 pmBogdan Bogdanovic - G - Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings have announced that Bogdan Bogdanovic will have an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee on Monday.
There was no time-table given but these usually have a recovery of 4-to-6 weeks. There should be an update after the surgery on Monday but it looks like Bogi will miss the beginning of the season. As we previously reported, this is the same left knee that he had surgery on earlier this summer to repair a slight medial meniscus tear. Two surgeries in the span of a few months doesn't sound good and this'll be a big red flag come draft time. It's good news for Buddy Hield however.
Source: Marc J Spears on Twitter
September 21, 2018, 7:27 pmJimmy Butler - G - Minnesota Timberwolves
Woj is reporting that despite rebuffs from Minnesota’s front office regarding Jimmy Butler, owner Glen Taylor informed participants of the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting that Butler is indeed available and that they should contact him personally if necessary.
Wow. It looks like things are escalating behind the scenes with Taylor and Thibodeau issuing opposing directives regarding disgruntled Jimmy Butler. It seems like Butler is close to being moved and Thibs could be next to follow him out the door.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
September 21, 2018, 5:36 pmDeAnthony Melton - G - Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns have signed newly obtained De’Anthony Melton to a two-year, $2.3 million rookie deal.
The Suns obtained Melton from the Rockets for Ryan Anderson and Brandon Knight earlier this summer so this signing was always going to happen at some point. With Devin Booker (hand) probably out to start the season and not a whole lot of options to start at point guard, Melton could be a nice surprise. We’ll have to see what the preseason brings.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
September 21, 2018, 5:28 pmAdam Silver - Commissioner - Invalid Team
The NBA’s Board of Governors has approved three changes to the rule book for this season dealing with resetting the shot-clock on an offensive rebound, simplifying the clear path rules and expanding the definition of a “hostile act.”
The first tweak is that the shot-clock will reset reset to 14 seconds after an offensive rebound instead of the usual 24 seconds. The second change is to the clear-path rule- now, it is defined as a personal foul against any offensive player during his team’s transition scoring opportunity so refs won’t have to determine if the defender was in front of the ball or not, or if the defender beat the offensive player to the frontcourt. The last chance will be expanding the definition of a “hostile act” to allow for additional replay for off-ball or other altercations.
Source: NBC Sports
September 21, 2018, 4:54 pmMarkelle Fultz - G - Philadelphia Sixers
Markelle Fultz denied having the “yips” last season and said his struggles shooting the ball were due to his shoulder injury.
This is the opposite of what shooting guru Drew Hanlen said over the summer when he asserted that Fultz had the “yips” and “completely forgot how to shoot.” We’re thinking as a young player, Fultz probably wants to protect his ego and maybe his image- despite recent headway made in the NBA dealing with mental health issues, nobody wants to admit to being psychologically ‘soft.’ At this stage it’s rather irrelevant as to why; we just want to see if Fultz can shoot it or not. Preseason games start soon and we’ll have the popcorn ready.
September 21, 2018, 4:42 pmJimmy Butler - G - Minnesota Timberwolves
According to Jon Krawczynski at The Athletic, Jimmy Butler might not show up to training camp if he isn't traded.
We previously relayed Woj's report that the Wolves were not planning to trade Butler so it looks like both parties are ratcheting up their rhetoric before the season starts. Butler is a notoriously stubborn guy as is coach Thibs so we'll see who wins this head-butting battle. The writing's on the wall for Butler's time in Minnesota, so it's only a matter of when. Tom Thibodeau could be following him out the door as owner Glenn Taylor has been dissatisfied with his old-school tactics.
Source: The Athletic
September 21, 2018, 4:36 pmCarmelo Anthony - F - Houston Rockets
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said he wants wants Carmelo Anthony on the floor when P.J. Tucker is off, and vice versa because he sees them both as power forwards.
It was widely assumed that Melo and Tucker would start together but now it appear to not be the case so maybe James Ennis is the starter at the 3. We’ll have to see how his rotation shakes out and if Melo’s staggered minutes coincide with Chris Paul’s. Either way, Melo looks to have a decreased role on offense as James Harden and Chris Paul control the offense.
Source: Kelly Iko on Twitter