As you know by now, this past Saturday was a busy one for the Raptors as they sent Jarrett Jack, Marcus Banks and David Andersen to New Orleans in exchange for Peja Stojakovic and Jerryd Bayless.
While I’ve always been a fan of Bayless (I’m sure you’ve seen some of my J. Bay tweets during the many Blazers games on Thursday nights last season) and thought a change of scenery may be necessary for him to fully get the opportunity he needed, I’m intrigued to see how it will shake out for him in Toronto.
I’m also looking forward to getting to know a player who has an outlet I can relate to. If you haven’t heard, Jerryd Bayless is a blogging baller. If you’d like to get to know your newest Raptor a little better, be sure to check the archives of his blog here. He doesn’t just talk about basketball, either. There’s lots of talk about his family and his approach to the game as well as life. As a writer myself, I appreciate anyone who is willing to put their thoughts and emotion out there for all to see.
Since Bayless spent his first two seasons in Portland playing for the Blazers, I went to my man Ben Golliver of Blazersedge fame and CBS Sports goodness to get the goods:
Holly MacKenzie: If you were asked to give a quick scouting report on Jerryd’s game what would you say?
Ben Golliver: Despite Portland’s best efforts to transition his game into that of a “pure point guard,” Jerryd Bayless is a score-first guard who lacks a true NBA position. Bayless was drafted to be Portland’s point guard of the future, as Kevin Pritchard envisioned Bayless adding athleticism and an offensive counterbalance to all star Brandon Roy, who has the ball in his hands a lot. It didn’t work out, and he transitioned into a change-of-pace role off the bench primarily and also got a few starts at the two guard position when Roy was down with various injuries.
HM: What are his strengths/weaknesses?
BG: Bayless has a very quick first step and is aggressive on the ball, looking to attack the basket, collapse the defense, finish near the rim and get to the free throw line. He has good leaping ability and coordination in the air, so he’s capable of making the spectacular play look routine. His decision-making and ability to read or anticipate the defense is not as advanced, so he’s also capable of making routine plays look too difficult or unnecessarily ugly.
Portland used Bayless regularly in high pick and roll situations, and Bayless is adept at using screens to get to the rim, particularly when he is driving to his right. His feel for running an offense is still a work in progress and he’s not a natural play-maker. As such, he never stood much of a chance of starting at point guard for Portland over veterans Steve Blake and Andre Miller and was used in a reserve role that maximized his offensive efficiency by letting him drive with abandon in short spurts against second unit defenders.
Defensively, Bayless has improved significantly as a pro, because he entered the league after going one-and-done at Arizona and struggled mightily with fouling on the perimeter. He is a workaholic and is always in immaculate physical shape, so his size and strength allow him to interchangeably guard point guards and combo two guards. He works on defense, he’s quick laterally and he has fairly quick hands, but he isn’t a stopper.
As an off-the-ball shooter, Bayless has improved, but his three-point stroke has not yet reached the “knock down” quality Portland hoped it would. He has worked a lot on his pull-up mid range game as a way to diversify his offensive game but it’s still a work in progress. With both his shooting and his defense, it’s important to remember that he’s just 22 years old, so it’s very likely he has not yet reached his ceiling.
To reach that ceiling, however, Bayless needs reps, lots of them. He had a number of stretches where he was frustrated with his playing time in Portland and any team that takes him on really needs to commit to him from a playing time standpoint, or risk compromising his potential.
HM: Do you think playing in the open court will help him take advantage of his ability to get to the line?
BG: Bayless’s first step and elite quickness are equally effective in the halfcourt and transition. Bayless can finish very spectacularly in transition; like Sonny Weems he’s not afraid to put someone on a poster. Remember, though, he’s coming from Portland who has played the slowest offense of anyone over the last three years. His issue in transitioning to a faster pace like Toronto’s will be about how he leads the break. Can he make the right passes at the right times on the fly? If so, he could be a very, very exciting piece for the Raptors with their young guards filling the lanes on the wings. If not, he could get really frustrating, really quickly.
HM: What is he like off of the court? Leadership/intangibles/coachability/work ethic?
BG: Bayless is a gym rat of the highest order. His theme song for one of the seasons was “All The Way Turnt Up” by Soulja Boy and that about sums him up. Both Pritchard and Portland’s assistants said through his first few years in the league that Bayless worked on his game and worked out harder than anyone in the league. He’s extremely competitive and he has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. He’s very self-assured, stemming from his past as a very, very highly-rated prospect coming out of high school. Bayless blogs and is on Twitter. He has opened up quite a bit on his website about his father’s health problems, the death of a close friend, and other sensitive subjects. He says he really likes to write and he’s put a fair bit of time into his online writing.
HM: When you first heard about the trade, did it surprise you for Toronto or seem as though it made sense? Bryan Colangelo and Jay Triano have expressed pleasure at finally having a definitive “starter” and “back up” point guard. Does Bayless have the playmaking abilities to be the back up one on this team?
BG: Here’s my full analysis of the trade. I’m not crazy about it from Toronto’s perspective because of the fit question. Obviously there are not starter’s minutes available, and his skillset isn’t particularly complementary to those of DeRozan, Weems and Barbosa. As for the financial side of the trade, while the Raptors save money short term, remember that Bayless is still on his rookie deal, so if he performs as hoped the Raptors will be looking at a large financial contribution down the line. I’m not sure this is the guy you pair with Andrea Bargnani as your centerpieces going forward. But Bayless loves the doubters, and he loves proving them wrong.
Bayless is without question a backup quality player in the NBA. But the Raptors need more from him given that they moved a fairly valuable trade piece in Jarrett Jack and Bayless, inevitably, will want more than a backup role. That’s a tension that Raptors fans should keep an eye on.
A huge thanks goes out to Ben for taking the time to give Raptors fans some insight on Bayless.