The Portland Trail Blazers They filled 14 regular spots on the roster and we have a free two-way contract as we approach the 2022-23 season. Whether General Manager Joe Cronin intends to fill the two remaining vacancies before opening night is unknown, but he has brought in at least four young bodies to compete in the bootcamp.
Key goalkeeper Isaiah Miller, winger Jared Rhoden, powerful striker Defontay Kacock and midfielder Olivier Sarr are also set to line up with the Blazers during pre-season. Veteran Norville Bailey experienced a temporary foreplay with the team but was conceded before a pre-season ball rebound.
For the purposes of this piece, we’ll assume the quartet doesn’t contribute enough to earn 15th on the regular roster – especially if Cronin had his heart set on going into the season with 14 on the player card. Let’s just say candidates are vying to join Brandon Williams as a two-way contract.
Perhaps this is the time to remind everyone of the standards Bi-Directional Contracts.
Players with less than four years of NBA experience can sign a two-way contract with a team. However, teams cannot sign a duo contract with a player for three seasons. Deals are limited to two years, and cannot include options.
Although two-way contracts can be up to two years, a player with three years of NBA experience cannot sign such a deal, because he would have four years of service after the first season. As such, two-way contracts for players with three years of experience are limited to one year.
Of the four, Cacok was the most experienced. Member of the Los Angeles Lakers Orlando Babel Championship 2019-20 before spending a year with San Antonio Spurs. Last season, Sarr played for a team Oklahoma City ThunderMiller was with Minnesota TimberwolvesThe Iowa branch of G-League while Roden only exited Seton Hall this year.
Another factor to consider when choosing between the four is the Blazers’ current line-up, with the team that’s rich in guards and power forward and a bit skinny front and center. Therefore, physique may win talent when deciding which of the four has the best chance.
So, let’s take a look at the candidates.
Measurements: 6 feet, 190 pounds
Draft: Unworded 2021
College: UNC Greensboro
Previous stops: Iowa Wolves (2021-2022), Utah Jazz Summer League 2022
The twice-yearly Southern Conference MVP put four-year college averages of 14.9 on an inaccurate 24 percent with three points, 4.8 boards, and 2.6 assists, but traded himself for 2.4 steals.
Once in the G-League, he maintained an average of 12.7 points on 26.5% three-point shooting, 4.7 planks, 3.2 assists and 1.6 steals. Miller makes up for his lack of height and long-range shooting with amazing athleticism and a funny 6-8 wingspan that helps him compete on defense and finish on the edge of attack.
While Brandon Williams isn’t quite the defensive player like Miller, it’s hard to imagine the Blazers carrying another junior guard on opening night.
Position: SG / SF
Measurements: 6’6, 210 lbs
Draft: Unframed 2022
College: Seton Hall
Previous stops: Sacramento Kings Summer League 2022
Roden enjoyed a successful five-game run with the Kings in July, scoring 11.8 points on 39 percent three-point shooting, 5.4 boards, 1.6 assists and 1.4 steals. But I’d be wary of taking too many of his long-range shots in the summer league as Seton Hall’s four-year brilliance averaged just 31 percent from three in 72 most reflexive games.
Despite this, Roden’s movement and physical gifts share a strange likeness with him Philadelphia 76ers Matisse Thybulle Suite. Like the defensive-minded Australian winger, Roden has a ridiculous winger at close to 7 feet and displays impressive lateral movement.
Unfortunately, Roden only showed glimpses of his three-point shot, and instead relied on his defensive talents to see the ground. I still don’t think the 23-year-old is the favorite among the four Blazers, but he wouldn’t be the worst option if he proves he can play with a young striker with efficiency and consistency.
The most experienced of the quartet, Cacok has an NBA championship next to his name, despite not contributing a single minute to the Lakers’ 2022 announcement. With the obvious exceptions, Gary Payton II, once a player hits his mid-twenties, we pretty much know Great what it is and what it can do.
As far as comps go, I can definitely see the shadows of Thomas Robinson a bit younger thanks to his cool body image and his ferocity. But Cacok’s inability to spread the floor negates any chance for him to play the young striker while standing only 6’7, he is almost too young to play all four. We can’t really collect anything from his NBA minutes, averaging six minutes per game. However, his time in the G-League with Austin Spurs last season wasn’t horrendous, with the 25-year-old putting in 20.9 points, 12.4 boards, 2.7 assists and 0.9 steals in 30 minutes over 14 games.
But I’m not sure this will happen to Cacok, especially given the abundance of attackers already on the list.
One thing is clear, and that is Sarr has the potential to be one of those seven people who can shoot from outside the arc. His shooting mechanics are smooth for a man of his size, not to mention his composure and shot selection. He’s a solid defender and doesn’t have much of a problem with edge protection.
In 22 games he played for the Thunder last season, Sarr scored 7 points with a stunning 44% shot from three, 4.2 boards, 0.9 assists, and 0.7 blocks in 10 minutes per game. The peak of his season came on April 3 in a contest against the Phoenix Suns, where he placed 24 points in five of six of three, six boards, one assist and two blocks.
One more thing, Jusuf Nurkic is the only Blazer currently standing above 6’9. With the great Bosnian in great trouble and injury, having seven more footers waiting in the wings wouldn’t hurt.
Before we pick the winner, we must also prepare ourselves for the possibility that none of the four will make the cut by the end of pre-season, as Cronin will likely be looking for young talent that caters to this team.
However, if we pick from this group, it will be a mile of country walk with Roden being my outside bet. Not surprisingly, they’re also the youngest of the four, and possess skills in positions of relative need for this Portland team.
While Cacok has strength, athleticism and the ability to finish off the season, he’s got every chance to prove he belongs in the league without any real success as he heads toward his late twenties. Miller has good enough defensive pieces but his lack of size or shooting will keep him from crossing the line.
If Roden could take on that defensive role and he wasn’t a Hopeless Three, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he was successful. But ideally, a 7’0 Sarr gets that second two-way spot, giving the Blazers a bit of insurance if Nurkic falls. Sarr has the offensive and defensive gifts at least to stand a chance at regular playtime, but first he has to show that he deserves this vacant contract.