photo via NBCSNW
***DISCLAIMER: This article was written before Layman’s explosion against the Suns on Thursday night.
Blazers fans would agree when I say finding an above average small forward in the NBA is a rare objective to accomplish. Since the trade of Nic Batum to Charlotte in 2015, we have searched high and low for the player that can take us to the next level. Even though it seems that we put a consistent 3 and D wing on our bucket list every year, it has been passed over. The last couple of years, there have been high expectations for Moe Harkless, but after a combination of injury and inconsistency, time is slowly running out for him. Especially after a cold stretch over the course of the last two weeks, fans are looking for an upgrade to get the team back on track. While looking for trades are really fun (trust me, I spent an hour on NBA Trade Machine), why not look at someone on the team who was integral to the team’s hot start: Jake Layman.
The key to the Blazers success is having players who can consistently play solid defense and hit open shots surrounding Dame and CJ. With so much of opposing defenses focused on the backcourt, it is imperative that when penetration leads to kick outs, the wings have to ready to shoot. Taking away previous season’s results, Layman has arguably been the best at this all year, and the statistics show the proof. Layman is making 93.3% of his three point shots off of assists at a 38.5% clip. In addition to his shooting, Layman is also extremely adept at making off ball cuts to the hoop, as evidenced by this one handed slam off of a Jusuf Nurkic dime against Washington. (http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=25315626)
Despite all of his strengths on offense, it should be noted that Layman does struggle on defense. He is not the quickest at moving his feet, and he also is not the longest player. Despite these deficiencies, he is a high IQ player who understands the system, and uses his leaping ability to contest shots well. He can at least get the job done, it showed during the opening stretch of the year during his limited minutes.
I think everyone understands that no one on the team is the perfect fit at small forward. If the team does want to make a move, I would understand. However, before making a rash decision that mortgages the team’s future (see Aaron Afflalo), it is important to give Layman more chances to prove himself. Whether it is starting, or replacing someone on the second unit, Layman is playing too well not to be given more opportunities to shine.
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