As every regular season inches toward its end, things tend to
get wonky for the teams south of .500. Being somebody who always
searches for progress or development, it makes things murkier when
Josh Hart has a 25% usage rate (10% higher than his career usage).
Shout out to Hart and his season, though, because he's been
absolutely on one.
Yet, that's kind of the point of trying to sift through
post-All-Star break basketball: Is Hart a primary option moving
forward? Nah, but I do think he's shown some stuff in Portland
(which has flashed in NOLA) that
further solidifies that he can handle more on-ball reps and
ball-screens than previously thought. Trying to extrapolate what a
more normal competitive situation could look like without overdoing
it is something I'm definitely trying to get a better grasp of. So
much is context-dependent.
The man had 44 points!
Justise Winslow has played some really quality ball for the
Blazers when healthy and in the lineup, but we're here for the
purposes of the man who grabbed the mic.
I have absolutely no idea what to make of Trendon Watford's
In March (10 games), Watford's played 29 or more minutes in
every game, averaging 15.6 points per game on 57.2% True Shooting
(right about league average); he's expanded upon his intriguing
ball skills and passing flashes he's shown since entering the
rotation. The defensive flashes of upside give me pause as
That said, the Blazers have also lost by double digits
in six of their March games with a minus-19.2 point differential
per Cleaning the Glass. The Thunder have the second-worst point
differential in March... at minus-13.8. Yeah, it's been rough in
So again, there are wrinkles in judgment and evaluation (and
woooo boy, that is A WRINKLE). However, I must admit that I'm
pretty bullish on what I've seen from Watford, the undrafted
It's been a wild ride for me, as I was lower on him coming out
of LSU and really wasn't sure what to make of his environment there
and some of his inconsistencies, but he's repeatedly drawn me in
with his play and improvements this season. No, I'm not there with
a starting spot, but the flashes have been on full display, and
he's starting to string them together with more regularity. I can
see the vision of Watford on a solid team, adding an element as a
bruising dribble-handoff operator, short-roller and potentially
versatile defender in time.
Watford opts more for brush screens, which can seemingly be
frustrating and go against conventional screening wisdom, but he's
so good at opening himself up to attack the basket while drawing
the attention of the man he's screening. I would definitely like to
see him set screens with more impact, but it's worth noting that
screening without contact is an art in and of itself, and man,
Trendon's pretty effective with it. He's solid at slipping and is
fantastic at flipping his hips into a roll/into space.
He's not a crazy explosive leaper as a roller, with most of his
value coming from his touch in the intermediate areas and his
ability to open lanes for the ball-handler. He's shooting 49% from
4 to 14 feet, per Cleaning the Glass (72nd percentile amongst
bigs), which teeters on the line of danger for opposing defenders.
If he does sell out for contact to screen the handler open, his
slow roll and the potential for a pocket pass or toss back can
scratch an itch for his defender. Even if it's not as effective or
efficient as a layup, there's a legitimate annoyance factor to
having a floater or push shot hit right in front of you
just out of your reach.
It's worth noting, however, just how difficult this diet can be
as a player. Watford has made it work, but as we've seen with other
touch-based rollers like Bruce Brown for instance, a drop in that
floater efficiency or confidence can belittle impact and make it
much easier for the defense to sell out at the rim on drives.
Watford's got solid craft around the rim and touch, but he
struggles with length around the basket — especially if he doesn't
have a head of steam or an angle to use to his advantage.
That makes the development of his jumper and pick-and-pop game
even more intriguing and instrumental to his maturation. His shot
is pretty slow right now; there's inconsistency in his shot prep
(feels most comfortable with a hop step in my viewings), and he can
be hesitant at times, but he's been more willing as of late. An
offseason with shooting work and more instilled confidence in
taking his shot off the pop could do wonders for him. His ability
to attack off the catch with a coordinated handle and legit
counters while getting downhill have been quite impressive.
More of this.
He's getting to the line 4.2 times per game according to
Basketball-Reference, and the majority of those trips have come
from getting fouled as he batters towards the rim. He's not bursty
per se, but he has a pretty violent and quick motion into his
downhill drives at times that can really take 5s by surprise. My
vision for him (and it seems Portland feels similarly) is being a
combo big who can make the most of himself as a mismatch 5,
attacking with his skill in a spread-out offense; so, the shot is
key to keep his best attributes sustainable.
His playmaking is solid, as he displays quality court vision and
ball placement on passes. His best reads come out of DHOs or on a
quick roll — although, I do think ironing out the speed with which
he makes reads and passes will be important in his development —
but he's already made strides in that regard since college! If the
defense is lacking, he'll find the open man more often than
Defensively, much of Watford's intrigue comes from what he could
be rather than what he's doing now. It cannot be undersold just how
bad Portland's defense has been the last month. He makes rookie
mistakes and can get back cut against. He doesn't always make the
right rotation, and he can be too aggressive overplaying on the
However, I'm really encouraged by the flashes. Portland has
opted for more switching and playing their bigs closer to the level
of the screen with backline rotations. Watford has shown agile feet
and the ability to use his length on the perimeter to deter
ball-handlers. He's got pretty good hands, even if they're
hyperactive at times! He can foul, like, a lot (4.2 fouls per game
in March), but I tend to think it's easier to reign in defensive
aggression than to instill it.
He's had solid moments rotating as the low man. He certainly
needs to clean up his footwork, technique and timing, but so do the
majority of rookie-scale players.
The foundation of mobility, coordination, length and instincts
is there, and honestly, it's a lot better than I saw or expected
Overall, I'm really impressed with how Watford's game has come
along. I don't know exactly how I would project him moving forward,
but I feel more confident today than I did in the past that he can
contribute to winning play and flourish in a role. He's doing
things, and while it's hard to quantify what it means in this
context, it's still meaningful.
Trendon Watford is an immensely talented player, and he's
putting in the work to put it together. In time, I can't wait to
see what he looks like on a team that's more cohesive and he looks
to further establish himself in the league.