Ever since the news broke that Kyrie Irving wanted to be traded back in July, the Cavs have been trying to piece together a puzzle capable of moving forward without one of the game’s best scorers. After a blockbuster trade with the Celtics, a rough patch, a winning steak, another rough patch, a series of trades that flipped half the team, lingering injuries and great, stabilizing seasons from LeBron James and Kevin Love, the Cavs have a series of question marks around them heading into the playoffs. But, one of the biggest unknowns is whether or not Rodney Hood, who has been cleared for the playoffs after sitting out the last few games, can make a significant impact on the team’s playoff run.
Hood, before he was traded to Cleveland during that flurry of deadline moves, was having the best season of his career, averaging 16.8 points per game and shooting 38.9 percent from behind the arc for the Utah Jazz. In the 22 games since joining the Cavs, he’s dropped to 10.8 point per game, shooting 35.2 percent from three. But, those stats don’t tell the entire story, since various members of the team — including him — have been battling injuries while attempting to form chemistry.
Before April, Hood, LeBron and Love were only on the floor together for 36 minutes, and they’ve clocked a total of 120 minutes for the year, meaning those three have shared the floor more in the four games that Hood played in April than the rest of the season combined. A lineup of George Hill,Rodney Hood,LeBron James,Larry Nance Jr. and Love — which has the potential to be the team’s most dangerous combination — has only had the opportunity to play for 13 minutes.
With shooters that get traded to a team with LeBron on it, there’s always the expectation that their numbers — at least percentage-wise — are going to skyrocket. That LeBron’s drive-and kick-prowess, and perpetual draw of a double team, will create open looks like they’ve never seen before. And, often times, that’s the case. But, quality players can also get lost in the shuffle. So far, Hood has been on both sides of the coin — there’s been flashes of what he’s capable of, there’s also been times when he doesn’t look like a pivotal part of the team, looking unsure of how he fits into the equation.
Hood’s consistency and health issues since joining the Cavs have made his productivity and playoff potential shaky, but he is capable of scoring at all three levels, with a high-release jumper and a solid floater in the lane. He’s not someone who’s going to finish through traffic, and he can look inactive or aimless in sets sometimes, but it’s clear the Cavs want to get him more involved in the offense, and when the game becomes more simplistic in the post-season with pick and rolls and isos, a pure shooter with versatile scoring could match well with LeBron and Love. Especially when you have a two-way, three-and-d, high-IQ point guard in Hill, and a freak-athlete center in Nance Jr. on the floor. We just need to see what that lineup looks like. And if it’s possible for them all to stay fully healthy down the stretch.
The high hopes and subsequent frustrations surrounding Rodney Hood is kind of a microcosm of the Cavs in general. There hasn’t been a large enough sample size of ideal situations to know what to expect. Maybe everything will click, maybe it won’t. It’s been a season of chaos. Thankfully, the Cavs are in the East.