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Cleveland Cavaliers player weaknesses: Rodney Hood needs to pull from three to reach his ceiling

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Shoot it, Rodney!

2018 NBA Finals - Game Three Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

It’s hard to remember, but Rodney Hood was in the midst of a career year before joining the Cleveland Cavaliers in a midseason trade. He was averaging 16.8 points (21.8 per 36 minutes) on 39.8 percent shooting from three.

He wasn’t contributing a ton as a rebounder or a playmaker (2.8 rebounds per game, 1.7 assists per game), but that’s never been his game. Hood is a scorer, and he was doing it at a fairly efficient clip. He wasn’t lighting it up from two-point range (42.4 percent), but he was hitting from distance, and that was enough to make him an effective role player outside of his normal limitations.

All this to say — he, uh, wasn’t that in Cleveland.

Hood, in his 21 games as a Cavalier in the regular season, simply stopped playing like himself. Struggling outside of the confines of the structured system built by Quin Snyder, Hood functionally stopped doing what makes him an NBA player - pulling from three.

In his career, three-pointers have never been less than 44 percent of Hood’s total shot attempts. With the Cavs, that number plummeted to a paltry 35.7. Hood averaged 6.7 threes per game with Utah the first half of the year. In only 2.5 less minutes per game, that number dropped to 3.4.

Shooting really does set up every other part of Hood’s game. He doesn’t have a particularly good handle, is a bit of a space cadet defensively (with short arms), and doesn’t rebound the ball very well. He’s never taken more than 15 percent of his shots at the rim, so becoming an inside force doesn’t appear to be in the cards.

What happens when you dramatically reduce the thing that makes you effective? You’re not very good.

Hood’s true shooting percentage dropped all the way to 53.3 percent. The shots he was generating weren’t significantly better, either. While he shot 49.2 percent from two point range (up from 45.5 percent in Utah), it wasn’t enough to make up for the loss in efficiency. His new inside-the-arc focus didn’t manifest in more free throw attempts either. His free throw rate actually dropped to what would be a career low 16.1 percent.

Hood often generated space off screens as a ball handler or dribble handoffs, but as a Cavalier, often chose to venture into the midrange to take a pull-up:

This isn’t an inherently bad shot - Hood can shoot, and he’s relatively open. But as always, there’s a reason that long twos have been most eschewed by stat-savvy NBA squads. Hood might make this shot 45 percent of the time, but that’s just not good enough.

Basically - it’s okay if Kyrie Irving takes this shot. Hood needs to look elsewhere.

His lack of ability as a finisher also points to why Hood needs to look to pull when he gets some room.

Hood’s handle and strength just aren’t where they need to be in order to make these plays at a high level. Given his height, he can shoot over a trailing defender when creating out of the pick and roll. He rarely chose to as a Cav.

This play features an off-the-dribble three from Hood. For most players, those are a bit ambitious. With that said, Hood is a skilled enough shooter to make them, with a much higher payoff than his mid-range forays:

Hood struggled with decisiveness as a Cavalier — to that end, the team needs to empower him with as much of a green light as possible. When he rises quickly, it really opens up the offense:

A second of hesitation and this open three becomes a contested one. Those moments of hesitation led to a lot of the ill-fated closeout attacks and pull-ups that defined Hood’s time in Cleveland.

So much of what has ailed Hood as a pro has been mental. He’s not a perfect player, but the structure for what should be a strong role player exists. Hood cannot leverage that structure unless he relies on his best skill, and allows that skill to frame the rest of his game.

Until he does, it’s hard to find a path to success for Hood in Cleveland.