The Curious Case of Rodney Hood
Has any Cavalier had a worse postseason than Rodney Hood?
The former Duke star has stunk it up so far to the tune of 4.9 PPG on 40.3% from the field and an absolutely horrendous 11.8% from three, so much so that he was the only player to receive the dreaded “DNP- Coach’s Decision” from Ty Lue during the team’s blowout victories over the Celtics in Games 3 & 4.
This represents a stark drop from his production during his 22 games with the Cavs this season, which saw him average six more points and shoot almost 25% better from beyond the arc.
Now, Rodney Hood has always been known as a streaky player, but this decline is extremely alarming and may be due to a number of reasons.
The most obvious cause also happens to be the most cliche and trite, but also one that does hold some truth to it: the increased intensity of the playoffs.
The Cavs are definitely aware of this, given that they have a reputation for “flipping the switch” and blowing out teams in the postseason when the stakes are increased and experience begins to matter more and more.
However, the team didn’t get to this point without encountering both the highs and lows of the postseason seen in LeBron’s second tenure.
Injuries, pesky foes and one 3-1 comeback have all conspired to make the Cavs perhaps the most battle-tested out of any team in the Eastern Conference, with perhaps the only team left that can match them in playoff experience being the Warriors.
Sadly, Rodney Hood does not have this experience. His only other postseason appearance came last year in 11 games with the Jazz, in which they were swept in the second round by Golden State.
Given that similar struggles have been exhibited by other players with little to no postseason experience in Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., this may certainly be the main cause of Hood’s abysmal play.
In a season where the desperation to capitalize on Lebron’s other-worldly talents is at an all-time high, this makes it near impossible to be patient with Hood, keeping him on a short leash and robbing him of the postseason experience and confidence that is necessary for him to fulfill his potential.
Another reason may be Hood’s looming status as a restricted free agent after this season.
NBA players are infamous for big performances in the last year of their contracts to get big deals when they hit free agency, but perhaps Hood is letting the uncertainty surrounding his future adversely affect his play.
The Cavs can extend a 3.47 million dollar qualifying offer to him in the summer, which is definitely a no-brainer with the team’s luxury tax status and lack of young talent.
However, if a team gives Hood a huge offer sheet and dares the Cavs to match it, the front office has to seriously debate whether they want to pledge so much of their future to a player that seems to be more potential than production at this point in his career.
This makes it paramount that Hood maximize his value to the team, a prospect that, again, seems to be looming large on his mind given his horrendous play so far in the playoffs.
There is also the fact that Hood is simply a victim of the numbers game that often unfolds during the playoffs, leaving him rusty and unconfident in his play.
In the postseason, rotations become shortened to 8-9 players, veterans are trusted over rookies and coaches often do not experiment until it is too late in fear of failure.
The Cavs have definitely adopted this approach, fielding a starting lineup in Games 3 & 4 that featured all remaining members of the 2016 championship team and only bringing four players off the bench.
This does not necessarily mean that Hood will not play any more meaningful minutes this postseason. However, he seems to be a victim of a Cavs team that has salvaged hope from disaster and stands a decent chance of making their 4th-straight NBA Finals and therefore cannot risk destroying the rhythm they’ve found.
Again, this may be serving to discourage him, but Hood should just go out and play naturally.
He has shown flashes of talent that scream 20 PPG scorer, but it seems that confidence is his primary issue in establishing himself in the league.
If Rodney Hood can find his rhythm and confidence, the Cavs will find themselves with a young, rangy scorer that gives them more than the puncher’s chance they have now of winning a title, while also giving them their best piece of exciting, young talent since Kyrie Irving.