Sir Charles is wagering six figures on a squad with a Duke basketball trio.
Twenty percent of the Portland Trail Blazers roster consists of Duke basketball products: guard Gary Trent Jr. plus forwards Rodney Hood and Harry Giles. True, none of those three are the franchise piece, the primary sidekick, or the premier post presence in town. Rather, those titles clearly belong to Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic, respectively.
Yet Trent Jr., Hood, and Giles possess guaranteed contracts. Plus, keep in mind Hood is finally set to see real action for the first time in more than 12 months after rehabbing from a torn Achilles tendon. So they’re all healthy enough at the moment to be on the “active” list for their 2020-21 opener at 10 p.m. EST Wednesday (NBA League Pass) when the Trail Blazers host the Utah Jazz.
Furthermore, each former one-year Duke basketball player figures to serve a fairly significant role in bolstering Portland’s supporting cast (more on that here in a minute). And, of course, history says a strong supporting cast is pretty much a prerequisite for any group to eventually make a deep playoff run.
On that note, let’s take a look at what NBA on TNT analyst/comedian Charles Barkley proclaimed following the league’s opening-night doubleheader on Tuesday. Leaving no room for doubt, the Hall of Famer went viral on Twitter — not an uncommon occurrence for “The Round Mound of Rebound” these days — by publicly placing a sizeable chunk of chips on the Blazers this season:
“This is my first bet [of the season]. I want $100,000 on the Portland Trail Blazers to win the West. Get that done tomorrow: $100,000 on the Portland Trail Blazers to make it to the NBA Finals.”
Show host Ernie Johnson then asked Charles Barkley to again verbally confirm his gamble on the Blazers, a franchise that hasn’t reached the NBA Finals in almost 30 years but has made postseason appearances in each of the past seven tries. Instantly, “The Chuckster” answered with a pair of resounding yesses.
Where the three Duke basketball talents sit on the depth chart
ESPN lists the 21-year-old Trent Jr. and 28-year-old Hood, who are both entering third campaigns in Portland, as part of the second unit. As for Giles, who landed a one-year deal with the Blazers after averaging 14.3 minutes and drawing 17 starts in two active seasons with the Sacramento Kings, the 22-year-old appears as a third-stringer until Zach Collins returns from injury.
Of the three Blue Devils, only Hood has experience in the NBA Finals, totaling 27 points for the Cleveland Cavaliers across the 2018 four-game sweep at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.
But seeing that Hood is on a minutes restriction as Blazers brass cautiously welcomes the high-octane scorer back into the fold, it’s safe to say Trent Jr. has the best chance of the three at contributing lofty point totals out of the gates.
Last regular season, Trent Jr. played 61 games, scoring 8.9 points in 21.8 minutes per outing while shooting an elite 41.8 percent from 3-point range. Also, it’s worth noting the high-IQ Duke basketball one-and-done was clutch in Portland’s August quest for the Western Conference’s No. 8 seed, averaging 16.9 points and 34.1 minutes across eight seeding games in the Orlando bubble.
Altogether, without the pure shooting of Trent Jr., the scoring touch of Hood, and the impassioned game of Giles, “The Chuck Wagon” would surely have trouble securing one particular $100K load come July.
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