Three reasons Quinn Cook will earn the Trail Blazers’ final roster spot
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) September 21, 2021
Though the disclosure of Cook’s deal made it seem like he’s a shoo-in for Portland’s final roster, his contract is essentially no different from similar ones recently signed by fellow veterans Patrick Patterson, Marquese Chriss and Dennis Smith Jr., each of whom will enter training camp next week auditioning for a permanent job. Expect Cook’s initial role with the Blazers to be the same, particulars of reporting notwithstanding.
Portland currently has 13 players with guaranteed contracts for 2021-22, and Neil Olshey has already made clear that the Blazers will leave one roster spot open as the regular season tips off. Here are three reasons why Cook is poised to beat out his competition in training camp to fill the final slot on Portland’s roster.
The nomadic nature of Cook’s career to date did away with early hopes that he’d eventually settle in as an established backup point guard. Standing just over six-feet tall with slightly above-average length but mediocre overall athleticism, Cook lacks the physical tools needed to be a consistent positive on either end of the floor. He’s an imminent target defensively despite his best efforts, and doesn’t have the off-dribble burst or playmaking ingenuity to serve as a full-time table-setter for the second unit.
Cook has one verifiable NBA skill, basically, but it happens to be the one that never goes out of style: perimeter shooting. The Duke product is a 40.8 percent three-point shooter for his career, and knocked down a scorching 47.4 percent of his catch-and-shoot triples over 2017-18 and 2018-19 with the Golden State Warriors, per NBA.com/stats, the only stint he’s ever had close to a regular rotation role.
Cook’s numbers as a pull-up long-range shooter have been relatively disappointing, but are victim to small sample size theater. No one should be surprised when he stops behind a ball screen and connects from deep off the dribble. While that overall acumen from beyond the arc hasn’t been enough to get Cook consistent minutes or even a multi-year contract of late, it should be enough to help him earn Portland’s last roster spot considering the talent and fit deficiencies of his training-camp competitors.
Quinn Cook has won two rings since breaking into the league in 2016-17, winning his first championship with the juggernaut Warriors a year later and his second title as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers in the Orlando bubble.
Though he barely got off the bench in the playoffs wearing purple and gold, Cook actually played real minutes during each of his postseason runs with the Warriors. He played in all 17 of Golden State’s playoff games in both 2018 and 2019, averaging 10.8 minutes per game as the primary backup to Steph Curry.
Cook, obviously, won’t be replicating that role in Portland. C.J. McCollum will play de facto floor general when Damian Lillard is off the floor, and Anfernee Simons will likely spend additional time on the ball in Chauncey Billups’ offensive attack, too. But Cook’s championship experience would prove invaluable for the Blazers even if good health keeps him permanently glued to the bench when the games matter most, let alone if injuries force him into action. He’s been a beloved locker room presence in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, too.
Last month’s trade for Larry Nance Jr. balanced out a roster that seemed overly weighted toward the perimeter. Now, with Nance, Robert Covington, Jusuf Nurkic and Cody Zeller accounting for all available minutes up front, the Blazers’ biggest personnel hole comes in the backcourt.
What happens if one of Lillard, McCollum or Simons goes down with injury?
Billups’ plans to implement a more modern, variable offensive system that deprioritizes ball dominance lessens the need for a true point guard to be on the floor at all times. Even when Lillard, McCollum and Simons are healthy, much of Portland’s offense will be marked by quick-hitting, side-to-side ball movement and playmaking initiated by Nurkic and Nance rather than a steady, predictable diet of high ball screens.
Still, Cook’s experience running the show for marquee teams—even in a pinch—would provide Billups with a sense of security an inconsistent, high-risk player like Smith can’t match. Don’t be surprised if that reality looms largest when it comes time for Olshey and Billups to make their final roster cut, especially given the Blazers’ comparative depth at power forward and center.