If you’ve followed me through this postseason, you know my thoughts on Rodney Hood. Seen as a key midseason pickup for the Cleveland Cavaliers, he’s instead been woefully underwhelming, and has been firmly plopped at the end of the team’s bench for the bulk of the postseason.
And yet, I can’t shake this feeling Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue may end up dusting Hood off in the NBA Finals. It’s certainly not as crazy as it sounds, but it’s a situation which would sure come with some risk.
Hood’s time with the Cavs has been frustrating to say the least. He’s one of the few non-LeBrons who can create his own shot, but he’s often too detached to put much effort into doing it. When the postseason began, he was in Cleveland’s starting lineup. Just one round later, he was catching heat for refusing to enter a game during garbage time. Lue’s attempt to give Hood a second chance in the Eastern Conference Finals backfired, and he was quickly relegated back to the bench.
Considering this, the idea of reinserting Hood into the rotation in the Finals, against a juggernaut Golden State Warriors team, is laughable. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lue is considering the idea of getting Hood playing time in this series.
Part of this is due to the team Cleveland is taking on.
Golden State’s approach to the game is essentially bludgeoning you to death with non-stop scoring. As a result, the Cavs have to do what they can to go punch-for-punch with their opponent, as difficult as this has proven to be in the past.
On paper, Hood certainly seems like he could help with this. He was averaging 16.8 PPG with the Utah Jazz before Cleveland traded for him, and has shown flashes of scoring ability since joining the team despite the overall underwhelming results. His long and athletic build also makes him – again, on paper – a favorable weapon to use against the Warriors.
However, the problems still remain. Hood hasn’t looked remotely engaged whenever he’s been on the court this postseason, often fading out of games completely. His garbage time stunt reportedly left teammates angry. His attempt to change the narrative (after already apologizing to the team) and claim he was merely giving his minutes to veteran Jose Calderon was a joke. The consensus belief is he’s simply someone who isn’t built to step up in the playoffs.
It’s tough to hear this and think “I bet he could help this team in the Finals.”
What increases the odds of Hood getting a look, though, is how this series is expected to play out.
Vegas odds favor the Warriors rolling through the first two games of the Finals at the very least. It would more than likely be a repeat of last year, where Golden State’s firepower is too much for Cleveland to handle. Should this occur, there’ll be a desire for Lue to shake things up, to try something new in a desperate attempt to get a foothold in the series.
Now, sure, you can argue inserting a typically apprehensive Hood into the biggest series of the year while down 0-2 isn’t what you’d call a safe strategy. At the same time, part of the reason the Cavs traded for him in the first place was due to his size and scoring ability making him a perfect asset to use against the Warriors. If he could clear whatever mental blocks he’s dealing with and play with more aggression, you’d like to think he could become a surprise contributor for Cleveland.
Again, though, this is asking a lot. Hood has been a liability any time he’s touched the court this postseason. Expecting him to buck this trend in the Finals, against the best team in the NBA, is the equivalent of banking on a lottery ticket as your main source of income.
Despite all of this, I’d still be more surprised if Hood stayed glued to the bench in this series than I would be if he actually got playing time. Something tells me Lue is willing to give him one last chance.
Here’s hoping Hood would finally be able to take advantage of it.