By R.L. Bynum
The Portland Trail Blazers have exercised their fourth-year rookie-scale option on Nassir Little, the team announced Friday.
His fellow 2018–19 Tar Heels teammate Coby White of the Chicago Bulls also got an extension last month.
The 6–5, 220-pound Little is beginning his third season at Portland after being drafted 25th overall in the 2019 NBA draft and is now under contract through the 2022–23 season, when he will earn nearly $4.2 million.
The Athletic reported last month that Little got the attention of the organization in the offseason and that the Blazers say he can “contribute in a way that is unique.”
It was an offseason of hard work.
“I’ve been working on a little bit everything, just making sure my shot stays consistent, making it as consistent as possible so I can hit it at a higher rate during the games,” Little said. “Working on ballhandling, being able to see past second layers of defense, making the extra pass so we can move the ball this year.”
Little may be able to earn more playing time this year under first-year head coach Chauncey Billups with the departures of Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Jones Jr.
“I’ve been working hard; super excited to showcase what I’ve been working on,” he said. “I have a genuine opportunity to be able to contribute in a larger part this year. I kind of know what I’m doing now, so I just excited to get this process going.”
Little is still behind Robert Covington and Larry Nance Jr. at power forward and behind Norman Powell, Tony Snell and Nance at small forward.
“I’ve been very happy and pleased with Nas,” Billups told The Oregonian. “He’s playing so hard. He needs to be playing harder than anybody else. And if he is, he is going to give himself a chance to be in the rotation and play minutes.”
Little has averaged 4.1 points, 2.5 rebounds and has shot 45% from the floor in 96 career games. Last season, he battled COVID-19 early in the season and nagging injuries throughout the season.
His best game of the season came in a 134–106 loss Feb. 2 at Milwaukee when he collected 30 points, made 5 of 7 3-point attempts and pulled down six rebounds. It was one of only five double-digit game scores on the season with a 26.9.
During February, Little, who consistently played well on defense, shot 54.5% from 3-point range.
His career high is 32 points Nov. 16, 2019, in a 121–116 victory at San Antonio.
In his lone season with Carolina, he came off the bench for all 36 games, averaging 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds. His career-high as a Tar Heel was in a 103–82 home win over Virginia Tech on Jan. 21, 2019, when he had 23 points, six rebounds and made 2 of 3 3-point attempts.
In an 81–59 second-round NCAA tournament victory over Washington on March 24, 2019, Little collected 20 points and seven rebounds.