Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey was coy when Grantland’s Zach Lowe asked him why he signed Enes Kanter to a max offer sheet but hasn’t done so with Tristan Thompson, but Olshey expressed contentment and optimism about the roster he’s built even amid the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge. Olshey, speaking on The Lowe Post podcast, believes the revamped Blazers have the potential to grow like the group he had with the Clippers in 2010/11 that featured Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe, Eric Gordon and Al-Farouq Aminu, all of whom were 22 or younger.
Aminu, who turns 25 next month, is one of the new Blazers, and Olshey talked about the forward’s four-year, $30MM deal, Aldridge’s exit, and a host of other offseason topics. His entire conversation with Lowe is worth a listen, especially for Portland faithful, and we’ll round up a few highlights here:
On the fluctuation of the team’s chances to re-sign Aldridge:
“I think, honestly, because of how unhappy LaMarcus was when we all joined the Trail Blazers, myself, [coach] Terry [Stotts], our regime, it wasn’t like we were put on notice, Zach, but I think we were all aware that it was going to be an uphill battle, and I think it was an uphill battle that we had fought and won right up until [Wesley Matthews] was injured. … We were 100% confident in LaMarcus right up through the trade deadline, and then when Wes got hurt, and we weren’t playing as well, and we realized our margin for error with that group was more narrow than we would have liked to have believed, I think we felt like, you know what? We’re going to have more of a battle on our hands than we had anticipated in terms of keeping LaMarcus.”
“There was a three-fold approach there. One, we felt like if we brought in another starter, then Gerald Henderson would have strengthened the bench. We got a bright, young prospect in Noah Vonleh who we were really high on in the draft, and we created a positive variance in our favor in terms of our cap position to go and be more aggressive in free agency to continue to build with the group that was there. So, that deal was done absent anything with LaMarcus other than the fact that he was aware of the deal prior to us making the decision to move forward with Noah and Gerald in lieu of Nicolas.”
On those who would laugh at the team’s financial outlay in the the Al-Farouq Aminu deal:
“If they’re laughing, they haven’t seen him play, and they haven’t realized that in two years, the cap’s going to be $108MM, so you’re basically talking about a deal that’ll be less than what the mid-level was on previous caps. So, this is a guy that I know well. I drafted him. I had him for a year with the Clippers. He’s tracking up. I think his growth was accelerated by playing for Rick Carlisle in Dallas. I think that was like a three-year tutorial crammed into nine months. He’s a better player today than he was then. Look, we had moved Nic Batum. We wanted to get younger at that position and we wanted to get an athletic guy if we chose to push the floor. We felt like, at that point, he could play in multiple roles with LaMarcus or without, depending on what his decision was, and I really believe, look, when you look at a way a contract is structured, we had a lot of cap room this year [and] it’s a descending deal.”
On whether he truly wanted Kanter on the team:
“We did. We absolutely did. We pursued him. Look, it’s not the first time we went down the road of restricted free agency for a starting center and maybe won the recruiting battle but lost the war in terms of adding him to our roster, and that situation played out. You know, look, we’re really happy with the guys we have right now.”
What do you think of the way Olshey has positioned the Blazers for the post-Aldridge era? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.