As we detailed on Tuesday, the Trail Blazers blew away their Northwest rivals when it came to offseason spending, committing more than $242MM ($234MM+ guaranteed) to free agent contracts. By comparison, the other four Northwest clubs combined to commit about $85MM to free agents. And the Blazers’ total doesn’t even include the $106MM extension that the club handed out to C.J. McCollum last week.
Considering so many of the Blazers’ big signings were players who were already on the team’s roster, it remains to be seen whether the franchise will take another step forward in the Western Conference picture this season. Zach Lowe of ESPN.com examined the situation in Portland in his latest column, and passed along a few interesting tidbits, so let’s round them up…
- According to Lowe, the Blazers would have liked to make a run at Hassan Whiteside in free agency, but were “spurned” by the young center, who didn’t waste much time in agreeing to a new deal with the Heat. With Whiteside no longer in play, the Blazers could have pursued another center like Dwight Howard, Bismack Biyombo, or Ian Mahinmi, but ultimately went in another direction.
- The Blazers’ decision to sign McCollum, Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner, Maurice Harkless, and Meyers Leonard to pricey long-term contracts means that the team won’t have any cap room to work with for the foreseeable future. “Good players on favorable contracts are more valuable to us than cap room,” Blazers GM Neil Olshey said. “Especially in an era where all 30 teams have cap room — or the ability to get it. … With our interest in extending C.J., we weren’t going to be a cap room team next year, anyway.”
- As Lowe observes, the Blazers are currently projected to be in luxury-tax territory in 2017/18 and perhaps 2018/19 as well. However, he notes that if the new Collective Bargaining Agreement includes a new amnesty clause for each team, as the last CBA did, Portland could have an opportunity to avoid that fate.
- Stotts tells Lowe that the Blazers intend to play Al-Farouq Aminu almost exclusively at power forward rather than small forward. As Lowe points out, that could be bad news for Noah Vonleh.
- Damian Lillard‘s work ethic helps dictate the culture of selflessness in Portland, which will help ensure that all the players with huge new contracts will continue to work hard. Sources tell Lowe that when one recent draft pick entered the NBA “carrying a whiff of entitlement,” the Portland coaching staff pointed to Lillard and essentially said: “He’s way better than you, and he’s working harder.”
- Olshey on the Blazers paying $70MM+ to both Crabbe and Turner: “The way the game is being played, plus the dearth of available wings, made us willing to pay a premium for two impact players that fit our model.” The GM is also confident that Turner will improve his outside shooting in Portland.