Portland Trail Blazers

Offseason Outlook: Portland Trail Blazers

Hoops Rumors is looking ahead to offseason moves for all 30 teams. We’ll examine free agency, the draft, trades and other key storylines for each franchise as the summer approaches.

Kyle Terada / USA Today Sports Images

Kyle Terada / USA Today Sports Images

Restricted Free Agent Decisions

The first two weeks of free agency will go a long way in determining how the Trail Blazers’ roster will look heading into next season. They have three restricted free agents who were rotation players this past season — shooting guard Allen Crabbe, power forward/center Meyers Leonard and combo forward Maurice Harkless.

The shortening of this year’s July moratorium from 11 days to six puts the Blazers’ front office in a difficult spot. While they have enough cap flexibility to pursue max free agents and blockbuster trades, the Blazers will have to either secure verbal commitments from one or more of them or cut them loose to keep their options open.

Crabbe is expected to receive contract offers exceeding $10MM annually after his breakout season. He emerged as one of the top reserves in the league, averaging 10.3 points in his third season while shooting a healthy 39.4% on 3-point attempts.

Leonard’s situation is complicated by health concerns. His season was cut short by a torn labrum in his left shoulder and he may not be ready for the start of the season. That could limit the market for Leonard, who averaged a career-high 21.9 minutes in his fourth season while mainly coming off the bench.

Harkless’s playing time and production increased after Leonard’s injury in March. That carried over to the postseason, in which he averaged 11.0 points and 5.1 rebounds. That was probably enough to earn him a significant raise from the approximate $2.9MM he made this past season.

Upgrading The Frontcourt

The Trail Blazers surprised a lot of people by making the playoffs and reaching the second round after losing their top frontcourt player, LaMarcus Aldridge, in free agency.

Portland compensated for the loss by featuring their backcourt pieces on offense. Damian Lillard averaged a career-high 25.1 points and C.J. McCollum exploded onto the NBA landscape, averaging 20.8 points in his third season. Crabbe was the team’s third-leading scorer and another backcourt reserve, Gerald Henderson, was its sixth-leading scorer.

Acquiring a consistent frontcourt scoring option to complement the team’s dynamic backcourt is a must. Starting small forward Al-Farouq Aminu simply has too many offensive limitations to fill that role and the players at the power positions — particularly starting center Mason Plumlee, Leonard and Ed Davis — have not shown they can handle added offensive responsibilities.

The team hoped that Noah Vonleh could turn into that player when he was acquired from the Hornets prior to last season but he only averaged 3.6 points despite starting 56 games.

They must also improve their frontcourt defense. Plumlee’s underwhelming 1.04 blocks per game was enough to lead the club in that category. They need a much more imposing rim protector and inside physical presence in order to become a serious contender.

A stretch four would also be on the shopping list if Leonard is not re-signed.

Free Agent Targets

The Blazers acknowledge they are not exactly a prime free-agent destination, though their current status as a playoff team could help their cause.

GM Neil Olshey recently admitted that he’s not expecting to land a top-level free agent. “Whenever we get that first [high profile] guy to come, it will be unprecedented when you look at the history,” he said.

The Blazers still have to feel out the market and see if they can attract a top-tier free agent, given their frontcourt needs. Dwight Howard, Hassan Whiteside and Al Horford would make them a much more dangerous playoff team.

More realistically, they could explore the next tier of free agent options. Joakim Noah or Bismack Biyombo would provide the type of defensive force they’re lacking on the interior. Marvin Williams, Donatas Motiejunas or Ryan Anderson would fit the bill in the stretch four category.

Al Jefferson would give them a reliable, if aging, post scorer while Harrison Barnes — should the Warriors let him go — would likely embrace the opportunity of being a bigger part of someone’s offensive scheme.

Potential Trades

If the Blazers strike out in free agency, they’ll have to go the trade route. They could absorb salary to bring in a rotation player with multiple years left on his deal. In terms of trade pieces, they could find a market for Aminu or Vonleh, given that Aminu’s contract now looks a lot cheaper given the impending salary-cap explosion, while Vonleh is still on his rookie deal.

Along with the frontcourt needs, they’ll have to fortify their backcourt if Crabbe or unrestricted free agent Henderson departs, or if they desire a more traditional second-string point guard behind Lillard.

Draft Outlook

The Blazers do not have a pick, unless they trade into the draft. They dealt their first-rounder to the Nuggets in 2015 when they acquired Arron Afflalo and gave up their second-rounder to the Cavaliers a couple of years earlier.

Coaching Outlook

The Blazers have already taken care of one major off-season decision by agreeing to an extension with head coach Terry Stotts. The front office exercised its option on the final year of Stotts’ current deal and the three-year extension will kick in during the 2017/18 campaign.

Final Take

While the Blazers were one of the surprise teams in the league, they can’t rest on their laurels. They were barely above .500 and had good fortune in the first round of the playoffs, when injuries decimated the Clippers. They must improve their frontcourt to take the next step and they’ll also have to find another solid scorer off the bench if they lose Crabbe in free agency.

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

  • None

Team Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents (Qualifying Offers/Cap Holds)

Unrestricted Free Agents (Cap Holds)

Projected Salary Cap: $92,000,000

The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

Rose Rule Details For Damian Lillard

Two standout NBA players were significantly impacted by Thursday’s announcement of this year’s All-NBA teams, with Damian Lillard receiving some good news while Anthony Davis got hit with bad news. By earning a spot on the All-NBA second team, Lillard ensured that his max extension, which goes into effect for the coming season, would increase from 25% of the Trail Blazers‘ cap to 27.5%, guaranteeing him an extra $12MM+ over the life of the deal. Conversely, since he missed out on All-NBA honors this year, Davis will have his max extension count for 25% of the Pelicans‘ cap rather than 30%, costing him nearly $25MM over the next five years.

Two standout NBA players were significantly impacted by Thursday’s announcement of this year’s All-NBA teams, with Damian Lillard receiving some good news while Anthony Davis got hit with bad news. By earning a spot on the All-NBA second team, Lillard ensured that his max extension, which goes into effect for the coming season, would increase from 25% of the Trail Blazers‘ cap to 27.5%, guaranteeing him an extra $12MM+ over the life of the deal. Conversely, since he missed out on All-NBA honors this year, Davis will have his max extension count for 25% of the Pelicans‘ cap rather than 30%, costing him nearly $25MM over the next five years.

In a column for The Vertical, Bobby Marks takes a closer at Lillard’s and Davis’ situations with the Blazers and Pelicans, respectively, and argues that the NBA needs to revamp what’s known as the Derrick Rose Rule. As Marks points out, the criteria for the Rose Rule hinges on fan and media votes, and it doesn’t seem right that those votes should have such a huge impact on a player’s earnings.

Curry, LeBron, Westbrook Headline All-NBA Teams

The NBA has announced its three All-NBA teams for the 2015/16 season, with unanimous MVP Stephen Curry also leading the way in first-team nods (129) and overall points (645). After Curry, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook were the leading vote-getters, followed by Kawhi Leonard. DeAndre Jordan also earned a spot on the All-NBA first team.

Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard landed on the All-NBA second team, triggering the Derrick Rose Rule and ensuring that the max extension he signed last summer will be worth more than 25% of the salary cap. Per Danny Leroux of RealGM and Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link), the terms of Lillard’s contract dictate that his extension will be worth 27.5%, rather than the full 30% allowable by the Rose Rule.

As for Anthony Davis, he just missed the cut for the All-NBA third team, so the Rose Rule won’t apply to his max extension with the Pelicans, costing him an extra $20MM+ over the life of his contract.

Here are all three All-NBA teams for the 2015/16 season, with voting point totals in parentheses:

All-NBA First Team:

  • Forward: LeBron James, Cavaliers (637)
  • Forward: Kawhi Leonard, Spurs (575)
  • Center: DeAndre Jordan, Clippers (317)
  • Guard: Stephen Curry, Warriors (645)
  • Guard: Russell Westbrook, Thunder (627)

All-NBA Second Team:

All-NBA Third Team:

James Harden, Paul Millsap, Anthony Davis, and Al Horford also received more than 75 voting points.

Warriors To Interview Tibbetts For Top Assistant Job

The Warriors will interview Trail Blazers assistant Nate Tibbetts today for their top assistant coaching job, league sources told Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.

Tibbetts and Hornets assistant Stephen Silas are two of the serious candidates to replace new Lakers coach Luke Walton as Steve Kerr’s right-hand man, Wojnarowski continues. Silas will also be interviewed by the Warriors today during their stay in Oklahoma City for the Western Conference Finals.

Tibbetts interviewed for the Grizzlies head coaching job, while Silas is under strong consideration for the Rockets’ head coaching opening. Tibbetts has been an assistant with the Blazers since 2013 under coach Terry Stotts. He was also an assistant coach with the Cavaliers, as well as head coach of the D-League’s Tulsa 66ers for two seasons.

The Rockets are mulling a coaching partnership with Silas in the top spot and former Grizzlies and Nets head coach Lionel Hollins as associate head coach, Wojnarowski adds. The Rockets are interviewing Magic assistant Adrian Griffin and Spurs assistant James Borrego today, and Sixers assistant coach Mike D’Antoni is also a prime candidate for that job.

Portland also was granted permission Sunday to talk to Silas about being its top assistant, league sources told Wojnarowski.

Blazers Notes: Silas, Crabbe, Draft

The Blazers were granted permission Sunday to talk to Hornets assistant coach Stephen Silas about being the top assistant to Portland coach Terry Stotts, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. The Blazers have plenty of competition for Silas’ services. Silas will meet with Golden State coach Steve Kerr Monday in Oklahoma City to discuss the top assistant position with the Warriors. Silas also has a growing candidacy to become the Rockets next head coach.

Here’s more out of Portland:

  • Allen Crabbe has emerged as one of the most appealing restricted free agents in the league and is sure to receive contract offers exceeding $10MM per year, Haven Kaplan-Miner of RealGM writes. The combination of elite shooting and impressive on-ball defense makes Crabbe stand out, Kaplan-Miner adds. Crabbe’s midrange game, in particular, developed and that opened up the floor for his teammates this year and created the biggest problems for opposing defenses, Kaplan-Miner surmises.
  • The Blazers need to target a rim protector in the draft and preferably one who can add some scoring, NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper opines (transcribed by John Canzano of The Oregonian). “It’s not about how many points he’ll score for you, but how many points he’ll save for you,” Cooper said, referring to the Blazers’ need for a big man.

Blazers To Be Aggressive In Free Agency

Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey acknowledged that the organization has traditionally had difficulty landing upper-tier free agents, Jen Beyrle of The Oregonian relays. “It’s absolutely a hurdle. Whenever we get that first guy to come, it will be unprecedented when you look at the history,” said Olshey. “I think we’ve gotten good free agents. We’ve gotten guys but they’ve had the right sensibility and we knew that they would work in this market place and would fit with the team.” Olshey noted that last year’s free agent crop elected to join playoff teams, which hurt Portland’s recruiting efforts, but pointed to the team reaching the second round of the 2015/16 postseason as a boon heading into the offseason.

Northwest Notes: Blazers, Maker, Workouts

Timing will be crucial for the Blazers this offseason, writes Bobby Marks of The Vertical. Meyers Leonard Allen Crabbe and Maurice Harkless are all restricted free agents and leading up to free agency, it will be critical for GM Neil Olshey to understand the market for the trio in order to project how Portland operates this summer, Marks argues. The Blazers have a chance to add other pieces using their cap space and then circle back and sign their restricted free agents. However, if another team swoops in and signs one of them, there’s a good chance they won’t be able to use the cap space they’ve created.

Here’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Wolves interviewed Thon Maker last week in Chicago, reports Darren Wolfson of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
  • The Jazz have worked out Anthony Beane, Ethan Telfair, Quincy Ford, Jarrod Uthoff, DyShawn Pierre and David Walker, according to the team’s Twitter feed.
  • The Nuggets will work out Anthony Barber, Isaiah Cousins, Nikola Jovanovic, Alec Peters, Josh Scott and Pascal Siakam on Friday, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders tweets.
  • The Nuggets also have workouts planned for Saturday. They will work out Ron Baker, Dillon Brooks, Robert Carter, Tyler Dorsey, Marcus Georges-Hunt and Shawn Long on Saturday, Kennedy tweets.

Suns To Hire Jay Triano As Associate Head Coach

Trail Blazers assistant Jay Triano will become associate head coach with the Suns, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Triano, who has three seasons of head coaching experience and 10 years as an assistant, will join the staff of Earl Watson, who was formally hired last month after serving as an interim coach for 33 games.

Triano, who doubles as head coach of the Canadian national team, went 87-142 in nearly three full seasons as coach of the Raptors before being dismissed in 2011. He was the first Canadian-born coach in league history.

The 57-year-old Triano has been an assistant in Portland since 2012. He will be expected to help turn around a Suns team that hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2009/10.

Neil Olshey On: Team Needs, Free Agents, Lillard

Trail Blazers executive Neil Olshey held a question and answer session with reporters earlier today, his first since the team was eliminated by the Warriors in the Western Conference semifinals. Olshey addressed a number of topics regarding the team’s offseason ahead and some of the highlights are shown below. The transcription comes courtesy of Joe Freeman of The Oregonian:

On the team’s biggest needs:

I don’t want to get too specific, because then it all of a sudden it translates to we’re talking about specific players. Clearly there’s areas we need to improve. We didn’t answer all of our questions last year. When we talked … last July, nobody was under the impression that we built an entire roster for the next five years. But it was step one. I think step one just got us closer to where we want to go, but there’s still work to be done. We’ll look for upgrades, even if it’s not over guys that are here. But if we lose guys to free agency, we’ll have roster spots. We’ll find ways to continue to build the roster. We’ll have some flexibility because the cap holds for our restricted free agents are lower, probably, than their market value. So we have the opportunity to go out and use these resources this summer. Like I said, we’ll be as aggressive as we were last July.

On whether or not he considers recruiting big name free agents to Portland a hurdle:

It’s absolutely a hurdle. I think we’ve said it. Whenever we break the ice on that, when we get that first guy to come, it will be unprecedented when you look at the history. I think we’ve gotten good free agents. Brian Grant and Wesley Matthews and guys like Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis and players like Chris Kaman. We’ve gotten guys, but they’ve had the right sensibility that we knew they would work in this marketplace, they fit with the team.

The key for us is making sure the guys we get are about what we’re about, that basketball is their first priority. And they’ll subordinate lifestyle at times for success on the court. And that’s what we’ve tried to do. All we can control is creating the best basketball environment we can possibly control. The longer we’re at this and the more we do this; our guys that were here become ambassadors for the way they were treated. You want that to circulate around the league, that this is place you want to go. If basketball is your priority, they’ll make you the priority. You’ll work as a team and as an individual.

On if Damian Lillard will play a role in recruiting free agents:

He played a role last year, too. I’m a big believer in talking to players about player acquisitions. I did it with guys with the Clippers, I did it since I’ve been here. It’s not a matter of them signing off on guys, it’s a matter of getting feedback and how do we think a guy would fit in. Because we do protect our culture. Players know players better than we do. They’re in the locker rooms with them, they’re on the road with them, they play against them, they’re on the floor with them. So they know what guys are about. It would be obtuse not to go ask these guys, ‘Hey, what do you think? What have you heard? You played with this guy in this spot. Would he fit in with how we do things?’ I can tell you there have been decisions we’ve made — and this isn’t just Damian at the All-Star level, this is across the board — where I’ve asked guys and I’ve said, ‘You know what, based on what he’s said, we might want to kind of dig in on this guy a little bit and make sure he would fit in with what we’re doing.”

On if the team will target players who are on similar career arcs of Lillard and C.J. McCollum:

That’s a good question. It always depends on who the player is. My buddy [Kaman] is sitting up there, the gray beard. Chris got along with this group, regardless of age, as well as anybody. His leadership with Dame, the way he related to the younger guys in our locker room. I get your point about the age when we made long-term decisions. But age doesn’t factor in if culturally, chemistry … guys aren’t going to fit into our group. I think that’s really what’s important. We’ve got a lot of young guys on the roster. Clearly if you can sign a younger player longer term, if you believe in them, it’s more beneficial for the long-term health of the organization.

Blazers, Terry Stotts Agree To Extension

The Blazers and coach Terry Stotts have reached an agreement on a contract extension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical (Twitter link). Stotts had a team option on his original deal for the 2016/17 season and the team will exercise that option, Wojnarowski writes.  The extension will be for three addition seasons, starting in the 2017/18 campaign, and it will keep him in Portland through the 2019/20 season, Wojnarowski tweets. Stotts will make approximately $5.5MM per season over the three years of the extension, reports David Aldridge of NBA.com (Twitter link).

Troy Wayrynen/ USA TODAY Sports Images

Troy Wayrynen/ USA TODAY Sports Images

It was reported  last week that the team and representatives for Stotts would explore the idea of a contract extension. Warren LeGarie, who represents both Stotts and GM Neil Olshey, was pushing to secure a long-term deal for Stotts with Portland and LeGarie had said that other teams would be interested in the coach should Portland not reach an agreement with his client. Still, after a successful season, which included Stotts finishing second in the Coach of the Year voting, the chances of Portland letting the coach getting away seemed slim. Damian Lillard said before the season that he wants Stotts in Portland for as long as he is there. Lillard signed a five-year extension in last July.

Stotts joined the Blazers in 2012 and has a regular season record of 182-146 with the team. He is 297-314 in the regular season for his career and he has only won 12 of the 32 playoff games he has coached.

Get the hottest NBA news and rumors before anyone else! Follow us on Twitter to stay updated: