Portland Trail Blazers

Western Notes: Jazz, Nash, Mavs, Crabbe

The Jazz are content to play through the preseason, at least, with the point guards they have now, rather than trading for a Dante Exum replacement, reports Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune. Utah won’t turn down an overwhelming offer, but the team isn’t pushing for a deal as Exum recovers from surgery two weeks ago on the torn ACL in his left knee, as Jones details. The team was reportedly interested in dealing for Garrett Temple and pursued Jason Terry before he re-signed with the Rockets, but Jones and Tribune colleague Aaron Falk wrote shortly after Exum’s injury last month that the Jazz would probably replace him in-house with Trey Burke, Raul Neto and Bryce Cotton. See more from the Western Conference here:

  • Steve Nash is finalizing a deal with the Warriors to become a part-time player development consultant for the team, sources tell Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The two-time MVP, now 41 years old, announced his retirement this spring. Warriors coach Steve Kerr was Suns GM during Nash’s time in Phoenix.
  • Point guard isn’t an issue for the Mavericks, who again feature four players at that position, as Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com notes. The team replaced Rajon Rondo with Deron Williams, re-signed J.J. Barea and, though the Mavs reportedly planned to shop Raymond Felton, he remains in Dallas.
  • Allen Crabbe‘s 35.3% three-point shooting last season was respectable but far from elite, and this year is the last on his contract, so the former 31st overall pick spent much of the summer working on his shot with Blazers assistant coach Nate Tibbetts, as Joe Freeman of The Oregonian details. Portland kept Crabbe past the point this summer when his minimum salary for the season ahead became guaranteed.

Western Notes: Timberwolves, Vonleh, Warriors

Timberwolves interim coach Sam Mitchell will have his patience tested by flashy point guard Ricky Rubio, David Aldridge of NBA.com opines. While the franchise wants to take pressure off Rubio by making him understand that he’s no longer viewed as its savior, he may be on a shorter leash than he had with coach Flip Saunders, who is out indefinitely while he receives cancer treatments, Aldridge continues. It was Saunders, as the franchise’s president of basketball operations, who gave Rubio a $56MM extension last year, Aldridge points out. In the same piece, Aldridge also reports that many people around the league felt team owner Glen Taylor wanted to bring back Mitchell as the team’s head coach, though not under these circumstances. Mitchell was one of the franchise’s most beloved players and a former NBA Coach of the Year with Toronto, Aldridge adds.

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • Noah Vonleh’s size, shooting touch and ballhandling make him an intriguing prospect but he needs to prove he can consistently use those skills against NBA competition, according to Mike Richman of The Oregonian. Vonleh, who was traded to the Trail Blazers from the Hornets this offseason, led Portland’s summer team in scoring (17.3 points per game) and rebounding (8.5) while displaying his ballhandling and ability to take slower forwards off the dribble, Richman continues. A sports hernia injury in training camp sidelined Vonleh early in his rookie season and he got buried in Charlotte’s crowded frontcourt rotation, Richman adds.
  • Ian Clark and Jarell Eddie will receive approximately half of their salaries if they make the Warriors’ opening night roster, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets. Clark, a 6’3” shooting guard, would receive $474K on the contract he signed Monday. Eddie, a 6’7” small forward who also signed Monday, would make $423K.
  • The Warriors announced that 1,650 fans were denied access to Oracle Arena last season due to counterfeit tickets purchased from third-party vendors, Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group tweets.

Northwest Notes: D-League, Wolves, Westbrook

The acquisition of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants by the Pacers will certainly change how teams around the NBA without their own affiliates utilize the D-League. The Blazers severed their partnership with the Idaho Stampede, who are now the Jazz‘s affiliate, at the completion of the 2013/14 campaign, but not having a D-League franchise of its own hasn’t hurt Portland’s player development yet, Mike Richman of the Oregonian opines. The franchise was still able to add point guard Tim Frazier last season, who was the D-League’s MVP and Rookie of the Year, despite not having their own affiliate, Richman notes. Establishing its own D-League affiliate isn’t currently a priority for Portland, Richman adds.

Here’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves GM Milt Newton, who’s in charge of the team’s front office while Flip Saunders recovers from cancer, wants to add two more players for training camp and he’ll need to unload one of the team’s 16 fully guaranteed contracts before opening night, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter link).
  • Kevin Durant expressed his admiration for what teammate Russell Westbrook was able to accomplish last season with the rash of injuries the Thunder had suffered, including Durant himself missing a total of 55 contests, Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report writes. “It was amazing to see a guy at the point guard position take over the game from all aspects and will his team with his passion, his enthusiasm, his energy on top of his skill,” Durant said. “It was incredible to watch. I was [expletive] I wasn’t out there to help him out. But I could tell he learned a lot and gained a lot of confidence.
  • The Nuggets are in for a long, difficult season, but the franchise does possess solid building blocks in Jusuf Nurkic and Emmanuel Mudiay, as well as a revitalized Danilo Gallinari, which should give the team hope for the future, writes Tim Bontemps of The New York Post (Facebook link) in his season preview.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

2015/16 Salary Cap: Portland Trail Blazers

The NBA’s salary cap for 2015/16 has been set at $70MM, which is an 11% increase from this past season, and the luxury tax line will be $84.74MM. The last cap projection from the league had been $67.1MM, and the projection for the tax line had been $81.6MM. We at Hoops Rumors are in the process of breaking down the cap commitments for each NBA franchise for the coming season. Next up on the list is the Portland Trail Blazers:

  • 2015/16 Salary Cap= $70,000,000
  • 2015/16 Luxury Tax Line= $84,740,000
  • Fully Guaranteed Salary Commitments= $47,679,873
  • Partially Guaranteed Salary Commitments= $200,000
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary Commitments= $3,167,614
  • Total Salary Cap Commitments= $51,047,487
  • Remaining Cap Room= $18,952,513
  • Amount Below Luxury Tax Line= $33,692,513

*Note: This figure includes the $777,778 due Michael Beasley, who was waived via the stretch provision, and the $3,383,181 due Mike Miller, who agreed to a buyout.

Cap Exceptions Available:

  • Room Exception= $2,814,000

Cash Available to Send Out In Trades= $3,325,000

Cash Available to Receive Via Trade= $3,400,000

Last update: 10/2/15 @ 4:00pm

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

Pelicans Work Out Rasual Butler

Free agent Rasual Butler worked out for the Pelicans at their practice facility Wednesday, sources tell John Reid of The Times Picayune, who writes at the bottom of a story about the team’s signing of Sean Kilpatrick. Before this, the Spurs were the last team with interest linked to the 36-year-old, with Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops reporting that San Antonio continued to eye Butler after The Oregonian’s Jason Quick first identified the Spurs as an interested party in early July. The swingman would like to play for the Heat, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald wrote a few days ago, though it’s unclear if Miami wants that to happen.

Butler expressed a desire this past spring to return to the Wizards, with whom he played last season after making the regular season roster on a non-guaranteed deal for the minimum salary, and he appeared eager to join the Blazers after they became interested soon after free agency began this summer. Portland reportedly shifted gears away from him soon thereafter, however.

No movement appears to be taking place in negotiations between the Pelicans and lingering restricted free agent Norris Cole, Reid notes, leaving the team with 13 fully guaranteed contracts, plus partially guaranteed deals for Kilpatrick and undrafted shooting guard Bryce Dejean-Jones, as our Pelicans roster page shows. The team also worked out shooting guard Corey Webster, a prospect from New Zealand, as Niall Anderson of The New Zealand Herald reported and as Reid confirms.

Do you think Butler would be a fit for the Pelicans? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Western Notes: Bryant, Gates, Malone

With Kobe Bryant entering the final year of his current deal, the Lakers were hampered by the Mamba’s $25MM salary when trying to rebuild their roster this offseason, and as a result this season will be more of a farewell tour for the superstar than a run at a final title, Shaun Powell of NBA.com writes in his season preview of the club. Powell also notes that while Bryant has a reputation as someone willing to do anything to win a championship, if that was indeed the case he would have pushed to join a contender for what could end up being his final NBA campaign. So instead, Powell opines that Bryant is willing to win, but only on his terms.

Here’s more out of the West:

  • Former Pelicans assistant coach Bryan Gates, who wasn’t retained when Monty Williams was fired, has been added to Flip Saunders‘ staff with the Timberwolves, Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports (Twitter link).
  • New Nuggets coach Michael Malone acknowledged that he was consulted by the team’s front office prior to troubled point guard Ty Lawson being traded to the Rockets, Nicki Jhabvala of The Denver Post writes. “We’re a team. There’s no separation between church and state,” Malone said of his relationship with Denver’s front office. “We’re together, we’re one, we communicate, and I think that’s so important. But at the end of the day, Tim’s [Connelly] job as GM is to make those decisions, obviously with the blessing of [team president] Josh Kroenke. They asked my opinion, I gave it, I tell him what I feel and believe in, and then whatever decision they make I roll with it.
  • The Trail Blazers will have to take a committee approach to try and replace the rim protection that was lost when Robin Lopez departed for the Knicks in free agency this Summer, Mike Richman of The Oregonian writes.

Northwest Notes: Nurkic, Wolves, Kanter

Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic is sitting out the Eurobasket tournament as he continues to rehab his left knee, though he hopes to be healthy enough to play for the Nuggets at the start of the season or shortly thereafter, Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post reports. Nurkic was planning to play for Bosnia and Herzegovina before he underwent knee surgery in May to repair a partially torn left patella tendon, Dempsey continues.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Wolves‘ lottery luck turned around and gave them perhaps the second franchise player in their history, writes Shaun Powell of NBA.com. Karl-Anthony Towns, the first player selected in this year’s draft, has the potential for greatness, according to Powell, and he has the good fortune of being tutored by Minnesota’s other franchise player, Kevin Garnett. The writer believes Towns’ addition makes Nikola Pekovic expendable, although his salary of more than $35MM over the next three years may make a deal difficult until at least the trade deadline. Ricky Rubio may also be dealt now that rookie Tyus Jones and veteran Andre Miller are in town. With a wealth of young and inexpensive talent on hand, Powell sees the Wolves as contenders for a top free agent next summer.
  • Enes Kanter tells Carla Hinton of The Oklahoman that efforts to accommodate his Muslim faith made him feel welcome in Oklahoma City. Kanter, whose four-year, $70MM offer sheet with the Blazers was matched by the Thunder, said the organization set up a prayer room for him at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Dana Gauruder contributed to this post.

Northwest Notes: Rubio, Harkless, Claver

Ricky Rubio answered affirmatively when asked whether he wanted to remain with the Timberwolves and praised the team’s offseason additions in an interview with Jamie Goodwin of the Gulf News in Dubai, where the point guard had traveled for a basketball camp. Reports conflicted this spring on the subject of whether Rubio’s camp was pushing for a trade, though comments since that time from Rubio and Wolves coach/executive Flip Saunders have downplayed the notion that a trade is forthcoming. See more on Minnesota’s Northwest Division rivals here:

  • The Trail Blazers were eyeing Maurice Harkless long before they traded with the Magic this summer to acquire him, as GM Neil Olshey tells Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe“Mo was very high on our board a few years ago in the [2012] draft,” Portland general manager Neil Olshey said. “We were excited about him. He has a lot of potential. He fits our model right now; he’s an emerging young player. He’s got a lot of talent. We have a lot of faith in our player development staff and our coaches that guys hit their ceilings, and we know Mo’s not even close to his ceiling at this point. He’s going to get a great opportunity with us to be the player we loved coming out of the draft.”
  • Former Blazers small forward Victor Claver has officially signed with Lokomotiv Kuban of Russia, the team announced (hat tip to Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia). International journalist David Pick first reported the deal this weekend. It had appeared that Claver would return to his native Spain to play, but he’s instead headed to Russia, where he finished up this past season with Khimki Moscow after hitting NBA waivers. The Blazers traded him to the Nuggets in the Arron Afflalo deal, and Denver released him a few days later.
  • The Jazz have hired Jordan Brady as an assistant coach for their D-League affiliate, the team announced. He spent last season as a Lakers D-League assistant coach. He’ll work under D-League head coach Dean Cooper and replace Andrae Patterson, who moved into a front office role with the Jazz this summer.

Northwest Notes: Chalmers, Jazz, Montero, Withey

Trading for Mario Chalmers makes sense for the Jazz, Kincade Upstill of the Deseret News opines. The Heat would prefer to offload salary, as they are about $5.66MM above the $84.74MM luxury tax threshold. Miami hasn’t ruled out trading Chalmers, who will make $4.3MM this season in the final season of his contract. The Jazz are nearly $7MM under the salary cap, so the team could acquire the point guard without sending any salary back. Upstill speculates that a second round pick from Utah would get a deal done due to Miami’s financial situation and its lack of future draft picks.

Dante Exum’s injury creates an opening in the team’s rotation. Trey Burke will slide into the staring lineup and Raul Neto, whose rights were acquired from Atlanta on draft night, will presumably be given the opportunity to run the second unit. The Jazz also have Bryce Cotton under contract, but his deal is non-guaranteed and he’s no lock to make the opening night roster. The team could also use Alec Burks as a de facto second unit point guard. That’s an intriguing option. It would also likely involve inserting Joe Ingles, whose a nifty passer who doesn’t need the ball in his hands, into the starting lineup next to Gordon Hayward and Burke, who can both be ball-dominant at times.

The options currently at the Utah’s disposal are all unproven. The team expects to compete for a playoff spot this season and if the cost of acquiring Chamlers, who has demonstrated he can contribute in the postseason, is as low as Upstill insinuates, then the Jazz might be smart to call Pat Riley and attempt to reach a deal.

Here’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Luis Montero’s deal with the Blazers only contains $100K in guaranteed salary this season, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets. Montero signed a three-year contract worth $2.4MM in early July. Portland currently has 17 contracts on the books, as our 2015/16 Roster Count page shows. Of those 17 deals, only 12 contain fully guaranteed salary and two, including Montero’s deal, contain partially guaranteed salary, so the 22-year-old has a decent shot at making the opening night roster.
  • Jeff Withey’s deal with the Jazz, which is a minimum arrangement over two seasons, contains $200K in guaranteed salary, Pincus adds in a seperate tweet. The pact includes a team option on year two. Utah has 20 contracts on the books, with 15 of them, including Withey’s deal, containing at least some guaranteed salary.

Neil Olshey On Aldridge, Batum, Aminu, Kanter

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.”

On the Nicolas Batum trade, which Olshey said was made independent of Aldridge’s decision to walk:

“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.

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