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Portland Trail Blazers

Blazers Waive Jerrett, Stiemsma

The Blazers have made a pair of roster cuts, waiving Grant Jerrett and Greg Stiemsma, the team announced via press release. Portland won’t be on the hook for any salary as a result of the moves since neither player had any guaranteed money included in their contracts. The team’s roster now stands at 15 players, which is the regular season maximum.

Jerrett last appeared in an NBA regular season contest during the 2014/15 campaign, when he played in a combined eight games for the Jazz and the Thunder. The power forward averaged 2.0 points and 1.1 rebounds in 6.4 minutes while shooting .269/.067/1.000.

Stiemsma, 31, has four years of NBA experience under his belt, having appeared in regular-season games for the Celtics, Timberwolves, Pelicans, and Raptors from 2011 to 2015. In 203 total games, the former Wisconsin big man has averaged 3.2 PPG, 3.3 RPG, and 1.1 BPG in a part-time role, shooting 50.9% from the field.

Lillard Believes Blazers Can Win West

  • Blazers point guard Damian Lillard believes that Portland will be a contender for the Western Conference crown this season, Mike Richman of The Oregonian writes. “It’s a lot of tough teams in the West,” Lillard said. “It’s not like, ‘Oh we can go right up in there and it’s going to be easy.’ But I feel like we’re one of the teams that’s right there in the mix. Obviously, you’ve got teams like Golden State and San Antonio, the teams that everybody talks about. Obviously, they’ll be good, but I feel like we could jump right up there and get in the mix with them.”
  • Lillard’s backcourt partner, C.J. McCollum, who inked a maximum salary extension this summer with the Blazers, has the proper makeup not to let the distractions that accompany such a major financial windfall affect his play, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical writes in his profile of the player.

2016/17 NBA Over/Unders: Northwest Division

The 2016/17 NBA regular season will get underway in just over a week, which means it’s time to start getting serious about predictions for the upcoming campaign. With the help of the lines from offshore betting site Bovada.lv, we’re going to run through the predicted win totals for each of the NBA’s 30 teams, by division, and have you weigh in on whether you think those forecasts are too optimistic or too pessimistic. Having looked at the Atlantic division last Friday, we’re moving on to the Northwest today…

Utah Jazz

(App users, click here for Jazz poll)


Portland Trail Blazers

(App users, click here for Trail Blazers poll)


Oklahoma City Thunder

(App users, click here for Thunder poll)


Minnesota Timberwolves

(App users, click here for Timberwolves poll)


Denver Nuggets

(App users, click here for Nuggets poll)


Previous voting results:

Atlantic:

  • Boston Celtics (52.5 wins): Under (54.59%)
  • Toronto Raptors (50.5 wins): Over (54.63%)
  • New York Knicks (38.5 wins): Over (71.41%)
  • Philadelphia 76ers (23.5 wins): Under (54.62%)
  • Brooklyn Nets (20.5 wins): Under (60.74%)

Poll: Northwest Division Winner

The TrailBlazers are the favorites to win the Northwest division this season, but it’s far from a certain outcome. Just a year ago, Portland was expected to be a lottery team after losing four starters, but the team overachieved, winning 44 games and beating an injury-riddled Clippers squad in the playoffs en route to a second round playoff series loss to the Warriors. Portland aggressively pursued high-priced, impact players in free agency and ended up adding Evan Turner on an expensive, four year, $70MM deal. Turner is a perplexing addition for a team that already had wing depth, but his presence should provide insurance of sorts in case of an injury. Turner will also give the team more flexibility with its line-up decisions, as Arthur Hill of Hoops Rumors writes in the team’s Offseason In Review. The Blazers’ depth should keep them from sliding too far down the standings, but they remain a strong candidate to regress.

The Thunder had the worst offseason of any team, as Eddie Scarito of Hoops Rumors details in the team’s Offseason In Review. Losing Kevin Durant hurts, but Oklahoma City’s roster is not barren. This team can easily go 10-12 players deep on most nights and Russell Westbrook shifting from running-mate to Commander In Chief with a solid supporting cast should be not only fun to watch, but also enough to keep the team in contention for the division crown.

The Wolves arguably have the best young core in all of basketball. They appear to be a year or two away from making major noise in the conference, as I discussed in the team’s Offseason In Review. However, coach/executive Tom Thibodeau is going to get the most out of this roster and if Kris Dunn is able to hit the ground running, Minnesota could exceed expectations.

Denver lurks as a potential playoff team this season. The Nuggets’ success hinges on Emmanuel Mudiay taking the next step and proving he can be a franchise point guard. The franchise is likely a season away from reaching its playoff goal, as Scarito writes in the team’s Offseason In Review. Nevertheless, this team will be frisky on a nightly basis with its depth giving opposing teams trouble.

The Jazz are in position to take a major step forward. The addition of George Hill is an underrated move and his presence, along with 35-year-old Joe Johnson and 34-year-old Boris Diaw, will provide this team with veteran leadership, as Dana Gauruder of Hoops Rumors notes in the team’s Offseason in Review.  The Jazz have the talent to compete with any team in the league and they are my personal pick to win this division. Despite the injury to Gordon Hayward, I envision this team winning over 50 games and earning a top-4 seed in the Western Conference.

Do you think the Jazz will be atop this division at the end of the season or will another team take home the crown? Don’t limit yourself to a simple button click. Take to the comments section below and share your thoughts and opinions. We look forward to what you have to say!

Harkless May Have Earned Starting Spot

Maurice Harkless has played well enough this preseason to claim the Trail Blazers‘ starting small forward slot, contends Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. The 23-year-old Harkless re-signed with Portland this summer for four years at $40MM, but faces competition for the starter’s job from the re-signed Allen Crabbe and free agent addition Evan Turner. Coach Terry Stotts hasn’t named a starter yet, but Freeman believes Harkless’ defensive abilities and his chemistry with the other starters makes him the best choice. “Moe … just makes us versatile,” said Damian Lillard. “Being able to rebound the ball and push it, knock down threes, he can guard a bunch of positions, he changes the game in a different way.”

Trail Blazers Waive Luis Montero

The Trail Blazers have waived Luis Montero, the team announced today. The move brings Portland’s roster down to 17 players.

A 6’7″ swingman from the Dominican Republic, Montero signed with the Blazers in July of 2015. He appeared in 12 games as a rookie last season, averaging 1.2 points and 0.3 rebounds per night in limited playing time. He played just one game this preseason, scoring three points against Utah on October 3rd.

Montero was scheduled to make $874,636 this season and a non-guaranteed $1,014,746 for 2017/18.

 

Turner Still Adjusting To Blazers

  • Evan Turner‘s new $70MM contract with the Trail Blazers spans four years, so he’ll have plenty of time to make sure the team gets its money’s worth. For now though, as Jason Quick of CSNNW.com writes, Turner is “still finding his way” with his new club, in the words of head coach Terry Stotts.

Offseason In Review: Portland Trail Blazers

Over the next several weeks, Hoops Rumors will be breaking down the 2016 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2016/17 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Portland Trail Blazers.

Free agent signings:

Camp invitees:

Extensions:

  • C.J. McCollum: Four years, $106.633MM. Rookie scale extension. Goes into effect in 2017/18.

Trades:

  • Acquired the draft rights to Jake Layman (No. 47 pick) from the Magic in exchange for the Blazers’ own 2019 second-round pick and cash ($1.2MM).
  • Acquired Shabazz Napier from the Magic in exchange for cash ($75K).

Draft picks:

  • 2-47: Jake Layman. Signed for three years, $2.556MM. Third year non-guaranteed.

Departing players:

Other offseason news:


Check out our salary cap snapshot for the Portland Trail Blazers right here.


"<strongThe Trail Blazers entered the summer with plans to throw big money at free agents. And that’s what they did, even though it didn’t get them any of their top choices.

Portland offered a max contract to Chandler Parsons and pursued both Hassan Whiteside and Pau Gasol before they all signed elsewhere. Spurned by their first targets, the Blazers used their ample cap space to give Evan Turner $70MM over four years and Festus Ezeli more than $15MM for two years. They also matched Brooklyn’s shocking four-year, $74.833MM offer to Allen Crabbe and handed out nice raises to Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless.

All those players should be part of this season’s rotation for Portland, which was one of the surprise teams of 2015/16. After losing 80% of their starting roster from the previous year, the Blazers scratched out 44 regular season wins, finished fifth in the West and surprised the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs.

Portland’s most significant move of the summer may have been the four-year rookie scale extension the team gave to C.J. McCollum, who was the NBA’s Most Improved Player last season. After Wesley Matthews left for Dallas, McCollum took full advantage of the chance to become a starter in his third NBA season, raising his scoring average from 6.8 to 20.8 points per game.

McCollum teams with Damian Lillard to form a young, dynamic backcourt that is the foundation of Portland’s continued success. The addition of Turner, who averaged 10.0 points and 5.0 assists during his two years in Boston, gives the Blazers another guard who can handle the ball, which allows Lillard more leeway to be used as a spot-up shooter.

On the wing, Crabbe will face pressure to justify his gigantic new contract. He emerged as a key reserve for the Blazers in his third NBA season, averaging 10.3 points and 2.7 rebounds in 81 games, but he must guard against letting the high salary influence the way he plays. Crabbe and Turner will compete for minutes with Maurice Harkless, who became a starter late last season and into the playoffs. The Blazers thought enough of Harkless’ contributions to re-sign him for $40MM over four years.

The battle for playing time is even more muddled up front as Ezeli was brought in to join a crowded group that includes Ed Davis, Al-Farouq Aminu and Mason Plumlee, along with Leonard, who re-signed for four years at $41MM. However, Ezeli may not be available for a while because of soreness in his left knee. He received an injection of bone marrow aspirate concentrate on August 23rd and was projected to be out of action for six weeks. But that time frame has passed and he still hasn’t been able to take the court. The Blazers won’t take a major financial hit if he’s out for a long time because of his low signing price and because they own a team option on the second season of his deal, but the team could use his skills as a rim protector.

For now, that job falls solely to Plumlee, who averaged a block per game last season. The Blazers are facing a major decision on the fourth-year center, who is eligible for a rookie contract extension through the end of the month. Plumlee started all 82 games last year and averaged 9.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per night in his first season in Portland after being acquired in a trade with Brooklyn.

The Blazers would like to see more offensive production out of Plumlee, who says he spent all summer working on his shot. It may give him the confidence to shoot more than the 6.3 times per game he averaged last season. “He was important to us last year,” said head coach Terry Stotts. “His ability to be a playmaker will not be diminished. You can’t have too many playmakers on the court. The more guys that can dribble, pass and shoot, it just makes you a better team offensively.”

It seems a good bet that the Portland front office will work out an extension with Plumlee, whether it happens this month or next summer.

The Blazers were relatively quiet on draft night, with their first-rounder going to Denver as part of the 2015 Arron Afflalo trade. Portland swung a deal with the Magic, acquiring No. 47 pick Jake Layman in exchange for a 2019 second-round pick and cash. The former Maryland small forward may see a lot of time in the D-League this season. In addition, point guard Shabazz Napier was acquired from Orlando in July in exchange for cash considerations.

Portland enters 2016/17 with a lot more roster certainty than it had a year ago. All the elements that made the Blazers successful last season are still in place, and the addition of Turner will give Stotts much more flexibility in devising lineup combinations. Portland may have missed out on its primary targets this offseason, but it still has enough talent in place to be a major player in the West for years to come.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Trail Blazers Clear Leonard For Full Practice

Exactly six months after having surgery to repair the labrum in his left shoulder, the Trail Blazers’ Meyers Leonard has been cleared for all practice activities, writes Casey Holdahl of NBA.com.

The fifth-year center had been ahead of his rehab schedule for some time, but Portland officials wanted to wait for the sixth-month date before giving Leonard complete clearance. He participated in his first full practice Saturday and reported no lingering effects from the injury.

“I felt good out there,” Leonard said. “That’s my first time playing live five-on-five obviously, so getting the conditioning back like I mentioned before is going to be key for me. But overall I felt pretty good, felt confident on the offensive end, defensive end, playing at the rim, rebounding the ball. Progressing as time goes on.”

Leonard was a restricted free agent over the summer, and there were concerns that the injury might hold down his value. However, the Blazers showed their faith in him with a new four-year, $41MM commitment.

Leonard was averaging 8.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per game before the shoulder injury prematurely ended his season in March. He appeared in 61 games last season, starting 10, and is expected to battle Mason Plumlee and the newly signed Festus Ezeli for minutes at the center position. Ezeli has been inactive since late August after receiving an injection in his left knee.

The Blazers plan to test Leonard right away, as coach Terry Stotts intends to use him in Portland’s next preseason game on Tuesday. Leonard said he spent all summer looking forward to his return.

“You can run and swim, do whatever you want,” Leonard said, “but until you’re guarding a pick and roll, grabbing a rebound, outlet it, run the floor, shooting the three, trying to go up for an offensive rebound, running back, getting smashed on a transition play, there’s nothing like it.”

Plumlee Works To Improve Jumper

  • Trail Blazers center Mason Plumlee spent most of his summer working on his jump shot form, Cody Sharrett of Blazers.com reports. Plumlee finished third on the team in assists last season but rarely looked for his shot. He averaged 6.3 shot attempts despite starting every game. “He was important to us last year,” coach Terry Stotts told Sharrett. “His ability to be a playmaker will not be diminished. You can’t have too many playmakers on the court. The more guys that can dribble, pass and shoot, it just makes you a better team offensively.”

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