Portland Trail Blazers Rumors

And-Ones: D-League, Blazers, Extensions

October 1 at 10:23pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Whoever the league tabs as a replacement for former NBA D-League president Dan Reed is a very big hire for the NBA and the D-League, Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com writes. The hope is to have a new president of the D-League in place before its season begins in mid-November, notes Arnovitz, who believes that it will be difficult to replace Reed’s sense of innovation, which is an important trait if the D-League is to continue to grow.

Here’s the latest from around the association:

  • The Trail Blazers and Chris Kaman look to be a good fit, Jason Quick of The Oregonian writes. Kaman and GM Neil Olshey have a history together that extends back to when Kaman was drafted by the Clippers and Olshey was hired as Player Development Coach that same year, notes Quick.
  • Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress runs down the top 2015 NBA Draft prospects in the Big East. Headlining the list are Isaiah Whitehead, Chris Obekpa, and Rysheed Jordan.
  • In his season preview for the Blazers, Adi Joseph of USA Today predicts another 54-win season and Portland snagging the fifth overall seed in the playoffs.
  • For the NBA Draft class of 2011 the deadline to sign an extension is approximately a month away. Amin Elhassan of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) runs down the contract status of each first-rounder from that draft year.

Blazers Owner On Aldridge, Tax, Involvement

September 30 at 3:43pm CST By Chuck Myron

Paul Allen has to settle for the title of second-richest NBA owner, since new Clippers owner Steve Ballmer outranks him, at least according to the Forbes 400. Allen and his Blazers have recently found themselves looking up at the Clippers and others in the NBA standings, too, but there weren’t many teams in between Portland and the top last year. Allen is enthusiastic about the direction of the Blazers, but he stopped short of declaring his team a contender when asked after the team’s first practice today. The tech magnate opened up about plenty of other topics, as Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com transcribes. We’ll share a few highlights here:

On extension talks this summer with LaMarcus Aldridge

“I just thought it was very important that we have a direct discussion with LA. It went great. We presented him with a couple of options and obviously he thinks the option of being unrestricted next season and of course looking at a very long [new contract] is the one he chose to pursue. We understand that, but we thought we should talk through all those things. It was just great to be able to sit down with LA and get a chance to really understand his thinking about the team. He’s very excited about the team. You guys talked to him at media day yesterday and I hope you got that sense, too.”

On paying the luxury tax:

“I think it’s been a while since I’ve been in the luxury tax. David Stern used to give me an extremely hard time about being as deep in the luxury tax as we went at one point. It’s not something I’m looking at, at this point, but look, we’ll try to do what we can to be as competitive as we can in the future without causing ourselves a bunch of problems down the road by going way over the cap and impacting our ability to sign free agents in the future and things like that. So it’s a very delicate balancing act to try and create yourself a championship window and then keep developing young players, too. I think if you look at, for instance, what the Seahawks, what we did winning the Super Bowl, that was with a very young team. So you have to blend the experience with young players and develop those as well. That’s something [GM] Neil [Olshey] and his staff are very focused on.”

On his involvement with the team:

“It’s funny, I was just looking at the press guide. Certainly I was excited when I first became the owner. I think now, I’m just as excited. I think we’ve got a great staff here and I’m not quite as involved in the details of things as I used to be, although I still love the draft. We’re going to have a meeting after this practice to go over the plan for the season and even looking ahead to the offseason after that to try and see what things we’re going to keep in mind. I love it and it’s going to be an exciting year.”

Blazers Pick Up Damian Lillard’s 2015/16 Option

September 29 at 1:56pm CST By Chuck Myron

The Blazers have exercised their team option on the fourth year of Damian Lillard‘s rookie scale contract, the team announced.  Chris Haynes of the Plain Dealer first reported the move (Twitter link). Lillard’s salary of $4.236MM for the 2015/16 season is locked in as a result, and it’s largely a perfunctory transaction, since it would have been shocking if Portland had let go of the budding star. The team will wait until the October 31st deadline draws near to decide on its other rookie scale options, for Thomas Robinson, C.J. McCollum and Meyers Leonard, according to Joe Freeman of The Oregonian (Twitter links).

The 24-year-old Lillard, who won the Rookie of the Year award in 2013, has quickly established himself as one of the league’s best point guards. He made his first All-Star Game and was on the All-NBA Third Team last season. His buzzer-beater at the end of the sixth game of Portland’s first-round series against the Rockets last spring lifted the Blazers to the conference semifinals for the first time since 2000.

Portland had little more than $13MM in commitments for 2015/16 before picking up Lillard’s option. That leaves GM Neil Olshey with plenty of flexibility to secure soon-to-be free agent LaMarcus Aldridge to a new long-term deal and build around the Aldridge-Lillard core.

Atlantic Notes: Rondo, Nets, Sixers

September 26 at 9:52pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Celtics guard Rajon Rondo has suffered a broken hand, and had surgery to repair it earlier today, Baxter Holmes of the Boston Globe reports (Twitter link). The player injured it in a fall at his home according to the team’s official statement regarding the matter. Rondo is expected to miss six weeks, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports adds. That would slot Rondo’s return to be during the second week of the season. This development certainly complicates any possible deals for the veteran for the time being.

Here’s the latest from the Atlantic Division:

  • Boston had been considering waiving John Lucas III today, but Rondo’s injury could change those plans, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today notes (Twitter link).
  • Alan Anderson said he turned down an offer for more money to re-sign with the Nets, Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News reports (Twitter link). Anderson inked a two year, $2.6MM deal with Brooklyn in July.
  • New Nets coach Lionel Hollins said that he never considered adding Lawrence Frank to his staff, Bondy tweets. Frank had a falling out with former coach Jason Kidd, and appears to be on the way to the Clippers as an assistant after reaching a buyout arrangement with Brooklyn.
  • The Sixers are set to hire Blazers analytics manager Ben Falk for a role that will put him second in command to GM Sam Hinkie in the team’s front office, according to The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman. Grantland’s Zach Lowe believes it’s another in a series of shrewd hires of late for Philadelphia’s front office (Twitter links).

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Blazers Sign James Southerland

September 24 at 10:45pm CST By Chuck Myron

SEPTEMBER 24TH, 10:45pm: The deal is official, the team announced.

AUGUST 8TH, 12:33pm: The Blazers have signed free agent small forward James Southerland, according to the RealGM transactions page. The team has made no formal announcement, but the move took place Thursday, according to RealGM. The 24-year-old was briefly with Charlotte and New Orleans last season after going undrafted out of Syracuse in 2013. Terms of the deal are unclear, but it’s likely a summer contract that’ll give Southerland the chance to make the opening night roster out of training camp.

The Spurs had interest in making Southerland the 58th pick of the draft last year if he’d agree to play overseas, but he declined and wound up signing a non-guaranteed deal with the then-Bobcats. He made the team out of camp, though he appeared in only one regular season game before injuries to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeffery Taylor prompted the club to give Southerland’s roster spot to the more experienced Chris Douglas-Roberts.

The Cavs, Bulls, Thunder and Hawks eyed Southerland once Charlotte cut him loose, but he remained out of the league until the Pelicans inked him in the season’s final week. A spate of injuries worked in Southerland’s favor on that occasion, as he became the 16th player on the New Orleans roster at the mercy of the league, which granted the Pelicans permission to go over the 15-man regular season roster limit so they’d have enough healthy bodies. It might take another unusual set of circumstances for Southerland to remain on Portland’s roster come opening night, since the Blazers already have 15 guaranteed deals, as our roster counts show.

Still, Southerland appeared in just four NBA games last season. He spent the majority of his time with the D-League affiliate of the Lakers, averaging 14.7 points and 6.5 rebounds in 28.6 minutes per game across 42 contests for the L.A. D-Fenders.

Darius Morris To Join Blazers For Camp

September 24 at 10:43pm CST By Chuck Myron

SEPTEMBER 24TH, 10:43pm: The deal is official, the team announced.

AUGUST 22ND, 1:13pm: The team has yet to make an official announcement, but Morris has signed his contract, according to the RealGM transactions log.

AUGUST 21ST, 2:29pm: The Blazers and point guard Darius Morris have reached agreement on a non-guaranteed deal that will bring the three-year veteran to training camp, reports Joe Freeman of The Oregonian (Twitter link). He’ll join Diante Garrett and James Southerland, who inked non-guaranteed contracts with Portland earlier this month. Morris is surely receiving a deal for the minimum salary, since the Blazers are limited to paying no more than that.

Morris reportedly turned down an offer from a Serbian team earlier this summer, and that seemed to suggest that NBA teams were interested. Still, there hasn’t been much chatter surrounding the 23-year-old, who had stints with the Sixers, Clippers and Grizzlies last season but didn’t sign another NBA contract after his 10-day deal with Memphis expired in February. He’s nonetheless been one of the top ball distributors remaining on the market, as I noted earlier today, and he also made his way onto our list of the top available free agent scorers.

Morris, like Garrett and Southerland, faces long odds of making the opening-night roster in Portland, since the Blazers have 15 players with guaranteed deals. The Blazers dropped their one-to-one D-League affiliation with the Idaho Stampede this offseason, so even if Portland cuts Morris after camp but elects to retain his D-League rights, the Blazers wouldn’t be able to exert much influence over his continued development.

Diante Garrett To Join Blazers For Camp

September 24 at 10:38pm CST By Chuck Myron

SEPTEMBER 24TH, 10:38pm: The deal is official, the team announced.

AUGUST 12TH, 8:12am: The RealGM transactions log indicates the signing is official, although the team has yet to make an official announcement.

AUGUST 11TH, 1:30pm: It’ll be a two-year contract, Freeman writes. That means it won’t be an Exhibit 9, and Portland would be on the hook for his salary should he be injured while performing for the team.

1:06pm: The Blazers have reached agreement on a deal that will bring free agent guard Diante Garrett to camp, a source tells Joe Freeman of The Oregonian (Twitter link). It’s a non-guaranteed pact, Freeman hears, so it’ll be a summer contract. It’ll almost certainly be for the minimum salary, since the Blazers can’t give out anything more.

The Raptors waived their non-guaranteed contract with Garrett last month shortly after acquiring him from the Jazz in the Steve Novak trade. He was on the fringes of the rotation for Utah this past season, averaging 3.5 points and shooting 37.5% from three-point range in 14.8 minutes per game. That followed a year in which he spent the entire season on the Suns roster but only appeared in 19 contests.

The 25-year-old Wasserman Media Group client will join James Southerland, who signed last week, in a fight to unseat one of the 15 Trail Blazers known to have guaranteed deals. It works in Garrett’s favor that the two Blazers with the cheapest contracts are fellow guards Will Barton and Allen CrabbePortland would only have to eat less than $1MM if the team were to keep Garrett instead of Barton or Crabbe.

And-Ones: Blazers, Payton, Amundson

September 20 at 4:27pm CST By Eddie Scarito

The Blazers made it to the second round of the playoffs last season, which was the first time in the last 14 years that the franchise has accomplished that feat. In their season preview, the crew over at Basketball Insiders predicts that Portland will finish second in the Northwest Division, and the Blazers stronger bench may help them advance deeper in the playoffs this season.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Gary Payton is joining the Bucks coaching staff as a special advisor with the express purpose of helping Giannis Antetokounmpo make the transition to point guard, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders writes. Antetokounmpo played the point during the Las Vegas Summer League, and the intent is for him and Milwaukee to continue with the experiment during the regular season, notes Kenendy.
  • The Cavs impending signing of Lou Amundson brings to Cleveland a player who isn’t interested in scoring, and who understands the value of a rebound, taking a charge and overall defense, all things the suddenly talent-laden Cavs need, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes.
  • Recent Knicks camp invitee Orlando Sanchez could play a big role for the team this season, Keith Schlosser of SB Nation writes in his profile of the player. With the injury history of New York’s current big men, Sanchez could prove valuable as a mid-season D-League call up, notes Schlosser.

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Bledsoe, Barea

September 18 at 12:40pm CST By Zach Links

Yesterday, University of Texas quarterback David Ash announced that he will give up football after dealing with concussion symptoms throughout his time in Austin. Thunder star Kevin Durant, who spent a season at UT, took to Twitter to send Ash a supportive message. “Thank you David Ash, you gave your all to the University of Texas. I respect your decision and good luck in the future my brother,” Durant wrote.  Here’s today’s look at Durant’s rivals in the Northwest Division..

  • Even after the completion of the Kevin Love trade, the Wolves have talked with the Suns about a deal for Eric Bledsoe, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (on Twitter).  However, there’s no real match there between the two teams.  Bledsoe has been offered a four-year, $48MM deal from the Suns and while there’s currently a stalemate, the Suns may be willing to sweeten that proposal if talks open up again.
  • More from Wolfson (link) who is asked by a reader if the Wolves are getting interest in J.J. Barea.  No bites yet, he says, as other teams would want another piece in a trade.  There’s nothing imminent on that front and the Wolves will wait to see if another team loses a guard to injury in preseason.
  • Wolves GM Milt Newton says that he’s hopeful that he can hammer out a new deal with Ricky Rubio, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press.  “I feel optimistic. Knowing Ricky the person, he wants to be here. Now we just have to deal with his agent,” Milton said.
  • In their preview of the Trail Blazers, HoopsHype expresses concern over the state of Portland’s bench.  With sixth man Mo Williams gone, few of the remaining reserves can be trusted to give the team much, in their view.  They have the Blazers finishing second in the Northwest Division and fifth in the Western Conference.

Trade Retrospective: Aldridge To Blazers

September 7 at 8:54am CST By Eddie Scarito

In professional sports, one of the most exciting things that can happen from a fan’s perspective is a blockbuster trade. These deals can alter not just the fates of the franchises involved, but can shape the direction of the entire league. The biggest deal of this offseason so far was the trade that sent Kevin Love to the Cavaliers for the last two No. 1 overall picks, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins, plus the Wolves also landed Thaddeus Young from the Sixers as part of the transaction.

It will be years before we can accurately judge who won the trade, but if the Cavs hoist the NBA Championship trophy next Spring they will certainly be thrilled with the results. The Wolves haven’t been to the playoffs the last 10 seasons, so for them the deal was about building for the future and trying to change the losing culture in Minnesota.

I’ve been taking a look back at some of the bigger deals that have transpired in recent NBA history. So far I’ve examined the trades that sent Dwight Howard to the Lakers; Deron Williams to the Nets; Kevin Garnett to the Celtics; Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks; Chris Paul to the Clippers; Stephon Marbury to the Knicks; and the trade that sent Shaquille O’Neal from the Lakers to the Heat.

Not all big trades involve established players and stars, but they still carry a high risk. Trading away prospects and draft picks ramp that risk up even higher than when dealing away established NBA talent, since it is so difficult to accurately predict how a player’s production will transition from college to the pros. It’s with this in mind that I look back at the June 2006 Draft night trade between the Bulls and the Blazers that landed LaMarcus Aldridge in Portland.

I’ll begin by running down the players involved:

The Bulls were infatuated at the time with Thomas’ athleticism and defensive potential, which led then-GM John Paxson to take a chance and deal Aldridge, whom the Bulls selected with the No. 2 overall pick, for Thomas, who was selected No. 4 overall. The Bulls were more enamored with Thomas’ physical tools and potential, but this trade shows the risks involved when dealing away draft picks prior to seeing them perform at the next level.

The Bulls were just beginning to climb out of the post-Michael Jordan era blues at the time of the trade. Here’s a look at their records in the seasons leading up to this deal:

  1. 2001/02: 21-61
  2. 2002/03: 30-52
  3. 2003/04: 23-59
  4. 2004/05: 47-35 (Lost in first round to the Wizards)
  5. 2005/06: 41-41 (Lost in first round to the Heat)

The acquisition of Thomas was supposed to strengthen the Bulls’ frontcourt and help the franchise take the next step back toward contention, but Thomas never lived up to his potential and has been outperformed by Aldridge every season of their careers.

Here are Thomas’ career stats:

  1. 2006/07: 5.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 0.6 APG, and 1.1 BPG. His slash line was .474/.000/.606.
  2. 2007/08: 6.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.2 APG, and 1.0 BPG. His slash line was .423/.167/.741.
  3. 2008/09: 10.8 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.0 APG, and 1.9 BPG. His slash line was .451/.333/.783.
  4. 2009/10: 9.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.0 APG, and 1.6 BPG. His slash line was .462/.000/.687.
  5. 2010/11: 10.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 0.7 APG, and 1.6 BPG. His slash line was .471/.000/.787.
  6. 2011/12: 5.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 0.6 APG, and 1.1 BPG. His slash line was .367/.333/.759.
  7. 2012/13: 4.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.7 APG, and 0.6 BPG. His slash line was .353/.375/.839.

The Bulls’ records for the seasons that Thomas was on the roster were:

  1. 2006/07: 49-33 (Lost in second round to the Pistons)
  2. 2007/08: 33-49
  3. 2008/09: 41-41 (Lost in first round to the Celtics)
  4. 2009/10: 41-41 (Lost in first round to the Cavs)

Thomas was injured four games into the 2009/10 season, and he missed nearly six weeks with a fractured forearm. During this stretch he was replaced in the starting lineup by Taj Gibson, who performed well enough to make Thomas expendable. On February 18, 2010, Thomas was traded to the Hornets for Flip Murray; Acie Law; and a 2014 first-rounder (Jusuf Nurkic).

That offseason the Hornets signed Thomas to a five-year, $40MM deal. Thomas would spend another three seasons with Charlotte, averaging double-figures in points only once. His time in Charlotte and his NBA career would come to an end on July 10, 2013 when the Hornets waived Thomas using the amnesty provision to make room for the franchise to sign Al Jefferson.

Murray only appeared in 29 games for the Bulls, and averaged 10.1 PPG and 2.9 RPG. This was his last season in the league and he’s since split time between the NBA D-League and playing overseas.

Law appeared in just 12 games for the Bulls, averaging 5.5 PPG and 1.3 APG. After the 2009/10 season he became a free agent, signing a one-year deal with the Grizzlies, who would release him after 11 games.

The first-rounder that Chicago had acquired from Charlotte was part of the 2014 NBA Draft night trade with the Nuggets that sent the rights to Doug McDermott and Anthony Randolph to the Bulls for Jusuf Nurkic, Gary Harris, and the least favorable of the Bulls’ pair of second rounders in 2015 (Chicago has both its own second-round pick and Portland’s second-rounder that year).

Viktor Khryapa didn’t provide much of a return for the Bulls. In parts of two seasons with the franchise, he appeared in a total of 42 games, averaging 2.9 PPG and 1.9 RPG. Khryapa only played an average of 9.3 minutes per contest while in Chicago.  He expressed to management his frustrations about his lack of playing time, and in February of 2008 he and the team reached a buyout agreement. Khryapa has been out of the NBA ever since.

From the Bulls’ side of things, this is a deal that I’m sure they would like to change if they could. It’s hard to predict what the team’s won-loss records would have been the first two seasons after the trade was made, and if Chicago would have still been in line to draft Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose in 2007 and 2008, respectively, if it was Aldridge and not Thomas manning the power forward position. But when simply comparing the assets that changed hands, the Bulls have to regret this deal when looking back.

The Blazers were floundering as a franchise in the seasons prior to this trade. Here’s a look at their records prior to acquiring Aldridge:

  1. 2001/02: 49-33 (Lost to the Lakers in the first round)
  2. 2002/03: 50-32 (Lost to the Mavs in the first round)
  3. 2003/04: 41-41
  4. 2004/05: 27-55
  5. 2005/06: 21-61

Portland had quite a busy draft night back in 2006, acquiring Aldridge as well as Brandon Roy in a separate deal with the Wolves. Roy would go on to win Rookie of the Year honors for the 2006/07 season, when he averaged 16.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG, and 4.0 APG. Aldridge didn’t begin his career quite as successfully, but by his second season he already began to show flashes of being the star player that he has evolved into.

Here are Aldridge’s career numbers:

  1. 2006/07: 9.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 0.4 APG, and 1.2 BPG. His slash line was .503/.000/.722.
  2. 2007/08: 17.8 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.6 APG, and 1.2 BPG. His slash line was .484/.143/.762.
  3. 2008/09: 18.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.9 APG, and 1.0 BPG. His slash line was .484/.250/.781.
  4. 2009/10: 17.9 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.1 APG, and 0.6 BPG. His slash line was .495/.313/.757.
  5. 2010/11: 21.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 2.1 APG, and 1.2 BPG. His slash line was .500/.174/.791.
  6. 2011/12: 21.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.4 APG, and 0.8 BPG. His slash line was .512/.182/.814.
  7. 2012/13: 21.1 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.6 APG, and 1.2 BPG. His slash line was .484/.143/.810.
  8. 2013/14: 23.2 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2.6 APG, and 1.0 BPG. His slash line was .458/.200/.822.

Here’s how the Blazers have fared since acquiring Aldridge:

  1. 2006/07: 32-50
  2. 2007/08: 41-41
  3. 2008/09: 54-28 (Lost in first round to the Rockets)
  4. 2009/10: 50-32 (Lost in first round to the Suns)
  5. 2010/11: 48-34 (Lost in first round to Mavs)
  6. 2011/12: 28-38
  7. 2012/13: 33-49
  8. 2013/14: 54-28 (Lost in the second round to the Spurs)

Aldridge has been a big part of the turnaround in Portland, which has had a few setbacks, most notably the selection of Greg Oden instead of Kevin Durant back in 2007, and Roy’s retirement due to injuries back in 2011. Aldridge is on track to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season, and even if the Blazers don’t re-sign him, they still win this deal.

The second-rounder that Portland acquired from Chicago was used in a trade with the Knicks, which saw New York receive Zach Randolph; Dan Dickau; Fred Jones; and the pick that was used to select Demetris Nichols. In return, the Blazers received Steve Francis; Channing Frye; and a 2008 second-rounder that was used to select Omer Asik.

As far as trades go, the Aldridge one wasn’t a multi-player deal involving numerous teams, but it was still a rather important one–especially for Portland. The Blazers haven’t advanced past the second round during Aldridge’s tenure in Portland, but it’s difficult to argue that he is the cause. The Bulls most likely lament this deal, especially since Thomas is out of the league altogether, while Aldridge is entering his prime and has made three consecutive All-Star games. But in all fairness, had Derrick Rose not fallen under the injury bug, Chicago may well have won an NBA title in the last few years.

It’s interesting to see the difference in production each franchise received from players taken a mere two selections apart. It also makes one wonder which of this year’s draft night trades will be looked back at as being steals or huge misfires. Will the Cavs regret dealing away Wiggins? If Cleveland fails to win the title, Love doesn’t perform up to his previous levels, or if he leaves as a free agent after the season, then they absolutely will. But if they finally hang a championship banner from their rafters, then they will consider it absolutely worth doing.

As for some of the other teams that took a gamble this year, time will tell if the Nuggets will regret trading McDermott to the Bulls, or if the Magic will rue dealing Dario Saric to the Sixers for Elfrid Payton. As the Aldridge-Thomas trade has demonstrated, a few spots in the draft order can yield remarkably different results down the line. It’s a risk anytime a deal is made, and sometimes it’s even more so when gambling with draft selections. Cleveland certainly better hope that Wiggins doesn’t become a superstar, or they need to win at least a couple of titles if he does. Otherwise, there will be some angry Cavs fans in a few years.

Note: If there’s a particular trade that you would like to see me take a look back at, please feel free to sound off in the comments section below or hit me up on Twitter at @EddieScarito.