Portland Trail Blazers

Blazers Sign C.J. McCollum To Extension

JULY 27: The Blazers have officially signed McCollum to his extension, the team announced today in a press release.

“I’m ecstatic to be able to extend my career in Portland and grateful for the trust and the opportunity the organization has provided for me,” McCollum said in a statement. “Since I arrived in Oregon I’ve considered it home and look forward to building something special, not only on the court, but in the community as well.”

JULY 25: The Trail Blazers and C.J. McCollum have reached an agreement on a maximum-salary contract extension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. According to Wojnarowski, the deal will add four years to McCollum’s current contract, locking him up through the 2020/21 season. Based on current cap projections, the deal would be worth about $106MM.C.J. McCollum vertical

The 10th overall pick in the 2013 draft, McCollum became eligible for a contract extension for the first time this month, after playing the first three seasons of his rookie contract. He’s set to earn a modest $3.22MM salary in 2016/17 before getting bumped up to the max the following year. If he hadn’t agreed to an extension with Portland, McCollum would have been eligible for restricted free agency next summer.

After starting just three of 100 games in his first two seasons as a pro, McCollum became a full-time starter in 2015/16. He responded by increasing his scoring average from 6.8 PPG to 20.8 PPG, and chipped in 4.3 APG and 1.2 SPG as well. Although McCollum’s huge increase in production was largely due to a similar increase in playing time, he was also a more efficient contributor in his third season, establishing new career highs in FG% (.448), 3PT% (.417), and FT% (.827).

Because Portland inked Damian Lillard to a five-year contract extension last year, making him the team’s “designated player,” McCollum was limited to a four-year extension. Wojnarowski adds that the agreement for the team’s starting two guard won’t include any options or a trade kicker.

While the exact value of McCollum’s contract won’t be known until the NBA officially sets the 2017/18 salary cap next July, the league currently projects a $102MM cap, which would result in a starting salary of about $24MM on McCollum’s new deal. The Blazers already have nearly $62MM committed to Lillard, Allen Crabbe, and Evan Turner for the ’17/18 campaign — McCollum’s deal figures to bring that total to about $86MM.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Blazers To Re-Sign Maurice Harkless

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Portland Trail BlazersRestricted free agent Maurice Harkless has agreed to a four-year, $40MM deal to re-sign with the Trail Blazers, Shams Charania of The Vertical reports. The pact will be fully guaranteed with no options and it could reach $42MM with incentives, Charania adds.

Several teams were reportedly interested in Harkless early in the free agent process, including the Wizards, Pistons, Lakers, Mavericks and Jazz. But instead he’ll return to Portland where he emerged as a valuable rotation player on an up-and-coming Blazers team after being acquired from the Magic via trade last summer.

Harkless appeared in 78 games for Portland last season, including 14 tip-offs as a starter. He averaged 6.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 0.9 assists in 18.7 minutes per outing, while shooting .474/.279/.622 from the field.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Blazers Agree To Deal With Tim Quarterman

The Trail Blazers have signed guard Tim Quarterman to a partially guaranteed two-year deal, according to the team’s website. The story was first reported by Shams Charania of The Vertical (Twitter link).

The 6’6” Quarterman went undrafted after he declared following his junior season at LSU.  He posted averages of 11.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 0.97 steals in 33 games last season with the Tigers. Quarterman shot 31% on 3-point attempts and 66% from the free throw line during his three seasons at LSU, so he’ll have to improve his shooting to stick.

The opportunity is there for Quarterman to earn a roster spot. Portland has Damian Lillard and Shabazz Napier at point guard and C.J. McCollum and Allen Crabbe at shooting guard. Swingman Evan Turner could also see backcourt minutes.

Quarterman made the rounds prior to the draft, working out for a host of teams. Quarterman had trouble blending with No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons in his final season at LSU, as his points and assists dipped while he bounced in and out of the lineup. He did improve his 3-point shooting to 34.3%.

Trail Blazers Notes: Leonard, Crabbe, Free Agency

Power forward Meyers Leonard is hopeful that he can return to action by the start of the regular season, he told Brian Wheeler and Michael Holton from Blazers.com. The 7’1” Leonard suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in mid-March and underwent surgery later that month. Leonard will be re-evaluated at the beginning of August and believes that he’ll be cleared for contact and one-on-one drills during the middle of training camp, Leonard added in the interview. Despite the injury, the Blazers re-signed Leonard to a four-year, $41MM deal after he entered the market as a restricted free agent.
In other developments around the Trail Blazers:
  • President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey never balked at matching the monstrous four-year, $75MM offer sheet the Nets handed to Allen Crabbe, he told Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. The 24-year-old shooting guard averaged 10.3 points as the team’s sixth man last season and cashed in on a free agent bonanza. “It was never a question. We don’t draft guys here to let them walk away or we don’t take it for granted,” Olshey said. “I think you’ve seen the commitment we’ve made to the guys we’ve drafted.”
  • In the same story, Olshey indicated he accomplished his offseason goals by retaining Leonard and Crabbe while adding two outside free agents, swingman Evan Turner and center Festus Ezeli. “I think we maximized our cap room,” Olshey said. “We had some holes, maybe not positionally, but in terms of skill-set, that we identified. We were able to do, I think, a pretty admirable job in free agency.”
  • The Blazers have their deepest roster since Olshey joined the franchise in 2012, Mike Richman of The Oregonian opines. Ezeli and Leonard will join Mason PlumleeEd Davis and Al-Farouq Aminu in the frontcourt rotation while backcourt starters Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have solid backups in Crabbe and Turner, who will also see playing time at small forward, Richman points out. They could be even deeper if they retain restricted free agent forward Moe Harkless, Richman adds.

Community Shootaround: Western Conference Playoff Teams

On Monday, our Community Shootaround discussion focused on 2016’s Eastern Conference playoff teams, as we asked which of those eight clubs is most likely to slide down the standings next season. While the Heat received the most votes, the response was hardly unanimous.

In the Western Conference, however, it seems far more likely that there would be a consensus on which team is in for the biggest slide. The Thunder, after all, lost a perennial MVP candidate in Kevin Durant, and traded a three-team All-Defensive player in Serge Ibaka. The team still has Russell Westbrook on its roster, and was widely lauded for its return in the Ibaka deal, but it’s hard to imagine Oklahoma City as a top-three team and a Conference Finals participant again in the West.

So, as we examine the West’s playoff teams, let’s not focus on which team will slide the most. Instead, let’s discuss which teams’ moves you liked and which ones you didn’t.

The Warriors, of course, made the biggest splash of the offseason when they landed Durant, but is there room for improvement on last year’s 73-win squad, or will it take some time for the team to adjust to its new-look roster?

The Spurs and Clippers have brought back most of their key pieces, but it’s the end of an era in San Antonio, where Tim Duncan has announced his retirement. Adding Pau Gasol to the mix will help, and Duncan had already been surpassed by Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge as the club’s go-to players, but this isn’t the same Spurs team that won a championship just two years ago. As for the Clippers, if their core players stay healthy into the playoffs, there’s still optimism that the team can finally get over the hump, but Chris Paul‘s not getting any younger.

It’s been an eventful summer for the other three Southwest playoffs teams, with the Mavericks bringing in Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut while losing Chandler Parsons and Zaza Pachulia. Parsons ended up with the Grizzlies, who also retained Mike Conley with the largest contract in NBA history. The Rockets, meanwhile, saw Dwight Howard walk in free agency, but landed Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon.

Finally, the Trail Blazers, one of 2015/16’s pleasant surprises, have managed to bring back key restricted free agents like Allen Crabbe and Meyers Leonard, and also made a couple more head-turning moves in free agency, adding Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli on multiyear deals.

So what do you think? Did any of the Western Conference playoff teams besides Golden State and Oklahoma City drastically improve or take a step back this offseason? Or will the storyline in the West next year simply come down to the Thunder losing their best player to the Warriors?

Take to the comments section below to share your opinions on the Warriors, Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Blazers, Mavs, Grizzlies, and Rockets. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

No Progress In Negotiations For Blazers, Harkless

  • With Waiters’ QO off the board, Maurice Harkless is now one of just three restricted free agents still available, along with Tyler Zeller and Donatas Motiejunas. However, Harkless and the Trail Blazers are no closer to reaching a deal, agent Happy Walters tells Jason Quick of CSNNW.com. According to Walters, via Quick, a few other teams have shown interest in Harkless, but the RFA forward wants to return to Portland. The agent acknowledged there’s a chance Harkless will ultimately sign his QO and become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Harkless Could Accept Qualifying Offer

  • Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless is in “no rush” to sign a contract, but the restricted free agent should make a decision in the next couple of days, his agent told Jason Quick of CSNNW.com (Twitter link). Harkless might accept the Blazers’ qualifying offer of just over $4MM, Quick adds. Several teams were reportedly interested in Harkless early in the free agent process, including the Wizards, Pistons, Lakers, Mavericks and Jazz, but some of those clubs have already made other commitments.

Pacific Notes: Sanders, Kings, Joerger, Smith

Despite losing two centers this summer, the Warriors haven’t reached out to Larry Sanders, writes Monte Poole of CSNBayArea. The former Bucks big man was an elite rim protector before he walked away from the game in December of 2014, citing anxiety and depression. Sanders is considering a comeback and sparked speculation on Saturday when he sent out two messages on Twitter: an image of a cavalier and a scene from a 1979 movie titled “The Warriors.” Golden State needs to find replacements for Andrew Bogut, who was traded to Dallas to create cap room for Kevin Durant, and Festus Ezeli, who signed with the Trail Blazers as a free agent.

There’s more news from the Pacific Division:

  • The Kings are getting plenty of calls from teams interested in Rudy Gay, Kosta Koufos and Ben McLemore, tweets James Ham of CSNCalifornia. So far, they haven’t heard an offer they like.
  • New Kings coach Dave Joerger doesn’t plan to coach any more summer league games, tweets Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. Joerger said he started out in that role to set the tone for the rest of the staff.
  • The Kings and Clippers are among the teams that worked out J.R. Smith‘s brother this weekend in Las Vegas, tweets Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com. Chris Smith‘s only NBA experience came in two games with the Knicks in 2013.
  • Ryan McDonough’s first plan for a quick turnaround in Phoenix didn’t work, so now he’s rebuilding through the draft, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. With two picks in the top eight, the Suns grabbed highly regarded power forward prospects Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss. Their only free agent pickup so far this summer is veteran shooting guard Jared Dudley for $30MM over three years, a modest sum in this year’s market. “That’s certainly the most sustainable way to do it,” McDonough said about his draft strategy. “If you can draft those guys and have them under control for four years on the rookie scale and then have a bunch of advantages in terms of contract extensions and full Bird rights, that really helps.”

Blazers, Meyers Leonard Agree To Deal

The Blazers and Meyers Leonard have agreed on a four-year deal worth $41MM, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports (on Twitter). Portland had extended Leonard a qualifying offer on June 29th.

Leonard is a solid rotation piece for the Blazers because of his ability to rebound and hit outside shots consistently. Leonard, who is recovering from an injured shoulder, declined an extension from the Blazers in October, but the backup big man had said he was interested in staying in Portland. Meyers’ season was cut short in March when he dislocated his shoulder and he may not be ready at the start of the season.

Leonard appeared in 61 games last season, including 10 as a starter. He averaged 8.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 21.9 minutes per outing. His shooting line was .448/.377/.761.

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