Northwest Notes: Leonard, Batum, Hood

Former lottery pick Meyers Leonard appears to have turned a corner for the Trail Blazers, as Joe Freeman of The Oregonian details. That’s fortunate timing for him, as the client of recently hired agent Aaron Mintz is eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer, though usually such extensions are the domain of budding stars, like Damian Lillard, who also becomes extension-eligible in July. In any case, it’ll be an active summer for the Blazers, with LaMarcus Aldridge headlining several key free agents on the team, which has yet to commit any money for 2016/17, when the salary cap is set to spike. Here’s more on the Blazers and their Northwest Division rivals:

  • Nicolas Batum is still friendly with Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, but while Batum sometimes thinks about what might have been if the Blazers hadn’t matched the offer sheet he signed with Minnesota in 2012, he tells Freeman, who writes in a separate piece, that he’s “very happy” in Portland. Then-Wolves coach Rick Adelman, since retired, was the main reason he wanted to play in Minnesota, Batum added. The small forward will be on an expiring contract next season.
  • It took a while for Rodney Hood to start to see consistent playing time, but last year’s 23rd overall pick is looking like a steal lately, as Ryan McDonald of The Deseret News writes in a look at the improvement that he and fellow Jazz first-rounder Dante Exum have made over the season. Hood is averaging 14.3 points in 27.0 minutes per game with 39.0% three-point shooting since March 10th.
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman offers a peek behind the scenes at the Thunder front office, where a team of GM Sam Presti‘s hand-picked contributors work in a collaborative environment.
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