The Trail Blazers successfully transformed their identity after the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge to the Spurs in free agency last summer, with the franchise focusing on adding players who would complement Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, Ian Thomsen of NBA.com writes. “Free agency was like the draft for us — we were looking for the best players available, high talent, character, chemistry,” GM Neil Olshey said. “We were going to acquire players that were going to be with us long-term that we can grow and develop in our system, no different than if we had drafted them. It speaks to the confidence we have in [coach] Terry [Stotts] and our staff, that we can take guys that were not finished products and know that if we got the evaluation right, that this coaching staff would help them attain and reach that ceiling.”
Here’s more from the Northwest Division:
- Stotts squeezed every bit of production he could out of his roster this season and has built Portland into a solid offensive team, Thomsen writes in the same piece. “Terry is really good,” Olshey said. “This is our fourth year, and there are very few team players who have been through here who haven’t maximized their abilities, especially on the offensive end. He has found a way to make it work.” Small forward Al-Farouq Aminu credits Stotts’ confidence in him with the improvement in his outside shooting, Thomsen notes. “I’ve been in places where they told me from Day One not to shoot one jump shot. They said, ‘We don’t want you to shoot,”’ Aminu said. “That definitely wasn’t the coaching here. It allowed me to grow.”
- Given his poor fit in the Nuggets offense and the team’s ample frontcourt depth, Denver would be wise to explore the trade market for power forward Kenneth Faried, Ben Dowsett of Basketball Insiders writes. Though Faried’s $12,078,652 salary for 2016/17 is likely to end up below market value after the salary cap increases this summer, the situation could become problematic if Faried is forced into a reserve role, Dowsett notes.
- Thunder center Steven Adams‘ improved defense and ability to assist in guarding players on the perimeter have made a huge difference in how the team has performed this postseason, Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman observes. Adams becomes extension-eligible this summer heading into the final season of his rookie scale contract.