The Trail Blazers are exercising their 2017/18 team options on forward Noah Vonleh and guard Shabazz Napier, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical (via Twitter). That will put both players on track to play out their rookie contracts and potentially reach restricted free agency in 2018, if they’re not waived or extended before then. Portland has confirmed the moves in a press release.
The 2017/18 salaries for Vonleh ($3.505MM) and Napier ($2.361MM) aren’t exorbitant, and both players are still young, so it makes sense for the Blazers to exercise those options. Still, it wasn’t viewed as a lock in either case.
Vonleh, who turned 21 this summer, started 56 games during his first year in Portland, but only averaged 15.1 minutes per contest, and posted underwhelming numbers (3.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG, .421 FG%). The Blazers reportedly intend to use Al-Farouq Aminu exclusively at power forward – instead of small forward – this year, which could mean further reducing Vonleh’s minutes unless he shows major signs of improvement.
Napier, meanwhile, is playing on his third team in three years since being selected 24th overall in 2014. Traded to the Heat on draft night, the 25-year-old spent his rookie season with Miami, then played last season for the Magic before being dealt to the Blazers this summer in a salary dump by Orlando. Napier played just 10.9 minutes per game in 55 contests last season, averaging 3.7 PPG and 1.8 APG while shooting 33.8% from the field.
By exercising both options, the Blazers will push their overall guaranteed money for 2017/18 to nearly $130MM, the highest total in the NBA.