Northwest Notes: Udoh, Thunder, Tolliver, Blazers

The Jazz have been relatively generous during free agency so far this summer compared to most teams, handing out a two-year, $36MM contract to forward Derrick Favors, agreeing to a three-year, $33MM deal with backup guard Dante Exum, and reaching terms on a two-year, $4MM pact with seldom-used guard Raul Neto.

Furthermore, Utah has already guaranteed the 2018/19 salary of Thabo Sefolosha, who was limited to only 39 games last season. As such, it would appear that the Jazz are intent on sticking with their 2017/18 roster for now, which means that both Jonas Jerebko and Ekpe Udoh can be cautiously optimistic while waiting for their 2018/19 salary to become guaranteed.

Udoh in particular, who averaged 2.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 63 games for the Jazz last season, and whose $3.36MM salary becomes fully guaranteed if he remains on Utah’s roster past July 9, is trying to remain positive while awaiting Utah’s decision on his future, writes Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News.

“You know, we’ll see what happens,” Udoh told the Deseret News. “I’m grateful. I’m getting great workouts at the facility. I’ve been here pretty much since the season has been over outside of a couple trips, but I’ve just been getting in good work.”

Per Woodyard, Udoh is excited and prepared to return in a Jazz uniform next season, but also understands the business-like nature of the NBA.

“It’s gonna be a fun season,” Udoh said. “The West has gotten better but we’ve gotten better and we’re gonna be the same team next year. Starting last year, you didn’t know what you were going to get with so many new pieces, but now we’ll be ready from the beginning.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes that although Paul George did in fact want to be a Laker at this time last year, he is now happy in Oklahoma City after signing a four-year, $137MM max contract with the Thunder on the eve of free agency.
  • According to Jerry Zgoda of the Star TribuneTimberwolves’ free-agent signee forward Anthony Tolliver chose a return to Minnesota over four other pursuing teams because of the familiarity he has for the franchise – he played for the Wolves from 2010 to 2012 – and because “(he) want(s) to win.”
  • While it’s probably a bit bold to get too excited about the free agent signing of a backup, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman writes that the addition of 24 year-old center Nerlens Noel on a minimum-salary deal is a low-risk, high-reward move by the Thunder.
  • Per Joe Freeman of The Oregonian, a couple of key subplots have emerged for the Trail Blazers during the team’s summer league minicamp. First, it’s an opportunity for Portland to get a first-hand look at rookies Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr. in an NBA practice. Moreover, both Wade Baldwin and Georgios Papagiannis are fighting for their NBA lives while Jake Layman looks to secure a more prominent role for next season.
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22 thoughts on “Northwest Notes: Udoh, Thunder, Tolliver, Blazers

  1. Dionis

    I don’t understand what the Blazers are doing, I really don’t. They can re-sign Nurkic and they’ll be lucky to make the playoffs next season.

    1. Warriors
    2. Rockets
    3. Thunder
    4. Jazz
    5. Lakers
    6. Timberwolves
    7. Nuggets
    8. Grizzlies

    The Blazers are going to be in a dogfight next season and are just treading water at this point with Lillard and McCollum. I understand Lillard wanting to stay loyal to Portland but he’s never getting a ring there, their frontcourt is horrendous.

    • knickscavsfan

      a) Why do you question if they should re-sign Nurkic?

      b) Portland won their division last year and will probably retain their core players. Why do you put…

      …the Thunder (who haven’t made any SIGNIFICANT additions yet). Noel and their draft picks might help but certainly aren’t locks to be impact in terms of more wins) and are now facing HUGE luxury cap issues with the current roster they have and have to navigate whether to keep Melo and deal with that impact on the team or ridding themselves of his contract (dumping for salary relief or to buyout/stretch out)?

      …The Jazz have added nothing signifigant other than draft pick Grayson Allen but is he going to be enough of an impact player his rookie season?

      …The T-Wolves who’ve lost Crawford and must now navigate in-house drama between their all-star vet Butler and their young all-star duo KAT and Wiggins? Butler has 1 year left before FA. You never know will make it past the trade deadline or how their issues my effect the team chemistry/performance.

      ….The Nuggets who moved Chandler for salary relief and may or may not have Porter Jr on the court much this year.

      You literally have put every single team in NW division ahead of the last year division leader Blazers but yet imo, there’s no reason to do so, or none that you can really base an honest argument on.

      c) They have their two must important players, coming into their prime years, under contract for the next 3 seasons. Should the team just fold, trade those guys and rebuild just because their road to the Finals might be daunting because of the GSW and Houston? I don’t get that. I can see a “bad” team with soon-to-depart vets (Memphis/Gasol), Hornets/Brooklyn/D.Howard), etc) being moved but why should the Blazers, who again, won their division, throw in the towel and move either of Lillard or McCollum, especially now when it takes 3 all-stars to win? Their are guys out their that can make an impact immediately and may not be financially offsetting.

      • Dionis

        I got the Thunder that high because George will have better chemistry with Russ next season and because Roberson is coming back, not sure if you’ve heard of him but he’s an excellent defender and big part of OKC’s defense. With or without Melo the Thunder will be better. The Jazz had the best record in the second half of last season and jumped from like 12th to top 5 in the West. Had they not lost Gobert in the 1st half they would have been even better. With Conley and Gasol out there the Grizzlies will win a ton of games, Jackson Jr won’t take long to establish himself on the Grizzlies either. I’m just not sold on that Lillard and McCollum backcourt.

        Lillard had to play at an MVP level just to get them in the playoffs, no way they are a top 5 seed next season. The Butler rumors are just rumors, the Timberwolves will extend him as soon as possible believe that.

        • knickscavsfan

          Again, your making assumptions. Even if PG and Russ have better chem it doesn’t mean more wins. Roberson is a great defensive player but he’s also a non-factor, and in some cases, a liability on the other side of the ball. Jazz’ second half finish really has no carry over to next season. What it means is they were better in one half than the other. Next year they might have a great 1st half then fade in the 2nd. You point to, what you assume will be a healthy return of Conley, but ignore the fact they lost perhaps their most valuable player from last year, in Tyreke Evans. Butler’s issues with KAT and Towns isn’t coming from thin air, it’s been mentioned quite often and the fact that he’s a FA next year is factual. As for your “not being sold on that “backcourt”, they’ve been together for 4 years and have won the NW twice and were top 3 the other 2 years. Again, you’ve given no substantive reason why 4 other teams will pass them up in the NW division.

          In the overall WC seeding, one can argue that the Warriors and Houston should remain at the top, the Thunder, Nuggets, Jazz and Timberwolves have for the most part maintained their positions (+/- 3-5 wins), the Lakers have regained relevancy, the Kings, Suns, Mavs and Grizzley’s have made some good draft picks that should make them slightly more of a threat and the Spurs (Leonard), Clippers (Griffin, Jordan, Rivers) and Pelicans (Cousins, Rondo) are likely to regress with the departure of key players and not enough incoming talent (other than perhaps Pelican/Randel) to offset the lost talent. Again, no reason to think the Blazers won’t be a top team in the NW and in the WC overall.

          I’m not attacking you but provide some reasoning as to your conclusions. Opinions are opinions but your reasoning is cloudy at best.

          • CompetitiveBalance

            I think the Blazers will struggle to finish near the top of the west. Remember although they finished 3rd they were only 2 games ahead of the 8th speed. The loss of Ed Davis can’t be underestimated. He was their only source of toughness in the frontcourt. Dame and CJ are great scorers but the defense lacking and their bench is still questionable at best. There is a toss up of about 9 teams that can finish 3-8 in the west.

            • knickscavsfan

              I’m not saying that there isn’t room for improvement for the Blazers to hold or improve upon their status next year. I was simply dressing Dionis’ assertion that that the 4 other teams in the NW would completely pass them buy. Even overall, there are 3 teams (Spurs, Clippers and Pelicans) that can be significantly worse next year while the Lakers might be the only team from last year that might move into the top 8. Ed Davis was a good rotation player but I think there’s opportunity for them to mitigate his loss.

    • cleve1969

      Interesting that you left off the Spurs from your playoff list when they made the playoffs last season without Leonard. If he gets traded before next season, you can bet that San Antonio gets some players good enough to make the playoffs

      • bravesfan88

        I also think the Pelicans will suprise people this year. With signing Payton as what I believe will be an improvement over Rondo..Adding Randle, and with a full season of Mirotic, I think those two will play with AD seamlessly and extremely effictively…

        Randle is greatly underrated and was highly under appreciated in LA..I think he will be a huge difference maker for the Pelicans. This team is lacking in overall depth, but I think they’ll end up fighting for the 5-6 seed in the West…Which is not an easy task for that conference..The 5 and 6 seeds will be some highly talented teams come playoff time next season…Can’t wait, it’s going to be a really fun season..

    • formerlyz

      I felt like Portland had the worst draft of all 30 teams. They need defense on the wing and in the frontcourt, as well as more consistent wing shooting. If the Clippers dont keep him, they should be 1 team in on Montrezl Harrell, and if possible look into someone for depth on the wing

      • knickscavsfan

        I guess if it’s a question as to whether they drafted for best available talent vs drafting for need. Would you have gone with Omari Spellman or Robert Williams, both were available when the Blazers selected?

        • formerlyz

          I’d have to go back and see what was on the board at the time, but I remember thinking they should draft Jacob Evans, who ended up with GS

          • x%sure

            Evans isn’t much better for a team that cannot re-sign key bigs.
            Moritz Wagner was also available.
            They’re not in a rush to re-sign their backup guards either, which makes room for their selection, but that’s another questionable call.

            They will probably be passed by Utah & Lakers, maybe OKC, meaning 5th or 6th, but they control games and won’t collapse with decent health.

  2. knickscavsfan

    On another note, as it pertains to the Thunder and Melo, in order to avoid harsh lux tax penalties, do they need to move Melo’s contract and NOT take back any salary (or as little as possible) for them to save that money? In other words, must he be dealt to a team that is under the cap enough to be able to absorb the whole contract without having to send equal (or about) salary in return towards OKC?

    • Dionis

      Trade him to Cleveland for Love. They both make about the same amount of money and the Cavs could just buy Melo out and let him ring chase somewhere else. Love would fit in seamlessly alongside Adams as a stretch 4 not to mention he has chemistry with Russ going back to UCLA.

      • knickscavsfan

        Let’s look at the impact of a Love for Melo trade.

        From OKC perspective, Love would be a much better fit for the team than Melo. He’s a stretch 4 who can play alongside Adams in the post. He’ll give them more outside shooting and rebounding as well. However, it doesn’t SAVE OKC from the lux tax as they basically make the same amount of money next year, and if Love is injured at all, then he might decide to opt-in on his 19/20 option thus putting OKC in lux tax jeopardy for a 2nd year as they will also be dealing with salary increases in what Russ and George will earn in 19/20 (+$5 to $6 mil total) vs 18/19.

        So if unable to dump Melo’s contract for $0 salary in return or unwilling to buy him out then re-purposing his money for another more useful player and accepting the lux tax hit makes sense. As to whether OKC ownership would be willing to accept that huge lux tax hit remains to be seen. In the past it seems they’ve been unwilling to put talent retention over lux tax liability as evident by them trading Harden for draft picks and expiring contracts.

        From the Cavs perspective, they’re rebuilding and I would assume that if they decide to move Love it would be for salary relief PLUS draft picks or young controllable assets with upside. Trading Love for Melo then buying Melo out doesn’t present ANY benefit to the Cavs as they probably won’t save much in 18/19 because Melo makes about $4 mil more than Love and would probably not forgo more than a 25% reduction in salary to gain his release (about $7 mil) in a buyout. Cavs would still be over the lux tax, still pay a stiff penalty and unless getting wowed by a draft pick package attached in the deal, would have done nothing to improve their draft assets going forward. So I don’t see that to the benefit of the Cavs at all and not for OKC if their intent is to avoid lux tax penalty because of the cap hold that exits because of Melo’s contract.

  3. knickscavsfan

    Does Melo still maintain his ability to block a trade? I think that would obviously give him incredible leverage.

  4. x%sure

    Yes, and OKC would have to be really firm about their dissatisfaction with him, and how they don’t want him around, for him to okay a trade. If so, Smith and Korver would work also but their needs to be an OKC 1st included too because I’m not sure Melo is better than Korver. And 2 firsts if Love is traded. Altman & Gilbert I think dislike Melo too.

  5. Meadowlark

    Extremely interesting comments here. The Warriors and Rockets would seem to be a notch or three above the rest of the teams in the West. It’s likely that Clippers, Phoenix, Memphis, Sacramento, and Dallas will miss the playoffs. The other 8 teams will compete for the final 6 spots with player health being the key to success. A final thought: it’s early in the open season for player movement. The 3-10 teams in the West could still make the needle move a bit, but rest assured the net result will be the same: fodder for Golden State or Houston. Could one of the 3-8 finishers shock and take the West? Sure, see “player health” above.

  6. Don’t see why Portland should brake their backcourt, only way for me would be giving CJ + some bad contracts for 2 all-stars, which ain’t gonna happen, but we are in a league that you are meant to add, not to subtract. Also you have to think Dama is a proper pro, above all the pathetic ring chasing that so many so called stars do around the league, winning is a rarity, not expected to happen in ones career, if it does is amazing, but sooo many legends have retired without winning & stayed on the same team, for example Stockton, probably the best pure PG ever, never won, but who cares, he gave it all for the one team, that makes him a legend, not bouncing around desperately & sadly chasing rings, that is for players that need them to show they are good, guys like, stockton, Ewing, Malone, Barkley, Dame, AD & so on are good enough. A ring would be great but they are superstars in their own right… so I truly hope Dame stays in Portland for good, & can be remembered maybe as their best ever player, that is what been a pro is all about for me, ring chasing anyone can do that.

  7. Meadowlark

    cesc really nailed this one. With 30 teams in the league, the odds are narrowed considerably for any one person to have the opportunity to wear a championship ring. Lillard is as classy an act as there is anywhere in the NBA. I don’t begrudge anyone chasing a ring, not a bit. But I admire and respect a player with loyalty over a player who’s a ring chaser. It’s a little bit like, “who’d you want next to you in a foxhole” … I’d take a ring-less Lillard every time.

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