Hoops Rumors is breaking down the 2019 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2019/20 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Portland Trail Blazers.
- Standard contracts:
- Rodney Hood: Two years, $11.72MM. Second-year player option. Re-signed using taxpayer mid-level exception.
- Mario Hezonja: Two years, $3.71MM. Second-year player option. Signed using minimum salary exception.
- Pau Gasol: One year, minimum salary. Signed using minimum salary exception.
- Anthony Tolliver: One year, minimum salary. Signed using minimum salary exception.
- Two-way contracts:
- Non-guaranteed camp contracts:
- Damian Lillard: Four years, 35% maximum salary (super-max). Projected value of $196MM. Designated veteran extension. Starts in 2021/22; runs through 2024/25.
- CJ McCollum: Three years, $100MM. Starts in 2021/22; runs through 2023/24.
Other offseason news:
- Signed head coach Terry Stotts to a contract extension through 2021/22.
- Signed president of basketball operations Neil Olshey to a contract extension through 2024.
- Lost associate head coach David Vanterpool to Timberwolves; promoted Nate Tibbetts to associate head coach.
- Exercised 2020/21 rookie scale options on Zach Collins, Anfernee Simons.
Salary cap situation:
- Remained over the cap.
- Over the tax line by approximately $12.38MM; projected tax bill of about $22.2MM.
- Carrying approximately $145.01MM in salary.
- Two traded player exceptions available; largest TPE ($1.79MM) expires 7/8/20.
Story of the summer:
The Trail Blazers exceeded expectations in a big way in 2018/19, winning 53 games and making the Western Conference Finals after oddsmakers gave them a preseason over/under forecast of 42.5 wins.
Still, while Portland’s two playoff series victories produced some memorable moments, including a Damian Lillard dagger that will show up in highlight packages for years, the team’s season eventually ended the same way it did in 2018, on the wrong end of a frustrating four-game sweep by a conference rival.
That run to the Western Conference Finals at least quieted chatter about whether Lillard and CJ McCollum have to be split up. The Blazers further quieted that speculation by signing both star guards to massive new contract extensions during the offseason, locking up McCollum through 2024 and Lillard through 2025.
Even though the Blazers were willing to double down on their backcourt duo, it still seemed as if this roster was missing the piece that would help get it over the top and get it into the NBA Finals. Unfortunately, the Portland entered the offseason projected to be a taxpaying team and lacking the resources necessary to bring back all the team’s key free agents, forcing president of basketball operations Neil Olshey to get creative.
Olshey and the front office managed to bring back Rodney Hood, but lost several other notable free agents, including Al-Farouq Aminu, Seth Curry, Jake Layman, and Enes Kanter. Needing a big man to replace Kanter and injured center Jusuf Nurkic in the middle, Olshey surrendered two more players from last year’s roster – Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard – in a trade for Hassan Whiteside.
After a few more low-cost free agent signings and trades, the Blazers had set their roster, but questions remain. Besides Lillard and McCollum, six of Portland’s next eight most-used players from last year’s team are gone, and one of the two that’s still around – Nurkic – probably won’t play until sometime in 2020. In addition to to all that roster turnover, the Blazers sacrificed much of their depth on their wing when they lost Aminu, Curry, Harkless, Layman, and Evan Turner.
The Blazers have a strong culture and may be evolving into one of those teams like San Antonio that becomes perennially underrated. But at this point, this year’s squad doesn’t look like an upgrade over last year’s.