Nassir Little

Blazers’ Nassir Little Out Six Weeks With Hip Fracture

Forward Nassir Little exited Tuesday’s loss to the Clippers with what was initially deemed a right hip strain. Further imaging revealed that Little had sustained a mild femoral head impaction fracture, and he’s expected to miss six weeks, the Trail Blazers announced in a press release.

Little, 22, signed a four-year, $28MM rookie scale extension before the 2022/23 season started (it kicks in next season). Through 21 games (15.3 minutes per night) for Portland, he’s averaging 5.5 points and 2.4 rebounds on .473/.372/.667 shooting.

Part of the reason Little accepted a relatively team-friendly deal is because he wanted “security” and “peace of mind.” But he also admitted that his injury history had played a factor.

I’m not gonna lie, I think my talent level is worth more than that,” Little said of his $28MM contract. “But with me having an injury history, and them still taking a chance on me, I want to be here. I’ll probably perform at a level that’s worth more than that, but being in Portland is what I want.”

Little was having a breakout third season in ’21/22 but it came to an early end when he underwent surgery on February 1 to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. In May, he underwent abdominal surgery to repair a core muscle injury.

Overall, he averaged 9.8 points and 5.6 rebounds on .460/.331/.734 shooting in 42 games (25.9 MPG) last season.

The Blazers are dealing with several injured players at the moment (Twitter link). In addition to Little, second-year guard Keon Johnson (left hip pointer), star guard Damian Lillard (right soleus strain), and guard Gary Payton II (return to competition conditioning) are out Saturday at Utah, while wing Josh Hart (left ankle sprain) is doubtful and center Drew Eubanks (right hip contusion) is questionable.

Lillard is reportedly targeting a Sunday return at home against Indiana.

Payton, a key free agent addition, has yet to play this season after undergoing core muscle surgery in September. It was initially thought that he’d be available for the start of the regular season, but his progress has been slower than anticipated. The last update on his status was two weeks ago.

Portland had a great start to the season, going 10-4, but has lost seven of its past eight games to currently hold an 11-11 record, the 10th seed in the West.

11 Players Affected By Poison Pill Provision In 2022/23

The term “poison pill” doesn’t actually show up in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, but it’s used colloquially to refer to a provision in the CBA that affects players who recently signed rookie scale contract extensions.

As we explain in our glossary entry, the so-called poison pill provision applies when a player who signed a rookie scale extension is traded before the extension takes effect.

In that scenario, the player’s incoming value for the receiving team for matching purposes is determined by averaging his current-year salary and the salaries in each year of his new extension. His current team, on the other hand, simply treats his current-year salary as the outgoing figure for matching purposes.

For instance, Heat guard Tyler Herro is earning a $5,722,116 salary in 2022/23, but signed a four-year, $120MM extension that will begin in ’23/24. Therefore, if Miami wanted to trade Herro this season, his outgoing value for salary-matching purposes would be $5,722,116 (this year’s salary), while his incoming value for the team acquiring him would be $25,144,423 (this year’s salary, plus the $120MM extension, divided by five years).

[RELATED: 2022 NBA Rookie Scale Extension Recap]

Most of the players who signed rookie scale extensions aren’t candidates to be traded anytime soon. But even in the event that a team does want to look into trading one of these recently extended players, the gap between the player’s incoming trade value and outgoing trade value could make it a real challenge to find a deal that works for both sides.

The “poison pill” provision applies to 11 players who signed rookie scale extensions in 2022. Here are those players, along with their outgoing salaries and incoming salaries for trade purposes:

Player Team Outgoing trade value Incoming trade value
Zion Williamson NOP $13,534,817 $34,639,136
Ja Morant MEM $12,119,440 $34,403,240
RJ Barrett NYK $10,900,635 $23,580,127
De’Andre Hunter ATL $9,835,881 $19,967,176
Darius Garland CLE $8,920,795 $33,870,133
Tyler Herro MIA $5,722,116 $25,144,423
Brandon Clarke MEM $4,343,920 $10,868,784
Nassir Little POR $4,171,548 $6,434,310
Jordan Poole GSW $3,901,399 $26,380,280
Keldon Johnson SAS $3,873,025 $15,574,605
Kevin Porter Jr. HOU $3,217,631 $15,234,726

Once the 2023/24 league year begins, the poison pill provision will no longer apply to these players. At that time, the player’s ’23/24 salary would represent both his outgoing and incoming value.

Until then though, the gap between those outgoing and incoming figures will make it tricky for these players to be moved, with one or two exceptions.

The small difference between Little’s incoming and outgoing trade figures, for instance, wouldn’t be very problematic if the Blazers wanted to trade him. But the much larger divide between Poole’s incoming and outgoing numbers means there’s virtually no chance he could be moved to an over-the-cap team in 2022/23, even if the Warriors wanted to.

Contract Extension Details: Porter, Hunter, Little

As previously reported, Kevin Porter Jr. new four-year extension with the Rockets is only fully guaranteed for the first season. As Kelly Iko of The Athletic reports and Hoops Rumors has confirmed, all four years of the deal have a base salary of $15,860,000, with an additional $4,758,000 available each year via incentives.

Those incentives are divided into two categories and are based on Porter’s minutes played and the success of the team, according to Iko, who says the team-based bonuses are tied to wins, play-in tournament appearances, and/or playoff berths. If Porter maxes out his incentives, the total four-year value of the deal would be $82,472,000, but the total base value if he doesn’t earn any bonuses is just $63,440,000.

Although Porter’s second-year salary isn’t guaranteed yet, it will become partially guaranteed for $1MM if he remains under contract through July 1, 2023, which is when the extension officially begins. That partial guarantee for the 2024/25 season will increase to $3MM at the start of the ’23/24 regular season and will rise to $6MM if Porter remains under contract five days beyond the 2024 trade deadline, as Iko outlines.

Porter can also earn a full guarantee for 2024/25 if he reaches a certain minutes threshold in ’23/24 and the Rockets also earn a top-eight seed and make the playoffs that season, Iko explains. Finally, as long as Porter remains under contract, his second-, third-, and fourth-year salaries will automatically become fully guaranteed on the June 30 before that season begins. The Rockets would have to waive him to avoid paying those salaries.

Here are details on a couple other contract extensions signed earlier this week:

  • De’Andre Hunter‘s four-year extension with the Hawks starts at $20,089,286 in year one and features standard 8% annual raises, increasing to $24,910,714 for year four. Each season includes $1.25MM in unlikely incentives, so $90MM is fully guaranteed and $5MM is available in incentives, as initially reported.
  • Nassir Little‘s four-year extension with the Trail Blazers also features a standard rising structure, beginning at $6,250,000 in 2023/24 and increasing by $500K per year, up to $7,750,000 in ’26/27. As initially reported, it’s fully guaranteed, with no team or player option.

Trail Blazers Notes: Little, Domingo, Billups

As we noted on Tuesday, Nassir Little‘s four-year, $28MM deal with the Trail Blazers features the lowest average annual value of any rookie scale extension since Jeremy Lamb inked a three-year, $21MM contract in 2015.

Explaining his decision to accept a relatively modest long-term extension offer, Little said the new deal gives him “security” and “peace of mind,” as Sean Highkin of The Rose Garden Report details in a Twitter thread.

“For me, it’s more money than I make now, it’s more money than I’ve ever made in my life,” Little said. “I can bet on myself to make more money, but I don’t play this game just to make money. I have $28 million on the table, I’ll just take it.”

With a strong, healthy season in 2022/23, Little likely could’ve done much better as a restricted free agent next summer, which he acknowledged in his comments to reporters. However, he’s comfortable with opting for stability instead of attempting to maximize his earnings.

“I’m not gonna lie, I think my talent level is worth more than that,” Little said of his $28MM contract, per Highkin. “But with me having an injury history, and them still taking a chance on me, I want to be here. I’ll probably perform at a level that’s worth more than that, but being in Portland is what I want.”

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • Little’s four-year extension is a win-win for him and the Blazers, Jason Quick writes for The Athletic. While Portland is in position to get a potential bargain on a rotation player through 2027, Little can relax and not have to worry about playing for a contract this season. “You’ll have guys tell you that contract years are stressful years and I just think for me, it takes a lot of weight off my shoulders,” Little said. “Just a lot of anticipation goes away, so now I can just focus in and secure stuff for myself and my family. I should be good for the rest of my life.”
  • The Trail Blazers have made a new addition to their front office, announcing today in a press release that they’ve hired BJ Domingo as director of player personnel. A former scout for the Bucks, Domingo became the assistant director of the U.S. men’s national team in 2021 and will help bolster Portland’ “global scouting efforts”, according to general manager Joe Cronin. “BJ has evaluated talent at the pro level, collegiate and amateur ranks while developing great relationships across the world,” Cronin said in a statement.
  • Chauncey Billups‘ first season as a head coach went about as poorly as possible, as his superstar (Damian Lillard) played just 29 games, the man who hired him (Neil Olshey) was dismissed less than two months into the season, and a team with playoff aspirations won just 27 games. However, as Bill Oram of The Oregonian relays, Billups is unfazed by how year one played out and looking forward to showing what he’s capable of in year two.

Trail Blazers Sign Nassir Little To Four-Year Extension

2:24pm: The Blazers have officially signed Little to his extension, the team confirmed today in a press release.

“Nassir is a talented player who has grown every year and has a very bright future,” general manager Joe Cronin said in a statement. “We are very excited that he chose to extend with us, and we look forward to continuing to see him shine on and off the court.”

10:31am: The Trail Blazers have agreed to sign forward Nassir Little to a four-year, $28MM rookie scale extension, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The deal will be fully guaranteed, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

The 25th overall pick in the 2019 draft, Little didn’t have much of a role in his first two seasons with the Blazers, averaging 4.1 PPG and 2.5 RPG on .450/.302/.719 shooting in 96 games (12.6 MPG).

However, he bumped those numbers to 9.8 PPG and 5.6 RPG on .460/.331/.734 shooting in 42 games (25.9 MPG) in 2021/22 and was playing especially well after entering the starting lineup in December.

Little’s breakout season in Portland came to an early end when he underwent surgery on February 1 to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. In May, he underwent abdominal surgery to repair a core muscle injury.

Little has since recovered from both of those procedures and is ready to go for the start of the 2022/23 season. He lost the battle for the starting small forward job to Josh Hart, but figures to be one of the first players off the bench for the team to open the year.

Even though Little’s new deal is reportedly fully guaranteed, it has the potential to be a steal for the Blazers. They’ll be on the hook for just $7MM per season through 2026/27 in order to lock up a 22-year-old wing who continues to improve. Even if Little doesn’t make huge strides in the coming years, that’s a very affordable price for a reliable rotation player.

For his part, Little has earned just $6.63MM through his first three NBA seasons and will make $4.17MM in 2022/23. Locking in $28MM in guaranteed money will increase his career earnings exponentially and will give him some long-term security in case he takes a step back or suffers a major injury going forward. It’s hard to fault him for accepting Portland’s offer rather than rolling the dice in restricted free agency next summer.

Little is the 10th player to agree to a rookie scale extension this season, as our tracker shows. The deadline for those deals is at 5:00 pm CT on Monday.

Western Notes: Hart, Alvarado, Rockets, Jazz

The Trail Blazers have made a decision on their starting small forward job, according to Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian, who hears from a source that Josh Hart has won the training camp competition.

Hart had been competing with Nassir Little and Justise Winslow for the right to start at the three for Portland this season, alongside a backcourt of Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons and a frontcourt of Jerami Grant and Jusuf Nurkic.

Hart, whom the Blazers acquired in last season’s CJ McCollum blockbuster, has earned praise from head coach Chauncey Billups for his effort on defense and his basketball IQ, as Fentress notes. The veteran swingman is entering a potential contract year — his 2023/24 salary is currently non-guaranteed and he also has the ability to opt out of his deal after the season.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Second-year Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado has long admired Tony Parker‘s game and got the chance to work with the former Spurs star this offseason, meeting Parker at the Las Vegas Summer League and then traveling to San Antonio to train with him. “Actually, I (direct messaged) him and said, ‘I’m a big fan of you,'” Alvarado said, per Christian Clark of “‘Is there any chance me and you can get in the gym this summer? I would love that.’ He replied right away.”
  • Kelly Iko of The Athletic takes a look at where things stand with the Rockets‘ rotation, noting that Tari Eason is making a strong case for regular playing time, while Bruno Fernando appears to have passed Usman Garuba on the depth chart at center. Iko also isn’t sure that any of the players acquired in last week’s trade with Oklahoma City (Derrick Favors, Theo Maledon, and Maurice Harkless) will make the regular season roster.
  • Given how significantly they overhauled their roster this offseason, the Jazz will likely need more than just a few preseason games to develop a real sense of chemistry, Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. “It’s going to take us a while to get used to everyone and learn everyone,” Jordan Clarkson said. “We’re still just getting the basics down. We’re not even at the point of knowing guys’ spots and individual games.”

Northwest Notes: Paschall, Nnaji, Simons, Little

The long process of waiting for a phone call in free agency caused Eric Paschall to consider a career change, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Paschall didn’t receive a qualifying offer after playing for Utah last season and he spent nearly a month as an unrestricted free agent before signing a two-way contract with the Timberwolves in late July.

“It was just a lot, you know what I’m saying?” Paschall said. “I feel like mentally I wasn’t in the greatest place. Just tired. I was like, ‘I might just stop playing basketball.’ … You see the other players getting picked up, you’re not getting a call. You’re calling your agent every day. So I was at a point where I was like I might walk away.”

Paschall credits former teammate Donovan Mitchell and other players with helping him stay focused on the game. Dell Demps, who joined Minnesota’s front office over the summer, was a strong advocate for signing Paschall.

“It wasn’t really the easiest decision. Had to have a lot of tough conversations about it,” Paschall said of accepting the two-way offer. “But I feel like I’m in a pretty good place now. Pretty happy that I’m here.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • After spending the summer in the weight room, Nuggets power forward Zeke Nnaji has added 10 pounds of muscle and increased his vertical leap by four inches, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Nnaji will be competing with veteran center DeAndre Jordan for backup minutes in the front court. “I’ve really taken a giant leap coming into my third year,” he said. “This is an important year for me.”
  • After running the Trail Blazers’ offense during the second half of last season, Anfernee Simons has to adjust to playing alongside Damian Lillard, notes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. Simons has gotten off to a rough start to the preseason, making just six of 25 shots from the field, as he settles into his new role. “It’s a different kind of dynamic from last year because, obviously, I was like the primary ball-handler at all times,” Simons said.
  • Nassir Little is in a battle for the Trail Blazers’ starting small forward spot after injuries wiped out his summer, Fentress adds in a separate story. Little suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder in January, then had core muscle surgery in May and wasn’t able to play 5-on-5 until last week.

Northwest Notes: Grant, Blazers, Jokic, Murray, Vanderbilt

New Trail Blazers starting power forward Jerami Grant is working on his chemistry with center Jusuf Nurkic and the rest of his new Portland compatriots, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. Fentress writes that the team’s 2022 training camp tipped off on Tuesday in Santa Barbara.

“His length is incredible,” Nurkic raved of the 6’8″ forward. “Layups. Dunks. It’s so effortless.”

“I’m still learning the way he passes,” Grant said of the 6’11” center. “I’m figuring out when to cut, where to cut and kind of reading him.”

As Fentress notes, the Blazers could look to play Grant some minutes at small forward and even as a small-ball center. Like Nurkic, other teammates are also impressed with Grant’s two-way play and athleticism.

“Looking at Jerami, and the size, the athleticism and versatility sticks out,” star point guard Damian Lillard said of watching Grant from afar. “But then being able to see his skill set up close, he has been impressive.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • With four of the team’s starting positions set, three Trail Blazers players will compete in training camp for the remaining opening: the starting small forward gig. In a separate piece, Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian examines the pros and cons of swingman Josh Hart, Nassir Little and Justise Winslow. “I think as a competitor we all want to start, we all want raises,” Winslow said of the process. “But at the same time, you understand that you’re part of a bigger team.”
  • Nuggets MVP center Nikola Jokic and guard Jamal Murray are hoping to pick up right where the dynamic duo left off before Murray’s ACL tear in April 2021, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post“It was fun,” Jokic said of a recent training camp practice together. “Like I said, it feels really natural, it feels easy. I think we’re gonna be back really soon.” Head coach Michael Malone registered his excitement for the return of the pairing this season. “It looks good, but I know it’s going to look better once Jamal gets back into game shape where he completely has no concerns about his knee.”
  • The Jazz view recently-added 6’9″ big man Jarred Vanderbilt as primarily a power forward, and intend to only play him as a center in spot minutes, tweets Tony Jones of The Athletic. Jones cites that thinking as one of the incentives behind the club’s trade for former Pistons center Kelly Olynyk.

Blazers Notes: Lillard, Small Forward, Little, GPII, Simons

The Trail Blazers signed Damian Lillard to a two-year extension this offseason despite the fact that there were still three years remaining on the point guard’s current deal. Speaking today to reporters, including Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report (Twitter link), general manager Joe Cronin explained why the team was comfortable moving forward with a new deal for Lillard.

“If Dame only has one or two years left, that turns up the urgency,” Cronin said. “Now we have a little more time to get the perfect mix rather than pushing all the chips in on one big piece. We’re going to figure this out the right way.”

Lillard, meanwhile, was asked if he felt as if Portland has made the roster changes necessary to be a contending team going forward, and offered a positive assessment of the team’s summer, as Highkin relays (via Twitter).

“I believe in Joe, I believe in (head coach) Chauncey (Billups),” Lillard said. “I think what we did with our roster gave us a much better chance than what we’ve had prior to that. The way it looks and feels, we’re much closer.”

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Jerami Grant, and Jusuf Nurkic are virtually locked in as starters for the Blazers, but the small forward spot will likely be up for grabs in training camp and the preseason, Billups acknowledged today. “The way I see it, it’s gonna play out in camp,” Billups said (Twitter link via Highkin). “There’s three guys — Josh Hart, (Nassir Little) and Justise (Winslow). It’s not about the best player, it’s who plays best with that unit.”
  • The Blazers have had “brief” conversations with Little’s camp about a potential rookie scale extension, but haven’t gotten deep into the numbers yet, Cronin said today, adding that there’s mutual interest in reaching a long-term agreement (Twitter link via Highkin).
  • Gary Payton II, who is recovering from a core muscle surgery, is the only Blazer who isn’t a “full go” for training camp, according to Cronin, who reiterated that the newly-signed guard is expected to be ready for opening night (Twitter link via Highkin).
  • Billups is hopeful he can reduce Lillard’s workload during the 2022/23 season, telling reporters today that he’d to keep the point guard between 32 and 34 minutes per game. “He wants to play 42 minutes,” Billups said, per Highkin (Twitter link). “If we have it where we want it, I’m hoping around 34. But we’ll see.”
  • After signing a new four-year, $100MM contract this summer, Simons said today that one of his next personal goals is to become an All-Star, according to Highkin (Twitter link).

Extension Rumors: Hunter, C. Johnson, Poole, G. Williams, More

Of the players eligible for rookie scale extensions this offseason, Spurs forward Keldon Johnson became the first to sign a new deal worth less than the maximum. According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report (Twitter link), Johnson’s new four-year contract will have a base value of $74MM, with $1.5MM in annual unlikely incentives that could push the total value of the deal to $80MM.

Johnson’s contract will serve as a point of comparison for many of the other extension-eligible players who will be negotiating with their respective teams this summer and fall, Fischer writes in a full story for Bleacher Report.

For instance, representatives for De’Andre Hunter figure to seek a similar deal for their client, though the Hawks may be reluctant to invest heavily in a player who has appeared in just 76 games in the last two seasons due to injuries. One cap strategist who spoke to Bleacher Report said Hunter’s injury concerns “are very real,” and sources tell Fischer that the 24-year-old and Atlanta are approximately $20MM apart in their discussions about a four-year extension.

Johnson’s extension with San Antonio is worth roughly the same amount annually as deals signed by sharpshooters like Davis Bertans, Duncan Robinson, and Joe Harris, and all four of those deals will be reference points when Cameron Johnson and the Suns discuss a new deal, according to Fischer, who suggests an extension for Johnson could easily surpass $15MM per year.

Here are a few more notes from Fischer on rookie scale extension candidates from around the NBA:

  • There’s a sense that the Warriors may be best off waiting on an extension for Jordan Poole unless they can get a team-friendly rate this offseason, Fischer writes. “What’s the upside in locking him in now?” the team cap strategist said. “He’s not Luka Doncic or Donovan Mitchell, who’ve proven they can carry a team. He’s close. If he does it again, you pay him. But prior to this year he was a borderline rotation player.”
  • Cap experts who spoke to Fischer believes that the Celtics‘ four-year extension for Robert Williams (worth $48MM, plus $6MM in incentives) will be a benchmark for their extension talks with Grant Williams. However, rival executives don’t think the C’s will want to spend much more on Grant than they did on Robert.
  • The Trail Blazers and Nassir Little may both be motivated to work out a new deal this summer. As Fischer explains, Little could increase his value (and his price tag) in 2022/23 if he’s part of Portland’s new-look starting lineup, but his injury history might make him inclined to take a guaranteed payday sooner rather than later.
  • There has been no traction on extension talks between the Sixers and Matisse Thybulle, sources tell Bleacher Report. Fischer also classifies Bulls guard Coby White as a player who is unlikely to sign an extension before the season.