Norman Powell

Northwest Notes: Billups, Powell, Edwards, SGA

Chauncey Billups has been emphasizing defense and ball movement ever since he was hired as the Trail Blazers‘ head coach in June, and that combination was on display in a win over Phoenix Saturday night, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. Billups inherited a team that reached the playoffs eight straight years under Terry Stotts, but has lost in the first round in four of the past five seasons. He is determined to take the Blazers to a new level, and he said that starts with breaking bad habits.

“I could have taken this job and just kept everything the same and said ‘All right, let’s be a little bit better defensively.’ But they (the players) want more. I want more,” Billups said after his first career coaching victory. “You can’t keep everything the same and expect different results. So, I could have done that. ‘We are going to run everything y’all used to run.’ Great offense, boom, bam. Well, there’s a ceiling on that, in my opinion. Not only in my opinion, we’ve seen it play out.”

The players seem to welcome the new approach, even though it’s delivered with a hard edge. Damian Lillard, who has been the subject of trade speculation, has said that talking to Billups made him more open to staying with the organization. Jusuf Nurkic was so inspired after hearing Billups’ introductory press conference that he flew from Bosnia to Portland to meet his new coach.

“He’s very detailed,” Nassir Little said. “And not just Chauncey, all the coaches. They are very detailed in what they are saying. They don’t let anything slide through the cracks as they are teaching. The way they break things down, from close-outs to footwork, to who goes where on rotations, it’s all so detailed.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Trail Blazers believe Norman Powell avoided a serious injury to his left knee Saturday night, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Powell left the game in the second quarter, but the results from initial tests are encouraging, Wojnarowski adds (Twitter link). Powell will undergo an MRI, according to Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian.
  • Veteran guard Patrick Beverley has been impressed by the willingness to accept instruction he sees from his new Timberwolves teammate Anthony Edwards, per Chris Hine of The Star-Tribune“A lot of young guys, especially No. 1 picks — that’s no discredit of course to anybody — guys think they’ve got it figured out already …” Beverley said. “He’s always wide-eyed, bushy tailed and eager to learn. He’s like a sponge. He soaks up everything.”
  • Injuries limited Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to 35 games last season and he’s still adjusting to being back on a full-time schedule, notes Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. “I think it only makes it harder the longer you go without playing,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “With that being said, it’s no excuse. Guys in the NBA do it all the time. I just gotta figure it out.” 

Northwest Notes: Bol Bol, Krejci, Powell

Bol Bol has only appeared in 39 regular-season games since entering the league in 2019 as a second-round pick. The Nuggets center appears poised for a bigger role in his third season, as Mike Singer of the Denver Post details. The son of Manute Bol has made a strong impression during camp.

“I think Bol Bol’s had a really good camp and a consistent camp,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “When people ask me about Bol, it’s never about is he talented enough. It’s about, is he willing to do the little things and be consistent with his effort … After three, four days, whatever it’s been, I think Bol’s effort has been really good.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Thunder point guard Vit Krejci has suffered a “slight setback” in his rehab from an ACL injury, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman tweets. The draft-and-stash prospect signed a multi-year contract early last month. He’s expected to spend the bulk of the season in the G League once he’s ready to play.
  • Norman Powell was shipped by the Raptors to the Trail Blazers at the trade deadline last season. After re-signing with Portland, he’s looking forward to spending a full training camp and season building chemistry with his teammates, Casey Holdahl of the team’s website writes. “Totally different. I feel really a part of the team, a part of the organization,” Powell said. “It’s starting to feel natural and normal to me, just getting into a routine, knowing exactly where I need to be. It’s definitely going to still take some time but it’s definitely a process that’s speeding up day by day.” Powell signed a five-year, $90MM contract in August.
  • In case you missed it, Jazz surprisingly released two-way player Justin James on Friday after signing him last week. Get the details here.

Northwest Notes: Morris, MPJ, Powell, Beverley

The Nuggets haven’t made it official yet, but it certainly appears that Monte Morris is on track to claim a spot in the team’s starting lineup while Jamal Murray recovers from ACL surgery. As Mike Singer of The Denver Post writes, head coach Michael Malone said this week that he’s “extremely confident” in Morris’ ability and wants the 26-year-old point guard to get comfortable running the first-team offense.

“It’s just a matter of (Morris) playing with aggression and confidence, playing with that attack mindset and being more vocal on the floor to run his team,” Malone said. “And that’s not easy, especially when you’re playing with the reigning MVP. And I tell him sometimes, ‘Hey, tell Nikola (Jokic) where you want him.’ I say, ‘That’s your job as a point guard,’ and I think he’s embracing that.”

There’s no set timeline for Murray’s return, and it seems unlikely that we’ll see him back on the court until at least the spring, so assuming Morris is named the Nuggets’ starting point guard, it’s a job he could hang onto all season.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Instagram video) provides some more details on how Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. can bump the $12MM partial guarantee on the fifth year of his new contract extension to a full $39.3MM guarantee. Porter could get that full guarantee if he earns two All-Stars berths or a single All-NBA or All-Defense nod before then. He’d also get the full fifth-year amount if Denver wins a title and he meets certain games-played thresholds during that season.
  • After initially arriving in Portland with less than two months left in the 2021/22 season, Norman Powell said this week that life with the Trail Blazers is “starting to feel natural and normal to me,” per Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. Like some of his teammates, Powell is excited about how new head coach Chauncey Billups plans to use him. “It’s only the first two days but I’m definitely feeling included on the offensive side of the ball,” Powell said.
  • New Timberwolves guard Patrick Beverley said on Thursday that when he and the Clippers couldn’t agree on an extension this summer, the team asked him where else he might like to play and he put Minnesota “in my top three, my top two I believe” (link via Chris Hine of The Star Tribune). While it’s a little hard to believe Beverley was so bullish on the idea of joining a small-market team that has made the postseason just once since 2004, he expressed enthusiasm this week about being a mentor to the Wolves’ young guards and bringing some “intensity” to the team.

How Players Who Declined Options Fared In Free Agency

Of the 16 veterans who had player options on their contracts for the 2021/22 season, seven picked up those options, forgoing free agency for another year of security. However, that leaves nine players who opted out and reached the free agent market.

For some players, that decision was an easy one. For instance, Norman Powell was long believed to be in line for a multiyear deal in the range of $15-20MM per year, so exercising his $11.6MM player option never would’ve made any sense.

The decision wasn’t so easy for every player who opted out though. Now that we’re five weeks into free agency, we want to look back on those decisions to see if they paid off for the nine players who opted out.

Let’s dive in…

The biggest wins:

  • Kawhi Leonard
    • Option: $36,016,200 (Clippers)
    • New contract: Four years, $176,265,152 (Clippers)
  • Norman Powell
    • Option: $11,615,328 (Trail Blazers)
    • New contract: Five years, $90,000,000 (Trail Blazers)
  • Spencer Dinwiddie
    • Option: $12,302,496 (Nets)
    • New contract: Three years, $54,000,000 (Wizards)
      • Note: Deal includes $8MM in incentives; third year partially guaranteed.

Leonard, Powell, and Dinwiddie all secured raises for the 2021/22 season and increased their overall guarantees exponentially. Leonard tacked on an extra $140MM in guaranteed money, while Powell’s new overall guarantee is nearly eight times more than his option salary.

Dinwiddie’s new contract isn’t quite as favorable as the other two, but it’s still a major win for a player who missed nearly the entire 2020/21 season due to an ACL tear. Even in a worst-case scenario, Dinwiddie will earn $45MM in guaranteed money. He can ensure his third-year salary becomes fully guaranteed by appearing in at least 50 games in each of the next two seasons, and he has the ability to earn even more in incentives.

A solid win:

  • Chris Paul
    • Option: $44,211,146 (Suns)
    • New contract: Four years, $120,000,000 (Suns)
      • Note: Deal includes $75MM in guaranteed money. Third year is partially guaranteed; fourth year is non-guaranteed.

If you want to move Paul to the “biggest wins” group, I wouldn’t argue with that. After all, he increased his overall guarantee by more than $30MM, which is no small feat for a player hitting free agency at age 36.

I’m separating him into his own group because his 2021/22 salary was reduced by more than $13MM as part of his new deal, and I think it’s possible he could’ve gotten more than $30MM in guaranteed money on his next deal if he had simply picked up his option and hit free agency next year.

I certainly don’t blame him for going this route though, given his injury history. And if he continues to play at a high level, the Suns will probably want to keep him for the third year of the deal, which would increase his overall guarantee on this contract to $90MM.

Minor wins:

  • Will Barton
    • Option: $14,669,642 (Nuggets)
    • New contract: Two years, $30,000,000 (Nuggets)
      • Note: Deal includes $2MM in incentives.
  • JaMychal Green
    • Option: $7,559,748 (Nuggets)
    • New contract: Two years, $16,400,000 (Nuggets)
      • Note: Deal includes $400K in incentives.
  • Bobby Portis
    • Option: $3,804,150 (Bucks)
    • New contract: Two years, $8,912,580 (Bucks)
  • Bryn Forbes
    • Option: $2,454,002 (Bucks)
    • New contract: One year, $4,500,000 (Spurs)

The Nuggets took a similar approach to their negotiations with Barton and Green — Denver gave each player a small raise this year, plus a second guaranteed season (Green’s second year is a player option).

The Bucks went that route with Portis too, giving him the biggest raise they could offer using his Non-Bird rights and including a second-year player option on his new deal.

You could make a case that Forbes is a big winner for nearly doubling his 2021/22 salary, but without any future years tacked onto that deal (and given the relatively small salaries involved), I’m classifying it as a modest victory.

The jury’s still out:

Hartenstein is the only one of these nine players who remains unsigned. Based on his solid play with the Cavs down the stretch, turning down his minimum-salary player option seemed like a reasonable bet at the time, but it now looks like he might’ve been better off taking the guaranteed money.

While he’ll probably be signed at some point in the coming weeks, Hartenstein isn’t a lock for a fully guaranteed deal. And even if he gets a guaranteed one-year, minimum-salary contract, it’ll be worth slightly less ($1,729,217) than the option he declined, due to the league’s minimum-salary rules.

Blazers Notes: Powell, Lillard, McCollum, Nurkic

Examining the Trail Blazers‘ plans going forward, Dan Devine of The Ringer suggests there are a few reasons for optimism in Portland. The team’s late-season addition of Norman Powell made an already strong offense even more potent, and the Blazers re-signed Powell to a long-term deal this summer. New head coach Chauncey Billups could also make an immediate impact and push the club harder on the defensive end, where improvement is necessary.

Still, Devine acknowledges that the Blazers didn’t exactly swing for the fences with their offseason moves, noting that there are a a lot of caveats and “maybes” in play when discussing their potential upside.

Here’s more out of Portland:

  • Asked during an Instagram Live appearance whether he intends to leave Portland, Lillard replied, I’m not leaving PDX. Not right now at least” (video link via Landon Buford). Those who believe Lillard wants to stay will likely focus on his assertion that he’s not going anywhere, while those who think he wants out will probably zero in on the “not right now” portion of his response. I wouldn’t read too much into it either way — it sounds like Lillard was supplying a fairly generic answer while leaving all his options open for the future.
  • Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report spoke to new NBPA president CJ McCollum about whether he believes the Blazers are capable of winning a title, teams’ free agency spending, and a handful of other topics. “I think whenever we step on the court, we have a chance to win a championship. If you don’t have that mindset and that mentality, then you shouldn’t play,” McCollum said of the Blazers. “… I feel like every year we have a chance to win a championship. But in the NBA, there’s so many things that go into that. You need a little bit of luck.”
  • In the latest HoopsHype podcast, Michael Scotto and Yossi Gozzlan discussed the Blazers’ offseason, with Scotto noting that president of basketball operations Neil Olshey is going “all-in” on Billups and will either “sink or swim” with that head coaching hire. Scotto also suggested that McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic need to step up and play some of their best basketball in 2021/22 to give Portland a chance to contend.

Blazers Sign Norman Powell To Five-Year Deal

AUGUST 6: Powell has officially signed the contract, according to a team press release.

“Re-signing Norm was a priority this offseason and we are pleased that he chose to make a long-term commitment to Portland,” president of basketball operations Neil Olshey said. “We look forward to him building off his career year and are confident he will play an integral role in the future success of our franchise.”

AUGUST 2: The Trail Blazers have struck a deal with their top free agent, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link), who hears from agent Thaddeus Foucher that Norman Powell has agreed to a five-year, $90MM contract to remain in Portland.

Ahead of the 2021 free agency period, Powell decided to not exercise his $11.6MM player option for the 2021/22 season, confident (and rightfully so) that, as one of the best wings on the free agent market, he was in line for a major raise.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports adds (via Twitter) that the fully-guaranteed deal has no player options for the conclusion of the contract.

Powell was selected by the Raptors with the No. 46 pick out of UCLA in the 2015 draft. He won a title with the team in 2019. After spending his entire career in Toronto, the 6’3″ swingman was shipped to Portland in a deadline deal during the 2020/21 season.

With both clubs, Powell averaged 18.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.9 APG, and 1.2 SPG across 32.0 MPG on the year. Powell, 28, will remain a key contributor as the small forward for the Trail Blazers.

His positional height deficiencies on the wing are not out-of-place in Portland, where he will line up next to the similarly-undersized 6’3″ shooting guard CJ McCollum.

Luke Adams contributed to this report.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raptors Waive Hood, Bembry, Watson

The Raptors have waived DeAndre’ Bembry, Rodney Hood, and Paul Watson, according to a team press release. All three players had non-guaranteed contracts for the 2021/22 season.

According to Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports, the Raptors had always planned to waive Hood, who was acquired as part of the team’s trade of Gary Trent for Norman Powell, unless they could use his contract as filler in another trade. Lewenberg also suggests the decisions to waive Watson and Bembry indicate the team is either looking to create added cap flexibility or will simply go elsewhere with its end-of-bench roster spots.

Hood has been a productive player since being drafted 23rd in the 2014 draft by the Jazz, but staying healthy has been a challenge for the 6’7 lefty. Hood fractured his hand after coming over to Toronto, putting an early end on the least productive season of his career.

As we relayed earlier today, Hood already has a deal lined up with the Bucks, who are looking to add more shooting for next year’s playoff run.

In a separate tweet, Lewenberg reports that Toronto’s plan is to waive backup center Aron Baynes before his guarantee deadline tomorrow unless his money is needed in trades, and will retain Chris Boucher through his Sunday guarantee date.

Baynes came over as a free agent in the hopes that he would help stabilize the center position upon the departure of Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol, but his lone year with the Raptors was a disappointment, with the 34-year-old Australian unable to carve out a role for himself. Boucher, meanwhile, has been a massive development success for the Raptors, turning into a solid rim-protector and three-point shooter in his fourth season.

Hollinger’s Latest: CP3, Knicks, Fournier, Bulls, Rose, Pacers, More

There was talk last week that the Pelicans would be a serious suitor for Chris Paul in free agency, but that chatter seems to have faded, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic, who says the veteran point guard is now widely expected to re-sign with the Suns.

As Hollinger explains, he heard the Suns’ initial offer to Paul when the two sides were discussing a possible extension was somewhat “underwhelming,” but the club now appears prepared to offer a more serious package. No one around the league will be surprised if the total value of Paul’s new deal gets up to $100MM or more, Hollinger adds.

Here are several more free agent rumors from Hollinger:

  • Amidst rumors that Evan Fournier‘s price tag may be too high for the Celtics‘ liking, Hollinger suggests that the Knicks may be the team preparing to make an aggressive offer to the free agent wing. Hollinger adds that it’s worth keeping an eye on Mitchell Robinson and the Knicks, since a renegotiate-and-extend deal is a possibility for the two sides. That sort of agreement would give Robinson a raise for 2021/22 and lock him up for multiple seasons.
  • If the Bulls don’t land Lonzo Ball, one of their backup plans may be offering Derrick Rose a deal in the neighborhood of $12MM per year, says Hollinger.
  • Hollinger’s sources expect T.J. McConnell to stick with the Pacers for a deal worth around – or slightly above – the taxpayer mid-level exception ($5.9MM), but the competition for Doug McDermott will be fiercer and Indiana will face tax issues if the team wants to re-sign both players without trimming salary elsewhere.
  • If Richaun Holmes‘ presumed suitors – such as Charlotte and Toronto – end up using their cap room in other ways, he might be squeezed in free agency, allowing the Kings to re-sign him despite only holding his Early Bird rights. If that scenario plays out, Hollinger expects Holmes to sign a two-year deal with a player option so that he can hit the open market again in 2022 with full Bird rights.
  • There hasn’t been much free agent chatter surrounding Nuggets guard Will Barton or Trail Blazers Norman Powell, according to Hollinger, who writes that teams seems to be assuming those two players will remain with their respective clubs.
  • It has been tricky to figure out what the Spurs plan to do with their projected cap room, says Hollinger. Daniel Theis is the most prominent free agent target Hollinger has heard linked to San Antonio.

Blazers Rumors: McCollum, Simmons, Lillard, Powell, More

Teams are calling the Trail Blazers to inquire on guard CJ McCollum and offering the opportunity for Portland to move into the “top part of the draft,” according to Jason Quick of The Athletic. However, Quick reports that the Blazers aren’t seriously considering those offers, since they’re in win-now mode and are seeking veteran help rather than rookies.

As Quick details, the Blazers are open to a trade that would allow them to acquire an upgrade on McCollum. However, there are no obvious opportunities out there. A swap revolving around McCollum and Ben Simmons has long been the subject of speculation, but Quick suggests the Sixers likely wouldn’t be enticed by such a deal, even if Portland adds a young player like Anfernee Simons or Nassir Little to its offer.

Here’s more on the Blazers from Quick:

  • Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey has met twice with Damian Lillard since the season ended. They had a three-hour sitdown on June 19 at the team’s practice facility and then met in Las Vegas with new head coach Chauncey Billups last Friday, per Quick. During those meetings, Lillard conveyed his publicly-stated preference that the Blazers act with more urgency in upgrading their roster.
  • Despite Lillard’s call for urgency, it remains to be seen whether Portland will do anything drastic with its roster this summer. Quick says “there appears to be an inclination to run this group back again” in the hopes that Billups’ influence and a full season of Powell raise the Blazers’ ceiling. Quick acknowledges that exercising patience would be a risky approach, given Lillard’s unease, but points out there are some similarities to 2018, when the club made few roster changes after being swept in the first round and then reached the Western Finals in 2019.
  • Re-signing Norman Powell is the Blazers’ top priority in free agency. Billups recently met with Powell in Las Vegas and “communicated his vision” to the veteran swingman. The team hopes the hiring of Billups helps convince Powell to remain in Portland.
  • Olshey recognizes that building a bench led by Carmelo Anthony and Enes Kanter contributed to the team’s defensive shortcomings and will aim to add “long, rangy” players who can guard multiple positions and comfortably switch on defense, according to Quick.
  • The Blazers will likely try to buy a second-round pick in next Thursday’s draft, says Quick.

Celtics, Sixers, Lakers Interested In Reggie Bullock

Two Atlantic Division rivals are among the teams that may try to lure free agent swingman Reggie Bullock away from the Knicks, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post.

A source tells Berman that the Celtics and Sixers have expressed interest in Bullock, and the Lakers may also get involved. Bullock played alongside LeBron James in L.A. during the 2018/19 season.

Bullock prefers to stay in New York, Berman adds, but he’s hoping for a three-year contract worth in the neighborhood of the full mid-level exception ($9MM+). The Knicks have Early Bird rights on Bullock, so they can go above the cap to re-sign him after using their space. They’ll likely be able to offer up to about $10.3MM for the first year, according to Berman.

Bullock became a dependable contributor during his second year with the team, starting 64 of the 65 games he played and averaging 10.9 PPG per night while shooting 41% from three-point range. However, a disappointing playoff performance may have dragged down his value.

The Knicks have other options if they don’t re-sign Bullock, although they may be much more expensive, Berman adds. Coach Tom Thibodeau is a fan of Trail Blazers guard Norman Powell, who opted out of his contract Tuesday, and New York has also expressed interest in Warriors forward Kelly Oubre.

Berman suggests the Knicks might be willing to match a minimal offer to restricted free agent Frank Ntilikina if they lose Bullock. Ntilikina didn’t play much in Thibodeau’s first season with the team, but a source tells Berman that the Knicks haven’t ruled out a possible return.