Portland Trail Blazers

NBA Teams With Most, Least Roster Continuity

As usual, the 2017 NBA offseason featured a ton of player movement, with new rookies entering the league, free agents changing teams, and a total of 40 trades being completed between the end of the 2016/17 season and 2017/18’s opening night.

Some teams were more involved in that summer carousel than others. The Celtics, for instance, will enter the season carrying only four players – Al Horford, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart – who finished last season with the team. The Clippers are another team whose roster underwent significant turnover this offseason, with only five players returning from last year’s squad.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, teams like the Warriors, Bucks, and Trail Blazers made minimal changes, bringing back 12 players from last year’s rosters. That was especially impressive in Golden State’s case, since the club entered the summer with players like Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, David West, Andre Iguodala, Zaza Pachulia, Shaun Livingston, and JaVale McGee eligible for free agency — all of those players re-signed with the Dubs.

As a point of comparison, the Clippers took on more new players in their Chris Paul trade alone than clubs like the Warriors, Bucks, and Blazers added all summer.

After taking a closer look earlier today at the NBA’s youngest and oldest opening night rosters, we’ll turn our attention to the clubs with the most and least roster continuity to open the season. Listed below are the number of returning players for each of the NBA’s 30 teams, from most to fewest. Two-way players aren’t included in this list.

Bringing back a significant number of players doesn’t necessarily lead to regular season success, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a few of the teams near the top of this list enjoy fast starts due to their players’ familiarity with each other, while teams near the bottom of the list may take some time to get used to their changes.

Here’s the returning-player count for each team:

  1. Golden State Warriors: 12
  2. Milwaukee Bucks: 12
  3. Portland Trail Blazers: 12
  4. Denver Nuggets: 12
  5. Dallas Mavericks: 11
  6. Miami Heat: 11
  7. Philadelphia 76ers: 11
  8. Phoenix Suns: 11
  9. San Antonio Spurs: 11
  10. Toronto Raptors: 11
  11. Washington Wizards: 11
  12. Memphis Grizzlies: 10
  13. New Orleans Pelicans: 10
  14. Brooklyn Nets: 9
  15. Charlotte Hornets: 9
  16. Detroit Pistons: 9
  17. Houston Rockets: 9
  18. Chicago Bulls: 8
  19. Los Angeles Lakers: 8
  20. New York Knicks: 8
    • Note: The Knicks are the only team carrying 16 players to open the season.
  21. Oklahoma City Thunder: 8
  22. Orlando Magic: 8
  23. Utah Jazz: 8
  24. Atlanta Hawks: 7
  25. Cleveland Cavaliers: 7
  26. Minnesota Timberwolves: 7
  27. Sacramento Kings: 7
  28. Indiana Pacers: 6
  29. Los Angeles Clippers: 5
  30. Boston Celtics: 4

Western Notes: Leonard, Exum, Hood, Nurkic

Kawhi Leonard won’t be ready when the season opens because of a lingering quad injury, relays the Associated Press. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich confirmed the news to reporters Friday night, saying the team will be cautious with its star forward, who didn’t play in any preseason games or participate in camp. ”He’s still rehabbing and when he’s ready, he’ll be ready,’‘ Popovich said.

Leonard is in a rehab program for quadriceps tendinopathy, and Popovich admitted last month that recovery is taking longer than anticipated. Leonard began experiencing the condition last season, and it is not related to an ankle injury in the Western Conference finals that knocked him out of the playoffs.

There’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Leonard, who finished third in the MVP voting last season, is this year’s favorite for the award, according to Tom Haberstroh and Titus Smith of ESPN. The writers examine the criteria used in MVP balloting and believe Leonard has the strongest case. He averaged a career-best 25.5 points per game last year while helping the Spurs win 61 games.
  • Jazz guard Dante Exum is exploring alternatives to season-ending surgery on his left shoulder, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Exum suffered a separated shoulder with ligament damage in a preseason game last week. The fifth pick in the 2014 draft already missed the 2015/16 season with a torn ACL. Exum has a Monday deadline to work out an extension with Utah or he will become a restricted free agent next summer.
  • Also facing a Monday extension deadline is Rodney Hood, who anticipates a larger role in the Jazz offense this season, relays Jody Gennessy of The Deseret News. The fourth-year shooting guard believes Utah, which went unbeaten in the preseason, will be able to replace the contributions of free agent losses Gordon Hayward and George Hill. “It won’t necessarily be easy, but it will be easier than people think because we’ve got guys who can pass the ball and play without the ball,” Hood said.
  • The Trail Blazers won’t work out an extension with center Jusuf Nurkic before Monday, but that doesn’t mean his future won’t be in Portland, according to Mike Richman of The Oregonian. The Blazers traded for Nurkic in February, and the organization would prefer to watch him for a full season before committing to a long-term contract. Nurkic helped propel the team into the playoffs after being acquired from Denver and makes no secret of his affection for Portland. “I love this team,” Nurkic said Friday. “I love this city. I love these teammates. I enjoy it here.”

C.J. McCollum Suspended For One Game

The NBA has suspended Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum for one game without pay for leaving the bench during an altercation during a preseason contest, the league announced today in a press release. The incident took place during Wednesday’s game in Phoenix.

The Trail Blazers are scheduled to return to Phoenix to play the Suns on Wednesday in their first game of the season, so McCollum will be ineligible to appear in that contest. McCollum’s season will begin next Friday in Indiana against the Pacers.

The suspension will cost McCollum $165K in salary, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN.

Trail Blazers Waive Anthony Morrow, Two Others

The Trail Blazers have made their roster cuts in advance of the regular season, according to beat reporter Casey Holdahl, who tweets that Anthony Morrow, Archie Goodwin, and Isaiah Briscoe have been waived by the team.

The cuts of Briscoe and Goodwin were anticipated. Although they received training camp invitations from the Blazers, Briscoe and Goodwin were viewed as long shots to make the team’s regular season roster, with 14 players on guaranteed salaries already under contract.

Morrow, however, was the favorite to earn the 15th and final spot on Portland’s regular season roster. The veteran sharpshooter has a career .417 3PT%, and was viewed as a good fit to become an outside threat off the bench for a team that lost Allen Crabbe over the summer. Still, Morrow struggled last season, shooting just 30.8% from three-point range, and with the exception of a 12-point game against Toronto last week, didn’t do much in the preseason.

Rather than carrying Morrow on the regular season roster, it appears Portland will open the season with a 14-man squad. That makes some sense, considering the Blazers are currently over the tax line; any extra contract would increase the club’s projected year-end tax bill.

Portland is now carrying 15 total players — 14 on NBA deals and one on a two-way contract.

Extensions Appear Unlikely For Nurkic, Gordon, Payton

With the October 16 deadline for rookie scale extensions just three days away, it appears unlikely that Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic, Magic forward Aaron Gordon, or Magic guard Elfrid Payton will agree to new deals with their respective clubs.

Shams Charania of The Vertical (Twitter link) has the latest on Nurkic, reporting that the fourth-year center is preparing to reach restricted free agency in 2018. The Trail Blazers have yet to make an extension offer to Nurkic, according to Charania, so it would take a major last-minute push from both sides to get something done.

As for the Magic duo, Gordon’s agent tells Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel that he doesn’t anticipate his client reaching an extension agreement. Payton’s rep doesn’t weigh in with his thoughts, but Robbins is bearish on the point guard’s chances of securing a long-term deal within the next few days.

In the Blazers’ case, it makes some sense that the team would be willing to wait to finalize a new deal for Nurkic. Although the former Nugget looked great in 20 games for Portland last season, he has battled multiple injuries this year, including a broken leg, and the team likely wants to take a longer look at him before making a major long-term commitment. The Blazers’ cap situation also complicates matters, since the club may need to dump another contract if Nurkic signs an extension.

The Magic, meanwhile, have had years to evaluate Gordon and Payton, but the current management group wasn’t around for the duo’s first few seasons. As Robbins notes, new president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman and GM John Hammond have said they want to use the 2017/18 season to get more familiar with the franchise’s players, so they may be reluctant to invest major money in either Gordon or Payton quite yet.

Assuming Nurkic, Gordon, and Payton don’t negotiate a last-minute extension by Monday’s deadline, they’ll all be eligible for restricted free agency next July.

Extension Remains A Possibility For Nurkic

Jusuf Nurkic Sidelined With Concussion

Paul George loves the excitement in Oklahoma City, especially with the reigning Most Valuable Player, Russell Westbrook, and 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony on the same team. Chris Mannix of The Vertical writes that George is optimistic and has found a comfort zone with the Thunder. Yet, the ex-Pacer simultaneously wants head coach Billy Donovan to put him in uncomfortable situations as a challenge.

A Los Angeles native, George has been rumored to join his hometown Lakers for a while. There were rumblings all offseason that George’s goal is to end up home in California — whether it was this season or when he hits free agency next summer. However, George tells Mannix that L.A. isn’t on his mind as he focuses on succeeding with the Thunder.

“I’m committed here, we’re all committed,” George said. “We want this to happen and we want this to work really well. Once we get on the court, it’s been like magic. We understand one another, we have a feel for one another, we know each other’s games so well. We want to make the most out of it, to be in the best position to succeed.”

George and the Thunder may be in a position where they have a one-year window before he departs for his home team. But he has made it clear he wants to win before he makes any long-term decisions.

Below you can check out other news around the Northwest Division:

  • Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic will miss the team’s Wednesday game against Phoenix due to a concussion, and may end up sitting out the rest of the preseason, writes Mike Richman of The Oregonian. Nurkic is eligible for an extension up until October 16, so by the time he takes the floor next for Portland, he may have a new deal in hand or be preparing to play out a contract year.
  • ESPN’s Micah Adams writes that the Nuggets‘ blueprint to build a championship contending team is eerily similar to how the Warriors went from Western Conference contender to budding dynasty.
  • Veteran Jameer Nelson is back in the competition for the Nuggets‘ starting point guard job after battling a toe injury, Gina Mizell of The Denver Post writes.
  • Timberwolves‘ head coach Tom Thibodeau has a roster with several players he coached in Chicago with the Bulls, which has made for a comfortable environment, Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune writes.

Trail Blazers Notes: Turner, Morrow, McCollum

If preseason is any indication thus far, the Trail Blazers may benefit more from Evan Turner‘s versatility this year, Mike Richman of The Oregonian writes.. The point forward brought the ball up the court off the jump in the club’s first exhibition game of the year.

One of the things is to take advantage of his ball handling and make it a little less taxing for Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum,” head coach Terry Stotts said. “That’s something we want to do better this year than we did last year.”

Turner was heralded for his versatility and ability to handle the ball coming out of Ohio State but has settled into a role as an NBA swingman. If he can get comfortable initiating the team’s offense as a playmaker, it frees the club’s star backcourt up to work off the ball.

When it comes down to it you got two sharpshooters,” Turner said. “When I have to run the offense I’m passing to two of the better shooters in the world. So, of course, it makes it a tad bit easier and opens things up.

There’s more Trail Blazers news:

Starting Forward Spots Up For Grabs In Portland

  • While this year’s Trail Blazers‘ roster looks very similar to last year’s squad, a pair of positions in the starting lineup are up for grabs, with the club attempting to determine its rotation at the forward spots. Joe Freeman of The Oregonian takes a closer look.

Four Teams Without G League Affiliates For 2017/18

The NBA G League – known as the D-League before a sponsorship deal was struck with Gatorade – continues to expand as the 2017/18 season approaches. A record-high 26 NBA teams will have direct, one-to-one relationships with G League squads this season, with most NBA clubs owning and operating their own affiliates.

That leaves just four teams without affiliates for the 2017/18 season. That doesn’t mean those four clubs aren’t allowed to assign players to the G League — the flexible assignment rule allows teams without an affiliate to assign players to other G League teams. Still, those clubs are at a disadvantage in a handful of ways.

NBA teams that control their own affiliates have hand-picked coaches to help develop their young players, and can ensure that the same systems are taught in both the NBA and the G League. When a team without an affiliate assigns a player to the G League, that player could end up with a different squad each time and won’t have the same sort of support system. Last season, for instance, Pelicans rookie Cheick Diallo spent time with the Austin Spurs, Greensboro Swarm, and Long Island Nets on various assignments.

Additionally, teams without a G League squad won’t have the opportunity to designate affiliate players when the regular season begins. Those affiliate players aren’t technically under control of an NBA team, but they often stick with a club’s G League squad after spending the preseason with that club.

Here are the four NBA teams without a G League affiliate for the 2017/18 season:

Denver Nuggets

  • Candidates for assignment: Malik Beasley spent some time in the G League last season and could do so again in 2017/18. 2017 first-rounder Tyler Lydon may also see some G League action, since Denver has a pretty deep roster and may not have room for him in the rotation.
  • Two-way players: Torrey Craig, SF; Monte Morris, PG
  • Timeline for affiliate: A report from October 2016 suggested the Nuggets were eying a possible G League affiliate for the 2017/18 season, but it didn’t happen. It’s clearly on the club’s radar, and I’d be surprised if Denver doesn’t have an affiliate in place within the next couple years.

New Orleans Pelicans

  • Candidates for assignment: As noted above, Diallo was a regular in the G League last year. He’s still raw and could see assignments again this season. Rookie guard Frank Jackson may also see G League action if he doesn’t crack the backcourt rotation in New Orleans.
  • Two-way players: Charles Cooke, SG; Jalen Jones, G/F
  • Timeline for affiliate: The Pelicans have reportedly narrowed their search for a G League home to two cities: Shreveport, Louisiana and Pensacola, Florida. The plan is to get a G League franchise in place for the 2018/19 season.

Portland Trail Blazers

  • Candidates for assignment: The Blazers added a pair of rookies in this year’s draft, snagging Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan. Both guys have the potential to make an impact in year one, but could be sent to the G League if they don’t earn regular minutes out of the gate. Jake Layman is also a candidate to return to the G League this year.
  • Two-way players: C.J. Wilcox, SG
  • Timeline for affiliate: There have been no clear indications that the Blazers will have an affiliate ready to go for 2018/19. It’s hard to imagine the franchise will remain on the sidelines for too much longer though.

Washington Wizards

  • Candidates for assignment: If players like Sheldon Mac, Carrick Felix, or Daniel Ochefu make the opening night roster, they’ll be candidates for G League stints. Otherwise, this is a roster heavy on veterans — Chris McCullough might be the only other viable option for an assignment.
  • Two-way players: Devin Robinson, SF; Michael Young, F
  • Timeline for affiliate: The Wizards intend to set up a very local affiliate in time for the 2018/19 season, according to a June report.
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