Trail Blazers Rumors

Trail Blazers Trying To Maximize Lillard's Prime

The Trail Blazers are hoping to maximize the rest of 30-year-old All-Star point guard Damian Lillard‘s prime years, writes Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Signs Second 10-Day Deal With Trail Blazers

The Trail Blazers have given Rondae Hollis-Jefferson a second 10-day contract, the team announced in a press release.

The 26-year-old forward got into two games during his first 10-day deal, scoring four points in 12 total minutes. He joined the team on April 8 as Portland faced a league deadline to fill one of its two roster openings.

A first-round draft pick in 2015, Hollis-Jefferson spent his first four seasons with the Nets before signing with the Raptors as a free agent last year. He was with the Timberwolves in training camp, but failed to win a roster spot.

Players can only sign two 10-day contracts with a team during the season, so the Blazers will have to either part with Hollis-Jefferson or sign him for the rest of the season when this deal expires April 27. He will earn $128,963 over the next 10 days.

Checking In On Traded 2021 First-Round Picks

It’s been nearly two months since we checked in on the status of 2021’s traded first-round picks, and there have been plenty of shifts in the NBA standings since then. Those changes have an impact on where in the draft certain traded picks will land, as well as whether or not some protected picks will change hands at all.

With just over a month left in the 2020/21 regular season, it’s worth revisiting the traded first-round picks for 2021. With the help of our reverse standings tool, here’s our latest look at which of those traded picks are most and least likely to change hands, and which ones are still up in the air:

Picks that will definitely change hands:

  • Knicks acquiring Mavericks‘ pick (unprotected).
  • Rockets acquiring Bucks‘ pick (top-nine protected swap).

The only unprotected traded pick for the 2021 draft, the Mavs’ selection currently projects to be the No. 21 overall pick. That would be a reasonably good outcome for the Knicks, but there’s even more upside here — since Dallas is currently the No. 7 seed in the West, a win in the play-in tournament may be necessary to secure a playoff spot.

The NBA has yet to clarify exactly how draft positioning will be affected by the play-in results, but presumably if the Mavs don’t clinch a postseason berth in the play-in, that pick would move into the lottery.

Meanwhile, the Rockets will acquire the Bucks’ pick, currently projected to land at No. 24 overall, in a swap for their own second-rounder (No. 32, for now).

Picks that definitely won’t change hands:

  • Grizzlies acquiring Jazz‘s pick (1-7 and 15-30 protection).
  • Pelicans acquiring Lakers‘ pick (8-30 protection).
  • Rockets acquiring Pistons‘ pick (top-16 protected).

The Jazz are definitely making the postseason and the Pistons definitely aren’t, so their picks (currently projected to be No. 30 and No. 4, respectively) won’t change hands.

The Grizzlies should at least be able to count on getting Utah’s first-rounder in 2022, when it will become top-six protected. It may be a while before the Rockets get a pick from Detroit though — that first-rounder remains heavily protected in 2022 (top-16), 2023 (top-18), and 2024 (top-18) before those protections start to loosen a little.

As for the Lakers‘ pick, it isn’t technically a lock yet — there’s theoretically a scenario in which L.A. misses the playoffs and then moves into the top four in the lottery, sending its pick to the Pelicans. But that’s an extreme long shot. The Lakers’ pick is at No. 23 for now.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Knicks have the ability to swap their own 2021 first-rounder for the Clippers‘ pick. At the moment though, New York’s pick would be No. 15 and L.A.’s would be No. 26, so that won’t happen.

Still up in the air:

  • Warriors acquiring Timberwolves‘ pick (top-three protected).
  • Magic acquiring Bulls‘ pick (top-four protected).
  • Thunder acquiring Warriors‘ pick (top-20 protected).

That Timberwolves pick will be a fascinating one to watch in the lottery. If Minnesota finishes with a bottom-three record, there will be a 40.1% chance it remains in the top three.

The Warriors will actually be rooting for the Wolves to finish with the NBA’s worst record, since in that scenario, there’s a 59.9% chance the pick lands at No. 4 or No. 5. If the Wolves instead have the third-worst record, the pick would be just as likely to land in the top three, but could slip as far as No. 6 or No. 7.

The Magic will have a good chance of landing the Bulls‘ pick, which currently projects to be the No. 10 overall selection. If Chicago remains in that spot, there would only be about a 14% chance of the pick moving up into the top four.

Golden State’s own pick, which currently projects to be No. 13, is unlikely to be sent to the Thunder unless the Warriors get hot late in the season. Assuming the Warriors’ first-rounder is protected, Oklahoma City would instead receive Minnesota’s second-round pick (currently No. 31).

Latest on the Rockets/Thunder/Heat/Blazers/Nets situation:

As a reminder, this series of trades and pick swaps is too convoluted to fit cleanly into any of the above sections. Here’s a breakdown of how it works:

  1. The Thunder will have the right to swap either their own first-round pick or the Heat’s first-round pick for the Rockets‘ first-round pick, but only if Houston’s pick doesn’t fall in the top four. In other words, if Houston gets a top-four pick, the Rockets will keep their own first-rounder; if not, the Thunder will get the two most favorable picks of their own, the Heat’s, and the Rockets’, and Houston will get the least favorable.
  2. Once the first step is complete, the Rockets will be left with at least one first-round pick, and almost certainly two, since they’re also owed the Trail Blazers‘ first-rounder (top-14 protected). They would then have the right to swap either of those picks for the Nets‘ first-rounder (unprotected).

As of today, the Rockets have the second-worst record in the league, giving them a 52.1% chance of having their pick land in its top-four protected range on lottery night. In that scenario, Houston would keep its first-rounder (tentatively No. 2) and would get the Trail Blazers’ pick at No. 22. The Thunder would keep their own pick (No. 6, pending lottery results) and receive the Heat’s first-rounder (No. 17), while the Nets would hang onto their own selection (No. 27).

On the other hand, if the Rockets’ pick falls outside of the top four, the Thunder would acquire it along with their own first-rounder, while Houston would get Miami’s pick at No. 17.

No matter how the rest of the season plays out, it’s safe to assume that lottery night on June 22 will have massive implications for the Timberwolves, Warriors, Rockets, and Thunder, and potentially for the Magic and Bulls as well.

While the Pistons, Cavaliers, and a handful of other lottery teams will also be invested in the results that night, the outcome won’t be quite as all-or-nothing for those clubs.

Blazers Add T.J. Leaf On Two-Way Contract

APRIL 13: The signing is official, the Blazers announced in a press release.

APRIL 5: The Trail Blazers are signing forward T.J. Leaf to a two-way contract, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Portland had an open two-way slot. Keljin Blevins is the other player signed to a two-way deal.

Leaf was waived by the Thunder prior to the season. He was acquired by Oklahoma City in an offseason trade, with the club receiving Leaf and a future second-round pick in a deal with the Pacers for Jalen Lecque.

Leaf, the 18th overall pick in the 2017 draft, failed to carve out a steady role as a rotation player during three seasons in Indiana. The former UCLA standout averaged just 3.0 PPG and 2.5 RPG in 28 games (7.9 MPG) for the Pacers in 2019/20.

Leaf had a guaranteed $4.33MM salary this season when he was waived. The 6’10” power forward is unlikely to see much action behind Robert Covington and Carmelo Anthony.

Nassir Little Gets More PT At Shooting Guard

  • Trail Blazers swingman Nassir Little has earned more playing time at shooting guard, Jason Quick of The Athletic writes. The team’s first-round pick in 2019 played 24 minutes against Detroit on Saturday and contributed 11 points. “We’ll be doing it again,” coach Terry Stotts said. “He still has to learn some of the tricks of the trade as far as guarding perimeter players — coming off pin downs, guarding pick and rolls — but I think he is capable of doing that and we have to continue to see how he does in that role.”

Blazers Sign Rondae Hollis-Jefferson To 10-Day Deal

APRIL 8: The Blazers have officially signed Hollis-Jefferson, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who tweets that it’s a 10-day contract. The forward will earn $128,963 on the deal.

APRIL 2: The Trail Blazers plan to sign forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Hollis-Jefferson was on the Timberwolves’ training camp roster but was waived in December.

The Trail Blazers had two openings on their 15-man roster and needed to sign at least one player under NBA requirements. Portland was seeking another wing or guard to fill a roster spot.

The Blazers dropped to 13 players on the 15-man roster in the 2-for-1 trade with the Raptors that brought Norman Powell to Portland.

Hollis-Jefferson, 26, played for the Raptors last season, providing energy and defense off the bench. He averaged 7.0 PPG and 4.7 RPG in 60 games (18.7 MPG) for Toronto.

The veteran forward has averaged 9.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG and 1.9 APG in 294 career NBA games. He played his first four seasons with Brooklyn.

Heat, Warriors, Raptors Among Teams Needing To Add 14th Man

As we detailed last week, a number of teams dipped below the NBA’s required minimum of 14 players (not counting two-way contracts) with their moves leading up to the trade deadline. Teams are only permitted to drop below 14 players for up to two weeks.

Since then, the Pelicans (Isaiah Thomas) and Knicks (Norvel Pelle) have added a 14th man to their respective rosters to get back up to that minimum, but a handful of teams still need to make roster moves this week.

[RELATED: 2020/21 NBA Roster Counts]

First up is the Clippers, who face a Monday deadline for signing a 14th man. By all accounts, that player will be DeMarcus Cousins, who has been going through the coronavirus protocols in advance of signing a 10-day contract with Los Angeles.

Like the Clippers, the Trail Blazers appear to have a 14th man lined up already, as word broke last Friday that they’ve struck a deal with free agent forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. That deal still isn’t official, but Portland has until Thursday to finalize it, so there’s plenty of time to get it done.

Three other teams face a Thursday deadline for filling one of the two current openings on their 15-man rosters — the Heat, Warriors, and Raptors all must sign a player by then.

All three of those teams have players on two-way contracts who could be candidates for promotions to the main roster, including Max Strus (Miami), Juan Toscano-Anderson (Golden State), Nico Mannion (Golden State), and Yuta Watanabe (Toronto). However, those clubs could also opt to bring in outside free agents and keep their two-way players where they are.

For the time being, the only other team to watch on this front is the Cavaliers. Since Quinn Cook‘s second 10-day contract expired last Wednesday night, Cleveland has been carrying just 13 players on standard deals. It doesn’t sound like the Cavs will re-sign Cook, but they’ll need to sign someone to fill his vacated roster spot — unlike the teams mentioned above though, Cleveland won’t need to add a 14th man until next week.

Norman Powell Adjusting Quickly In Portland

  • Trail Blazers guard Norman Powell is adjusting quickly in Portland, Casey Holdahl of writes. Powell was recently traded to Portland from Toronto and has proven to be effective in his limited time, scoring 15 points in the team’s win over the Thunder on Saturday. “I feel good, I feel like the transition has been really easy,” Powell said. “The coaches, the guys have made it real easy to fit in. I feel like the more time I spend with them, the more practices we get in, the more games, I’ll start to feel better with the chemistry, the flow of the game, the play-calling and rotations on defense. I’m liking it so far.”

Powell Pens Emotional Tribute To Raptors

  • Trail Blazers shooting guard Norman Powell, a longtime Raptors fixture, penned an emotional goodbye to Toronto in the Players’ Tribune. “I kept it together for a while,” Powell said of hearing about the deal. “And then I saw Jama Mahlalela. Jama is one of our assistant coaches, and he was also my very first coach when I got to Toronto. He’s known me literally since Summer League, and I’ve spent a lot of time working with him super closely. And he came in to give me a hug, and, man … I just heard it in his voice… and that was it. After that, it was a wrap. It was straight-up waterworks. I started breaking down crying … all the memories that I’d been holding back for those last couple of days, they came rushing back in.”

NBA Teams With Open Roster Spots

A total of 46 players were traded on deadline day last Thursday, and more have been waived and signed since then, resulting in major roster upheaval around the NBA.

With the dust settling a little, it’s worth checking in on which teams across the league now have open roster spots, and which clubs will need to fill at least one of those openings soon in order to meet the minimum roster requirements.

Let’s dive in…

Teams with two open spots on their 15-man rosters:

  • Golden State Warriors
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • Miami Heat
  • New Orleans Pelicans
  • New York Knicks
  • Portland Trail Blazers
  • Toronto Raptors

The NBA allows team to carry fewer than 14 players on standard (or 10-day) contracts for up to two weeks at a time. So these clubs are allowed to have just 13 for now, but will soon need to add a 14th, either with a 10-day signing or a rest-of-season addition.

The Warriors, Heat, Trail Blazers, and Raptors all dipped below 14 players on deadline day (March 25), so they’ll all have until next Thursday (April 8) to get back up to the required roster minimum. The Knicks will have even longer, since they just waived Terrance Ferguson and Vincent Poirier on Sunday — they’ll have to add a 14th man by April 11.

The Pelicans and Clippers, meanwhile, reduced their roster counts to 13 players on March 20 and March 22, respectively, so they’ll need to make their moves sooner. New Orleans will have to add a player by this weekend at the latest, while the Clippers will do so by next Monday.

The Pels are right up against the luxury tax line, so they’ll likely sign someone to a 10-day contract. The Clippers have enough breathing room below their hard cap to complete a rest-of-season signing if they so choose.

Teams with one open spot on their 15-man rosters:

  • Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Indiana Pacers
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Memphis Grizzlies
  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Orlando Magic

A report last Thursday indicated that the Pacers were signing Oshae Brissett, but they still have completed that 10-day deal, so they have an open roster spot for now. The Bucks technically have two open roster spots as of this writing, but are expected to sign Jeff Teague to fill one of them as soon as today.

The Lakers, Grizzlies, Timberwolves, and Magic all have 14 players on standard, rest-of-season contracts, with no obligation to fill their 15th spots anytime soon. The Cavaliers currently have 14th man Quinn Cook on a 10-day contract. When his deal expires on Wednesday night, the team will dip to 13 players and will have two weeks to re-add a 14th.

Teams with open two-way contract slots:

  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Phoenix Suns
  • Portland Trail Blazers

The Thunder opened up one of their two-way slots when they promoted Moses Brown to the standard roster over the weekend. I’d expect them and the Timberwolves to be more interested in filling their open two-way spots than the Suns and Trail Blazers. Oklahoma City and Minnesota are lottery teams and could benefit from a look at one more young player, while Phoenix and Portland are playoff clubs that have shown no desire to add a second two-way player all season long.

Also worth mentioning:

  • Brooklyn Nets
  • Detroit Pistons
  • San Antonio Spurs

The Nets, Spurs, and Pistons currently have full 15-man rosters, but won’t for much longer, as all three teams have players on 10-day contracts. Alize Johnson‘s deal with Brooklyn runs through Wednesday, while Cameron Reynolds‘ with San Antonio runs through Sunday and Tyler Cook‘s with Detroit expires after next Tuesday.

Note: Our full roster count breakdown can be found right here.