Portland Trail Blazers

Trail Blazers Sign Anthony Morrow

SEPTEMBER 18: The Blazers have issued a press release formally announcing their deal with Morrow.

SEPTEMBER 15: The Trail Blazers have reached an agreement to sign free agent shooting guard Anthony Morrow, agent Wallace Prather tells Shams Charania of The Vertical (Twitter link). According to Charania, Morrow will receive a one-year, non-guaranteed deal from Portland.

Morrow, who will celebrate his 32nd birthday later this month, began the 2016/17 campaign with the Thunder, but finished the season with the Bulls after being included in the trade that sent Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson to Oklahoma City. In 49 total games, the Georgia Tech alum averaged a very modest 5.5 PPG with a disappointing .389/.308/.919 shooting line.

While Morrow wasn’t particularly effective last season, with his FG% and 3PT% both representing career lows, he has historically been a much better shooter — he entered last season having made 42.5% of his career three-point attempts. In 2012/13, Morrow had a similarly subpar showing as he split time between the Hawks and Mavericks, but he played well for the Pelicans the following season, so there’s a precedent for him bouncing back from a down year.

Still, Morrow won’t be a lock to make Portland’s roster out of training camp. The Blazers have 14 players on guaranteed contracts and are into luxury-tax territory, meaning the team may not want to carry a 15th player to start the season. Even if the Blazers do open the year with 15 players, Morrow could face competition for that final spot from younger guards like Archie Goodwin and Isaiah Briscoe, though he’d probably enter camp as the favorite.

Extension Candidate: Jusuf Nurkic

After slowly establishing himself as one of the most efficient, low-usage big men in the NBA, Jusuf Nurkic got his first consistent opportunity to shine when the Nuggets shipped him off to the Trail Blazers partway through the 2016/17 campaign.Jusuf Nurkic vertical

And shine he did.

It’s not Nurkic’s fault that Nikola Jokic caught up to him and surpassed him on Denver’s depth chart last season but, regardless, it was Nurkic’s value that seemed to dissipate over night. Fast forward to the end of the campaign and there’s more confusion than ever as to what the bruising low post threat really is worth in today’s NBA.

One can’t exactly blame the Nuggets for getting impatient and trading Nurkic for pennies on the dollar — there were clearly elements of addition by subtraction at play considering Nurkic’s reported attitude regarding his demotion in Denver. Still, they gave away a possible star to a division rival in exchange for Mason Plumlee, a 26-year-old with a considerably more modest ceiling.

Nurkic, just 23 years old, is entering the fourth year of his career this season and is thus eligible for a rookie extension prior to the October 16 deadline. There’s no consensus, however, about whether the Trail Blazers should rush out to sign him to one.

With few reported updates, other than Blazers general manager Neil Olshey saying that he doesn’t typically talk about ongoing contract negotiations, there’s no clear sense as to whether locking Nurkic in long-term is even a priority of the organization.

On one hand, Nurkic hit the ground running in Portland, averaging 15.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per game over the course of his 20-game stint with the Blazers post-trade.

The inflated numbers aren’t just the byproduct of a particularly motivated young player either, Nurkic’s 18.7 points and 12.8 rebounds per 36 were only slightly higher than the 15.3 points and 12.0 rates he posted through two and a half years with Denver.

So, yes, Nurkic knows how to fill a stat sheet and, even better, his production contributed to tangible success with his new club. In his taste of action with Portland, the Blazers went 14-6. As Joe Freeman of the Oregonian wrote at the time, the club soared with Nurkic in the lineup, his presence solidifying the squad’s offerings on both ends of the court.

Alas, the sudden arrival of the dominant young big man was, in at least one sense, too good to be true. In late March, Nurkic fractured his right leg and missed the remainder of the 2016/17 season, including the club’s four-game sweep at the hands of the eventual NBA champion Warriors.

Whether the non-displaced fibular fracture was the result of a seven-footer in supposedly sub-optimal condition being suddenly thrust into the heaviest workload of his career or an omen of things to come, the fact that he missed the last chunk of the season is a concern.

While Nurkic’s injury isn’t as catastrophic as the words “out for the remainder of the season” may seem – a similar issue set Steve Nash back a total of 24 games… at age 38 – this isn’t Nurkic’s first significant injury and that’s something that could impact whether the Blazers do or do not offer him a sizable contract earlier than they need to.

If Nurkic can return to the court healthy and put forth 70-plus games at the same standard as last season, it’s hard to imagine him having any trouble finding suitors as a restricted free agent next summer. In that regard, locking him in now could potentially save the organization money in the long run.

The risk, however, may not be worth it.

A more pragmatic approach would be to wait for Nurkic’s borderline cult-like following to normalize over the course of a full season. Then with a larger sample size on which to base expectations, Olshey and company could decide whether or not that’s a direction they want to take the franchise.

Worst case scenario, Nurkic struggles to stay on the court next season and Portland walks away unscathed. Best case scenario, Nurkic Fever continues to sweep the Pacific Northwest and the Blazers are socially obligated to max out a 24-year-old franchise talent that already thrives with the teams existing star backcourt just as they hit their respective primes.

There are worse fevers to succumb to.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Trail Blazers Sign Isaiah Briscoe To Camp Deal

SEPTEMBER 14: The Blazers have officially signed Briscoe to a camp deal, the team announced today in a press release.

SEPTEMBER 13: The Trail Blazers have reached an agreement with former Kentucky guard Isaiah Briscoe, who will join the club on a training camp deal, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical (Twitter link). Once it’s finalized, the signing will bring Portland’s roster count to 17 players.

Briscoe, 21, declared for the NBA draft in the spring following his sophomore year at Kentucky, despite ranking outside the top 80 on many experts’ draft boards. The 6’3″ guard worked out for several teams leading up to the draft, including the Blazers, but suffered an ankle injury in mid-June and had to cancel his last few sessions. He went undrafted.

In his second season with the Wildcats, Briscoe posted solid averages of 12.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 4.2 APG, though he continued to struggle with his outside shot. After making just 13.5% of his long-distance attempts in his freshman year, the New Jersey native improved his three-point percentage in 2016/17, but only to a modest 28.8%.

While the Sixers picked up Briscoe for Summer League play in July, it’s the Trail Blazers who will take an extended look at him this fall. Currently, the Blazers have 14 players on guaranteed contracts, and it’s possible they’ll keep that 15th regular season spot open to start the season, in order to keep their tax bill down. If they do carry a 15th man, the Blazers figure to consider Briscoe, Archie Goodwin, and any other players they may invite to camp.

Portland is one of the three NBA teams without an NBA G League squad, so Briscoe won’t have the opportunity to become an affiliate player for the Trail Blazers. However, if the club likes what it sees from the rookie guard, a two-way contract is a possibility — the Blazers have only used one of their two-way openings so far.

15 Two-Way Contract Slots Remain Open

With NBA training camps just a couple weeks away, most teams are putting the finishing touches on their respective rosters. In addition to having secured at least a dozen players on guaranteed contracts and perhaps a handful of camp invitees, each NBA club has also signed at least one player to a two-way contract.

As we explain in depth in our FAQ, two-way contracts – a new concept under the league’s latest Collective Bargaining Agreement – allow NBA teams to carry two extra players in addition to the 15 on their regular season roster. These players spend most of their time with the club’s G League affiliate, but are eligible to join the NBA roster for up to 45 days per season, and remain under team control — they can’t be poached by rival franchises.

Teams have been signing players to two-way contracts since July, so we’re starting to get a better idea of what players on those deals will look like — some are late second-round draft picks; some are undrafted rookies; others are G League or international veterans, or former NBA players looking to work their way back into the league.

Every NBA club has signed at least one player to a two-way deal, but only half of those 30 clubs have filled both spots, meaning that there are still 15 two-way openings around the league. With the help of our two-way tracker, here’s a breakdown of the teams that still have an open two-way slot:

  • Atlanta Hawks
  • Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Dallas Mavericks
  • Golden State Warriors
  • Houston Rockets
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Miami Heat
  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • New York Knicks
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Orlando Magic
  • Philadelphia 76ers
  • Portland Trail Blazers

While the Suns and Jazz technically could be included on this list, they’ve reportedly reached agreements – with Alec Peters and Nate Wolters, respectively – to fill their second two-way slots, so unless those deals unexpectedly fall through, they won’t have any openings.

Although some of these two-way openings figure to be filled in advance of training camp, many of the clubs listed above have signed camp invitees to Exhibit 10 contracts, which can later be converted into two-way deals. So rather than signing someone new and waiving a camp invitee, a handful of teams may simply convert an Exhibit 10 contract to a two-way contract before the regular season begins.

Freeman Examines Outlook For Nurkic, Turner

  • With training camp fast approaching, Joe Freeman of The Oregonian is taking a player-by-player look at the Trail Blazers‘ roster. So far this week, he has examined Jusuf Nurkic, who is extension-eligible this offseason, and discussed Evan Turner, who will look to bounce back from a poor 2016/17 as he enters the second season of a lucrative four-year contract.

Damian Lillard Talks Carmelo, Blazers, Rivals

The Trail Blazers have had one of the NBA’s quietest summers, having not made a single free agent signing until officially inking Archie Goodwin to a camp deal today. On the trade front, Portland’s only major move involved dumping Allen Crabbe‘s exorbitant contract on the Nets — the Blazers acquired Andrew Nicholson in that trade, but subsequently waived him.

Of course, while the Blazers’ cap situation limited their ability to pursue impact free agents, the team’s star guards – Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum – made an effort to recruit a trade candidate. Carmelo Anthony has been unwilling to waive his no-trade clause to join the Blazers, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying from Lillard and McCollum.

Speaking to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, Lillard admitted that he doesn’t love “doing all the extra recruiting” adding that he didn’t want to press Anthony. Despite the fact that Carmelo “didn’t seem opposed” to the idea of playing in Portland, according to Lillard, there has been no indication that a trade between the Blazers and Knicks is a viable possibility.

Lillard expanded on that subject and addressed a few other topics in his conversation with Spears, which includes details on his community work and is worth checking out in full. Here are some of the highlights from the Blazers’ point guard:

On recruiting Carmelo Anthony to waive his no-trade clause for the Trail Blazers:

“I guess they call it tampering or whatever. It’s not against the rules for us to interact with each other. We all peers, we all play in the same league and everybody hints at playing with each other. ‘What you think about this?’ ‘What do you think about that?’ All that matters is whether it got done or did not get done. Or hasn’t got done, and it hasn’t got done. So, it is what it is …

“I’m not giving up on anything. I just think I’ve done what I can do. And camp is a few weeks away. And you have to focus on getting ready with who we are, plan on going in as we are. Whatever changes, the front office will be the ones making that change, with the Knicks and our front office or whatever. But I get my mind focused on what I can control at a certain point.”

On the offseason upgrades made by division and conference rivals:

“It’s tough. The West is tough as always. I think a lot of teams in the West got better on paper, and at the end of the day, things have to work out. A lot of things look good, but it still got to work out. You got to make it work. So, we’ll see how that go.”

On the Trail Blazers’ outlook for 2017/18:

“I got a lot of confidence with everybody on our team. We still got a young team. Obviously, we could improve in a lot of areas as a group. With all the struggles we had last year, we still found a way to get it done and to get into the playoffs, which is what every team goes into the season and tries to get done. So, we make the improvements that we need to make collectively on the defensive end, and just being able to do things at a high level consistently. We should be pretty good.”

Trail Blazers Sign Archie Goodwin

SEPTEMBER 11: The Blazers have officially announced their deal with Goodwin, issuing a press release to confirm the signing.

SEPTEMBER 7: The Trail Blazers have agreed to a training camp deal with guard Archie Goodwin, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. The 23-year-old last played for the Nets prior to being waived over the summer.

While Goodwin has shown flashes of modest potential at various points throughout his career, he hasn’t been able to thrive with a big league club just yet.

With one roster spot available, however, Goodwin stands a chance of sticking with the the Blazers into the regular season.

If he does, expect to see the combo guard in direct competition with reserves Shabazz Napier and Pat Connaughton for reps behind the team’s All-Star backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

Damian Lillard Sheds Weight Ahead Of 2017/18

NBA Draft Rights Held: Northwest Division

When top college prospects like Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball are drafted, there’s virtually no doubt that their next step will involve signing an NBA contract. However, that’s not the case for every player who is selected in the NBA draft, particularly for international prospects and second-round picks.

When an NBA team uses a draft pick on a player, it gains his NBA rights, but that doesn’t mean the player will sign an NBA contract right away. International prospects will often remain with their professional team overseas for at least one more year to develop their game further, becoming “draft-and-stash” prospects. Nikola Mirotic, Dario Saric, and Bogdan Bogdanovic are among the more notable players to fit this bill in recent years.

However, draft-and-stash players can be former NCAA standouts too. Sometimes a college prospect selected with a late second round pick will end up playing overseas or in the G League for a year or two if there’s no space available on his NBA team’s 15-man roster.

While these players sometimes make their way to their NBA teams, others never do. Many clubs around the NBA currently hold the rights to international players who have remained overseas for their entire professional careers and are no longer viewed as top prospects. Those players may never come stateside, but there’s often no reason for NBA teams to renounce their rights — those rights can sometimes be used as placeholders in trades.

For instance, earlier this summer, the Pacers and Raptors agreed to a trade that sent Cory Joseph to Indiana. Toronto was happy to move Joseph’s salary and didn’t necessarily need anything in return, but the Pacers had to send something in the deal. Rather than including an NBA player or a draft pick, Indiana sent Toronto the draft rights to Emir Preldzic, the 57th overall pick in the 2009 draft.

Preldzic is currently playing for Galatasaray in Turkey, and at this point appears unlikely to ever come to the NBA, but his draft rights have been a useful trade chip over the years — the Pacers/Raptors swap represented the fourth time since 2010 that Preldzic’s NBA rights have been included in a trade.

This week, we’re taking a closer look at the players whose draft rights NBA teams currently hold, sorting them by division. These players may eventually arrive in America and join their respective NBA teams, but many will end up like Preldzic, plying their trade overseas and having their draft rights used as pawns in NBA trades.

Here’s a breakdown of the draft rights held by Northwest teams:

Denver Nuggets

Minnesota Timberwolves

Oklahoma City Thunder

Portland Trail Blazers

  • Marcelo Nicola, F (1993; No. 50): Retired.
  • Doron Sheffer, G (1996; No. 36): Retired.
  • Federico Kammerichs, F/C (2002; No. 51): Retired.
  • Nedzad Sinanovic, C (2003; No. 54): Retired.
  • Daniel Diez, F (2015; No. 54): Playing in Spain.

Utah Jazz

Previously:

Information from Mark Porcaro and Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post.

Trail Blazers To Retain Pat Connaughton

The Trail Blazers have decided not to waive Pat Connaughton today, which will ensure that his 2017/18 salary becomes fully guaranteed, reports Jason Quick of CSNNW.com. Connaughton will now be on track to earn his full $1,471,382 minimum salary for the coming season.

Connaughton, 24, has spent the last two seasons in Portland after joining the Blazers in a draft-day trade in 2015. The 6’5″ shooting guard hasn’t become a regular rotation player for the Blazers so far, but has appeared in 73 regular season games for the club. He has played just 6.3 MPG in those contests, averaging 1.8 PPG and 1.2 RPG.

The original guarantee deadline for Connaughton was July 25, but he and the team agreed last month to push it back to August 31 to create a little more flexibility for the Blazers. Having waived Andrew Nicholson on Wednesday, the Blazers only had 13 players left on guaranteed contracts — that number will increase to 14 with Connaughton remaining on the roster.

With a decision made on Connaughton, all the players who had guarantee deadlines on their contracts in June, July, or August have now either been waived or received their guarantees, as our tracker details.

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