- Two offseason trades will determine the success of the Trail Blazers’ offseason, writes David Yapkowitz of Basketball Insiders. Portland added a pair of rotation players by dealing for Hassan Whiteside, who will eventually be part of an imposing center rotation when Jusuf Nurkic returns from injury, and Kent Bazemore, who may start at small forward.
On Friday, we explored whether the Clippers, Lakers, or Warriors look like the favorites to win the Pacific Division in 2019/20. However, the Pacific isn’t the only Western Conference division that figures to be hotly contested.
Over in the Northwest, four of five teams made the postseason in 2018/19, with Denver (54-28) edging out Portland (53-29), Utah (50-32), and Oklahoma City (49-33) for the division crown.
Heading into next season, the Thunder appear likely to take a step back. That’s not a certainty, since there’s still plenty of talent on the roster, but losing Paul George and Russell Westbrook will hurt. They’re a long shot to win the Northwest, and so are the Timberwolves, the only Northwest team to miss the playoffs last season. With Jimmy Butler long gone, the ’19/20 season should be a little more smooth and drama-free in Minnesota, but the team is still a ways off from legit contention.
That leaves three teams that look like strong contenders to win the division next season, led by the Nuggets. After finishing atop the Northwest this spring, the Nuggets retained all their key contributors and added a couple more intriguing pieces. Jerami Grant was acquired in a trade with Oklahoma City and projects to be a go-to frontcourt option. Denver is also optimistic that 2018 lottery pick Michael Porter will be healthy and ready to claim a spot in the rotation in his sophomore season.
Of course, in the Western Semifinals, the Nuggets fell to the Trail Blazers, who seem to be perennially underrated by oddsmakers. Portland’s over/under for the 2019/20 is just 46.5 wins, per betting site BetOnline.ag. After topping their projected win total by about 10 games last season, the Blazers will look to outperform expectations again in 2019/20, led by Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Jusuf Nurkic won’t be ready to start the season, but Portland fortified its frontcourt by adding centers Hassan Whiteside and Pau Gasol.
Meanwhile, the Jazz might have had the best offseason of any Northwest team, having acquired standout point guard Mike Conley to join Donovan Mitchell in their backcourt. With veteran role players like Ed Davis and Jeff Green joining the mix, and Mitchell expected to take another step forward, this may be the best Utah team of the last few years, and the club hasn’t won fewer than 48 games since 2015/16.
What do you think? Which team do you expect to sit atop the Northwest Division when the regular season ends? And will that team make a deep playoff run, perhaps even reaching the NBA Finals?
Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!
Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.
Randle, 26, became an unrestricted free agent in June when the Wizards opted not to tender a qualifying offer. He appeared in 49 games in his lone season in Washington, posting a 5.5/1.1/2.0 line in about 15 minutes per night and shooting 40% from 3-point range. Randle played a combined 26 games for the Sixers and Knicks during the 2016/17 season before spending 2017/18 in the EuroLeague with Real Madrid.
Unless someone offers him a fully guaranteed deal, Randle will likely face a process similar to how he earned a roster spot with the Wizards. He signed a training camp contract in September, but was waived before the season began. He had a strong showing during camp with Washington’s G League affiliate in Capital City and was signed for the rest of the season in late October.
Dallas attempted to get involved with the sign-and-trade on June 30 shortly after Butler reached an agreement with the Heat. The reported deal would have sent Goran Dragic to the Mavericks, although several media outlets later claimed Dallas believed it was getting Kelly Olynyk and Derrick Jones Jr. Miami would have needed to include another player to make that deal work financially and wasn’t interested in parting with Jones, according to Jackson.
“As far as we can tell, it was just miscommunication,” Cuban stated in an email. “… We get along great with the Heat and have done many deals with them. Wires just got crossed somehow.”
Cuban added that his team respects Dragic, but had plans for its cap space that would have been affected by taking on his $19.2MM salary. The Mavs believe they have addressed their point guard needs by acquiring Delon Wright on a three-year, $29MM deal in a sign-and-trade with the Grizzlies.
“I was sitting in the room full of people when the call was discussed and we put the trade we thought was happening on our board,” Cuban explained of the misunderstanding with Miami. “We later discussed trade kickers and added a player to make it work. They obviously thought they heard something else.”
The Heat eventually acquired Butler in a four-team deal involving the Sixers, Trail Blazers and Clippers.
After the original trade collapsed, the Heat told Dragic’s representatives they would try to trade him to complete the Butler deal. However, that need disappeared when Portland offered to take Hassan Whiteside‘s hefty salary, and Dragic’s camp was informed that he will remain with the team “barring something unforeseen.” Heat officials haven’t commented on their negotiations with Dallas.
Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins is recovering from a right ankle injury sustained during an offseason workout, writes Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Northwest. Jaynes reports that Collins suffered a grade 2 ankle sprain, as well as a torn ligament.
According to Jaynes, the Trail Blazers confirmed that the injury – which did not require surgery – occurred a couple weeks ago. The team has been quiet about it to this point and doesn’t expect it to sideline Collins for training camp or the preseason, despite the fact that he has been on crutches and in a walking boot, per Jaynes.
As long as he’s healthy, Collins figures to be an important part of Portland’s rotation to start the 2019/20 season. Centers Enes Kanter and Meyers Leonard are no longer members of the Blazers, and Jusuf Nurkic isn’t expected to be ready to return from his leg injury to start the season. As such, Collins will be responsible for bringing some continuity to a new-look group of centers that also features Hassan Whiteside and Pau Gasol.
Collins, 21, will be entering his third NBA season, having averaged 6.6 PPG and 4.2 RPG in 77 games (17.6 MPG) in 2018/19. While his numbers as a pro have been modest, the Blazers still have high hopes for the former Gonzaga standout, who was the 10th overall pick in the 2017 draft.
Portland was hoping to bring back center Enes Kanter at that number, but he balked. Blazers GM Neil Olshey thought Hood wanted more in free agency but was pleasantly surprised by Hood’s decision.
Olshey then shifted gears to finding a starting-quality center and got involved in the Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade to Miami, winding up with Hassan Whiteside by dealing Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard.
We have more on the Blazers:
- Backcourt partners CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard are now locked up long-term after McCollum signed a three-year, $100MM extension and they’re excited about that prospect, as he told Quick in a separate story. “It’s a special time,” McCollum said. “(Lillard and I) talked about being in Portland, making a staple here and winning a championship here, and all those things. We’ve crossed off a lot of goals individually and collectively, but I think that both of us being here for the long haul, and both of us being able to grow together and win together is something that people will remember for a long time.”
- Pau Gasol, who recently signed with the Blazers, said former Spurs teammate LaMarcus Aldridge has spoken highly of Portland and may want to play there again, Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report tweets. Aldridge said last season he and Lillard had spoken about the prospect of becoming teammates again. Aldridge’s $24MM contract for the 2020/21 season is not guaranteed, so it’s conceivable that could occur as soon as next summer.
- If you missed the details on McCollum’s extension, you can find it all here.
7:00pm: The Blazers and McCollum have made it official, with the team issuing a press release to announce the extension.
“CJ McCollum is a franchise cornerstone and a critical part of our future,” Neil Olshey said in a statement. “This extension represents a strong level of commitment between CJ, the Trail Blazers and the city of Portland.”
1:01pm: The Trail Blazers and guard CJ McCollum have reached an agreement on a contract extension that will add three years to his current deal, agent Sam Goldfeder of Excel Sports tells ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).
According to Wojnarowski, the two sides have agreed to a three-year, $100MM extension that will keep McCollum under contract for the next five seasons in total — he has two years left on his current deal. Assuming the extension doesn’t feature any options, it will put the 27-year-old on track to reach unrestricted free agency in 2024.
The 10th overall pick in the 2013 draft, McCollum has emerged as one of the league’s best backcourt scorers in recent years, averaging at least 20.8 PPG in each of the last four seasons. In 2018/19, he recorded 21.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 3.0 APG with a shooting line of .459/.375/.828 in 70 games (33.9 MPG).
Because McCollum signed his current contract with Portland on July 27, 2016, he became eligible for an extension on Saturday, three years after that deal was completed. The two sides didn’t waste much time in working something out, though the new contract won’t go into effect until the 2021/22 season.
While three years was the most that McCollum and the Blazers could have tacked onto to his current deal, it’s not technically a maximum-salary extension. The standout shooting guard could have earned up to approximately $114MM on that three-year extension, so he’ll accept slightly less than that in exchange for long-term security.
McCollum’s extension will make him the fifth player to sign a contract extension this offseason, as well as the third player to ink a veteran extension. Most notably, he’s the second member of the Blazers’ backcourt to agree to a lucrative long-term extension this summer — the team locked up Damian Lillard to a four-year, super-max extension earlier this month.
Lillard’s extension begins in ’21/22, the same year as McCollum’s. It runs one year longer, but Portland is now assured of having its two star guards under contract for least the next five seasons.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
JULY 25: The Trail Blazers have officially signed Gasol, the team announced today in a press release.
“Pau is a future Hall of Famer that brings invaluable championship experience and an elite skill set and basketball IQ to our roster,” Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey said in a statement.
The veteran big man finished last season with the Bucks, who let him go as an unrestricted free agent. Gasol underwent surgery in May to repair a navicular stress fracture in his left foot. He’s expected to make a full recovery in advance of training camp.
After being bought out and waived by the Spurs and arriving in Milwaukee in early March, the six-time All-Star appeared in just three games, averaging 1.3 PPG and 3.3 RPG in 10.0 minutes per contest. Gasol turned 39 this month but was determined to continue his career for at least another season.
Gasol provides insurance with Jusuf Nurkic recovering from a serious leg injury suffered in late March. Hassan Whiteside was acquired from the Heat this offseason to start in his place. Zach Collins can also swing over to the “five” spot.
Portland now has 14 players with guaranteed contracts.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Lillard, who agreed to a super-max extension with the Trail Blazers earlier this month, was rumored to be on the fence about playing in the tournament. DeRozan was added to the original list of training camp invites about a month ago, but he has elected to focus on the upcoming season.
That’s a common reason given by many of the stars who have withdrawn from camp, a list that also includes Anthony Davis, James Harden, Bradley Beal, CJ McCollum and Eric Gordon. A decision is expected soon from Kevin Love, while Kyle Lowry is recovering from a surgical procedure on his thumb and isn’t guaranteed to be physically ready for competition.
The camp will run from August 5-8, with the tournament scheduled for August 31 to September 14 in China.
Two more potential Team USA players have decided not to participate in the 2019 World Cup. Rockets guard Eric Gordon is withdrawing from the team, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic, and Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum is joining him, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).
With James Harden and Anthony Davis pulling out of the competition earlier this week, Team USA is now left with 16 players in training camp who will compete for 12 spots. The withdrawing players all said they want to focus on the upcoming season rather than the tournament, which will be held in China from August 31 to September 15. NBA training camps open in late September.
One of those remaining players, Kyle Lowry, had a surgical procedure on his thumb this week, and may not be physically ready to participate. His potential absence, plus the withdrawal of the four stars, should create more opportunity for members of the select team, who will be scrimmaging with the 16 players left in camp.
The players will gather for camp from August 5-8, and exhibition games will follow later in the month.
Canada’s World Cup team also lost an NBA player this week when Tristan Thompson elected not to participate, Charania tweets. In addition, Ben Simmons confirmed that he won’t be taking the court for Australia.