- Adding free agent forward Derrick Jones Jr. is an easy way for the Trail Blazers to improve their defense, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. Jones is only 23 and has proven to be an excellent defender who can block shots and switch on pick and rolls. Several teams will likely have their eyes on him, so Quick believes Portland should be willing to offer its entire mid-level exception of roughly $9MM if that’s what it takes to land him.
- Carmelo Anthony is looking at a reduced role on a healthier Trail Blazers team next season and will probably search for a better opportunity in free agency, Quick adds in the same piece. Anthony saw a lot of minutes before the hiatus at power forward in place of Zach Collins, who was recovering from shoulder surgery. In Orlando, he filled in at small forward for Trevor Ariza, who opted out of the restart. They’re both expected to be in training camp, along with Rodney Hood, who suffered a torn Achilles tendon last December.
After winning the NBA Finals in 2020, the Lakers are currently listed by sportsbooks as the odds-on frontrunners to do so again in 2021.
Over at BetOnline.ag, oddsmakers have listed the Lakers as +275 favorites to come out of the Western Conference in 2020/21. That means if you place a $100 bet on the Lakers and they win the West next season, you’ll win $275.
While the Lakers are the current favorites, BetOnline.ag places two other Western Conference teams in roughly the same tier. The Clippers (+375) have the second-best odds to win the conference, while the Warriors (+400) have the third-best odds.
Golden State’s placement is an interesting one. We can safely assume that the Warriors will be much improved in 2020/21 with a healthy Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson back in their lineup, and they have the resources necessary to make further roster upgrades. Still, the club is coming off a dismal 15-50 season that saw them finish in last place in the NBA. Winning the West in 2021 would represent a historic turnaround.
The rest of the odds to win the West next year are as follows, per BetOnline.ag:
- Nuggets: +1200
- Rockets: +1200
- Mavericks: +1400
- Trail Blazers: +1800
- Jazz: +2500
- Pelicans: +2500
- Suns: +3300
- Thunder: +4000
- Grizzlies: +5000
- Kings: +12500
- Spurs: +12500
- Timberwolves: +12500
As we acknowledged on Tuesday when we asked you for your thoughts on the Eastern Conference odds for 2020/21, it’s way too early to confidently predict next year’s conference champions. Rosters will undergo significant changes in the coming months in the draft and free agency, and on the trade market.
Still, the anticipated offseason directions for certain teams is baked into BetOnline’s odds. The Thunder would certainly be higher on the above list if the possibility of a rebuild wasn’t hanging over the franchise.
So, with the caveat that plenty could change in the coming months to alter the outlook of the West for the 2020/21 season, we want to get your thoughts on the early projections from oddsmakers.
Should the Lakers be considered the favorites to come out of the West again in 2021? Are the Warriors or another team being overvalued? Are there other clubs being undervalued? Which team do you like to come out of the West next season? And which club do you view as the best value pick based on the odds listed above?
Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your early forecast for the Western Conference in 2020/21!
- Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com tweets that Trail Blazers starting shooting guard CJ McCollum expects to resume all his basketball activities with no restrictions in November as he continues to rehabilitate from the lower back injury he incurred during the NBA’s summer restart. “Got a little plan together from a rehab standpoint to kind of make sure everything is in place,” McCollum said.
Every player who finishes a season as a member of an NBA roster gets some form of Bird rights as a free agent, allowing his team to go over the cap to re-sign him. However, a player who spent just one year with his club typically only has Non-Bird rights, which are the weakest form of Bird rights, as their oxymoronic name suggests.
With the Non-Bird exception, a team can re-sign a player for up to four years and give him a raise, but that raise has to be a modest one. Non-Bird rights allow for a starting salary worth up to 120% of the player’s previous salary or 120% of the minimum salary, whichever is greater.
In other words, a Non-Bird free agent who earned $5MM can only get a starting salary worth up to $6MM on his new deal unless his team uses cap room or another exception (such as the mid-level) to bring him back.
This cap restriction will apply specifically to a handful of players around the NBA who may be in line for raises this summer. Because these players will be Non-Bird free agents, it may be a challenge for their teams to re-sign them without cap room or an exception like the bi-annual or mid-level.
Let’s take a closer look at five players who will fall into this category this offseason…
During their run to the NBA Finals, the Lakers have matched up with talented opposing centers such as Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, and Bam Adebayo, while also facing a Rockets team that doesn’t use a traditional center. Anthony Davis has, of course, been the most important factor in the Lakers winning those frontcourt battles, but Morris and Howard have played major roles as well, proving their value as role players on a championship-caliber team.
Morris signed a $1.75MM contract during the season, while Howard’s one-year deal is worth the veteran’s minimum, so neither player can sign for more than 120% of the minimum if the over-the-cap Lakers hope to use their Non-Bird rights. If the cap doesn’t increase, that would mean a max of $2.8MM for Morris and $3.08MM for Howard.
My assumption is that both players would be able to do better than that on the open market. So if they’re not willing to accept team-friendly discounts to remain in Los Angeles, the Lakers may have to dip into their mid-level exception (projected to be worth $9.26MM) to try to re-sign one or both players.
Carmelo Anthony, F, Trail Blazers
Anthony’s NBA career appeared to be on the verge of ending before he worked out a minimum-salary deal with Portland. He outperformed that modest contract, with 15.4 PPG and 6.3 RPG on .430/.385/.845 shooting in 58 games (all starts) for the Trail Blazers in 2019/20.
Like Howard, Anthony would be limited to a ’20/21 salary of $3.08MM via his Non-Bird rights. If the Blazers need to go higher than that to retain him, they’ll have to repeat a move they used last summer, when they re-signed Non-Bird free agent Rodney Hood with their taxpayer mid-level exception in order to give him a raise.
Jeff Green, F, Rockets
Green was underwhelming during his brief stint with Utah early in the 2019/20 season, but he thrived in Houston, averaging 12.2 PPG on .564/.354/.857 shooting in 18 games (22.6 MPG) as part of the club’s micro-ball lineup. He was nearly as good in the postseason, with 11.6 PPG on .495/.426/.824 shooting in an increased role (28.6 MPG).
Green hasn’t signed a contract worth more than the minimum since 2016, so it’s possible that’s all it will take for Houston or another team to sign him this fall. That’d be a best-case scenario for the Rockets, given how well he fit in their system down the stretch — topping any rival offer exceeding $3.08MM would mean dipping into the mid-level or bi-annual.
Reggie Jackson, G, Clippers
Like most players on the buyout market, Jackson signed a minimum-salary contract with the Clippers to finish out the season, meaning the team will be limited to an offer starting at about $2.8MM.
Jackson was pretty good for the Clippers in 17 regular season games, knocking down 41.3% of his three-point attempts and chipping in 9.5 PPG and 3.2 APG. But he fell out of the rotation in the second round of the playoffs vs. Denver, and the Clippers will likely be looking to upgrade the point guard position this fall. A reunion probably doesn’t make sense for either side, especially if Jackson can get offers exceeding the Non-Bird limit.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The NBA has pushed back next season until January with the hope of having fans in the stands but the expectation of crowds may be optimistic, Mark Medina of USA Today reports. It’s unlikely a COVID-19 vaccine will be widely available at that point and having large crowds in an indoor facility could lead to a super spreader event, according to multiple health experts who spoke to Medina. Rapid testing could make it more feasible to allow fans into indoor arenas, the story adds.
We have more from around the basketball world:
- Western Carolina’s Carlos Dotson has agreed to a deal in France with JSA Bordeaux, JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets. The 24-year-old big man averaged 15.5 PPG and 9.7 RPG last season while receiving SoCon First Team All-Conference honors.
- The Players Association has made committee appointments for the NBA Foundation, created in partnership with the league, as well as the new Social Justice Coalition formed when the players agreed to continue the season in late August, Shams Charania of The Athletic writes. Kings forward Harrison Barnes and 76ers forward Tobias Harris will serve as player reps on the NBA Foundation, while Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony and Bucks guard Sterling Brown will serve on the Social Justice Coalition.
- NBPA executive director Michele Roberts anticipates that free agency will begin no later than December 1st. Get the details here.
Klutch Sports has picked up another client, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, who reports (via Twitter) that Trail Blazers swingman Gary Trent Jr. is the latest player to sign with Rich Paul‘s agency. Trent will be represented by Paul and agent Lucas Newton, Woj adds.
Trent had a strong showing during the NBA’s restart in Orlando, averaging 16.9 PPG on .516/.507/.778 in eight seeding games (34.1 MPG) as the Blazers clinched a playoff spot. He had recorded 7.7 PPG on .426/.388/.833 shooting in 53 games (20.0 MPG) prior to the hiatus before emerging as one of the team’s top rotation players in the summer.
As a former second-round pick, Trent won’t be eligible for a rookie scale extension before his first NBA contract ends. However, he’ll be able to sign a veteran extension this offseason, as Bobby Marks of ESPN observes (Twitter link).
If the salary cap doesn’t increase, Trent’s maximum possible extension would be worth about $51.4MM over four years, starting in 2021/22. He’d be able to sign for significantly more than that if he reaches restricted free agency in 2021.
Paul and Klutch Sports have generally exhibited a preference for taking their clients to free agency, so that may be the more likely outcome for Trent. For now, the Blazers still have a bargain on their hands — Trent is due to make just $1.66MM next season.
Potential top-10 selection Precious Achiuwa has interviewed with a number of lottery teams, Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype tweets. Achiuwa, a power forward who averaged 15.8 PPG and 10.8 MPG as a Memphis freshman last season, has talked to the Kings, Wizards, Knicks, Nets, Cavaliers, Suns, Spurs, Pistons and Thunder, among others. He’s currently listed at No. 10 overall on ESPN’s list of this year’s top 100 prospects.
We have more on the draft:
- Duke point guard Tre Jones has spoken with the Bucks, Suns, Thunder and Timberwolves, among others, according to Kennedy (Twitter link). Jones had an interview lined up with the Bulls, but it was postponed due to their coaching change. Jones anticipates he’ll be a mid- to late-first round pick. He’s currently listed at No. 34 overall by ESPN.
- Combo guard RJ Hampton, who played last season in Australia’s NBL, has talked to the Wizards, Kings, Thunder, Pistons, Suns, Trail Blazers, Knicks and Bulls, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington tweets. He posted modest stats in 15 NBL games before suffering a hip flexor injury and returning the U.S. Hampton is currently ranked No. 13 by ESPN and Hughes speculates he could be a late lottery steal like Michael Porter Jr., who sat out for a year after getting drafted by the Nuggets.
- Stanford point guard Tyrell Terry has interviewed with the Suns, Thunder, 76ers, Raptors, Knicks, Nets, Warriors, Timberwolves and Bulls, Kennedy tweets. He’s pegged at No. 42 in ESPN’s rankings. He averaged 14.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 3.2 APG as a freshman.
Hoops Rumors is previewing the 2020 offseason for all 30 NBA teams. We’re looking at the key questions facing each club, as well as the roster decisions they’ll have to make this fall. Today, we’re focusing on the Portland Trail Blazers.
Salary Cap Outlook
Accounting for their guaranteed salaries, player options for Rodney Hood and Mario Hezonja, and a cap hold for their first-round pick, the Trail Blazers have over $104MM in commitments on their books for 2020/21. That probably eliminates the possibility of cap room, but the team should be able to stay out of the luxury tax — its decisions on certain free agents and Trevor Ariza‘s partially guaranteed salary will likely be made with the tax line in mind.
Depending on how far over the cap Portland goes, the team will have either the full mid-level ($9.3MM) and bi-annual ($3.6MM) exceptions available, or will be limited to the taxpayer MLE ($5.7MM).
Our full salary cap preview for the Trail Blazers can be found right here.
Roster Decisions To Watch
- Rodney Hood, player option: $6,003,900
- Mario Hezonja, player option: $1,977,011
- Trevor Ariza ($12,800,000)
- Note: Partially guaranteed for $1.8MM.
- Hassan Whiteside (Bird)
- Caleb Swanigan (Bird)
- Carmelo Anthony (Non-Bird)
- Wenyen Gabriel (RFA; Early Bird)
- Jaylen Adams (N/A)
- Note: Adams won’t have any form of Bird rights because he was signed as a substitute player.
2020 Draft Assets
- No. 16 overall pick
- No. 46 overall pick
The Trail Blazers have their own two picks in the 2020 NBA draft. As a result of their summer playoff push, their first-round pick moved out of the lottery and down to No. 16.
Three Key Offseason Questions
1. Will Hassan Whiteside and/or Carmelo Anthony be re-signed?
With Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins out for most of the 2019/20 season with injuries, Whiteside was asked to play a major role in the Trail Blazers’ frontcourt, and it would have been unfair to expect a much better performance than the one he provided.
The former Heat big man averaged 15.5 PPG, 13.5 RPG, and a league-leading 2.9 BPG in 67 games (30.0 MPG). Portland had a +2.7 net rating when he played, compared to just -5.5 when he sat.
Those numbers don’t tell the whole story, of course. Whiteside’s net rating was buoyed by sharing the court so often with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. And while his individual numbers were impressive, he’s not an especially versatile defender and his effort can be inconsistent.
An unrestricted free agent this offseason, Whiteside won’t match the $27MM he earned in 2019/20, and the Blazers should probably be wary about offering him even half that amount for ’20/21. Nurkic will be back in the starting lineup next season, and Collins’ role in the frontcourt should be increased as he continues to develop. Whiteside would be a useful depth piece, but Portland would probably be better off using its cap flexibility to focus on wings, perhaps opting instead for a lower-cost backup center who can stretch the floor a little.
Prioritizing wings could bode well for Anthony, who spent time at small forward when the Blazers got healthy and pivoted to jumbo lineups during the summer restart. Carmelo isn’t the dynamic scorer he once was and can’t be relied upon for lockdown defense, but he was a great fit in Portland as a secondary scorer, averaging 15.4 PPG with a .385 3PT% in 58 regular season games and making some big shots during the Blazers’ push for the No. 8 seed.
All indications are that the Blazers and Anthony have mutual interest in a reunion, so it may come down to the price tag — Carmelo’s minimum-salary contract was a bargain for Portland in 2019/20, but he may not come so cheap next season, and the club will have to decide how high it’s willing to go to bring him back. With only Non-Bird rights on the veteran forward, the Blazers would have to dip into their mid-level or use their bi-annual exception to offer him more than about $3MM.
2. Will Trevor Ariza be retained?
Portland’s decision on Anthony may hinge on part on what the team does with Ariza, another veteran forward who is a more effective defender than Carmelo, albeit not nearly as dangerous a scorer. Only $1.8MM of Ariza’s $12.8MM salary for 2020/21 is guaranteed, so the team could clear $11MM from its books by waiving him.
However, clearing that money wouldn’t create any extra cap room for the Blazers, who figure to operate as an over-the-cap team whether or not Ariza is around. That fact, combined with Ariza’s strong production for Portland last season (11.0 PPG on .491/.400/.872 shooting in 21 games), should help ensure that the 35-year-old is retained.
That doesn’t mean Ariza is a lock to spend the entire season with the Blazers. His expiring contract could be useful in a trade if there’s an opportunity for the club to acquire a younger and/or more impactful wing.
However, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Ariza finishes out his contract in Portland. In their first-round loss to the Lakers this summer, the Blazers were missing a player like Ariza (who had opted out of the restart) — a versatile defender with enough size to guard LeBron James. While the team will only play the Lakers a handful of times in 2020/21, Ariza’s ability to guard similar opposing frontcourt scorers should come in handy going forward.
3. What are the Blazers’ expectations for 2020/21?
Injuries to Nurkic, Collins, and Rodney Hood nearly sunk the Trail Blazers’ playoff chances in 2019/20, as Lillard and McCollum battled valiantly to keep the club within striking distance of the No. 8 seed. When Nurkic and Collins returned during the restart, Portland looked like a different team, compiling a 6-2 record in seeding games and defeating the Grizzlies in the play-in game before running into the top-seeded Lakers in the first round.
With almost all their top players under contract and Hood expected to be healthy, the Blazers should enter the 2020/21 season with increased expectations. After all, they’re only a year removed from an appearance in the Western Finals. And if the Lakers end up making a championship run this fall, Portland can probably convince itself it would’ve made more noise in the postseason against a different opponent.
Still, the Western Conference will be more competitive than ever next season and it would be risky to pencil in the Blazers for a top-five seed and a playoff series win or two. Lillard is a star and McCollum is a strong second option, but Portland still seems to be one impact player away from being a true title contender.
My best guess is that the Blazers will enter 2020/21 betting that a savvy mid-level addition and better health luck will help push them into the contender conversation, but I think they may eventually have to turn to the trade market to try to find that missing piece.
Armed with all their future first-round draft picks and with promising young players like Collins, Gary Trent Jr., Anfernee Simons, and Nassir Little, the Blazers have the pieces necessary to put together an intriguing package if a star becomes available. It will be interesting to see whether Neil Olshey and the front office start to feel any urgency to push their chips into the pot and try to maximize their window while Lillard (who turned 30 in July) is still in his prime.
New Nets coach Steve Nash envisions a versatile role for Kevin Durant that would have him see time at all five positions, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Nash discussed Durant during an appearance this week on J.J. Redick‘s podcast, saying Durant has the skills to succeed anywhere on the court.
“Kevin, with his length, is a matchup problem for everyone,” Nash said. “(Kyrie Irving’s) excellent off the ball. Kevin can play all five positions, and I plan to use him in all five positions. I get excited to use some of the guys on the roster: Caris (LeVert), (DeAndre Jordan), Jarrett Allen, Joe Harris.”
Scouts and other league personnel who spoke to Lewis believe Brooklyn could have some devastating lineups with Durant at center, especially in a conference where the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Raptors’ Pascal Siakam have succeeded in that role.
There’s more from the Atlantic Division:
- The Sixers are considering a front office shakeup that would include the addition of a president of basketball operations, sources tell Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. One source indicated that Trail Blazers executive Neil Olshey may be interested, but only if he has complete control over basketball decisions as both president and general manager. Rumors have surrounded former Hawks executive Danny Ferry, but the Sixers are denying that he’s a potential candidate. A source says the team plans to ask about Rockets GM Daryl Morey and Pacers president Kevin Pritchard, but the source doesn’t expect either to wind up in Philadelphia.
- Fred VanVleet will be the Raptors‘ priority in free agency and they’ll find it expensive to keep him, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. Smith estimates that Toronto could could give VanVleet a new deal starting at around $20MM per season while still retaining a maximum salary slot for the summer of 2021. He adds that the team may have to sacrifice Norman Powell or convince him to rework his contract to make that happen.
- Raptors small forward OG Anunoby has signed with Klutch Sports Group, the agency announced on Twitter.
The NBA has officially announced its All-NBA teams for the 2019/20 season. Voting was completed prior to the league’s restart in July and was based on results through March 11.
Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and Lakers forward LeBron James, widely considered the two frontrunners for this year’s MVP award, were the only two players to be unanimously voted to the All-NBA First Team this season. Rockets guard James Harden, Lakers big man Anthony Davis, and Mavericks guard Luka Doncic rounded out the First Team.
The full All-NBA teams are listed below, with their vote totals in parentheses. Players received five points for a First Team vote, three points for a Second Team vote, and one point for a Third Team vote, so Giannis and LeBron scored a perfect 500 — First Team nods from all 100 voters.
All-NBA First Team
- Guard: James Harden, Rockets (474)
- Guard: Luka Doncic, Mavericks (416)
- Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks (500)
- Forward: LeBron James, Lakers (500)
- Center: Anthony Davis, Lakers (455)
All-NBA Second Team
- Guard: Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers (284)
- Guard: Chris Paul, Thunder (199)
- Forward: Kawhi Leonard, Clippers (371)
- Forward: Pascal Siakam, Raptors (168)
- Center: Nikola Jokic, Nuggets (311)
All-NBA Third Team
- Guard: Ben Simmons, Sixers (61)
- Guard: Russell Westbrook, Rockets (56)
- Forward: Jayson Tatum, Celtics (153)
- Forward: Jimmy Butler, Heat (147)
- Center: Rudy Gobert, Jazz (110)
Among the players who just missed the cut were Bucks forward Khris Middleton (82 points), Sixers center Joel Embiid (79), Wizards guard Bradley Beal (32), and Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (26). A total of 11 other players also received at least one All-NBA vote — the full results can be found right here.
Today’s announcement is great news from a financial perspective for Siakam and Simmons. As a result of Siakam’s Second Team nod and Simmons’ Third Team spot, both players will earn starting salaries worth 28% of the 2020/21 salary cap, rather than 25%. Players who sign rookie scale extensions can earn maximum salaries up to 30% of the cap if they negotiate Rose Rule language into their deals.
The exact value of those new contracts will depend on where exactly the ’20/21 cap lands. Assuming it stays the same as in 2019/20 ($109.141MM), Siakam’s four-year extension would be worth $136.9MM instead of the $122.2MM it’d be worth if it started at 25% of the cap. Simmons’ five-year pact would be worth $177.2MM rather than $158.3MM.
While it’s also worth noting that All-NBA berths are of great importance to players seeking super-max contracts, there aren’t any real developments to report on that front as a result of this year’s votes. Antetokounmpo and Gobert remain eligible for super-max extensions, but they’d already qualified based on their previous accolades.
Embiid would have become super-max eligible in 2021 if he had earned an All-NBA spot, but he’ll need to make an All-NBA team next season to gain eligibility now, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets.
Hoops Rumors readers accurately picked 12 of this season’s 15 All-NBA players in our spring poll. Beal, Embiid, and Devin Booker were your picks who didn’t make the official list. Of the 12 who made it, 11 made the exact team you projected, with Paul (who made Second Team instead of Third Team) representing the only exception.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.