Now What?: Blazers have decisions to make with their own free agents
Should they stay or should they go?
The Blazers have some big decisions to make when it comes to free agency. No, we’re not talking about what big name players can they bring in to help bolster the roster, we are talking about the free agents under their own roof.
Portland has some big decisions to make with Jusuf Nurkic, Ed Davis, Shabazz Napier, and Pat Connaughton. Three of these players were regular rotation players, one was a starter, and all four are about to hit the free agent market.
Jusuf Nurkic: Is he still part of the big three?
Jusuf Nurkic – Restricted Free Agent
Acquired: February 13, 2017 - Traded along with a 1st round pick to the Trail Blazers, with Portland sending Mason Plumlee, cash considerations and a 2018 2nd round draft pick to the Denver Nuggets.
2017-'18 salary: $2,947,305
2017-’18 Stats: He sets career-highs with 14.2ppg, 14blkspg, and 9.0rpg. Also averaged 1.8 assists per game. Holds career averages of 10.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.2 blkpg, and 1.5 apg.
Outlook: The Trail Blazers entire free agency plan will be dictated by their decision on Jusuf Nurkic… or, rather, the decisions of the other teams that covet him. Nurkic has shown glimpses of his true upside this season, and at just 23-years-old many teams will want to add him to their roster. However, Nurkic is a restricted free agent so the Blazers have the ability to match any deal the NBA throws his way. So the real question is how much is Paul Allen and Co. willing to spend? If a team offers Nurkic a max deal the Blazers may just let him walk, and that could turn the Blazers offseason on its head.
Ed Davis: Will he keep teaching Phys. Ed in Portland?
Ed Davis – Unrestricted Free Agent
Acquired: Signed a 3-year, $20,000,000 deal with Portland on July 9, 2015
2017-18 Salary: $6,352,531
2017-18 Stats: 5.3pts, 7.4rebs, .7blks per game, and pulled down a career-high 5.0 defensive rebounds per game. Holds career averages of 6.6pts, 6.5rebs, and .9blks per game.
Outlook: Ed Davis may be one of the best backup centers in the league, and will command a salary to show it this offseason. As an unrestricted free agent Davis has the ability to sign wherever he chooses, and could spurn the Blazers for a more lucrative contract. Davis’ return to Portland could hinge simply on whether or not he wants to continue his career in Portland.
Shabazz Napier: Where will he dazzle in 2019?
Shabazz Napier – Restricted Free Agent
- Acquired: Traded by the Orlando Magic to the Portland Trail Blazers for cash considerations on July 7, 2016.
- 2017-18 salary: $2,361,360
-2017-’18 Stats: Averaged a career-high 8.7pts and 2.3rebs per game this season, as well as throwing 2.0asts per game. Averaging 5.7ppg, 1.9apg, and 1.7 rpg for his career.
Outlook: Napier had one of the best seasons of his career and showed his worth as a backup point guard in this league. In fact, Napier could even be considered for a starting role giving the right circumstances. At $2.3 million this past season, Napier was a steal. Napier is due for quite the pay increase, and with the Blazers looking to pay Nurkic, Napier’s short tenure with the Blazers may be coming to an end.
Pat Connaughton: Who will get the luck of the Irish?
Pat Connaughton – Restricted Free Agent
Acquired: Drafted 41st overall by the Brooklyn Nets in the 2015 NBA Draft, and was traded to the Blazers on draft night for Steve Blake and Portland draftee Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Mason Plumlee was also sent to Portland as part of the deal.
-2017-‘18 salary: $1,471,382
-2017-‘18 Stats: – Averaged 5.4ppg, 1.1apg, and 2.0rpg, all career-highs. Holds career averages of 3.7ppg, .8apg, and 1.6rpg.
Outlook: Like Liam Neeson in Taken, Pat Connaughton has a particular set of skills. He can knock down the open three, and is a freak of athlete, but his career stats, as well as his play this past season haven’t shown much in the way of a pay raise. Connaughton has been in Portland his entire career, has grown with Lillard, Stotts, and the Blazers core, and it would be tough to see him go. However, if a team throws a large amount on money at him (large relative to his current deal) that Blazers may have to wave goodbye