Seven fits for the Portland Trail Blazers in free agency

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Seven fits for the Portland Trail Blazers in free agency

The Portland Trail Blazers are in a tough spot moving into this postseason. They have a significant amount of cap space committed to core players, including Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic. Navigating the NBA's endless list of CBA rules can be tiring, and general manager Neil Olshey and his front office staff have their work cut out for them.

The 2019 summer free agent class is going to be an epic one, but once again Portland will need to go hunting for value — they won't be in the running for the bigger names. For starters, Olshey will need to decide which of his four big free agents he wants to bring back. Al-Farouq Aminu, Rodney Hood, Jake Layman and Seth Curry all need new deals.

Layman will likely return to Portland because he’s cheap. The Maryland product is a restricted free agent, and I'm not sure how much outside interest there will be i him given he's not quite a knockdown 3-point shooter just yet. Curry, returning from a leg injury last year, played to the level Portland wanted him to. Unfortunately, that also means he’s going to be too expensive for what the Blazers can afford.

The real question comes in Aminu and Hood.

Aminu had a descending deal that was smartly set up in 2015 by Olshey, but his performance this year was not up to par. As a starter with this roster, Aminu doesn’t cut it. He simply doesn't shoot the ball well enough, and he’s not a threat as a dribbler. This is an issue made worse when the other wings — Moe Harkless and Evan Turner — also struggled to shoot the ball.

Still, Portland has Aminu’s Bird rights, which means they can go above the salary cap to offer him a new deal. Even if the Blazers give Aminu a raise, having him on the team next year is better than scrimping a few pennies and replacing him with a minimum salary-level player.

Hood is where this whole thing gets sticky. If the team makes some expected moves — including re-signing Aminu — the Blazers will end up with the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception to spend. That would mean $5.7 million for a player in the first year of his contract. But Hood is going to demand more than that in the open market, even if he gives the Blazers a discount. The former Utah Jazz first round pick is worth more than $8 million a season.

That’s a difficult mark for Olshey to reach, because at his best he’ll only be able to find a little more than that. There’s no reasonable way for the Blazers to have <em>real</em> cap space this summer, and so the full Mid-Level Exception is how Portland would give Hood a fair market contract. Now that Portland has traded Turner for Kent Bazemore, it might just make Hood expendable should he demand his full market value.

Portland should also have use of the bi-annual exception, since they didn’t use theirs last year. That gives them another $3.62 million to spend, probably on Curry’s replacement.

So we’re left with a lot of potential options but not much money to spend on them. As such, here are nine interesting players, at various mid-level exception levels, that Portland could benefit from in free agency.

Rodney Hood — Taxpayer MLE

Hood played well to end the season, adding several impressive playoff performances to his resume. He recovered from a disastrous postseason run in 2017-18, when he was dealing with the birth of twins. Hood has apparently re-discovered his love of the game in Rip City. He was a useful 3-point shooter, and at 6-foot-8 he’s big enough to defend at least three positions on the wing.

Stanley Johnson — Taxpayer MLE

Johnson is a younger small forward whose stock has dropped a bit since coming out of Arizona in 2015. He’s a poor 3-point shooter at this juncture, but a decent enough defender and shows flashes of being able to score enough to invest in. He’s a big body, and if the Blazers punt on Harkless he might be able to fill that gap defensively.

Reggie Bullock — Taxpayer MLE

Bullock is a career 39 percent shooter from beyond the arc, and at 6-foot-7 he can switch between a couple defensive positions. He’s a good defender, with good marks against spot-up shooting, hand offs, and isolation plays. He’s probably reached his limit on potential at age 28, but Portland needs to fill the gaps. Guys here don’t all have to be Blazers in five years.

Wayne Ellington — Taxpayer MLE

Ellington was floated as a potential target for Portland last year. He’s a good 3-point shooter, and excels in both spot-up roles and in hand off plays, two things the Blazers need from this cap space. Ellington also doesn’t get enough credit as a defender, but his Synergy statistics suggest he could be quite staunch for Portland.

James Ennis — Bi-Annual Exception

Ennis is a small forward who might fit with the Blazers in a limited role. That’s OK if he’s taking their bi-annual exception money, and even that might be too much to spend on the 28-year-old. He’s a decent enough shooter, although he’ll struggle on defense given too much to do.

Quincy Pondexter — Bi-Annual Exception

Pondexter finally had a year befitting of his natural talents with the San Antonio Spurs last year. He’s a shooter who plays two positions, and although he was impressive on both sides of the ball in 2018-19, those numbers are likely to be looked at as a product of the San Antonio system, especially at his age of 31. That should keep the market on Pondexter from being driven up, and Portland could be buyers.

Anthony Tolliver — Taxpayer MLE

Like Ross, Tolliver feels like a player who’s been floated in Portland circles for ages. He’s 34 years old, but as a career 37 percent 3-point shooter Tolliver is going to age into contracts if he still wants them. Tolliver ranked reasonably well for his age last season against the pick-and-roll according to Synergy. He also consistently plays more than 60 games a year, so he could contribute if the Blazers let Enes Kanter go.

The core value Carmelo Anthony emphasizes in parenting

The core value Carmelo Anthony emphasizes in parenting

Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony isn't the young rookie sensation that competed with LeBron James for Rookie of the Year anymore.

He's developed as a player and perhaps more importantly, as a parent. 

As a parent, one is able to make decisions on what is important in life, a chance to learn from mistakes and an opportunity to see someone blossom.

In a recent Instagram Live with best friend Dwyane Wade, Anthony detailed what's the most crucial core value to instill in your offspring.

Respect. Respect. I don't care who you are. I don't care what you do. If you don't have no respect then nobody is going to respect you. And that's like one of the things that we preach in this household. You gotta respect people. You gotta show people that you're respectful. You gotta have manners. You gotta treat the janitor like you treat the CEO of the company... That's real. 

Carmelo and his wife La La Anthony are raising Kiyan Carmelo Anthony, age 12, who recently learned the deceptiveness of NBA highlights too with his pops. 

You can watch Wade and Anthony talk about respect in the embedded video above. 

Payton Pritchard would be a great fit with the Portland Trail Blazers

Payton Pritchard would be a great fit with the Portland Trail Blazers

Payton Pritchard, the kid from West Linn, has a habit of winning. 

Early on in his youth basketball days, four state championship at West Linn High School in Portland, Oregon, the winningest player at the University of Oregon… Pritchard knows and love the game of basketball through and through.

The Pac-12 Player of the Year, first consensus All-American in 80 years at Oregon, Lute Olson Award winner is now turning his focus to the NBA, with the NCAA season cut short. 

The Oregon men’s basketball star joins the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with NBA champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon.

As a Portland native, Pritchard grew up a Portland Trail Blazers fan. 

But the player he truly aspired to be was Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade.

I always rooted for the Blazers but my team was actually the Miami Heat with D-Wade. I was always a D-Wade fan from the beginning even when like Shaw and all them were there, before LeBron came. — Payton Pritchard

Despite Pritchard’s love for Wade and the Heat, Frye explains that Pritchard could be a good fit for a number of NBA teams right now:

I could name three teams off the top of my head I think you'd be good at. I think you'd be great here in Portland. Right? Backup point guard. I think you would be really good in Phoenix. Obviously, depending on what happens in Miami, those kind of places. Like, Miami would be number 3. And then, depending on what happens in Dallas, I think Dallas would be great. -- Channing Frye

I would love to play for any of those four teams. — Payton Pritchard.

Frye goes on to say it’s all about “culture and stability.”

The Portland Trail Blazers currently hold the No. 14 and No. 44 pick in the upcoming 2020 NBA Draft. Pritchard is listed as a late second-round pick.

You can listen to the full Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with Pritchard below:

Carmelo Anthony explains the most beautiful thing and most dangerous thing in the NBA

Carmelo Anthony explains the most beautiful thing and most dangerous thing in the NBA

In a recent Instagram Live with best friend and NBA Legend Dwyane Wade, Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony broke down what he thought was "the most beautiful thing and most dangerous thing" in the NBA.

Highlights.

It all started when Melo was watching old replayed games with his son who recognized some of the NBA players.

He like 'Oh Dad is that so and so? I seen that hightlight.' And yeah you saw the highlight, Now you get to see the game, now you get to see what happened in the highlight. - Melo

However, with added context, the plays were not as impressive to the young viewer.

He was like 'Yo... Now that highlight don't even mean much to me no more....Because I'm actually seeing the lead up to the actual highlight.' - Melo

Melo was glad to see that his son understood that highlights can be deceiving because they're clips stripped away from context. Wade added that when his NBA teams went through film sessions, "every player looked like an All-Star" and each team looked like the 1996 Bulls. That's what highlights do.

Highlights are the most beautiful thing and most dangerous thing at the end of the day. - Melo

Then, Carmelo brought up that specifically AAU mixtapes can be misleading and that he'd rather just watch the game.

But that doesn't mean all highlights are bad. They can quite entertaining.

I support all the highlights because that's where we at and people love highlights. Like everybody loves highlights. We love highlights. We love to watch our own highlights. 

You can watch the exchange in the video embedded above. 

Carmelo Anthony reminisces on 'special' Trail Blazers debut

Carmelo Anthony reminisces on 'special' Trail Blazers debut

When the Trail Blazers needed additional reinforcements in the frontcourt with the injury to Zach Collins, they knew who to call.

Insert 10x NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony fresh from... the couch? 

In an Instagram Live with fellow NBA Legend and best friend Dwyane Wade, Anthony talked about his first game as a Trail Blazer and how he ended up in Rip City.

I'm sitting in the crib and just get the phone call like 'Is this what you wanna do?' and like I have been down this road before. Let's make sure it's right. Let's make sure all parties are onboard and we go from there.

After agreeing to join the team he needed to figure out a starting date. Melo hadn't appeared in a game in nearly a calendar year after being sent home and ultimately waived by the Houston Rockets in 2018-2019. Anthony has stayed in shape but the initial ask from Portland was optimistic, to say the least. 

This is like a Wednesday. They like 'Oh can you meet us Friday?' I'm like 'Oh Friday? I'm sitting on the couch I can't meet y'all on [Friday]. I can't go play...on the game on Friday I've been on the couch!'

The Trail Blazers would welcome Melo to the starting lineup to make his Portland debut on November 19, 2019, in the Smoothie King Center against the New Orleans Pelicans.

When the game tipped off Anthony had one goal in mind: make it through the first timeout.

I wanna get through the first timeout, like if I can get through the first timeout I'm good... Once I got through the first timeout... there's no more adrenaline... my work been paying off. My conditioning is paying off.

The Trail Blazers lost to the Pelicans 115-104 and Anthony looked good at times but struggled from the field shooting 4-for-14 for 10 points. However, despite the result, Melo felt his return to the NBA was special primarily because of the city where it happened.

That was a special game man going back to New Orleans. Like everything started to come to me: being in New Orleans, playing down there again, first game back, Syracuse National Championship in New Orleans. Like all of that stuff started to come back to me.

As a freshman, Anthony led the Syracuse Orange to a National Championship before declaring for the 2003 NBA Draft. 

Now, New Orleans has a special place in his heart for another reason; not an ending but a new beginning. 

The real reason Michael Jordan shrugged his shoulders after hitting those 6 threes

The real reason Michael Jordan shrugged his shoulders after hitting those 6 threes

In preparation for an upcoming documentary about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, there is a lot of Jordan talk going around right now, particularly at the four-letter network.

And when showing highlights of Jordan's incredible career, it never takes long to get to what people call the "shrug game." That's Game 1 of 1992 NBA Finals when Jordan knocks down six straight three-pointers in a half and then turns toward a camera and shrugs. I've heard all sorts of explanations for that shrug, including one that involved Jordan not believing the Trail Blazers were leaving him open to make those shots.

First, let me say some of those attempts were taken with Clifford Robinson guarding him. Robinson was 6-9 and a terrific defender at four positions.

But most important, the one thing nobody ever points out was that Jordan was a terrible three-point shooter at that stage of his career. Teams would dare him to take those shots. Jordan, in fact, shot just 27 percent from three-point range during the 1991-92 regular season.

That's right, 27 percent! And that's why in that season, he averaged only 1.3 three-point attempts per game.

I was there in Chicago Stadium when Jordan hit those threes and I always felt the one and only reason that he shrugged his shoulders the way he did was:

Of all the fantastic things he did in his career, Michael Jordan himself simply couldn't believe he did THAT.

Social media reacts (again) to Nurkic’s first game vs. Denver

Social media reacts (again) to Nurkic’s first game vs. Denver

Watching the March 28th, 2017 matchup between the Trail Blazers and the Denver Nuggets in Friday night’s classic game, fans were so happy to be watching Blazers games again.

The Trail Blazers (35-38) entered the game tied with the Nuggets (35-38) for the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs race.

But, besides the importance of the game with the playoff hunt, it was Jusuf Nurkic’s first game in a Trail Blazers uniform against his former team.

It was on Feb. 12 when the Trail Blazers acquired Nurkic and the rights to Memphis’ 2017 first round pick from Denver in exchange for Mason Plumlee, along with a 2018 second round pick, and cash considerations.

Nurk fever had already started in Rip City before this game, but it was in full effect as he cruised to a career-high 33 points to go along with 15 rebounds, two blocks, and one steal.

Let the Nurk Fever tweets commence!

Also, how much did re-watching this game give you flashbacks of the strong connection between Damian Lillard and Nurk?

Their pick and roll action is a thing of beauty and it got people talking on Twitter.

The Blazers beat the Nuggets 122-113 in the fourth and final regular season matchup between the two. Portland took the season series 3-1. 

Another trending topic from fans of today -- was the hard screens set by the Bosnian Beast and the Hammer, Meyers Leonard.

In the win, CJ McCollum finished with 39 points and five rebounds.


And we can't forget Nurk telling his former team to, "I wish those guys a happy summer."

 

Carmelo Anthony credits LeBron James for saving his life

Carmelo Anthony credits LeBron James for saving his life

Here is a fun fact: Did you know that LeBron James once saved Carmelo Anthony from being swept out to sea?

He did. 

Don't believe us, then just take it from the man he saved. 

Anthony was on Instagram Live with Dwyane Wade on Friday and the two were talking about a time they were all out on the water, presumably doing some scuba diving when the current started to pull Anthony away. 

Anthony came up from below the water only to notice that the current was taking him away from the boat. 

A panicked Anthony thought the end was near. 

That's when King James jumped into action.

"The current is taking me in the middle of the ocean, opposite of the boat," said Anthony. "I look up at the boat and Bron jumps off the boat like he was MacGyver... He jumped off the boat into the water. He was bringing me back with one arm. He's swimming with one arm and he's carrying me with the other arm." 

Yo, Bron, I appreciate that. You saved my life that day. Them little flippers wasn’t working for me. - Carmelo Anthony on LeBron James

Mr. James, Rip City sends you its gratitude. 

Meyers Leonard and his wife Elle gave out their phone numbers

Meyers Leonard and his wife Elle gave out their phone numbers

It's been just over two weeks since the NBA announced the suspension of its season to combat the spread of COVID-19. 

Since the beginning of the hiatus, NBA players have occupied their time by making Tik Tok's, streaming themselves playing video games on Twitch and performed Q&A's on Twitter. 

Humans are social beings, so while everyone practices social distancing, the desire for contact with the outside world, to communicate with others becomes paramount. 

Now, former Trail Blazers big man Meyers Leonard and his wife have taken it one step further: They're giving out their phone numbers and asking you to text them!

View this post on Instagram

309-328-3605 ... text me.

A post shared by Elle Leonard (@elleleonard) on

“You heard it here first,” Meyers said in a video released on his wife Elle’s instagram page. “We’re both legitimately giving out our phone numbers.”

Sitting side by side, Meyers gave his pitch on why you should text him.

“If you’re looking to have a better tan like me — text me, not her.”

“Text me, because Elle is by far better,” Elle chimed in. “She provides puns and GIFs— all around just better.”

It’s not 100% clear why they’ve decided to take this measure. Maybe they’re just bored?

Meyers’ pitch continued: “Ladies and gentleman, if you’re looking for the greatest content, text me.” 

So, if you've ever wanted a chance to be on texting terms with an NBA player, now's your chance! 

‘Jusuf Nurkic kicked our ass’— Memories from his revenge game vs. Nuggets

‘Jusuf Nurkic kicked our ass’— Memories from his revenge game vs. Nuggets

Friday night’s (6 o’clock, NBC Sports Northwest) Trail Blazer classic will undoubtedly be a feel-good game for fans of the team.

Not because it was a close game, a big upset or a game in which one player scored an extraordinary number of points. It was just a game in late March that gave Portland a one-game lead for the No. 8 playoff spot.

But it was obviously not just any other regular-season game.

The significance of the contest was that it was Jusuf Nurkic’s revenge night -- his first game against Denver after the Nuggets traded him to Portland,

And what a game he had.

In fact, Nugget Coach Mike Malone summed it up best afterwards when he said simply, “Jusuf Nurkic kicked our ass. He was very physical.”

Nurkic was sensational against his former team, which had benched him in favor of Nikola Jokic. Amid standing ovations from the Moda Center faithful, the fired-up Nurkic hit 12 of his 15 shots from the floor, seven of his nine free throws, scored 33 points, hauled in 16 rebounds (five of them on offense), had two assists and two blocked shots.

Mason Plumlee, who went to the Nuggets in the trade, went scoreless in the game and Jokic managed 17 points.

CJ McCollum, who has traditionally been a problem for the Nuggets to defend, came up big in this game, scoring 39 points on just 24 shots in 40 minutes. 

Coach Terry Stotts allowed Nurkic a curtain call with 19 seconds to go in what turned out to be a nine-point Portland win, removing him from the floor and allowing the crowd to favor him with one final deafening standing ovation.

Nurkic had found a home and this was the official signing of the deed.

HOW TO WATCH Blazers vs. Nuggets

WHEN: Friday, March 27th at 6pm

Channel: NBC Sports Northwest, Channel 737 (Portland), 617 (Seattle)

CHANNEL FINDER

Stream the game here. 

NBC Sports Northwest is airing 12 Trail Blazers Classic Games over the next few weeks.

The full schedule can be found here.