NBA Free Agency: Portland Trail Blazers Preview
What Happened Last Season:
The Portland Trail Blazers are in the same boat as teams like the Denver Nuggets and the Minnesota Timberwolves, good enough to just squeak into the postseason, but not enough of a threat to advance once they get there. The Blazers were in the thick of playoff contention for much of the year until a late-season spurt that, corresponding with a trade for center Jusuf Nurkic, saw them overtake the Nuggets to claim the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference. Although the Blazers were swept in four games to the eventual NBA Champion, Golden State Warriors, Portland had a good showing versus the Dubs and showed no fear in keeping up with the future champs. With guards C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard to go along with a bona-fide big man in Nurkic, Portland has an intriguing nucleus to build on for next season.
Upcoming Free Agents:
Projected Cap Space: None
Sign Jusuf Nurkic to an extension
Nurkic was a catalyst for the Blazers making a push down the stretch to help them get into the playoffs. Going from languishing on the bench in Denver, to being a front-court fixture in Portland, Nurkic was a great acquisition for the Blazers. Portland has spent many years looking for a competent big man to build around and Nurkic may be that solution to the problem. There are some questions if Nurkic is worth a big money contract based on just a half season of work but, as with many NBA teams would attest to, post players don’t grow on trees. Look for the Blazers to make a concentrated effort to keep Nurkic in Rip City.
One of the Blazers’ biggest concerns heading into free-agency is the lack of cap room they have at their disposal. While adding prospects Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan in last week’s Draft will help, they are still well over the projected salary cap for next season. With just their mid-level exception at their disposal to lure free-agents, decisions on where to trim payroll loom in order for Portland to procure some defensive assets for next year.
It might take a turn in philosophy from the front office, but with such a young team and a group that doesn’t have a tough veteran defender on the roster, someone like a Tony Allen could be a good fit. Allen instantly provides an able-bodied defender to the mix that can be a stopper on the perimeter for the Blazers, as well as provide a stabilizing presence among a young Blazer locker room.
Serge Ibaka makes sense as a someone who could help as a rim-defender and limit some of the fouls Nurkic has to take as the main big man in the starting five. For as long as Ibaka has been in the league, he is still just 27 years old and can easily gel with a young team like the Blazers.