Blazers Officially Ink Kaman and Blake

Bruce Ely/The Oregonian

Bruce Ely/The Oregonian

As I reported earlier during the NBA Free Agent Moratorium, the Trail Blazers had agreed to sign free agent center Chris Kaman for the full mid-level exception. What was not reported then, but rather just this morning was Blazer GM Neil Olshey’s decision to sign former Blazer guard Steve Blake to a 2-year, $4.2 million contract, the full bi-annual exception.

Blake, who has already served two previous stints in the Portland area, started last season with the Los Angeles Lakers but was traded mid-season to the Golden State Warriors. He averaged seven points and six assists per game in 55 showings last season.

While he won’t provide the same scoring Mo Williams was able to last season for the Trail Blazers, expect him to score anywhere from seven to 10 points per game while dishing out five to seven assists per game. Also, one thing that can’t be seen on stat sheets is the toughness and defensive tenacity he is known to provide. He is a solid addition to the roster, especially given his price.

I won’t detail Kaman in this article, as I have already done so.

How do you feel about these two moves? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

~BlazersBySagar | Twitter

Blazers Sign Kaman for MLE

Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports

Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports

It was reported earlier this evening that the Trail Blazers signed C Chris Kaman to a two-year, $10 million contract. Kaman, now at the age of 32 years old, has played for five different teams over the last five seasons, most recently the Los Angeles Lakers. With the Lakers, he averaged 10.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, but only had 39 appearances all season. His lack of playing time was due to both injury and coaching decisions.

Kaman will be payed a fully guaranteed $4.8 for the first year on his contract. His second year is slated to give him $5 million, but only $1 million is guaranteed. If he is waived, the Trail Blazers will only lose the $1 million in cap space rather than the full MLE.

This signing will add to large but weak big-man rotation, joining the likes of F LaMarcus Aldridge, F Thomas Robinson, C Joel Freeland, C Meyers Leonard, and C Robin Lopez.

How do you guys feel about the Kaman signing? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time,

~BlazersBySagar | Twitter

What to Take Away from a Very Successful Season

Chris Covatta/Getty Images

Chris Covatta/Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers’ exciting season came to an unfortunately disappointing end to the hands of reigning Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semi-finals. While the scores in the series weren’t close, there are still a lot of positives to take from such a successful season and playoff run. Here are just a few.

Development of young players

Coming into the 2013-14 season, the Blazers had eight players on contract that were either entering their first or second season in the NBA. Portland’s run in the playoffs, including the loss to San Antonio, will provide the young players the taste of success but also the disappointment of loss. The fashion in which the Trail Blazers lost to San Antonio will also show individual players areas of their game that need development. Players can use this defeat as a learning experience, and from what the players and coaches said in their exit interviews, they will.

Portland has found its “Closer”

Throughout the season, Portland has turned to one man to close games out, and that man is Damian Lillard. In his rookie season (2012-13), he had two game-winners over the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans) and the New York Knicks. In his second year, he added to that resume by scoring game-ending shots over the Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns, and most importantly, the Houston Rockets. All the contested late-game situations Lillard has experienced, both in the regular season and the playoffs, will allow him to grow as a player. He’s only played two years and is all ready an All Star. The future is bright for him. All his late-game heroics from this season are below.

1. Game-winning lay-up over the Phoenix Suns:

2. Buzzer-beating fade away to beat the Detroit Piston:

3. Game-ending three pointer to sink the Cleveland Cavaliers:

4. Dagger in the Houston Rockets’ season:

Take a look at what the NBA feels are Lillard’s Top 10 plays of this season:

Also check out YouTube user Max Frishberg‘s video, subscribe to him, and follow him on Twitter:

The team is in the hands of GM Neil Olshey

Olshey is widely regarded among the lead as one of the best general managers. In fact, he ranked third in this season’s Executive of the Year voting. While he was manager for the Los Angeles Clippers, he executed the blockbuster trade for All Star point guard Chris Paul. In his two seasons as general manager of the Trail Blazers, he has drafted Lillard and re-signed F Nicolas Batum. He also made something out of nothing in two trades. He got G Eric Maynor at the trade deadline last season for a trade exception. Last off-season, he allowed Portland to play the role of facilitator in the three-team trade that sent G Tyreke Evans to the New Orleans Clippers and brought C Robin Lopez to Portland.

With a few assets and some cap room, I expect Olshey to be very active. In his exit interview (transcript here), he said the team would be aggressive in free agency and opportunistic in looking for trades, which should please Trail Blazer fans. Expect for the team to target a veteran bench scorer or veteran back-up center.

What does this mean for Trail Blazer fans? The future of this team is undoubtedly bright. The core duo of G Damian Lillard and F LaMarcus Aldridge will carry this team far into the playoffs in the coming years. Role players such as G Wesley Matthews, F Nicolas Batum, and C Robin Lopez will provide much-needed back-up to Lillard and Aldridge. This team will be a force to reckon with in the Western Conference for years to come.

Where do you think this team is going? Let me know in the comments below!

–Sagar Trika | @BlazersBySagar

Trail Blazers Extend Contract of Stotts

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It was made official by the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday that they would extend the contract of head coach Terry Stotts. The terms of the deal were not disclosed to the press, but it is known that the extension will last over multiple years.

Stotts had an option on his contract for next year, meaning his contract was essentially over. It was one of the team’s priorities to lock up Stotts long-term, and they did so.

The move to extend Stotts’s contract was viewed as obvious by many fans and members of the press. The move allows the team to grow with Stotts. The Trail Blazer franchise’s rebuild began with the signing of Stotts before the 2012-13 season. Now players like Blazers G Damian Lillard and other young players get to continue to grow under one coach.

What do you guys think of the move? Was Stotts the right person for the job? If not, then who? Let me know in the comments below!

–Sagar Trika | @BlazersBySagar

Playoff Picture

Sam Forenrich/Getty Images

Sam Forenrich/Getty Images

In what has been arguably the closest finish to a season in years, the Portland Trail Blazers (52-28) sit in the fifth spot in the ever-so-close Western Conference, chasing the tails of fourth place Houston Rockets (52-27). Portland, however, has stiff competition in the sixth place Golden State Warriors (49-30). It is common knowledge that the first four places get home court advantage in the first round, and if the playoffs started today, Portland would not have that advantage. Rather, the Blazers would kick off the playoffs in Houston for the first two days. If the series goes to seven games, Portland would ideally be playing that game at the Moda Center. However, the chance of Portland regaining the top four spot they had earlier in the season is very low. Also, it is still possible that Portland falls to sixth, behind the Warriors. While sliding either direction is possible, neither one is very likely. For either to happen, a specific set of conditions has to be met.

In order for the Blazers to move up into the fourth seed, they would have to win both of their final two games against the Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers. Those two wins have to be paired with Houston losing at least two of their final three games (home: New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs; road: New Orleans Pelicans). If either Houston wins two of their last three games or Portland loses even once, the Blazers’ chance for home court advantage will go extinct.

The only way Portland can fall into the sixth seed is if they lose both of their final games and the Warriors win each of their last three. That makes the game tomorrow against the Warriors all the more important. In fact, according to Blazers G Wesley Matthews, the game on Sunday is the “biggest game of the year.”

– Sagar Trika | Twitter

Patrick Beverly Likely Done for Season

Lillard (right) and Beverly (left) fight for a loose ball. (Sports Illustrated)

Lillard (right) and Beverly (left) fight for a loose ball. (Sports Illustrated)

It was reported earlier today by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports that Houston Rockets G Patrick Beverly sustained a tear in the meniscus in his knee.

You may be questioning why I am reporting news not related to the Blazers. In fact, the news of Beverly’s injury heavily impacts much of the Western Conference. Beverly, known for his physical defense and mind tricks, is the Rockets’ best perimeter defender, and they have nobody to replace him. Any good guard, like Portland Trail Blazers G Damian Lillard or Golden State Warriors G Stephen Curry, now have the ability to drive through the paint against the Rockets, something that was near impossible earlier. It makes the match-up against Houston easier for every team.

Because Beverly is so important to the Rockets, this news could potentially change the standings and playoff seeds in the last 9 games. Here are the standings as of March 28, 2014 (click on the image to enlarge it):

Western Conference Standings as of 3-28-14

As you can see, the battle between (4) Houston and (3) Los Angeles is very close. There is also a battle for the last four playoff spots among five teams: (5) Portland, (6) Golden State, (7) Memphis, (8) Phoenix, and (9) Dallas. There is a drop-off between seeds 3-4 and 5-9. That is why I think the possibility for Portland and Houston to switch spots, giving Portland home-court advantage, is unlikely. However, it is worth noting that Beverly’s absence, coupled with a potential surge by the Blazers, could lead to a switch (it’s just unlikely).

There are two methods to treat torn meniscus in the knee. The more common and advised method of treatment would sideline Beverly for the final 9 games of the season and the playoffs. The second option, which was used by other NBA players like Ex-Blazer G Brandon Roy and Oklahoma City Thunder G Russell Westbrook, would keep Beverly off the court for 3-4 weeks, allowing him to return and play in the playoffs.

I think Beverly would be ill-advised to try and play in the postseason this year. Not only will it jeopardize his future (as it did with Roy), but it also makes life a lot harder for the Blazers.

What do you think Beverly should do? What do you think will happen in the standings now that Beverly is out? Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time,

~BlazersBySagar

Looking to the Future

NBA.com

NBA.com

The Trail Blazers have been in a slump over the last few weeks (click here for my article on it), and it has showed the major problems that distance the team for being a contender in the NBA. I am going to explain Portland’s major problems and how Blazers GM Neil Olshey can solve the problems this summer.

Next summer, only one current player on contract will become a free agent, and that is G Earl Watson. He was brought in this season as a third-string guard, only to be used in the case of an injury to a different guard. I don’t expect him to return to Portland next season, and while it’s impact isn’t very big, his salary coming off the books helps Portland in signing a new free agent this summer.

Portland’s two major holes on the roster are a big man and a guard, both of which would ideally be defensive-oriented. I’ve taken a look at the free agent pool for this summer (full list here) and have been able to identify players that the Blazers should be targeting, whether through a signing or a sign-and-trade.

The first player I think Portland should try and get is Oklahoma City Thunder G Thabo Sefolosha, who is making $3.9 million this season. Sefolosha is widely considered one of the better defensive guards in the league. When he is open enough, he can hit an open three-point shot, which fits in well with the Trail Blazers offense. Bringing in Sefolosha, either off the bench, or starting him from the start, would provide bench scoring to the Trail Blazer’s dismal bench.

I do not think Sefolosha is worth the $3.9 million he is making this season. However, even if we go cheaper than the $3.9 million per year, Portland will likely be above the salary cap. That is why I propose the idea of doing a sign-and-trade with the Thunder that would land Sefolosha in Portland. In this theoretical deal, Portland would send C Meyers Leonard and G Allen Crabbe to the Thunder, along with cash or draft picks if needed.

Another player Portland could target this summer is Houston Rockets F-C Greg Smith. This season, Smith is making less than $1 million, which I feel is a fair price. If the Blazers were to play him at center, he would be undersized, standing at just 6’10”. However, he can rebound fairly well and takes high percentage shots. Ideally, he would be used to provide a defensive presence down in the paint. While that may not be his strong suit, I think over the course of a season, the Blazer training staff could add a defensive component to his skill set.

I find it highly unlikely that Houston would prefer to engage in a sign-and-trade. Smith was a victim of the Dwight Howard signing last summer, and as of late, he has seen his role diminish. While he is not the perfect fit for the Trail Blazers, I think he could greatly help the team’s second unit.

What do you think are the team’s major weaknesses, and using the link above, who do you think Portland should target this summer? Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time,

~BlazersBySagar