July 2, 2018, 5:12 pm
The fate of Ed Davis‘ free agency was never going to make or break the Portland Trail Blazers’ summer.
Davis was indeed a revelation last season, fully healthy after his second campaign with Portland was cut short by a nagging shoulder injury that finally required season-ending surgery in March. He returned stronger, quicker and far more explosive, supplying the Blazers with contagious energy and physicality every time he stepped on the floor, revving up a career that had previously seemed stalled. Davis emerged as something close to a cult-like figure among Portland fans as a result, a development sparked by Damian Lillard‘s public plea for Portland to keep him when rumors were swirling leading up to the trade deadline.
“Look man, for me, the same way D-Wade was in Miami all those years and Udonis Haslem was there because he brought something to the team nobody else had…that’s how I feel about Ed,’’ Lillard told NBC Sports’ Jason Quick in late January. “I always want Ed to be on my team. That’s the best way I can put it. I always want him on my team.’’
At 29, eight years and three teams removed from the lottery, Davis finally had a home – or at least that’s how it seemed. He has a new one across the country now, though, after agreeing to a one-year, $4.4 million deal with the Brooklyn Nets less than two hours into the start of free agency. That’s not only an extremely fair price for one of the most reliable backup big men in basketball, but Davis apparently preferred putting down roots in Portland, too.
“I said I wanted to come back,” he told NBC Sports shortly after news of his departure broke. Lillard and C.J. McCollum hardly hid their disappointment, either.
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) July 1, 2018
🤝 lost a real one https://t.co/7XTotNgIZX
— CJ McCollum (@CJMcCollum) July 1, 2018
Realities of the Blazers’ financial situation always ensured Neil Olshey would have to make some onerous choices this summer. The first one came on Friday, when it was reported they opted against extending qualifying offers to Shabazz Napier and Pat Connaughton, success stories of the team’s player-development tract who would thus become unrestricted free agents – and erase about $9 million worth of cap holds from Portland’s books in the process.
Ramifications of the 2016 free-agency spending spree are being felt throughout the league, but perhaps for no other team more than the Blazers. They entered free agency with approximately $111 million in committed salary for 2018-19, putting them both comfortably over the cap and comfortably below the luxury-tax threshold. That number doesn’t account for Nurkic’s nearly $9 million cap hold, nor the one-year, $4.8 million qualifying offer Portland probably hopes he signs or the eight-figure salary it might be forced to match if he inks an expensive offer sheet from a competitor.
It was no secret the Blazers would likely have to choose between Davis and Nurkic this offseason. Zach Collins waits in the wings, ready to be starting center of the present and future once his frame fills out, and bringing back just one of Davis and Nurkic is the surest means of the Blazers paying lesser tax penalties without gutting their roster of worthwhile contributors. Meyers Leonard is still being paid over $10 million a year to play for Portland, too, and Olshey last year used one of his few team-building assets on Caleb Swanigan in the first round of the draft. Davis and Nurkic were very valuable for the Blazers last season in their own respective ways, but not to the extent Olshey can justify asking Paul Allen to pony up extra millions upon millions in luxury tax payments.
Remember, Portland still has a $13 million exception from the Allen Crabbe trade and $3.5 million exception from dealing Noah Vonleh at the deadline – cost-cutting moves directly related to 2016, of course – to target high-priced players on the trade market, and Olshey has been adamant since the season ended that he views them as crucial chips to upgrade the roster. It’s also still unclear what type of contract Nurkic may receive from opposing teams, though Derrick Favors‘ two-year, $36 million agreement with the Utah Jazz certainly casts doubt on the notion he could be re-signed at a bargain bin price.
Even if Nurkic ends up taking the qualifying offer, using just those trade exceptions and the $5.3 million tax-payer mid-level exception would vault Portland past the tax line and the apron, all the way up to approximately $137 million in salary. How much would adding Davis’ new $4.4 million salary with the Nets to the mix cost in that scenario? Upwards of $17 million in tax payouts just by itself, all for a player stuck behind Nurkic, who would also limit the chance for Collins to gain experience playing the five.
Not worth it, right? From a purely financial perspective, assuming Nurkic is still in the team’s plans, the Blazers clearly made the right decision to let Davis walk. But personnel decision-making is never about dollars and cents alone.
Davis was a driving force behind the culture that propelled Portland to the three-seed last season, a reality Lillard clearly understood just as much if not more than anyone else within the organization. Two weeks after using a first-round pick on a teenager who plays his position, Portland’s franchise player lost his most trusted teammate due to nothing more than the never-ending ripples of Olshey’s overzealous spending bonanza two years ago. Think that might come up next season whenever Lillard, still stubbornly loyal, deems it necessary to have another clandestine meeting with Allen concerning the direction of this organization?
Perhaps the reaction to Davis’ departure will blow over. His role would have been diminished in 2018-19 if Nurkic is still with the Blazers anyway. Maybe sharpshooter Nik Stauskas, signed for the minimum in the wake of Davis leaving for Brooklyn, becomes a new fan favorite, or Collins’ growth is so rapid it becomes impossible for Terry Stotts to keep him off the floor. Perhaps Olshey pulls a 3-and-D rabbit out of his hat with the Crabbe trade exception.
Regardless, essentially being forced to let Davis walk is the kind of contextual mistake that quickly erodes player trust in a franchise. It’s already apparent how Lillard, not to mention McCollum, feels about this turn of events. Here’s hoping Portland improves enough going forward to the point his frustration gleaned from Davis’ exit is largely forgotten. Otherwise, it could be another event that makes Lillard one step closer to re-considering his future with the team he hopes to play for forever.
July 16, 2019, 8:45 pmRussell WestbrookPG, Houston Rockets
The Rockets and Thunder officially completed their blockbuster trade of Chris Paul, first round picks in 2024 and 2026, and pick swaps in 2021 and 2025 for Russell Westbrook on Tuesday.
Westbrook and Harden and now officially reunited and will be performing massive pre-game routines at the Toyota Center. Meanwhile, the Thunder officially have Chris Paul on the roster and are free to move him if they choose. Watching how Sam Presti begins this rebuild process will be interesting, to say the least.
Source: Royce Young on Twitter
July 16, 2019, 7:25 pmJarrell BrantleyPF, Utah Jazz
The Jazz have signed rookies Jarrell Brantley and Justin Wright-Foreman to two-way contracts.
Brantley was selected 50th overall in this June's draft after putting up big numbers in four seasons at the College of Charleston. He averaged 4.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in two games at Summer League, though he also missed time with right hamstring soreness. Wright-Foreman, the 53rd pick out of Hofstra, fared a little better with 10.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.5 steals, though he also battled right knee/hamstring issues and left the team for personal reasons at the end of their Vegas run. There's not much fantasy impact here.
Source: Utah Jazz
July 16, 2019, 5:33 pmLonzo BallPG, New Orleans Pelicans
Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Lonzo Ball (left ankle) said he'll be ready to go in "a week or two."
Ball missed the final 35 games of the season because of a Grade 3 left ankle sprain and bone bruise that he suffered in January. Last season also started off slowly as a preseason groin injury cost him a chance to open the year as a starter, and he was forced into sharing point guard work with Rajon Rondo and LeBron James when healthy. A fresh start in New Orleans, where Ball can play an up-tempo game as a franchise building block, should do him wonders. There's some injury risk here considering he's logged only 99 games through two seasons, but Ball's stat set — even with the poor efficiency — could support middle-round numbers. It sounds as though he'll be good to go for training camp.
Source: Andrew Lopez on Twitter
July 16, 2019, 5:26 pmBrandon IngramSF, New Orleans Pelicans
Brandon Ingram (right arm DVT) said that he's "really close" to resuming normal workouts.
Ingram underwent surgery on March 16 and the Pelicans have been consistent in saying they have no long-term concerns about Ingram's health. We're fully expecting him to be ready for training camp, though you'll want to keep an eye out for further updates as camp approaches. Ingram's stat set has the same holes as always, but it's possible that this season he'll become a featured player and bludgeon his way to enough volume to make up for his weak spots. His outlook improves on what it would've been with the Lakers, but Ingram still looks like a player that will be overdrafted.
Source: Andrew Lopez on Twitter
July 16, 2019, 3:29 pmRichaun HolmesPF, Sacramento Kings
The Kings have announced the signing of Richaun Holmes.
Holmes is set to make $10 million over the next two seasons. He'll push for minutes in a crowded frontcourt, but if it's a true meritocracy then he should quickly rise to the front of the pack. Last season he was able to deliver standard-league value in only 16.9 mpg, so he's someone to target late in drafts on the expectation that he gets more burn in Sacramento. It's a potentially messy situation but we have faith that Holmes will make the most of it for fantasy purposes. For the Kings, it's a straight up steal.
Source: Sacramento Kings
July 16, 2019, 2:03 pmMarcus MorrisPF, New York Knicks
The Knicks have announced the signings of Marcus Morris and Reggie Bullock.
Morris is on a one-year, $15 million deal while Bullock is coming in on a two-year deal worth less than $4.7 million annually, with a second season that isn't fully guaranteed. While both players began the offseason as potential standard-league targets, there's not much to see given the sudden depth of the Knicks roster. Morris will be one of five players who should mostly be playing power forward, while Bullock will slot into a busy backcourt and is already expected to miss at least a month of the season. New York's rotations are going to be a mess and we'd steer clear.
Source: New York Knicks
July 16, 2019, 1:43 pmReggie BullockSG-SF, New York Knicks
Reggie Bullock is expected to miss at least one month of the regular season, per SNY's Ian Begley.
Bullock, who initially agreed to a two-year deal worth $21 million, re-worked his contract to clock in at two years (with a second year that isn't fully guaranteed) for under the $4.7 million exception. There's no word on what exactly Bullock is dealing with, though he suffered from neck stiffness and plantar fasciitis in his right foot late last season. There's no need to monitor Bullock in standard leagues to open the year.
Source: Ian Begley on Twitter
July 16, 2019, 1:14 pmMarkelle FultzPG, Orlando Magic
Speaking to Sirius XM, Steve Clifford said that although there remains no timetable for Markelle Fultz (shoulder), he is making good progress.
Clifford said, "You know, right now we don't have a timetable for when he'll be back, but he's really doing a great job." Fultz simply wasn't ready to suit up, and even though we haven't really had any concrete updates on him since his last game on November 18, we're still expecting him to be ready to start the season. Fultz will make for a late-round flier on the chance that he finally gets healthy and puts it all together.
Source: Sirius XM NBA Radio on Twitter
July 16, 2019, 1:06 pmBlake GriffinPF, Detroit Pistons
Blake Griffin (left knee) has been cleared to start light basketball activities after undergoing arthroscopic surgery in late April.
Griffin dealt with left knee soreness in the season's final games and missed the first two games of the playoffs. His issues were dealt with quickly after the season ended and he should be ready for the start of the season. Look for Griffin to come off draft boards in the early-middle rounds after he put up a career season last year, though there might not be much profit margin at that price. There's a definite 8-cat lean as well.
Source: Rod Beard on Twitter
July 16, 2019, 11:59 amNicolo MelliPF, New Orleans Pelicans
Pelicans forward Nicolo Melli underwent knee surgery and will not participate in Italy’s training camp at the end of July, ahead of the FIBA World Tournament.
This comes out of nowhere and the only relative information we have is that Melli will be re-evaluated on a week-to-week basis. The Italian big should be fine for the Pelicans training camp where he will compete for the backup power forward minutes as long as the surgery is not anything too serious.