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.
April 21, 2019, 6:19 pmKevin Durant - F - Golden State Warriors
Kevin Durant dropped a game-high 33 points to go along with seven boards, six assists and one steal as the Warriors took Game 4 against the Clippers.
Durant was guarded by JaMychal Green in this one, but it doesn't matter who's guarding him. He finished 12-for-21 from the floor, 3-for-6 from the beyond the arc and 6-for-6 from the line. There's no stopping KD when he's locked in.
April 21, 2019, 6:17 pmKlay Thompson - G - Golden State Warriors
Klay Thompson scored 32 points in Sunday's Game 4 win against the Clippers.
It was a classic "Klay game" in this one as Steph Curry never got anything going but Thompson wasn't missing early on. He finished 12-for-20 from the floor and a nice 6-for-9 from beyond the arc. Thompson finally got going after averaging 13.7 points per game across the first three.
April 21, 2019, 6:11 pmChris Boucher - F - Toronto Raptors
Chris Boucher (back spasms) has been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Magic.
Carry on with your day.
Source: NBA Injury Report
April 21, 2019, 5:36 pmBlake Griffin - F - Detroit Pistons
Blake Griffin (left knee soreness) is listed as probable for Monday's game against the Bucks.
Griffin returned for Game 3, Detroit's first home playoff game in three years, and looks good to go for Game 4. It's unlikely to help Detroit as the Bucks have been in full control of this series from the tip.
Source: NBA Injury Report
April 21, 2019, 4:25 pmDarren Collison - G - Indiana Pacers
Darren Collison dropped 19 points, five assists, six rebounds, two steals and three 3-pointers in Sunday's loss to the Celtics.
Collison was asked to take on a bigger load with Victor Oladipo out. His field goal attempts, assists and points rose 1.5, 0.6 and 2.9 per game respectively after the All-Star game. He had similar numbers in the playoffs but, like the rest of the team, the efficiency was just not there. He's an unrestricted free agent this summer and with Aaron Holiday waiting in the wings, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Pacers let Collison walk. Victor Oladipo's health will certainly play a factor in what the Pacers do at guard this offseason, as well.
April 21, 2019, 4:15 pmMyles Turner - F/C - Indiana Pacers
Myles Turner scored 13 points with two blocks and seven rebounds on Sunday as the Pacers lost to the Celtics.
Turner had a down series against Boston with a lot of credit going to the defensive wizard Al Horford. Turner was expected to take on more of an offensive role with Victor Oladipo out, but it never really happened. His scoring actually took a small dip post-All Star Break. We'll see what the Pacers decide to do with Turner and Domantas Sabonis this offseason as the two aren't great fits together, but are each good young players.
April 21, 2019, 4:10 pmDomantas Sabonis - F - Indiana Pacers
Domantas Sabonis scored 14 points with eight boards in Sunday's Game 4 loss to the C's.
Sabonis ended his third season with a decent stat line and a nice 6-for-9 from the floor in 22 minutes. Ultimately, the Pacers were not able to make shots when they needed to in this series and lasted four games because of it. Sabonis is a popular trade candidate this summer as his fit with Myles Turner long term does not look good. He's got loads of offensive talent for his age and he should be just fine for fantasy wherever he ends up next season.
April 21, 2019, 4:01 pmBojan Bogdanovic - F - Indiana Pacers
Bojan Bogdanovic scored 22 points with eight rebounds, three assists and a 3-pointer as the Pacers season ended with a loss to the Celtics on Sunday.
Bogdanovic did a fantastic job filling a massive void left by Victor Oladipo in the second half of the season and in the playoffs, but ultimately it wasn't enough. Indiana just could not hit shots when they needed to during this series, and thus, only lasted four games. Assuming Oladipo will miss at least the beginning of next season, Bogdanovic should be in for a big role to start 2019-20.
April 21, 2019, 3:58 pmJaylen Brown - F - Boston Celtics
Jaylen Brown scored 13 points with six boards, an assist and two 3-pointers in Sunday's 110-106 win against the Pacers.
Yet again the Celtics walked away with a win after the game being close until the end. Brown saw 27 minutes in this one and was efficient with his touches as he was 5-for-9 from the field with only one turnover. He was also one of seven Celtics in double-figures, something that needs to continue for them if they want to beat Milwaukee next round.
April 21, 2019, 3:53 pmKyrie Irving - G - Boston Celtics
Kyrie Irving scored 14 points on 4-for-13 shooting on Sunday as the Celtics finished off the Pacers in four games.
Irving also handed out seven assists in this one, but was not asked to do as much as prior games. The Celtics had balance in their scoring as they got seven players into double-figures. Irving vs. Eric Bledsoe should make for a great matchup in the next round, assuming the Bucks don't blow a 3-0 series lead.