September 24, 2018, 1:01 pm
Leading up to the Portland Trail Blazers’ season-opener against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers at Moda Center on October 18, HoopBall is profiling the team’s 15 players with guaranteed contracts, in reverse order of price.
Player: Seth Curry
2018-19 salary: $2,795,000
Age, experience: 28, sixth year
Measureables: 6-foot-2, 185 pounds (6-foot-4 wingspan)
Strengths: 3-point shooting, pick-and-roll ball handling, defensive instincts
Weaknesses: strength, defensive versatility, quickness
Swing factor: health
Likely role: third guard
It’s all about health for Seth Curry. In 2016-17, after proving himself a viable NBA player the previous season with the Sacramento Kings, Curry finally found the blend of fit and opportunity that allowed him to step out of his older brother’s shadow. The former second-round pick and G-League standout averaged 12.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.1 steals in 29.0 minutes per game for the Dallas Mavericks, shooting 52.8 percent on two-pointers and 42.5 percent from beyond the arc. He wasn’t just a standstill shooter, either, emerging as a highly effective pick-and-roll ball handler under Rick Carlisle, to an extent suggesting his playmaking skills should have been cultivated from the very beginning.
Dead-eye shooters with high-level ball-handling chops don’t come cheap. The only reason the Portland Trail Blazers, still cash-strapped after the summer of 2016’s reckless spending bonanza, had the financial wiggle room to bring Curry in is because he missed the entirety of 2017-18 under troubling injury circumstances. Despite first being sidelined by a stress reaction in his left leg during preseason play, an injury initially deemed of the mild variety, Curry didn’t go under the knife until February. He was only cleared for full basketball activities in mid June.
There’s no guarantee, basically, that Curry will live up to the modest expectations normally associated with a one-year deal worth half the tax-payer’s mid-level exception. Getting re-acclimated to the speed of the game following injury is one thing; doing so after a full season removed from the league is another one entirely. But even if Curry is somewhat limited by that reality, perhaps a half step slower than he was with the Mavericks, his stroke should be unaffected, and the natural court sense honed after a life spent around the league will surely re-materialize in time. Once it does, there’s every reason to believe he’ll eventually become Portland’s most consequential acquisition of the offseason.
That’s part of the problem, unfortunately. Neil Olshey never had the necessary team-building capital to make good on his hopes of adding an experienced, high-impact wing. The Blazers split their most valuable spending chip between Curry and guaranteed money for Gary Trent, Jr., a 19-year-old marksman drafted in the second round who connected on just 30 percent of his 3-point attempts in Summer League. The one player who was supposed to change the composition of Portland’s roster, modernizing it to help the team compete at a higher level in the playoffs, never came, and was never going to come.
If the Blazers are going to be better in 2018-19 than they were a season ago, it will be due to improvement on the margins, which is where Curry’s skill set looms so large. Shabazz Napier, an objectively pleasant surprise in Portland, wasn’t a consistent enough shooter to keep defenses honest – both when spotting up away from the ball as Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum probed, and relieving them of playmaking duties as a high-usage creator. Curry, on the other hand, made a solid 40.8 percent of his spot-up threes with the Mavericks, and 44.9 percent of his pull-up tries, the second-best mark in basketball.
The potential significance of putting another imminently-threatening guard next to McCollum when Lillard goes to the bench can’t be overstated. His true shooting percentage dipped well below league average without Lillard last season, per NBA.com/stats, and the Blazers team-wide offensive rating cratered. In a down season individually, McCollum wasn’t close to good enough to keep Portland afloat on offense by himself. Whether or not that’s the new normal was tough to tell given the inconsistencies of Napier, but Curry should provide enough stability as Terry Stotts’ third guard to know for sure one way or the other, a realization that could help decide the overall direction of this franchise going forward.
Curry’s import won’t come anywhere near such a level, though, if he’s a physical shell of the player he was two seasons ago. Athleticism was never Curry’s strong suit, but his quickness was underrated and he fought like hell defensively, allowing him to make up for lackluster tools on both sides of the ball with instincts and cunning. What if he’s just a stationary shooter now? Or he’s the defensive liability everyone thought he was early in his career?
That’s the risk forced on Portland by its financial constraints. Either way, Curry won’t be the wholesale panacea Olshey thought would be his team’s biggest free-agency signing, but could nevertheless become one of the summer’s best bargain-bin pickups. More likely? That his play falls somewhere in between, serving as a referendum on the Blazers’ awkward place between contending and rebuilding.
August 24, 2019, 10:27 amKyle KuzmaPF, Los Angeles Lakers
Kyle Kuzma (sore left ankle) will not take part in the FIBA World Cup as Team USA announces its final roster.
Kuzma sat out Team USA's final tuneup against Australia on Saturday as Marc Stein reports that he is flying back to Los Angeles to get treatment. We should still expect him to be ready for training and congrats to Mason Plumlee for making the team as many speculated that he would be the final cut.
Source: Marc Stein on Twitter
August 24, 2019, 8:58 amKemba WalkerPG, Boston Celtics
Walker scored 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting with four rebounds with two assists as USA Basketball had it's 78-game winning streak in tournament and exhibition games snapped on Saturday.
Walker continues to assert himself as the team's best player but USA losing to Australia was the much bigger story in this one. Harrison Barnes also played well as he chipped in 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go with six rebounds. USA will take on Canada on Monday in their last exhibition before taking on the Czech Republic in the first official match of the tournament on September 1.
August 24, 2019, 8:44 amDerrick WhitePG, San Antonio Spurs
Derrick White left Saturday’s game after tripping and hitting his head on the floor.
White left without help but there is no word yet on whether he is dealing with a concussion. He finished with eight points, hitting 6-of-7 three throws in nine minutes with another update sure to come. The third-year guard put up top-125 per-game value, playing 25.8 minutes in his second season. Even with the return of Dejounte Murray, White should still be worth a roster spot in most standard leagues.
Source: Jeff Garcia on Twitter
August 24, 2019, 8:42 amMarcus SmartPG, Boston Celtics
Marcus Smart, sidelined for almost three weeks with calf tightness, returned to action on Saturday as USA lost to Australia in their exhibition.
Smart only played nine minutes in this one but still managed to score 7 points with three assists days after being named one of the team’s co-captains. Coming off an NBA All-Defensive First Team selection, he produced top-100 per game fantasy value as it seems he may have finally fixed his shot after shooting under 40 percent from the field in his first four seasons. He also produced a career-high in both steals and triples with 1.8 and 1.6 respectively as his career seems to be on the up and up.
August 24, 2019, 8:39 amPatty MillsPG, San Antonio Spurs
Patty Mills went off in the fourth quarter and finished with 30 points as Australia beat USA 98-94.
Although it was only an exhibition, it was still a huge moment for Mills and the Australian team in front of a huge crowd as they handed the US team it's first loss since 2006. Mills was serenaded with MVP chants as Joe Ingles also played well with 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting with four rebounds and seven assists while Andrew Bogut came off the bench for 16 points, nine rebounds and four assists in 20 minutes, shooting 7-of-8 from the field.
August 24, 2019, 12:37 amKyle KuzmaPF, Los Angeles Lakers
Kyle Kuzma is out for Team USA's tuneup up game vs. Australia with a sore left ankle.
Kuzma is being held out of this one for precautionary reasons. There's clearly no need for USA Basketball to risk him further injuring the sore ankle. This does not sound like a serious injury and should not affect his fantasy ADP on draft day.
Source: USA Basketball on Twitter
August 23, 2019, 6:02 pmDwight HowardC, Memphis Grizzlies
Dwight Howard has agreed with the Grizzlies on a buyout, and will sign a non-guaranteed contract with the Lakers.
The Lakers are giving Howard an opportunity to be fantasy relevant. When given minutes, Dwight can produce double-doubles with the best of them, but he has been changing teams for years now. He will be worth a gamble at the end of your draft if camp with the Lakers goes well, but this is a non-guaranteed deal, and he only played nine games last season.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
August 23, 2019, 2:18 pmMarcus DerricksonPF, Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks signed Marcus Derrickson to an Exhibit 10 contract on Friday.
It looks like Derrickson will be a G-League option for the Hawks, so there's nothing to see here. At one point he was competing for the last roster spot on the team. We don't need to keep of track of every computer-generated player.
Source: Chris Vivlamore on Twitter
August 23, 2019, 11:01 amMarreese SpeightsC, Free Agent
Marreese Speights will work out for the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday according to Alex Kennedy of Hoopshype.
Speights spent last year playing in China and will attempt his NBA comeback with the Lakers. who are in desperate need of an additional center. He is among three centers the Lakers are looking into, the others being Dwight Howard and Joakim Noah. Of those three, Speights unquestionably has the best floor spacing ability, which would be his strongest bet to eke out those other two for the job.
Source: Alex Kennedy on Twitter
August 23, 2019, 10:15 amTrevor BookerPF, International
Trevor Booker has worked out for the Nuggets and has workouts planned with the Bucks and Clippers, according to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype.
Booker was out of the NBA in 2018-19, spending the season in China after he didn't get any offers in free agency. He did return to the US to undergo a procedure on his foot but is apparently fully recovered. The last time we saw Booker he split 68 games between the Nets, Sixers and Pacers in 2017-18. If he does make a successful comeback he'll have no fantasy relevance.
Source: Alex Kennedy on Twitter