The Portland Trail Blazers' biggest free agency move thus far was agreeing to sign swingman Evan Turner to a four-year, $70 million contract. Turner flourished in a sixth man role with the Boston Celtics during the 2015-16 season, but concerns that the Trail Blazers overpaid for a chemistry question mark have come to light. ESPN insiders Tom Haberstroh, Amin Elhassan, Bradford Doolittle, Jeremias Engelmann, and Kevin Pelton vocalized those concerns in their review of the best, worst, and most surprising moves in the Western Conference.
Elhassan, Doolittle, and Pelton were particularly critical of the Trail Blazers, listing the Turner signing as the worst they've seen from a Western Conference team in the free agency period.
Elhassan: I have a hard time understanding the Evan Turner signing by Portland. It's not just the money (although the idea that anyone paid him $70 million is pretty staggering), but I also don't see the basketball fit for him alongside Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. He's a ball-dominant wing who is an atrocious spacer. For Portland's roster, I'd rather have a Marvin Williams or Jared Dudley, both of whom signed for considerably less.
Doolittle: In terms of overpay, it's close between Barnes, Mike Conley and Evan Turner. But I can't argue with the first two signings, so that leaves Turner. He's good in a certain role. But my concern with giving him $70 million is that he'll regress to the alpha-player mindset that used to drag down his game.
Pelton: I'd have to go with the Blazers giving $70 million over four years to Evan Turner. Not only is Turner a poor fit alongside Portland's ball-dominant backcourt of Lillard and McCollum, I'm not sure he's all that useful when he has the ball in his hands. Turner is young enough to fit the Blazers' timeline, but that's all I can find to recommend this deal.
Conversely, Engelmann remarks that the worst signing belongs to the Memphis Grizzlies and the one that got away. However, he did note that the Turner deal came as a surprise, given the Trail Blazers' current assets.
Engelmann: The Grizzlies signing Chandler Parsons to a max deal. Last summer, Parsons underwent an unproven alternative to microfracture surgery whose long-term implications are tough to predict. Not only that, he had another knee surgery afterward. If I were running a team, I'd be concerned about the injuries potentially becoming career-threatening.
I was surprised by the Blazers signing Evan Turner. Last offseason, the Blazers found great value deals, signing good players that were flying under the radar. This offseason they turned around and did the exact opposite, signing a player with little positive impact to a big deal. It doesn't help that the ineffective Turner will steal minutes from the very effective Al-Farouq Aminu.
Only time will tell how Turner actually fits with the Trail Blazers, who have reportedly told him that he will have a chance to start at small forward alongside guards Lillard and McCollum. For now, skepticism is appropriate, but there is room for cautious optimism.