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5 Targets for the Trail Blazers’ MLE in 2019

With the 2018 NBA offseason winding down, it’s already time to look ahead to next summer.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Indiana Pacers Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

It’s now August, and the 2018 NBA free agency and trade period has officially hit the doldrums. Nothing much is happening outside of two-way signings, the occasional waiving of fringe roster players, and preseason schedules arriving. With the offseason almost over, people are already looking ahead to the summer of 2019, when many more teams will have cap space—and correspondingly greater activity. Though they were relatively quiet this year, the Portland Trail Blazers will have their Mid-Level Exception available next season, and with six large contracts still on their roster, that will be their best avenue to add talent outside of trading one of their core players. With Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum at the starting guard spots, and Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins locking down center, the biggest holes will come at the starting forward positions. They could also use a 6th-man combo guard. With those specifications in mind, here are five potential targets for Portland’s MLE next summer.


Reggie Bullock:

Reggie Bullock is good. After a rocky start to his NBA career, he has blossomed in Detroit, and will just be hitting his prime next summer at age 28. He hit almost 45% of his threes last year on solid volume (4.5 per game) in addition to rating as a well above-average defender by most metrics. The rest of his offensive game is somewhat limited, but he’s a truly great 3 and D player, and his height (6’7”) means he can cover several positions on defense. Someone is going to pay him next summer, and the Blazers - who need size on the perimeter defensively, outside shooting, and players in their prime who are ready to win now – are a phenomenal fit. The only concern might be that someone gives him a contract larger than the MLE if he has another year as good as his 2017-2018 season.

Bojan Bogdanovic:

Bodanovic was a key player for the Pacers’ surprisingly strong team last season, and is another ideal fit for the Blazers due to his shooting and size. He was also strong defensively last season, but that seems like a bit of a fluke considering he was regarded as a sieve in prior years. Even if he regresses a bit on that end, he’s still one of the deadliest shooters in the NBA when hot. He also has a little bit of an off-the-dribble game when run off the three-point line. Bojan too might command a larger salary than the MLE, but if he steps back a bit next season, some team might be able to snag him for cheap.

DeMarre Carroll:

DeMarre quietly had a bounce-back season last year for the Nets after two nightmarish campaigns with the Raptors. Carroll is an ideal wing in today’s NBA: he can hit threes, play defense across multiple positions, and makes quick decisions with the ball in his hands. He’s going to be 33 next summer, but has less miles than most players his age because he didn’t get heavy minutes in the NBA until his mid-to-late ‘. He could play at either small or power forward with the Blazers, and his underrated passing abilities could help generate ball movement that is sometimes lacking in Portland.


Austin Rivers:

Forget the haters. Austin Rivers has worked incredibly hard to build himself into a solid NBA rotation player, and he’s a legitimate threat with the ball in his hands. Just 26 years old, Austin still has the best of his career ahead of him. His work ethic might even allow him to improve during those years. While he’s definitely more of a shooting guard than point guard, Rivers can handle the ball and run an offense in a pinch, and this versatility makes him a very nice bench piece. His strong outside shooting would also be great for the Blazers, who have lacked three-point shooters not named Lillard and McCollum for years.

Jeremy Lin:

Lin is probably the most “up in the air” of the bunch, as he’s coming off a season where he played in just one game before rupturing his patella tendon. At age 30, Lin should be able to come back well enough, and if he does, he’s one of the better backup guards in the NBA. More importantly, his size, ball-handling skills, and solid shooting make him a perfect combo guard who can play on or off-ball, an ideal fit with the Blazers and their star guard duo.

What do you think of these players? Are there any other players who might be good for the Blazers next year on the MLE?