The Portland Trail Blazers are coming off one of their best seasons in a long time, advancing to the Western Conference Finals and giving the defending champion Warriors all they could handle through four games. After such success, it can be tempting to run things back, and repeat the same formula that proved valuable the year before, especially for a team like the Blazers that also suffered a major injury down the stretch run. And while I disagree with that approach, there’s some merit to it: continuity is a powerful force. However, in order for a team to “run it back”, they must re-sign all (or most of) their free agents, and that’s not always easy. The Blazers have five key rotation players who are free agents this summer. Here’s a look at which other teams might pursue those guys, and what kind of offers they might receive from those teams.
The most crucial of the Blazers’ free agents is, unsurprisingly, the one who will likely have the most attention this summer. Aminu has quietly been a key element of the Blazers’ success in recent years, an excellent small-ball rebounder who can defend multiple positions at a high level, and is at least an acceptable three-point shooter. While he’s not a Tier A free agent, or even Tier B, he’s probably on the level below that, and he could get a surprising amount of money this summer. Teams who are looking for those top forwards (Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Tobias Harris) and strike out could well turn towards Aminu as a saving grace, so all the teams in the hunt for those guys (especially Harris) are very likely to pursue Aminu as well.
Things are much different than the last time Kanter was a free agent, in 2015. A young, seemingly up-and-coming center, Kanter was in high demand, and re-signed with Oklahoma City to the moneybag sound of 4 years, $70,000,000. Now, Kanter is in his prime, and is playing a position that’s become increasingly devalued in the intervening years. Enes did have himself a fine playoff run, and was able to show up his old team in the playoffs, but it’s an open question how valued players of his type (non three-point shooting or rim-protecting) centers are right now. Still, he’s one of the best offensive rebounders in the NBA, and is perfectly playable against all but the best teams in the league. I could see several contenders who need a bit more firepower off the bench giving him a decent chunk of change, with perhaps the most obvious fit being in Philadelphia. However, he seemed to love playing in Portland, and fits a need at backup center. I think it’s quite possible he stays in Portland next season.
Other suitors: Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia Sixers, Houston Rockets
Turning 29 this summer, Seth Curry has never had a large NBA contract. He signed with the Blazers on a 1 year, “make good” deal coming off a serious injury, and pulled through, demonstrating that he’s still a quite-capable role player. He’s a bit undersized at offguard, but he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, and a surprisingly pesky defender. Curry isn’t quite old enough to be in ring chaser mode, so I expect him to go wherever the money is, as this could be his last chance to “secure the bag”. Plenty of teams could use his shooting, especially those who want space around their young big men.
Perhaps no player did more for themselves in free agency during the playoffs than Rodney Hood. Picked up from a tanking Cavs team at the deadline for close to nothing, Hood played a massive role in the postseason for the Blazers, coming up with five huge games against the Nuggets to help get Portland to the Conference Finals. He looked confident shooting from deep, posted up smaller players, and was aggressive defensively. Hood looked very similar to the player who was once viewed as a key building block in Utah not too long ago, and presumably made himself quite a bit of money. Hood isn’t a great defender, but he’s large and can hit threes, so some team will likely spend more on him than they should. Most NBA teams will have an interest in a player of Hood’s archetype, so the question is whether he’ll go for money or for situation. Either way, he should have no shortage of options this summer.
Other potential suitors: Indiana Pacers, Houston Rockets, LA Lakers, Denver Nuggets (just so he can’t play against them next season)
Layman faded down the stretch of the season as Hood’s role grew, but he started a significant chunk of the season for the Blazers, and was an unexpected contributor after being a human victory cigar the previous two years. Still fairly young, and quite possibly looking to get some more playing time and exposure, Layman seems like a good candidate to join a young, rising squad with holes on the roster. A team like the Wolves or Kings could really use his size and athleticism off the bench, and will have the money to take a larger flier on him than the Blazers want to match. To a large extent though, Layman’s future on the Blazers will depend on Aminu and Hood – if those two move on, keeping him would become a larger priority.
What do you think? Are there any other teams that could be hot after one of these players? Which are you most confident the Blazers can hold onto?