(1/7) Damian Lillard and the Blazers agreeing to a supermax extension (4 years, $194 million) carries more implications than all other free agent news combined. What’s your knee-jerk reaction?
Timmay (@pdxTimmay): From the team’s perspective, you have to do this transaction. You’ve got a guy who is regularly All-NBA, All-Star, and ranks in the MVP voting. If you don’t do this transaction, you’re starting over. It’s that simple. But, as I’m sure others will note, it could leave Portland in a somewhat precarious position.
L. Hostetler (@corvallisonian): I’m going to repeat what I said on Twitter earlier today. Damian Lillard is the face of our franchise, and he deserves this. He has shown us the kind of player and person he is, over and over again, and he is absolutely worth keeping for the long-term. His accolades speak for themselves, as does his character.
Adrian Bernecich (@abernecich): There was never any doubt in my mind. A no-brainer for the Blazers if Lillard was keen. The challenge now will be to assemble a championship-level team around Lillard while working with a little less financial flexibility.
Miles Custis (@MilesCustis): First, I’m super happy for Lillard that he got paid. He’s worked really hard to improve has been one of the NBA’s best leaders and locker room guys. Second, it’s great for Portland to have locked up long term. Not only is he one of the best players in the league, he also means so much to the community.
Steve Dewald (@SteveDHoops): Lillard is the face of the Blazers’ culture and that is guaranteed to continue with his new deal in place. Outside of his contributions on the court, the city of Portland is set to benefit from Lillard’s presence for the foreseeable future.
Kyle Garcia (@_kyle_garcia): **Insert GIF of Damian Lillard shooting out money here**. But also, there’s no one else who deserves this more.
Ryan A. Sterling (@Chase_BlazEdge): It had to be done. The Blazers needed to show that they were not going to let Lillard leave. After everything Lillard has given to the city of Portland, he deserves every dime.
Ryan Rosback (@RyanRules21): This extension coming two years before the terrifying reality of Lillard hitting unrestricted free agency shouldn’t detract from how monumental this is for the Blazers. Holding on to a star player who has a say in the matter is no given for small market teams like Portland, and Dame quite figuratively put his money where his mouth is and re-upped for the long haul.
Tara Bowen-Biggs (@tcbbiggs): Of course. Give him the Supermax every day and twice on Sunday. Even if he does not play as much or put up comparable numbers four years from now, he will still be the most important person on the team.
Mark Plumlee: I want Dame to have all the money.
(2/7) Al-Farouq Aminu has signed with the Orlando Magic. Are you surprised the Blazers didn’t make a strong play to retain him? What implications do you see?
L. Hostetler (@corvallisonian): No, I’m not surprised. Keeping Aminu wasn’t necessarily an advantage for the Blazers (sorry Tara). While his length is an advantage defensively, the playoffs displayed the multitude of his weaknesses. I think following his performance there, the cons outweighed the pros, and the front office was able to let him go.
Adrian: Not really, Chief has been great for this franchise but it’s clear he wasn’t going to be starting on this team moving forward following the emergence of Zach Collins. It’ll now be interesting to see what happens with Moe Harkless and whether he is moved to another team or to Portland’s power forward starting role.
Timmay: I’m surprised purely because you don’t want to lose a starter for nothing. He joins Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, and LaMarcus Aldridge on that list in the current era. Of course, trading him might have unknowingly cost Portland a trip to the Western Conference Finals, so who am I to complain?
Miles: I am a little surprised. He didn’t have a great final couple playoff series, but he was an important part of the team all season. His defense will be missed.
Kyle: If you had told me four months ago that Chief would be gone, I would’ve thought you were crazy. But after his struggles in the latter stages of the playoffs, it makes sense. His defense and hustle will be missed, but it can be made up.
Steve: Judging by the size of his deal with the Magic, Aminu clearly desired having a multi-year contract. If the Blazers want to preserve any form of flexibility next summer they couldn’t present Aminu with a similar offer.
Ryan: I am very worried about the team defense. Aminu was the usual player to guard the opposing team’s best forward, and could guard two through five. With Jusuf Nurkic out until midseason, the Blazers may be in for shootouts in order to survive.
Ryan R: Similarly to Rodney Hood, Neil Olshey probably offered Aminu a 1+1 deal and Chief took the guaranteed money elsewhere. No surprise there and the lack of initiative on Portland’s part shows the team was ready to move on.
Tara: After the Blazers did not pursue Ed Davis and Wesley Matthews aggressively when they became free agents, I was pretty sure that Aminu was going to be in the same situation. The Blazers are looking to develop new players. Aminu more than fulfilled his duties. I’m happy Orlando is paying him a lot of money for three more years. I will always be a member of the #AminuAppreciationSociety.
Mark: Aminu is a great player to have for the grind of an 82-game season. His consistency and professionalism, night in and night out, are a big reason why the Blazers keep exceeding expectations to snag top-four seeds in the Western Conference. This team has it sights set on higher goals now, and unfortunately Aminu isn’t a player who can take them to that next level in May and June.
(3/7) Rodney Hood re-signed for the taxpayer’s mid-level exception. How good is this for Portland?
L. Hostetler: This is amazing. For one, I want to note that it’s the most money Hood has ever made in his career. Two, he’s made it clear that the culture is a great fit for him. I think building our strength at the wing position is something Rip City has griped about for years. Well, ta-da! Here you go. Hood has shown he can shoot in big moments—and this team loves big moments.
Timmay: Probably good, but we’ll know more later. Really, Portland has to be happy to have re-signed even one of their three unrestricted free agents without Bird Rights (Hood, Kanter, and Curry). But the risk is that one-two weeks from now, teams have spent their money, and good players are taking cheap deals. This feels like a good risk from Neil Olshey and crew, so I’m ok with it.
Adrian: Brilliant and to get him at the price I’m simply over the moon. The Blazers finally have shooting depth at the wing positions. Hood and Bazemore will continue to open up the floor for Damian and CJ. I honestly thought the Blazers would focus on bringing Kanter back, but that looks pretty unlikely at this stage.
Isaiah: I am forever in Hood’s debt after his game-winner in the legendary 4OT game. Sign him to a lifetime contract after this one’s up.
Miles: I’m very surprised he didn’t sign elsewhere for more, but I’m glad Portland gets to keep him. It will be nice to have a versatile player like Hood for the whole season. Plus, it gives “Mt. Hood” more of a chance to catch on as a nickname.
Kyle: Very good. As our own Nate Mann pointed out, shooting is good, and Rodney Hood can do just that. He bought into the Portland culture right away and gave Blazer fans the performance of a lifetime in that 4OT game. Plus, I thought he was going to be a lot more expensive, so nabbing him for the mid-level exception is impressive.
Steve: Plain and simple: signing a talented player at a position of need for a discount should always be considered a win.
Ryan: Bringing back Hood gives Portland a bench scoring push that they badly needed. I hope that Anfernee Simons will be able to join him in that endeavor, but getting back a reliable scorer for the Mid-Level Exception is fantastic.
Ryan R: Hood could be a 30+ minute per night guy between SG/SF spots and keeping him at this price is an absolute coup.
Nate Mann (@nate_mann13): Kyle said it for me! I love me some wing shooting, especially from a guy like Hood who has bought into the team’s culture and is already a fan favorite. Assuming Hood performs well next season and rightfully seeks more money, the Blazers will have more cap space in the summer to bring him back once again.
Mark: If he keeps hitting every back-down fadeaway, this deal will probably work out pretty well.
(4/7) How much do you like the Brooklyn Nets’ strategy? What do you foresee with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, and company on the same team?
L. Hostetler: It really seems like it has the potential to be a battle of the egos. These are all guys used to being at the head of the locker room, save perhaps Durant during his time with the Warriors. Irving has his quirks. I’m not sure what the Nets are thinking, and I’m not entirely sure that they know what they are thinking, either.
Timmay: I feel like the only person on earth who isn’t yet convinced Kevin Durant will be worth that contract. He may never be the KD we saw prior to his Achilles tear. I’m not anointing the Nets yet.
Adrian Ummm, on paper it looks fantastic for Nets fans. But what are the implications of the achilles injury and the personalities in the locker room. I like Kenny Atkinson and hope he has the intestinal fortitude to keep things in order. Let’s just wait and see.
Isaiah: I’m not buying that the team will be just a mess given the incoming personalities. Yeah, Kyrie Irving is different. Yeah, Kevin Durant is different. But they’re also incredibly skilled basketball players. They’re headed to a team and culture that helped reform D’Angelo Russell’s image around the league, after all. I’m excited to watch them play together — and I think the gamble will pay off for Brooklyn.
Miles: It’s strange that after that crazy Nets trade with the Celtics that gave Boston all those first round picks, it’s the Nets that ended up having the quick rebuild Boston wanted. Once Durant is healthy (probably not next season), Brooklyn could very well be the best team in the Eastern Conference.
Kyle: I don’t know if anyone can predict how the mercurial personalities that are Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will blend. On paper, this team seems like it’s already one of the best in the East, assuming KD comes back to somewhat full-form. Whether or not they can all work together remains to be seen.
Ryan: On paper? The team will be hard to stop. A lot of people are down on Jordan, but when engaged he is one of the most dangerous rebounders and rim protectors in the game. The Nets have the pieces around them to be a frightening force if everything works out well. There are some strong personalities, and Durant’s injury is highly concerning, but the risk is worth it if you are a Nets fan.
Ryan R: Somewhere Billy King is smiling and taking far too much credit for allowing this to happen. It must be amazing for Nets fans to wake up this morning having added two All-World caliber players, but the East is no longer the cakewalk it once was. KD will need to come back at nearly full form to make Brooklyn rise above the Raptors, Bucks and 76ers.
Mark: While I have questions about fit and what kind of player Durant will be when he comes back, the job Sean Marks has done as GM is staggering. He inherited the worst situation in the league, and within 3 years, the New Zealand native delivered KD and Kyrie in a single summer. This guy’s job is probably safe for a few years.
(5/7) What was the most surprising piece of free agent news to you besides the above?
L. Hostetler: Ricky Rubio to Phoenix. I’d thought his move to the Indiana Pacers was a foregone conclusion. That said, he’ll be a great fit in Phoenix.
Adrian: Horford to Philly. I’m curious to see How the Embiid-Horford frontcourt looks - are they a bit top heavy. I hope Brett Brown has a plan.
Timmay: JJ Redick to the Pelicans. I figured he would retire in Philly.
Isaiah: Malcolm Brogdon to Indiana. Milwaukee lost one of their most important players on a 60-win team to a conference rival. Extending Eric Bledsoe earlier this season could look very poor a year or two from now.
Miles: Al Horford to Philly. There was a lot of noise about different teams ending up with Horford, and his signing was perhaps the biggest roller coaster. Philly got a great veteran presence to help out their roster.
Kyle: Jimmy Butler to Miami. It makes sense but it seemed to come out of nowhere. But on the surface, making a bunch of money to play basketball in Miami is a deal I would take any day.
Steve: Just when you thought the Warriors were out of it, they go and pull off a massive sign-and-trade deal for D’Angelo Russell. Golden State might not be clear favorites to return to the NBA Finals, but they will keep things interesting with Russell onboard.
Ryan: Heat acquiring Jimmy Butler makes for a weird situation in South Beach. The team is now loaded with unrealized potential, veterans that have stopped caring, and a player that does not work well with either of those things. A repeat of the Minnesota fiasco in very possible.
Ryan Rosback: Nikola Mirotic to a different continent. The same Nikola Mirotic who took part in the playoff dismantling of the Blazers back in 2018 was poised for a hefty payday, but instead will bolt from the league altogether, signing a contract with Euroleague club Barcelona. Better there than the Northwest Division.
Nate: Bojan Bogdanovic to the Utah Jazz. There were rumors of this move, but how smoothly the Jazz organization shifted from targeting Nikola Mirotic to successfully adding a different, better wing startled me. That team should scare the Blazers.
Mark: The Knicks signing Julius Randle to a three-year $63 million deal. All the chatter out of NY was that in the event they struck out with their biggest free agent targets, they wouldn’t panic and throw big money at middling players. Then they did just that. Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise?
(6/7) Name one winner and one loser from Free Agent Day 1. (Doesn’t have to be biggest winner or loser, just significant.)
Timmay: Winner - The Miami Heat. These guys were stuck in the mud for years to come! But you just need one elite player to want to play in your city, for your team. And they got it. They’re relevant again in the NBA. Loser - The Phoenix Suns. They’re kind of defined that way without further explanation.
L. Hostetler: Winner - The Utah Jazz. Adding both Mike Conley Jr. and Bojan Bogdanovic are huge gets for the Jazz. Yes, they let Rubio and Favors go, but that wasn’t necessarily unexpected. I think they will be a real threat in the Western Conference next year, especially with Rudy Gobert repeating as Defensive Player of the Year.
Adrian: Winner - Brooklyn. I mean right now, no one else comes close, especially given where they were four years ago. Well done Sean Marks. Loser - New York. So the Knicks missed out and finished the day with Julius Randle and Taj Gibson. It’s been interesting day for the people of New York City.
Isaiah: Winner - Indiana. It’s not exactly a destination city, but Indiana was able to add Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb. Not to mention that they traded for TJ Warren on NBA Draft Night. The Pacers retooled with their star Victor Oladipo waiting in the wings as he recovers from knee surgery. I’d bet on them being scary next season. Loser - Tampering. Free agency started Saturday, actually.
Miles: Winner: Brooklyn. They got the prized free agent everyone wanted (sure, his injury complicates things a bit, but still). Loser: The Knicks. Knicks fans were all hanging their hopes on getting Durant and/or Kyrie Irving they traded away Kristaps Porzingis. They didn’t end up with either.
Kyle: Winner - Utah Jazz. The Jazz have a legit claim to the title of best team in the West. Adding Bojan Bogdanovic to a team that has an elite center in Rudy Gobert, a budding star in Donovan Mitchell, and the true point god himself Mike Conley makes this team really interesting. Loser - New York Knicks. Because of course the Knicks flubbed it. But hey, Julius Randle and Taj Gibson are basically KD and Kyrie, right???
Steve: Winner - Pelicans. New Orleans addressed their suspect floor spacing by adding two shooters in JJ Redick Nicolo Melli. Along with bolstering their three-point shooting, the Pelicans snatched up Derrick Favors to provide depth in the post. Loser - Clippers. Once a threat to add two max players—it all comes down to Kawhi for the Clips.
Ryan: Winner: Brooklyn. You cannot acquire a haul of talent like Durant, Irving, and Jordan and not win the day. If Durant gets back to full strength, the East is theirs to take. Loser: Sacramento. I would love to pile on the New York Knicks, but Sacramento is a fascinating mess. Bringing in Trevor Ariza and re-signing Harrison Barnes while ejecting Willie Cauley-Stein and trying to get De’Aaron Fox, Harry Giles, and Marvin Bagley all working together creates a weird mix that could easily explode.
Ryan R: Loser - Knicks. New York traded away its franchise player for peanuts to preserve cap room so they could sign up to two marquee free agents - they ended up with three middling power forwards. Time to keep kicking the proverbial can.
Tara: Winners: The Trail Blazers. I’m really quite impressed that they signed Rodney Hood who has multiple skills—shooting and creating his own shot—and possible more that we haven’t seen yet. I’m really looking forward to a full year of Rodney Hood. Losers-My friends who are Timberwolves fans are incensed that nothing has changed and the clock is ticking down to the time when Karl Anthony Townes asks for a trade. Dark days in Minnesota right now.
(7/7) Do you feel like the Blazers are done with major moves or have they got something else in the hopper?
Timmay: Something else has to be coming. Right?
Adrian: One can only hope.
Miles: I don’t know if I’m expecting anything more soon. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a midseason trade though. The Blazers have several expiring contracts they can use for a trade.
Isaiah: Everyone’s talking about possible Kevin Love scenarios, so I’m prepared for anything but that. The Blazers’ moves often seem to come from left field with no prior inklings.
Kyle: There’s no way they’re done. I don’t know when it will happen or how big the move will be, but I don’t think the roster is set in any way. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Olshey may have something brewing.
Steve: The Blazers added Bazemore and retained Hood. I expect a couple small moves to add depth and experience, but nothing major. If a big transaction is coming, I predict that it will come at the trade deadline.
Ryan: I foresee a minimum contract to a low risk, low reward center. Other than that, I think the Blazers will stand pat until the trade deadline.
Ryan R: Is Collins a C or PF? Is Stotts finally prepared to start him at either of these positions? What Portland does next is likely very dependent on the answers to those questions. In any case, I wouldn’t expect any major moves until the trade deadline.
Nate: I think the Blazers have another move in store to thin out a now-crowded wing rotation. Bazemore can’t be traded yet, Hezonja was signed for a reason (whatever that is) and Hood shouldn’t go anywhere, so that leaves Harkless and Layman on the block. I expect an attempted trade—Olshey completing the trade is another thing—involving Harkless or a backup plan of renouncing Layman’s contract. The end result is hopefully a cheap front court guy.
Tara: Something else must be coming, they simply don’t have enough bodies in the center position. Even if Meyers Leonard and Zach Collins are able to play the bulk of those minutes, there is absolutely no room for error/injury/rest. I think they will look to add someone as insurance at that position.