In a press conference regarding free agency, President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey outlined the decisions the Portland Trail Blazers made to bolster the roster. One key decision Olshey revealed was that the team would leave a roster spot empty, and that the team had finished its anticipated transactions for free agency. He noted that they could not use the biannual exception without going into the luxury tax, and that was less than desirable to be a luxury tax team two years in a row. When asked about the need for a backup point guard, Olshey was emphatic: “Anfernee Simons is the backup point guard.”
The presser largely focused on the need for a change on the defensive end, as the Blazers finished 27th in defensive efficiency in the 2019-20 season. Olshey stated that they looked for players that could offer length and athleticism on defense, as well as players who matched with Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic timelines, both age-wise and contract-wise. Olshey said that he felt Robert Covington met all of those conditions. He also mentioned the desire to create more depth and flexibility in a sport that is becoming more and more positionless.
Asked about Zach Collins’ and Rodney Hood’s return from injury, Olshey turned the camera to show Collins at work in the gym. He noted that Hood was also there practicing. He gave Collins a timeline of being able to return in the 2nd or 3rd week of January, while he expected Hood to be ready to go by opening night. Currently, the practice facility is limited to 4 players at a time. Regarding coronavirus procedures and testing, Olshey stated that he trusted the team’s medical staff.
Olshey emphasized repeatedly that the front office wanted to build flexibility, continuity, and depth, three things that felt lacking last season. The return of Carmelo Anthony provides additional leadership for the team, while the addition of Derrick Jones Jr. as well as Covington add heft to the first unit, and the drafting of CJ Elleby adds defensive punch to the young end of the roster.