Questions surround the Portland Trail Blazers as they prepare for the 2021 offseason. Obviously, there’s the matter of their next head coach. Then there are the rumors surrounding the trade value of CJ McCollum and whether his departure is the best route towards retooling. It’s the usual scuttlebutt that every Blazers offseason seems to have. Except this year, the Blazers actually have to do something.
Seven players on the Portland roster could potentially be gone by the start of next year. Four of those players played significant minutes both throughout the regular season and in the postseason.
If the Blazers want to restart the Damian Lillard Era, the first step might be letting people go. But who? And more importantly, who should stick around? Today we’re diving into Portland players with expiring contracts, asking whether or not letting them go would be a mistake.
If you read my article from Wednesday, then you know exactly where I stand on this. Powell is a guy that the Blazers should look to retain. He’s a versatile offensive player who can play at least league-average defense, and he showed this year he has the ability to come up big when utilized correctly. The only thing that should make the front office hesitate is the price tag. Odds are he will not be keen on taking the $11 million player option his contract currently states. Even then, the Blazers shouldn’t overthink it too much, because they have to re-sign this guy.
Powell mostly played the three spot for Portland this season, which made sense given McCollum’s presence. His ability to drive to the hoop and create a shot or hit the open three when necessary was something that Portland has lacked for many years on the wing. Powell brought it, and while he wasn’t always perfect, that seemed more like a problem with how he was being used as opposed to what he would do. Powell isn’t someone you stash in a corner; he’s called Stormin’ Norman because he can attack, not because he’s good at standing still. Bring Powell back and let him create more.
The truth is that Portland almost has to re-sign Powell. They traded away Gary Trent Jr. — a younger player who certainly would’ve been cheaper — in order to get him. Trading away an asset like that only to let what you traded for walk is just bad business. President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey knows (or at least hopefully knows) that trading for Powell means not getting him just for this past year. It means a long-term commitment to having him alongside Lillard and company for the foreseeable future.
Powell will probably cost around $20 million a year when he gets a new contract. That’s a lot of dough, but for a versatile player like Powell, I think it’s worth it. It might entail getting rid of McCollum and keeping Powell in Portland doesn’t solve everything, but it would be a good start to the offseason if the Blazers could retain him.
Derrick Jones Jr.
Small forward Derrick Jones, Jr.—dubbed Airplane Mode for his high-flying game—was grounded towards the end of this season. With the addition of Powell, it became clear that he didn’t have a place on this roster. His team defense contributions were minimal and his offensive impact was even lower. That led to him sitting firmly on the bench instead of soaring through the air like the Blazers hoped he would.
That being said, Jones has a player option for $9.7 million, which seems like significantly more than he could get anywhere else at the moment. When you get moved out of the rotation, your options become limited as to where you can play. Financially, there’s no reason to believe that Jones wouldn’t take his player option from Portland.
But my guess is that the Blazers and Jones are headed towards a mutual separation. I would speculate that Jones doesn’t want to ride the pine this early in his young career; he wants another chance to prove that he belongs in this league. A new coach might see Jones differently, but most likely he isn’t getting that chance here in Portland. Derrick Jones Jr. most likely won’t be wearing Blazers black and red next year, and that’s best for both parties.
The Trail Blazers need a defensive post. This brings up their mystery man, forward Zach Collins. I am struggling to make heads or tails of his situation. The young big has struggled with injuries for the past two seasons, and when he has been on the court, he hasn’t exactly lived up to the billing of a top-10 pick. He’s solid defensively most of the time, but he hasn’t exactly been the floor-spacing threat that Blazers fans had hoped for on offense.
Like Zach Lowe said on the Lowe Post last week, the Blazers were really hoping that Collins would play a big role this season. Instead, he became one of the best celebration/outfit combo guys in the league, which is fun, but not exactly necessary when trying to build a contender. And now they’re faced with the question of whether or not to give Collins a new contract.
Generally speaking, I’m weary of giving contracts to big men with bad injury histories. But right now, I’m leaning towards saying that the Blazers should give it a shot. Give Collins a prove-it deal — I wouldn’t give him more than like $3 million — and let him show that he can be a difference maker. If he proves he can stay healthy and contribute, then give him a deal that reflects that. If he doesn’t, then you let him go and admit the whiff. Well, Olshey isn’t exactly inclined to ever admit he misses, but you know what I mean. Let’s give Collins one more try.
What do you think? Would you retain Collins, Powell, and Jones, Jr.?
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our look at expiring contract players a little later!