The Portland Trail Blazers spent a lot of money this offseason. Not only did they hand out new contracts to Allen Crabbe, Moe Harkless and Meyers Leonard, but they also signed Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli away from other teams. And finally, they rewarded C.J. McCollum with a massive four-year extension. The Blazers were one of the NBA’s biggest surprises last season, and now they’ll try to follow that up by taking another step forward. Can they do it with this group?
1. Best move of offseason
Troy Tauscher: I think the best move was re-signing McCollum. The size and scope of his contract is a bit jarring, but I think it was worth it. They know he and Lillard can get things done together, and that with the way their team works, he’s extremely valuable. It ultimately sort of ended up as one of those situations where they could have him or not have anyone. Even though there are better SGs, upgrading would’ve been really hard, so I get why they stuck with what they had.
Kelly Scaletta: Keeping Myers Leonard. Having a big who can be both a decent rim protector (saved .16 points per 36 minutes at the rim) and shoot the three (38.5 percent from deep for his career) is a rare thing. Sure, there are other things that he needs to develop, but the kid is certainly worth keeping around.
Jason Patt: I would say getting Festus Ezeli on a cheap two-year deal, bu his knees appear to be a real problem. So I’ll just go with getting the C.J. McCollum extension done so nobody has to worry about it. McCollum has his flaws, but he’s developed into an excellent scorer and has formed a superb backcourt duo with Damian Lillard.
2. Worst move of offseason
Troy: Ready for a hot take? Evan Turner. I genuinely don’t know why they thought this was a good idea. He’s clearly flawed in many areas, doesn’t really complement their roster and does nothing to fix their weaknesses. Yet they’re paying him that much money all the same. With all the other guys they added/brought back, I don’t even know what his role really is. It was…just a bad idea. It’s that simple.
Kelly: Evan Turner was just weird and bad, all wrapped together in weird-bad packaging. I ask myself, does he do anything at all to make this team better? And the answer I keep coming up with is no. The Trail Blazers would have been better off just giving those minutes to Allen Crabbe. Neil Olshey tends to be one of the best in the biz, though, so maybe he knows something we don’t.
Jason: I’ll make it three-for-three on the Evan Turner deal. Turner can do a lot of things relatively well, but the overall package simply isn’t that great. Over $17 million a year is simply far too much for him, even in this new cap climate.
3. Offseason grade
Troy: I’d give them a B-. I think they tried to play half-and-half between going all in on improvement and trying again next year with the same group. The problem is in the process they really tied up a lot of cap room for a team that still needs work. I like some of their signings, but I think they were a bit too eager. They tied up major upgrade money on a handful of small upgrade players. I think it helps right now but may turn back on them later.
Kelly: C-. They spent a lot of money, but are they any better than they were last year? Tough to say they are.
Jason: C. I’m afraid they may have locked in way too much money to a core of players that won’t get much better. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as there are a lot of nice players in this group and they should be pretty good moving forward, but I’m not sure how they take the next step.
4. Early prediction for 2016-17
Troy: I’ve got them as the sixth seed for somewhere in mid-40s win range. They have a lot going for them, but the landscape is different. The West lost a contender, but Memphis and Utah will both be a lot better and I have some optimism for a refocused Rockets team. This season will be something of a stagnation, a sign that a middle-tier playoff team is their ceiling at the moment. That’s certainly not bad given where they were two years ago.
Kelly: They may or may not get back to the No. 5 seed, but they will get to the playoffs. I very much doubt they get to the second round again, though, because that required some pretty fluke injuries to the Clippers. I’ll go with 45 wins and around a No. 6 or 7 seed.
Jason: I expect the Blazers to return to the playoffs, but I also expect them to win a similar amount of games as the 44 they won last season. So a lower playoff seed in the West and at best an outside chance of winning a playoffs series.