From: The Office of Ridiculously Obvious Rumors
We continue PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. For the past few weeks, and through the start of the NBA season, we tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We will delve into one almost every day between now and the start of the season.
Last season, Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey received the most Executive of the Year first-place votes.
How could someone who engineered such a smart 2015 offseason – nailing move after move – give Turner so much money? He earned the benefit of the doubt by rebuilding on the fly without LaMarcus Aldridge, but Olshey spent a lot of his capital (and Paul Allen’s money) on a mid-level, seemingly ill-fitting small forward.
Is this another example of Olshey outfoxing us, or did he finally get tripped up?
I expected brilliance from Portland this summer given Olshey’s successful retool around Damian Lillard last year, when Aldridge bolted. Olshey traded Nicolas Batum for Noah Vonleh and Gerald Henderson, signed Al-Farouq Aminu (four years, $30 million) and Ed Davis (three years, $20 million) to team-friendly contracts, traded a late first-rounder for Mason Plumlee, practically got Maurice Harkless for free and carved out bigger roles for C.J. McCollum, Allen Crabbe and Meyers Leonard by letting Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo walk. The Batum trade is the only move that’s not a clear victory, but Batum was headed into unrestricted free agency and might have left Portland empty-handed, and the 21-year-old Vonleh could still develop.
Not only did the younger Trail Blazers come together far more quickly than expected, winning 44 games and a playoff series, they did so under budget. Portland had enough cap space at the trade deadline to extract a first-rounder for eating Anderson Varejao‘s contract – the type of move usually reserved for tankers like the 76ers.
The 2016 offseason brought even more possibilities. Thanks to low cap holds for Crabbe, Leonard and Harkless, the Blazers were flush with cap space.
And they spent a big chunk of it on… Evan Turner.
Turner is an alright player, but I don’t think he’s worth $17.5 million per year in a vacuum – and Portland presents a tough fit.
His strengths – passing for his position, mid-range shot creation – matter less on team where the ball is frequently in Lillard’s or McCollum’s hands. Portland shouldn’t take the ball from Lillard and McCollum to give Turner more touches, either.
When off the ball, Turner’s poor outside shooting is a liability to efficient scoring and floor spacing. He made 24% of his 3-pointers last season and 30% for his career. Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts believes Turner will shoot better in Portland, but that optimism is usually wishful thinking. For his part, Turner sounds more focused on the mid-range, where he’s not efficient enough to take shots from the typical looks generated by Stotts’ space-strong scheme.
Portland could use defensive help, and Turner is fine at that end. But he’s not the stopper his 6-foot-7 frame would suggest. He’s just not quick or bouncy enough to stay with many opponents.
It just doesn’t add up – unless Olshey knows what he’s doing, which he might. After impressing so much in his other dealings, Olshey has put the spotlight on Turner this season – with the rest of us watching to see just how Turner will add $70 million of value to the Trail Blazers.
Mitch McGary declared for the NBA draft rather than serve a year-long suspension for marijuana in college. The Thunder big man was suspended twice – for a total of 15 games – this offseason for violating the NBA’s marijuana policy.
Oklahoma City has 16 players, one more than the regular-season roster limit, and McGary appears to be the odd man out. He has one guaranteed season remaining on his contract, but his overall behavior hurts his chances of getting a second shot with another NBA team.
In this backdrop, McGary tries to make a case for himself.
McGary, via Erik Horne of The Oklahoman:
“I would love to stay here and play here with new guys coming in; it would be very tough for me to get minutes here,” McGary said. “I’d love to stay with this organization. This is hands down like the best organization that had treats for you, cares for you, does everything for you, pretty much hand-feeds you. I’ve known that from guys around the league have said this is the organization to be with, so obviously I don’t want to leave.”
“If someone is willing to give me an opportunity to play, I just want to play ball, that’s it. Enough with the shenanigans. Hey, I messed up in my career in college, and now I’m kind of messing up my career here. But I’ve always gotten over that adversity and that’s what makes me a stronger person, and I think I’ve grown from this, even though it’s only been a few weeks since I’ve gotten handed the other suspension.
Said McGary: “Everybody is going to make mistakes. But I just don’t want to let this define me as a player.
McGary has been suspended for at least 720 minutes (15 games). He has played 557 minutes in the NBA.
That has to be a little disappointing for Noel, who didn’t ask to be drafted by a franchise more preoccupied with asset accumulation than producing a winning fit and has an injury that lends itself to taking guaranteed money now.
Brett Brown, via Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:
Brown wants him to focus on running rim to rim, scoring around the basket and being a defensive stopper.
“Personally, I don’t care if he ever makes a jump shot for the rest of his life,” the coach said. “I mean that. That’s not how his bread is buttered.”
“Nerlens has got elite gifts,” Brown said. “He’s as athletic and quick off the floor and quick rim to rim as anyone that I’ve coached, as any big man in the league.”
“Do your job and we will help you,” he added. “The league will reward that. The 76ers will reward that. He will be rewarded for playing like that.”
Brown is right. There’s no better way for Noel to earn money than by playing well. That means playing energetic defense, protecting the rim and hounding guards on hedges, and actively seeking easy looks near the basket on the other end.
If the 76ers trade him or Okafor before the season, Noel might even still get an extension. Absent that, he’ll head into restricted free agency.
If he’s coming off a year of playing to his strengths, it will be much more lucrative.