Kansas big man Cliff Alexander was one of the best players not drafted back on June 25. He was considered a bubble first round guy who just plummeted off the board. He has a big, NBA-ready body as a center with fantastic athleticism. What he lacked was much of an offensive touch — he has a straight-line game that relies on his athleticism to get things done. He was a project.
The Nets gave him a chance in Summer League and he looked athletic and raw. In 22 minutes a game he averaged 8.3 points, but on 37.7 percent shooting, plus he grabbed 7.8 boards a game.
That was enough for Portland to sign him — and point guard Phil Pressey – to contracts, the team announced.
Pressey’s contract is guaranteed for one year. Alexander’s is a make-good deal — there is some buyout cash but he needs to make the roster to really get paid.
While the Trail Blazers have a couple potential roster spots available, it’s going to be hard for Alexander to earn one. They will start Mason Plumlee at the five with veteran Chris Kaman behind him, plus Meyers Leonard can play the four or five depending on the lineup.
The more likely scenario is Alexander heads to the D-League to work on his game, and if he can add some offensive versatility he will get a call-up next season. He’s got the tools; it’s just a matter of learning how to use them.
Portland giving Enes Kanter a $70 million max offer sheet seemed a move done in part to make the Thunder pay. The Trail Blazers already have Meyers Leonard under contract, then they traded for Mason Plumlee and signed Ed Davis to a free agent deal. Do they need another center? One that doesn’t play much defense?
But the Thunder need scoring inside, and Kanter gives them that. He is a gifted offensive player. Plus, with Kevin Durant’s looming free agency you will not find a team in more of a win-now mode than OKC and they see Kanter as part of that now.
The Thunder have three days to match (until Sunday) and they likely will, GM Sam Presti told Anthony Slater of the Oklahoman.
The Thunder have Serge Ibaka as their starting four with Nick Collison behind him. At the five there would be Kanter and Steven Adams in rotation — they can play for offense or defense — plus they have Mitch McGary.
Kanter is a defensive liability — their defense was 6.5 points per 100 possessions worse when he was on the floor than when he was sitting. The Thunder offense was 3.5 points per 100 better when he was on the court. Overall, OKC was -0.7 points per 100 when Kanter was on the floor — and by the way they still had a terrible defensive rating of 107.5 per 100 when Kanter and Ibaka were paired.
But expect the Thunder to keep Kanter.
This is a market max deal — it’s overpaying under the current salary cap, but as the cap spikes by more than $40 million over the next two years due to the new television deals, that contract will not be so bad.
And in a worst case scenario where Durant (and likely Russell Westbrook behind him) leave OKC, under the new contract will not be as burdensome under the expanded salary cap, meaning it could be traded fairly easily.
Throughout free agency, it’s been widely assumed that Enes Kanter would be back with the Thunder. He’s a restricted free agent, but the Thunder are motivated to keep him, not only because they just traded for him at the deadline, but because they need all the talent they can get going into Kevin Durant’s free agency next summer.
The Portland Trail Blazers, flush with cap space after losing three starters to free agency, are making their lives difficult. NBA.com’s David Aldridge reports that Kanter will sign an offer sheet in Portland, worth four years and $70 million.
Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski adds that Kanter’s offer sheet includes a trade kicker, which makes it even more difficult for the Thunder to match:
It’s probably a moot point because the Thunder are expected to match, but Kanter is not a good fit in Portland at all. They just signed Ed Davis and traded for Mason Plumlee, and have their own former lottery pick, Meyers Leonard, who is expected to get big minutes after improving last season. That’s three young bigs, all making substantially less than Kanter would make, and all of whom are considerably better defenders than Kanter, who is a complete liability on that end. Even with the cap going up next summer, a max deal for Kanter is not the best use of any resources for Portland.
But, again, the Thunder will probably match.
In case you didn’t believe Trail Blazers assistant coach Kim Hughes that LaMarcus Aldridge is leaving Portland…
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
Ed Davis joins an already impressive group of young bigs in Portland: Mason Plumlee, Meyers Leonard, Noah Vonleh and Al-Farouq Aminu. The Trail Blazers will be worse without Aldridge, but they’ll be become a different type of dynamic. This would become Damian Lillard’s team, and Portland is surrounding him with frontcourt players to complement him.
Davis played well for the Lakers last season. He generates and makes shots near the rim, and he was the Lakers’ best defender (which, admittedly, means only so much).
This is a pretty solid value for Portland.
The Trail Blazers are putting together a nice, young big-man rotation.
They already had Meyers Leonard. They traded for Noah Vonleh and Mason Plumlee. And they agreed to sign Al-Farouq Aminu, who can and should play plenty of power forward.
The big question: Will those players provide depth around LaMarcus Aldridge or replace the free agent?
Aldridge reportedly told the Trail Blazers he’s leaving. Portland general manager Neil Olshey denied that, but assistant coach Kim Hughes apparently believes Aldridge is gone.
Hughes, at Leonard’s basketball camp at his Illinois high school, on WTHI-TV (hat tip: Mike Tokito of The Oregonian):
Well, people don’t realize we just went young. We didn’t publicize it, but we lost LaMarcus Aldridge. It hasn’t been declared yet, but I’m sure he won’t come back. We will go young.
I still wouldn’t completely rule out Aldridge returning to Portland.
Hughes is speaking out of turn, at least from the franchise’s perspective, and he’s not in the front office. I think he knows Aldridge informed the team he’s leaving, but it’s possible he’s basing that statement on some assumptions.
Even if Hughes is certain Aldridge told the Trail Blazers he’s leaving – and I think that’s the most likely scenario – that doesn’t mean he’s gone. People change their minds. Aldridge spent nine years in Portland, and the Trail Blazers can offer him the most money. If he becomes uncertain about his direction, a one-year deal (with a player option in year two) in Portland makes a lot of sense.
This is strong evidence Aldridge is gone. Very strong evidence. But I’m not ready to declare his Trail Blazers career over with absolute certainty.