Tag: Noah Vonleh

Nerlens Noel, LaMarcus Aldridge

Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey chose chance of greatness over safer route to being merely good


At face value, the Trail Blazers’ and 76ers’ offseasons took completely different approaches to rebuilding this offseason.

The Blazers traded for Noah Vonleh, Gerald Henderson, Mason Plumlee and Maurice Harkless. They signed Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis. They also signed Enes Kanter to an offer sheet, though the Thunder matched.

Philadelphia, on the other hand, highlighted free agency by… signing Pierre Jackson and Scotty Wilbekin, two players without NBA experience. Sure, the 76ers also traded for Nik Stauskas, Jason Thompson and Carl Landry. But Thompson and Landry were the tax necessary to require positive assets, and Philadelphia already flipped Thompson. Even Stauskas, a nice piece, was an afterthought relative to the draft considerations conveyed by the Kings.

Portland acquired five Stauskases – recent first-round picks still looking to find their place in the NBA.

But, as Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey tells it, his team has a similar philosophy to the 76ers. Portland is just taking a different route.

Michael Lee of The Washington Post:

Once Aldridge decided to leave, the Blazers didn’t waste their time trying to chase Matthews (who signed a four-year, $70 million deal with Dallas), Lopez (who took a four-year, $52 million deal with New York) or even reserve Arron Afflalo (who left for a two-year, $16 million deal with New York).

Olshey didn’t feel the need to keep together the same core while simply trying to replace a four-time all-star because, “absent LaMarcus Aldridge, that group was not going to be good enough,” he said. “We judge ourselves by high standards and if we can’t compete at the highest levels, then we had to go in a different direction.”

76ers general manager Sam Hinkie has made clear his lengthy and deep rebuild is designed to culminate in championship contention. There are simpler paths to getting good, and Hinkie clearly isn’t taking those. (Matt Moore of CBSSports.com wrote an excellent article on the difference.)

Being great usually requires a superstar. Getting a superstar usually requires a high first-round pick. A high first-round pick usually requires a terrible record.

There is logic behind Philadelphia’s unprecedented multi-year commitment to tanking.

Olshey definitely indicates he has a similar championship-or-bust attitude, and he concluded retaining Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo and Nicolas Batum after LaMarcus Aldridge joined the Spurs would have taken the Trail Blazers further from a title. They might have been better in the short-term, but those highly paid veterans would have limited Portland’s potential to grow into a great team.

That’s a logical assessment, similar to the one Hinkie made with the Jrue Holiday-led roster he inherited.

At this point, Olshey took a different route than Hinkie.

The Trail Blazers paid a relatively small price for its young veterans, and I like the moves. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of Vonleh, Plumlee, Harkless, Aminu and Davis becomes capable of playing a major role on a title contender. It’s a luxury to bet on so many intriguing players.

But the moves come with a cost. Those players are already decent, and they should make Portland better than Philadelphia this season. That means the Trail Blazers effectively moved down in the draft. Maybe the value of these additions offsets that, but Philadelphia has done little to jeopardize its draft position.

Perhaps, Olshey didn’t have a choice. Damian Lillard might have dictated Portland couldn’t fully tank. Just how bad could a team with Lillard really be? The 76ers don’t have anyone near his caliber, so declining to become good now is an easier choice.

Maybe Olshey and Hinkie would have acted differently if they were in the other’s situation. Circumstances matter.

But bottom line: The Trail Blazers and 76ers have the same mindset. They want to be great. They’re not as concerned with being good before that’s possible.

Report: Nicolas Batum wants to play in Toronto

Nicolas Batum, Quincy Poindexter

When the Hornets traded former lottery pick Noah Vonleh to Portland for Nicolas Batum, it was always going to be something of a gamble. Batum has just one year left on his contract, and will become a free agent in time for the massive salary cap spike of 2016. Charlotte will have to pay big if they want to keep him, and Grantland’s Zach Lowe reports that the French forward has his sights set on another team: Toronto.

Batum is an impending unrestricted free agent on a borderline playoff team, diving into an unprecedented cap frenzy in which two-dozen suitors could offer $20 million per season. Batum’s people have already made noise about how much Batum would like to play in Toronto, a city that appeals to his international roots, per several league sources. He is a flight risk, even though both Cho and Chad Buchanan, the team’s assistant GM, know Batum well from their days in Portland. “We are very comfortable given that Chad and Rich know Nic well,” Polk says.

This is all purely hypothetical at this point, because Batum’s free agency is a year away, but the Toronto fit is interesting. They could potentially have an opening on the wing if DeMar DeRozan opts out of the final year of his deal, which he almost certainly will. DeRozan could command max money in next summer’s free-agent market, and it’s very possible that the Raptors will be uninterested in giving him that type of money. A defensive duo of Batum and DeMarre Carroll on the perimeter is incredibly versatile and dangerous, and Batum is an outstanding passer and ballhandler in addition to a solid shooter. It would cost the Raptors a lot to sign him, but if his interest in playing there is real, he’d be a good fit for the team Masai Ujiri is building.

Blazers coach Terry Stotts says no hard feelings toward LaMarcus Aldridge, “we move on”

Portland Trail Blazers Team Practice

Trail Blazers fans will not be so forgiving. Boos will rain down on LaMarcus Aldridge next time he sets foot in the Rose Garden.

While the NBA business model is built on fans having deep emotional ties to a franchise, players and team management knows it’s a cold-hearted business.

As last season moved along the Trail Blazers knew more and more that Aldridge was going to bolt town as a free agent (he eventually joined the San Antonio Spurs to become a contender there). Now that it’s over Damian Lillard wished Aldridge well, and now Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said essentially the same thing, talking to the Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn.

“I knew it was going to be a close decision — it wasn’t an easy decision for him and it came down to the last minute,” Stotts said. “I certainly respect his decision and it was a difficult one. And personally I thanked him for the three years I was here with him. He earned the right to be a free agent and we’re certainly going to miss him. But we move on.”

What else was Stotts going to say? He looks bad ripping Aldridge and that would get the attention of agents who might want to send their client to Portland in the future. Stott’s attitude is what you see around the league — it’s a business. You move on.

Portland secured Lillard with a max deal this summer to be their foundation to rebuild around — he certainly speeds the process.

Now it becomes about drafting, finding young talent, and player development in Portland. They made some nice moves this summer, getting Mason Plumlee and taking a shot on Noah Vonleh, who looked good at Summer League. It’s a different role for Stotts and staff, but if they do it well, Portland is positioned to bounce back much more quickly than other teams trying to rebuild right now.