After the rocky season last year, the Portland Trail Blazers had a fair amount of work to do this year; Key players such as Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkić were in danger of being swooped up by other teams via free agency. NBA fans were tossing around the idea of the Blazers trading Damian Lillard. However, the Blazers had a decent pick in the draft, and they still had room to make some free-agent moves. Let’s see how they did this offseason.
Player Retention and Extensions
Damian Lillard – 2-year, $121.77 million veteran max extension
I wouldn’t think the Blazers would move on from possibly the best player in franchise history. At his peak, Dame could be the best point guard in the league, but in recent years some fans have been forgetting this. Now, with a new team and different play style, I look for Dame to become that top player he once was.
Anfernee Simons -4-year $100 million contract
I was surprised that Simons commanded this much money in free agency. To me, the Blazers would not have given Anfernee this much if he would not get the offer from another team. Going into this offseason, Simons was a restricted free agent meaning any team could sign Simons to an offer sheet with the Blazers having the opportunity to match.
Jusuf Nurkić -4-year $70 million contract
Throughout last season, I urged the Blazers’ front office to retain Nurkić. He was a crucial part of the offense as a facilitating big and their best defensive player. However, I was nervous because there was a lack of big men in their lineup as it was, and Nurk was an unrestricted free agent. It turns out that the front office must have heard my pleas because he remained with the Trail Blazers.
Shaedon Sharpe, G/F (7th pick)
In my draft preview article, I outlined five players with the best chance of being drafted by the Blazers. I neglected to mention Sharpe for a couple of reasons. The first reason was that the Blazers already had Simons and Dame, so the aggressive scoring nature of Sharpe may not fit well with the team’s current makeup. The second reason was that I felt the Blazers would not waste their pick on a player that has not played since high school and had noted maturity issues. Well, it turns out I was completely wrong. Positively speaking, Sharpe has the confidence and talent to be an NBA scorer now. His athleticism can and will create poster dunks at a whim. This certainly was not the route I thought the Blazers would go.
Jabari Walker, F (57th pick)
Walker was drafted out of the University of Colorado, where he averaged close to a double-double. He’s an above-average shooter with an excellent feel for rebounding. This sounds familiar as most of the forwards on this team have the same ability. At worst, he’s the 12th man on the team but could provide a significant role to a team later in his career.
Free Agent Signings and Trades
Gary Payton II, SG – 3-year $26.15 million contract
Signing Gary Payton II adds guard depth to the Blazers because they released Eric Bledsoe and did not bring back Dennis Smith Jr. Payton II will provide a great offensive spark, given he was third on the Warriors team last year in offensive rating.
Jerami Grant, F, Acquired from the Detroit Pistons
This acquisition had most fans scratching their head, mostly saying, “that’s it?”. The Blazers grabbed Grant for a handful of picks, which earlier last year would have been a steal. Grant’s name had been tossed around at the trade deadline to go to a championship contender, but it seemed that the Detroit Pistons had his value higher than they thought they could get. This acquisition brings the Blazers another proven big man and a scorer at all levels on the court, something they have lacked since LaMarcus Aldridge after the 2014-2015 season.
Overall Grade: B
The biggest knock to me this offseason was the draft pick of Shaedon Sharpe. The unproven yet highlight film quality player that he is will be frustrating to fans at times. This Summer League, for example, he provided us with some decent pull-up jumpers and fadeaways, only to injure his shoulder and miss the remaining games in Vegas. At the same time, Jabari Walker led the team to the Summer League championship. I’m happy for Blazers fans that Dame is solidified until the 2025-2026 season, and they retained Nurk and Simons. The trade for Grant is also exciting because that will take the scoring load off of Lillard and Simons. Returning players Josh Hart, Nassir Little, and Justise Winslow will also provide excellent support to the starters if they aren’t already themselves. If anything, the Blazers will be one of the more exciting teams to watch this year.