Best Bargain-Bin NBA 2014 Free-Agency Options for Portland Trail Blazers
It’s safe to say that the Portland Trail Blazers are done in free agency. After using the mid-level exception on Chris Kaman and the bi-annual exception on Steve Blake, the Blazers are hard-capped and over the salary-cap line.
Here's what Damian Lillard told Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com: "I like our team with the new pieces. We’re better because of it. Chris Kaman and Steve Blake filled some holes and now we have to put it all together. I’m excited for next season."
If Portland did want to venture into free agency for another player, the team would be limited to the minimum salary.
That’s not necessarily a hindrance in and of itself, but the Blazers' crowded roster is. Portland has 15 guaranteed salaries already on the roster, and it’s hard to believe general manager Neil Olshey would let go of a young player to add someone who probably won’t get any playing time.
With all that being said, you can never rule out the possibility that Olshey will find a value in free agency that’s too good to pass up.
If a young player doesn’t develop like he should in the offseason, or if a production gap needs to be filled, the Blazers could potentially look at the following five players as bargain-bin signings in free agency.
Portland Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey reunited with former Los Angeles Clippers players Chris Kaman and Steve Blake this offseason, so maybe he has one more in mind in Al-Farouq Aminu.
Olshey drafted Aminu with the eighth pick in the 2010 draft, and with Aminu still being just 23 years old, perhaps he sees some of the potential in the player that he saw back then. Aminu hasn’t performed up to expectations by any means, either in Los Angeles or with the New Orleans Pelicans, but he has carved out a small niche.
Here's Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas explaining why teams may have interest:
While Aminu has an extremely limited offensive skill set, he’s the kind of project who could blossom in Dallas if he comes at the right price and would definitely address the Mavs’ desire to add length and athleticism to the roster.
Aminu is one of the best rebounding small forwards in the league, and he runs the floor very well. That’s about the extent of his skills right now, as his jumper and ball-handling are both a mess, but he can secure and add extra possessions to a bench that can account for his lack of skill offensively.
There are big questions about Aminu’s effort and skills, but the athletic gifts are there. If Olshey wants to try and make good with one of his original draft picks, this could be a potential upside grab so long as Aminu is willing to play on a minimum deal and scrap his way to playing time.
Let’s stick with the reunion theme here.
Newly acquired big man Chris Kaman had some of his best seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers next to Elton Brand, as the two worked well off each other as a post combo.
It’s hard to imagine that the veteran big man will demand much more than the minimum in free agency, as playing for a contender might be a bigger priority. Portland qualifies in that regard.
Now 35 years old, Brand isn’t nearly what he once was, but he’s still a very useful player off the bench. He defends the post well, is a strong help defender and cleans the boards. And of course, if you leave him open from his favorite spot on the elbow, he’ll knock that shot down with regularity.
Portland could probably use some veteran leadership in the frontcourt, as Brand could mentor Thomas Robinson and Meyers Leonard and help get their careers on track.
With the ability to play against slower power forwards and centers, Brand would add some nice depth in the frontcourt at both spots. He wouldn’t be counted on for a lot of minutes, but he’s a valuable guy to have around even at this stage of his career.
Anthony Tolliver has always been one of my favorite role players in the league, primarily because of his versatility. He can guard both perimeter-oriented forwards and stronger post players, which makes him a valuable piece to have on a roster as the league goes smaller.
Offensively, Tolliver is smart with the ball and is a low-mistake option. If he’s open, he’ll knock down open threes at a high rate (41.3 percent last year). If he isn’t open? He’ll move the ball to a playmaker without hesitation.
Tolliver showed how useful he can be off a bench last year with the Charlotte Hornets, as he was a key contributor off the bench and a great floor-spacer. Contenders should be looking to acquire him, and with that in mind, nabbing him for the minimum might be somewhat difficult.
If Tolliver is open to coming to Portland, though, there shouldn’t be much hesitation. He brings a skill set that Portland is lacking in the frontcourt, and his ability to space the floor could help the bench score more efficiently.
He’s a long shot to be available, but he’s the type of guy who is worth making room for.
Again, it’s important to mention that Portland would have to give up on a young guy like Victor Claver or Allen Crabbe to add a player, and that seems pretty unlikely.
If Portland were to do that and wanted a flexible player who can play either the 3 or a small 4, Johnson might be worth taking a risk on.
Although he’s not a scorer, Johnson shot the ball fairly well from deep (36.9 percent) last year with the Los Angeles Lakers, and defensively he did a decent job of making plays in the form of steals and weak-side blocks.
His on-ball defense isn’t nearly what most thought it could be when he was selected with the fourth pick in the 2010 draft, but Johnson is still a very athletic, lanky wing with potential on that front. At some point you have to think that he will be pretty close to the player he is now, but athletic wings are always intriguing.
If the Blazers opt to go with an upside signing who can fly around in transition and make plays, Johnson could work.
James Jones does one thing and one thing only: He shoots threes. That’s literally his one desirable skill, but he’s so good at it that he should find his way onto a roster next year.
Jones didn’t play all that much for the Miami Heat the last two seasons, but he’s a 40.3 percent career three-point shooter with the length to get his shot off over defenders who are closing out. He’s weak defensively, on the glass and in pretty much every other area imaginable, but defenders have to respect his shot.
Portland is a team that likes to shoot threes under head coach Terry Stotts, and if the bench doesn’t look like it can provide the type of perimeter scoring he covets, perhaps Jones would make sense as a signing. He’s a pure specialist, but those are the kinds of guys you want at the bottom of your roster.
Jones actually played for Portland back in 2007-08, and that was the best year of his career. He's not as mobile as he used to be, but he's always been a shooter first and foremost.
This would be more of a sign that a young player doesn’t deserve an NBA roster spot more than a promotion of Jones’ abilities, but contenders always covet shooting.