The Portland Trail Blazers signed 24 year old Syracuse alum, James Southerland, to a one-year non-guaranteed contract today. The Trail Blazers already have 15 players with guaranteed contracts on their roster, so there is almost no chance that Southerland will take a spot from one of them for the 2014-15 season. So why did Portland bring him on board? Here are the most likely answers:
- 1) The Trail Blazers felt that he could add a competitive element to training camp. Southerland is a 6’8” small forward with a sweet shooting stroke. He could help even the teams for practice in September.
- 2) There is a possible trade brewing. NBA teams can have up to 20 players on roster until the season starts in order to make lopsided trades. Southerland could be part of a package for a surprise acquisition.
- 3) The Trail Blazers think Southerland could do a better job than Allen Crabbe or Victor Claver, and plan on cutting their losses with one of them.
These possibilities are listed in the order of probability. In all likelihood, Southerland has been signed for training camp purposes and will be waived prior to the 2013-14 NBA season. There is little reason for Portland to waive Crabbe or Claver, since their guaranteed contracts would still count against the cap.
That second possibility is intriguing, though. Why would Southerland agree to a deal that damages his chances of landing a more fruitful NBA contract elsewhere unless he has reason to believe that the Trail Blazers will help him find a place in the league?
This signing would be considered routine if Portland’s circumstances were not so detrimental to Southerland’s aspirations. Either he is desperate for even the slightest chance to break into a booked team when so many others have openings, or something is happening behind the Trail Blazers’ curtain. It is all rather curious.