Alongside Terry Stotts, Seth Curry and Nik Stauskas, Neil Olshey explained the thought process behind the Portland Trail Blazers’ summer moves so far.
Despite this being Stauskas and Curry’s first media appearance as Blazers, most reporters were interested in talking to Neil Olshey.
We’ll look at the brief questions directed towards the new signings, then at Olshey’s interesting free agency comments.
Seth Curry missed the entire 2017-2018 season with a left tibia fracture. As a result, reporters asked him about the rehab progress.
Like Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted, Curry said that he’s been doing on-court work for several weeks now. In addition to the on-court practice, Curry has been in the gym everyday for the past month.
Despite missing a full 82 games and joining a new roster, he believes he can fit in with Portland without missing a beat. He’s admired the team’s offense for a few years now: mainly the constant player motion and non-stop ball movement.
Nik Stauskas spoke about Pat Connaughton and Shabazz Napier‘s success in Portland’s second unit. He hopes that he can fill that same role, using his touted three-point shooting to space the floor even better.
Stauskas also agreed with Curry about their seamless fit in the Blazers offense. With the team’s constant motion and frequent flares, the shooting guard sees himself getting lots of good looks from outside.
Finally, he raved about Lillard and McCollum’s excellence. Experience facing them on other teams has Stauskas excited to play alongside the elite guards and learn from them.
Let’s start with what everyone’s interested most in: Damian Lillard.
When asked about the Lillard-to-the-Lakers rumors, Neil Olshey laughed. Then he got down to business.
"“As much as I love LeBron, the NBA isn’t his personal game at Rucker, so he doesn’t get to pick his teammates. That’s not how it works,” says Olshey. “At the end of the day, it’s much ado about nothing.”"
Rip City may not like Olshey’s free agency moves, but at least he’s on the same page about Dame. Three years remain on his contract, and the Blazers don’t plan on trading him any time soon.
Take that, LA.
Since Ed Davis signed a deal with Brooklyn on July 1, news providing more detail hasn’t surfaced. As expected, reporters therefore asked Olshey the decision process behind letting the heart and soul of Portland walk for so cheap.
The GM explained how he was on the phone with Davis when Brooklyn made the $4.4 million offer.
"“I counseled him to take that job and I think if you asked Ed today, the counsel was pretty good.”"
Why, you ask?
In the playoffs, the Blazers ran into floor spacing problems due to a well-prepared New Orleans defense. Olshey thinks that Davis contributed to that problem as his offensive game is fairly limited.
In addition, Olshey cited his faith in the current rotation of Portland big men as reason to let Davis walk. Between the two 2017 draft picks, Meyers Leonard and Jusuf Nurkic, the team has substantial big men who can switch on defense and space the floor. These guys fit today’s NBA needs better than Davis, according to the GM.
Finally, not re-signing Ed Davis freed the necessary cap room to sign Curry and Stauskas, who Olshey sees as better fits for team needs.
Signing Stauskas and Curry
Olshey listed one major impetus for signing Stauskas and Curry: elite three-point shooting on the bench unit.
To replace Connaughton and Napier, the Blazers targeted guys who can shoot better from outside. This allows Evan Turner to run the offense and have plenty of options to kick out to.
Stauskas shoots 34.9% from three on his career and Curry 43.2%. (Curry’s percentage may be slightly inflated; he’s only played a season and a half worth of games.) In comparison, Napier shoots 36.3% and Connaughton 36.4%.
Olshey also saw these two as good fits due to their scouting reports from college. (Stauskas was drafted in 2015 and Curry in 2013.) He can maximize their outside shooting on a reserve squad facilitated by ET.
And to back up his moves on a less-statistical level, Olshey blamed the team’s cap situation. With only a mid-level exception and minimum contracts to offer, Stauskas and Curry were the best available outside shooters. Plus, he believes they will contribute immediately.
But why draft two young project guards if you’re looking for immediate contributors? I guess we’ll never know what goes on in Neil Olshey’s head.
With two lightweight signings, Olshey remains confident in his team. His offseason mantra was “don’t overreact to the playoffs, but don’t under-react either.”
This new team has better floor spacing and a more cohesive bench unit. With other Western Conference teams primarily re-signing players (according to Olshey), Portland is primed to take back another top playoff spot in his eyes.
Let’s hope Stauskas and Curry are actually upgrades on Connaughton and Napier, and that losing Davis doesn’t hurt the team’s spirit too much.