Portland Trail Blazers: 3 affordable former Blazers to consider signing this summer

Moe Harkless, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Moe Harkless, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) /
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Portland Trail Blazers
Moe Harkless, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /

Scouting Report. . Moe Harkless. player. 34. Pick Analysis. F. 1

Portland Trail Blazer from: 2015-16 to 2018-19

Salary situation: Unrestricted free agent in 2020 offseason

The Portland Trail Blazers defense went from No. 5 and No. 16 in 2017-18 and 2018-19 respectively, and plummeted this year to No. 27. While injuries and coalescing a new team together are partly to blame, the reason for the drop isn’t to be overthought. Swapping out players like Moe Harkless haven’t proven to be worth the benefit.

Harkless is in the final year of a mostly back-loaded four-year, $42 million deal with the Trail Blazers, but spent his contract year as a vagabond, first roaming the perimeter with fellow long-limbed defensive juggernauts Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, and then having a homecoming with the New York Knicks.

Harkless is refreshingly different, in the sense that chasing championships isn’t necessarily something of interest to him. He referred to the trade to the Knicks — who were 19 games below .500 as a “dream come true,” — and in the same quote, said it would be great to return.

As a positive for Portland, the Knicks aren’t necessarily a hand-in-glove fit for Harkless, a defensive anchor who doesn’t cause a ton of fear on the perimeter. New York is wing-heavy, and there’s some certainty in saying there are at least four of those wings they’re prioritizing over Harkless.

On Apr. 3, Sports Illustrated’s Alex Wolfe suggested that once a player gets a taste of winning — something Harkless did in all four of his seasons in Portland — they aren’t always keen on battling in the lottery.

In four seasons, he averaged a respectable 7.7 points and 3.8 rebounds on 49.1 percent from the field, and 33.0 percent from 3, and ratcheted those numbers up to 9.1 points and 4.7 rebounds on lesser efficiency in the postseason. More importantly, he ranked among the top-10 in defensive box plus-minus in 2018-19, and had a +7.6 per 100 possessions when on court.

It’s unclear of what the market will be for 3-and-D level wings next offseason, but we can make an educated guess. Harkless’ former teammate, Aminu, got about $9.7 million in average salary, DeMarre Carroll had a $6.8 million average, and Dorian Finney-Smith got $4 million.

Chances are, Harkless goes for a similar amount, and that’s certainly affordable for the Blazers, with a few moves. There will be some questions to answer, from Rodney Hood’s opening day health to the future of players like Carmelo Anthony and Wenyen Gabriel. In this new NBA, with wing defenders at a premium, perhaps Portland can offer an encore.