Portland Trail Blazers: Ranking Neil Olshey’s best and worst moves as GM

Neil Olshey and Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports)
Neil Olshey and Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports) /
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(Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images) /

#4 Worst move – Meyers Leonard extension

In 2016, a massive cap spike led to many NBA teams over-extending themselves and giving out big deals to players that maybe wouldn’t deserve a similar deal in other years. NBA Free Agency is always about timing and the market, but this time around, some teams did poorly.

The Blazers were building their team alongside Damian Lillard, who was entering his true prime, and they had to replace LaMarcus Aldridge, who had left at the end of the previous year in 2014/15.

Meyers Leonard had just come off his best NBA season, with eight points and five rebounds a game on 37.7 percent from three. But Leonard had never been a good defender, and as a center, this is a key skill on an NBA team that had CJ McCollum and Lillard as its main pieces.

Leonard was more of a floor-stretching backup who was a great teammate and locker-room guy.

But come his restricted free agency, Neil Olshey gave him a four years $40 million deal.

Already having average defender Mason Plumlee on the roster, this was a poor move by Olshey.

Leonard was a decent backup big, but by paying him $10 million a year, Olshey was using precious cap space that could have been used elsewhere. $10 million a year doesn’t sound like a lot now, but it was a lot for a backup big who only ended up playing 7.7 minutes a game and 33 total games in 2017/18.

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

#3 Bad move – Traded Will Barton, Victor Claver, Thomas Robinson, and a 2016 1st round draft pick (Malik Beasley was later selected) to the Denver Nuggets for Arron Afflalo and Alonzo Gee.

Neil Olshey hasn’t made many bad trades in his time with the Blazers, but this one, back in 2015, hurt. Will Barton hadn’t played at a high level in a Blazer uniform yet, but considering the Blazers issues with wing depth later, it seems crazy that they gave up on him at just 24-years-old.

Claver and Robinson were just throw-in’s on this trade that was made to bring back Afflalo. What really hurt was giving away a first-round pick for a player in Afflalo who just played 28 games for the team.

This first-round pick ended up being the 19th pick in the 2016 draft. This draft was solid in the 15 – 35 range, and the Blazers without a doubt could have used another starter in this range.

Giving away Barton, who ended up turning into a rotation wing, as well as a first-round pick, was a mistake at this time of the Blazers team-building process.