The Portland Trail Blazers signed rookie forward Trendon Watford through 2024-25 and released guard Dennis Smith Jr. to make room on the roster for him on Monday
Portland Trail Blazers rookie Trendon Watford had a dull 2021, playing just 41 minutes total in the team’s first 35 games with 24 DNPs. But he has appeared in all 24 Blazers games since the New Year, averaging 15.5 minutes, 5.5 points, and 3.9 assists in that stretch.
The organization rewarded him for stepping forward when at first injuries and COVID, and later interim general manager Joe Cronin, decimated the roster by upgrading his two-way contract to a full-fledged NBA deal with a guaranteed salary of just over $1.5 million next year and non-guaranteed figures of $1.8 million and just under $2 million for the following two seasons.
If Watford progresses next season like he has this year, those numbers will be absolute bargains. At the very least, Watford will provide the Blazers with some much-needed frontcourt depth next season. At most, he’ll be to next year’s Blazers what Nassir Little was to this year’s team before suffering a season-ending injury.
To clear a roster spot to be able to convert Watford from a two-way to a full-time NBA player, the Blazers released guard Dennis Smith, Jr. Smith had appeared in 37 games for Portland, averaging 5.6 points, 3.6 assists, and 1.2 steals per game.
Smith was one of six Blazers with deals that expired this July; after the flurry of pre-trade deadline deals and Smith’s release, only Jusuf Nurkic and Ben McLemore remain on the roster. The moves made Monday actually clear a path for both of them to be extended similarly to Watford.
Securing Watford’s services at such a bargain price was a no-brainer, and is a further indicator that team ownership is willing to let Cronin shape the roster as he sees fit. With the apparent confidence Jody Allen has in Cronin, he’ll almost definitely be given the job on a permanent basis before too long.
The Blazers’ performance over the season’s final 23 games will be the referendum on Cronin’s trade flurry, and Watford will have a chance to prove himself worthy of this extension in that stretch as well.