With a 15-21 record and cheap jerseys sitting ninth in the Western Conference, the Portland Trail Blazers could potentially use C.J. McCollum as a trade chip to acquire the frontcourt presence they desperately need.ESPN.com’s Chris Haynes reported Wednesday the Blazers are holding firm in not making McCollum available in trades. As part of an offseason spending spree, the Blazers gave McCollum a four-year, $106 million extension that goes into effect starting next year. Portland also re-signed Allen Crabbe and Moe Harkless and spared no expense to bring in Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli as free agents. According to Spotrac, the Blazers’ payroll climbed from 27th in 2015-16 ($66,562,366) to third in 2016-17 ($113,260,408), and that’s before McCollum’s extension is added to the books. In October, ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported that some around the league thought general manager Neil Olshey was essentially acquiring pieces he could later package into a big trade down the road. Stein also classified McCollum and Damian Lillard as “backcourt bedrocks.” The trouble for Olshey now is that trading McCollum may be the only way for Portland to get the players who can turn the team around. Crabbe and Turner are having disappointing years, while Harkless is a solid but unspectacular small forward. After winning the league’s Most Improved Player Award in 2015-16, McCollum is averaging 22.9 points per game on 47.9 percent shooting. His three-point percentage has also improved from 41.7 percent last year to 43 percent. Trading a player of McCollum’s ability would be risky and likely evoke comparisons to the Oklahoma City Thunder sending James Harden to the Houston Rockets in 2012, which was more so for financial reasons. That is likely to be the only way, however, for Portland to strengthen its roster to a point where it could make a deep playoff run this season.
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On Day 25 of free agency, the Brooklyn Nets had the most remaining cap space. And they used it to add more young talent to their roster. The team announced the trade for Allen Crabbe in exchange for Andrew Nicholson.Crabbe, a 25-year-old wing who shot 44 percent from 3-point range for Portland last season, is one of the four restricted free agents Nets general manager has signed to an offer sheet over the last 13 months. In all four cases (Tyler Johnson, Donatas Motiejunas and Otto Porter were the others), the player’s original team matched the offer. But after last year’s spending spree and with big contracts for Damian Lillard ($26 million this season), C.J. McCollum ($24 million) and Evan Turner ($17 million) on the books, the Blazers are in a position where they need to shed salary. Crabbe’s 2017-18 salary is almost $13 million less than that of Nicholson, who the Blazers will waive to save even more money this year. The $19.9 million left on his contract will cheap nba jerseys be stretched over the next seven seasons. The Blazers lose some depth on the wing and their best complementary shooter, but gain, along with a ton of tax relief, some flexibility going forward. That could be critical with Jusuf Nurkic set to be a restricted free agent next summer. With Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll (also acquired with cap space) and Caris LeVert, the Nets have some starting-caliber talent on the wings to complement their backcourt of D’Angelo Russell and Jeremy Lin. Nicholson had originally been acquired with the No. 22 pick from Washington for Bojan Bogdanovic in February. Having arrived in Brooklyn with no assets, Marks continues to make moves to inch his team toward being competitive. The Nets will be without their own first round pick for one more year. Only Kyle Korver (45.1 percent) shot better than Crabbe (44.4 percent) from beyond the arc on at least 200 attempts last season. Brooklyn ranked fourth in the percentage of their shots that came from 3-point range, but 26th in 3-point percentage.
During the years treading water in Newark, the Nets talked about Barclays Center as their Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.”“They” were the top free agents, including Kevin Durant. “You” was/is a billionaire Russian owner who recently taught Stephen Colbert how to throw axes against a dungeon wall. “We’re not just part of the conversation, we are the conversation,” CEO Brett Yormark told me just before the arena opened in 2013. Only that’s not what happened. Today, the Nets aren’t part of many conversations. The arena is still very cool. The practice facility boasts a spectacular view of the NYC skyline. But the franchise is still treading water, hoping for much better days. No top free agents are seriously considering the Nets, the worst team in the NBA last season. As the landscape of the league changed — with access for fans reaching all over the world — the change in market from Newark to Brooklyn meant diddly without a built-in base. Which leads us to their very unique current plan, spearheaded by GM Sean Marks. Armed with a glut of cap space in his first two summers, Marks went about building a roster using two strategies: overbidding for restricted free agents hoping the other team doesn’t match (that hasn’t worked in three tries), and trading for players on undesirable contracts cheap jerseys (done three times just this offseason). The latest example of the latter is Allen Crabbe, who was introduced to the media Thursday by the Nets. To Portland, he was a salary dump making too much money (still guaranteed $56 million over the next three years) for very little production (10.7 points and 2.8 rebounds per game last season). To Brooklyn, he’s a starting forward who fits their mold (young with shooting range). “He’ll fit in with guys we currently have on the roster. It’ll open the floor up. Hopefully, it’ll be a fun brand of basketball to watch,” Marks said Thursday. Just don’t get too excited, apparently. “I’m not really, to be honest, focused on the playoffs,” Marks said. “We’re obviously making steps in a direction that hopefully everybody can see. We are going younger. We’ve got a youth movement here.” At this stage, it’s hard to judge Marks and his ambitious plan. In one season at the helm, he put together a team that won 20 games without control of its own draft pick. Anybody could do that as long as the owner is on board. People who’ve worked with Mikhail Prokhorov wonder if he’ll lose patience with the losing, and then revert to what he’s always done when the going gets tough: fire the coach. But as of right now, the Russian ownership hasn’t set any mandates and Prokhorov has stepped away from the spotlight, except for a TV appearance with Colbert and continued rumors that he’ll sell controlling interest of the Nets. Marks, unlike Billy King before him, is enjoying an interference-free rebuild. His misses on the job include letting go of Yogi Ferrell in the middle of last season, just before the guard blossomed into an intriguing prospect with the Mavericks. He also balked last summer at signing Dion Waiters, who then emerged as a top scorer with the Heat. Marks has three players on the roster — Crabbe, Timofey Mozgov and DeMarre Carroll — who own contracts that have far exceeded their basketball production. Much of the GM’s success will be determined by D’Angelo Russell, the young and talented guard he acquired for Brook Lopez. Russell has a reputation of being an entitled diva, but there are good reasons the 21-year-old was drafted second overall two years ago. Regardless, Marks deserves credit for this: he hired an excellent coach in Kenny Atkinson and has tried to surround him with players who fit a system predicated on pace, spacing and 3-point shooting. The Nets are like the D-League Warriors. And to get to this point on the roster, Marks has taken an unconventional route that he wants us to understand is far from his Field of Dreams. “Are we happy? Sure,” he said. “But I think we know we have a long, long way to go.”