The Portland Trail Blazers wasted no time signing contracts as Thursday marked the first day NBA teams could sign free agents ahead of the 2022-23 season. According to multiple news reports, the Blazers quickly strengthened both their backcourt and frontcourt with three signed contracts.
Portland has signed two last-season breakout guards: one who was a Blazer last season and one who won an NBA championship just last month. At the same time, the Blazers brought back a centerpiece of the team’s interior design.
The Blazers have inked Gary Payton II to a three-year, $28 million deal, according to multiple news outlets. Payton II is entering his seventh season in the NBA after his most successful season in the league last year, in which he set career highs in categories such as minutes played and points and rebounds per game. In a reserve role for the Golden State Warriors last season, Payton II proved his worth in the playoffs as well. He scored 15 points in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, a 104-94 win over the Boston Celtics.
Gary Payton is a household name to sports fans in the North West. Payton II is the son of NBA Hall of Famer Gary Payton, who played most of his career for the Seattle SuperSonics. Both Payton and Payton II played college basketball at Oregon State University. The younger Payton played as Beaver for two seasons, averaging 14.7 points per game.
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The Blazers also re-signed their own breakout player from last season by inking guard Anfernee Simons to a four-year, $100 million deal. In a season complicated by injuries and trades, Simons was one of Portland’s most consistent goalscorers and playmakers, posting career-highs in just under 30 minutes per game in multiple categories, including points (17.3 per game) and assists (3.9 per game).
According to multiple news outlets, Jusuf Nurkic signed a contract worth $70 million over four years. When healthy, Nurkic can be a staple for the Blazers on both offense and defense, averaging 15 points and 11 rebounds per game. But in the last three seasons, Nurkic has missed a significant number of games through injury, which has weakened the team’s front-line.
The three changes are a continuation of an active offseason for the Trail Blazers, who missed the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2013. Under General Manager Joe Cronin and with the Blazers reportedly receiving offers to buy, the front office has expressed interest in making significant upgrades ahead of the 2022-23 season.
Cronin has found that there are three ways to improve an NBA roster: through the draft, through trades, and through hiring free agents. The Blazers are now done with all three, and there’s plenty of offseason left.
The Blazers drafted Shaedon Sharpe, an enigmatic high school phenom who didn’t play competitive basketball after enrolling at the University of Kentucky last year, and Jabari Walker, who played two years at the University of Colorado.
Just days before the NBA draft, Cronin used the financial flexibility he gained from a previous trade to bring in Jerami Grant from the Detroit Pistons. Grant has played both forward positions and averaged 19 points per game for the struggling Pistons last season.
For those keeping track, the Blazers have added three players whose fathers had long NBA careers: Payton II, aka the son of “The Glove”; Walker, whose father Samaki Walker played for the six different teams for 10 years; and Grant, the son of former Blazer Harvey Grant.