On the latest edition of the HoopsHype podcast, hosts Michael Scotto and Yossi Gozlan discussed which teams came out as losers this offseason, including the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, and more.
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2:50 Portland Trail Blazers
Gozlan: For this season, they needed to improve their bench drastically. They finished 29th in defense last year. They weren’t getting it done on that end of the court. They did nothing to improve their bench significantly… They’re right at the tax. I don’t think they want to go over it. I don’t know what kind of deal there might be out there that convinces them to break the bank. It just seems like they’re in a holding pattern. Scotto: When you talk to any rival executive, agents around the league, etc. the bottom line of the Blazers is Damian Lillard’s prime is on the clock. It’s like Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny… Neil Olshey is going all-in on Chauncey Billups. This is his guy. They have a relationship dating back to their LA Clippers days together. He’s fond of Chauncey as a leader and thinks he’s the right guy for the job. Ultimately, he’s either going to sink or swim with that hire… CJ McCollum needs to become an All-Star for the first time in his career. He’s been knocking on the door. If they’re going to be successful, he’s got to average 23-25 points per game… Jusuf Nurkic needs to come back and dominate. There was a time where Nurkic was thought to be the third guy. He’s going to need to be that for them now. I thought their situation was summed up best by one general manager who I was texting. The GM said he wasn’t sure what Portland could’ve done. He said, “I guess they’re losers because they had to find a way to get better, and they kind of didn’t do anything.” MORE: Best trade packages for Damian Lillard by Yossi Gozlan
12:05 New Orleans Pelicans
Scotto: One scout said, “They essentially had to pay and try and fix their mistakes from last summer now in moving Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe.” … Another scout said, “I just felt like they swung and missed out on a lot of guys, and that bench is very underwhelming.” Another GM said, “New Orleans tried to go big (Kyle Lowry), and they got big-timed. They didn’t read the room.” Lastly, another executive told me, “From the outside looking in, New Orleans is dealing with an unclear vision. They’ve got a new young, inexperienced head coach in a tough spot.” He sensed pressure from the organization to win now. I like Jonas Valanciunas as a player. I kind of see what these guys were saying. They definitely tried to swing for Kyle Lowry and whiffed. The writing was on the wall based on how they did their transactions and tried to free up cap space. They didn’t use it to keep Lonzo Ball as a fallback option. Clearly, behind the scenes, that was done that he wasn’t going to come back. What surprised me as a Brooklyn guy being around Trajan Langdon, I would’ve thought they would’ve gone after Spencer Dinwiddie a little bit more. But the writing was on the wall that Bradley Beal was making an aggressive push to get him and the Washington front office. The Pelicans were playing musical chairs, and they got left without a chair when the music stopped. Gozlan: The first thing they did was the Grizzlies trade. It felt promising they cleared that money. I didn’t feel like they gave up that much to do so, getting off of Adams and Bledsoe and making an upgrade with Valanciunas… Then, I see what they could’ve done with that flexibility. They could’ve generated $36 million in cap space, or they had a lot more room under the luxury tax and could’ve brought back Lonzo Ball with Josh Hart and still had their mid-level exception and this big trade exception. Nothing really came out of either option. Scotto: The Pelicans worked out a deal with Josh Hart and brought him back. There were some conversations about potentially a sign-and-trade with Lauri Markkanen of the Bulls. Hart’s name came up. I don’t know how advanced those talks went, if at all, but I know there was at least some conversation there about that.
23:02 Charlotte Hornets
Scotto: I know Nerlens Noel, before he re-signed with the Knicks and before the Plumlee trade happened, he had some interest in Charlotte with the potential to be a pick-and-roll partner with LaMelo Ball and being a lob dunker on offense and a defensive anchor. One move Charlotte did that I think to some people came out of left field was them getting Kelly Oubre Jr. on the market. One scout put it this way, “The Oubre signing was weird. They need to keep developing Miles Bridges and give him exposure. I feel like they’re in a win-now mode. I like Mason Plumlee compared to what they had. It’s another blah center, but he’s an upgrade over Cody Zeller.” MORE: Kelly Oubre Jr. on free agency: ‘I want to continue to show all the things I’m capable of and not be put in a box’ One scout said to me, “Terry Rozier is going to get overpaid now with this extension.” Gozlan: Rozier’s extension is a little too rich for my blood. Last season, what he did was amazing as far as his shooting numbers. His clutch numbers were insane. If he’s going to be that guy going forward, then he’s totally worth that money. But this extension was based on one year, and it’s possible the Rozier we saw last year was an outlier. I think there’s some risk they’re committing that much money to him off of this one season… I’m guessing now that they won’t have cap space next offseason, they’ll probably extend Miles Bridges too, I hope. I’m really high on him. Scotto: As a starter, Miles Bridges averaged 18.6 points, 6.7 rebounds in 36.1 minutes and shot 41.8 percent from three. Yossi touched on a piece about how the 2022 market could be dry for free agency. I think it behooves a lot of younger guys that are eligible for contract extensions to try and get these deals done because, ultimately, they have a better chance of getting paid that way than on the market. MORE: Ranking the Top 22 point guards for the 2021-22 seasonMORE: Why the 2022 free agent market could be badMORE: Salary comparison: NBA players vs. Premier League, NFL and MLB playersYou can follow Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) and Yossi Gozlan (@YossiGozlan) on Twitter.