Aldridge No. 10 On ESPN Postseason MVP Rankings

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

While Damian Lillard’s buzzer-beating game-winner versus the Rockets in Game 6 that be the enduring memory of Portland’s 2014 playoff run, it was LaMarcus Aldridge’s near perfection in Game 1 and Game 2 of that allowed the Trail Blazers to take the first two games in Houston, and eventually, the series. The quality of his consecutive 40+ point performances put Aldridge at the top of the first ESPN postseason MVP rankings.

Of course, the Trail Blazers would eventually lose to San Antonio in five games during the Western Conference semifinals, but Aldridge’s performances versus Houston was the reason the Trail Blazers were able to win their first playoff series in 14 years. Which is why, despite being eliminated from the postseason almost two weeks ago, Aldridge remains in the Top 10 of David Thorpe’s most recent postseason MVP ranking for ESPN …

10. LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE, TRAIL BLAZERS

2014 POSTSEASON STATS
GP     MPG     PPG     RPG     APG     BPG     SPG     PER     EWA*
11        40.1        26.2      10.6        1.5          1.6         0.6        21.23      2.1

It’s fair to wonder what might have happened had Damian Lillard not made that prayer of a 3 to beat Houston in Game 6 of their first-round series. What if Houston had come back to win the series? The Rockets were built to beat any team, especially with the way Dwight Howard was playing, and had swept the Spurs during the regular season.

This is just academic consideration, of course, because of what Aldridge did to the Rockets throughout that series. The Spurs seem primed to advance to the NBA Finals, and if that happens, they should thank Aldridge.

Couple things here.

First, Lillard’s shot wasn’t a “prayer.” Lillard has been as clutch as most any player in the NBA through his first two season and he exploited truly terrible defense by the Rockets to get a clean look at a three-pointer well within his range. That’s not a prayer, it’s game.

Then there’s the line “the Rockets were built to beat any team” which elicits a chuckle from yours truly every time I read it. There’s verifiable proof, as in, they lost in the first round to the Trail Blazers, that Houston was not in fact “built to beat any team.” Or maybe that’s how they were built, but it sure isn’t how reality played out.

And of course, the Nets swept the Heat in the regular season and it didn’t keep them from being dispatched in five games by Miami in the Eastern Conference semifinals, so I’d be real reluctant to assume Houston would have fared any better against San Antonio than Portland did. In fact, I’d make no such assumption whatsoever, especially with San Antonio proving they only need opponents to screw up for roughly five minutes a game to come away with a blowout victory.

But none of that changes what should be the takeaway from Thorpe’s ranking, which is that Aldridge capped off his best professional regular season with a postseason that ranks among the best in the NBA this year. Aldridge is the only player on Thorpe’s ranking whose team has been eliminated from the postseason, which is high praise.

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Podcast: Rip City Report, Post Free Agency Edition

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
6 mins ago

With Portland’s foray into free agency now complete, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, hit the Moda Center studio to record another edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…

In this almost all Twitter-submitted questions edition, we discuss the signings of Evan Turner, Festus Ezeli and Meyers Leonard, the decision to match the offer the Brooklyn Nets extended to Allen Crabbe, how the additions and returns could change lineups going forward and the notion that the Trail Blazers need to make a trade. There’s also some hot Pokemon Go and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” talk to start the show, so you might want prepare yourself to fast-forward through the first few minutes.

You can find the Rip City Report on SoundcloudiTunes and Stitcher. And a reminder that the offseason is a great time to leave a review on iTunes!

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Trail Blazers Match Four-Year Offer For Allen Crabbe

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
3 days ago

UPDATE: The team has officially announced that they have matched the Nets’ offer sheet to Allen Crabbe, though a “formal announcement” and Crabbe actually signing the contract will not occur until later in the week.

ORIGINAL POST

After finishing up their pursuit of new free agents, the Trail Blazers have wasted little time in turning their attention to the free agents on their own roster. After reportedly signing restricted free agent power forward Meyers Leonard to a four-year deal, the Trail Blazers, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, have matched the four-year, $75 million offer sheet the Brooklyn Nets tendered to third-year guard/forward Allen Crabbe, ensuring that the former Cal Bear will be back in Portland next season…


As is often the case when it comes to restricted free agents, the Nets offer to Crabbe, who has averaged 7.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game through three season, was considerably larger than many assumed the 6-6 wing would receive in an effort to discourage the Trail Blazers from matching. And after the Trail Blazers signed free agent guard/forward Evan Turner to a four-year deal, some assumed that combined with the size of the Nets offer might result in Trail Blazers letting Crabbe walk.

But that would not be the case. Crabbe has been a favorite of the front office and coaching staff since the team acquired former Pac-12 Player of the Year via trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2012 Draft. And though he played sparingly in his first two seasons, he saw his minutes increase dramatically in 2015-16, as he appeared in 81 games and responded with averages of 10.8 points on 44 percent shooting and 39 percent shooting from three, 2.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists while serving as one of the team’s best perimeter defenders.

There were rumors that outside of the money and years, Crabbe, who has typically come off the bench for the Trail Blazers, was intrigued by the opportunity to start and play a larger role with the Nets. But for his part, Crabbe seemed more than satisfied that he would be returning to Portland…

With Crabbe now signed, forward Maurice Harkless is the last Blazer still available on the free agent market. Like Crabbe, Harkless is a restricted free agent, which gives the Trail Blazers the right to match any offer he receives from another team. It is also possible for the Trail Blazers to sign Harkless even if he doesn’t receive an offer sheet from another team, as they have reportedly did Sunday with restricted free agent power forward Meyers Leonard.

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Trail Blazers Sign Meyers Leonard To Four-Year Deal

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
3 days ago

UPDATE: The team has officially announce that they have signed Meyers Leonard to a new contract. From the press release…

“Meyers is a core member of our organization and continues to show the promise and potential we anticipated when we drafted him,” said Olshey.

Leonard averaged career-highs with 8.4 points (44.8% FG, 37.7% 3-PT76.1% FT), 5.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 21.9 minutes in 61 games (10 starts) in 2015-16. He missed the final 14 games of the regular season due to an injured left shoulder.

“Today is a day which is hard to describe. I’m overcome with happiness and joy,” said Leonard. “I’m thankful for the people who have remained loyal and loving in my life. This is the product of a lot of hard work and time. I feel like I have found a new gear mentally and physically and really am excited for the next four years. The future is going to be bright with this team.”

ORIGINAL POST

The Trail Blazers and Meyers Leonard sat down at the negotiating table prior to the start of the 2015-16 season in an effort to hammer out a new contract in an effort to keep the 7-1 power forward from hitting the (restricted) free agent market. Despite mutual interest, the two sides were unable to strike a deal, though considering the Trail Blazers had the right to match any offer Leonard received as a free agent, it always seemed likely he’d be back even if terms on an extension couldn’t be reached.

As it turns out, an offer sheet from another team wasn’t needed for both sides to ultimately come to an agreement.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, Leonard and the Trail Blazers have agreed on a new four-year deal worth $41 million

Leonard, a restricted free agent, has built his value as a stretch four with an ability to spread the floor and deliver a presence on the defensive boards.

Leonard is part of a core expected to compete for 50 victories in the Western Conference this season.

Leonard, 24, missed the final 20 regular-season games with a left shoulder surgery in 2015-16, but has shown steady improvement in the past two years after being selected at No. 11 overall in the 2012 NBA draft.

The reported four-year deal is roughly the same as the offer the Trail Blazers reportedly extended to Leonard prior to the start of the 2015-16 season. At the time, it was reasonable to assume Leonard might receive a larger offer from another team, as his combination of size, athleticism and shooting are highly sought after in today’s NBA. But missing the final 20 games of the regular season and the entirety of the playoffs after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder, not to mention the widely-held assumption that the Blazers would match any reasonable offer for Leonard, likely cooled interest from other teams. And though he didn’t say it explicitly, it always seemed as though Leonard’s preference was to continue his career in Portland after being selected by the Trail Blazers with the 11th overall pick of the 2012 Draft.

“I was drafted here, I’ve been with Terry (Stotts) the entire time, Neil (Olshey) obviously drafted me, being here with now our franchise player Damian (Lillard),” said Leonard back in March. “So the future is bright here and I truly hope that I can be a big part of it.”

Leonard returns to a big man rotation that features Mason Plumlee, Ed Davis, Noah Vonleh and Festus Ezeli, who signed with Portland as a free agent on Friday.

While Trail Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey said the team is done chasing new free agents for the year, whether restricted free agents Maurice Harkless and Allen Crabbe, who received an offer sheet from the Brooklyn Nets worth reportedly $75 million over four years on Thursday, return to Portland next season is still to be determined. The team has until 9 pm Sunday night to decide whether or not to match the offer made to Crabbe.

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