Trail Mix: Blazers get “B-” for offseason, Connaughton talks two-sport path

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The Portland Trail Blazers have undergone some major changes. They saw a host of talented veteran players either sent out of town or leave for new situations. But despite the exodus of talent, Portland’s future has not fallen into the abyss. Earlier this week, ESPN rated Portland’s young core 6th in the NBA. Insider Kevin Pelton graded the offseason of every team in the league. Today he revealed his grades for the Western Conference, giving Portland a “B-.”

From Pelton:

Nobody suffered a greater talent drain this summer than Portland, which lost four of five starters between free agency and trades. Yet once Aldridge’s departure became inevitable, a change of direction was the right move for the Blazers, who would have struggled to compete in the West without their star. By pivoting quickly, the Blazers positioned themselves to rebuild around point guard Damian Lillard, who signed a five-year extension that will kick in during the 2016-17 season. Aminu and Davis figure to prove good values as the cap rises, and Vonleh has the chance to be Aldridge’s long-term replacement at power forward.

ESPN and the advanced metrics have been very kind to Vonleh. His 3-point shooting at the position is intriguing and definitely adds value. Portland lost a lot of talent overall, but they’ve done an adequate job making a tough transition. The analysis nationally has held strong on that assessment for a while now.

Something that we missed here on our blog that made some national waves were LaMarcus Aldridge’s comments with ESPN’s Ryen Ruessilo that Blazers fans “don’t understand” why he left and that he expects to be booed. This could very well happen, but I doubt the overwhelming response from fans in the building will be to boo. I have a feeling that come November or whenever it is that the Spurs come, the vibes will be a lot nicer than they are in Instagram comment threads right now.

Warning to all: there is no more vile place than Instagram comments.

Over the weekend it was announced that the Portland Trail Blazers signed rookie guard Pat Connaughton to a 3-year deal, with two of those years being guaranteed.

While he was in Las Vegas, Connaughton got the NBA Entertainment treatment when talking about his two-sport path. Connaughton was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles and was rated as one of their top pitching prospects. He talks about his heroes growing up and his athletic excellence and hard work eventually led him to the NBA.


The NBA announced on Wednesday that the Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors will be next season’s regular season game across the pond in London, United Kingdon. The game will be played on January 14, 2016 at the O2 Arena in London.

The NBA Players Association aired the first ever “Player’s Awards” last night on BET. Tim Bontemps of The New York Post had an interesting behind-the-scenes account from the awards. The NBPA awards are supposed to be the player’s alternative to the media voted awards from every season that we’ve come to recognize as the standards like MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, etc. But as Bontemps notes, the NBPA awards had some major no-shows, including the league’s best player, emerging movie star and NBPA Vice President LeBron James.

The Moda Center was nominated for “Best Home Court Advantage,” which was Portland’s sole nomination in the awards. The award was understandably given to Oracle Arena, the home the 2015 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors. Here are all of the award winners for those that care.

Best Rookie: Andrew Wiggins
Best Defender: DeAndre Jordan
Global Impact Player: Pau Gasol 
Clutch Performer: Stephen Curry
Coach You Most Want to Play For: Greg Popovich
Hardest to Guard: Stephen Curry
Best Home Court Advantage: Oracle Arena (Golden State)
Player You Secretly Wish was On Your Team:
LeBron James
Most Valuable Player (Toyota sponsored): James Harden
Man of the Year Award: Honoring Ray Allen
Game Changer Award: Honoring Allen Iverson


In tangentially related NBA news, former ESPN columnist and Grantland founder/Editor-in-Chief Bill Simmons has reportedly reached a deal with HBO for a weekly sports-based talk show starting in 2016. The media’s most well-known NBA nerd will not only get his own talk show but also “produce content and digital assets” for HBO’s digital properties. The release from HBO says that it will come in the form of “video podcasts and features.”

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen is the Trail Blazers beat reporter for The Columbian. He's a graduate of the Allen School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon in addition earning a degree in Spanish. He's covered the NBA for four seasons. You can also occasionally find his work on's NBA section for their TrueCities series. He also fist-bumped with Kanye West once. Follow @BlazerBanter on twitter for more Blazers and NBA news.

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