The Portland Trail Blazers and free agent center Festus Ezeli have reached an agreement on a deal, the team announced. The contract is for two years and worth $14.7 million, with a team option on the second year, according to ESPN's Marc Spears. Ezeli, 26, seemed in line for an enormous raise this summer before having knee surgery in February and struggling to find his rhythm with the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs. This is a bargain for the Blazers.
If you remember the other contracts given out to big men this offseason -- Timofey Mozgov got four years and $64 million, Ian Mahinmi got four years and $64 million, Bismack Biyombo got four years and $72 million -- then this deal is somewhat shocking. It will also help calm down Portland fans who are reeling from their team giving Evan Turner a four-year, $70 million contract.
"Festus is an outstanding addition to the Trail Blazer organization on and off the court. He will make an immediate impact and be a valuable addition to our culture," Blazers general manager Neil Olshey said in a statement.
The Warriors rescinded their qualifying offer to Ezeli after reaching a deal with Kevin Durant, making him an unrestricted free agent. Portland pounced on this opportunity and was lucky to get two guaranteed years at that salary. It is impossible to imagine this happening if there were not concerns about his knee.
This is great news for the Blazers for two reasons:
- If Ezeli is healthy, he's exactly the kind of big man they needed. He is 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-6 wingspan, and they do not have anyone else who can protect the rim like he does. Before the injury, he was showing off a much improved ability to catch and finish on the inside. Portland wanted a physical presence who could finish alley-oops and battle for rebounds, and if he does that well in training camp, he could unseat Mason Plumlee as its starting center.
- The contract means that their ability to retain their own free agents is unaffected. They still have Bird rights on restricted free-agents Allen Crabbe, Moe Harkless and Meyers Leonard. It seems unlikely that all three will return, but the Blazers would presumably prefer not to sacrifice their flexibility here.
This is a low-risk move for Portland because the worst-case scenario is that Ezeli cannot help much this season and the team decides not to pick up his option for 2017-18. The best-case scenario for Ezeli is that he outperforms this contract and sets himself up for the biggest deal of his career when he's 28 years old.