Blazers select forward Hollis-Jefferson, trade him

Jun 25, 2015, 11:06 PM
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson walks off stage after being selected 23rd overall by the Portland Trail Bla...
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson walks off stage after being selected 23rd overall by the Portland Trail Blazers during the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 25, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Portland Trail Blazers continued a retooling of their roster Thursday night when they selected Arizona forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with the 23rd pick of the NBA draft then sent him to Brooklyn as part of a four-player deal.

The Blazers acquired center Mason Plumlee and shooting guard Pat Connaughton in exchange for Hollis-Jefferson and guard Steve Blake. Connaughton was the Nets’ second-round pick, the 41st overall selection.

The 6-foot-11 Plumlee played two years for Brooklyn. Plumlee, the 22nd overall pick of the 2013 draft, averaged 8.7 points and 6.2 rebounds last season. Connaughton played four years for Notre Dame. This past season, the 6-5 Connaughton averaged 12.5 points and 7.4 rebounds for the Irish.

Hollis-Jefferson is a 6-7 small forward who played two seasons at Arizona. Blake, a 12-year veteran guard, has a year remaining on his Blazers contract.

Portland general manager Neil Olshey said parting with Hollis-Jefferson was difficult, but the opportunity to acquire a front-court talent like Plumlee was “too good to pass up. We get a dynamic young center who has a tremendous upside. Mason is capable of being a starter, but he’s also capable of being a high-end backup.”

On Wednesday, the Blazers shipped small forward Nicolas Batum to Charlotte for shooting guard Gerald Henderson and power forward Noah Vonleh.

Olshey said once the Blazers dealt Batum, the opportunity to move up in Thursday’s draft ended. But in Vonleh, the ninth pick of the 2014 draft, Olshey felt like Portland landed a lottery pick. Henderson upgrades the Blazers’ athleticism, a focal point this offseason, according to Olshey.

“We had 48 really good hours building this roster,” Olshey said.

Including Batum, Portland may have to replace as many as four starters this offseason.

The Blazers’ key free agents are starting power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, shooting guard Wes Matthews and center Robin Lopez. Portland went into the offseason with nine free agents on its roster.

Aldridge, the second pick of the 2006 draft, recently finished his ninth season in Portland. The four-time All-Star, who has career averages of 19.4 points and 8.4 rebounds, is one of the top available free agents this summer.

Earlier in the day, ESPN reported that Aldridge was likely to opt out of returning to Portland. A phone call placed to Aldridge’s agent seeking comment was not immediately returned.

Olshey said it’s “not true” that Aldridge has told the Blazers of his intent to leave.

“I hung up with LaMarcus a half-hour ago. We talk multiple times each week. He was amused as much as I was about these reports. I asked him, how would you like me to address this? And he said, ‘Just say it’s not true,'” Olshey said. “I can tell you he has not informed anyone in our organizations that he doesn’t plan to return to our team.”

Aldridge is eligible for a max contract that would pay him $18.9 million in the first year of a new deal. Some of the teams said to be interested include the San Antonio Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks. Aldridge is from Texas and still lives there.

Also uncertain to return are Matthews and Lopez.

Matthews figures to be one of the most intriguing and risky prospects on this summer’s free agent market. Matthews, a prolific 3-point shooter who averaged 12.5 points last season, tore his left Achilles tendon on March 5 but says he hopes to be ready for light contact by the start of October training camp.

The 7-foot Lopez was the Blazers’ starting center last season, though he missed 23 games with a right hand fracture.

Olshey cautioned against reading too deeply into the Portland trades of the past two days as a signal that many of the team’s free agents may walk. NBA teams can begin negotiating with free agents on July 1.

“We made trades we really like. In no way does it indicate what may or may not happen on July 1,” Olshey said. “We have a lot of business to take care of. We don’t control all these situations. A lot have indicated their desire to be back in Portland, but some of them may not be back.”

Portland has yet to announce a decision on its team option for 2015-16 regarding center Chris Kaman.

Other Portland free agents are small forwards Dorell Wright and Alonzo Gee and center Joel Freeland.

Late in the draft, Portland acquired the rights to the No. 54 overall pick from Utah for cash considerations. The Blazers selected 6-8 small forward Daniel Diez from Spain.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Blazers select forward Hollis-Jefferson, trade him