Olshey Talks Nurkić, Baldwin IV And Collins At Summer League

by Casey Holdahl
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During Sunday night's broadcast of the Trail Blazers' Las Vegas Summer League Tournament quarterfinals matchup versus the Boston Celtics (Portland plays Memphis tonight in the semifinals at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2), president of basketball operations Neil Olshey joined Chauncey Billups and Mark Jones to discuss a host of topics pertaining to Portland's offseason, including the decision to re-sign restricted free agent Jusuf Nurkić, the play of Wade Baldwin IV, whose contract for next season is yet to be guaranteed, expectations for Zach Collins and the decision to draft rookies Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr.

The entire interview is below, though a few sections have been transcribed as well...

On the decision to re-sign Jusuf Nurkić...

Neil Olshey: "That was our main piece of business this summer. We’re still looking to improve the roster, obviously. It’s been a little bit quiet trade-wise, I think most of the trades we’ve seen are all cap and tax related. But that was our core piece of business beyond the draft. We needed to get Nurk under contract, he’s a big piece of our puzzle. Our defense went from 26th in the league to 8th, a lot of that was his rim protection, having that back line defense role. He let Dame and CJ put more pressure on the ball out on the front of the floor. He’s been great in terms of being a threat offensively as well. So getting him under contract, know we’ve got the stability we’re looking for with that starting lineup and now we’ve just got to kind of build the back of the rotation."

On the play of Wade Baldwin IV...

Neil Olshey: "I’m happy for Wade. He came into the summer with a non-guaranteed contract, he played a little bit for us at the end of the year, obviously started out in Memphis. They had some roster issues and he didn’t get to stick on the team after being a Top-20 pick, but he’s really used this platform of summer league. He’s taking it seriously, he’s not looking at it like it’s a demotion having to play here, he looked at it like it was an opportunity. He’s really run the team well. Shooting the ball better, but more than anything, his on-ball defense is just huge for us. He’s controlled tempo, he’s had good composure, he’s taking care of the ball, which is what you’re going to want from guys who are going to play behind Dame and CJ. Low error, buy us some minutes out on the floor, guard some of the guys that maybe we don’t want to expose them to because they take on so much responsibility offensively."

On expectations for Zach Collins in his second season...

Neil Olshey: "That’s a jump we’re looking to make. We didn’t bring Ed Davis back, which was not the most popular decision, and emotionally, I understood it. Ed is one of our favorite guys, he was terrific for us, but we really felt like we’ve seen this thing before. When we went too long with the veterans — we did it with CJ McCollum, had a chance to break out, we waited an extra year — and we really think Zach has a chance to replicate a lot of what Ed did on the defensive end. He’s got great length, moves his feet. The comparison I used the other day when I was on with Mark and Doris was Sheed (Wallace). He’s got the great length where he can challenge with the verticality rules but he has unbelievable feet. This is a guys who guarded everybody from Chandler Parsons last year to Karl-Anthony Towns and switched every pick and roll. He’s not afraid of that. He’s really got the defensive mindset that we’re looking for in terms of shrinking the floor and being able to play as a bigger four next to Nurk."