REPORTS » Trail Blazers to Sign Hollis-Jefferson, Leaf

by Casey Holdahl
Follow @chold

Over the past few years, the Trail Blazers have often opted to keep one roster spot open going into the regular season for a number of reasons, including the possibility a two-for-one trade or a mid-season free agent signing. The 2020-21 season has been no exception, with Portland entering the 72-game campaign with 14 players under contract, one less than the maximum. And, after using both of their two-way contracts, which allows for team to sign players who split time between the NBA and G-League without taking up a spot on the "regular" roster, last season, they also chose to keep one open heading into this season.

But according to reports, the Trail Blazers are filling a couple of their open slots.

First, according to Shams Charnia, the Trail Blazers are signing free agent forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to a 10-day contract (which has since been confirmed by many others, including Hollis-Jefferson himself). The 6-6 forward, who was originally selected by the Trail Blazers out of Arizona with the 23rd overall pick of the 2015 Draft before being traded that same night to Brooklyn in exchange for Mason Plumlee and Pat Connaughton, owns career averages of 9.3 points on 45 percent shooting, 5.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists in of 294 games, with the Nets and Raptors. He most recently signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Timberwolves, though he was waived before the start of the season.

Not only does signing Hollis-Jefferson bolster Portland’s forward rotation, it gets the Trail Blazers back to the minimum number of players under contract at 14 after sending out two players -- Rodney Hood and Gary Trent Jr. -- and only getting one back -- Norman Powell -- in their trade deadline deal with the Raptors. Given that, it seems likely that Hollis-Jefferson will have every opportunity to earn a contract for the rest of the season.

As for the open two-way spot, according to Adrian Wojnarowski, the Trail Blazers are sighing 6-10 forward T.J. Leaf, who played 139 games over three seasons with the Pacers after being selected with the 18th overall pick of the 2017 Draft. Leaf was billed as a prototypical “stretch four” out of UCLA but never managed to crack the rotation in Indiana, averaging 3.3 points on 49 percent shooting from the field and 34 percent shooting from three, and 2.0 rebounds in 139 appearances.

Usually there’s a limit to how many days a two-way player can spend with an NBA team before having their contracts guaranteed, but due to changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, those rules have been altered. The result of which is that players like Keljin Blevins and now Leaf don’t have to jump back and forth between the Trail Blazers and a G-League roster.

The signing of both players is expected to be announced as soon as both have logged a pre-determined number of negative COVID-19 tests, which will presumably occur some time toward the end of the week.

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