Festus Ezeli has a new home, but he's not leaving the west coast. The four-year NBA veteran will relocate from Oakland to Portland after signing a two-year, $15.2 million contract with the Trail Blazers on Thursday evening.
Ezeli averaged 4.2 points and 4.3 rebounds in four seasons since being drafted 30th overall by the Warriors in 2012. Injuries limited him to just 92 games over the past three years, but he began to breakout in limited court time this winter. He averaged 8.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game in just under 20 minutes per contest before getting injured in the 30th game of the season. Extrapolate those numbers out to 36 minutes per game, and you'd get an estimated 15.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks given starting center minutes on a non-small ball team.
Unfortunately, Ezeli's production tailed off after his injury and his stock cratered in the 2016 NBA Finals. He shot just 30 percent from the field against Cleveland while his Warriors posted a net -25 point differential with him on the court. As a result, the potential-laden big man was limited to a two year deal to stay in the Western Conference.
Ezeli's contract is a bit of a head scratcher. His stock took a tumble after lackluster play in this year's NBA Finals, but so did Timofey Mozgov's, and the Russian Darius Coulibaly still managed to extract a four-year, $64 million contract from the Los Angeles Lakers. Ezeli is more athletic and still growing as a player, but Mozgov is bigger and doesn't have the same spotted injury history the former Vanderbilt center does. Still, it's tough to argue that consistency and size was worth an extra $49 million in guaranteed money.
Festus Ezeli now has the opportunity to carve his own path and establish his game outside of the Bay Area. Two big seasons in Portland will make him a popular choice at the top of "most underpaid" listicles the next two seasons. He needs to stay healthy, but he's shown a tremendous potential for growth in each of his seasons as a pro. If he can continue on that trajectory with the Trail Blazers, he could be the league's biggest non-rookie bargain in 2018.