Here is the latest out of Portland, where the Blazers missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season:
The only two teams idle on a 14-game night in the NBA reside in the Northwest Division, as the Thunder and Nuggets get the night off to enjoy their victories on Tuesday. The rest of the division is on the court, and making noise off the court as well, as we detail here:
OCTOBER 30TH: Olshey confirmed today that the Blazers have obtained a disabled player exception for Williams, tweets Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com. The GM says it's a financial tool, rather than a roster tool, which presumably means it'll only be kept on the books for cap purposes, rather than actually used to acquire a player.
OCTOBER 1ST: With Elliot Williams expected to miss the entire 2012/13 season after undergoing surgery on his ruptured achilles tendon, the Trail Blazers will not waive him, GM Neil Olshey told the media today. However, as Joe Freeman of the Oregonian tweets, the team will apply for a disabled player exception worth half Williams' salary.
Freeman adds within the same tweet that Olshey says the Trail Blazers still have about $2MM in cap space, but the GM is likely referring to the room exception, rather than actual cap space. Despite only spending about $56MM on team salary, Portland has a traded player exception worth about $2.25MM from this summer's Raymond Felton trade that the club would have to renounce to claim that cap room. Also, disabled player exceptions are only available to over-the-cap teams, so the Blazers wouldn't receive a DPE if they still had cap space.
Even if the league approves the disabled player exception for Williams, it likely won't be of much use for the Blazers. By rule, the team would receive an exception worth 50% of Williams' $1.443MM salary, which would be about $721K, less than the veteran's minimum.
3:29pm: According to GM Neil Olshey, the Blazers have declined their options on Babbitt, Williams, and Smith, tweets Joe Freeman of the Oregonian. As I noted below, this will free up about $6.7MM of potential cap space for the Blazers next summer.
8:21am: The Trail Blazers will not exercise Luke Babbitt's fourth-year option for 2013/14, meaning he'll become an unrestricted free agent next summer, according to Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com. Babbitt had been in line for a $2.9MM salary, but the Blazers will elect to gain that amount in cap flexibility instead.
Portland also holds 2013/14 options on Elliot Williams and Nolan Smith, worth $2.37MM and $1.42MM respectively. While the team still could decide to exercise one or both of those options, Haynes says they'll likely be declined as well. Turning down all three options would allow the Blazers to gain about $6.7MM in extra cap room next summer.
As we heard yesterday, the Blazers are hoping to add an accomplished veteran player in free agency next summer, and declining their three rookie-contract options will give the club the flexibility to offer a significant, eight-digit annual salary. Depending on how free agency plays out, the Blazers could still decide to bring back Babbitt, Williams, and/or Smith for the 2013/14 season.
Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey has been on the job in Portland for four and a half months, having gone through his first draft and free agency period with the team this summer. While the Blazers may not be a contender this season, Olshey is enthusiastic about the direction the roster is taking, and spoke to Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune about the club's outlook. Here are a few of the highlights from Olshey:
On the trade market and whether the Blazers will get involved in deals:
"Everybody wants to feel things out for a little bit before making changes. We’re not going to make any moves that will take away long-term flexibility, unless it’s absolutely a player to add to our core. We’re not going to make incremental moves that don’t move the needle.... We took a lot of discipline to put ourselves in position where we could have a max (salary) cap slot next summer. We could be aggressive in free agency. We want to have that flexibility. We want to make big moves. We don’t want to make marginal moves."
"We have to look at whether or not we even need that cap room [next summer]. We’re trying to judge which players are going to be in the free-agent market. That will impact our decision as much or more than whether or not we like the three guys who have options. We like all of them. The question is, is there an opportunity cost by taking ourselves out of free agency to a certain degree if we pick up the options?"
On whether owner Paul Allen will be patient throughout Olshey's rebuilding process:
"I’m going to accelerate this as quickly as possible without sacrificing the big picture. We want to win at a high level and for it to be sustainable. We don’t want quick fixes, where we’re back to the drawing board every offseason, trying to hold on to something that’s slipping through our fingers. Paul is buying into it right now. My promise to him is we’re going to move this as fast as humanly possible with sacrificing sustainabilty."
In a lengthy insider piece at ESPN.com, Chad Ford explains why the Jazz placed fourth in ESPN's recent Future Power Rankings, a position that surprised even team GM Dennis Lindsey. "We are a long way from No. 4 right now," Lindsey said. "I can understand on the future ratings why there's reason to be optimistic -- with the cap flexibility Kevin has created and the young players that we do have -- but cap room doesn't win you games. Young players, almost by definition, don't win you games."
Regardless of whether ESPN's optimistic ranking is justified, Jazz fans certainly have reason to be excited about the future of the team. In fact, most of the teams in the Northwest have solid young cores. Let's take a look at some other links from the division:
When the Timberwolves signed Kevin Love to a four-year extension, rather than a five-year deal, many assumed the team was saving its five-year franchise-player designation for Ricky Rubio. However, Britt Robson, who recently wrote about T-Wolves owner Glen Taylor for Twin Cities Business, hears from GM David Kahn that Rubio is likely to receive the same four-year offer Love did (Twitter link). Here are a few more links dealing with Western Conference clubs:
Blazers acting GM Chad Buchanan said the team "anticipates" it will exercise its $2.9MM option to retain forward Luke Babbitt past next season, tweets Jason Quick of The Oregonian. The option represents the fourth year (2013/14) of the rookie-scale contract Babbitt signed with the team after being selected with the 16th pick of the 2010 draft.
The University of Nevada product hasn't been used much in his first two seasons, averaging 1.8 points in just 5.9 minutes over 46 career games. Babbitt appeared to enter the rotation after the team cleaned house at the trade deadline, but with the addition of J.J. Hickson, he's seen his minutes diminish again in Portland's last two outings. LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews are the only Blazers on guaranteed contracts for 2013/14, so adding Babbitt to the mix wouldn't compromise the team's future flexibility much.