Portland Trail Blazers

Blazers Notes: Small Forwards, Harkless, Napier

The Trail Blazers committed a ton of money to free agent contracts and extensions this summer, and will have one of the NBA’s highest payrolls in 2016/17. However, owner Paul Allen suggested earlier this week that he believes in the team’s current group of players and had no problem handing out those contracts. Still, Allen didn’t sound overly eager to become a taxpaying team this season, and Portland is currently right on that threshold, so it will be interesting to see if the team makes a conscious effort to slip below the tax line with its roster moves.

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • Blazers head coach Terry Stotts is keeping an “open mind” about the team’s small forward spot, writes Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. Evan Turner, Maurice Harkless, and Allen Crabbe – each of whom signed lucrative long-term contracts this offseason – will all be in the mix for minutes at the position, and any one of the three could be the starter. “We’re all just pieces to the puzzle,” Harkless said. “It’s up to him to put it together.”
  • Speaking of Harkless, the 23-year-old said Thursday after practice that he never seriously considered playing anywhere besides Portland when he became a restricted free agent in July, calling the Blazers a “very well-run organization.” “I wasn’t really paying mind to any other team,” Harkless said, per Cody Sharrett of Blazers.com. “I wanted to be here, and I think I made that clear. [The team] knew that. We knew that. This is where I wanted to be, and I’m happy.”
  • The Blazers have been impressed so far by Shabazz Napier, writes Mike Richman of The Oregonian. Napier, who was acquired by Portland in a summer trade, knows he won’t have a major role with the team, but he’s looking forward to making the most of any opportunities he gets. “My résumé in this league is not good at all,” Napier said. “So I can’t worry (like), ‘There’s minutes up in the air so I gotta do this or I gotta do that.’ I just gotta play my game.”

Paul Allen On: Roster, Expectations, Stotts

The Trail Blazers held their first practice of the 2016/17 season today. Afterwards, team owner Paul Allen addressed the media and answered a number of questions regarding the state of the franchise. The entire chat is worth a gander, but some of the highlights are relayed below. Hat tip to Joe Freeman of The Oregonian for the transcription:

On if he had any reservations about the contracts the team handed out this summer:

Well, [president of basketball operations and GM] Neil Olshey and I go over all those things closely, I think. One of the big decisions was when we discussed signing Evan Turner and that worked out. And to get Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless back, they were all very deliberate decisions we evaluated. The financial consequences are significant, but that’s because we believe in this group of guys. They showed what they can do last year.

On his expectations for the 2016/17 season:

“I always try not to make, as you know — I think we’ve done this for a while — I don’t make particular predictions on the number of wins and losses. But I think we have a chance to be significantly better than last year. And I think everybody was really encouraged to see how the team came together last year, how well the coaching meshed with the talent. And the guys that Neil brought in, I think, exceeded everybody’s expectations. So that was a very encouraging year last year and hopefully we’ll build on that.

On the job head coach Terry Stotts has done:

I think he’s done an excellent job. I think it’s pretty unique to see a coach adjust to the talent he has and maximize the abilities of the players he has and help them keep growing. You have to realize, we’re a very, very young team. I was kidding Neil earlier, I said, ‘Well, there’s other teams that seem to try to perfect the art of using older players to their maximum, whereas our approach is to bring in young talent, in some cases unproven talent, and try to take that talent to another level.’ And I think you saw that in terms of player development last year. So both in terms of development and execution, obviously, and making it out of the first round last year and giving Golden State a real run for their money, that was all extremely encouraging.”

On whether or not he’s willing to pay the luxury tax:

That darn luxury tax is pretty painful. You have to make those decisions. As you know, at one point, I believe I had the record for the highest luxury tax payments. In the end, that didn’t make sense. So that’s something we’ll have to look at very carefully. Sometimes you can go into the tax for a year or something and then come out of it if it makes sense as you’re transitioning through different player contracts. So it’s something Neil and I will evaluate very carefully.

On if the league and NBPA can avoid a lockout when the current CBA expires or either side opts out:

“As individual owners, we’re not supposed to speak about CBA negotiations. So I’m not going to do that. I’m just going to say that, given the economics that are in play here, I think it’s in everybody’s — the players and the owner’s — best interest to work something out. So I’m optimistic.”

Traded Second-Round Picks For 2017 NBA Draft

The 2017 NBA draft is still more than nine months away, but with the start of the regular season fast approaching, it’s worth taking stock of how this season’s results will affect next year’s draft. Depending on how certain teams perform during the 2016/17 campaign, other clubs will have the opportunity to pick up an extra selection or two.

Earlier this week, we looked at the first-round picks that could change hands during the 2017 draft. A few more first-rounders will likely be involved in trades prior to the trade deadline, or leading up to next year’s draft night, but there are already several picks that are ticketed for new teams, depending on where they land.

That’s even more true of the second round — more than half of the league’s second-round picks for 2017 have been involved in trades so far, and while some of those picks will ultimately remain with the sending teams due to protection conditions, many will move to the receiving teams.

Below, you’ll find a breakdown of the second-round picks that could (or will) change hands. For each selection, we make a note of which team is sending and receiving it, the protection or conditions on the pick, and what will happen if the protection language prevents the pick from being conveyed. For instance, the Heat will send their second-rounder to either the Hawks or Grizzlies, depending on where it lands. The team that doesn’t get a pick from Miami this year will get the Heat’s second-rounder in 2018.

Here are 2017’s traded second-round picks:

Atlanta Hawks

  • From: Brooklyn Nets
  • Protection: None

Atlanta Hawks

  • From: Miami Heat
  • Protection: 31-40
  • If not conveyed: Hawks will receive Heat’s 2018 second-rounder (unprotected).

Boston Celtics

  • From: Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Protection: None

Boston Celtics

  • From: Los Angeles Clippers
  • Protection: None

Boston Celtics

  • From: Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Protection: None

Brooklyn Nets

  • From: Boston Celtics
  • Conditions: Nets will receive pick (protected 31-45) if Celtics swap first-rounders with Nets.
  • If not conveyed: Celtics’ obligation to Nets is extinguished.

Brooklyn Nets

  • From: Indiana Pacers
  • Protection: 45-60
  • If not conveyed: Nets will have opportunity to get Pacers’ second-rounder (protected 45-60) in 2018.

Denver Nuggets

  • From: Memphis Grizzlies
  • Protection: 31-35
  • If not conveyed: Nuggets will receive Grizzlies’ 2018 second-rounder (unprotected).

Denver Nuggets

  • From: Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Protection: 31-35
  • If not conveyed: Nuggets will receive Thunder’s 2018 second-rounder (unprotected).

Houston Rockets

  • From: Denver Nuggets
  • Protection: None

Houston Rockets

  • From: Portland Trail Blazers
  • Protection: None

Memphis Grizzlies

  • From: Miami Heat
  • Protection: 41-60
  • If not conveyed: Grizzlies will receive Heat’s 2018 second-rounder (unprotected).

New Orleans Pelicans

  • From: Philadelphia 76ers
  • Protection: None

New York Knicks

  • From: Chicago Bulls
  • Protection: None

New York Knicks

  • From: Houston Rockets
  • Protection: None

Philadelphia 76ers

  • From: Two of Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, and Utah Jazz.
  • Conditions: Sixers will receive the most and least favorable of these four picks.

Utah Jazz

  • From: Two of Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, and Utah Jazz.
  • Conditions: Jazz will receive the second- and third-most favorable of these four picks, including their own.

The following teams technically acquired second-round draft picks via trade and could receive those selections in 2017. However, these picks are heavily protected and won’t be conveyed to the receiving team unless the sending team finishes with a top-five record in the NBA. If that doesn’t happen, the receiving team is out of luck. The details:

Minnesota Timberwolves

  • From: New Orleans Pelicans
  • Protection: 31-55
  • If not conveyed: Pelicans’ obligation to Timberwolves is extinguished.

Orlando Magic

  • From: Sacramento Kings
  • Protection: 31-55
  • If not conveyed: Kings’ obligation to Magic is extinguished.

San Antonio Spurs

  • From: Atlanta Hawks
  • Protection: 31-55
  • If not conveyed: Hawks’ obligation to Spurs is extinguished.

RealGM’s database of future traded pick details was used in the creation of this post.

Blazers Need To Remain Patient With Montero's Development

  • The Blazers will need to remain patient with guard Luis Montero, who displayed solid playmaking ability during summer league play, but didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, Mike Richman of The Oregonian writes in his training camp preview of the player.

Trail Blazers Sign Greg Stiemsma

1:40pm: The Blazers have officially signed Stiemsma, the team announced today in a press release.

10:47am: The Trail Blazers have added another veteran free agent to their offseason roster, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, who reports (via Twitter) that the team is signing center Greg Stiemsma to a training camp deal.

Stiemsma, who will turn 31 later this month, has four years of NBA experience under his belt, having appeared in regular-season games for the Celtics, Timberwolves, Pelicans, and Raptors from 2011 to 2015. In 203 total games, the former Wisconsin big man has averaged 3.2 PPG, 3.3 RPG, and 1.1 BPG in a part-time role, shooting 50.9% from the field.

Last fall, Stiemsma participated in training camp with the Magic, but was ultimately waived during the team’s preseason roster cutdowns. The veteran center may face a similar fate this year in Portland, but the team does currently have at least one potential open roster spot. The Blazers have 14 guaranteed contracts on their books for 2016/17, with Grant Jerrett, Luis Montero, and Tim Quarterman on non-guaranteed or partially-guaranteed deals.

[RELATED: Portland Trail Blazers’ depth chart at RosterResource.com]

Exact deails on Stiemsma’s new pact aren’t known, but Wojnarowski describes it as a training camp contract. It will likely be a minimum-salary deal with little to no guaranteed money.

Salary Cap Snapshot: Portland Trail Blazers

With the free agent signing period winding down and teams looking ahead to the preseason, we at Hoops Rumors will be tracking the Salary Cap figures for each team around the league. These posts will be maintained throughout the season once financial data is reported. They will be located on the sidebar throughout the year, once all the teams’ cap figures have been relayed. The next franchise we’ll be looking at are the Portland Trail Blazers, who currently are well over the league’s salary cap of $94,143,000 for the 2016/17 season. You can always check RosterResource.com for up-to-date rosters for each franchise, with the Blazers’ team page accessible here.

Here’s a breakdown of where the Blazers currently stand financially:

Guaranteed Salary

Total Guaranteed Salary= $112,354,979

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Total Non-Guaranteed Salary= $2,323,538

Eligible for Rookie Scale Extensions

Cash Sent Out Via Trade:  $75,000 [Amount Remaining $3,425,000]

Cash Received Via Trade: $0 [Amount Remaining $3.5MM]

Payroll Exceptions Available

  • Room Exception — $2,898,000

Total Projected Payroll: $114,678,517

Salary Cap: $94,143,000

Estimated Available Cap Space: $20,535,517

Luxury Tax Threshold: $113,287,000

Amount Above Luxury Tax: $1,391,517

The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

NBA Teams In Or Near Tax Territory For 2016/17

The NBA salary cap’s enormous, unprecedented jump from $70MM in 2015/16 to $94.143MM in 2016/17 has received a ton of attention this summer, as free agents signed massive contracts that reflected the league’s new financial reality. In addition to allowing teams extra flexibility to sign and acquire players, that cap jump also significantly increased the luxury tax threshold for NBA franchises.

A year ago, clubs exceeding $84.74MM in total team salary were subject to tax penalties, but this year, that threshold has increased by nearly $30MM, to $113.287MM. The result? It has become a little more difficult for teams to spend so much that they surpass that threshold and get into tax territory. Still, a few clubs have managed to do it so far, and several others are getting close.

Those teams over or near the luxury tax line will surely keep a careful eye on their spending going forward, since tax penalties under the league’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement can be severe, particularly for repeat offenders. Our glossary entry on the subject features details on the specifics.

Here’s the full breakdown on teams over the tax threshold, or close to it:

Teams currently in the tax:

Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Total team salary: $116,494,181
  • Total guaranteed salary: $114,628,849
  • There are avenues for the Cavaliers to get out of tax territory if they really want to, but the team doesn’t yet have a full roster and still expects to re-sign J.R. Smith, so odds are Cleveland’s tax bills will only get larger as the club’s payroll gets even higher.

Los Angeles Clippers

  • Total team salary: $114,740,032
  • Total guaranteed salary: $114,740,032
  • The Clippers have a full 15-man roster, so they shouldn’t have to add much more salary before the season — perhaps just modest partial guarantees for a few camp invitees. Assuming they stay within $2MM or so of the tax line, it will be interesting to see how the Clips approach the 2017 trade deadline. A cost-cutting deal or two could could the club out of the tax, but if L.A. is competing for a top spot in the West, it may be necessary to add a little salary to acquire another impact player.

Portland Trail Blazers

  • Total team salary: $114,678,517
  • Total guaranteed salary: $112,354,979
  • No team has more money committed to its 2017/18 cap than Portland, which is on the hook for nearly $124MM in guaranteed money already. Since there’s a good chance the Trail Blazers will be over the tax threshold next year, the team may want to avoid that fate this year. The Blazers’ close proximity to the tax might be good news for someone like Tim Quarterman, who already has a partial guarantee on his contract and would be owed a very small rookie salary if he makes the team. Other back-of-the-roster players like Luis Montero and Grant Jerrett would have slightly larger cap hits and aren’t currently owed any guaranteed money, so those factors may improve Quarterman’s odds of earning Portland’s final roster spot.
  • Note: The Blazers would sneak below the tax line by cutting Jerrett and Quarterman, or Jerrett and Montero. The team would remain in the tax if Montero and Quarterman are cut.

Teams currently near the tax line:

Memphis Grizzlies

  • Total team salary: $112,909,960
  • Total guaranteed salary: $107,062,933

Dallas Mavericks

  • Total team salary: $111,447,750
  • Total guaranteed salary: $109,563,866

Detroit Pistons

  • Total team salary: $108,850,684
  • Total guaranteed salary: $106,854,557

San Antonio Spurs

  • Total team salary: $108,677,758
  • Total guaranteed salary: $107,347,345

Toronto Raptors

  • Total team salary: $108,151,883
  • Total guaranteed salary: $106,077,999

For most of the teams in this group, there will be little chance of sneaking into tax territory with in-season free agent signings, so they should be safe unless they take on salary in a trade. However, clubs the Grizzlies and Mavericks – who are inching closer to that tax line – will have to be careful about in-season signings. If those franchises have to waive multiple players on guaranteed salaries due to injuries and then sign replacements for those players, their team salaries could start to approach the tax threshold.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post.

Noah Vonleh Undergoes Procedure On Thigh

Trail Blazers forward Noah Vonleh will be on the mend for at least the next three or four weeks, the team announced today in a press release. According to the Blazers, Vonleh underwent a procedure to remove a bone fragment from his right thigh musculature.

Vonleh, who turned 21 last Wednesday, is in an interesting spot this offseason. He started 56 games during his first year in Portland, but only averaged 15.1 minutes per contest, and posted underwhelming numbers (3.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG, .421 FG%). Vonleh is currently in the third year of his rookie contract, which means the Blazers will have to decide within the next two months whether they want to exercise their team option on the fourth year of his deal — it would pay him $3.505MM in 2017/18.

[RELATED: 2016 Rookie-Scale Team Option Decisions]

Portland reportedly intends to use Al-Farouq Aminu exclusively at power forward – instead of small forward – this year, which could mean further reducing Vonleh’s minutes. The team also has an NBA-high $123.708MM in guaranteed money on its books for 2017/18, so exercising Vonleh’s option would push that total even higher, potentially beyond the tax threshold.

The former top-10 pick will likely want to have a strong showing in training camp and the preseason this year to help convince the Blazers that he’s still a part of the team’s future plans. In the wake of today’s procedure, he’ll have to get healthy first.

Poll: Trail Blazers’ Future

While most teams with significant cap room this summer pursued outside free agents, the Trail Blazers focused most of their efforts on securing their own players. Portland did bring in Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli on pricey, multiyear deals, but the team’s other major investments were players who were already Blazers. Here’s a breakdown of the in-house players who got lucrative, long-term contracts from the team:

Throw in the fact that Damian Lillard‘s new five-year, maximum-salary contract extension goes into effect for the 2016/17 season, and it’s no surprise that Portland has more guaranteed money on its cap in future years than any other NBA team.

As Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders details, the Blazers were able to do what some other teams haven’t been able to, ensuring that their top players will remain under contract for the long haul. But the club may have also painted itself into a corner to some extent, since its flexibility to make future additions will be limited. The Blazers’ long-term outlook may come down to how far Lillard and McCollum are capable of taking the team, writes Kennedy.

The Blazers are coming off an excellent season, in which they finished fifth in the West and won a playoff series before being knocked off by the 73-win Warriors in the second round. With at least one of the teams ahead of them in the West – the Thunder – expected to take a significant step back this season, the Blazers will be gunning for a top-four seed with a roster packed with young players on the rise.

Still, a skeptic could point to the fact that the Clippers squad beaten by Portland in the first round was decimated by injuries. It’s also fair to question whether or not the Blazers have enough frontcourt talent to complement their star guards.

That brings us to this morning’s poll question: Is the Blazers’ roster strong enough for the team to improve upon last year’s results? Barring a major trade or two, Portland’s core appears to be locked in for at least the next two or three years. Will the team take another step forward and become a championship contender during that time?

Weigh in with your vote, and feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts on the Blazers.

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Teams Not Projected To Have 2017 Cap Room

During the first few years of the NBA’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement, many teams had virtually no chance to open up cap room. The salary cap remained in the $58MM range for three straight seasons, making it tricky for teams to get under the cap unless they were in rebuilding mode and shed high-priced players. However, with the cap now up to $94MM+, and projected to blow past $100MM next summer, that’s no longer the case.

This year, 27 of 30 teams used cap room at some point to acquire players, leaving just three teams that never went under the cap. Plenty of those 27 teams have since used up all their space and gone well over the cap, but not many currently project to be over the cap in future seasons.

The NBA’s most recent estimate for the 2017/18 salary cap, released last month, was $102MM. At this point in the league year, cap estimates are usually on the conservative side, so we can probably expect a slightly higher figure next year, but that’s no lock — particularly since the NBA and the players’ union may make changes to the CBA by next July.

Still, even if we assume that the $102MM projection is accurate, there are currently only two teams whose guaranteed salaries for 2017/18 exceed that figure. Here are those teams:

Projected to be over the 2017/18 cap:

  • Portland Trail Blazers: Incredibly, no NBA team has more guaranteed money on its 2017/18 books than the Blazers, whose $123.71MM blows away the competition. That total doesn’t include team options for Noah Vonleh and Shabazz Napier, a qualifying offer for Mason Plumlee, or Festus Ezeli‘s non-guaranteed salary. Throw in those figures, plus a few more non-guaranteed salaries, and Portland’s commitments total $140MM+. Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Allen Crabbe, and Evan Turner combine to make $86.58MM in ’17/18.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers: Even without a new contract for J.R. Smith, the Cavs already have more than $113MM in guaranteed salaries on their books for ’17/18. LeBron James‘ $33.29MM salary is the biggest number, but the team has four more eight-digit cap hits, ranging from about $10.34MM for Iman Shumpert to $22.64MM for Kevin Love.

While the Blazers and Cavs are the only two teams whose guaranteed salaries for next year exceed $102MM, there are a few more clubs joining them above that threshold when taking into account non-guaranteed salaries, options, and/or qualifying offers. Here are those teams:

Projected to potentially be over the 2017/18 cap:

  • Washington Wizards: After locking up Bradley Beal and Ian Mahinmi to expensive long-term deals this summer, the Wizards have $94MM+ in guaranteed salaries on their books for 2017/18. The team will have to add another $2MM+ to that total for Kelly Oubre, and then may need to commit more than $12MM in total to qualifying offers for Otto Porter and Trey Burke, potential restricted free agents.
  • Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers have less than $60MM in guaranteed money on their ’17/18 cap, but that figure doesn’t include either Chris Paul or Blake Griffin, who have early termination options on their contracts. If both players stay in L.A. – either on their current deals or new ones – the Clippers will remain well over the cap.
  • Detroit Pistons: This summer, the Pistons maxed out their cap room, then went over the cap to sign Andre Drummond to a max deal. Once the club exercises its 2017/18 option on Stanley Johnson, it will have about $95MM on the cap for next year. Detroit must also account for qualifying offers for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Reggie Bullock, along with Aron Baynes‘ $6.5MM player option, taking the team over the projected cap.
  • Toronto Raptors: The Raptors’ current guaranteed and non-guaranteed commitments for 2017/18 total about $104MM, and the team figures to pare down that figure to below $102MM before the season begins. Still, if the club intends to keep Kyle Lowry beyond next season, he’ll likely require a big raise on his current $12MM player option, meaning Toronto’s remaining cap space will be chewed up quickly.

There are some other NBA teams that may not be involved in free agency because they’ll need any cap room they may have to re-sign their own players. Despite only currently having $37.3MM in guarantees on their 2017/18 cap, the Warriors may very well fit into this category, since Stephen Curry will be getting a huge raise, and the team will want to retain Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala as well.

Of course, these outlooks could change between now and next July, depending on in-season trades, draft-day deals, and potential CBA changes. For now though, the teams listed above appear to be the least likely candidates to go below the cap next offseason.

Information from Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post.

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