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Portland Trail Blazers

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.

Blazers Sent Magic $75K In Shabazz Napier Trade

  • On the other end of the spectrum, the Trail Blazers sent just $75K to the Magic to acquire Shabazz Napier in July, per Pincus (Twitter link). Orlando no longer had use for Napier, so the team was willing to move him in exchange for the minimum amount of cash a team can receive a deal — $75K.

Details On Cash Used In 2016 Draft Trades

As our list of 2016 offseason trades shows, five of the deals agreed upon on draft night this year featured one team sending cash to the other. The NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement allows clubs to include cash payments, but only up to a certain amount.

In the 2016/17 league year, teams are allowed to receive a total of $3.5MM in trades, and can also send out $3.5MM in trades. Those limits are separate, so a team that sends $3.5MM in a deal and then later receives $3.5MM doesn’t get a fresh, new slate — that club is capped out for the league year. In 2014/15, the limit for cash sent and received in trades was $3.4MM.

Since the league year ends on June 30, teams that hadn’t taken advantage of those cash allowances earlier in the season will often use remaining cash during the draft to move up or to snag an extra pick. Many of the cash details on those draft-day deals for 2016 were previously reported. For instance, we already knew about the following payments:

  • Warriors sent $2.4MM to Bucks to acquire No. 38 overall pick (Patrick McCaw).
  • Trail Blazers sent $1.2MM (and a 2019 second-round pick) to Magic to acquire No. 47 overall pick (Jake Layman).
  • Cavaliers sent approximately $2.5MM to Hawks to acquire No. 54 overall pick (Kay Felder).

Based on those numbers, it appears the Warriors got a much better deal from the Bucks than the Cavaliers did from the Hawks. Of course, if the Cavs badly wanted Felder, the cost to move into the draft was hardly exorbitant — Atlanta likely asked the Cavs for the maximum amount of money they could send, since Cleveland used over $900K in a separate trade earlier in the year.

In addition to those three swaps, two other draft-night deals featured money changing hands, and Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders has the details on those payments, along with several others from the 2015/16 league year. According to Pincus, these are the details on the other two draft trades involving cash:

Once again, one of these deals looks far more favorable than the other, with the Thunder paying a fraction of what the Nets did for a second-round pick. But again, the available players and interested teams essentially set the market for these cash payments.

In the case of the Nets/Jazz deal, Brooklyn clearly wanted to make sure not to miss out on Whitehead, and the team was willing to pay a relatively significant amount to secure him. The Thunder, meanwhile, offered all their available remaining cash to the Nuggets for the 56th pick, and Denver likely had no better offer and no player targeted at that spot — so the Nuggets took what they could get.

Be sure to check out Pincus’ piece at Basketball Insiders for more thorough details of how teams spent and received cash in trades during the 2015/16 league year.

Festus Ezeli To Miss Six Weeks

The Trail Blazers announced today that Festus Ezeli will be sidelined for six weeks. The center had his left knee injected with a bone marrow aspirate concentrate and Orthovisc today in Chicago. The treatment is designed to alleviate pain and improve function in the joint, per the announcement. If his recovery goes as planned, Ezeli should be available for the start of the regular season on October 25th.

Ezeli’s deal with Portland was for less money than expected because of concerns about his knees, which is looking like a smart move given this latest setback. The former Warriors center signed a two-year, $16MM contract with Portland, with a team option for the second season. Ezeli underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee back in February, and according to a July report by Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, a number of teams passed on signing the big man because they were worried about his durability.

The 26-year-old appeared in 46 games for the Warriors during the 2015/16 campaign, with Ezeli notching averages of 7.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 16.7 minutes per outing. His slash line on the season was .548/.000/.530.

Latest Contract Details

  • Grant Jerrett‘s training camp deal with the Trail Blazers is a one-year, non-guaranteed pact worth $980,431, Pincus tweets. If the forward makes Portland’s regular season roster, his deal won’t be guaranteed until the January 10th, 2017, which is the leaguewide date for contracts this season. The Blazers currently have $112,354,979 in guaranteed salary on the books for 2016/17.

Blazers Sign Grant Jerrett

AUGUST 17th: The signing is official, the team announced via press release.

AUGUST 16th: The Trail Blazers have agreed to a deal with unrestricted free agent Grant Jerrett, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports (via Twitter). The scribe classifies it as a training camp pact, so it’s almost assuredly for the league minimum and likely includes little or no guaranteed salary.

Portland currently has 16 players on its roster, including 14 with fully guaranteed deals. So, unless Jerrett truly impresses the coaching staff during the preseason, he’s likely ticketed for the D-League to begin the year.

Jerrett last appeared in an NBA regular season contest during the 2014/15 campaign, when he played in a combined eight games for the Jazz and the Thunder. The power forward averaged 2.0 points and 1.1 rebounds in 6.4 minutes while shooting .269/.067/1.000.

McCollum Not Feeling Added Pressure After Extension

After playing the first several years of his NBA career on a contract that will pay him about $10MM in total, C.J. McCollum is set to begin playing on a $106MM+ deal a year from now, having signed an extension last month. Despite the huge pay raise, the Trail Blazers guard doesn’t expect to be affected by increased expectations, as he tells Oliver Maroney of Basketball Insiders. “The only real pressure is the pressure I put on myself. As long as I’m continuing to work and get better, no one is going to put pressure on me but myself,” McCollum said, adding that he thinks the franchise is “heading in the right direction.”

  • As we outlined earlier today, Northwest teams spent the least amount of free agent money this summer out of any of the six divisions, with only the Trail Blazers making a major splash on the open market.

Blazers Prioritized Continuity This Offseason

The Trail Blazers have had a busy offseason as the franchise hopes to keep the momentum going from its surprising 2015/16 season. GM Neil Olshey, speaking at a press conference to formally announce C.J. McCollum‘s extension, noted that keeping the roster intact was his first priority heading into the summer, Sean Meagher of The Oregonian relays.

McCollum Excited About Team's Offseason Moves

Speaking at a press conference today, Blazers guard C.J. McCollum raved about the team’s moves this offseason and what they mean for the season ahead, Joe Freeman of The Oregonian relays. “I think we have a little bit of everything,” McCollum said. “You look at the roster, the way we put different pieces together, bringing in Festus Ezeli, a guy who has championship-level experience defensively, impacts the game right way. Can hedge ball screens. Can do a lot of things we’re not accustomed to. Then you look at Mason Plumlee, a big who can handle the ball, can initiate the offense, can kind of serve as our defacto point guard a lot of times in situations where Dame (Damian Lillard) and I were getting trapped. Bringing back (Allen Crabbe) was big, a guy who can knock down shots, defend high-level wings. Bringing in Evan Turner, a versatile wing, who can pass, play-make, play on the ball, and I think he’ll be an improved three-point shooter.

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