Williams is out for the 2023/24 season after undergoing right knee surgery to reconstruct a torn ligament after he suffered a patellar dislocation. He’s expected to make a full recovery for the 2024/25 season.
As explained in our glossary, a disabled player exception allows a team some spending power when it loses a player to an injury deemed likely to sideline him through at least June 15 of that season. The exception is worth either half the injured player’s salary or the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, whichever is lesser. Williams is on track to earn $11.6MM this season, so the exception is worth half that.
The exception can be used to sign a free agent, claim a player off waivers or acquire a player in a trade. It can only be used on one single player and can only be utilized for a one-year deal. Any player being acquired via trade or waiver claim must have just one year remaining on his contract.
A disabled player exception does not open up a roster spot for any team that chooses to use one. In order to utilize its exception, Portland needs to have an open standard roster spot. At the moment, the Blazers have 15 players on standard contracts, so they’d have to make a cut or trade that brings in fewer players than they send out in order to use the exception. Portland faces a March 11 deadline to use the DPE for Williams.
As noted by ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link), the Blazers also have two trade exceptions (worth $8.8MM and $8.3MM) and the full $12.4MM non-tax mid-level exception at their disposal. They obtained their larger trade exceptions from the Damian Lillard-to-Milwaukee blockbuster and the Gary Payton II-to-Golden State swap, respectively. The exceptions cannot be combined. Portland is currently $3.5MM below the tax.
Williams, 26, was brought to Portland this past offseason in the trade that sent Jrue Holiday to the Celtics. He appeared in just six games with the Trail Blazers before suffering his injury, averaging 6.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks.
Williams emerged as one of the top rim protectors and defenders in the league when healthy during his time in Boston, where he spent five seasons. However, he hasn’t enjoyed luck with his health since being drafted with the 27th overall pick in the 2018 draft, playing more than 41 games just twice in his career. His most productive season came in 2021/22, when he averaged 10.0 points per game in the regular season, started in all 61 of his appearances, and became a crucial piece of Boston’s run to the NBA Finals, where they fell to the Warriors.
In 215 games (97 starts) since 2018, Williams holds career averages of 7.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks while shooting 72.9% from the floor.