The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a 20-year executive with the Nets, breaks down the Portland Trail Blazers’ situation as the Feb. 18 trade deadline approaches.
HANG UP IF THEY ASK ABOUT …
The starting backcourt
The dynamic duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum form one of the best and underrated backcourts in the NBA.
Often overlooked with the depth of quality point guards in the West, Lilliard has All-NBA-level attributes. Lillard, who has missed only seven games in his four-year career, is the type of franchise player who can draw key free agents to the Pacific Northwest.
With the rise in the salary cap also comes the value of rookie contracts. McCollum, in his third year, has taken advantage of the departures of key veterans during the offseason. A threat each night to take over a game, McCollum has proven to be one of the top young shooting guards in the league.
Not in the Draymond Green or Khris Middleton class of players who went from the minimum to hitting the lottery in free agency, but Crabbe is very close. The clubhouse leader for Sixth Man of the Year honors, Crabbe has had his best overall production this season. A restricted free agent in the offseason with full Bird rights, Portland will have a clear advantage in bringing him back.
Credit the Trail Blazers’ player development staff on the improved all-around play of Plumlee. Still on his rookie contract, Plumlee’s ability to become a facilitator in the Blazers’ offense has been his biggest improvement. With improved free-throw shooting, Plumlee could eventually remain on the court during key stretches of the game.
Ed Davis and Al-Farouq Aminu
Portland was ahead of the curve when it signed Davis and Aminu last summer. Although a bit overpriced at the time, both players’ contracts will be under value when free agency hits in July. They are in their primes and have been key contributors to Portland’s surprising success this season.
UP FOR DEBATE
Since coming back from offseason hip surgery, Gerald Henderson has been a vital contributor off the bench. In the final year of his contract, Henderson has provided much needed veteran leadership.
The Blazers are in the driver’s seat with the restricted free agent. Leonard, who was superb in the first-round series against Memphis last season, has been up and down this year. However, there aren’t many 23-year-old 7-footers who can stretch the floor like Leonard while also possessing big upside.
WORTH TAKING THE CALL
Injuries and the Blazers’ mix of youth have limited veteran Chris Kaman’s opportunities this season. Kaman, 33, is in the final year of his contract with a cap hit of $5 million.
NO-TRADE CLAUSE OR WITH A RESTRICTION
Plumlee, who was acquired from Brooklyn, cannot be traded back to the Nets during this season.
Harkless, who was acquired from Orlando, cannot be traded back to the Magic during this season.
Noah Vonleh and Gerald Henderson
Vonleh and Henderson were acquired from Charlotte and cannot be traded back to the Hornets during this season.
MOVE THAT PUSHES THE NEEDLE
Portland could be one of the sleeper teams at the deadline.
The Blazers, with close to $20 million in cap space, could take on contracts with the goal of obtaining a future pick or key asset.
TREASURE CHEST OF PICKS
Filled with current players
Portland owes Denver a lottery-protected pick from the Arron Afflalo trade. If the Blazers finish in the lottery, they will retain the pick.
Denver will receive a lottery-protected pick in 2017 if Portland misses the playoffs this year. The pick will turn into a 2019 second-rounder if the Trail Blazers retain it.
Portland currently cannot trade a first-round pick until 2019.
AVAILABLE TRADE EXCEPTIONS
POST-TRADE DEADLINE ROSTER MOVEMENT
Keep an eye on the Blazers’ cap space after the deadline.
League rules stipulate that teams must have a minimum of 90 percent salary counting against the cap. The Trail Blazers are roughly $13 million short.
If Portland does fall short then the difference will be shared among the current players on the roster.
SNEAK PEEK TOWARD JULY
Cap space for Portland will vary based on the Blazers’ free-agent holds. Portland could have close to $25 million in room and still be able to bring back restricted free agents Leonard, Harkless and Crabbe.
Because of a low cap hold for Crabbe, look for the Blazers to go free-agent shopping and then circle back to bring their own free agents into the fold.
Similar to the Anthony Davis situation in New Orleans, NBA writers will play a small role this offseason in determining the Blazers’ cap space.
Lillard, who signed a rookie max extension this past summer, is eligible for the “Rose Rule.” Lillard, who earned All-NBA honors in 2013-14, is eligible to receive 27.5 percent of the projected cap if he again earns the honor and his cap number for 2016-17 would jump to $23 million. The difference in being voted All-NBA is $13 million over the length of his contract.
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