Summer agenda: Portland Trail Blazers

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·The Vertical
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The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a 20-year executive with the Nets, offers his thoughts on the offseason plans of NBA teams whose seasons have ended.

Selling vision to free agents
The first question a free agent will ask a team is, “What is the plan going forward?”

Fortunately, the Trail Blazers have a plan in place.

They have a franchise player in Damian Lillard, stability on the coaching front with Terry Stotts, a young core that continues to develop and little turnover on a roster that reached the West semifinals.

With the possibility of creating a max salary slot, Portland already is one step ahead of teams when it comes to July 1.

Timing is key

Damian Lillard is the key to the Blazers' plans. (AP)
Damian Lillard is the key to the Blazers' plans. (AP)

The benefit in restricted agency is that Portland controls the process up to a point.

Building relationships with agents is one element of a general manager’s job that goes unnoticed by the public.

The trust that GM Neil Olshey has built with restricted free agents Meyers Leonard, Allen Crabbe and Maurice Harkless, along with their agents, will be critical.

Leading up to free agency, it will be important for Olshey to get a baseline on what his own free agents will cost. Although the market, team needs and cap space will dictate the process, having a clear understanding of his players’ preliminary salary expectations will shape Portland’s direction.

Portland wants to avoid having one of its players sign an offer sheet with another team in early July. If that happens the cap space the Trail Blazers have created could eventually be lost.

The rookie extensions
Unlike last summer when Portland extended Lillard on July 1, the approach the Trail Blazers take with C.J. McCollum and Mason Plumlee could go a different way.

Both players will count a combined $13.8 million toward the cap in 2016-17, and that number could double on the open market next summer. With the cap set to rise to $109 million in 2017, the benefit of leaving their cap holds on the books could give Portland flexibility going forward.

If Portland decides to extend either player, it will not be until the fall when the market has settled and the Trail Blazers get a feel for how their books are lined up for 2017.

Portland showed last July how important it is to have a Plan B when LaMarcus Aldridge left via free agency.

Now the focus shifts from retooling the roster and identifying the right pieces to taking the next step.

Each player the Trail Blazers acquired last summer via free agency or trades fit into the team’s philosophy of remaining competitive while also having the flexibility. The rookie contracts of Plumlee and Noah Vonleh, and the cap-friendly deals of Ed Davis and Al-Farouq Aminu are clear examples of the plan.

Portland is in a unique position, capable of bringing back its current roster, signing its key restricted free agents and perhaps acquiring a key free agent with a max salary slot.




    Insider info

1. Damian Lillard


    Rose rule ralary: $23.7 million

2. Al-Farouq Aminu



3. Ed Davis



4. C.J. McCollum


    Eligible for rookie

5. Noah Vonleh



6. Mason Plumlee


    Eligible for rookie

7. Pat Connaughton





    Guarantee date

8. Luis Montero



9. Cliff Alexander


    June 30

FA cap holds


    Free-agent status

10. Gerald Henderson


    Full Bird rights

11. Meyers Leonard


    Restricted/full Bird rights

12. Mo Harkless


    Restricted/full Bird rights

13. Chris Kaman


    Early Bird rights

14. Brian Roberts


    Early Bird rights

15. Allen Crabbe


    Restricted/full Bird rights

Anderson Vareajo, $1,984,005






FA cap holds


First-round holds


Minimum holds


Dead money




Salary cap


Cap space


The Blazers’ cap situation is fluid based on the $36.8 million in free-agent cap holds.

Portland does have the ability to create close to a max salary slot ($21 million) and still have the option of bringing back its restricted free agents. To do so, the cap holds of Gerald Henderson, Chris Kaman and Brian Roberts would need to be released.

First round: To Denver

Second round: To Chicago

First round
Portland has all future first-round picks.

The Trail Blazers have Cleveland’s first round pick in 2018 (protected Nos. 1-10).

Key rights to: Daniel Diez (Round 2, pick No. 54, 2015)

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