Summer agenda: Portland Trail Blazers

Bobby Marks
·The Vertical

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.

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

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

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.

TEAM NEEDS
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.

SUMMER CAP BREAKDOWN

Guaranteed

  2016-17

    Insider info

1. Damian Lillard

  $21,597,000

    Rose rule ralary: $23.7 million

2. Al-Farouq Aminu

  $7,680,065

    None

3. Ed Davis

  $6,666,667

    None

4. C.J. McCollum

  $3,219,579

    Eligible for rookie

5. Noah Vonleh

  $2,751,360

    None

6. Mason Plumlee

  $2,328,530

    Eligible for rookie

7. Pat Connaughton

  $874,636

    None

Non/Partial

  2016-17

    Guarantee date

8. Luis Montero

  $874,636

    None

9. Cliff Alexander

  $874,636

    June 30

FA cap holds

  2016-17

    Free-agent status

10. Gerald Henderson

  $9,000,000

    Full Bird rights

11. Meyers Leonard

  $7,689,700

    Restricted/full Bird rights

12. Mo Harkless

  $7,235,148

    Restricted/full Bird rights

13. Chris Kaman

  $6,520,000

    Early Bird rights

14. Brian Roberts

  $3,711,422

    Early Bird rights

15. Allen Crabbe

  $2,725,003

    Restricted/full Bird rights

DEAD MONEY
Anderson Vareajo, $1,984,005

CAP PICTURE

Guaranteed

  $45,117,837

Non/partial

  $1,749,272

FA cap holds

  $36,881,273

First-round holds

  $0

Minimum holds

  $0

Dead money

  $1,984,005

Total

  $85,732,387

Salary cap

  $92,000,000

Cap space

  $6,267,613

PROJECTED 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.

JUNE DRAFT PICKS
First round: To Denver

Second round: To Chicago

FUTURE PICKS
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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