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A look at the key offseason moves and changes for every team in the league. Next up are the Portland Trail Blazers.
The glue guy and the bargain with a risk
The price might seem steep, but free-agent addition Evan Turner brings a different dimension to a team that lost in the second round of the playoffs.
Turner, coming off a career year in Boston, brings durability (he’s missed only two games the past four seasons), versatility (he can play point guard, shooting guard and small forward) and the experience to either start or come off the bench.
The Trail Blazers also benefited from Kevin Durant’s decision to join Golden State by adding former Warriors center Festus Ezeli, whom Golden State could no longer afford.
The signing of Ezeli, considered one of the best bargains of the summer at two years and $15 million, does come with risk.
The 26-year-old missed 36 games last season after left knee surgery and will be sidelined the next six weeks following a minor procedure on the same knee.
The power of restricted free agency
No team benefited more from restricted free agency than the Trail Blazers.
With Portland having the ability to match offer sheets from opposing teams, former draft picks Allen Crabbe, Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless returned.
Brooklyn forced the Trail Blazers’ hand with its $75 million offer sheet to Crabbe, but he’s under contract with Portland for the next four seasons, along with Leonard and Harkless.
The rookie extension … again
Another summer, another rookie extension.
After signing franchise point guard Damian Lillard last summer to a max rookie extension, Portland turned its attention this July to 2015-16 NBA Most Improved Player C.J. McCollum.
With Lillard and McCollum under contract until 2021, Portland now has the best young backcourt in the league and one that could challenge to be the best overall in the near future.
1. Damian Lillard $24,328,425
2. Allen Crabbe $18,500,000
3. Evan Turner $16,393,443
4. Meyers Leonard $9,213,483
5. Maurice Harkless $8,988,764
6. Al-Farouq Aminu $7,680,065
7. Festus Ezeli $7,400,000
8. Ed Davis $6,666,667
9. C.J. McCollum $3,219,579
10. Noah Vonleh $2,751,360
11. Mason Plumlee $2,328,530
12. Shabazz Napier $1,350,120
13. Pat Connaughton $874,636
14. Jake Layman $600,000
15. Luis Montero $874,636
16. Grant Jerrett $980,431
17. Tim Quarterman $543,471
Anderson Varejao $1,984,005
Salary table 2016
Guaranteed salaries $110,370,072
Dead money $1,984,005
Tax variance $542,755
Free-agent cap holds $0
Incomplete roster charge $0
Salaries: cap $114,677,615
Salaries: tax $115,220,370
Salary cap $94,143,000
Luxury tax $113,287,000
Cap space None ($20,534,615 over)
Tax room None ($1,933,370 over)
Free agency was all about timing.
Not often does a team with three restricted free agents have the flexibility to retain their players while using cap space to fill out the roster.
With $27 million in room, Portland was able to add Turner and Ezeli using cap space while leaving the $16 million in cap holds of Leonard, Harkless and Crabbe counting against the cap.
Portland had Turner and Ezeli under contract before Crabbe’s $2.7 million cap hold was replaced by an $18 million cap hit.
Portland entered the summer with one of the league’s lowest payrolls, but now will enter the season among the top three in salaries.
Although Portland is currently $1.9 million over the tax line, releasing two of its three non-guaranteed contracts would put Portland back under the tax.
Free agents signed in the offseason cannot be traded until either Dec. 15, Jan. 15 or for three months if they signed after Sept. 15.
Turner, Ezeli, Grant Jerrett and Tim Quarterman cannot be traded until Dec. 15.
Crabbe, Leonard and Harkless cannot be traded until Jan. 15 because their new contracts exceed their previous ones by 20 percent.
The offer sheet Crabbe signed with Brooklyn included a 15-percent trade bonus.
Because Portland matched, Crabbe has a no-trade clause for one year and would need to consent to being traded.
The Nets, however, are not eligible to acquire him until next July.
Unlike free agents who sign contracts, there is no three-month waiting period for players who sign rookie extensions.
McCollum does have a poison-pill restriction for one season that closes a loophole for acquiring teams interested in him.
Although $3.2 million counts against the Trail Blazers’ cap, McCollum’s artificial salary is $21.9 million, which would be used by the acquiring team.
Portland would still use the value of McCollum’s fourth-year salary ($3.2 million) and not the poison-pill number ($21.9 million) in determining the amount of salary it is allowed to receive in a trade.
For trade purposes, the NBA uses the average of McCollum’s fourth year of his rookie contract and the extension to determine the value of his contract.
If the summer was any indication of the cost of big men, Mason Plumlee should end up being well-compensated.
The question: Will Plumlee get a new contract or enter restricted free agency next summer?
The Trail Blazers, with $121 million in guaranteed contracts, can take two different approaches.
Portland can try to be aggressive in re-signing Plumlee because it won’t have cap flexibility next summer.
But with their high payroll, the Blazers could also take a wait-and-see approach and look to shed salary next offseason before taking on additional payroll.
Starter Bench Bench
PG Damian Lillard Shabazz Napier Tim Quarterman
SG C. J. McCollum Allen Crabbe Pat Connaughton
SF Evan Turner Al-Farouq Aminu Maurice Harkless/Luis Montero
PF Ed Davis Meyers Leonard/Noah Vonleh Jake Layman/Grant Jerrett
C Mason Plumlee Festus Ezeli
Portland has 14 guaranteed contracts and three players with partial/non-guaranteed deals: Tim Quarterman, Luis Montero and Grant Jerrett.
The Trail Blazers still have the $2.89 million room mid-level but using that exception would likely cement Portland as a tax team.
SNEAK PEEK TO NEXT SUMMER
With Plumlee as the possible lone free agent, Portland’s focus next summer will shift from free agency to the draft and balancing its projected payroll.
The Trail Blazers will likely only have the tax mid-level exception next July.
KEEP AN EYE ON
Since entering the NBA in 2014, the former UConn star is on his third team in three seasons.
Napier, penciled in as the backup to Lillard, will need to have a strong training camp for the Trail Blazers’ coaching staff to reward him with backup minutes.
If the former first-round pick stumbles out of the gate, don’t be surprised if Portland uses a backup platoon that could include McCollum and Turner.
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