(Cap) Space, The Final Frontier

As Ben foreshadowed in his piece below, in response to a training camp conversation we're going to update the Blazers' salary cap status and possibilities today.  This is not to infer that a trade is any more or less likely than it was yesterday.  But trading remains a possibility as the season starts so we want to cover it.  As always in these matters we are indebted to our friend Storyteller and his excellent site.

As of this moment the Blazers have no salary cap space to speak of.  Summer hasn't officially ended yet and during the summer months Portland's three Euro-prospects (Klaver, Koponen, and Freeland) create holds on the salary cap.  With everybody else in place and Darius Miles a $9,000,000 albatross shadowing the Blazers' ship Portland's well is dry.  Any trade made before the start of the season will have to conform to normal standards with no wiggle room.

However when the clock strikes twelve our European Cinderellas will flee the ball, leaving behind glass slippers and a cap space footprint of about $1.9 million.  Theoretically the Blazers can preserve that much cap space to facilitate trades going into the season.

The only hitch in the giddy-up is the infamous 15th roster spot.  Right now the Blazers haven't committed to anybody filling that space so there's no cap imprint associated with it.  As soon as Portland decides to carry that 15th player his salary goes on the cap.  The Blazers are looking at several players but the most likely two seem to be Ime Udoka and Jarron Collins.  As BlazerFanSince1970 kindly pointed out in the comments below, veteran minimum contracts weigh against the cap at slightly above $800,000.  That would put the Blazers down to $1.1 million in cap space.  However any trade that potentially brings a team over the cap functions as an over-the-cap trade, invoking the 125%+100K rule we're all familiar with.   Therefore if Portland ends up signing a 15th man the cap space will become superfluous in many situations.  The 125%+100K will give more than $1.1 million in leeway unless Portland trades just a single player straight up and that player makes less than $4 million per year.

But leaving aside that bit of confusion, the Blazers will basically have between $1.1 million and $1.9 million in cap space to trade with when the season begins.  This amount can be added to a player's salary to facilitate a (slightly) lopsided deal.

It would be impossible to detail all of the trade possibilities that would fit under these parameters so we'll contain ourselves to the most likely.  Without prejudice against them as players or people, it seems clear that Steve Blake, Travis Outlaw, and Jerryd Bayless are the most obvious candidates to move.  Blake and Outlaw have expiring contracts.  Bayless is talented, jammed up, and probably unhappy.  Here are the salaries in question:

  • Blake    $4.0 million
  • Outlaw $3.6 million
  • Bayless $2.1 million

From this we can derive a range of possibilities.  The minimum--just trading Bayless plus using the minimum cap space available--yields a figure of $3.2 million.  (Though obviously figures below $2 million are also a possibility utilizing just the Bayless contract.  The Blazers aren't required to use the extra space.)  The maximum practical figure--combining Blake and Outlaw with the most potential space available--gives us $9.5 million.  As you can see, that's quite a gap.  And the $9.5 million isn't far-fetched either.  A team taking Blake, Outlaw, and the cap space would see the entire amount come off of its cap at the end of the season.

Several of the players rumored to be available at last year's trade deadline fall within these parameters.  Note that we're strictly talking salary here, not equitable talent exchange or desirability for the Blazers.  Charlotte's Gerald Wallace makes $9.5 million as does Chicago's Kirk Hinrich.  Golden State's Stephen Jackson makes $7.7 million.  Only Al Jefferson on Minnesota lies outside this range.  We could get Hedo Turkoglu back, as he makes $9 million.  Utah's Carlos Boozer lies outside the range unless you throw in significant extra players.  Obviously far less famous (and probably more suitable) names are also possibilities.  This list just reinforces the impression that not all was lost with the expiring of Raef LaFrentz's Expiring Contract.

So what will the Blazers be doing with this money?  Likely nothing at first.  The smart move here is to watch for teams that hoped to excel but instead fall flat.  At least one or two teams around the league will see their fortunes change in the first months of the season and will begin to think about rebuilding instead of playing expensive, losing hands.  That's where Portland can come in with the offer of a little bit of young talent (more than a little if you want to consider some other players on the roster as available) or a lot of salary relief.  Those deals don't always go through but the possibility is there.

The Blazers' roster is closer than ever to its settled form but it's not quite there yet.  We're not through the trade window and the Blazers have reasonably strong cards left to play.  We'll see what happens.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)  

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