I have generally been thinking about the RLEC contract (the 'super-expiring' asset) in terms of what it can bring back at the trade deadline, but tonight I thought I would step through a possible scenario if we just sit tight. So, suppose we sit tight, let the contract fall off the books. I'm going to make (and justify) three assumptions of what would happen in the off season in such a scenario: 1) we relinquish the rights to restricted FAs Frye and Diogu, making them unrestricted FAs; 2) we pick up the team option on Outlaw; and 3) we don't pick up the team option on Blake, making him an unrestricted FA. (Hear me out, Blake fans, the plan doesn't necessarily mean losing Blake, though it is a risk.) Now, to justify the assumptions: 1) Frye and Diogu are out of the rotation and at this point have fairly limited value for the team, certainly the around 9M cap hold required for each to keep them as RFAs is not justified; 2) The 3.6M of Travis' option is less than his perceived value in the league, hence we would run a real risk of losing him to free agency if he becomes unrestricted; 3) Steve Blake is a big picture guy, who loves the organization and the town and whose first choice would be to come back. The mid-level exception would be a raise for him, so we would have plenty of room to sign him to a new, comfortable contract after any other free agent signings have been completed, with relatively limited risk that he would quickly bolt for another club. There is risk of losing Blake with this scenario, but it is, I believe, a moderate risk.
Okay, so under these assumptions, here's what our roster (for salary cap purposes) would be:
Joel Przybilla (6,857,725), Greg Oden (5,361,240), LaMarcus Aldridge (5,844,827), Travis Outlaw (3,600,000), Nicolas Batum (1,118,760), Martell Webster (4,319,654), Brandon Roy (3,910,816), Rudy Fernandez (1,165,320), Jerrod Bayless (2,143,080), Sergio Rodriguez (1,576,696), and Darius Miles (9,000,000). Further, we need to place a cap hold for Koponen and Freeland, which is (together) another 1,681,600.
This leaves a total of 46,579,718. Even if the salary cap doesn't rise, that gives us around 12M in cap space to sign a free agent or work through a jointly advantageous sign and trade, which is roughly the size of the LaFrentz contract anyhow. We then would be able to re-sign Blake if so desired, up to whatever is allowed under the CBA. Further, we have a tremendous number of young players if we want to then consolidate talent, either in that sign and trade, or perhaps on draft day.
This little exercise makes me quite comfortable with sitting tight and letting RLEC fall off the books -- the team reserves flexibility for improving the team in the off season, after having seen how things fall out through the rest of this season and the playoffs. Of course, if the perfect deal falls in their laps, pull the trigger, but having seen all of the tortuous trades that folks have been pitching, I'm just not seeing such a deal at this time, at least none that I believe the other team would entertain. Clearly broken teams like the Bulls will actually be easier trade partners at that time than they are now.
Anyhow, I offer this up as therapy for the trade deadline junkies. We may just have another roller-coaster draft day in our future! I think I've talked myself into being happy sitting tight. The one sticking point might be the risk of losing Blake, but I truly believe that he's 'on-board' enough with folks here that he and his agent would understand the rationale and play ball with the Blazers.