This topic came up a week or so ago, but I didn't have the time to really research my facts to support my opinion so I let it go until today. But I have found the time and I would like to share all of this information for those who didn't know or have the time to look it up.
For those that want just the summary skip to the end.
The first thing anyone should do when trying to answer questions about the Salary cap, or specifically the Blazers salary cap, is to look at these two websites, Storyteller's salaries and the NBA salary cap FAQ. Storyteller has already updated his site to include both Andre Miller's contract, and B-Roy's new deal, (although Roy's exact numbers will not be known until next year when the official salary cap numbers are released, Storyteller is approximating what they will be).
Another important piece of info was the memo the NBA sent out this summer to all the teams, in which it projected the salary cap and luxury tax threshold for the 2010-2011 season, ESPN's report on it is here. In the memo it gives the official salary cap number for the 09-10 season, ($57.7 million) the projected cap in 2010-11, ($50.4-53.6 million) and the projected Luxury tax threshold for 2010-2011, ($65-61.2 million).
What is not known is what the cap will do after that, many believe it will go back up in 2011-12, but it could stay the same or go down more, we just don't know yet. I believe it will go back up, a resession lasts for a limited amount of time, sooner or later the American economy will get going again, and when that happens, the NBA's Basketball Related Income, (BRI) will start to go up again as well.
Now for the Blazers.
So far for the 2009-2010 season the Blazers have committed to $54,076,568 in salaries, this includes Miles contract, and Andre's deal, but doesn't include Pendergraph's or Cunningham's, as they have yet to sign deals. Once they are signed, (KP reportedly said they would be signed before camp) the team will have 13 players on contracts, which means they might pick up 1 more, but it is doubtful they go into the season with 15 players on contracts. $54 million is below the actual salary cap for this season, which was set at $57.7 million, add another million or so to the Blazers total to account for the second rounders, and it leaves the Blazers with about $2.7 million or so of cap room once the season starts. I believe that if they use this, it will be in a trade that helps bring a player back in a position of need for a player on a smaller deal.
The biggest question mark in my mind is Martell Webster.
If he is healthy then the Blazers will have to make a decision, Webster or Outlaw will have to go. There is just not enough playing time for them both to stay, because while Outlaw was at his best at the 4, he only played about 10 mins per game there, and the rest of his time was at the 3. With a health Webster and Batum there will be no minutes for Outlaw at the 3 this year, and he will not be happy with 10-15 behind LMA. If Webster isn't healthy, then the rotation will be the same as last year as far as the SF spot is concerned. It is my belief that either Webster will prove to be healthy and Outlaw will be traded for a true back up 4 during the season, or after the season Outlaw will not be retained because Webster will be healthy at that point, and the Blazers will need to spend their MLE on a back up 4.
It is my belief that LaMarcus will sign a contract extention this summer, he has said he will, as well as KP has said he wants to get it done. It was rumored that LaMarcus was asking for about $12 million to start with annual raises, while the Blazers were thinking $10 million plus raises. Lets split the middle and say he signs for $11 million +10.5% annual raises, which would put him toward the top of the PF pack in terms on contracts, except for the MVP types like KG.
Ok now on to the salaries for 2010-11.
At this point the Blazers have 9 players, (I am counting LMA amount them with an assumed contract as discussed above) under contract for 2010-11, with salaries totaling $55,491,628. As I talked about before the NBA has projected the 2010-11 salary cap to be between $50.4 and $53.6 million, so the Blazers will be over the cap next year, but they will be well under the projected luxury tax threshold of $61.2 to $65 million. This is important as the team will need to sign at least 5 more players to get to 14 roster spots. Those 9 players under contract will be:
As you can see there are some holes the Blazers will need to fill, but nothing of major need. If Batum and Bayless really develop this year, the team will basically be set, only needing a back up 4, which can be filled pretty easily. But Bayless doesn't project to get major minutes this year, so if he doesn't earn the trust of the coaching staff, then Blake could be brought back as an insurance policy. My guess is it would be a cheap option to back up Miller for 1 more season if needed, maybe a 2 or 3 year deal for $6 to $8 million. However, I believe in Bayless, and more importantly KP and Nate really believe in Bayless so I don't believe Blake will be with this team after this year.
As you can see, the team while over the cap will have many options available to it, depending on their player development they could be set, not needing to make any major moves, or they could need to make a move and have the ability to do so with their MLE.
The Blazers in 2011-12.
This is the year where Greg Oden's extention will kick in, he will have to work out that extention during the 2010 summer next year. I believe Greg will silence his doubters and critic's this year, but i don't believe he will be Shaq or Dwight 2.0. However, that doesn't mean he won't get a monster deal, because just decent big men get big money, just ask Mr. Bogut, or that white guy who plays 5 mins behind Dwight. Greg's extention will heavily depend on his play this coming year, and since I believe he will be awsome and avg great stats, (15/13/3) I also believe he will get a monster deal, but not a max deal. My best guess at this point is something starting at about $12.5 million and increasing from there. That is not that far off of the max, so if he does end up earning that type of contract it will not completely handcuff the Blazers.
Figuring in that extention, the Blazers will have 8 players under contract in 2011-12 for a total of $60,036,969. The one player they will lose is Joel, who's contract expires, (yes I believe he will pick up his player option). If Greg really develops like I just explained above then Joel will be too expensive for the Blazers to keep as a back up center, and as such Joel will find work elsewhere. This leaves the Blazers looking for a back up center, and power forward, unless they found him in 2010-11 and signed him to a multi-year deal.
The Blazers in 2012-13
This is the summer that many fans are worried about, because of Rudy's, Batum's, and to a lesser extent, Bayless's extentions coming up, and they have a right to be. As you can see the Blazers will be very close to the Luxury tax line in 2011-12, only about a million dollars away, unless it goes up, (not counting any players that may be signed between now and then). There are a couple of items to look at, first is Miller's contract expires, (if the team picks up the 3rd year) at the end of the 2011-12 season, while Rudy, Batum and Bayless's possible extentions would not take effect until the 2012-13 season.
The other thing to think about is 2012-13 is a team option year on Webster's contract, so if he never fully heals the team might not pick up that option, or if they believe that Batum is the real deal, and needs 30 mins on the floor they won't pick it up. So that is another $5.7 million to use on extentions for Batum, Rudy and Bayless.
Let me put this another way, forgetting about FA signings and rookies that might be drafted by the team between now and then, in 2012-13 the team will have just 3 players under contract if they so choose, B-Roy, LaMarcus, and Oden, who's salaries would total about $43,603,580. That is alot of cash for 3 players for sure, but it doesn't seem so bad when you think that the salary cap will be between $55 and $60 million. If Batum, Rudy and Bayless all prove they are major rotation players then they will get paid, all of them. And if we say their avg salary comes out to about $8 million each in 2012-13 that would make the Blazers cap number $67,603,580, which is above the cap and pretty close to the luxury tax line.
If this happened, the Blazers would be over the cap and only have 6 players under contract, which is why many people fear a player like Rudy will be traded away. If Paul Allen really wanted to keep them all he could, there are other teams who are paying between $70 and $80 million in payroll for their contenders, which is about what it would take to keep all of these players money wise. Is Paul Allen ready to do that again? Even if he is, is there enough minutes on a team to keep everyone happy? Will Batum, Rudy and Bayless even develop into deserving those type of contracts? So many questions, and so few answers that only time can tell.
So my point in writing this ever too long post, is this: These is no need for the Blazers to make a rash decision on Rudy, Batum or Bayless right now because of a fear that they will not be able to afford them later. They have until the 2011-12 season to make those decisions. But for us fans, the fear of losing a fan fav like Rudy is very real.