Hallelujah! The lockout is over! It looks like free agency and training camps will begin on December 9th (missing my birthday by one day, but I’ll take the gift anyway….) We don't know all the details about the new agreement yet. But we do have a good idea of where the team stands, salary-wise, as they enter the free agent period. So, after the jump, I'll give a summary of the team's position, followed by a bit of analysis:
Portland has 10 players with fully guaranteed contracts. Here, to the best of my understanding, is how they count against the cap:
Additionally, Portland has 2 players with contracts that are not guaranteed. Here is how they currently count against the cap, although they could be cut for cap savings:
Some of you will correctly point out that, up until recently, I had also included Ryan Gomes as a committed salary for the Trail Blazers. However, after going back and reading Article XXVII of the previous CBA, I recently came to realize that I had mis-interpreted the rules of setting off salary as it applied to Gomes. Assuming that the rules of set off will be the same under the new agreement, I now believe that his contract with the Clippers allows Portland to set off the entire amount of salary that was guaranteed when he was waived in the summer of 2010. Or, in layman’s terms, Gomes’ contract no longer counts anything against Portland’s cap. For more information on the rules of set off, I would point you to Larry Coon’s excellent FAQ on the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement.
To summarize, Portland is currently committed to $70,034,204 and has 12 players on their roster. This puts the team well over the anticipated salary cap of $58,044,000 and leaves them with only 3 open roster spots. It also puts them very close to the anticipated tax threshold of $70.307,000
Nolan Smith, as a 1st round pick in June’s draft, can be signed using the rookie player exception, based on a rookie scale amount. We don’t know exactly what that scale amount will be, although under the previous CBA, he could have made as little as $898,480 and as much as $1,347,720 in 2011-12. It’s rumored that rookie scale amounts could drop a bit under the new agreement, so a rounded guess of about $1.2 million sounds about right at this point.
2nd round draft pick Jon Diebler signed with the Greek club Panionios in August. As Portland probably did not have a roster spot available for him this season, this was probably for the best, both for Diebler and the for the Blazers.
Portland also holds the draft rights to previous 1st round picks Victor Claver and Joel Freeland. Neither is expected to sign with the Blazers this season.
Additionally, Portland holds the draft rights to previous 2nd round picks Doron Sheffer, Federico Kammerichs, Marcelo Nicola and Nedzad Sinanovic. None are expected to sign with the Blazers this season.
FREE AGENT RIGHTS
Portland has given Greg Oden a Qualifying Offer, so he is a restricted free agent. The Blazers have full Bird Rights on Oden.
Portland has given Patty Mills a Qualifying Offer, so he is also technically a restricted free agent. However, Mills recently signed with Xinjiang in China and the contract reportedly has no opt-out clause, so the assumption is that he will not be available to Portland this season. The Blazers will retain Early Bird Rights on Mills going into next season as long as they make him another qualifying offer at the end of the season.
Portland also holds Non Bird Rights on unrestricted free agent Travis Diener.
It’s important to remember that, with 12 players already on the roster, that only leaves room for – at most – 3 additional signings, unless the team waives one or more players that are currently under contract.
I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that Nolan Smith will be signed to a rookie scale contract. That brings the roster to 13 players.
There has been a lot of debate over the last few months as to what the Blazers should do with Greg Oden. There are essentially 6 possible options for Oden and the Blazers – and I have seen/heard proponents of nearly each and every one:
- Portland can withdraw the qualifying offer and allow Oden to leave as a free agent.
- Oden can sign the $8.79 million qualifying offer and be under contract for one year. He would then become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
- Portland can sign Oden to a contract different from the qualifying offer, one that represents more or less money than the qualifying offer for one or more years.
- Oden can sign an offer sheet with another team. Portland then matches the offer to retain Oden.
- Oden can sign an offer sheet with another team. Portland then chooses not to match the offer.
- Oden signs no offer this year. Portland would then have the choice of whether or not to make him another qualifying offer in June.
Personally, I believe that the Blazers should seek to get Oden under contract for multiple years – either by him signing a direct offer from the team or by the Blazers matching a reasonable offer sheet from another team. However, I don’t think they should follow this path at any cost – if Oden demands a maximum or near-maximum contract offer or signs an offer sheet for that level of money, Portland will probably not bite. But if I had to guess, I’d bet that Oden is on the Blazers’ roster this season. That would give them 14 players on the roster.
Assuming all of this happens, the question would be what to do with that 15th roster spot? The franchise has some options:
- They could leave the spot open and only carry 14 players on the roster.
- They could sign a single free agent using the MLE or another exception.
- They could waive Earl Barron and/or Chris Johnson to free up another roster spot or two, which could be either filled or not filled (as long as the team met the minimum roster size rules of the new CBA).
So, understanding where the franchise sits, what do you think they should do during this short free agent period?