So the NBA Year is ending Saturday. And the new year is Sunday! Time to call the agents of all the free agents out there and get a plan together. So what's the Blazers' plan? They have $10,354,764 in cap space to play with while holding on to all the cap holds for Batum, Hickson, Freeland and Claver. (All others renounced). While that is more than the Portland Trailblazers have ever had available in free agency, it isn't exactly a lot. No max contracts there.
So should we save it for next year? I don't see how. Signing Batum will eat into that cap space. Maybe as much as 5-6 million of it. At that point, it will have been better to stay over the cap and get the full MLE exception. So if the Blazers want to use this asset called cap space, it needs to be this year.
Of course, there are a lot of things you can do with cap space. Sign free agents, make unbalanced trades, get opportunities that no one else can get. Except that this off-season, nearly everyone is able to go under the cap somehow. This year the advantage of keeping it around isn't as valuable as it has the potential to be.
So let's use it.
On who? That is an excellent question. We just drafted Damian Lillard with the expectation that he will start at PG for us. We drafted Meyers Leonard with the expectation that he will grow into a starting center in this league. We have some good players already, but enough holes that improvement is welcome.
Or is it? Would it be better to just suck it up for one more year, get another good draft pick and then go forward? I don't know. You're not going to be a bottom dwelling team if Lillard develops like you hope in conjunction with LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum. You're not going to win a championship with that, but you're not winning the lottery except through extreme luck with that either.
So lets get better now. Great! But how should we do that? Well, let's see. I'm going to assume we keep Batum.
We are short on bigs. But we also have Hickson and Freeland on tap. Let's add them:
C Leonard/Freeland (That's kind of a leap for Freeland, I know)
Seems to me that while Matthews is a fine SG/SF, the SG position could definitely afford an upgrade. Though, that said, so could Center. Freeland is a little small for it. Leonard is going to have a learning curve. And Aldridge doesn't want to fill in there any more than he has to. Yet right now, looking at our starting lineup, even with a better center, we only have two threats to score, and one's a rookie PG. I'm going to opt to argue for upgrading the SG position.
There are going to be a couple of ways that this could be done. Signing J. J. Hickson as soon as possible will help us tremendously. He's not worth the $5,886,343 cap hold. He is worth $3,000,000 in my book. If you can sign him the first minute out of the gate for that, it takes our available free agent moneys up to $13,241,107.
Best SG available in free agency is Eric Gordon. He will be a restricted free agent. New Orleans has stated publicly that they will match any offer Eric Gordon receives. But a max deal for him would be $12,922,194.
Oh, how convenient! I love it when numbers work out just right! So what if they don't? What if Hickson gets $4 million? Then use the stretch provision on Shawne Williams. What if Hickson wants $5 million? Renounce him outright.
My thinking is this. New Orleans just drafted Austin Rivers. And I don't think they are intending him to play behind Eric Gordon. They may try to play them together, but that's a mess just waiting to happen. Monty Williams wouldn't do that. Call New Orleans' bluff. Don't get suckered into a sign and trade. Make them make the hard decision. Offer Eric Gordon the max. And if we get him to bite, that's awesome. In fact, we'll know if he will before the gates open on, July 11th is it this year? Have the plan in place, and in three days, we'll know if it worked.
Because here's then what we'd have:
And that's not a bad reload. I don't think that team is quite contender worthy yet, but it does have assets. And assets are what you use to get better. The room exception is still available for filling in roster holes. Przybilla may be up for another year with part of that, or for a vet minimum. Claver could come over if he wanted and push Babbitt for the backup SF. It's a team with room to grow.
Now, if New Orleans does decide to match, well that's Olshey's job to have a backup plan. I'm just throwing it out as an idea to see if it makes sense. I think it does. But maybe there are better scenarios out there?