I would give Neil Olshey an A grade for the draft. Some have disagreed, but unless he had traded away the picks in a retooling strategy, I love what he got for the #6 and #11 picks.
But the Blazers went into free-agent season with about $16M-$17M in cap room, depending on whether they were willing to give up Claver or not. They could have increased that by about another $2M by waiving Shawne Williams and stretching his cap hit over 3 years instead of 1 year. So Neil Olshey had a tremendous amount of cap room to sign free-agents or make some sort of unbalanced trade.
So how has he used all of that cap room to improve the Blazers so far?
He hasn't got anything from that cap room. Zip! Nada! Nothing!
Why? Because so far this summer Neil Olshey hasn't needed any of our cap room:
1. He signed Claver ($1.3M) and Freeland ($3M). He could and may have used the $5.0M MLE to do that.
2. He signed JJ Hickson ($4M). We had Bird Rights on JJ, so he could have done that even with us over the salary cap.
3. He signed and traded Felton and Thomas for Jeffries, Euro rights, and a future 2nd round pick while creating a $3.5M trade exception. We had Early Bird Rights on Felton, so he could have used that exception to do that deal even with us over the salary cap.
4. He matched Batum's offer sheet. We had Bird Rights so he could have done that even with us over the cap.
5. He signed Ronnie Price to a minimum contract. He could have done that with us over the cap.
So nothing Olshey has done this summer needed a single dollar of cap room. In fact, we may have never actually went under the cap if we still have not renounced our cap holds on Przy, Craig Smith, Jonny Flynn, Travis Diener (a blast from the past), the $3.5M trade exception, and the Bi-annual Trade Exception. But we can still renounce those cap holds and be about $2.6M or $4.7M under the cap whenever we wish, depending on whether we stretched the cap hit from waiving Williams. So for all practical purposes we are (can be at a snap of the fingers) under the cap as Neil Olshey said yesterday.
If the Blazers don't take on any new contracts guaranteed for more than a year, they will have about $6.2M to $7.2M (depending on the Williams stretch period) in cap space next summer if they let Hickson, Jeffries, and Price walk away (assumes they pick up the rookie option years on Babbitt, Williams, and Smith).
So the bottom line is that so far Olshey has got nothing from all of that cap room. Is that what we expected after having a huge amount of cap room to spend for the first time in many, many years? Were there free agents worth signing? Could/should he have targeted a restricted free agent with a large offer sheet that might not have been matched? Could he have used the cap room for an unbalanced trade? Did he do the right thing and just preserve $6.2M to $7.2M in cap room for next year, even though we would lose our $5.5M MLE next year if we used that cap room?
I think it can be argued that Olshey didn't do anything stupid that made us worse. But could he have done more to make us better? Will he still get something from the small amount of cap room remaining? Are you happy or disappointed about how our cap room has been used?
Edit: My grade (B) and my reasoning is explained in the comments below.