Portland Trail Blazers Cap and Roster in the Summer of 2014

Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Spo

Explore questions about the Portland Trail Blazers' cap and roster status heading into the Summer of 2014.

Today's Mailbag covers cap and roster questions, plus an interesting signing option!

Dave,

I've found my first bench target for the Blazers if I'm GM. Elton Brand wants to play another year.

I think he'd be great at both spelling LA or Lopez off the bench and at helping the young guys already here develop their rebounding and defense. $3M for one year keeps you flexible long term. What do you think?

Thanks,
MG

I've liked Elton Brand as a potential pick-up for the last couple seasons. Filling in well for Atlanta last year serves as a recommendation that he's not quite done yet. The Blazers could use him.

Here's the problem. I don't see any way the Blazers can afford to sign Brand for $3 million, even for a year. They'll have three levels of salary slot to work with:

--A slightly-over $5 million mid-level exception

--A slightly-over $2 million bi-annual exception

--The ability to sign as many minimum-level contracts as desired to fill the roster. (Keep in mind that, absent waiving somebody, they'll only have 2 roster spots available come fall...1 if they keep Mo.)

The Blazers are allowed to split the mid-level exception between 2 or more players. Brand could fit comfortably under that amount and leave Portland something to spend. But if Brand eats $3 million of that exception, the Blazers are left (in effect) with two, $2 million slots. Given their limited roster space and their need for help, that doesn't seem efficient. You can't get the same type of player at $2 million that you can with the full $5 million. They'd be forfeiting the opportunity to get a better player to rent Brand for a year.

The Blazers will likely remain over the cap for the foreseeable future. Proper use of their mid-level exceptions will be a key to their growth. They have to get the most talent they can with each application. Ideally those players would provide 2-3 years of service at least, helping the team develop instead of providing a temporary band-aid. If the core gets bigger the can afford to think about renting finishing pieces, but they're not there yet.

If the Blazers could get Brand to sign for the $2.1 million bi-annual exception they should consider it strongly. But in this instance the extra million would probably put him out of their price range even though they clearly have that much money to spend.

Hi Dave,

I'm a long time BE reader with a question that I can't seem to find an answer to anywhere.

With Mo Williams opting out of his contract the Blazers will theoretically enter July 1 with a team salary of about $62 million, $1.2 million under the projected salary cap of $63.2 million. This would leave them eligible for the "Room" Mid Level Exception worth $2.732 million and the Bi-Annual Exception but unable to use the full, "non-tax" MLE of $5.305. Would the Blazers need to adjust their payroll before the new CBA year to exceed the salary cap number and thus, make themselves eligible for the full MLE? Or could the Blazers exceed the $63.2 million threshold after the July moratorium (e.g. sign Mo Williams to a contract worth greater than $1.2 million annually or using the BAE to sign another bench player) and then be eligible for the full "non-tax" MLE?

Thanks a bunch!

Kiefer

For this answer I turned to our resident master of capology, Storyteller. (His salary site can be found HERE.) His answer:

Kiefer, you're asking some great questions. Calculating Team Salary is actually a pretty complex task. A franchise's Team Salary figure is more than just the sum of the salaries of its active players. (If you're interested in researching deeper about Team Salary, I recommend looking at Larry Coon's FAQ #14, or if you're really adventurous, reading Article VII, Section 4 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement itself) In the case of the Blazers, come July 1st, the major components of their Team Salary will be a total of:

1) Salary figures for players (both active players as well as any waived players who still count against the cap) for the 2014-15 season
2) Cap holds for any unrenounced free agents (for example, Mo Williams' cap hold will be about $3.18 million)
3) The amounts of any exceptions that they hold (MLE, BAE, trade exceptions, etc.)
4) Cap holds for any unsigned 1st round draft picks held by the team

{An important note here: not all of these numbers are used when trying to calculate a team's salary figure for Luxury Tax purposes, but all of them ARE used when trying to determine if a team is over the Salary Cap or not}

Now, if after adding all these pieces together, Portland's Team Salary was still below the Salary Cap Figure, then the Blazers would lose any exceptions that they held and would be in the position that you write about - able to use cap space then having a Room Exception to use after going over the cap. But in Portland's case, this doesn't look to happen. Just adding the player salaries to the cap holds for free agents Williams and Watson alone should put the team above the expected $63 million Salary Cap Figure. And when you then add in a $5.3 million MLE and a $2.1 million BAE to the calculation, Portland's Team Salary looks to be well above the Cap Figure in July, ensuring that they will be able to keep both of those exceptions for use during the summer.

So the short answer is: no, the Blazers don't have to make any roster changes or adjust their payroll in order to be able to use their full non-taxpayer MLE this summer.

- Jeff

Dave,

The Blazers need more help than they have roster spots available. Some of the players will develop but not all. Who do you cut if we need to make space for a new guy?

Mike

Wow...this sounds like a crowd-source-worthy answer if I've ever heard one. Which means:

A. I haven't given it enough thought to come up with a great response. And...

B. No matter what I say I'm gonna get killed by somebody.

So how about it, faithful readers? If you needed one more roster slot for Great Signing X, which of the current Blazers could you stand to lose? Earl Watson is already gone so you can't choose him. Share your player and reasoning in the comment section. And keep those questions coming to the address right after my name!

--Dave blazersub@gmail.com / @DaveDeckard

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