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Portland Trail Blazers: Wiggins Trade, Re-Signing Lillard, and Mo Williams

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We delve into the Mo Williams signing and a never-ending array of contract and free agent questions in this edition of the Blazer's Edge Mailbag.

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Even with all the discussion this summer, trades and contracts and cap questions still dominate the inbox! Let's have at it.

Dear Blazersedge,

With Cleveland possibly open to letting Wiggins go, would the Blazers be smart to pursue? Would some package involving Batum, McCollum, Leonard, Matthews, Barton and some picks entice a deal? Just hoping for something risky. When I see people like Hawes pass us up, I wonder if we made a mistake (remember the rumors of Phil Jackson coming to P-Town? Would we be talking about Hawes saying no still?).

Trader-Joe

Give it up, Bro. The Big Trade doesn't appear to be coming down the pike anytime soon. Maybe a mid-season move is in the offing or maybe the front office will surprise us, but all signs point to, "We're good, thanks."

If you want Wiggins, there's one way to get him: offer LaMarcus Aldridge. The Cavaliers made a decent-sized stink about parting with him even for Kevin Love. They wouldn't go for a package like you offered. If you waved Aldridge under their noses they might consider sniffing.

This, of course, would reset Portland's roster...not necessarily a bad thing. But honestly, a healthy Joel Embiid was the only guy I would have considered doing that for in this draft. He's got incredible talent and he's a big. I like Wiggins plenty too but he doesn't rise to the level of automatic franchise-changer for me. He probably will be one, but if I'm trading Aldridge I want a unique talent at a unique position. Embiid has those characteristics, Wiggins less so.

I don't believe Phil Jackson would have been able to do much more than Neil Olshey has done with the current roster. Jackson hasn't done much in New York besides re-sign and divest and I don't think Hawes or anyone else would be rushing to Portland just to sign their name under his.

Hi Dave,

As we all know, the Aldridge and Lillard contracts, and the cap flexibility that Olshey preaches about, are at the forefront of most BEdger's concerns. With that in mind, I'm curious about a scenario with Lillard and whether or not it will work with the current CBA.

After maxing Aldridge, could Olshey offer Lillard a two year extension at higher, but reasonable rate? LeBron and Lance Stephenson are both betting that the cap will go up significantly with a new TV deal in two years. If they wait now, they can sign much larger contracts due to the CBA's percentage rules. If Lillard signs this two year deal, it could allow the Blazers to still make a run at big free agent (ala, Marc Gasol), and be paid his worth when the cap room opens up.

Is this conceivable? Would the CBA allow it? Would Lillard agree to it? It seems like a good way for everyone to get paid and build a Championship team.

- MikeIrish

Yes, the CBA would allow it. It might also be a smart move for Lillard, getting more of a raise earlier. He might insist upon it, in fact. The problem is, I don't see the cap savings.

Teams can't just keep their own free agents in reserve, use their cap space, and then re-sign them using Bird Rights. The CBA prevents this by placing a cap hold on a team's balance sheet, reserving space for the players they haven't re-signed yet. Rules vary on the amount, but it tends towards 150% of the player's last salary figure.

Let's say a player had the potential of making $10 million per season over 4 years. Instead the player agrees to a "reasonable" discount, taking $8 million for two years instead. Had he signed the four-year deal, he'd be on the books for $10 million in the third summer. Taking the two-year deal, he'd be on the books for a cap hold equaling 150% of $8 million, or $12 million.

Obviously Lillard's numbers will differ, but you get the idea. Just because his contract ends in a given summer doesn't mean the Blazers get to use that amount of money on new free agents in that summer. In order to see cap savings they'd have to convince him to sign for a ridiculously low amount initially (creating a low cap hold eventually) or they'd have to renounce him and not re-sign (beyond comprehension in Lillard's case).

Well guys, we've seen enough of free agency to look at the Blazer's future....half empty or half full? Some pretty ordinary 2 guards made a lot of money....some really mediocre bigs did the same. Nic's contract now looks like a bargain. The big question in the next offseason will be...Does Paul Allen think a 50 win team is worth paying tax for? In the coming season, with no additional moves, looks like the Blazers will be about 5m below the tax line. In resigning LA, Wesley and RoLo, they would be above the line ongoing. I know NO is preaching flexibility, but he really should be looking for some long term discount from Wesley and RoLo, in exchange for long term peace of mind for them. Allowing them on market is sure to inflate....see Hayward, Gordon and the coming Deng contract. Don't forget Will. He's going to get paid next offseason, he'll get time this season, and, while not always pretty or in control, overall will bring results. Thoughts???

SWM

Half full, with an asterisk.

The Blazers continue to make smart moves from the perspective of value, preserving flexibility, and all the stuff we've talked about. They're not overpaying. They may even be underpaying in some cases. But in the end, other teams are paying more money because:

A. They feel they're on the cusp and want to make a clear leap forward.

B. They know that true talent always finds a market, that they'll be able to trade some of these players they're paying "too much" for as long as those players are good.

C. Ultimately you're only as smart as your win total. The name of the game is deep playoff drives and titles, not just being eternally frugal.

The Blazers have earned enough leash to get a pass on A and C for now. As long as they keep winning more games, who can argue? Thus "half full" wins out over "half empty". If the record starts dipping the piper will need to be paid. That hasn't happened yet, so it's all good.

Similarly, the road from here branches three possible ways:

1. The team makes another immediate jump in the standings and playoffs, in which case we all celebrate and call all these moves genius.

2. The team shows enough improvement--or at least duplicates last year's success--that the roster is worth going forward with. In this case you're right, getting Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews inked to good value, long-term deals will be a priority. Otherwise the front office will have to gamble with a super-expensive, tax-level roster that hasn't yet won big. Nobody wants to do that.

3. The team doesn't improve and doesn't look like it can without changes. A mid-season trade or summer free-agent fishing trip would accompany this outcome, likely losing current players in the process.

Depending on outcome, the reaction to Lopez and Matthews' contract situation could range anywhere from, "Who cares? Sign them!" to "They're not part of the future here." We won't know until wins get tallied and deals get done.

I'd say that the bar is set pretty high for Paul Allen to venture into Luxury Tax territory with this team. They'd have to believe they were headed somewhere special. Otherwise a partial or complete tear-down would be the more likely move.

Dave,

Mo Williams a Timberwolf? I'm laughing my head off right now. Please explain how silly that signing was and good riddance.

Peter

Hmmm...

Trail Blazers sign Williams to a short-term contract in 2013. Blazer fans understand Mo won't light the world on fire but figure at that price it's a pretty smart gamble.

Minnesota Timberwolves sign essentially the same Mo Williams to an even shorter contract in 2014, possibly with an eye to supporting a future trade. Blazer fans laugh at the Timberwolves and call it a dumb move.

These two don't really fit together. Williams is the same kind of value gamble in Minnesota that he was for Portland. If the 'Wolves are stupid for signing Mo then the Blazers were too. Instead they're thinking the same thing Portland was. They need a little help off the bench, they might need more than a little depending on how the backcourt shakes out, and for that price at only one year guaranteed, why not?

It's not a world-shaking signing for Minnesota. Neither is it a bad one. It's not like they were going to get much better than Mo for a single year at $3 million-ish. Leave the poor puppies alone.

Tomorrow we're doing a different flavor of question even if I have to dip into the Loopy File! (That's my personal name for questions that defy categorization.) Stay tuned...

--Dave blazersub@gmail.com / @DaveDeckard

P.S. If you have a loopy question, you've never had a better chance of getting it answered. Submit it to the e-mail address you just read or forever hold your peace!