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Luis Montero a Bright Spot Among Trail Blazers Young Players

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This edition of the Blazer's Edge Mailbag looks at starting centers, Dominican forwards, win-loss record, and the salary cap.

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Time for another venture through the Blazer's Edge Mailbag.

Hi Dave,

Are we under the minimum salary cap right now? If so, do we go get a guy to avoid paying the penalty? But then,what if that player is good enough to get us out of the Sabonis Jr' lottery contention? To sum up my question, is it better to be really bad and pay the cap penalty, or slightly better and avoid the penalty?

Drexler4Ever

The Portland Trail Blazers are under the minimum salary cap level for 2015-16 as we speak. But there seems to be plenty of misunderstanding about how this works.

Being under the minimum cap level does not incur a penalty in the same way being over the luxury tax line does. It's called a "penalty" but all it amounts to is paying the difference between the team's current salary level and the minimum. In other words, if the team's ledger reads $40 million and the minimum is $63 million, the team has to fork over the $23 million difference to its players. The players receive it in a proportional payout...basically the same as if their contracts had amounted to that $63 million in aggregate.

The way it's phrased, your question doesn't make a ton of sense. If the Blazers sign extra players to get to the $63 million level, they pay $63 million. If they don't sign another player all summer they pay the same $63 million. There's no difference and therefore no mandatory scramble to get new guys.

No doubt the Blazers would take desirable players if they came along, but they're under no pressure to. In fact they may avoid such signings to keep cap space clear for next year and beyond, presuming any significant deals would run beyond a single year.

Hi Dave,

Who is Luis Montero and what can he do? Some people say he's got an unguaranteed contract, Others have said it's partially guaranteed. What's the deal? He is very young, but seems to have a good handle, can shoot from deep and can pass. Maybe even defend. But he looks more like a small forward than a guard. What's his future potential? Is he Quintel Woods?

Paul

It looks at this point it looks like Luis Montero is in for about half a million next season, rising to $870,000 the season after. Beyond that his contract is non-guaranteed. But at that price the Blazers really have the option to keep or waive him at any point. It won't end up affecting their cap much either way.

Why is Portland excited about Montero? He's 6'7" tall and can play the shooting guard position. He played point guard in junior college, so he's got some handles. He might also be able to slide to small forward eventually. He shoots well, hitting 44% of his triples in his only year at Westchester Community College.

"His only year at Westchester Community College" should tell you everything you need to know about reserving enthusiasm pending further data. He hasn't seen major college level competition yet, let alone NBA competition. He's 22, he's still developing size-wise, he's athletic but not strong. The NBA will be a revelation to him.

Once he does get his sea legs, Montero should be good on the run.  His long arms should make him a threat for steals, maybe even a shot blocker. You hope to see some of these things in flashes this year, with more consistency to come.

I think the Qyntel Woods comparison has mostly to do with height and Community College experience. Montero should be faster than Woods with better court awareness and dribbling. Tab him as a multi-year project and an instant fan-favorite in the "we want to see the backup quarterback" sense. The Blazers haven't had great luck with that kind of player over the last decade, but maybe this one will break through. Stick a post-it-note on Summer League 2016 and see how Montero is doing. If he makes noise before that, consider it a huge bonus.

Dave,

Like many, I'm excited about a new era. Potential is exciting, certainly more so than the prospect of perpetual first round exits.

I'm worried, however, that this team (as is) just might be too good. Low draft picks are part of the recipe, and I worry that our new group won't finish worse than 8-10th in the league (from the bottom up, that is). Rebuilding, but not really benefitting from the losses.

Will we be sufficiently bad? Is this an area of concern for you?

-Beno

The job of coaching staff and players is to win every game possible. Nothing should ever change that. Once you adopt any other attitude as a team, you're done. These guys are professionals; they should want to win.

If that winning puts them 8th-10th from the bottom instead of 1st or 2nd, so be it. In the long run the franchise will be better off with 35 wins and a fighting attitude than with 15 wins and a chance at a higher lottery pick. That sounds stupid (considering the transformational potential of high draft picks) but I maintain it nonetheless. Picks can be traded for or gained in subsequent seasons. Once you lose the spirit of competition, it's hard to get it back.

Once upon a time the Blazers got hold of Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Greg Oden without tanking. It can be done. Though I understand what you mean completely--and though it's logical-"sufficiently bad" isn't in my lexicon.

That said, I don't think you need to lose much sleep over this issue. Teams full of young, mismatched players who haven't played together much don't tend to succeed. It can happen, but it usually doesn't.  The Blazers should have brilliant moments during this season, but brilliant games--let alone extended winning streaks--will be hard to come by.

Dave,

Who starts at center? Plumlee? Leonard? Maybe even Ed Davis?

Hipo

In the short term, we shouldn't overlook Chris Kaman. He's capable of starting as long as he doesn't have to fill 36 minutes every night. He may provide glue and scoring for the starting lineup.

Long term I'm betting on Mason Plumlee. As I mentioned on a recent podcast, he's one of the players who will fit the Blazers no matter which way they end up growing. He can rebound, dunk, defend, and get up and down the court. If you're not going to have a Meyers Leonard-like shooter at the 5, those qualities are everything you could ask.

Send your Mailbag questions to blazersub@gmail.com if you wish. More coming on Thursday!

--Dave blazersub@gmail.com / @DaveDeckard@Blazersedge