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Trail Blazers' Unexpected Success Could Cost Them Financially

The Blazers' accelerated rebuild bodes well for the team's future, but not for their pocket book.

Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

As the Portland Trail Blazers prepare to pursue free agents and retain their own, they have to think carefully about their financial future. Some players are due for a big payday, others are soon to follow, and others still may not be worth the price. Sporting News contributor Danny Leroux breaks down the Blazers’ predicament, here.

The Blazers have eight potential free agents on their roster:

  • Allen Crabbe (restricted) – Current salary: $947,276
  • Meyers Leonard (restricted) – Current salary: $3,075,879
  • Maurice Harkless (restricted) – Current salary: $2,894,058
  • Gerald Henderson (unrestricted) – Current salary: $6,000,000
  • Chris Kaman (unrestricted) – Current salary: $5,000,000
  • Brian Roberts (unrestricted) – Current salary: $2,854,940
  • Cliff Alexander (non-guaranteed) – Current salary: $525,093
  • Luis Montero (non-guaranteed) – Current salary: $525,093

According Leroux, the Blazers will likely have about $25.5M worth of cap space to work with, and a realistic maximum of $39.4M using the projected 2016-17 cap estimate of $92M. They will probably hold onto Crabbe as best they can, with a few more question marks surrounding Leonard, who will get paid by someone, here or elsewhere, for his unusual skill set.

Portland’s free agency challenge begins with restricted free agents Meyers Leonard and Allen Crabbe. Neither was a full-time starter this season, but each played a meaningful role in this season’s success and should be better moving forward. Crabbe’s ability to hit 3s and defend could make him a sought-after talent, but Portland leading others to believe it will match all reasonable offers could chill his market a little. Leonard’s unusual ability to shoot 3s and free throws as a legit 7-footer will intrigue teams, and someone could sell themselves on him as being a center built for the new NBA.

Leroux also notes that both CJ McCollum and Mason Plumlee are coming up on lucrative extensions, but the Blazers may delay inking the deals to avoid cap holds for the time being. More interestingly, the money they commit to spending on players this summer, combined with potential raises for McCollum and Plumlee, could bring the Blazers into future luxury tax territory if they are not careful.

Yet, perhaps the most intriguing decision looming this summer is what to do with Harkless. The Blazers only retain the right to match his offer sheets if they make a $4,045,894 qualifying offer (39.8 percent increase from fourth year salary as dictated by the rookie scale). A relatively small amount for the Blazers to put on the table, but they may not have anticipated needing to do so, given his low initial cost and late breakout.

One of Portland’s more interesting decisions comes on Maurice Harkless. Considering they acquired the big, athletic forward for nothing from Orlando with one year left on his rookie contract, the Blazers likely expected to decline his qualifying offer and let him hit unrestricted free agency. However, his success this season could make about $4 million worth it to retain his matching rights, if they cannot land a new contract that appeases both sides.

All of this will affect their ability to sign outside free agents. The Blazers can keep their core intact but have some tough calls to make regarding their supporting cast; especially if and when other teams force their hand on guys like Crabbe and Leonard, who could realistically waltz into 8-figure annual incomes with the projected cap spike. With Damian Lillard’s activation of the Rose rule eating ever so slightly into the Blazers’ salary options as well, money is tight.

To read more, check out the full Sporting News article, here: Trail Blazers' Surprise Success Could Come With Gaudy Long-Term Price Tag