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Paul Millsap Sign and Trade a Pipe Dream for Blazers

A tweet from CJ McCollum has Blazers fans buzzing about Paul Millsap. Could Portland find a way to lure the all-star forward to Rip City?

Washington Wizards v Atlanta Hawks - Game Three Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap opted out of his contract earlier this week, making the All-Star an unrestricted free agent this summer. The move caught the attention of CJ McCollum on Twitter:

Naturally, McCollum’s tweet inspired Trail Blazers fans to speculate about what it will take to lure Millsap to Portland. Let’s look and see if such a move is even possible under the league’s salary cap rules:

How Much Would Millsap Cost?

Millsap made the Eastern Conference All-Star team for a fourth consecutive time this season, averaging 18.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game—arguably his best year in the league. At 32 years old, however, a decline in performance may be coming.

Because of his age, Millsap may not get a true maximum contract (5-years, $200+ million from the Hawks), but his star pedigree ensures he’ll get a deal starting around $25 million for the 2017-18 season.

Can the Blazers clear enough cap space to offer Millsap that kind of money?

Short answer: hard no. Next year’s NBA salary cap is set at $101 million, so any team hoping to sign Millsap in free agency will need a payroll of no greater than $76 million. The Blazers have $133 million in guaranteed contracts, and would consequently need to dump $57 million in salary for nothing.

In other words, they’d have to trade Evan Turner, Maurice Harkless, Meyers Leonard, and Allen Crabbe for nothing to make a run at Millsap.

Could the Blazers trade for Millsap on draft night?

Players entering free agency cannot be traded after the trade deadline, so Portland cannot cut a deal with the Hawks for Millsap the night of the 2017 NBA Draft.

What about a sign and trade?

The luxury tax line will rise to about $121 million on July 1. As noted above, the Blazers have $133 million in guaranteed contracts for next season and will be well over that line. They will also be over the tax “apron,” set at $6 million above the luxury tax line, and will be prohibited from making sign and trade deals, per league rules, if they are still above the apron after the trade.

This means if the Blazers want to complete any sign and trade they will need to shed $6 million, in addition to the $25+ million they’d need to send out to make room for Millsap. This also assumes that all three first-round draft picks are either “stashed” overseas or traded for nothing, and that Tim Quarterman and Pat Connaughton are released.

On top of that, it will be virtually impossible to include Crabbe in any sign and trade deal because of his trade bonus, which dictates that the Blazers only get “credit” for sending out his pre-bonus salary, but the trade partner must match on the post-bonus salary. Usually this means the team trading the player with the bonus has to take back more salary than they send, and that’s made that much more difficult (or impossible) for the Blazers because they are so close to the apron. The Blazers would need to cobble together $31 million in outgoing salary without using Crabbe’s $19 million.

Further, this all assumes Millsap even wants to come to Portland, and the Hawks’ willingness to play ball on a sign and trade—they could conceivably take a look at the Blazers’ roster of overpaid role players and opt to keep the space rather than negotiate a trade altogether.

Bottom Line

The Blazers can’t sign Millsap outright or trade for him on draft night. They can try to negoatiate a sign and trade with Millsap and the Hawks, but to do that Portland would need to:

  1. Sacrifice at least $31 million in salary for nothing without including Crabbe’s $19-million contract.
  2. Trade or not use all three first-round picks.
  3. Cut Quarterman and Connaughton.

While not impossible, that scenario is nearly unimaginable.

Eric Griffith | @EricG_NBA