The Portland Trail Blazers have waived Andrew Nicholson and stretched his contract, the team announced via press release today. Nicholson had previously been acquired from the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Allen Crabbe.
Nicholson’s original contract called for the Blazers to pay him $19.9 million over the next three seasons; per the stretch provision Portland will now spread that salary out evenly across the next seven years, paying Nicholson $2.84 million annually until 2024.
Waiving and stretching Nicholson’s contract will trim about $3.52 million from the team’s salary for this season and lower the total payroll to about $122.2 million. Portland will still be luxury tax payers, however, if nothing else changes — they are almost exactly $3 million over the $119.3 million tax threshold.
Blazer’s Edge had this to say last month about stretching Nicholson’s contract:
This decision is almost inexplicable. Barring a total firesale, the Blazers are certain to be over the cap for the next three seasons, which is the original length of Nicholson’s deal. Reducing his cap hit from $6+ million to slightly less than $3 million in no way improves the team’s flexibility in the near future.
It could, however, handicap the Blazers down the road. Seven years is an eternity in the NBA—Rudy Fernandez and Greg Oden were still with the Blazers seven years ago. Heck, the Lakers were still relevant seven years ago. It’s very possible the Blazers will have cap space at some point between now and 2024.
Stretching Nicholson means the Blazers will be at a $3-million handicap relative to the rest of the NBA. For a team with trouble attracting free agents in the past, literally every million could count. This would be forgivable if the stretch somehow helped the Blazers in 2017, but it doesn’t. It’s a decision made with the short term in mind while neglecting the potential long-term ramifications.
Management is attempting to sell fans the idea that saving a few million in luxury tax payments in the immediate future is worth a long-term sacrifice of cap space—even though the tax savings do nothing to help the on-court product. That flies in the face of the free spending we saw last summer, also calling into question the franchise’s long-term salary management.
Ultimately, Nicholson will serve as a seven-year reminder of Allen Crabbe’s abysmal failure in Portland after President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey signed the shooting guard to a massive contract last summer.
Heading into the 2016-17 season Crabbe was supposedly primed for a breakout campaign as a 3&D threat. Instead, he showed virtually no offensive improvement, failed to earn a starting role, and proved to be a net negative on defense. Thus, only 12 months after signing Crabbe, Olshey decided to jettison him for nothing, rather than pay out the remaining three years and $56 million on his contract.
This is Olshey’s first decision since agreeing to a contract extension through 2021 earlier this week.