The Portland Trail Blazers made a money-saving move earlier this offseason, trading guard Allen Crabbe to the Brooklyn Nets for forward Andrew Nicholson. The trade saved the Blazers over $40 million in salary and luxury tax payments. The Nets, on the other hand, are looking at the move as more than just a salary dump. Brooklyn sees potential in Crabbe and hope that he is a player that they can build around. Zach Lowe of ESPN discussed the trade in his latest piece on the Nets.
The July whirlwind strengthened Brooklyn's position. The cap fell far below projections. Teams that spent big in the summer of 2016 were staring down tax payments in 2018 and beyond. Many would need to shed money, and the Nets stood as one of only a couple realistic dumping grounds. They could execute one last, ultra-predatory version of the Carroll deal -- and snare a better pick.
Days before the Crabbe trade, Marks acknowledged his leverage. "The proposed deals just keep getting better," Marks said of salary dumps. "So why not wait?"
The Nets instead played their last flexibility chip on Crabbe -- and extracted zero picks for saving the taxed-to-oblivion Blazers almost $45 million. They undid what most executives considered a lucky break in Portland matching Brooklyn's offer sheet for Crabbe a year ago. "Would we have liked a pick?" Marks asked. "Sure. But this is what it took."
The Nets offloaded Andrew Nicholson's $6 million-a-year contract, leading some to crow they had turned Crabbe into a $12 million player. The costs go deeper. The Nets could have held their space for an inevitable dump-deal that would have brought in another first-round pick. They likely could have sent out Nicholson in that same deal, or stretched his remaining salary over seven seasons -- as Portland is doing.
Lowe is basically saying that the Blazers won this deal. They got rid of a contract that they really didn’t want and did not have to give up a valuable asset to do so. Usually shipping off an expensive contract costs a team a draft pick as well.
A lottery-protected first-round pick is more valuable on Brooklyn's timeline than last season's version of Crabbe. Marks knows that huge contracts for non-stars can turn into anchors. "If you sign the wrong guy to $15 million or $20 million," he said before the Crabbe deal, "they might become untradeable."
Crabbe showed minimal growth last season beyond his sizzling jumper. The Nets are counting on Atkinson's killer player-development staff to round out Crabbe's game -- he's only 25 -- and on the ripple effects of that jumper. Only Houston generated more open 3s than Brooklyn's go-go offense last season, per NBA.com. The Nets hit just 35 percent, fifth worst in the league.
The Nets have made it hard to sign a player to max contract before the 2020 season, when Crabbe’s contract will come off the books. Meanwhile, the Blazers only had to take on Andrew Nicholson’s $20 million left on his deal.