As the NBA off-season approaches, the front office for the Portland Trail Blazers is already tasked with some difficult decisions. Dan Favale of Bleacher Report ranked the ten worst salary situations in the league, and the Blazers came in at number three, sandwiched between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Portland already has over $105 million dedicated in guaranteed contracts, all before any moves are made regarding Jusuf Nurkic, Ed Davis, or Shabazz Napier.
Favale added his voice to the many suggesting Portland should break up the star backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
Letting Napier walk isn’t that huge of a deal if they’re against busting up the Damian Lillard-CJ McCollum duo (they should be), but cutting ties with both Davis and Nurkic is a non-option. Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard, along with maybe Wade Baldwin and Georgios Papagiannis, cannot be their primary contributors in the middle.
Among the possibilities that do not include moving Lillard or McCollum is to repeat last season’s strategy and simply make moves to slink under the luxury tax penalty as Favale suggests:
Perhaps the Blazers are open to funding a tax team—or at least beginning the season as one. They’ll have all year to creep beneath the $123 million threshold. They can decide whether this core is worth its price point as they inch toward the trade deadline.
In order the realistically faciliate staying under the Luxury Tax line, either Evan Turner or Leonard would have to be moved, likely at a substantial loss. To do so would be costly, and it is difficult to see a scenerio where doing this would improve Portland’s chances in the loaded Western Conference.
The Cleveland Cavaliers ranked first (or last, depending on perspective) in the rankings.