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Can You Build an NBA Team for Under $25 Million?

$25 million is chump change in the modern NBA. What if you were tasked with building a rotation on the cheap?

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Charlotte Hornets Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers carry a couple of hefty contracts on their roster, belonging to Mr. Everything guard Damian Lillard and his backcourt mate CJ McCollum. That duo is slated to earn $54 million combined this season, around half of the salary cap. In 2020 they’ll earn over $60 million. Whether or not the pairing is viable long-term...that’s a discussion for another day. Either way, the Blazers could sure use cost-efficient teammates to fill out the roster around their starting guards.

Blazer’s Edge reader Grant doesn’t bring up the Blazers specifically, but his Mailbag challenge seems apropos considering Portland’s financial situation. We invite you to give it a read and see what you can do with it.

Dear Dave,

A fun little game my family plays to pass the time in the summer is to challenge each other to build the best basketball team possible, but under some restriction. (Ie: Only straight out of high school players or Only 2nd rounders.) This latest time, the challenge was to build a 9-man rotation under a $25 Mil Salary Cap. We use BB Reference to find the numbers. I thought it would be fun to see your team and throw it open to BE.

PG Terry Rozier $ 3,050,390

SG Jaylen Brown $ 5,169,960

SF Devin Booker $ 3,314,365

PF Kyle Kuzma $ 1,689,840

C DeMarcus Cousins $ 5,337,000

6 Jarrett Allen $ 2,034,120

7 Dillon Brooks $ 1,378,242

8 Semi Ojeleye $ 1,378,242

9 Malcolm Brogdon $ 1,544,951

TOTAL 24,897,110 (102,890)

Rozier has proven he can lead a team with other scorers and has a ton of heart.

Brown is a two way stud and would defend the best wing on the other team.

Booker would be the leading scorer and takes pressure off Brown on that end.

Kuzma stretches the floor and plays OK enough D to get by most nights.

Cousins was the hardest choice. I think the team survives until he comes back.

Allen is a young stud who can hold down the fort until Boggie returns.

Brooks looked good starting on a bad MEM team. Would be a great bench player.

Ojeleye for the 3&D. Even if the 3 is still developing, the D makes up for it.

Brogdon plays great D and can slide next to Brown/Booker without needing touches.

Think your team could take mine in seven game series?


It’s a fun thought project. The only potential flaw in taking it wider is that it threatens to become a competition to find the best players on rookie-scale contracts. Let’s avoid that temptation and make one addition:

After you’ve spent your $25 million, add one superstar veteran to the assembled roster, cost being no object.

The process now reads:

  1. Assemble your 9-man team.
  2. Spend no more than $25 million on them, combined.
  3. Try to be sporting and create a team, not just a roster of nine cheap-and-recent lottery picks.
  4. After you have the nine, complete your 10-man rotation by giving them a superstar to lead them.

If this gets traction, we’ll come up with a suitable prize for the best team.

Thanks for the question, Grant! You can send your queries, or other challenges, to!

—Dave / @davedeckard / @blazersedge /