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Will the Trail Blazers make more roster moves?

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Yes.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Trail Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey has been active this month. Outside of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic, the Blazers roster has been almost entirely revamped. But there are still more changes coming. Details follow.

Will the Blazers add more players?

The Blazers currently have 13 players on their roster, but all NBA teams are required to have at least 14 players and the league average must be 14.5 players or greater per the CBA. Thus it’s very likely the Blazers will sign at least one more player before the season starts.

Portland has a payroll of $143.4 million, way over the luxury tax apron, and have used their taxpayer midlevel exception (tMLE) to retain Rodney Hood. So the only option to sign a new player will be using a minimum salary exception.

Even a minimum contract won’t be cheap — since they are more than $10 million over the luxury tax, a $1.62 million minimum contract for a player with two years of experience will carry a tax bill of $4.05 million. That number can be reduced slightly by signing a rookie or a player with only one year of experience.

Per league rules, even if the Blazers sign a multi-year veteran they will only be on the hook for the minimum salary of a player with two years of experience. The league will cover the rest.

It’s unclear who the Blazers will sign — although they did attend the Amar’e Stoudemire/Monta Ellis open workout — but roster composition suggests they’ll target a point guard or big man (insert Steve Blake joke here).

More Trades?

The Blazers can continue making trades with a couple restrictions:

  1. Hassan Whiteside and Kent Bazemore can’t be traded in a package until early Sept. (60 days after they were acquired in a trade). They can be traded as individual players.
  2. Rodney Hood has a de facto no trade clause. At the end of the season the Blazers will have Early Bird rights for Hood, but if he’s traded those rights would be lost. As such, he is allowed to protect his Early Bird status by vetoing inclusion in any trades.

Note that this privilege applies for players on one-year contracts and Hood technically has a second year on his deal, but that year is a player option which does not count when determining trade veto rights.

It’s unclear whether the Blazers will pursue two-for-one trades to fill out the roster or simply sign a free agent.

What’s up with the Jake Layman Trade Exception?

The Blazers sign-and-traded Jake Layman to the Timberwolves last week, generating a $1.8 million trade exception. Astute readers will notice that Layman’s salary will be for about $3.6 million, less than the trade exception.

Why the discrepancy? The Layman sign-and-trade triggered the base year compensation rule which prevents teams from manipulating free agent signings to, essentially, create extra cap space in a trade.

The tl;dr consequence is that the Blazers only count half of Layman’s new salary or last season’s salary, whichever is greater, when doing the math on the trade. Layman was paid roughly $1.5 million last season, so the Blazers trade exception is worth half of his approximately $3.6 million 2019-20 salary.

A $1.8 million trade exception is very close to a minimum salary exception, rendering it virtually useless in all but the most specific of circumstances.

Two-Way Contracts?

The Blazers signed Jaylen Hoard to a two-way contract and still have another available. With luck they’ll use that spot after summer league or during training camp. Two-ways do not count against the cap or tax so it is essentially a free second round draft pick.

Summary

  • The Blazers have 13 players — they need to add at least one more before the season starts
  • The only way to sign another player is via the minimum salary exception
  • Olshey can still make more trades, but Whiteside and Bazemore can’t be part of a trade package until September. Hood has a no-trade clause this season.
  • It’s unlikely the Blazers will ever have a use for the Jake Layman trade exception.