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Trail Blazers Lead NBA in Luxury Tax Penalties

Portland’s bill got delivered today. It isn’t pretty, but there’s an asterisk.

Portland Trail Blazers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers’ luxury tax bill came due today. There’s good news and bad news as the receipt spills out.

First, the bad news. Despite a train wreck of a season, saved only by their impressive performance over eight regular-season games in the Orlando Bubble, the Blazers paid more salary and luxury tax penalty than any team in the NBA.

Let’s let that sink in for a moment. The NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers—with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and a victory over the Blazers in the first round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs in tow—paid less than the Blazers. The Houston Rockets, carrying Russell Westbrook and James Harden, paid less than the Blazers. The Washington Wizards, with a $38 million essentially dead John Wall contract as their centerpiece, paid less than the Blazers.

Et tu, Boston?

We knew this was coming, but it still hurts to see it in black and white.

BUT...there’s good news too. Paying out money isn’t the only drawback to exceeding the tax threshold. Penalty dollars are redistributed among non-taxpaying teams, a perk which can amount to millions for recipients.

Not this year, though. With so few teams over the limit—by relatively modest amounts, at that—the bonus for each non-taxpaying team amounts to less than $200,000.

In short, the Blazers didn’t miss out on much. Their net loss is around $5.3 million. If they were going to exceed the threshold, this was the season, and the way, to do it.