Show me the money!
Ever since becoming a Portland Trail Blazer, general manager Neil Olshey has done an outstanding job managing the payroll in Rip City. He’s brought in young players at cheap costs, yet he’s kept the future flexible with a number of short-term deals.
During the 2012-13 season, the team’s No. 1 problem was depth off the bench. Now the team has that, and it’s largely because of Olshey’s summer strategy.
With more than enough money to grab a star, Olshey could have put all of his eggs in one basket in free agency. However, with Portland being a second-tier free-agent destination at best—not to mention the starting lineup was beyond exceptional last season—he made the decision to bolster the second unit.
Portland’s payroll is approximately $64.16 million for the 2013-14 season. That’s ninth in the Association, and if the team can make a push toward the playoffs, it’s going to be money well spent.
Will Barton, 3 Years Remaining
2013-14: $788,872 (Non-Guaranteed for 2014-15, Qualifying Offer for 2015-16)
If Barton never pans out the ways fans and management hoped, he’s been a cheap option in the midst of a rebuild. However, if he adjusts to the NBA game in his sophomore season, you’re looking at a rotation player who is dirt cheap.
The qualifying offer for the 2015 offseason gives the team options, but the truth is that even if he hasn’t improved drastically, he’s still cheap enough to keep on board without much worry.
Allen Crabbe, 4 Years Remaining
2013-14: $825,000 (Non-Guaranteed for 2015-16, Qualifying Offer for 2016-17)
Like Barton, Allen Crabbe watched his draft stock fall at the most inopportune time—draft night. Portland snatched him up in the second round via a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and now he has the chance to prove he was worth the acquisition.
Also like Barton, Crabbe is at the bottom of the payroll totem pole. He’ll have to play well to earn a big payday, but if his shot is as good as we think it is, that shouldn’t be a problem.
— Trail Blazers (@pdxtrailblazers) July 10, 2013
Earl Watson, 1 Year Remaining
Earl Watson has become the token veteran on the Trail Blazers’ roster. He’s going to provide leadership to a group of young guards, and despite having signed on for a full year, he could find himself out the door before the season’s end, as the backcourt in Portland has become slightly crowded throughout the summer.
Terrel Harris, 2 Years Remaining
2013-14: $884,293 (Non-Guaranteed for 2013-14, Qualifying Offer for $1,148,163)
If it weren’t for the recent suspension handed down from the NBA, Rip City might not even know that Terrel Harris is currently on its roster. The guard was a throw-in during the deal that sent Robin Lopez to the Blazers, and chances are, he won’t be a part of the long-term plan in Portland.
Victor Claver, 3 Years Remaining
2013-14: $1.3 Million (Qualifying Offer for 2015-16)
Victor Claver’s future in Portland (and the NBA in general) is up in the air at this point in the process. That said, he’s shown flashes of potential, and at just $1.3 million, he’s going to be an adequate third option at small forward—assuming Dorell Wright steps up and steals the backup role.
Meyers Leonard, 4 Years Remaining
2013-14: $2.2 Million (Team Options for 2014-15/2015-16, Qualifying Offer for 2016-17)
As the potential center of the future for Portland, Meyers Leonard has a chance to hit a serious payday when his rookie contract comes to an end. In order for that to happen, though, he has to get stronger, learn low-post offense and become a defensive menace around the rim.
Until he can do those things, he’ll remain a reserve earning a modest paycheck. Once he adjusts, he’ll be setting himself up for more money following his rookie contract.
CJ McCollum, 5 Years Remaining
2013-14: $2.3 Million (Team Options for 2015-16/2016-17, Qualifying Offer for 2017-18)
As a scoring point guard from a small school, CJ McCollum needs to focus on establishing his role before he starts to think about his first big contract.
Luckily for him, a big payday should come with an improved game at the NBA level. The Blazers will look to play him at both the point guard and 2-guard spots early in his career, and if he can be the combo guard that they’re hoping for, he’ll earn himself a contract when the time comes.
Mo Williams, 2 Years Remaining
2013-14: $2.7 Million (Player Option for 2014-15)
Not sure where the Blazers will find minutes for Mo Williams, but safe to assume Lillard will not lead NBA in minutes again.
— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) August 7, 2013
Remember when we said that the Blazers’ backcourt was getting a tad crowded? Mo Williams is part of the reason why, but that’s hardly a bad thing considering the lack of depth that plagued this roster last season.
Williams was a late free-agent signing that adds talent, depth and veteran leadership at the guard position. His hope was to find a starting job somewhere this summer, but when that didn’t happen, Olshey swooped in and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Joel Freeland, 3 Years Remaining
2013-14: $2.9 Million (Qualifying Offer for 2015-16)
Needless to say, the jury is still out on Joel Freeland. His contract is slated to keep him in Portland for at least two more years, but if the Blazers can find a buyer, he may be expendable if Leonard and Thomas Robinson prove to be reliable moving forward.
Dorell Wright, 2 Years Remaining
2013-14: $3 Million
The move to bring in Dorell Wright from the Philadelphia 76ers is a shrewd one that can’t be overlooked. The small forward is going to give Portland lights-out shooting off the bench, which is a category the Blazers needed to improve this summer.
Wright’s deal is two years with no options, making him the perfect role player to play behind the stars as the rebuild (hopefully) comes to a close.
Damian Lillard, 4 Years Remaining
2013-14: 3.2 Million (Team Options for 2014-15/2015-16, Qualifying Offer for 2016-17)
The Blazers might have the best contract in the NBA right now when it comes to Damian Lillard. The second-year player dominated the Association right out of the gate, and his rookie contract will keep him in Portland on the cheap for a while longer.
The problem, of course, comes when it’s time to offer him an extension or allow him to test the market. John Wall recently reached a max contract with the Washington Wizards, which could very well impact how much Lillard can command at the end of his current deal.
Thomas Robinson, 4 Years Remaining
2013-14: 3.5 Million (Team Options for 2014-15/2015-16, Qualifying Offer for 2016-17)
The consensus across the league was that Thomas Robinson was a bust during his first year in the NBA. He flopped with both the Sacramento Kings and Houston Rockets, and as a top-five pick in the draft, it’s easy to peg a player as a wasted early in his career.
The Blazers, however, recognized two things: The Kings are a dysfunctional organization to work for, and the Rockets never had any intention of grooming him as a player. Olshey took full advantage of Houston’s desire to acquire Dwight Howard, and as a result, they have a player with all-star potential making very little money (relatively speaking, of course).
Robin Lopez, 2 Years Remaining
2013-14: $5.9 Million
— John Canzano (@JohnCanzanoBFT) July 4, 2013
Robin Lopez epitomizes the moves Olshey made over the summer. He’s not an elite player by any means, but he filled a need and came at a low cost.
The Blazers had to give up very little to get him, which was because of the cap space Olshey had to use. Lopez is often looked at as the lesser of the two Lopez’s, but he has a chance to prove his value in a town that is desperate for a decent center.
Wesley Matthews, 2 Years Remaining
2013-14: $6.9 Million
When Wesley Matthews signed with the Trail Blazers, fans were both confused and excited at the same time. They knew he would provide depth and defense behind Brandon Roy, but the price at which he was obtained was befuddling considering he had just one year of experience under his belt.
As it turned out, Roy’s knees gave out, and Matthews became the perfect energy guy and vocal leader that the team needed. He’s not your typical flashy starter at the 2-spot, but when healthy, he’s the glue on a roster that has been in flux for so many years.
Nicolas Batum, 3 Years Remaining
2013-14: $11.3 Million
This is where the payroll begins to really take a hit, and this is where Olshey is crossing his fingers and counting his lucky stars.
The Blazers opted to match the monster deal that the Minnesota Timberwolves offered Nicolas Batum in 2012, which is worth a whole lot of money that the small forward may or may not have earned up to this point. If Batum stays healthy and reaches his full potential, it’s going to be one of the best moves of Olshey’s time in Portland.
If he doesn’t, we’re looking at a contract that exceeded the production of a young up-and-coming player.
LaMarcus Aldridge, 2 Years Remaining
2013-14: $14.9 Million
Batum’s contract may be the only asterisk on Olshey’s record so far, but what he does with LaMarcus Aldridge is going to make or break his resume moving forward.
Throughout the 2013 offseason, Aldridge has been a popular topic. The question has been pitched as to whether or not the big man wants to be in Portland, but the bigger question has been whether or not Olshey will trade him before he walks for nothing in 2016.
Now it’s time for Olshey to make a decision, and the hard part is that there’s no easy answer.
If Olshey trades his all-star and gets short-term pieces in return, the team enters yet another rebuild, this time surrounding Lillard. If they keep him and he walks as a free agent, the same story applies.
The third option is to get the team ready to win immediately in hopes of convincing Aldridge to stay. That appears to be the course of action at this time, and that’s why fans are nervous when it comes to their most accomplished player.