Portland Trail Blazers decline options on Williams, Smith & Babbitt

PDX looks toward future

The Portland Trail Blazers are in the midst of a massive rebuild, and as a result, a few of the young prospects on the team now find themselves in a year of uncertainty.

The Oregonian’s Jason Quick announced nearly 24 hours before the team’s season opener that the team has opted to decline team options on Elliot Williams, Nolan Smith and Luke Babbitt for the 2013-14 season.

This announcement shouldn’t come as a surprise to most avid fans, but it’s still a telling statement regarding the future of everybody involved.

What It Means For the Players

All three players have the potential to make a roster next season, but at this point, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be with the Trail Blazers.

Luke Babbitt Oregonian

Luke Babbitt will become an unrestricted free agent in 2013. Photo Credit Bruce Ely/The Oregonian

Elliot Williams is currently rehabbing from his third season-ending surgery in three years, Nolan Smith is the second or third string point guard on the roster and Luke Babbitt has been about as one-dimensional as it comes in Portland.

Their roles on this year’s team—with the exception of the injured Williams—remains to contribute energy night in and night out. This squad is a fringe playoff team at best, and all players must pitch in night in and night out, even if there’s a strong possibility they won’t be around next season.

The youngsters now find themselves in an unexpected contract year, and if they can begin to make a name for themselves in Terry Stotts’ up-tempo system, they could earn a new pay day somewhere else by the time the year is done.

What It Means For the Team

Picking up the option on a player’s rookie contract is usually a no-brainer, but the three players who missed the cut this time around don’t fit the long-term plan for the Trail Blazers organization.

Babbitt, despite impressing late last season, has yet to prove he was worthy of the 16th overall pick in 2010. Smith has also underperformed since arriving in Portland, and Williams simply can’t stay healthy enough to see the floor.

The Blazers are rebuilding, and when it comes to stockpiling talent, you need two things: roster spots and cap space flexibility.

The team recently waived Adam Morrison, Coby Karl, Dallas Lauderdale, Justin Holiday and Demonte Harper, and by now letting the three prospects walk after this year, the Blazers will be saving approximately $6.8 million (according to HoopsHype).

The 2012-13 roster is set, but if the team is going to improve throughout this rebuilding process, they need to be smart about the decisions they make and the players they bring on.

Portland took another step toward improving the future with this decision, and with a strong free-agent class set to make headlines next summer, a little extra cap space could go a long way in 2013.


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About Bryant Knox

NWSB Editor. Portland native and Oregon graduate, On a non-stop mission to consume as much Ducks+Trail Blazers content as humanly possible. His love of sports is what attracts him to the game, passion for writing drives him to uncover the stories. Connect w/ Bryant today!
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