State of the Cap: Portland Trailblazers

Tue, 06/19/2007 - 11:47am

By Josh Redetzke

2007/08 Portland Trailblazers Payroll: $57.6 million
2007/08 Estimated NBA Salary Cap: $55 million
Roughly: $2.6 million over cap

[img_assist|nid=3818|title=Greg Oden|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=250|height=454]The Good: Jackpot!!! The ping-pong balls bounced Portland’s way and Greg Oden will soon be manning the same paint Bill Walton once called home. Not long ago, the Blazer’s outlook was bleak. Now, the team can boast about its future since they will possess the best collection of young talent in the league. This lucky break could finally erase all the painful memories of the Sam Bowie debacle.

Oden’s first sidekick will be a good one in Brandon Roy, whose last name apparently is short for Rookie of the Year. A brilliant trade with the Celtics brought Roy to Portland where he displayed a solid overall game, averaging 16.8 points, 4.4 boards, and 4 assists. He missed 26 games due to injury, but as long as it doesn’t become a chronic problem the Blazers shouldn’t have to worry. Roy still has three more seasons under his rookie contract and it will be exciting to see how he matures.

Jarrett Jack has emerged as Portland’s best point guard. He led the team in assists last season with 5.3 per game and he added a decent 12 points on 45% shooting. Jack may not be spectacular, but at $1.2 and $2 million the next two years, he is more than worthy of his contract.

Jamaal Magloire and the long gone Derek Anderson come off the books this summer, saving the club $18 million in cap space. With Zach Randolph looking more and more likely to be traded, Portland could be a major player in free agency next year.

The Bad: The future of the Portland Trail Blazers does not include Darius Miles, but his contract says differently. Miles didn’t play a single minute this season, yet he’ll collect $8.25 million next season and $9 million each of the two seasons after that. Even when he does play, Miles isn’t worth that kind dough. The team doesn’t want to play him, but if they don’t they’ll never be able to trade him. Portland will need a miracle (or a buyout) to get rid of the troubled Miles.

The Blazers had to take Raef LaFrentz in the trade with Boston that netted them the #7 pick that became Brandon Roy, so it was for a good cause. However, they still need to eat the two years and $24.5 million left on Raef’s contract. It’s a pill Portland knew they had to swallow and so far, it’s been worth it. Even so, that’s a pretty large pill.

Had they known that they were going to win the lottery and select one of the best center prospects in years, the Blazers probably wouldn’t have given Joel Przybilla a five-year, $31.5 million contract. Without that knowledge, it was still a somewhat bloated contract for a center that has never averaged more than 7.7 rebounds or 6.4 points in a season. Przybilla is a good shot blocker, but now he’ll be relegated to the position of expensive back-up to Greg Oden. At least when he is healthy enough to wear a uniform.

The Future: As the saying goes, when it rains, it pours. There is no better way to describe the Portland Trail Blazers right now. Fresh off a flurry of draft-day moves that landed them Brandon Roy, promising forward LaMarcus Aldridge, and intriguing Spanish point guard Sergio Rodriguez, the Blazers then have Greg Oden handed to them on a silver platter. In a few years, this team might not be just good, they could be great, and the wheeling and dealing Blazers sound like they are not done yet.

Zach Randolph did them a big favor by having the best season of his career. He averaged 23.7 points, grabbed 10.1 rebounds, and shot 46.7% from the field. With a contract that still owes him $61 million over the next four seasons, Portland needed a season like this to make Randolph a tradable asset. Randolph’s sketchy attitude and humongous contract doesn’t fit with the team’s rebuilding plans and they are currently shopping him. Many rumors point to the Blazers wanting to acquire another low pick in this year’s draft to possibly select Oden’s good friend and speedy point guard Mike Conley. The phone lines will definitely be busy in Portland between now and the draft.

This team is making all the right moves to become a better franchise (and getting some lucky breaks along the way). They should be well under the cap next summer and will no doubt be a popular free agent destination with what they are building. The Blazers will be exciting to watch next season and they have all the makings of a powerhouse in the near future.

Free Throw: Okay, so what about Kevin Durant? Could they, would they, should they draft him ahead of Oden like they should have drafted Jordan all those years ago? The answer is easy: NO! In this day and age, Oden is about as close to a can’t-miss prospect as you can come. Durant is an incredible talent, for sure, but you can find another player at or close to Durant’s level much easier than you can find a center at Oden’s level. The decision should be an easy one.

* Includes player option on Raef LaFrentz for $11.8 million.

Grade: B

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