2010/11 Portland Trailblazers Payroll: $67.5 million
2010/11 NBA Salary Cap: $56.1 million
Roughly: $11.4 million over cap
Juwan Howard – Unrestricted Free Agent
Travis Diener – Unrestricted Free Agent
Patty Mills – Non-guaranteed Team Option for $762K
Joel Przybilla – Player Option for $7.4 million
Victor Claver – Rights Retained, $1.0 million cap hold. Claver has recently stated he is not interested in the NBA at this stage of his career.
Petteri Koponen – Rights Retained, $824K cap hold
Joel Freeland – Rights Retained, $824K cap hold
Draft Picks – 22nd pick and 44th pick
The Good: The Portland Trailblazers have one of the top young guards in the world in Brandon Roy signed for 5 years and 82 million. He is the team’s franchise talent, however it’s questionable whether he can be the #1 option for a true title contender. Their young trio of Jerryd Bayless, Nicolas Batum and Rudy Fernandez each have 3 years left on their deals and cost the team 4.5, 7 and 10 million combined in those years, an absolute steal. Much like with Houston, Portland’s players showed an admirable quality in their willingness to fight through injuries. As a result, the team got into the playoffs. It would have been easy and excusable to close up shop after the parade of injuries added up. They continued to battle and won 50 games. It might not amount to any hardware, but it is easy to appreciate the competitiveness and honor of Portland’s young players.
The Bad: LaMarcus Aldridge has 5 years left on his deal averaging 12.5 per year. He’ll need to step up his play considerably to make that a worthwhile investment for the team. The Trail Blazers are a great example of a team that went from young and up-and-coming to expensive and just above average really quickly. Portland will enter the summer of 2010 with $67.5 million committed to twelve players with guaranteed contracts and one first round pick. It is fair criticism of Portland’s front office that the team has not only gotten older and more expensive over the past twelve months, but has done little to make themselves better in order to justify taking on those costs. They play hard and are an easy team to get behind, but they are not better. The team will have more than $24 million committed to their center position next year, and the quality of the spot is entirely dependent upon Greg Oden being healthy and productive. This is not to dismiss Marcus Camby or Joel Przybilla, but both are one-sided producers who are past their prime. The team really came off as dysfunctional risking the health of an $82 million investment in Brandon Roy to play at nowhere near 100 percent against the Suns.
The Future: The summer will show Kevin Pritchard’s meddle as a GM. He was able to get Portland from Point A to Point B, but they have been stagnant since. Everyone enjoys throwing the genius tag around, but there is plenty of room to find fault. Part of the team’s stagnation is due to Greg Oden’s health, but the unfortunate luck dealt with Oden’s health is no less random than Portland turning a 5 percent long-shot into the top pick. Paul Allen has paid the luxury tax, purchased him extra draft picks, and overpaid free agents. The returns have to be better. The question is how do they get better? The career of Kevin Pritchard is completely tied to Greg Oden. If Oden can stay healthy and continue his developmental curve, the Blazers can take the next leap. It is easier said than done with a guy who has missed 164 of 246 games since he has been drafted. If the health of Oden can only be characterized as an uncertainty (and spending $17 million on his backups would suggest it to be so), then the burden on Pritchard falls on to what he does to turn his stashed draft picks and hyped young players (Fernandez, Batum, and Webster) into the kind of difference maker they missed out on when they used their cap space to sign Andre Miller. Using the mid-level exception and late first round draft pick is unlikely to dramatically improve them.