Portland disappointed those who expected the young unit to make the jump this season. Now sitting $40 million over the salary cap, free agency will be quiet in the Pacific Northwest.
Part of the emphasis of this summer could potentially be undoing last summer’s decisions. General manager Neil Olshey signed Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard, Maurice Harkless, Festus Ezeli and CJ McCollum to a combined $349 million, essentially eating up all available cap space. Olshey bet hard on Turner and internal improvements, and those deals aren’t the most palatable a year later.
The Trail Blazers are set to be $20 million over the expected luxury tax threshold and $40 million over the salary cap next season. One or more players could be moved simply to avoid exorbitant luxury tax payments; multiple will be required to get below the salary cap. Portland will need to part ways with young players just for cap relief reasons. Olshey will be busy working the trade lines for most of his July activity. Here is a look at five potential moves that the Trail Blazers could make:
5. Meyers Leonard to the Timberwolves for Cole Aldrich
Meyers Leonard continues to be a collection of tools on the floor, not an actual player. He is a graceful, explosive 7-foot-1 with soft touch and a silky jump shot to boot. There are plays where his potential is clear, and still yet some where he looks lost. Leonard hasn’t put it all together through five seasons in the league. He saw his minutes dip last season after he signed his four year, $41 million dollar extension.
The 25-year-old could benefit from a change of scenery. He has proven to be more of a power forward than center in the NBA, and that is a crowded position for the Trail Blazers. Leonard may be the fourth power forward in rotation next season, fifth if rookie Caleb Swanigan beats him out. He may need a new organization to help unlock his potential, and could be had cheaply because of his cost.
The Timberwolves need shooting around their core of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler. That is doubly true if Ricky Rubio is retained next season. They deployed Nemanja Bjelica for extended minutes seeking shooting last season, with mostly mediocre results. They can afford to flip their infrequently used backup center for an intriguing young player. The Trail Blazers land a quality backup center and get cap relief as well; this trade is mutually beneficial.