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Trail Blazers president Neil Olshey: Portland ‘caught off guard’ by Allen Crabbe trade exception not holding ‘huge value’

Paul Allen, Neil Olshey

Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen, left, and general manager Neil Olshey, right, talk during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016. The Trail Blazers won the game 115-110. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)


The Trail Blazers dumped Allen Crabbe in a trade with the Nets last summer. It was a perfectly sensible move. Crabbe is a helpful player but wildly overpaid, and Portland saved more than $55 million with the deal – without surrendering a draft pick. Though I don’t directly care about Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen saving money, I recognize the value of that move.

In the process, Portland also created a $12,969,502 trade exception. That could have been used in the following year to acquire another player making up to that amount, but that would have defeated the purpose of the original trade. The Trail Blazers are still in range of the luxury tax and will be for the next couple seasons.

Except Trail Blazers president Neil Olshey repeatedly touted the value of the trade exception. He noted it was the NBA’s biggest trade exception. He said he’d treat it like cap room while lauding Allen’s aggressiveness.

So, it disappointed Portland fans when the Trail Blazers let the exception expire.


Honestly, we were caught off guard. We thought for sure the Allen Crabbe trade exception would have huge value in the league. And like I said, teams just are not in the business of giving up quality players the way they were. Because I think everybody understands they’re going to have to pay the freight this summer for what everybody did back in 2016. And there wasn’t as many pieces in the marketplace to do the absorption deals we’ve seen in the past.

Who did Olshey expect to acquire? Crabbe is among the best players salary-dumped in recent years. Other dumped players who are still productive – including Cory Joseph, DeMarre Carroll – are roughly in the same tier.

Maybe Olshey wanted to send out Al-Farouq Aminu and use the trade exception to acquire a better/more-expensive player. Maybe Olshey was willing to convey draft picks to get someone using the trade exception.

But given Portland’s tax situation, those ideas seem far-fetched. The only reason they drew any consideration were Olshey’s prior public comments.

The simplest explanation is probably correct: The Trail Blazers traded Crabbe to save money then followed through with their plan to save money by not using the trade exception.

I just don’t understand why Olshey keeps telling a different story.