Portland Trail Blazers

Breakfast with the Blazers: Olshey may not be done with roster

Portland Trail Blazers

Good morning, and welcome to Breakfast with the Blazers, which will hopefully become a daily item on the Trail Blazers as you ease into your day with a cup of coffee and/or your first meal. This spot will allow you to catch up on what happened last night, or look ahead to what is pertinent today with the Blazers.

This morning, we look at one item from yesterday’s Media Day interviews that flew under the radar: Blazers’ president of basketball operations Neil Olshey said he is still actively trying to improve the roster by using the team’s $12.9 million trade exception acquired in the trade of Allen Crabbe to Brooklyn.

Olshey said that over the summer the Blazers “tried to keep up in the arms race as best we could” – presumably referring to pursuits of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony – but in the end they didn’t want to part ways with “pieces of our roster we felt were irreplaceable.’’

As a result, Olshey admitted the Blazers did not accelerate their ascension in the West as quickly as hoped.

“But things are not over yet,’’ Olshey said. “We have the biggest trade exception in the league; we are still aggressive.’’

A trade exception is valuable in acquiring a player from a team that is looking to dump salary by absorbing the contract without having to give anything back in return. In other words, the Blazers can acquire a player making $12.9 million without having to give up anyone. The Blazers get a good player, the other team gets cap relief.


The $12.9 million trade exception was acquired because the Blazers sent out more money with Crabbe’s contract (about $19 million) than they got in return from Brooklyn in the form of Andrew Nicholson’s contract (about $6 million). Nicholson was later waived.

The Blazers have until July 2018 to use the exception, and it could be something that it utilized quickly, such as if Cleveland needs to move salary to sign Dwyane Wade, the Blazers could facilitate by absorbing Iman Shumpert and his $10.3 million contract.

Or it could be used later in the season, perhaps after a team that thought it would be a contender falls out of a race, or decides to go in a different direction. The point is, Olshey still has a chip he can play in improving the roster.

For reference, here are examples of some players who could be absorbed using the $12.9 million: Denver’s Kenneth Faried ($12.9 million); Washington’s Marcin Gortat ($12.8 million), Sacramento’s Zach Randolph ($12.3 million), Charlotte’s Kemba Walker ($12.0 million), Orlando’s Terrence Ross ($10.5 million), Detroit’s Jon Leuer ($10.4 million).

Certainly, none of those names are as impactful as a Paul George or Carmelo Anthony, but they could be pieces that improve the roster, even if it means going over the luxury tax threshold, which owner Paul Allen has made clear he does not fear.

“I think back in February,’’ Olshey said. “Who would have thought the impact Jusuf Nurkic would have had?’’

In other words, stay tuned. Olshey is still at work.

Some Blazers links:

I wrote about how belief is the key word as Blazers start practices.

I also wrote about some of the top stories from media day, including the maturation of Lillard and McCollum and the emergence of Caleb Swanigan.

Joe Freeman from The Oregonian touched on the top stories from media day, including Lillard becoming a vegan.

Mike RIchman from The Oregonain wrote about  Jusuf Nurkic's weight loss and Bad Boy aspirations for Blazers.

David MacKay at Blazer's Edge revisits Meyers Leonard path to working out with trainer Drew Hanlen.