Tom Ziller added a paragraph to his post a few minutes ago that pretty much takes all the punch out of it, The paragraph reads:
An earlier version of this story said Ariza could be traded in the offseason at his full salary of $12.8 million. That’s not true: only his guaranteed salary of $1.8 million would count in a trade.
Anyway, here's the rest of the post as written:
I've never considered myself an NBA salary cap expert. It's gotten too complicated these days and frankly, things like that don't interest me too much. So I leave it to the experts.
All of these contracts expire this summer, with the exception of Ariza: he’s due $12.8 million next season, with a wrinkle. Bazemore makes much more (he’s a Free Agent Class of 2016 alum), and this deal significantly cuts Portland’s tax bill, apparently saving the Blazers $16 million. The Kings did the Blazers an enormous favor here at little cost to them, except giving up on Swanigan and Gabriel, who had been spending much of their recent time in the G League for the Stockton Kings.
The wrinkle on Ariza’s deal is that he’s only guaranteed $1.8 million of his $12.8 million contract next season. If he doesn’t help the Blazers, they can waive him and escape most of salary cap hit. Bazemore’s contract is expiring; Ariza’s might as well be. That $1.8 million would count against the salary cap and potential luxury tax for Portland next season, but the current season savings and theoretical better roster fit counter that. (Plus, there’s a decent chance Portland could unload one of Swanigan or Gabriel before the deadline to further lower the luxury tax hit.)
But Ariza’s mostly unguaranteed 2020-21 salary is interesting for another reason: it makes him a fascinating trade chip as fake salary filler, especially in the time around the NBA draft. The Blazers will be able to use Ariza in a trade to match salaries as if he’s a player making $12.8 million. The team that trades for him in such a deal can then waive him before next season — we don’t know the exact non-guarantee deadline, but these things are often in June and typically negotiable with the player — to cut salary.
There are plenty of positives in this deal and not all of them are obvious. I like the "fake salary filler" gambit the best. More from Ziller:
We don’t know that the Blazers are big game hunting as this season has been shredded by injuries to Nurkic and Zach Collins, and the ownership situation is somewhat unsettled in the wake of Paul Allen’s death. Allen would consistently spend to make the team better. We don’t yet know if that will continue.
If it does, and if Portland elects to make a major splash in the next couple of weeks or this summer, Ariza’s contract could really help make the numbers work. If nothing comes to pass, the Ariza trade saves the Blazers a substantial sum of money. And if all that’s not enough, there’s a chance — not a big one, but a chance — that Ariza helps Portland in the right ways to take hold of the up-for-grabs No. 8 seed in the West.