The Portland Trail Blazers will enter next season with 14 players and have no intention of adding anyone in the short-term.
That’s according to President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey, who has been quite busy building a contending team to compete in the stacked Western Conference.
But why wouldn't they add a 15th player?
More on that in a moment.
“We're happy with the offseason,” Olshey said Monday. “We're not typically a free agent destination, but based on what we had to offer, which was a defined negotiation at the mid-level, we accomplished one of our goals.”
Heading into the offseason, the mid-level exception worth roughly $9M, was the Trail Blazers biggest bargaining chip to which they added Derrick Jones, slam dunk extraordinaire and menace on defense.
“We wanted to be more athletic, we wanted to be better defensively this year. We wanted more versatility on the perimeter and we wanted to be more disrupted as a defense. In free agency, getting a guy like Derrick [Jones] was a big win for us," said Olshey.
Another option available to Olshey heading into the offseason was the bi-annual exception, which is available to teams that are over the cap, but under the tax apron and can also only be used once every two years.
So, why didn’t the Trail Blazers use it?
Quite simply, they don’t have it anymore.
“We don’t have the bi-annual,” Olshey explained, “Unless we were willing to go into the luxury tax…”
The flexibility in using the BAE was essentially wiped away as an option when they traded for Enes Kanter, who makes roughly $3M more than Mario Hezonja was set to earn next season.
“It eliminated our bi-annual as a vehicle. Right now, we’re $600k below the tax and we plan to stay there because we were in the last two years and we don’t want to enter repeater zone. So, we’re going to stay where we are. A 15th guy would just be someone on the inactive list anyway. So, we’re comfortable with 14 players.”
Should the Trail Blazers have tried to add another player, they would have paid $1.50 per $1 spent in repeater tax penalties. Some wonder if Portland could have added another point guard to the lineup, but Olshey explains why they didn’t.
“We have a back-up point guard,” Olshey said. “It’s Anfernee Simons. 95% of our possessions last year were played with Dame or CJ at point guard. That’s our model and we believe Anfernee Simons is as good or better as any of the minimum point guards we’d be able to go after.”
It did not make financial or schematic sense to add another point guard.
Here’s a look at next season’s roster (alphabetically):
- Carmelo Anthony
- Zach Collins
- Robert Covington
- CJ Elleby
- Harry Giles III
- Rodney Hood
- Derrick Jones Jr.
- Enes Kanter
- Damian Lillard
- Nassir Little
- CJ McCollum
- Jusuf Nurkic
- Anfernee Simons
- Gary Trent Jr.
Robert Covington was acquired on November 16th for Trevor Ariza and Portland's 2020 and 2021 (protected) first round picks.
The Blazers Drafted CJ Elleby with the No. 46 pick on November 18th.
Rodney Hood opted out of his contract only to return to the Trail Blazers with a new deal worth considerably more money on November 20th.
Portland acquired Enes Kanter from the Celtics in a three-team deal on the 20th, as well.
The Trail Blazers then agreed to a two-year, $19M deal with forward Derrick Jones Jr. on the same day.
Future Hall of Famer Carmelo Anthony re-signed with the Trail Blazers to a one-year minimum deal. Neil Olshey called retaining Melo "probably the most important thing," based on what he does for the Blazers spirit and culture.
And big man Harry Giles signed with Portland Sunday morning.
The Trail Blazers already have players at the practice facility working out ahead of the opening game on December 22nd. New additions Robert Covington, Enes Kanter, Harry Giles and Derrick Jones will all be in Portland to have their physicals conducted in the next 48 hours.