April 12, 2013; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (0) argues who the ball went off of during the fourth quarter of the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Rose Garden. The Thunder won the game 106-90. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Third Year Options Exercised on Lillard, Leonard, and Robinson

The Blazers have exercised third year options on second-year players Damian Lillard, Thomas Robinson and Meyers Leonard, according to Adrian Wojnarowski. Rookie contracts are technically only for two years, with the third and fourth years being team options. The team must decide to exercise this option before October 31st of the season before said options would kick in (hence the Blazers taking action now for the 2014/2015 season). The fifth year of a rookie deal is a bit trickier, but the team still has the ability to hold onto that player if they want.

In practicality this means that barring any sort of drastic action, all three of the aforementioned players will still be Blazers for the 2014/2015 season. Rookie contracts are on a set scale, so we also know the salaries each will receive. Lillard is slated to earn $3,340,920, Robinson will earn $3,678,360, and Leonard will receive $2,317,920 during this season.

This is excellent, albeit expected news. Since all three players are still on their rookie contracts, their salaries, even in that third year, are still incredibly cheap. Having Damian Lillard, for example, at under $4 million a year is a flat-out steal. In the era of a more punitive salary cap, the importance of the cost-efficient nature of rookie contracts skyrockets. They are the best way to get talent for cheap, and it also underscores the need for front offices to have successful drafts. In the Blazers’ case, the contracts are so small that they are not a huge burden on the team’s cap for the foreseeable future, a distinct benefit.

It is readily apparent that Lillard is worth keeping around, and even if Leonard and Robinson are more relatively unknown quantities, the decision to keep them is a no-brainer because of their cheap contracts. There would have to be major warning signs for a team to reject the option to sign players so cheaply. Again, the team picking up the options comes as no surprise, but it is definitely the right move.

Logistically, it ensures that (again barring major moves), the current young core of the Blazers will be together for a while. Additionally, the 2014/2015 season is the last year that veterans LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, and Robin Lopez are under contract. All signs point to the Blazers keeping the same identity for at least the next two seasons, a continuity that fans should be glad to see.

As a rule, teams who can maintain some sort of continuity from season to season generally have a far better chance of succeeding. When teams constantly reshuffle players, coaches and front offices, it becomes hard for the team to find its groove or identity. For a prime example of continuity, look at Gregg Popovich and the Spurs (a shining beacon of consistency), as compared to say the Kings (a team that appears to constantly be in turmoil).

The players and the coaches can become familiar with each other, which is an important step in breeding long-term success. The player I am most excited for in this case is certainly Thomas Robinson. When you talk about consistency issues, he is the poster boy for what can go wrong. He has yet to play an entire season for a single team yet, and consequently has had no true chance to develop. It now appears that he will get at a minimum a full two years with the Blazers, something I am ecstatic about. I hope that this will allow him to get back on track with his development.

The Blazers have clearly shown that they are committed to their current core for at least two more seasons. With, in theory, all major pieces around for both of these upcoming seasons, hopefully this can translate to postseason success.

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Tags: Damian Lillard Portland Trail Blazers

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