Sometimes it’s hard to imagine something happening more than 3,000 miles away from Portland in the Eastern Conference having a direct impact on the Trail Blazers, but the NBA is a small world. The smallest ripples send shockwaves around the league’s cities and through fan bases. So you can definitely imagine the atom bomb-sized explosion when news broke that the Heat want to bring Carmelo Anthony’s talents to South Beach.
Let’s be realistic; this plan has been in the works for a while. The “Miami Mafia,” as Jalen Rose calls them, has been working on bringing Anthony to Miami for a while now. It is safe to say most people heard about the possibility before a slough of reporters “broke” the story a few days ago. And, while it is exciting to consider the possibility of Melo teaming up with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, it is still far from actually happening… Or is it?
I can’t predict the future, so I won’t try. It is possible that Anthony could end up in Miami, and just the possibility of that situation is enticing enough to speculate on how the move would directly affect the Trail Blazers.
If Melo goes to Miami:
1) Blazers’ fans can rejoice! Melo has stayed in the East and won’t try to join forces with James Harden and Dwight Howard in Houston. That’s a win! The West is hard enough as it is. Look how good it is right now, and imagine the Houston Rockets with Melo on the team. That would make it much harder for the Trail Blazers to reach the finals or even get a good enough seeding to have a fighting chance. Maybe Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Gregg Popovich, Kevin Love, Steph Curry, and Chris Paul can all go to Miami too!
2) The NBA’s owners will FREAK OUT, according to Tom Ziller of SB Nation, and it will most likely lead to another lockout along with much more fierce negotiations than the 2011 lockout. The owners don’t want all the talent flocking to certain cities to play together. The teams with the good players obviously don’t have a problem with it, but the teams who can’t spend enough money or aren’t attractive enough to draw free agents have a HUGE problem with star players teaming up. The owners would argue and try to negotiate a hard salary cap, which would drastically change each team’s strategy for collecting talent and building teams.
Portland would most likely be one of those teams that would have to support a hard salary cap because it is a smaller market and superstar free agents aren’t going to choose Portland over Los Angeles. Sorry, Portland, that’s just how it is. But, the hard salary cap that owners would want isn’t going to fix the problem. The hard cap tries to cut out excessive spending into the luxury tax and “buying championships,” but if the players are willing to take a pay cut to win, it doesn’t matter what the limit is on the salary cap.
For Portland, a hard salary cap wouldn’t be a bad thing. It technically helps create league parity by forcing teams to make good decisions and not waste money on bad players. Yet, it makes personnel decisions and contracts that much more crucial. If a player is a bust and doesn’t pan out, there’s very little wiggle room.
3) Trail Blazers’ general manager Neil Olshey may have to let one of Portland’s “Core 4” go via trade or by letting them walk once their contract runs out. It’s extremely debatable as to what the hard cap would be if it were implemented after the 2016-17 season. It would be bad news for Portland, I’m afraid. By that time, Damian Lillard is probably going to deserve a max-contract. LaMarcus Aldridge, if he opts out and returns to Portland after next season like it is believed he will do, will sign a new deal in the $20 million range. Between he and Lillard, that could be almost $35 million against the hard cap right there. This is all hypothetical, but that’s not good. Portland’s financial situation doesn’t look great for the future, regardless of a possible hard cap coming into play, but it could get really, really bad if Olshey doesn’t play his cards right.