Within the next two weeks, superstars like Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade will announce whether or not they will opt-in on their current contracts or become free agents this offseason. Could we have another “Decision 2.0″ this season? Who knows! But it’s exciting to think about. Based on what the stars of the 2003 draft decide, the landscape of the NBA could shift dramatically as we move closer to the draft and beginning of free agency in July. We’re talking 10.5, but not on the richter scale, the NBC mini-series disaster here, people.
But, what does that mean for the Portland Trail Blazers, who are unlikely to be in the mix for high-profile free agents and have limited cap space? It means teams in the market for guys like Anthony and, possibly, Miami’s “Big 3” will need to make necessary roster changes to open up cap space for those players.
It’s basically a done-deal that Anthony will opt-out of his contract in New York. As for James, Wade, and Bosh in Miami, who knows at this point? But, if it becomes a possibility any of those three might test the waters in free agency, teams will start to jockey for position and start making trades and roster moves to free up cap room to sign them. Those teams will desperately need trade partners, and that’s where Portland comes in.
The Blazers have needs to address this offseason, just like all the rest of the teams in the league. But, Portland doesn’t have the cap space now or in the near future to be able to drastically alter the roster through free agency. And, the Blazers don’t have any draft picks. So, how does Portland bring in new talent? They trade with teams trying to make a run at star players. Those teams are desperate to move contracts and clear cap space.
Teams do this every season, but not every team gets the guy, which means a handful of teams probably give away too much. Look at the 2011 Dallas Mavericks, for example. After that season, they let Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea, Jason Kidd, and others walk away to make sure they had cap flexibility to make runs at Deron Williams and Dwight Howard. They also let Jason Terry sign with Boston to clear more cap room. That’s the type of trade that can benefit a team like Portland.
Right now, Anthony is the main guy teams are realistically gunning for this free agency season. Other than the New York Knicks, it’s likely that the Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls will be the two frontrunners in the hunt for Anthony. Right now, neither of those teams have the cap space to add him. There is still work to be done, which means the Rockets and Bulls have players available. If James, Wade, and Bosh, all opt-out, or even just Bosh and James, teams will do what’s necessary to make a legitimate run at two All-Star free agents. General manager Neil Olshey needs to find a way to steal a player or two from one of the teams emptying their payroll.
Here are some potentially available players, if the four superstars from the 2003 NBA Draft opt-out of their contracts and send the NBA into disarray in the next few weeks:
Whether or not you believe it, there are people who think James will opt-out of his contract and take his talents to a different beach on the West Coast. How likely is it really? Who can say at this point, but in order to make room for James, the Clippers are going to have find a trade partner for Jamal Crawford.
Crawford is one of the best gunners in the game and would basically turn Portland’s weak bench into one of the more complete benches in the league. It’s worth a shot to make this happen for Olshey. He has strong ties to the Clippers, as he spent most of his NBA career there prior to joining the Trail Blazers’ front office. Perhaps, someone in the Clippers organization could throw him a bone for old kicks.
How it works:
Portland, as you know, has very few assets to deal and very little cap space. To make the trade work, Portland might need to involve a third team, so the Clippers don’t have to take on another contract. Crawford’s $5 million per year (expiring in 2016) would eat up the rest of Portland’s cap space, but he’s a franchise tweaking player. You have to make the move if it’s possible. Would Crawford be more effective for Terry Stotts than he was for Nate McMillan?
Throughout last season, there were rumors that Portland was seriously considering and may have even offered a package for the Rockets’ Asik. Who wouldn’t want an above average defensive center on their team? After the 2014 playoffs, it’s extremely unlikely Rockets’ general manager Daryl Morey sends Asik to a rival Western Conference team, especially the Blazers. Yet, if it came down to sending Asik to Portland to get Anthony, Morey is pulling the trigger on the trade ten-out-of-ten times.
Asik’s cap hit is close to $8 million per year, but he is an expiring contract. Essentially, Portland would be investing in one year of defensive help, which is totally worth it at this point in the game for the Blazers.
How it works:
Portland doesn’t have the pieces to get Asik without a third team involved in the trade. The Blazers also don’t have the room to take on his contract without including multiple players in the deal. As Houston doesn’t want those contracts back, Portland would have to find a team to dump them on. Olshey could easily sweeten the deal by throwing in a future first-round pick. It may not be worth a first-rounder for one year of Asik, but in the West, you have to take some chances and hope they work out.
Chicago has to amnesty Boozer if they want any chance of signing Anthony. Personally, I think Anthony’s going to choose Chicago, so Boozer will be available for a very, very, very low price. Boozer isn’t the player he once was and never lived up to his potential in Chicago, but that doesn’t mean Boozer wouldn’t fit in Portland’s system. He’d provide a scoring punch off the bench along with veteran leadership. Playing Boozer 25 minutes per night instead of Joel Freeland or Meyers Leonard would be an upgrade for Portland.
How it works:
Chicago amnesties Boozer, and Portland signs him to a one- or two-year deal for somewhere close to $2 million per year. It’s not a trade, but it’s a roster move to free cap space, and the Blazers could definitely benefit from a move like that.
The likelihood that Portland actually trades for or signs any of the players listed is low. So much has to go right, in order for Portland to even have a chance to add one of those guys. It’s important to remember, though, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!