There is less than a week till the trade deadline. What are the likely scenarios for the Trail Blazers in the next few days?
The Trail Blazers have some potentially franchise altering decisions to make in the next few days. With the massive expiring salary of Hassan Whiteside still on the books, there are a few different routes they can take at the deadline.
To start the season the Blazers had almost $50 million in salary dedicated to expiring salaries in Whiteside and Kent Bazemore. The first and most prominent thought was that these guys would just be traded for longer term salary players that would upgrade the forward rotation.
Though Bazemore has now been shipped out of town, there may be a completely different direction this team takes with it’s other expiring salary. Which are the most likely scenarios at the deadline?
Standing pat and keeping Hassan Whiteside may have seemed like madness at the start of the season, but with massive luxury tax bills pending, which will only get bigger, this move may make more sense. By trading down in salary when sending Bazemore out and bringing in Trevor Ariza, the Blazers may have signalled their intention to cut salary.
There’s a chance that this move was just a coincidence in terms of the salary cutting, and that they just wanted to get Ariza as he can help more now. But potentially, the front office saw the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone by getting Ariza.
Ariza only has a small guarantee for next season, meaning this team can get back into cap space territory by trading him at the end of June. There will be further implications here, but they would probably want to bring back Skal Labissiere and Wenyen Gabriel, which would leave them with around $12 million cap room. This is assuming that Rodney Hood and Mario Hezonja opt in, which is looking likely.
There are further cap implications but if they moved Ariza they would have cap space plus the mid-level exception of around $10 million a year. They would then need to make a decision on committing some of this money to Whiteside.
Jusuf Nurkic unfortunately had a small setback in his recovery with a slight calf-strain meaning he has been set back for at least a week, this may delay his return till until the end of February.
Whiteside has been a big part of the team’s recent winning run, if Neil Olshey and co can work on a plan for the summer, it may be better to keep him on the roster. He has been better on both ends in the new year, and with Skal still injured is no one else to play center anyway.
Olshey would need to have a plan for the summer, but keeping Whiteside for now may be the right idea.
The NBA is a business, and can be a brutal one at that. Whiteside has just started to crank up in terms of his on-court production. This may have actually increased his value, but it’s tough for Whiteside that he may end up elsewhere at the deadline. Unfortunately his expiring salary may still be worth more than his on court value.
The reality is though, that Olshey might not find a deal that fits what this team wants. Hayward may not be available. There is no point in making a move if it puts the team in a worse situation. Yes it is important to move Whiteside’s expiring salary but bringing on massive long-term salary isn’t the answer.
If the right deal is out there though, they should pull the trigger. Dame’s level of play in January may push the front office to be more aggressive in a deal. His unprecedented scoring has meant the Blazers have a legitimate MVP candidate who is at the peak of his powers right now.
If the right deal comes across Olshey’s desk, for a player that can help this team win now, then maybe he pushes the go button.
The luxury tax would be the obvious downside to trading Whiteside and bringing back equal salary. They would be deep in the tax if they made a move like this, but with Dame in his prime, they may be better just to cut these cheques.
The above decisions will impact the franchise greatly. Not just this season, but for future seasons if they bring back long-term salary. Within a few days we will know how the personnel will sit for the rest of the season. Until then, buckle in and enjoy Dame’s historic run!