Ever since Phil Jackson’s expressive comments on the New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony, fans of the Portland Trail Blazers have been dreaming about the possibility of putting together one of the most lethal offensive trios that the NBA has ever seen.
It’s not going to happen.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news for those who don’t give a single you-know-what about defense, but no matter how badly the former Los Angeles Lakers head coach wants to get rid of Melo, landing him in Rip City is going to be a tall order for Blazers general manager Neil Olshey.
While he’s done an excellent job assembling this Blazers squad over the last few years, you’d think that Olshey had a money tree by the way he handed out colossal contracts left and right last offseason. Despite contrary belief, Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen is technically not a money tree.
In one of her recent columns discussing Portland’s messy cap situation, The Ringer’s Haley O’Shaughnessy summed up Olshey’s over-the-top spending spree quite well:
“Portland got here by throwing money around like Iverson in a TGI Friday’s: C.J. McCollum, Meyers Leonard, Allen Crabbe, Moe Harkless, Evan Turner, and Festus Ezeli all signed new contracts last summer. McCollum, 2015–16’s Most Improved Player, continued to rise this season in all shooting percentages, points, and boards, so let’s call that money well spent. Even without counting his contract, the Blazers swore away about $242 million over the next four years. For the coming 2017–18 season, that’s about $123 million guaranteed.”
Last summer, Olshey made it rain nearly $180 million in total guaranteed contract money between three bench players; Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner, and Meyers Leonard.
The Trail Blazers have a serious cap issue which will make offseason wheeling and dealing a real challenge. To put their predicament into perspective, RealGM has projected that Portland will find itself nearly $40 million over the cap come the 2017-18 season. Free agent signing is pretty much out of the question and a salary dump or a near-identical value deal is the only real way a trade is going to get done.
With the Trail Blazers over the luxury tax threshold, any potential trade would need to abide by the NBA’s 125% plus $100,000 rule.
That’s the problem with acquiring Carmelo in Portland; the former Syracuse standout has two years left on his $54 million contract.
If the Blazers want to make this acquisition a reality, they’ll find that their trade options are rather limited.
I’ve seen a good amount of fan-suggested trades for Carmelo that look good in theory but would fail under the NBA’s financial trade rules. Some of these invalid offers include:
- Maurice Harkless, the 2017 15th pick, and a future first rounder pick for Carmelo Anthony
- Maurice Harkless, Noah Vonleh, and Shabazz Napier for Carmelo Anthony
- Maurice Harkless, Ed Davis, and Shabazz Napier for Carmelo Anthony
- Allen Crabbe and the 2017 20th overall pick for Carmelo Anthony
- Maurice Harkless, Meyers Leonard, and the 2017 20th overall for Carmelo Anthony
- Evan Turner, Shabazz Napier, the 2017 15th overall, and the 2017 26th overall for Carmelo Anthony
- Allen Crabbe, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Shabazz Napier for Carmelo Anthony and Courtney Lee
So where does that leave Portland? With some awkward trade options.
Packaging Leonard’s contract with Crabbe or Turner would pass the financial trade restriction rules, but I highly doubt that it would even remotely amuse New York’s front office personnel.
With financial restrictions in mind, the most realistic option for Portland and New York would be Crabbe and Harkless for Anthony. Maybe throw in Napier if need be. But how would Rip City feel if this trade were to go through? Is that too much for a 33-year-old Melo? Maybe a pick swap, say the Knicks’ 8th for the Blazers’ 15th or 20th, would sweeten the deal? That’s for you to decide.
Maybe that’s still not enough for the outspoken Knicks president. Maybe he’d want a pick or two thrown in with the already talent-heavy Crabbe/Harkless/Napier package. If so, I’d certainly hope that Olshey would abort mission.
From the perspective of a Blazers fan, you’ll find that Portland’s financial woes will enact some awkward trade situations. The Carmelo rumors are a prime example. In order to get the trade to go through, Portland will find themselves either giving too much or offering too little. If Jackson doesn’t find value in Portland’s draft picks, the Trail Blazers will find that there may not be a happy medium available thanks to their financial predicament.
After a busy, yet rough, offseason last year, Olshey will look to bounce back and put his Blazers in a position to compete for a title come the 2017-18 season. He’s been vocal about his desire to make some moves, with an array of young, talented players and three first-round draft picks at his disposal. This planned activity can be seen in the rumor mill, which is alive and well in Rip City with whispers of superstars, from Paul George to Carmelo Anthony, possibly being linked to a Portland move.
Go ahead and trade Carmelo Anthony to the Portland Trail Blazers in your next NBA 2k season and have some fun with the absurdly talented offensive trio of Melo, Dame, and CJ; it’s the only way you’ll witness the 10-time NBA All-Star in Rip City red, black, and white.