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Trail Blazers Face Trade Limitations as NBA Deadline Approaches

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The Portland Trail Blazers are clinging to a 19-19 record because the NBA Trade Season swings into high gear. The mixture of high aspirations and mediocre performances would suggest that the Blazers will probably be energetic because the February ninth trade deadline approaches. The Blazers have young players, talent, and even an expiring contract or two to leverage as possible avenues for improvement. They need size and defense, amongst other things. Might a wedding be made in the approaching month?

While deals are quite possible, two aspects provide hidden speed bumps in Portland’s quest to finish a deal. Each are financial. Normally that’s the toughest a part of the NBA trade puzzle for laypersons to know, but each of those issues are clear and easy.

The primary issue is our old friend, the Luxury Tax.

Blazers lie roughly $67,000 below the tax threshold for 2022-23. In a league where salaries are measured in tens of millions, that’s a razor-thin margin. It’s to Portland’s credit that they managed to chop it so close. They’re making use of each available dollar without passing into tax territory. That also means they’ve zero dollars left to spend unless they wish to cross the border into tax land.

Doing so would have a pair consequences.

At the top of the season, when all tax penalties are totaled, the luxurious tax dollars collected from transgressors are split between non-taxpaying teams. Normally this amounts to just a few million dollars. If the Blazers tackle more salary in a trade than they send out, they won’t just should pay a penalty themselves, they’ll lose out on that extra revenue. That cost would should be accounted for in any consideration of trades in the approaching months.

Going into the luxurious tax also re-starts the clock on the “repeater tax’. That’s an added penalty for teams who cross the tax threshold in three of 4 consecutive seasons. The Blazers paid tax in 2018 and 2019, then slipped under in 2020. They’d to watch out to not go over the road in 2021, though, else they’d have triggered the repeater tax penalty. They succeeded, resetting the clock by posting two consecutive years without violation.

That may seem to go away them free and clear. Except they simply signed Damian Lillard to an enormous extension which runs 4 seasons beyond this one. Assuming in addition they extend Jerami Grant, they’re taking a look at a guaranteed tax overrun within the near future. It’s hard to see how they’d avoid it within the far future either, assuming Lillard stays with the team.

We are able to provide you with scenarios during which the Blazers wiggle under the tax threshold in 2026, but even that’s not a sure thing. It’s nearly inconceivable to search out any that keep them below that level in 2024 or 2025. That provides the Blazers big incentive to remain below the tax line in 2023. In the event that they can avoid paying tax this yr, they offer themselves flexibility for the longer term. In the event that they go above the road, they’re probably taking a look at having to remain under in 2026 AND 2027 to avoid paying a fortune. Since Lillard is scheduled to make $58.6 and $63.2 million during those two seasons, that’s neither an appealing nor realistic option.

For those reasons, any trade the Blazers consummate in the subsequent month will need to herald less salary than they send out, or no less than fall dead even. If not, Portland might want to make certain that the move vaults them into contention clearly enough to justify paying tax—and sure repeater tax—penalties down the road. Because it’s hard to start out from 19-19 and end at Championship Contender in a month, it’s pretty likely the Blazers will probably be limited in the quantity of salary they’re willing to tackle for the remainder of this season.

Up Next… The Second Factor: Contracts

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