Portland Trail Blazers Cap Flexibility Opened up Varejao Trade Possibility

Jan 15, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Anderson Varejao (17) gets a rebound during the second quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 15, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Anderson Varejao (17) gets a rebound during the second quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

The Portland Trail Blazers cap flexibility opened up a possibility to consume Anderson Varejao‘s contract.

Salary dumps look to be ancient history as the NBA salary cap is expected to rise next season, but Portland Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey is getting in on the action when the opportunity presents itself. Per USA Today’s Sam Amick, the Trail Blazers acquired Anderson Varejao in a three-team deal that also had Channing Frye go from the Orlando Magic to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Orlando, per Yahoo Sports’ Marc J. Spears, receives a second-round pick in the salary dump to Cleveland. To help facilitate the deal, as Orlando was unable to take back Varejao’s contract, Portland jumped in and reportedly received a conditional first-round pick.

Don’t put too much stock in Varejao fortifying the front line in Portland. Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Varejao is likely to be waived upon arrival to Rip City.

Once a dependent center for Cleveland, injuries altered his status on the team and he fell out of favor when Timofey Mozgov arrived last season for the Cavs. Playing in a career-low 10.0 minutes per game, Varejao’s production this season has almost been non-existent (2.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG). With Portland waiving the Brazilian, only $4.5 million is guaranteed to Varejao, per Spotrac, out of the $9,638,554 he’s set to make this season.

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The 6-10, 273-pound behemoth is set to make over $10.3 million next season, Portland has to take that cap hit, but his dead money is only set to last until 2017. While Portland might have less flexibility having to pay Varejao the exorbitant amount of money to not play a minute on the roster in 2017, they’ll be off the books in 2018.

Portland, even after the three-team trade, still has the lowest salary in the NBA. Not willing to drastically upgrade the roster after LaMarcus Aldridge and Wes Matthews headed south to Texas, Olshey has provided the organization with a variety of options gearing up for the next couple of seasons.

Portland might have slightly less flexibility in the offseason to add a premier talent in free agency, but still not a contender in the West, can make an enticing pitch as (possibly) a legitimate playoff team filled with young, brimming talent.

In addition they add, what looks to be, a protected 2018 first-round pick in the deal to mitigate possibly losing their first-round pick this year to Denver-as part of the Arron Afflalo trade at last year’s deadline.

Olshey had to effectively shift from the “we’re going  to be legitimate contenders despite Golden State’s obvious clamp on the Western Conference” to “LaMarcus (Aldridge) left, Wes (Matthews) left and Robin (Lopez) left so it’s time to initiate rebuilding mode for our organization” quickly.

Bringing in Noah Vonleh and Mason Plumlee, via trades, Portland has retooled a once depleted frontcourt that needed depth after the multiple frontcourt departures in Aldridge and Lopez. Damian Lillard continues to be a stud (24.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 7.3 APG) and is an ideal franchise cornerstone Portland can build with due to his diversity and age.

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You’re not going to find more complete players at 25 years old in the league, but the two-time All-Star needed assistance in order to propel Portland to contender status at 27-27. Let’s also give credit to head coach Terry Stotts, who is a dark horse for Coach of the Year if he takes his Trail Blazers to the playoffs.

With Portland absorbing excessive contracts in order to add additional assets for future use, they don’t need to look at free agency or trades to find their shooting guard of possibly the next decade. Portland didn’t have to ship off their growing foundation at the trade deadline, with C.J. McCollum emerging as a possible All-Star candidate on the wing. The two-guard isn’t just in the running for Most Improved Player in 2016, he’s helping Portland become an unlikely playoff seed this season.

Across the board, McCollum is averaging career-highs. Second on the team in scoring (21.3 PPG), he’s taken a substantial load off of Lillard in the scoring department.

This is a backcourt that’s made to last for Portland. With ample amounts of salary space in order to take on a team’s bad contract, they were low-key winners this trade deadline. Olshey didn’t make a hasty move and acquired what could be an important commodity down the round in a first-round pick.