It's The Economy, Stupid!
The Blazers have yet to make an acquisition outside of their draft picks this offseason, and that fact has sent some of the Blazer faithful into a tailspin. The free agent market is drying up, and the free agents that would actually make an impact on the Blazers' young and talented rotation have found homes.
Now the question is, do the Blazers sign the best player left? If that is what you're hoping for, you'll be disappointed. Portland has assembled too good, and too young of a roster to just go plundering into the dregs of free agency and expect a return.
More importantly, the financial situation of the nation is experiencing a rough go, and that impacts the league in some interesting ways which the Blazers will certainly exploit.
Because the economy continues to falter, the NBA revenue projections for next year look even worse than 2009. There will be fewer employed with less disposable income, which means less advertising revenues, lower gate revenues, less concessions and merchandise, etc.
These billionaires can absorb this setback, right? Well, if the projections are close to accurate, the luxury tax for next year will be around $7 million bellow this year's threshold.
As such, if you have a team that is at the threshold but not being taxed this year, and your salary status remains the same, your team will be taxed to the tune of $7 million beyond what you've paid in salary.
Now if your team is over, even slightly, your team will take on additional tax burden in the new year. This effectively means that a player that you may like for $7 million dollars would have a net $14 million dollar impact on your team.
At that point, the player could easily be seen as a poor value, and dumping his contract becomes more desirable.
Add to the tax the fact that the economy is affecting the bottom line of the owners of these teams. Their teams are bringing in less money, their companies are likely making less money, and their players are costing them more.
So, why should Blazer fans care? The economy sucks...who cares, right? I use sports to distract myself from the big bad world outside.
I get it. Most fans could care less if these billionaire owners suffer a few million in losses over the next couple of years. But, this economic set up is what makes the Blazers situation even more intriguing.
Because the Blazers have cap room, and the deepest pockets in the league, they are poised to take advantage of teams who are willing to dump salary in anticipation of the 2010 free agent market, and the lower cap number.
Once teams make the determination that they need to move salary, Portland will be able to use their cap room and their trade exemption to pull in additional talent without sacrificing coveted players.
The fact that the Blazers have yet to land a free agent this offseason has left the Trailblazer fans a little flat, but, this might be setting up better than we could have hoped.
For now, I simply hope the Blazers don't squander their leverage on some marginal free agent that would do little to change their standing in the Western Conference.
My guess is the management is a little more patient than the fans, who are on pins and needles waiting for the next move. At least I hope so.
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