Explaining the ramifications for the Portland Trail Blazers trade of Allen Crabbe.
On July 25th, the Portland Trail Blazers traded Allen Crabbe to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Andrew Nicholson. In trading Crabbe, the Trail Blazers give up one of the most accurate spot-up shooters in the league, as Crabbe finished second in the NBA in three-point percentage (44.4). While the loss of Crabbe will no doubt cost the Trail Blazers a floor-spacing wing, the impact of his trade has much greater implications, not only for head coach Terry Stotts' playing rotation but also financially.
Despite acquiring Andrew Nicholson via trade, Portland intends to waive him using the stretch provision. In doing so, Portland will be able to lower their luxury tax bill by almost $40 million for this season while "stretching" payment on the remaining $19 million of Nicholson's contract over the next seven seasons ($2.84 million per year). While you never want to surrender an asset for nothing, the Portland front office obviously had some "buyer's remorse" on matching the four year, $75 million offer sheet Brooklyn extended to Crabbe just last year. Despite being a knockdown shooter, Crabbe was a liability defensively and lacked the ball-handling to attack off the dribble. Crabbe was a below-average player by almost every advanced metric last season, including an 11.64 per (league average is 15) and -2.65 RPM (Real Plus-Minus). The fact that Portland was able to unload Crabbe's contract without having to attach some level of draft pick compensation has to be considered a win.
Additionally, the trade provides Portland with a $12.8 million trade exception, which Portland can use to acquire a bigger contract than they would otherwise be able to do under the current CBA. Portland is in a much better position for avoiding the "repeater" luxury tax next summer. With Jusuf Nurkic soon becoming eligible for a contract extension, moving Crabbe's contract also makes any potential extension for Nurkic much more palatable from a purely financial point-of-view.
With the trade, Evan Turner is the most likely candidate to see an increase in both minutes and potential role. Turner has an equally ugly contract as Crabbe (3 years and $53.6 million left), and his three-point shooting will do nothing to help space the floor for Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum (29.8% for his career from 3). While Turner is no threat from distance, he does provide the team with another facilitator, which will allow head coach Terry Stotts more leeway to play both Lillard and McCollum off the ball more. Turner is also one of the team's best perimeter defenders, which is an area that Portland struggled mightily last season.Shooting guard Pat Connaughton now has a much higher likelihood of seeing his third-year become fully guaranteed, as both he and the team mutually agreed to extend the decision date on contract option. While Connaughton should be solely an end-of-the-bench option, he has shown a decent three-point stroke (40.7% career on 54 attempts) and played with a lot of effort and energy, even if the results were mixed, at best.
I don't believe Portland is done re-shaping their roster, as the team still has the taxpayer's mid-level exception (worth approximately $5.3 million) at their disposal. While the team doesn't have a current G-League (formerly D-League) affiliate, they have two two-way contracts at their disposal. For a great breakdown of the two-way contract, check out Thane Jackson's piece on two-way contracts. Trades are always an option, but I'm not sure if Neil Olshey wants to help facilitate the Carmelo Anthony trade to Houston, one of the team's they are trying to catch in the Western Conference. If the right deal comes along, though, Olshey has proven to be a willing risk-taker.
While the team will miss Crabbe's three-point shooting, I don't believe this trade moved the needle much in either direction for the Trail Blazers on-court performance. If the team's "Big Three" of Lillard, McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic can stay healthy, Portland should once again reach the postseason in an even more loaded Western Conference.