If the list remains unchanged, it will be Portland Trail Blazers He will take on nearly 92 billion goalkeepers in the 2022-23 season with a relative dearth of strikers and positions. You might think that they want to sew their biggest players, and secure the future of their front zone. But this is not necessarily the case, at least by current indications.
Three forwards – Josh Hart, Jeramy Grant and Nasser Little – have uncertain contracts, with potential negotiations on the horizon. This is of concern to one reader, as it has become the subject of Blazer’s Edge email bag.
I know this is a very early question, but do you expect Hart, Little and Grant to return in the 2023-24 season? What level of success is required to achieve this?
Let’s explain where they are.
Josh Hart has an option player on his contract next summer. He’s earning $13 million this year. This amount will be repeated if Hart does not withdraw. He will become an unrestricted free agent if he does so.
Jeramy Grant is making $21 million this year and will become an unrestricted free agent after the season is over.
Nasser Al Sagheer is still on his contract with the Apprentice. He will have the option of entering restricted free agency in the summer of 2023. The Blazers will have the right to match contract offers to him, or they can negotiate with him an extension that would pre-empt the process, just as they did with Anfernee Simons this year.
The Blazers already have roughly $131 million in cap commitments made for 2023-24, and that’s not counting the ceiling hanging on Grant and Little. They won’t be able to create any usable space (outside of the usual exceptions) unless they fire all three attackers directly. Even keeping one of them would put the jackets over the hood.
Just reading the hat and the talent, it doesn’t make sense that the Blazers would lose any of these players. In an ideal world, Portland would probably keep all three. This is the normal starting position.
However, other factors come into play, and they will spoil the plan.
Player readiness is important here. The three attackers have some control over their own destiny, two of them completely. Hart can become a free agent, Grant obligates, and Little has the option to sign a qualifying one-year offer, then become a free agent in 2024.
Few are likely to do so. It is likely that he will extend with the Blazers or sign an offer elsewhere to match him. Portland controls Little’s position more than Grant or Hart’s position. It will also be the cheapest of the three to keep. This makes him the most likely candidate to return.
Jerami Grant’s case is very simple. If the Blazers pay him, he’ll probably stay. If not, of course, he can’t. Portland probably didn’t trade his first-round pick just to rent him for a year. Grant may not have made a gesture to Portland with no intention of staying there. The most obvious scenario is that the Blazers intend to make him an offer that will be acceptable.
Two factors can cause water to become cloudy. First, Grant wants to remain a major hub on both ends of the floor. Portland will encourage him to play every defense he can, of course, but they’ll also have an interest in keeping him engaged in attack if they want to keep him. If Grant does not have the opportunity to flourish, the relationship may spoil.
If it thrives, the other worker rears its head. A Grant contract can get really expensive very quickly. He’s already making $21 million as is. If it scores close to 20 and pays well, the asking price will skyrocket. Blazers may be willing to pay, but that will affect what they can do with other players. Grant’s new contract will put the cap line in the rearview mirror, with Portland now eyeing the luxury tax limit with concern.
We haven’t gotten to Hart yet. He scored 20 in every game when he unleashed him with the Blazers last season. He is an all-around player and will be in demand. I don’t see any way for him to settle for $13 million again, or remain in the final year of his contract.
Hart’s situation is further complicated by his place in the rotation. It is a natural shooting guard. Blazers flush there. Portland will find a way to play Hart – they almost have to – but it will be a secondary consideration. Even when he plays a junior striker or starts attacking at times, he may not get as many minutes – and certainly not as many touches – as his talent deserves.
If Hart makes it to the end of the season on the Portland roster, he and the team will likely be ready to split, Blazers due to luxury tax concerns, and Hart due to greener pastures elsewhere.
For these reasons, the most likely scenario is that Little is matched or extended, Grant is re-signed, and Hart is traded before the deadline, lest he simply leave at the end of the season.
Several factors can change the scenario. They include:
- Portland has been hugely successful this year with all three players filling major roles. This would make them more inclined to keep Hart through the playoffs. It may also make them more willing to cross the tax threshold next year.
- Portland failed so spectacularly that it was clear that this list would not work. This would make them less inclined to commit to the grant in the long term.
- He gets hurt little or no produce, invoking his future benefit in questions.
- Grant does not fit or thrive.
- Deals with other players change the team landscape. If, for some unexpected reason, the Blazers trade Simmons away, for example, Hart will become more valuable to Portland.
Any of them are possible, but they are all toward the edges of the bell curve. Best guess is still that Grant and Little stay, Hart has been transferred.
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