Trail Blazers Enter Free Agency With Options, But No Space

At the stroke of midnight on July 1 (or June 30 at 9 pm here on the west coast), the NBA enters their yearly moratorium period, meaning teams are restricted in what business they can conduct, such as signing unrestricted free agents, until the end of the moratorium on July 6. They can negotiate, and even declare their intentions of signing a player once the moratorium ends, but technically, teams and players are not permitted to “enter into any oral or written agreements” until after noon (or 9 am on the west coast) on July 6. Players, as always, can say whatever they want, whenever they want to whomever they want.

There is some business that teams can conduct during the moratorium — for example, teams can now extend offer sheets to restricted free agents, sign first-round rookies to their rookie scale contracts and offer extensions to qualified players already under contract — but transactions such as signing unrestricted free agents and engaging in trades for players currently under contract are prohibited.

What’s more, what few statements can be made by teams during free agency can only be made by the team’s “designated negotiators,” so if you want hot free agency gossip, you’ll have to find it elsewhere, though this year, the Trail Blazers aren’t expected to do much, if anything, in terms of pursuing free agents. Unlike during the 2016 offseason, in which Portland signed Evan Turner, Maurice Harkless, Meyers Leonard, Festus Ezeli (who the team waived Friday afternoon) and matched the offer made by the Nets to Allen Crabbe, the Trail Blazers have no cap space to use to sign free agents nor open roster spots for which to add players even if they did. While the roster spot portion of that equation could change, the realities of Portland’s current cap situation likely will not.

One tool the Trail Blazers do have at their disposal is the mid-level exemption, which allows teams to spend a certain set amount despite being over the salary cap. And since the Trail Blazers are also over the luxury tax, they are limited to using the taxpayer mid-level exemption, with is roughly $5.1 million rather than the non-taxpayer mid-level exemption, which is about $3 million more. There’s plenty of reasons why the Trail Blazers might choose to not use the mid-level exemption — luxury tax implications being the most obvious — but they at least have the option.

But while it’s unlikely they do much in free agency, that doesn’t mean there won’t be Trail Blazers’ news to pay attention to over the next week, particularly with the team starting their summer league practices on July 4.

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