Free Agency Preview: Joe Cronin's Biggest Test Yet
Thoughts on how the next two weeks might play out for the Blazers
The Trail Blazers got their first and maybe biggest move of the offseason out of the way before the draft with last Wednesday’s trade for Jerami Grant. But there will be more moves to make when free agency opens at 3pm locally on Thursday.
“We’re trying to be really aggressive," Joe Cronin said on draft night. "We know we’re not good enough. We want to keep trying to get better."
It's the same message he's hammered since taking over as general manager in December. He tore down the roster at the deadline, taking some swings on flexibility that didn't work out in the short term, but recovered nicely with the Grant trade.
Now comes his biggest test, and the most significant opportunity to put real talent around Damian Lillard.
The biggest trade chip Cronin has left is Eric Bledsoe, whose $19.3 million salary for next season is only $3.9 million guaranteed if he's waived by July 10. There's always the possibility Josh Hart or Nassir Little could be included in a trade, but the sense is they would need to return a significant upgrade to be in play.
As far as free agency, the Blazers won't have any salary-cap space. It was never likely they would—the "almost $60 million" number that was thrown around after the trade deadline was never realistic, even if they cut literally all non-guaranteed money from their books—but using a trade exception to acquire Grant made it official that they'll be operating as an over-the-cap team.
Cronin will go into free agency with the midlevel and biannual exceptions and a couple of his own key players to re-sign. Here's a look at how all of this might play out over the next couple of weeks.