TUALATIN, Ore. — Shortly after the Trail Blazers’ final practice at the team’s facility before the regular season, Portland exercised their 2015-16 team options on CJ McCollum and Meyers Leonard while not doing the same for forward Thomas Robinson.
Robinson will become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
The Blazers had until Halloween to make a decision that will impact, at its most mathematical, the guaranteed money the Blazers have tied up going into the 2015 free agency period. That is also when the Blazers have three starters (LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews) coming off the books.
The math, at least it appears, is also why the Blazers declined to pick up the option for Robinson, the only Blazers reserve to play in every postseason game in 2013-14.
Due to his position as the No. 5 pick in the 2012 NBA draft out of Kansas, the athletic forward’s contract is scaled to go up to $4.7 million in 2015-16 and north of $6 million the next, according to Mark Deeks of shamsports.com. Robinson’s $4.7 million next season is significantly larger than the $2.5 million slated for McCollum or the just more than $3 million for Leonard.
By the end of the preseason, McCollum was the first perimeter player off the bench and made great strides, according to teammates and coaches, as a point guard. He is ready to show the type of player he can be, coming into the year faster and more confident than last year.
Leonard has switched positions, from solely a center to a power forward, and is full-on practicing with power forwards when the team separates into groups. He went 6 of 15 on three-pointers and says he is as confident shooting the ball as ever in addition to feeling more confident with his defense.
Of course, Robinson also plays power forward and there are only so many minutes behind All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, whom Robinson played alongside much of last year.
Any inroads Leonard may be making at that position would mean fewer minutes for Robinson especially when considering free-agent acquisition Chris Kaman and British big man Joel Freeland, got most of the front court minutes behind the starters to close the preseason.
Robinson couldn’t play basketball for extended portions of the summer after tearing a thumb ligament in his right hand during the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. Robinson still wears a small cast over it, which won’t be off for a little bit longer.
Still, it does not mean the end for Robinson’s time in Portland even though he’s unrestricted. The Blazers can bring him back at any yearly salary lower than the $4.7 million he would have been due next season per the league’s currently collective bargaining rules.