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Stein: Nets could take on Ezeli contract for “draft compensation”

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Marc Stein reports that in the aftermath of their reported deal with the Nuggets, the Trail Blazers want to clean things up and are intent on moving the contract of injured big man Festus Ezeli. So much so, Stein reports, they are willing to send out “some level of draft compensation” to dump Ezeli.

The Nets, Stein suggests, could be a candidate for that kind of a move because they are still so far below the salary cap floor. The Nets are $6.8 million under that floor, more than the $4.7 million Portland owes Ezeli this season. He is owed another $1 million next season. Ezeli, a 6’11” center, hasn’t played this year. He has had recurring knee issues. So far, he’s been reluctant to undergo season-ending surgery, but is instead recovering from offseason knee injections that included a bone marrow aspirate.

Stein explained...

Sources say Portland is determined to move injured center Festus Ezeli before the deadline and is pitching him in particular to teams well below the salary floor that would be willing to take on Ezeli's contract with some level of draft compensation attached. This is the first year of a two-year deal for Ezeli that pays $7.4 million this season but is guaranteed for only $1 million next season. Denver ($7.6 million), Philadelphia ($7.5 million) and Brooklyn ($6.8 million) are the three teams that sit the farthest under the the league's $84.7 million salary floor.

The Nets or whoever would likely ask for something significant since taking on Ezeli’s deal would require them to cut a player and add another $1 million in “dead money” next season. The Nets already have $5.47 million in “dead money” on their cap next year, the annual stretch payment on Deron Williams buyout.

Teams that finish the regular season under the salary cap floor must distribute the difference between their payroll and the floor, $84.7 million, to the players on the roster the last day of the regular season. So the money is a “sunk cost,” a cost that can’t be recovered.

The Trail Blazers will have three first round picks, at Nos. 11, 21 and 27, in the 2017 draft after the Denver trade reported Sunday afternoon goes through. They have no second rounders in 2017. Portland also has their own pick in 2018.

Stein echoes what Ian Eagle told the Glue Guys last week, that the Nets price tag for Brook Lopez starts at two first round picks...

The Nets, as reported in late December, continue to demand two first-round draft picks if you want to convince them to part with center Brook Lopez before the deadline.

Trade deadline is February 23 at 3 p.m. ET.