Report: Trail Blazers offering Terry Stotts five-year, $20 million contract

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Terry Stotts – surprisingly – reportedly isn’t a lock to return as Trail Blazers coach.

Why not?

Jay Allen of Rip City Radio 620 AM (hat tip: Dave Deckard of Blazer’s Edge):

That seems like a pretty low salary for someone with Stotts’ résumé (four seasons in Portland, including nearly 50 wins per season the last three years, and second in Coach of the Year voting this season).

An average salary of $4 million would rank 12th of 21 coaches listed by Other League. It would rank ninth among the 12 listed coaches hired since 2014

However, maybe there was a coaching-salary bubble that’s bursting with the salary cap skyrocketing. Because of the NBA’s increased popularity and new national TV contracts, teams were raking in revenue and the salary cap needed a year or two to catch up. So, with all this extra money on hand, teams invested in coaches. Now, teams can spend more on players – and need the funds available to do so.

Portland projects to have more than $25 million in cap space, accounting for qualifying offers to Meyers Leonard, Maurice Harkless and Allen Crabbe. Because they have those players’ Bird Rights, the Trail Blazers could spend that $25 million then exceed the cap to re-sign those three. I don’t expect Leonard, Harkless and Crabbe all to get max contracts, but in this unprecedented cap environment, it’s possible. Using that $25 million then retaining those restricted free agents on max deals would balloon the Trail Blazers’ player expenditures to a projected $178 million – about $139 million in salary and $39 million in luxury tax.

That’s a lot of money.

On one hand, you can see why Portland would want to save elsewhere, like coaching salary. On the other hand, if the Trail Blazers are willing to spend $178 million players – and I doubt they are – why wouldn’t they pay an extra million or two to get the best coach possible?

No matter how much Portland is willing to players and how much it’ll cost to keep its key free agents, owner Paul Allen has a budget. Maybe it’s far above $182 million (player salaries plus $4 million for Stotts). Allen has spent big before. But my guess is it’s lower, so the less the Trail Blazers pay Stotts, the more they can pay players.

The Blazers reportedly hold a team option – presumably for a lower salary – on Stotts for next season, which gives them leverage. They could always exercise that and force him to coach a lame duck year or walk and lose a year of earnings.

Stotts should keep bargaining for better terms, but he also must realize how costly players will be for Portland this summer.