By DWIGHT JAYNES (@dwightjaynes)
Restricted free-agent Trail Blazer forward Nic Batum is flying from Paris to Minneapolis tonight and will meet with Timberwolves officials about a proposed offer sheet.
The decision by Batum to take the visit -- and it is believed that Minnesota is one of his top choices -- is believed to signal he's serious about signing with the Timberwolves and thus Portland's planned offer sheet to Indiana unrestricted free agent Roy Hibbert is in peril, to some degree.
Batum cannot sign the offer sheet until July 11 but by merely agreeing to it on that date, his cap hold -- now about 5.4 million -- would increase and thereby endanger Portland's ability to make a max-contract offer to Hibbert. When Batum, or any restricted free agent, signs an offer sheet, the cap hold with his original team immediately becomes the figure that he's signed for on the new offer sheet.
So if Batum's cap hold goes from 5.4 million to something over 10 million, the Blazers would be left with somewhere around 12 million of available room.
If Portland wants to offer Hibbert a max contract, it is believed the first season of that deal could approach 14 million, so Portland would either be unable to make the offer or would have to cut or trade a player to create more space. It would also likely mean the signing of Hibbert would be Portland's only free-agent move, because no cap room would be left for anything else.
The best scenario, of course, would be to get Batum to hold off on signing anything until Portland's moves are finished, but that's highly unlikely. Or the Blazers could simply just let him walk -- but this is a player the new general manager has called a "cornerstone" of the franchise.
Either way, it is not a preferable situation for the Trail Blazers.