Thomas Robinson: The hidden costs of getting a "free" player

Thomas Robinson: The hidden costs of getting a "free" player
July 2, 2013, 9:00 am
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Just a quick reminder for those of you gloating about your Trail Blazers "stealing" Thomas Robinson from Houston for a couple of draft picks and two Europeans who may never play in the NBA. You know, those people out there saying the Trail Blazers got Robinson "for free."

Well, not exactly.

There are hidden costs in these deals and it's all about salary cap room. Yeah, you know that Robinson cost Portland $3.5 million in cap space. But let me put that in perspective for you. The Chicago Bulls have reportedly reached an agreement with free-agent guard Michael Dunleavy on a two-year, $6 million contract. In other words, they have Dunleavy -- an outstanding outside shooter, adequate defender and one of the smartest players in the league -- for $3 million a year. That would be Thomas Robinson with a refund of a half-million bucks a year on the cap.

Now you can love Robinson, but this is a player who has yet to prove he can even stick in the NBA. He could not even earn rotation minutes in Houston last season and at best, has a long way to go just to prove he can get regular playing time on a good NBA team. I'm not even sure he qualifies as an "asset" at this point. Dunleavy, though? He would have been a great fit for the Trail Blazers in a city where he spent many of his formative years. He's a veteran player who can step in and play immediately, fitting into this team's desire not to get into a three-year rebuild, but find a quicker fix.

Look, I'm not saying the Robinson deal was a bad one. I'm just saying that it's important to understand the value of cap space and what it can be turned into. Would Dunleavy have chosen to play here? Doubtful. But that's not the point. The fact is, there's no better example of cap values than Dunleavy's reported contract with Chicago vs. Robinson's deal in Portland.