Here's a quick look at where the Raptors sit going into the draft and free agency this summer.
See this thread for more details.
DeMar DeRozan $9,500,000
John Salmons $7,583,000
Amir Johnson $6,500,000
Landry Fields $6,250,000
Kyle Lowry $6,210,000
Chuck Hayes $5,722,500
Steve Novak $3,750,000
Jonas Valanciunas $3,526,440
Tyler Hansbrough $3,183,000
Patrick Patterson $3,105,301
Terrence Ross $2,678,640
Greivis Vasquez $2,150,188
Nando de Colo $1,463,000
Julyan Stone $884,293
Dwight Buycks $700,000
Quentin Richardson Buyout $1,399,507
Marcus Camby Buyout $2,763,054
DJ Augustin Buyout $1,267,000
Team Cap Totals $68,635,923 (10.0 M above cap)
Team Tax Totals $68,820,216 (2.9 M below tax, 6.9 M below hard cap)
Cap: 58.679 M
Tax: 71.748 M
Apron/Hard Cap: 75.748 M
Note that the Raptors are currently hard-capped at the apron as they accepted a player in a sign-and-trade.
For deals during and around the draft, when considering taking on salary from another team, you don't have to worry about the tax level. If the team salary exceeds the tax level at this point, it doesn't matter. Taxes are paid based on the team salary on the last day of the regular season. So if the Raps take on salary and end up over 71.7M, no one cares, the Raps still don't pay tax, don't add a year for repeater tax purposes, and still get a nice piece of the tax pie.
What they do have to worry about is that hard cap - they cannot exceed 75.748M in team salary. So any deal that takes on additional salary this season (not 2014-15 salary, this past season salary) cannot take on more than 6.9M in additional salary.
Now, for this summer. 2014-15:
DeMar DeRozan $9,500,000
John Salmons $7,000,000 (1 M guaranteed until June 30th)
Amir Johnson $7,000,000 (5 M guaranteed)
Landry Fields $6,250,000
Chuck Hayes $5,958,750
Steve Novak $3,445,947
Jonas Valanciunas $3,678,360
Tyler Hansbrough $3,326,235 (1 M guaranteed until June 29th)
Terrence Ross $2,793,960
Julyan Stone $948,163 (unguaranteed until 7th July)
Dwight Buycks $816,482 (unguaranteed until 22nd July)
Marcus Camby Buyout $646,609
Kyle Lowry $9,315,000 (cap hold)
Patrick Patterson $7,763,253 (cap hold; $4,319,474 QO)
Greivis Vasquez $5,375,470 (cap hold; $3,203,780 QO)
Nando de Colo $1,901,900 (cap hold; $1,828,750 QO)
Draft Pick #20 $1,215,300 (cap hold)
Above roster, with all free agents released: $52,579,806
With cap holds, well over cap (76M range).
Cap: 63.2 M
Tax: 77.0 M
Apron/Hard Cap: 81.0 M
So, the numbers above paint a not so pretty picture of the cap situation. The Raps can have about 10.6M in cap space if they let Lowry et al walk. Of course, they won't do that.
But they can free up some space by utilizing the various buyouts for several players. Stone and Buycks are non-guaranteed, and seem irrelevant with Lowry, Vasquez and de Colo all looking to be back. Hansbrough lost his spot in the rotation and would be a quick way to save 2.4M if waived. Salmons is even more obvious, as the team can save 6M by waiving him.
Assuming no moves are made at the draft, and those 4 players are waived, the team salary sits at $44.5M, leaving 18.7M in cap space (again, if Lowry et al walk). Re-signing Lowry, Vasquez and Patterson (and de Colo, it sounds like) eats into that, and probably all of it. Lowry will likely be 10M+, Vasquez and Patterson could easily sum to that, especially with de Colo there as well. So in all likelihood that Raptors are looking at having no cap space this summer.
A quick note here - those nice buyout contracts are a quick way to clear cap space - which is precisely why there is a very good chance they are used as a means of taking on salary at the draft. If the team wants to trade up in the draft, they can offer instantaneous cap relief to teams looking to trade picks for the ability to play in free agency this summer. These buyout contracts are better than expiring contracts, because at the draft, contracts expiring for the upcoming summer cannot be traded - but these unguaranteed or partially guaranteed contracts can be. And if these deals are indeed used to take on salary, you're looking at a fairly tight fit keeping the team under the tax next year (which is a good idea, not a cheap idea).
Anyway, in either case the Raptors are looking likely to be a) over the cap and b) under the tax, so that leaves them with their exceptions.
A) Mid-Level Exception. Starts at 5.3M, 4.5% raises for a total of $22.7M over 4 years. Can be split between multiple free agents.
B) Bi-Annual Exception. Starts at 2.1M, 4.5% raises for a total of $4.2M over 2 years. Can be split between multiple free agents (no real benefit to it though).
C) Veteran Exception. Any player can be signed to the vet minimum, for 1 or 2 years. If they are signed for 1 year, they count only as the 2nd year vet salary (0.9M). If they are signed for 2 years, they count for their actual minimum salary for their experience (say, a 10 year vet counts for 1.4M).
Finally, something to consider for acquisitions this summer. Next summer is going to be big for the Raptors. They have several contracts ready to expire (particularly, Fields, Amir and Hayes for a combined 19M coming off the books), and look to have significant (around 10M) cap space, even with our free agents coming back this summer, depending on the deals they sign. They could be looking at having a core of Lowry, DD, Ross, JV, Patterson, GV, 2014 draft pick and 2015 draft pick locked in and still have that cap space to play with in adding a big name. But signing players to multiple year deals with the MLE or bi-annual exception will eat into that cap space, so care needs to be taken this summer.