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Salary Cap Update: The Terrence Ross Extension Effect

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With the Terrence Ross extension, the picture of this coming summer, and therefore the assumptions about the Raptors' plans, change dramatically.

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

For various reasons, including his lacklustre play to date and the impact on next summer's cap space, I was pretty sure the Raptors would not give Terrence Ross an extension this year. The Raptors were predicted to have enough flexibility to offer a maximum contract to a guy like Kevin Durant next summer, if they let guys like DeRozan and Ross (and James Johnson and Luis Scola and Bismack Biyombo) walk.

Now things have changed. That potential is no longer there barring a trade that dramatically decreases salary commitments. Ross is signed to a three year deal at $10 million starting next summer (might want to remember that number for later in the post) and $10.5 million for the other two years.

2016/17:

Jonas Valanciunas $14,382,024
DeMarre Carroll
$14,200,000
Kyle Lowry $12,000,000
Terrence Ross $10,000,000
Cory Joseph
$7,315,000
Patrick Patterson $6,050,000
Lucas Nogueira (BeBe) $1,921,320
Bruno Caboclo $1,589,640
Delon Wright $1,577,280
Norman Powell $874,636

Cap holds:

DeMar DeRozan $15,075,000 (assuming he opts out of his player option)
Luis Scola $3,480,000
James Johnson $4,750,000
Bismack Biyombo $3,376,800 (assuming he opts out of his player option)
Nando de Colo $1,901,900 (cap hold; $1,828,750 QO)
TOR 2016 1st round pick $1,301,900 (assumed 20th pick)
NYK 2016 1st round pick $2,140,500 (assumed 10th pick)

Above roster, if all free agents are let go: $73,895,771

Projected League Levels:

Cap: $89 million
Tax: $108 million
Apron/Hard Cap: $112 million

That leaves about $15 million in cap room. Nowhere close to what is needed to sign a max level player - frankly not even enough to make a competitive bid on a restricted free agent. Barring a massive trade that brings in a lot less salary than it sends out, chasing a Durant-level player is now out the window (in terms of a direct offer, anyway).

What does that mean, though? It means that any real addition to this team in terms of talent will be through trade, which means there's a very good chance the Raptors choose to simply operate above the cap, which allows them to keep a lot of their depth, whatever path they choose.

The Status Quo

Option 1 is keeping the gang together, and hoping for an eventual trade of assets. You re-sign DeRozan to whatever it takes (presumably about $20 million per year). You re-sign James Johnson, Luis Scola and Bismack Biyombo to the best deals you can offer (starting salaries equal to the cap holds listed above - JJ can sign for more but would probably come much cheaper anyway). You use your mid-level exception (you'd have the full MLE since you are playing above the cap) to sign Bennett to a longer term deal. You draft two players or package them to move up for one better pick.

Then you wait for an opportunity to come along where you can solidify those contracts into better pieces at the cost of several of your rookie scale prospects and picks.

Bail Out and Hold Your Ground

There's always the option of doing nothing. Let any free agents who won't sign one year deals walk, sign as many one year deals as possible, and wait for 2017 free agency. Boring, probably a big step back in team performance for a year, but you maintain flexibility for the future.

Sign and Trade Attempt

I'll use Kevin Durant as an example here, but it could work for any big name free agent. But really it's definitely Durant.

Step one, convince Durant to come here. Step two, sign and trade for him.

Durant will command a starting salary of $25.1 million. To make a sign and trade work, the Raptors will need to send out just over $20 million in salary. To get OKC to bite you might need to include a pick as well (say, the Raptors' own 2016 draftee or the LAC 2017 pick, as I can't see Masai giving up that Knicks pick in a sign and trade), though maybe not.

Let's start with the obvious. A few prospects that are already signed, so they count towards the salary requirements. Delon Wright and Lucas Nogueira will do fine, as we have capable young backups in place at their positions in Cory Joseph and Bismack Biyombo. Powell too, as minimum salaries are always desired in these deals. They make up $4.3 million. Add Patterson, as he is our only expiring contract. That makes $10.35 million. Leaving just under $10 million in additional salary we need to add, ideally attached to a young wing player with potential that could be seen as an asset to an OKC team losing their star wing player.

Hmmm, anyone have any contracts like that lying around?