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Cap Crunch: The Raptors have a few salary questions to answer this summer

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With the draft and free agency around the corner, and the Raptors seeming likely to make major changes to the roster, here's an update on the current salary situation heading into the summer.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

All salary information comes from Shamsports, supplemented by Basketball Insiders. For cap-related questions, CBA FAQ is the place to go, and I am of course happy to answer any questions in the comments below.

In the summer, I went over the salary cap situation the Raptors found themselves in, and what next summer would look like. I thought it would be a good idea to update that again.

First, here are the Raptors' salaries as they stand right now.

Raptors Salaries 2014-15:

Kyle Lowry $12,000,000
DeMar DeRozan $10,100,000 (including $600,000 likely incentive)
Amir Johnson $7,050,000 (fully guaranteed, includes $50,000 unlikely incentive)
Greivis Vasquez $6,400,000
Landry Fields $6,250,000
Chuck Hayes $5,958,750
Patrick Patterson $5,831,326
Lou Williams $5,450,000
Jonas Valanciunas $3,678,360
Tyler Hansbrough $3,326,235
Terrence Ross $2,793,960
James Johnson $2,500,000
Lucas (Bebe) Nogueira $1,762,680
Bruno Caboclo $1,458,360
Greg Stiemsma $915,243 (actual pay $948,163, fully guaranteed)
Marcus Camby $646,609 (buyout)
Jordan Hamilton $25,000 (buyout)
Will Cherry $25,000 (buyout)

Nando de Colo $1,901,900 (cap hold; $1,828,750 qualifying offer)

Above roster, with NDC overseas: $76,171,523

League Levels:

Cap: $63.035 million
Tax: $76.829 million
Apron/Hard Cap: $80.829 million

The Raptors are right up against the tax, with about $650,000 of cushion. One thing to note: DeMar will not be receiving his incentive as he did not make the All-Star team. Since DeRozan is not receiving his incentive this year, next summer it will be listed as unlikely, so it will not count against the cap. The good news about the tax is that now that the season is over, the Raptors cannot end up tax payers even if they take on salary in a trade at the draft. Also, the Raptors never triggered the hard cap, so they are free to take on as much salary as they like, with no penalties, so long as they can get the individual trades legal.

Another note: we are still sitting on two different trade exceptions. The one from the Gay trade expired in December, leaving the one from the Novak deal ($3.44 million) and the one generated in the Salmons-for-Williams deal ($2.35 million). Both are good through the draft, and expire shortly after, so they could be used to take on salary in any draft day deals.

As for this coming summer:

Raptors Salaries 2015-16:

Kyle Lowry $12,000,000
DeMar DeRozan $9,500,000 (not including $600,000 unlikely incentive)
Greivis Vasquez $6,600,000
Patrick Patterson $6,268,675
Jonas Valanciunas $4,660,482
Terrence Ross $3,553,917
James Johnson $2,500,000
Lucas (BeBe) Nogueira $1,842,000
Bruno Caboclo $1,524,000

Cap holds:

Amir Johnson $10,500,000
Lou Williams $10,355,000
Landry Fields $9,375,000
Chuck Hayes $8,938,125
Tyler Hansbrough $4,324,106
Nando de Colo $1,901,900 (cap hold; $1,828,750 QO)
1st Round Pick (20th) $1,257,800
Greg Stiemsma $947,276

Above roster, with only the 1st rounder kept: $50,757,060

Projected League Levels:

Cap: $67.1 million
Tax: $81.6 million
Apron/Hard Cap: $85.6 million

So that's $16.34 million in cap room if the Raptors let everybody walk. That's enough to make a max offer on a restricted free agent ($15.8 million starting salary, works out to $16.9 million per year over 4 years). But it means filling two to four roster spots with the Room Mid-Level Exception and minimum salaries, including backup centre and another wing player, depending on how ready you think Bebe or Bruno are.

If the Raptors instead choose to keep Amir and Lou, for example, there's pretty much no way they both sign for little enough that the Raptors have more than the Mid-Level Exception in cap room left over, so they might as well use the MLE in that case and stay over the cap. If the Raptors sign only one of them, it gets interesting - assuming the one signs for between 6-9 million, that leaves about 7-10 million in cap room left over. Not enough to chase a big name, but enough to outbid other teams on MLE guys.

There are also interesting questions about Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross - should they be extended this summer? For clarity on that question, here is what the summer of 2016 looks like for the Raptors.

Raptors Salaries 2016-17:

Kyle Lowry $12,000,000
Patrick Patterson $6,050,000
Lucas (BeBe) Nogueira $1,921,320
Bruno Caboclo $1,589,640
1st Round Pick 2015 $1,577,280

Cap holds:

DeMar DeRozan $14,250,000 ($15,150,000 if he makes the all-star game this coming year)
Jonas Valanciunas $11,651,205
Greivis Vasquez $9,900,000
Terrence Ross $8,884,793
James Johnson $4,750,000
Nando de Colo $1,901,900 (cap hold; $1,828,750 QO)
1st Round Pick (assumed 20th) $1,562,280
NYK 1st Round Pick (assumed 10th) $2,568,600

Above roster, with only the 1st rounders kept: $29,297,995
Above roster, with all cap holds in place: $77,918,538

Projected League Levels:

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

So, that's a lot of flexibility. Let everybody walk and you've got $59.7 million in cap room to throw around, in a year where the absolute maximum contract is $29.3 million starting salary. That's two max contracts the Raptors could offer, say to LeBron James and Kevin Durant (who probably laugh in our faces, but still). But remember, this assumes nothing is done this coming summer to impact the following summer, and that we let players like DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross and James Johnson walk. Not likely.

So more realistically, let's say we assume there are no trades (as it is almost impossible to predict salary impacts of trades) but the team signs an RFA to a max contract offer and otherwise only hands out one year deals to fill out the roster. And leaves DeRozan, Ross and Valanciunas' cap holds in place. That brings the total committed salary to $78.4 million, which means about $10.6 million in cap room.

Now, at this point it seems like a real long shot that DeRozan or Jonas Valanciunas will make less than their cap holds that summer, meaning to maximize cap space, you leave those cap holds in place and sign them after you are done playing with cap space. Ross, though, seems unlikely to earn an $8 million dollar contract in the coming year. Maybe you move on from him entirely, maybe you extend him this summer for less than his cap hold. If he is cut loose, that means your cap room jumps to $18.9 million. Any contract or extension he might be signed to here eats into that.

Keep in mind, in the crazy landscape of 2016, that $18.9 million is not even enough for a RFA max contract. You'd need $21 million for that. And Masai keeps making noises about that summer, so I think he wants the flexibility to offer a true max contract to a vet. Let's assume he is targeting Durant, or someone younger. That means he wants $25.1 million in cap space and has to shed another $6.2 million. This could be done by dumping Patterson, but I think more likely we see a move of Lowry or DeRozan for a lower cost alternative and futures.

So, with all that in mind, what do you guys think the Raptors should do or will do?