Thought I'd do a quick run-down of the Raptors' cap space given recent moves and free agency rumours. As ever, visit the esteemed Sham Sports for the most accurate salary information. I've also used Basketball insiders to fill in some blanks that Sham hasn't updated yet.
First, a quick run-down of our cap situation this summer, after the Greivis Vasquez trade and assuming we will be renouncing free agents to clear cap space. (And that Ridnour will be waived by the time we look to use cap space).
Kyle Lowry $12,000,000
DeMar DeRozan $9,500,000 (not including $600,000 unlikely incentive)
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
Nando de Colo $1,901,900 (cap hold; $1,828,750 QO)
Delon Wright (20th) $1,257,800
Above roster, if de Colo is let go: $44,682,153
Projected League Levels:
Cap: $67.1 million
Tax: $81.6 million
Apron/Hard Cap: $85.6 million
So the resulting cap space the Raptors have to operate in, assuming they let de Colo go to maximize it, is $22.4 million. If de Colo's rights are kept, that drops to $20.5 million. Keeping de Colo's rights and then signing him to a larger contract would be the way to actually spend the most money this off-season though (as his low cap hold allows you to spend up to near the cap, then over it to re-sign him). The Raptors even went so far as to extend him a QO to ensure he remains a restricted free agent for them. But that can be waived if they decide to utilize a little more cap room. And for most of the following scenarios, we'll assume his rights do get waived and the Raptors have the full $22.4 million in cap room.
I'm going to group the rumours into a couple scenarios based on which ones I think fit together, just to reduce the number of cap situations, because they can get dizzying in the number of combinations.
The Dream Scenario
This one came as a surprise to many. A top tier free agent is taking a free agent meeting with the Raptors. LaMarcus Aldridge is one of the premier PF's in the game today, and he's scheduled for a sit down with Masai Ujiri on Thursday, one of about six or seven teams he is meeting with. His max salary starts at $19.0 million, and I'm sure that is where the conversation starts and ends.
It's tough to say what Aldridge will want in terms of contract length. On one hand, he might want a one year deal, or a two year deal with the second year a player option, so he can jump back into free agency in a higher cap next summer or the summer after. Then again, he is 30 years old, so perhaps a longer term deal providing security is more likely his target. In either case it does not affect this year's cap room, but it will affect next year's.
Another rumour I lump in with that one is the rumour that the Raptors are sniffing around Al-Farouq Aminu. A tremendous defender and rebounder at the 3, his offensive game is non-existent. It's hard to see much of a role for him here with a traditional PF in the lane - but with a PF rotation that is comprised of Aldridge and Patterson, he suddenly fits in with the bench and even the starters, especially if Aldridge spends some time at C for the bench unit. And the numbers, they just work out too well to disregard.
Rumours put Aminu's value at about $4 million per year. The Raptors have $22.4 million in cap room. Take off Aldridge's $19 million, and remove a roster slot cap hold ($525,093) and the Raptors would have $3,982,766 in cap room to offer Aminu. Assuming a 4 year contract with maximum raises means a $17 million contract, $4.25 million per year. Spooky.
At that point the Raptors' roster would look something like this:
With Powell and Daniels possible additions as well. There would still be a spot for two veteran signings to round out the C and PG spots, probably with the minimum, though the Room MLE (2.8M per year for two years) is also available.
Then in summer 2016, assuming any minimum signings this year are for one year only, or non-guaranteed, and assuming the Raptors let Ross walk in free agency, the most cap space they can generate is about $12 million. That's not nothing, but they won't be able to add another star. That assumes that both Jonas Valanciunas and DeMar DeRozan are kept. If it came down to it (and it probably wouldn't), they could let DeMar walk and free up $26.2 million in total cap space, enough for a max offer on a Kevin Durant type ($25.1 million). Interesting to say the least. That possibility disappears if Aldridge takes a one year deal, as he would be looking for a raise and obviously any raise at all would eat into that cap space.
Like I said: Dream scenario. But let's say the likeliest result happens and Aldridge goes to the Spurs or anywhere else but here. What then?
The Restricted Free Agency Route
There are a lot of interesting restricted free agents out there this summer. And, sadly, almost all of them are unattainable. Jimmy Butler? Chicago has already submitted the max QO, they will clearly match anything. No way SAS lets Kawhi Leonard go. Even Khris Middleton, a favourite target of mine, will likely be matched at any cost. Same seems to go for Tristan Thompson.
The one free agent that rumours suggest is gettable (of the max salary candidates) is Tobias Harris of the Magic. And there have been suggestions in the media that the Raptors should go after him with a max offer. I happen to agree.
The one great thing about going after an RFA is that the max salary for guys with that level of experience is lower ($15.8 million). Meaning more extra cap room (about $7 million) to play with after the fact.
That $7 million could be used to retain a guy like Lou Williams, who has seemed confident about free agency and coming back to the Raptors. Or to overpay on an RFA like Cory Joseph, a solid defensive and team-oriented combo guard, to pry him away from the Spurs. In any case, the 2016 cap impact is the same as the one above if you use all your cap room on longer deals. Though if a player like Lou is open to a one year deal so he can jump back into free agency net summer, the Raptors could be looking at $19 million in cap room next summer even if they keep DeRozan, enough for another max RFA offer.
As a note, it doesn't have to be restricted free agents. Guys like Wesley Matthews (who the Raptors have been rumoured to be interested in as well) would command similar salaries to what Harris might get.
Those are my two catch-all free agency scenarios. Do you have any others? I can check the numbers in the comments for any requests.