We're on to day three of our NBA Free Agency Sliding Doors feature here at HQ, and I have to say, the feedback we've been getting so far has been great. Not everybody agrees about which scenario best suits the Raptors future (DeMar DeRozan is a polarizing figure among fans -- who knew?), and that's just fine. Hackett and I are certainly open to hear your differing opinions, no matter how ill-considered and generally incorrect they seem to be.
Honestly though, each of these scenarios seems to have its own vocal faction of supporters. Today's is one that I definitely can't see working, but I've certainly heard it professed to be the secret pathway to a higher ceiling for this Raptors franchise.
Scenario 3: Bismack and Beyond!
DeMar DeRozan departs in free agency, and Bismack Biyombo re-signs
Grant: You'll note the order in which I listed those two events, because really, that's the only way it would happen. There's zero chance that Toronto renounces DeRozan's rights in order to sign Biyombo outright, so for this situation to even occur, DeRozan would need to bolt, thereby removing his 15+ million dollar cap hold from the Raptors books. This would not be good. I get that not everyone likes DeMar, and I love Big Bizness as much as anyone, but with Jonas Valanciunas on the roster, he's just not a starter. Neither of the two can shoot well enough to play them together, and Biyombo is rumoured to be looking at 60+ million dollar payday. That's just too much cheddar for a bench player, even in this crazy new cap era. I know that from whatever backwater opium den he's currently bankrupting, Sean Woodley is nodding his head sagely.
Hackett, this one is beyond me, so I'm going to let you lay out the possibilities.
Hackett: So, if the unthinkable happens and DeRozan walks, I guess the silver lining is you can now keep Biyombo. Leaving aside whether this is a good idea in terms of roster construction, let's look at how it would work and what it would leave the Raptors to work with.
First, we need to nail down what number Biyombo would sign for. There's the hope-and-a-prayer version where he signs for something close to 4 years, 48 million. This is in line with what his value was suggested to be pre-playoffs, before he had a chance to showcase his game in the Conference Finals. This seems more than a little optimistic now. As a probable ceiling, there's the rumoured 17 million a year deal we've been hearing about since the season ended, and of course anything in between the two. That's a pretty wide range of salaries, but considering Biyombo has said he would take a discount to stay, we'll make the top end 15 million per year.
Grant: That is just so much money. Since they'd still be missing a start power forward and would now have a hole on the wing in this reality, how would it affect Toronto's ability to bring in other free agents?
Hackett: Assuming a 4 year deal with the maximum raises the team can offer, the cap hit for this summer from Biyombo's new deal would be between 11.2 million and 14.1 million, depending on the average annual value (AAV). From the starting point of 18.8 million in cap room after DeRozan walks, that means the Raptors are looking at between 4.7 and 7.6 million left over.
Grant: Right, and for me, that's where this conversation ends. I know the cap is rising, so these numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt, but paying a primary backup that much just doesn't make sense to me. You're not getting anybody decent for that kind of money, unless you're somehow banking on finding the next Biyombo, which seems foolish. Unless Toronto plans to play significant minutes with both Biyombo and Valanciunas on the floor next year, or plans to deal JV?
Hackett: We'll get to that in a minute.
In either situation, the team has very little flexibility. As you said, those dollar amounts won't get you much this summer (note that in this scenario Bismack Biyombo just got 12-15M -- and we're being conservative), and aren't large enough to really buy you much flexibility in trades. In the absolute best case scenario (Biyombo signing for 4/48), that 7.6 million in remaining cap space would allow you absorb about 2.6 million more than you'd be able to if you were over the cap - for example, a Terrence Ross trade could bring back 17.6 million instead of 15 million. If we make the 15M per year assumption for Biyombo, there is no added trade flexibility at all, assuming we are talking about high salary trades.
Grant: But my Millsap dreams!
Hackett: It gets worse. Since the team used cap space to sign Biyombo, they also lose the mid-level and bi-annual exceptions entirely, and are stuck with the piddling 2 year, 3 million per year Room MLE, once they use the rest of their cap space.
Grant: This is beginning to sound like a car crash inside a train crash on top of the Hindenberg. The turducken of disaster scenarios.
Hackett: I don't know if it's quite that bad, but I'll agree with you on one thing: this scenario seems like a disaster for the Raptors. You are essentially capping yourself out by signing a backup center who may or may not be able to play a single minute at power forward beside your starter. Like you said before, the only way this makes sense is if the team is looking to trade Valanciunas, which, if they are losing DeRozan already, seems to me to be an incredibly foolish move to make.
Grant: Yeah, and that's the one move that I've heard some people loudly considering, not because they dislike JV, but because they think Toronto can land Biyombo for a lower AAV, and then use Jonas' value and salary to bring in players to fill the hole at power forward, or in this scenario, left by the departing DeRozan. I can see the logic behind this, as much as I don't agree with it. Biyombo made Toronto fans fall in love during the playoffs, he's only 23 years old and he's tough as nails. He is the epitome of a fan favourite.
However, it's important to remember how limited he is (and yes, continues to be) as a player. He showed off an improved 12-15 footer at times during the playoffs, and maybe that can become a consistent part of his game. Maybe. He improved a lot at catching the ball as the season went on, but he still consistently got stripped in traffic, unless the pass placement was perfect. Still he's young, so he can improve that. Maybe. His free throw shooting is not great, but not awful. Maybe he'll continue to get better. For his wonderful play in some games, he also completely disappeared in others. He'll become more consistent with time. Maybe.
There's a lot of 'maybes' in there.
If he was your only option, I'd gamble on him. Everything he's done, from his personality to his play on the court, reeks of a guy who's going to break his back to make himself the best player he can be. His fire and energy won the Raptors games this season and post-season, and I'm sure going to miss him if and when he leaves. But here's the thing: He's not the Raptors only option. Toronto already has an immensely talented young big man with fantastic hands, who shoots well from the line, has shown an improved jumper, and who has made strides on defense every season. He also happens to be locked up to a contract that already seems like a steal.
As tough as it is to admit, we just don't need another one.
Tune in tomorrow, when we go to dreamland and imagine a scenario in which everything comes up Milhouse.