With the Raptors off-season continuing apace, day after day, it's time to look at some of the possible ways in which things can happen for Toronto in the NBA free agency period. Today starts the discussion: Four scenarios, two Dans, one Raptors future. How will it all play out?
Grant: It’s that time of year again!
Last off-season, the cap-guru known as Daniel Hackett and myself broke down the Toronto Raptors likelihood of retaining then free agents DeMar DeRozan and Bismack Biyombo.
A year later, and it’s double the
abject terror fun.
Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker are all unrestricted free agents for your hometown squad, a franchise that already has quite a bit of money committed to salary in 2017-18.
Over the next four days, Hackett and I will break down a variety of off-season scenarios for you, the faithful reader, and rank which we think are mostly likely to happen. It should be noted that while we’ll express our opinions at times, we’re looking at the cold, hard numbers here. So basically, don’t get your knickers in a twist (unless that’s something you enjoy).
Remember, this is supposed to be fun.
Without further adieu, here’s Hackett.
Hackett: I like to start each off-season by taking a modified page out of the book of the folks over at Pension Plan Puppets (your friendly neighbourhood SB Nation Maple Leafs blog).
A few seasons ago, to look at just how terrible a job Dave Nonis was doing with the team, they compared the results of the Leafs' off-season with the presumed results if a potato had been the GM instead — in other words, if no moves had been made at all.
The intent here is different: Masai is a genius, and the off-season has yet to start. But the process is useful. What does our baseline off-season look like? What happens if nothing happens? In other words, what if our GM was just a potato?
Grant: As someone with Irish background, I support your choice of starchy, tuberous crop!
Hackett: How’s that now?
Grant: Potatoes. I like potatoes.
Hackett: Uh, great!
Anyway, first off, what players are already locked into a contract for next year? A potato would not trade them, so they'll be there this summer.
Player | Salary
DeMar DeRozan | $27,739,975
Jonas Valanciunas | $15,460,675
DeMarre Carroll | $14,800,000
Cory Joseph | $7,630,000
Jakob Poeltl | $2,825,640
Lucas (BeBe) Nogueira | $2,947,305
Bruno Caboclo | $2,451,225
Delon Wright | $1,645,200
Pascal Siakam | $1,312,611
Norman Powell | $1,471,382
Fred Van Vleet | $1,312,611
Then there is also the first round pick. The potato will not trade it, and even if the potato doesn't sign the draftee, their cap hold will sit on the books as long as their rights do.
23rd Pick 2017 | $1,645,200
All in all that comes to $81,241,824 in committed salary for the above roster of 12 players. This (safely) assumes Lowry does not opt into his player option. It also assumes neither Van Vleet nor Powell are waived (both have non-guaranteed salaries). And of course it assumes the potato does not re-sign any of our free agents, letting them all walk.
Grant: Right. And this potato scenario would almost certainly be a harbinger of further non-nightshade based changes for the Raptors. You’re not going to cut ties with all four of these players and keep the rest the roster the same. Whether you bite the bullet and include a draft pick to find a taker for DeMarre Carroll’s final two years, or try to find a team could use Jonas Valanciunas (or both), this almost certainly wouldn’t be a finished product.
We’ll be discussing both of those potential roster moves ad nauseum over the next few days. They’re the Raptors easiest path to clearing salary, which will almost certainly be necessary in some of the more attractive scenarios.
Hackett: In any case, that $81 (ish) million in salary leaves almost exactly $20 million in cap space if the team chose to pursue a free agent from another team. That's the baseline starting point for the off-season. And that's what the team will look like if nothing is done (technically the team has to have 14 players on the roster, so something will have to be done).
Grant: $20 million sure doesn’t buy what it used to in the NBA. Even before this summers cap rise, 29 players made over 20 million dollars in salary last season. Keep in mind that number doesn’t include anyone still on a rookie deal — no Karl-Anthony Towns, no Nikola Jokic — and also doesn’t include a lot of premiere players who re-upped soon after the old CBA was signed. John Wall, Kyrie Irving and of course, Isaiah Thomas aren’t on there. Neither are Klay Thompson, Draymond Green or — gulp — Steph Curry.
Some perspective? The 30th ranked player on the list, the first under $20 million, is Ryan Anderson, who made $18,735,364 in the first year of a 4-year, 80 million dollar deal. Anderson is a nice player to be sure, but that’s the top end of the calibre of guy the Raptors would be restricted to adding, were a potato left in charge luckily of their off-season activities.
Luckily we do not have a potato. We have Masai Ujiri.
Tune back in tomorrow, when we’ll see Masai could pull a rabbit out of a hat and keep all four pending free agents.