They did it! They did the thing!
Immediately after winning the championship, this is what Masai Ujiri said on the broadcast:
We wanted to win in Toronto, and we have won in Toronto!
One title is nice, but I get the sense Ujiri might want to keep winning in Toronto. So.
Now attention turns to next year. There is very little time before the NBA Draft, where key trades are often made, and then shortly after, free agency, which might be kind of important for the Raptors this year.
First off today, let’s get the status of Toronto’s salary situation going into the draft and then look at this summer and 2020 for planning purposes. Tomorrow, we’ll look at the team’s free agency business (non-Kawhi division). And then on Thursday, we’ll have a whole discussion about the biggest question of all for the Raptors: the Kawhi Leonard situation.
Current 2018-19 Salary Situation
The following is a list of the players still under contract with the Raptors going into the draft. Only players whose contracts are not expiring (Exp), and who are not going into a player option (PO) year, can be traded prior to July. I’ve marked those players below. I’ve also excluded players who are free agents but for whom the Raptors hold no special rights — so late season minimum salary signings.
Player | 2018-19 Salary | Years Remaining After 2018-19
Kyle Lowry: $31.2M, 1 year — Trade-Eligible
Marc Gasol: $24.1M, 1 year (PO)
Kawhi Leonard: $23.1M, 1 year (PO)
Serge Ibaka: $21.7M, 1 year — Trade Eligible
Danny Green: $10M, Exp
Norman Powell: $9.4M, 3 years — Trade Eligible
Fred VanVleet: $8.7M, 1 year — Trade Eligible
OG Anunoby: $2.0M, 2 years — Trade Eligible
Pascal Siakam: $1.5M, 1 year — Trade Eligible
Patrick McCaw: $0.8M, Exp
Chris Boucher: $0.5M, 1 year — Trade Eligible
Malcolm Miller: $0.5M, 1 year — Trade Eligible
Going into the draft, none of Gasol, Leonard, Green or McCaw can be traded. Same goes for the end of roster guys like Jeremy Lin, Jodie Meeks and Eric Moreland, none of whom are even listed above.
This means the Raptors have eight trade chips going into this draft. The Raptors also have their own second round pick this year at number 59 (as well as 2023, 2025, and later), and can trade their 2021 or later first round draft picks. Their 2020 pick they can trade as soon as their pick goes by on draft night. (They can also agree to a deal earlier and then just execute it after the draft is over.)
We’ll be looking at what sort of trades the Raptors might want to make in the next sections when we look at the next couple of summers, but in terms of short term (2018-19) impacts, there are few. The tax bill for this year was calculated as of the end of the regular season, with the exception of any bonuses players earn in the playoffs, and no trades now can change it, for better or worse. So there is no danger in adding salary at the draft. They just have to obey the rules for above-tax teams — that is, taking back no more than 125% (+$100k) of the salary they send out.
Worth noting, the Raptors do have four different traded player exceptions (TPEs) from previous trades that they can use to add a salary without sending back matching salary. These cannot be combined with each other or other player contracts to take back a contract larger than the TPEs themselves.
Traded Player | TPE Value
Jakob Poeltl: $2.9M
Malachi Richardson: $1.6M
Delon Wright: $2.5M
Greg Monroe: $1.5M
As for that tax bill, by my calculations the Raptors sit at $137.4M in committed salary (for the tax calculation), which is $13.7M above the tax. Which yields a $25.5M tax bill. That’s a sizable bill, but not unreasonable for a contender, let alone a champion. Keep that number in mind as we go into the next sections — and on to our free agency discussion this week.
Now we’ll list who is actually locked in for next year, this time with some assumptions. We’ll assume Marc Gasol picks up his player option. We’ll assume Kawhi Leonard does not. These are pretty safe assumptions — Gasol is very good, but at his age he is almost certainly better off taking the $26 million than opting out and hoping to recoup that over a longer deal (one that would need to be compared to whatever deal he might sign next summer after getting this year’s $26 million).
Meanwhile, Leonard will definitely opt out. His salary is well below his current maximum, so even in the unlikely event that his ideal scenario was playing here for one more season, he’d opt out and sign a new one year deal here for far more money.
Player | 2019-20 Salary
Kyle Lowry: $34.8M
Marc Gasol: $25.6M
Serge Ibaka: $23.3M
Norman Powell: $10.1M
Fred VanVleet: $9.3M
Pascal Siakam: $2.4M
OG Anunoby: $2.3M
Chris Boucher: $1.6M
Malcolm Miller: $1.6M
The salary cap this summer is currently projected at $109M, and the tax is projected at $132.4M. The above roster is $112M, plus roster slot cap holds. So, even if no free agent is re-signed, the Raptors will be above the cap, with no way to add a free agent except using exceptions (like the Mid-Level Exception, MLE, worth $9.2M). In any event, let’s not worry about cap room — our concern will be the tax. The total for Toronto in terms of how salary counts against the tax, with some empty roster spots thrown in, is $119M. So, not quite a tax team at present, but with even one significant signing they will be.
The Raptors have their own free agents to re-sign, and that will likely be most of the work for this summer. Just for the record, here are the other exceptions they could use to sign a free agent.
Mid-Level Exception (MLE): $9.2M starting salary, up to 4 years
Tax-Payer MLE: $5.7M starting salary, up to 3 years
Room MLE: $4.8M starting salary, up to 2 years
Bi-Annual Exception (BAE): $3.6M starting salary, up to 2 years
Minimum Salary Exception: $1.6M starting salary, up to 2 years
A team can only use one of the MLE exceptions. If the team uses cap space, after they are out of cap space they can use the Room MLE to sign another player to exceed the cap. If the team is over the cap, but doesn’t go above the tax apron (a line a few million above the tax — $6.3M above this year) at any point in the season, they can use the full MLE. They also get to use the BAE if that is the case. If a team uses either (or signs a free agent using the sign-and-trade mechanism), they are hard capped for the season at the apron. If a team intends to exceed the apron at any point, they instead get the tax-payer’s MLE. The Raptors will almost certainly be over the apron, assuming Leonard is back.
The minimum salary exception is available to all teams essentially all the time. Any team can sign a player to his minimum salary value on a 1- or 2-year deal, even with no cap space available. That value is based on the player’s total years in the league, but counts as the above $1.6M for tax purposes for all players, and for cap purposes for all players except rookies and sophomores (who count as their lower minimum salaries).
Tomorrow we’ll take stock of the Raptors’ upcoming free agent decisions, but before we get to that, let’s jump ahead to next summer and take the long view.
Before we go any further planning this off-season, it’s important to look ahead one additional summer, to summer 2020, to get an idea what impact any signings this summer could have for Toronto. To make it obvious why, let’s just go ahead and list all the contracts on the books for the Raptors that summer.
Player | 2020-21 Salary
Norman Powell: $10.9M
OG Anunoby: $3.9M
That’s it. That’s the list.
The summer of 2020 projects to have a cap of $116M. Throw in 10 empty roster spots at about $1M each and you’ve got a team salary of $24.3M, meaning $92M in cap room.
So, that could be a big summer for the Raptors. But let’s be reasonable. There will likely be a first round draft pick. Let’s peg its value as the 25th pick, assuming the team sticks together, a cap hold of about $2M (it replaces one of those $1M roster spot cap holds). Everyone will obviously also want to keep Pascal Siakam on the team. Assuming he hasn’t already been extended, Siakam will be a restricted free agent with full Bird Rights. Meaning the team can match any offer, and in the meantime, he only counts as his small cap hold against the books — a value of $7.1M (again, replacing a roster spot cap hold).
So there’s your 2020-21 Raptors as it stands right now. Powell, OG, Pascal and their first round draft pick in the 2020 draft. And $84.5M in cap room.
Now, you might look at the 2020 free agent class and decide you like the 2021 class better. And you can bridge the extra year by signing players for longer this summer, or by signing one year deals when you get to 2020. But keep in mind that the most likely situation is that Siakam gets the max when he re-signs, and that Kawhi opts out after two years to sign his supermax deal. Those two deals alone would be $74M in a $123M cap. If the entire rest of the roster is empty, you’d have $44M in cap room. Powell is still on the books that summer (unless he opts out), so make it $33M in cap room — less than the maximum salary for most unrestricted free agents. And that assumes you let OG Anunoby walk for nothing, don’t sign any draft picks between now and then, and don’t bring back VanVleet or any other role players past that summer.
As fun as the summer of 2021 can look, the reality is that summer 2020 is when the Raptors will need to pounce, especially in the case where Kawhi stays. Admittedly, 2021 is not a terrible consolation prize if the Raptors strike out in 2020, but it’s not a very good Plan A.
Anyway, that’s enough ground work. Now that we’re all up to speed on the Raptors’ current salary situation, and the potential outcomes for 2019 and 2020, tomorrow we’ll dive into Toronto’s free agent questions. As always, feel free to hit me up with any questions or suggestions in the comments.
Player contract information per basketball-insiders.com