There are those who are still hopeful that Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri can still land a new impact player in free agency. A potential All-Star like Luol Deng or Lance Stephenson could move the excitement needle for next season in Toronto from high to extreme. However, there are some practical realities Ujiri has to deal with and the Raptors GM started the off season with a, “We are not going to make any crazy quick fix decisions here.” After a look at the numbers, the crazy quick fix was never really an option anyway.
1. Kyle Lowry $12m (est. pending)
2. DeMar DeRozan $9.5m
3. Terrence Ross $2.8m
4. Amir Johnson $7m (expiring)
5. Jonas Valanciunas $3.7m
6. Landry Fields $6.3m (expiring)
7. Steve Novak $3.4m
8. Tyler Hansbrough $3.3m (expiring)
9. Chuck Hayes $6m (expiring)
10. Lou Williams $5.5m (expiring)
Approximate Total $59.5m
First Round Draft Picks $2.7m – subtotal +$62m
RFA Greivis Vasquez $5.4m (Q.O. $3.2m)
RFA Patrick Patterson $7.8m (Q.O. $4.3)
RFA Nando De Colo $1.9m (Q.O. $1.8m)
(Salary figures from Basketball Insiders Toronto Raptors salary page)
Note: if the Raptors sign their two unsigned first round draft picks (anticipated) and re-sign all three RFAs, their roster is full at 15.
The Raptors do have their mid-level exception (MLE) estimated $5.3 million, bi-annual exception (BAE) $2.1 million and various trade exceptions (TPE) – the biggest from the Rudy Gay trade for $4.6 million.
Except for their own RFAs, the Raptors are limited in free agency to their exceptions unless they pull off a sign and trade. Since Ujiri isn’t doing “crazy” – it looks like free agency beyond what happens with Vasquez, Patterson and De Colo is almost over.
How the team got here isn’t much of a mystery.
Ujiri wanted to add a couple of young guys he could develop – mission accomplished. The 18-year-old first round draft pick Bruno Caboclo defines young guy to be developed. Then he traded for the Hawks 2013 unsigned first round draft pick Lucas Nogueira for his second player in need of development. For a team hoping to make a splash in next year’s playoffs, Ujiri doesn’t need anyone else on his roster at this stage in their career.
To get Nogueira, Ujiri traded John Salmons to the Hawks and received veteran guard Lou Williams in return, a solid move that gives the Raptors some needed scoring punch off the bench and firms up what could be a very nice two point guard option with depth to survive short term injury situations very comfortably. Salmons $7 million deal for next season had a $1 million buyout and he wasn’t going to be on the Raptors roster next season in any case. Williams’ expiring contract is for $5.5 million, so Ujiri used up all the potential salary cap space that could have been created by buying out Salmons with this move.
Ujiri’s top priority in free agency was to re-sign Lowry. That deal was done early and at the anticipated price. There never was going to be much salary cap space after this move and everyone knew it as was laid out earlier in No Salary cap Space for You Toronto Raptors.
Ujiri identified Patterson and Vasquez as his next targets in free agency after the season ended and the Raptors Are Going After Vasquez And Patterson Next as part of Ujiri’s stated plan to build on continuity.
De Colo is a bigger question mark. If Ujiri wants to add a veteran wing through free agency – say Vince Carter for example – he will have to rescind De Colo’s qualifying offer to free up a roster spot or eat (waive) one of his guaranteed contracts. De Colo is even standing in the way of simply adding second round draft pick DeAndre Daniels unless Ujiri can pull off a two-for-one trade. This is quite possibly the real reason the Raptors Plan On Sending DeAndre Daniels To The D-League.
Waiving a guaranteed contract will not be very high on Ujiri’s wish list as any move like that probably pushes the Raptors payroll (further?) into Luxury Tax territory.
The Raptors have five players on expiring contracts totaling about $28 million, so Ujiri does have a lot of flexibility to do deals or possibly create salary cap space for next season. Under this scenario, rumors about potential transactions involving the Raptors aren’t about to go away anytime soon even if Ujiri insists he isn’t about to do anything crazy and his team is capped out. That’s why Ujiri is only “sort of” done with free agency.