As Raptors fans watch the remaining NBA free agents sign cheap veteran minimum deals they might be wondering why president Masai Ujiri hasn’t picked up a depth piece of his own, however, if one looks at the numbers, the Raptors are done with adding guaranteed contracts thru free agency for now.
The minimum salary for a 10-year NBA veteran is $2.3 million this year declining to $1.3 million for a player with one-year’s experience.
When asked recently, Ujiri said he might be looking at adding a couple of non-guaranteed players just before the official announcement of the Kennedy Meeks signing that brought the total number of players under contract to 15. (Malcolm Miller is signed to a two-way contract that doesn’t count against the NBA roster.)
Alfonzo McKinnie, who impressed during NBA Summer League, only has a $100,000 guarantee and Meeks salary isn’t guaranteed, so, in theory at least, Ujiri could create $2.7 million below the luxury tax line and that is enough room to sign one 10-year NBA veteran to a minimum deal, but at this point that seems very unlikely.
It is more likely that Ujiri repeats the pattern of previous summers and finds up to four more undrafted players to invite to training camp on partially or non-guaranteed deals.
The one outstanding move that could create significant space to sign another free agent would be to trade Jonas Valanciunas in an unbalanced deal. However, after apparently shopping his starting center at the draft and not finding a deal to his liking, the ever patient Ujiri made it clear he wan’t unhappy just keeping his big traditional center around.
“We believe in JV’s talent. I want everybody to know that,” Ujiri said. “You can say the style of play in the NBA is going in one direction, but we also believe in offensive rebounding and he’s really good at that and it’s something we are going to pay attention to this year.”
None of what Ujiri has said precludes trading Valanciunas. It’s just the Raptors are not giving him away. Just like with the Cory Joseph trade, they need and want value back one way or another.
Ujiri put a lot of effort and expended future assets he covets to get the Raptors below the luxury tax threshold in July. No one should be expecting he’s about to risk going back over the line just to sign some journeyman free agent that isn’t going to move the needle on the season and likely takes playing time away from some of his young prospects already on the roster.
For all intents and purposes, expectations are the Raptors are done with free agency for now. The ever patient Ujiri will sit on his hands and wait for an opportunity he believes will make a real difference.