The Toronto Raptors have been amongst the most active teams this off-season, with trades, big signings, and controversial picks keeping them an interesting team to keep an eye on. What’s been most intriguing, is president and general manager Masai Ujiri‘s ability to work around the few assets and limited cap space to create the current roster. An infusion of young, athletic, and upside prospects and proven players in the league has moulded together an interesting team for the upcoming season.
Let’s take a look at the current roster:
PG: Kyle Lowry/Greivis Vasquez
SG: DeMar DeRozan/Lou Williams/Landry Fields
SF: Terrence Ross/James Johnson/Bruno Caboclo/DeAndre Daniels
PF: Amir Johnson/Patrick Patterson/Tyler Hansbrough
C: Jonas Valanciunas/Chuck Hayes/Bebe Nogueira
Julyan Stone = Waived
Dwight Buycks = Waived
DeAndre Daniels = Not Yet Signed
Nando De Colo = Signs with CSKA Moscow
As of today, the Raptors are a man under the maximum limit of players per team, 15. Considering changes; Dwight Buycks, waived, and DeAndre Daniels likely being stashed in Europe.
The strengths of the team are the deep rotations of the guard and the power forward positions. Preserving the rotation of Amir Johnson, Tyler Hansbrough, and Patrick Patterson allow protection in case of injury, especially with Amir, who has had chronic ankle problems in the recent seasons. The guard position is also a major strength, with Greivis Vasquez and Lou Williams coming off the bench.
Youth on the team is also a major asset moving forward, with Terrence Ross, Jonas Valanciunas, Bruno Caboclo, DeAndre Daniels, and Bebe Nogueira either going into their rookie, sophomore, or third seasons. Ujiri has taken a step forward in trying to direct the team into immediate winning, but has also infused hopes for a longer window of winning by acquiring young players to grow with an already very young core.
Keeping the continuity was the most important aspect of re-signing guys like Lowry, Patterson, and Vasquez, mainly because these players carried major roles in the success of the team in the past season. Keeping the core group, and bringing the consistent message allows the team to grow together, and carry the same culture into each and every game. Virtually nobody predicted the Raps to take the division, however odds for next season are now much higher, with on line betting sites such as http://sports.williamhill.com/;
Let’s dig into the cap situation for upcoming years:
Kyle Lowry = $12 Million
DeMar DeRozan = $9.5 Million
Amir Johnson = $7 Million ($5 million guaranteed if waived – unlikely)
Greivis Vasquez = Approx. $6.5 Million
Patrick Patterson = Approx. $6 Million
Landry Fields = $6.25 Million (Can use stretch provision, meaning waived, and cap relief of $2 million per year until contract is up)
Chuck Hayes = $5.96 Million
Lou Williams = $5.45 Million
Jonas Valanciunas = $3.68 Million
Tyler Hansbrough = $3.33 Million
Terrence Ross = $2.79 Million
James Johnson = $2.5 Million
Bebe Nogueira = $1.47 Million
Bruno Caboclo = $1.22 Million
Julyan Stone = $948,163 (Waived)
Dwight Buycks = 816,412 (Waived)
Guaranteed + Cap Holds =
Approximately $73.7 Million.
Thanks to the increase in the salary cap and luxury tax thresholds, the Raptors have a bit more room to function and save dollars instead of having to move into the tax. The 2014-2015 salary cap is projected to be $63.2 Million, and the luxury tax is projected to be $77 Million. With the current sub-total of the roster, the Raptors are under $3.3 million of being in the luxury tax, including James Johnson’s newly signed deal.
Again, considering James Johnson’s deal, the Raptors still have half the Mid-Level exception (a salary exception for teams not in the luxury threshold, however above the cap limit – worth about $5.31 million) at around $2.8 million, a $2.08 million bi-annual exception, and a $4.58 million exception expiring on December 9th, 2014. The remaining half of the MLE, can still be used to sign another player.
How to clear cap:
1. If Nogueira is not playing next season in the NBA, contract/rookie scale deal to come off the books.
2. If Buycks is waived by July 22nd (Update: Waived).
It wouldn’t make sense to let go of two young prospects for nearly $2 million in cap relief. The Raptors are likely to wait until 2016 to make major changes, considering that’s when there is considerable available cap.
Let’s dive into the future, which projects to hold plenty of cap space, namely when the 2016 free agent class comes around, led by Okahoma City Thunder forward, Kevin Durant.
Guaranteed Contracts Past 2016:
Kyle Lowry = Contract up to 2019
DeMar DeRozan = Player option in 2017
Jonas Valanciunas = Team option in 2017
Terrence Ross = Team option in 2017
Greivis Vasquez = Contract up to 2017
Bruno Caboclo = Team option in 2019
Patrick Patterson = Contract up to 2018
Subtotal: Expirings + considering new guaranteed deals (not including Bebe Nogueira) = Approx. $39 million.
Projected Salary Cap in 2016: $66.5 Million
Projected Luxury Tax Threshold: $81 Million
Available Cap: Approximately $33.5 Million
That approximate available cap in the 2016 off-season is incredible; a huge available amount in order to offer the maximum contract to a free agent star, and adding whatever available talent follows.
Masai Ujiri has created a terrific cap situation. Presently, the Raps have tied up $31 million between Lowry, Patterson, Vasquez, and Williams rather than approximately $37 million in Rudy Gay, and Andrea Bargnani. Impressive.
Following that is the major cap space to use in 2016, where players like Kevin Durant, Monta Ellis, Kevin Love, Jeff Green, Nicolas Batum, Eric Gordon, Roy Hibbert, Al Horford, Brook Lopez, and Joakim Noah are all free agents.
Opinion on deals:
Kyle Lowry = I’m happy about the deal, mainly because it’s a fair deal. Four years, $48 million, $12 million a year is a great, fair price for a point guard that was snubbed of an all-star spot. He is growing into a star point guard.
Patrick Patterson = The market for stretch fours are really high, and understanding the price that was paid for Channing Frye, and Josh McRoberts, Patrick Patterson‘s deal was also fair, considering the impact he had on the floor. Shoots the ball well, plays within the system, defends and rebounds; his entire package fit the style of the Raptors. Three years, for $18 million is fine by me.
Greivis Vasquez = Was a little shocked when I first read $13 million. I had thought three years. But, as free agency panned out, the deals Shaun Livingtson, Patty Mills, and Darren Collison were receiving, it looked better and better. Keep in mind Vasquez was likely the Raptors’ best bench player, made plays down the stretch, and shot the ball extremely well from three. The man is confident in his abilities, but unselfish, and that kind of personality can rub off on his teammates. It’s a deal I can live with.
James Johnson = The numbers say 2-years, $5 million. The deal makes sense, though. Fills a need of size, physical defence, rebounding, slashing, and a back-up option. Mainly, he was a cheap option for his abilities and position, rather than getting into a bidding war or having to throw a high price for guys like P.J. Tucker and Al-Farouq Aminu respectively. It’s a high-reward, low-risk deal. If things persist with his off-court problems, and his immature attitude (reports are he and Dwane Casey have agreed upon a role; James Johnson has matured) it’d be easy for Masai to ship him off. However, if he pans out in his second stint, he’ll be a major contributor.
In conclusion, the Raptors – on paper – have put an improved, younger, but stronger roster all-around for the upcoming season, and have created it under the luxury tax threshold. What’s important, is that the main core pieces are coming back long-term, along with the major available cap in the future. Ujiri really has turned this franchise around. From the front office, to the culture, to the roster on the floor, he has created a flexible, great upside, hard-working group on the floor, and a promising situation on the business side.