The lockout is already driving me nuts, and all we’re presently missing is the Summer League. No offense to the Drew League and Kevin Durant’s Rucker Park feats, but I’m craving some meaningful ball news (North American only, I should note). What’s worse, is that I’m a Raptors season ticket holder.
Now, it’s not an awful scenario. Yes, I’ve put down the money for season seats already. And yes, it’s unfortunate to have that money out of my bank account, untouchable, with little tangible return expected for at least a year (I try to be optimistic, but if Billy Hunter can’t even feign optimism, how can I?). As I understand it, MLSE will offer to pay us back, with interest, for games missed (prorated if it’s a partial season), and I’ll have the option to take the cash or put it on my account towards future seats. I’m undecided, a small amount due to bitterness, and in large part due to the uncertainty surrounding the league, my own life, and the team.
But what about the team? Arse has covered how the lockout could impact individuals on the roster, in positive or negative light, already. Dwayne Casey obviously suffers if he’s expected to mold this team on the fly without a proper training camp. And we’re all suffering as fans, of course…this is my third rambling paragraph and I haven’t gotten to the point yet. My apologies, but such is life for the basketball fan this summer.
Now again, I’m generally an optimist. So let’s say, even with the obvious pessimism around the league right now, that a semi-positive outcome occurs. That is, we accept that this season is lost, but the union and owners get their collective act together in time for a proper 2012 offseason, a full training camp, and an 82-game 2012-13 schedule. I know, the timing seems fortunate, but bear with me for the purposes of this article. If this scenario unfolds, where do the Raptors stand as of the 2012 offseason?
Jose Calderon: 10.5M, the final year of his deal, making him a prime trading piece as an expiring contract, if the team chooses to go that route. He’ll be 31 when the season starts.
Andrea Bargnani: 10M, the alleged cornerstone of the franchise, but a potential trade chip if Bryan Colangelo decides to move in a different direction under the new CBA and coaching regime.
Amir Johnson: 6M, likely to be around due to the tough-to-move contract extension.
Linas Kleiza: 4.6M, which could be an expiring deal as the following season is a player option. The better he plays, the more movable he’d be (obvious, but also because he’d be less likely to exercise his option if he is playing well), and I don’t see how he fits long term (sorry if I’m painting everyone to be a trade target).
DeMar DeRozan: 3.3M, and would be a restricted free agent after the season, though the team will certainly work out an extension before it got to that point (unless he plays so poorly no team would up the ante on his 4.5M qualifying offer for 2013, which seems unlikely).
Ed Davis: 2.2M, and the following year would be a team option per the standard rookie contracts. Proved himself to be a worthy member of the core moving forward.
James Johnson: 2.8M, somehow, and a restricted free agent for 2013. Difficult to see him as more than a small role player in the future.
Jerryd Bayless: 4.2M qualifying offer as a restricted free agent, but his status could be impacted greatly by terms of a new CBA and how it treats RFAs (and if 4.2M is suddenly a prohibitive contract amount for a backup PG).
Solomon Alabi: 0.9M team option seems likely to be picked up, even as bench filler, under any type of CBA.
Jonas Valanciunas: Has apparently worked his buy-out out with his European team, and would come as part of the rookie wage scale, though it’s unclear if his contract would be altered due to a new CBA, and if this would have any impact on him coming over for 2012. I think we’ll see him though.
Not Under Contract
Leandro Barbosa: Not sure where he fits on a rebuilding team, and would probably be looking for a contract similar to the 7.6M he was due to make during the lockout.
Sonny Weems: Off to Lithuania, the team retains his rights as a free agent, but there are simply too many unknowns about the team, how he’ll improve in Lithuania, and if his recent Twitter gripe with DeRozan would have him wanting to return.
It’s tough to speculate here without knowing any details of a new CBA, or really anything that’s been proposed. The Raptors would have 39.5M committed including qualifying offers and team options but excluding Jonas. If we assume they picked up Alabi’s option and tendered Bayless, while bringing Jonas over and letting Weems and Barbosa walk, they’d be around 45M in cap used. In last year’s system, that would leave them with 13M in cap space, but it’s likely the salary cap will decrease in the first year of a new deal. Regardless, the Raptors wouldn’t be hunting for UFAs in rebuild mode, so the only signings that would make a lot of sense with that space are young RFAs from other teams, and again, the RFA system could undergo major changes in a new agreement.
This is the part I’d be most excited about. The 2012 NBA Draft is expected to be one of the best in some time, if a new deal is worked out by June of next year. With a strong freshman class and many upperclassmen having skipped the draft this year for fear of a lockout, the pool of players is deep and rich with high-upside talent. But where would the Raptors pick?
When the NHL returned from a lockout, they used a weighted system based on the last few years of performance (which somehow allowed the Penguins to get the #1 pick, letting them pair Malkin with Crosby). If the NBA were to do something similar, the Raptors would have fair odds at a top-5 pick. In the last three years they have finished 28th, tied for 19th, and 22nd. The only other teams to finish under .500 all three seasons were New Jersey, Detroit, Indiana, Washington, Minnesota, Golden State, LA Clippers, and Sacramento.
A lot would depend on how the NBA decides to do the lottery, but regardless of the system, the Raptors would be a beneficiary (although if we’re being honest, if they played out 2011-12, they’d be a near lock for a top-3 pick with the current roster construction).
So no, there is not much certainty around the season, the league, or the team at all. And as the lockout continues, we’ll stretch for angles to take and points to make, and the league will give us little to no information, and hope our interest isn’t prorated like our season ticket payments. At the very least, though, things will be exciting when they pick back up, and the Raptors will be in a strong position to kick-start another rebuild.