There were a few moves that became official in the Toronto Raptor universe on Wednesday – the Linas Kleiza waive-via-amnesty became official (technically that was Tuesday night), the Raptors agreed to a buy out with Marcus Camby for an undisclosed amount and the Raptors signed D.J. Augustin to help share the back-up point guard duties. Below you’ll find some notes on Kleiza and Camby, a more robust analysis of the Augustin signing and then a somewhat-visual cap update.
Quick Hit on Kleiza
What many thought was a foregone conclusion really wasn’t, as there were a few reasons (timing, trade scenarios, mentoring Jonas, etc) the Raptors could have justified keeping Kleiza around. Tim Chisholm had outlined why it wasn’t cut and dry, and I followed up with some additional thoughts. In the end, Kleiza has been waived via the Amnesty Provision, freeing up nearly $5M in “fake money,” in so much as MLSE will still pay him but now have a bit more fiscal flexibility under the salary cap and luxury tax. That’s an important financial consideration given how large this year’s luxury tax payouts are likely to be (thanks, Mikhail!).
Happy Trails, Marcus Camby
I don’t begrudge Camby for requesting a trade or buy-out. At age 39, wanting to play in a Championship environment, even in a reduced role, is standard fare. He might only have a year or two left in the tank, so wasting one with a middling team probably doesn’t sound attractive.
And a buy-out can be a win-win. While the Raptors will still be paying him some money and taking a cap hit for his non-services, the hit in real and cap terms is lessened with the buy out. Camby still gets most of his previously agreed upon money and gets to seek a contender to play for, while the Raptors still pay less than they would have if they hadn’t acquired him (since he was added for salary-matching purposes in the Bargnani trade).
The terms of the buy-out haven’t been made public and will probably only be speculative for some time, but allow me this guess work: Camby will be paid, and thus have a cap hit of, $2.98M for this year with nothing on the books for next season any longer. That figure is $1.4M less than his previous salary, money he’ll recover when signing for the super-veteran minimum, and also additional coverage for the Raptors as they float between the cap and the tax. The cancelling out of next year’s $1M partial guarantee essentially acts as the “cost” to Camby for his freedom and a further financial benefit to the Raptors.
Burying the Lede with D.J. Augustin News Because Ugh, D.J. Augustin
Contrary to what some have said on Twitter or in PutBack posts, Augustin is not a “good” signing. He’s a pretty non-discrept, inconsequential signing. His strengths include above-average three point shooting while his weaknesses include basketball. He’s fine as a back-up on a non-contender, especially one with a starter capable of playing more than 30 minutes and a third string guard they appear to see potential in, but he’ll be an albatross if pressed into starting duty. Let’s have a look at his profile:
*Augustin is a career 37% three-point shooter, a solid mark but one that has been 35.3% or lower in each of the last three years. He still has a stroke but it’s difficult to call him a threat from downtown, just someone defenses have to be cognizant of. That’s a nice trait to have in a back-up point guard.
*Until this past season, Augustin showed somewhat of a basketball IQ in the sense that almost all of his shots came near the rim or from three point range, the two most efficient spots on the floor. Last year, however, he took just over half an attempt a game in the paint and was basically used as a bomber only on offense. How much of this was his doing and how much was due to the Indiana Pacers’ schemes and personnel is tough to tell, but if Augustin can get back to being a float-and-fire (in-and-out? 3-and-key?) kind of player he might not be all bad.
*Why have I been cold on the signing if those last two points are strong? Because everything else is bad. Seriously, Augustin is just not a strong player beyond the points highlighted above. He’s an awful defender, mostly due to his size and an inability to leverage his quickness, and he did poorly when challenged in isolation or pick-and-roll situations. He had shown some progress running an offense through 2011-12 but his assist rate cratered this season without a resultant drop in turnover rate. He is also one of the absolute worst rebounders in the league, even when acknowledging he’s at a disadvantage in that regard.
Last season the Pacers’ offense was 6.5 points per 100 possessions better when he left the floor and their defense improved by three points per 100 possessions when he stepped off. Some of that can be explained by playing with a poor second unit, sure. But if you filter for just the times when the trio of Paul George, Roy Hibbert and David West played together, that trio scored just 0.954 points per possession with Augustin and 1.101 without him, while they allowed 1.040 with him and 0.992 without him. The second unit argument may hold a bit of weight but Augustin also brought down the play of some elite teammates.
None of that is to say this is a bad deal, though. Augustin is not a good player, but it’s a very team-friendly contract. It’s a one-year deal, which makes it basically impossible to lose on. It’s also at a very reasonable $1.26M salary, a fair price for a PG2A (primary back-up point guard). It’s an almost zero-risk move and there really wasn’t a better one out there – as you’ll see in the graphic below (add DJA’s salary to the remaining MLE amount, assuming Augustin is coming from the MLE and not the Bi-Annual Exception), the most the Raptors could have offered any single player was $2.65M on the free agent market and it would be tough to find a back-up point guard fans would be universally happy with for that price.
It’s low risk and very low reward, but it was a necessary depth add. My guess would be that the Raptors are hopeful Dwight Buycks has enough upside to eventually usurp Augustin for minutes but if not, Augustin can handle 15 minutes a night without running the team into the ground. If Kyle Lowry were to go down to injury, though, oh boy…
Salary Cap Update
This graphic is kind of a living organism right now as more details filter in from moves and smart commenters point out Traded Player Exceptions to me. There are some explanations given in the Kleiza piece linked above, and if anything is wrong or unclear your best bet is to get at me on Twitter for clarification (see handle below). I don’t always double back to check comments, so that’s the best way. Plus, #counttehfollowerz.