Rumours

July 1 free agency open thread: Ibaka releases statement; Lowry deal sounds close

Here. We. Go.

While everyone else is getting ready for their Canada Day (or July 4) long weekend, the basketball world is at the starting line of the 2017-18 season, champing at the bit to strike first in free agency, leverage cap space in what should be the final (modest) bump from the New TV Money before a leveling off, and ultimately change the landscape of the NBA in short order. Free agency began at the stroke of midnight. Based on precedent and the wildness that’s taken hold of the offseason already, there could be a firestorm of activity right at the stroke of midnight. Some reports have suggested the market will play out slower this time around, but attitudes and urgency change when the clock officially starts.

For the Toronto Raptors, this may be the biggest offseason of their existence. The franchise’s star point guard is a free agent and seeking a well-deserved big-money deal, and there are potential suitors looking to pry him away. Serge Ibaka is likewise a free agent, and while Toronto would seem to have the inside track, his future probably flows from Lowry’s. P.J. Tucker and Patrick Patterson are also free agents, the Raptors could be facing a luxury tax crunch that may force the shedding of salary via trade, and if things don’t go as planned – and the plan does appear to be to keep things rolling for another 50-55-win season, if Lowry is amenable to a return – then anything is on the table.

We won’t know the exact cap level until July 6, when the league’s free agent moratorium is lifted and all of the moves you’ll hear rumored over the next week can become official. That won’t stop teams from being incredibly active, and you’re going to see some insane numbers being thrown around. Over the weekend, we’ll have daily open threads to discuss the latest rumors and signings, and of course, we’ll make separate posts if the Raptors do anything or are attached to anything of note.

For now, consider the open thread a means of discussing all the insanity. It’ll be updated regularly.

Resources & Required Reading

If you haven’t yet, go and read my free agency primer, which goes into a lot of the details about the Raptors’ cap situations and what they can and can’t do. I’ve also written a bunch on cap specifics and the offseason in general. Hopefully somewhere within these links is an answer to any question you may have:

As a quick refresher, this is what the Raptors’ cap sheet looks at right this second:

(Notes: Updated for new cap number 7/1; the Raptors also have a UFA cap hold for Jason Thompson left over from 2015-16, which is not included by accident but wasn’t worth updating the graphic because it’s fairly meaningless.)

To help calibrate with the new CBA and rise in cap, here’s a chart containing all of the maximums and exception amounts, based on the new $99,093,000-million salary cap (note that for the minimum salaries, those deals can run longer if cap space is used, but they max out at two years if a team is using the minimum player salary exception):

(Note: Updated for new cap number.)

Here are a few other very useful resources:

Raptors rumors

A reminder: There is a ton of information to sort through this time of year. Some of it will be legitimate, some of it will be misinformation. Always consider the source, their track record, and why a player/agent/team may want information out in the world.

Serge Ibaka releases a statement

On Twitter on Saturday night, Serge Ibaka released a passionate and thoughtful statement about unspecified reports that he’s found unfair, damaging, and hurtful. The subtext here, I think, points to the constant questions about his actual age, which have never been fair or particularly humorous. I’m not sure to which specific media reports he may be referring, or if something came up in a meeting or report or what, but the constant questioning of the ages of African and Asian players without any evidence perpetuates a harmful myth about all players from those countries.

Anyway, here’s Ibaka’s statement:

Saturday, daytime

  • 10:30pm: Jeff Zilgitt passes along that there’s a growing sense that Lowry will return to the Raptors and that it could be something close to the three-year, $27-million per-year we discussed below that lines up really nicely with DeRozan’s deal in terms of length. We covered it below, but if the Raptors are bringing the main group back, pretty much anything at three years is a big sigh of relief, and a cap hit below $30 million is a big win.
    • Chris Haynes also passes along that P.J. Tucker will meet with Sacramento tomorrow.
  • 7:45pm: Speaking on ESPN2, Woj confirmed the long-held belief that the Raptors could (or are) shopping DeMarre Carroll in a salary-dump type move. There’s almost no chance you can do that without kicking in a first-round pick or one of the better prospects, but it’s worth exploring. He also said that the Raptors continue to progress toward deals with Lowry and Ibaka but that nothing is imminent and the team is still weighing all of their options.
  • 6pm: It’s all very quiet on the Raptors front other than continued Ibaka-Heat rumblings (and boy would that be a dangerous combination). One note to pass along is that Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that Phoenix is backing out of their free agent chase and shifting their cap space to potentially absorb bad contracts and pick up assets in the process.
    • I wonder if there may be some Carroll-and-prospect/pick(s) for Dudley framework that the teams could kick around there. Dudley wouldn’t save the Raptors Carroll’s full amount, of course, but he’s a very useful piece and an equally strong locker room presence, and the Raptors would shed $4.8 million for this year, plus any picks or prospects, in such a swap. The financial effect is even more profound next year, when Carroll’s salary increases and Dudley’s decreases. This may not be enough of a financial panacea or player upgrade for the Raptors to kick in real assets, but it’s worth a call.
    • I’m less certain, but maybe Phoenix could be sold on Valanciunas? Alex Len is an RFA, the team figures to shop Tyson Chandler at some point, and Valanciunas, while somewhat pricey given the center market, is a young big with conceivably untapped upside, the type of gamble a team like Phoenix shouldn’t mind taking. Their young power forwards are also decent complements since they skew stretchier. As always, the valuation of Valanciunas probably varies a lot team-to-team, making a specific partner hard to figure.
    • Amir Johnson is also off the market, joining Bryan Colangelo in Philly. That ends any rumored Raptors’ interest. It’s a really nice fit, with Johnson getting a big one-year pay-day, the Sixers landing a capable big-man and a terrific veteran presence for a young room, and neither side committing for term.
  • 12:15pm: Michael Grange of Sportsnet is reporting that the Raptors are “confident” deals will get done for Lowry and Ibaka but are less so with respect to Tucker. There isn’t much in terms of detail beyond that, but this would seem to line up with the context from everything in the last 16 hours or so.
  • 9:55am: Speaking on NBA TV this morning, David Aldridge reported that the Raptors could offer Lowry something equal or close to what DeMar DeRozan received last year, in annual terms. DeRozan will earn roughly $27.7 million in each of the next four seasons (the fourth a player option), which means something like three years and $85 million (a figure I hypothesized earlier) could be on the table. It’s still unclear what the term may be – two-plus-one, three-plus-one, three straight, etc – but a cap hit in the $26-29 million range would be a big win compared to the $34.68-million Year One max that was a part of the Lowry discussion not all that long ago.
    • It would be incredibly fitting for Lowry and DeRozan to have the exact same deal from here – three years, $83.2M, with player options for 2020-21 at $27.74M each.
  • 7:20am: It sounds like Ujiri and Andy Miller have been busy. David Aldridge is reporting that they were meeting “late into the night” on a potential deal. It’s been really hard to peg down the details of where, when, and how the Raptors have been meeting with their free agents. They were supposed to have met with Tucker last night, Lowry and Ibaka sometime this morning. Whatever the case, things continue to move along on that front, it seems.
    • I wonder if Ujiri and Miller were maybe working on a couple of potential frameworks to lay in front of Lowry this morning. Given his market may have dried up some, presenting him with a few options in terms of term and annual salary may be a way to slide him a lower offer than expected without ruffling feathers. Earlier reports suggested term is the biggest thing for the Raptors, so maybe something like three years and $85 million, with an option in year three or tacked on as a fourth to give him some control. Maybe there’s a two-year balloon offer there, or a nice, small cap hit over four if Lowry wants to maximize total dollars. With a cooler market and five years no longer a necessary hammer, there are a lot of options to work with here.

Saturday, late-night

  • 3:30am: There’s finally some news on the Patrick Patterson front! Sam Amick reports that he had a meeting with the Kings sometime last night. That’s not an obvious fit, but the Kings are being aggressive trying to surround their young core with solid veteran pieces, from the sounds of it. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of deal Patterson ultimately lands – he’s one of the more interesting free agent cases given his shaky second half and the fact that so much of his value is derived at the margins or in the intangible.
  • 2:45am: Tim Bontemps reports that the estimated cap and tax levels for the next two seasons are $102M/$123M and $108M/$131M. That’s important info as Raptors plan for the next few seasons.
  • 1:45am: Speaking on ESPN SportsCenter, Adrian Wojnarowski passed along a few small Lowry tidbits. Namely, that Ujiri and agent Andy Miller have gone back and forth a bit and while a deal is “not imminent,” “they’ll talk again tomorrow.” Woj also made note that the Raptors gave strong consideration to a youth movement, but that the shifting East have them instead weighing the length and term they want to commit to this core, particularly their free agents. It wasn’t much information, but there you go.
    • There’s some minor stuff to unpack here, but nothing we haven’t addressed in the lead-up to free agency. A blow-it-up approach was considered and should have been. If they see a window still existing to be among the two or three best teams in the East, that’s a reasonable course, too, but controlling the length of the commitment is paramount.
    • Woj didn’t really talk salary specifics.
    • Here’s the full transcript:

  • 12:35am: Speaking on ESPN SportsCenter, Adrian Wojnarowski said there is a “significant chance” Ibaka remains with the Raptors. Specifics were scarce, but Woj was clear that Houston would like to try to figure out a way to work him in. He’s sure to have other suitors, too. Woj is always first on news for Andy Miller clients, so him saying Ibaka is likely Toronto-bound should be taken as legitimate (with the small posturing grain-of-salt all reports require, of course).
  • 12:15am: The NBA has reportedly set the cap number at $99,093,000 for the 2017-18 season. This is such a small change that most of our analysis and assumptions don’t have to change – we’ll update the numbers after moves happen, of course, but for the purposes of the work we’ve done to this point, it’s going to be close enough.
    • Changes to Lowry’s max:
      • Year One max: $34,682,550
      • 4-year max with another team : $149.11M
      • 4-year max with Raptors: $155.38M
      • 5-year max with Raptors: $201.12M
  • 12am: The Spurs and Wolves reportedly have deals with Mills and Teague, respectively.  There really aren’t many terrific fits left for Lowry on the market outside of maybe Denver but, you know, things change quickly. (Denver is also a suitor for George Hill, per Shams Charania.)
  • 11pm: This technically came in around 11 p.m., but I wanted to separate it: On ESPN SportsCenter, Ramona Shelburne said that the current feeling is that Lowry will return to Toronto on “a shorter term deal than expected.”
    • This could be good news, if it materializes, considering the sticking point on a potential Lowry deal has always been what the fourth and fifth season might look like. If the Raptors offer, say, a three-year deal, they may be willing to go higher on annual salary. If the market is cool for Lowry overall, or at least cooler than originally believed, then he may me more amenable to maximizing money now and dealing with his age-35 and -36 seasons when they come. Ujiri has often given players an option year at the end of their deals, and a three-plus-one, or even a two-plus-one, could afford Lowry some additional control.
    • The counter to this is that the Raptors would likely be trading off term for a higher annual hit, which would limit their flexibility for fortifying this core over the term of the deal. That’s not nothing.
    • Obviously, we can’t judge this until more details come down. Shelburne didn’t report it as done, and there’s a lot of time left. Shorter term could also mean a one-year deal where Lowry waits out a better market, or something else that isn’t a clear win. The annual hit also obviously matters, but if it’s a three-year sub-max – Lowry getting the full max has felt off the table for a bit now – it’ll almost certainly be graded as a good move for Toronto.
    • Something to watch for: The Raptors potentially structuring the term of deals so the window for this group firmly ends at a certain point. Whether that’s in the summer of 2021 when DeRozan’s deal expires, 2020 when he can opt out. With the cap set to plateau a bit over the next few years, cap space and expirings will once again have value, and timing a transition between eras could be a sound strategy.

Pre-midnight

  • The Raptors are set to meet with Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and P.J. Tucker on Saturday, per Michael Grange, Michael Scotto, and Chris Haynes.
    • Having the first meetings is good. July 1 agreements are also, in recent history, less good than deals made later in free agency. There’s a cost to acting sooner, which may seem backwards given the certainty the player side receives, but deals that get done sooner also may get done because offers are above-market. This also doesn’t mean the Raptors have a major inside edge; an interested incumbent gets the first meeting quite often. It’s not necessarily a good or bad thing, though it does signal that the Raptors’ primary plan is to remain competitive.
      • The Raptors are set to meet with Tucker in Philadelphia first, shortly after midnight, per Haynes.
      • That would seem to mean the plan is then to head to Orlando for a breakfast meeting with Lowry and Ibaka, lining up close enough with Grange’s earlier report. Don’t concern yourself much with the timing here – it could just be a logistical thing and likely doesn’t speak to any sort of priority hierarchy on Toronto’s part (you could even make the case letting Lowry wait to feel out what could be a tepid market is a savvy play, depending on your concern level with him taking things the wrong way). It is, however, kind of funny that they’re meeting with Tucker, who resides in Arizona and is from North Carolina, in Lowry’s hometown while Lowry’s in Orlando.
    • Dave McMenamin reports that the Cavaliers would like Tucker. They have the mini-MLE to offer ($5.19M). Haynes adds that Tucker has a meeting scheduled with the Kings this weekend, too.
    • Zach Lowe reported the market for Ibaka is in the $20-million range. Ira Winderman reported the Heat among the potential suitors. Ibaka fits a lot of places.
    • Patrick Patterson may as well be a ghost.
  • Ricky Rubio being dealt to Utah makes Minnesota a legitimate suitor for Lowry, per multiple reporters.
    • They’re also looking at Jeff Teague and George Hill, and the Teague rumors have picked up enough steam (mostly via Marc Stein) that it seems like a certainty. Minnesota is a fun fit for Lowry, and Doug Smith tweeted earlier that there was talk of back-channel conversations heating up. There was a storm of information about the Wolves’ plans at the position, so take it in the proper context. This whole situation was a nice pre-midnight reminder of what the process is like and that we can’t take every report of interest or intent as a sign of a future certainty.
    • Lowry’s non-Raptors suitors are probably Minnesota, San Antonio, and Denver in some order, with a few others likely to place calls. Teague, Hill, and Jrue Holiday (likely to stay in New Orleans by the sounds of it) are his competition for high-end point guard money.
  • The Raptors continue to show interest in Amir Johnson, per Ian Begley.
    • I can’t imagine this is a major priority, and it would probably happen after other dominoes fall. Sean Deveney reports the Raptors will meet with him in Los Angeles tomorrow, but at this point, there aren’t enough Raptors execs to go around.

Reported agreements/close – Saturday

The following deals have either been reported as done or in the finalization stages. Until noon on July 6, nothing is absolutely locked in (remember DeAndre Jordan?), but if it’s on this list, it’s done per a reporter on the trusted list.

Re-sign

  • Steph Curry, Warriors, 5 years, $201M (Shams Charania)
  • Blake Griffin, Clippers, 5 years, $175M (Sam Amick)
  • Jrue Holiday, Pelicans, 5 years, $126M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Joe Ingles, Jazz, 4 years, $52M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Patty Mills, Spurs, 4 years, $50M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Tony Snell, Bucks, 4 years, $46M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Cristiano Felicio, Bulls, 4 years, $32M (Shams Charania)
  • Shaun Livingston, Warriors, 3 years, $24M (Chris Haynes)
  • Wayne Selden, Grizzlies, 2 years, TBD (Michael Scotto)
  • David West, Warriors, 1 year, $2.3M (David Aldridge)
  • Ron Baker, Knicks, TBD, TBD (Ron Baker on Twitter)

New homes

  • Jeff Teague, Timberwolves, 3 years, $57M (Marc Stein)
  • JJ Redick, 76ers, 1 year, $22M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Langston Galloway, Pistons, 3 years, $21M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Amir Johnson, 76ers, 1 year, $11M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Michael Carter-Williams, Hornets, 1 year, $2.7M (Rick Bonnell)
  • Daniel Theis, Celtics, 2 years, TBD (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Jose Calderon, Cavaliers, 1 year, $2.3M (Jeff Zilgitt)

Trades (only including trades since the draft, which was also insane)

  • The Pacers are trading Paul George to the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Seriously. (Ramona Shelburne first)
  • The Wolves are trading Ricky Rubio to Utah for a first-round pick. (A whole mess of people at once)
  • The Clippers traded Chris Paul to the Rockets for Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Sam Dekker, Darrun Hilliard, Kyle Wiltjer, DeAndre Liggins and a 2018 first-round pick.
    • The Rockets acquired a Hilliard, Liggins, Jarrod Uthoff, Shaun Long, Tim Quarterman, and Ryan Kelly in small side-deals for cash or future second-rounders.
  • These aren’t trades, but Mike Dunleavy, Isaiah Canaan, Rajon Rondo, Mo Ndour, Gerald Henderson, Festus Ezeli, Darrun Hilliard, Paul Pierce, Jordan Hill, and Arron Afflalo have all been waived since draft night.

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