An Early Exploration of The Raptors’ Offseason Options

Can they grab another first rounder? Should they renounce Bayless' rights? How much cap space could we have?

Re-using an old RR pic!


You’ve only got three days left to submit your Raptor Republic Reader Draft Rankings! Obviously, that is Focus #1 for everyone here. But we needed something to do in the meantime, for those of us who have already submitted our rankings, or those of us who have found themselves mocking up both full rounds and just can’t decide who we should take if we somehow manage to get the #60 pick – Khris Middleton, Casper Ware, Snoop Heymans, Ognjen Kuzmic or Joffrey Lauvergne? – and need a break. Only one of those names is fake, by the way.

So what to do while we await the compiling of the composite draft rankings of Raps Nation? Well, since there’s no sense in projecting who we may be able to nab in the 2nd round (the Raptors have the #37 and #56 pick) due to the volatility in mock drafts beyond the lottery, I thought it may be better to examine the plausibility of something many fans apparently want to see – the Raptors acquiring another 1st round pick.

Now, whether or not this is a good idea is debatable. The team is already young, already has Jonas coming in, their lottery pick coming in, and probably one of their two 2nd round picks coming in.That puts the roster at 11, which could expand to 12 if Jerryd Bayless is tendered a qualifying offer, and 13 if Solo Alabi’s team option is picked up (both of these are likely to varying degrees). Here’s a look at the Raptors salary cap situation under various scenarios:

Confirmed: Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson, Linas Kleiza, DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis, James Johnson, Gary Forbes
Salary Committed: $41.0M
Projected Cap Space: $19.0M (I am assuming a $60M cap for a nice round number, and based on a few estimates I found online)
Notes: The team also holds it’s Amnesty Provision, so in a scenario where they decline Solo’s option, leave Jonas in Europe, and don’t bring in any of their picks, they could conceivably have as much as $30M in cap space, though this is wildly unrealistic and would be pointless.

Likely: Jerryd Bayless ($4.2M qualifying offer, assuming he accepts or negotiates a similar deal), Solo Alabi ($0.9M team option), Jonas Valanciunas ($3.3M, based on previous #5 picks), Lottery Pick X ($5.2M for a #1, $2.5M for the #8, which we’ll use here)
Salary Committed: $51.9M
Projected Cap Space: $8.1M
Notes: You could certainly argue whether or not Bayless being tendered a qualifying offer should fall into the “likely” category, but I included him here for the time being. This would change based on who is selected with that first pick, who is available on the market, and whether or not another first could be acquired.

Possible: 2nd Round Pick X (minimum salary, let’s use $0.8M), 2nd Round Pick Z (again, $0.8M)
Notes: Negligible impact to the cap, but this would put the roster at 14 players, which would leave the team a little over the mid-level amount to sign a 15th player. It seems highly unlikely the team would opt for this plan and leave themselves so little roster flexibility for the summer months.

A note on cap holds: Technically, the team would still own the rights to Bayless, Julian Wright, Aaron Gray, Sonny Weems, Jamaal Magloire, Alan Anderson, and Ben Uzoh. Each of these players comes with a “cap hold” since the Raptors still maintain their Bird rights (or something). Thus, if the Raptors wanted to utilize the various cap space amounts listed above, they would have to renounce the rights to each of these players to clear their cap hold off the book (or, alternatively, sign them back, decreasing the cap space available). This may be as much as paper shuffling, but in the case of Bayless ($9.1M cap hold), it would behoove the team to make the decision earlier than later.

So, if we look at the decision in terms of cap space and roster flexibility, it seems acquiring another 1st rounder would require the team to jettison a player or two, whether via letting Bayless walk, utilizing the Amnesty provision, or making a trade. However, if the Raptors are dead set on acquiring another first rounder, perhaps to add a point guard to the mix with a wing player from their lottery pick, could they potentially acquire one?

Unless the salary cap drops off significantly, the Mavericks could potentially have enough cap space to trade for Dwight Howard and sign Deron Williams. The moves would require them to somehow convince Orlando that this is to their benefit (they have literally no players to offer if they clear enough cap space), as well as make two difficult roster moves – Amnestying Brendan Haywood (eating a fair amount of salary), and trading Shawn Marion.

That’s where we come in – with potentially open roster spots and cap space available to send back just a Traded Player Exception, the Raptors could help the Mavericks by taking on the last year and $8.4M of Marion’s deal (there’s also an Early Termination Option for $9.0M in 2013-14 which he’s unlikely to utilize, so it’s essentially still a two-year deal). In return, the Mavericks could offer the Raptors the #17 pick (which they traded to the Lakers for Lamar Odom, but kept it top-20 protected).

Note: Teams are unable to trade 1st round picks in back-to-back years, but I have to claim ignorance on how this is handled for “protected” picks like the one the Mavs owe the Lakers. I’m assuming they are free to trade this pick (they could do so “after” the pick is made to circumvent any rules, I’m sure).

Houston has picks #14 and #16, and picked at #14 last year. They are a team that has maintained success annually despite lacking star power, but they’ve been desperately trying to acquire a marquee player for some time. While the Raptors can’t offer such a player for one of these picks, it’s definitely possible they could lend their cap space in a multi-team trade. It’s also possible, though not very likely, that the Raptors could explore trading their #8 pick for this pair of later picks, assuming they really like two of the players in this range (I don’t advocate this, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility).

Boston owns picks #21 and #22. If they commit to a re-tooling around Pierce and Rondo rather than continuing with the Big Three Plus One formula (KG and Ray Ray are free agents), they’ll definitely hang on to these picks to add some young players for next year. That said, if Danny Ainge decides the team needs to stay in win-now mode, these are tradeable assets they may be willing to part with for even competent rotation players (I think we have some, though I can’t be sure), as they only have six players under contract, and only four of them play (Rondo, Pierce, Bradley, and Brandon Bass If He Exercises His Option). If they go this route, the Celtics desperately need some front-court players, and we’re flush.

Other Scenarios
As always, draft day trades can also come out of nowhere. Maybe the Cavaliers don’t want a second pick. Maybe the Nets get dropped in the lottery, and the Blazers don’t want to add multiple rookies to a squad ready to win soon. Maybe maybe maybe.

My Take
I don’t love the idea of grabbing another first given our options, unless it’s coupled with another trade to free up some roster space. If it were me, I’d likely hold on to the Amnesty Provision for the time being, renounce the rights to all of the players with cap holds (yes, including Bayless), roll with our 8 players under contract, plus Jonas and the lottery pick and the early 2nd rounder, exercise Solo’s option as bench filler, use the late 2nd rounder on a Euro-stash, and play with the 3 roster spots and $10-12M to fill out the squad.

What are your thoughts? The whole point of this article, I guess, was to begin to lay out the offseason and foster discussion on a few potential offseason strategies. And a reminder, get your Draft Rankings submissions in by Sunday!

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