Ahead of what should be a pretty busy week of speculation and rumor, I just wanted to drop a quick news and notes post to touch on a few items that aren’t really worthy of their own post just yet.
Bobby Webster, soon to be the GM
When the Orlando Magic poached Toronto Raptors general manager Jeff Weltman to be their president of basketball operations last month, the speculation here was that the Raptors would promote assistant general manager Bobby Webster to the position.
Webster was brought to the organization from the league office and has long been considered to be on the executive fast-track in the NBA, and team president Masai Ujiri dropped general manager from his title last summer in part to keep Webster (and Weltman) moving up in job title. Initially a cap specialist, Webster’s had his hands in just about everything since joining the organization, and promoting a smart, talented person from within not only maintains stability but sends a strong signal to potential future hires, too.That the Raptors have a strong succession plan up and down the organization if names are shuffled only solidifies that, with Raptors 905 general manager and Raptors director of player personnel Dan Tolzman there to step into Webster’s old role, and any number of bright minds available to step up further down the ladder. (It also makes sense because the Raptors can’t offer the president title and autonomy that some high-level execs might command on the open market.)
Anyway, it’s been all quiet on that front since. On Tuesday, Ujiri revealed that a decision had been made on that front, but that the team was holding off on making an announcement. That was likely because they wanted to time it properly around the draft and free agency.
Expect an announcement sometime in the coming days, and expect it to be Webster getting the nod. It’s been a bit of an open secret, but Josh Lewenberg of TSN is reporting that an announcement will come this week confirming the long-held speculation. At 32, Webster will become the league’s youngest general manager.
Cap level estimated to be lower than originally expected
Webster’s first piece of business officially in the role will be helping Ujiri’s team navigate a lower-than-expected salary cap. I wrote about this in Thursday’s draft open thread, but I’ll republish here in case anybody didn’t catch it
The NBA told teams Wednesday that the 2017-18 salary cap and luxury tax projections have been decreased from $101M and $121M, respectively, to $99M and $119M. This has pretty big implications for the Raptors. Quickly:
- Kyle Lowry’s maximum salaries decrease as a result. He can now earn only $149M on a four-year max from another team, $155.2M on a four-year max from the Raptors, and $201M on a five-year max from the Raptors.
- The net effect here is probably that it’s a little more likely Lowry stays. It doesn’t have as much to do with the exact dollar amount, necessarily, but that it’s now more difficult for two of his biggest perceived suitors (Houston, San Antonio, and now maybe Minnesota) to get the requisite cap space to sign him away. Yes, Utah and Denver and some others remain threats, and sign-and-trades are there as a tool (although not a super-likely one since Lowry can’t get a penny more this way), but it’s probably slightly more likely Lowry stays now than before.
- This matters a little less if the Raptors are going to play hardball on a salary number, though. If the Raptors are willing to give the four-year max, Toronto remains his best financial option, and it’s tough for lurking teams to get too competitive on salary without some cap gymnastics. If the Raptors are only willing to go to some number below the max, though, it’s obviously easier for competing teams to make a comparably attractive offer. Toronto can still dangle a fifth year, too, to trump any other offer, but they don’t sound incredibly willing to do so, based on rumblings.
- This is a net negative for the Raptors overall. If they want to remain competitive, a decrease in the luxury tax level makes their post-Lowry cap crunch even more difficult and further ratchets up the need to shed a salary this offseason. The lower luxury tax apron ($125M), which acts as a sort of hard-cap in certain offseason scenarios, ties their hands a little further. And if they opt to blow things up instead, this stands to limit the cap space with which they could chase young free agents.
- Keep $125M in mind this offseason. If that winds up being the tax apron, I’d imagine the Raptors will treat that as their hard cap. They’re willing to spend into the tax, but probably not to an exceptional degree, and the apron not only keeps luxury tax payments in check, but going over it triggers a bunch of difficulty managing the roster the rest of the season. (Also keep in mind that tax is charged based on how the cap sheet stands at the end of the year, but the apron can cause difficulty before that point.)
Summer League roster taking shape
The Raptors didn’t announce their roster for Las Vegas Summer League until June 30 last year, but it’s beginning to take shape, and we can confirm 10 names for the team. Joining sophomores Fred VanVleet, Jakob Poeltl, and Pascal Siakam will be undrafted free agent signing Kennedy Meeks, Raptors 905 swingman Will Sheehey, and five other players you may or may not be familiar with in Troy Caupain Jr., Tidjane Keita, Matthew Thomas, Paul Watson Jr., and Justin Edwards.
Here’s how the roster would shake up (roughly) with a handful of names still to be added:
PG: Fred VanVleet (Raptors), Troy Caupain Jr. (undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati)
SG: Justin Edwards (free agent, last played in Hungary, Canadian), Matt Thomas (undrafted free agent out of Iowa State)
SF: Will Sheehey (Raptors 905), Paul Watson Jr. (undrafted free agent out of Fresno State), Cole Huff (undrafted free agent out of Creighton)
PF: Pascal Siakam (Raptors), Tidjane Keita (undrafted free agent out of Quebec)
C: Jakob Poeltl (Raptors), Kennedy Meeks (Exhibit 10 deal)
Expect more names in the coming days, including perhaps another 905er. The Raptors have their two two-way contracts and a few more Exhibit 10 deals to dangle, but they may opt to wait until after Summer League to give those out, as they did with most of theirs a year ago.
(Side-note: Some of the 10 names above were gathered from tweets by the players or their former schools. In the case of Sheehey, Michael Scotto first reported it, and Shams Charania broke the Meeks signing last week. RR is reporting the three Raptors names [and absences], confirmed the other names on the list, and reported that Meeks’ deal, previously reported only as a partial guarantee, is, in fact an Exhibit 10 contract.)
Jakob Poeltl and Fred VanVleet each got one vote for All-Rookie Second Team.
P.J. Tucker received three votes for All-Defensive Second Team. Serge Ibaka received one.