It’s finally here: My favorite annual post.
The Toronto Raptors announced Wednesday that they have tendered Fred VanVleet, Malcolm Miller, and Nando De Colo qualifying offers. All three are set for restricted free agency,
This was entirely expected, as the qualifying offer amounts for each is tiny. As I explained in the cap primer earlier today:
This is the first time the Raptors have had a marquee restricted free agent in some time, with Fred VanVleet’s status being the team’s biggest offseason focus. To keep his rights in restricted free agency, the Raptors will have to tender him a $1.7-million qualifying offer. VanVleet is free to sign that one-year deal, but with a free agent of his stature, it’s mostly a book-keeping note that will give the Raptors the option to match any offer sheet VanVleet signs elsewhere. I did a deep explainer on VanVleet’s restricted free agency here, but to summarize briefly: The Raptors can use their Early Bird rights to offer him up to 105 percent of the league-average salary on a four-year deal, which would pay him up to $36.9 million over four years. He can sign for more elsewhere (four years and an estimated $74.4 million) but is subject to the Gilbert Arenas provision that would back-load the deal and give the Raptors the opportunity to swallow hard and match. This is going to be really interesting, especially with the Raptors already into the tax and any VanVleet deal carrying luxury tax payments with it (unless they can unload a salary).
Malcolm Miller’s qualifying offer is simply a two-way contract with $50,000 guaranteed, and it’s somewhat of a no-brainer to tender it to him since he won’t sign it and it will give the Raptors the option to match any offer sheet he signs elsewhere. With Miller probably only looking for a guaranteed minimum deal, it’s possible Miller winds up back in Toronto as versatile wing depth.
And yes, that Nando De Colo. The Raptors still own his rights in restricted free agency (and his Early Bird rights), even though he’s playing on a multi-year deal with CSKA Moscow (it reportedly has one year left with no NBA out). If the Raptors want to retain his RFA rights, they’ll need to issue him a $1.83-million qualifying offer by June 30, one that will stay on the books all summer (note that I used his cap hold amount rather than his $1.83-million qualifying offer) unless the Raptors rescind his rights. This is mostly just a bookkeeping note – De Colo isn’t coming over, but if their offseason maneuvering allows, the Raptors may be able to maintain his rights and keep him on the books through the summer. In an offseason in which they don’t figure to have cap space, anyway, there’s little cost to issuing him a qualifying offer to retain his rights.
Lucas Nogueira, however, did not receive a qualifying offer, and as such he’ll be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. This was something I expected, as I wrote in the primer:
The question is much tougher with Lucas Nogueira, who carries a $4.1-million qualifying offer that he’d very likely sign. With the Raptors in a tough tax spot and employing two other centers (three if you want to include Serge Ibaka), it seems likely that they’ll non-tender Nogueira, making him an unrestricted free agent. If they do, they’ll still hold Nogueira’s Bird rights and will be able to exceed the cap to re-sign him, they just won’t have the right to match any offer he signs elsewhere. It would be great to have Nogueira back on the cheap, but risking a $4.1-million salary for a third center, plus the tax penalties that would come with adding such a deal, is a luxury the team can’t afford, especially with how inexpensive the back end of the center market usually is in free agency.
By declining to tender Nogueira an offer, the Raptors have lost the right to match any offer sheet that Nogueira signs. They’ll still hold his Bird rights and can exceed the salary cap to re-sign him, but he’s free to sign elsewhere without the Raptors having right of first refusal. While that’s a tough pill to swallow for a very useful center, Nogueira’s qualifying offer was $4.1 million, and there was simply far too much risk that Nogueira would sign it and be on the books for that amount. Given the tough luxury tax situation the Raptors are in this summer, a third-string center at $4.1 million – even if that’s a reasonable value for what Nogueira brings – was too great a luxury to be able to risk.
Nogueira’s market probably won’t yield $4 million annually – depending on how things go, he may end up in the minimum contract pile, which would be a ludicrous value for his upside – and he would have been smart to sign the qualifying offer, collect the one-year (potentially) above-market salary, and re-enter the market as an unrestricted free agent next summer. As it stands, he’ll do so this summer, likely hoping for a multi-year guarantee and a promise of rotation minutes somewhere.
The Raptors can technically still tender Nogueira an offer until Friday, but it seems unlikely at this point.
I wrote more about these qualifying offer decisions a while back, if you need more background.