Kawhi. Kawhi. Kawhi! KAWHI! KAWHIKAWHIKAWHIKAWHIKAWHIKAWHIKAWHIKAWHIKAWHIKAWHI!!!?!!!&*(!^%@$!!!
— Yahoo Sports Canada (@YahooCASports) June 27, 2019
With Kawhi Leonard’s free agency decision looming, LA Clipper Lou Williams talks about how Americans don’t want to play in Canada 🤔 pic.twitter.com/f8RjOivOl9
— 6ixBuzzTV (@6ixbuzztv) June 27, 2019
An extension for Siakam can be up to four years with annual raises of eight percent of the first-year salary, so his total max is currently estimated at $129.9 million over four years.
There is a larger rookie-scale extension maximum for “Designated Players,” who can receive five years and up to 30 percent of the salary cap. Siakam would have to make an All-NBA team or win Defensive Player of the Year or Most Valuable Player next season to earn greater than 25 percent. (If he did, he could earn up to an estimated $201.8 million on a five-year extension.) The Raptors could technically make him a Designated Player and give him a five-year extension at 25 percent of the cap, which would bring the deal to an estimated $168.2 million. If they went the Designated Player route, Siakam has to receive at least 25 percent of the cap. The sides can’t negotiate beneath that number.
Four-year extension up to 25 percent of cap: Max of $129.9 million
Five-year Designated Player extension at 25 percent of cap: $168.2 million
Five-year Designated Player extension with MVP/DPOY/All-NBA and 30 percent of cap: $201.8 million
We’re going to downplay that scenario for the time being since Siakam isn’t a surefire max candidate; he might want to re-enter free agency at age 30 instead of 31 for a better chance at a second big deal and, as we’ll see, an extension might not be a sure thing at all. For now, the parameters the Raptors and Siakam will be negotiating within are a theoretical max of four years, $129.9 million.
Danny Green might be the odd man out
The downside of Gasol exercising his option is that it puts Green and other free agents in a bind. Masai Ujiri stated Tuesday that he plans to bring everyone back if Leonard stays, but the money might not work out.
Assuming that Leonard signs for the max, the Raptors would have over $142 million committed to just eight players. Add in minimum deals for Chris Boucher and Malcolm Miller, and it’s at $145 million with another five roster spots to fill.
The Raptors could still theoretically retain Green at any price since they hold his full Bird Rights, but it’s unlikely. The luxury tax line for 2019-2020 is set at $130 million, which means it would actually cost somewhere between double or triple to keep Green depending on what he ultimately signs for.
Even for an incredibly deep-pocketed organization like MLSE, it’s still unwise to pay such a high premium for a 32-year-old when other options may suffice. Norman Powell is chomping at the bit, OG Anunoby needs minutes, while Fred VanVleet also proved to be effective in the starting lineup.
That being said, the optics do matter. The Raptors are coming off an exhilarating title run, and that momentum shouldn’t be jeopardized. Letting Green walk to save money also sends the wrong message to Leonard, who has been teammates with Green for the entirety of his eight-year career. Toronto also had the most expensive ticket prices in the league during the postseason, and it would spark outrage if at least some of that revenue wasn’t fed back into the team.
In the wake of the Raptors’ historic coronation as NBA champs, Kawhi has the good people of Toronto quite confused about his uncertain future. On the one hand, he made that high-profile choice to attend a Blue Jays game on Friday and left many observers believing it was a sign that he’s there to stay. On the other, in something of a nightmare image for Raptors president Masai Ujiri & Co., he had been spotted the day before buying moving boxes at a local Home Depot.
Yet if nothing else, the title and Leonard’s monumental part in it dulled the blade on that Kawhi-to-the-Clippers subplot that had been cutting into Toronto’s fun all season long. And now, with Clippers sources still hopeful that he’ll be willing to switch jerseys in spite of all this Raptors success, we wait to see where one of the game’s greatest players will go next.
Only Leonard truly knows how winning his second ring changes things here — if at all — but the Raptors simply couldn’t have done a better job upping their odds of retaining him. Beyond the on-court success, don’t sleep on the importance of the key relationships that Leonard has built in Toronto (chief among them trainer Alex McKechnie, president Masai Ujiri, coach Nick Nurse and point guard Kyle Lowry). Make no mistake, there is no shortage of optimism coming from Toronto.
As for the Clippers threat, it’s fair to wonder if the absence of a second Clippers star might be enough to dissuade him from leaving such a good situation North of the border. As such, a natural question arises: Who might the Clippers be able to pair with Kawhi?
There are many scenarios seemingly in play, but sources say one in particular looks increasingly possible: Butler teaming up with Leonard on the Clippers. There are strong indications that Leonard is interested in having Butler as a running mate, and it’s the sort of powerful pairing that would certainly vault the Clippers into contention.
It’s also a franchise-altering decision.
With the trade that sent Leonard to Toronto a year ago, the Raptors went from a very good, perennial playoff team to an immediate championship contender. That’s how good he is and that’s how important superstars are in the NBA. Their hopes of continuing to compete at the highest level, at least in the short term, are contingent on keeping him.
If Leonard decides to stay, the Raptors can run it back next season. Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol – who expectedly picked up his $25.6 million player option on Wednesday – Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet will all be in the final year of their deals. Danny Green, the only other free agent among last year’s regular rotation players, has already expressed interest in returning.
The Raptors hold Leonard and Green’s Bird Rights, meaning they can retain them even though they would be over the cap and well into the luxury tax. In fact, with Leonard’s max and Green on the books, Toronto would have one of the most expensive payrolls in league history.
Perhaps they would look to find some cap relief by unloading a player at the back end of their rotation, like Norman Powell, who will make $10.1 million next season. However, that’s a problem MLSE isn’t likely to mind much as long as the Raps are competing for championships – the organization has made a fortune in merchandise and ticket sales over these last few months alone.
In the above scenario, where Leonard (and maybe Green) is back, adding talent for next season would be tricky. They would only have the taxpayer mid-level exception of $5.7 million to spend and have to rely on the continued growth of Pascal Siakam and hope that a healthier OG Anunoby takes the next step in his third season.
Assuming Leonard stays, the question then becomes, for how long?
Free agent Kawhi Leonard is expected to allow the Toronto Raptors to make the final presentation among the teams meeting with him in Los Angeles next week, league sources tell ESPN.
The incumbent often prefers to go last in trying to convince a player to stay with the team.
Mannix: All right, let’s talk about the plan a guys, specifically the top of that heap. Kawhi Leonard is going to be an unrestricted free agent come June 30th. It seems like it’s a two-team race between Toronto and the Clippers, though I’m sure the Knicks will try to get in there, the Nets, maybe Dallas tries to get in there. But Kawhi is fascinating me Wes because he’s the kind of guy that could reshape the landscape of the NBA almost singularly, like he stays in Toronto for example and all of a sudden the Raptors look like the team to beat next year. He goes to the Clippers and with that roster the Clippers currently have, if they’re able to bring all those guys back and add Kawhi to the mix, you can make a pretty strong argument that they are the team to beat next year. Meanwhile if Kawhi leaves Toronto could decide to strip that team down for parts and rebuild around Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet and a handful of others there. What do you think about not just Kawhi’s decision but the ripple effects of the Kawhi decision the next couple of weeks.
Kawhi Leonard re-signs with the Raptors
Kawhi Leonard re-signing with the Raptors would be the best case scenario for the franchise in the short term. First of all, the Raptors currently have at least one more year of contention with this roster as Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Marc Gasol‘s contracts all expire next season. This means if Kawhi re-signs, it gives the Raptors an even better opportunity to repeat as NBA champions.
It also helps that the Eastern Conference can drastically change with free agency, which means we could see teams like the Boston Celtics drop out of title contention. This would put Toronto as the clear favorites to come out of the East with Kawhi possibly being the best player in the conference.
Not to mention if Kawhi does indeed sign a long-term deal in Toronto, it gives the franchise an even greater opportunity to continue to build around him as the current core ages out.
Therefore, the ideal case for the Raptors if Kawhi re-signs is to bring back the championship roster to try and make a run at a repeat. Gasol has already opted into his player option for next season, which means the team would need to shift to re-signing Danny Green next.
Overall, if Kawhi stays, it really gives the Raptors the clearest possible future, which is to continue to compete for a championship for at least another season.
A New Legacy
Two weeks before this season began, Serge Ibaka invited his teammates Pascal Siakam, Norman Powell, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and Delon Wright onto his cooking show How Hungry Are You? They joked, ate some brains, and talked about the upcoming season. Who knew before this season started we would get to see Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry eat beef penis and testicles on camera, Siakam make an enormous leap into being named the Most Improved Player, the trade for Marc Gasol, Fred VanVleet go supernova in the Finals, and the Raptors winning an NBA championship?
We hoped the team would bounce back, but few of us thought it would be to this magnitude. However, without Serge’s resurgence, Toronto would not be in the position they are in today as champions. His heroics in Game 7 against Philadelphia, in which he hit three of the team’s seven 3s on the night, gave Kawhi the help he needed to just get into the position to make his legendary 4-bounce shot. Ibaka’s play during the season, especially during Valanciunas’ absence, helped Toronto do better than just tread water.
A lot could be said about how Toronto won their title but when we look at it 10, 15, 20 years from now, we’ll only remember this team as the best. At last, Serge could add one more name in his long list of A.K.As — champion.
Kawhi Leonard, forward, eighth season
Regular season: 60 games, 26.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 3.3 APG, 49.6 FG%, A-minus
Playoffs: 24 games, 30.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 3.9 APG, 49.0 FG%, A-plus
He’s good. If the Raptors are smart, they will attempt to retain his services.
This self-assurance Webster conveyed appears to come from the fact the Raptors traded for Leonard nearly a year ago to the date and that both sides have now become quite familiar with one another.
“I think he knows who we are and we’ll obviously have a chance to sit down and talk about it again,” Webster said. “But he knows who we are and I think that’s the benefit of doing the deal a year early, to have that opportunity for him to come to this city, come to this organization and get a sense of who we were.”
It also behooves the Raptors that they won the franchise’s first-ever championship in that one season, a moment that has made Leonard a Toronto and Canada-wide sporting hero.
“It fortunately worked out for us as far as winning a championship and that’s the part that you can never predict as far as how the team would’ve played out,” said Webster.
Webster, Raptors president Masai Ujiri and Co. are expected to meet with Leonard sometime during the NBA’s moratorium period, which begins this Sunday at 6 p.m. ET and finishes July 6 at 12 p.m. ET. It’s a meeting Webster expects will go well.
“He knows who we are, we know who he is.”
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