- Having lost some veteran depth in the offseason, the Raptors will be counting on some young players to step up and claim rotations roles. Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca explores whether those youngsters will be ready to contribute.
- Within his piece, Lewenberg also notes that the Raptors don’t expect to get injured first-round pick OG Anunoby back on the court until November at the earliest, and writes that the team is taking a “zero tolerance” policy with Bruno Caboclo. Caboclo was removed from Brazil’s national team this summer for refusing to re-enter a game, and Raptors sources cited some behavioral issues in the G League last season as well, says Lewenberg.
Free agent forward Dante Cunningham has made a decision on where he’ll play in 2017/18, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical, who reports that Cunningham has agreed to re-sign with the Pelicans.
According to Charania, Cunningham will get a one-year, $2.3MM deal from New Orleans. The minimum salary for a player with Cunningham’s NBA experience is $2,106,470, so if his salary exceeds that, the Pelicans would have to use a different exception — they also wouldn’t get any help from the NBA to cover the full amount, like they would for a one-year, minimum salary deal.
Either way, Cunningham is set to return to the franchise with which he spent the last three seasons. In 2016/17, the 30-year-old forward averaged 6.6 PPG and 4.2 RPG in a rotation role for New Orleans, and also added a reliable three-point shot to his arsenal — Cunningham’s 1.1 3PG and .392 3PT% were both career highs by a wide margin.
While it looked initially like Cunningham’s improved outside shot might make him a more coveted target on the free agent market, he didn’t draw as much interest as expected. A handful of teams – including the Timberwolves, Bucks, and Raptors, per Charania – were said to be in the running for him, but his new 2017/18 salary will be worth less than the $3.1MM player option he turned down in June.
Still, the Pelicans are likely happy to get Cunningham back at a reduced rate, particularly with Solomon Hill expected to miss a significant portion of the 2017/18 season with a torn hamstring. While New Orleans has an All-NBA caliber duo up front in Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, the club doesn’t have a ton of depth at forward and could use more shooting help. Cunningham’s ability to play at both forward spots and his improved three-point shot should be valuable.
Once they finalize their reported agreements with Cunningham and Martell Webster, the Pelicans will have 19 players under contract. Cunningham’s deal would represent the club’s 14th fully guaranteed salary.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst have published an expansive and well-researched report on NBA teams’ finances, providing details on the league’s revenue sharing system, the impact from national and local television deals, and how a lack of net income for NBA franchises could push the league toward considering relocation or expansion.
The report is wide-ranging and detailed, so we’re going to tackle it by dividing it up into several sections, but it’s certainly worth reading in full to get a better picture of whether things stand in the NBA. Let’s dive in…
Which teams are losing money?
- Nine teams reportedly lost money last season, even after revenue sharing. Those clubs were the Hawks, Nets, Pistons, Grizzlies, Magic, Wizards, Bucks, Cavaliers, and Spurs. The latter two teams – Cleveland and San Antonio – initially came out ahead, but paid into the league’s revenue sharing program, pushing them into the red.
- Meanwhile, the Hornets, Kings, Pacers, Pelicans, Suns, Timberwolves, and Trail Blazers also would have lost money based on net income if not for revenue sharing, according to Lowe and Windhorst.
- As a league, the NBA is still doing very well — the overall net income for the 30 teams combined was $530MM, per ESPN. That number also only takes into account basketball income, and doesn’t include income generated via non-basketball events for teams that own their arenas.
- The players’ union and its economists have long been skeptical of NBA teams’ bookkeeping, alleging that clubs are using techniques to make themselves appear less profitable than they actually are, Windhorst and Lowe note. The union has the power to conduct its own audit of several teams per season, and it has begun to take advantage of that power — according to ESPN, the union audited five teams last season, and the new CBA will allow up to 10 teams to be audited going forward.
How does the gap between large and small market teams impact income?
- Even after paying $49MM in revenue sharing, the Lakers finished the 2016/17 with a $115MM profit in terms of net income, per ESPN. That was the highest profit in the NBA, ahead of the second-place Warriors, and could be attributed in large part to the $149MM the Lakers received from their huge local media rights deals.
- On the other end of the spectrum, the Grizzlies earned a league-low $9.4MM in local media rights, which significantly affected their bottom line — even after receiving $32MM in revenue sharing, Memphis lost money for the season. The Grizzlies will start a new TV deal this year that should help boost their revenue, but it still won’t come anywhere close to matching deals like the Lakers‘.
- The biggest local TV deals help drive up the NBA’s salary cap, with teams like the Lakers and Knicks earning in excess of $100MM from their media agreements. According to the ESPN report, the Knicks made $10MM more on their TV deal than the six lowest-earning teams combined.
- As one owner explained to ESPN, “National revenues drive up the cap, but local revenues are needed to keep up with player salaries. If a team can’t generate enough local revenues, they lose money.”
- Playoff revenue from a big-market team like the Warriors also helps push up the salary cap. Sources tell Lowe and Windhorst that Golden State made about $44.3MM in net income from just nine home playoff games last season, more than doubling the playoff revenue of the next-best team (the Cavaliers at about $20MM).
How is revenue sharing affecting teams’ earnings?
- Ten teams paid into the NBA’s revenue sharing system in 2016/17, with 15 teams receiving that money. The Sixers, Raptors, Nets, Heat, and Mavericks neither paid nor received any revenue sharing money. Four teams – the Warriors, Lakers, Bulls, and Knicks – accounted for $144MM of the total $201MM paid in revenue sharing.
- While there’s general agreement throughout the NBA that revenue sharing is working as intended, some teams have “bristled about the current scale of monetary redistribution,” according to ESPN. “The need for revenue sharing was supposed to be for special circumstances, not permanent subsidies,” one large-market team owner said.
- The Grizzlies, Hornets, Pacers, Bucks, and Jazz have each received at least $15MM apiece in each of the last four years via revenue sharing.
- However, not all small-market teams receive revenue-sharing money — if a team outperforms its expectations based on market size, it forfeits its right to that money. For instance, the Thunder and Spurs have each paid into revenue sharing for the last six years.
Why might league-wide income issues lead to relocation or expansion?
- At least one team owner has raised the idea of expansion, since an expansion fee for a new franchise could exceed $1 billion and it wouldn’t be subject to splitting 50/50 with players. A $1 billion expansion fee split 30 ways would work out to $33MM+ per team.
- Meanwhile, larger-market teams who aren’t thrilled about their revenue-sharing fees have suggested that small-market clubs losing money every year should consider relocating to bigger markets, sources tell ESPN.
- As Lowe and Windhorst observe, the Pistons – who lost more money than any other team last season – are undergoing a relocation of sorts, moving from the suburbs to downtown Detroit, in the hopes that the move will help boost revenue.
What are the next steps? Are changes coming?
- The gap between the most and least profitable NBA teams is expected to be addressed at the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting next week, per Lowe and Windhorst. Team owners have scheduled a half-day review of the league’s revenue sharing system.
- Obviously, large- and small-market teams view the issue differently. While some large-market teams have complained about the revenue sharing system, they’re outnumbered, with smaller-market teams pushing those more successful clubs to share more of their profits, according to ESPN.
- Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen is one of the loudest voices pushing for more “robust” revenue sharing, sources tell ESPN. Some team owners have argued that the system should ensure all teams make a profit, while one even suggested every team should be guaranteed a $20MM profit. There will be “pushback” on those ideas, Lowe and Windhorst note. “This is a club where everyone knows the rules when they buy in,” one owner said.
- On the other end of the spectrum, some teams have floated the idea of limiting the amount of revenue sharing money a team can receive if it has been taking payments for several consecutive years.
- Any change to the revenue sharing system that is formally proposed at the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting would require a simple majority (16 votes to 14) to pass.
- Kyle Lowry can earn up to an extra $2MM this season based on a series of individual and team accomplishments. If Lowry appears in 65 games and averages at least 25.0 MPG, he can earn bonuses for making the All-Star or All-NBA teams, and for the Raptors reaching the Eastern Conference Finals or NBA Finals.
- The Raptors doubled down on a winning formula this summer but it may be for naught, Shaun Powell of NBA.com writes. Toronto’s core is intact, but what they could really benefit from is the development of some of their young assets.
When speculation centers on which team will win the Eastern Conference in 2017/18, the Cavaliers and Celtics generally dominate the conversation, with the Wizards earning a mention and the Bucks perhaps being labeled a dark horse. The Raptors, who finished last season tied with the Cavaliers at 51-31, and faced Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016, are often overlooked.
There are multiple reasons why that happens. Raptors stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have struggled to translate their regular season success to the postseason in recent years, and the club’s style of play is somewhat dated. Additionally, the Raptors will have to cope with some key departures this season.
Longtime power forward Patrick Patterson left in free agency, as did veteran swingman P.J. Tucker, who became a crucial part of the Raptors’ rotation down the stretch last season. With big new contracts for Lowry and Serge Ibaka threatening to push Toronto into tax territory, the club also had to shed salary by trading DeMarre Carroll and Cory Joseph. Carroll had been a disappointment during his two years in Toronto, but Joseph was one of the league’s more reliable backup point guards.
The Raptors still have a strong starting five, and the addition of C.J. Miles should provide a boost to the club’s outside shooting, but the team will have to rely on a handful of youngsters to step up and claim rotation roles in 2017/18. As such, it’s no surprise that – after averaging 52 wins per year for the last three seasons – the Raptors’ over/under for the coming season is a slightly more modest 48.5, per offshore betting site Bovada.
What do you think? Are the Raptors still talented enough to win 49 games or more for the fourth straight year, or will the impact of their offseason departures knock them below that mark? Vote below in our poll and jump into the comment section to share your thoughts!
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Many observers were surprised when Carter elected to sign with the Kings instead of trying to finish his career with a contender. Money was certainly a factor, as Sacramento offered $8MM for one season, along with the chance to play for former Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger again. The Kings signed Carter, Zach Randolph and George Hill as veteran presences on an otherwise youthful team.
Despite his age, Carter has remained a productive player. He appeared in 73 games for Memphis last season, starting 15, and averaged 8.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists per night. He could have provided wing depth to a Toronto team that traded DeMarre Carroll to the Nets in July and sent Terrence Ross to the Magic at the February deadline to pick up Serge Ibaka.
Carter has a checkered history in Toronto, winning Rookie of the Year honors in 1999 and spending more than six seasons there before demanding a trade. However, that was almost 13 years ago and it didn’t prevent the management team currently running the Raptors from reaching out to him.
- Former Sports Illustrated writer Luke Winn will join the Raptors as director of prospect strategy, the team tweeted.
- In a piece for Basketball Insiders, Steve Kyler examines some head coaches around the NBA who may find themselves on the hot seat if their teams struggle out of the gate in 2017/18. Kyler identifies Dwane Casey (Raptors), Mike Budenholzer (Hawks), Steve Clifford (Hornets), Doc Rivers (Clippers), and Brett Brown (Sixers) as coaches who fit that bill.
When top college prospects like Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball are drafted, there’s virtually no doubt that their next step will involve signing an NBA contract. However, that’s not the case for every player who is selected in the NBA draft, particularly for international prospects and second-round picks.
When an NBA team uses a draft pick on a player, it gains his NBA rights, but that doesn’t mean the player will sign an NBA contract right away. International prospects will often remain with their professional team overseas for at least one more year to develop their game further, becoming “draft-and-stash” prospects. Nikola Mirotic, Dario Saric, and Bogdan Bogdanovic are among the more notable players to fit this bill in recent years.
However, draft-and-stash players can be former NCAA standouts too. Sometimes a college prospect selected with a late second round pick will end up playing overseas or in the G League for a year or two if there’s no space available on his NBA team’s 15-man roster.
While these players sometimes make their way to their NBA teams, others never do. Many clubs around the NBA currently hold the rights to international players who have remained overseas for their entire professional careers and are no longer considered prospects. Those players may never come stateside, but there’s often no reason for NBA teams to renounce their rights — those rights can sometimes be used as placeholders in trades.
For instance, earlier this summer, the Pacers and Raptors agreed to a trade that sent Cory Joseph to Indiana. Toronto was happy to move Joseph’s salary and didn’t necessarily need anything in return, but the Pacers had to send something in the deal. Rather than including an NBA player or a draft pick, Indiana sent Toronto the draft rights to Emir Preldzic, the 57th overall pick in the 2009 draft.
Preldzic is currently playing for Galatasaray in Turkey, and at this point appears unlikely to ever come to the NBA, but his draft rights have been a useful trade chip over the years — the Pacers/Raptors swap represented the fourth time since 2010 that Preldzic’s NBA rights have been included in a trade.
Over the next several days, we’ll take a closer look at the players whose draft rights NBA teams currently hold, sorting them by division. These players may eventually arrive in America and join their respective NBA teams, but many will end up like Preldzic, plying their trade overseas and having their draft rights used as pawns in NBA trades.
Here’s a breakdown of the draft rights held by Atlantic teams:
- Christian Drejer, F (2004; No. 51): Retired.
- Juan Vaulet, F (2015; No. 39): Playing in Argentina.
- Aleksandar Vezenkov, F (2017; No. 57): Playing in Spain.
New York Knicks
- Louis Labeyrie, F (2014; No. 57): Playing in France.
- Ognjen Jaramaz, G (2017; No. 58): Playing in Serbia.
- Vasilije Micic, G (2014: No. 52): Playing in Lithuania.
- Anzejs Pasecniks, C (2017; No. 25): Playing in Spain.
- Jonah Bolden, F (2017; No. 36): Playing in Israel.
- Mathias Lessort, F (2017; No. 50): Playing in Serbia.
- DeeAndre Hulett, F (2000; No. 46): Retired.
- Emir Preldzic, F (2009; No. 57): Playing in Turkey.