- Fred VanVleet believes the Raptors are in good position to defend their NBA title, relays Scott Rafferty of NBA.com. VanVleet discussed Toronto’s chances during an appearance this week on ESPN’s “The Jump.” “I think that’s part of the reason that everyone wants to get back, at least from our camp,” he said. “We knew we had a good chance, as good a chance as anybody from obviously what we did last year and then to come back after losing Kawhi (Leonard) and Danny (Green) to have the team that we had this year.”
With the potential loss of Fred VanVleet in free agency and Kyle Lowry turning 34 this year, the Raptors could be in the market for a point guard in this year’s draft. With that in mind, Blake Murphy of The Athletic takes a look at floor leaders that the club could target with its late first-round pick. Duke’s Tre Jones, Stanford’s Tyrell Terry and Arizona’s Nico Mannion are some of the prospects that Murphy examines.
While it’s not at or near the top of the NBA’s list of priorities at this point, one issue the league will have to address is how players bonuses and incentives will be determined for the 2019/20 season. In an Insider-only story, Bobby Marks of ESPN identifies a number of interesting cases that remain up in the air due to the fact that the season has been suspended and may not be completed in full.
For instance, Tyus Jones‘ contract with the Grizzlies calls for him to receive a bonus worth $858K if the team wins 33 or more games. Memphis was at 32 wins when the NBA went on hiatus. Sixers center Joel Embiid, meanwhile, would have his salaries for the next three seasons become fully guaranteed if he logs 1,650 minutes this season — he was 321 minutes short of that mark when the league suspended play.
As Marks explains, the outcome of some of those incentives may have to be negotiated, but in general, the most logical approach would be for the NBA to prorate a player’s stats over a full 82-game season. For instance, if the Sixers finish the season having played just 65 out of 82 games, Embiid’s per-game minutes average for 65 games (20.4 MPG) would be prorated over 82 games. That would work out to 1,677 minutes, so he’d receive his guarantee. The same goes for Jones, since the Grizzlies were on pace to win well over 33 games.
That approach, which the NBA took during the 2011/12 lockout season, wouldn’t help players who have incentives tied to percentages — for instance, a player who needed to make 35.0% of his three-point attempts to earn a bonus and finished at 34.7% wouldn’t receive that extra money.
As we wait to see how the NBA resolves that issue and others, let’s round up a few more basketball odds and ends…
- NBA players and staff who are outside the country are now permitted to re-enter the United States via a U.S. Department of Homeland Security issue, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. That will benefit not only international players like Luka Doncic and Sekou Doumbouya, who returned to their home countries during the hiatus, but also Raptors players and coaches who are currently in Toronto.
- In a piece that focuses primarily on the Trail Blazers, Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN looks at what it’s been like for players to return to their teams’ practice facilities this month during an ongoing pandemic.
- The Basketball Tournament (TBT), an annual summer event that features a number of former college standouts and overseas players, isn’t being postponed or canceled, according to organizers. As Myron Medcalf of ESPN details, participants will be tested repeatedly for COVID-19 and a team will be eliminated if one of its players tests positive. The plan is to move forward with the tournament in July.
- Chris Boucher and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who have played key minutes in the Raptors‘ frontcourt this season, will both be free agents at season’s end. Bearing that in mind, Eric Koreen of The Athletic examines each player’s appeal, arguing that it wouldn’t be an easy decision if the team can only retain one. Hollis-Jefferson is the more versatile player, but Boucher is a better rim protector and will be a restricted free agent.
Hoops Rumors is looking ahead at the 2020/21 salary cap situations for all 30 NBA teams. Due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the NBA, it’s impossible to know yet where the cap for 2020/21 will land. Given the league’s lost revenue, we’re assuming for now that it will stay the same as the ’19/20 cap, but it’s entirely possible it will end up higher or lower than that.
Following a thrilling run to the first NBA championship in franchise history last spring, the Raptors lost Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, prompting a number of league observers to project a fall back to earth in 2019/20. However, this year’s version of the Raps proved they’re more than just Leonard’s supporting cast, entering the hiatus with a 46-18 record, good for third in the NBA.
With key contributors like Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka all headed for unrestricted free agency, Toronto’s outlook is uncertain going forward, but the team should have the flexibility to bring back at least one or two of those veterans while retaining spending power for the 2021 offseason.
Here’s where things stand for the Raptors financially in 2020/21, as we continue our Salary Cap Preview series:
- Kyle Lowry ($30,500,000)
- Pascal Siakam ($27,285,000) 1
- Norman Powell ($10,865,952)
- Patrick McCaw ($4,000,000)
- OG Anunoby ($3,872,215)
- Matt Thomas ($725,000) — Partial guarantee. Non-guaranteed portion noted below.
- Total: $77,248,167
- Stanley Johnson ($3,804,150)
- Total: $3,804,150
- Terence Davis ($1,517,981) 2
- Dewan Hernandez ($1,517,981) 3
- Matt Thomas ($792,981)
- Paul Watson (two-way)
- Total: $3,828,943
Restricted Free Agents
- Chris Boucher ($1,985,289 qualifying offer / $1,985,289 cap hold): Early Bird rights
- Malcolm Miller ($1,985,289 qualifying offer / $1,985,289 cap hold): Bird rights
- Nando De Colo ($1,828,750 qualifying offer / $1,901,900 cap hold): Early Bird rights 5
- Oshae Brissett (two-way qualifying offer / $1,445,697 cap hold): Non-Bird rights
- Total (cap holds): $7,318,175
Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds
- Marc Gasol ($38,199,000): Bird rights 4
- Serge Ibaka ($34,907,406): Bird rights
- Fred VanVleet ($17,757,691): Bird rights
- Lucas Nogueira ($8,841,915): Bird rights 5
- Rondae Hollis-Jefferson ($3,000,000): Non-Bird rights
- No. 28 overall pick ($1,964,760)
- Jeremy Lin ($1,620,564): Non-Bird rights 5
- Jodie Meeks ($1,620,564): Non-Bird rights 5
- Jason Thompson ($1,620,564): Non-Bird rights 5
- Total: $109,532,464
Offseason Cap Outlook
The Raptors don’t currently have a ton of guaranteed money on their books for 2020/21, but we’re assuming they’ll operate as an over-the-cap team in order to retain the ability to re-sign some combination of VanVleet, Gasol, Ibaka, Boucher, and Hollis-Jefferson.
Depending on how expensive VanVleet and their veteran centers get, Toronto could even end up flirting with the tax line again next season. If we assume the cap doesn’t increase at all for 2020/21 and that Johnson and all the non-guaranteed players return, the club would have a cushion of about $45MM to re-sign its own free agents (and/or add outside talent) before going into tax territory.
Cap Exceptions Available
- Mid-level exception: $9,258,000 6
- This is a projected value. Siakam’s actual maximum salary will be 25% of the cap, unless he makes the All-NBA First or Second Team, in which case it will be anywhere from 28-30% of the cap.
- Davis’ salary becomes fully guaranteed after July 21.
- Hernandez’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after July 1.
- Gasol’s cap hold will be the lesser of $38,393,550 or 35% of the 2020/21 cap.
- The cap holds for De Colo, Nogueira, Lin, Meeks, and Thompson remain on the Raptors’ books because they haven’t been renounced after going unsigned in 2019/20. They can’t be used in a sign-and-trade deal.
- This is a projected value. If the Raptors’ team salary continues to increase, they may be limited to the taxpayer mid-level exception ($5,718,000).
Note: Minimum-salary and rookie-scale cap holds are based on the salary cap and could increase or decrease depending on where the cap lands.
- In Jayson Tatum (Celtics), Pascal Siakam (Raptors), and Ben Simmons (Sixers), the Atlantic Division features a trio of rising young wings who appear poised to play important roles for their teams for years to come. In a two-part series, Jared Weiss, Blake Murphy, and Mike O’Connor of The Athletic debate which of the three players has the brightest future.
The Raptors will have major roster decisions to make during the 2020 and 2021 offseasons. At the end of the current season, Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka, and Marc Gasol will all become unrestricted free agents, forcing Toronto to either lock them up long-term, try to negotiate one-year deals, or risk losing them for nothing.
A year later, the Raptors’ cap is relatively clear, and there have been frequent whispers about the team looking to pursue Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has a long-standing relationship with president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri.
While the financial impact of the NBA’s coronavirus-related hiatus may not entirely upend those plans, it’ll affect them to some extent, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. As Lewenberg observes, a lower salary cap than expected in 2020/21 may result in many free agents settling for one-year contracts, which could increase the Raptors’ chances of re-signing their own veterans.
As for 2021, Lewenberg thinks that the Raptors should have enough room for a maximum-salary player even if the cap levels off, but VanVleet’s next contract could be a wild card — a multiyear deal this offseason would cut into Toronto’s flexibility going forward.
Here’s more on the Raptors:
- Based on the current NBA standings, Toronto would receive the 28th and 58th overall picks in the 2020 draft. Blake Murphy and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic explore what the Raptors might be looking for with those selections, specifically discussing whether DePaul’s Paul Reed, Washington’s Isaiah Stewart, or Charleston’s Grant Riller could be among the team’s targets.
- Could Paul Watson, who signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Raptors in January, become the team’s latest under-the-radar value addition? Blake Murphy of The Athletic examines that question, with some input from veteran player development coach Rico Hines.
- NBA teams may start recalling players to their home markets in early June, but the U.S./Canada border will remained closed for non-essential travel for at least a few weeks beyond that. As we detailed earlier today, that’s not expected to be a major impediment for the Raptors.
NBA teams expect the league to issue formal guidelines around June 1 detailing the first steps of a ramp-up to the resumption of the 2019/20 season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe.
As ESPN’s duo explains, the first step of that ramp-up process would involve teams recalling players who left their respective markets during the hiatus. Clubs also believe they’ll be able to expand workouts for players already in their market around June 1, sources tell Wojnarowski and Lowe.
According to ESPN’s report, the NBA envisions a ramp-up process that would include an initial two-week period of recalling and possibly quarantining players. That would be followed by a week or two of individual workouts at team facilities, then a two- or three-week formal training camp. From there, teams would likely eventually travel to one or two centralized locations where the season would resume.
Earlier today, The Athletic reported that the most popular scenario discussed by the NBA would see players fully training by mid-June, with games resuming by mid-July. It sounds as if Wojnarowski and Lowe are hearing a similar timeline suggested — sources tell ESPN that many team owners, executives, and NBPA higher-ups believe commissioner Adam Silver will green-light a return to play in June, with games resuming before the end of July.
The NBA and NBPA still have to work out many details on a potential return, including whether or not regular season games will be played, whether all 30 teams will resume play, and what the playoffs will look like, sources tell ESPN.
Additionally, for some teams, recalling players to their market may not be as simple as having them travel across a state or two. Luka Doncic, for instance, returned to Europe during the hiatus. And the Raptors will have to deal with a U.S./Canada border that is closed to non-essential travel for at least another month. However, the league expects to receive assistance from the U.S. government for any teams and players requiring international travel, per Woj and Lowe.
After a report earlier this week indicated that Kai Sotto, a 7’2″ center from the Philippines, would be joining the G League’s new Select Team, Shams Charania of The Athletic confirmed (via Twitter) that Sotto has officially signed his contract with the NBAGL.
Sources tell Evan Daniels of 247Sports.com (Twitter link) that Sotto, who was ranked 51st in 247Sports’ rankings of 2020 recruits, will earn at least $200K on his G League deal. According to the details that have been reported so far, Sotto’s deal won’t as lucrative as the ones for his teammates like Jalen Green and Daishen Nix, but he’ll still be earning far more than the average G League veteran does ($35K).
Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:
- The Drew League, a popular pro-am basketball summer league basketball in Los Angeles, has been forced to cancel its 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic, as ESPN’s Dave McMenamin details. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Chris Paul, and the late Kobe Bryant are among the NBA stars who have taken part in Drew League games in past years.
- As part of his preparation for the 2020 NBA draft, probable lottery pick RJ Hampton is working with former NBA guard Penny Hardaway, according to John Martin of The Athletic. Hardaway is now the coach of the Memphis Tigers team that Hampton passed on last year to play in Australia’s National Basketball League.
- In an interesting piece for The Athletic, Blake Murphy spoke to former NBA forward Landry Fields about his disappointing stint with the Raptors and the health issues that derailed his NBA career, as well as the opportunity he has received in the Spurs‘ front office. Fields was named the general manager of San Antonio’s G League affiliate last September.