Title: Cold market could provide Raptors with options if they opt to use taxpayer mid-level exception
Date: June 29, 2018
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I looked at potential bargain free agents the Raptors may be able to sign at a discount in what should be a cold free agent market.
The Toronto Raptors are facing a luxury tax crunch heading into the 2018 offseason. They are already into the tax with just 11 players under guaranteed contract, have a marquee restricted free agent Fred VanVleet, and are reportedly leaving every option on the table to improve the team while also probably trying to shed some salary. The budget is tight, as I’ve tried to lay out in my free agency primer and a follow-up clarification mailbag. This should feel familiar.
Around this same time last year, the Raptors faced a pretty similar big-picture free agency outlook. Last year, they were looking down a salary crunch with four notable players on the roster hitting free agency and no realistic means of keeping even two or three of them without shedding salary. Their work when the player movement window opened in July was going to come with their own free agents and possibly on the trade market. In exploring potential external signings ahead of free agency, the assumption we came to was that the Raptors were unlikely to use the full non-taxpayer mid-level exception. Instead, the Raptors dealt Cory Joseph on top of unloading DeMarre Carroll’s salary, allowing them to sign C.J. Miles, who we had identified as a sort of best-case scenario “well maybe if his market dries up” target. It was fortunate.
This time around, it seems even less likely the Raptors will use the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, the bi-annual exception, or acquire a player via sign-and-trade. All three are possible, but any of the three would also trigger a hard cap at an estimated $129 million, a line the Raptors couldn’t cross under any circumstance all year. Given that they have $125.7 million committed in salary already, they’ll want to avoid triggering that hard cap for the sake of flexibility, even if they don’t intend to ultimately spend over that line. In the scenario where the Raptors don’t dump any salary, using even the smaller taxpayer mid-level exception — which doesn’t trigger the hard cap — would have a profound impact on the luxury tax bill, whether VanVleet re-signs or not.