Tank or not to tank? Raptors are in purgatory when it comes to losing for lottery

Title: Tank or not to tank? Raptors are in purgatory when it comes to losing for lottery
Date: April 19, 2021
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote whether or not the Raptors are tanking and why that is not a decision they get to make unilaterally.

Depending on which group of Raptors fan you belong to, you either awoke to or were tucked in by a rare bit of positive news from this season on Monday. Early on Tampa time and just before deadline for Japanese media, the Raptors announced the signing of Yuta Watanabe to a standard NBA contract. The deal is a celebration of developmental success and a spotlight shining on the roadblock in the discussion around “tanking.”

Before we unpack the T-word, some info on Watanabe’s deal: As I reported Monday morning, the contract is for two years, keeping him in the mix through the end of the 2021-22 season, at which point he’d be an unrestricted free agent. Watanabe will now earn the prorated NBA minimum salary for his service time for the remainder of the year, which amounts to about a $233,000 raise over what he would have earned if he remained on a two-way contract. The NBA removed restrictions on two-way playing time this year, so there’s no real change to Watanabe’s playing status. Instead, the Raptors reward him for a strong season to date, and the extra cash-in-hand functions as the price to get a second year on the deal.

Watanabe’s 2021-22 contract, worth $1.76 million, is completely non-guaranteed. He will have $375,000 guaranteed if he remains on the roster three days after the to-be-determined offseason moratorium date, and his deal will be completely guaranteed if he makes the team out of training camp. It’s fairly standard developmental play: A reward now for the work to date, summer in the team’s developmental system and an inside track on a roster spot for next year.

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