The NBA’s free agency period in 2020 is finally over – and the 2021 free agency period is now going to be very different. As Athletic’s Shams Charania first reported, Giannis Antetokounmpo signs a 5-year “supermax” contract that will keep him in Milwaukee until 2026.
Breakage: Giannis Antetokounmpo says he’s signing a contract extension with the Milwaukee Bucks. The two-time MVP will sign a five-year, $ 228.2 million supermax extension with the franchise, the biggest contract in NBA history, sources say. @TheAthleticNBA @Stade.
– Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 15, 2020
The Toronto Raptors, of course, had stacked their free agency game to have the Giannis flexion sign next summer, and fans across Canada were hoping that, for once, the Raptors might have a real shot at it. ‘attract a superstar free agent to come and play in the north. from the border.
Alas, the dream is dead.
Where is it!? While we mourn what might have been, let’s take a look at potential Plan B, CD, and consider what might still be.
Financial flexibility is good!
The Raptors will have space available to recruit a maximum player next summer, but that’s not all they have. They have multiple players on reasonable short-term, unsecured, or season-expiring contracts, all of which can be used as trading assets – either in their own trades or as partners in multi-team deals. Those signed this last offseason, like Fred VanVleet or Aron Baynes, can be traded from February 6 (for non-bird rights players like Baynes) or March 3 (for VanVleet).
They all have their future first-round picks as well.
This means they can switch to a number of different options, such as making a trade now or at the deadline, signing another free agent the next offseason, or allocating that money to their own current players.
What are the Raptors’ trading options?
There’s at least one hapless superstar the Raptors could potentially trade for right now, and it’s James Harden, who wants to leave Houston. If the Philadelphia 76ers aren’t willing to part ways with Ben Simmons, then the Raptors can surely make a better offer than any other contender, whether it’s Kyle Lowry (an expiring contract that will certainly please the Houston owner) or Pascal Siakam. (a contract star that has just entered its prime) and a combination of peaks and ballast.
The team could also skew the youngsters by trading Lowry elsewhere, to a contending team in need of a main guard, in exchange for young talent and future picks – although I’m not sure such a team exists, like the Lakers, Clippers, Sixers and The Dollars don’t really have the trumps. Again, there may be a third team involved. Either way, this is the type of deal that could be done anytime between now and the trade deadline.
The team could also wait to see if another star player gets unhappy this season and strike a deal at the end of the day that could include VanVleet.
What about free agency 2021?
If the Raptors decide to keep the team together this season and find a Plan B next summer, there are several potential targets; the most obvious is Kawhi Leonard, who has a player option. Whether or not he executes that option likely depends on how the Clippers are doing this year, though, after orchestrating such a big deal to get “home” to California in the first place, it seems unlikely that he will. be impatient to leave.
(Speaking of Raptors turned Clippers with player options, Serge Ibaka has one too. Cue the “Putting the group back together” montage !?)
Other targets include Victor Oladipo, Blake Griffin, DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gobert. Honestly, Gobert is perhaps the most interesting; it might cost a little less than the max, and considering it a safety net with a core of Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby is pretty appealing.
Can the Raptors just re-sign their own guys?
Giannis signing now means that OG Anunoby’s contract extension becomes an even more interesting question mark. He can sign an extension by Monday, December 21; otherwise, he’s a restricted free agent next summer.
The reason this matters is Anunoby’s cap hold. If he doesn’t sign that extension, it’s about $ 11 million next summer, whereas if he signs now, it becomes what he’s signing for, whether it’s $ 15 million or $ 18 million or other.
This doesn’t mean that OG won’t get paid. The Raptors want to keep it and will pay for it anyway – it’s just the timing that matters, from their perspective. Signing him is now reducing their flexibility next summer.
As for the rest of their guys, they can secure the contracts of players like Baynes, Alex Len and Chris Boucher next summer if they want, or re-sign Norman Powell if he steps down, or re-sign Kyle Lowry. using his Bird rights. .
Wait, what does this mean for Kyle Lowry !?
Kyle is an unrestricted free agent next summer. they can’t sign him for an extension now. But they will control his Bird rights and could sign him to another deal in the offseason, if they choose not to sign a maximum player.
Note that the Raptors can not sign a maximum contractual player and then sign Lowry to a contract using his bird rights; its cap is $ 43 million, which means they would have to give it up to have that maximum space available.
If it looks like no maximum player is coming, the Raptors could sign Lowry for a good deal and then sign another non-maximum player. Or, they could just give Lowry the “we take care of ourselves” deal, like the Lakers did with Kobe Bryant, and gift Lowry a golden parachute that allows him to pull off a well-paid Raptor.
I don’t see that one coming.
Another free agent looms: Masai Ujiri
Raptors team president Masai Ujiri is now entering the final year of his current contract and has not signed an extension. While here, he turned the once lame Raptors into an eternal winner, brought an All-Star game to Toronto and won an NBA title. There really is only one thing he hasn’t done …
Sign a marquee free agent.
With Giannis unavailable and Leonard now the only potential MVP-level free agent next summer, it seems unlikely that will happen in 2021. The question is whether or not that means Masai is more likely to re- sign (to try again) or bolts (to go somewhere else where attracting talent is perhaps easier, or just another gig).
If Michael Grange’s play is to be believed a few weeks ago, Ujiri thrives on challenges and having the support around him to overcome those challenges. I have to believe that if MLSE is still determined to build a winner and give him the resources he needs to do so, he will stick around and continue to work to keep the Raptors at the top of the NBA – and work for check free agent signing his list.
Will the Raptors ever sign a full-scale free agent?
Honestly, I don’t think Ujiri will ever be able to tick that off. It hasn’t happened for 25 years and probably never will be. But it’s not the end of the world.
It’s not a hit in Toronto either. Outside of the few big cold markets (New York and maybe Chicago), the only teams that attract free agents are the hot, tax-advantaged big cities that have owners with deep pockets. There are 20-25 NBA teams that are not that, which will always have a hard time attracting free agents. It just means they have to build through the draft and through smart trades and smart untitled free agent signatures, and re-sign their guys when their contacts are up.
Well guess what? This is exactly what the Raptors, under Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster, did. They were fucking awesome to do that. (Um, we’re just going to ignore DeMarre Carroll. Everyone’s got a mulligan!) That’s what the Bucks do too. Spurs have been doing it for a whole generation.
This has already brought a title to the Raptors.
Who can say that it can’t happen again?