Summer agenda: Raptors at a crossroads

Bobby Marks
The Vertical

The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a former 20-year executive with the Nets, looks at the possible offseason plans and roster details for every team in the league.

Previous teams in the series: Nets and Suns | Timberwolves and 76ers | Magic and Kings | Hornets and Pelicans | Knicks and Nuggets | Lakers and Heat | Mavericks and Pistons | Pacers and Blazers | Hawks and Thunder | Bulls and Grizzlies | Clippers and Bucks

TORONTO RAPTORS

Offseason focus

Sometimes the truth hurts.

The words spoken by general manager Masai Ujiri at his season-ending news conference are the truth.

“We need a culture reset here,” Ujiri said, and he’s right.

The Raptors, a playoff team the past four seasons that made the Eastern Conference finals in 2016, are a good basketball team.

However, Toronto seems to have become stagnant after falling in the East semifinals this season.

The Raptors need to figure out if the pieces fit, if the system is right, or if the problem is a combination of both.

Does Jonas Valanciunas fit an offensive system that features two ball-dominant guards in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan? And can DeMarre Carroll resemble the player he was in Atlanta?

It could be an offseason of change, and the Raptors have plenty to figure out.

The Raptors need to figure out how much they want to invest in Kyle Lowry. (AP)

A compromise at point guard

Teams often get in trouble when they reward free agents for past accomplishments while not taking into account the future.

The market will dictate what free agency holds for Lowry, but establishing a salary that balances previous success with future production is what Toronto and agent Andy Miller should focus on.

Lowry should get a significant pay increase from the $12 million salary from which he opted out.

The concern is giving a max contract ($35 million annually) to a 31-year-old point guard who has ranked in the top two in minutes played the past two seasons. He also only appeared in 60 games this season.

If the Raptors take a hardline stance, it could hurt them.

They would then have to rely on a combination of Cory Joseph, Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet to fill the void if Lowry were to leave.

Lowry will have a decision to make: possibly take less with a good team in Toronto; or sign a max-level contract with a team rebuilding and be the primary focal point.

The other free agents

Toronto’s four free agents, including Lowry, have Bird rights, so Toronto has the flexibility to sign each player and exceed the cap.

However, like every business there are financial responsibilities.

Lowry and Serge Ibaka are the team’s top priorities.

Fellow free agents P.J. Tucker and Patrick Patterson are rotational players, but are expendable based on the play of Norman Powell and the upside of Pascal Siakam.

Toronto has something that teams covet in Ibaka, a power forward who can stretch the floor, play center and create mismatches with different lineups.

The cost of being good

There is a financial cost for being one of the top teams in the East.

Now Raptors management must decide if $130 million-plus in potential salary (if Lowry and Ibaka are re-signed) translates into a roster that has already peaked or one with room to grow. Besides the high cost in salary, that would make Toronto a luxury-tax team for the first time in franchise history next season and likely for years to come.

Losing each free agent would leave Toronto with only $20 million in cap space to replace starters Lowry and Ibaka.

Summer cap breakdown

Guaranteed                                   2017-18                                  Insider info
DeMar DeRozan                         $27,739,975
Jonas Valanciunas                     $15,460,674
DeMarre Carroll                          $14,800,000                          Extension eligible
Cory Joseph                                $7,630,000                           Extension eligible
Jakob Poeltl                                $2,825,640
Delon Wright                               $1,645,200
Pascal Siakam                             $1,312,611
Lucas Nogueira                           $2,947,305                      Rookie extension eligible
Bruno Caboclo                            $2,451,225                      Rookie extension eligible

Non/partial                                  2017-18                                Guarantee date
Norman Powell                          $1,471,382                      June 29/extension eligible
Fred VanVleet                             $1,312,611                                     July 20

FA cap hold                                2017-18                                     FA status
Serge Ibaka                              $18,375,000                                      Bird
Kyle Lowry                               $18,000,000                                      Bird
P.J. Tucker                                $10,070,000                                      Bird
Patrick Patterson                      $9,075,000                                       Bird

First-round cap hold                  2017-18
No. 24                                       $1,579,440

Salary table                                   2017
Guaranteed salaries               $76,812,630
Non-guaranteed                      $2,783,993
Tax variance                               $158,771
Free-agent cap holds             $57,099,440
Salaries: cap                          $136,696,063
Salaries: tax                            $79,755,394
Salary cap                              $101,000,000
Luxury tax                              $121,000,000
Cap space                      None ($35,696,063 over)
Tax room                                 $41,244,606

Projected cap space

The $57 million in free-agent cap holds have the Raptors over the salary cap.

Until there is a resolution with each player, Toronto will remain over the cap.

The maximum cap space available would be $19.8 million, but would come at the cost of losing Lowry and Ibaka.

If Lowry and Ibaka return, Toronto will have the $5.2 million tax mid-level exception.

June draft picks

Toronto has the Clippers’ first-round pick at No. 23.

The pick was acquired from Milwaukee in 2014 as part of a trade for Greivis Vasquez.

Their own first-round pick (No. 25) was traded to Orlando in February along with Terrence Ross for Serge Ibaka.

The Raptors’ second-round pick was traded to Phoenix for P.J. Tucker, also at the trade deadline.

Future draft picks

The Raptors own their future first-round picks.

UTAH JAZZ

Offseason focus

Two first-round picks

There is a method to the Jazz’s madness when it comes to the draft.

Utah, notorious for the size of the draft pool it evaluates in individual workouts, will once again put its scouting department to work.

In past years, Utah has brought in more than 100 draft prospects, and it will likely continue that tradition because it has the Nos. 24 and 30 first-round picks this year.

While the process may seem a bit over the top, the franchise’s success in recent drafts proves otherwise.

Utah drafted Rudy Gobert and Rodney Hood, two players who are part of the Jazz’s future, with picks in the 20s.

With a roster that likely will be restricted because of a rising payroll, identifying and developing talent becomes that much more crucial.

The free agents

There is no better recruiting pitch to your own free agents than on-court success, and Utah successfully rebuilt its roster the right way – through the draft, with shrewd trades and by taking a conservative approach in free agency.

That philosophy will be tested this summer.

Utah starters George Hill, Gordon Hayward and Joe Ingles, and key reserve Shelvin Mack are free agents.

Retaining each player will come at a significant cost and how Utah prioritizes each player is important.

The total per-year cap hit if all three starters are signed is projected to be $60 million; the Jazz’s payroll this season was $80.5 million.

Hayward, an All-Star, will likely opt out of his $16.7 million contract next year and could get a maximum-type offer starting at $30.3 million annually.

Hayward will have plenty of suitors, but Utah has clear advantages financially and with the ability to in-house recruit.

Re-signing with the Jazz would mean Hayward can earn an extra $45 million and likely be on a playoff team for the foreseeable future.

Hill presents a different challenge.

One of the top free-agent point guards this summer, Hill will see a significant raise from his $8 million salary.

The financial commitment in both dollars and years will need to be carefully considered by the Jazz and their medical team.

The 31-year-old missed significant time this season because of a recurring toe injury.

The Jazz would have only the $8.4 million exception and no cap space if they didn’t re-sign Hill.

When it comes to Ingles, do the Jazz view the 29 year-old as a priority or a luxury?

Utah is protected by restricted free agency and has the ability to match an opposing team’s offer sheet for Ingles. But the potential cost of Hayward, Hill, a looming rookie extension for Hood and a $10.8 million cap hit for oft-injured Alec Burks could make the shooting guard a cap casualty.

Managing the payroll

Utah was last in payroll at $80 million this season and has ranked near the bottom in salary in recent years. Now the Jazz project to be a possible luxury-tax team and one of the top spenders in 2017-18.

The roster and financial flexibility that Utah had in past years will now come with restrictions if it returns its starters.

The Jazz can trim payroll with Boris Diaw’s $7.5 million non-guaranteed contract, which becomes guaranteed if not waived by July 15.

Utah will also pay a price for drafting and developing talent.

Hood and Dante Exum are eligible for extensions this summer and will be restricted free agents in 2018 if contract terms cannot be reached.

Summer cap breakdown

Guaranteed                                  2017-18                               Insider info
Rudy Gobert                             $22,224,719           Factors $1 million in likely bonuses
Derrick Favors                          $12,000,000                        Extension eligible
Alec Burks                                $10,845,506
Joe Johnson                             $10,505,000
Dante Exum                               $4,992,385                   Rookie extension eligible
Trey Lyles                                   $2,441,400
Rodney Hood                            $2,386,864                   Rookie extension eligible
Joel Bolomboy                           $1,312,611

Non/partial                                  2017-18                          Guarantee date
Boris Diaw                                  $7,500,000                              July 15
Raul Neto                                   $1,471,382

FA cap hold                                  2017-18                              FA status
Gordon Hayward                       $24,109,710              Bird/projected to opt-out
George Hill                                $12,000,000                              Bird
Shelvin Mack                              $4,623,335                               Bird
Joe Ingles                                   $4,085,000                      Restricted/Bird
Jeff Withey                                  $1,471,382                           Early Bird

First-round cap hold                    2017-18
No. 24                                         $1,579,440
No. 30                                         $1,394,520

Salary table                                     2017
Guaranteed salaries                  $66,708,485
Non-guaranteed                        $8,971,382
Free-agent cap holds               $49,263,387
Salaries: cap                            $124,943,254
Salaries: tax                              $75,679,867
Salary cap                               $101,000,000
Luxury tax                               $121,000,000
Cap space                        None ($23,943,254 over)
Tax room                                   $45,320,133

Projected cap space

Gobert’s rookie extension and $49 million in free-agent cap holds have the Jazz over the cap.

Losing each free agent would only give the Jazz $22.3 million in cap space to find replacements for three starters.

Utah currently has the $8.4 million mid-level exception and $3.2 million bi-annual exception.

Both exceptions could be reduced to the $5.2 million tax exception if Utah’s projected total salary is close to the tax.

June draft picks

Utah has its own first-round pick.

The Jazz also have the Warriors’ first-round pick, which was part of a deal in which Utah assisted Golden State in clearing cap space to acquire Andre Iguodala in 2013.

In the second round, Utah has its own pick (No. 55) and the Pistons’ (No. 42).

The pick from Detroit was conveyed as part of the Reggie Jackson trade in 2015.

Future draft picks

The Jazz own their future first-round picks.

As part of the Jackson-Enes Kanter trade to Oklahoma City, the Thunder will send the Jazz a lottery-protected first-round pick in 2018.

The pick also has lottery protection in 2019 and 2020, if no pick is conveyed in 2018.

If no pick is conveyed in any of those three years, the Jazz will then receive second-round picks in 2020 and 2021.

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