Upcoming Cap Situation and the Hopefully Returning Raptors
Old 05-05-2014, 12:28 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Upcoming Cap Situation and the Hopefully Returning Raptors

Hi all,

I was just going to post this in reply to another thread, but it ended up being pretty long and in depth, so decided to post as a thread.

So. There are a couple ways to look at the upcoming seasons in terms of contract desirability. Do we focus on summer 2015? Maximize cap space to make a splash next summer, and you're lined up for a very successful season the year we host the all-star game. Or do we look to push for more flexibility in 2016, and make a play for Durant in a sign and trade? The reality is that we likely won't be seeing cap room in 2016, but I'll explore some options there as well.

First look: Summer 2014

As of right now, the Raptors are not sitting pretty in terms of cap space this summer. With all cap holds and salaries, the Raptors are actually projected over the tax. They won't be, but we're not near significant cap room to say the least. The team has 7 players locked in with no question (I'm including Amir here). Assuming Hansbrough and Salmons get waived rather than traded, and Stone and Buycks are waived, we're sitting at 42.5M committed to those 7 players and our draft pick cap hold, plus buyouts (2.7M for Camby, TH, Salmons).

Those 7 players are DD, Amir, Fields, Hayes, Novak, JV, and Ross. Note that waiving and stretching Fields/Hayes could clear cap space this year (about 8M) but at the cost of cap room in 2015 and 2016, where the Raps could be poised to do real damage. It would be VERY shortsighted to waive either of them.

The cap is projected at 63.2M, meaning there's about 20.7M in cap room there. But if you don't want to gut the team, you're looking at roughly 10M+ for Lowry and about 5M each for Vasquez and Patterson, so that goes away fast. Anyway, anything less than 5M in cap room, and you might as well stay above the cap and use the 5.3M MLE instead. Although it should be noted that using the MLE will likely bite into future cap room.

Plan A: Summer 2015

As of right now, the Raptors are looking pretty good for summer 2015.

Assuming the Raptors pick at 20th again next year, the Raptors currently have 4 players under contract heading into summer 2015, plus their 1st this year and next, for a total of 27.4M in committed salary and cap holds. That's DD at 9.5M, Novak at 3.75M, and JV and Ross on the last year of their rookie scale deals (roughly 5 and 4 M respectively).

Now, this entire post is going to operate on the assumption that we want to keep the current core together at least up until making our move, and probably making the move to ADD to the core, rather than replace some of it.

So, that means bringing back Lowry, Vasquez, Patterson, and Amir.

Let's start with Lowry. Because that's fun. Lowry is coming back, you have to believe, but for how much? Estimates that were confidently at 10M per year earlier in the season don't look like such a sure thing now, and his price could be up to 12M per year.

So let's assume 12M per year. And we'll assume 5 years (with the 5th at least partially guaranteed), as that is the one really big chip the Raptors have that other teams do not. How best to keep that 12M out of the way of 2015 cap room?

For that, we play with signing bonuses.

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Signing bonuses! The best way to manipulate your cap room by small but important amounts!

Here's the deal. Anytime you sign a player to a deal, you can give them a 15% signing bonus. 15% of the total value of the deal can be paid to the player up front. Players (and agents) like this, for obvious reasons. For cap purposes though, you can't just load up a bunch of cap hit the first year. The signing bonus gets spread out over the full length of the contract. So, you might ask, for cap discussions, who cares about signing bonuses, if they end up affecting the cap the same? Well, there's the trick. They don't, if you are clever.

You see, although the signing bonus gets spread over the entire contract, it gets distributed based on the percentage of guaranteed money in each year, rather than total money. So for example, if a contract is 4 years with a 5th unguaranteed year, the signing bonus only gets spread over the first 4 years. Even better, it is spread our relative to the percentage of guaranteed money. So, for example, a 3 year deal with 100% guaranteed in year 1, 50% in year 2, and 0% in year 3, will have 2/3rds of the signin bonus applied in the first year, 1/3rd in the second, and none in the final year.

Yes, it's complicated. But it allows for a lot of playing to get exactly what you want.

Here's a quick example so you can see how it works.

Say you sign a player to a 5 year contract worth 60M. Typically it breaks down like:

10.4M
11.2M
12.0M
12.8M
13.6M

With a signing bonus, if each year is 100% guaranteed, it comes out a little different, with a smaller base salary with a bonus amount bringing it close to the values listed above (it's a slightly flatter raise structure for reasons I'll get to later).

8.9M + 1.8M = 10.7M
9.5M + 1.8M = 11.3M
10.2M + 1.8M = 12.0M
10.9M + 1.8M = 12.7M
11.5M + 1.8M = 13.3M

Now, the real difference, as I noted, is seen when you play around with the guarantees. Say that the last year is unguaranteed. Then the salary looks like this:

8.9M + 2.3M = 11.1M
9.5M + 2.3M = 11.8M
10.2M + 2.3M = 12.5M
10.9M + 2.3M = 13.1M
11.5M + 0.0M = 11.5M

You can very quickly change the look of a contract with this signing bonus / guarantee flexibilty.

Quick rules to know when playing this game. The precentage of guaranteed money cannot go up at any point in a contract. If one year is 50% guaranteed, the next cannot be more than 50% guaranteed. It can be less though.

Another important one (this one trips a lot of people up), is the maximum raise rule. The maximum raise rule is 7.5% of first year base salary (top-left most number in the examples I gave above). And this maximum raise (or drop) in salary applies to BOTH the base salary, and the total salary after adding in the bonus money. In the final example above (used for simplicity), this rule is actually broken. Although the base salary fits within the rule, the total salary has a big drop in the final year (1.6M, where the max raise is 0.7M).

----

Back to Lowry! So, traditionally, your options for a contract are to either frontload, backload, or give a flat salary. Backload makes the most traditional sense. The player's contract goes up as the salary cap typically does, so their overall cap impact remains the same. Frontloading is an aggressive stretegy - get the cap load out of the way now, and free up a lot of room later (especially relative to a rising cap). Flat line is a middle ground. We'll ignore flat line salaries as we are looking to free up cap space, which is an exercise in extremes. Here are the two traditional options for Lowry's potential 5 year, 60M deal.

10.4M
11.2M <-- summer 2015 salary
12.0M
12.8M
13.6M (partially guaranteed?)

14.1M
13.1M <-- summer 2015 salary
12.0M
10.9M
9.9M (partially guaranteed?)

Both sum to 60M over 5 years. Note the first option is clearly preferable in terms of summer 2015.

Now, we can play around and offer an interesting contract to Lowry. It would come with less guaranteed money, but enough guaranteed money that no team would be stupid enough to waive him before that final year anyway, and if they did, he'd walk with a big pay check to free agency. Here's what I put together.

8.9M + 2.8M = 12.1M (12.1M guaranteed)
9.5M + 1.5M = 11.1M (6.7M guaranteed) <-- summer 2015 salary
10.2M + 1.5M = 11.7M (7.0M guaranteed)
10.9M + 1.5M = 12.4M (7.4M guaranteed)
11.5M + 1.5M = 13.1M (7.8M guaranteed)

So let's say a team waives him after his first year. Then he walks away with 29 million as a free agent, and signs a new contract. Note that the full amount of guaranteed salary is 41M - not short by much from the 4/48 he might get from another team, and very quickly he surpasses that as the full guarantees kick in.

Now, I know what you are thinking, that's a lot of playing for 140k in savings! Well, yes. But I wanted to get the explanations out of the way in this first section, and you'll see more gains in the 2016 option. Note that even with this structure, we've saved money in 2015 and 2016, although not much.

----

So, there you have it. Assuming the 5 year 60M deal, the best we can do is 11.1M committed to Lowry in 2015. That means, going back up to our starting point, we now have 5 players plus picks locked in for 37.9M, leaving about 28.6M in cap room, and 3 key players still to lock up.

Now, here's the guesswork stuff. How much do Vasquez, Amir, and Patterson re-sign for? I've gone through the "reasonable" offers thread for Vasquez and Patterson, and pulled what seemed to be an average response for each of them. The high end of average seemed to be about 5M for each of them. So, let's be a little pessimistic and assume another team comes knocking with a MLE offer for each (informally) and the Raptors pony up the same amount of cash per year to keep them, and give them a 5th year because it's a good idea with younger players. That brings their traditional offers to:

4.9M
5.3M <-- summer 2015 salary
5.7M
6.0M
6.4M

And 28.3M total over 5 years, eating 10.6M of our 2015 salary space.

Now, what if we played the same game we played with Lowry? Again, there's not much gain for 2015, so I'll leave the details out for now.

So, given that, and with only Amir to sign, we are looking at 47M in committed salary, 3 open roster slots (that need to be filled) and 19M in cap room.

----

Amir Johnson... Now, right away here, he's a free agent that summer (2015). If we wanted, we could use that 19M to make a big offer to a superstar player, and Amir's just going to have to walk. And it might well come down to that. It would be a shame though.

So for Amir, we're going to play the extension game. I've breached this subject before. But here's the gist. You can use a signing bonus in much the same way as described above when offering an extension. But here's the rub - you can front load that signing bonus into the current deal, rather than the extension, so long as you have cap space for the additional current salary.

Long story short, we need to look at our 2014-15 salary again.

42.5M committed. Need to sign Lowry, Vasquez, Patterson. Patterson has a high cap hold (7M+), so you sign him first to the traditional deal I outlined above and get that down to 4.9M, and forget about the playing we did with his contract. Same goes for Vasquez. And don't play with Lowry's contract either - we need the cap room up front to use on Amir, and there's very little gain to be had in 2015. Lowry has a slightly lower cap hold than his contract amount, so you keep him on hold until you sign Amir to an extension.

That puts your committed salary to 62.7M. Too much. It means we have only 0.5M in cap space to play around with extending Amir, which is too little to make a big difference.

So let's figure an ideal amount of cap space we'd need to be able to frontload Johnson and clear space for 2015, then see if we can clear that space.

Assuming Johnson would return for about 7M per year (his current deal is reasonable for what he gives you), and you can only offer him 3 years, you're looking at about 21M. Now, the most you can frontload on an extend-and-trade is 15%, as above. That's 3.15M, meaning we need an additional 2.65M in cap space beyond what I predicted. Now, waiving and stretching one of Fields or Hayes would do it, but you'd eat more of the cap the next season than you would if you just re-signed Amir. So dumping Novak for nothing at this coming draft would be good (also clears bonus 2015 cap room). Still, seems unlikely. So we are stuck.

Stuck with paying Johnson out of our cap space. If we keep him, best case scenario I can see is 6.5M in that first year. So that means our precious 19M in cap space is reduced to 13.2M. That's still significant, but takes us out of the running for potential max level players that summer.

So that's what Plan A comes down to - go into the summer with Johnson a free agent, having signed Lowry, Patterson, Vasquez to traditional backloaded deals (or the strange deals I suggested if you want to save a few 100k), and if you can land a max guy, you let Amir walk. If not, you re-sign him, and try for another Lowry-level player at that 13M range.

Plan B: Summer 2016

This isn't really a plan B, like a fallback plan, because choices made now will determine which path we are taking. But if we decide that the free agent class of 2015 is nothing to write home about, maybe our eye should be on the following summer, and specifically in creating a) as much cap space as possible and b) as many easily tradeable and valuable contracts as possible.

As for where we sit now, we have about 30.4M committed to Jonas, Ross, and the four draft picks we'll have at that point (I assumed 10th overall for the Knicks/Nuggets pick, 20th for us, seems conservative). This assumes DD opts out of his 9.5M player option, and we let him walk - otherwise, he's sitting on our cap as a 14.25M cap hold until he signs. He'll almost certainly opt out, but whether we let him go or re-sign him is a big question.

Still, with a guesstimate of the cap that year (69.8M, extrapolated from current projections of 2014 and 2015 caps), we are looking at 39.4M to round out those last 6 spots.

Of those 6, the rest of the core (Lowry, Vasquez, Patterson, Amir) make up 4, and DD could make up a 5th.

So let's do what we did before, but with 2016 cap space in mind.

----

Lowry's contract, if we sign him to a frontloaded OR backloaded contract will be 12M in 2016. No way around that one. If we play the guarantee game we played before, we can build an offer like this:

8.9M + 2.5M = 11.4M (11.4M guaranteed)
9.5M + 2.5M = 12.0M (12.0M guaranteed)
10.2M + 1.3M = 11.5M (6.9M guaranteed) <-- summer 2016 salary
10.9M + 1.3M = 12.2M (7.2M guaranteed)
11.5M + 1.3M = 12.9M (7.6M guaranteed)

Here we save 0.5M on that third year.

----

GV and Patterson's contracts. Baseline has us at 5.7M in 2016.

4.2M + 1.2M = 5.4M (5.4M guaranteed)
4.5M + 1.2M = 5.7M (5.7M guaranteed)
4.8M + 0.6M = 5.4M (3.2M guaranteed) <-- summer 2016 salary
5.1M + 0.6M = 5.7M (3.4M guaranteed)
5.4M + 0.6M = 6.1M (3.6M guaranteed)

Here we save 0.3M for each of them.

----

Amir's contract. If Amir wants 21M/3 years, then we can do this:

5.5M + 1.5M = 7.0M (7.0M guaranteed)
6.0M + 0.8M = 6.8M (4.0M guaranteed) <-- summer 2016 salary
6.4M + 0.8M = 7.2M (4.3M guaranteed)

Saves 0.2M, not much...

----

So obviously the big takeaway is for Ujiri to negotiate like mad to get lower prices, but we've got no control over that...

Now, given the above numbers, we are lined up for 57.4M in committed salary, with 12.4M in cap space, assuming DD walks. That's a lot of flexibility, which could be added to if JV or Ross sign for an amount below their cap hold (hard to predict so far out). If DD stays, we're over the cap, but still with a lot of tradeable contracts (especially those 4 rookie scale salaries) and lots of room below the tax line if we pursue a sign and trade.

----

So I hope you all (all 3, maybe, of you who read that whole mess) enjoyed this look at the cap situation in upcoming seasons. Please let me know if there are any questions.
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Old 05-05-2014, 01:15 PM   #2 (permalink)
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a couple of points I want to make:

1. max cap space - not sure if for us it's worth bothering with that, our chances of signing up a free agent max guy (that's actually worth the max are very small). Our best bet is to trade for one, in which case having cap space will help, but we won't need max - just a good size that we can add to a promising player or two (say demar + amir + cap space for carmelo + a dead weight contract etc).

2. back loading contracts too heavily - you probably have to balance the savings in cap space with the difficulty of trading those players down the road. In most cases, it's better to front-load as you end up with cheaper contracts the rest of the way, and cheaper contracts are significant trade assets in the new CBA.
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Old 05-05-2014, 01:31 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Your first point is a good one, but you can achieve similar results without cap space at all. Although the more the better.

To the second point, I would suggest that most of my backloaded contracts are actually less backloaded than usual (80% of NBA contracts tend to be backloaded fully). Yes, it would be great if we frontloaded, but if you look at the example I gave, you really cripple yourself in the short term. Which is fine, if that's what you want, but in terms of clearing cap space when we can use it (after 2016 we'll be verge-of-tax pretty much no matter what we do), and considering that this ownership seems not to have an issue with spending into the tax when the time is right, short term cap control seems more important than getting friendly cap contracts long term.
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Old 05-05-2014, 02:00 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Thanks for this DanH!!!
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Old 05-05-2014, 03:27 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Thanks for the breakdown Dan
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Old 05-05-2014, 03:35 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by DanH View Post
Your first point is a good one, but you can achieve similar results without cap space at all. Although the more the better.

To the second point, I would suggest that most of my backloaded contracts are actually less backloaded than usual (80% of NBA contracts tend to be backloaded fully). Yes, it would be great if we frontloaded, but if you look at the example I gave, you really cripple yourself in the short term. Which is fine, if that's what you want, but in terms of clearing cap space when we can use it (after 2016 we'll be verge-of-tax pretty much no matter what we do), and considering that this ownership seems not to have an issue with spending into the tax when the time is right, short term cap control seems more important than getting friendly cap contracts long term.
what I meant in my #2 point there is that you have to balance one need vs another, while it may help with cap space to backload, it helps with keeping contracts friendly when you frontload - in the end it's a case by case basis. For guys like gv and pp, it makes more sense to frontload if you can, since you won't see a huge difference in cap space either way, but it would make a sizeable difference in the value of their contracts down the road (a 4M vasquez is much more attractive than a 6M one etc).

For the cap space, it would be good to get 12M or so, because it also gives us the option of signing a starting-level quality veteran (kind of like the west signing by the pacers) - those player will be easily available to us.

Whenever you go for max cap space, you're basically risking a lot. Given our profile in the league, doubt it would be a risk worth taking. Unless, of course, we can do it in a painless way, but it's hard to see how that would happen, we don't have enough rookies and we got to a point where we have to maintain some kind of momentum, we don't want to go back to winning 30 games now ... We need a strong bench and that will cost us money
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Old 05-05-2014, 03:44 PM   #7 (permalink)
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So it seems you're saying that there's little to no chance we improve the team this offseason, but rather, we'll be lucky if we can keep the Lowry/DeMar/Ross/Amir/JV/Patman/Vasquez core together?
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Old 05-05-2014, 03:53 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Metallikid View Post
So it seems you're saying that there's little to no chance we improve the team this offseason, but rather, we'll be lucky if we can keep the Lowry/DeMar/Ross/Amir/JV/Patman/Vasquez core together?
Well, we can definitely keep the core together. It'll be a question of cost to future flexibility. But, yes, there is limited room for external improvement of the team. Part of the reason why I espouse seeing what trade value DD has.

Of course, keeping the core together means some amount of improvement just from internal stuff, and there's a chance to sign some vet min or MLE level guys that could help, but what you see is mostly what you get right now, give or take a big trade.
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Old 05-05-2014, 04:11 PM   #9 (permalink)
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A small correction - in the first paragraph of Summer 2014, it should probably read "projected over the cap", rather than "tax".
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Old 05-05-2014, 04:13 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
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Well, we can definitely keep the core together. It'll be a question of cost to future flexibility. But, yes, there is limited room for external improvement of the team. Part of the reason why I espouse seeing what trade value DD has.

Of course, keeping the core together means some amount of improvement just from internal stuff, and there's a chance to sign some vet min or MLE level guys that could help, but what you see is mostly what you get right now, give or take a big trade.
If I were Masai I'd be very seriously inquiring on what it would take to pry either Afflalo or Ryan Anderson off their respective teams. The Pelicans are going to realize Anthony Davis isn't enough in the West and will bottom out again instead of trying to aim for No Man's Land, and Orlando should realize that if they hadn't had Afflalo this year, they'd be picking #1. Either way, I'd be willing to trade away a lot of picks for either of those guys if they took back some dead salary weight in return.

Something like this: http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=kgg9hlv
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Old 05-05-2014, 04:17 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Dan The MAN!
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Old 05-05-2014, 04:59 PM   #12 (permalink)
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excellent stuff DanH, as always!
This will be a huge test for Masai, if he could cut down on your projected salaries, we would be in a very good situation.
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Old 05-05-2014, 05:18 PM   #13 (permalink)
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If I were Masai I'd be very seriously inquiring on what it would take to pry either Afflalo or Ryan Anderson off their respective teams. The Pelicans are going to realize Anthony Davis isn't enough in the West and will bottom out again instead of trying to aim for No Man's Land, and Orlando should realize that if they hadn't had Afflalo this year, they'd be picking #1. Either way, I'd be willing to trade away a lot of picks for either of those guys if they took back some dead salary weight in return.

Something like this: NBA Trade Machine - ESPN
So, in that deal I'm assuming you mean the raps send 1 or 2 first rounders for AA. Not impossible, Orlando saves 6.5 million next year (Salmons will definitely be waived thus his contract only is 1 million for next season) and gets 1-2 first rounders. It depends how highly Orlando rates him. I HIGHLY DOUBT our first rounder with Salmons is enough to get him cuz our pick isn't high enough. Orlando will be really fun to watch next year. Just need a PG.
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Old 05-05-2014, 05:26 PM   #14 (permalink)
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A small correction - in the first paragraph of Summer 2014, it should probably read "projected over the cap", rather than "tax".
Nope. With Salmons and Hansbrough's full salary, full cap holds for Lowry, PP, Vasquez, de Colo, with Buycks and Stone on the roster, we project to the tax. Don't have access to my spreadsheet here, but I'm fairly certain. I'll double check tomorrow, but I did intend to put tax.
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Old 05-05-2014, 05:56 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Great stuff Dan! Thanks for sharing.
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Old 05-05-2014, 06:15 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Nope. With Salmons and Hansbrough's full salary, full cap holds for Lowry, PP, Vasquez, de Colo, with Buycks and Stone on the roster, we project to the tax. Don't have access to my spreadsheet here, but I'm fairly certain. I'll double check tomorrow, but I did intend to put tax.
Apologies, then. I sincerely doubt the team will be anywhere close to the luxury tax levels next season, but depending on what Masai decides to do, they could certainly get there.

Also, I've just realized that Durant doesn't hit free agency until the summer of 2016. Somehow, I though it'd happen next summer. Bummer.
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Old 05-05-2014, 08:59 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Always a great job Danh. thanks !

questions :
1. can we trade PP or before the 1st July ? if so i which conditions ? and i what mesure can we S&T them after the 1st july ?

2.if we don't touch our roster, and just take our 3 rookies coming of the draft and don't keep buycks, stone and TH, assuming Lowry sign for 12M, GV and PP take each a 5M what will be our situation in the summer 2015 ?
coz i see salmons, amir, fields, hayes all coming of the books, so that should give us more than 25M in expirings!
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Old 05-05-2014, 09:10 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Wow Dan H ! Thanks for the breakdown. I guess we kinda gotta get an NBA ready surprise draft pick to get better for next year although signing a useful backup centre with SIZE seems possible under your scenarios ( as they don't cost as much)
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Old 05-05-2014, 09:24 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Always a great job Danh. thanks !

questions :
1. can we trade PP or before the 1st July ? if so i which conditions ? and i what mesure can we S&T them after the 1st july ?

2.if we don't touch our roster, and just take our 3 rookies coming of the draft and don't keep buycks, stone and TH, assuming Lowry sign for 12M, GV and PP take each a 5M what will be our situation in the summer 2015 ?
coz i see salmons, amir, fields, hayes all coming of the books, so that should give us more than 25M in expirings!
PP is a free agent now and cannot be traded. He could be signed and traded come July 10th, we have his RFA rights so we have some power there, but sign and trades are risky business at the best of times.

The outline I put together for summer 2015 above is pretty much what you describe here, I just have us waiving guys a bit earlier. Yes, we could have a lot of expirings, but the value of expiring contracts has gone way down (shorter contract lengths means the market is flooded with expirings every year). Better to get the flotsam off the roster and make room for Ross and our draft picks to get playing time.
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Old 05-05-2014, 09:52 PM   #20 (permalink)
making funny and strange dark trade in his mind !!!

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what i means was that if we keep our expiring next season, we would have a solid capsapce to play with, no ?
we would have DD, KL, GV, PP, ross, JV , assuming amir, our 1st 2014 and our 1st 2015 and a possible MLE player : maybe 50-52M in the books.
so with a solid capsapce in 2015, it will be time to invest in some star.

what i wanted when i ask my question, is what is your opinion. coz you give us many facts, but i don't read your opinion. what direction do you think we should go.
with all your knowledge of numbers and facts you should have a good perception of what we can do or not to imrprove the team (roster and flexibility).
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