A Closer Look At The Raptors Roster Makeup
Blake Murphy - Raptors.com
Some changes to the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement and a busy summer for the Toronto Raptors have made it so looking at a team’s roster page isn’t quite as straightforward as it once was. There is endless minutiae surrounding contracts, guarantees, the G-League, and more, so let’s go through how the Raptors’ roster for the 2017-18 season has been constructed so far.
Most NBA contracts are guaranteed, or at least mostly guaranteed. These deals don’t assure a player of a roster spot, necessarily, but they do mean that if waived, the player will still receive the agreed upon salary. In general, players with guaranteed contracts are considered to have an inside edge for spots on the final regular season roster, though there are plenty of instances where an unheralded name knocks off a perceived lock (we haven’t forgotten about you, Jamario Moon).
Experienced veterans have most, if not all, of their contracts guaranteed or tied to bonuses. The Raptors, re-signed Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka to three-year contracts this summer, signed C.J. Miles to a three-year pact, and have holdovers DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas on multi-year deals with player options on their final years. The Raptors only employing five players on veteran contracts is somewhat uncommon, especially for a good team, but it’s a necessary financial decision in the current salary cap environment and a bet on the youth they have in-house.
First-round picks are signed to what’s known as a rookie scale contract, paying them a set amount based on draft slot for their first two seasons and giving the team a pair of options for two years after that. Bruno Caboclo, Lucas Nogueira, Delon Wright, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl, and OG Anunoby are all currently on their rookie-scale contracts. The Raptors picked up their 2018-19 options on Wright, Siakam, and Poeltl on Monday. Caboclo and Nogueira will be restricted free agents at the end of the season. Second-round picks have similar options after the draft to free agents, unbound by the rookie scale but also limited either to minimum contracts or contracts that fit in under the regular salary cap rules. Two summers ago, the Raptors signed Norman Powell to a three-year contract, ultimately signing him to a multi-year extension in the preseason (his contract now extends longer than anyone on the team). Fred VanVleet signed a two-year contract as an undrafted free agent last year and will be a restricted free agent after the season.
These 13 names make up the core of the roster.
The biggest change this year from a roster-building and player development perspective is the introduction of two-way contracts. NBA rosters now have 17 spots instead of 15, with two of those spaces being given to players on these two-way deals.
Those contracts were introduced to allow teams to develop players in the G-League without sacrificing one of their 15 roster spots while also giving players who may otherwise be G-Leaguers (or playing overseas) a chance to see NBA time. Those players will be paid a larger G-League salary for their time spent with Raptors 905 and a prorated part of the NBA minimum for their time on the NBA roster. This will allow players to make significantly more than they could have in the G-League otherwise, and those amounts do not count against the salary cap for NBA teams.
Players on two-way contracts can be with the NBA team until the start of G-League training camp and again once the G-League regular season ends. In between those points, they can be on the NBA roster for up to 45 days. During call-ups, NBA teams still only have 13 active roster spots for each game. Two-way players are not eligible to play in the NBA playoffs, though teams do have the option to “convert” the contract to a regular NBA contract if they have an open roster spot.
Lorenzo Brown and Malcolm Miller are the two players the Raptors have signed to two-way contracts for the season. Brown is a 27-year-old point guard with good size and three partial seasons of NBA experience, while Miller projects as a potential “3-and- D” player at either forward spot once healthy (he had offseason ankle surgery).
How, exactly, the Raptors will choose to use those days is unclear at the outset of the two-way experiment, but there are a number of logical routes: Saving some days in the event injuries strike, intermittently checking in on the progress of players, rewarding strong G-League performances, using the two players one at a time so the roster always has additional depth, and so on. The decisions will likely be a coordinated effort between the Raptors and Raptors 905.
Battle for the final spot(s)
The Raptors had six other players in camp competing for two open roster spots. That competition is now down to two, with the Raptors having a little bit of time to decide whether Alfonzo McKinnie or K.J. McDaniels – or both – will stay with the team long-term. Based on publicly available estimates, the Raptors are very close to the luxury tax line and would cross into it if they keep 15 players all season (neither player’s contract becomes fully guaranteed until Jan. 10).
McKinnie played his way from Luxembourg two years ago to a walk-on spot in the G-League and a G- League All-Star nod last year to a Summer League invite with the Raptors in July. They signed him to a partially guaranteed contract to tryout from there. McDaniels, meanwhile, signed a partially guaranteed deal to tryout late in the summer. A three-year NBA veteran, McDaniels had a strong rookie season with the Philadelphia 76ers and has also played for the Houston Rockets and Brooklyn Nets.
Both McKinnie and McDaniels are looking to show they can be high-energy defenders to lock down a spot beyond the start of the season. Each received an opportunity during preseason action, and they may have to make their cases in practices from here. Because each received a partial guarantee above a certain threshold, they can not join Raptors 905 if they’re waived – they’ll once again be true free agents.
The team can make that decision at any time, so consider the end of the roster and ongoing battle between these two for the time being.
Last week, the Raptors waived Andy Rautins, Kyle Wiltjer, and Kennedy Meeks. On Saturday, they waived Davion Berry, who had just been signed, too.
Rautins and Wiltjer had been in camp on non-guaranteed deals, and both would be eligible to be made G-League Affiliate Players if they are open to playing in the G-League. (Teams can designate Affiliate Players who they waived to join their G-League team, but those players are still free to sign with a different NBA team during the G-League season.) Meeks and Berry were on Exhibit 10 contracts, which means they would receive a bonus as a supplement to the G-League salary if they agree to join Raptors 905 and stays for 60 days.
As an aside, the following players are eligible to be assigned to the G-League during the course of the season: VanVleet, Wright, Powell, Anunoby, Siakam, Poeltl, and McKinnie. The Raptors would have to receive permission from the player and the union for any player with three or more years of NBA experience (similar to when Jared Sullinger agreed to a conditioning stint last season).
Things can always change, but this is how the Raptors have assembled their roster for 2017- 18. Some new wrinkles in the collective bargaining agreement have given teams more options for building and developing, and the Raptors are showing faith in a young roster accordingly.