The Toronto Raptors have officially signed their first-round picks, Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam, the team announced Saturday.
Standard contracts for first-round picks include two guaranteed years followed by two team-option years, each of which has to be exercised by Oct. 31 the year prior (so they’ll need to make decisions on the third year of these deals next October), though the options are nearly always no-brainers. That’s because the rookie scale insures that players are relatively cheap in their first four seasons, especially right now, with the salary cap taking off and rookie contracts stuck at a fixed dollar amount rather than a percentage of the cap.
There is some wiggle room on salary, but players almost always sign for 120 percent of “scale,” the set salary for each draft slot. For the purposes of cap estimates, we always assume 120 percent of scale unless told otherwise. The most interesting part of this news for the Raptors is that by officially signing Poeltl and Siakam, those players will now count against the cap at their actual salaries rather than their cap holds (which are set to scale).
To illustrate, if the Raptors signed both players to 120 percent of scale – the standard – here’s how their cap sheet changes:
(As a note, there is some disagreement on what DeMar DeRozan’s cap hold is right now, so those salary cap figures may be $300,000 less depending on who you ask.)
What the signings suggest is that the Raptors may be leaning toward staying above the salary cap and triggering their mid-level and bi-annual exceptions rather than using their cap space. That can change, and this move only eats $650,000 of cap space, but by executing the deals, their flexibility is limited some. If the team officially re-signs DeRozan in the coming days, they’ll be locked in to being over the cap, opening up those exceptions. That will happen if and once general manager Masai Ujiri deems he doesn’t need the extra cap space to help facilitate a trade, as the Raptors would no longer have that extra salary cushion.
Some of this is minutiae you don’t really need to know, and even the cap space they “have” now would be contingent on renouncing the rights to James Johnson, Luis Scola, Jason Thompson, and Nando De Colo. The way the market is playing out, the Raptors may feel more comfortable filling their hole at power forward by re-signing one of those names using their limited rights to exceed the cap, thus maintaining the mid-level exception, or through trade.
To summarize, here’s what the Raptors could do now that the picks are signed.
Get Under Cap
*Renounce Johnson, Scola, Thompson, De Colo
*Delay officially re-signing DeRozan
*Estimated $4.81M-5.11M in cap space
*$2.9M room exception
Stay Above Cap
*Sign DeRozan whenever
*Keep Early Bird rights to Johnson, non-Bird rights to Scola and Thompson, and Early Bird/RFA rights to De Colo
*$5.6M mid-level exception
*$2.2M bi-annual exception
In either case, the Raptors can also sign as many players to minimum deals as they like, up to 20 players (there could eventually be some luxury tax concerns if they signed too many, but it’s unlikely the Raptors can maneuver toward the tax this offseason without the benefit of a trade). That includes partially guaranteed deals for players they may want to bring in to camp and then make affiliate players in the D-League system, like a Fred Van Vleet.
From a more practical standpoint, signing the picks is a huge day for the rookies. For Siakam, in particular, it confirms that he’ll be on the NBA roster next year rather than being stashed in the D-League or overseas to develop for another season (this was never the plan but something I thought might be possible depending on how the offseason played out). Both players looked good in the summer league opener on Friday and can now proceed full steam ahead knowing they’re in the NBA plans for 2016-17, even if there’s likely to be some D-League time for each to help with the development process.
Congratulations to the two rookies, who are now “officially” living out the dream.Follow @raptorsrepublic