Man with a plan

RaptorBlog founder and self proclaimed “Blog Father” Scott Carefoot did a fine job posting on the Barbosa to the Pacers trade amid all the madness that was NBA deadline day 2012, so there’s no need to go over the trade again.

What I did want to get into is what the immediate future now looks like for the Raptors in the post-Barbosa era, both from an on-court angle and from a financial perspective.

I’ll start with this. Leandro Barbosa and the now officially waived Anthony Carter played approximately 1153 combined minutes for the Raptors this season, which works out to 26.8 minutes per game over Toronto’s 43 contests. Even with a healthy Jose Calderon, that’s an extra 27 minutes that Jerryd Bayless and Gary Forbes, and maybe even DeMar DeRozan, can share. Remember that Bayless has a qualifying offer worth over $4 million for next season, so it’s imperative that the Raptors’ brass gets a good enough look at him to be able to make a fully informed decision.

We’ve always known this season was supposed to be about development and analysis of the younger Raptors, and with Barbosa and even the little used Carter now out of the way, the Raps can take another step towards that development and analysis.

On to the finances.

The Raptors now have around $11 million or $12 million in cap space that they can use between the end of their season (which should come to an end on April 26) and July 1, when the 2012-2013 season will be officially open for business. That flexibility can be used to obtain more draft picks, or of course, to obtain an actual player before the start of free agency, which is a positive, since a lot of players end up getting overpaid after July 1.

Thinking further ahead (and assuming that the NBA’s salary cap stays around $58 million), the Raps are in line to have about $14 million or $15 million in cap space if they choose to extend the aforemtnioned qualifying offer to Bayless. If they were to renounce that option on Bayless (which I really can’t see them doing without Barbosa in the future plans), the cap space grows to $18 million or $19 million.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, as those figures don’t take into account the two top-10 draft picks the Raptors are expected to be paying next season. According to this NBA rookie salary scale, Jonas Valanciunas will be paid about $2.8 million in his rookie season. Assuming that the Raptors select somewhere between No. 1 and No. 8 in the 2012 draft, you then have to add another $2.1 million to $4.2 million in player salaries.

So, the Raptors will likely add anywhere from $4.9 million to $7 million in payroll between Valanciunas and their 2012 pick, and that’s not including the two second round picks that they now own, which are non-guaranteed contracts. If Bayless gets his $4.1 million option, the Raptors would be in line to have about $49 million-to-$52 million committed to 12 players next season.

Those players would be Jose Calderon, Jerryd Bayless, DeMar DeRozan, Gary Forbes, James Johnson, Linas Kleiza, Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson, Ed Davis, Aaron Gray, Jonas Valanciunas and 2012 pick. We’re obviously not looking at a championship core there, but if the 2012 pick is a good one, which it should be, and Valanciunas lives up to the hype, you definitely have a solid foundation, without having an insane amount of financial commitment.

I know a lot of disheartened Raptors fans will read a post like this as blind optimism, but I maintain that if the Raptors get one of the studs coming out in 2012, they’ll have a good enough core and financial situation to lay the building blocks for future success, and it would take blind pessimism to ignore that. Of course, it all does depend on how Lady Luck treats Toronto on lottery night.

The next six weeks of Raptors basketball should be intriguing to monitor. The 63 days between April 26 and June 28 (Draft day) could be fascinating and future-shaping.