Jose Calderon has 10,561,982 reasons to smile this season

There are a few websites that NBA fans can browse when they’re trying to find player and team salary information, but over the last couple of years, I’ve found that none is as accurate, as specific or as detailed as “ShamSports,” a basketball website run by Mark Deeks, who you may also know as a TBJ contributor.

On Thursday night, Deeks released salary information for the Raptors. Let’s discuss.

First of all, let’s get to the guys on opposite ends of the spectrum. The highest paid Raptor heading into the 2012-2013 season is Jose Calderon, who is in the final year of a contract that will see him earn $10,561,982 this season. NBA players are paid their full amount over a pay period that runs through the regular season, but if they were paid bi-weekly throughout the year, the way most people are, then Calderon would be cashing cheques worth over $400,000 every two weeks. Not bad, huh?

Quincy Acy, on the other hand, is the Raptor who stands to earn the least this season. The second round pick will earn $665,000. The average salary of the Raptors’ 15 players is $4,082,553.40.

The Raptors’ total salary heading into the season is $61,238,301 which is more than $3 million over the 2012-13 salary cap of $58,044,000, though the team is still roughly $9 million clear of the luxury tax threshold, which kicks in at $70,307,000.

I don’t think there’s a question about which contract offers the best value for Toronto. In fact, Kyle Lowry making $5,750,000 this season and less than $12 million combined over the next two seasons is a serious candidate for best value in the NBA. If he picks up where he left off on the court before health issues last season, I think it’s safe to say he’s in for a sizable raise sooner rather than later.

On paper, the worst value would appear to be Calderon’s bloated contract, Amir Johnson’s $6,000,000 salary this season or Landry Fields’ $6,250,000 cap hit (Andrea Bargnani at $10,000,000 this season really isn’t that bad when you look at some of the recent contracts handed out in the NBA), but since Calderon’s expiring deal is a trade asset for the Raptors and I’ve already explained multiple times why I don’t think Fields is as overpaid as some others think, it would come down to Amir’s deal and Linas Kleiza’s.

If one or both of those guys fails to impress this season, I think they’re both potential amnesty candidates come July, but since I’ve seen Amir be an effective player for the Raps before (for a couple of years, actually), while I’ve yet to see Kleiza stand out for a consistent period of time, I’m going to say Linas’ $4,600,000 contract will deliver the least amount of bang for Toronto’s buck in 2012-13.

Lastly, let’s take a look at the Raptors’ financial situation going forward.

Assuming Aaron Gray and Linas Kleiza pick up their player options for 2013-14, the Raptors pick up the team options on Ed Davis and John Lucas III and the salary cap hovers around the same figure, the Raps would have around nine or $10 million in cap space next summer. Re-signing DeMar DeRozan, should DeRozan prove he deserves a new contract, would obviously then eat into that space.

However, if the Raptors were to perhaps use the amnesty clause on Kleiza, decide not to extend DeRozan and not pick up one of the team options on Lucas III or Davis, then the team could suddenly find itself with roughly $15 million or more in cap space while still having Andrea Bargnani, Kyle Lowry, Landry Fields, Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross, Quincy Acy, Aaron Gray, Dominic McGuire and one of Davis/Lucas under contract. That’s not too shabby.

Of course, all of that is assuming that there isn’t a trade to be made between now and next summer that might significantly affect the Raptors’ future payroll, and if you’ve listened to any of Bryan Colangelo’s comments over the last week or so, I don’t think we should assume that a trade like that isn’t out there this season.

In any event, the Raptors have a young team that looks to be (and that we hope is) on the rise, and depending on the roster decisions made between now and the 2013 off-season, the team could be flirting with maximum cap space in the near future.

We don’t know how this season is going to play out or how a ton of future cap space might be used, if at all, but looking at things right now, both on the court and off, you’re allowed to be cautiously optimistic.

I know I am.

(Again, all salary information used in this post is based on Mark Deeks’ “Sham Sports” website)