UPDATE: The Raptors made it official on Tuesday night after the move had been reported throughout the day. You can read my thoughts on the move below from the original report…
This comes as no surprise, but on Tuesday we finally received word that the Raptors are reportedly going to amnesty Linas Kleiza and his $4.6 million cap-hit for the 2013-14 season.
Raptors expected to use their amnesty clause on forward Linas Kleiza on last possible day Tuesday, source told Y! LK likely to go overseas.
— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) July 16, 2013
With the trading of Andrea Bargnani, Kleiza and Amir Johnson were the only amnesty eligible contracts left on the Raptors’ books, and while it may not have been for a lack of effort, Kleiza’s injury history (he played just 108 out of a possible 230 games with the Raptors) and his inability to produce consistently made this move a no-brainer.
MLSE will pay the luxury tax someday if Masai Ujiri assembles a championship contender in Toronto, but you don’t pay the luxury tax to field a team whose best hope is probably the No. 6 seed in its Conference, and amnestying Kleiza’s contract takes the Raptors out of tax territory for the coming season.
Once the amnesty of Kleiza and the Dwight Buycks signing become official, the Raptors will have 14 players (Lowry, Buycks, Gay, DeRozan, Ross, Fields, Richardson, Novak, Acy, Johnson, Valanciunas, Hansbrough, Gray, Camby) under contract with a total payroll of about $69-70 million. Remember, while they’re already about $11 million over the salary cap, they’d still have roughly a couple million to work with beneath the luxury tax threshold (which is set at $71,748,000) and should still have a portion of their Mid-Level Exception to use after the Hansbrough deal.
Throw in the fact that the Raptors could buy out Marcus Camby and Quentin Richardson, and the team does have a small bit of wiggle room to add another player or two, where I’d like to seem them add one more point guard (Ujiri said yesterday that the team will still look into Julyan Stone once he completes his rehab process) and either another backup centre or another shooter.
As for Kleiza, he was never able to live up to the four-year, $18.8 million contract that Bryan Colangelo signed him to after an impressive 2010 World Championships performance. The 28-year-old finishes with averages of 9.8 points and 4.0 rebounds in 22.8 minutes per game over his 108 games with the Raptors. He shot 40.7 per cent from the floor for Toronto, 32.2 per cent from behind the arc, 75.9 per cent from the free throw line and posted an ugly Player Efficiency Rating under 11.
I suppose there’s the possibility that some team out there bids on Kleiza through the amnesty process or offers up a veteran’s minimum contract if he clears waivers to become a free agent, but with numbers like that over the last three seasons and the fact that he’s been an above average three-point shooter just once in his seven-year career, it’s hard to see how Linas can help an NBA team in 2013.
With that, as Spears noted, we’re much more likely to see Kleiza plying his trade overseas next season than we are to see him in the NBA.