The Toronto Raptors still have quite a few questions to answer ahead of the start of the regular season on Oct. 22, but the most pressing one will come the day before the ball officially tips on the 2019-20 campaign.
Oct. 21 is the deadline for teams to reach an agreement on a contract extension with their players, and in the Raptors’ case, the most intriguing candidate likely to get a new deal is Pascal Siakam.
A rising star in the league who averaged 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds on 54.9 per cent shooting last season to go along with 19 points and 7.1 rebounds on 47 per cent shooting in the post-season, Siakam is expected to take another leap 2019-20 and possibly become the new face of the franchise.
As such, extension talks have followed Siakam all through training camp and likely won’t go away until either he signs a contract extension or the deadline passes.
Should the deadline pass, Siakam will be in line to become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2020, when the Raptors could still lock him up.
From a negotiating standpoint, Siakam is all but guaranteed to receive a max contract, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said recently, so the money is going to be there for the 25-year-old. With that said, however, there’s still quite a few arguments to made on both sides about whether Raptors president Masai Ujiri should offer him an extension or wait for the summer to make a decision.
Here are the cases for and against offering Siakam a contract extension.
The Case For
If the Raptors really do view Siakam as the future of the franchise, there shouldn’t be much hesitation in trying to lock him up long term now instead of potentially dealing with the complication of an offer sheet in the summer.
The NBA’s Most Improved Player last season has only had an upwards growth trajectory, and considering he didn’t start playing organized basketball until he was 16 and is only 25 years old now, it looks like there’s still plenty of room left for him to become even better than he already is.
Financially speaking, Siakam is looking at a five-year, $170-million contract, but, as Wojnarowski said in that same video, there’s a chance that if he and the Raptors were to agree to an extension there might be wiggle room for a small hometown discount.
“Sometimes a player will give the team a little bit of a discount to get the security to lock it in,” the ESPN reporter said.
This would obviously be an advantage for the Raptors if they would be able to lock Siakam in at a below-full-market-value price – even if it’s just a little off full value.
More than anything, though, an extension is a show of good faith by the Raptors that they believe in Siakam, something that could result in a big boost in confidence for him heading into the new season.
If the Raptors are going to offer Siakam a max deal anyway, why not just do it now, right?
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The Case Against
And to answer that question above, to put it simply, there’s a lot of money the Raptors can potentially save by not extending him immediately.
Siakam has a nice and tidy cap hold of $7 million right now. This is significant to note because if the Raptors were to extend him right now his cap hold would jump to about $29 million, meaning the team would lose out on possibly $22 million worth of cap flexibility.
This isn’t to be taken lightly, because even if you aren’t digging the unrestricted free agent class of 2020 – and we can’t blame you there, really – this still means extra wiggle room for trade opportunities that could come up this season.
The fact of the matter is, the Raptors are in a position of much greater leverage here than Siakam’s camp. If Siakam is really only going to look at max contract offers then Toronto still holds the better cards as the highest value offer sheets that can come in would be for four years worth approximately $125 million, a far cry from the five-year, $170-million deal Toronto would still be able to offer Siakam because the team owns his Bird rights.
Plus, as good as Siakam is – and has proven to be at improving himself each season – it’s not like it’s completely out of the question that he doesn’t just take another gigantic step and instantly becomes a star this season. Growth isn’t usually an easily predictable thing, and we still don’t really know if Siakam is up to the task of becoming the primary option for the first time in his career.
So why not have Siakam prove to the Raptors he’s worthy of the big pay day? There’s no actual disadvantage to Toronto telling Siakam “show me” other than possibly upsetting him. But even then, Siakam will be a restricted free agent, meaning the Raptors will still be able to keep him regardless of an offer sheet coming his way.
The NBA is a business and in this particular business deal between the Raptors and Siakam, Toronto is the camp that wields the most negotiating power. There’s no harm in the club using it.