Matt Barnes to Toronto Makes No Sense… Technically

Despite what Matt Barnes reported on his own Twitter account last night, I can’t see how he’ll be heading to Toronto. Somewhere along the way, Barnes, his agent, the Raptors and the Magic are making a horrible miscalculation.

Multiple media outlets are reporting that Barnes has agreed to a two-year deal to join the Raptors that will pay him nearly $10 million, the second year being a player option.

However, the Raptors don’t have the means to offer such a contract.

What appears to be happening here is that Barnes, his agent, the Raptors and the Magic are confusing the basics of the salary cap rules. It’s actually quite embarrassing.

The Raptors are currently over the salary cap. The fact that they received a $14.5 million trade exception in the Chris Bosh sign-and-trade should make that obvious to everyone.

Therefore, the only means they have to to offer Barnes, a free agent who last played for the Magic, a contract would be via their mid-level or bi-annual exceptions or via the minimum player salary exception.

The Raptors utilized all but $770,000 of their mid-level exception to sign Linas Kleiza to a four-year, $18.8 million contract. Neither the remainder nor the full value of the bi-annual or minimum salary exceptions could possibly produce a contract that pays out $10 million over two years.

The Raptors do have the aforementioned $14.5 million trade exception, which would accommodate such a contract. But as the name implies, a trade exception can only be used to acquire a player in trade.

Since Barnes is not currently under contract to the Magic, Orlando would, by extension of logic, need to execute a sign-and-trade for this transaction to work. But in order for a sign-and-trade transaction to occur, the Magic must, by further extension of logic, have the means to sign him.

There are two ways Orlando can sign Barnes.

Through the bi-annual exception, Barnes can sign a two-year contract that starts at $2.08 million. However, a player that signs via the bi-annual exception cannot be traded in a sign-and-trade transaction. So that’s out.

The Magic also holds non-Bird rights to Barnes. That gives Orlando the right to sign Barnes to a contract up to five years in length, starting at $1.92 million, with 8.0% annual raises. The player can be included in a sign-and-trade transaction under this approach. However, a two-year deal would top out at $4.0 million.

So, as you can plainly see, the Raptors do not have the means to sign Matt Barnes to a two-year, $10 million free agent contract outright. And while they can accept such a contract in trade, the Magic don’t have the means to sign him for that much in order to be able to trade him. And since a sign-and-trade cannot legally be completed with any other team as an intermediary, the announced deal is impossible.

I am downright confused.

The Heat are unlikely to make a continuing push anyway, with Mike Miller and James Jones now under contract.

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