The Toronto Raptors have signed Lenis Kleiza to a four-year, $20-million offer sheet.
While this means very little by way of increased competition for the Miami Heat next season, it has far-reaching implications for both its All-Star power forward and its potential future Hall-of-Fame small forward.
At the start of the free agent signing period at 12:01 this morning, the Raptors had total maximum available room of $9,782,964 under the salary cap. The team also had a pending commitment to Amir Johnson on a 5-year, $34 million contract. The first year salary on such a contract, by league rule, can be no less than $5,619,835.
As you undoubtedly know by now, an accepted offer sheet is a binding contract between player and team. Therefore, when a team puts forth an offer sheet, it must have reserved the requisite room within the confines of the salary cap. In the Raptors’ case, the offer sheet to Kleiza would start at no less than $4,716,981, making it ethically impossible utilizing the team’s cap space (i.e., impossible without reneging on Johnson).
What does this mean?
It means the Raptors have chosen not to maximize cap space. It means the Raptors have instead decided to enter free agency over the salary cap threshold. It means Johnson will be signed utilizing the team’s Larry Bird exception. And it means Kleiza’s offer sheet was extended by utilizing the vast majority of the team’s mid-level exception.
Best of all, it means the Raptors have now completely lost all leverage in a potential sign-and-trade transaction with the Miami Heat.
If Toronto elects not to engage in such a transaction, it will have virtually no additional room with which to add any outside free agents (its $2.1 million bi-annual exception, as much as $1.1 million remaining of its mid-level-exception, and as many minimum salary contracts as its collective heart desires) for at least the next seven days. The team’s free agency period would, barring any unforeseen trade with seemingly undesirable trade pieces, effectively be over.
Additional room can only come from engaging with the Heat in sign-and-trade discussions. That means the Heat can now basically dictate its terms to Raptors’ general manager Bryan Colangelo. That means no first round draft picks will need to be surrendered. That means Michael Beasley’s salary can be jettisoned, unless you feel that Toronto would be willing to forgo the second year talent and an $11,606,668 trade exception, and instead lose its best trade asset for nothing.
That means Pat Riley can now threaten the man who just two days ago was rumored to have threatened to derail the Bosh-to-Miami scenario by refusing to engage in such sign-and-trade discussions. Payback is a five-letter-word.
That means, if Riley chooses to exert his leverage over an outmatched Colangelo, the Heat can produce the required cap space to offer three max contracts.
Two are reserved. All common logic would now suggest that Lebron will take the third. We’ll find out at 9:00 pm.