Raptors Rumors: Toronto now expected to keep this expensive champion

The Toronto Raptors have a deadline coming up ahead of free agency, and the latest reporting is that they will keep Bruce Brown and look for a trade.
Bruce Brown, Toronto Raptors and Julius Randle, New York Knicks
Bruce Brown, Toronto Raptors and Julius Randle, New York Knicks / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

In one sense, the NBA offseason officially begins on July 6th. That's when teams can officially sign players and announce formally new trades and contracts. Anything reported between now and then is merely an expectation of what will happen. Anyone who remembers the DeAndre Jordan sit-in years ago remembers that an "agreement" during the moratorium can be broken.

While that is true, the vast majority of offseason transactions will be in place prior to that date. With the Boston Celtics winning the NBA Finals in five games Monday night, teams are now allowed to negotiate with their own free agents. The NBA Draft will be on June 26 and 27 and be a key period of time for trades to be worked out. At 6 PM ET on June 30 teams will begin officially negotiating with free agents from other teams.

That calendar lesson is meant to illustrate how many different moving parts there are as the offseason gets ramped up piece by piece, and in the midst of all of that, the Toronto Raptors have an important decision to make. They need to evaluate the trade landscape and determine if they want to pick up Bruce Brown's $23 million team option or decline it and let him walk in free agency.

The Toronto Raptors have a Bruce Brown decision to make

Picking up the option puts them on the hook for his entire $23 million salary for this upcoming season. That's a lot of money to pay any non-star, but especially one who proved to be such a poor fit with Toronto's core last season. He likely will play better to start the season and an offseason of working together will improve his chemistry with the rest of the roster, but he's ultimately not a seamless fit.

The reason the Raptors would exercise the team option is with the intention of trading him to a winning team looking for a proven champion and veteran addition to their rotation. That was the plan when they traded for Bruce Brown during the season as the primary matching salary for Pascal Siakam, but his large contract and other teams' situations meant that no trade materialized at the deadline.

It's a risky move to pick up that option without a trade in place, but the chaotic shifting sands of the NBA offseason might force the Raptors to make that call in hopes of a trade, not with one already in place. The deadline to exercise the option is June 28th, one day after the end of the draft but two full days before the free agency frenzy begins.

The safe move would be to decline the option and let Brown walk in free agency, freeing up $23 million in cap space to use on other transactions. It's possible that net benefit of that cap space is higher than anything they would get back in a Bruce Brown deal. It's also possible that a losing team outside of the country without much of a free agent track record doesn't hit a home run with that space, and they essentially let Brown walk for nothing.

The Raptors may have made their decision

Mike Scotto of HoopsHype recently reported that the Raptors appear to have made their decision on Bruce Brown. Previous reporting was that the Raptors wanted a trade in place before making a call on Brown's option, but now the expectation according to HH is that the Raptors will pick up the option and head into the offseason hoping to find a trade.

That could be rumor-mill-speak for "the Raptors have a trade in place" but don't want to violate league rules, especially if it involves a free agent. It could also mean the Raptors have a few potential trade options in the mix, and while no one is set in stone they feel confident that one will fall into place.

It may also mean the Raptors have a whole lot of nothing but don't want to lose the asset, trusting that some team will strike out this offseason and be open to a trade. Picking up the option likely means the Raptors will operate as an over-the-cap team, providing them the ability to keep cap holds on the books for outgoing free agents like Gary Trent Jr. and to utilize the full Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception to add another key player.

Nothing official has been reported, and the Raptors will likely take it down to the wire to give them maximum flexibility at the draft. Right now, however, it looks like Bruce Brown will get paid this summer and the Raptors will be doing a lot of work on the phone to find the right trade partner.

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