Why Luka Doncic will decide when the Raptors can negotiate with Immanuel Quickley

A new rule in the CBA means that NBA teams can now negotiate early with their own free agents. The Toronto Raptors just have to wait on Luka Doncic.
Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

The Toronto Raptors don't have a lot invested in the NBA Finals.

They certainly didn't come anywhere near playing under the bright lights, finishing with the league's sixth-worst record. In earlier rounds they had prominent former players in the rotation for various teams, but after Pascal Siakam and the Indiana Pacers went down in the Eastern Conference Finals even that investment ran its course.

Darko Rajakovic and the Raptors' coaching staff are certainly watching the chess match between Jason Kidd and Joe Mazzulla to see what they can take away. Masai Ujiri and the front office will think through how both the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks built their teams to search for any takeaways. Scottie Barnes is likely watching how Jayson Tatum and Luka Doncic operate as larger ball-handlers and playmakers, and Gradey Dick should be taking notes on Sam Hauser's no-dip 3-pointer.

Because of a new rule in the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), however, there is also one major reason the Raptors are paying attention to the NBA Finals: it will determine when they can get to work.

The Raptors have to wait on Luka Doncic

When Luka Doncic showed up to a must-win Game 3 in Dallas and was a defensive disaster, whining to referees and fouling out of frustration en route to fouling out of a winnable game, it looked like the Raptors' front office would need to be ready to go on Friday night. Then Doncic and the Mavericks came out locked in on both ends of the court and blew out the Boston Celtics to force a Game 5 and extend the NBA Finals.

In doing so, the Mavericks also extended the waiting period for the Raptors and their 2024 free agents. That new rule in the CBA allows teams to negotiate with their own free agents as soon as the NBA Finals have concluded. Previously, teams would need to wait until the start of the legal tampering period, usually June 30 or July 1, which was exactly when every other team could also speak with their free agents.

Of course, every NBA team broke that rule with impunity, talking with their own free agents or even those on other teams prior to the start of free agency. They had to, or be left standing when the music stopped; if 29 other teams are fudging the rules, you better do the same to keep up. It's not a moral issue, but rather a collective interpretation of the rules.

The difference is that teams had to do so quietly in the past, not allowing results to be leaked ahead of time and bring the wrath of the league down on them -- wrath that, admittedly, usually brought merely a slap on the wrist but occasionally cost a second-round pick. The build-up of back-room negotiations would create a torrent of contract agreements that gushed forth from the fingers of Adrian Wojnarowski and Shams Charania at 6:00 pm ET on the dot when the legal negotiation window opened up.

Now those conversations can happen sooner, and that's beneficial to a Raptors team that will hope to work out a deal with Immanuel Quickley before he can ever speak with other teams. Quickley is a restricted free agent and a player that Toronto desperately wants to bring back as a part of its young core after making him the centerpiece of the OG Anunoby trade return.

There are other free agents for them to speak to, including Gary Trent Jr., and it will be helpful to their plans in the 2024 NBA Draft as well as free agency to know early what his plans are. Bringing all of these conversations above board ahead of time gives the Raptors all that much more information to work with and time with which to get deals done.

That window didn't open on Friday, and it may open on Monday if the Boston Celtics slam the door shut back home in Boston. If Luka Doncic and the Mavericks can hang on, however, that window will stay shut. Attaching such a crucial step in the offseason to a moving target is an interesting move, and it puts the next steps for the Raptors' front office in the hands of Jayson Tatum and Luka Doncic.

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