NBA AM: Biyombo Opts Out, DeRozan Next?


Toronto Raptors reserve center Bismack Biyombo has opted out of the final season of his two-year contract, which he signed last summer for a total of $5.6 million.

Biyombo earned $2.8 million for the 2015-16 season.  With the NBA’s salary cap projected to jump from $70 million to $92 million for the 2016-17 campaign, expect Biyombo to receive a sizable raise as an unrestricted free agent – especially since he had a productive season and breakthrough playoff performance.

With five years of experience in the league, Biyombo is eligible for a maximum salary of roughly $21.6 million.

How much money Biyombo will earn this offseason? That is difficult to gauge.  Offensively, he averaged just 5.5 points a game for the Raptors – a relatively-paltry career high.

Conversely, he proved to be a very effective defensive center for a team that advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.  With starter Jonas Valanciunas partially sidelined with an ankle injury, Biyombo finished the postseason starting 10 of 20 games – averaging 6.2 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks a game.

With the cap’s sizable increase, the majority of the league will have spending power.  Biyombo could be looking at a contract starting in the $15 million range.  Of course, with 20 to 25 teams with sizeable cap space, if one is willing to pay $15 million, another may go to $16 million or $17 million and so on. Whether there is a Biyombo bidding war, he will certainly receive a lot more than he did in Toronto this past season ($2,814,000).

Other free agent centers include Miami HEAT’s Hassan Whiteside, Detroit Pistons’ Andre Drummond (restricted), Houston Rockets’ Dwight Howard (should he opt out of his contract, as expected), Chicago Bulls’ Joakim Noah, Charlotte Hornets’ Al Jefferson, Indiana Pacers’ Ian Mahinmi and Golden State Warriors’ Festus Ezeli (restricted) among others.

The challenge for the Raptors will be finding the cap room to pay Biyombo, since they only hold his non-Bird rights.  The most Toronto can pay Biyombo is $3.4 million without using cap space (and also his cap hold this summer).

If the Raptors successfully re-sign All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan – should he also choose to opt out – the Raptors won’t have the money to pay Biyombo unless they look to trade a player away (such as Terrance Ross or the aforementioned Valanciunas).

Biyombo’s deadline to opt out was a week after the Raptors’ final game (May 27).  DeRozan needs to make his opt-out decision by June 15.

DeRozan is entering his eighth season in the NBA, but just the fourth and final year of his current contract that pays a flat base rate of $9.5 million.  Through the 2014-15 season, he received an additional $600,000 in incentives.

For the 2015-16 season, based on his number of free throw attempts ($200,000) and assists per game ($200,000), along with his team advancing to the third round of the postseason ($450,000), DeRozan reached $850,000 in incentives.

With those bonuses now considered “likely,” DeRozan’s cap number for the Raptors for the 2016-17 season will be $10.35 million, provided he opts in.

Having reached seven years of NBA experience, DeRozan will be eligible in July for the middle-tier max contract – projected to be $25.9 million. This makes opting out of his current deal the obvious choice.

As a free agent, DeRozan’s cap hold for the Raptors will be $15.5 million.  Toronto can sign him for more after they spend to the cap, although they are not likely to be under the cap if DeRozan returns.

With two draft picks, the No. 9 selection (from the Denver Nuggets) and No. 27 selection, DeRozan’s cap hold and 10 players under contract, the Raptors won’t have more than $3.6 million in cap room.

Without a trade to open up additional space, Toronto will stay over the cap, gaining the Mid-Level Exception (MLE) of $5.6 million and Bi-Annual Exception (BAE) of $2.2 million.

While the Raptors could offer the MLE to Biyombo, that’s going to be well below market value.

Should both DeRozan and Biyombo leave in free agency, the Raptors would have roughly $18.8 million in cap space.  While they would, in turn, lose both their MLE and BAE, they would also gain the $2.8 million Room Exception upon using their spending power.


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About Eric Pincus

Eric Pincus

Eric Pincus is a Senior Writer for Basketball Insiders, with a focus on the business side of the game.

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