Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
The Toronto Raptors may have given Fred VanVleet a four-year contract, but they were reportedly hesitant to commit long-term money to any of their other free agents.
Ian Begley of SNY reported the Raptors were “hesitant” to offer Marc Gasol more than one year in contract negotiations before he left for the Los Angeles Lakers. They also took a similar approach with Serge Ibaka, who joined the Clippers.
The Raptors have sought to maintain financial flexibility for the summer of 2021, when they consider themselves contenders to sign many top free agents, most notably Giannis Antetokounmpo. While Gasol’s two-year deal was for the veteran’s minimum, it’s unclear if he was willing to sign a similar contract to stay in Toronto.
Ibaka’s two-year, $19 million deal with the Clippers includes a $9.7 million player option for 2021-22.
Both of those contracts certainly would have been tradeable in the event Toronto lands a star in free agency but potentially would have required the team to give up compensation to another team. The Raptors already have Norman Powell’s $11.6 million player option potentially mucking up their cap sheet. It seems likely Masai Ujiri decided the long-term flexibility was more valuable than the short-term boost given by Gasol or Ibaka.
The Raptors signed Aron Baynes to a two-year, $14.3 million contract that includes a nonguaranteed second season. Signing Baynes allowed Toronto to maintain flexibility for next summer, albeit while downgrading their bigs rotation.