As the first installment of the “Trade Candidate Series” outlined, we’re going to be taking a look at a few extension-eligible players who could conceivably make sense for the LA Clippers as trade options. The Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green was up first, but we’re not at all done here.
“Who y’all taking next year?” Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse joked during his pregame media session prior to a game in Los Angeles against the Clippers on March 16.
Nurse obviously was speaking in jest, but it is possibly a valid question at this point. Back in 2019, the Clippers signed Kawhi Leonard away from the Raptors. A year later, the Clippers signed Serge Ibaka to the mid-level exception. This past season, they traded for Norman Powell.
While Powell wasn’t with the Raptors at the time the Clippers made a move for him, he is someone the Raptors had on their roster recently. But he also might not be the last Raptor (or former Raptor) to join the Clippers.
Toronto star Pascal Siakam is due for a contract extension this offseason. Siakam is under contract for two more years — the upcoming 2022-23 season and the 2023-24 season. Siakam, 28, is due $35.4 million and $37.9 million, respectively, in the final two years of the deal.
By the time an extension kicks in for Siakam, he’ll be 30 years old. Siakam averaged 22.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.3 steals last season. The final three categories were career highs for him. Siakam also shot 49.4% from the field, including 34.4% on 3s.
When Siakam signed his original contract extension with the Raptors in Oct. 2019, there happened to be Designated Rookie Extension language in the deal which would trigger up to 30% of the cap if he earned All-NBA distinction during the 2019-20 season. As luck would have it for Siakam, he did make Second Team All-NBA that year. As a result, his deal sat at four-years, $137 million.
Now, Siakam is due for another extension. The date for when he’ll be eligible for it is anytime between Oct. 1 and the last day before the start of the 2022-23 season. According to Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype, Siakam is eligible for a maximum extension of three-years, $139 million.
Siakam is an interesting case because he could achieve “supermax” designation — also known as the Designated Veteran Player Extension — if he doesn’t sign an extension right away.
The 28-year-old is about to enter his seventh season in the league, and that’s probably the most crucial season in terms of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Only players who have been in the league for at least seven years and are still with their original team can reach supermax status, but only if they meet one of the following criteria points alongside it:
- Make an All-NBA team in season prior to signing extension
- Make an All-NBA team in two of three previous seasons
- Won NBA MVP in any of the prior three seasons
- Won NBA DPOY in most recent season -OR- two of last three seasons
For Siakam, he is still with the team that originally had him (Toronto). And he is about to enter his seventh year in the league, so he would be eligible for the supermax should he make an All-NBA team or win MVP in 2022-23. It makes for a really tricky situation for the Raptors and for himself, if we’re being honest.
Siakam is most likely not going to sign an extension with the Raptors this offseason simply because it makes more financial sense to bet on himself and see where it could lead. That is, of course, if the supermax designation is important to him. But it could also be something that Toronto might try to avoid.
Ever since the NBA put the supermax language into the CBA, we have seen some scenarios creep up with players who were soon-to-be eligible for that type of extension. The Sacramento Kings trading DeMarcus Cousins just a couple months prior to Cousins being able to sign that deal immediately comes to mind. Months before Anthony Davis could have signed a supermax with the New Orleans Pelicans, he asked for a trade. He eventually ended up with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard was eligible for a supermax extension with the San Antonio Spurs back in 2018 before he eventually asked to be traded, so this isn’t an ultra-rare occurrence that is taking place around the league. Just because a supermax might be in your future, it doesn’t mean you (a) want it with that team or (b) that team wants to give it to you.
That all brings us back to Pascal Siakam and what a potential supermax extension could mean to the Raptors — that is, of course, if they deem it prudent to give it to him.
As mentioned before, Siakam will be 30 by the time any extension kicks in for him. For a team like the Raptors, do they want to let the can get kicked down the road another year when Siakam could, through stellar play, propel himself into supermax range?
The Raptors would obviously benefit from that season on the floor, but they would also have to shell out for it going forward. Guard Fred VanVleet is also eligible for an extension and holds a player option for the 2023-24 season. If he VanVleet were to opt out, plenty of suitors would line up, especially with there being at least 11 teams next offseason with at least roughly $20 million in functional cap space.
What VanVleet decides could ultimately impact Siakam’s future, as well. VanVleet departing would put the Raptors into a worse spot than they are now, and Siakam could find himself on the way out in a trade market that could see another team ink him to a contract extension — but not the supermax since, as noted earlier, that’s only available through the player’s original team.
VanVleet has been extension eligible since July 8, but there’s been no word yet on when — or if — VanVleet will sign that deal.
The Athletic’s Eric Koreen noted in a recent article that VanVleet and Siakam signing extensions this offseason might not be a slam dunk for the Raptors.
And yet, given the financial reality of the NBA, both VanVleet and Siakam would have some logic on their side if they decided to punt their next paydays well into the future.
If the Raptors decide that maximizing trade value in regards to Siakam is the best idea, which could be the case since any team that acquires him would have two guaranteed years of Siakam before an extension kicks in, they could get a pretty solid haul for the talented forward.
As far as the Clippers are concerned, would Los Angeles have enough in a potential trade package for Siakam? It’s honestly very hard to say. Siakam does fit into the team’s championship window far better than he fits into Toronto’s at this point, so acquiring him would be a major boon to the Clippers’ title odds both now and in future seasons.
The best avenue for the Clippers to obtain Siakam would be if Siakam himself wants out and lists the Clippers as a preferred destination, if he feels the Raptors aren’t going to give him a potential supermax deal in the future. The Clippers cannot offer him the supermax, but they’d possibly be more comfortable shelling out a maximum extension — which, as of this moment, is three-years, $139 million — no matter what that number might be in the future.
The Clippers do possess trade assets that could interest a team like the Raptors, such as promising players like Terance Mann and Brandon Boston Jr., as well as a 2028 first-round pick and even the right to swap in 2029.
However, there’s no real major headliner that a Siakam package would likely require. Luke Kennard and Marcus Morris Sr., despite being helpful offensive players, are not enough, even with Mann, Boston, an unprotected first and a pick swap thrown in on top of it.
If you’re the Clippers and you’re interested in acquiring Siakam, you’re probably hoping that he passes on an extension with the Raptors this offseason and heads into the 2023-24 season as a pending unrestricted free agent. Players on expiring deals oftentimes don’t get the same haul for selling teams as players with extra years — i.e. Dejounte Murray’s trade haul for the San Antonio Spurs versus the Jerami Grant return for the Detroit Pistons.
With Murray, he has two years left on his deal and is extension eligible with the Atlanta Hawks right now. The Spurs received three first-round picks — a Top 16 protected 2023 Charlotte Hornets first, plus 2025 and 2027 unprotected Atlanta firsts — and a pick swap.
In Grant’s case, he’s a pending unrestricted free agent. He’s eligible for an extension with the Portland Trail Blazers, as well. But the Pistons received a Top 4 protected 2025 Milwaukee Bucks first, plus two second-round picks. That Bucks pick, assuming Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to be what he presently is, won’t be highly valuable.
The Spurs struck while the iron was hot, and thanks to Murray’s extra year of control, San Antonio got quite a good haul for him. On the other hand, the Pistons waited and the hot stove cooled, leading them to take a lesser deal now than they could have gotten not too long ago.
It would be in the Clippers’ best interest if Siakam went into the final year of his current contract with an unresolved situation. Will he? It’s looking like that’ll be the case. And that could make him someone the team has a shot at acquiring in the not-too-distant future.
If the Clippers nab Siakam from The Great White North to partner back up with Kawhi Leonard, Nick Nurse would have experienced yet another useful player departing for sunnier pastures.
And that’s no joke.
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