The Toronto Raptors are walking the luxury tax tightrope as the NBA's trade deadline approaches, making a big splash trade tough to envision.
With a month to go before the deadline, the Raptors are a mere $268,420 below the luxury tax threshold. It's why they've played most of this season with an open roster spot and part of the reason they decided to cut Sam Dekker back in November.
Ideally, Toronto isn't looking to go over the $136.6 million tax threshold in a non-championship season, especially following a year in Tampa with very little fan revenue and a 2021-22 season in which fan attendance has been restricted at Scotiabank Arena.
But let's go back to last May for a moment. Raptors president Masai Ujiri was heading into his own free agency and wanted assurances from ownership that if he re-signed with the organization they would support his plan for the future.
Do you mean a willingness to pay into the luxury tax, I asked him.
"When I took the job here they told me if I wanted to go into the luxury tax at any point in time they would do it," he said. "We have to do our jobs to figure out when the right place is and time is to do all those things."
Right now is just not the time. The Raptors are 21-20, a good, but not a great team, and far from the championship-or-bust team they had in 2018-19 that was $13.6 million over the luxury tax threshold. Therefore, expect small cost-saving deals in the next month. The almost $300,000 in luxury tax space isn't much wiggle room for any big-time deals.