A quick smattering of news and notes before the free agency madness begins.
Raptors qualify Nando De Colo
The Toronto Raptors have extended a qualifying offer to Nando De Colo, retaining his restricted free agency rights, Raptors Republic reported Friday.
This is strictly a bookkeeping note, as De Colo is one year into a three-year deal with CSKA Moscow reportedly worth 10-million Euro. The Raptors have continued to qualify De Colo each summer since he left the NBA in 2014 in order to maintain his Early Bird and RFA rights if he ever does return, a logical approach given that there is no real cost to doing so – De Colo will have a cap hold on the books until the qualifying offer expires, but the Raptors can simply pull the offer and renounce his rights if they need the extra sliver of cap space this offseason (they don’t figure to).
We checked in on De Colo about a month ago, noting that this annual tracking of his rights is worthwhile given the player he’s become overseas. He’s among a small handful who could be considered the best guard outside of the NBA, with a trophy case full of EuroLeague and VTB League MVPs, championships, and All-VTB/EuroLeague honors. This past season, he averaged 18.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.1 steals while shooting 53.7 percent from the floor, 41.9 percent on threes, and 94.1 percent at the line. Yes, that’s a high-volume easy clearance of the 50/40/90 threshold, with a good number of assists by international standards.
Originally acquired for Austin Daye in what seemed like a roster-balancing move, the rights to De Colo could hold some value two years down the line (his deal is believed to have an expensive out clause). He’ll be 32 by that time, but if De Colo ever wanted to make the jump back to the NBA, there would figure to be at least a handful of teams interested in an experienced veteran backup. By extending the qualifying offer again here, the Raptors keep themselves in a position to hold the right to match and exceed the salary cap to sign him.
The Knicks are done pursuing Masai Ujiri
According to reports from Ramona Shelburne of ESPN and comments from Bruce Arthur on Naylor & Landsberg this morning, the New York Knicks are telling others around the league that they have ceased their pursuit of Raptors president Masai Ujiri to fill their triangle-shaped front office hole. Shelburne reports that the Knicks are not expected to ask permission to speak to Ujiri, who has four years at a very competitive salary left on the new deal he received from MLSE last fall.
However much fire there actually was to the smoke that James Dolan had enlisted Tim Leiweke in part to (once again) chase Ujiri, it’s calming to hear that there’s no longer anything to it, if there once was. I wrote about the situation a bit here in writing about Bobby Webster and the team’s internal development of front office personnel, and while the theme of that piece is that there’s good reason to believe in the people the Raptors have coming up the ladder, losing both Ujiri and Jeff Weltman in the same pivotal offseason would have been difficult. It never seemed exceptionally likely that Ujiri would be tempted by the opportunity to work for Dolan, but New York has some serious advantages despite its marquee basketball franchise, and the chatter from some reporters was that there was at least a little something to this. Hearing a firm no now allows us all to shift our attention to July 1, and if there were any uncertainty on the team side, it should be put to rest as the team approaches players at midnight.
The Knicks, meanwhile, are focusing their attention on David Griffin, while a few other names (including Isiah Thomas, because Knicks forever) have been rumbled about.
Meeting with Lowry, Ibaka, and Tucker
Ujiri remaining in Toronto means he will be leading the charge into free agency, as expected. Flanked by Webster and probably a few others, Ujiri is expected to meet with marquee unrestricted free agents Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka in Orlando this weekend, per Michael Grange of Sportsnet. Lowry and Ibaka share an agent, which is convenient logistically. Michael Scotto reports that the Raptors also have a Saturday meeting lined up with P.J. Tucker, which sure points to Toronto firmly being in “keep it together” mode.
We’ll have daily open threads up to pass along any league news, and any pertinent Raptors rumors or actual news will, of course, get its own post immediately (assuming it doesn’t come during the brief two/three-hour sleeps I expect to sustain me over the next few days).
Norman Powell notes
Norman Powell’s $1.47-million contract for 2017-18 became guaranteed yesterday. Long a certainty, this is just another bookkeeping matter. Powell is eligible for an extension after July 15, but given the restrictive rules regarding extensions, it seems unlikely he’d want to go that route. His max extension would tack on four years and an estimated $41.9 million, which, while a nice pay day, is probably a number at which he’d rather bet on himself and a more robust restricted free agent market next summer.
Summer League roster change
The Raptors announced Friday that Matt Thomas is off of the roster for Las Vegas Summer League and is being replaced by Mychal Mulder. That’s a tough loss for the Raptors, as Thomas is an elite shooter and would have provided a nice bit of spacing for the team’s other youngsters. In Mulder, the Raptors give the open spot to a Windsor native who showed great flashes in two years at Vincennes but struggled to find consistent playing time in two seasons with Kentucky. A 6-foot-4 wing, Mulder shot 40.2 percent on threes and 79.7 percent from the line for his college career.