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Date Title Author
Jul 25, 14 [Pic] Amir Johnson Shaved His Head Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 25, 14 10 Questions Basketball Analytics Needs to Answer Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 24, 14 Terrence Ross throws down a 360 dunk in the Philippines Sam Holako
Jul 24, 14 Jonas Valanciunas’ Roadmap to NBA Legitimacy Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 24, 14 ICYMI: Lou Williams Can Spit Sam Holako
Jul 23, 14 The New James Johnson’s Potential Impact on the Raptors Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 21, 14 Ushering in the Golden Generation of Canadian Basketball William Lou
Jul 21, 14 Raptors Weekly Podcast, July 21 – Eastern Conference Preview Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 19, 14 Reports: Diante Garrett Waived, Dwight Buycks likely signs in Europe William Lou
Jul 19, 14 Report: Raptors Waive Dwight Buycks Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 18, 14 Summer League: We Like Where He Strokes It Tim W.
Jul 18, 14 [GIF] DeMar DeRozan’s evolution through shot-charts William Lou
Jul 18, 14 The Raptors and the NBA’s Shooting Revolution – the Nylon Calculus Shot Charts RR
Jul 17, 14 ICYMI: Lucas Nogueira Chases Luke Hancock Down For The Dunk Sam Holako
Jul 17, 14 Audio: Dwane Casey Summer League Interview Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 17, 14 Recap: Buycks and Bruno shine, Summer League is strange William Lou
Jul 16, 14 LVSL Game Thread: Raptors vs. Rockets William Lou
Jul 16, 14 Raptors 2014-15 Projected Wins forumcrew
Jul 16, 14 Can the Raptors Compete for the #1 Seed in the East Next Season? forumcrew
Jul 16, 14 Talking Raptors Podcast, July 16 – Summer League Barry Taylor
Jul 16, 14 Morning Coffee – Wed, Jul 16 Sam Holako
Jul 16, 14 Raptors play Rockets in LVSL Wed at 8:30, date with Wiggins awaits RR
Jul 15, 14 Breaking: Drunk Driving Charges Against Jonas Valanciunas Dropped Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 15, 14 ICYMI: Caboclo Welcomed to Summer League Sam Holako
Jul 15, 14 Scouting Report: Say Ayy to Bebe Nogueira William Lou
Jul 15, 14 Morning Coffee – Tue, Jul 15 Sam Holako
Jul 14, 14 Summer League: Raptors Shoot 30%, Commit 30 Turnovers, Lose by 31 to Mavericks Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 14, 14 What’s Next For The Raptors? Tim W.
Jul 14, 14 Raptors Weekly Podcast, July 14 – Stonewalling and Summer League Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 14, 14 Morning Coffee – Mon, Jul 14 Sam Holako
Jul 13, 14 Summer League: Raptors 79 Nuggets 110 Sam Holako
Jul 12, 14 Welcome Back, LeBron James Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 11, 14 Raptors win LVSL opener, Bruno looks much closer than “2 years from 2 years away” Blake Murphy
Jul 11, 14 Summer League Game Thread: Bruno debuts RR
Jul 11, 14 Summer Tweetbag Volume 1: KD in TO, Making the pieces fit, and more Garrett Hinchey
Jul 10, 14 Report: Raptors Interested in Anthony Morrow Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 10, 14 Raptors Update: Salary Cap, Roster and Rotation Blake Murphy
Jul 10, 14 Press Conference: Raptors Announce Kyle Lowry Signing, Bebe Coming, And More Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 10, 14 Report: James Johnson Returns to Raptors Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 10, 14 Summer School Tamberlyn Richardson
Jul 10, 14 3 reasons why the Greivis Vasquez deal makes sense William Lou
Jul 10, 14 Morning Coffee – Thu, Jul 10 Sam Holako
Jul 9, 14 Breaking: Greivis Vasquez Re-Signs with Raptors – $13M/2yr Deal Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 9, 14 PHOTO: Bruno Caboclo officially signs William Lou
Jul 9, 14 Landry Fields: Last Shot for the Man with No Shot Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 9, 14 Morning Coffee – Wed, Jul 9 Sam Holako
Jul 8, 14 Report: Andray Blatche Meeting Raptors in Vegas Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 8, 14 Jonas is Lithuanian dancing machine Sam Holako
Jul 8, 14 Getting creative with the mid-level exception William Lou
Jul 8, 14 Morning Coffee – Tue, Jul 8 Sam Holako
Jul 7, 14 Raptors Waive Julyan Stone Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 7, 14 Woj: De Colo off to Russia to play for CSKA Moscow Blake Murphy
Jul 7, 14 Bruno, Kabongo headline Raptors Summer League roster (schedule within) Blake Murphy
Jul 7, 14 Raptors Weekly Podcast, July 7 – Dominating Free Agency Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 5, 14 Report: CSKA Moscow Offer Nando De Colo $4 Million/2 Year Deal Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 5, 14 Toronto Raptors Salary Cap Update – Post-Patterson Signing, Novak Trade Blake Murphy
Jul 5, 14 Morning Coffee – Sat, Jul 5 Sam Holako
Jul 4, 14 Report: Steve Novak Traded to the Jazz Sam Holako
Jul 4, 14 Report: Raptors, Patrick Patterson agree to 3-year, $18 million deal William Lou
Jul 4, 14 Report: DeAndre Daniels Likely Off To Europe Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 4, 14 Toronto Raptors Salary Cap Review – Post-Lowry Signing Blake Murphy
Jul 4, 14 Morning Coffee – Fri, Jul 4 Sam Holako
Jul 3, 14 Roundtable Reaction: Kyle Lowry & Free Agency Sam Holako
Jul 3, 14 Kyle Lowry: King of the North Sam Holako
Jul 3, 14 Morning Coffee – Thu, Jul 3 Sam Holako
Jul 3, 14 Lowry re-signing: Remember to savor this moment William Lou
Jul 3, 14 Photo: Kyle Lowry Wearing Purple Raptors Uniform Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 2, 14 Breaking: Kyle Lowry Signs 4 year, $48M Deal With Toronto Raptors Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 2, 14 Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez Free Agency Update Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 2, 14 Why Kyle Lowry will take his sweet time William Lou
Jul 2, 14 Morning Coffee – Wed, Jul 2 Sam Holako
Jul 1, 14 Raptors Free Agency Recap: The Kyle Lowry Saga With a Touch of Greivis Vasquez Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 1, 14 2014 Raptors Summer League Roster – Early Preview Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 1, 14 Morning Coffee – Tue, Jul 1 Sam Holako
Jun 30, 14 The Decision – Latest on Lowry: He’ll Take a “Few Days” to Make His Decision William Lou
Jun 30, 14 Report: Raptors among 5 teams interested in Vince Carter William Lou
Jun 30, 14 Developing: Kyle Lowry Watch is ON with Stein, Grange, Aldridge (no more $14.5 million offer) Zarar Siddiqi
Jun 30, 14 Mighty Woj: Expect Ujiri to bid on Lowry at midnight (5pm Grange update: Lowry’s staying) William Lou
Jun 30, 14 The Caboclo Acquisition: Raptors Bet on Bruno Tamberlyn Richardson
Jun 30, 14 Raptors Pick Up 2014-15 Option on Tyler Hansbrough Zarar Siddiqi
Jun 30, 14 Raptors Weekly Podcast, June 30 – Caboclo Tease, Totally Not Jose Calderon Zarar Siddiqi
Jun 30, 14 Morning Coffee – Mon, Jun 30 Sam Holako
Jun 29, 14 OFFICIAL: John Salmons traded for Lou Williams and Lucas Nougeira William Lou
Jun 29, 14 Bruno Caboclo Situation Parallels Tracy McGrady Zarar Siddiqi
Jun 28, 14 ESPN: “Most likely Heat’s #1 choice will be Kyle Lowry” Zarar Siddiqi
Jun 28, 14 Raptors Extend Qualifying Offers to Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez and Nando De Colo Zarar Siddiqi
Jun 28, 14 2014 NBA Draft Report Card – All The Analysis Tim W.
Jun 28, 14 10 Things We Learned About Bruno Caboclo on Saturday Zarar Siddiqi
Jun 28, 14 On Bruno Caboclo and Mysteries Prospect
Jun 28, 14 Morning Coffee – Sat, Jun 28 Sam Holako
Jun 27, 14 Ric Bucher Apologizes for Ridiculous Lowry Rumours Sam Holako
Jun 27, 14 It’s Time To Embrace Toronto’s Oddball Drafts Tim Chisholm
Jun 27, 14 ICYMI: Masai Ujiri Post-Draft Press Conference Sam Holako
Jun 27, 14 Bruno Caboclo the Latest Raptors Draft Pick to Raise Eyebrows, Which is Cool Zarar Siddiqi
Jun 27, 14 Chad Ford hates the Raptors draft Sam Holako
Jun 27, 14 Doc Is In Podcast, June 27 – Draft Reaction – They Call Me Bruno Steve Gennaro
Jun 27, 14 Morning Coffee – Fri, Jun 27 Sam Holako
Jun 27, 14 Why you should calm down about the Caboclo pick William Lou
Jun 27, 14 Recap of Dwane Casey’s Post-Draft Press Conference Zarar Siddiqi
Jun 27, 14 Raptors draft Xavier Thames with 59th pick, trade to Brooklyn Garrett Hinchey
Jun 26, 14 Raptors draft Bruno Caboclo 20th overall Garrett Hinchey
Jun 26, 14 Caboclo Tweets, let the lovin’ begin Garrett Hinchey
Jun 26, 14 Raptors draft DeAndre Daniels 37th overall Garrett Hinchey
Jun 26, 14 You call that a rumour? This is a rumour. Garrett Hinchey
Jun 26, 14 The 2014 Running Draft Diary Andrew Thompson
Jun 26, 14 Stein: Raptors In Hunt for No 22 Pick to get Tyler Ennis Zarar Siddiqi
Jun 26, 14 Pre-Draft News, Rumours, Predictions and More…. Tim W.
Jun 26, 14 Toronto Raptors and Canadian Prospects Poised To Make History at 2014 NBA Draft Tamberlyn Richardson
Jun 26, 14 Morning Coffee – Thu, Jun 26 Sam Holako
Jun 25, 14 Trade Idea: John Salmons for Omer Asik? William Lou
Jun 25, 14 Talking Raptors Podcast, June 25 – Offseason Jibberish Nick Reynoldson
Jun 25, 14 Toronto Raptors Draft History Over Last Decade (With Hindsight) Zarar Siddiqi
Jun 24, 14 Who Should The Raptors Take? Tim W.
Jun 24, 14 Morning Coffee – Tue, Jun 24 Sam Holako
Jun 23, 14 Masai Ujiri: We’re going “full force” after Kyle Lowry Zarar Siddiqi
Jun 23, 14 Source: Masai Ujiri to Use Draft Picks, But Might Trade Them…Or Not Zarar Siddiqi
Jun 23, 14 Raptors Weekly Podcast, June 23 – Payne Points and Circular All-Stars Zarar Siddiqi
Jun 20, 14 The Kyle Lowry Contingency Plan William Lou
Jun 20, 14 Dr Is In Podcast, June 20 – Pardon The Interruption Steve Gennaro
Jun 19, 14 Prospecting: Clint Capela Tim W.
Jun 19, 14 Morning Coffee – Thu, Jun 19 Sam Holako
Jun 18, 14 Brace Yourself, Kyle Lowry Could Leave Zarar Siddiqi
Jun 17, 14 Report: Kyle Lowry to the Heat? William Lou
Jun 17, 14 Prospecting: Jerami Grant Tim W.
Jun 16, 14 3 More Thoughts to Fill Another Column William Lou
Jun 16, 14 Morning Coffee – Mon, Jun 16 Sam Holako
Jun 13, 14 3 Assorted Thoughts on a Friday William Lou
Jun 13, 14 The Dr Is In Podcast, June 13 – The Real 2.0 Big Board Steve Gennaro
Jun 13, 14 Morning Coffee – Fri, Jun 13 Sam Holako
Jun 12, 14 Prospecting: James Young Tim W.
Jun 12, 14 Morning Coffee – Thu, Jun 12 Sam Holako
Jun 11, 14 Report: Raptors interested in Euroleague’s Damjan Rudez William Lou
Jun 11, 14 Remembering 2013-14: Waking up from a dream William Lou
Jun 10, 14 Video: DeMar DeRozan Working on Handles and Pull-Up Jumper Zarar Siddiqi
Jun 10, 14 Prospecting: Shabazz Napier Tim W.
Jun 9, 14 Raptors Coming to Montreal and Vancouver Zarar Siddiqi
Jun 9, 14 Monday Morning Roundtable: Gasol, Draft, Small Forwards William Lou
Jun 9, 14 Raptors Weekly Podcast, June 9 – Muscle Spasms Zarar Siddiqi
Jun 9, 14 Morning Coffee – Mon, Jun 9 Sam Holako
Jun 8, 14 VIDEO: Landry Fields as Nicki Minaj as Nightmare Fuel William Lou
Jun 8, 14 Learning From the Pacers Mistakes forumcrew
Jun 7, 14 Morning Coffee – Sat, Jun 7 Sam Holako
Jun 6, 14 Bucher: Gasol to Raptors Make Toronto a Contender forumcrew
Jun 6, 14 Assuming linear development is a risky proposition Blake Murphy
Jun 6, 14 Dr Is In Podcast, June 6 – Big Board 2.0 Steve Gennaro
Jun 6, 14 Morning Coffee – Fri, Jun 6 Sam Holako
Jun 5, 14 Prospecting: K.J. McDaniels Tim W.
Jun 5, 14 Morning Coffee – Thu, Jun 5 Sam Holako
Jun 4, 14 Doing Nothing is an Option Zarar Siddiqi
Jun 3, 14 Draft Workout Audio: Nick Johnson, Jordan Clarkson, Russ Smith Zarar Siddiqi
Jun 2, 14 Raptors Weekly Podcast, June 2 – Memory Suppression Zarar Siddiqi
Jun 2, 14 Morning Coffee – Mon, Jun 2 Sam Holako
May 31, 14 Weekend Open Thread RR
May 31, 14 Quotes/Audio from Draft Workouts and Masai Ujiri Zarar Siddiqi
May 30, 14 Kyle Lowry or DeMar DeRozan for All-NBA? William Lou
May 30, 14 The Dr Is In Podcast, May 30 – Six Degrees of Separation – Road to 50 wins Steve Gennaro
May 30, 14 Morning Coffee – Fri, May 30 Sam Holako
May 29, 14 Prospecting: Elfrid Payton Tim W.
May 28, 14 Looking back, and looking forward: 2007 vs. 2014 Garrett Hinchey
May 28, 14 Playing with Data: Raptors Had Tightest Games in NBA Blake Murphy
May 28, 14 Morning Coffee – Wed, May 28 Sam Holako
May 27, 14 Raptors Will Participate in Vegas Summer League William Lou
May 27, 14 Prospecting: P.J. Hairston Tim W.
May 27, 14 Morning Coffee – Tue, May 27 Sam Holako
May 26, 14 Remembering 2013-14: The Halcyon Days William Lou
May 26, 14 Raptors Weekly Podcast, May 26 – Two-Way Players Zarar Siddiqi
May 26, 14 Morning Coffee – Mon, May 26 Sam Holako
May 24, 14 Weekend Open Thread RR
May 23, 14 It Seems Unlikely the Raptors Can Trade Up Blake Murphy
May 23, 14 Amir Johnson defending the rim against Jay Sweeney in Drew League Sam Holako
May 23, 14 Doctor Is In Podcast, May 23 – Big Board 1.0: It’s a Draft Extravaganza Steve Gennaro
May 22, 14 Prospecting: Adreian Payne Tim W.
May 22, 14 Morning Coffee – Thu, May 22 Sam Holako
May 21, 14 Report: Kyle Lowry Asking for 10-12 Million/Year Over 4 Years Zarar Siddiqi
May 21, 14 Landry Fields impersonating Lionel Ritchie…words don’t… Sam Holako
May 21, 14 Advocating for the Best Player Available draft strategy Blake Murphy
May 21, 14 Amir Johnson: A Review and Lookahead Zarar Siddiqi
May 20, 14 Prospecting: Kyle Anderson Tim W.
May 20, 14 Raptors Weekly Podcast, May 20 – All The Free Agents Zarar Siddiqi
May 20, 14 Morning Coffee – Tue, May 20 Sam Holako
May 19, 14 Remembering 2013-14: Repossessing and Reassessing William Lou
May 19, 14 Morning Coffee – Mon, May 19 Sam Holako
May 17, 14 Looking Ahead to the Draft: Who Ya Want? RR
May 17, 14 Morning Coffee – Sat, May 17 Sam Holako
May 16, 14 Terrence Ross: A Review and Lookahead Zarar Siddiqi
May 16, 14 Poll: Pick One to Re-Sign: Patterson or Vasquez – State Your Case Zarar Siddiqi
May 16, 14 Dr Is In Podcast, May 15 – 2013-2014 For Me Steve Gennaro
May 16, 14 Morning Coffee – Fri, May 16 Sam Holako
May 15, 14 Remembering 2013-14: Visionaries and Corrective Vision William Lou
May 15, 14 Prospecting: T.J. Warren Tim W.
May 15, 14 Morning Coffee – Thu, May 15 Sam Holako
May 14, 14 It’s Time for the Raptors to Invest in a D-League Team Blake Murphy
May 14, 14 Jonas Valanciunas: A Review and Lookahead Zarar Siddiqi
May 14, 14 Morning Coffee – Wed, May 14 Sam Holako
May 13, 14 Assessing Our Preseaon Predictions William Lou
May 13, 14 Prospecting: Nik Stauskas Tim W.
May 13, 14 Morning Coffee – Tue, May 13 Sam Holako
May 12, 14 Amir Johnson’s Lego-inspired birthday cake Sam Holako
May 12, 14 Does Coaching Stability Matter? Blake Murphy
May 12, 14 City of Toronto Declares May 12th as Raptors Day. Hooray? William Lou

[Pic] Amir Johnson Shaved His Head

Yeah, we know it’s a slow day, so whatever.  Here you go.  Amir Johnson’s shaved head. Deal with it.  Source is Instagram.

10 Questions Basketball Analytics Needs to Answer

Basketball Analytics, aka, different ways to tell us information that we already sort of know. From PER, to WS48, to plus/minus, to real plus/minus, to shot charts, to shot charts with smaller dots, to David Berri, to John Hollinger, to whoever the latest dude is who figured out you could enter basketball data in R and get it to spit out stuff. It’s all been quite fun and worthy of a few clicks here and there, but when are you guys actually going to tell us something useful? I mean, actual useful information that can be actioned and not just casually and sparingly glanced over in a long-form article only to be forgotten a week later.

Here are a few basketball problems that need addressing, or at the very least, should be talked about more:

Risk of Injury
Tell me when a player is likely to be injured, and tell me early. Figure out what his bone density is, what force (mass times acceleration) his joints can take, and then relate that information to his on-court movements to project how long he’ll last. For example, you can tell that the way Derrick Rose players he’s prone to injury – quantify that for every player, preferably before he’s drafted.

Effort Measure
Come up with a mathematical way of measuring effort without falling back to vanilla statistics like distance ran and speed. Figure out what the player’s “capacity” is using tests, and then determine how much of that capacity he’s using during different parts of the game. Pro Tip: If Andrea Bargnani isn’t dead last in this category, your work is wrong.

Grading the Coach
We measure players a lot, we don’t measure coaches enough. Much like how baseball is a game of probabilities, so is basketball, the math just happens to be a little more complex then pitching a lefty against a lefty. At the very least, there needs to be a binary indicator of whether the coach made the statistically correct move in late-game situations. For example, given the inbounder, the four other offensive guys on the court, the side at which the ball was being inbounded, the time on the clock, the score in the game, the venue, is it a statistically correct decision to not pressure the inbounder and sag?

Quantifying High Basketball IQ
We got an IQ test, how come we don’t have a basketball IQ test? All the data is there and it’s a question of sifting through it. Any decision on the court can be – based on all the other happenings on the court – retrospectively graded as right or wrong. A player with a highest basketball IQ might make the highest percentage of good decisions, as opposed to bad ones. I want to see if Landry Fields is what he’s cranked up to be. Or Matt Bonner for that matter.

Floor Stretchability
This idea that having John Salmons camp out by the fire in the corner means he’s stretching the floor needs to be validated. How much does a person’s reputation and past/in-game performance influence the defense’s opinion of him? How many threes does James Johnson have to hit before he causes a shift in the defense? By what factor does a particular player stretch the floor and how does his in-game play change that factor? I would think this is a straightforward one to figure out.

What is the Perfect Free Throw?
Based on a person’s height, what’s the ideal release point, force, angle, trajectory? Figure it out for every player and give them their particulars – watch them shoot 90%+. Seriously, I’m shocked that there are professional basketball players that shoot 50% from the free-throw line, that’s got to change.

Strategic Technical Fouls
Profile a player to determine what series of events cause them to pick up a technical. Then try to replicate that sequence in hopes of throwing him off his game. This can be extended to essentially influencing a player’s mental state negatively through pure basketball play. And poking them in the right places when nobody’s watching.

Figuring out Full Court Pressure
Teams get burned by full court pressure all the time. In the hopes of forcing a turnover, they end up creating a hole in the defense which ironically puts the offense at an advantage. Given a set of offensive players, their approximately positions, and the inbounder and ball-handler, there has to be an optimal defensive configuration that is most likely to cause a turnover while minimizing risk of defensive breakdown. Figure that out. As a bonus, come up with suggested defensive configurations which increase the chance of causing a turnover, while understandably increasing risk of defensive breakdown.

Optimizing Minutes Played
What is the ideal rest pattern for a player so that they can last an 82-game season and the playoffs? If they’re extended in one game for 44 minutes, how should that influence their playing time in the next game so as to not cause harm over the course of, say a roadtrip. Obviously, a player’s body needs to be analyzed, then correlated with the type of movements on the court, the pressure exerted, the effort expended, and likely a host of other factors. Put them all together, shake the box, and out you get a number telling you how many minutes DeMar DeRozan should be playing on the second night of a back-to-back having played 42 minutes the night before.

Psychological State
Players have money, money gets you shiny things, it also brings distractions and problems, which can influence a player’s on-court state of mind. Remember Keon Clark? Yeah, money did him no good. There’s got to be a way to measure a player’s psychological state before a game, and then see what, if any, impact that has on his game. Once you got that, adjust lifestyle to tune psychological state, thus improving his game. I’m talking girl problems, alimony, size of posse, everything. That all affects a player’s psychological state.

So there you have it – some questions that I always ask myself, knowing that very well that I can’t answer them, so maybe #analytics can?

Terrence Ross throws down a 360 dunk in the Philippines

Jonas Valanciunas’ Roadmap to NBA Legitimacy

Do you need a dominant big man to win the NBA title? The Heat’s two titles say otherwise, but they remain an exception due to having LeBron James, much like Michael Jordan’s Bulls who won with Luc Longley in the middle. The Spurs (Tim Duncan), Lakers (Shaquille O’Neal), Heat without James (Shaquille O’Neal), Detroit Pistons (Ben Wallace, a 4-time DPOY) and Dallas Mavericks (Dirk Nowtizki) have had dominant front-court players who are arguably the best at their position.

History has shown that you can make do without them, but you better have transcendental wing players – we’re talking first-ballot Hall of Famers – if you don’t. Obviously, the Raptors in their quiet but hopeful quest for a title (or at the very least, an Eastern Conference crown) don’t possess either. They do have good players at every position and are allegedly constructed to rely on defense first with Dwane Casey at the helm, yet they lack that one player who dominates his position.

When you examine the roster and see which player has the potential to get there, the debate can possibly boil down to DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas, or if you’re really hopeful, Terrence Ross. I’m not going to add Kyle Lowry to that list, because as great as he’s been, he’s a known quantity in the league that may very well improve, but whose ceiling is probably known and it’s not at Chris Paul-levels.

DeRozan may very well elevate his offensive game to Kobe Bryant-levels, though entering his sixth year it’s probably a long-shot, but I remain hopeful mostly because he has been working very hard over every summer. The enigma here is Jonas Valanciunas, whose projection remains very difficult to make because despite having performed well, it’s hard to pin down just what his go-to strengths are. He’s done many things very well, and yet I remain stumped as to what part of his game can be scaled to reach a dominant level.

There’s already strong evidence that his sense for the game is excellent. Other than occasions where he’s caught unaware of patrolling guards trying to swipe at him, his positional awareness with and without the ball is very good. His hesitation on the mid-range jumper aside, Valanciunas knows what areas on the court he needs to be in to get his points. Take this play for example, where he reads the Patterson drive and shifts from the baseline to the middle, which makes all the difference:

His highlights are littered with this sort of subtle, intelligent play which is found lacking in big men at his stage of development. No matter how impressive this sort of game awareness is, this alone cannot turn him into an elite player, one that could be the center-piece of a title winner. Excelling in these areas means that you’re going to have an NBA job for years to come, not make the All-Star team year in and year out. More than anything, it means that he can make reads which is fundamental to future success. Without this baseline understanding of how the game is played, a player, no matter how talented, will be destined to be a by-stander than an active participant as the action happens.

This is especially true for big men because as guards continue to dominate the ball, big men are relying more and more on making themselves useful on offense through their off-the-ball movement than simply waiting for the ball to be passed to them. Those days – the Patrick Ewing days – are long gone.  In fact, even Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol are starved for touches these days.

Pick ‘n roll play is another area where Valanciunas is exceptional, and one where he hasn’t been involved nearly enough given his capacity for the play. What is not talked about enough is that Valanciunas is equally proficient at the play from either side of the court. His aforementioned positional awareness and tendency to find the seam without picking up an offense foul is greatly underplayed. As long back as when he was in Europe did Valanciunas show that he was a capable option in two-man situations. Take this skill over to the NBA where there’s a defensive three-second rule prohibiting defenses to clog up the paint easily, and this becomes a major advantage of Valanciunas. Take for example this play where he’s set a great screen, rolled well, shielded the ball, and brought it to the other side for a layup.

I’m not going to dwell on his jumper much, because that is a matter of practice. A mid-range jumper might be the easiest aspect of his game to enhance because his shooting motion is adequate, he’s hit 34% of his mid-range shots last year (down from 41% his rookie year), which is not great but enough to build on.

It’s his back-to-the-basket game that can take him from being a good player to a great one. If he develops this section of his arsenal and his jump shot improves linearly and becomes average, a projection like Pau Gasol doesn’t sound like total madness. The good news is that it certainly appears that he’s got the mentality and foundational moves to be a good post-player. His up-and-under, turnaround, spin, and hook shots are of good quality, and that’s all in addition to his excellent (and I can’t overstate this) finishing ability from every angle near the rim – the man simply knows when to use glass, and when to not, which alone has proven to be a downfall of many a big man. Here’s a great move against Zach Randolph, which leaves you wanting for more:

The bad news is that he currently plays on a very guard-dominant team and has a relatively short leash. Take a look at his front-court touches per game, which basically eliminates the case where he touches the ball when in-bounding after made baskets.

front

You see that he’s behind players like Terrence Ross, Patrick Patterson, and John Salmons – this needs to change. The verdict on his passing isn’t out yet, and the Raptors need to test just how capable he is and whether he’s able to play a role similar to Josh McRoberts when he was in the high-post in Charlotte, or even Tyson Chandler or Dirk Nowtizki in Dallas – because, if Valanciunas excels at that, the Raptors socialist offense takes itself to a whole new level.

There’s another area of his game where he’s improving at a steady rate, and that’s transition. He looks to beat his man down the court, notably in the first half of games. He may not do it against mobile big men like Chris Bosh, but if he spots someone like Marcin Gortat checking him, he’ll make the push to get down after missed baskets. Something small, but important to note.

His defense is probably a topic for another post, and I’ll be the first to admit that he’s far from being astounding in this category. As a rebounder, he tends to get caught watching the play and doesn’t know when to switch from ball-defending mode to rebound-positioning mode, which leaves him susceptible for giving up offensive rebounds. If you tell Valanciunas that his #1 job out there is rebounding, he’s able to get the job done to a high degree of quality because he’ll basically shut off any help-defense sense that he has and focus entirely on positioning and likely beat out his man. It’s finding the right balance that he hasn’t mastered yet.

What the Raptors have here is a plant that needs water, lots of it.  There were some reports that next year would be the one where Dwane Casey would finally hold Valanciunas accountable and make him pay for his lapses.  I feel that that’s a very unwarranted approach for two reasons: 1) He already gets the hook when he plays badly so accelerating that hook would be harsh, and 2) He’s shown enough in a limited offensive role that he deserves to be a larger part of the offense, and with that come growing pains where a heavy hand may not be the best approach.

Valanciunas, entering his third season, still needs time and patience.  He hasn’t been afforded the zero-pressure seasons that DeMar DeRozan or Chris Bosh had where they developed their individual games in meaningless seasons.   He’s had to do his development entirely within a team setup and that will invariably slow it down, again, especially for his position.  What the Raptors have here is pure potential, and more importantly, a player that has already validated many an assumption made when he was drafted.  Give the man time, he’ll shine.

ICYMI: Lou Williams Can Spit

The New James Johnson’s Potential Impact on the Raptors

James Johnson, the most underwhelming and, at the same time, understandable signings made this summer. Ujiri dipped into his back pocket for spare change, threw it in the air, and out of the bushes leaps James Johnson to snuff the pack of quarters before they even hit the ground. There’s your defensive specialist for you, there’s the guy that’ll stop next year’s Joe Johnson, and that’s the guy that’ll push Ross for minutes.

For a $2.5 million salary, a player of Johnson’s caliber is about what you’re going to get and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, given the constraints Ujiri was operating under. Over the last couple years Johnson has matured into a different player than what Raptors fans may remember from his time between 2010-12. He remains a horrendous three-point shooter, shooting a woeful 25% while taking a career-high 1.7 threes per game last season, meaning the rumours that he’s here for his floor stretchability are vastly exaggerated (even from corner positions as seen below).

He remains a player who will only be as good as the system he plays in. Put him in a situation where he’s allowed freedom on offense, and he’s liable to kill you with his propensity to look for his shot, like he did under Sacramento’s lax playbook. Put him in a defined role, like Memphis did, and you get a player that moves very well without the ball, has a very serviceable pump-fake, and can finish while contested, at least when he’s attacking from the right side of the rim. Despite being a poor three-point shooter, there is one area on the court where he’s above the league average and that’s on the right wing. If the Raptors are able to position him on the court well, he may be able to space the floor just a little, but it’s not something you can count on. In that sense, he’s very much like Landry Fields, a guy whose offense you cannot rely on but whose defense can be valuable. The following play against the Spurs is a good example of the type of off-the-ball movement that Johnson has improved in over the last year:

Comparing him to John Salmons, he’s a worse three-point shooter but moves better without the ball. He’s more liable to cut to the rim from the weak-side than Salmons (partially because he’s now realized that he’s a bad shooter) , and is physically stronger than the latter when facing contact or pressure.

Where Johnson beats out the incumbent Fields and the departed Salmons is his defense. Once he realized and accepted that no matter how much he tried, it wasn’t his offense that was going to cut him an NBA cheque, Johnson made a concerted effort to focus on the defensive side of his game, where his 6’9” frame comes in handy, and was greatly helped in this regard by Memphis’s defensive setup.

With Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph manning the paint behind him, Johnson was able to play tight defense on the perimeter, knowing that there was cover waiting in case he was beat. His long arms, good stance in isolation situations, and ability to play the correct angles was an asset to Dave Joerger’s 8th ranked defense which was comfortable funnelling drives to the rim. Applying pressure on the perimeter knowing that there’s a second line waiting is a comforting thought for a coach, and a formula that the Thunder follow to good effect with a healthy Serge Ibaka. Memphis takes that approach to the extreme.

This is not to discount Johnson’s defensive qualities, he affords his coach the luxury of slowing down an opposing threat without having to structure the whole team’s defense around it. Though the narrative has been played out, the Raptors against Joe Johnson and the Nets was a good example for a need for this type of player. We saw how valuable a defensive asset Trevor Ariza was to the 7th ranked Washington defense as he guarded three positions on his way to disrupting offenses. Even he benefited from having a strong defensive frontcourt to bail out any over-commitments on the perimeter, now he departs to Houston where Dwight Howard plays a similar role. Something tells me Ariza knows what to seek out in a team to make himself appear better.

Back to Johnson, though, in Toronto he’s going to have to adjust his game to be less aggressive on the wing since the Raptors don’t have the rim-protection Memphis does. Instead of blocks and at-rim contests, the Raptors (who were 23rd in blocks) rely on wing players stepping inside and big men stepping out to pick up charges and divert play. It’s a strategy that relies much more on timing, team communication, and game awareness, rather than pure athletic ability and reach. As much as Johnson’s defensive value is in covering key offensive players in one-on-one situations, it’s how he fits into this fluid Raptors defense that will ultimately determine whether he’s successful or not.

Johnson should also, at the very least, influence Raptors practices very positively. One of my major peeves in the Bryan Colangelo era was the lack of depth at key positions, which meant that practices for players like Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon were a relative breeze. Adding a lengthy defensive player like Johnson into the mix means players such as DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross will have to work that much harder in practice, thus getting more out of them. Once Rudy Gay was traded there wasn’t any real competition for Ross on his way to the starting lineup. While this helped get Ross more playing time and develop faster, it also meant that he didn’t have to look over his shoulder much which led to him getting a little lackadaisical at times. Johnson isn’t going to uproot Ross, but he will make him fight for his place harder than a combination of Salmons and Fields would, which in turn should fuel Ross’s engine that bit more.

The Raptors have a rotation where they don’t need to hide many players on defense, which makes lineup construction that much easier for Dwane Casey.  The only players you can make a case for being bad defenders are Greivis Vasquez and DeMar DeRozan.  The former can pose problems on account of his size, while the latter, well, the latter is a bad defender whose offensive value far exceeds his defensive shortcomings.  Replacing Salmons with the seven-year younger and two inches taller Johnson means that the Raptors rotation has improved defensively, affording Dwane Casey options.  Johnson’s size and rebounding would lend itself well to small-ball lineups, or in situations where defensive pressure needs to be increased.  Presently, the best Raptors defensive lineup is Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross, James Johnson, Amir Johnson, and possibly, Jonas Valanciunas or Bebe Nogueira, depending on if you’re looking for rebounding or shot-blocking.  Conditional on how far along Ross is with his offense, that is a lineup that could be used to change games from a defensive standpoint without sacrificing too much offense.

James Johnson is the very definition of exploiting a constraint –  a small tweak that could have a large impact.  This James Johnson isn’t about what the previous James Johnson was about:

“Playing defence, being an opportunity scorer, just doing the little things. Every day, practice hard and try to get our guys to the next level with team defence. I’m just more mature about my game. I’m doing the little things, finding my niche nowadays. Getting opportunity to score when I can and if not, don’t worry about the offensive end.”

Defense? Opportunity scorer? Practice hard? Team defense? Little things? Niche? Don’t worry about the offensive end? Those are phrases you never would’ve associated with James Johnson 2010-12.

Ushering in the Golden Generation of Canadian Basketball

Quotes from Day 2 of Canada Basketball’s practice at the Air Canada Center.

The Golden Generation of Canadian Men’s Basketball isn’t here yet, but it’s on the way.

With names like Tyler Ennis, Tristan Thompson, Andrew Nicholson, Kelly Olynyk, Nik Stauskas, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins selected in the first round of the NBA draft over the last three years, it’s hard not to be excited for Canada’s basketball future. At this rate, the day will soon come when Canada has to say no to an NBA player. Imagine that.

Excitement for basketball in Canada is reaching a precipice. Coupled with the recent success of the Toronto Raptors, the nation is starting to take notice, bringing newfound intrigue, and expectation for the incoming class of youngsters. It’s all about what comes next  — everyone is excited about the future.

Only, the future isn’t here yet. It’s on the way, but that’s a process. Before dreams of Ennis throwing alley-oops to Wiggins becomes a reality, they’ll first have to learn how to play and win together. It’s a process.

And the process is being shepherded along by the team’s longstanding veterans and coaching staff. The organization currently stands at a low, having failed to qualify for the FIBA World Cup this summer, but their heads hang high with their sights firmly set on the future. They’re all pulling in the same direction — towards becoming one of the best teams in the world.

They’ll take their first step starts this summer, when the Canadian Men’s National team embarks on an 11-game exhibition tour across Europe. They’ll take on five of the world’s top-15 ranked teams in Spain, Turkey, Serbia, Slovenia and Angola.

“We want to play the best competition in the world,” said head coach Jay Triano. “We’re going to learn a lot of lessons while we’re over there, but that’s what these players need. We need to learn the international game, and that’s why we’re playing these games this summer.”

“It’s all about the experience,” says general manager Steve Nash. “It’s about as good of a tour as you could possibly imagine, playing against great teams. It’s an awesome tour for these guys to gain a lot of experience and to see what the benchmark is for top-level international basketball.”

It’s not just Nash and Triano leading the way for Canada’s future stars. Veterans like Carl English are lining up to take on leadership roles, helping to walk the talk put forth by coaches and management.

English is a mainstay in Canada’s system. His service traces back to 2000, and was a member of the 2009 roster that finished fourth in the FIBA Americans championship. Although he is only 33-years-old with plenty left in the tank, English is embracing his role as the wise sage on the squad.

PJT-CanadaBball-1.jpg

“I’m very vocal. I think a big part of being a leader is keeping everybody together, keeping everybody positive – every practice, not letting things get you down,” said English. “You can be a leader on those things alone and having a positive attitude. And sometimes, it’s not always good to hear your coach speaking. If your peers hear it from you, and from each other, they tend to be more accountable.”

He also wasn’t shy to set the bar high for himself, and the future members of Canada’s team.

“I say is that our goal for 2016 is to become a top-10 team. I’m not afraid to say that the next one could be beyond my time, but I’ll be very disappointed if these guys aren’t a medal team. They’re a fantastic team, and every year there’s more guys coming. If you just take the class now, the last five years, and give them five years to grow together, it’s going to be fabulous.”

Ranking in the top-10 and medalling will be a tall task. Currently, the team ranks 25th in the world and finds themselves on the outside looking in. National programs like the USA, Spain and Argentina have set the standard for international men’s basketball, and it’s one English would like to see his team reach.

Like everyone, English is excited about the incoming crop of talent in the pipeline, and although age may catch up to him before any podium finishes does, English is more than happy to help guide the team along.

In his eyes, English envisions the team adopting a team-oriented identity, with the team boasting a strong 12-man roster. He cited the San Antonio Spurs as an example.

“The example here is San Antonio. Everyone’s talking about Miami vs. San Antonio. They beat Miami because they’re the best team, and that’s what we’re trying to be. We want to have guys – when you’re playing 10 times in 11 days, guys cant play 35 minutes. No one does that at the international level, not even the Dream Team.”

And for up-and-comers like Dwight Powell and Kelly Olynyk are listening intently, trying to learn from every experience.

“It’s really a blessing,” Powell opined. “The amount of knowledge [the coaching staff] have to impart on us is unlimited and it’s our responsibilities as players to act like sponges and soak up as much as we can. They’re really mentors.”

“Build on coming together, chemistry, build that chemistry as much as we can,” said Olynyk about the team’s upcoming tour.

But no matter the talent on the roster, ascending to the top of the basketball hierarchy will be difficult. The international game vastly differs from the NBA game, or even the NCAA game. With the prevalence of zone defense and the heavy emphasis on three-point shooting, the experience will be “eye-opening”, as Triano notes.

“For some of these guys, it will be eye-opening, to see how passionate their fans are in their countries, and how fine-tuned these teams are. Because the World Championships, in a lot of these countries, is bigger than the Olympic games where more teams participate and more teams have the opportunity to compete.”

And that’s why their upcoming exhibition tour is important. It’s about a young team getting their feet wet as they look to take their first step. And before they take the leap expected of them, they’ll have mainstays like Nash, Triano and English to help them along.

The schedule for their upcoming 11-game tour can be found here. Final roster announcements to come.

Raptors Weekly Podcast, July 21 – Eastern Conference Preview

Free-agency’s winding down, the roster’s are taking shape and the major pieces in the East are set. The pod takes a moment (well, more than hour to be precise) to examine the state of the Eastern Conference with an analysis of every single club, right from the depths of darkness to the summit of glory. Tune in as Andrew, Will, and Zarar take you through a journey starting at Luke Ridnour and ending at LeBron James. There’s also deep analysis mention of the Dwight Buycks and Diante Garrett waivers.

Teams are grouped in six categories and the individual and average predictions are below:

  1. The Walking Dead
  2. Tough Outs
  3. The Losers
  4. Stuck in the Middle
  5. Up and Coming
  6. The Contenders
# William Zarar Andrew Average
1 Cleveland Chicago Cleveland Cleveland
2 Chicago Cleveland Chicago Chicago
3 Toronto Washington Toronto Toronto
4 Miami Toronto Charlotte Washington
5 Washington Atlanta Washington Charlotte
6 Atlanta Charlotte Atlanta Atlanta
7 Charlotte Miami Miami Miami
8 Indiana Indiana Brooklyn Indiana
9 Brooklyn Detroit Indiana Brooklyn
10 New York Boston New York New York
11 Detroit New York Detroit Detroit
12 Milwaukee Brooklyn Boston Boston
13 Boston Orlando Orlando Milwaukee
14 Philadelphia Milwaukee Milwaukee Orlando
15 Orlando Philadelphia Philadelphia Philadelphia

Grab the iTunes feed or check us out on Stitcher on Android. There is also the plain old feed. You can also download the file (1:07:06, 64 MB). Or just listen below:

Reports: Diante Garrett Waived, Dwight Buycks likely signs in Europe

Masai Ujiri is shuffling around the end of the bench.

Two pieces of news to pass along. First, Diante Garrett was waived by the team, along with fellow point guard Dwight Buycks.

Furthermore, Buycks is likely on his way out of the NBA, as a number of European clubs are in hot pursuit.

First off, this leaves the Raptors’ roster at 14, assuming Bebe Nogueira and Bruno Caboclo sign and play this season, while DeAndre Daniels waits overseas. The Raptors are either in the market for a veteran center, or a third point guard, which Dwane Casey revealed earlier this week.

Second, the finances. Waiving Buycks and Garrett shaves a little over $1.7 million off the books, which puts the Raptors’ even further from the luxury tax. A full breakdown, penned by resident cap (wannabe) expert Blake Murphy can be found here.

Garrett was acquired by the Raptors in the Steve Novak-to-Utah trade. His contract was fully unguranteed, meaning the Raptors could cut him without financial cost. The same for Buycks, although the deadline on his deal becoming guaranteed was tomorrow.

My personal feeling is that the roster is pretty much set. There’s not nearly enough money to bring in an impact free-agent, and quite frankly, there isn’t an open job on the roster that needs to be filled. The Raptors are two-deep at each position, and have a number of interchangeable players who can fill multiple voids.

Therefore, the most likely outcome is for Masai to sign a player to the veteran minimum –  a point guard or center — and to keep costs to a minimum. It’s best to keep some leeway from the luxury tax line, maintaining flexibility for a potential trade.

Report: Raptors Waive Dwight Buycks

https://twitter.com/ShamsCharania/status/490522125988397057

According to that guy, Buycks has been released which, to be fair, is a pretty obvious course of action to take.  With the Raptors already fielding Lowry, Vasquez, and Lou Williams at the point, Buycks has become dispensable.  Any chance that the guy might have had of making the team probably went down the drain when he approached summer league as a shoot-first tournament instead of trying to quarterback the team. There was some hope of him making the team after Nando De Colo left for CSKA Moscow, but clearly it wasn’t enough.

Given that Williams isn’t a true point guard, it puts a little bit of pressure on Casey to make sure that Vasquez is indeed backing up Lowry instead of playing with him in a two-guard lineup.  Perhaps DeAndre Daniels has shown enough to warrant Bucyks’ spot? We’ll see.

He was due $1.15 million if not released which now comes off the cap. Chances are Daniels can be had for the minimum if the Raptors choose to go that route.

Buycks averaged 3.1 points and 0.7 assists in 14 games last season while playing 10.4 minutes.  RR wishes Dwight Buycks the best of luck in his future endeavors, as he was more or less benign.

Summer League: We Like Where He Strokes It

For those of you that thought that losing in the playoffs meant you were done, we bring you the Las Vegas Summer League, where the Raptors lost in the playoffs against Houston, but then, for some reason, played again today.

Summer League games aren’t always the most beautiful thing and this game didn’t try and rock the boat. For those of you who missed this game, let me just run down a few numbers to give you an idea of what you missed.

- This was the second-lowest scoring game of the Las Vegas Summer League, only being saved from being the worst on a three in the last seconds of the game.

- The Raptors and Clippers shot a combined 34.7% from the field.

- The Raptors shot 13% (3-23) from three, only to be eclipsed by the Clippers who shot 10% (1-10). Although, perhaps the Clippers should be applauded for taking fewer threes considering they weren’t hitting. Hard to say, 13% is better than 10%, but 9 misses is better than 20 misses.

- Both teams combined for 6 assists in the first half.  Six in twenty minutes.

- The Raptors “won” by outscoring the Clippers 64 to 60.

The Spurs-Heat this was not.

There was almost no flow on offense and obviously little passing. Too many guys trying to force things. This is the problem with Summer League play. Most players are trying to impress, and so they want to standout, but when you try and standout, you often end up going away from the team concept. It’s a catch-22.

For those that actually care about the game, the Raptors were losing up until midway through the second quarter when they went on a 16-0 run and stayed ahead the rest of the game.

For most fans, the interest in Summer League is focused on individual play. This is a chance for us to see rookies in a professional setting, and evaluate players who may or may not have a chance at making the roster.

This game gave some of the players who hadn’t had seen much action previously some playing time. Scott Machado got a chance to start with Buycks sitting out this game. TJ Bray disappeared in his first start. And Myck Kabongo got a chance to see some extended minutes for once. We also might have seen the last of Hassan Whiteside, who also sat out the game.

1. Whiteside certainly has the physical tools to play in the NBA, and even showed a few skills, but he’s the prefect example of a player who is simply not mentally on an NBA level. He’s got a low basketball IQ, let’s his emotions get the better of him and, at 25 years old, has shown little improvement since he left college.

BRUNO CABOCLO

Without any big name rookies in attendance, there was a lot of discussion about Bruno, and one of the Barry boys and the other commentator had a lot of nice things to say about him when they weren’t talking about Rick Fox’s scarf and, well, they talked a lot about Fox’s scarf for some reason.

The best comment was when Barry said, and I quote, “We like where he strokes it”, when talking about Bruno’s form on his shot (and not his length). He obviously caught the double entendre and backtracked a little, but that might have been the highlight of the game.

While Bruno didn’t shoot well, especially from three, he continues to impress with his potential. He’s still got a LONG way to go, but continues to have a big impact on the defensive end and shows flashes of an offensive game that is probably still three or four years away.

Bruno seemed to start the game with a slightly different mindset and looked to initiate a little more, but mostly failed miserably. He dribbled out the shot clock twice and one play, where he was isolated on the wing, was uncomfortable to watch as he fumbled the ball and then proceeded to dribble out the clock.

He also tends to fall for a pump fake WAY too often, especially considering a guy with his length shouldn’t even need to leave his feet. He also coughs up the ball under pressure, which is probably why I counted only a few times when he dribbled the ball more than twice.

Still, for the youngest player on the court and a guy who no one had heard of just a few weeks ago, Bruno impressed as much or more than anyone on the court. He doesn’t shy away from contact, has good form (despite not hitting in this game), and can be a game changer on the defensive end. On the very next play after the failed isolation attempt, Bruno used his length and anticipation to steal a pass and dribble the length of the court for a layup.

He played a team high 33 minutes and was a big reason why the team won.

The more I watch Bruno, the more I like Ujiri’s selection of him at 20. While no one should expect anything from him next year, I would say he’s definitely got more potential than anyone who was selected later and, at the very least, can become a good defensive player who can hit the three.

BEBE NOGUEIRA

Bebe got to play extended minutes and did show some things, but he also showed he’s got a lot of work to do.

He looked about a foot taller than anyone out there, and he’s not a stiff. With his physical tools, he’s got a chance to have an NBA career, but there are a few things that might prevent that.

Bebe might be the longest player in summer league (that’s just a guess, but he’s got 9’6 standing reach, so I think it’s probably a good guess), but he’s only got three blocks in five games. He should have gotten twice as many without even leaving his feet. And therein lies the problem. While Bebe is a willing defender, he’s not a particularly good one. Well, some of the time he is, but for a guy as agile as he is, opposing players seem to go around him almost at will at times. He’s not good at defending pick and rolls and will over-commit far too often.

And while he ended up getting 10 rebounds against the Clippers, there were far too many times when a smaller player came out of the pack with the rebound instead of Bebe. And considering the number of misses in this game, I guarantee there were more than ten rebounds available for Bebe.

Bebe’s got great size, yes, but he simply doesn’t use it enough. He is active, but doesn’t always play very smart. Now, apart from the physical tools, Bebe is a willing, if not always pinpoint passer. He’s actually got a decent drive to the hoop for a player his size, and finishes fairly well around the basket.

He’s a project, but he’s a project worth gambling on.

Funniest incident of the game: While running up the court, Bebe apparently asked the ref if he could stop and tie his shoe. Do they stop games in Brazil for that?

DeANDRE DANIELS

Daniels was the leading scorer (15 points), rebounder (14 rebounds) and shot blocker (2 blocks) for the game, and definitely played fairly well.

He was active on the boards and on defense, but he did take 15 shots to score those 15 points, so it’s safe to say efficiency was not a strong suit. There were a number of times when Daniels seemed to have blinders on and forced the action rather than pass to an open teammate. It’s like he knew this was the last game to impress the Raptors and wanted to show something, but showing he could pass would have been something.

MYCK KABONGO

I was anxious to see Kabongo get some burn and was happy to see it happen. Kabongo has always had a reputation as a great ball handler and good passer, but his big weakness is his lack of a jumper, and all of that was on display in this game. Kabongo outplayed starter Machado, even dishing out a game-high 3 assists (?!?!?!). He showed some sneaky moves around the basket and was able to get into the lane almost at will.

But that jumpshot.

He’s been away from Texas University for more than a year and he obviously hasn’t spent enough time on his jumpshot. He was 0 for 3 from three and not one of them was close, even airballing one.

I still was impressed enough with him that I would like to see the Raptors bring him into training camp. He’s actually 22, which is older than I thought, but he’s got talent.

CHRIS DANIELS

Daniels has no real shot at catching on with the Raptors, but since he was the ONLY Raptors to actually hit a three (he went 3-6) which I thought was worth mentioning.

ELI HOLMAN

In just 12 minutes, Holman actually looked like a fairly decent prospect. He’s not tall but showed a good post game and grabbed four boards in his limited time.

That’s it for Las Vegas. Next up, training camp. In three more months.

[GIF] DeMar DeRozan’s evolution through shot-charts

Piggy-backing off Greg Mason’s work.


DeMar DeRozan making improvements to his game, year after year, has become the defining narrative of his career. His love for the city, coupled with his reputation as a gym rat, has rightfully endeared him to many fans. And while he’ll never play a style of basketball that perfectly aligns with the analytical axioms of efficiency, DeMar has improved many aspects of his game, especially with respect to getting to the free-throw line, and facilitating offense.

But his shooting, strictly speaking, remains largely unchanged. There’s still work left to be done.

Shot charts courtesy of Nylon Calculus, yet another excellent blog on the Hardwood Paroxysm network. 

The Raptors and the NBA’s Shooting Revolution – the Nylon Calculus Shot Charts

Ed’s Note: This article is written by Greg Mason, who is a regular guest on The Doctor Is In podcast, and while the pod is on hiatus till the new season, Greg takes a look at how the Raptors fare in the brand new Nylon Calculus shot charts.  Follow Greg on Twitter at @VotaryOfHoops.

Thanks in large part to the analytics movement, shooting is at a premium in the league now more than ever. Look no further than the Channing Frye signing for evidence as to how much teams value guys who can space the floor and create lanes to the rim. Successful teams make a lot of shots at the basket and they make a lot of threes. San Antonio and Miami led the league in shots made within 5 feet, 382 and 311, respectively (the Raptors made 109 shots, good for 12th), and both teams finished in the top 5 in 3 point field goals made. Teams who couldn’t space the floor, see Detroit and Utah, were a train wreck. The Raptors were slightly better than middle of the pack as shooters last season. They finished 13th in the league in 3FGM and 15th in 3FG%.

This week Austin Clemens (@AustinClemens2) of Nylon Calculus (part of the Hardwood Paroxysm network) compiled VERY cool and HIGHLY addictive shot charts of every player from the 1996-1997 season forward.

Kyle Lowry:

  • Good shooter despite impediment of carrying around onions larger than Oliver Miller’s plate at the country buffet, (46 % of FGA were 3s)
  • Career highs last season in 3P% (38), FGA, FGM and PER (20.1)
  • Excels from the deep wings, loves that fake drive, step back three
  • Poor from mid-range and right corner, almost never shoots from mid-range on right side
  • Finishes well in the paint, struggles a bit right at the rim

Kyle Lowry Nylon Calculus Shot Chart

DeMar DeRozan:

  • The narrative about DeRozan’s game is generally confirmed by the shot chart
  • Very good in the paint, good from right corner (small sample size)
  • Shoots A LOT of long mid-range jumpers, 36.2 % of FGA were between 16 feet and 3 point arc
  • Career best 30.5 3P% , still well below league average
  • Favors left side of the floor

DeMar DeRozan

Terrence Ross:

  • Likes the 3 ball: 39.5 3P%, 54.3 % of his FGA last season from beyond the arc
  • Really likes the left corner and deep right wing
  • Not nearly as effective from deep left wing and right corner
  • Explosive athlete but lanky and doesn’t love contact. Better finisher in the paint than expected

Terrence Ross

Amir Johnson:

  • Mr. Efficiency
  • Very good in the paint, 73 % of his shots within 10 feet or less
  • Impressive mid-range shooter, 58.6 % from 10-16 feet
  • Worked the 3 ball into his game this season. Though he was above league average in certain spots shot only 30.3 3P% for the season

Amir Johnson

Jonas Valanciunas:

  • Big J, that left side baseline jumper isn’t working out so hot for you, brother! 37 % shooter from 10-16 feet.
  • Generally pretty good in the paint. The little running hook in front of the basketball was the one major trick in his arsenal and the shot chart shows that it was pretty darn effective.
  • Jonas is working with Hakeem the Dream this summer and I, for one, am freaking excited. (Man crush alert)

Jonas Valanciunas

Greivis Vasquez:

  • His shot chart is EXACTLY what you would expect.
  • Gravy V is money when he shoots those runners in front of the rim and somewhat of a disaster on his wild drives to the right side of the basket
  • I expect his percentages to improve this season with some additional scorers on the second unit. Won’t be forced to carry such a heavy offensive burden.
  • He’s a good 3 point shooter (38%) but surprisingly weak from the corners

Greivis Vasquez

Patrick Patterson:

  • Patterson has found a home. Fills much needed role of ‘stretch-4’ on the team. 31% of FGA were from beyond the arc.
  • 41 3P% as a Raptor, excels from left corner and deep right wing
  • Mixed bag from mid-range. Much better from left baseline. 46% from 10-16 feet

Patrick Patterson

Lou Williams:

  • Not exactly a model of efficiency, but will provide a much needed scoring option off the bench
  • Not a terrible 3-point shooter (34% career) but he should probably stop shooting from the left side of the court altogether
  • Can drill the right corner 3, most of team prefers left corner
  • Good shooter from straight on. Likes the runner.

Lou Williams

James Johnson:

  • Thank God he can play defense
  • Sweet neck tattoos, skilled martial artist, big wing defender, terrible 3-point shooter
  • 26.6 % career shooter from beyond the arc
  • Shot scorching 78 % (3% of total FGA) from 10-16 feet, but most of his mid-range game consisted of long 2s (7.5% of FGA), where he shot a meager 26%

James Johnson

Tyler Hansbrough:

  • Great job, Tyler.

Tyler Hansbrough

Landry Fields:

  • Injuries have derailed Fields’ shot and his confidence, perhaps irrevocably
  • Just look at the drop off in his shooting from his rookie to sophomore years. He was a guy who shot 39% from beyond the arc his rookie season (2.7 attempts per game) to 26 % his second year.
  • The Raptors then decided to give him $20 million dollars. He’s shot 19 threes in his two seasons in Toronto; down slightly from the 340 that he shot his first two seasons in New York.
Landry Fields
Landry Fields

Chuck Hayes:

  • 6’5 center who can’t jump is predictably horrid in the paint
  • We’ll always have that gorgeous 22-foot runner though

Chuck Hayes

Final thoughts:

I’m skeptical that DeRozan will ever become a league average 3-point shooter, but he’s proved me wrong before. One thing that he can certainly work on this season is cutting down on mid-range jumpers. The Raptors are essentially a slightly above average shooting team in the league. There are several guys on the team who can stroke the three at a respectable clip (Lowry, Vasquez, Ross, Patterson) but they lost their one elite shooter when they sent Novak to Utah for salary relief purposes. They’ve added two below average shooters in Williams and Johnson and lost Salmons who was wretched inside the arc but among the best three point shooters on the team. Bruno has a nice shot and his go-to move so far in summer league has been the step back three (lessons from Lowry already?) but I don’t expect him to be a rotation guy at this juncture in his career. Simply put, on paper the Raps are a worse shooting team than they were last season but probably not in a particularly meaningful way. If they shoot well and create the requisite space for driving lanes to the basket, the personnel by-and-large does a good job of finishing in the paint.

Data for this article was provided by basketball-reference.com.

ICYMI: Lucas Nogueira Chases Luke Hancock Down For The Dunk

Audio: Dwane Casey Summer League Interview

Dwane Casey joined Rick Kamla and Brent Barry during the Raptors/Rockets game, which Will has recapped along with key portions of the interview. Below is the full audio of the Casey interview where he touched on a number of topics included Bruno Caboclo, Jonas Valanciunas, Kyle Lowry and even Dwight Buycks.

Recap: Buycks and Bruno shine, Summer League is strange

Bruno and Buycks looked good. The team did not.

In their first elimination game of Las Vegas Summer League, the Toronto Raptors somehow turned a 56-30 lead at halftime to 93-77 loss to the Houston Rockets. Like this recap, this game wasn’t pretty.

Game Recap

Call it a collapse, call it a breakdown, call it a tale of two halves. It’s hard to overstate how poorly the team played in the second half, scoring just 21 total points while allowing 63. The Raptors had a chance to advance to the next round and face the Cleveland Canadian Cavaliers but they blew it.

Of course, you’re probably overreacting if you read anything into the outcome of the game. This, in a nutshell, is summer league basketball. This is why the scores, and quite frankly, the stats don’t matter. It’s a hodge-podge of randomly assorted players playing against an equally disjointed squad. There’s no coaching, there’s no plays being called, and it’s hardly anything more than a dry-run test environment for teams to see their young prospects in action.

But if you’re type that needs an answer for everything, settle on this one: the Raptors couldn’t make the first-pass to initiate their offense in the second-half. With the Rockets changing their strategy to pressuring, double-teaming and hard-showing on the ball, the Raptors’ ball-handlers couldn’t deliver the first pass out of pressure to punish the defense. The bigs didn’t exactly do a great job setting screens to create space either, but it’s summer league. It’s easy to play pressure defense, it’s much harder to nail down timing on the attack.

With the loss, the Raptors move onto the consolation round, meaning they have at least one game left before we waive goodbye to Bruno, Bebe and co. If you find yourself upset at the outcome, heed the wise words of Ricky Rubio: “change your face, be happy, enjoy it!” It’s a silly pick-up game.

Bruno Watch!

  • 12 points, 3-of-7 shooting, 2-of-6 from deep, two rebounds, a steal, four turnovers

Bruno had a nice bounce-back game, showing just enough flashes to keep us intrigued. Some of the same issues with lack of aggressiveness reared its ugly head, culminating in a lack of physicality, but that’s to be expected. Not only is he extremely young and undersized, he also doesn’t speak any English.

Onto the positives. Bruno’s decision-making on offense looked good, drifting over to the right spots on the floor. He often waded over to the weakside corner, and with the help of Dwight Buycks’ delivery, he found himself open for a number of looks. During the third quarter, Dwane Casey revealed on-air that the corner three is Bruno’s favorite shot, and it showed during the game.

We also caught a glimpse of Bruno’s ball-handling. He certainly rates as below-average in that regard, as his gangly arms and general weakness makes dribbling around perimeter defenders an awkward endeavor, but Bruno wasn’t shy. I counted two instances where he tried to drive. He was fouled on both occasions, including this smooth and-one.

Defensively, the results were somewhat mixed. It’s clear that he really cares, and works hard on defense, but he’s over-aggressive at times, which sometimes leaves him out of position. It also doesn’t help that the language barrier doesn’t allow him to react to other players’ play-calls, and he is sometimes lost in the shuffle. However, with his 7-foot-7 wingspan, Caboclo is always a threat to contest the shot. When he learns how to harness his skills in an actual system, there’s the makings of an Tayshaun Prince-type defender in Bruno’s gangly frame.

“Bruno Watch” Watch

I respect NBA TV. A lot of people shit on the network, but I think they produce great content. Open-court, The Starters, Inside stuff — good shit.

But they need to drop it with the Bruno Caboclo narratives. Instead of trying to assess his performance as a player (as they do with most players on the court), play-by-play commentator Rick Kamla repeatedly circled back to the echo chamber that is Fran Fraschilla’s now infamous draft-day declarations. “Two years away from being two years away”. “Brazilian Kevin Durant”. He’s a huge project and a gamble.

And again, I want to clarify that it’s probably a directional order given by the producers, rather than lazy narration from Kamla, but he just kept recycling the same three topics. To their credit, his broadcast partner Brent Barry played it down, calling the comparisons to Durant ridiculous and unfair. Same with reporter David Aldridge, who generally backed Masai Ujiri’s draft decision.

But the NBA TV production crew just wouldn’t quit. They literally played a highlight reel from Durant’s rookie season, then led with the question”so what do you think?” Talk about setting the bar for expectations high and bar for intelligent conversation low. All in all, not a great day for an usually excellent broadcast company.

rpssWho needs Patrick Patterson and Terrence Ross when you have floor-spacers like Chuck Hayes and Landry Fields?

Bebe Doing the Little Things

  • Two points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block, zero turnovers

The numbers don’t look like much. Like every game to date, Bebe wasn’t prioritized in the offense, functioning as mostly a screen-setter. His ball-screens were good, freeing up Buycks to pick apart Houston’s defense. He finished with a team-high +12 for a reason. He was effective.

Bebe also demonstrated good passing vision with three well-earned assists to his name. His assists came from the mid-high post, where he found open cutters for easy looks at the rim. Once video from the game becomes available, I’ll link to a few of his dimes.

As I discussed in the scouting report, Bebe’s strength right now is his length, which is really showing up on defense. He remains diligent in contesting shots while staying near the rim. He also collected a highlight-worthy chasedown block. Keep following the Tyson Chandler blueprint, kiddo!

Dwight Buycks, professional point guard

Buycks received plenty of flack for his lack of leadership over the first three summer league games. His refusal to pass, especially to rolling bigs, cramped the Raptors’ offense, and made him look selfish.

In truth, summer league is not the place for a passing point guard to shine. It’s hard to run plays when there are none. Isolation drives or banal point-to-wing passes off a ball-screen is preferable to a likely turnover in the pursuit for the right pass. Buycks wasn’t as poor as he looked.

The process wasn’t much different for Buycks today, but he did end up with 24 points and four assists. It was unfortunately coupled with eight turnovers, but he fared better in the passing department. He hit a rolling Bebe in-stride and thrice found Bruno open in the corner for three.

Highlights from Dwane Casey’s In-game Interview

On Bruno

“‘Two years away from being two years away’ is not true. He’s probably one year away from getting to work, and the main thing he needs to do is get stronger.

He’s athletic enough, he has the wingspan at 7-foot-7. He’s got to learn to use what he has. He’s a tough kid…he’s intelligent.”

“He’s from humble beginnings. He is hungry. That’s one great thing, and why Masai was so high on him because he knew how hard this young man was going to work.

We worked yesterday, [the players] practiced for like an hour-and-a-half, and he and I stayed there for another hour working on shooting, ball-handling drills, corner threes, catching it one dribble on the floor and up. He will stay there as long as you will, so he’s a coach’s dream from that standpoint.”

On Lowry’s free-agency

“Not only the Rockets [were interested], but Miami was sniffing around…Lakers were calling.

You never know, but he had always said that he wanted to be in Toronto, that he wanted to continue what we started as far as our growth was concerned because finally, this was his team…now he finally has his team.”

On the need of a third PG

“We do need a third point guard. Dwight [Buycks] is one of the guys we’re looking at…he knows he’s on stage right now.”

On Jonas Valanciunas

“Rebounding is key. He needs to do a better job on both ends, offensive boards, defensive boards.

He’s working on his running, and he’s going to be working out every day in Los Angeles.

[Asked to give a statline prediction] “14 points, 10 rebounds.”

On DeMar DeRozan

“Gary Payton is working with him.”

LVSL Game Thread: Raptors vs. Rockets

Because who wants to see Drake host the ESPYs (I do).

The Raptors (1-2) will take on the Rockets (1-2) at 8:30 PM tonight. Apparently it’s a playoff game, and the winner of tonight’s esteemed tussle will earn the opportunity to square off against the mighty Canadian Cavaliers.

But first, before we start fantasizing about a match-up between Canadian Andrew Wiggins and Brazilian Andrew Wiggins (Bruno), our Jurassic squad must eliminate the Rockets in order to stave off extinction.

The mighty Rockets boast a few fringe names, such as Donatas Motiejunas, Nick Johnson and Isaiah Canaan. Expect lots of three-point shooting (what else would you expect from a Morey-built squad?), as the team attempted 29 triples out of 64 total shots in their last contest against the Nuggets. That’s a whopping 45.3 percent, for those who don’t have a calculator handy.

Meanwhile, our Brazilian-heavy squad features the three-headed behemoth of Bebe Nogueira, Scott Machado and Bruno Caboclo. All in all, they’re not all that great at basketball at this point, but I feel comfortable with my favorite team trotting out three Brazilians better at their craft than World Cup pariah Fred is at soccer. Fred is pictured below imitating Brazilian fans’ reactions to him playing soccer.

Feel free to discuss the game in the comments. A full recap will go up sometime tonight after the game. It starts at 8:30 PM.

HALFTIME UPDATE

Raptors up 56-30. Bruno has 12 points on 3-of-5 shooting. Buycks killing it with 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting, also has three assists. He’s actually being a point guard for once, which is nice. Looks like we’re headed to a match with the Cavaliers. This should be fun.

FINAL UPDATE

Welp. Spoke too soon. The Raptors somehow lost 93-77. Find out how they did it in my recap.

Raptors 2014-15 Projected Wins

If you enjoy the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data, then you’ll enjoy this discussion posted by RR member DanH on our forums.

Can the Raptors Compete for the #1 Seed in the East Next Season?

With the Eastern Conference maybe becoming a little more balanced with the off-season acquisitions so far, do the Raptors still stand a solid chance in becoming the #1 seed after the regular season?

Talking Raptors Podcast, July 16 – Summer League

Nick and Barry run down what’s happening in summer league and on summer vacations as the Raptors enter LVSL’s playoff rounds.

Grab the iTunes feed or check us out on Stitcher on Android. There is also the plain old feed. You can also download the file (25:54, 24 MB). Or just listen below:

Morning Coffee – Wed, Jul 16

A more mature James Johnson ready to win with Raptors | Toronto Sun

“It was a crazy road for me but you learn a lot from your mistakes and I felt like Masai and the rest of the Raptors felt the same about the situation and feel the same way about my play and what I can bring to this team,” the 27-year-old small forward said. “I still have a lot to prove but them signing me for two years and giving me this boost of confidence, I’m just going to work my hardest to help us go further than what we did last year.” His return begs the question what has changed in two years? The answer is plenty on both sides.

Raptors: Returning forward James Johnson buries hatchet with coach Casey | Toronto Star

“It never was bad, we had our bumps, but that’s war,” Johnson said. “It’s a war out there when we’re playing a game and sometimes you say stuff that you regret or you say stuff that you don’t really mean. “Dwane Casey is a great guy and I feel like he realizes that and we’ve moved forward from where we were at. We had a great conversation and I’m just ready to win and I know he is.” Johnson returns to the Raptors following stints in Sacramento and Memphis. The 27-year-old Wyoming native averaged 7.4 and 3.2 assists while with the Grizzlies last season.

Lewenberg: Meet Nogueira, the other Brazilian Raptor | TSN

“It’s contagious, infectious,” coach Dwane Casey said of Nogueira’s personality. “He’s sharp and witty, which is a good thing in this league because it’s such a frustration-filled league and it can get you down and you can’t let it happen as a young kid. You’ve got to learn, bounce back and get ready for the next play.” Asked about his perspective and approach, things that have helped him stand out early in his Raptors tenure, Nogueira credits his upbringing. He grew up in Rio de Janeiro. He was adopted. His family has supported him and has taught him positive values. His siblings are much older, his brother is 38, his sister 40. He’s the youngest, hence the nickname, Bebe. “It started in Brazil,” Nogueira said of the moniker, insisting he has no preference between that and his first name, Lucas. “My family, they called me Bebe. I grew up with Bebe all my life. I don’t care [if you call me that] because everyone says it, my mom says it.”

Toronto Raptors: Summer League Highlights Need Of D-League Franchise

In the upcoming season, Toronto will share the Fort Wayne Mad Ants with 12 NBA teams, but 17 others currently have an exclusive affiliation consisting of either outright ownership of a D-League franchise, or what’s known as a ”hybrid” affiliation, which allows the NBA team to essentially run the basketball operations of its D-League partner without actually owning it. If the Raptors owned a D-League franchise, Ujiri could send Caboclo there in order to gain some valuable playing time while the Brazilian developed under the tutelage of coaches hired by the organization. And for a young player like Caboclo who is both new to the NBA as well as North America, the structured environment would often mirror daily life as a pro and give the rookie an opportunity to slowly wade into the NBA waters. But the concept is far from perfect, and the current rules state that anyone sent down to the D-League would still cost Toronto a roster spot on the team’s two-man inactive list. Also, only players within their first three years of NBA service can be shipped to the D-League without consent from the player and the union, and everyone counts as a hit on the salary cap. While the system has its faults, only a financial commitment from Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, who own the Raptors, stands in the way of a D-League franchise, and it’s no secret that MLSE has the cash to make it happen.

Raptors’ Bruno Caboclo mini meltdown shows how much he cares | Toronto Sun

The Raptors love that Caboclo wants to dominate, to do a bit of everything, but recognize that is not yet possible, so the trick is getting through to him that he needs to be patient. “Today was more about getting back to being a defender and someone that can help us role-wise, instead of trying to be the hero and trying to put it on his shoulders to try to win the game for us,” Mermuys said. “He’s not there yet. We love the fact that he wants to be there and he was trying to be there but he’s not there and so now let’s try to go out and get inside his role to do what he can to help the team.” For head coach Dwane Casey, this is all part of the process, and he would much rather have a player that is committed and is emotionally invested, than the numerous wastes of talent that dot the league. “It is (a good thing) because it shows he cares. He wants to play well, he wants to play better. I told him, ‘this is a marathon, not a sprint,’” Casey said.

OT: Bruno Caboclo | RealGM

My bad if you guys think this should be on the Raptors thread but that’s not my territory and I think theres some discussion that can be had. I went to summer league today to watch the Knicks game and got to catch the Raptors game afterwards. The rookie that they drafted was doing pretty well throughout the game. Around the 3rd quarter he got posterized badly by CJ Fair and then got a tech for pushing another player in frustration. I was sitting close to courtside on the opposite end and after that dunk happened and I was paying attention to him. He walked straight to the bench and asked to be subbed out and I kid you not he was crying like a little boy until the end of the game. Like tears running down his face that he kept wiping off with a towel. You might be able to catch it on the game replay. I think this says alot to GMs that want to draft these 18/19 year old players that have upside. They have all the potential in the world but maybe they just arent emotionally ready to play with the “big boys”. He was doing solid before that moment, but after that it just took him right out of the game.

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Raptors play Rockets in LVSL Wed at 8:30, date with Wiggins awaits

In the first knock-out round of the Las Vegas Summer League tournament, the 1-2 Toronto Raptors will play the 1-2 Houston Rockets at 8:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

Perhaps of more interest to Raptors fans is that a win would send Toronto through to Friday, where an 8:30 p.m. (ET) date with Andrew Wiggins and the Cleveland Cavaliers would await.

Breaking: Drunk Driving Charges Against Jonas Valanciunas Dropped

You might recall that Jonas Valanciunas, on a cold April night, was charged with drunk driving.  The short of it was that he went to a local drive-thru, had empties in the back, which caught the eye of the drive-thru attendant, who informed the cops, who showed up at his house and arrested Valanciunas.  It’s almost like a nursery rhyme if you say it a few times fast.

The “crown” (if you’re American it means the government), has now decided that there’s no hard evidence here to convict Valanciunas and that that lawyer money is best spent elsewhere, perhaps funding a subway line or something.  Young Jonas should consider himself lucky that this has gone away because and hire himself a driver right away. This sort of thing sticks on your record like a dead fly, not that he’ll ever need to apply for a job only to get rejected because of this but still, yeah…something.

He had apologized at the time:

“I apologize to the organization, my teammates, my family and my fans, and regret any negativity this incident has brought upon them.”

To make further amends, he followed it up with a monster performance against Philly (reaction post) after which he had apologized again:

ICYMI: Caboclo Welcomed to Summer League

Give the man a point for contesting; and give him three for standing up to Eric Griffin for getting up in his business after the fact. Him contesting out on the break like that speaks volumes about the type of player he is trying to be. The more I see of him, the more I like him, and the more it’s obvious that he wouldn’t have lasted till 37.

Scouting Report: Say Ayy to Bebe Nogueira

Get to know the Raptors’ newly acquired Brazilian center.

Not much is known about Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira. His one NBA moment came on draft day, when a classic struggle between man’s afro and a Celtics hat gave rise to this glorious photo. It was wonderful.

Beyond that, Nogueria is something of a mystery. Here’s what we know.

Bebe was drafted 16th overall by the Boston Celtics, then traded on draft day to the Hawks. He was then stashed overseas in Estudiantes of the Spanish ACB, where he had played since 2009. He was born in 1992 (like Jonas Valanciunas) and is currently 21 years old.

Last season, Nogueira suffered a bout of tendinitis in his knees, which forced him out of action for a few months. He was permitted to rehab his knees in Atlanta under the watch of the Hawks’ medical staff. He also reportedly pulled his hamstring sometime after returning, and missed three weeks. By all accounts, those issues are now behind him.

We also have Nogueira’s physical measurements. The center stands at 7-feet, and boasts a 7-foot-6 wingspan, of which combine to give him a standing reach of 9-foot-6, which is only six inches short of the hoop. In Eurocamp 2013, Nogueria weighted in at 220 pounds. Oh, and he plays center.

But his age and measurements only tell us so much. It doesn’t shed any light on his abilities as a player. For that, I have perused various scouting reports and watched as much video of him as I could find. Here’s my scouting report on Bebe.

Strengths

In a word, Bebe’s entire game is predicated around his length. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially considering his reach and wingspan, but until he develops more tangible skills, he’s primarily a shot-blocker/put-back player.

Rim-protection

  • Key statistic: 3.5 blocks per 36 minutes last season

Bebe’s length translates best to his shot-blocking ability, but length alone doesn’t equate to 3.5 blocks per 36 minutes, not unless your name is JaVale McGee. Bebe has a good sense of timing, and understands how to make his tools work in his favor.

Most impressively, Bebe is good at contesting shots without jumping. Again, that trails back to his 9-foot-6 standing reach, but he’s also disciplined enough to not bite on shot-fakes, perhaps because he doesn’t need to.

For example, take this play from the Raptors’ July 11th VSL game against the Lakers. Nogueira loses the ball, sprints back in transition, and doesn’t try for the flying chasedown block. He stays on his feet for the most part, and uses his length to contain.

Mobility in defending pick-and-rolls

The modern NBA is nothing like the grind-it-down, post-up battles that headlined the late-eighties and early-nineties. Today’s game is played on the perimeter, dictated stylistically by spacing. Every play opens with a pick-and-roll, and it’s paramount for today’s bigs to effectively hedge and recover on defense. Luckily, it’s an area in which Bebe has shown promise.

The clip below, which spans three defensive possessions, gives a snapshot of Bebe’s defensive instincts. On the first, he hedges hard, and forces the ball-handler into having to make a difficult pass to the roll man which results in an easy steal. On the second, Bebe matches his man step for step, and flusters him with his arms. His man eventually trips, and the possession ends in a turnover. On the third, Bebe sags back in coverage instead of hedging, and backpedals, placing himself in optimal position to guard both the ball-handler and the big.

Nogueira possesses two key physical determinants of pick-and-roll defense in length and lateral quickness. He’s not a Serge Ibaka type who relies on power and his leaping abilities to snuff out pick-and-rolls. Rather, he is laterally quick, gets into position and uses his length to contain well (something Ibaka also does, just for the record). With more coaching and experience, there’s no reason why Bebe won’t be effective in deterring the league’s staple play.

Weaknesses

Bebe’s main weakness is quite literally that — he’s really weak. From the eye test alone, Bebe looks bigger in VSL than he did in his time at Estudiantes, but he is still slight. He’s also doesn’t have much of an offensive skillset aside from put-backs and alley-oops. His weaknesses are discussed below.

Lack of Strength

This counts as something of a general flaw. His lack of strength bleeds into most aspects of his game — in rebounding, in post-defense, in rim-runs on offense — everything.

Being slight onto itself isn’t a death sentence. He’s young and it’s entirely possible that he bulks up, especially with the help of an NBA training staff. However, it’s not a promising sign that he’s naturally only filled out to so much. I’m no doctor, but I’m pretty sure there’s an ideal weight range for each person’s frame, especially if said person is aiming to play a grueling 82-game season against a sea of opposing giants.

Rather, it’s the symptoms of being slight that worry me about Bebe. As I discussed on this week’s edition of Raptors Weekly, many skinny players succeed in spite of their size, but it’s often because they don’t shy away from physicality. Take Tayshaun Prince, for example. For most of his career, Prince has weighed less than his shadow, but he managed to be an excellent wing defender in his prime by being physical, meaning he never shied from contact. He knew he was going to get knocked over, but it didn’t stop him from crashing boards or bodying up.

Perhaps it’s just a lack of experience, but I see a similar issue with Bruno Caboclo and Bebe. They’re both gangly youngsters composed of naught more than skin and bone, but more concerning, they don’t seem willing to bang. It’s less of an issue for a wing player like Bruno, but Bebe will face his fair share of post-ups and rim-runs, even as a token back-up center. A bulkier frame and mindset will go a long way.

Skip to 8:04 of the video below. The video by DraftExpress, highlights how Bebe’s lack of strength affects his play. Given his length, Bebe should still be a fine post-defender, but he will concede ground unless he bulks up a bit more.

Rebounding

  • Key statistic: 8.9 rebounds per 36 minutes

This is mostly a product of observation, rather than statistical analysis (8.9 rebounds per 36 minutes is fine), but Nogueria tends to rely on his length to rebound.

The process evidently worked for him in Europe, but the bigs there tend to be less athletic on the whole, and quite frankly, it’s a different environment for rebounding. Almost every European team employs a floor-stretching four, which leaves the bulk of rebounding responsibilities to centers and wings. It’s not necessarily a feat that Bebe was able to grab boards there. That’s what he should have done.

It’s a matter of process over the results. Bebe doesn’t rely on box-outs to grab boards. He spreads his long arms and tries to reach for loose balls before they fall any lower. The analogy here is that he’s more JaVale McGee than Kenneth Faried. The drive to attack the glass just isn’t there. If it’s a battle between him and Reggie Evans for a loose ball, Evans is going to win out. Once again, it tracks back to the physicality issue.

Lack of post-up game

There’s not much to say other than he doesn’t really have one. He seems to prefer setting a ball screen, then rolling to the basket hoping for a lob-pass, rather than moving to the block, and calling for the ball. On the rare chance that he does post-up, he prefers to face-up and rely on his semi-functional jumper. He looks to have a right-handed hook shot, but that’s about it for a post-up game.

Rather than a weakness, I’d preface this point by calling it a limitation instead. Not every big needs to be a complete player like Hakeem or Duncan. If everything pans out for Bebe, he’ll be a bigger version of Amir Johnson, or perhaps Tyson Chandler. Pick-and-roll, mobility and defense will be his calling card.

Obligatory NBA Comparison

Every scouting profile needs a mindless comparison to an existing NBA player, so let’s dub a “Brazillian __________” tag on Bebe. Or, rather, let’s do something more sensible, and peg a target for him to aspire to. Given his length and mobility, I’d personally like Bebe to mimic Tyson Chandler.

Before I go on, I want to reiterate that it’s merely goal for him to become Chandler, who is a one-time Defensive Player of the Year. It’s not an expectation. If he ever reaches Chandler’s level of excellence, I’d be ecstatic. In his prime, Chandler was a dominant defensive presence who was a force in the pick-and-roll. The chances of any player replicating Chandler’s career is slim.

My reasoning is largely rooted in the similarities in their physical profiles, that being skinny centers who are mobile. Chandler has obviously filled out over his 13 years in the league, but he remains lean for a center. Consider a comparison of their measurements:

 comp

The measurements indicate that the physical tools are there, but application is another matter altogether. Chandler is also a vocal leader, something like a defensive quarterback, and a good rebounder. It’s a hopeful thought rooted in physical building blocks and a shared skillset.

In terms of next season, I’m confident that Bebe can be sufficient in his role as back-up center. He should eventually work up to around 15 minutes per game towards season’s end, mostly mopping up spare minutes against opposing benches. I believe he’ll struggle on the glass, so perhaps a bench pairing with Tyler Hansbrough could mask some deficiencies.

Personally, in terms of development, I’m hoping to see signs of improvement in the little facets of the game. Can he function in Dwane Casey’s pick-and-roll defenses? Does he have the sense of timing and awareness to defend at the NBA level? Can he set screens? To that regard, having a mentor like Amir Johnson is a great place to start for Bebe. There’s potential replacement in a 7-foot body laying in wait.

Note: this was written prior to Monday’s shitshow against the Mavericks.

Morning Coffee – Tue, Jul 15

Rough game for Raptors rookie Caboclo | Toronto Sun

Caboclo, quietly fuming previously due to the lopsided score, bolted right to the bench furious and crushed while teammate and fellow Brazilian Lucas Nogueira gave him some words of encouragement. Later, we found out that the communication barrier also might have struck, with Caboclo believing he had been ejected from the game, according to TSN1050. It is hard not to appreciate how much all of this means to Caboclo, the youngest player in the draft, who Toronto selected 20th overall. He is a competitor. But he’ll need to get used to being jammed on, something Nogueira said he would make clear at the team’s hotel. “I have played six years in Spain, signed my first contract when I was 15 years old, so I have a little experience, so I try to explain and show to Bruno because he was in Brazil and he is 18 years old,” Nogueira said. “He is so sad and mad because he is young. In Brazil you don’t have athletic players like C.J. Fair and other guys. In Brazil nobody dunk on him there, because he is big and he’s athletic. So he can’t believe that dunk … I will try to talk to him and say, ‘Bruno, never give up, come on man, NBA is worse than summer league.’ He’s out of luck because he plays on same team as Terrence Ross and DeMar DeRozan. ‘You out of luck, be careful in practice, everyone will dunk on you. It’s normal, it’s the NBA.’”

Flat Effort From Raptors Results In Lopsided Summer League Loss | Raptors Blog

In their second game in as many days, the Raptors came out flat to start and allowed the Nuggets to race out to a 32-15 lead after the opening quarter. With summer league coach Jesse Mermuys going deep into his bench throughout the game, Toronto couldn’t slow Denver’s Gary Harris (game-high 33 points) and Quincy Miller (23 points on 5-for-9 shooting, including 4-for-5 from beyond the arc). After a solid first-day debut, Raptors rookie Bruno Caboclo finished with 11 points, three rebounds, an assist, steal and turnover and six personal fouls. Playing a game-high 29 minutes, Caboclo shot 3-for-10 from the floor and 1-for-6 from beyond the arc. Despite the off-shooting performance, Caboclo continues to intrigue, particularly on the defensive end of the floor where his 7-foot-7 wingspan seems to allow him to cover the entire floor in the blink of an eye. Second round draft pick DeAndre Daniels finished with 12 points on 5-for-10 shooting, looking much more comfortable than the day before. Dwight Buycks also bounced back from a rough outing on Friday to lead the Raptors with 21 points.

NBA Summer League: Mavs Destroy Raptors 88-57 | The Smoking Cuban

The Mavs held the Raptors to a summer league low 57 points. While Dallas played solid defense, this was more an indictment on how terrible Toronto played offensively. Toronto shot 30 percent from the field and that’s after they heated up in the fourth quarter.

Patrick Patterson was eager to stay with Raptors | Toronto Sun

“Toronto was always one of my top choices as far as coming back,” Patterson said. “The fans and organization and the team and the friendships I have with these guys — I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to give those up, so there was no real uncertainty or doubt. It was all about coming to the right terms and getting everything situated.” Barring a trade, Patterson will be here for another three years at a total of $18 million. Like anyone with an interest in the game, Patterson has been tracking the coming and goings throughout the league in this off-season of change. But he likes the approach the Raptors are taking. Augment what you have, but, for the most part, stick with what brought you success a year ago. “I look at it like we’re building,” Patterson said. “We have something special here, something positive. We have a great coaching staff, a great organization, great leadership, and great players. We have guys who are hungry and willing to learn and get better every single day. I’m glad that we’re all staying together and with the success we had last year hopefully we can build on that and have an even better year.”

Patterson hopes Raptors can continue winning by keeping band together | The Globe and Mail

“I was happy at the end of the day we were able to come to great terms – more thrilled that everyone’s coming back from last year, pretty much,” Patterson said Monday. “[We] still have that core group of guys that we can build on and have another successful year.” The Raptors’ turnaround began in December when they acquired Patterson, Vasquez, John Salmons and Chuck Hayes from the Sacramento Kings for Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy. They went 41-22 the rest of the season, winning the Atlantic Division before losing in seven games to the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs. Along the way, Patterson averaged 9.1 points and 5.1 rebounds a game as an integral part of Toronto’s bench. In a statement announcing the deal over the weekend, general manag er Masai Ujiri said the Raptors were “very pleased with what Patrick brought to us both on the court and in the locker-room last season.”

Patrick Patterson Sees The Raptors With More Than 48 Wins | Pro Bball Report

“Hopefully winning more than 48 games, being able to build on that, (having) a different mindset knowing what we are capable of, knowing what this team can do,” Patterson said. “Our resiliency, ability to battle and never give up no matter what the deficit is, no matter what the circumstances are. Our ability to stay together as a unit, as a family, depend upon one another. Build all that together, embrace the new guys and embrace the new situation and just get off to a good start.” Toronto found team chemistry after the Rudy Gay trade in December, a fleeting mysterious ingredient that allows teams to be better than the sum of their parts and it didn’t just happen. The four players that came in from Sacramento parked their egos at the door and wanted to win at all costs and that attitude defined the Raptors for the rest of the season. “We have no egos on this team,” Patterson insisted. “Everyone buys into their role. Everyone wants to do whatever it takes to win. Whether it’s someone who hasn’t been playing and they come into the game off the bench, they provide (something), whether it’s defense, offense, scoring, rebounds. It just seems like everybody knows their role, everyone accepts their role, everybody embraces their role. There are no egos, no problems. We all know what we have to do on the court to get better. It is just a beautiful thing when everyone does that.”

Nogueira Thrilled For New NBA Opportunity With Raptors | Toronto Raptors

While Nogueira and fellow Brazilian Bruno Caboclo didn’t know each other prior to both becoming Raptors the two are now spending plenty of time together as Nogueira has worked to help Caboclo with his English. Nogueira knows what it’s like to join a team and have to deal with a language barrier. “We stay together for breakfast, lunch and dinner every time,” Nogueira said. “Sometimes I try to help him in English, where to position (himself) on the court. He is very talented, has great potential. He has one very good thing, he listens to the coaches and the staff. I think he will be a very good player in the NBA. “He has a great wingspan. It’s hard finding guys like him, same height but have big wingspan. He’s so athletic, so I like when he tries to make dunks and rebound or cut or go to the rim.” Nogueira said the bulk of his English learning came from time spent with his teammates in the locker room over his six seasons playing professionally in Spain.

Raptors: DeRozan gets some recognition for just doing his job well and quietly | Toronto Star

“He is one of the best wing players in the NBA so he belongs in that group,” was how Dwane Casey put it. “It’s a great experience for him to work against the best players in the league in a training camp setting. “Also it’s great for the Raptors organization to be represented in such a unique forum.” That it is. I think the thing that’s impressed me about DeMar since he first arrived in town as a very quiet, very shy teenager is how humble he is, how businesslike, how he doesn’t seem to want to attract too much attention. He does his job, gets better at it every year and lets the results speak for themselves. Sure, he has his moments, I remember a night in Minneapolis last year where he dropped a big Eff You on the Timberwolves bench after making a big shot and he did it once at home, too. But overall? He’s a great, humble kid who just works at his craft and it’s nice to see him recognized and the wrong done him a few months ago corrected.

The Raptors Are Taking The Leap | VICE Sports

The Raptors are without a true superstar, but they’ve accumulated enough young talent on their roster that there’s the possibility one of the core players can make that leap. Valanciunas is one possibility. In just his second season in the league, he put up 14.5 points and 11.3 rebounds per 36 minutes. His instincts on the defensive end are improving, but his offensive game is still a work in progress. Ross had a horrendous debut in the playoffs. But in the regular season, he shot 39.5 percent from three, and has flashed the potential to be an athletic two-way threat on the floor. Most likely, both Valanciunas and Ross become above average players in this league, or at the very least serviceable rotation players. But they could be more than that. There’s time, there’s a chance. Ujiri is smart enough to realize that even though his team surprised everyone last season, the league is such that to truly field a championship roster, you need a superstar. Roster building is a complicated exercise for general managers to navigate, with the salary cap and luxury tax penalties, not to mention any financial restrictions your team’s owners may place on you. You can build an adequate roster that can compete in the Eastern Conference, but if the end goal is the title, history suggests you need to find that superstar.

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Summer League: Raptors Shoot 30%, Commit 30 Turnovers, Lose by 31 to Mavericks

Raptors 57, Mavericks 88 – BoxForum Game Thread

Back in the old country I was once changing the tire on my bike, and one of loose spokes shot out, narrowly missing my eye. I considered myself a lucky man. Until I watched this game, which is what I imagine it would’ve felt like if that spoke was an inch to the left.

The Raptors summer league team has one pressing issue: it does not consist of a point guard that is willing to pass, though it’s possible there isn’t one in Vegas entirely. See, guys like Bruno Caboclo and Bebe Noguiera aren’t, yet anyway, players that can thrive in freelance and 1v1 situations, and need some help setting up. Nobody is quite willing to do that so you’ll undoubtedly come upon possessions, like it happened on Monday, where Caboclo is essentially launching pull-up threes because that’s really all he can do at this point in his young career.  Nine of his ten shots were threes and he ended up going 3-10 for 12 points including seven turnovers, which ranged from offensive fouls to dribbling off of his foot.

We saw him try to drive, in both directions surprisingly, and the results were far from impressive. He has the strides to get past his defender (which was Ivan Johnson at times) and runs into trouble quickly when he has a decision to make. He probably could’ve used his length and elevation to get a few high-percentage shots off on the drive, but whether that thought even crossed his young mind as an option is unknown. What’s undeniable is his length – he’s easily the lankiest and longest guy on the floor, sometimes comically. When he does learn to put that length to use, say playing a passing angle or two, getting in a proper defensive stance and, you know, actually defending, things will turn for him. For now, he’s getting his feet wet much like a kid entering a chilly swimming pool. Until this guy just pushed him in.

Caboclo drifted on the perimeter for most of the game and rarely cut inside, perhaps knowing that none of the point guards have the requisite skill to make a decent pass. If you happened to chance upon watching this game, all you saw on display was Caboclo three-point shooting – a relatively quick release that is unblockable on account of his height. The slashing aspect of his game was missing, and at one point I just wanted him to go one-on-one against whoever was guarding him but he’s too new/shy to do that just yet.  He’s an athlete who’s learning to play basketball.  Fact.

Poor Bebe Nogueira, ain’t nobody passing him the ball and to be fair, rightfully so. He made honest cuts to the basket, set good screens from which he slipped using good form, but never even caught a whiff of the ball despite cutting out a Marouane Fellaini-type figure on the court. He’s got the length, he’s got the size, he’s got the movement, unfortunately for him the application on offense was missing because he needs to be fed to score. Much like Caboclo, he was missing on defense and looked a little bored from the outset. The one time he got the ball in the post he tried a well-intentioned dream-shake which ended up looking like he was twerking the defender. Another time he caught the ball as part of a broken play and stared at it like it was some sort of rare metal. There was a also a third time where he hilariously threw it out.

Marouane-Fellaini-of-Ever-001

It was not the best of games from Nogueira as reflected in his barren box (1-4 FG, 2 pts, 3 reb in 21 min). He did continue to show good movement, and any observer would surmise that he’s worthy of a few minutes here and there, if for no reason other than because of his constant motion and willingness to come out and help up top.

As we trudged through this foul-ridden affair (which is the last thing you want a summer league game to be), it dawned on me that the most impressive Raptor was possibly DeAndre Daniels. He’s got a slow release from three which I doubt would come off as-is in a real game, but here he got a few shots off and nailed a couple. Defensively, he was the most active of the players you’re interested in and displayed good footwork in 1v1 situations, and was also the only Raptor who tried to play some team defense – i.e., passing lane, help, etc. The issue I see with him making the roster this year is that there’s no one skill or ability that he particularly shines at and a year or two in the D-League or Europe might develop a marketable skill or two. Certainly, sitting on the end of an NBA bench is probably the worst thing for his hopeful NBA career.

I spent a lot of time shaking my head at Canadian Myck Kabongo, who has managed to combine the erraticness of T.J Ford with the indecision of Joey Graham, whilst possessing the instincts of a bowling ball.  None of the point guards showed anything worth of a comment here, and my expectations weren’t even that high. Forget ball movement or a functional offense, I realize that’s too much to ask of a band of scallywags, all I ask for is a proper entry-pass and maybe a bounce-pass that didn’t look like a hard-hit shot to second base. Forget organizing a set, just get to the frontcourt without the whole offense looking pear-shaped. Tsk, tsk for Robson and Shurna whose first priority is to shoot on sight of rim.  Note that Dwight Buycks didn’t play, not that it would’ve mattered.

The guy that I did enjoy was Hassan Whiteside (nice play here).  I’m going to go ahead and say this guy will get an invite to training camp on account of being 7-foot tall and weighing in a legitimate 260lbs.  He played hard while playing like he’s 260lbs, ran the floor, and moved his feet well on defense for a guy his size. He was recently released from the Lebanese Basketball League  which is about as low as you could get.  I imagine he’s worth an invite just so you have a big body in practice to bang against.  If we didn’t have power forwards coming out of the wazoo, I’d also say take a chance on former-Hawk Ivan Johnson.

As for the game, the Mavericks have some vets on the roster and the Raptors are pretty green.  This was never a contest with the Mavericks’ physical presence overwhelming the Raptors inside, and their defensive pressure killing us outside.   The Raptors had 30 turnovers in this game, compared to the Mavs’ 19, making for some rather ugly basketball.  The Raptors also shot 30% which, once you apply the summer league exchange rate, is like shooting 18%.

Good riddance to the game – the guys got a good run in, no one looked particularly impressive, and the best thing to happen here is that Caboclo and Bebe got a little more exposure to North American basketball. The usual applies to both: put some weight on, gain some strength, become more coordinated and learn to use their physical advantage to gain a basketball one. Guys like Solomon Alabi never made it, guys like JaVale McGee did. Let’s see what happens.

What’s Next For The Raptors?

With all the free agents re-signed (and one added) the Raptors’ roster looks to be pretty much set. They will have fourteen of fifteen roster spots accounted for (after waiving Dwight Buycks, which they are expected to do before his contract becomes guaranteed on July 20th, and officially signing James Johnson), and are right up to the luxury tax threshold.

Ujiri has been able to re-sign Kyle Lowry, Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez to respectable deals, considering the market, but the only addition to the roster, outside of the draft, was James Johnson, who is on his second tour of duty with the Raptors.

[Also Listen: Raptors Weekly Podcast, July 14 – Stonewalling and Summer League]

While they only have a few players that are dramatically overpaid (Landry Fields, Chuck Hayes and Lou Williams, depending on how much he regains his pre-injury form), and none of them have offensively bad contracts, they are also slowly running out of low-priced assets. Only Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross are on rookie contracts1. The fewer lower priced assets, the more difficult it is to make trades to upgrade the roster.

1. At this point, neither Bruno Caboclo or Bebe Nogueira can be considered assets, since it may be a while before either are able to even contribute to the team.

Some fans were expecting (or hoping for) the Raptors to use the full MLE (approximately $5.3 million) or one of the other exceptions the team still has on an impact veteran, but that would have taken the team above the luxury tax threshold. And while fans may feel whether or not ownership is willing to pay luxury tax as an indication of just how committed ownership is to winning, the problem with going over the threshold too early in the process is that it limits the team’s ability to improve.

Brooklyn went beyond the tax threshold like they were a contender, but they weren’t, and their ability to improve the roster is now so limited that they’ll likely not be able to improve much until 2016, when Joe Johnson’s offensively large salary will come off the books.

Even Miami’s roster languished after a couple of years over the threshold until they started having to take chances on gambles like Michael Beasley and Greg Oden because they didn’t have the means to compete for impact free agents and were restricted in trades possibilities.

Right now, the Raptors are a good team. They have talent and depth. And with the East as weak as it is, there are many who feel that now is the time for the Raptors to try and take advantage and make a run.

While the Raptors are a good team, in the East they are still behind Cleveland, Chicago (with a healthy Rose) and Indiana (it’s far too early to pronounce them dead). Washington could leapfrog the Raptors with the signing of Paul Pierce and Charlotte should also take another step forward. Brooklyn2 and Miami3 also might not be quite done yet, although the buzzards are circling. Ujiri doesn’t have a good enough roster to rest on his laurels and expect this roster to grow into an elite team. There simply isn’t enough high-level talent there.

2. If Billy King is still GM of the Nets by this time next year, then it’s proof he’s some sort of wizard. The thought of King having incriminating evidence only works until you realize that Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov would simply have King “disappear” rather than keep him on. The Nets are in real danger of not making the playoffs next year and Atlanta has the right to swap picks in next year’s draft. They’ve got few tradable assets with any real value and won’t be under the cap again until 2016. The two teams that might be in the absolute worst position right now both reside in New York.

3. Pat Riley may have been able to keep Miami a playoff team (maybe) by all the new signings and bringing back Chris Bosh and, possibly, Dwyane Wade, but does anyone see a long term plan here? Is the idea to wait two more years and then try and sign Kevin Durant? And how long before Chris Bosh’s new contract becomes and albatross around the neck of the franchise? Two years? A month? I understand wanting to show him loyalty, but at what cost? Literally?

And the NBA isn’t a fifteen team league residing east of the Mississippi. It’s made up of thirty teams, and any team that hopes to contend needs to be measuring itself against the better teams in the West.

GOOD IS THE ENEMY OF GREAT

While the Spurs showed the advantages of roster stability, it’s much easier to keep a roster stable when you’ve got three Hall of Fame players on the roster and are title contenders every year. No one should want to go back to Bryan Colangelo’s free-wheeling days with the Raptors, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick with a roster that simply isn’t at an elite level.

When you’re playing poker, you don’t stick with a pair of sixes when you know that other players have better hands.

Ujiri will have to upgrade the roster at some point if he truly wants the team to compete for a title and not just be competitive.

There are various ways for him to do it:

THE DRAFT

Obviously the team can improve through the draft, but this year’s has passed and it’s unlikely the Raptors will be drafting in the lottery for a while, unless Ujiri decides to blow things up, which is doubtful. Caboclo has some potential, and the more I see him the more I like the pick, but you’re far, far more likely to find a role player in the latter half of the draft than a star.

INTERNAL DEVELOPMENT

The Raptors have one of the youngest rosters in the league, with Lowry being the oldest starter and he just turned 28 in March. Valanciunas is barely 22 years old with Ross not being much older, and DeRozan is a year older than him. And that doesn’t even include Bruno Caboclo, who won’t even turn 19 until September.

DeRozan is just 24, but he’s been in the league five years already, and while he’ll likely improve due to his work ethic, most guards tend to start peaking after their fifth year.

Ross may have announced himself to the league when he went for 51 points, but he simply doesn’t have the tools to be much more than a very good role player. And while Ross could end up being an excellent “three-and-D” wing player and a valuable contributor, it’s difficult to see him being anything more than that.

Valanciunas is the player with the highest ceiling, but after two seasons expectations for him have started to become a little clearer. He’s got the potential to be a good offensive and defensive player, but he simply hasn’t exhibited a feel for the game, on either end, to expect him becoming an elite scorer or defensive player.

Of course, this is why Ujiri took a flier on Caboclo in the draft. A team in need of internal development needs to raise the ceiling as much as possible, but he’s way too young and raw to even start thinking about what his future might be like.

The rest of the team, while young, is pretty much what they are. Lowry had a career year, but is 28 and is in his prime right now. Amir may be extending his range on his jumpshot, but he’s pretty much the same player he was when he first became a Raptors, except he’s fouling less.

The Raptors can become a better team without adding outside talent, but they’ll need more than internal development before they can think of becoming one of the elite teams.

FREE AGENCY

Bryan Colangelo may have been the master of the trade (or at least that was his reputation), but it was free agency that he always seemed to think would be what would turn the Raptors into contenders. When he first took over the team, he added Anthony Parker and Jorge Garbajosa as lynchpins for the team’s return to the playoffs.

And when they needed another infusion of talent, Colangelo did everything he could in order to have the cap space to sign Hedo Turkoglu.

Needless to say, free agency has been a mixed bag for the Raptors during their NBA tenure. When Turkoglu remains the team’s biggest free agent acquisition, that says a lot about the team’s ability to sign free agents. This isn’t a Toronto problem, though. One just has to look around the league today to see the danger of trying to build through free agency.

Houston struck out with just about everyone, from Carmelo to Bosh and now have settled on bringing Trevor Ariza back for another go around, which is only slightly better than the Nets, when they were still in New Jersey, striking out on LeBron, Bosh, Amare and Boozer and overpaying Travis Outlaw, only to amnesty him a couple of years later. It’s arguable whether or not they have even improved their roster after letting Jeremy Lin go to clear cap room and then deciding not to match Chandler Parsons offer sheet by Dallas.

Charlotte went all in on Gordon Hayward, giving him a max offer-sheet only to see Utah re-sign him, and I’m not sure which team is better off because of it. The Hornets then turned to Marvin Williams, paying him the same as Amir Johnson will be making this season which is probably not the best use of cap space.

Chicago looked like the favourite for Carmelo, and then had thoughts about going after Wade and ended up settling on an aging Pau Gasol and hope his recent decline will be halted (or at least slowed) by playing on a winning team again.

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I know a lot of Raptor fans have high hopes for signing Kevin Durant when he will becomes a free agent in 2016, but they’ll be bidding against half the league (at least) including his current team, the Thunder, and his hometown team, the Wizards (who will have plenty of cap room then), as well as, most likely, Miami, New York, the Lakers, Dallas and San Antonio. And that’s only counting the heavy hitters.

One big problem that is rarely discussed with having a free agent as the cornerstone of the franchise is you’re relying on a player who has already shown a willingness to leave a team if the situation is not optimal. Miami rented LeBron James for four years, but when he saw himself surrounded by a roster that he didn’t was feel good enough to continue to compete for a title, he felt no loyalty towards the organization that signed him away from another team.

While Bosh re-signed with the Heat, they had to pay him the max to do it after he had all but decided to sign with Houston if James left.  Expecting to wait on Wiggins is an exercise in extreme patience, considering there’s little reason to believe he will even be a free agent until 2021. That’s simply too far in advance to even contemplate planning for.

What free agency is good for is to fill holes in a roster that already has most of the pieces in place. That’s how San Antonio became the deepest team in the league and how teams like the Clippers and Portland are attempting to get to the next level. Free agency is a good place to find role players, but beware of trying to find stars there.

TRADES

The final way to improve a roster is through trades.

There’s a reason players, especially on non-contenders, are commonly referred to as assets. As I said earlier, the Raptors are a good team but in order to improve the roster and try and build a legitimate contender, Ujiri (or the fans) can’t get too emotionally attached to any player on the roster.

Because the team lacks an elite player, there isn’t a player on the team that should be off limits in a trade. Not DeRozan, Lowry, Ross, Amir or even Valanciunas4.

4. While I don’t think Valanciunas is untouchable, due to his age, potential and the fact he plays such a difficult position to fill with a quality player, he’s the last player on the team I would consider trading and it would have to be for a guaranteed great player.

The way to build through trades is to buy low and sell high. Find undervalued players and trade away players whose value is at it’s highest. Unfortunately, Raptors history is full of doing the complete opposite.

Andrea Bargnani was kept far, far too long until an overpaid three point shooter and a couple of conditional second round picks seemed like a steal for him. Vince Carter was traded a year too late. And the Raptors gave up a second pick in the draft, who went on to win Defensive Player of the Year and is still playing in the league today, for a 36 year old whose best days were behind him, only to trade him away for basically nothing three years later5.

5. You won’t find many Raptor fans who didn’t love the trade for Charles Oakley (as well as a similar one for Antonio Davis), and it did certainly help them in the short term, but Glen Grunwald mortgaged the team’s future and it eventually came back to bite him in the ass. And he tried the same thing in New York only to see it also eventually fail.

While Raptor fans would obviously like to see trades like the Clippers did for Chris Paul, or what Houston did for James Harden, it’s uncommon that elite players come on the market, and it’s even rarer that those players don’t end up choosing their destination.

No one is going to trade for Kevin Love if he doesn’t express and interest in re-signing with them. Before LeBron James went back to Cleveland they weren’t in the running for Love, yet now they’re a favourite.  But that’s not to say trades aren’t a viable option to improve a roster. One just has to look at the Rudy Gay trade to see that.

The goal should be to find players who are undervalued for some reason. Indiana traded away a 31-year old Dale Davis for a 21-year old Jermaine O’Neal who couldn’t get off the bench in Portland. Even Toronto got Kyle Lowry at a discount. It’s always a gamble, and sometimes it doesn’t pay off, but it can pay off huge at times. O’Neal went on to play in six All Star games and appear on three All NBA teams. Davis was a decent veteran presence in Portland, but was nowhere near the player O’Neal became.

Anthony Bennett had one of the worst rookie seasons for a number one pick in NBA history, but surgery and other medical problems caused him to come into training camp overweight and Cleveland handled him extremely poorly, basically destroying any confidence he might have had. We’ve seen in the summer league how an in-shape Bennett could play, and he might be someone that could be had in a trade.

Of course there are other undervalued players out there that the Raptors should be looking at, like Terrence Jones or Perry Jones.

ARMCHAIR GM TIME

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If there was a time for the Raptors to try and trade for Andrew Wiggins it would be right now. Draft picks like Wiggins are available so rarely it would be a crime for them not to go for it.

LeBron James choosing to go back to Cleveland might end up being the most fortunate thing to happen to Toronto. I realize that Cleveland’s new coach, David Blatt, recently stated that Wiggins won’t be traded, but that should be taken with a grain of salt. A trio of James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving would give any team a run for their money. Wiggins looks like he could be a special player, but Love IS a special player right now, and the Cavaliers won’t have to wait a few years for him to develop. James will turn 30 next season and I’m not sure Dan Gilbert would be comfortable waiting for Wiggins to turn into the player many assume he will.

As for Minnesota, they would definitely take Wiggins back if offered, but from what I gather Flip Saunders isn’t thrilled with the prospect of a) losing more games and waiting two or three more years to make the playoffs and b) gambling that Wiggins will turn into an elite player. While Cleveland doesn’t have an All Star that they would be willing to part with (Irving obviously isn’t going anywhere), Toronto does.

If the Raptors can facilitate a trade, giving up DeRozan, Amir (to Minnesota) and possibly Terrence Ross (and his rookie contract going to Cleveland) and get back Wiggins and either Bennett or Tristan Thompson (with the other going to Minnesota), as well as agree to take back Kevin Martin and possibly another oversized contract from Minnesota to sweeten the deal, the Raptors become a younger team with a higher ceiling. And they are still able to compete for a playoff spot6.

6. And this trade also doesn’t prevent the Raptors from trying to sign Durant in 2016. In fact, Wiggins would be a better fit beside Durant than DeRozan would be, as Wiggins can handle the tough defensive wing assignments, something DeRozan wouldn’t be able to do.

Minnesota can continue to compete for a playoff spot and get back a legitimate All Star in return for Love, and are able to hit the ground running next season with a deeper team.

Cleveland gets Love and a new superstar team, but also Terrence Ross, a young shooter who can play defense on an affordable contract and someone who would compliment James and Irving.

Would trading three-fifths of the starting lineup of a 48 win team for a rookie who hasn’t played a minute in the NBA and a few role players be a major gamble? Sure. But great teams become great through either incredible luck (like San Antonio missing the playoffs three times in 30 years and happen to win the lottery two of those times when David Robinson and Tim Duncan were available) or by taking huge risks (like Jerry West trading a top ten center in his prime for a rookie selected 13th in the draft AND trading away decent players for nothing on the off chance Shaquille ONeal would leave a contender in order to sign with his team), or a combination of both.

Trading away a well-liked and respected All Star in DeRozan, an efficient, athletic big man who loves the city in Amir, and a nice young prospect in Ross, for Wiggins and whoever else they would get would definitely be a risk. But it’s a risk I think the Raptors need to try and take.

Raptors Weekly Podcast, July 14 – Stonewalling and Summer League

Free agency discussion aplenty with summer league fighting it for air time – just prevails in the form of Bruno Caboclo and Bebe Nogueira talk, and we’ll let you figure out who the Keon Clark reference was applied to.  There’s James Johnson’s return, Greivis Vasquez getting paid, Julyan Stonem, Dwight Buycks, and, oh yeah, LeBron talk.  The bullet point summary is below, the glorious audio right underneath it.

Part 1:

  • Greivis Vasquez contract reaction – good deal or overpayment?
  • Kyle Lowry press conference reaction – I proved Toronto can re-sign their free-agents
  • James Johnson signing reaction and affects on chemistry
  • Johnson’s shooting – hot areas on the court
  • Carlos Boozer GIFs
  • Summer League – Bruno Caboclo assessment
  • Can Caboclo realistically contribute next season?

Part 2:

  • Summer League – Bebe Noguiera assessment
  • Bebe Noguiera NBA comparisons
  • Can Noguiera contribute next season?
  • Is Dwight Buycks trying to get fired?
  • Can anyone other than Bebe or Caboclo make it to training camp?
  • Ode to Julyan Stone

Part 3:

  • P.J Tucker and Patrick Patterson
  • Chris Broussard’s confirmation
  • Twitter and the infatuation with spreading misinformation
  • LeBron James re-signs
  • Houston hilarity
  • Paul Pierce to Wizards

Grab the iTunes feed or check us out on Stitcher on Android. There is also the plain old feed. You can also download the file (48:38, 47 MB). Or just listen below:

Morning Coffee – Mon, Jul 14

Toronto Raptors rookie Bruno Caboclo still has much to learn despite showing signs of promise | National Post

“I love that people said he’s two years away from being two years away,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said after the team’s second game, on Saturday. “Those people don’t know anything about basketball if that’s what they think.” In the two games, Caboclo averaged 11.5 points on 8-for-17 shooting, averaging a team-high 28 minutes per game. At summer league, however, the numbers are kind of meaningless; the overall feeling, particularly with a kid who has not sniffed this level of competition at this workload, is more important.

Raptors’ Bruno Caboclo doesn’t lack confidence | Toronto Sun

“He’s not a soft kid. He’s a tough kid,” said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey. “He’s a young man that’s hungry … He’s not going to step in next year and be in the rotation — I hope he is, but I don’t think so. His growth pattern is going to require patience. (But), he has so much to work with from the offensive side and defensive side.” But against fellow rookies — even older ones — Caboclo is already showing he belongs. “This is no surprise for me. We were confident that he could play at this level,” said Resende, who found Caboclo a little over two years ago while representing another player in the same area. “He had a talent. All we had to do was guide him in the right direction to be here. He followed every step of the (two-year) plan.”

Greivis Vasquez excited to make his mark in Toronto | Eh Game – Yahoo Sports Canada

Vasquez, makes no bones about his competency as a go-to guy and while it seems he will continue in the same role as a backup, he looks forward to playing on the first unit alongside Lowry as he did at times last season. “Me and coach Casey got a good relationship, open communication,” Vasquez said. “He can talk to me, he knows what I can do. I am not afraid of minutes. I am a starting point guard. I know at times I am going to play with Kyle. You have to be ready when your name is called.” As for any potential issues regarding an ankle injury that he played through last season, Vasquez is hoping his off-season conditioning will prevent any further problems. “I hired my own trainer, (he is available) to work with me 24/7, our team has probably has the best training staff in the NBA so I am not really afraid of my ankle,” he said. “Even if my ankle has hurt (in the past), I never missed games. I have two years to prove to anyone that I have no health problems.”

Send me any Raptors-related links: [email protected]

Summer League: Raptors 79 Nuggets 110

If you didn’t catch the game, consider yourself lucky. Not only was this a summer league game, the Raptors were outclassed from the tip-off. The commentators talked about everything other than the Raptors, and when they did, they concentrated on Caboclo being taken out of nowhere and how they call him the Brazilian Durant. Overall, I liked what I saw from Caboclo and Daniels, and think that Buycks looks less impressive than he did last summer; he can’t be getting lazy after a year on the Raptors.

 

 

Game Notes

Overall

  • Nogueira doesn’t seem to have the right instincts to be a center in the NBA; he looks like he’s just happy to be here and that things will work out (they might, cause he’s a seven footer, but he needs to give more effort). He’s going to need to at least to appear to work harder while on the floor. I was super disappointed.
  • Buycks needs to do better; yes he’s getting his, and his box looks full, but the guy didn’t distinguish himself against guys trying to make the league, and was badly outplayed (though they weren’t on each other for most of the game) by rookie Gary Harris, who might just be my favourite player in the draft.
  • Speaking of Harris, the guy was making big boy moves, taking good shots, and hitting them. I realize he’s playing against boys, but you want your guys running the floor with the others at summer league which is why I’m disappointed with Buycks.
  • Caboclo looks closer to contributing at a high level in the league than Buycks does; in fact, he didn’t look like he was four years away from anything and will be nice in limited minutes this year. He moves well, is athletic, his length can disrupt passing lanes, his shot isn’t terrible; we’ve seen much worse players in the league who people thought would have staying power (Joey Graham). In the short term, he just needs to put on some weight. In fact, his biggest barrier to success is being labelled the Brazilian Durant…how the hell do you shake that????
  • Daniels was intense, and worked hard the entire game. He looked like he was there to learn, improve, and make the Raptors as soon as possible. Exactly what summer league is about.
  • Reggie Miller is the worst thing that’s happened to broadcasting. Dude is so boring I watched the game on mute.

1st Quarter

  • Bruno late to contest a layup at the rim
  • Buycks with a lazy penetration and kick; turnover…didn’t run back the other way
  • Caboclo hits the corner three
  • Caboclo with a steal, then draws foul on the other end on the break
  • Zero pressure on the perimeter; Denver is popping threes and sticking them at will
  • Bebe does not have a nose for rebounding; that afro is distracting all of us
  • Buycks out of the timeout with a pull up three in motion; looked legit…hopefully not an anomaly
  • Buycks with another lazy layup; gets swatted at the rim after a wide open lane
  • Gary Harris looks nice; playing within himself, owning Buycks, making smart plays #jealous
  • Raptors perimeter defense is ridiculous; at least 6 threes have been put up without much of anything trying to affect them
  • Schurna shoes shoots like my sister; not as accurate
  • Denver finishes the quarter with a three at the buzzer; Caboclo rotated to contest, but was late

2nd Quarter

  • Kabongo already looking better than Buycks and he’s only dribbled the ball three times
  • I change my mind, he’s pretty bad, but doesn’t have the excuse Buycks does
  • #4 on the raptors got man handled off the rebound from the foul shot (he had position) #sigh
  • Bruno had an hour to get position on #15, but failed, and got dinged with the block
  • Raptors give up the rebound on the missed free throw again
  • Caboclo needs to gain 30lbs of muscle to be something in the league
  • Buycks with the open trey in the corner
  • Bruno needs to work on setting pics
  • Another three from Denver
  • Ujiri looks really bored; picking at his fingers (not even tapping away on his phone)
  • Will be surprised if Buycks gets signed this season by someone
  • Plain white t-shirts seem to be the gear of choice of NBA players sitting on the sidelines
  • Gin and tonic time; this game isn’t watchable sober 55-27 Denver
  • My cold, gluten free pizza is much more interesting than this game; I have no idea what is going
  • Thankfully this game is half-done

3rd Quarter

  • Caboclo making his early in the quarter offensive push
  • Buycks doesn’t box out his check (who shot a three), let him grab his own rebound inside the three point line
  • Raptors marking the Nuggets to put the ball on the ground and forcing bad shots
  • 8-2 Raptors run to start the quarter
  • Raptors making a bigger effort on the defensive boards; at least 3 guys collapse and go for the ball while Buycks flashes down the court
  • Caboclo making himself available and getting the ball in nice spots around the rim to make things happen (ally-oop layup on the semi-break)
  • Caboclo gets the ball in the corner, hesitates, puts the ball on the baseline and gets to the rack for the layup +1
  • Caboclo on display this quarter; handles are better than his jumper
  • Nogueira with a one-handed ally-oop layup as the quarter came to a close; that was bloody pretty

 4th Quarter

  • Nuggets open up the game after a couple back-to-back threes on weak Raptors possessions
  • This game has been over for most of the quarter; no one really doing anything of note on the Raptors side

Welcome Back, LeBron James

LeBron James comes back to Cleveland. What does it mean for the Raptors? The same as what it means for any other pseudo-contender in the East such as Washington, Atlanta, Chicago, essentially any team with two half-decent players peppered with above-average role players. In simple terms, the Heat got weaker and the Cavs stronger. The Raptors, along with most other Eastern Conference sides, were somewhere between the two and after yesterday’s transactions (assuming Bosh and Wade re-sign), could either remain where they are, surpass both, or fall below both.

Anyone seeing an advantage here would be thinking that the Raptors surpassed Miami, and that the road to the Eastern Conference title got easier now that there’s one less team above them. That’s naive thinking since Miami will remain a threat which will have more playoff and championship experience than the Raptors, and #WeTheNorth should remember the value of that. Cleveland will take it’s time to gel, as admitted by James himself, so you might bet on the Raptors having an advantage against a Cavalier team that’s still finding itself. However, the Raptors against the James-led Cavaliers, previous to his move to Miami, were a shocking 3-19. My bet is that the Raptors and Cavaliers will remain within three games of each other in an East that will be more bunched up than ever before, except that the bunching will now happen between the 1-5 seeds, rather than the 3-7. With no clear-cut contender in the conference, up-and-coming teams newly blooded by their playoff experiences of last year have to view the Eastern summit more attainable than ever.

Last year the Raptors were 2-1 against the Cavs and 0-4 against the Heat. Assuming we hold our own against the Cavs, we could repeat the 2-1 series win, and you’d think that the Heat will be weakened enough that the Raptors could steal a couple games, so let’s say 2-2. That’s two more wins then last year, taking us to 50! It’s all great news until you realize that most teams will be viewing the situation similarly. The Raptors closing the margin on Miami and having the margins closed by Cleveland indicates a tighter conference race, not the Raptors surging ahead of either by a neck.

Over the long-term, depending on how the Carmelo Anthony situation plays out, it brings even greater parity to the East, a conference where five games separated the 3rd to 7th seeds. Last year an Indiana-Miami Conference Final was a foregone conclusion, whereas currently, the top two seeds are pick ‘em at best. A lot can change between now and the start of the season, but the early returns suggest a higher number of tight games, not just due to Cleveland improving but the likes of Washington, Charlotte, Atlanta rejuvenating themselves. A lack of a dominant team will mean that all three division races will be up for grabs along with the conference title.

The Raptors after having chosen not to tank and having re-loaded this off-season find themselves in a position where they’re primed to poise a threat in an Eastern conference that’s no longer top heavy. This becomes a horse race more than ever: pace yourself and stay with the pack for the bulk of the season, and surge ahead when it counts.

Some thoughts on LeBron James returning. It’s obviously great for Cleveland because you want to see “small market” teams thrive, and this certainly punctuates the point made by a season where three of the final four teams came from smaller cities. Not enough credit is being given to the CBA that the lockout has yielded, with people tending to focus on the rather dubious collusion talk instead of paying testament to the healthy but restrictive rules that are forcing teams and players to make tough decisions.

There’s a sense of justice in the whole affair with a wrong being righted, albeit four years later. James’ decision is very well explained in his open later, and marks a rare occasion where an athletes sense of responsibility to his community has manifested on such a bright stage. Usually, such homesickness is dealt with by hosting a basketball camp, a charity golf tournament, or a countless measure of good-hearted initiatives that keep the player grounded to his roots. James has taken that to a whole new level.  The intense hate he garnered four years ago seems to have dissipated into mild annoyance, primarily due to him being so good that no levels of hate can penetrate or affect him, so why waste the energy? It also helps that far more unpleasant characters such as Dwight Howard have emerged to put ‘The Decision’ into greater context.

From a basketball point of view, his decision carries less pressure. The move to Miami was to avoid leaving a legacy akin to great players who never won a title, players like Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Bernard King, Reggie Miller and so many more. Players who were, by all accounts, great yet failed to get over the hump and win what really matters. Now that that has been sorted out, he can return to Cleveland to his “dream job”. If he fails to win there, he’ll be credited for doing the right thing when he could’ve had more of the same in Miami. If he wins it, he’ll be hailed a rightful hero.

When he was in Cleveland he was pure talent that didn’t know what it took to win, often imploding when resolve was required. In Miami he’s learned those nuances thanks to a big assist from Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, and most of all the tutelage of Pat Riley. He returns now as a winner who knows what the right pass is, what the body language should be when adversity hits, how to react to teammates when they’re falling short, how to support and be supported, how to approach the 48-minute game as a marathon and not a sprint, when to exert and when to step back. He was the tutor in Miami and now becomes the teacher in Cleveland.

The beauty of this story also revealed some of the ugliness of sports journalism. Fuelled by Twitter, fans’ impatience, and an intense desire to appear as someone in the know, so-called journalists release ambiguous information in the hopes of appearing half-right, and then later revise their stance once more information is known. Click-bait and ads fuel the internet economy and a story like this preys on the eager and bored, enticing them to consume misinformation, conjecture, and speculation. The reveal of the story came via Lee Jenkins (complete back story of how he landed it) of Sports Illustrated, not ESPN, Yahoo, or any of the outlets that fans are glued to, hitting F5 or scrolling down to refresh. The look of shock on Chris Broussard and Brian Windhorst’s face as they spoke on ESPN after priceless. James has chosen a relative unknown to break his story in essay format so that he’d have an “opportunity to explain myself uninterrupted”. It was flawless execution.  You could make a good argument that the only thing better might have been if he had announced, you know, a set time where he would reveal where he’d be going, thus putting the massive speculation and shooting in the dark to relative rest.

The backdrop of next season is being set and the story lines are more intriguing than ever. Other than Philadelphia and Brooklyn, the competition is likely to improve, making this a season where nothing is given. Everything is earned.

Raptors win LVSL opener, Bruno looks much closer than “2 years from 2 years away”

Let’s start here: This was a Summer League game. They matter little, and the Toronto Raptors played against a Los Angeles Lakers team that did not start top pick Julius Randle, instead boasting only Kendall Marshall, Jordan Clarkson (a pre-draft favorite of mine who looked terrific Friday), Rodrigue Beaubois, Kyle Murphy and DeAndre Kane as conceivable NBA players. This was not a strong opponent, and the situation has been systematically designed for young players to work on their games in a risk-free environment.

All of those are reasons to love LVSL from a development perspective, and while it’s necessary to take any performances with cubic meters of salt, it’s also the perfect place for a player like Bruno Caboclo to start his NBA journey.

Caboclo, as you surely know, was the Raptors’ No. 20 selection in this year’s draft, a pick that shocked many considering his limited professional and international experience. “He’s two years away from being two years away,” ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla famously said on draft night, as the panel labeled O Escolhido as “the Brazilian Kevin Durant.” (A quick aside: some have reached out on Twitter suggesting we try to kill the BKD name. That’s not happening, but it’s part of why I’m pushing O Escolhido so hard. It’s Portugese for The Chosen One and sounds cool as hell.)

The book on Caboclo was that he was all length and athleticism, and that his development into a useful NBA player would take some time. Instead, it took about four minutes.

Okay, so that was just one move, but it’s an impressive one and serves as a nice jumping-off point for Caboclo’s debut evaluation. We’ll get to others shortly, but I think I’m safe in assuming most want to hear about Caboclo first.

He was…impressive. Again, Summer League, and all necessary caveats, but this was decidedly not a player who looked “two years away from being two years away.” Was he the best player on the floor? Of course not. Was he one of the five or six best? Probably, and considering he doesn’t turn 19 for another two months, that’s something to be excited about. Optimism should always be kept in check, and I’m sure we’ll be accused of fuelling the hype train, but I’m being honest when I say this: I walked away from Caboclo’s debut far more intrigued and excited than I entered it.

His clearest path to making an impact is on the defensive end, where his near 7-foot-7 wingspan can be an appreciable tool. That kind of a wing span on a player under 6-foot-10 playing the three or the four jumps out at you as you watch, and it clearly confounded Lakers players on several occasions. His length allows him to make gambles on the defensive end that other players aren’t afforded, specifically when it comes to reaching in as a player drives by – that’s something Caboclo flashed good timing with, and something he can do safely since he can reach in more aggressively than most without leaving his man. It also allowed him to look like a wacky inflatable arm-flailing tube man when guarding someone in a face-up situation, something that maybe won’t be effective against savvier players but can at least disrupt proceedings.

Perhaps most impressively, Caboclo showed solid instincts as a help defender. His length and reach are such that he has major potential as a shot-blocker on the wing, and if he can capably help on drives (and again, his length will let him close back out to his man in the corner with a hand up more effectively than most), those should come. He altered several shots and forced a couple of passes at the rim in a help role. It wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops, however, as Caboclo learned right away that being a good help defender will occasionally mean getting put on a poster.

On the offensive end, the team didn’t ask Caboclo to do a whole lot. The first play of the game saw Caboclo lose his man on a cut, corral a pass and score a layup, a nice icrebreaker for him to be sure. He also hit the above step-back three early on and nailed another late in the game, right after getting crammed on, finishing the game 2-for-2 on triples and 5-of-7 overall for 12 points.

The team didn’t task him with dribbling much – his touches came primarily as a cutter or spotting up – but he did drive once for a layup off-glass. It wasn’t pretty, and Caboclo’s handle is understandably raw, with a high, looping dribble. He also tallied three turnovers, though one was probably the passer’s (I believe Dwight Buycks, but don’t quote me) fault, dishing to Caboclo on a bounce as he cut into traffic. He racked up five fouls in his 24 minutes, too, which is to be expected as he gets a feel for the speed and angles of the NBA game.

Overall, it’s really tough to be anything but excited from this outing. The turnovers, fouls and handle are concerns, but they’re concerns you’d have with most rookies, anyway, and ones that are more than understandable given his experience level. The bigger takeaway here is that Cabcolo can already do some things well – frustrate passing lanes, provide help defense, and shoot the ball. It’s unclear how much he’ll be relied on when the season gets under way and whether more experienced offensive players could take advantage of his inexperience, but we’re so early in the development path here that it’s okay to look mostly at the positives.

This was a really, really good first step.

Think it’s a one-game blip? You can see more video on Caboclo here.

The 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player was not content with his debut, mean-mugging like the boss he has following the game.

Think it’s just Raptor bias? Here’s an encouraging take from outside our echo chamber:



Since we’re already 1,000 words deep just from O Escolhido and nobody actually cares about the flow of the game, we’ll go through the notables, player by player.

Bebe Nogueira
While it wasn’t quite on Caboclo levels, I also walked away impressed with parts of Nogueira’s game. Let’s start with what he has shown he can do already: hit the 18-footer, pass in the pick-and-roll, dive hard enough to draw a defender. He can be an asset in the pick-and-roll already, and as he learns post moves and more intricacies beyond “pass, shoot or dive,” he could be a solid piece on that end. He shot 4-of-4 for 10 points in 20 minutes.

Here’s what he couldn’t do: read the floor very well on offense. He had four turnovers quickly, and I counted at least two that were just poor passing decisions, once trying to thread a needle that wasn’t there and once trying to pass cross-court, LeBron James style, from the block. He’ll (hopefully) learn what he can and can’t do in that regard, but a young big man is almost always going to come with turnover issues.

Now, the enticing part, what he could eventually do: Nogeuira has strong defensive instincts, and at a long 7-feet, there’s obvious potential here on the defensive end. He showed an ability to trap ball-handlers above the 3-point line in the pick-and-roll, and his recoveries into the lane were about as crisp and timely as you’d hope. He was also in the right position to block shots as a help-defender on multiple occasions. The issue, then, is that Nogueira doesn’t seem nearly as confident defensively as he does offensively, which is backwards. Several times he was in the right spot at the right time to make a play, but either kept his arms down or didn’t make a play on the ball, limiting himself to being just a body in the way.

Again, it’s one game, and all caveats apply, but it was evident why Nogueira was the No. 16 pick as a long-term project just one year ago.

DeAndre Daniels
Well, you don’t have to ask Daniels to shoot. That seems to be the only thought crossing his mind at all times on offence. While it didn’t fall much on Friday – he shot 2-of-8, though he hit 2-of-5 threes – and his release is very deliberate, he’s got some stones, at the very least. The odd time he put the ball on the floor, his handle looked better than I remember from U-Conn, and he hit the boards really hard on the defensive end.

I’m still on board with the Euro-stash plan for Daniels for a year to help him refine his game and continue his growth on defense (which is tough to evaluate in this one given the competition).

Dwight Buycks
If he wasn’t already a lock to be waived by July 22 when his contract becomes guaranteed, he tried his darndest on Friday. Buycks does some things well – he’s aggressive, he has a quick first step and a tight handle, and he likes getting to the rim. Unfortunately, he’s already 25 and still has no semblance of what he should and should not do as the initiator of a team’s offense. I don’t think it’s a case of him trying too hard to keep his job, either, because he played like that whenever he got run this past season, too. Overall he shot 4-of-12 in 28 minutes, scoring 14 points and dishing five assists with just two turnovers, but his 12 attempts mostly came at the expense of the team’s offense, and he played matador on defense too often (he was bullied in the post by Marshall and lost his man in transition at least two times).

Scott Machado
Sigh. This is my dude, and he disappointed. 12 minutes with LVSL reserves is a tough evaluation window, but Machado dishes two dimes, missed two shots and somehow managed five turnovers. It wasn’t what I had hoped to see from a guy I’ve liked a lot as a potential PG3 since college.

Myck Kabongo
Kabongo was a DNP-CD, with nothing apparently wrong keeping him out of the lineup. It’s possible the Raptors want to get long looks at Buycks, Kabongo and Machado separately rather than splitting minutes each game. I know some fans want Kabongo, but it’s worth keeping in mind he averaged less than 10 points a game in the D-League last season and didn’t stand out in last year’s Summer League, either.

The Others
Hassan Whiteside – He is enormous, he flashed a bit of range and he’s active, if a bit out of control, on defense. 11 rebounds and a pair of blocks in 17 minutes could get him a longer look later in the tourney.

Marcus Lee – UCLA what’s good! Lee didn’t fill the stat sheet in his 18 minutes but worked hard on defense and looked a better passer than I expected. Still, three points isn’t going to get you a job.

John Shurna – If this dude was Canadian, every reader would be clamoring for him on the team now. He shot 6-of-9 and hit a ridiculous 5-of-8 on threes, good for a team-high 21 points in 24 minutes. Dude can shoot, that’s for sure.

T.J. Bray – 12 points with three triples in 22 minutes. Poor man’s Shurna, move on. (Seriously, these two combined for 33 points with 8-of-11 long-range shooting in 46 minutes!)

Darington Hobson – Like Lee, he didn’t stand out as a positive or a negative.

The Raptors play again tomorrow night at 6 p.m. We’ll have coverage, but it won’t be me. Hopefully it’s someone more efficient with their words.

Summer League Game Thread: Bruno debuts

It’s time. 6 p.m., Raptors and Lakers, LVSL, the Bruno debut. Discuss.

Summer Tweetbag Volume 1: KD in TO, Making the pieces fit, and more

Aside from the usual scuttlebutt and the handful of transactions that dot the landscape every so often (and I hope we’ve got that covered to everyone’s satisfaction here at RR), the dog days of summer can be a difficult time for an NBA writer to find something to, well, write about. Scheduled for a column this morning, I found myself lacking in inspiration for something novel.

So, in the interests of saving you another thousand words of me gushing about the team’s culture change and why Toronto is, in fact, the greatest basketball city on god’s green earth, I did what any self-respecting scribe would do: I passed the buck to the readership, putting out a call on Twitter for what you’d like to see me write about.

Luckily (and to your own credit – you guys are awesome), Twitter came through in spades. There were so many responses, in fact, that I figured it’d be better to simply answer them all, rather than pick one or two. Borne out of that: the first Raptors Republic Tweetbag.

It’s a practice I’ll likely continue through the summer months, so if you have any other burning questions you’d like me to address, hit me up @garretthinchey, ignore that ugly mug of mine on the profile pic (bonus: Blake still hasn’t given up on the Aaron Gray thing. He sent me a Gchat last week congratulating me on signing with the Pistons) and let me know.

Let’s get to the Tweets!

On paper, I’d certainly say it’s a step in the right direction. By all accounts, Johnson is a more than capable defender, and certainly a large enough body to give players like Johnson trouble (he’s listed at 6 foot 9 and just a shade under 250). Johnson isn’t the answer – nobody you’re going to be able to sign for $2.5 million per is – but he’s certainly capable of providing Landry Fields-esque D on bigger wings. The upshot to Fields, obviously, is that Johnson is a semblance of an offensive threat, which means that he’ll actually be able to stay on the court for long stretches of time. If Masai wasn’t going to get a “perfect” veteran option – someone of the Luol Deng/Trevor Ariza variety – then the next best thing is to get a cheap option with upside. Johnson is certainly that. Plus, he’ll team with Tyler Hansbrough to scare the sh*t out of opposing teams if things get nasty.

I think Ujiri is still holding out hope that Terrence Ross will eventually evolve into the wing stopper this team desperately needs, and with the team almost capped-out, it didn’t make sense to break the bank on a major replacement. Short-term, Johnson will certainly improve the team’s defensive capabilities in that area. Their outlook long-term, though, largely depends on Ross’ development (or whatever we can get for him, should he end up not being a part of the team’s plans in the end).

Per NBA.com/stats, In terms of net rating per 100 possessions, the top three five man units for the Raptors last year were:

Vasquez/DeRozan/Ross/Patterson/Valanciunas (13.9)

Lowry/DeRozan/Ross/Patterson/Valanciunas (7.6)

Lowry/DeRozan/Ross/Johnson/Valanciunas (3.3)

Interesting, hey? It’s tough to glean too much information from a simple stat like this – and admittedly, this is the kind of question that deserves a full column (written by someone smarter than me), but there are a few takeaways here. The first one relates to the first question – perhaps Ross isn’t so impotent at defending other teams’ wing options as the hivemind collectedly decided post-playoffs. The second is that this team thrives on floor spacing – simply replacing Johnson with Patterson leads to a dramatic increase in net rating, demonstrating the value of having a pick-and-pop big man that other teams actually have to chase out to the 3-point line.

Finally, though, don’t get too hung up on these numbers. That first unit up there is the one that usually ends up in against the other team’s benches, which is when the Raptors often found themselves stretching leads in the second quarter last season. Unquestionably, the team’s starting five is its most effective five-man unit until proven otherwise – that positive net rating against opposing starters at the beginning of games and in crunch time is far more impressive than the gaudy V/D/R/P/V number you see up there, which has a much smaller sample size.

TL:DR – from a purely analytical standpoint, the team’s top seven in pretty much any order is pretty damn good.

It’s tough to say at this point – don’t forget that this core only had 18 games short of a full season last year. That said, giving the group a chance to gel over a full season will undoubtedly pay dividends. It’s going to be exciting to see if the coaching staff comes up with some new wrinkles in their floor spacing offence – I’m particularly excited to see how Lou Williams fits as another offensive option that should give the Raps a damn exciting three-guard rotation to manoeuvre around DeRozan.

Will we improve? Undoubtedly. However, the East is going to get better, too – Boston and Cleveland will certainly be better, Brooklyn gets Brook Lopez back, Atlanta gets Al Horford back, and Chicago gets Derrick Rose back – and we haven’t even gotten to Carmelo or the big three. Don’t fool yourselves into thinking that a net zero in record this year is a disappointment. Assuming other teams are a bit luckier with injuries, a 48 win season this year is far more impressive than what the Raptors managed last year.

Which one? Bruno? DeAndre Daniels? I think my favourite thing about the Raptors’ draft haul this year (and I’m throwing Bebe in there as well) is that we literally have no idea what to expect. There is no sure thing here, no hole they’re expected to plug. The slate is clean, both in terms of expectations and potential. My advice this year regarding the Brazilians is to strap yourselves in and enjoy the ride – it’s going to be a bumpy one, but you might as well enjoy the scenery while we’re on the way. I mean, who knows what the hell the destination is?

On a practical note, neither of the Brazilians will be expected to contribute immediately based on the way the lineup is shaking out, which should be great for their development, assuming they have the right attitude. Best case, Bruno and Bebe kick ass. Worst case, they need more time to develop, and the team is built to allow that right now, which is great.

Vegas summer league tips off today, too, so keep your eyes peeled for that if you just can’t wait to see these guys on the court (like me). Raptors play today, tomorrow, and Monday, with two more games TBD.

Ooh, that’s a tough one. Fields and Hayes aren’t going to live up to their contracts, no matter how well they play, so any move involving either one of them is going to involve an asset leaving with them – a future pick, or someone like DeAndre Daniels. We had to give up a second-round pick to get rid of Novak’s deal, so use that as your benchmark. With both contracts expiring next year, I’d imagine the chances of this happening are minimal at this point, lest Ujiri have a much larger move lined up (and you never know). Potential landing spots would be teams looking to get to the cap floor like Philly or the Bucks, or teams that have proven themselves willing to take on these contracts in return for future assets, like the Celtics. If this happens, I’d expect it would be closer to the deadline. Again, though, Masai gonna Masai. You never know.

Re: Patterson starting – count me as one of the people who hopes he’ll grow into the role, but Amir Johnson is a chronically underrated player who has tons of value on both ends of the floor. I’d imagine that it won’t be happening this season, but as the five-man numbers from above show, his floor spacing is immensely valuable. He’d do well to try and pick up the little things from Amir if he wanted to eventually usurp his starting spot – though, as Blake pointed out in his column recently, I’d imagine their time will be close to a 50/50 split this season.

I’m interested to see how the Lou/Vasquez pairing will operate this season. Both players are very similar offensively in that they love spot-ups/floaters/operating in the paint generally. It’ll largely depend on how Lou Williams shot comes along as he continues to recover from ACL surgery – though if Vasquez is clearly the better shooting option, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him operating off the ball in this lineup. Remember, though, this isn’t hockey – one of the more exciting things about this team this year is how many different combinations the Raptors can throw together with their guards. Expect to see Vasquez/Lowry, Williams/DeRozan, and even Williams/Lowry against shorter or offensively deficient guard pairings pretty regularly this season, rather than a straight starters/bench swap.

Jonas has been working with Hakeem Olajuwon, gearing up for the World Cup with the Lithuanian National Team, and teaching the Raptors Dance Pak a few moves. Ross has been working out in LA with Amir and DeMar and taking Instagram pictures of dogs on a treadmill.

See my above answer, and the link to Blake’s column (he, admittedly, is a much better resource for this than me). The short answer: as much as they prove they can handle, with no real expectation for either of them to play major minutes until they’ve shown they’re ready. To management’s credit, the team’s depth is solid enough to accommodate that.

Don’t get your hopes up, everyone. Admittedly, it’s two years away, and the prospect is absolutely tantalizing, but until this team proves it’s a true championship contender, landing a player like KD in the prime of his career is a long shot, Vasquez or no Vasquez. That said, the way this team is structured will give them the opportunity to not only be a player in 2016 free agency, but next summer, too –  and when it comes to less major markets like Toronto, being prepared for the possibility is all you can do. I mean, nobody thought Houston would end up with Howard and Harden except for Daryl Morey, and look what happened.

The fact that we’re even having that conversation is damn awesome, though, and all credit to Masai and his management team for putting together a team of young, moveable assets on reasonable deals. Things are good in Raptorland, people. Like Will said, remember to savour the moment.

(Also, who needs him? We’ve already got the Brazilian KD right here, right?)

Report: Raptors Interested in Anthony Morrow

Anthony Morrow, eh? I have a friend who insists he has the most fundamentally sound shot-release in the NBA. We often debate this and I counter with Jamario Moon, mostly because I want to piss him off. Given the earlier report of the Raptors signing James Johnson, it’s hard to see where Morrow would get minutes. I asked RR resident salary cap expert and owner of the most gorgeous beard ever, Blake Murphy, what the Raptors could pay him and he said:

Last year Morrow made $1.03M with the Pelicans, so the Raptors could conceivably afford him. Glancing briefly at the shooting guard depth-chart we have DeMar DeRozan, and then Lou Williams. Hey, what? We only have two shooting guards and one of them really isn’t a shooting guard? Well, looks like we’ve found a slot for Morrow. He also happens to be a ridiculous three-point shooter, shooting a whopping 43% for his career and is coming off a season where shot 45%. That’s right, 45%. That’s like, more than what half the team shoots from two-point range.

So, before we dismiss this rumour as guff, I say this actually might make some sense on a cerebral level, especially if we, by some miracle of God, manage to off-load Landry Fields’ contract (I kid, he’s a nice guy). The Raptors also happen to have a bit of a hole at the backup C where we’re one Valanciunas injury from seeing Chuck Hayes haunt our nightmares on a regular basis, so this observer might suggest that that is more of a concern, as sexy as Morrow’s release may be.

Raptors Update: Salary Cap, Roster and Rotation

The roster is taking a pretty clear shape, with 14 names now more or less locked in. As after all signings, it’s worth taking a look at where the team stands in terms of its roster, rotation and salary cap situation.

All salary data comes via Sham Sports, except in the case of reported deals, where assumptions are stated. Help sorting through exceptions and the like comes via Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ.

Cap Sheet
Because terms are not publicly disclosed, we’re left to make a few assumptions about deals that are worth noting before we get into the numbers.

Assumptions
*Kyle Lowry’s contract is structured 12-12-12-12 (his first year salary could be as low as $11.25M or as high as $14.1M)
*Patrick Patterson’s contract is structured 6-6-6 (his first year salary could be as low as $5.58M or as high as $6.49M)
*Greivis Vasquez’s contract is structured 6.5-6.5 (his first year salary could be as low as $6.265M or as high as $6.755M)
*James Johnson’s contract is structured 2.5-2.5 (his first year salary could be as low as $2.445M or as high as $2.56M)
*Dwight Buycks’ $816,482 salary will be waived before the July 22 guarantee date
*Diante Garrett’s $915,243 salary will be waived before the season
*Bruno Caboclo has been signed at 120 percent of the rookie scale ($1.46M), not 100 percent. The team tweeted he was signed “to rookie scale contract” but that wording is somewhat vague, and teams give players 120 percent almost 100 percent of the time.
*Ditto for Bebe Nogueira, who it sure sounds like is coming over this season.
*DeAndre Daniels is headed to Europe for the season, which sure sounds like Plan A right now.

The Books
Given all of those somewhat safe but not perfect assumptions, here’s what I have the books looking like at present:

Player Cap Type Amount
Kyle Lowry Free Agent Contract $12,000,000
DeMar DeRozan Contract $9,500,000
Amir Johnson Contract $7,000,000
Greivis Vasquez Free Agent Contract $6,500,000
Landry Fields Contract $6,250,000
Patrick Patterson Free Agent Contract $6,000,000
Chuck Hayes Contract $5,958,750
Lou Williams Contract $5,450,000
Jonas Valanciunas Contract $3,678,360
Tyler Hansbrough Contract $3,326,235
Terrence Ross Contract $2,793,960
James Johnson Free Agent Contract $2,500,000
Bruno Caboclo 120% of Rookie Scale $1,458,360
Bebe Nogueira 120% of Rookie Scale $1,762,680
Marcus Camby Buyout $646,609
SUBTOTAL 14-man roster $74,824,954
SALARY CAP ROOM $63,065,000 -$11,759,954
LUXURY TAX ROOM $76,829,000 $2,004,046

Can they still add?
Technically, the Raptors can still add salary despite being over the salary cap. Johnson will eat into a chunk of their mid-level exception since he came in above the bi-annual exception, meaning the Raptors have the following exceptions to use:

Remaining mid-level exception: $2.805M
Bi-annual exception: $2.077M
Trade exceptions: I believe the Raptors have a $1.22M exception from the Andrea Bargnani deal and a $4.58M one from the Rudy Gay deal, the former of which expires today. There may also have been one created in the Steve Novak deal that would be good for one year, thought I can’t confirm for certain.

Will they still add?
Probably not. With just $2M in breathing room beneath the tax, the Raptors have a scary hammer that could fall on them – use the MLE or BAE (aww) to cross the tax line, and an $80.829M “hard cap” is placed on the team until next July, meaning they can’t go a dollar above that amount or acquire players in a sign-and-trade. There’s always the possibility the team is okay crossing the tax line and trying to get beneath it later, but it seems likely the budget has now shrunk to $2M to fill the final roster spot.

What’s the absolute most money they could have beneath the tax?
All those assumptions we made earlier? Let’s flip them – everyone, including the rookies, has signed for the absolute minimum first-year salary given the parameters of their deals. The team also uses the stretch provision on both Landry Fields and Chuck Hayes. That would all clear an additional $10M, leaving the Raptors with still no cap space but $12.77M to add pieces before they hit the tax. They couldn’t just go out and sign someone with that money (they’d still be limited to exceptions and trades) but that’s how much they could theoretically add. This is an insane scenario, and is only included for fun.

The Roster
So here’s how the roster looks at 15:

PG: Kyle Lowry
G: Greivis Vasquez, Lou Williams
Wing: DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Bruno Caboclo
F: Landry Fields, James Johnson
PF: Patrick Patterson, Amir Johnson, Tyler Hansbrough
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Chuck Hayes, Bebe Nogueira

That’s a weird way of classifying players, I guess, but the Raptors have a handful of versatile pieces who can play multiple positions, meaning looking at things in the standard five-position way doesn’t help all that much. That’s not a bad roster, and even if you don’t agree with some of the dollar amounts on the signings, it’s a slightly deeper one than last year and one that, if the development plans move forward as hoped, will be better, too.

As for the 15th spot, if the team uses it they could really justify using it on any position now. Nogueira has filled the third center spot and Johnson fills the “big wing” need, and even if you want to look at things by traditional position, there’s no obvious hole that needs shoring up. You could convince me another point guard, at the minimum, would be nice Lowry injury insurance, but I wouldn’t call it a need given that Lou Trill can play some one in a pinch (Scott Machado could be the Brazilian Westbrook to Bruno and Bebe’s Brazilian KD and Ibaka).

PG: Lowry, Vasquez
SG: DeRozan, Williams
SF: Ross, Caboclo, Fields, J. Johnson
PF: Patterson, A. Johnson, Hansbrough
C: Valanciunas, Hayes, Nogeuira

The Rotation
Let’s take a look at who may get what kind of minutes given the team’s current construction.

Starters
Lowry – played 36.2 MPG last season, team would probably like that to be a shade below 34. (72 games x 34 MPG = 2,448)
DeRozan – played 38.2 MPG last season and is 4th in the NBA in minutes since 2010-11. This HAS to come down, maybe to the 36 range. (78 games x 36 MPG = 2,808)
Ross – played 26.7 MPG last season, a number that increased late in the year but dropped for the playoffs. 30 a night seems a good progression. (78 games x 30 MPG = 2,340)
A. Johnson – played 28.8 MPG last season but spent most of the year banged up and might be well served by having this scaled back to about 25, where he spent 2010-2012. (75 games x 25 MPG = 1,875)
Valanciunas – played 28.2 MPG last season after 23.9 as a rookie. With his foul rate declining and his game improving, 32 a night seems a realistic goal. (78 games x 32 MPG = 2,496)
Total: 29 games missed, 11,967 minutes

Key Reserves
Vasquez – played 21.5 MPG as a Raptor last season but saw that edge up late in the year and jump to 27.1 for the playoffs. Given how well he and Lowry play together, 25 a night (the bulk of the PG-SG backup minutes) seems right. (75 games x 25 MPG = 1,875)
Patterson – played 23.3 MPG as a Raptor last season but bumped to 28.4 in the playoffs. An even split at the four between he and Amir is a good plan, giving him 24 a night. (72 games x 24 MPG = 1,728)
Total: 17 games missed, 3,603 minutes / 46 games missed, 15,570 minutes

Other Rotation Pieces
Williams – cleans up leftover minutes at both guard spots, averaging about 12.7 minutes. That seems low, but it’s all that’s available so long as Lowry and Vasquez are healthy.
J. Johnson – fills in at both forward spots, averaging about 18 minutes.
Fields – grabs the final minutes at the three, averaging 10 minutes but only getting in a bit over half the games. That would still be more than he played last year.
Bruno – grabs the final minutes at the three and a few at the four. We’re talking Buycks/Stone minutes here though.
Bebe – more or less the same, but at center.
Hansbrough – clean-up time at the four and some undersized five, but I can’t imagine he sniffs the thousand minutes he got last year.
Hayes – fills in those final minutes at the pivot.

What I’m saying is…
These all seem like a bunch of conservative estimates, right? Well, that’s the entire minutes base allocated right there, as shown in this quick and dirty table. The big difference between this and reality is that injuries will happen and we can’t predict who they’ll happen to.

PG PG SG SG SF SF PF PF C C
lowry 2448 derozan 2600 ross 2340 amir 1500 valanciunas 2496
vasquez 975 vasquez 900 derozan 208 pat 1728 amir 375
williams 513 williams 436 jj 842 jj 508 hayes 400
fields 410 hansbrough 150 hansbrough 500
caboclo 136 caboclo 50 bebe 165

The point with that stupid exercise was basically to show that the team is already cutting into minutes for a lot of guys as currently planned, which speaks to the improved depth. It also, however, means decisions of win-now against development, and possibly passing on adding a 15th man.

Again, those are really rough assumptions, they’re not meant to do anything but show the minutes crunch on a roster when you don’t assume more than a handful of short-term injuries.

Press Conference: Raptors Announce Kyle Lowry Signing, Bebe Coming, And More

It’s Zarar here….taking you through this…live stream here - also here via Sportsnet.  Updates are in reverse-chronological order, so…start from the bottom.

11:06 – That’s a wrap.  Thanks for joining RR.  One other news, the Raptors are working on a buyout with Bebe Nogueira who will be joining the Raptors this summer league – it’s around $820K.

11:05: What’s next for him as a leader? Lowry says, “We’re about to hop on a plane, go to Vegas.  Have a dinner tonight.  Talk to the guys”

11:04: ”I didn’t want to be in a position where I was waiting on someone.  You have to be comfortable in your own skin.”  When asked if the interest served as validation of his skill and abilities, says yes.

11:02: Lowry interview – asked whether he even seriously considered other teams – “There were definitely times where it wouldn’t be Toronto.  That’s just the process….there were pros and cons to other places, and there were pros and cons here.  This was the best situation for me.” – There were more positives here.

10:58: Commercial break on Raptors TV.

10:57: “This summer, we brought back the young players and [will continue] to grow…there’s a growth process for us  where we continue to give young players chance to grow”.  Very impressed with all the young players so far and say they’re all “getting better”

10:56: Ujiri was in Vegas. Saw DeRozan and Ross, and they’re putting in a lot of work. Very impressed with that.  Lowry has already put in work this summer and Ujiri is impressed by him already.

10:54: Ujiri: I have to do the work.  You have to put that brand there.  Players don’t like losing situations…we’re going to go through hard times, and there are bumps on the way…we’re going in the right direction.  We got good, young players…most of our guys are coming back…playing here is something players will look at and go ‘that’s cool, it’s cool to play in that city’”

10:52: Ujiri interview here now – “We are blessed to be in this situation.  [Lowry]‘s been blessed.  To make a decision a day after free-agency start says a lot about Lowry and the team, city, and country”  All the questions being asked of Ujiri scream of an inferiority complex.

10:51: Photo-op time. That’s about it.  Individual interviews now. Devlin mentions Lowry’s charges taken for some reason.

10:49: Lowry’s talking about continuity of bringing the same core back.  Gives the Spurs as an example of importance of continuity.

10:47: Lowry: “It doesn’t matter which city you’re in, what country you’re in.  If you win, players will come.”

10:46: Ujiri: Everything was straight-forward.  Couple minutes after speaking Kyle, I get a text from Lowry saying, “Do I need to call any players?”   It was great….I wish I had more money to sign players.

10:45: Lowry: ”The driving factor [for re-signing] was winning.  I knew the money was going to come.”

10:44: Ujiri: “It’s my team’s responsibility to build a brand here where we create a platform for winning. Players want to win and want to be be treated well.  We treat players well. It’s about winning.”

10:43: Ujiri asked about Free Agents snubbing Toronto.  Makes comparison to Chicago etc., says “I’d rather live here”

10:42: “I’m not done.  I got bigger plans.  I’m only 28.  I’ve got plenty of years left in the tank.  This is just the start.”

10:41: Talked to DeRozan every day – says he was a brother and a huge part of coming back here. Talked about the importance of having a brotherhood on the team. It obviously played a big part in him coming back.

10:40: Didn’t think about this a week before free-agency started.  It was easy to come back here.  Masai made it easy.  I didn’t want to wait for anyone else to make a decision.  I was ready for day one.  That’s how easy the process was.

10:38: Is glad that he “I have a city and country that I can call his own – I’m proud to be a Toronto Raptor”.

10:37: “I’ve been thinking about the process for a long time.”   Says the organization is “first class”, gives everyone props and gives the Raptors credit for keeping people “in the loop”.  ”People say Toronto can’t sign their own free-agents.  I just proved that wrong”  Thanks his family and calls the Raptors a “family atmosphere”.

10:34: Lowry speaking now on the podium.  ”This is awesome…The fans who come here today at 10 in the morning the way the season ended..it’s unbelieavable.  Jurassic Park was unbelievable….I personally want to thank you guys for the support you’ve given me the team, and the organization”.

10:32: “This is awesome”, says Ujiiri.   Gives Tim Leiweke and Larry Tannenbaum props for creating an environment where signings like Lowry can happen.  Calls Lowry a “changed man”, a “bulldog”, and someone who can “stand up as a man, one day after free-agency started” and make this decision.  ”It’s the beginning. I know he signed a new contract.  It’s the beginning of something good that will happen to the Toronto Raptors”.

10:31: OK, now Ujiri is introduced and now he’ll speak.

10:30: Ujiri introduced by Devlin….Uh-oh, Devlin screwed up a little, announced him too early..had to announce Kyle Lowry, now he announces Kyle Lowry.  Lowry introduced.

10:27: Matt Devlin is the MC.  He’s bigging up the fans.  Says that NBA found out on Jurassic Park how great the fans are.  People gathered seem a little confused but applaud anyway.  This is gold.  Franchise-record 48 wins and all are brought up.  Devlin reminds us just how long it was since the Raptors made the playoffs, fans gathered don’t want to be reminded of all that…let’s get to the point, here.

10:26: Masai Ujiri and Kyle Lowry walked into the bulding.  Jones is making a wedding analogy with Lowry being the bride, etc. It’s got me all hyped.  Can I be best man?  They’re playing the #WeTheNorth video

10:24 – Paul Jones is talking about the importance of length in an NBA player with Sherman Hamilton. Both are trying to explain the Bruno Caboclo pick in terms that a 5-year old can understand.  Jones says Caboclo comes from a “difficult background” .  I’m assuming he grew up in the Brazilian slums, which by all accounts are not a nice place.  So, good on Caboclo.

Report: James Johnson Returns to Raptors

It’s a 2-year deal and Ryan Wolstat has some details:

Johnson inked a two-year deal, worth about $2.5 million US a season, slightly more than the $2.077 million bi-annual exception, since other teams were sniffing around him. Johnson revived his flagging NBA career with a strong 52 game stretch in Memphis last season.

This is the wing defender that you guys wanted and you got him, and this also marks the end of the Vince Carter return talk.  For what it’s worth, Johnson was half-decent after he was shipped to Sacramento, making some fans even regret letting him go.  Johnson was acquired in 2010-11 as part of a late first-rounder and then shipped out in 2011-12 as part of moves that only Bryan Colangelo ever understood.

A first-round pick (16th) of the Chicago Bulls in 2009, Johnson spent last season with the Grizzlies where he averaged 7.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 18 minutes in 52 games.

Johnson is best known for having facial expressions like these:

jamesjohnsonface

The Raptors depth at Small Forward is now Terrence Ross, Landry Fields, and James Johnson.   Depending on how you rate Bruno Caboclo, throw him in there as well.  RR Prediction: Fans will be begging for Dwane Casey to play Bruno Caboclo over James Johnson in the name of player development by mid-November.

 UPDATE 11:08 (William)

I hate to be a stickler on this, but Johnson was charged with domestic assault, although the case has was dismissed. Something to consider. The deal is reportedly 2-years, $5 million. It’s unsure as of yet if both years are fully guaranteed.

Summer School

Just over two months ago fans begrudgingly left the Air Canada Centre following a nail-biting last second loss which ended our beloved Toronto Raptors season.

Since then we’ve joyfully watched as Canada’s young talent has begun to forge an identity of their own in the NBA, and keenly kept abreast of GM: Masai Ujiri’s off season actions. The latter producing arguably  the most important free agent retention in franchise history when Kyle Lowry elected to return to Toronto, forgoing what many cited as greener U.S. pastures.

As many of our recent articles have reflected, Ujiri has continued to demonstrate deftness at offloading contracts to create cap space, draft prospects with potential and pick up youth via trades. With news yesterday Greivis Vasquez had joined Kyle Lowry and Patrick Patterson by coming to terms with the club, Ujiri has essentially taken care of all the mandated retention priorities.  Now he’ll work to fill in weaknesses and add depth through free agency or trades. Note: Raptors announced James Johnson will return to the team.

With an eye to the plethora of activity already in the books, the next priority is individual player growth. It’s often said a player learns the game on court, but growth occurs in the off season when players apply that knowledge by focusing on improving the weaknesses in their game.

Without doubt each team member was given a tailored list of homework for the off season to address this objective. Considering the 29 other teams are implementing these same summer practices I pondered where the Raptors could gain an advantage over their competition.

To that end, I decided to look at some playoff teams to create a list of items the Raptors can directly apply or learn from.

Brooklyn Nets:  Let’s face it, this series was about as close as it gets and the Raptors inexperience likely cost them Game 1 and definitely contributed to Jonas Valanciunas’ nerves in Game 7.  Fortunately the core group now has this series under their belt and will build from it. Brooklyn definitely had the upper hand with veteran experience; however it was the play of Joe Johnson which gave the Nets their greatest advantage. In truth players like Johnson, LeBron James and Kevin Durant are oddities in the Association who pose defensive problems for any team.  In my opinion the area the Raptors can learn from specifically in this series is movement.  Too often the Raptors not only stopped moving the ball when Brooklyn blocked lanes, but more importantly the players stopped moving.

Lessons:

  • A good complement of veteran experience goes a long way.
  • Team drills focusing on running routes and using multiple screens
  • Team drill focused on ball movement (note: see Spurs drill below)

 

Charlotte Hornets: While Charlotte had the fifth best 3-point shooting in the playoffs they made the fewest attempts. Ironically, though this squad produced strong defensive efforts they had the fewest rebounds in the playoffs while facing a team who boasted a small front court. Granted, Al Jefferson’s injury played into this deficiency, yet the biggest mistake Charlotte made was not fully optimizing their advantages.

Lessons:

  • Depth is important especially when a key cog gets injured
  • Make the most of your advantages

 

Chicago Bulls:  Without Derrick Rose the Bulls were limited offensively. News Joakim Noah was suffering from an injury the entire post season coupled with their lack of overall offensive weapons explains why they lost. The fact that Chicago still made the past two playoffs and continued to battle while missing stars is a testament to their coach and the teams’ mindset. Assuming Rose returns healthy this season and Chicago lands a free agent or two expect them to contend as one of the Eastern Conference leaders.

Lessons:

  • Commitment to excellence.
  • The Raptors demonstrated last year they won’t ever give up on a game, so emphasis this season is to not let this area of focus slip.

 

Dallas Mavericks: Considering Dallas pushed the eventual NBA champions to a seventh game speaks to their overall quality. Vince Carter performed like a youthful version of himself winning Game 3 with an eerily similar shot to the one he missed as a Raptor in 2001. Areas the Mavericks excelled in were offense and coaching.  Rick Carlisle continues to demonstrate he is the heir apparent to Gregg Popovich which is evident in his game plans, continually getting players to perform above their previous standards and his ability to make quick in-game adjustments.

Lessons:

  • Coaching exercise: review other teams’ tapes to build quick in-game responses and examine options of how other teams resolve issues. The lessons learned from these tapes needs to be applied throughout the season so the young Raptors gain familiarity with the different methods.
  • Toronto needs multiple players who can handle the ball to create their own shots: Team exercise – ball handling drill.

 

Indiana Pacers:  When I was young I remember my Grandfather telling me “You can study perfection, but you can learn more from your mistakes.” Perhaps the Pacers were the best example of this in the post season. While the Raptors benefited from team chemistry, Indiana, who was earmarked as the likely Eastern Conference Champions, completely fell apart as soon as the locker room became dysfunctional.

Lesson:

  • No amount of money or star players can guarantee a championship, but one malcontent can spread like cancer.

 

Miami Heat: I said all year Miami would not three-peat and whether you believe it’s a personal dislike, luck or an educated guess the fact remains they were ousted. Miami had arguably the easiest path to the finals facing a hobbled Bobcat team, a tired veteran Brooklyn team coming off a tough series vs. Toronto and an Indiana team conducting their own oil and vinegar test. Facing the Spurs we experienced déjà-vu as James looked like he was back in Cleveland. More apparent was the disappearance of Bosh’s post game and Dwayne Wade’s inability to provide consistent scoring each game despite his curtailed regular season schedule.

Okay, so you’re asking yourself how exactly this translates to the Raptors; simply put its consistency. There were a number of games this season where Toronto gave up big leads or had to fight back from huge deficits. It was repeatedly pointed out the Raptors needed to provide a consistent 48-minute effort and this series earmarks why. By mastering this skill it allows the bench more playing time which leads to their growth, on court gelling and comfort level while also allowing for the starters to get valuable rest.

Lesson:

  • A 48-minute effort will reap benefits in growth, health and on-court chemistry

 

Oklahoma City Thunder:  Had Serge Ibaka not been injured and out the first two games of the series the Thunder could just as easily be this years champions. Although the Raptors have pinpointed blocking as a specific area requiring improvement, this series demonstrated how much that basic fundamental can affect wins and losses.

Lesson:

  • Specific drill for all players on mastering the mechanics and timing of shot blocking

 

Portland Trailblazers:  Damian Lilliard’s last second game winner and series clincher pointed out a key lesson for all young teams. Although the box score shows 20 personal fouls each, the Rockets were getting the benefit of some questionable calls, especially late in the contest. The worst call came when Lillard grabbed a rebound in the dying seconds of the fourth quarter and the refs whistled him for being out of bounds (replays showed he was clearly in bounds). Terry Stotts was able to calm his troops who buckled down on defense to get the last shot and for me what ranks as the best shot of the playoffs.

Lesson:

  • As much as we all get annoyed by the zebras at times, the only way a young team can break through is to play through adversity via consistency. It’s a given some players and teams have earned their reputations, so until you’ve earned yours the only way to succeed is through maintaining composure and consistent effort.

 

San Antonio Spurs: The NBA is a trendy association, so just like many teams shifted to small ball and looked to feature multiple stars following Miami’s success, expect to see teams attempting to adopt the team ball success of San Antonio this season. Something that stood out for me in the post game championship celebration was Tony Parker discussing a passing drill the Spurs do in practice (the ball must move 12-times before a shot is taken). Given the Raptors success paralleled games where they had high assist totals this would be an excellent exercise for the team. The other specific area Toronto can adapt from the Spurs is their offensive player movement.

Overall this finals and the Champion Spurs produced what should be considered  mandatory viewing for every Raptor;  it was an offensive clinic on fundamental basketball and quite literally a thing of beauty.

Lessons:

  • 12 passes before shot drill
  • Drill stressing player movement
  • Repeated viewing of the series by all coaches and players (learning through osmosis)

 

Tomorrow the Vegas Summer League begins and we’ll get our first opportunity to see the Raptors top draft pick Bruno Caboclo and fellow Brazilian teammate Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira in action.

In addition the tournament will showcase several Canadians making their NBA debuts:

  • Andrew Wiggins and Dwight Powell (Cleveland)
  • Tyler Ennis (Phoenix)
  • Nik Stauskas, Sim Bhullar, Nick Wiggins (Sacramento)
  • Khem Birch (Washington)
  • Myck Kabongo (Toronto)
  • Melvin Ejim (San Antonio)
  • Jordan Bachynski (Charlotte)
  • Brady Heslip (Minnesota)

Enjoy the Vegas action and if you’re suffering from basketball withdrawal remember training camp is less than three months away.

3 reasons why the Greivis Vasquez deal makes sense

My late-night two cents on the matter.

Late Wednesday night, it was reported that the Toronto Raptors and point guard http://www.raptorsrepublic.com/2014/07/10/3-reasons-greivis-vasquez-deal-makes-sense/Greivis Vasquez had agreed upon a 2-year, $13 million deal. From all accounts, it appears both years of will be fully guaranteed.

For critics of the move, resource allocation is the sticking point. Generally speaking, paying $6.5 million to the backup point guard isn’t good asset management, especially when he has a solid incumbent ahead of him in the lineup. With many other weaknesses on the roster, it could be argued that the Raptors’ limited resources should have been allocated elsewhere. With respect to that line of thinking, I really see no argument. It’s a lot of money.

There’s also the perspective that Vasquez’s play, onto itself, is not worth the money. Again, that’s not something I necessarily want to argue against either. While it’s true that Vasquez is a solid player, I doubt his on-court production dictates a lavish figure of $6.5 million. Vasquez posted a career high true-shooting percentage last season, yet his assist numbers dropped (which makes sense given the change in role), which yielded a league-average PER of 14. $6.5 million is a lot to pay for league average production, especially considering Vasquez’ play is likely worse than his PER given his defensive shortcomings.

But I do think this deal made sense for the Raptors. Here are three reasons.

1. He’s great in two-point-guard lineups with Lowry

This should be evident to whomever watched the Raptors’ playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets. With the Nets’ choosing to aggressively blitz pick-and-rolls, Vasquez’ ability to serve as a secondary ball-handler in 2PG lineups was the only counter the Raptors’ had. During the regular season, the two-man combo of Lowry and Vasquez posted a team-best +17.6 points per 100 possessions.

In part, the reason why the pairing works is because Lowry and Vasquez have complementary skills. Vasquez is taller, standing at 6-foot-6, which allows him to more easily thwart blitzing pick-and-roll coverages as he can pass over-top bigger defenders. It also works well because the two are both good ball-handler capable of driving and shooting threes. With the help of an effective screen to start the action, Vasquez or Lowry always have the option of making a point-wing pass to the other to set up one-on-one scenarios off the bounce. Ball-handling and therefore attacking off the dribble was something the Raptors’ lacked. Vasquez fills that need.

2. It’s a player, not a car

There’s a fallacy in the way some fans assess transactions in the NBA. It’s different from any other market.

For example, consider the purchase of a car. For the most part, you look around at various websites, you visit dealerships, you weigh pros and cons and ultimately, you take the best deal on the table. That’s how the marketplace works, where competition leads to an optimal outcome.

The player market isn’t nearly as abstract. It’s different because they’re less interchangeable. Some fundamental aspects are the same, in that you do your due diligence, look up his stats, watch some film, talk to his coaches, and make an informed decision, but for the most part, there’s only one player that really fits each need. Every car can drive you to work. Not every player can fit on your team.

It can be argued that for the price, Vasquez isn’t the best fit. But considering his play last season, especially down the stretch when his health improved, it’s hard to argue that an upgrade could have come elsewhere, especially considering the Raptors were already over the cap. If Vasquez was let go, the money for his replacement would have come out of the exceptions, or via trade, both of which could have cost more. Essentially, the opportunity cost (what the Raptors are giving up) in retaining Vasquez was likely lower than any other option, and so they kept him.

3. Need vs. Luxury

Strictly speaking, the Raptors didn’t need to reinforce a position of strength. With Lou Williams and Kyle Lowry in place, next year’s team didn’t need any help at the point. Williams can handle the ball, and is a decent creator when pressed into duty. He’s a good option for 10 minutes a game at the point, which is really all he needed to provide with Lowry soaking up 32, and a third-string guy taking 6. The Raptors’ didn’t even need more help at the two, as DeMar DeRozan is a minute-sponge, ranking third in total minutes played last season. Plus, Williams can also play the two as well, albeit he’s undersized. There wasn’t a pressing need for Vasquez on the roster.

In that regard, Vasquez is a luxury, but luxuries aren’t bad. Not only does he provide an upgrade at the point and an alternative look with 2PG lineups, Vasquez also provides depth, both in terms of the team’s style of play and as injury insurance.

First, Vasquez gives the team a different look. Lowry and Williams are both great ball-handlers, but they’re undersized. Vasquez counters that dynamic by being big, while being able to handle the ball. Similarly, at the two, DeRozan is bigger, but can’t consistently hit threes and his handles are somewhat limited. Again, Vasquez provides a different look. It gives Casey more options and more counters to throw at opposing defenses.

And second, it’s good to have more depth on the roster as a hedge against injury. Lowry was great last season, but an under-appreciated aspect of achievements was his ability to avoid injury. With his hard-nosed style of play — driving into the paint, creating contact, drawing charges — Lowry is liable to get injured, and if he were ever to go down, the Raptors’ have a contingency plan in Vasquez, who can hold down the fort for stretches at a time.

To recap, the deal wasn’t necessarily good, nor bad. In the abstract, it’s an overpay for Vasquez’s abilities, but he fits a number of needs for the franchise, and serves as insurance. Like most transactions made by Ujiri, there was some good sense behind it.

Morning Coffee – Thu, Jul 10

Raptors re-sign point guard Greivis Vasquez | Toronto Sun

Vasquez got paid well – $13 million U.S. over two seasons, according to Yahoo! Sports – after emerging as a key sparkplug down the stretch last season. Vasquez averaged 9.5 points and 3.7 assists as a Raptor, shooting 38.9% from three, including a stellar 44.8% in 30 games following the all-star break. The Sun reported last Friday that a multi-year deal was close after sources said it was a lucrative offer and both sides were confident, but Vasquez and agent Arn Tellem were not ready to sign until the offer came up a little bit, which it did Wednesday. The short term made the deal palatable for Toronto, since the team should still have considerable cap room the next two summers.

Greivis Vasquez Agrees to a 2-Year, $13 Million Deal With the Raptors | Raptors HQ

It’s likely that Vasquez was looking for a longer deal with the Raps, and the high salary was necessary compensation for the short length of the deal. Vasquez is essentially on a two-year audition, with a ton of incentive to perform well to secure a longer deal post-2016. Financial considerations aside, it’s worth emphasizing that Vasquez played a crucial role in a very successful Raptors season — both from a production stand-point and chemistry-wise. Bringing him back was a priority for the franchise, especially considering his versatility — he can run the point as a back-up and share the floor with Kyle Lowry, playing off the ball. There are also legitimate concerns, considering his history, his size, and how hard he plays, about Lowry’s health. If he goes down for any length of time, having a competent point-guard to steer the ship will be crucial.

Have Toronto Raptors’ Offseason Moves Created Logjam at Point Guard Position? | Bleacher Report

Still, there’s bound to be some concern over whether and how Toronto can effectively and efficiently manage its backcourt minutes—especially with three players who’ve logged their fair share of starter’s minutes. Unless, of course, general manager Masai Ujiri viewed the Vasquez signing as a much needed insurance policy. Looking at Lowry’s injury history, the fear isn’t entirely unfounded: During his eight-year NBA career, the onetime member of the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets has only twice logged more than 75 games in a single season. And while Lowry’s missed just 17 tilts the last two seasons, the Raptors simply can’t afford to have their best player out for significant stretches, even in a historically woeful Eastern Conference. Vasquez, by contrast, has been the quintessence of stability, missing just 22 games in four seasons, with a good number of those being rookie-year DNPs.

Report: Vasquez reaches agreement with Raptors | Sportsnet.ca

With this deal reportedly being made and the Lowry and Patterson deals having already gotten done, Raptors GM Masai Ujiri appears to have completed the most pressing items his off-season checklist. This move, coupled with rookie Bruno Caboclo’s signing earlier on Wednesday, as well as the trade with Atlanta for Lou Williams and Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira and the reported Steve Novak trade that will clear up some cap space will see the Raptors’ salary for next season at approximately $67.2 million, almost $4 million over the new salary cap, but still $9.6 million under the luxury tax threshold, meaning the team could still conceivably add a piece using the full $5.3 million mid-level exception.

Greivis Vasquez Re-Signs with Raptors: Latest Contract Details and More | Bleacher Report

It’s been rough, but this is one of those years I’ve got to keep grinding and keep working. I’ll be a restricted free agent [this summer] and we’ll see what happens. It’s just the business. At first Sacramento was talking about building a future with me and then all of a sudden I get traded. If I’m going to get traded [again] it’s going to be this year because I am going to be restricted. I am going to have to sign with somebody and find myself a home.

Lewenberg: Raptors bring back Vasquez on eve of free agency | TSN

“It would be heartbreaking if I don’t come back,” Vasquez said in his memorable exit interview the day after Toronto’s postseason elimination. “I’m an emotional guy, so I really embrace, I’m really committed to the team, to the city, to this franchise.” Although a $6.5 million annual salary is on the high end for a backup point guard, the Raptors value Vasquez as more than that and the reasonable two-year term allows them to maintain their flexibility leading up to the summer of 2016. Vasquez has proven himself a capable starter in the league, averaging career-highs of 13.9 points and 9.0 assists while finishing second in Most Improved Player voting with New Orleans in 2012-13. Not only can he co-exist with both newcomer Lou Williams and Lowry in the backcourt, but he serves as insurance if the latter were to miss time with an injury.

Greivis Vasquez Reaches 2-Year Deal with Raptors | Pro Bball Report

“Masai (Ujiri) has known Greivis for a long, long time,” Head Coach Dwane Casey said. “He has known him ever since he was a young kid. He has stones. He is confident. He is a kid you are not afraid to put in any situation because of his confidence. “I love him and that’s the culture you want to develop is having guys like that who want to be here and want to be a part of the community, who want to be a part of a winning organization.”

Dowry For Lowry: Kyle Lowry And The Toronto Rebuild | The Sports Quotient

Lowry’s team improved: the Raptors scored a sizzling 108.8 points per 100 possessions post the Gay trade, a mark that would have ranked fifth in the league behind only the high powered (and high salaried) Spurs, Heat, Rockets, Clippers and Nets. Unsurprisingly, Toronto’s offensive surge led to wins. The club went 7-12 before the trade and 38-22 after it, finishing third in the East, when many thought the Gay trade had signaled an organizational restructuring (AKA tanking). Lowry and the Raptors took Brooklyn to seven games in the first round of the playoffs, a series that included a 36-point hot shot exhibition by KL.

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Breaking: Greivis Vasquez Re-Signs with Raptors – $13M/2yr Deal

That’s the WojBomb, here’s Greivis’ reaction:

This was in the making for some time now with Vasquez himself professing his love for the Raptors time-and-time again, and multiple reports suggesting that the Raptors were close to a deal.

The $6.5M/yr is higher than the mid-level exception (~ $5M) and by comparison, is higher than what fellow backup-guard Shaun Livingston got with Golden State ($5.3M/yr). The deal appears to be a compromise on the part of both parties – Vasquez was likely seeking a longer deal (at least three years) but Ujiri has chosen to pay a slightly higher amount over a shorter period of time. The deal is likely to satisfy Vasquez who gets a good two years to prove his mettle and seek a longer deal at the age of 29. Coincidentally, Vasquez is now set to become a free-agent at the same time as his good friend Kevin Durant in 2016, so read into that what you will.

Much like Patterson, it became clear that the Raptors would have to offer more than the mid-level exception as there a number of teams dangling that offer in front of free-agents, so the amount comes as little surprise. The deal is more than double his qualifying offer of $3.2M, and though I’m quite happy with the re-signing, you have to wonder just what the competition here was since there were no reports (other than a flaky one linking him to the Bucks) that any team was about to sign him to an offersheet. However, you have to give Masai Ujiri the benefit of the doubt and consider this a proactive move before the competition got hot as teams got desperate.

The Raptors are over the cap and depending on how the Lowry, Patterson and Vasquez deals are structured, they’ll still have the mid-level exception available to them. It is unlikely to be the full mid-level of $5M but somewhere north of $4M should still be available to sign one more player. Blake will follow up with this info a bit later.

The signing marks Ujiri executing a clean sweep of his three major free-agents within nine days of free-agency starting, which is highly efficient to say the least. It means that the Raptors can, to a man, bring back the core group of players from last year with some sprinklings in the form of Bruno Caboclo, Bebe Nogueira, Lou Williams and whoever else they’re going to sign with the MLE. The Raptors have kept their chemistry intact and improved their athleticism and bench-scoring without handing out unreasonable contracts. All the players they’ve re-signed are now set to play the prime of their careers in a Raptors jersey, which pales in comparisons to the mass re-signings in the summer of 2001.

Vasquez will resume his duties as the backup point guard, only this time there will be legitimate backcourt help in the form of Lou Williams, who will give Dwane Casey easy opportunities to mix-and-match with Lowry and Vasquez, because of his ability to play both backcourt positions. After being acquired as part of the Rudy Gay trade, Vasquez averaged 9.5 points and 3.7 assists with the Raptors in 2013-14. These numbers were more or less on par with his career. More importantly, he provided an effective contrast to Kyle Lowry, giving defenses a much different look than the bowling-ball style of Lowry.  Vasquez had an excellent playoff run where he increased his production to 10.1 points and 5.1 assists, and was one of the only backcourt players other than Lowry that negotiated the Nets’ pressure defense effectively.

His 6’6″ frame allows him to pass over pressure and be an effective pick ‘n roll player, especially in late shot-clock situations. Vasquez is definitely lacking on the defensive end and happens to be inflicted with slow feet and poor lateral movement, but unlike Jose Calderon which many will draw parallels with, his frame allows him to step back against quicker guards, making him less of a liability.

The continuity that we all feared would not materialize with three major free-agents is now guaranteed. The signing also sends a message to the league that the Raptors can retain key free-agents, not because they’re paying more, but because they have a desirable basketball situation.

Good stuff.

For more analysis of the deal, check out William Lou’s 3 reasons why the signing made sense

PHOTO: Bruno Caboclo officially signs

He’s now richer than 99% of us.

#SomosDoNorte indeed.

Landry Fields: Last Shot for the Man with No Shot

The Raptors have a mid-level available and have two ways to spend that money: sign a backup big or sign a wing defender. Anyone choosing to spend it on a wing is very likely assuming that Landry Fields is a complete write-off in terms of on-court production. I would be inclined to say that that’s a tad bit on the hasty side except that evidence accumulated over the last two years firmly suggests that he’s about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.

Nobody’s quite expecting Landry Fields to start averaging 11 points on 50% of shooting as he did during his rookie season in New York. Upon joining the Raptors he played through injuries which forced him to alter his release, and by the time he got through his elbow and wrist surgeries, his shot-mechanics included a hitch which even he can’t tell is a problem or a desired motion in his release. From a three-point shooting standpoint, he’s a complete disaster. After shooting 39% in his rookie season, he went down to 26% the year after that (‘Melo effect had something to do with that), to 14% in his first season with the Raptors to 0% last year. That’s right – 0%. He missed all five of the threes he took in 30 games. The nil percentage isn’t as telling as the 5 attempts from downtown he attempted, which goes to show just how shot (get it?) his confidence is when it comes to the long ball. From a PER36 minute point of view, he’s gone from attempting 3.1 threes in his rookie year to 0.6 last season. That’s a man who does not want to shoot.  From being a “3-and-D” man, he’s now become a “Maybe-some-D-when-healthy” man.

Despite his offensive failings there is redemption available for Fields, because as a long-armed 6’7″ wing, he’s an able defender who knows how to use his length to, if not disrupt, play the correct angles in one-on-one and team defense situations. His approach towards Joe Johnson in Game 2 in the Nets series was a perfect example of how he can influence a game defensively. He’s also a consistent team defender because he doesn’t gamble and sticks to his cover, which makes Dwane Casey’s aversion to using Fields even more perplexing. Perhaps Casey feels that Fields’ lack of three-point shooting garners such little respect on the offensive end that defenses can play off of him without fear of paying for it, which is an extreme stance but founded in some reality.

Accepting that Fields is a shooting void, there is a grassroots movement that believes that Fields is someone who can play off the ball and punish defenses with his movement. That, I find, is more fantasy than reality. Partially, it has to do with injury because other than wrist and elbow issues, Fields often suffers from back spasms which keep him nailed to the bench, and when he play, hamper his movement where he’s more of an idle bystander than an active participant in the offense.  As a fan, it’s this backdoor-cutting, baseline screening, weak-side moving Fields that we’d like to see – at a bare minimum – on offense. If he’s unable to even do that, then he truly represents Marcus Camby-levels of dead salary.

Masai Ujiri and Dwane Casey have to, I would think, have a view on Fields that is more or less agreeable with this piece, because his lack of playing time (even in situations that warrant skill that he supposedly has) speaks volumes to just how little confidence management has in his abilities. He is on the roster because he remains an immovable contract. For a GM that was able to shift monumentally hideous contracts like Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Gay, it says something when Landry Fields remains on the roster.  On a closer look, though, you could make a case that when it comes to value-for-money, Fields is worse than Bargnani or Gay, which is a feat on its own.

Fields is, depending on where you’re getting a numbers, likely to make $8.5M (Hoopshype) next year as part of the “poison pill” deal that Bryan Colangelo signed him to.  It is very likely that he becomes a John Salmons-type asset at the deadline for a team looking to dump salary.   Even the idea of playing him just to showcase him doesn’t hold water because the likelihood of him impressing a team to the point where his basketball value surpasses his contract value is very low.  Until the deadline, the Raptors have to find some use for him and given the current making of the roster, Casey is forced to play him unless Bruno Caboclo or DeAnde Daniels find their way in front of him.  The former will get a chance, the latter might not make it to training camp.  Assuming his back is functional and that his shot remains a hot mess, this version of Landry Fields can still provide some sort of defense at the expense of offense.   He’s essentially in line to be a slightly worse version of John Salmons on offense, but a slightly improved version of Salmons on defense.

The Raptors can still make use of Fields in a mix-and-match lineup which has enough shooting on the floor.  For example, a lineup of Vasquez/Lowry, Williams/DeRozan, Patterson, Fields and Hayes/Nogueira has enough shooting from three positions on the court, allowing Fields to stay on the court.  He could conceivably play 10-15 minutes in a structure similar to this while being used situationally, and sometimes hilariously like the time Dwane Casey used him for a total of 14 seconds in Game 7 in two stints of 7 seconds each.   This sort of lineup is difficult to sustain if Fields continues to be a void on offense.  Teams will catch on to what the Raptors are doing at which point the importance of Fields’ movement is magnified, and so far he hasn’t shown that he can consistently be the intelligent, off-the-ball player that he’s often drummed up to be.

The good news for Raptors fans is that Fields truly hasn’t been 100% at any point in his Raptors career.  The bad news is that his wrist and elbow injuries might have decimated his shot, and his back injuries might have negated his defensive presence.  The reality is that there’s no motivator in professional sports like the contract year, which is what Fields is coming upon.  You have to hope that when given a chance – and he will get a chance – he’s able to contribute. Whether it be spelling DeRozan defensively against a tough cover, punishing teams for overplaying one of our guards, or out-rebounding his man on account of his length, he needs to do something.

The fear is that he possesses no discernible skill that will allow him to stay on the court, let alone make Dwane Casey think of creative ways to get him into the lineup. The hope is that his teammates do enough on offense allowing Fields to hide and become one of the better wing defenders on the team.  There aren’t many instances of where this happens in the league, as defense-first players like Thabo Sefolosha, Trevor Ariza, Tony Allen etc.,  all have at least one thing they do well on offense.  Fields, unfortunately, hasn’t been able to demonstrate this which makes it very difficult for Dwane Casey to plan for him, reducing him to what we saw last year: a very situational player.

I never begrudged Fields because you can’t blame a man for taking the money handed to him.  I don’t even begrudge him for his tenure here, because he’s been marred by injury and has had his confidence shattered.  Following him on Twitter, he’s a nice enough guy who, by all reports, is a hard worker and consummate professional.  All one can do for Landry Fields is hope he pulls through, stays injury-free, and gets his offensive game going, both for the Raptors sakes and his long-term NBA career.  At 26 years of age, he still has one shot to get it right. Let’s hope he takes it.

Morning Coffee – Wed, Jul 9

Raptors’ Tim Leiweke explains ‘We The North’ mentality | USA Today

We have a marketplace that is booming right in front of us and we have to become that team they all relate to. We have to be that team they want to play for, and we have to be that team they want to follow. That’s the challenge we have right now. We haven’t even scratched the surface. We’re the only team in an entire nation. Think about that for a second. We’re the only true international team in the NBA. For a league that has built itself and has become brilliant because of its international appeal, we are the only international team in the whole league and we’re proud of that. We as a country are beginning to produce meaningful great players within this league. The Vince Carter impact is now being felt based on the influence that man and that team were at getting kids to want to play basketball at the highest level. We have an awakening in a Canada. One of the two fastest growing sports Canada is now basketball. If you add all of that, you have to look at the NBA and the Raptors and says it’s one of the great growth stories in all of professional sports. … The uniqueness of the Raptors is we are our Canada’s team.

2014 NBA Free Agency Rumours: Raptors to Meet With Andray Blatche | Raptors HQ

I get it to a certain extent. Blatche, when properly motivated can be a match-up nightmare due to his size, length, and touch around the hoop. He’s not exactly the rim protector I think the club still needs, but he could probably be had for a very fair price, helping to back up Toronto’s big man spots all the while leaving some precious cash to address wing or guard depth. The Raptors have a slew of versatile players now and Blatche as a basketball player (and I stress this latter part) fits the bill. But man, aren’t there any other options out there?

Andray Blatche to meet with Toronto Raptors on Wednesday – ESPN New York

Report: Raptors to meet with free-agent C Blatche | TSN

Report: Andray Blatche to meet with Raptors in Las Vegas – CBSSports.com

Raptors Waiting Patiently In Free Agency | Pro Bball Report

Both or neither of these players could fill a role on the Raptors next season. It’s really a question of fit at this point. Toronto could use a veteran like a slightly younger and healthier John Salmons to backup Terrence Ross and a taller shot blocking version of Chuck Hayes to fill in behind Jonas Valanciunas at center. However, Ujiri will have to be patient to find what he wants. He’ll only be offering a limited backup role and Ujiri needs to know if the player he brings in will accept it. Ross and Valanciunas are not about to lose their starting positions or minutes next season. It’s not just Toronto that is moving cautiously through the free agent waiting period. The entire process has become the ‘LeBron & Melo Show’ as so many potential transactions hang on where these two stars choose to play next season.

Kyle Lowry Is Worth Every Dollar of His New Deal with the Toronto Raptors | numberFire

He scored more than Deron Williams. He shot as accurately as Damian Lillard. He averaged more assists and fewer turnovers than Kyrie Irving. His 3.02 assist-to-turnover ratio was even better than the likes of noted assist gurus Rajon Rondo (2.97), Steve Nash (2.77), and Ty Lawson (2.72). He grabbed more boards than every NBA point guard not named Michael Carter-Williams. He stole the ball just as many times per game as Mike Conley, the previous year’s leader in total steals and All-Defensive honoree (second team). On the more advanced metric side, he was 8th in the entire league in offensive win shares (8.4), 8th in total win shares (11.7), and 10th in win shares per 48 minutes (.197). He was 10th on our NBA Player Rankings with a nERD score of 10.7.

Send me your Raptors-related links: [email protected]

Report: Andray Blatche Meeting Raptors in Vegas

Andray Blatche is meeting the Toronto Raptors in Vegas. The crude plan concocted by Blatche is rather devious. He plans on making his case for inclusion on the Raptors roster to Masai Ujiri in private. As Ujiri has declined all meeting requests, the stealthy Blatche, RR has learned, will be tailing Ujiri from a distance. When the Raptors GM enters the washroom and uses a urinal, immobilizing himself briefly, Blatche’s plan spurs into motion. Sources have learned that Blatche plans to slide into the urinal next to Ujiri, and negotiate a contract somewhere in the range of four cheeseburgers a month to the full mid-level exception.

Stay tuned to RR for this developing story which makes little sense from a basketball-fit, personnel-fit, personality-fit, or just any kind of fit point of view. Blatche, a decent scorer, remains a lazy player who RR has little interest in having on the roster, especially since we already have Patrick Patterson who does more or less the same thing except without looking like he’s bored to death and entirely uninterested.

Blatche is 27 years old and averaged 11.2 points and 5.3 rebounds in 22 minutes with the Brooklyn Nets last season where he made $1.4M. If nothing else, he would come cheap.

Jonas is Lithuanian dancing machine

Getting creative with the mid-level exception

Shopping at the thrift shop with a $100 bill.

Over the last eight days, our beloved general manager reeled off an impressive, if not extensive series of moves. We here at RR would like to think that we covered every transaction from every angle (we even wrote 2.5 articles on Nando de Colo), but in case you missed it, here’s a list of everything that’s happened over the last week:

The flurry of moves leaves the roster at 12, or 13 if Greivis Vasquez re-signs with the Raptors. That figure assumes that both Brazilian rookies will be signed, and that Dwight Buycks and Dionte Garrett are waived. For more on the state of the roster, and the status of their financial situation, check out Blake’s little run-down.

With the 12/13 players in place, the roster has two holes left to fill — Joe Johnson insurance big wing defender and backup center. Let’s address each position separately.

Backup Center

In my opinion, neither need is particularly pressing, especially the back-up center spot. Not only should Jonas play slightly over 30 minutes a game, there are a number of worthy back-ups in Chuck Hayes (everyone’s new favorite whipping man) and Bebe Nogueria. There should only be around 16 minutes per game to mop up for those two, and don’t forget, Amir Johnson can begrudgingly fill in at center if need be.

Also, the need isn’t exactly pressing. Defense wasn’t really an issue for the Raptors, especially not at the rim. The Raptors boasted the 9th best defense overall, 10th best rebounding rate, and the 11th lowest opponent field goal percentage at the rim. There’s room for improvement, but for the most part, that will fall on the shoulder of Jonas to continue developing. Any upgrades made for the 16 minutes per game he’s out will be marginal.

Nevertheless, here are a few worthwhile candidates (in the Raptors’ price range) to consider:

  • Chris “Birdman” Andersen
  • Emeka Okafor
  • Ekpe Udoh
  • Nazr Mohammed
  • Jason Smith
  • Cole Aldrich

Wing Defender

Many of us are over-reacting to the events that transpired in the playoffs — Joe Johnson posting up, then drawing double-teams single-handedly eliminated the Raptors — but there aren’t that many gigantic wings left in the league. And the few that do exist — the LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony’s of the world — no one can reasonably guard anyway. At least, not to any appreciable extent without some serious cap room to make a run at the Luol Deng’s or Andre Igoudala’s of the world.

Rather, we forget that for the most part, the two-headed small forward tandem of Terrence Ross and John Salmons managed just fine last season, at least on defense.

Consider Celtics forward Jeff Green, who is listed at 6-foot-9, 235 lbs. In the three games after the Rudy Gay trade (he would count as a large wing defender), Green averaged 11.7 points per game against the Raptors, shooting 36 percent from the field (he averaged 16.9 points on 41.2 percent shooting on the season). Or, the case of Pacers forward Paul George, who averaged 16.3 points per game on 37 percent shooting against the Raptors after Gay left. The problem isn’t as bad as it seems. We’re making too much of boogeymen.

And don’t forget the team is still trying to develop it’s players, and it just so happens that their last two first-round draft picks, those being Terrence Ross and Bruno Caboclo, both play on the wing. Bringing in a stop-gap guy directly takes floor-time away from the youngsters. Development is like an iceberg, where most of the work is unseen, skills honed from hours in the gym. But we fans can only track their improvements with their in-game performance. They need time too.

But of course, the argument can be made that a big wing defender is needed in the playoffs, especially if LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Joe Johnson are still in the East when the dust settles on the offseason. If so, here are some names in the Raptors’ price range (affordable using the full mid-level exception)

  • Marvin Williams
  • Vince Carter
  • Wes Johnson
  • Xavier Henry
  • Ivan Johnson
  • P.J. Tucker
  • Al-Farouq Aminu
  • Richard Jefferson
  • Hedo Turkoglu (LOLOLOLOL)
  • John Salmons (LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL)

Using the Mid-Level to our advantage

Given that the Raptors should be freely able to use the full mid-level exception ($5.3 million), either need can be adequately filled in the meantime. A number of free-agents have already been inked to the mid-level this offseason, including Spencer Hawes and Josh McRoberts.

Ordinarily, players signed to the mid-level are inked to four-year deals starting at the full base amount, with incremental 4.5 percent raises every year. However, given that the Raptors’ don’t have a pressing need at either position, I think the the team would be best off maintaining as much flexibility as possible.

My solution is this: find a worthwhile player, and sign them to a two-year deal worth $11 million. The first year should be the maximum allowable using the mid-level, and the second year should be partially guaranteed, worth 104.5% of the first year’s salary. Basically, the idea is to recreate the what Orlando did with Ben Gordon, only with a better player.

Obviously there are hurdles to this. First, any player agent should be able to see through the facade and understand that it’s effectively a one-year deal. Many middling free-agents crave security, Second, it would put the Raptors close to the luxury tax, which would handcuff their ability to facilitate trades during the season.

But if executed correctly, there are benefits to consider on both sides.

From the player’s perspective, a big one-year payout could be tempting to a player looking to rehab their value around the league (Al-Farouq Aminu) or for veterans on their last stop before calling it quits (Vince Carter).

For the team, it would allow the team to plug a hole with a short-term stop-gap, while maintaining flexibility going forward. It also gives the team a trade asset next offseason, a la John Salmons. Remember, the price for a one-year cash-dump this season was a first-round pick.

And before you start, this would not work with Trevor Ariza, Chandler Parsons or Luol Deng. All three players will get in excess of $9 million next season.

So what do you think? My pick would be Marvin Williams.

Morning Coffee – Tue, Jul 8

Kyle Lowry Is Worth Every Dollar of His New Deal with the Toronto Raptors | numberFire

He scored more than Deron Williams. He shot as accurately as Damian Lillard. He averaged more assists and fewer turnovers than Kyrie Irving. His 3.02 assist-to-turnover ratio was even better than the likes of noted assist gurus Rajon Rondo (2.97), Steve Nash (2.77), and Ty Lawson (2.72). He grabbed more boards than every NBA point guard not named Michael Carter-Williams. He stole the ball just as many times per game as Mike Conley, the previous year’s leader in total steals and All-Defensive honoree (second team). On the more advanced metric side, he was 8th in the entire league in offensive win shares (8.4), 8th in total win shares (11.7), and 10th in win shares per 48 minutes (.197). He was 10th on our NBA Player Rankings with a nERD score of 10.7.

Raptors took Bruno Caboclo on wingspan and a prayer | Toronto Star

“Length gives you a chance,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey says. “In a lot of ways.” With that in mind, the chance of unheralded Toronto draft pick Bruno Caboclo making a quicker transition from unknown Brazilian teenager to NBA player may be accelerated simply because of the makeup of his body. At six-foot-eight, he’s about average height for an NBA player, so there’s nothing really special about that. But he also has a wingspan that measures about seven-foot-six from fingertip to fingertip, and that is among his most intriguing characteristics. Length can make up for any number of skills that need to be developed and fine-tuned. Long players deflect more passes, protect the rim better, are more able to get off shots that cannot easily be blocked . . . it can be a huge benefit. “With guys who are challenged developing lateral quickness or physical strength length helps, especially defensively,” said Casey. “Bruno will eventually add to our defensive length.”

Bruno Caboclo’s progress – how to turn him from prospect to Raptor – Raptors Rapture

“How are you gonna keep ‘em down on the farm/after they’ve seen Par-ee?” popular post-Great War song, c.1919 – If we want Bruno to bust his hump, the best way is to show him the NBA’s excitement, then give him a few months of long bus rides to places like Bakersfield, CA, Tulsa OK, and Reno NV. Once he’s seen how the other half lives (travel on chartered jets; stay at the best hotels in the hottest cities), then had it taken away, he’s going to do everything he can to return.

Minor Raptors moves as waiting continues and what’s the best free agent ending? | Toronto Star

While I was trying to hammer out this item , the HOTH cut ties with Julyan Stone, lost Nando DeColo to Russia and finalized the IT’S ONLY SUMMER LEAGUE roster. Tiny moves and necessary ones but it underscores that there is still plenty of work for Masai to do before we can determine whether this free agency period has been a success.

Raptors Newest Rookie Prospect Lucas Nogueira | Pro Bball Report

Nicknamed Bebe, Nogueira is from Sao Goncalo, Brazil and has been playing for Asefa Estudiantes in Spain. He joined the Junior team in 2009 before moving up to play in the Spanish ACB league in 2011-12. Typical of how European teams develop young players, Nogueira had to fight for minutes and he only averaged 13.6 minutes and 16.6 minutes over the past two seasons respectively. He did, however, make an impact by blocking shots and finishing at a very high percentage around the rim. Last season he shot over 70 percent from the field and his 1.6 blocks translates to almost 4 blocks per 40 minutes. His ability to be effective in the paint was on full display with the Hawks at the 2013 NBA Summer League where he averaged 6.4 points on 62.5 percent shooting, 6 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 2.4 blocks in 21.8 minutes.

Raptors Free Agency Thoughts

Patrick Patterson another former Rocket found a nice role with the Raptors as their stretch four shooting 41% from 3 point land in 47 games with them. In todays NBA big men that can shoot are a premium especially ones with his athleticism. This contract is interesting because at 3 years and $18 million initally your like wow $6 million a year for a backup power forward but when you think about it down the line this will be a nice trade asset Masai Ujiri can use as part of a trade to land a bigger fish if the opportunity presents itself. In a season and a half this contract may be a hot commodity as Patterson will be a coveted expiring contract along with the fact that he can shoot from three and give teams size inside. I initially thought it was a little much but he’s a guy the Raptors are going to need to help space the floor, provide depth and an asset to use down the road in a trade.

Raptors Waive Julyan Stone

The writing was on the wall. Kyle Lowry re-signing, the acquisition of Lou Williams, the allocation of Dwight Buycks to summer league, and the rumours the Greivis Vasquez would return. There simply isn’t enough room on the roster for a fourth string point-gurad, and so that was that when it came to Julyan Stone.

Stone was owed $948,163 in unguaranteed money, but now that he’s waived he comes off the cap entirely. He was part of the Denver roster where he caught Ujiri’s eye on account of his 6’6″ frame for a PG. The Raptors picked up Stone last training camp and this is likely the longest profile ever done on him.

Woj: De Colo off to Russia to play for CSKA Moscow

Nando De Colo has rejected the Toronto Raptors’ $1.8M qualifying offer and elected to sign a reported two-year, $4.1M deal with CSKA Moscow, according to the Don mega:

 

This was largely expected in some form, if not CSKA than somewhere else, and it was possible the Raptors would have rescinded the offer shortly anyway to clear him off the books. The cap implications of the move are explained in the post linked above, as it was already assumed he was gone.

De Colo joined the Raptors at the trade deadline after being acquired from the San Antonio Spurs for Austin Daye (who now has an NBA Championship ring, which is all kinda of unfair). He appeared in 21 games, averaging 3.1 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 9.2 minutes. He wasn’t exactly ineffective, but between his inability to know down mid-range jumpers and defend any position, he really didn’t move the needle all that much.

He probably would have caught on somewhere as a third string combo-guard, but it’s unlikely he could have received $4 million guaranteed.

The Frenchman, now 27 years old, will return overseas to play for the Russian powerhouse CSKA Moscow. Before coming over to San Antonio, De Colo spent several seasons with Valencia in Spain and played in the French league prior to that. If you’re really itching to see him again, he’ll be a reserve guard for the French national team at the FIBA World Cup in late August.

Should this be the end of De Colo’s NBA career, he’ll leave having played 119 games, averaging 3.8 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists with an 11.8 player efficiency rating. He also appeared in six playoff games, totaling four points, five rebounds and two assists in 18 minutes. Because this franchise is the best, De Colo will leave ranked 140th in minutes as a Raptor with 193. I’m stretching here…this is very, very inconsequential.

Bruno, Kabongo headline Raptors Summer League roster (schedule within)

The Toronto Raptors have announced their roster for the Las Vegas Summer League, and it’s a pretty good one, with several intriguing names listed.

Schedule
The Raptors will be guaranteed four games in Las Vegas, only three of which are currently scheduled. A lot of games from the tournament will be broadcast on NBA TV and the rest can be viewed via a $15 online package. The full tournament schedule can be found here, and the Raptors’ schedule is as follows:

Friday, July 11 - 6 p.m. ET vs. Lakers
Saturday, July 12 – 6 p.m. ET vs. Nuggets
Monday, July 14 – 6 p.m. ET vs. Mavericks
Wednesday, July 16 or Thursday July 17 – Elimination round game
Saturday July 19, Sunday July 20, Monday July 21 – Quarters, semis, finals, if qualified.

Roster
As mentioned, the Raptors roster is quite intriguing. Obviously, the big draw is always the rookies and the team’s own young players, but the “fillers” are interesting this year. Here’s how it breaks down, courtesy of the Raptors Media Relations account and “second time in four days making a difference in someone’s life” Eric Koreen (assistant coach Jesse Mermuys is coaching, by the way):

Raptors Players
Bruno Caboclo
– No. 20 overall pick, 2014. Obviously, we’re all incredibly excited to see what he looks like on the court. It will be equally interesting to see how the Raptors use him, and whether they have a very clear set of tasks they have him working on or if they’re letting his length and athleticism dictate what he does in the flow of the game. All eyes on Bruno.

Bebe Nogueira – No. 16 overall pick, 2013, acquired from Atlanta. Nogueira may have the most to gain in this tournament, as he reportedly wants to come to the NBA this year and the Raptors could use a third center. He’s huge, and incredibly long, averaging a block every 10 minutes in the Spanish ACB league this season. He’s still raw, as you’d expect from a 21-year-old international big, but he has reportedly made appreciable strides since the time he was drafted and it would be great to see him show something at both ends and earn a back-end rotation spot.

DeAndre Daniels – No. 37 overall pick, 2014. While it’s been suggested Daniels could be headed to Europe to further work on his game, showing something here could move him into the plans as a contingency for wing depth if the team strikes out on mid-level free agents. Daniels can shoot the three and has shown potential as a defender, though the latter could be tough to prove in this setting without elite competition.

Dwight Buycks – Roster player, non-guaranteed contract until July 22. He’s almost surely a goner on his guarantee date, but he was a standout in the Summer League last year, and maybe lightning will strike twice and he’ll make the team think twice about risking losing him. Realistically, Buycks is auditioning for the rest of the league here, so expect him to look for his.

Conspicuous by his absence
Julyan Stone is not on the roster, which almost surely means he’ll be waived Monday, after which his contract would become guaranteed. It’s no surprise that Jonas Valanciunas isn’t playing, but I thought they may give Terrence Ross some run here to work on his handle.

Canadian alert!
Myck Kabongo will join the team. The former Texas Longhorn went undrafted last season and did little for the Miami Heat in Summer League or the San Antonio Spurs in the preseason, ultimately playing out the season with the Austin Toros of the D-League (9.2 pts, 3.9 rbs, 4.7 ast, 37.9 3FG%). He’ll probably be given a look as a 15th-man type, and the passport surely helps, but he hasn’t looked an NBA player yet.

Names you may recognize
Scott Machado – A personal favorite, Machado went undrafted in 2012 despite being an assist machine at Iona, eventually signing with Houston and spending most of the year in the D-League. He was later waived and grabbed by Golden State, who even used him in the 2013 playoffs. Last season, he failed to break camp with Utah and instead split the year between the D-League and France. There’s little question he can create for others, but he struggles to score and isn’t a great spot-up shooter.

Hassan Whiteside – The 2010 second-round pick of the Sacramento Kings has 19 NBA games to his credit, but all that really matters for him is that he’s 7-foot. That kind of size is always worth keeping an eye on, but I’m skeptical that his past two years in the Lebanese and Chinese leagues would have helped his development much. He’s still only 25, and he was Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in China in 2013 but, you know, there’s probably a reason he was available, and it starts with him being ineffective in the D-League less than two years ago.

Malcolm Lee – With 35 games of NBA experience, Lee will be one of the more seasoned players on the roster. A 2011 second-round pick of the Bulls, the wing averaged four points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists with the Timberwolves over 2011-12 and 2012-13. I literally can’t find any info (D-League, EuroBasket, Wikipedia) on what Lee did for the 2013-14 season after being waived by the Wizards, though he attended that huge Nets free agent camp a month back.

Doron Lamb – Lamb was just waived by the Magic after a season in which he played 53 games, averaging 3.6 points and hitting 40 percent of his threes. That last point will be the draw with Lamb, as he shot 48.6 percent from downtown over two seasons at Kentucky and is 50-for-127 (39.4 percent) over 100 NBA games. That’s elite skill is what got him drafted in the second round in 2012, but he’ll need to show he can do literally anything else.

Darington Hobson – 2010 second-round pick by the Bucks who played fives game with them in 2011-12, he averaged 15.4 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists in the Israeli league this season, impressive numbers for a wing. He was decent in the D-League the season before, too, but has a but of Dominic McGuire in him in the sense that he can pass and rebound from the wing but can’t score.

Names you probably shouldn’t know
T.J. Bray – Undrafted senior out of Princeton; wing; averaged 18.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.2 assists as a senior while shooting better than 40 percent on threes.
Chris DanielsFormer TNA X-Division champion Former Texas A&M player who has spent the past few summers in Vegas; 7-foot center; played in the Lebanese league last season.
Sam Dower – Undrafted senior our of Gonzaga; undersized center; averaged 14.2 points and 7.2 rebounds in 271. minutes as a senior.
Eli Holman – 6-foot-9 center currently playing for the Heat in Orlando Summer League; was undrafted as a senior out of Detroit in 2012; averaged 13.5 points and 9.4 rebounds in Turkey this season.
John Shurna – Undrafted out of Northwestern in 2012 despite leading the Big Ten in scoring; forward; averaged 11.7 points and shot 37.9 percent on threes in the ACB this year.

What Does It All Mean?
Well, nothing really. Life doesn’t mean anything.

In reality, though, the Raptors don’t have a lot of room to be auditioning players for roster spots. If we assume Bruno and Bebe crack the roster and Greivis Vasquez is retained – that’s thought to be coming soon – then there are only two roster spots left. One of those would surely be ear-marked for the mid-level exception (and probably/hopefully a wing with size), and while the team could easily have room left beneath the tax to sign a 15th player, doesn’t it seem more likely it would be used on a veteran rather than a third young player to develop along with #BrunoAndBebe?

Looking at the roster, though, the Raptors are clearly evaluating three areas: a third point guard (Buycks, Kabongo and Machado) on the cheap, a third center (Nogueira, Whiteside, The Fallen Angel), and shooting (Daniels, Lamb). I’m not sure there’s a need for another guard if Vasquez is retained or the need for another center if Nogueira cracks the team, but it’s good to have options and evaluate these kind of players (plus, you know, you have to roster a whole team), especially if the team doesn’t think it needs a 13th ready-to-contribute veteran body with that final roster spot.

Raptors Weekly Podcast, July 7 – Dominating Free Agency

Flying high are we all, we being Andrew, Will and yours truly on a Raptors Weekly that celebrates Kyle Lowry’s re-signing and mourns Nando De Colo’s imminent departure. In between all that is the Bachelor, Andrew’s Alan Anderson moment, Greivis Vaquez and fond farewells to John Salmons and Steve Novak, and tons more.

Part 1:

  • Kyle Lowry signing reaction
  • Beating out the competition – teams in play
  • What it means for this franchise
  • Ujiri’s performance
  • Fair deal or overpayment?
  • Will he repeat his performance from this ‘contract year’?

Part 2:

  • Patrick Patterson signing – 3yr/18M  - fair deal for a guy who has played half a season?
  • Comparisons with other signings
  • Tyler Hansbrough option, PF work done?
  • John Salmons trade – something out of nothing
  • Bebe – chance at playing time and summer league
  • Favourite John Salmons moment

Part 3:

  • Vasquez rumours – interest from Milwaukee
  • Lou Williams – what this means for Vasquez, if anything
  • Nando De Colo offered a contract by CSKA Moscow
  • Sonny Weems is still there
  • Team Vasquez and the Bachelor
  • Result of the Steve Novak trade
  • Full Mid-Level Exception available – how to use it?
  • Alan Anderson shares a moment with Andrew
  • Carmelo Anthony – Lakers, Bulls, Knicks interest
  • Miami Heat – struggling to find any takers for their offers

Grab the iTunes feed or check us out on Stitcher on Android. There is also the plain old feed. You can also download the file (43:03, 41 MB). Or just listen below:

Report: CSKA Moscow Offer Nando De Colo $4 Million/2 Year Deal

The Raptors had tendered a qualifying offer of $1.8M to Nando De Colo, which you might have thought would be enough since the man is currently a borderline NBA player looking to stay on a roster. Things have shifted now that De Colo is being offered a €3 million deal by CSKA Moscow (Sonny Weems plays there), which works out to about $4.07M USD, and big tax breaks. The reported deal gives De Colo a higher amount over a longer period of time.

The Raptors are unlikely to offer De Colo more money upfront, given that they have higher priorities like signing a backup center.  However, since they actually tendered a QO to him, there is definitely an interest in keeping him.  To read more about the Raptors cap situation, check out Blake’s latest post on the matter. If De Colo signs with the Russian side, his cap hold equal to the amount of his qualifying offer will disappear from the cap and the Raptors will relinquish all rights.

With the Raptors last year, De Colo played 9 minutes per game and averaged 3.1 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 1.6 assists. He was acquired at the trade deadline for luckiest NBA champion, Austin Daye.

Toronto Raptors Salary Cap Update – Post-Patterson Signing, Novak Trade

It was just one day ago that I did a deep dive into the Toronto Raptors’ salary cap situation to try and make heads or tails out of what is permanently a murky situation. The CBA, it ain’t child’s play.

Because the offseason is the best, that cap review was relevant for all of about seven minutes. Since then, the Raptors have signed Patrick Patterson to a three-year, $18 million deal (#2Pat4Sure6Mill) and traded Steve Novak to the Utah Jazz, along with a second-round pick, for Diante Garrett, who they will waive.

So, let’s update. I’ll move through things a little faster this go-‘round, since we went deep with explanation in the last one.

All salary data comes via Sham Sports, except in the case of reported deals, where assumptions are stated. Help sorting through exceptions and the like comes via Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ.

Salary cap – $63.2M, Luxury Tax – $77M

On The Books – Guaranteed Contracts and Marcus Camby
Kyle Lowry – $12M(Technically, his first year salary could be as low as $10.725M or as high as $13.425M, but we are assuming a straight 12-12-12-12)
DeMar DeRozan – $9.5M
Amir Johnson – $7M (only $5M is guaranteed, so the Raptors could clear $2M by waiving him by Jan. 10)
Landry Fields – $6.25M (using the stretch provision could knock this to $2.083M over three years)
Patrick Patterson – $6M (Technically, his first year salary could be as low as $5.575M or as high as $6.475M, but we are assuming a straight 6-6-6)
Chuck Hayes – $5.96M (using the stretch provision could knock this to $1.987M over three years)
Lou Williams – $5.45M
Jonas Valanciunas – $3.68M
Tyler Hansbrough – $3.33M
Terrence Ross – $2.79M
Marcus Camby – $646,609 remaining on buyout (even if Camby returns, as he reportedly hopes to, the Raptors would not receive any relief on this number in any realistic scenario)

Non-Guaranteed Deals, Rookies and Cap Holds
Greivis Vasquez – $3.2M qualifying offer ($5.38M cap hold if QO rescinded)
Nando De Colo – $1.83M qualifying offer ($1.9M cap hold if QO rescinded)
Julyan Stone – $948,163 if on roster past Monday
Dwight Buycks – $816,482 if on roster past July 22
Diante Garrett – $915,243 with no guarantee date (his deal would be guaranteed on Jan. 10)
Bruno Caboclo – $1.22M cap hold ($1.46M his likely salary at 120% of scale)
Bebe Nogueira – $1.47M cap hold ($1.7M his likely salary at 120% of scale)

The Cap Sheet, July 5, 11 a.m.
Regardless of what could happen or what assumptions we’ll make later, this is what the cap sheet currently looks like for the Raptors:

Player Cap Type Amount
Kyle Lowry Contract $12,000,000
DeMar DeRozan Contract $9,500,000
Amir Johnson Contract $7,000,000
Landry Fields Contract $6,250,000
Patrick Patterson Contract $6,000,000
Chuck Hayes Contract $5,958,750
Lou Williams Contract $5,450,000
Jonas Valanciunas Contract $3,678,360
Tyler Hansbrough Contract $3,326,235
Terrence Ross Contract $2,793,960
Marcus Camby Buyout $646,609
SUBTOTAL GUARANTEED $62,603,914
Julyan Stone Non-guaranteed $948,163
Diante Garrett Non-guaranteed $915,243
Dwight Buycks Non-guaranteed $816,482
SUBTOTAL ROSTER $65,283,802
Bruno Caboclo Draft Pick Cap Hold $1,215,300
Bebe Nogueira Draft Pick Cap Hold $1,468,900
Greivis Vasquez RFA Qualifying Offer $3,203,780
Nando De Colo RFA Qualifying Offer $1,828,750
SUBTOTAL SALARY CAP $73,000,532

You could also pencil in DeAndre Daniels, the second-round pick who may or may not play in Europe this season but is tough to account for financially since he has no cap hold and no rookie scale to follow for a contract (he can negotiate whatever). He’s a bit of a wildcard, but the assumption, which will make more sense shortly, is that he won’t be with the team.

The Raptors have $62.6 million in contracts guaranteed to 10 roster players, meaning once cap holds are accounted for (even if they renounced everyone other than those 10, minimum roster charges for the final two roster spots would add over $1M on the books), the team has no “cap space.”

That does not, however, mean they don’t have the flexibility to add pieces around these 10 names.

What the Cap Sheet Really Looks Like, July 5, 11 a.m.
Stone, Buycks and Garrett are almost surely gone. Let’s also assume that Caboclo is going to play in Toronto, as has been stated, and that Bebe is coming as well (this has been hinted at). We’ll assume they get 120 percent of scale because everyone gets 120 percent of scale, with very rare exceptions. If you think the Raptors would risk pissing off players by going less, feel free to knock a couple hundred K off the salaries for the rookies.

Anyway, this is what the books “really” look like, for the purposes of figuring out how much room the team has to operate:

Player Cap Type Amount
Kyle Lowry Contract $12,000,000
DeMar DeRozan Contract $9,500,000
Amir Johnson Contract $7,000,000
Landry Fields Contract $6,250,000
Patrick Patterson Contract $6,000,000
Chuck Hayes Contract $5,958,750
Lou Williams Contract $5,450,000
Jonas Valanciunas Contract $3,678,360
Tyler Hansbrough Contract $3,326,235
Terrence Ross Contract $2,793,960
Bruno Caboclo 120% of Rookie Scale $1,458,360
Bebe Nogueira 120% of Rookie Scale $1,762,680
Marcus Camby Buyout $646,609
SUBTOTAL 12-Man Roster $65,824,954
TAX ROOM NO CAP SPACE $11,175,046
Nando De Colo RFA Qualifying Offer $1,828,750
Greivis Vasquez RFA Qualifying Offer $3,203,780
TBD Mid-Level Exception $5,305,000
TBD Bi-Annual Exception $2,077,000

With the 12 names assumed to be on the books, the Raptors have a hair over $11M to work with to stay under the cap.

How Can They Use That Space?
Vasquez – They’re free to sign Vasquez to whatever deal they like without concern for the cap, since they have his Bird rights. Rumors have Vasquez earning in the $5M range, but assume the range is $4-6M to be safe.

De Colo – Personally, I think De Colo is as good as gone and the team will rescind his QO as soon as a Vasquez deal is done. There’s a minor risk he would sign a $1.8M qualifying offer, and while that’s not a killer salary, the Raptors don’t have the room – roster or financial – to simply allow him to do so.

Mid-Level Exception – The team is free to use the full mid-level exception as a team that’s over the cap and a non-taxpayer. There is a minor concern, however, if Vasquez comes in around $6M, that the combination of the MLE and Bi-Annual Exception (BAE for short, because you gotta show those veterans love) would push the Raptors above the tax line. That would mean that the “apron” (roughly $81M) would become a hard cap for the Raptors that they would be unable to cross for the entire season. That’s a very minor concern given the roster and financial realities for this team, but it’s worth noting.

Anyway, the MLE can be split between multiple players or used on a single name. Contracts can be up to four years long, starting at $5.305M in year one and, if raises are maxed, totalling $22.7M. A three-year full MLE with full raises would total $16.64M. The BAE can’t exceed a two-year deal, meaning if it’s used entirely on one player (almost always the case), it would be either a one-year, $2.077M deal or a two-year, $4.25M deal.

Playing With Vasquez+MLE Assumptions
So, they have 12 players if the rookies sign on, and it sounds as if a Vasquez deal is getting done. In that case, here’s what the roster looks like by position:

PG: Lowry, Vasquez, Williams
SG: DeRozan, Ross, Vasquez, Williams
SF: DeRozan, Ross, Fields, Caboclo
PF: Johnson, Patterson, Fields, Hansbrough
C: Valanciunas, Hayes, Nogueira

I placed players in multiple positions there, but let’s get a different look:

Guards: Lowry, Vasquez, Williams
Wings: DeRozan, Ross, Fields, Caboclo
Bigs: Johnson, Patterson, Valanciunas, Hayes, Hansbrough, Nogueira

The team is fairly set with three capable ball-handlers and, whether or not you like the names that follow the three primary frontcourt players, there are at least a lot of interior names. But damn, do they need another wing, or what?

I know, I know, Williams and Vasquez can play the two, and the Lowry-Vasquez look was often a great one. That’s fine, and I’d be content with that being a core strategic element entering the season. However, the wing rotation is still painfully thin – an injury to Lowry, DeRozan or Ross would mean Fields and even Caboclo are being relied upon fairly heavily. If the team wants to use the full MLE to add another wing, preferably one with size, then the most they can offer Vasquez is $5.8M in year one, which would have to be considered the absolute high end of his range.

Player Cap Type Amount
Kyle Lowry Contract $12,000,000
DeMar DeRozan Contract $9,500,000
Amir Johnson Contract $7,000,000
Landry Fields Contract $6,250,000
Patrick Patterson Contract $6,000,000
Chuck Hayes Contract $5,958,750
Lou Williams Contract $5,450,000
Jonas Valanciunas Contract $3,678,360
Tyler Hansbrough Contract $3,326,235
Terrence Ross Contract $2,793,960
Bruno Caboclo 120% of Rookie Scale $1,458,360
Bebe Nogueira 120% of Rookie Scale $1,762,680
Marcus Camby Buyout $646,609
Greivis Vasquez RFA Deal $5,000,000
TBD Mid-Level Exception $5,305,000
SUBTOTAL 12-Man Roster $76,129,954
TAX ROOM NO CAP SPACE $870,046

Again: The Raptors should have room beneath the tax line to re-sign Vasquez and use the full MLE. That would leave them with a roster of 14 and possibly enough room to sign a 15th on a minimum deal. It’s also possible they have more room than we think based on the structure of deals for Lowry and Patterson, but those are unsafe assumptions. The key here is that the team has room for a reasonable Vasquez deal (unless you find a $5M AAV unreasonable, which you’re within your rights to) and use of the MLE.

Wing Targets
Unfortunately, there aren’t many great wing targets available in the MLE price range (the team could always make further moves to carve out space, or make a trade for a wing, but we’re in free agent mode here). Here are some names that intrigue me that could be in the budget:

Al-Farouq Aminu – He can’t shoot and he seems a bit of a head case, but he can be a great defender and is an elite wing rebounder. As for this makeup issues, well, he’s been coached by Vinny Del Negro and Monty Williams, so who knows how much of that is situational.
Shawn Marion – My guess is he stays in Dallas anyway, but he’d fit the defensive hole on the team perfectly.
Marvin Williams – It ain’t sexy but he can play some defense, hit the three and is still just 27.
Evan Turner – Not for basketball reasons, this would just be hilarious.
Brandon Rush, Chris Douglas-Roberts – Far less at the high end than some other names but would come cheap.
P.J. Tucker – I’m not sure the MLE would be enough that Phoenix wouldn’t match, but it’d be interesting to try as they angle to make a big splash.
Francisco Garcia – Would definitely help with spacing and he’s not a bad defender.
Mike Miller, Richard Jefferson, Rashard Lewis – Can’t see these guys signing for perceived non-contenders.
Vince Carter – Duh.

Those are just off the top of my head. Any other options you like?

Morning Coffee – Sat, Jul 5

Toronto Raptors get some insurance with Patrick Patterson signing | National Post

Patterson was very effective in the post-season, too — one of the few Raptors who was a positive contributor, more or less, in all seven games. He averaged 10.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game against the Nets, shooting 54% from the floor. Patterson also provides some insurance at power forward for Amir Johnson. Johnson, who will be entering his sixth season with the Raptors and 10th in the league next year, has battled chronic ankle injuries over the last few seasons, and is entering the final year of his contract. Patterson and Johnson were excellent playing with each other. And if Patterson keeps his three-point shooting close to his Toronto level, he is an ideal match for the emerging Jonas Valanciunas, at least in theory. “Every guy wants to start in the NBA,” Patterson said of his impending free agency after the season ended. “So having the opportunity to start and having a bigger role and more pressure and more responsibility would be appealing. But like I said, as long as I’m playing, as long as I’m comfortable, as long as I’m happy, as long as I’m involved in the team and have a positive role, I’m happy.”

Raptors reach deal with Patterson, Vasquez signing close | Toronto Sun

The team is willing to pay up in order to keep last year’s 48-win squad together and is banking on continued improvement from its young core. Patterson is just 25, Vasquez 27, Lowry still 28, DeMar DeRozan just 24 and Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross just 22 and 23, respectively. Patterson had drawn interest from the Phoenix Suns and Orlando Magic, but Toronto would have had the right to match any offer, as was the case with Vasquez. Toronto is not without risk in bringing back Patterson and Vasquez. Patterson has been inconsistent throughout his career and is on his third team. If he plays like he did as a Raptor, it’s great value, if performs as he did in Sacramento, or somewhere in between – not as much.

Raptors re-signing Patrick Patterson to three-year, $18 million contract | ProBasketballTalk

After shooting just 0-for-5 on 3-pointers his first two NBA seasons, Patterson has developed into a solid stretch four, making 37.4 percent of his shots beyond the arc the last two seasons. His salary might be slightly on the high side, but he earned this by really working on his game.

Lewenberg: Raptors agree to terms with Patterson, trade Novak | TSN

“As far as I’m concerned, keeping our core group going forward, with Kyle Lowry, Greivis Vasquez and Patterson and Nando, those guys are priorities for us,” the Raptors’ GM had said. “And if you want to build, I think a team where we have young players, we have to build continuity. When free agency comes, we have to attack our guys first.” With that goal in mind the next order of business will be retaining Vasquez, also a restricted free agent, expected to be done soon. In an effort to create the cap space required to complete a deal with the back-up point guard and perhaps add another piece while maintaining future flexibility and avoiding luxury tax penalties, the Raptors have also traded veteran sharpshooter Steve Novak to the Utah Jazz, reports Yahoo Sports. Toronto will send a future second-round selection to the Jazz as a sweetener and take back the non-guarantted contract of guard Diante Garrett, who will be immediately waived, in order to unload the $7.2 million Novak is owed over the next two years.

Patrick Patterson, Raptors agree to 3-year, $18 million deal | CBSSports.com

While not much of a rebounder or rim protector, Patterson is a solid, smart two-way player and a luxury to have as a backup behind Amir Johnson. Considering how well he shot the ball, it’s a mild surprise he didn’t get a more lucrative or longer contract. It might have helped that he wanted to come back and build on last year. “It was great here,” Patterson said at his end-of-season media availability in May. “Developed strong relationships with the staff, the organization, my teammates, embraced the city and the fans. Overall I had a great time. Out of all the stops I’ve been to, Houston and Sacramento, this is by far the best.”

Is Patrick Paterson the Next Amir Johnson | RealGM

Let me first say, I love Amir Johnson – he is the Udonis Haslem of this franchise and I hope next summer we can retain him for a reasonable term and price On to Patrick Paterson 4 years ago around this time of the year the “decision” happened. Chris Bosh left the franchise and Amir Johnson’s extension at $6m a year seemed like a huge overpayment… Patrick Paterson came to us as a throw in, just as Amir Johnson did. A diamond in the rough trade so to speak. PP fits perfectly with this lineup, he’s young, and he plays the stretch 4 perfectly which is ultimately the fit we need beside JV. I think we need to gamble on Patrick Paterson that he will earn his contract, just like Amir Johnson.

Toronto Raptors: Patrick Patterson Contract Grade | HoopStuff

With the Raptors’ 18 million dollar investment in Patterson, they now have an incredible young core of DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas, Patrick Patterson and Terrence Young all signed for at least 2 more seasons and if they continue to develop, they could be a powerhouse in the Eastern Conference if they are able to add one more big piece. They happen to have a lot of cap space next offseason where they can find that piece, but for now, resigning Patterson should help keep them in the middle of the East next season. With Patterson and Vasquez (who they also need to resign), the Rudy Gay deal gave them 2 excellent role players.

Toronto Raptors trade Steve Novak to Utah Jazz | FanSided

The Toronto Raptors, as we saw this past season, are one of the up-and-coming teams in the NBA, and they’d like to keep it that way. To stay successful, you have to make some moves in the offseason, and they’ve certainly done that. Following their recent re-signing of guard Kyle Lowry this past week, they’ve now hit the trade market, sending Steve Novak to the Utah Jazz.

NBA Trade: Utah Jazz trade Diante Garrett to Toronto Raptors for Steve Novak and a future pick | SLC Dunk

If you do the math (and I did, keep reading) this is a financial win for the Raptors who take back Diante Garrett and his non-guaranteed contract. They are likely to waive him and his hulking $915,243 price tag. If they don’t they will be getting a consummate professional who can be a solid back up at the point guard and shooting guard spots. He’s a good defender and makes his threes. If anything, he’s insurance for Kyle Lowry, Lou Williams , and Greivis Vasquez . Or an assurance that Vasquez is out. Either way it’s a solid trade for the Raptors who were on the verge of being tapped out of flexibility and stuck as middle playoff team. Now they can make moves again or signings to keep improving. For the Jazz this is less about getting better than it is about maintaining their commanding lead in flexibility over the rest of the league. Novak appears to be allosteric competition against the ideas of Marvin Williams (who has a bunch of teams after him right now), Malcolm Thomas, and Erik Murphy on their Summer League team (Diante too, but oh well…) and the theory that they are face up, stretch bigs is still just a theory. Novak is the proof of concept. Novak is cheaper than Marvin will be, but $1.681 million more than keeping both Malcolm Thomas and Erik Murphy.

Raptors Are Almost Done With Free Agency – Sort Of | Pro Bball Report

De Colo is a bigger question mark. If Ujiri wants to add a veteran wing through free agency – say Vince Carter for example – he will have to rescind De Colo’s qualifying offer to free up a roster spot or eat (waive) one of his guaranteed contracts. De Colo is even standing in the way of simply adding second round draft pick DeAndre Daniels unless Ujiri can pull off a two-for-one trade. This is quite possibly the real reason the Raptors Plan On Sending DeAndre Daniels To The D-League.

1 Burning Question for Every NBA Team Entering Weekend 1 of 2014 Free Agency – Toronto Raptors | Bleacher Report

As far as free agents are concerned, the Toronto Raptors are almost done. They re-signed Kyle Lowry to a four-year, $48 million deal and brought Patrick Patterson for three years and $18 million. Greivis Vasquez is the only one of note who hasn’t come back, though he and the Raptors are closing in on a deal, per Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun. To make the money work more easily, GM Masai Ujiri will send Steve Novak and a second-round pick to Utah, according to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. That doesn’t mean, though, that the Raptors will be done after that. Ujiri is a dealmaker by trade and figures to keep his line open in the event that another executive wants to chat.

Send me any Raptors-related link: [email protected]

Report: Steve Novak Traded to the Jazz

Woj is on it:

More as this develops

Update 1

He’s being flipped, along with a 2nd rouder, for the unguaranteed contract known as Diante Garrett (~$900k) who is about to lose his job.

According to my back of the envelope calculations, this gives Masai more money to work with this offseason. With only Gravy left to sign, looks like he’s going shopping for a small forward; hopefully :)

Update 2

The important numbers to understand as per the chart below:

~$7.6m away from the luxury tax (see sheet 1)

So, for example, they can sign Gravy to a $4.5m deal, and still have the entire mid-level exception to play with #noddingheadinagreeance

Then, he can pull Nando’s QO (~$1.8m), cut Buycks (~$800k) and Stone (~$950k), then win the internet with another ~$3.5m shaved off the books (see sheet 2)

normal

Report: Raptors, Patrick Patterson agree to 3-year, $18 million deal

The price for three-point shooting in this market is too damn high.

If the report by Jeff Goodman is true, of which it might not because no other major NBA reporter has yet confirmed the deal, then it looks like the Raptors have retained power forward Patrick Patterson for the near future. Our Raptors Republic’s #sauces confirmed the signing, and noted that the deal is fully guaranteed.

In Patterson, the Raptors net themselves a high-quality stretch-four. Although he’s best suited to a bench role — which is where he will most likely play as Amir Johnson’s platoon partner — Patterson brings more than just shooting. He’s also a decent defender with smart passing instincts. The three-year deal will carry through until Patterson is 28 years of age. He averaged 8.5 points and 5.3 rebounds in 23.5 minutes per game in 63 games played last season between the Kings and Raptors.

The size of the Patterson deal holds ramifications for the Raptors’ fiscal sheet. By my calculation, the situation reads as below. The Raptors, if they’re looking to duck the luxury tax, have approximately $7 million left to re-sign Greivis Vasquez and find a potential upgrade on the wing. They could, of course, pull Nando de Colo’s qualifying offer, but that carries penalties as well. For more on the Raptors’ financial outlook, check out Blake Murphy’s post.

cao

For what it’s worth, Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun speculates that Greivis Vasquez’ deal isn’t far behind.

Earlier in the year, I took an in-depth look at Patterson’s game, and predicted 3-years, $12 million as his next contract. However, given the escalating price of shooting in this season’s market (Jodie Meeks signed 3-years, $19 million, Ben Gordon signed 2-years, $9 million), the price isn’t all too egregious. The deal also spans three seasons of Patterson’s prime, and he was a restricted free-agent, so those details surely factored into the price as well.

As for the depth chart, Patterson figures to slot in at his usual position behind Amir Johnson, providing much-needed injury insurance and a floor-spacing influence. Depending on what happens next offseason when Amir Johnson’s contract runs out, Patterson could even slot in as his future replacement. If Bruno and Bebe are signed, the Raptors’ roster numbers 13.

Report: DeAndre Daniels Likely Off To Europe

This somehow escaped us this morning – Daniels could be off to Europe:

Second-round selection DeAndre Daniels, a combo forward who helped lead Connecticut to an NCAA championship in April, also is in the mix and currently is in Los Angeles working out with Caboclo, DeRozan and Johnson, but Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri has indicated Daniels will be stashed in Europe for a year to get some much-needed playing time.

DeAndre Daniels’s was selected with the 37th pick in the draft – to know more about him, check out his DX profile, excerpt below:

Although his release isn’t ultra-quick, he has a high release point on his shot, which coupled with his size allows him to get his jumper off from a very difficult vantage point for defenders to contest. He was effective both with his feet set and off the dribble this season, and has the added bonus of being able to hit difficult turnaround jumpers from the mid and low-post over either shoulder, something UConn head coach Kevin Ollie utilized frequently as the season moved on.

Daniels played a variety of roles and positions for UConn this season, seeing time at small forward, power forward and even at center in small doses depending on the matchup, something that’s possible thanks to his superior size and length. Although his defense was very inconsistent for most of the season, he showed great potential down the stretch when he was fully engaged and dialed in, showing the ability the lock down perimeter players and big men alike with his long reach and solid footwork. He shows nice timing as a shot-blocker, allowing him to average a solid 2+ blocks per-40 minutes in each of his three seasons at UConn, sometimes recovering nicely to make a play at the rim even after getting beat off the dribble.

Here are some DeAndre Daniels YouTube Highlights:

Toronto Raptors Salary Cap Review – Post-Lowry Signing

The Toronto Raptors re-signed Kyle Lowry. This is good. Very good, even. Everyone seems happy. More on that momentarily, but first let’s check in with how this changes things on the ever complicated books.

As with all things CBA related, it is difficult for a non-Deeks, non-Coon layman to be 100 percent certain in what they are writing. I’m generally confident I have a good hold on the important pieces and notes, but there’s always a non-zero chance notes include an imperfect interpretation, or that additional wrinkles (“loopholes,” if you will) are possible. NBA general managers are, with a few exceptions, smarter than me.

But let’s give it a shot, because there are a handful of ways the Raptors can still add to the players under contract. Let’s start with them.

All salary data comes via , except in the case of reported deals that are not yet official. Help sorting through exceptions and the likes comes via Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ.

Marcus Camby – Camby is still on the books for $646,609 this season.
Kyle Lowry – While it’s possible, perhaps even likely that Lowry’s deal is structured with a lower starting salary that escalates over the life of the contract, we will assume he is earning $12 million in each of his four seasons.

Under guaranteed contract
Lowry – $12M
DeMar DeRozan – $9.5M
Amir Johnson – $7M (technically only $5M of this is guaranteed, but I’m unclear when the guarantee date is)
Landry Fields – $6.25M
Chuck Hayes – $5.96M
Lou Williams – $5.45M
Steve Novak – $3.46M
Jonas Valanciunas – $3.68M
Tyler Hansbrough – $3.33M
Terrence Ross – $2.79M

Under non-guaranteed contract
Julyan Stone – $948,163 if on roster past July 7
Dwight Buycks – $816,482 if on roster past July 22

Cap holds
Bruno Caboclo – $1.22M
Bebe Nogueira – $1.47M
Patrick Patterson – $4.32M ($7.76M if qualifying offer rescinded)
Greivis Vasquez – $3.20M ($5.38M if qualifying offer rescinded)
Nando De Colo – $1.83M ($1.90M is qualifying offer rescinded)

Current Cap Sheet

Player Cap Type Amount
Kyle Lowry Contract $12,000,000
DeMar DeRozan Contract $9,500,000
Amir Johnson Contract $7,000,000
Landry Fields Contract $6,250,000
Chuck Hayes Contract $5,958,750
Lou Williams Contract $5,450,000
Steve Novak Contract $3,445,947
Jonas Valanciunas Contract $3,678,360
Tyler Hansbrough Contract $3,326,235
Terrence Ross Contract $2,793,960
Marcus Camby Buyout $646,609
SUBTOTAL GUARANTEED $60,049,861
Julyan Stone Non-guaranteed $948,163
Dwight Buycks Non-guaranteed $816,482
SUBTOTAL ROSTER $61,814,506
Bruno Caboclo Draft Pick Cap Hold $1,215,300
Bebe Nogueira Draft Pick Cap Hold $1,468,900
Patrick Patterson RFA Qualifying Offer $4,319,474
Greivis Vasquez RFA Qualifying Offer $3,203,780
Nando De Colo RFA Qualifying Offer $1,828,750
SUBTOTAL SALARY CAP $73,850,710

Salary cap – $63.2M, Luxury Tax – $77M

What this table shows is that the Raptors have some flexibility left to add pieces, but it’s going to take a bit of creativity and/or signing the RFAs to reasonable deals.

Ways to clear space
*Nogueira’s cap hold would come off the books if he and the team submitted paperwork indicating he will play overseas next season.
*Patterson, Vasquez and De Colo could all sign elsewhere or have their qualifying offers revoked and their rights renounced.
*Stone and Buycks could be waived, with their rights subsequently renounced (if that step is even necessary when you waive a player).
*Officially sign Caboclo at 80 percent of rookie scale (the figure in the table is the rookie scale, but teams can sign players to deals 80-120 percent of that figure).

Max “cap space”
If the Raptors took all of those steps to clear space, they would have $61,265,161 in player salary committed to 11 players (I’m including Caboclo here, but at 100 percent scale). That would leave them with, obviously, almost no cap space ($1.43M after the cap hold for a 12th roster spot at the rookie minimum). If I’m understanding the CBA FAQ correctly, to prevent loopholes the Raptors would effectively have no cap space. That dollar amount still matters for later tax calculations, but even at $1.43M under the cap the Raptors would effectively be left with only exceptions to sign players.

There is little incentive, then, for the Raptors to take all of these steps just to be “under the cap.” Lowry’s deal, the Williams acquisition and the Hansbrough guarantee effectively closed out any relevant cap space.

Do the Raptors have exceptions?
As a non-taxpayer, the Raptors will have the full Mid-Level exception at their disposal (this starts at $5.31M but can be split between players). They also have the $2.08M bi-annual exception at their disposal, plus a $1.22M trade exception that expires on July 10 and a $4.58M trade exception that expires on Dec. 9.

In order to stay below the luxury tax, the Raptors could only use $15.73M in total beyond the 10 players under contract and the Bruno. That’s a good amount for four players. They could conceivably pay Vasquez and Patterson a combined $10.4M, still have the full mid-level, forgo a 15th roster spot and still be under the cap, although precariously close to it. (They could also split the mid-level across two players and have a full 15, or bring Nogueira over – assuming 100 percent of scale – and have $8.96M for Vasquez and Patterson, plus the mid-level.)

If you’re starting to see that this can get complicated, well, yeah. There are a lot of balls in the air right now, and so much of the cap and tax machinations depend on the timing of moves as much as the actual moves that get made. The Raptors have some flexibility, which is obviously a good thing, but they no longer have enough room where Vasquez, Patterson, Nogeuira and a mid-level player are all realistic together, unless the market for the RFAs is significantly less than it would seem early in the moratorium period.

Realistic Scenarios

Player Cap Type Amount
Kyle Lowry Contract $12,000,000
DeMar DeRozan Contract $9,500,000
Amir Johnson Contract $7,000,000
Landry Fields Contract $6,250,000
Chuck Hayes Contract $5,958,750
Lou Williams Contract $5,450,000
Steve Novak Contract $3,445,947
Jonas Valanciunas Contract $3,678,360
Tyler Hansbrough Contract $3,326,235
Terrence Ross Contract $2,793,960
Bruno Caboclo 100% of Rookie Scale $1,215,300
Bebe Nogueira 100% of Rookie Scale $1,468,900
Greivis Vasquez RFA deal $5,000,000
Wing Player X Mid-Level Exception $5,305,000
Big Man Y Bi-Annual Exception $2,077,000
Marcus Camby Buyout $646,609
SUBTOTAL 15-Man Roster $75,116,061
TAX ROOM NO CAP SPACE $1,883,939

Personally, I think Patterson is more a priority given team needs than Vasquez, but the market for him also sounds like it’s heating up, and Vasquez is an important chip in uniting Brazilian Kevin Durant with American Kevin Durant. Given that Vasquez and Patterson don’t have dissimilar market values, you could easily pencil Patterson into the Vasquez spot and change “Big Man Y” to “Guard Y” or one of Buycks/Stone/De Colo.

Of course, one trade could blow this all up, or the Raptors could lose both Vasquez and Patterson, leaving them to scramble to split the mid-level or use a trade exception to fill out the roster.

It’s important to keep a wider time-frame in mind for any deals, however, as the Raptors have kept things quite tidy moving forward and they’ll surely want to keep that flexibility. Keep in mind that the cap and tax are both expected to climb over the next few seasons, with the 2015-16 cap currently projected at $66.5M and the tax projected at $81M.

Player Status 2015-16 Status 2016-17
Kyle Lowry Contract $12,000,000 Contract $12,000,000
DeMar DeRozan Contract $9,500,000 Player Option $9,500,000
Steve Novak Contract $3,750,001 UFA See Ya
Jonas Valanciunas Contract $4,660,482 RFA PAID
Terrence Ross Contract $3,553,917 RFA TBD
Bruno Caboclo Year-2 100% $1,270,000 Year-3 100% $1,324,700
Lucas Nogueira Year-2 100% $1,483,100 Year-3 100% $1,546,900
TOTAL $36,217,500 $24,371,600

Assorted Thoughts on the Moves Thus Far
I haven’t been very present around RR in the past few weeks, thanks in part to the NBA Draft being a project of mine at work, baseball writing commitments, moving, and so on. I just wanted to get down a few words on the three main moves of the offseason so far.

Bruno – I was, like everyone, shocked on draft night. I had pre-written 70 draft posts for the players that appeared on either Chad Ford’s or DraftExpress’ final mock. I expected some off-board names in the second round, but I did not think we’d get one in the first round. Well, we did, and it’s Bruno.

The more I think on the pick, the more I like it. Not in the sense that I have any clue whether Caboclo’s going to be a good NBA player, but because of what it says about Masai Ujiri and the organization. There were players I liked at No. 20 – K.J. McDaniels will be the one that got away – but none of them were franchise-changers. Caboclo probably isn’t, either, but the Raptors are exactly the type of team that should be swinging for upside with every single move. I’m a proponent of “best talent available” in the draft, and Ujiri took this a step further with “best upside available,” so I can’t really argue.

The franchise is clearly ready to embrace variance as a necessary means of improving the team’s talent level. I can get behind that at a strategic level. At a fan level, this is going to be really fun.

Lou Trill – This was a pretty straight-forward deal. We saw the cap ramifications above, but look at the deals guards have gotten in the market so far – the Raptors took that would-be cap space and turned it into a one-year mid-level exception deal for Lou Williams, something that no longer appears possible on the open market. And they got an intriguing prospect – and terrific hashtag (#BrunoAndBebe) – for agreeing to the swap. This was a smart, low-risk, high-flexibility move that netted a prospect to boot. That’s a win, and if Williams can regain his 2011 form in year two after ACL surgery (not a given), it could be an important one.

KLOE – This is wonderful. I talked about it a bit in the group post, but I’m very, very happy to have Kyle Lowry back with the Raptors, and at a relatively fair price, too. Sure, there are concerns, as always. Lowry could get grumpy again, he could put on weight, his body could break down, he could lose a step and no longer be as effective finding tight spaces or pulling up off a screen. Those are concerns, but they’re going to be concerns with any free agent who is 28 or older and not LeBron James.

In terms of price and term, this is completely fine. For Lowry, he can walk away after three years, at age 31, with plenty of time to chase a ring still. I had actually considered whether a fifth year from Toronto would even be preferable to a three-year deal for Lowry, and the fourth-year option makes perfect sense for that reason. The team now has a three-year window where the downside should be that of a playoff team, and the flexibility on the books is such that there’s still room for improvement.

More importantly, the team has its avatar back for the 2014-15 season. I think that’s very, very important. This is a team that was built on chemistry and synergy, and losing the engine could have been a major loss. He’s also the emotional heart of the team, cheesy as that may sound, and he grew into a role as a leader and an on-court extension of Dwane Casey well. I don’t doubt there will be stumbles or even blow-ups, because guys who care as much as Lowry are going to have those. But that desire to win so badly is this team’s identity, and it’s now in place for at least the start of next season, when only success will ensure it carries forward.

If you’re MLSE, too, you’re ecstatic to have Lowry back. More than any other player during the playoff run, the city and casual fans seemed to embrace Lowry (and it’s really not hard to see why). He’s not a top-flight marketing option or anything, but he’s the player the casual fans who joined on late in the year surely identify as The Guy, and his career path to date fits in really well with the team’s othering marketing campaign. If it’s us against the world, well, it’s been like that for Lowry for a long time, and he just chose to be with us rather than with the greater them. That’s huge.

TL; DR on Lowry:

Morning Coffee – Fri, Jul 4

With Kyle Lowry signed, Toronto Raptors look to return free agents Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson | National Post

After the season ended, Ujiri emphasized the concept of continuity. “I don’t think there’s any risk [in spending money on chemistry],” Ujiri said at the time. “I’ll announce it here: We’re going to go through hard times. You have to expect them. We’re going to bump heads. Our job is to figure it out and move forward. The players, I think, understand that, and that’s why you want to always get guys who put basketball first and compete. Those are the kind of guys that we have.” The message was clear: Ujiri wanted Lowry back, and he wanted restricted free agents Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson, the team’s two most important reserves, back, too. He wanted them back at a fair price, but he wanted them happy. Now, Ujiri might have to test just how important that is to him. Factoring in Lowry’s new deal and the rookie contracts for both 20th-overall pick Bruno Caboclo and Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira, acquired in the Lou Williams trade, the Raptors have committed nearly US$62-million to 12 players next year. The Raptors could use the “stretch provision” to waive a player such as Steve Novak or Landry Fields, but that, more or less, is the reality for the Raptors. Ujiri retains the right to match any offer given to Vasquez or Patterson, but doing so could prove costly.

Raptors can now turn their attention to supporting cast | Toronto Sun

Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez and Nando de Colo each are restricted free agents, meaning the Raptors can match any offer, within three days of the offer being officially tendered by another club. The team also has the $5.35 million non-tax-payer mid-level exception and a $4.58-million trade exception from the Rudy Gay deal to spend, but cannot bring everybody back and use an exception (let alone two) without going over the luxury tax line. Patterson and Vasquez would eat up most of the $14 million in available space by themselves. Retaining Patterson is more crucial, since de Colo can be retained for cheap and since Williams can play a bit of point guard, even if he is ideally an undersized scoring guard. The Raptors would prefer to see Patterson and Vasquez — their two top reserves during a stunning 48-win season — come back on reasonable deals, but the mid-level and trade exceptions at least provide an opportunity to come up with a backup plan.

Raptors Are Going After Vasquez And Patterson Next | Pro Bball Report

“Greivis is one of the best teammates you can have,” Ujiri said. “It’s a business and we are going to make a business decision. Greivis is closest on our team to Tyler Hansbrough, it’s crazy, everybody loves the guy. He is very close with Kyle. As competitive as he is, he figures out a way to be competitive with his team. We want to get something done. He is one of those pieces on the team where you know that he is always going to be a great teammate and is going to go out and compete.” The impact of a player like Vasquez on the court and in the locker room shouldn’t underestimated. He believes in himself and his teammates. Vasquez believes his team will win in pretty much any situation and his belief is outwardly visible. His outgoing nature permeates the locker room. He is a happy, positive, and uplifting influence and teams need a guy like him on their roster. He’ll be back.

Kyle Lowry is now the soul of the Toronto Raptors with generous but reasonable deal | National Post

Forget the suitors who might be able to offer a more immediate path to a championship — Houston, who had offered him a deal, or Miami, who had expressed interest — and forget the allure of playing for the Lakers in the Kobe Bryant’s last days. Lowry agreed to sign a four-year, US$48-million contract. It might be more than the Raptors expected to pay Lowry during the season, but compared to the first two days of free agency, where excesses were spent on decidedly marginal players, it is a reasonable deal for both player and team. Lowry will turn 32 by the end of the deal, if Lowry opts into the fourth and final year. By most projections, he is currently at the tail end of his peak. Still, if he can stay healthy, the contract slots him in to the group where he belongs. It is the same contract Ty Lawson got from the Denver Nuggets last year. That makes sense. Although Lowry has been in the league longer than Lawson, both are point guards who have never been all-stars or on all-NBA teams, but are right on the cusp of that level. Lowry should have received more consideration to receive both honours this year, but for a variety of reasons, he was ignored on both counts.

 

 

Re-signing Lowry means Re-signing Hope | Raptors Watch

Luckily for Lowry, there was that third, rather rare option. The team that’s got an All-Star, young assets, a veteran coach, a fairly deep bench, future projects, a present and future window and that’s in the weaker East. Toronto. And thus Lowry decided to stay. This is a good sign of things to come for the Raptors. There were two other franchises trying their best to steal Lowry away and they came up short to another that’s been a laughing stock for so many years. Why did he do it? Because he sees something in Toronto that he couldn’t get in the other places. A good contract, a good team with players and a coach he likes and the potential to get back to the playoffs and take a playoff series for the first time since *Bosh was in town. Who’s to say that this won’t mean future players will do the same? They may look more seriously at why Lowry decided to stay and realize that they too want to continue pushing a now-winning franchise forward.

Raptors: With Lowry signed, Amir Johnson’s wonky ankles next big worry | Toronto Star

The Raptors won’t lose Johnson to free agency — he’s got a year left on his contract and isn’t going anywhere — but having a contingency plan in place is a must as they continue to navigate free-agency waters. It’s why, according to league sources, the Raptors have already had preliminary conversations with their own restricted free agent, Patrick Patterson, and are willing to wait for the market to calm before looking for the defensive-minded physical wing presence they need. Johnson has decided against off-season surgery on his ankle and will try to strengthen it through exercise and rehabilitation. It might be a gamble given his penchant for tweaking it and it’s why Toronto is looking for frontcourt insurance as much as anything. It also would have factored into the decision to pick up the final option year of Tyler Hansbrough’s contract.

Is DeAndre Daniels going to help Toronto Raptors? | Raptors Rapture

DeAndre’s defense is solid, but no more. He’s active, and blocks shots at a respectable rate. His lack of strength allows his opponents to get to “their” spot seemingly at will, which makes them more dangerous. I haven’t seen evidence of great rebounding instinct, but he boxes out reasonably well, and that’s half the battle. While we might imagine DeAndre is more ready than Bruno to crack the lineup, I think that’s a remote possibility as of this writing. He needs a solid summer league performance, and many hours in the weight room, before he’s truly ready to challenge the incumbent small forwards. What’s more likely is him getting a training camp invitation following an active summer, then a season at Bakersfield with the Jam. DeAndre helped his team win the NCAA championship, so he’s no stiff. He will need to find a skill he can build his career on, as he’s OK at everything and great at nothing currently. I like the pick, but I’d be very (pleasantly!) surprised if he were to emerge as anything more than a rotation-grade SG/SF.

Daniels Ready To Get To Work With Raptors After NCAA Title Run | Toronto Raptors

The 6-foot-9 forward is in Los Angeles, training hard with some of his new Raptors teammates and coaching staff. After his second session of the day, Daniels laughs easily and is extremely personable, despite the long day in the gym. “It’s great,” he said. “It’s good to see guys early, come out, get to play with them. Just talking with guys like Amir [Johnson], DeMar [DeRozan], listening to them and doing whatever they tell me to do because these guys have been in the league for a long time. It’s so great to get out here early, get our workouts in and then head out to [Las] Vegas for Summer League.” Daniels grew up in Los Angeles and has been familiar with Johnson and DeRozan since his high school days. In addition to working out with his vets, Caboclo arrived in L.A. Tuesday.

Roundtable Reaction: Kyle Lowry & Free Agency

What were your first thoughts on the signing?

Tim Chisholm: I was impressed with how Masai Ujiri handled this whole situation. He expressed a strong desire to re-sign Lowry, yet despite his public optimism, he didn’t overextend the organization to bring him back. He made an offer, below what many thought he’d have to pay, refused to cave on a fifth year to the deal, and got him back on day two of free agency. As much as Lowry coming back is huge news for an organization with abandonment issues, the fact that Ujiri held firm to certain principles suggests a maturity to doing business that this club has rarely demonstrated in the past. That, more than anything, is what impressed me when the news broke last night.

Blake Murphy: This is fantastic. Forget whether the dollar figure actually represents Lowry’s actual worth – it’s close enough that it doesn’t really matter, since the Raptors retained him. If you’re of the mind Toronto has to overpay to keep players, you should be tap-dancing at this price. If you think Lowry should have signed a team-friendlier deal, get real. I’ve seen very little criticism, which is a miracle considering this is, after all, the internet, and I think that speaks to how close to “fair” on both sides this deal lands. Most importantly, however, the team has it’s avatar, it’s heart, it’s soul back, for at least three more years, and he’s chosen to stay. This is enormous.

William Lou: I was shocked and surprised. With all the rumors floating around of the Lakers, Rockets and Heat pursuing him, I was prepared for the worst. I figured the Raptors would either have to overpay to keep him, or lose him to a team like the Rockets (who I believe could have offered him up to $12 million before shedding Lin’s deal). It was a pleasant surprise. I wrote out my raw, uncut, emotive reaction last night.

Garrett Hinchey: Sweet, sweet relief, which I suppose doubles as euphoria in Raptor fan vernacular. As much as returning to Toronto seemed the obvious, rational decision for Lowry, years and years of disappointment have conditioned me to expect the worst (and those continuous Lakers/Heat/Rockets rumours coming from the US media didn’t help, either). Short term, the signing means the Raptors will field, more or less, the same unit that won 48 games last season. Long term, this is a sign that the change in culture we all felt last year was this franchise truly turning the corner, and not just a blip on the radar.

Nick Reynoldson: This is an actual text message I sent when I first heard the news.
“F$#% YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA SON! SUCK IT MIAMI.”
Then I finally uncrossed my fingers and toes.

Barry Taylor: I became very emotional. I’m 36 years old and have no kids. I’m sure this is what it must feel like when your child first tells you they love you.

Zarar Siddiqi: Holy shit! We beat out big name teams to keep Lowry – probably the first time a player has chosen the Raptors for their basketball situation, and not pure money.

How do you rate it against some of the other deals for guards that were signed in the last two days?

Tim: There really isn’t any comparison. Not only was the Jodie Meeks signing laughable and the Avery Bradley signing a little uncomfortably high, but in the past those were exactly the types of deals that were getting attached to the Raptors. Those kinds of “who were they bidding against?” overpays that made it so hard to take the Raptors seriously as a sustainable winning club. With Lowry, the club had publicly-acknowledged competitors and still refused to engage in an over-the-top bidding war. I would say that the only guard deal that Lowry rates on par with is Shaun Livingston, a guy that made maybe a million or so more than a team would have wanted to pay but ultimately fits enough of a need justify the price.

Blake: You serious, bro? Avery Bradley got 4-32, Ben Gordon got 2-9, Darren Collison got 3-16, Jodie Meeks got 3-20, and it’s probably only going to get crazier as team’s strike out on the top names. Lowry is now paid like a top-10 point guard, yes, but he also signed for roughly fair value when the market is determining that fair value is no longer a thing that exists.

Willie: didn’t think the mid-tier market for shooting would affect Lowry. He was in a different class of free-agents. Lowry was only in play for teams with hopes to contend, without a point guard, that also had major cap room. It was a bidding war between a select handful of teams, meaning the market was different. That being said, Lowry’s deal is much better value than Meeks for $19 million or Ben Gordon for $9 million.

Garrett: Are you serious? You mean the Ben Gordon and Jodie Meeks cash-splosions? I think GMs around the league are breathing a sigh of relief looking at Lowry’s deal, which may be a tad higher then the Raptors had hoped, but was certainly within the scope of fair market value, given the other craziness we’ve seen this offseason. Shawn Livingston’s deal, like Lowry’s, was a slight overpay, but you can’t compare the two – one is an effective backup combo guard, the other is a borderline all-star and franchise leader. Unless Lowry gains a hundred pounds or breaks both legs and both arms, there’s no way the Raptors regret this deal from a cash standpoint. There are far worse sins than paying a $10 million player $12 million.

Nick: I think its a fair deal. He got what he deserved. You can’t really compare it to the other deals that have happened so far. Some of them have been insane. I’m looking in your direction Ben Gordon. Four years, $48 million is great as long as Lowry doesn’t celebrate the pay day too much this summer and come back fat.

Barry: I was unaware there were other point guards in the league.

Zarar: Fair deal. It’s not so much about what guys like Livingston and Gordon got, it’s what Houston offered and what Miami was prepared to.

Where does Lowry rank on the list of all-time Raptors alpha-dogs?

Tim: It depends on how we’re ranking them. In terms of pure quality of play it would  be third, behind Vince Carter and Chris Bosh. However, if we’re ranking on a more abstract scale that takes into account things like personality, fit within the city/team, and a willingness to embrace the Raptors over more publicized suitors, then he could well surpass Carter and Bosh in time, so long as the wins keep coming. He bought a lot of goodwill last night, and that might well mean more to this fan base than all of the All-Star berths achieved by Toronto’s prior superstars.

Blake: I don’t know. It’s been two years, one of them mostly a write-off. He’s safely in the top-five in terms of “player quality” alpha, but he may be the most representative of the team at that point in time than any player in franchise history. That’s why I always refer to him as the team’s avatar…I’m not sure how he ranks as an “alpha dog,” but he’s right near the top for most representative leader of a team.

Willie: I’m not great with the Raptors’ history, so I’ll leave this to the old-timers (looking at you, Zarar). Lowry is as headstrong as Jarryd Bayless, only he’s actually good at NBA basketball. So there’s that?

Garrett: TBD. In my heart, he’s number one, just because he chose to spend his prime here in Toronto, rather than bolt when paydays – and southern markets – came calling. On the court, few teams take on the personality of their leaders the way the Raptors follow Lowry. But I still say we don’t know exactly where Lowry will land on this list yet – it’ll depend on the pieces they put around him and if they’re willing to buy into his leadership style and attitude, which can both be his greatest strength and weakness. If he can take this team to the Eastern Conference Finals, he’ll be a god in this city.

Nick: Number 2 behind Vince and I’m confident he will continue to close that gap.

Barry: I can’t think of a better leader in franchise history. Everyone else left when given the option.

Zarar: Slightly ahead of Antonio Davis as #1.

Who gets paid next? Vasquez? Patterson? Both?

Tim: Patterson. The team’s offence really sputtered last season when he messed up his elbow and had to sit out. Having bigs that can stretch the floor are key for basically any team in today’s NBA, but on a team with a driving point guard like Lowry and a shooting guard without a three-point shot, the floor spacing Patterson provides is doubly important. Plus, the market is just going to be hotter for Patterson than for Vasquez, but the Raptors remain in the drivers seat with both because they are restricted free agents. As of right now, I expect both to be back, but Patterson has to be the priority.

Blake: I think this means Vasquez is done. I’m not 100 percent on that, not even 60 percent, but I think the acquisition of Lou Williams to backup both guard slots – even if it was primarily about Ay Bay Bay and not Lou Trill – points to the team having a clear Plan B if Vasquez wants anything close to the Bradley/Collison/Meeks deals. This team is structured in a flexible manner right now, and while Vasquez would be great to bring back, the team wades into risky territory giving both he and Patterson – a more clear need and a more scarce resource on the market – deals with appreciable AAV and/or term.

Willie: They can pay both. With Lowry and Lou Williams (still weird) in place, Masai Ujiri now has more leverage over Greivis Vasquez. Patterson is a necessary piece, especially considering how Amir Johnson’s body is breaking down before our eyes. As long as they avoid paying the luxury tax, I’m entirely on-board with signing both. I’d prefer to sign both to 2-year deals, if possible.

Garrett: Patrick Patterson should be Ujiri’s next priority. The market for guards, as we’ve spoken about, has been set insanely high, while the market for Patterson has yet to heat up. I feel like the rest of the league is undervaluing him significantly (why in the hell would you pay Channing Frye $8 million when you could pay a younger, more versatile Patterson half that?) and the Raptors would be wise to strike while the league’s smartest front offices are holding out for bigger fish. I’d love to see Vasquez back, and think in the end, he will be as well, but stopgap replacements (Jameer Nelson?) are more plentiful than young stretch big men. #Bringback2Pat

Nick: Both would be amazing but the Priority has got to be Patterson. I feel like he’s got another level to his game that he will reach in the near future. Get 2Pat then go after Vasquez. We’ll find Greivis in an OVO sleeping bag outside of Masai’s office just waiting. 

Barry: Spend money to keep Patterson. Based on the way Grevais has been tweeting this off season he’ll sign for a ball boy wage.

Zarar: Neither – Patterson will sign with Orlando, Vasquez could be considered surplus to requirements since Lou Williams is here, especially if he gets a big offersheet.

Who else should the Raptors be targeting?

Tim: I still like the fit for Vince Carter on this team, even after the Lou Williams acquisition. The Raptors need a bigger wing, could use a veteran presence there, too, and Carter brings reliable three-point shooting and above-average passing to the mix, as well. Viewed dispassionately (a near impossibility when discussing as subject as volatile as Carter in Toronto), isn’t Vince Carter the player an ideal fit in Toronto’s wing rotation? I say yes. They also need rim protection, but the club may feel adding Bebe Nogueira helps enough in that arena.

Blake: They still need a big wing who can help out on defense. DeAndre Daniels might be that and he might not be, but it would be nice to have a body to join he and Landry Fields competing for that role. There are any numbers of lower-tier wings on the market who won’t make a big splash but could shore up the depth in an area of weakness, but what tier the Raptors can shop in depends on Vasquez and Patterson, because I doubt this is a team that spends into the tax. I’d say Evan Turner on a reclamation project but that doesn’t fit the need, I just really want to talk to him. Maybe the Raps can Pop the Tolli? I don’t know, so much depends on how much they have to spend.

Willie: Assuming Vasquez and Patterson return, the Raptors will have 14 bodies on the roster. If Nando de Colo signs his qualifying offer, the roster is set at 15. There also wouldn’t be any more money left. That leaves the roster as is, unfortunately. A larger wing defender would be nice. Here’s hoping Landry Fields’ returns to form. I’d expect help to come via trade during the season.

Garrett: Vince Carter will be a popular answer here among some fans, but in my mind, the team would be very wise to steer clear. This team’s biggest strengths are chemistry and identity, and as much as he fits in from an on-court standpoint, there is literally no way Carter won’t be a distraction next season as fans decide whether to embrace him or not and the team celebrates its 20th season. Furthermore, Vince is used to being the alpha-dog in Toronto, and it’s a huge gamble as to whether he’d be willing to cede the locker room to a much younger Lowry and DeRozan. I’d prefer someone like Al-Farouq Aminu, who is still young, is a capable wing defender, and doesn’t come with nearly the baggage (or the price tag) that Carter would.

Nick: Luol Deng for the right price would be an amazing piece for this young team… Vince Carter would be great as well (I just threw up in my mouth). That was the hardest sentence i’ve had to write this year. It’s hard to say what the atmosphere would be for him if he did return and how/if that would effect his play… I know it would take me a long time to get used to and God help twitter if he has a stretch of bad games… lets just stick with Luol Deng.

Barry: Short term role players. Save the cap space for KD in 2016.

Zarar: Luol Deng.

Kyle Lowry: King of the North

Kyle Lowry: King of the North

Source: @caseybannerman

Morning Coffee – Thu, Jul 3

Raptors sign free agent point guard Kyle Lowry to four-year extension | Toronto Sun

The Raptors had been extremely confident after meeting with Lowry and representative Andy Miller earlier this week. However, one member of the organization said that as confident as the franchise was at retaining Lowry, until he actually signed on the dotted line, no one could rest easy. They can get some sleep now, even if nothing can become official until midnight on July 10, when the NBA’s needlessly long moratorium period finishes. Attention can now shift to retaining restricted free agents Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez, both of whom were acquired in the Gay trade. The Raptors can match any offer. Vasquez has said he would be “heartbroken” not to return, but Lou Williams was recently acquired in a deal with the Atlanta Hawks and there are only so many back-court minutes to go around. Patterson enjoyed his stay, but has been less committed to a return. Lowry was an unrestricted free agent, available to the highest bidder and Patterson, for one, had made it clear he wanted him back. “He sacrifices his body on every single play and he plays with a lot of heart and passion,” Patterson said. “If Toronto wants to get better in the future, have someone to build around and be the key, the glue for the basketball team, what better person to start with than Kyle?”

Raptors send message to NBA with Lowry deal | Sportsnet

The deal includes an out after three seasons for Lowry and makes him the eighth-highest point guard in the NBA this coming season. It is more than the Raptors originally wanted to pay. As it was clear that Lowry was the primary engine behind the Raptors surprising 48-34 season the hope was that they could get Lowry on a relatively short three season deal worth $30 million. By the time Lowry had led them to the playoffs for the first time in five seasons while averaging 17.9 points/7.4 assists/4.7 rebounds and finishing eighth in the NBA in WinShares – a catch-all measurement of overall on-floor contributions – it was clear his price had gone up. Even then the Raptors were hopeful they could get Lowry signed for four years and $11 millon. But when the NBA’s free agency period opened July 1 at midnight there were teams competing for his attention. Foremost among them was the Houston Rockets, who offered Lowry the chance to return to his previous NBA home and join a lineup featuring Dwight Howard, James Harden and possibly Carmelo Anthony. That they would likely have needed to convince the Raptors to participate in a sign-and-trade deal – probably centred around Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin and a future draft pick – made it unlikely as the Raptors were not going to help facilitate Lowry leaving. They needed to send a message to the NBA that they could keep their own players.

Kyle Lowry Agrees to a 4-Year, $48 Million Deal to Stay in Toronto | Raptors HQ

This was a big moment for Ujiri and Tim Leiweke. The front office has made a conscious effort to shake off the image of the Raptors as being a feeder club that is unable to retain its stars once they’re able to test the waters of free-agency. There was always a danger that the perceived need to be aggressive — to change the image of the club — could lead to the organization overpaying Lowry. But the team has struck a good balance here between sending out the message that it’s willing and able to keep its stars (Lowry’s still going to be making good money) but that it’s not willing to compromise the future by doing so. It’s also worth nothing that the salary-cap is set to increase over the next few years and if Lowry does decline at the back-end of his contract, his salary won’t seem like such a big hit on the cap overall.

Common sense prevails as Raptors lock up Lowry | Toronto Sun

Lowry gives this team its edge. He’s not Kevin Garnett getting in a guy’s face and using intimidation to get an opponent off its game. He’s not Kevin Durant either with that elite skill level that teammates expect will carry them to victory. No, Lowry is a competitor plain and simple. He has skill and he can get nasty in his own way, but most of all it’s his will to win and his confidence that has taken this Raptors team to another level. You see it throughout the lineup. Whether it was staring down the Minnesota bench in a game he took over or any other number of nights, DeRozan had a swagger this year that he has not had in the past. Part of it obviously was the success the team was having but a big part of it was what Lowry brought. You can call it bulldog or pitbull, but Lowry gave this team a fight and belief in itself it didn’t have before.

Lewenberg: Lowry agrees to new deal with Raptors | TSN

“I love this place,” he continued. “I love the situation. It’s simple as that.” For that very reason his return was hardly in doubt, though Raptors’ fans are generally conditioned to hope for the best and fear for the worst. The Raptors’ front office, coaching staff and even Lowry’s teammates remained confident a deal would get done throughout the process but he did have other viable options to consider, given his desire to compete for a championship and his status as this summer’s most coveted point guard. Bringing him back, amid the long-time perception that players don’t want to be in Toronto, is a major coup for a Raptors’ franchise that is determined to change their culture under the leadership of Ujiri and MLSE boss Tim Leiweke.

Kyle Lowry is set to stay in Toronto with a four-year contract, which sounds about right | Ball Don’t Lie – Yahoo Sports

The Toronto Raptors are taking a calculated gamble, one that seems perched about partway between “trade an endlessly-chucking Rudy Gay for a series of expiring contracts” and “draft a kid nobody has heard of with the 20th pick in the draft.” The team is rewarding point guard Kyle Lowry, who has yet to make an All-Star team, with a four-year, $48 million extension. The agreement was first reported by Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. Lowry should have made the Eastern All-Stars last season, his best NBA campaign thus far. He coupled dogged play on both sides of the ball with a willingness to listen and not break the plays sent out by coach Dwane Casey, who was also working in the final year of his contract. The worst case scenario is that Lowry will relent to his old ways now that he’s finally cashed in on a major payday, and that the leader of the sometimes whisper-rich Raptors will cut off the team’s ascension. The best case scenario? The Raptors are paying a borderline All-Star guard through his prime, someone they can rely on to act as the face of the franchise while pushing the team’s younger players into bigger and better things.

Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry Contract Grade | HoopStuff

Yes, this is a pricey contract, but there were a number of teams going after him and if 12 million per season is the amount they had to pay to keep their star point guard, then it was money well spent. Lowry was one of the most coveted free agents on the market, but more vitally to the Raptors, is one of their 2 best players, 1 of the 2 guards in their 2 star guard starting five along with All Star 2-guard DeMar DeRozan. These 2 are the foundation of this team, are the 2 players responsible for taking them to the playoffs and almost the 2nd round and they had to keep their duo together.

Kyle Lowry agrees to 4-year, $48 million contract to stay with Raptors | SBNation.com

With so much seemingly going right in Toronto, it’s not surprising that both sides want things to continue. While Lowry could’ve discussed deals with other teams, including one rumored suitor in the Miami Heat, returning to the Raptors seemed practically inevitable once the two sides showed interest in a deal. While Lowry has had a reputation for bumping heads with his coaches in the past, issues never arose with Dwane Casey in Toronto. He fit nicely next to the team’s wing rotation featuring DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross, plus he could have another nice complement next season if Lou Williams is healthy. In 2013-14, Lowry averaged 17.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 7.4 assists while shooting 42 percent overall and 38 percent from three. He’s also considered a solid, physical defender and helped spearhead the team’s improved defense last season.

Kyle Lowry agrees to four-year extension to stay with Raptors | New York Post

Raptors coach Dwane Casey has called point guard Kyle Lowry “our engine, our spirit, our toughness.” Well, the tough, spirited engine is staying in Toronto. Lowry and the Raptors have reached agreement on a four-year free-agent contract extension worth $48 million with an opt out after the third season, the point guard’s agent, Andy Miller, confirmed Wednesday night.

I still want any Raptors-related link: [email protected]

Lowry re-signing: Remember to savor this moment

I’m three drinks deep. Give me a microphone and a soapbox.

I want you to think back to where you were when the news broke. Maybe you saw it on Twitter. Maybe you caught it here. Perhaps your favorite award-winning sports app passed along a push-alert. Your buddy might have texted you. Or you might have caught it on the late-night re-runs of Sportscenter. No matter what the circumstance, remember it. Treasure it in your mind and lock it in a safe place.

I was at work when I saw Adrian Wojnarowski’s tweet flash across Tweetdeck. I literally shrieked. I have a strange job where watching sports merits financial compensation rather than grounds for dismissal. It’s my job to repackage breaking news and provide unbiased analysis. I couldn’t do it. An all-consuming feeling of happiness washed over me, making me hot and flustered. I clicked Woj’s profile to make sure it was actually him, and not yet another impostor. I gathered myself enough to write this incredibly one-sided piece with a shit-eating grin on my face. It’s been almost three hours since and it has not come off. I’m afraid it’ll stay like this.

I know it won’t. There’s a karmic balance with sports fandom. With a normal team, there’s an accompanying low paired with every high. Call it the Newton’s third law of sports. Teams contend for a title, then wholly fall apart, only to rebuild itself and propagate the cycle.

The process is broken for Raptors. Any slight twinge of happiness is immediately smacked down by tragedy and disappointment. Think 2006-07 then the years thereafter. Think Vince leaving for essentially nothing. Think picking Bargnani first overall. If the Raptors were a novel, its author would be Fyodor Dostoevsky. Or George R.R. Martin. Every season ends with a repeat of the Red Wedding.

Shit like this doesn’t happen to the Raptors.

And yet it did, which is why most fans are borderline euphoric. It’s the jarring feeling of shock that something actually broke right for the franchise. It shatters the numbing self-loathing that comes with devotion to this squad. It pierces through the thick cloud of pessimism, which looms at all times waiting to drench us in a cold shower, leaving us with nothing but pneumonia and a pair of players named Williams. This is new.

I’m not naive enough to dive head-first into a sell-job of culture change and a brighter day. I’m too skeptical, as I suspect many of you are. Acting aloof affords us protection against the let-downs. Pessimism after the fact is somehow better than shock and disappointment.

It’s imperative that we remember to cherish these moments, especially if you’re a glass-half-empty fan like myself. The whole reason sports exist is to give us something to cheer for, something to hang our emotions on. We’re feigning the comfort of an actual relationship by bonding to a specifically patterned jersey. With this team, it’s not a happy marriage  by any means, but try to make room for love. The draining, emotive, self-flagellating nature of the pairing should make moments like these extra special. Having Lowry pick us over attractive alternatives in the Lakers, Rockets and Heat? That’s like the team putting down the remote, scooting down the couch and snuggling up for once. It’s not time to bicker about right or wrong. It’s time to close our eyes and cherish the moment.

This is why we do this at all.

Photo: Kyle Lowry Wearing Purple Raptors Uniform

From his Instagram:

This ain’t Amir jersey y’all!! Lol….. it’s for the 2014-15 season cause Toronto will be my home city

Breaking: Kyle Lowry Signs 4 year, $48M Deal With Toronto Raptors

BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

The Raptors have beaten out the Heat, Lakers, Houston and probably a bunch of other teams to retain Kyle Lorwry – the marquee free-agent PG this off-season. The Raptors had met with Lowry on Tuesday, which was after that greasy Rockets GM and Kevin McHale had tried to turn Lowry’s head. Made no matter. The Raptors $12M/yr offer, which includes an ETO for Lowry after three years, was enough to get the deal done.

It took a little longer than it needed to, which made fans nervous, but Lowry has chosen the Raptors despite being offered similar money from Houston. This goes to show you his faith in a) the organization, b) his teammates, and c) the city. Losing Lowry would have been devastating, no matter what the Raptors received in a S&T, and his return means that the Raptors can pick up where they left off from last season, rather than start anew at the point. The Raptors have now set themselves up a window of contention for at least three years in the East, with DeRozan and Lowry leading the charge. The key guys are there, the role players are there as well, and if further small but right moves are made (e.g., Lou Williams), the Raptors just might find themselves competing for the East.

The early signing of Lowry also bodes well in retaining other free-agents, namely Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson, who have to see this re-signing as a signal of intent from the Raptors. Most of all, though, from a fans perspective it feels awesome to beat out top-level competition without overpaying Lowry. In the past this franchise has always had to compensate for their basketball situation by overpaying for talent, and this signing hopefully marks a fork in the road where the Raptors basketball situation was more attractive than other teams, and ultimately made Lowry’s decision for him.

Congratulations to Masai Ujiri for pulling this one though. Unlike Bryan Colangelo who gambled with Chris Bosh and lost, Ujiri’s decision to stay put during the season has paid off as he retains his prized free-agent in the face of fierce competition.

Lowry averaged 17.9 points, 7.4 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 1.5 steals last season – all career highs.  Now the question is whether this was a contract year bump, or Lowry turning the page and finding himself as a player.  Time will tell, and a huge factor will be Lowry’s offseason and what his shape is in training camp.  Watching Lowry last season, it certainly doesn’t seem like he’s the type of player that will give anything less than 100% (never has in his career), and we hope that this big-money contract motivates him to excel further and prove why he’s deserving of the money.

After starting his career in Memphis in 2006, and then being shipped to Houston in February 2009, Lowry was acquired by Bryan Colangelo in July 2012 for a first-round draft pick (which turned out to be Steven Adams).  Safe to say that that was a very good deal.

Very happy time to be a Raptors fan.

Big ups to @WojYahooNBA – what a reporter?!

UPDATE 1: Salary Cap Impact

Sam taking over for Zarar (who is currently sucking his thumb in bed with a big smile on his face)

Below is the Raptors cap situation:

Player 2014/2015
DeMar Derozan $9,500,000
Lou Williams $5,450,000
Amir Johnson $7,000,000
Landry Fields $6,250,000
Kyle Lowry $12,000,000
Chuck Hayes $5,958,750
Steve Novak $3,445,947
Jonas Valanciunas $3,678,360
Tyler Hansbrough $3,326,235
Patrick Patterson $4,319,474
Marcus Camby * $646,609
Terrence Ross $2,793,960
Greivis Vasquez $3,203,780
Nando De Colo $1,828,750
Julyan Stone $948,163
Dwight Buycks $816,482
Bruno Caboclo $1,134,500
Lucas Nogueria $1,371,200
TOTAL $71,166,510
Cap room -$7,966,510
Luxury Tax room $5,833,490

 

What’s key to note is that with Lowry’s deal on the books, the Raptors have an additional ~$5.8mill to offer both Vasquez and Patterson on top of their qualifying offers. Factor in that both Buycks and Stone have unguaranteed contracts (a total of $1,764,645), and the Raptors can top off both Vasquez and Patterson, potentially, while avoiding the tax.

Update 2: Framing This Achievement

by: Sam Holako

This is a big deal. It’s a really big deal. Not only did Masai get Lowry’s blood signature on a contract, he did so convincingly, sending a signal around the league that:

  1. This team means business
  2. Toronto is a premier destination
  3. The Raptors look out for their own

Lowry wanted to stay here, but he was heading into his prime; coming off an all-star calibre season; a blocked shot from the 2nd round; and a rehabilitated image that had the rest of the league tripping over themselves to sign him. It says a lot that he chose a young up and coming team over championship caliber squads that he literally would have been the final piece on.

What shouldn’t be lost here is that Lowry’s been locked up just two days into free agency, giving Masai & Co. plenty of time to shift gears in dealing with both Vasquez and Patterson. With the cap impact bright as day, Ujiri can sit back and let the market dictate the price for both players, knowing that there is probably enough money in the bank to pay a market rate for both. Ben Gordon’s ridiculous contract (2yr/$9m) has me a bit concerned at what Vasquez could demand, but Zarar pegged his market at ~$3.7m, and with Ujiri’s ability to get up over $5m, we should be good. Patterson too, but I’m less concerned with him for some reason.

Update 3: Next Steps

by Sam Holako

It makes too much sense to bring Vasquez (and Patterson) back for it not to happen. While Patterson’s stretch abilities are crucial, I’m much more comfortable with the Raptors going into the season with Hansbrough, Hayes, and Novak being over extended than De Colo and a potentially crippled Williams pantomiming at the point. Fortunately the money should be there for both, and assuming they both come back, the Raptors can field a rotation of:

Point Guard: Kyle Lowry, Greivis Vasquez, Nando De Colo
Shooting Guard: Terrence Ross, Lou Williams, Nando De Colo
Small Forward: DeMar DeRozan, Landry Fields, Steve Novak, Tbd Wing (you really don’t think Fields and Novak are an answer to any serious question, do you?)
Power Forward: Amir Johnson, Patrick Patterson, Tyler Hansbrough
Center: Jonas Valancuinas, Chuck Hayes, Lucas Nogueira*

Still not ECF caiber, but you get a starting calibre wing in there, move Ross to the bench, and we’re really cooking…Deng would look NICE here!

Also worth considering is the importance of the Lou Williams trade, and it’s impact on both Buycks and Stone. I would be VERY surprised to see those two in the lineup (we might get another glimpse of them in summer league, because, why not?) come training camp considering their deals can be cut at a whim at no cost and all savings; that’s just a win.

If Ujiri decides not to use the ~$5.8m, then the full mid-level becomes available. I wont pretend to know what that means, but it’s worth keeping in your back pocket. William will shed some light on that later.

Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez Free Agency Update

The Arizona Central reports that the Suns and Patrick Patterson have been in contact:

The Suns also have made contact with or been contacted by at least 12 other free agents. That includes unrestricted free agents Pau Gasol, Trevor Ariza, Luol Deng, Spencer Hawes, Danny Granger, Ed Davis, Marvin Williams and Josh McRoberts and restricted free agents Gordon Hayward, Chandler Parsons, Isaiah Thomas and Patrick Patterson. That does not necessarily mean the Suns are interested in all of them.

Patterson would be a pretty good fit in Phoenix’s system that values versatile players. He would very likely be introduced in a bench role if it comes to that.  Phoenix has plenty of cap space to offer Patterson a lucrative deal, even after completing a signing of one of the big name free-agents.

Also:

Starting role?

As for Greivis Vasquez, the Raptors are apparently worried that deals like Ben Gordon’s ($9M/2yr) might price them out of Vasquez and Patterson:

A price tag of $4.5M, which is what Gordon got, is about $1.3M over the qualifying offer of $3.2M tendered to Vasquez.  This would make you think the Raptors valuation of him, as I alluded to yesterday, is somewhere around $3.7M.

Why Kyle Lowry will take his sweet time

It’s not personal, it’s just business.

Kyle Lowry and his agent are going to wait a few days before making a decision. Of course they are.

For those who don’t speak the language, allow me to translate: it’s a bidding war. Make us your best offer. $12 million? Top that. Add an extra million per season. Throw in a fifth year. Promise you’ll add more pieces. Make me the center of your marketing strategy.

Lowry isn’t a diva, but he know he can have anything he wants. He’s sitting pretty with all the cards in his hand. Excess demand meeting short supply is literally the basis of professional sport. Lowry is irreplaceable. He holds the high ground in negotiations.

The Rockets need him because he’s their best bet at improving the team. Not only does he perfectly fit the team’s need for a defensively sound point guard with three-point accuracy and leadership, their other options are longshots at best. LeBron’s opt-out is nothing more than a flirtatious come-on to the league. Too many teams are in the hunt for Carmelo. There’s no need for Luol Deng, especially if they intend on keeping Chandler Parsons. Marcin Gortat is already off the table. The Rockets only need a power forward who could stretch the floor, or a floor general. As far as free-agents go, that’s just Lowry. The core is clearly talented enough to challenge for a title. Adding Lowry would be the final piece.

Meanwhile, Lowry’s other main suitor, that being the Raptors, are all-in. Not only has the notoriously silent organization reiterated on multiple occasions that Lowry is their main target, he’s a cornerstone in their grand re-branding plans. The team kept Lowry last season because the team generated too much positive momentum. Their brilliant #WeTheNorth marketing campaign was rushed forward a season with the idea of the team’s success being permanent. The 2016 All-Star game is around the corner. The city is now expecting success from the Raptors for once. That karma is hard to earn, especially from a city populated by notoriously fickle fans.

There’s the on-court factors as well. Take Lowry off the team, and what is left? Is the team appreciably better than, say, the Cleveland Cavaliers? The team built its new-found identities around Lowry’s strengths and skills. DeRozan operates off a pick-and-roll, gets doubled, makes the point-to-wing pass to Lowry, who then could shoot from the wing — of which he is excellent at — or drive to the hoop and hit the open man. Dwane Casey’s playbook is not complicated by any means, but it does center around Lowry. Take him away, and it’s back to the drawing board with no telling what the results will bear.

Finally, look at the recent Salmons-for-Williams deal in the big picture. While it’s great that Ujiri turned cap room into a useful rental and essentially a first-round pick, it also sacrificed what little cap room the Raptors could have opened. The same applies to the team choosing not to waive Tyler Hansbrough. As it currently stands, if Lowry leaves while Vasquez and Patterson re-sign for a little more than their qualifying offers, the team will have no cap room. There’s no Lowry replacement to be had using the Mid-Level Exception. Not at point guard, nor any other position.

Lowry has the Raptors, and to a lesser extent, the Rockets by the balls.

If a dumb blogger like me understands this, surely Lowry’s representation does as well. The carefully scripted quibble about wanting to win a championship is smart. That’s all posturing. It creates more position for Lowry because the Raptors understand their position relative to contenders like the Rockets and Heat. It shifts more power to Lowry, and moreover, the comment itself is impervious to backlash. Who can critique a player for wanting to win?

At the end of the day, Lowry is more likely to land in Toronto than anywhere else. Not only can the Raptors offer the most money, it’s also a situation he likes. He’s too blunt of a person to speak anything but his mind. Without prompt, he’s shown love to the city on multiple occasion, never falling short of praise each time. “I love this place. I love the situation. It’s simple as that.” Those were Lowry’s words back in May.

But that doesn’t mean he’s going to pass up a chance to get his, and nor should he. Only a scant percentage of players reach even B-level free-agent status, and it would be foolish not to capitalize. Lowry has been fairly underpaid his whole career, earning just $29 million to date. This next contract could easily double that if he and his agent play it correctly.

And this current situation — where the Rockets and Raptors are bidding against each other with the threat of the Heat and Lakers looming in the background — is perfect. It’s just enough bidders to which Lowry could not only pick his destination, but also dictate the terms. There’s enough fear in both Daryl Morey and Masai Ujiri’s hearts.

So in the meantime, Lowry and his agent will continue to sit while the bidding plays itself out. There’s no rush. Unless Parsons signs a an offer sheet or the Rockets favor their chances of landing Carmelo, the equation will remain the same. All Lowry needs to do is wait. The best offer will come in due time.

Morning Coffee – Wed, Jul 2

Raptors have stiff competition trying to sign Kyle Lowry | Toronto Sun

Lowry, deemed too much of a distraction just two years ago by the Rockets and sent to Toronto for a first-round pick and Gary Forbes then, is now on the Rockets’ wish list. According to reports, though, a second go-round in Houston is not in the cards for Lowry. The team would require a sign-and-trade to fit him into its complex plans and Raptors’ Masai Ujiri is not about to facilitate that. Ujiri, like the rest of the NBA seems to, covets Lowry and wants him back in Raptors colours. It was Ujiri and his head coach Dwane Casey who were next up in Philadelphia filling in Lowry’s afternoon hours. Waiting in the wings and not yet granted an audience according to a report from Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski were representatives from both the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat. Lowry apparently needed some time to digest the first two visits before any more pitches were made.

Raptors waiting on Lowry after productive meeting | Sportsnet

The Rockets are a curious suitor in that their GM, Daryl Morey, traded Lowry away for what ended up being the 12th pick the 2013 draft in part because Lowry and Rockets head coach Kevin McHale were in constant conflict. It was shedding that reputation as being a difficult player to coach that has been perhaps his most important accomplishment in Toronto and has set him up for a career payday. But landing him in Houston at the kind of money sources say he’s expecting — nothing less than $40 million over four years, even in income tax-friendly Texas — would likely require the Raptors to facilitate a sign-and-trade, a non-starter for the Raptors unless Lowry tells them he absolutely won’t play for them anymore, which is far from the case.

HOOP365 Free Agent Profile: Kyle Lowry | HOOP365

Since Lowry has timed his career year with his entry onto the free agent market, it’s also likely that he just hit the apex of his potential dollar-per-production efficiency. Many teams have been in pursuit of his services, and I for one am surprised that the Raptors are offering Lowry a long-term contract valued at twice the annual total of his previous deal. Most General Managers certainly feel no obligation in retaining players acquired by a previous regime, so Ujiri must see significant and hard-to-replace value in Lowry’s game. Lowry demands the ball in his hands at all times as an offensive player. The play that the Raptors ran most often for Lowry was a pick-and-roll, which accounted for 38.5% of Lowry’s offensive possessions. Amir Johnson, one of Lowry’s cohorts in the Raptors starting lineup, is one of the best screen-setters in the league, and their frequent collaborations were astoundingly efficient. As a ballhandler in the pick-and-roll, Lowry is a master at reading the defense and using the disruptive event of the screen to his personal advantage. Lowry is adept at using either “side” of the screen to do whatever it takes to keep his defender off-balance — and Lowry is almost immediately in the key whenever his man slightly falters off-balance. Defending Lowry’s pick-and-rolls requires a total team concept. The defender who is guarding the screener — usually Johnson or Jonas Valanciunas – must not sag back to prevent penetration. Lowry is too adept at leading his own defender right into the screen, and can create a wide-open shot for himself if help isn’t coming.

Has Livingston Set The Market For Greivis Vasquez? | Pro Bball Report

It’s been reported that Shaun Livingston has come to terms on a three-year $16 million free agent deal with the Warriors which should set the market for above average backup point guards who can start if necessary and make an impact at important parts of a game.

Masai Being Masai | The Sideline Sports

Masai Ujiri miraculously turned an expiring contract into a decent bench scorer and an asset that might turn out to be good. Just like he turned Rudy Gay’s massive contract into a couple good role players and an expiring, just like he turned cancer Andrea Bargani’s corpse and his absurd contract into a future first round pick and two second round picks. I’m almost at a point where I would trust whatever move he makes. You want to draft some 18 year old Brazilian who is so raw that he’s two years away from being two years away? YOU GO FOR IT MASAI.

Send me your Raptors-related links: [email protected]

Raptors Free Agency Recap: The Kyle Lowry Saga With a Touch of Greivis Vasquez

You can check out the free agency live update thread to get the taste of how it went down and all the links/tweets/etc from the last two days, but here’s the gist of it: the Raptors are nowhere close to signing Kyle Lowry.

Lowry has met with the Houston Rockets including Kevin McHale and Daryl Morey, the former who he has very much patched things up with, and they can offer him money in the $12M range. This happened in the early hours of Tuesday morning. The Raptors, including Masai Ujiri and Dwane Casey, met him during the day and presented their offer. There has also been reportedly been a bid from the Lakers but details of that are very unclear and there hasn’t been a face-to-face meeting with them.  The latest is that he’s going to take some time to mull things over, which doesn’t bode well for the Raptors because all it does is give other teams time to sweeten their offers and present more doors to Lowry.

The Miami Heat have been telling FAs that they have $12M to spend, which if you believe them, puts them on par with what the Raptors have been rumoured to offer (~$12M). The latest reports, though, say that the Heat have not progressed in talks.   There was even some talk of the Raptors adding a fifth year to sweeten the deal, but that’s just that, talk.  Where we stand presently is somewhere here: Lowry has cash offers similar to what he got from the Raptors from teams that are closer to a championship than the Raptors are.  That is the bottom line.  There was a sense of confidence amongst us that the Raptors would be the only team to give Lowry his pending “big pay day”, which is turning out to be false.  He has interest from teams who are working very hard to create room to accommodate him, or will have room if a sign-and-trade is executed.

Houston was rumoured to be interested in a sign-and-trade for Lowry which – and I don’t want to sound doom-and-gloom here – could potentially be the Raptors best course of action.  At the end of the day, if Lowry wants to be elsewhere and get paid, it’s in the Raptors best interest to get whatever they can in return, much like Bryan Colangelo did with Chris Bosh.  The Raptors are not going to be able to lure Lowry based on what they can offer financially alone, and nor should they.  The last thing you want is a player who is on your roster just for financial reasons.   Looking at the Houston PG lineup of Patrick Beverley, Isaiah Canaan, and Jeremy Lin, if the Raptors are able to squeeze Berverley and a pick out, it would be sound business considering Lowry’s unrestricted status.

Obviously, all that is Plan B and Plan A remains to bring Lowry back.  There’s some talk of the Raptors potentially pushing the $14M mark to retain him and how that would be bad for the long-term.  I call that hogwash.  If a player can play, sign him up.  He’s never going to be a cap-crippling player and barring injury, will always have value.  In a league where contracts like Rashard Lewis and Rudy Gay have no trouble moving around, I find it hard to be too concerned that an under-30 Lowry is the reason our salary situation will be busted.  My view is that when you have talent, you do whatever it takes to retain it, especially considering the positions of the Raptors draft picks in the coming years.

There is no news on the Greivis Vasquez front except that Shaun Livingston signed a $16M/3yr deal, which works out to $5.3M a season.  Does that set the bar for Vasquez?  The Venezuelan made $2.15M last season and if Livingston, who you might consider a more versatile player albeit has injury concerns, maxes out at $5.3M, what does that mean for Vasquez?  The Raptors hope that any offer Vasquez signs is between the two numbers, making it around $3.7M which would be a reasonable rate for him.

The last we heard from Vasquez was after he received his qualifying offer:

“I’m happy with my qualifying offer, but more than that, I want to sign a multi-year deal with Toronto. So hopefully everything is taken care of, beginning tonight because free agency starts at 12 o’clock tonight. So I really hope that we get a good deal and I can be in Toronto for a few years or hopefully my whole career.”

If Vasquez is “happy” with his qualifying offer of $3.2M, then a rate of $3.7M would be a boon for him, especially over multiple years.  What Day One told us is that nobody is dying to sign Greivis Vasquez, as there were literally no reports about him at all, so the competition the Raptors are facing for him could be manageable.

Going back to the Lowry front, I really feel that this is more than just about a free-agent.  The Raptors have been historically awful are retaining their big free-agents and here we are the crossroads yet again.  I feel that signing Lowry is critical to sending out a message to the rest of the league that Toronto, as Tim Leiweke purports, is a world-class city with world-class franchises that should not have any trouble attracting players.   This is about the stature of the Raptors franchise as much as it is about retaining Lowry.  If we’re able to retain the best free-agent PG against competition from Miami, Houston, and the Lakers, that would send out a very strong message.

Part of me thought that having put Lowry on the block in December might come into play here, and that might be a sticking point for Lowry.  However, if Houston, who actually traded him, have the balls to come back and offer deals, then the Raptors have nothing to worry about on that front.

I do like the confidence the Raptors have in their approach of Lowry. The latest reported stated that the Toronto camp felt a measure of confidence since “he knows us, and we know him”.  Every report thus far has talked about how confident the Raptors are that they can keep Lowry despite interest from big clubs.  I’m not sure if their confidence stems from the amount offered, the situation in Toronto, or simply knowing Kyle Lowry, one just hopes it’s not unfounded.  The Raptors “sources” that keep talking about this confidence also tend to iterate that they have an alternate plan in place if things work out.  I don’t know what that looks like, except that it’s not as good as Lowry actually re-signing.

2014 Raptors Summer League Roster – Early Preview

This is as per HoopsHype. Both Brazilian picks are slotted to be there and so is Canadian Myck Kabongo, who returns to summer league to seek another shot at an NBA roster. There’s no DeAndre Daniels listed in the report but one would assume he’s very likely to be there, unless the Raptors have other arrangements for him. The Raptors are regular participants in the Vegas Summer League and over the years have gotten a couple roster players from there, the most notable of which might be Jamario Moon. RR will have complete coverage of summer league including dreary post-game reports, speculative analysis, all aimed at filling you with hope that one of these guys could become the next Smush Parker. Of course, we’ll also be monitoring the progress of the Brazilians while paying a particular eye to all things wingspan-related.

Player POS HT DOB FROM YRS
Bruno Caboclo F 6-8  09/21/95 Brazil R
Eric Griffin F 6-8 05/26/90 Campbell R
Myck Kabongo G 6-1 01/12/92 Texas R
Scott Machado G 6-1 06/08/90 Iona 1
Lucas Nogueira C 7-0 07/26/92 Brazil 0
John Shurna F 6-9 04/30/90 Northwestern R

Morning Coffee – Tue, Jul 1

Raptors Edge Closer to Locking-up Lowry | Raptors HQ

The offer to Lowry is expected to be in the $12-13 million range, which according to TSN’s Josh Lewenberg, would make him the 7th highest paid point-guard in the NBA next season. The Raps have made re-signing Lowry their number one priority this summer — as they definitely should — and $12 million per year is more than the Miami Heat, the Raps biggest competition for Lowry’s signature, can offer. Again, nothing can be done until midnight, and even then an agreement can only be made in principle. Check back later for more news. Update: Houston Rockets general manager, Daryl Morey, is reportedly meeting with Lowry tonight. His sales pitch will probably go something like this: Hey Kyle, I know that we traded you and that you and McHale didn’t get along, but hey, that was in the past. We can’t offer you much money, and Melo is actually our number one free agent target, but still. Hold off making any decisions until Melo makes up his mind, okay? The Raptors brass are meeting with Lowry at some point later today (I’m going to bed).

Lowry wouldn’t be wise to turn down Raptors | Sportsnet

It has been building for months, since Ujiri challenged Lowry to mature into his talent rather than allow a reputation as being tough to work with turn him into a $2-million a year player. The Raptors’ out-of-nowhere 48-win season and thrilling playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets helped, as did the chemistry on the first NBA team where Lowry was the undisputed leader. Now he stands to get paid accordingly. At Lowry’s end-of-season press conference he couldn’t have been more effusive about his experience with the Raptors. He did his best to sound like he’d be willing to listen to offers elsewhere, but ultimately he couldn’t play it down the middle. “It’s very difficult, but at the end of the day it’s still a business and you have to be a businessman for the situation that you’re in,” Lowry said the day after the Raptors lost Game 7 to the Brooklyn Nets at the ACC. “But I am very happy. This has been one of the best seasons I’ve had through and through. Best coaches, teammates, [executives]. It’s been great. I am happy. Without a doubt, I can say I’m happy.”

Report: Houston Rockets Making Early Push to Reunite with Kyle Lowry | Bleacher Report

With those championship aspirations in mind, it’s hard not to think that the Rockets could emerge as front-runners in due time. A potential Lowry reunion would give the Rockets tremendous depth at point guard, particularly when you consider that Patrick Beverley is on the books at an unguaranteed $915,243 for next season, according to ShamSports. With the Rockets apparently dreaming of a one-two punch capable of hounding opposing ball-handlers for 48 minutes, it’s already abundantly clear that Morey intends to keep his foot on the gas as free agency gets underway.

Getting you ready for NBA free agency | Toronto Sun

KYLE LOWRY, TORONTO, 28, PG, 20.1 PER Suitors: Toronto; Miami; L.A. Lakers Priorities: Being on a contender; Getting paid Skinny: Raptors willing to break bank to bring back top player and can offer most money and longest term. But while Lowry has always been underpaid, he also has never been on a contender and is eager to win. The question for Toronto is would they regret giving Lowry huge money? Was his phenomenal season partly fueled by his desire for a massive payday? Will he return in peak shape again? Can they afford to let another star get away, especially one who powers the offence and gives the squad its tough identity?

Nikola Vucevic vs. Jonas Valanciunas – Who is the better current and long term prospect? | NBADraft.net

It’s Jonas hands down. Vucevic is 2 years older. Jonas already has playoff experience. Part of the reason Vucevic has better numbers is due to being on a worse team. Jonas is on a playoff calibur team and is a better overall defender. If you look at this logically, Jonas would have higher numbers if he were in ORL because the team is not as good overall. Likewise, if Vucevic were to go to TOR his numbers would go down because of Lowry, Derozan, etc. I like both players overall and this is not to say Vucecvic is not a good player because I really like him. I would however take Jonas over him without hesitation.

The Toronto Raptors, Moving Forward

One thing that The Raptors desperately need as of right now, is some help at both the small forward and power forward position. No offense to T.Ross or Amir Johnson, both are great players, but they currently are not at the level of skill needed to be on a starting lineup on a championship caliber team. This is a large part in why I believe Gasol, Diaw, and Granger would fit in great with the Raptors lineup, as the team has no consistent force in their respected positions. Ideally, The Raptors would aim to acquire either: Gasol and Diaw, Gasol and Granger, or just Gasol. Gasol, although coming with the larger salary out of the three, would undoubtedly create the largest impact. Averaging 17.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 3.4 assists last season, Gasol would play as a consistent threat in the key, forcing opponents to play on their heels, and giving a bit more space for DeRozan and Lowry to work with on the outside. While Diaw and Granger may not the best players at the Small Forward position, they would be the most affordable and ideal veteran role players available at the position.

A free-agency sampler: 11 sensible deals that could work | NBA.com

Bruno Caboclo, the 18-year-old, 205-pound Brazilian that Toronto took with the 20th pick overall in the first round. Caboclo has only been playing basketball for a few years, spending the last two playing for Pinheiros, a team in Sao Paolo. To say he was a relative unknown, not just to most of the ESPN team broadcasting the Draft, but to longtime NBA folk, would be an understatement. “We just didn’t have enough information on him,” one veteran team executive said over the weekend. When ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla, the former college coach who excels at evaluating international players, got off the line of the night about Caboclo — “he’s two years away from being two years away” — the derision came soon after, from far and wide. But go back and read that paragraph above again. Caboclo was a “relative” unknown. Not completely unknown. There were people, smart people, whose job it is to know where every good basketball player or prospect in the world is, who knew about Bruno Caboclo, knew h

The tracking of a basketball Big Foot – Sportsnet.ca

The Decision – Latest on Lowry: He’ll Take a “Few Days” to Make His Decision

Keep refreshing the page. Updates dropping every few minutes.

The last post is giving me issues in the CSS editor, so I’m moving it here. To recap tonight’s events:

  • Raptors very confident they can keep Lowry
  • Offers will start from the $12 million per year range
  • Conflicting reports on whether or not Lowry has signed (probably not)
  • Ujiri will present Lowry with offer shortly after midnight
  • Rockets also in on Lowry, would need to resolve their ‘Melo thing first
  • Yahoo Sports misreported on Lowry’s starting salary bid at $14.5 million
  • Oh, and the Raptors are reportedly interested in Vince Carter too. Read that here.

UPDATE 11:32

A quick peak at the Raptors’ up-to-date cap situation. Find the data here. DanH, if you’re out there, could you double-check this? Thanks man.

cap situationUPDATE 12:07

So let’s strike the Lakers off the list. Lowry needs security and money.

UPDATE: 12:13

Houston can’t offer Lowry a salary on par with the Raptors’ until they find a taker for Jeremy Lin. Looks like with LeBron calling audibles, Lowry is their plan B. We should be worried about this. Houston is much closer to a championship than the Raptors are.

Yeah, Lowry is definitely Houston’s plan A. Perhaps the talk of pursuing James/Melo was a smokescreen. Lowry fits so perfectly there. Floor general who can shoot threes, pass and play defense? Yikes. I’m officially worried. They can offer him over $10 million as of now.

And Lowry is no longer at odds with Rockets head coach Kevin McHale. They reconciled their differences. Here’s an excerpt:

I really respected Kevin McHale. I wish I would have had an opportunity to play for him longer. The things he was teaching me, well, I didn’t understand right away. When you get away from someone, though, see it from the outside looking in, you go back and think, ‘Damn, I could’ve learned some more things from the guy

UPDATE 12:32

Let’s hope this is Lowry’s response to the advances from Houston’s advances:

UPDATE 12:36

Does this put you at ease? No? Didn’t think so.

UPDATE 12:41

Rockets meeting with Lowry right now.

UPDATE 12:44

I have no idea who this reporter is, or if he’s credible. With Woj having already reported on the situation, he’s clearly got a source inside the situation. Nevertheless

UPDATE 12:46

S0…we should just all go to sleep? Nah.

Also, Rashard Lewis? Is this a back-up for Patrick Patterson? Is he even better than Steve Novak at this point?

 

UPDATE 12:51

We’re building an awesome team for the year 2005.

UPDATE 1:45

Great. We’ll be at this all day. Someone else will tag in for me tomorrow morning, I hope. I’m going to bed.

UPDATE 1:49

No. Shit. Was that even worth a tweet? I need sleep. Also, Kyrie signed a max deal. Sweet. Your move, Dion Waiters. Watch your back.

UPDATE: 2:03

Your list of princes:

 

Officially #loggingoff now. No one has signed Lowry yet. Miami and Toronto will meet with Lowry tomorrow. Houston already has. Check back tomorrow morning. We’ll have everything covered (maybe).

8am Tuesday Update (Zarar)

He’s heard what Houston has to say, now it’s Ujiri’s time to shine. My only thing is, Lowry knows we tried to trade him, wonder if it’ll play in his decision?

8:40am update

Just some housekeeping here. Grange admits that the info reported earlier was wrong. He’s now saying what Woj is saying. Maybe he fell for this.

UPDATE – 2:40pm

The more this goes on, the less likely we have to worry about Miami. Houston the main threat.

UPDATE: 4:41 (Tim W.)

Things are coming fast and furious. The latest….

No confirmation of that just yet, but that seems to be the story people are running with at the moment. It would back up this story…

What this means for Kyle Lowry and the Raptors is anyone’s guess, but it does mean that the Heat will, in principle, have enough money to make a competitive offer to Lowry, and not ask him to take a discount. That said, if they sign Lowry for $12 million, they have very little to spend on the center position:

It would seem to me that it would make more sense to spend on Gortat, rather than add to their point guard position.

UPDATE: 4:50PM (Zarar)

Houston want a sign-and-trade. How nice of them to give us something in return. F*** off.

UPDATE: 5pm (Zarar)

Woj has published an article detailing the Lowry situation:

Miami president Pat Riley has been pushing for a sit-down meeting with Lowry, but Lowry is taking time on Tuesday afternoon to consider his next step in the process. Lowry met with Toronto general manager Masai Ujiri and coach Dwane Casey on Tuesday afternoon in Philadelphia after meeting with Houston GM Daryl Morey and coach Kevin McHale in the early morning hours.

So the ball is in Lowry’s court – the Raptors have made their offer, Lowry has listened and is now debating while Pat Riley tries to get his oily hands in there. This is one of those moments which reflect whether the Raptors do really have the stature that Leiweke and Ujiri purport they do. Big free agent. Big teams on the hunt. Can the Raptors pull through? Stay tuned.

UPDATE 8:45 PM (Zarar)

Marcin Gortat has signed a 5yr/60M deal with the Wizards, and you got to be thinking that Lowry would command more. Then again, this league is thin at the C and heavy at PG, so you never know. Still, though, a precedent has been set and Lowry has to be thinking he’s more valuable to Toronto than Gortat is to Washington.

In other news, Shaun Livingston has signed a 3yr/$16M deal with the Warriors which comes to $5.3M, which is what you think someone like Greivis Vasquez could command. Again, precedents being set.

UPDATE – Tuesday 10:17 PM – Zarar

There you have it, we need to wait a few more days before he makes up his mind. Maybe he’s just buying more time, maybe he’s stalling, maybe he wants to see all of what’s out there. Bottom line is that the decision to stay with the Raptors isn’t as clear-cut as we’d hoped it was. At this point, you have to think that other opportunities are teasing him enough that this could go either way.

UPDATE – Tuesday, 11:16 PM – Zarar

The Heat are easing off, apparently, or haven’t gone full force. Not sure what the LA offer is or if they’ve even met with Lowry. Very cold on the LA front, right now it’s between the Rockets and Raptors.

END OF POST – WE’LL PICK THIS UP ELSEWHERE

Report: Raptors among 5 teams interested in Vince Carter

A break from your Kyle Lowry-induced nail biting.

According to a report from Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas, the Toronto Raptors are among five teams in pursuit of Vince Carter. You might have heard of him. Best player in franchise history and all that. The other teams interested are the Trail Blazers, Thunder, Heat and Mavericks.

This isn’t really a new development, as a report came out two months ago about this very union. Given the other names involved, the Raptors would probably have to overbid to hook Vince. But if that’s the case, we’d be going over the tax, and that makes no sense when we already have depth on the wing. And it’s not like he can start at small forward either.

So, it’s probably not happening. Back to Lowry watch. Read this link for a deeper breakdown of how Vince would fit in Toronto.

Actually, in thinking about this once more, a sign-and-trade of Vasquez for Carter might make some sense. Lou Williams (not me) will slot in at backup PG, then Vince fills minutes on the wing. Dallas gets someone who is competent at point guard. I’m not a fan of that deal really, but it could happen. Just an idea from my end.

TL;DR: Raptors one of five contenders chasing Vince. We don’t need him, and he’s too expensive. Move on.

Developing: Kyle Lowry Watch is ON with Stein, Grange, Aldridge (no more $14.5 million offer)

BOOM!

 

 

Marc Stein from ESPN is reporting that the Raptors appear to be quite confident of locking up Kyle Lowry at $12M/year. This is on the heels of Michael Grange reporting that it’s “just about a done deal”:

This is coming on the heels of the Might Woj reporting that the Raptors would tender an offer at midnight. If the deal is signed at the reported $12M, would the Raptors have enough money to match any offers for Greivis Vasquez? Or would they be willing to go into the tax? This does put the Lou Williams acquisition into greater context. It’s a little unbelievable if Lowry signs without even listening to another team, but for our sakes, I hope he does exactly that.

The reported $12M is well and beyond anything Miami can offer him – even with a S&T they could offer a max of ~$8M, and that would mean neglecting all their other needs. To put in perspective, Lowry has a career earnings of $28.8M over his 8-year career. Under the reported deal, he would eclipse that in a little over two years. That kind of a pay bump would be hard to resist, no matter what Miami offers in terms of LeBron and Friends. Lowry also has to be thinking that, at 28, even if he signs a 4-year deal, he’ll have enough in the tank to go ring-hunting at 32 years of age if he hasn’t gotten one by then.

8:06 Update: Josh Eberley of DimeMag is reporting that Lowry has signed an extension, after being unable to resist the urge of being the #1 guy on the team (little does he know that Bruno Caboclo is going to take care of that soon enough):

8:16 Update: David Aldridge is reporting that Ujiri will present an offersheet at midnight:

8:46 Update: Apparently the Rockets want to make a pitch too if they can’t land ‘Melo. Nothing to worry about here, because Lowry would never go back to Houston. Would he? Blake Murphy will have an analysis of the Raptors cap situation once the numbers are a bit more clear, for now though, the off-season is off to a fantastic start.

10:14 Update (William is taking over): Josh Lewenberg just said on TSN1050 Radio that the Toronto Raptors’ offer will be the first one presented to Lowry at midnight. Not really a surprise, but it’s something.

10:31 Update

So that’s a bit crazy. You know, like eating a whole pack of magic mushrooms crazy. But hey, if the goal is to keep him, and this is the price, perhaps it’s not so bad. Having Lowry eat up such a huge chunk of money would leave little for Vasquez and Patterson. We shall see. If Lowry does net that figure (and it would be insane for him not to), Lowry would become the 6th highest paid PG in the league next season (Jeremy Lin technically has him beat, but his is a poison pill).

The upside is, it would certainly price Lowry out of anyone else’s range. However, the bad news is that it would be overpaying. While it’s possible for the Raptors to structure a front-loaded deal. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Raptors could drop 7.5% off the first year’s salary every season, and make it something like: $14.5, $13.4, $12.33, $11.24 million, which comes down to $51.47 million over four years. That’s not that insane, but it’s still pretty nuts.

10:48 Update

Sweet. I just did all that calculating for nothing.

Mighty Woj: Expect Ujiri to bid on Lowry at midnight (5pm Grange update: Lowry’s staying)

Chill out guys, Masai Ujiri has a plan.

It would be wise to listen to Adrian Wojnarowski’s words, for they oftentimes come true. And he makes a lot of sense here. Why?

Miami and Houston don’t actually have enough cap room as of yet to bid on Lowry. The Heat would first have to forgo the Big 3′s bird rights, or have all three re-sign at lower prices immediately, before they have any useable cap room. For Houston, they’re waiting to bid on other superstars first, so Lowry’s down their list of priorities. The Rockets also need to find a taker for Jeremy Lin’s poison pill’s contract. Time is on the Raptors’ side here.

Of course, there are also other suitors to consider. Teams like the Lakers, Mavericks and Hawks have holes at point guard and enough cap room. They could conceivably chase Lowry too. So, we’re not out of the woods until he actually puts pen to paper.

Then again, the Raptors like Lowry, Lowry likes the Raptors, the Raptors have the money, opportunity and stability that Lowry’s never had before. As they say in the freshman mixer, “when you get a yes, you go home.”

5pm update

Apparently they’re very close and Miami won’t even get a chance to officially entertain Kyle Lowry.

https://twitter.com/alexfan590/status/483743685377789952

The Caboclo Acquisition: Raptors Bet on Bruno

Though 2014 was projected as the deepest draft in years it could just as easily have been described as the draft of uncertainty.

Three prospects from 3 different countries were heralded as franchise changers, but no one could mutually agree on the top pick.

In the next tier were more quality prospects and more questions. Two players within this group sat at opposite ends of the spectrum: Australian point guard Dante Exum perhaps benefited from a lack of exposure while Julius Randle suffered from over exposure.

Additionally, there was a group of young budding athletes projected as future stars (Gordon/Vonleh).  While others had excelled in college, yet left uncertainty if they could perform in the NBA or had already reached their ceiling (Napier).

But it was the Raptors selection of Bruno Caboclo at 20 that sent reporters, social media and the fan base into a frenzy. The question was simply: who?

Raptors GM: Masai Ujiri and his staff had worked tirelessly to secure home grown talent Tyler Ennis, but Chicago’s action to move their 16th and 19th picks ironically to the team Ujiri had left for Toronto may well have set the dominoes in motion for Phoenix to steal Ennis.  Reports said Caboclo had a guarantee from the Raptors at 37, however Toronto heard rumblings *4 other teams were interested in acquiring Caboclo prior to that.

* The Starters: Tas Melas reported Oklahoma City and San Antonio were both interested and Ryan Wolstat tweeted Utah and Phoenix were hot after Caboclo and would have selected him with their next picks.

Prior to posting this article I decided to wait for Saturday’s press conference just to see if my initial instincts shifted (they didn’t).

Ironically, Ujiri touched on a similar point to my thoughts below, so I’m not sure if that means I’m thinking like a G.M. or it was just a fortunate coincidence. Regardless, here was my preliminary response to the frenzied reaction of the trade:

Question: What do the following players have in common with Bruno Caboclo?

  • Donatas Motiejunas
  • James Anderson
  • Alexis Ajinca
  • Jason Smith
  • Renaldo Balkman
  • Julius Hodge

Answer: They all were selected 20th in the NBA draft in the last 10 years.

I’m sure most fans would agree players such as Ibaka, Batum, Dragic, Pekovic, Asik, Arenas, and Ginobili are all better talents than the listed players. Amazingly all of them were drafted after 20 and were considered projects or chances.  In fact the first 5 names on this second list were drafted in 2008. For the most part these 5 have outperformed many of the picks selected before them.

The point is, when it comes to drafting a prospect certainly skill and ceiling are factors but equally important is the player’s drive. It’s why so many teams consider intangibles like motor, basketball I.Q. and the player’s commitment to improve.

I get why some of the Raptor faithful get anxious especially given duds like Caboclo’s countryman Rafael Araujo .  To those fans let me remind you of Oden, Beasley, Porter, Yi, Flynn, Morrison and Thabeet who were all selected in the top six of their drafts.

Past Raptor picks Damon Stoudemire (Rookie of the Year) was not a popular choice and many were disappointed we selected Terrence Ross over Austin Rivers.  The bottom line is drafting isn’t an exact science and sometimes you swing for the fences and get lucky.

As fans we want the best for our team especially after their most recent success, but remember it’s the current nucleus that got the team there.  Let’s return to December; how many of you thought the Rudy Gay trade signaled the Raptors entry into tank mode? Well, in fairness I didn’t, but I’m the eternal optimist.  Keep in mind Ujiri landed in management due to his prowess in scouting.

Yes the Bruno Caboclo pick surprised virtually everyone on the set of the draft, the media and the fan base, however as highlighted above he was on several other teams’ radar. Given there was interest from the Thunder and Spurs we can assume this wasn’t a complete wild card pick. Kenneth Faried wasn’t as high on most GM’s lists either and he made Ujiri look brilliant.

The next step for Caboclo will be heading to Los Angeles where several players are spending their off season. Assistant Coach and player development specialist Jesse Mermuys is also living there to assist the players in their individual off season homework. Caboclo will undoubtedly be given an extensive list of areas to focus on, meet his new teammates and more importantly be shown the work ethic required by team leaders Johnson and DeRozan in order to succeed in the NBA.

Brazilian Basketball player Bruno Caboclo drafted 20th over all by the Raptors arrives on Porter Airlines  from Newark NJ at Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto. Toronto Star reporter Isabel Teotonio (in Red) talks to Bruno as he arrived.

As mentioned, I had wanted to see our new recruit prior to finalizing this piece and I’m glad I waited. In live footage we are treated to the young colt sinking three consecutive 3-point shots and 3 consecutive free throws. Immediately you see his length, basketball body (albeit one he needs to grow into and add muscle) and his raw potential. An excerpt from Open Gym provides some additional insight.

In his first media throng Bruno Caboclo definitely looks as young as his 18 years; however there is a certain endearing quality to him. In his best English he responds to questions of what he can bring to the team (3 & D), his favorite player (Durant) and how he feels about the ESPN correspondents over repeated 2 and 2 assessment. This last question draws a quick look at the interpreter for verification of what he heard.  He replies this is probably accurate, but stresses he intends to work hard to lower that timeframe.

As news broke late Sunday, Ujiri had traded John Salmons to Atlanta for Lou Williams and Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira it reminded me of Valanciunas first year with the club. At that time Linas Kleiza was a teammate who offered Jonas another Lithuanian speaking teammate.  If Nogueira remains with the club this would be a similar situation.  Side Note: For those feeling Ujiri whiffed on fulfilling specific needs of the team this acquisition offers a solid option at shooting guard in Lou Williams and potentially explains why the Raptors didn’t select either Canadian center Bachynski or Bhullar or invite either to summer league since this deal may already have been in the works.

When speaking to reporters Ujiri submits he knows the pick wasn’t popular but takes the stance that Caboclo is a long shot he was willing to bet on.  Then he masterfully uses the ESPN timeframe comment and stretches the terms out to five years. In one fell swoop he has flipped the script to remove any pressure from Caboclo’s timetable to meet specific deadlines as well as state he doesn’t care if it’s a popular decision, rather it’s simply his job and part of that is taking chances on talent.

Let’s face it there are no guarantees when it comes to the draft.  Just as the Raptors are taking a calculated risk, so too are the Sixers with Joel Embiid who could suffer a similar fate to Greg Oden or be plagued perennially with foot injuries like Brooke Lopez.

Though we really only have the brief footage we saw in Bruno’s introduction Saturday (and some grainy Youtube footage), there are a few stats which stand out to solicit some excitement regarding his upside. There’s the fact Caboclo’s estimated reach is measured at 7’7” that’s more than highly touted Noah Vonleh. There is his ability to hit the 3 pointer with ease and his propensity to want to play defense. Above all there are the reports from interviews in his native Brazil where he speaks to wanting to be the best player in the NBA and wanting to make his family and country proud. That and the fact he is just 18 point to Ujiri and Casey’s excitement.

Sure, Caboclo may never pan out and may never play significant minutes or contribute. On the other hand, he might be one of those rare talents who exceed expectations, matures rapidly and becomes the missing piece in our core group.  For those who are still unsure, remember Nic Stauskas went from being a player not even projected to be drafted to being selected eighth or the much hyped Joel Embiid who, up until four years ago hadn’t even played basketball.

Personally, I’ll take my chances on a prospect with unlimited raw talent over a bench player who might not even play or translate to the pros. I’m betting on the odds of Caboclo succeeding based purely on his obvious potential, what appears to be a drive to  make it  and our development staff who’ve worked wonders with the core youth on the Raptors.  If and when he does I’ll add another jersey to my collection. I’m just hoping we can convince the Marketing department to put his first name on it too because come on, how cool would a jersey with the name Bruno on it be?

Raptors Pick Up 2014-15 Option on Tyler Hansbrough

The Raptors have exercised the $3.3M option on Tyler Hansbrough for 2014-15.

Hansbrough made $3.2M last season and averaged 15.3 minutes in 64 games, while starting 4. His final year was partially guaranteed at $1M, which makes this an understandable signing from a financial perspective since the cost of a decent replacement would cost more than $2.2M. He averaged 4.9 points and 4.5 rebounds, and saw his minutes decrease with the acquisition of Patrick Patterson in December as Dwane Casey preferred the more versatile Patterson in a stretch-four capacity. With the future of Patterson uncertain, the move ensures that the Raptors are at-least two-deep at power forward next season. Newly acquired Lucas Nogueira, Jonas Valanciunas, and Chuck Hayes would round out the big man rotation.

You might have been forgiven for thinking that the Raptors may decline the option to free up more money for Kyle Lowry, Patrick Patterson, and Greivis Vasquez, but Ujiri clearly feels that Hansbrough is a rotational player, albeit a situational one. Hansbrough was 24th in the NBA in fouls per minute, which appears shockingly low given his style of play and disregard for rules. He’s 28 years old and although he was one of the greatest college players in the modern era, his NBA game remains confined to the role of a garbage man who plays with a tremendous amount of heart and hustle.

There is no word on whether the Raptors will pick up options on Dwight Buycks ($816,482) and Julyan Stone ($948,163). Assuming the Raptors exercise the $7M option on Amir Johnson, their guaranteed money for next season will be $48 million. However, considering cap-holds of Caboclo, Nogueira, Lowry, Vasquez, De Colo, and Patterson, the number balloons to $69.4M. The NBA salary cap is set to be approximately $63.2M.

Here’s a chart of the Rudy Gay trade impact (no way William Lou out-does me):

tyler-hansbrough-rudy-gay-trade-chart-stats

 

Raptors Weekly Podcast, June 30 – Caboclo Tease, Totally Not Jose Calderon

A packed pod with Andrew, Tim, Will and myself as we look back on draft night and into the near and distant future. Unfortunately for us, the last thing John Salmons did was mistime his trade so there’s no discussion of Johnny Fish but there’s everything else, including Russian thuggery.

Part 1

  • Jason Kidd news
  • Historic week in Bucks history
  • Bruno Deboclo reaction
  • ESPN overreaction
  • The whole “moving down” approach and its feasibility
  • A Vancouver story from years past

Part 2

  • Targeting Tyler Ennis
  • His coach’s comments on his NBA-readiness
  • Should we be disappointed that we didn’t get him?
  • Jose Calderon comparisons for Tyler Ennis
  • Zach Lavine reaction
  • What’s the worst city to play in the NBA?
  • NBA projections for Bruno Caboclo

Part 3

  • Ric Bucher rumour and apology
  • Brain Windhorst hate – his Kyle Lowry reports
  • Would Miami’s acquisition of Shabazz Napier (LeBron’s favorite player) cool off their interest in Lowry?
  • Sixers strategy – genius or madness?
  • Should we envy the Sixers? Or is that crazy?
  • Andrew Wiggins’ introduction in Cleveland
  • Nik Stauskas playing point guard?
  • Four Canadians drafted in first round
  • Leo cutting in during the draft
  • Predictions: percentage chance of Kyle Lowry staying

Grab the iTunes feed or check us out on Stitcher on Android. There is also the plain old feed. You can also download the file (38:11, 37 MB). Or just listen below:

Morning Coffee – Mon, Jun 30

Toronto Raptors add capable Lou Williams in trade with Atlanta Hawks | National Post

Williams provides the Raptors some extra backcourt depth in case either Kyle Lowry or Greivis Vasquez leaves in free agency. That was not the primary motivator for the Raptors behind the trade — they are simply trying to use Salmons’ unique contract to obtain an extra asset, or in this case, two. Williams is not a classic point guard, in the way Lowry and Vasquez are. However, he could run the offence in a pinch, and gives the Raptors a little bit more flexibility should one of Lowry, an unrestricted free agent, or Vasquez, for whom the Raptors can match any offer, leave the team.

Are Raptors Preparing for Kyle Lowry’s Departure by Acquiring Lou Williams? | Bleacher Report

Once the Williams-Salmons trade is finalized, the Raptors will have around $40 million in committed salaries. Should they exercise Amir Johnson’s $7 million team option, that figure will rise to $47 million—still a full $16 million shy of the projected salary cap. That’s where things get a bit tricky. It’s certainly possible that a rival team in need of backcourt depth will trump the $3.2 million qualifying offer currently on the table for Greivis Vasquez, who emerged as a key part of Toronto’s rotation despite his ostensible role as Lowry’s primary backup.

Raptors, Hawks agree on trade | Toronto Sun

Only $1 million U.S. of Salmons’ salary is guaranteed, while Williams has one year and $5.45 million remaining. Atlanta now has considerable money to spend to enhance its roster, while Toronto could still stay under the luxury tax, even if free agents Kyle Lowry, Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez are retained, though spending the mid-level exception as well likely would not be possible. With Williams in the picture though, Vasquez might become a casualty, if Lowry is convinced to stay, even though Vasquez is a far more traditional point guard.

Raptors trade prudent move at many levels | Toronto Star

But the possibility does exist that the top two point guards from a year ago could be gone (although I think it would kill Greivis to leave) and the prudent thing to do is find a way to protect yourself. Williams may not be all that great but he is an NBA veteran and that has to be a bit soothing at the very least as the Raptors go into a very important off-season stretch. I guess you could also see Williams as, perhaps, an asset to be flipped if things work out the way some want and both Lowry and Vasquez come back. His contract is expiring, he does have some game left and perhaps once the zaniness of the first 10 days of free agency ends, there’d be a need for him somewhere in the league. I don’t know about Bebe, he is interesting young big and you can’t have too many of them but there are buyout issues with Estudiantes and he fits perfectly with what Masai’s long-stated intentions are, gathering bits for the future and future growth. I do think Masai needs some kind of credit for getting this deal done; yes, it helps the Hawks clear some cap room and might allow them to pursue a top-end free agent but the Raptors got some useable bits for someone who wasn’t going to be here anyway.

Report: Raptors Trade Salmons to Hawks for Lou Williams and Lucas Nogueira | Raptors HQ

It’s not a perfect trade, as Williams could be a bust and Nogueira, who apparently has a decent-sized buyout from his Spanish team, may not be over for another season. But there’s not much downside here for the Dinos. Williams only has a year left on his deal so it’s a small rental if he doesn’t perform like his 2010-2012 self, and it enable the Raps to keep their mid-level exception in all likelihood. (We’ll see what happens with Lowry, Patterson, Vasquez etc.) It’s a pretty solid move for the Hawks too. While I’m surprised they threw Nogueira into the deal, they can now waive Salmons so that they’d only be on the hook for $1M of his $7M salary. (Sidebar, WHY IS JOHN SALMONS BEING PAID $7 MILLION DOLLARS FOR THIS UPCOMING SEASON???!!) That gives them another piece of cap room and it looks like they’ll have enough to go after a big-name free agent if they so desire. Best of all though… BEBE AND BRUNO.

First impressons of Raptors draft pick Bruno Caboclo | Toronto Sun

Caboclo also comes with the kind of work ethic coaches drool over. Consider he arrived in Toronto mid afternoon Friday and following some meet and greets within the organization and a dinner he was back in his hotel by about 10:30. The excitement of the night before kept him up until 4 a.m, but at about 11 p.m. Friday night he decided he needed to get a little sweat on so he and Resende headed over to Raptors practice gym to get up some shots. According to Resende, the novelty of having a practice gym available to him was something that was just too good to pass up regardless of the time of night. “He hasn’t been practicing for like the last couple of days, or three days. So he said, ‘I need to get the feeling for the gym and I need to get the rust off’, and then he decided to come (Friday) night,” Resende said.

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OFFICIAL: John Salmons traded for Lou Williams and Lucas Nougeira

I’m changing my name to Durant Kevin. Let’s see how far I can take this.

Exciting news! John Salmons’ time as a member of the Toronto Raptors is (reportedly) over! In his stead, we get a combo guard who isn’t quite as effective as he once was and a promising young big. Take it away, Marc Stein and Adrian Wojnarowski:

 

So essentially, in a nice little turn of trick, Masai Ujiri managed to turn cap room into a one-year rental, and a former first-rounder.

Let’s start with Lou Williams. He’s a combo guard who hasn’t quite been the same since suffering a devastating ACL injury. Pre-injury, Williams was a crafty combo guard who could effectively create his own shot and handle the ball. He was one of the league’s best bench players between 2011-2013, averaging 14.2 points, 2.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game while getting to the line a fair bit.

However, Williams went down with an ACL injury in 2013, which forced him out of action for approximately 10 months. He has since returned and stayed largely healthy, but is noticeably worse, especially in getting to the basket (and hence, the line). Check out the graph below:

graphAt 6-foot-2, under 200 pounds, he’s too small to guard any position other than point guard, but his purpose on the court is not to defend — he’s a scorer. Hopefully he can continue to do that. Hey, he’s much better than John Salmons at this point.

He has one more year left on his deal at $5.5 million. Essentially, the Raptors are taking a chance on him, hoping he returns to health. As I stated earlier, at his height, Williams was one of the league’s best bench scorers. He boasted a PER of 19.0 (near All-Star per-minute production) between 2010 and 2012. He used to be very good. Use #LouTrillVille to communicate your excitment on Twitter with your internet buddies. They’ll know.

Moving on, Nougiera is a prospect, perhaps best known for his hilarious draft-day appearance (pictured above). He’s a 21-year-old center that was drafted by the Hawks (via the Celtics) last year with the 16th overall pick. He has a 7-foot-6 wingspan (like Bruno) and is Brazilian (again, like Bruno).

Last season, he played in the Spanish ACB, averaging 6.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks  in 16.6 minutes per game. I’ve only seen a few minutes of Youtube highlights of him, but it certainly seems like he has potential. Last I checked, he was reportedly forgoing the last year of his contract in Europe to make his way to the NBA, but I’m not sure if his buyout process is complete as of yet. His buyout is $600,000, of which can be paid in full by the Raptors. He’ll be here next season.

Something else of note: he did suffer a bout of tendinitis in his knees last season, which kept him from play for 2 months.

Here’s his DraftExpress video. More video footage of Nogueria is available online. Also of note, his nickname is “Bebe”, so feel free to make your Hurricane jokes here.

The ramifications of this deal is two-fold. First, the Raptors just got better both in the short-run. In giving away Salmons’ cap room for one season, they’ve landed themselves an upgrade in Williams, who should, at worst, be a good ball-handler and decent shot-creator in a team bereft of both. Williams’ addition will not affect the Raptors’ ability to re-sign Lowry, Vasquez or Patterson as they own the Bird rights to all three, although it could press the Raptors closer to the luxury tax cap. The Raptors should also have the full Mid-Level Exception, worth around $5 million, if they want to get any more upgrades.

Second, it brightens the team’s long-term prospects. Salary flexibility is maintained for 2015, as Williams will be expiring along with Fields and Hayes, which comes out to ~$20 million. Meanwhile, this also nets a prospect for the future. Nougeira is really young, has flashed signs of being a decent rim-defender, and has good size. He’s a little light at the moment, but I’m sure he’ll fill out once he gets into an NBA training regimen. He’s the same age as Jonas.

The move also makes sense for Atlanta, who look poised to make their move. It’s not like the Hawks got fleeced or anything. There’s a clear motive in their actions here. Shedding Williams and a Nogueria sheds about $6-7 million in salary for next season, which gives them over $20 million in cap room to chase a superstar. With Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap and a cadre of capable role-players, the Hawks are one star away from joining the upper echelon of the East. Of course, that could be said for just about every team in the conference. But keep your eye on Atlanta. They could be really, really good next season.

TL;DR: Raptors trade away one year of cap space, pick up a better player, a first-rounder, while not compromising future salary considerations. Masai gonna Masai

Bruno Caboclo Situation Parallels Tracy McGrady

I have to go back to the time we drafted Tracy McGrady to find an example of the Raptors selecting a player they truly didn’t expect to contribute in the near-term and were content developing on the side, solely because of his potential. Since then, from Morris Peterson to Terrence Ross, there’s always been a certain expectation that the player selected would be a meaningful part of the roster the next season.

Seventeen years after McGrady was drafted, the Raptors picked Bruno Caboclo. Whereas McGrady was chained to the bench by the villainous Darrell Walker and only got to develop once the latter was fired, Caboclo enjoys the full support of his GM and coach and can pursue a development path set by an organization that is committed to him.  Both players were positioned as side-projects with no near-term expectations being set, one just happens to arrive in a more organized and vastly less chaotic situation than the other.  Looking far into the future, perhaps it’s this organized context and improved relationship that will ultimately prove to be key if Caboclo does pan out. The hurt McGrady felt in his early years in Toronto considerably fed his decision to leave, which is something we won’t have to worry about with Caboclo, if it does come to that.

The McGrady comparison isn’t just limited to the development situation and can be extended to player similarities.  They play the same position, were 18 years old at the time of drafting, Caboclo is an inch taller at 6’9″ and McGrady was 12 pounds heavier at 212.  McGrady had a big 7’2″ wingspan for his size, Caboclo’s is at 7’7″.   Both were raw talents which had not played any NCAA or international basketball, were not considered NBA-ready, and were drafted solely based on upside.  McGrady’s draft stock had been made high, not because of any extensive scouting, but due to the success high-schoolers Kobe Bryant (1996) and Kevin Garnett (1995) were having in the league.  It was a time where the NBA had yet to implement its age restriction rules and drafting high-schoolers was what the cool teams did, and so McGrady’s stock rose.  If this was 1997 and the craze about young, raw, high-school talents were at its peak, Caboclo just may have surpassed McGrady on that 1997 draft board.

The Raptors organization, despite their considerable failings in every regard over the last decade, has been fairly adequate at player development which gives us some hope for Caboclo. Players such as Terrence Ross, Jonas Valanciunas, DeMar DeRozan, Chris Bosh, Morris Peterson, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, and others saw their games improve under the Raptors watch, whereas low-talent fodder such as Joey Graham and Rafael Araujo never had much of anything that could be developed. Given this history of bringing up young players, Caboclo should feel somewhat at ease that his future is in competent hands.

From a fans perspective, there really isn’t anything to lose and Caboclo gives us a sidebar to focus on throughout the season. In past years we’ve half-heartedly monitored the likes of Solomon Alabi and Roko Ukic in their quest to prove themselves to be something special, fully knowing in our hearts that that was very unlikely. In Caboclo, the equation is a little different. He possesses superior physical tools, is raw to the point where he can be molded through coaching, and is by the accounts we’ve heard, a dedicated individual who takes the game seriously. He appears to have the foundational elements that make a player successful, making it a matter of instruction, personal development, and above all, commitment from the player.

I feel it’s important to contrast the opportunity cost of the pick, i.e., drafting a rotation player, with what many ‘tank nation’ members wanted from this draft. There was a strong belief that the Raptors should have targeted a high pick in the draft to get a shot at the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Joel Embiid, players who are viewed as being NBA-ready and having a high-ceiling based on extremely impressive physical attributes and a short college resume. Though the Raptors 2013-14 season changed its course once Rudy Gay was traded, meaning that a high pick was no longer in view, the drafting of Caboclo should please those fans, at least to a certain degree. Rather than take a player with a decent floor and an above-average ceiling in any of the players that went between 21-30, the Raptors swung for the fences for a guy with potentially a very high ceiling but at the cost of near-term profit, which is what many fans who despite the road to mediocrity prefer. Instead of getting a guy who is NBA-ready and has a high ceiling, we settled for someone who might never even make it to the NBA but who, if he does make it, could be one of the most high-impact players around. I believe this is exactly how gambling works and when it comes to the crapshoot that is the draft, a gamble isn’t a half-bad option, especially if the alternatives are less exiting, albeit more stable.

More from RR:

ESPN: “Most likely Heat’s #1 choice will be Kyle Lowry”

Brian Windhorst, speaking on ESPN has once again reignited the Kyle Lowry to Miami rumours, this time in a sign-and-trade context:

The Heat should be able to open up somewhere in the neighbourhood of $7-8M of salary cap space so they can chase free-agents. Most likely their #1 choice will be Kyle Lowry, the unrestricted free agent of the Toronto Raptors.

When asked why Lowry would take less money since he hasn’t had his payday in the NBA yet, Windhorst responded:

Maybe the Heat could trade Norris Cole and open up an extra $2M (for Kyle Lowry)

From the article linked, Windhorst is explicitly saying that the Heat

The team is known to be interested in Toronto Raptors free agent point guard Kyle Lowry.

This report comes on the heels of Masai Ujiri publicly stating that the Raptors will be going “full force” after Kyle Lowry.   Since the last time Windhorst spoke of this rumour, the Heat acquired Shabazz Napier on draft night through trade with the Charlotte Hornets, which you would think would ease the Lowry speculation.

Whatever the case, with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Udonis Haslem opting out of their contracts, the Heat have an NBA-record $55 million available in cap space to play with, and Lowry could quite easily be their primary target.   As an FYI, a similar rumour (actually, a more brazen one) was circulated by Ric Bucher before apologizing.

The Raptors tried to get some insurance on draft night through Tyler Ennis but were unable to do so.  Keep in mind, though, that the Suns still have two point guards on their roster in Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, so the final shoe may yet be dropped.

More from RR today:

Raptors Extend Qualifying Offers to Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez and Nando De Colo

The Raptors have extended qualifying offers to Patrick Patterson ($4.3M), Greivis Vasquez ($3.2M) and Nando De Colo ($1.8M), thus making them restricted free agents.  The qualifying offers give the Raptors the right to match any offer made to them (right of first refusal).   From the CBA FAQ:

The qualifying offer is a standing offer for a one-year guaranteed contract, which becomes a regular contact if the player decides to sign it. This ensures that the team does not gain the right of first refusal without offering a contract themselves. The amount of the qualifying offer for players on rookie “scale” contracts is based on the player’s draft position. The qualifying offer for all other players must be for 125% of the player’s previous salary, or the player’s minimum salary.

It’s very unlikely Patterson or Vasquez will accept the offer and take a one-year deal at that rate, given the seasons they’ve had.  Nando De Colo, though, might just bite at the opportunity to stay on an NBA roster for another year.

2014 NBA Draft Report Card – All The Analysis

With the draft come and gone, and fewer big trades than I expected, its time to give each team a grade. For those of you who read my old blog, you’ll know I don’t give out letter grades. I don’t see much difference between a B and a B+. And the letter grades can all mean different things, anyway. Are they grading how well the team did at the spot they had or are they grading the talent level they got?

I started using the grades I do when my oldest daughter was in grade 1 and instead of letter grades, they got Exceeds Expectations, Meets Expectations, Approaching Expectations and Needs Improvement. I think that makes much more sense for grading the draft.

And for the first time ever, there wasn’t a team that got a Needs Improvement grade, which might be an indication that the level of management has improved over the years (but that’s another column)

Since this is long, let’s get right into it. Since this is a Raptors website, I’ll do the Raptors first and then grade the rest.

TORONTO: Incomplete

20. Bruno Caboclo
37. DeAndre Daniels
59. Xavier Thames

Trades: Traded rights to Xavier Thames to Nets for cash and future considerations.

First off, my big disappointment was that Tyler Ennis was taken by Phoenix just two spots before the Raptors chose, but that’s not the Raptors fault. There was talk afterwards that the Raptors had worked out a deal for him, but nothing came of that. All Raptor fans should be praying that Phoenix re-signs Eric Bledsoe, because then the Suns just might entertain trading Ennis to the Raptors.

Quite frankly, it reminded me far too much when the Grizzlies were still in Vancouver, and my friend and I got our hearts set on a guy named Steve Nash, who we both felt was a winner and vastly underrated. Vancouver had a second pick at 22 and there was some hope Nash would fall that far. Instead, he was drafted by a Phoenix team that already had two very good point guards on the roster, one a hyper-athletic shoot-first point guard (Kevin Johnson) and the other a smooth floor general (Jason Kidd). The similarities are eerie.

As for Bruno Caboclo, he was not someone I had written about in my prospecting series.

Or had considered writing about.

Or had heard of.

After his name was called, I quickly scanned the Draft Express mock draft, and he wasn’t there and his profile is a scouting video from one game. To say he wasn’t on a lot of people’s radar is an understatement. And those that had heard of him thought he was a second round pick, at best.

That’s not to say it was a bad pick. Not in the least. There are many who felt that they took him too high and should have used their second round pick, but those people don’t realize two things. The first is that other teams may have been targeting him, which is why the Raptors had a deal for the 22nd pick, to draft both Ennis and Caboclo. Apparently both Phoenix and San Antonio were interested in him, and were picking before 37.

Secondly, where a person is picked doesn’t matter nearly as much as how good that player becomes. If the Spurs had taken Manu Ginobili 30th instead of 57th, would it really matter that they passed up on guys who didn’t come close to being as good as Ginobili became?

If Ujiri felt Caboclo was the best player available and there was a chance that he would be gone at 37, then you pick him and screw the pundits. I’d much rather see my GM do what he felt was the best thing rather than the most acceptable thing. Too many GMs play it safe and that’s not how you build contenders.

Brazilian Basketball player Bruno Caboclo drafted 20th over all by the Raptors arrives on Porter Airlines  from Newark NJ at Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto. Toronto Star reporter Isabel Teotonio (in Red) talks to Bruno as he arrived.

And it’s not as if the Raptors passed up a likely star to grab Caboclo. I know a lot of fans would have liked to have seen the Raptors pick Shabazz Napier at 20, but there’s a reason he lasted until 24 despite his NCAA heroics. He’s an undersized point guard who doesn’t make his teammates better and has trouble finishing at the rim. The likelihood of anyone being drafted after Caboclo becoming anything more than a decent role player is slim (according to draft history) so why not take a risk and draft someone who could end becoming a star?

Now, that said, I know so little about Caboclo that I don’t feel comfortable giving the team a grade, at this point. From what little I’ve seen he could be great, or he could be a bust. The right guys seem to be raving about him, so I’m willing to withhold judgement for now. Not because I have faith in Ujiri. That would be naive considering how little draft history Ujiri actually has. Before Caboclo, he’s only had two first round picks, Kenneth Faried and Evan Fournier (Ujiri did NOT draft Ty Lawson, despite many Raptor fans belief he did- that was before he was hired) and of his two second round picks, one (Quincy Miller) hasn’t done much and the other (Izzet Turkyilmaz) hasn’t played a minute in the NBA, yet.

The reaction by many basketball fans (both Raptor and otherwise) is further proof that the internet is full of idiots. There’s a big difference between not knowing who a player is and knowing he was a bad pick. People have to realize that.

I would dearly have liked to have seen Ujiri get the Greek Freak last year (something he was trying to do) and then pick the Brazilian Freak this year. Seeing those two play together would have been a sight.

With their 37th pick, they took DeAndre Daniels and I’m not all that impressed. I thought Spencer Dinwiddie, Glenn Robinson III or Nikola Jokic would have been better choices, but we’ll see.

59th picks are lucky to even make the team, so, while I am a big fan of Xavier Thames’ name, trading him doesn’t really matter.

Philadelphia: Exceeds Expectations

3. Joel Embiid
10. Elfrid Payton
32. K.J. McDaniels
39. Jerami Grant
47. Russ Smith

Trades: Philadelphia traded Elfrid Payton to Orlando for Dario Saric (12th pick), a 2017 1st round pick and a future 2nd round pick. Traded Russ Smith to New Orleans for something.

No team, not even the Raptors, took a bigger swing for the fences than Philadelphia. Embiid was a consensus number one pick up until a week before the draft who had been compared by numerous scouts to Hakeem Olajuwon. There wasn’t a player who scouts felt could make a bigger impact than Embiid. Whether he is physically able to is the big question. The navicular bone which Embiid broke is the same one that stunted the careers of Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Yao Ming (Ilgauskas in the middle of his career and Yao at the end), but it’s also the same bone Kevin McHale, Michael Jordan and Kevin Martin broke and none of them had any ill effects after healing from their injuries.

Dario Saric isn’t coming over for a couple of years, but he’s got the potential to be one of the best players from the draft (I discussed him more here). In fact, the Sixers could have two of the best players from the draft in five years, and for a rebuilding team, that’s huge. The problem, of course, is that neither player will be on the team when next season starts, but team building is a marathon, not a race.

The Sixers could have taken players that were more NBA ready, but if you’re rebuilding, you need to collect the best talent.

K.J. Daniels was a player I covered in the prospecting series. I wasn’t a fan of him at 20, but at 32, I think it’s a very good pick. Jerami Grant was a possibility for the first round, but fell, I’m guessing, because his shot is broken. I think there were some better prospects available, but it doesn’t take away from their earlier accomplishments.

Orlando: Exceeds Expectations

3. Aaron Gordon
12. Dario Saric
56. Roy Devyn Marble

Trades: Orlando traded Dario Saric, a 2017 1st round pick and a future 2nd round pick to Philadelphia for Elfrid Payton (10th pick)

The first (mild) surprise of the draft was Orlando taking Gordon over Exum, who most mock drafts had going 4th, and then trading Saric’s rights for Elfrid Payton. There are certainly questions about spacing issues, since they traded away their best three point shooter (Afflalo) earlier in the day, but both Gordon and Payton were favourites of mine and guys who I thought had been underrated (although apparently not, since both were drafted higher than initially expected).

Both Gordon and Payton have the makings of monster defenders and guys who other players love to play with, but not against. Both are high IQ and team-first guys who have all the intangibles a coach would want.

I’m not sure whether it was worth trading a future first round pick, but I’m assuming there are restrictions on it. And keep in mind this grade does not include the trade of Aaron Afflalo earlier in the day. I think they got way too little back for a good, solid shooting guard who can hit from three and play defense.

Charlotte: Exceeds Expectations

9. Noah Vonleh
24. Shabazz Napier

Trades: Charlotte traded Shabazz Napier for P.J. Hairston (26th pick) and probably something else I’m not aware of.

Charlotte finally did something right in the draft! A lot of pundits felt Charlotte was going to draft a shooter, but with Stauskas gone one spot earlier, and McDermott not a good fit, the Hornets took the player with possibly the most upside left who should also fit in nicely with their current roster.

Vonleh is a physical specimen who should compliment Al Jefferson nicely in the front court, who has also shown a burgeoning outside game that the Hornets so need.

And while I listed Hairston as a player to avoid, I think on a team like Charlotte, with strong personalities that won’t accept poor behaviour, he could flourish. It’s also rare for a 26th pick to have the talent and NBA ready game that Hairston does.

Charlotte very well could have two starters from this draft.

Phoenix: Exceeds Expectations

14. T.J. Warren
18. Tyler Ennis
27. Bogdan Bogdanovic
50. Alec Brown

Trades: None (Arrghhh!)

I’m still bitter that Phoenix ended up taking Ennis two spots ahead of Toronto, but they did a very nice job drafting. T.J. Warren’s tweener game shouldn’t be a problem in Phoenix’s system, and they need frontcourt scoring, something Warren should help with.

I’ve said enough about Ennis, but suffice is to say, he’s a good pick, especially if Bledsoe leaves.

Bogdan Bogdanovic was one of my sleepers and a guy I figured San Antonio would end up drafting. He’s probably not quite ready for the NBA, yet, but that’s fine for a team with three first round picks.

Utah: Exceeds Expectations

5. Dante Exum
23. Rodney Hood

Trades: None (Arrghhh!)

Exum unexpectedly dropped and Utah couldn’t have been more fortunate. I like Gordon, but he wasn’t a good fit in Utah where scoring is desperately needed. It’s unclear how much Exum will be able to score, but a backcourt of Trey Burke and Exum should give others more open shots and keep the ball moving. Exum will take time to develop, but Utah is in no hurry and he could turn into a star if he fulfills his potential.

Rodney Hood won’t be a star, but he can shoot and that’s something Utah needs, and they didn’t pass on anyone they will probably regret to draft him.

San Antonio: Exceeds Expectations

30. Kyle Anderson/strong>
58. Jordan McRae

Trades: None

While I liked Kyle Anderson’s talent, I was wary of the fact that he’s only slightly more athletic and speedy on the court than I am. When San Antonio drafts someone, though, it’s generally stamp of approval. In all the years I’ve been doing this Draft Report Card, I’ve come to automatically give San Antonio an Exceeds Expectations, just based on history.

I’m not quite sure how Anderson fits in San Antonio’s lineup, but his passing skills will certainly be well utilized.

Brooklyn: Exceeds Expectations

Trades: Bought the rights to Markel Brown (44th pick), Xavier Thames (59th pick) and Cory Jefferson (60th pick)

So how does Brooklyn, who just had three late second round picks, none of whom might make the team next year get an Exceeds Expectations? Because they started the night without any draft picks at all (and none for the next 35 years, if my math is correct) but used the fact their owner is mega-rich (even compared to NBA owners) to buy into the draft. And that’s the only way the Nets are going to get young talent.

Detroit: Exceeds Expectations

38. Spencer Dinwiddie

Trades: None

Detroit only had one second round pick after giving their first round to Charlotte1, but they used it on easily the best player available. Dinwiddie not only has a great name, he probably should have gone about five to ten spots earlier.

1. Detroit basically traded their 9th pick to Charlotte for taking Ben Gordon and his salary for an extra year so Detroit could overspend on both Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, neither of who played well or fit in on the roster.

Geez, it’s a wonder Joe Dumars lasted so long.

Chicago: Meets Expectations

16. Jusuf Nurkic
19. Gary Harris
49. Cameron Bairstow

Trades: Chicago traded the rights to Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris for the rights to Doug McDermott (11th pick).

While they gave up a lot to get Doug McDermott, he’s exactly the type of player the Bulls need. Defense, they’ve got plenty of, but without Derrick Rose, they have absolutely no scoring, especially after trading away Loul Deng.

I’ve never been sure about McDermott’s future in the NBA, but he’s not Adam Morrison. I think he will be, at least, a decent player. And I think he’s going to be better than that.

Teams that trade up usually end up getting the better deal and I think that might be the case for Chicago.

One last note, though. There was discussion that Chicago drafted McDermott to play alongside free agent Carmelo Anthony, and I don’t see that at all. Both players are scorers who need the ball to be effective and who don’t excel on the defensive end. What Carmel needs is to play alongside a Andrei Kirilenko-type who can defend both the small forward and power forward position (taking the toughest check) and who can hit the jumps hot, but doesn’t need the ball to be effective. That doesn’t describe McDermott, who would make more sense as a sign-and-trade player for Carmelo than a running mate.

Milwaukee: Meets Expectations

2. Jabari Parker
31. Damien Inglis
36. Johnny O’Bryant III
48. Lamar Patterson

Trades: None

Milwaukee almost got an exceeds expectations solely on the announcement of Jabari Parker that he wanted to be a Buck for life. Parker may not end up being the best player from this draft, five years from now, but he’s exactly the player the Bucks need. His defense isn’t great (I’m being kind) but Brandon Knight, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ersan Ilyasova and LARRY SANDERS!, who should eventually be his fellow starters, all are above average defensively, so Parker should be covered. What they desperately lack, though, is scoring, which Parker should be able to do well from his first game on.

I especially like pairing Parker with Ilyasova, as both players are neither prototypical small forwards or power forwards, but their games should compliment one another.

Damien Inglis is a player with a great physical tools that needs to develop, but he’s got lots of promise and I thought San Antonio might take him at 30.

I think there were better players available at 36 than Johnny O’Bryant, but he’s got skills that should allow him to make the roster.

Denver: Meets Expectations

11. Doug McDermott
41. Nikola Jokic

Trades: Denver traded the rights to Doug McDermott for the rights to Jusuf Nurkic (16th pick) and Gary Harris (19th pick).

I’m normally against trading down because, for the most part, all you’re doing is trading for worse players. While Denver got some talent with their two picks, especially Harris, who fell to 19, I would have liked to have seen them draft Zach LaVine, who has star potential and would have fit in well on Denver’s roster, especially playing beside the equally athletic Ty Lawson.

LaVine should end up becoming a better player than Harris, and although Jokic will help them at the center position (have they finally figured out JaVale McGee’s negative basketball IQ isn’t getting any better?), LaVine is a player they might end up regretting not taking.

Cleveland: Meets Expectations

1. Andrew Wiggins
33. Joe Harris
45. Dwight Powell

Trades: None

I know there are questions about whether Wiggins has the mentality to dominate, but, at worst, Wiggins is a top flight defender who should be able to easily score in transition, rebound and hit the occasional jumper. One player that I’ve never seen brought up that should be germane to a conversation about Wiggins is Kawhi Leonard. He has an even more quiet personality than Wiggins, but it didn’t stop him from winning Finals MVP and being a star on the rise.

I think Wiggins has much more potential than Leonard.

And Wiggins is exactly what this Cleveland team needs. The last thing the Cavs needed was a Jabari Parker-type player who is yet another scorer on a team with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. What they need is a team-first guy who will play defense and score when needed. Eventually, Wiggins may end up taking over the team, but there won’t be any power struggles for it.

Joe Harris is a decent player, but I’m not sure he was the best available.

Boston: Meets Expectations

6. Marcus Smart
17. James Young

Trades: None

I think Marcus Smart has the potential to be a very good point guard, but I’m not sure how he fits on Boston unless Rajon Rondo is traded, and by drafting Smart, Boston may have lowered Rondo’s value. Boston obviously has moves to make, so we;ll have to wait and see how the pieces fall together.

James Young is a nice player, but I think Gary Harris might end up being the better player.

Lakers: Meets Expectations

7. Julius Randle
46. Jordan Clarkson

Trades: None

Most mock drafts had Randle going to the Lakers and that’s who they drafted. That’s pretty much the definition of meeting expectations. I’ve never been a huge fan of Randle, but the Lakers need young talent and Randle has the potential to be a good power forward and will only benefit playing with Kobe.

Julius Clakson is a pretty good prospect with some potential.

Minnesota: Meets Expectations

13. Zach LaVine
40. Glenn Robinson III
43. Alessandro Gentile

Trades: None

Considering LaVine probably should have gone higher and has great potential, the only reason Minnesota didn’t get an Exceeds Expectations was because of LaVine’s sourpuss reaction. I understand you might not have wanted to go to Minnesota, but considering it was just a few minutes later that Isaiah Austin was near tears for being simply allowed to have his name called out and go up to the podium to shake hands with Adam Silver, it strikes me as more than a little petulant.

And it’s also the last thing T-Wolves fans really needed to see, considering they’re probably about to see another All NBA player get shipped off to a better team.

Glenn Robinson probably could have gone in the first round and no one would have blinked, so getting him at 40 is good.

I have no idea who Alessandro Gentile, but I love his last name.

Memphis: Meets Expectations

22. Jordan Adams
35. Jarnell Stokes

Trades: None

While I think they picked Jordan Adams WAY too high (he’s a decent player, but I don’t see him having much upside at all), I think they got a steal in Jarnell Stokes, who could end up being the better player of the two.

Miami: Meets Expectations

26. P.J. Hairston

Trades: Miami traded P.J. Hairston to Charlotte for Shabazz Napier

LeBron obviously wanted Shabazz Napier, but they could have just as easily used Hairston.

Houston: Meets Expectations

25. Clint Capela
42. Nick Johnson

Trades: None

After trading away Asik earlier, the Rockets desperately needed a backup center, and although Clint Capela technically fits that description, he’s at least a year or two away from contributing. That said, he’s got as much or more potential than anyone else available at the 25th spot. Houston could have got a player who might have helped them immediately, but Capela should be a good gamble.

New York: Meets Expectations

34. Cleanthony Early
51. Thanasis Antetokounmpo
57. Louis Labiyre

Trades: None

Cleanthony Early was a darling of Bill Simmons and company, but I think he got picked about right. Thanasis Antetokounmpo is Giannis’ big brother, but that’s about all he brings.

New Orleans: Meets Expectations

Trades: Traded something (presumably) for Russ Smith (47th pick)

He’s the 47th pick. What do you expect?

Sacramento: Approaching Expectations

8. Nik Stauskas

Trades: None

This grade has nothing to do with Stauskas himself, who I think will be a very good player, and everything to do with why Sacramento would have picked him. They were the only team in the league to have three 20 ppg scorers, were one of the worst defensive teams in the league and the absolute worst passing team, and they go out and draft another scorer. Yes, they needed three point shooting, but hey also need someone to play defense and get the ball to everyone else.

Plus they already have a promising young shooting guard in Ben McLemore.

Elfrid Payton or Zach LaVine would have made way more sense.

I mean, if they wanted three point shooting, they should never have waived Jimmer Fredette, who isn’t great at a lot of things, but he is a fantastic shooter.

Atlanta: Approaching Expectations

15. Adreian Payne
43. Walter Tavares

Trades: None

Adreian Payne should be a pretty good player, and he was a sleeper of mine, but I don’t know if he’s the best player available and I don’t know where he fits on the Hawks roster. They already have plenty of outside shooting and plenty of power forwards.

Oklahoma: Approaching Expectations

21. Mitch McGary
29. Josh Huestis
55. Semaj Christon

Trades: None

While I think Mitch McGary will be a decent role player, I thought Oklahoma not only picked him too high, passed up on players that would have helped them more, but also I’m not sure how he fits on the Thunder.

With Rodney Hood, P.J. Hairston and Kyle Anderson available, all who would have helped Oklahoma more, McGary will now end up being the fifth big man for the Thunder.

Clippers: Approaching Expectations

28. C.J. Wilcox

Trades: None

C.J. Wilcox has good physical tools and can shoot from three, but he’ll get lost behind several Clipper players and there were players available that not only were better, but would have helped them more, like K.J McDaniels and Jarnell Stokes. The Clippers biggest weakness is defense and especially interior defense, and Wilcox does nothing to improve that.

10 Things We Learned About Bruno Caboclo on Saturday

There was a workout and a brief media availability session for Bruno Caboclo and Masai Ujiri, some titbits that came out of it:

  1. He can throw down dunks (albeit with no defenders around) and shoot FTs (alt video)
  2. He’ll be on the Toronto Raptors roster next season, with D-League stints a distinct possibility
  3. He started playing basketball when he was 13
  4. The rumours of his lack of dribble are unfounded
  5. His English is poor enough that he needs a translator to communicate
  6. He has a good follow-through
  7. He was drafted purely on the eye-test and not based on any statistical data/analysis
  8. He found out he was being drafted through a tweet from a journalist, in a taxi, and got a call at 2am from Masai Ujiri
  9. He’s aware of the “2 years from being 2 years away” comment and will work to shorten that
  10. His selection was confirmed as a gamble by Ujiri

Overall thoughts: The Raptors drafted a great athlete and hope to turn him into a basketball player.  He’s got the physical attributes to be one and enjoys strong organizational support.  Ujiri’s going to be patient with him and will go through the development process with Caboclo.  I like the idea of developing a peripheral player rather than a starter, which is what the Raptors had to do with Valanciunas, Ross and DeRozan thus far.  At the very least, it should be entertaining.  The worst-case for Caboclo is Darius Miles, the best a combination of Nicolas Batum and Serge Ibaka.

Here’s the Bruno interview and here’s Masai Ujiri.

On Bruno Caboclo and Mysteries

Ed’s Note: This is a guest post from Atique Virani, who wrote for RR previously and was on a podcast as well.

It’s not a stretch to suggest that the Raptors made the most shocking pick of the 2014 NBA Draft on Thursday. With the 20th pick, they selected a young gentleman named Bruno Caboclo from Brazil, a prospect almost no one knew anything about, and certainly not one expected to be taken that high. As soon as the pick was made, Raptors fans and media members went into overdrive, trying to find out more about this mysterious player, as well as trying to figure out why he was taken so early.

Raptors GM and resident apostle Masai Ujiri apparently had good reason to supposedly reach for Bruno, as ESPN’s Marc Stein later tweeted that there was a chance Caboclo would’ve been taken by the time Toronto’s first 2nd round pick rolled around. As for Caboclo’s actual basketball ability, little is known. Most of the information on him comes from DraftExpress’s video scouting report, which only shows footage from a single game, a game where Caboclo happened to perform well. A few tidbits can be gleaned from the tape, along with various grainy YouTube videos detailing other moments of playing time Caboclo received throughout his time in the Brazilian pro leagues.

Also Read: It’s Time To Embrace Toronto’s Oddball Drafts
Also Read: Bruno Caboclo the Latest Raptors Draft Pick to Raise Eyebrows, Which is Cool

The first thing to strike you is the insane length of Bruno’s arms. He’s supposedly got a 7’7” wingspan, and a height of just 6’8”, and the disparity between the two is starkly evident. When you see his arms, before you see him actually handle a basketball, it’s easy to see why the ridiculous Kevin Durant comparisons happened. There’s something distinctly familiar about Caboclo’s gangliness. During gameplay, however, the similarities between the youngster from Brazil and the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player vanish.

Caboclo shows none of the ball-handling skills or vision that have separated Durant from other transcendent scorers. and in fact his offensive game is limited, even in the shallow pool of Brazilian professional basketball. Caboclo is capable of dunking with those long arms, and he’s got a surprising stroke from behind the arc that belies his awkward length, and every once in a while, he’ll make a straight line drive to the rim to attack a closeout, dribbling once or twice the entire time. Otherwise, he’ll swing the ball around the perimeter and refuse to overextend himself. It’s on defense where most of his potential lies.

Watching highlights of his defensive plays, it’s easy to project a defensive terror who erases passing lanes and shots without discretion, but fans must pump the brakes. Bruno is not even 19 years old, and as such, knows next to nothing about the defensive nuances of the NBA. Some players never learn these nuances. For even the best, becoming smart, effective defenders takes time. Right now, Caboclo is neither of these things, as evidenced by his paucity of playing time in Brazil. What he is, is an extremely long player, one who’s still growing, with a wide frame that seems capable of adding weight, and with all the athleticism an NBA big man would need.

It will be up to Raptors fans to temper their expectations regarding Caboclo. Yes, he’s seemingly overflowing with potential. But he’s also incredibly raw. Odds are slim that he’ll ever reach his potential. But at #20, that’s not so bad. What we know for sure is that Masai Ujiri has swung big with this pick. Now we’ve got to wait and see if the ball clears the fences.

Morning Coffee – Sat, Jun 28

Why Toronto Raptors’ surprise decision to pick Bruno Caboclo in NBA draft 2014 makes sense | National Post

“I’m not here looking to be popular,” Ujiri said. “I’m trying to look out for the organization long-term. I think, long-term, we will look at Bruno and say at least he has a chance as a young player to develop for this ball club. “He’s a few years away. He’s a talent that I think at the end of the day we will be happy that we picked. We’ll develop him. We’re excited that we’ve got a talent like that.” Despite reports to the contrary, the Raptors genuinely did not think they would be able to get Caboclo at 37, or even trade down very far and still get him. There was certainly concern that Phoenix might take him with the 27th pick. Saying all of that, this seems like a decision that only Ujiri and a few other general managers could make. Even when Bryan Colangelo took Jonas Valanciunas with the fifth pick in 2011 — and that was far less surprising than the Caboclo pick — he supported it that day by saying that he had received praise from other executives in this league. Ujiri made no special effort to provide similar anecdotal support. He has four years left on his contract and has near-total control over the team’s basketball identity. “F— Brooklyn” aside, Ujiri has always been one to undersell, hoping the substance of his moves will shine through.

Raps got their man, just a little higher than planned | Toronto Sun

With his selection of the almost unknown Bruno Caboclo, a 6-foot-9 small forward out of Brazil who tips the scales at just over 200 pounds, Ujiri took whatever remaining wind was in the Raptors sails from that memorable first-round series with Brooklyn and made it vanish. For the most part, we all love surprises. Based on immediate reaction within that room Thursday night and certainly on Twitter and in fan chat rooms on the Internet, this was not one of those surprises we like. It wasn’t a popular pick. Ujiri knows that, but he can live with that too. The reality is no one will know whether Caboclo is a good pick or not for at least two more years.

Raptors GM Masai Ujiri has earned the right to be trusted | Toronto Star

Anyone who suggests today that they “know” how this is all going to work out is at best bluffing and at worst lying. It takes years for a draft to truly shake out, we’ve known that for a very long time and I would think Masai’s earned the right to be trusted by the people who follow his team and the people who work for it. Contrary to what seems to be popular opinion, it’s not like he closed his eyes and plucked the kid’s name out of a hat. He saw him in Brazil, he and Dwane Casey saw him in Houston and when the guy they wanted at the top of the list – Tyler Ennis – was gone, why wouldn’t they just go and take the No. 2 guy.

Take it easy Raps fans, Ujiri knows what he’s doing | Toronto Sun

With the top targets off the board, why not swing for the fences if you have the intel to back up the gambit? Two of the most reliable NBA sources around let us know that the Raptors had been sniffing around Caboclo for ages and had even made him a promise to be taken at No. 37 as far back as December. When we heard some variation of “Toronto was up to something and would do something intriguing” we thought it just involved angling for Brampton’s Tyler Ennis. It was actually more than that. The team was ready to pull the curtain and let the basketball world in on the secret it had been expertly keeping under wraps for months. When it became known that Utah and Phoenix were poised to pounce on Caboclo well before Toronto could at 37, Ujiri pounced, willing to deal with the consequences. Toronto had encouraged the Brazilian not to come to North America to do workouts, knowing he would likely rocket up the charts based on his athleticism and shooting abilities. This is no Rafael Araujo or Andrea Bargnani situation. The kid has talent and he has heart. While that might not be enough, in the end, it just might be and Toronto, unlike some of the NBA’s golden franchises, needs to take chances like this every once in a while in order to meet the eventual goal of becoming a contender.

Lewenberg: Raptors pull off ‘stealth’ draft night shocker | TSN

“Bruno is an athletic phenomenon,” Casey said. “At [pick no.] 20, you can’t go out and get a perfect player but this young man has a chance to hit it big. He’s raw but he’s going to be a guy that’s going to develop in our program and grow and do a lot of things for us. Defensively he’s long, he covers a lot of ground down [and] blocks shots with his length.” He passed Casey’s eye test immediately and the Raptors’ coach is confident he’ll turn heads once he heads north, calling him one of the most athletic players in the draft. “I know a lot of people don’t know about him. We’re excited to get him. He’s going to be a guy that’s going to grow with our program and no one is going to be disappointed once this guy is developed and hits his peak because he’s one of those guys that has a chance to hit it big as far as his potential is concerned.”

Raptors draft pick DeAndre Daniels won NCAA title at Connecticut | Toronto Sun

Daniels was not as good in the regular season, so Ollie was asked what changed at the most important time? “I have no roofs on my players, so we don’t even look at limitations. I think he’s going to be a great outstanding basketball player,” Ollie said. “He’s learning how to be more consistent and that’s not only in basketball. That’s eating right, sleeping right. It’s a lot of other things that a lot of people don’t see. “What changed his game, we made it simple for him. It’s about touches. A touch is a defensive rebound, an offensive rebound, doesn’t have nothing to do with points. It’s a deflection. It’s a block. When he’s playing with effort and energy, he scores. “We want him to get rebounds. We want him to be active. Then his talent just takes over. He’s 6-foot-9 and can shoot the three. I can put him on the post. I can manipulate the defence with him. But if he doesn’t play with that activity, it kind of limits him a little bit.”

Raptors Plan On Sending DeAndre Daniels To The D-League | Pro Bball Report

“At the end of the day, everyone wants a winner on their team who knows what it takes to win,” Daniels said. “I played the four in college and I am just a guy that can do everything, but (I need to) show them that I have more aspects to my game – can handle the ball and shoot the ball – rebounding and playing defense.” If Daniels can show enough to Head Coach Dwane Casey this summer, then there’s a chance he’ll be in Toronto when the preseason starts, but it sounds like the Raptors have him slotted for development elsewhere next season as he learns to play the three position in the pros.

Say me your Raptors-related links: [email protected]

Ric Bucher Apologizes for Ridiculous Lowry Rumours

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It’s Time To Embrace Toronto’s Oddball Drafts

Step 1: Raptors make a pick.

Step 2: Experts on TV react with incredulity or snide remarks.

Step 3: Fan base is aghast that their team took an international player or lesser known underclassman.

Step 4: Local media comes to the defence of the team (often with the ‘I think the GM knows more than you’ argument).

Step 5: A few dissenting Raptors fans begin to loudly defend a player that they’ve barely — if ever — seen play.

Step 6: Fans increasingly talk themselves into the player over the course of the summer, sometimes going so far as to talk about how the newcomer will displace his positional incumbent upon arrival.

Step 7: Fans and the local media begin to walk in lockstep in deriding the head coach for not giving the player more minutes.

Step 8: Things begin to normalize once the draftee has played a year for the club and becomes just another NBA player, one that has to live and die based on his actual skills and performance like every other player in the NBA.

Step 9: Experts, local media and fans begin eyeing the next NBA draft.

Step 10: Raptors make a pick.

This is a cycle that has been tacitly nurtured over years by an organization that rarely does what is expected of them on draft night — a tradition that dates back to Toronto’s first-ever draft pick of Damon Stoudamire in 1995 and extends to last night’s selection of Bruno Caboclo with the club’s 20th-overall first round pick. The Raptors are traditionally one of the hardest organizations to pin down on draft night, and while that generally works in the team’s favour as it pertains to getting the guy that they want, it also creates a lot of angst amongst fans (and some members of the media) that are haunted by the perception that their team is seen as some sort of ‘outsider’ and wish that the organization would just do what was expected of them for once instead of drawing all sorts of attention to itself by being such an unapologetic weirdo.

The truth is, though, I’ve grown to love how weird Toronto is on draft night. I love that the organization has begun to make it’s outsider status it’s calling card, with campaigns like We The North and “Fuck Brooklyn” being perhaps the most declarative statements in that regard. I love how they make draft picks that visibly piss off the vaguely xenophobic draft night panel on ESPN. I love that the club went so far into left field last night that Adrian Wojnarowski couldn’t find them. The only part I don’t love is how reluctant Toronto’s fans are to jump on the weirdo train with them.

The last three drafts that Toronto has participated in have largely solidified my adoration for Toronto’s bonkers draft nights. I had zero idea that the Raptors were seriously targeting Jonas Valanciunas back in 2011, and while I’d seen him play I was nowhere near as familiar with him as I was with Kemba Walker and Brandon Knight, both players that were unexpectedly available when Toronto picked fifth that year. Ditto Terrence Ross, who I’d seen play a little but was far more comfortable with Austin Rivers and Jeremy Lamb. With each passing year of totally unexpected picks, though, I became more and more enraptured with the idea that the Raptors looked like they were trolling the NBA, and then I grew even more impressed with the fact that these players kept proving that they were, in fact, better than group of guys that the Raptors were supposed to have missed on.

And Caboclo is like the acme of Weirdo Mountain. The Raptors actually managed to fall in love with a player that is a ghost on the internet and YouTube, a near-impossibility in the year 2014. This is a player that most people who are paid to follow the NBA didn’t even know existed. The narrative that emerged almost immediately was that the Raptors went hunting through the Brazilian rainforest, came upon a ludicrous physical specimen and decided to secretly smuggle him back to Canada. It’s such an odd-ball situation that the most common post-draft grade that the Raptors have been receiving has been an ‘incomplete’ — that’s how little the NBA cognoscenti know about this guy. Will he ever be able to make a notable impact at the NBA level? I don’t know, but I also don’t know if Tyler Ennis, Jordan Adams or Rodney Hood will either. Seriously, we’re talking about the bottom-third of the NBA draft, here. We’re talking about hunting for a 9th or 10th guy in the rotation. I’m not trying to devalue the importance of the NBA draft, it’s vitally important to team-building, but of late the Raptors have had success marching to the beat of their own drum and I’m learning to love that funky oddball rhythm.

I wish the Raptors fan base would love the chaos as much as I do. Toronto fans have always fought against their outsider status, constantly begging for more American attention, coverage and praise. The fact is, though, that the Raptors are the only team in the NBA to play outside of America, so no matter how badly some want to fight against it, they are outsiders. Toronto will never be indistinguishable from Chicago, Phoenix or Milwaukee. No matter how different those markets may be, they are all united by a single nationality. Toronto’s organization has taken steps to embrace their distinction, but the fans still seem unable to shake the need to normalize. Well here’s the truth: normal teams don’t win in the NBA. Team’s have to be willing to be bold, to be daring and to be weird. Begging to play in the same sandbox with everyone else just gets you stuck in the same sandbox with everyone else. The Raptors wanna get weird? Get weird with them. Get excited when the Raptors zig on draft night when everyone expected them to zag. Break the cycle, embrace the weird picks and boo the expected picks. It’s not like anyone has any certainty about which players will pan out anyway (sorry if that goes against absurd notion that there is some sort of infallible science behind the NBA draft). The Raptors have been making strong headway of late by being weird and it’s time to celebrate that draft night tradition rather than continuing to bristle at it. Sure, not every weird pick will pan out, but not every safe pick will either, and at the end of the day if you’re gonna strike out wouldn’t you rather strike out swinging for the fences?

Plus, I don’t know if anyone has pointed this out to you fans yet, but you’re weird. Raptors fans are just a weird collection of people, and it’s wonderful. Thousands of you stood outside, in the rain, to watching your team play on a big TV hanging from the side of an arena instead of watching warm, and dry, on your own TV. That’s wonderfully weird. Draft night should be the perfect marriage between weird picks and weird fans, but the connection isn’t manifesting. I’ll tell you want, though: on June 25th, 2015, I’ll be loudly cheering for the Raptors to make everyone else shake their heads in confusion, and I hope one or two of you will join in and cheer alongside me.

ICYMI: Masai Ujiri Post-Draft Press Conference

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIUrhVzC-AU

Bruno Caboclo the Latest Raptors Draft Pick to Raise Eyebrows, Which is Cool

Bruno Caboclo.  BAM! First reaction is a flashback to Rajael Araujo, which you’ll forgive me for.  Foreign? Check. Unknown? Check. Takes a full minute to pull up the highlights? Check. Highlights are blurry? Check. ESPN rips the pick? Check.  Add to it the “in 2 years he’ll be 2 years away” comments from the pundits and you got to be shaking your head while at the same time showing tentative faith in Masai Ujiri’s judgement.  At the end of the day the front office scouts the players from top to bottom, processes the workouts, looks at measures and metrics that you and I can’t even dream about having access to, and makes a decision which they firmly believe is the best for the franchise.

More from RR on the Draft:

In the flesh, though, you’re watching the Raptors pass over Shabazz Napier, Rodney Hood, Clint Capela, Kyle Anderson, P.J Hariston etc.  At this point you have two options: 1) raise your hands and tweet out “Fire Ujiri” or, 2) take the saner ‘time will tell’ approach.  Of course, time always tells so that can never really be a wrong answer.  I chose to view it as either Ujiri being very crafty and seeing through all the other GMs, or wasting a pick on a guy everybody seems to have slotted for the second round, if that.  The comparisons to Araujo are a bit misguided because Araujo was a known quantity at the time which people had heard of and written off, nobody has even heard of Caboclo.

The bottom line is that we don’t know much about him except that he’s got a Draft Express profile thinner than he is.  He’s in the US right now and is trying to get a work permit so he can be here for summer league.  He’s a 6’9” swingman playing in Brazil against shoddy competition, and you can check out some of his highlights here.  Dwane Casey has spoken in glowing terms about what they saw of him, and considers him a “stealth move” steal, essentially implying that they pulled one over other teams.  The Raptors, supposedly, had the best intelligence on the player and executed effectively, and feel that he has the highest potential of anyone in that part of the draft, while acknowledging that there are more finished products out there.  Read the bullet-point recap of Dwane Casey’s presser (will take one minute) and you’ll get the sense of what the Raptors were thinking.

Then there were the Tyler Ennis rumours, started by Stein and fuelled further by TSN conducting an interview with him and blankly asking him whether he’d heard the trade rumours.  Personally, I thought it was a done deal just because how open they were about it and the multiple sources tweeting about it all day.  Later, Casey confessed that getting Ennis and Caboclo was always part of the plan and once trading up for Ennis didn’t work, they simply couldn’t take a chance at Caboclo not being available at 37.  It’s a self-admitted reach, but they’re so high on this player that they potentially took him 17 picks early!

The Raptors also picked Xavier Thames and traded him away promptly to Brooklyn for future second-round picks and possibly cash considerations but nobody really cares about that.  In between was DeAndre Daniels, a junior wingman from UConn who was ranked 64 in DX’s Top 100 prospects.  Given Salmons’ imminent exit, the dearth of options at small forward, Daniels’ low salary, it’s conceivable that he gets a legitimate shot at making the team come training camp.  Daniels is a distraction, though, this draft was about either who the Raptors would get at #20, or how they could maneuver to get something higher.  They couldn’t do the latter and reached on the former.  I accept that.  And since the draft is a crapshoot anyway, all this was is a roll of the dice.  The frustrating part of this is that we got a player nobody has seen, which makes us fans feel that we’re barking up the wrong tree entirely.  By the same token, it’s liberating to know that we’ve picked an unknown player that nobody has any expectations for, and considering the Raptors have apparently scouted him extensively, albeit over a brief period of time, he is poised more to surprise than disappoint.

If you truly view success in drafting as intractable or unpredictable, then going with the upside angle every time is a fair ploy.  Ujiri has clearly done that.  He’s acknowledged that there were plenty of other options that could produce in the now, but has chosen to swing for the fences knowing that he doesn’t have much to lose.  My guess is that he views players taken from 21-30 as rotation players at best while seeing Caboclo as having a chance to do something greater.  Time will tell, it always does.

Though I’m disappointed that the Raptors didn’t grab a point guard like Napier when they could have, the Raptors did clearly go into the draft with a very focused plan and pivoted once their primary target could not be acquired.  The night spoke to Ujiri’s ruthlessness and confidence in that he was willing to take the risk of reaching that far across to get the man he, and only he, believed to be a top-20 prospect.  A couple years from now we’ll look at this pick as a total waste or total genius.

The draft also told us something about Ujiri’s approach to free-agency.  The targeting of Tyler Ennis, a deal that could still happen given Phoenix’s point guard situation (Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic), speaks to Ujiri potentially planning a replacement for Kyle Lowry. Not drafting a rotation player when you had the chance to do so could speak to the comfort-level Ujiri has with the current roster, and that he didn’t feel he had to make a move.  Judging by every analysis out there, Bruno Caboclo has close to zero value on the trade market so the idea of packaging the pick for something more meaningful isn’t even on the table (not that Ujiri would go through these lengths to just trade him).

All in all, this was a typical Raptors night.  The last time we picked a player everybody expected us to pick was DeMar DeRozan and he turned out to be an All-Star.  Ed Davis was a fairly predictable pick as well.  Surprise picks like Rafael Araujo, Charlie Villanueva, Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross have all met with mixed results, and Bruno Caboclo joins that bunch, only with a more dense cloud of mystery surrounding him.  For fans, they have no option but to give the benefit of the doubt to Masai Ujiri as he is amongst a very few set of NBA eyes that have actually seen Caboclo in-person, worked him out, clocked him, and evaluated him.

Being a Raptors fan is never easy.

Chad Ford hates the Raptors draft

Chad Ford: Grade D

Doc Is In Podcast, June 27 – Draft Reaction – They Call Me Bruno

Four real Raptors fans react, in an uncensored fashion, to what just happened on draft night and why it plays into all of our fears as Raptors fans. You may not like it, but you can always count on PhdSteve for the truth and the world wide round table for a good discussion to break down college ball and the Raptors.

The pod is below and there’s more to come during the day, but do check out RR’s coverage from last night:

 

 

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Morning Coffee – Fri, Jun 27

Toronto Raptors make unexpected pick of unheralded Bruno Caboclo of Brazil at 2014 NBA draft | National Post

It was a surprise to everyone, it seems, except Ujiri. The Raptors made a push to acquire Tyler Ennis, the Brampton-via-Syracuse point guard who ultimately went 18th to Phoenix. The price to obtain him from Phoenix, or a pick before that one, ended up being too high. Enter Caboclo. “It’s so hard to trade to get picks. When you start to hear a guy could be gone at certain places — we started to hear [Caboclo might be picked] late in the first round]. Sometimes it gets frustrating,” Ujiri said. “You don’t get the picks that you want, and you lose a guy. That happened to us earlier. We felt, OK, [Caboclo] is second on our board.” Prospects who the Raptors were seemingly high on, such as UCLA forward Kyle Anderson and Swiss big man Clint Capela — players who had come to Toronto to work out in the weeks leading up to the draft — were still on the board. Last year, Ujiri was enamoured with Giannis Antetokounmpo, a similarly rangy, athletic swingman. However, Ujiri could not find a trade that would allow them to take the kid who would become known as the “Greek Freak” in his rookie season in Milwaukee. So, Ujiri gets the benefit of the doubt, but only for a little while.

Ujiri not scared to make audacious moves | Sportsnet

Sometimes you have to be bold, knowing that being bold might make you wrong and embarrassingly so. The good news for the Toronto Raptors is that Masai Ujiri is not afraid to take that risk. His first draft pick as the Raptors general manger proves it. He’s certainly not worried about what Twitter thinks or what the talking heads on ESPN think – both forums weren’t impressed with Ujiri’s out-of-nowhere selection of Brazilian teenager Bruno Caboclo with the 20th pick in the NBA draft. But that doesn’t mean he’s not capable of gross errors in judgment, and for the first time in his 13 months as GM he’s left himself open to the possibility as the basketball intelligentsia greeted his choice with a collective spit take.

Raptors pull off NBA draft shocker, selecting Bruno Caboclo | Toronto Sun

The pick was met with stunned silence in the Raptors’ media workroom. In Brooklyn, ESPN’s international scouting expert Fran Fraschilla raved about Caboclo’s raw talent but said he was “two years away from being two years away.” Casey said the Raptors would immediately send Caboclo out to L.A., where the likes of DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, and Amir Johnson are working out with some of the team’s coaches. Casey said Caboclo’s potential trumped everything else left on the draft board at No. 20. “There were some other guys on the board, but with this young man’s potential I don’t think the other guys left on the board had potential as high as Bruno and that was the deciding factor for us,” he said. “Again he’s a young man that all these other guys are probably more polished just because they have come through the system so to speak but this young man as far as potential is ahead of where they are going to be. His ceiling is higher than some of those other guys.”

Bruno Caboclo NBA Draft 2014: Highlights, Scouting Report for Raptors Rookie | Bleacher Report

He can glide end-to-end quite easily, filling the lanes on fast breaks or chasing down opponents for blocks. His overall agility and aerial prowess are comparable to the upper tier of athletes in the NBA. In half-court scenarios, we see glimpses of his leaping ability when he makes straight-line drives or corrals a rebound. He also can stifle and overwhelm lesser athletes defensively. When he pairs some polished skills with this athleticism, he’ll be a dangerous asset.

Lots of upside to newest Raptor Bruno Caboclo | Toronto Sun

Balassiano said Caboclo was not sure when he would come to Toronto, “It’s too early to know what will be happening right now. If I’m gonna play for Toronto (right away),” Caboclo said. But the Raptors later said they expect him to suit up at Las Vegas Summer League. He expects to meet soon with the Raptors but has, “no suit, no tie, I have nothing. Now, it is now difficult to think about things. Not with my family I got to tell you to be honest,” he told Balassiano. According to Araujo, Caboclo was the best player in the under-23 Brazilian League tournament. “He really is above other players with the same age,” he said. “Despite his (lack of minutes in the Brazilian League), he had a lot of time in the South American Championship and he was just great. He showed a lot of ability to score.”

Toronto Raptors take unknown Brazilian Bruno Caboclo with 20th pick, prompting questions | Ball Don’t Lie

ESPN’s international prospect evaluator Fran Fraschilla, tasked with explaining Caboclo’s value, did the young man no favors by calling him “the Brazilian Kevin Durant” before noting that he really doesn’t know how to play basketball yet. To make matters worse, Fraschilla also said that Bruno is “two years away from being two years away, and then we’ll see,” which makes him sound more like the Brazilian Anthony Randolph than the reigning NBA MVP

Raptors gamble on unknown project Bruno Caboclo in NBA draft | Toronto Star

“We went down to Houston to see him. Masai had been down (to Brazil) three times in a stealth move,” said Casey. “We’re excited about getting him. I know a lot of people don’t know about him. It reminds me a lot of Rashard Lewis. This young man stepped out and shot the three very well in drills. There’s a lot of potential there.”

Raptors Coach Casey Explains The Bruno Caboclo Pick (audio) | Pro Bball Report

Click to listen

DeAndre Daniels Taken 37th Overall in NBA Draft | The UConn Blog

What will we love and/or hate about him? Matt: Fans will love his sneaky athleticism and shot blocking ability. There are times when he comes out of no where to deliver a rim rattling dunk to energize the crowd. Fans will hate his inability to dribble the basketball. Aman: You will love his potential. He was rated the 10th overall prospect in the country coming out of high school. He’s extremely athletic and is a great shooter for a tall guy. Great character too. He’s also stood toe to toe with some of the best in college basketball and come out on top, he’s shown more than just potential.

Toronto Raptors Trade 59th Pick in 2014 NBA Draft to Brooklyn Nets | Raptors HQ

To cap off perhaps the most bizarre draft in Toronto Raptors history, it looks like the club’s selection of San Diego State guard Xavier Thames, was actually on behalf of the Brooklyn Nets. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Dinos have dealt the 59th pick to the Brooklynites.

Kyle Lowry: ‘I want to play for a championship’ | CBSSports.com

“I think the right situation is somewhere I’m winning and being happy, and honestly I want to play for a championship,” Lowry told Basketball Insiders. “I’m happy with making the playoffs and doing that, but the end game for all players should be a championship and that’s what I want to play for. I want to play for a championship.”

Twitter / RicBucher: Source: Toronto looking to …

Source: Toronto looking to S&T Kyle Lowry to Miami for cash and future picks. Part II: Bosh opts out, returns to Toronto.

Kyle Lowry may win in LeBron James free agency chase | USA Today

It’s not inconceivable that Lowry could wind up playing with James if he re-ups with the Miami Heat, but the economics in that equation would make it extremely challenging. The more likely scenario, by far, involves Lowry getting paid handsomely by a team that wasn’t able to convince the four-time MVP to come its way. According to two people with knowledge of the situation, the Houston Rockets — whom Lowry played for from 2009 to 2012 — are one of those teams. While Rockets general manager Daryl Morey will woo free agents like James, Anthony and Heat center Chris Bosh (if he opts out of his deal), he also will pursue Lowry if those initial options are no longer in play. It would be quite the full-circle kind of story, as the Rockets’ decision to trade Lowry to the Raptors in July 2012 played a vital part in their eventual acquisition of shooting guard James Harden just a few months later (the Oklahoma City Thunder received the lottery-protected first-round pick Houston had received from Toronto in that Oct. 2012 deal). The Los Angeles Lakers, who also plan to pursue both James and Anthony, are also known to be on Lowry’s short list of prospective landing spots.

Send me your Raptors-related links … as well as any information on Caboclo :): [email protected]

Why you should calm down about the Caboclo pick

No hype doesn’t mean he’s bad.

Look, I’m in the same boat as everyone else here. I know nothing about Bruno Caboclo. You know nothing about Bruno Caboclo. Reporters don’t know anything about Bruno Caboclo. Watching a grainy Draft Express video or reading into vague physical measurements won’t help.

The analysts manning the draft also didn’t know anything about the guy. All they knew was that he’s got a ridiculous wingspan, and is Brazilian. So, in having five minutes to fill, they bandied on the spot, sputtering whatever came to mind. They cracked jokes about him being the “Brazilian Durant”, and being “two years away from being two years away.”

As fans, in our desperate need for reassurance, we snatched every word and put them in a file. When the five minutes were up, we closed the book and evaluated what we had. An 18-year-old dude with single-digit per-game averages in Brazil? What? Based on that information, expending a first-rounder on his is madness. The ESPN guys had carte blanche because we were going to hang on every word. It wasn’t like they could be wrong — no one knew anything about the guy. No one did.

No one but Masai Ujiri and his scouts. And yet, comment sections are alight with hate for the pick. Why?

It’s hard to take any person’s judgement at face value. Given that we have zero information on the guy, trusting that this pick was a good idea is simply a reflection of faith in Ujiri and his scouting team. It’s borrowing their judgement in lieu of having anything to judge. If you’re sold by Ujiri’s draft history — of which is rather decent, for what it’s worth — then without information to the contrary, trusting his decisions on the draft is your only move.

The opposite stance, that being you don’t trust Ujiri’s instincts or process, is fine too. There’s no need to give him the benefit of the doubt on anything. He could be entirely out to lunch. If Caboclo was so unheralded, perhaps the Raptors could have taken someone else at 20, and picked him later at 37? If that’s the case, there’s a question of proper asset management that needs to be asked.

And I even understand the perspective of fans who wanted to see the 20th picked used for short term help, be it with an old rookie or via trade.  In that case, be upset.

 

But the real reason why most people are upset is because they’re making the leap that having no information on Caboclo means he’s terrible. That’s stupid.

Perhaps that’s the downside of hype. When everyone’s watching and talking about a player, we assume he’s good. That’s a logical thought to make because if multiple talent evaluators are watching and their opinions are uniformly positive, there’s a good chance the player is good. The danger, however, lies in when we extrapolate that logic backwards to no conversation and no hype. We assume those guys aren’t talked about because they’re not worth talking about.

But consider the situation once more. He’s incredibly young and he plays in Brazil. How many ESPN scouts or Draft Express lackeys are being jetted down to the Amazon to scout players? Scratch that — how many NBA scouts are even doing that? A tiny handful? One would assume that the Spurs, who uproot talent from all corners of the globe, were in on Caboclo. According to reports, the Suns were too. Of course no one is talking about him.

And so if the ESPN/DX scouts didn’t go themselves, then their only way to rank or give an opinion of the player is through sources in the league. And if no one in the league, save for the Spurs, Suns and Raptors were in on this guy, why would they leak anything to the press? There’s value in secrecy. The media aren’t clueless about Caboclo because he’s not worth talking about. They’re clueless because they straight up don’t know who he is.

This whole piece ultimately cycles back to the same thing about mystery. We don’t know anything about him. However, not knowing his name isn’t onto itself bad. It’s just nothing. We know nothing, and neither does anyone else.

And if that’s the case, how are we making judgements about this pick whatsoever?

Recap of Dwane Casey’s Post-Draft Press Conference

Bullet points from Dwane Casey’s press conference:

  • Met him in Houston
  • Masai went down three times in a “stealth move”
  • Bruno has wingspan of Javalee McGee
  • Getting Ennis and Bruno was part of the plan, once they couldn’t get Ennis, shifted gears
  • Tried to move up to get Tyler Ennis
  • “Bruno was going to be our guy anyway”
  • Bruno is an “athletic phenomenon” and raw
  • “Defensively, he’s long, covers a lot of ground”
  • They all went down to see him workout
  • “Reminds me a lot of Rashard Lewis”
  • “Shot the three very well”
  • Has to get footwork and technical work, will work in staff
  • Saw him about a week ago
  • “Probably three or four teams that knew about him but we had the most intel about him”
  • “He’s in the States now and is working on getting visa now”
  • As far as cracknig the lineup, it’s a “wait and see”
  • One of the most athletic guys in the draft, also in terms of quickness and speed
  • Didn’t want to take a chance that he’d fall to 37 and took him anyway
  • Sees him as a 3/4 but with a huge wingspan, sees this as a big plus on defense
  • He will appear in summer league
  • Casey didn’t know who he was but was totally impressed by him
  • English isn’t great but it’s coming, speaks Portugese
  • When Bruno was asked if he could guard Kevin Durant, said yes
  • “Nobody will be disappointed” by him
  • Has played in Brazil, not against US competition
  • Played in the same team as Leandro Barbosa
  • Doesn’t think anybody on the board at the time had as high a potential as Bruno, but acknowledges that they are probably more polished
  • He’s a “quick learner” based on what Casey saw in the workouts and has a very “high baketball IQ”
  • Has great feel defensively, sliding, moving feet, for a kid his size
  • He’s a “clean slate” in terms of working with him and coaching him
  • Bruno will be off to LA immediately to train, and then to Vegas for summer league
  • “He’s going to be someone our fans will really take to”
  • Phoenix had a beat on Bruno as well, but Raptors were well ahead.
  • “Masai did a great job of keeping it hush, hush which is hard to do in today’s scouting system”

More on the draft from RR:

Raptors draft Xavier Thames with 59th pick, trade to Brooklyn

Per the immortal Adrian Wojnarowski, the Raptors have traded Xavier Thames to the Brooklyn Nets.

Particulars aren’t immediately available, but it’s after midnight here and I’m going to head to bed. Presumably some cash or a future 2nd rounder will be heading their way. What it means for now is that the Raptors’ draft haul will include 2 players, instead of 3 – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing and allows them to work out plenty of potential second-rounders in summer league if they so choose, rather than simply commit to one tonight.

That’s all from us here at RR tonight – happy draft, everyone. Dream of Brazilian Kevin Durants.

Raptors draft Bruno Caboclo 20th overall

Umm…. What?

With their first pick in the 2014 Draft, the Raptors have selected Bruno Caboclo – a Brazilian power forward who was described on the broadcast as the “Brazilian Kevin Durant.”

That said, he was also described as “2 years away from being 2 years away” and was NOWHERE near the first round on anybody’s mock, much less the 20th pick. To say this pick is a shock is the understatement of understatements.

I’m going to quickly preface my reaction by saying that I am in the majority of Raptors fans on this one. I know NOTHING about Caboclo, and he wasn’t anyone I’d even heard in the mix for the Raptors’ second round picks. That said, the Raptors could have moved down in the draft if they’d wanted to, and so there must have been some rumblings that someone was planning on taking him between 20 and the Raptors’ next pick at 36.

Caboclo is 18 years old, 6 foot 9, and 200 pounds, according to ESPN, and was Chad Ford’s number 65 overall prospect coming into the draft, and the number 18 international prospect via DraftExpress. Here he is in action, via YouTube:

Ford’s analysis (ESPN Insider):

This is Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri doing what he does. He’s a gambler and not afraid to take huge risks. Cabacolo has a 7-foot-7 wingspan, can shoot it and reminds some scouts of Giannis Antetokoumpo. He’s far away from being able to play in the NBA, but credit Ujiri for swinging for the fences.

Twitter:

Link to a profile of Caboclo distributed by the Raptors

What I gather from all of this is that Caboclo is a raw prospect with a capital R, a capital A, and a capital W. The guy has incredible measurements (7 foot 7 wingspan??) and you can see where the Kevin Durant comparisons come from, body-wise, but we’re talking about a the lottery ticket of all lottery tickets here.

This being said – like Ford stated in his instant reaction, this is an Ujiri kind of pick. The NBA is a superstar driven league, and there is an argument behind taking any player who has even a sliver of a chance to become one in time – remember how high Masai was on the Greek Freak last season. It’s not much solace for fans who were hoping to see the Raptors use their 20th pick to add an instant contributor to what is already a very competitive core, but I suppose it is something.

According to the media, Caboclo will indeed be with the Raptors next season, and it’ll be interesting to see what he’s able to bring to the team from day 1. If his first season even remotely approaches Greek Freak levels, expect fanboy love to be at an all-time high in Toronto. Of course, that’s a tall ask.

More to come from RR tonight as the draft rolls on, and there’ll certainly be much more reaction tomorrow once we’ve had time to let this sit for a while. For now, though, sit tight, cross your fingers, and say a quiet prayer to whatever Ujiri shrine you have set up in your living area.

Caboclo Tweets, let the lovin’ begin

Aw, Bruno. How could we have ever doubted you.

Early word is that this kid is extremely driven and very grateful for his chance, which, at the very least, is what you need to hear from your first round draft pick. If he fails, it certainly won’t be because of his attitude.

Raptors draft DeAndre Daniels 37th overall

With their first pick in the second round (37th overall), the Raptors have chosen 22-year-old DeAndre Daniels, from UConn.

NCAA fans should be a bit more familiar with Daniels than 1st round pick Bruno Caboclo – let’s be honest, we’re more familiar with anyone than Bruno Caboclo – he was Shabazz Napier’s running mate during UConn’s improbable 2014 title run, and an interesting prospect, though a bit of a reach at 37 (though again, Caboclo. It’s all relative).

Daniels is a lanky forward – ESPN has him at 6 foot 9, 196, with a 7 foot 2 wingspan – who runs the floor very well for a big guy. It was fun watching him finish off Napier drives this season. He’s more than just a finisher at the basket, though; his bread and butter is the pick-and-pop, and it’ll be interesting to see where he ends up position wise at the next level. His game is perhaps more suited for a shooting power forward, though he’s extremely lanky and a bit short to play that position in the NBA.

 

Here’s Ford’s instant analysis (ESPN Insider):

Daniels really helped his stock in the tournament. He has great size and can shoot it, but he’s not a great athlete. He was very inconsistent at UConn.

He’ll likely settle in at small forward, where he’ll be a knock-down shooter right off the bat. He’s got the size to develop into a solid defensive player, but has plenty of work to do at that end. His last month at UConn is likely what got him drafted at all, and certainly what vaulted him this far up the board, as he caught fire in the NCAA tournament and was unquestionably UConn’s second most valuable player on the way to their title run.

The Raps could certainly use a big small forward, but a player with glaring weaknesses – his assist rate (one every 65 minutes) is one of the lowest in NCAA history – and work to do on defence at the age of 22 is a bit of a question mark. That said, the Raptors did have Daniels in for a workout before the draft, and it’s possible he’s made great strides to address those areas since the end of the season.

Ford had him listed as the 59th best prospect in the draft, 15th best small forward. Draftexpress had him going 50th in their mock. This is, on paper, another reach for the Raptors in what is turning into a puzzling draft on paper. NBA Draft has Quincy Miller as his NBA comp. Again, you have to give Masai  the benefit of the doubt, given his track record, but it’s still pretty confusing and, I’m sure, far less exciting than many Raptors fans had been hoping for.

Don’t forget that historically, the second round is essentially a crapshoot, though.

Here’s a scouting vid of Daniels, via DraftExpress:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4CuRT_KV1A

You call that a rumour? This is a rumour.

Yeah. So that’s the craziest thing I’ve seen all night, and the Raptors just drafted Bruno Caboclo.

No word on if this is legit or not, but Bucher is a pretty well-respected member of the NBA media, so it needs to be at least considered. Of course, he could be absolutely off his rocker, too, as most of the NBA Twitterverse seems to think.

If it is legit, I’m not sure how I feel about it. Bosh is obviously an excellent player – one of the most unique in the game – and would pair well with Valanciunas, but Lowry is younger and the unquestioned leader of this current Raptor contingent. Norris Cole is essentially a throw-in, and would slide in as the backup to either Vasquez or whomever it is we sign this offseason.

At this point, though, it’s just scuttlebutt until we hear further. Tis the silly season.

The 2014 Running Draft Diary

Welcome to the 2014 Raptor’s Republic NBA draft running diary. Yes, I’m flat-out stealing Bill Simmons annual draft diary concept. Before you rush to call me lazy, hear me out. The concept is just too appealing from a writer’s perspective because it requires little to no preparation while the real-time caveat reduces reader expectation for quality. Brilliant. Better yet, it allows me to watch the draft with smart, funny people, and then share their thoughts without having to come up with them on my own. Brilliant. Ok, so clearly this concept is a lazy writers lottery ticket. It is in honor of that spirit in which I lazily borrow it from the esteemed Mr. Simmons. Bill Simmons isn’t writing his draft diary again this year because he never writes anymore is busy covering the draft on TV and running the immensely successful and fantastic Grantland. And so I lazily pick up the slack. Because besides being lazy, it’s also a lot of fun. Hopefully. And loosely informative. Maybe.

The draft is about to start, and I’m watching it with Fantasy Jesus. Who is Fantasy Jesus you ask? Fantasy Jesus is the internet moniker for a cousin of mine who wishes his identity to remain professionally intact while being mentioned in my internet nonsense. The coles notes: he is better at fantasy sports than you are. MUCH better. I asked him to join a fantasy football league I was putting together a few years ago. He was hesitant, with his excuse being, “I’m in 7 leagues already, I don’t know if I’ll have the time.” Really? Because you know what tells me you have the time to be in our fantasy football league? Already being in 7 different fantasy football leagues! He joined the league, and has decimated the rest of it ever since. In addition to this, Fantasy Jesus is also responsible for introducing me to basketball, and particularly the college and NBA games. I used to watch the NBA draft every year with him as a kid. From the Grant HIll draft, to the Tim Duncan draft, to the Joey Graham draft (disclaimer: not all drafts are created equal.

7:30pm: Burning questions going into your draft experience:

1)If you’re reading this, you’re probably Canadian. So it’s all about Andrew Wiggins. So, did all of the hype hurt or help Andrew Wiggins? The expectations placed on his shoulders are huge. He’s all-star or bust, basically. But, his college career was not #1 pick worthy. But he very well might be minutes from now. Thats because of measurables and high school hype. What would you trust, college games, or high school games?

1.5)Wiggins has mentioned how much he loved the ‘college experience’ in several interviews. Each time he’s done it with the same shit-eating, joyful grin. The kind of grin that tells you he’s not talking about the college experience of studying in the library, awkwardly meeting new friends in the dorm, surviving on noodles, pretending to understand Econ 101 and eating more cheese and chicken fingers than fruit and vegetables combined. He’s talking about the Jesus Shuttlesworth college experience. You know, the one Rick Fox shows you…

3) How is Adam Silver going to greet players? Is he going with Stern’s firm, very grown up handshake, turn to the camera with copy and paste smile? Will it be the Roger Goodell hug it out? Is he going with the bro’ slap and pull it in for a hug? If he wants his likability to reach new peak levels, he should go all out with the Troy and abed ‘cool. Cool cool cool.’ Triple chest slap.

4) Did you pick the right Doritos: You might not have known, but Doritos are not just the official, but also the essential snack of the NBA draft. It is known. Flavor is up to you. You can’t lose with Cool Ranch or Nacho. They’re both solid foundational choices; like Oladipo in last year’s draft. Might not be a game-changer, but you know that you’re not going to be disappointed. Oladipo might not ever start for an all-star team, but he’s always going to be one of the most reliable, satisfying players on your team over a long career. Victor Oladipo is Cool Ranch Doritos. This year’s Cool Ranch Doritos? My gut instinct is that it’s either Wiggins or Aaron Gordon. Wiggins has the potential to be one of this life-altering intensely flavored limited time only offerings more so than Gordon. For Aaron Gordon to have a Cool Ranch Doritos career, you’re happy with that. Wiggins is going to have to be something more than just Cool Ranch in order to avoid hacky career letdown Internet columns for the rest of his life. Which is insane, because Cool Ranch Doritos are freaking delicious.

7:40 pm: This is taking forever.You know, if Cleveland just refuses to make a pick, technically, they can’t get it wrong.

7:42pm: WIGGINS!!!!!!

7:42pm: Wiggins got that jacket at Northern Getaway.

7:42pm: RESPECT THE JACKET

7:42pm: Don “Drapes” Cherry picked out Wigginsisis jacket for him.

7:43pm: Wait, Wiggins is 6’8 but he’s only 197 pounds? Is there a difference between American and Canadian pounds, or is that crazy?

7:45pm: I’ve blatantly stolen those last two jokes from Fantasy Jesus.

7:46pm: My favourite part of these drafts is how unabashedly happy these kids are to be in the NBA. Thanks Wiggins.

7:46pm: Vaughn, Ontario shoutout!!

7:48pm: Jabari goes to Milwaukee, to nobodies surprise. My take: Cleveland said that Jabari was out of shape to the point that he was 255lbs. There’s no way that the dude who just walked on stage is 255…. except wait, the last graphic has Jabari at 235, and now they have him listed at 241 in this graphic. HE’S GAINING WEIGHT AS WE SPEAK. CLEVELAND KNOWS SOMETHING THAT THE REST OF US DON’T!

7:50pm: Athletes continue to be the worst interview out there.

7:54pm: Is Joel Embid still on anaesthetics from the surgery? He looks completely confused that he was just picked number 3.

7:58pm: And with the 3rd overall pick, the Philadelphia 76ers take Greg Oden!

7:58p: And with the 3rd overall pick, the Philadelphia 76ers take Sam Bowie!

8:00pm: Aaron Gordon to the Magic! The Dante Exum to the Magic rumours are wrong, wrecking everybody’s perfect mock drafts. Sorry @chadfordinsider

8:04pm: TSN just threw their coverage from the ESPN feed to Jack Armstrong and i am FULL OF RAGE.

8:06pm: From Fantasy Jesus: “Exum is a guard who hasn’t played basketball for anyone in a year, and doesn’t have a perimeter game. These are things that worry me.” Also, his dad was a 1982 Tar Heel alum and he couldn’t get a scholarship?

8:10pm: Wow, Cecil Exum’s haircut has not changed at all since 1982. His body though…

8:16pm: Rondo and Smart is not happening together. One of them is gone. If not both, at least one of your guards needs to be able to, you know, shoot.

8:18pm: Damn it, I guess Randle it’s slipping to #20. Love this pick for the Lakers. Somebody let Julius Randle know that he’s about to get a call from a guy named Kobe Bryant, who is about to say the first and last nice thing to him that he’s ever going to hear.

8:21pm: Just to be clear, Jay Bilas loves Marcus Smart, even though he says he still needs to learn how to shoot, but he is worried about Randle, because Randle still needs to learn how to shoot. Ok, then.

8:22pm: WOW, Nik Stauskas goes #8! Good for Nik Stauskas! But, bad for Nik Stauskas for going to the Kings. Even worse for the rest of us, who probably will have to watch TSN throw to Jack Armstrong again.

8:31pm: I’m still waiting for Fran Franschilla to ask which one of these draft picks has cahones like these!

8:35pm: Two Canadians have gone in the lottery of the draft two years in a row now. At this rate, by 2018 there will be one Canadian player taken in the lottery who wears a suit that doesn’t look ridiculous.

8:36pm: Ha, yeah, good luck stuffing that hair inside of your hat Elfrid Payton.

8:39pm: Payton is excited to play with Michael Carter-Williams. Michael Carter-Williams is pissed that he just had to list his house on kijiji.

8:44pm: Very interesting that McDermott went 3 spots later than Stauskas. I really like the Wally Szczerbiak comparison for McDermott. I like it a lot more than I like McDermotts tie…

8:46pm: Google images still doesn’t have a pic of McDermott’s tie up yet, so until twitter helps us out with a link, I’ll have to describe it for those who missed. Basically, it’s the exact same design as the inside-out of Will Smith’s school jacket on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Having said that, on second thought, I love the tie.

8:53pm: Dario Saric’s headshot looks like a fish. And not in a good way. Hopefully that improves for him between now and a year and a half from now when he re-enters NBA twitter as everyone’s favourite trade rumour.

8:56pm: micing up draft picks on draft night would be the best yearly show on NBA TV by far. I want to know all of the cursing that Levine just made about going to Minnesota. Hope you enjoyed UCLA while it lasted Zach. Just ask Kevin Love…

9:05pm: This diary has been 99% nonsense and 1% analysis so far, so maybe I’m not the voice to listen to here, but I absolutely love TJ Warren, and Phoenix is a great place for him to shine early. ROY dark horse pick.

9:14pm: Sorry, @cornersniper, but Payne is going to Atlanta. Moreover, sorry @Raptors, but I am getting me one of those Atlanta Hawks hats. Those things are dope.

9:15pm: Isiah Austin probably was hoping for an NBA contract instead of a moment on TV and that draft hat, but that’s a really nice touch. Just so, so heartbreaking. Everyone everywhere, please buy this kid a drink and give him a hug anytime you see him in your life. Adam Silver is getting all of the goodwill possible this year.

9:20pm: Jusuf Norkic is the most Bosnian looking player of all time, with the most Bosnian player footage ever seen. I love that Eastern Europe continues to refuse to leave the 1980s.

9:26pm: Bill Simmons just got caught on TV accidentally fistpumping the shit out of that James Young pick. Own it, sports guy, it’s who you be.

9:29pm: Fantasy Jesus keeps bringing up the time when we watched the Raptors pass up Andre Igoudala for Rafeal Araujo. I hate him for it. Not a little bit either. Raptors fans want nothing more than to ostrich about this moment in time and forget it forever. “Rafael who? I have no idea who you’re talking about, and if you mention him again, I will cut you!”

9:32pm: NNNNOOOOOOOOOO!

9:33pm: You already have the Goran Dragics and the Eric Bledsoes, why did you have to take away the Tylers Ennises from us Phoenix, WHY?!

9:36pm: With this Gary Harris pick going to Chicago at 19, this diary is threatening to turn into nothing more than me complaining about guys that the Raptors almost took. All of the sighs.

9:43pm: Would love the Raps to snag Napier here. DO IT!

9:45pm: …

9:47pm: Hold on, I can’t stop barfing.

9:48pm: SHABAZZ NAPIER IS ANDRE IGOUDALA! IT’S HAPPENING AGAIN!

9:50pm: We can fix this, we can fix this. We have 22. We can still get Napier…

9:59pm: Did we not actually get that 22 pick from Memphis? I’m the worst reporter ever.

10:03pm: Can someone please point me in the way of a source who says that the Spurs were going to snatch up Rafael Araujo 2 at number 30 and thats why we took him now?

10:06pm: Rafael Araujo 2: Electric Bugaloo

10:07pm: Fantasy Jesus: “I guess all of these awkward white guys in the player’s groups must be the agents.”

10:11pm: Why would the Raptors draft the toughness, defence and scoring of Shabazz Napier when they could have the potential of Bruno Capulco. He could have all the skills, even toughness, defence and scoring! You know how much we’ve always wanted those skills!

10:15pm: Clint Capela goes #25. THE CLINT COMMANDER!

10:25pm: It’s interesting that Miami is acquescing to LeBron James, NBA GM. You know, because that went really well in Cleveland. Shabazz Napier > Mo Williams?

10:28pm: And at #27, the Suns get Bogdan Bogdanovich. Bogdan is famous of course for his shooting, work ethic, and for having the two least creative parents of all time. Bogdan isn’t a terrible name until you find out that his last name is Bogdanovich, at which point it becomes the shittiest first name.

10:35pm: Fantasy Jesus just reminded me about the time that we could have drafted LaMarcus Aldridge, which is what Chris Bosh reportedly wanted us to do, except that Bryan Colangelo drafted Benghazi Bargnani instead. I have taken away the Cool Ranch Doritos from Fantasy Jesus as punishment.

10:39pm: OK, you know that the NBA draft has officially been on TV too long when the commentators have all given up and spend an entire segment talking about soccer. One of the big points “I love that you know that a soccer game is only going to 2 hours long.” Exactly. Bruno freaking Capulco.

10:43pm: Fun fact I just learned: iphone autocorrect insists on changing Capulco to Acapulco every time you try and type his name. So at least we have that to look forward to.

10:46pm: My prediction for the Spurs #30 pick: Genius.

10:47pm: Yup.

10:48pm: If you had of shown me Kyle Anderson’s draft video this afternoon I would have responded with one word: Spurs. Why are they just better?

10:55pm: Well ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to call it here. I hope you enjoyed the 2014 Raptors Republic Draft Diary, or how I like to think of it, Bruno Acapulco day. Bruno Acapulco is the Brazilian Kevin Durant. He might be the Brazilian Kevin Durant in the way that Andrew Thompson is the Orillian Kevin Durant. As long as one of us is playing in the NBA in 3 years, I’ll be happy. From @marmaladejack0, Goodnight.

Stein: Raptors In Hunt for No 22 Pick to get Tyler Ennis

According to Marc Stein, the Raptors are interested in acquiring the 22nd pick in exchange for John Salmons and their 37th pick. The stickler is taking back Tayshaun Prince’s contract which is owed $7,707,865 for next season. The Grizzlies would then presumably waiver Salmons who is owed only a million if waived before June 30.

Why would the Raptors want a second first rounder? It’s highly unlikely that they’re going to draft two rookies that late in the draft, and this is very likely a play to get more assets to package the picks to move up in the draft. With Kyle Lowry staring free agency and the Raptors standing a distinct chance of losing him, being upwardly mobile for Tyler Ennis could be one potential play. Or if you dare to dream big, you could package another player and go even higher.

 

 

Will’s Update

So, let’s talk Prince. He’s 34 years old and on his last legs. Last season, he started 76 regular season games for Memphis, averaging a whopping 6.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 25.6 minutes per contest. He can’t shoot from anywhere (29 percent from deep) and can’t get to the basket either.

In essence, the move swallows Prince’s cost, and rents out a big chunk of what would be the Raptors’ cap space.  As I discussed in the Asik trade post, trading Salmons for real money clogs up the Raptors’ cap situation. With Prince on board, the Raptors will be very close to the luxury tax if they bring back Lowry, Vasquez and Patterson for around $20 million. It would mean no more big signings from them this offseason.

However, the upside would be a massive chunk of cap room next year. Fields, Hayes and Prince all expire in 2015 for a total of $20 million plus. That give the Raptors enough room to chase after a big free-agent. And of course, they get another first-rounder. That’s a plus too.

Or, they could potentially use the stretch provision on Prince’s deal, and pay him over three seasons (~$2.6 million per year). It wouldn’t be the smartest thing to do IMO, unless they’re looking to free up cap room for this season. But it’s an option.

I mean, if the Spurs want him, that has to be the ultimate seal of approval, right?

UPDATE

The Grizzlies traded their 2013 pick, which means this could only happen via the Roy Hibbert route, where the Grizzlies take who the Raptors want at 22, then trade it the day later.

Pre-Draft News, Rumours, Predictions and More….

(Writers note: I will be updating the article periodically if/when big news happens, so check back periodically, or follow me @the_picketfence)

[Edit: 6:50 PM]

Things are heating as it’s just a few minutes before the draft. This from Michael Grange:

That seems to be a HELL of a lot just for one pick. The Sixers must absolutely Love Wiggins and see him as a franchise changing talent. If that’s the case, then it’s hard to argue. Would you rather have one LeBron or three Chris Boshes?

[Edit: 3:31 PM]

So it looks like the Orlando offer for the first pick is officially off the table with Adrian Wojnarowski announcing on Twitter that Arron Afflalo now heading to Denver for Evan Fournier. I surprised Orlando didn’t wait and see if there were better offers, but it looks like this is just the first shoe to drop for Orlando, who is clearing cap space for something…

Also on Twitter, Mark Stein reported that the Raptors are interested in acquiring the 22nd pick from Memphis. That would give the Raptors both the 20th and 22nd pick. They either have their eye on two players in the low 20s, or plan on making more trades. Things are getting interesting…

[End edit]

In terms of off the court action, nothing beats the NBA Draft. In fact, apart from the playoffs, the draft is my favourite time of year. There’s the excitement of not knowing who is going to get picked, but there’s also the trades and rumours that go by so quickly it’s almost impossible to keep up with them all. And in the end, the draft can make or break a team’s future.

It’s got drama (waiting for the picks to be called), action (trades) and comedy (the unintentional comedy from the draftees is the best). What more could you want. Well, except for actual basketball.

ESPN recently aired a documentary on the 1984 draft, which is still considered to be one of the strongest drafts ever, and featured Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and John Stockton. I started following the NBA not long after that draft, and I got to watch all the careers of those players unfold and then end, so I have a special place in my heart for that draft.

In truth, the 1984 draft was not even remotely the deepest draft, the draft with the most All Stars or the draft with the most Hall of Fame players1. Both the 1970 and 1974 drafts had 12 All Stars (although that had more to do with the number of players going to the ABA than how good the draft was. In more recent history, the 1996 draft had 10 All Stars. And all but one of those players were multiple All Stars. More amazing is that the draft contained three future MVPs (Allen Iverson, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant). That’s the same number as the 1984 draft and more than the vaunted 2003 draft. Speaking of the 2003 draft, while there were “only” eight All Stars selected (one more than the 1984 draft), it featured twenty eight players who went on to play at least 500 games, including an amazing ten in the second round2.

1. What the 1984 draft did feature was the most top twenty five players of all time (according to Bill Simmons’ Book of Basketball)- Jordan, Hakeem, Barkley and Stockton).

2. There were also a record eight players that went on to win Championships – LeBron, Bosh, Wade, Boris Diaw, Kendrick Perkins, Matt Bonner and James Jones (two of which are former Raptors, by the way)

And there are already some similarities between the 1984 draft and the 2014 one.

Joel Embiid can be compared to both Hakeem Olajuwon AND Sam Bowie.

Andrew Wiggins certainly isn’t the next Michael Jordan, but both were/are unearthly athletes who played in college systems that stifled their individual game but showcased their defensive abilities and team game.

And Jabari Parker’s ability to excel while carrying extra pounds reminds one a little bit of Charles Barkley (and they’re both undersized fours whose NBA position had been questioned before the draft).

But no two drafts are alike and the 2014 one is going to have it’s own stories.

At this point, we have no idea whether this is going to be another draft for the ages or one quickly forgotten.

PREMATURE EXCITATION

Offseason action has already started with two big trades (so far) going down before the draft.

WHO LOVES NEW YORK?

Former Raptor, Jose Calderon, is on the move again, this time to New York to play (presumably) with his old teammate, Andrea Bargnani. Calderon, along with Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin and two second rounders who were sent to Dallas in exchange for Tyson Chandler and non-felon Raymond Felton. Quite frankly, this is perplexing for both teams.

Apparently Dallas wasn’t happy being the second oldest team in the league and wanted to take the crown from Miami. Did they really miss Chandler that much? Are they really comfortable having Devin Harris and Raymond Felton as their only point guards on the roster (Monta Ellis is not a point guard)? Is this a sign they are going to try and be active in the free agent market? Six of their top eight scorers are either gone or free agents this summer (including both Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion). I really have no idea what their plans are.

As for the New York side of the deal, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Calderon. He finally gets on a decent playoff team, who gave the Spurs their biggest scare of the playoffs, and is shipped off to possibly one of the worst situations in the NBA. If Carmelo Anthony leaves (and let’s face it, more people would probably be surprised if he DID re-sign with the Knicks), that means their top returning scorer is J.R. Smith. Does anything else really need to be said? Okay, well right behind Smith is Andrea Bargnani.

I get the feeling that Calderon must have sacrificed a baby unicorn in a former life, because after a month playing with these Knicks he’s going to long for the days of playing on the bad Raptor teams.

HOUSTON PREPARING FOR LAUNCH

The other big deal that appears to have gone down is Omer Asik has FINALLY been traded and to New Orleans, the team everyone figured he’d go to before the trade deadline. But instead of getting back Ryan Anderson, the Pelicans sent back a future first round pick.

Both Asik and New Orleans finally get what they want/need, but Houston is the interesting one here, because they are clearing space for a run at either LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony. There was even a rumour that the Rockets would have offered James Harden to the Knicks in a sign and trade, something that won’t have to happen if they are able to rid themselves of Jeremy Lin, too (or Lin could go back to New York, ironically). If Carmelo or LeBron do end up in Houston, expect the talk about stopping these superteams to start up again.

RUMOURS, RUMOURS, RUMOURS

While those two trades had nothing to do with the draft itself, there are lots of rumours about teams moving up, down and out of the draft.

What has caused more noise about teams trading out of the lottery than normal (especially for what is expected to be a strong draft class) is, apparently, the fact that GMs hate drafting in strong drafts more than weak ones because of the potential for major failure. Grantland’s Bill Simmons wrote:

You know how you make an NBA general manager miserable? Stick him in a loaded lottery. It’s one thing to play the guessing game with Otto Porter, Alex Len, Ben McLemore and a one-legged Nerlens Noel; none of those guys will haunt you. But if you’re picking between Wiggins, Parker, Embiid and Exum, or you have your choice of Vonleh, Smart, Gordon and Randle? Now that’s a nightmare.

He goes on to explain that Flip Saunders wants to trade Minnesota’s pick for that very reason. My feeling is that any GM who is too scared to make a decision shouldn’t be running a team in the first place. Look at two of the greatest GMs of all time. Jerry West traded away a top ten center in the prime of his career, in Vlade Divac, for a high school shooting guard who had just been picked 14th in the draft. Kobe Bryant went on to win 5 championships with the Lakers. Charlotte was in and out of the playoffs, over the next few years and then moved to New Orleans.

And R.C. Buford traded away a promising 24 years old point guard and a Popovich favourite, in George Hill, for the 15th pick in what was not considered a very strong draft. Kawhi Leonard went on to win the Finals MVP, while Indiana is now looking to upgrade it’s point guard position.

That’s why I’m always against trading away first round picks and why any talk of the Raptors trading away their 20th pick is disheartening. If anything, they should move up and get a better chance at a good player.

But I digress.

So, while the number one pick has only been traded once since the dissolution of the ABA, there is real talk that Cleveland might end up trading their pick. One reason there may be actual fire behind the smoke is that it’s their third number one pick in four years (and fourth one in eleven years). They might feel that getting the top pick is a common occurrence.

JDG_6844

There’s also the fact that they are in more of a hurry to make the playoffs than possibly any other team in the lottery. Last year, after getting the top pick, the guaranteed they wouldn’t be in the lottery again. There’s a LOT of pressure to win now in Cleveland and the choice is between three freshmen and a 19 year old Australian who has even less basketball experience.

They’ve had numerous offers, but the one that looks the most enticing is Orlando’s offer of Aaron Afflalo, their 8th pick and 12th pick. For a team that is trying to stock up on complimentary talent in order to lure LeBron James back home, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if the top pick puts on a different team’s hat tonight.

Either way, I can’t imagine the Cavs would be content with taking Wiggins or Parker at number one and then standing pat.

Philadelphia, Utah and Orlando are all trying to move up in the draft, obviously believing that there’s a drop off after Wiggins and Parker (now that Embiid’s stock has fallen), while Sacramento and Minnesota will probably only keep their pick if someone unexpected falls to them.

Miami apparently wants to move up in the draft in order to draft Shabazz Napier, who LeBron is enamoured with3. While I’m not a big fan of Napier as an NBA prospect, I actually think he would do well playing with a player like LeBron.

3. Drafting or trading based on the desires of your star player is never a good idea. One just needs to look back over all the failures in that regard over the years. Hell, one just has to look at what happened to Cleveland once they started listening to his advice. That said, Pat Riley is too smart to make bad decisions to appease his star player.

I would say the over/under for trades involving draft picks tonight is about fifteen.

DON’T MOCK ME

Personally, I’ve never tried to make any predictions about who is going to pick whom, mostly because it’s too easy for one pick to screw everything up. But for interests sake, I took a look at ten mock drafts from ten influential NBA writers, and who they saw the Raptors picking and where the Canadian players (Wiggins, Nik Stauskas and Tyler Ennis) are predicted to go).

Draft Express (Jonathan Givony)
1. Wiggins (Cleveland)
11. Stauskas (Denver)
20. Clint Capela (Toronto)
21. Ennis (Oklahoma)

NBA.com (Scott Howard-Cooper )
2. Wiggins (Milwaukee)
10. Stauskas (Philadelphia)
16. Ennis (Bulls)
20. Zach LaVine (Toronto)

Yahoo.com (Marc J. Spears)
1. Wiggins (Cleveland)
9. Stauskas (Charlotte)
20. Ennis (Toronto)

ESPN (Chad Ford)
1. Wiggins (Cleveland)
13. Stauskas (Minnesota)
20. Ennis (Toronto)

NBA.com (David Aldridge)
3. Wiggins (Philadelphia)
5. Stauskas (Utah)
20. Elfrid Payton (Toronto)
22. Ennis (Memphis)

CBS Sports (Zach Harper)
2. Wiggins (Milwaukee)
9. Stauskas (Charlotte)
20. Ennis (Toronto)

Toronto Star (Doug Smith)
1. Wiggins (Cleveland)
9. Stauskas (Charlotte)
20. Ennis (Toronto)

Sports Illustrated (Chris Mannix)
1. Wiggins (Cleveland)
11. Stauskas (Denver)
20. Ennis (Toronto)

Basketball Insiders (Alex Kennedy)
1. Wiggins (Cleveland)
11. Stauskas (Denver)
12. Ennis (Orlando)
20. Shabaaz Napier (Toronto)

NBADraft.net (Aran Smith)
1. Wiggins (Cleveland)
13. Stauskas (Minnesota)
20. Ennis (Toronto)

So while you should take these mock drafts with a grain of salt, the consensus seems to be that the Raptors will be calling Tyler Ennis’ name tonight, after Wiggins becomes the second Canadian number one pick. If that is the case, it’s definitely a big night for Canada.

MY TAKE AT THE TOP

While I already stated who I think the Raptors should and could take on Tuesday, I’ve been asked what I would do if I were Cleveland, so here’s my opinion, for what it’s worth.

I know it may be tempting for the Cavs to trade the pick and shore up their depth as well as minimize their risk, that’s not the best way to success. As I previously said, if you’re too afraid of making a mistake, you’re in the wrong business. Jabari Parker is probably the most NBA ready player, and should be the odds on favourite to win Rookie of the Year, I see him being a poor fit for the team, and who has the most immediate impact shouldn’t be the most important thing.

Yes, luring LeBron would be nice, but you can’t assume he’s coming, especially when there are so many other suitors with better rosters, including the Heat.

Parker is a scorer who needs the ball in his hands and is a poor defender. Cleveland already has two ball dominant players and were near the bottom of the league in defense. Paker’s neither a good fit, nor the player who is likely to be the best player five years from now.

I can certainly understand them not wanting to risk the top pick on Embiid, despite his colossal potential, but his teammate, Wiggins, is a much better fit than Parker is. He’s got as much potential as anyone in the draft, is already a very good defender and will only get better, and would have no problem playing with a guy like Kyrie Irving. Cleveland needs more good teammates, and that’s exactly what Wiggins is.

RATING THE PROSPECTS

Every year, on my old column, I would separate the prospects into six categories, and I’m going to do the same for this draft:

SURE-FIRE ALL STARS

Andrew Wiggins

Jabari Parker

Wiggins didn’t light the NCAA on fire at his only season at Kansas, but I see him being a perennial All Star in the NBA. If Parker loses weight and gets in better shape, he could be a better player than Carmelo Anthony.

POTENTIAL ALL STARS

Dante Exum

Aaron Gordon

Elfrid Payton

Marcus Smart

Noah Vonleh

Dario Saric

Tyler Ennis

I haven’t seen this many potential All Stars in a draft in a long, long time. That’s not to say all of them WILL be All Stars, but I think they all have the potential. There are a lot of questions about Exum, but I like what I’ve seen so far. I think Gordon could end up being one of the top five players from this draft, especially if he gets an outside shot. Payton is now being talked about as part of the second tier of players in this draft.

COULD GO EITHER WAY

Joel Embid

Julius Randle

Zach LaVine

Clint Capela

T.J Warren

If Embiid’s healthy, he could become the best player from this draft. If he’s not, he could become the next Sam Bowie. I’ve never been a huge fan of Randle, and think his most likely future is as a third or fourth banana. Both LaVine and Capela could be big-time players if they fulfill their potential. Or they could end up being out of the league in five years.

SAFE PICKS

Nik Stauskas

Jusuf Nurkic

Shabazz Napier

While I don’t see any of these guys becoming stars, you could certainly do worse than to pick one of these guys. I see long careers for each of them.

AVOID AT ALL COSTS

P.J. Hairston

Jerami Grant

I pretty much said all I needed to say about these two in the prospecting series.

SLEEPERS

Tyler Ennis

Jarnell Stokes

Adreian Payne

Bogdan Bogdanovic

While I already included Ennis in my potential All Stars list, I include him here because I think so many teams are going to regret passing on him. In a Grantland article that three different scouts discussing Dante Exum, one scout said this:

Where our league is going now, no one is a true PG anymore. You are either really good with the ball, as a shooter — Curry, Lillard, or Kyrie — or no one can stay in front of you — Westbrook, Wall, and Rose. There aren’t any Chris Pauls anymore.

I can’t disagree more. First of all, Not one of the above point guards got out of the second round, and Kyrie didn’t even get to the playoffs. Just because there are a lot of point guards like that doesn’t mean you start copying. As I said on Tuesday, if you take a look at most of the point guards who have won Championships over the last fifteen years, most were cerebral floor leaders who knew how to make their teammates better.

Ennis is no Chris Paul, but he doesn’t have to be. He just needs to know how to make his teammates better. That’s why I also like Elfrid Payton. His two best attributes are his passing and his defense, probably the two most important things for a point guard to be able to do.

ARMCHAIR GM TIME

Lastly, it’s always fun to figure out what YOU would do if you were in charge. There are two guys who I would try and trade up to grab. Wiggins and Gordon. Wiggins, for obvious reasons, but while I wouldn’t sell the farm for Gordon, and I don’t think he’s ever going to be a big-time scorer, I think his combination of athleticism, enthusiasm and desire to do all the little things are too rare in today’s NBA. He’s the type of guy that ends up winning a Championship, and it would be nice if that was in Toronto.

I’m not sure there is a realistic trade that would net either of those two, though.

There is something else, though.

Right now, there are currently eight teams in the league that have MORE Canadians on their roster than the Raptors do. While that might change tonight, I’ve got two trade proposals that would change that. Keep in mind, these are not serious proposals, and neither would be likely to happen.

TORONTO-CLEVELAND-MINNESOTA

It’s not secret that Cleveland wants to win now, and adding Kevin Love to the team would definitely do that. While he’s already told them he wouldn’t re-sign with them, which killed any trade talks, you have to think that if the Cavs get Love, then’d be in a much better position to sign LeBron. A team of LeBron, Love and Kyrie would be favourite to win the East.

In this proposal, Love and DeMar DeRozan would go to Cleveland, Dion Waiters, Amir Johnson and Alonzo Gee would go to Minnesota and Jarret Jack, Tristen Thompson, Anthony Bennett and Cleveland’s number one pick would go to the Raptors.

http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=nc38l3c

Too lopsided in favour of Toronto? You’re probably right.

TORONTO-CLEVELAND-HOUSTON

So then we look at Houston, who is trying to lure either LeBron or Carmelo to town, and even thought about trading away James Harden to do it.

Houston would send Harden to Cleveland, Toronto would send DeRozan and Amir to Houston (DeMar is a better complimentary player than Harden is and Amir would be a great fit beside Howard), and Toronto would get Jeremy Lin and his horrible contract (freeing cap space for Houston), Jarrett Jack, Anthony Bennett and Alonzo Gee (with the Raptors trade exception from the Rudy Gay trade), as well as Cleveland’s number one pick.

This trade actually makes much more sense for all parties involved. Houston gets deeper, cheaper and more complimentary, making them much more enticing for LeBron or Carmelo.

Cleveland adds a star player who will help them immediately.

Toronto adds two Canadian players and the potential at a superstar.

http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=nrt46l4

AND THEN…

Toronto can go one step farther and trade Terrence Ross and John Salmons for Steve Nash, Robert Sacre and their 9th 7th pick. Then select Nik Stauskas.

This actually makes SOME sense. Salmons contract is a team option, so by trading Nash for Salmons and then cutting Salmons loose, they free up more cap room to go after one of the big free agents. Plus, Terrence Ross is a good young player on a cheap contract.

And the Raptors not only get two more Canadians, but Stauskas would actually be a good fit for the Raptors, giving them outside shooting and scoring, as well as a high IQ player.

http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=lsvwxbn

Then, if they can then draft Ennis at 20, this would be their lineup (if the more “realistic” Houston deal went through :

Steve Nash, Tyler Ennis, Jeremy Lin
Nik Stauskas, Jarrett Jack, Alonzo Gee
Andrew Wiggins, Landry Fields
Tyler Hansbrough, Anthony Bennett
Jonas Valanciunas, Robert Sacre

Now THAT is Canada’s team.

ABOUT BENNETT

I do think the Raptors should try and grab Bennett from Cleveland. I think he was put in a horrible position by Cleveland last year, throwing him in while he was overweight due to injury and other health issues. I don’t think he deserved to be the number on pick, but I think he’s got talent and looked much better by the end of the season. I think his stock is low right now, and Cleveland might be ripe for a trade.

LAST WORD

So while I’d love to see Tyler Ennis become a Raptor tonight, I wouldn’t mind seeing Toronto active in trade discussions. Becoming complacent after a franchise-best season is dangerous, especially when that success happened in the East. They’re still a ways off from being a real contender, and if they lose Lowry, they’ll be in a very difficult position.

So what are your thoughts, hopes etc for tonight’s draft?

Toronto Raptors and Canadian Prospects Poised To Make History at 2014 NBA Draft

Tonight highlights a significant historical cornerstone for Canadians in the NBA. If Andrew Wiggins is the first overall draft pick, it will be the first time a country other than the USA has received that honor in consecutive years and only the eighth time the number one pick wasn’t American.

Projected to be one of the deepest drafts in history, three athletes stand above the other prospects in the debate of who will be selected first. Wiggins’ fellow Jayhawk teammate: Joel Embiid has only played the game for four years, but comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon had him atop most mock drafts especially after provinNic Stauskas 2g his recovery from a late season back injury. Then this past Friday, Embiid underwent surgery to repair a broken navicular bone which will require 4-6 months recovery time and may see him slip out of the top five.

Following this news the mock drafts moved Jabari Parker to the top slot reasoning that Cleveland would want the most NBA ready player given they already have existing talents and are not in a re-build phase. That was until NBA TV analysts, Vince Cellini and Greg Anthony, highlighted reports that Parker had a poor workout in Cleveland and arrived at a hefty 255 pounds. With this news, Wiggins appears poised to make his mark and Canada’s mark in NBA history.  Should he go first overall, another milestone will be achieved as Wiggins will join Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett making the Cavaliers the first NBA team to have three Canadians on its roster.

TylerEnnis

If that weren’t exciting enough for Canadian NBA fans, two Torontonians: Tyler Ennis and Nik Stauskas are projected to be drafted in the top 20 and five more Canadians: Melvin Ejim, Khem Birch, Dwight Powell, Jordan Bachynski and Sim Bhullar could be selected in the second round.  What this means is by night’s end Canada would move ahead of France as the second most represented country in the NBA.

Further enhancing this evening’s excitement is the potential for the Raptors to select a home grown product with one of their three draft selections. Toronto will pick 20th in the first round as well as 37th and 59th in the second round. Although the Raptors have previously picked ten non-US prospects, they have never drafted a Canadian. Some mock drafts have Tyler Ennis available at the 20th selection, but should Chicago snatch him up (let’s face it, Ennis is the type of player Tom Thibodeau salivates over) our last pick could see one of Khem Birch or one of the two tallest prospects Calgary’s 7’2” Bachynski or Brampton’s 7’5” Bhullar being  selected. As much as we need a back-up center I’m hoping Montreal power forward, Birch finds his way into a Raptors’ uniform given his compete-level and upside.

Canadians slated for second round

The other factor benefiting Toronto is when they make the 59th pick they’ll know who is still available (sans one) for them to invite to Vegas summer league which offers an opportunity to view the players in a game atmosphere and further assess their potential. If the two Canadian centers remain on the board Toronto could easily keep them in the mix with this possibility.

This draft may not produce the same number of hall of fame inductees as the 1984 draft, but it offers depth well into the second round with athletes who can assume meaningful bench roles. Masai Ujiri has pulled several rabbits out of his hat since becoming Toronto’s GM by shedding Bargnani and Gay’s contracts and the ultimate ta-da move of shoring up the Raptors bench and team chemistry with the addition of the four Sacramento King players. However, his greatest achievement may be still to come in tonight’s draft; Ujiri has been noted as being an excellent judge of young talent, specifically in the second round.

Andrew-Wiggins Kansas

Following the Raptors first trip to the playoffs in six seasons and a year of what many termed as over-achievement, basketball in Toronto and Canada is more popular than ever. Up until news broke of the disgusting actions of Clipper troglodyte Sterling, Jurassic Park had been the news of the playoffs. Should Ujiri select a Canadian tonight it would most certainly add to the momentum in popularity the Raptors are currently experiencing, especially with young fans.

This week the announcements that LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony had opted out of their contracts had pundits scurrying to derive what these actions would mean for their current teams and those pursuing them as free agents. Yesterday, the social networks was lighting up over the trades spearheaded in Texas as Houston and Dallas looked to create cap space and position themselves as buyers.  The addition of Asik in New Orleans should make them the early contender for most improved candidate out west. Phil Jackson added a point guard better suited to run his triangle offense in Calderon and also picked up two second round picks for tonight in the process. Next week the real jockeying will begin as the free agent market will build to a crescendo and the probable hierarchy for the 2014-15 NBA season will become much clearer.

Yet all this pre-draft activity south of the border will take a back seat tonight to what will be a historic occasion for Canadian Basketball. Whether Wiggins is selected first, second or third, and whether it’s five or eight Canadians selected overall,  June 26, 2014 will go down in history as the night Canada made its mark in the annals of the NBA and launched the era of the Canadian ascent.

Other RR Articles on 2014 Draft:

Morning Coffee – Thu, Jun 26

Kyle Lowry may win in LeBron James free agency chase | USA Today

It’s not inconceivable that Lowry could wind up playing with James if he re-ups with the Miami Heat, but the economics in that equation would make it extremely challenging. The more likely scenario, by far, involves Lowry getting paid handsomely by a team that wasn’t able to convince the four-time MVP to come its way. According to two people with knowledge of the situation, the Houston Rockets — whom Lowry played for from 2009 to 2012 — are one of those teams. While Rockets general manager Daryl Morey will woo free agents like James, Anthony and Heat center Chris Bosh (if he opts out of his deal), he also will pursue Lowry if those initial options are no longer in play. It would be quite the full-circle kind of story, as the Rockets’ decision to trade Lowry to the Raptors in July 2012 played a vital part in their eventual acquisition of shooting guard James Harden just a few months later (the Oklahoma City Thunder received the lottery-protected first-round pick Houston had received from Toronto in that Oct. 2012 deal). The Los Angeles Lakers, who also plan to pursue both James and Anthony, are also known to be on Lowry’s short list of prospective landing spots.

Free Agent Kyle Lowry Seeks Championship | Basketball Insiders

While Lowry will certainly meet with teams and weigh all of his options this offseason, a return to the Raptors is still a possibility as well. Toronto is coming off of an incredible 48-win season in which they finished as the third seed in the Eastern Conference. “It was fun,” Lowry said of Toronto’s successful season. “I think it was one of those things where we expected it internally, but no one on the outside expected it. Internally, though, we expected to do something special and we said it from day one. For it to come true and to go the way it went, yeah it was fantastic and it was a joy to be a part of.” When Lowry looks at the Raptors’ roster, he gets optimistic and thinks that the best is yet to come. If he were to re-sign with Toronto and the team returned as currently assembled, he believes the future could be bright. When asked how good the Raptors can be, Lowry doesn’t hesitate. “Honestly, I’ve thought about it and I think the answer is very good,” Lowry said. “We have a lot of very good young pieces. It all starts with DeMar [DeRozan], and I think Jonas [Valanciunas] and Terrence [Ross] could be really good. I think that the team as a whole could be really good. Last year was a great year; we had a bunch of guys who just wanted to go out there and win games. Everyone was very unselfish and knew what was at stake and wanted to be a good team. I think the team is very talented. I think it’s very good upside for the Raptors.”

Wake-up call: Greivis Vasquez aims to be a starter again | Comcast SportsNet Washington

“This is a huge summer. Obviously, Kyle Lowry (is an) unrestricted free agent. I’m a restricted free agent … Hopefully they keep the team together,” Vasquez said about Toronto, which was eliminated in seven games of a first-round playoff series vs. the Brooklyn Nets, to WNST. “You don’t know. What I know is that I have one of the greatest times this past season with the Toronto Raptors. After coming off a tough injury I finished up the season very very strong and I did my thing. “Ultimately I want to be, hopefully in Toronto. I still got to give myself a chance to be a starting point guard. I feel like I can do many many different (things) now that I’m healthy. I have to give myself another shot. I have to earn that. I understand perfectly the things that I have to do for me to be the point guard that I want to be.”

Tyler Ennis would love to play for the Raptors | Toronto Sun

“You don’t get to choose where you go in this situation so I just have to hope that it’s the right fit for me, whatever team picks me up. I think everybody would want to go as high as they can in the draft but I think fit is the most important thing,” he said. “Toronto in general I think would be a good fit. They have some free agents at that spot but, I think most players would want to go home and play in their hometown. I think personally I would love to play in Toronto. We just have to wait and see if that plays out.”

Toronto Raptors: Picking 20th Not Exactly Risky Business | Fansided

Despite what Ujiri has said to downplay the hopes of finding a rotation-ready player, there is no reason to believe that it can’t happen – especially given Ujiri’s track record in both Denver and Toronto. But in no way is Ujiri’s reputation on the line with the selection that he makes, assuming he doesn’t go in a different direction all together and decide to trade the pick. In any event, I fully expect fans and media to see the bright side of whatever Ujiri decides to do on draft night. The real test for Ujiri will be this July when a lot will be riding on his ability to re-sign Kyle Lowry and the other core pieces from last season, Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson.

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Trade Idea: John Salmons for Omer Asik?

A half-baked trade idea that could totally come to fruition.

Alright, bear with me here.

So, by all accounts, the Raptors want to keep building this offseason. As Ryan Wolstat of the Sun noted, the Raptors want to bring the whole band back. That includes Lowry, Vasquez and Patterson. We know this much.

In looking at the balance sheet, if all three are signed for a combined $20 million, it would leave the Raptors with little-to-no cap space left to upgrade. There’s also the cap figures for draft picks to consider. In theory, they could still build using the full mid-level exception, but a cursory glance at the free-agents this season doesn’t present any immediately obvious fits, especially at around $5 million. It could always be split between multiple players, but there aren’t that many holes in the lineup.

So the question remains — how can the Raptors upgrade? Here’s how: with John Salmons.

Most of you are counting the days until June 30, which is the deadline for Salmons to be bought out. I’m not going to beat around the bush — Salmons was pretty bad. He had his moments, and was once a productive player, but at the age of 34, he’s washed up.

Salmons’ contract has him slated for $7 million next season, but only $1 million is guaranteed. Tyler Hansbrough also fits in the same boat, where only $1 million of his $3 million is guaranteed. The deadline to buy them out is June 30.

Their contracts provide for interesting ballast. It’s essentially free cap space for any team who wants to carve some out. By extension, it allows the Raptors pick up dead salary, and perhaps an asset along the way. So which team is desperately trying to shed money?

None other than the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets, if you can believe it, are looking to add another superstar this offseason, and they can’t really get one via trade. They can, however, shed the burdensome salaries of Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, who are both owed $8.37 million apiece next season. If they manage to clear out their detritus, the Rockets could carve out as much as $19 million to attract a star.

The issue with Asik and Lin’s deals is this: they’re actually owed $15 million next season. They were famously signed to poison-pill contracts to pry them from their original teams. That, of course, makes it very expensive to take on either player. That likely prices him out for teams without playoff aspirations, which, coincidentally, are also the same teams who have cap room, for the most part.

But, if MLSE is willing, the Raptors could offer them, say, John Salmons and a second rounder for Omer Asik’s salary (disregard the salary figures in the image below. Houston’s real salary info can be found here)

trade

This trade works for both teams. It gives Houston the cap space they so desperately crave. Buying out Salmons gives them an easy out. For the Raptors, it gives them a quality upgrade at back-up center, of which they cannot reasonably attain in free-agency. Adding in Asik would still allow for the Raptors to re-sign their three free-agents, yet still remain under the luxury tax.

Of course, there are a few snags, mainly on Houston’s end. Shedding Asik for nothing is taking a loss, as he certainly does still have value. Also, shedding Asik’s deal alone isn’t worth anything because Lin would need to go too. Fortunately, if the reports are true, Morey already has deals in place to scrap both. And, not to be discounted, paying $15 million for a backup center is also quite a hurdle.

So, there’s that?

UPDATE:

Nevermind. It’s not happening. The Pelicans went crazy and offered salary relief and a first-rounder for Asik. Welp, it was an idea, but you can never plan on stupidity.

Talking Raptors Podcast, June 25 – Offseason Jibberish

Fresh out of the Talking Raptors studios, the boys make their offseason return. It’s been a while since they’ve last been on the airwaves. Some wounds have healed and some could potentially be ripped right open.

They discuss:

-Kyle Lowry. Will he stay or will he go?

-If Kyle does leave what does that mean for the team.

-Draft day looms… The guys get excited. Who’s going where…

-Lebron, Carmelo, Kevin Love… Where they going? The guys weigh in and add to the speculation.

-Whats going to happen to the heat?

-Landry Fields singing his heart out on television.

-Greivis Vasquez still hanging around hoping for a contract.

-Brandon Jennings/Nick Young/ Drizzy Drake’s molly party?

This and a lot more. Also just for fun Nick and Barry pull out their pre season predictions for the eastern conference. Boy were they way off, but so goes the unpredictable game of basketball we all love.

Enjoy and as always thanks for listening.

Grab the iTunes feed or check us out on Stitcher on Android. There is also the plain old feed. You can also download the file (49:13, 47 MB). Or just listen below:

Toronto Raptors Draft History Over Last Decade (With Hindsight)

A trip down draft memory lane.

2003 Draft
Raptors Pick: Chris Bosh (4), Remon Van de Hare (52)
Controversy: Very little.
Summary: The top three picks were set in stone from the outset and there was little debate at the time that James, Milicic (LOL) and Anthony would go top three. The fourth pick was between Bosh and Wade, and given the Raptors need at the time, they drafted thinking of position.  As for Van de Hare, historians recall his “highlight” video having a clip where he hit the side of the backboard on an open corner three.  Raptor fans with strong memory may recall Voshon Lenard winning us needless games that season, potentially costing a shot at LeBron James.
At-the-time grade: A
Hindsight grade: B

2004 Draft
Raptors Pick: Rafael Araujo (8), Albert Miralles (39)
Controversy: Tons.
Summary: We picked him ahead of Andre Iguodala. It took TNT a couple minutes to even pull up his highlights and it took Raptors fans a decade to forget about him.  We talked about the Fat All-Stars on the pod this week, and Araujo was a card-carrying member and a first-ballot Hall of Famer in that regard.  The Heat acquired Miralles’s rights in exchange for Pape Sow (47th pick).
At-the-time grade: F
Hindsight grade: F

2005 Draft
Raptors Pick: Charlie Villanueva (7), Joey Graham (16), Roko Ukic (41), Uros Slokar (56)
Controversy: Grangergate.
Summary: Fans wanted Gerald Green at the time, and though the swingman has resurrected his NBA careers despite being short a finger on his shooting hand, Babcock needs to be given credit for picking Villanueva who had the better early career.  The bouts of laziness and zero-defense not withstanding, he was a half-decent offensive player.  On the other hand, he picked Joey Graham over Danny Granger, who had rumours of some foot issues swirling.  However, Larry Bird had told Granger that if he was available at 16, he’d take him and he did.  Granger turned out to be an All-Star and Joey Graham turned out to be a very low-IQ player.  Ukic couldn’t shoot and the experiment of him and Will Solomon as second and third string point guards was the lowest point in Raptors PG history.
At-the-time grade: D
Hindsight grade: B

2006 Draft
Raptors Pick: Andrea Bargnani (1), P.J Tucker (35)
Controversy: None, really, but tons of hindsight.
Summary: A year with no consensus #1 pick, the Raptors had decided upon Bargnani months before the draft.  It’s easy to put on the hindsight hat and think that LaMarcus Aldridge was the right choice at the time.  The same people should also realize that Adam Morrison was hyped just as much.  The problem with Bargnani wasn’t that he was drafted, it was that he was kept far too long.  P.J Tucker looked to be a serviceable player, and flirted with the idea of sticking around the NBA as the 10th man on a roster until he got some actual meaningful playing time and people realized that he’s not very good.
At-the-time grade: B
Hindsight grade: F

2007 Draft: No Pick

Nathan-Jawai-6455556

2008 Draft
Raptors Pick: Roy Hibbert (17) Traded to Indiana, Nathan Jawai (41, via Indiana)
Controversy: Like, maybe, keep the pick?
Summary: The Raptors picked the best player past #5 at #17 in Roy Hibbert and promptly traded him to Indiana in the Jermaine O’Neal deal with T.J Ford, marking the second year in a row where they did not draft a player to play.   Hibbert turned out to be a solid player whereas the O’Neal experiment imploded quickly.  Perhaps the Raptors thought there wasn’t any need to draft a big man with Bargnani on board, but the O’Neal acquisition contradicted that hypothetical approach.  Nathan Jawai was the sixth man of the year for the fat All-Stars, and these days he plys his trade in Turkey for Galatasaray.
At-the-time grade: C
Hindsight grade: F

2009 Draft
Raptors Pick: DeMar DeRozan (9)
Controversy: None
Summary: The Raptors dodged the Brandon Jennings bullet and selected DeRozan, a player that brought some much-needed athleticism to the roster at the time, and has turned out to be an All-Star.
At-the-time grade: B
Hindsight grade: A

2010 Draft
Raptors Pick: Ed Davis (13)
Controversy: None
Summary: In a relatively weak draft, Raptors fan had low expectations from a pick edging the lottery and Ed Davis’s yield didn’t disappoint or pleasantly surprise.  He was a serviceable backup and developed a moderately effective offensive game for a backup before he was shipped off to Memphis where he now frequently appears on the back of milk cartons.  Kind of missed out on Larry Sanders (15).
At-the-time grade: B
Hindsight grade: C

2011 Draft
Raptors Pick: Jonas Valanciunas (5)
Controversy: Kemba!
Summary: Valanciunas has proved himself to be a worthy fifth pick, especially considering who followed him: Jan Vesely, Bismack Biyombo, Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker, and Jimmer Fredette.  Lot of fans wanted the Raptors to select Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker, given the point guard situation (Jose Calderon) at the time.  Walker showed something tempting last season, but Valanciunas remains a very good selection, even in hindsight.  Missed out on Klay Thompson (11), Kawhi Leonard (15).
At-the-time grade: C
Hindsight grade: A

2012 Draft
Raptors Pick: Terrence Ross (8)
Controversy: But what about Drummond?
Summary: The Raptors reached for Ross who wasn’t in the lottery in most projections.  Harrison Barnes being taken the pick before had fans lamenting the ill-fated coin toss and those meaningless wins at the send of the season.  Salt was poured on the wounds when Drummond was passed up presumably due to Valanciunas already being on the roster.  Ross has redeemed himself to a degree, but Drummond (taken immediately after) still remains a regret, no matter what the center situation was.
At-the-time grade: D
Hindsight grade: B

2013 Draft: No Pick

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXBFG2vsyCM

Who Should The Raptors Take?

With the NBA Draft now just two days away, and after looking through thirteen different prospects over nine weeks, it’s time to review the prospects, figure out who the Raptors could draft, should draft and who that probably won’t have a chance to draft.

WHO’S DEFINITELY OUT

There are two players who, for various reasons, I wrote prospecting articles and who will definitely not be available when the Raptors pick at 20.

ANDREW WIGGINS

He was never in the mix to begin with, but he was prospected for sentimental sake. With Joel Embiid’s injury, Wiggins is now the favourite to go number one, again. And if Cleveland passes on Embid, Wiggins is the next best fit.

NIK STAUSKAS

He was a guy who would have to fall for the Raptors to be able to draft him at 20, anyway, and it’s not looking like he’ll fall. He’s gone from a borderline lottery pick to possible top 10 pick.

 

WHO’S PROBABLY OUT

While not locks to be gone by the time the Raptors pick, nearly every mock draft has these three players off the board at 20, so it’s doubtful they’ll be donning Raptors uniforms next season.

ELFRID PAYTON

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Apparently a bunch of other teams saw what I saw in Payton, and he’s now being talked about as a possible top 10 pick. Even if he falls out of the top 10, it’s highly doubtful he’s going to be available when the Raptors pick at 20. Too bad, as he was one of three players I really liked for the 20th pick and one of my biggest sleepers of the draft.

If he does somehow drop, though, he should be near the top of the Raptor’s list. He’s got more upside than anyone else that will be available and his only real flaw is his shot, which is fixable.

JAMES YOUNG

I was never enamoured with Young, who I think has a possibility of being a solid role player in the league, but, despite his physical tools, not much upside. It was his defense that would be most concerning, though, and even if the Raptors retool and trade DeMar DeRozan (who he shares many strengths and weaknesses with) I don’t think he should be high on the Raptors’ list.

T.J. WARREN

Likely to be the second highest college scorer in the draft, Warren has impressed several teams in workouts. In my report on Warren, I mentioned that workouts might be able to determine whether he can defend the small forward position, and perhaps those questions have been answered. Either way, I don’t see him being big enough to play the NBA power forward position full time.

There’s definitely a lot to like about Warren, but the NBA junk pile is littered with tweeners like Warren who never were able to find a position in the league.

WHO DOESN’T FIT

There are players who were prospected, who simply don’t fit on the team as currently constructed, and even if Masai plans to make changes, probably won’t be the best player available.

P.J. HAIRSTON

If Hairston is available, he’d probably be the most NBA ready player they could draft. He’s got the skills to be an excellent role player and his outside shooting and defensive potential are both attributes the Raptors could use. But he’s got poor intangibles, both on and off the court, and putting him on a young team like the Raptors probably isn’t a good idea.

Plus, he can really only play the shooting guard, the position the Raptors are deepest at.

JERAMI GRANT

While the Raptors definitely need a defensive small forward like Grant, he’s got a shot that’s so bad I’m not sure who would win a shooting competition between him and Landry Fields. Well, probably Grant, but it would be close. And even if the Raptors completely overhaul their roster, having a small forward who can’t shoot from outside of the paint might end up hurting a team more than his defense will help. Especially in the playoffs.

WHO ARE POSSIBILITIES

There are four players who, while not not ideal, are still viable options for the 20th spot in the draft, for the Raptors.

ADREIAN PAYNE

There’s a hell of a lot to like about Payne. He’s athletic, tough, long, hustles and is a excellent 3 point shooter. And he’s a high character guy who is loved by both teammates and fans. So far he sounds like a perfect fit for any team, especially the Raptors. Unfortunately, he’s got poor defensive instincts and is already 23 years old, so that’s not likely to improve much, and neither is Payne.

A lot of teams would love to have a player like Payne, especially with such an emphasis on the stretch four.  The Raptors definitely have need for a stretch four, especially with Patrick Patterson a free agent and Jonas Valanciunas becoming a force down low. But his defensive problems and his lack of upside don’t make him a really enticing prospect for the Raptors.

The other issue Payne has is his lung condition, which will limit how many minutes he can play. It’s doubtful he’ll ever be able to play even 30 minutes per game, which might end up inhibiting his career.

KYLE ANDERSON

Anderson would be a top ten player, possibly even a top five one, if he had even average athleticism. There is very little he doesn’t do on the court. At 6’8, he is one of the best passers in the draft and played mostly point guard at UCLA. With his nearly 7’3 wingspan, he 8.8 rebounds per game (almost the same as Jabari Parker, and more than any other prospect on our list). He can also shoot with range, shooting 48.3% from three point range this past season.

Because of his below average athleticism, he’ll never be a plus defender, though, and likely not even a neutral one, so he’ll need to be surrounded excellent defenders, which isn’t the case with the Raptors. He also needs the ball in his hands in order to be effective, which means he’s probably best coming off the bench because I can’t see him being good enough to have the offense run through him on a good team.

K.J. McDANIELS

For a team looking to add defense, McDaniels should be high on their list. He’s an athletic freak who blocks shots and rebounds as well as anyone in the draft class. He’s got a good wingspan for a player his size and can outjump just about anyone.

Of course, he’s not a good shooter and doesn’t have a high basketball IQ, and as a 21 year old junior is considered an old man compared to the majority of players expected to be taken in the first round, so he is basically the player he’s going to be. The question is whether that’s good enough.

The Raptors definitely could use a player with McDaniels ability to play defense and rebound, but without a whole lot of upside, there will probably be better prospects for the Raptors available.

SHABAZZ NAPIER

Napier is as polished a point guard prospect as anyone in the first round, and with the Raptors having all three point guards entering free agency (in some form or another) this summer, filling that position should be high on their list.

Napier might be the second oldest player taken in the first round (after Adreian Payne), which means he’s got little upside, but also should be able to contribute immediately. He can shoot, has become a much better passer and there isn’t a player in the draft with more confidence than Napier.

For the Raptors, taking Napier at 20 (if he’s available) should be a low risk but also relatively low reward move. He’s fairly short for the NBA point guard position (under 6 feet), isn’t a great athlete and doesn’t always make the best decisions on the court. Anyone who cringes at Kyle Lowry’s decision making at times will feel similar emotions watching Napier.

He’d definitely fill a need for the Raptors (point guard, outside shooting) but I don’t see him having the potential to be a starter on a good team, so you’d be drafting a bench player. For some teams, that would be fine, but the Raptors still need talent.

WHO’S LEFT

So after crossing off (more or less) most of the prospects we looked at, there are a couple left that have a combination of talent, potential and lack of red flags that should make picking any of them a good decision.

TYLER ENNIS

Duke v Syracuse

When I wrote the prospecting article on Ennis, he was being looked at as a definite lottery pick and possible top ten pick. In the weeks since then his stock has dropped and most mock drafts have the Raptors taking him at 20. And, in my opinion, there couldn’t be much better news if you’re a Raptor fan.

I’ve never been a big fan of putting too much weight on post-season workouts. Too many players have jumped up the draft boards due to workouts only to disappoint. The biggest problem I have with workouts is they don’t show the most important thing for any player, and that’s how he does in a game.

Jeremy Lin didn’t impress anyone in workouts and went undrafted, but, while he’s not as good as he seemed to be during his time with the Knicks, he’s a very decent point guard whose ability to run the pick and role well simply couldn’t be judged playing one on one or even one on none.

Ennis is one of the youngest players in this draft, but played the point guard position like a four year veteran for most of the year, displaying a maturity and basketball IQ that simply don’t show up in workouts. He’s not an athletic freak and needs work on his shot, so workouts don’t highlight any of his strengths. And with such a premium on Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose or John Wall-type point guards, people forget that in the last fifteen years, the starting point guards who have won Championships have been guys like Tony Parker, Derek Fisher, Jason Kidd, Chauncey Billups and Avery Johnson, cerebral players who, for the most part, weren’t wowing anyone with their ability to dunk on anyone. It’s no coincidence that three of those players went on to become head coaches, and Billups probably will eventually (and so might Parker).

Basketball IQ and the ability to solidly run a team are two attributes that are too often undervalued when looking at point guard prospects, and Ennis has both of those in spades. And I haven’t even mentioned that he’d be playing for his hometown team.

CLINT CAPELA

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When the good teams draft at the bottom of the draft, they usually look for two types of players. The player who will fit their system and fill a role and the player who does one or two things really well, but needs work on others to fulfill his potential. The latter would describe Capela, who is mostly raw physical potential.

He’s athletic, has a monster wingspan and has an impressive touch around the basket, especially for a player as raw as Capela, and the ability to score off the pick and role. In fact, he has similar tools as a younger Amir Johnson (but with a longer wingspan).

Considering how much talent the Raptors still need, their best strategy in the draft would be to go for a home run rather than a single, and Capela has the potential that could lead to a home run. At least for the 20th pick. There is the danger of him being a bust that never takes advantage of his physical tools, but he could end up becoming a major defensive force who can score when he needs to on the other end.

WHO I MISSED

In the nine weeks of writing the prospecting series, there were a couple of players that were overlooked but who might end up having their name called at 20 for the Raptors.

DARIO SARIC

Up until yesterday (Monday), there was no chance the Raptors would be able to draft Saric unless they traded up into the top twelve in the draft. But then he went out and signed a three year contract with no opt out clause for two years, and my guess is he’ll drop down until, at least, the late-teens and possibly farther. Phoenix, Boston and Chicago all have multiple picks and draft ahead of the Raptors, so he could still be taken by one of them as a down-the-road-pick, but the Raptors need to be prepared if he’s available at 20.

For those unfamiliar with Saric, he’s a very versatile big man who can score in a variety of ways, including from beyond the three point line (although he’s still not a consistent three point shooter), rebound, pass and handle the ball. He’s aggressive, hustles, works hard and has decent, although not great, athleticism. After watching Boris Diaw carve of the Heat defense in the Finals, a lot of teams probably saw similar attributes in Saric, and they wouldn’t be far off. He’s got a high basketball IQ and loves to create shots for his teammates.

He doesn’t have great physical tools (he’s got only average wingspan and isn’t going to wow anyone with his athleticism) but he works hard on defense and has good instincts.

Whatever team does draft him will need to put the ball in his hands and allow him to initiate the offense in order to be truly effective. Putting him into the normal role an NBA power forward would play simply wouldn’t make use of his talents and might

While he’s not the defensive anchor that would be ideal playing beside a player like Valanciunas, I’m not sure the Raptors could pass up a player of Saric’s skill level and potential, even if they have to wait a couple of years before he comes over.

RODNEY HOOD

For some reason I always get Hood and James Young mixed up, and they are fairly similar players. Both are jumpshooting  small forwards who don’t rebound or defend at a high level. Hood is a much more consistent shooter (42% compared to Young’s 34.9%) but Young has more physical tools.

Hood also has the same things to like and dislike for the Raptors. A three point shooter like Hood is always going to have a job, but his future is as a bench player, and the Raptors are still in need of talent, so they should probably target players with more potential than Hood has.

JARNELL STOKES

Stokes had an inauspicious start to his NBA workouts by getting into a car accident on his way to his first one and consequently was out of action for a while, but he’s back on track and moving up the mock drafts enough that he might even be off the board before the Raptors draft.

Although I’ve stated I generally don’t like comparing players, Stokes is eerily similar to DeJuan Blair. Both are undersized big men with NBA bodies and a toughness to match. Both rebound well and can score around the basket, but don’t have a lot of offensive skills, especially as they move farther away (Blair’s improved on that since being drafted). Blair was a better rebounder in college and a much more efficient scorer, but Stokes actually has cartilage in his knees.

Like Blair, Stokes probably doesn’t have a whole lot of upsiAQde, but  he also is one of the few players expected to be taken this low that is pretty much guaranteed to contribute to whatever team he’s drafted by and could definitely fill a role on the Raptors backing up both the four and five spot.

FINAL RANKINGS

Not including the players who definitely won’t be available, here are my final rankings for the prospects, including what chance I see their name will be called when the Raptors make their decision. Astute readers will notice that the percentages add up to 99, which leaves a one percent chance someone else’s name will be called by Adam Silver at 20.

1. Dario Saric – 2%

2. Tyler Ennis – 40%

3. Elfrid Payton – 1%

4. Clint Capela – 15%

5. K.J. McDaniels – 10%

6. T.J. Warren – 2%

7. Jarnell Stokes – 5%

8. Adreian Payne – 8%

9. James Young – 2%

10. Kyle Anderson – 1%

11. Shabazz Napier – 7%

12. Rodney Hood – 2%

13. P.J. Hairston – 1%

14. Jerami Grant – 3%

On Thursday, which is NBA Draft day, tune back in for an all encompassing look at the draft, including predictions, rumours and possibly even a Bill Simmons-style trade proposal or two.

Morning Coffee – Tue, Jun 24

Toronto Raptors GM says team ‘going full force after Kyle Lowry,’ explains draft philosophy | National Post

On the possibility of trading up in the draft: “Like I said the first time I talked to you guys a couple of weeks ago, I don’t do heartbreaks very well. Those trades and talks — people don’t understand: We talk about like maybe 100 trades and then two happen. That’s the nature of our business. We will be aggressive but our energy is focused on 20 rather than wasting our time on [something else]. If there is anything [that makes sense], I almost feel like those kind of things come to you rather than you chase them. We will be aggressive if we smell anything anywhere, but 20 is where we will concentrate.”

Raptors look to create enivironment for growth | Sportsnet

The Raptors have done their homework. Monday was their 12th pre-draft workout, each with four-to-six players in them. I can’t recall the team ever bringing in more players. And they’re bringing in players who have got the message: There is a job here for the right kind of person, not simply the right kind of basketball player. As Ujiri said, whoever is coming in will have their work cut out for them in order to earn playing time on a roster that is young but well established.

Kyle Lowry on the Lakers’ Free Agent List – Lake Show Life

Bryant may see a future role as a Paul Pierce-type until his health dictates otherwise. Until then, Lowry and Bryant in the backcourt is a scary tandem. Having either player set up Julius Randle in the paint makes for a triumvirate of scoring punch. Randle handles the paint duties. Bryant handles isolation plays and everything in the midrange area. Lowry provides the primary playmaking and 3-point shooting. Offensive balance is a key to success, but it all starts by drafting Randle. If the Lakers acquire Lowry, it’ll be a big success for the team.

Report: Los Angeles Lakers Interested in Kyle Lowry During 2014 Free Agency | Bleacher Report

That would seem to make Lowry a perfectly logical signing, but the Lakers are stuck between competing in Bryant’s window and finding stars for the future. Lowry is a great player, but he probably doesn’t move the needle enough to justify the contract he’ll likely demand. Unless the lack of buyers on the market drives his price down somewhere closer to the $7 million-a-year range, which seems unlikely given his play this year, the Lakers are probably better off finding a more movable asset at an even bigger position of need in free agency.

Toronto Raptors Will Draft Coach Casey Type Players | Pro Bball Report

Ujiri has also been consistent in his assessment of team needs. The Raptors want to add a big wing and a rim protecting big man and while Ujiri won’t commit to filling those needs through the draft, he has looked at a pile of prospects over the past couple of weeks who do just that. “We need a big wing, a three position and we need some kind of shot blocking like a big,” Ujiri said. “We have good skilled bigs. We have a shooting big. We have a big down low and we want to figure out how to protect the rim a little bit and that may come now, it may come later, but it is something that we know that we need on our roster. So those two positions are something we need.”

NBA draft a dirty time of year | Toronto Sun

The Raptors conducted their final workouts for the draft on Monday. Brought back for a second time after an ankle injury prevented him from working out his first time around was Arizona State guard Jahii Carson, who is as confident off the court as he is fast on it. Stanford graduate and proud Toronto native Dwight Powell was also there, rounding out an impressive crop of homegrowns to go through these workouts for the Raps. Powell joins Ennis, Sim Bhullar, Jordan Bachynski, Melvin Ejim and Khem Birch among the Canadian-born contingent to come through the Air Canada Centre.

Lewenberg: Raptors narrowing focus as draft day approaches | TSN

“It’s a huge bonus,” Ujiri said of finding a diamond in the rough on draft night. “You look at the programs that have done well in the NBA, they just strike with picks like that. Its takes constant study, and really knowing players, believing in players and a system.” “I think a big thing is you kind of have to be realistic on the expectations of the players,” added Dan Tolzman, Toronto’s director of scouting, who was also a member of Ujiri’s front office staff in Denver. “I think everyone wants to find those diamonds and the guys that will be all-stars and MVPs and this and that but those guys are pretty hard to find outside of the lottery and the top-five even.” “So I think the idea is if you can find guys at 20 or 37 or wherever that have careers,” he continued, “that are eight-year players and they’re role players on your team and they’re doing good things to help you win, that’s a successful draft pick. You might get lucky and hit a guy that’s going to be a big time contributor and he’s pushing for all-stars and that kind of thing, but that’s not really what you’re looking for when you’re outside of the top-five or the top-10.”

Raptors GM tight-lipped about potential pick | Toronto Sun

“You know it’s going to keep coming,” he (Ujiri) said of the information flow. “There will be something tonight and something else tomorrow morning. That’s just the nature of the draft. I heard something yesterday that threw us off a little bit. But it will keep coming and coming and coming until that last minute. That’s the joy of it, I mean you love it. That’s why we do it. There is always action. As long as we come out on top, then we’re fine.”

Prospecting Potential Picks at #20 for the Toronto Raptors | Raptors Cage

The Good: If you watched the 2014 NCAA Tournament, you’ll remember him. Napier led the Connecticut Huskies on a Cinderella run to a championship and was a key offensive cog who thrived under pressure, making big shot after big shot. The vocal 22-year-old averaged 18.0 points, 4.9 assists and 1.8 steals and also was lights-out from downtown, connecting on 40.5 % of his attempts. Napier has the intangibles and mental prowess to be a successful player in the NBA. The Bad: Napier isn’t known for his playmaking ability and can be unselfish at times – choosing a contested jump shot over a pass to an open teammate. At 6’1″ and 175 lbs, Napier will have a tough time adjusting to the bullish point guards of the NBA, especially in the loaded Eastern Conference. The former Husky is not athletically imposing and primarily relies on jump shooting, accounting for a significant portion of his offensive production.

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Masai Ujiri: We’re going “full force” after Kyle Lowry

Masai Ujiri has said (tweet1, tweet2)  that he’s going “full force” after Kyle Lowry.

“We’ll go for talent in the draft, but Kyle Lowry is our target and we’ll try to get that done”, said Ujiri.  Having averaged close to 18 points and 7.5 assists, and more importantly, been the unquestionable leader of the Raptors, Lowry is the Raptors’ #1 off-season priority.

Although Lowry has publicly stated that he loves the Raptors situation, interest from Miami has made Raptors fans nervous to a degree, but Ujiri’s remarks show full intent of not letting Lowry go easily.  Alternatives to Lowry leaving are not promising and no matter how much we brace ourselves for a potential exit, his departure is sure to leave a void which could hurt the near and long-term prospects of the franchise.

On the pod this week, we suggested that his relatively modest $28.8 million in career earnings might give the Raptors an edge, considering they own his Bird rights.  Given the lack of teams with cap space, this puts the Raptors at an advantage at getting Lowry’s signature on the dotted line, considering he’s yet to receive a big NBA payday, and he’s short of the age when players tend to give up money for a chance to be part of title-contending sides.

 

Source: Masai Ujiri to Use Draft Picks, But Might Trade Them…Or Not

Masai Ujiri has stunningly revealed that he might actually use the 20th pick in the draft, and has even dared to select players with picks at 37 and 59 as well. Obviously, this changes everything. Or nothing. Nobody is quite sure, not even Ujiri. Historically, the Raptors have done one of three things with their picks: 1) they’ve either drafted players with them, 2) traded them, 3) totally forgotten about them and hurriedly shoved a piece of paper to David Stern with something illegible written on it (that’s how we got Alex Radojevic). However, this latest report suggests that Ujiri is well aware that he has two options of what to do with the picks and is committed to going through with one of them.

See the tweet for yourself:

 

BOOM!

Hopefully you were sitting down when you read that because if you weren’t, your knees are probably shaking and you might just have soiled yourself. Keep calm, though, help is on the way in the form of either a player being selected with one of those picks (or not) or the pick being traded for another player (or possibly another draft pick which also might get traded or with which a player will get selected). Whatever the case, these are exciting times as Ujiri ponders ponderously on the options available to him (there’s two).

Stay tuned to RR for the latest.  This blogger suggests that we go with Adreian Payne or Tyler Ennis, or package that bloody thing for Eric Bledsoe if Lowry is leaving.

Raptors Weekly Podcast, June 23 – Payne Points and Circular All-Stars