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Date Title Author
Aug 17, 17 Raptors sign K.J. McDaniels to partially guaranteed one-year deal Blake Murphy
Aug 17, 17 Canada announces preliminary Americup roster; Caboclo makes Brazilian team Blake Murphy
Aug 17, 17 Podcast: 2017-18 Raptors season outlook Blake Murphy
Aug 16, 17 Some facts and figures on the Raptors schedule Blake Murphy
Aug 15, 17 Raptors 905 announce 2018 G-League Showcase Blake Murphy
Aug 15, 17 Raptors sign Kyle Wiltjer to non-guaranteed deal Blake Murphy
Aug 14, 17 Raptors 2017-18 schedule released: What you need to know Blake Murphy
Aug 14, 17 Raptors Weekly Podcast – Mailbag episode Blake Murphy
Aug 13, 17 Canada wins gold at Women’s Americup Blake Murphy
Aug 12, 17 Talking Raptors Podcast – S4 E20 – Summer Time Thoughts Nick Reynoldson
Aug 12, 17 Weekend Open Thread Blake Murphy
Aug 9, 17 There is a Vince Carter documentary coming to TIFF Blake Murphy
Aug 7, 17 Raptors Weekly Podcast – FOH win projections Blake Murphy
Aug 5, 17 VIDEO: Lowry, Team World top Ibaka, Team Africa Blake Murphy
Aug 5, 17 Long Weekend Open Thread Blake Murphy
Aug 3, 17 NBA Africa Game conference call notes: Ujiri, Lowry, Ibaka Blake Murphy
Aug 3, 17 Raptors to hold training camp in Victoria; release preseason schedule Blake Murphy
Jul 31, 17 Raptors Weekly Podcast – Interview with Jeff Landicho of Open Gym Blake Murphy
Jul 30, 17 Sunday Open Thread Blake Murphy
Jul 29, 17 Powell and Wright win Nike Crown League Vivek Jacob
Jul 27, 17 Axel Toupane signs in Lithuania Blake Murphy
Jul 27, 17 How might a Kyrie Irving trade shake up the East? Blake Murphy
Jul 25, 17 Raptors sign Lorenzo Brown to 2-way contract Blake Murphy
Jul 25, 17 Pelicans waive Axel Toupane Blake Murphy
Jul 25, 17 Raptors Mailbag: Cavaliers fallout, big-picture questions for 2017-18, and more Blake Murphy
Jul 24, 17 Raptors Weekly Podcast – DeMarre and Jonas, everyone’s favorites Blake Murphy
Jul 23, 17 Siakam makes appearance at Crown League Week 4 Blake Murphy
Jul 22, 17 Weekend Open Thread: Sports gambling, franchise values, and more Blake Murphy
Jul 21, 17 Trio of 905ers playing for big money in The Basketball Tournament Blake Murphy
Jul 21, 17 Can the Raptors win 50 games again? Online casinos seem split Blake Murphy
Jul 20, 17 Heslip signs in Turkey to start summer of potentially heavy 905 turnover Blake Murphy
Jul 20, 17 Flurry of movement doesn’t change much for Raptors title odds Blake Murphy
Jul 19, 17 Why The Raptors Didn’t Sign Kelly Olynyk, An Investigation Katie Heindl
Jul 18, 17 VIDEO: C.J. Miles press conference; Masai Ujiri speaks Blake Murphy
Jul 18, 17 Raptors officially sign Kennedy Meeks Blake Murphy
Jul 18, 17 Raptors announce C.J. Miles signing Blake Murphy
Jul 18, 17 Malcolm Miller undergoes ankle surgery, out 12 weeks Blake Murphy
Jul 17, 17 Raptors Weekly Podcast – What’s next? Blake Murphy
Jul 16, 17 Raptors 905 awarded 2018 G-League Showcase Blake Murphy
Jul 15, 17 Weekend open thread Blake Murphy
Jul 15, 17 Olynyk lights up Crown League Week 3 Vivek Jacob
Jul 15, 17 Raptors close out Summer League with overtime loss to Cavs Blake Murphy
Jul 14, 17 Raptors waive Justin Hamilton Blake Murphy
Jul 14, 17 Raptors officially trade Cory Joseph to Indiana, paving way for C.J. Miles signing Blake Murphy
Jul 14, 17 Raptors’ title hopes dashed in dispiriting LVSL loss to Blazers Blake Murphy
Jul 14, 17 Raptors-Blazers LVSL Reaction Podcast – Another bad playoff showing Blake Murphy
Jul 13, 17 Raptors make DeMarre Carroll trade official Blake Murphy
Jul 13, 17 Report: Raptors had reached out on Boris Diaw Blake Murphy
Jul 13, 17 Large Raptors contingent heading to NBA Africa Game Blake Murphy
Jul 13, 17 Raptors Playbook: Zipper Pick & Roll (SLOB) Cooper Smither
Jul 12, 17 Raptors earn top seed in Vegas, tournament bracket set Blake Murphy
Jul 11, 17 Things We Wish We Could See DeMar DeRozan Throw a Basketball At Katie Heindl
Jul 10, 17 Raptors hang on in ugly finish to improve to 3-0 in Vegas Blake Murphy
Jul 10, 17 Everything so far (and DeRozan losing his cool at Drew League) Blake Murphy
Jul 10, 17 Cap sheet update: Trade assumptions, Lowry & Ibaka details, explanations Blake Murphy
Jul 10, 17 A Deep Stats Dive into CJ Miles’ Offense Louis Zatzman
Jul 10, 17 Raptors Weekly Podcast – Looking at the bigger picture Blake Murphy
Jul 9, 17 Report: Raptors to use stretch provision on Justin Hamilton Blake Murphy
Jul 9, 17 Canada wins gold at FIBA U-19 World Cup Blake Murphy
Jul 9, 17 Report & Reaction: Raptors dealing Joseph for Miles in sign-and-trade Blake Murphy
Jul 9, 17 Raptors make Miller & McKinnie signings official Blake Murphy
Jul 9, 17 Raptors sign OG Anunoby Blake Murphy
Jul 9, 17 The Tracy McGrady Curse Continues Tim Chisholm
Jul 9, 17 Report: Raptors trade DeMarre Carroll, 1st, & 2nd to Nets Blake Murphy
Jul 9, 17 Raptors to sign Alfonzo McKinnie to multi-year deal Blake Murphy
Jul 8, 17 Raptors-Timberwolves LVSL Reaction Podcast, with some DeMarre talk Blake Murphy
Jul 8, 17 Raptors roll Timberwolves to improve to 2-0 in Vegas Blake Murphy
Jul 8, 17 Crown League Week 2 Wrap-up Vivek Jacob
Jul 8, 17 Raptors-Pelicans LVSL Reaction Podcast – FVV is a hero Blake Murphy
Jul 7, 17 VanVleet’s late and-1 lifts Raptors to victory in Summer League opener Blake Murphy
Jul 7, 17 Malcolm Miller to miss Summer League with ankle sprain Blake Murphy
Jul 7, 17 VIDEO: Kyle Lowry re-introductory presser Blake Murphy
Jul 7, 17 VIDEO: Serge Ibaka re-introductory presser Blake Murphy
Jul 7, 17 Raptors announce re-signings; Ujiri says he’s a Raptor for life Blake Murphy
Jul 7, 17 Plugging Holes Katie Heindl
Jul 6, 17 July 6 open thread: Moratorium ends; Vince signs in Sacramento Blake Murphy
Jul 6, 17 Raptors sign Malcolm Miller to 2-way contract Blake Murphy
Jul 6, 17 Raptors to wear Sun Life Financial patch on 2017-18 jerseys Blake Murphy
Jul 6, 17 DeMar DeRozan gets Canadian NBA 2K18 cover Blake Murphy
Jul 6, 17 Talking Raptors Podcast – S4 E19 – Return Of The Mack Nick Reynoldson
Jul 5, 17 July 5 free agency open thread Blake Murphy
Jul 4, 17 Report & Reaction: Patrick Patterson signs with Thunder Blake Murphy
Jul 4, 17 July 4 free agency open thread: Celtics land Hayward for real this time; Patterson leaves Blake Murphy
Jul 3, 17 July 3 free agency open thread Blake Murphy
Jul 3, 17 Raptors Weekly Podcast – Lowry and Ibaka back, Tucker walks Blake Murphy
Jul 2, 17 Kyle Lowry, Raptors commit to 3-year window with $100M deal Blake Murphy
Jul 2, 17 Kyle Lowry announces return to Toronto; reportedly for 3 years, $100M Blake Murphy
Jul 2, 17 Report & Reaction: Raptors re-sign Serge Ibaka to 3-year, $65M deal Blake Murphy
Jul 2, 17 Loss of Tucker to Rockets complicates Raptors’ plans from here Blake Murphy
Jul 2, 17 July 2 open thread: Lowry back, Tucker explains departure, Ibaka re-ups, salary dump coming? Blake Murphy
Jul 1, 17 Crown League Week 1 Wrap up Vivek Jacob
Jun 30, 17 News & notes: Raptors extend QO to De Colo; Knicks’ chase of Ujiri done; 3 free agent meetings set Blake Murphy
Jun 30, 17 The MLE Target – Omri Casspi Alex Gres
Jun 30, 17 July 1 free agency open thread: Ibaka releases statement; Lowry deal sounds close Blake Murphy
Jun 29, 17 Webster’s promotion shows Raptors building succession plan they hope they won’t need Blake Murphy
Jun 28, 17 VIDEO: Bobby Webster press conference Blake Murphy
Jun 28, 17 Raptors promote Webster to GM as front office shuffles Blake Murphy
Jun 28, 17 Report: Knicks be Knicking; Want Masai Ujiri to run Sh*t Show Zarar Siddiqi
Jun 27, 17 Raptors announce Summer League roster: Who and what you need to know Blake Murphy
Jun 27, 17 Raptors Free Agency Primer: Cap sheet, assets, exceptions, and more Blake Murphy
Jun 26, 17 NBA Award voting: Several Raptors earn votes; DeRozan appears in sketch Blake Murphy
Jun 26, 17 Summer Slam: RR’s 3on3 Basketball Tournament Is Back – Sign Up Now! Blake Murphy
Jun 26, 17 Monday news & notes: Webster expected to be announced as GM, LVSL roster taking shape Blake Murphy
Jun 26, 17 OG Anunoby scouting report Blake Murphy
Jun 26, 17 Raptors Weekly Podcast – Welcome OG Anunoby Blake Murphy
Jun 24, 17 Weekend Open Thread Blake Murphy
Jun 23, 17 VIDEO: OG Anunoby introductory press conference Blake Murphy
Jun 23, 17 Report: Raptors agree to deal with Kennedy Meeks Blake Murphy
Jun 23, 17 Raptors Weekly Extra Podcast, June 23 – Draft reaction Blake Murphy
Jun 23, 17 VIDEO: Dwane Casey and Masai Ujiri discuss Anunoby selection Blake Murphy
Jun 23, 17 Top undrafted free agents Blake Murphy
Jun 22, 17 VIDEO: OG Anunoby strength, weaknesses, highlights, and draft interview Blake Murphy
Jun 22, 17 Raptors select OG Anunoby with No. 23 pick Blake Murphy
Jun 22, 17 Draft Day rumor/open thread: Final mocks have Bolden or Anunoby; Raps could shop Valanciunas Blake Murphy
Jun 22, 17 Draft day hub: Workout list, rankings, podcasts, and more Blake Murphy
Jun 22, 17 Final 2017 Draft Rankings Blake Murphy
Jun 22, 17 Raptors Weekly Extra Podcast, June 22 – Draft Preview Pt. 3 Blake Murphy
Jun 21, 17 Who do you want with the No. 23 pick? Blake Murphy
Jun 21, 17 Raptors Weekly Extra Podcast, June 21 – Draft Preview Pt. 2 Blake Murphy
Jun 20, 17 VIDEO: Masai Ujiri pre-draft media session Blake Murphy
Jun 20, 17 Masai Ujiri presser notes: Raptors prepared in any direction, not giving much away Blake Murphy
Jun 20, 17 Draft Week Mailbag: George scenarios, Fultz fallout, draft bigs, and more Blake Murphy
Jun 20, 17 Raptors Weekly Extra Podcast, June 20 – Draft Preview Pt. 1 Blake Murphy
Jun 19, 17 Report: Kyle Lowry had been ‘grumbling about dissatisfaction,’ things sounded bleak in mid-May Blake Murphy
Jun 19, 17 Recalibrating for draft week Blake Murphy
Jun 19, 17 Raptors Weekly Podcast – Dreaming of PG Blake Murphy
Jun 18, 17 Sunday Open Thread Blake Murphy
Jun 16, 17 Free agent mini-camp notes: Honeycutt, Inglis, and York highlight Day 2 Blake Murphy
Jun 15, 17 Free agent mini-camp notes: Jenkins, Early, Hunter headline loaded Day 1 Blake Murphy
Jun 15, 17 Raptors announce Summer League schedule Blake Murphy
Jun 13, 17 Draft Workout Notes: Thornwell, Bacon, lead Tuesday Group Anthony Doyle
Jun 12, 17 Raptors Weekly Podcast – How each Raptor can improve RR
Jun 9, 17 Raptors renounce rights to DeAndre Daniels Vivek Jacob
Jun 7, 17 Draft Workout Notes: Hayes, Anigbogu, and Jeanne Highlight Group Matt Shantz
Jun 6, 17 Draft workout notes: Iwundu, Robinson lead Tuesday group Anthony Doyle
Jun 6, 17 Hawaii will play host to Raptors Vivek Jacob
Jun 5, 17 Draft workout notes: Senior Day at Raptors Pre-Draft Workouts Spencer Redmond
Jun 5, 17 Raptors Weekly Podcast – New era, old problems RR
Jun 3, 17 Weekend Open Thread Zarar Siddiqi
Jun 2, 17 Report: Casey and DeRozan met with Lowry this week Blake Murphy
Jun 2, 17 Report: Raptors, Amir Johnson have mutual interest in a reunion Blake Murphy
Jun 1, 17 Lucas Nogueira is good, so where does he fit? Blake Murphy
May 31, 17 The Darkest Timeline Louis Zatzman
May 30, 17 Draft workout notes: Caleb Swanigan impresses as process trudges on Blake Murphy
May 29, 17 How do you define culture? Vivek Jacob
May 29, 17 Raptors Weekly Podcast – Draft preview RR
May 27, 17 Weekend Open Thread Blake Murphy
May 26, 17 Checking in on Nando De Colo and DeAndre Daniels Blake Murphy
May 25, 17 Raptors receive 2018 2nd-round pick for Weltman; can’t trade with Magic for a year Blake Murphy
May 25, 17 AUDIO: Dwane Casey says he’ll be coaching Raptors next year, talks culture reset Blake Murphy
May 25, 17 Updated draft rankings following withdrawal deadline Blake Murphy
May 23, 17 Draft workout notes: Justin Jackson leads Canadian-heavy group Blake Murphy
May 23, 17 VIDEO: Masai Ujiri talks Jeff Weltman departure Blake Murphy
May 22, 17 Magic hire Raptors’ GM Jeff Weltman as president of basketball operations Blake Murphy
May 22, 17 Draft workout notes: Brooks and Ojeleye headline intriguing session Blake Murphy
May 22, 17 Raptors Weekly Podcast – Same characters, different culture RR
May 20, 17 Long Weekend Open Thread Blake Murphy
May 19, 17 Offseason Mailbag: Villains, Serpents, and a whole lot of free agent scenarios Blake Murphy
May 19, 17 Raptors Season Recap RR
May 18, 17 DeMar DeRozan named to All-NBA Third-Team Blake Murphy
May 18, 17 Draft workout notes: T.J. Leaf gets stretch-four audition Blake Murphy
May 18, 17 VIDEO: Masai Ujiri accepts Honorary Doctorate from Ryerson Blake Murphy
May 17, 17 Draft workout notes: Lydon, Alkins, and Ennis headline opening session Blake Murphy
May 16, 17 Raptors ready for draft season Blake Murphy
May 15, 17 Raptors Weekly Podcast – Decisions, decisions Blake Murphy
May 13, 17 Weekend Open Thread Blake Murphy
May 12, 17 Kyle Lowry declines 2017-18 player option Blake Murphy
May 12, 17 RR Roundtable: Looking ahead to the offseason Blake Murphy
May 12, 17 RR Roundtable: Looking back on the 2016-17 season Blake Murphy
May 12, 17 This Raptors’ Era Matters Matt Shantz
May 12, 17 Raptors Weekly Extra Podcast, May 12 – Offseason preview Blake Murphy
May 11, 17 Raptors offseason not all difficult with decisions on Powell and VanVleet looming Blake Murphy
May 11, 17 The Case Against Serge Ibaka RR
May 10, 17 Does a ‘culture reset’ necessitate a coaching change? Blake Murphy
May 10, 17 The Case for Patrick Patterson Louis Zatzman
May 9, 17 VIDEO: Masai Ujiri end-of-season press conference Blake Murphy
May 9, 17 Masai Ujiri presser: Raptors need ‘culture reset,’ style change, everything on table Blake Murphy
May 9, 17 Kicking the Tires Anthony Doyle
May 9, 17 10 Things You Should Do Now That the Raptors Are Out Katie Heindl
May 9, 17 ‘Right’ path for Raptors might be a matter of perspective Blake Murphy
May 8, 17 VIDEO: Locker clean-out day interviews Blake Murphy
May 8, 17 Locker clean-out: Casey, Tucker, and Ibaka reflect, look ahead Blake Murphy
May 8, 17 Locker clean-out: Kyle Lowry will opt out, hasn’t thought beyond that Blake Murphy
May 8, 17 Locker clean-out: DeRozan thinks Raptors are close, won’t interfere with Lowry Blake Murphy
May 8, 17 What Did We Learn? Alex Gres
May 8, 17 Is Being Good, Good Enough? Cameron Dorrett
May 8, 17 Raptors don’t go down quietly, but they go down nonetheless Blake Murphy
May 8, 17 Morning Coffee – Mon, May 8 Sam Holako
May 8, 17 Raptors Weekly Podcast – Player grades for 2016-17 Blake Murphy
May 7, 17 Raptors-Cavaliers Game 4 Reaction Podcast – The end was inevitable Blake Murphy
May 7, 17 Post-game news & notes: Raptors can’t take step forward; Lowry could look West Blake Murphy
May 7, 17 Quick Reaction: Cavaliers 109, Raptors 102; Cavaliers win series 4-0 Anthony Doyle
May 7, 17 Pre-game news & notes: Kyle Lowry sits, P.J. Tucker starts Blake Murphy
May 7, 17 Pressing Pause Anthony Doyle
May 7, 17 Gameday: Cavaliers @ Raptors, Game 4, May 7 Blake Murphy
May 6, 17 Practice news & notes: Raptors facing elimination; Lowry ‘probably doubtful’ for Game 4 Blake Murphy
May 6, 17 The mental game Shyam Baskaran
May 6, 17 Raptors put up better fight, find themselves up against ropes anyway Blake Murphy
May 6, 17 Morning Coffee – Sat, May 6 Sam Holako
May 6, 17 Raptors-Cavaliers Game 3 Reaction Podcast – The merciful end is near Blake Murphy
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Raptors sign K.J. McDaniels to partially guaranteed one-year deal

The Toronto Raptors have agreed to terms on a contract with K.J. McDaniels, ASM Sports announced Thursday. Adrian Wojnarowski further provides the detail that it is a one-year deal with a partial guarantee.

That means McDaniels will likely be coming to training camp to compete with a handful of other players for the Raptors’ 14th and perhaps 15th roster spots. As currently constructed, the Raptors have 13 guaranteed contracts and are a shade below the luxury tax line. They have enough wiggle room to keep a 14th and stay beneath that line (depending on what assumptions you make about unlikely bonuses), but a 15th player would push them over it. However, because deals for McDaniels, Alfonzo McKinnie, Kennedy Meeks, and Kyle Wiltjer don’t fully guarantee until Jan. 10, the Raptors have the option to carry 15 for a chunk of the season and make a determination on their willingness to land in the tax down the line.

This should make for quite a camp competition, too, because McDaneils is an intriguing piece. A second-round pick of the Philadelphia 76ers out of Clemson in 2014, McDaniels bet on himself and sort of flipped off the 76ers model for second-rounders, declining a team-friendly four-year deal in order to sign his required tender and become a free agent after just one season. When McDaniels thrived as a rookie, the Sixers moved swiftly to flip him to the Houston Rockets for Isaiah Canaan and a second-round pick that they could conceivably have control of for longer (they ultimately chose Richaun Holmes with that pick, a nice find).

McDaniels impressed enough in 62 games across the two teams a rookie to earn a three-year, $10-million deal from the Rockets in restricted free agency the following summer. His development really seemed to stall from there, though, with a tiny role on a competitive team, and McDaniels rode the shuttle between Houston and the Rio Grande Valley Vipers often. Last year, the Rockets pulled the plug on McDaniels at the trade deadline, flipping him to the Brooklyn Nets for cash. He was a little better there in 20 games but never gained full traction, and the Nets let him become a free agent rather than pick up the 2017-18 option on his deal.

All told, McDaniels remains a bit of a question mark, his track record a mixed bag. In 148 career games, he’s averaged 5.3 points, 2.2 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.5 steals, and 0.6 blocks, solid across-the-board production in 14.1 minutes that speaks to his well-rounded game and ability to create value through his athleticism and motor. Over the last three years, only nine players have played at least 2,000 minutes and recorded an assist rate of 7.7 percent, a steal rate of 1.7 percent, and a block rate of 3.6 percent, and McDaniels is among them. He’s also proven inconsistent and hasn’t shot particularly well, hitting 29 percent on 241 3-point attempts, a concern in his scouting report entering the pros. In 16 G-League games two years ago, he shot 35.3 percent on 85 threes, an encouraging sample during which he looked too advanced for that level, as he should have. He hasn’t shot poorly enough to write him off as a potential corner threat, and his ability to attack a wild close-out from there helps.

Despite the obvious attractive parts of his game, advanced metrics aren’t fond of McDaniels (multi-year RPM grades him as a big minus offensively and a slight minus defensively and defensive box plus-minus is much less kind) and he’s struggled to gain any sort of consistent role outside of Philly. Again, some of that is situational, with three homes in three seasons and a long stretch spent on the bench for a team that couldn’t afford to develop him on the fly. He’s had stretches where his 6-foot-6, 205-pound frame and near-7-foot wingspan look like they could help build a multi-position defender, and when he’s on the move in transition or attacking from the corners, he’s tough to stop without fouling. It’s easy to watch the tape and come away really excited about McDaniels. There’s just a lot of noise – in either direction – in each of the small samples that make up his career to date.

He’s also still just 24. It was only three years ago that he was a bubble first-round pick and looked to be a Norman Powell-like find for Philly (you know, before Norman Powell was found by Toronto), and the Raptors have a clear belief that they can help non-shooters develop into shooters. A human highlight reel protecting the rim or running the open court, McDaniels has enough tools to take a camp flier on and see if it clicks, and deals like this have minimal downside and the upside of a useful bench piece. It’s tough to ask for better late-summer rolls of the training camp dice than a player like McDaniels, especially without giving a sizable enough guarantee to threaten the team’s tax standing. McDaniels looked really, really promising not too long ago, and that’s worth kicking the tires on.

The road to the roster could be tough. The Raptors now have 18 bodies headed to camp and will likely add two more, with the competition for the final spot or two, particularly at the forward positions, really looking like a heated one. Toronto is surely excited to have such a tough competition driving the entire group, and there’s a solid chance that of the McDaniels-McKinnie-Miller group, someone cracks the roster to help hold down the wing rotation until OG Anunoby is healthy or Bruno Caboclo proves himself ready for playing time. It’s fairly clear the Raptors are looking for versatility with these last few roster spots, too, given the number of names on the depth chart that could easily slide into two or three different positions, which is only logical given their need for flexible two-way pieces deep in the rotation.

As things stand, the roster looks as follows:

PG: Lowry, Wright, VanVleet, Brown (two-way)
SG: DeRozan, Powell
SF: Miles, Caboclo, Anunoby (injured), McKinnie (small guarantee), McDaniels (small guarantee)
PF: Ibaka, Siakam, Miller (two-way), Wiltjer (non-guaranteed)
C: Valanciunas, Poeltl, Nogueira, Meeks (Exhibit 10)

This all should make for a pretty fun training camp. Only 13 spots are guaranteed, and really only the two-way pieces are assured of not making the final 15 (although you can definitely make some assumptions). McKinnie vs. McDaniels will probably be the camp battle to watch, and depending on the progress of Caboclo and timeline of Anunoby, the winner could end up at the back end of the rotation (fourth wing/10th man) to start the season.

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Canada announces preliminary Americup roster; Caboclo makes Brazilian team

Canada Basketball announced its preliminary roster for the 2017 FIBA Americup tournament on Thursday.

As expected, the group of 18 is fairly light on NBA talent. That owes not only to the somewhat lesser importance of this year’s Americup compared to recent years (it’s no longer an automatic qualifier for the World Cup), as well as some up-in-the-air availability statuses for key and even fringe Canadian names. Mostly, though, this has to do with the convoluted new FIBA World Cup and Olympic qualification procedure, which will see teams play qualification games during the course of the NBA season. So while Canada would love to do well at the Americup – and still very well could – they’ll also want to breed some familiarity ahead of qualification games in November and February, when NBA talent won’t be available to them.

That simply has to be kept in mind looking at the roster and putting the notable absences in context – stalwarts like Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson aren’t even playing, let alone the more difficult names like Andrew Wiggins (or even R.J. Barrett). (To get ahead of questions: The reason Player X is missing will be due to some combination of contract/collegiate status, availability for the qualifiers, and the usual factors that cause guys to miss these events, but I’d guess availability for the qualifiers is the big one for high-end guys in NBA/EuroLeague/NCAA.) That means the group going to Argentina later this month will be heavy on CIS and NBL names, which, to be honest, is a pretty cool wrinkle in a tournament that doesn’t have a ton of big-picture implication for the program and speaks to the growing depth of Canadian basketball talent, even outside of the NBA.

In any case, here’s the training camp roster:

Name        Position Height Hometown 2016-17 Team
Jermaine Anderson Guard 6’2 Toronto, ON Chalons-Reims (France)
Brady Heslip Guard 6’2 Oakville, ON Raptors 905 (G-League)
Nazareth Mitrou-Long Guard 6’4 Mississauga, ON Iowa State (NCAA)
Dyshawn Pierre Small Forward 6’6 Whitby, ON Banco di Srd (Italy)
Murphy Burnatowski Power Forward 6’7 Kitchener, ON Fribourg (Switzerland)
Joel Anthony Centre 6’9 Montreal, QC San Antonio Spurs (NBA)
Ammanuel Diressa Guard 6’5 Toronto, ON Ryerson University (U SPORTS)
Warren Ward Guard 6’5 London, ON Windsor Express (NBL)
Daniel Mullings Guard 6’3 Toronto, ON Kataja Basket (Finland)
Olivier Hanlan Guard 6’4 Gatineau, QC Le Mans (France)
Ransford Brempong Power Forward 6’8 Brampton, ON SB Battle (USA)
Xavier Rathan-Mayes Guard 6’4 Scarborough, ON Florida State (NCAA)
Junior Cadougan Guard 6’2 Toronto, ON London Lightning (NBL)
Justin Edwards Guard 6’3 Scarborough, ON Betaland Cdo (Italy)
Richard Amardi Forward 6’9 Toronto, ON Niagara River Lions (NBL)
Grandy Glaze Forward 6’7 Toronto, ON Caballeros de Culiacan (Mexico)
Joel Friesen Guard 6’4 Abbotsford, BC London Lightning (NBL)
Andrew Nicholson Power Forward 6’9 Mississauga, ON Washington Wizards /
Brooklyn Nets (NBA)

The coaching staff has some heavy Toronto Raptors influence where the roster doesn’t, with Jack Sikma and Nathaniel Mitchell (a Raptors 905 assistant) both backing up Roy Rana, who is taking over head coaching duties for Jay Triano on an interim basis since Triano’s NBA commitments will preclude him from qualifying games. Here’s the full coaching staffL

Name Position Hometown
Roy Rana Head Coach Toronto, ON
Craig Beaucamp Assistant Coach Victoria, BC
Jack Sikma Assistant Coach Kankakee, Illinois
Michael Meeks Assistant Coach Brampton, ON
Nathaniel Mitchell Assistant Coach Toronto, ON
Kelly Forbes Performance Consultant Calgary, AB
Jay Triano SMNT Program Head Coach Tillsonburg, ON
David Grundman Team Manager Toronto, ON
Dipesh Mistry Video Coordinator Markham, ON
Phil Jevtovic Performance Analyst Toronto, ON
Samuel Gibbs Athletic Therapist Toronto, ON
Jason Meehan Athletic Therapist Toronto, ON
Charlie Weingroff Strength and Conditioning Coach Newark, NJ
John Philpott Team Doctor Miramichi, NB

Canada opens training camp Saturday in Toronto, then heads to Argentina for Aug. 26.

Eschewing any exhibition games, they’ll open up the Americup on Aug. 27 against the U.S. Virgin Islands, then play Aug. 28 against host Argentina and Aug. 29 against the dream-killers from the 2015 Americup, Venezuela. The top team from each of the three pools (plus host Argentina) will advance to the semi-finals on Sept. 2, with the finals taking place on Sept. 3.

Elsewhere in the tournament, Bruno Caboclo has been named to Brazil’s final 12-man roster for the event after scoring 11 points in a friendly this week. This should be a really good experience for Caboclo, who has never played for Brazil’s senior men’s team before. Brazil plays Aug. 25, 26, and 27 in Colombia.

Looking across the ocean to EuroBasket, Jonas Valanciunas will be playing for Lithuania for an 11th consecutive summer beginning Aug. 31. A much deeper and more competitive tournament, Valanciunas will play at least five games over seven days and very likely advance to the round of 16 beginning Sept. 9 and extending as far as Sept. 17.

Raptors Republic will be providing light coverage of the events as results and interest dictate. While we covered the Canadian men’s team for Olympic qualifying tournaments or the women’s team for big games in the past and covered both the U.S. women and Lithuanian men at the Olympics last year, none of this year’s tournaments resonate nearly as much. As highlight packages become available, as notable performances take place, or as teams reach the knock-out stage, we’ll be on top of it, but don’t expect recaps each day (unless I’m really bored, which I very well may be).

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Podcast: 2017-18 Raptors season outlook

I joined Nate Duncan’s podcast this week to help tee up the Toronto Raptors’ 2017-18 season as a part of his season preview series. Specifically, we looked back at 2016-17, talked about the team’s offseason moves, guessed who may regress or take a step forward, and tried to peg where the Raptors’ win total may land when it’s all said and done.

You can check the podcast out here, and you should really be following Nate if you’re not already.

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Some facts and figures on the Raptors schedule

When the 2017-18 schedule for the Toronto Raptors came out yesterday, the first thing that stood out was a remarkably difficult start: A home game against the team’s Achilles heel in the Chicago Bulls, a night hosting the will-still-be-healthy Philadelphia 76ers, and then an arduous six-game west-coast road-trip. Even with the benefit of some continuity and chemistry, the Raptors struggling out of the gate, in terms of record, would be forgivable, even if it’s not the expectation. The Raptors also have a difficult week in January with games against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, and they have a three-game set of Boston-Cleveland-Boston late in the year.

It’s easy to look at the tough start, tough end, and tough middle stretch and assume the schedule is tough overall. That’s an easy takeaway skimming the schedule and leaning on the primacy effect. Plus, I think there’s always a pull to look for the worst in a schedule (like 20 of their first 33 games being on the road), or to frame things based on your personal preference (some prefer a tough start as a galvanizing force, some prefer to ease in and slowly build with a young roster, and so on).

In any case, the truth usually lies somewhere between the initial polar reactions. Luckily, we have people like Jared Dubin and Ed Kupfer doing big-picture schedule work to help better inform us about exactly what kind of shake the Raptors got. At least, as much as we can evaluate such things in mid-August.

What follows are some relevant images and facts about the Raptors’ schedule this year.

Strength of Schedule – Opponent

Based solely on last season’s performances, the Raptors have the 28th-most difficult schedule (third easiest), which makes sense as a good Eastern Conference team – they play the West less often and can’t play themselves (only Cleveland and Boston have easier schedules by this measure).

Jared also broke this down by pre- and post-break. The Raptors have a top-10 easiest schedule in both halves, though it’s a little easier based only on opponent in the first half.

And Ed took a look at this month-by-month, determining the Raptors have the fourth-easiest schedule (Miami has it easier by Ed’s measure). Looking at this, Toronto’s schedule looks quite easy in December and roughly average the rest of the way.

Strength of Schedule – Travel and Rest

Of course, the quality of opponents based on last year only tells us so much. We can’t really create a strength of schedule based on offseason moves (you could use ESPN’s RPM projections maybe, but DeMar DeRozan would probably tell you “FOH”). We can get a better picture by looking at things like travel and rest, though. Thankfully, Positive Residual has come through over at Nylon Calculus with a cool schedule breakdown tool.

First, we can see this neat map of their travel for the year.

That’s nice to look at but doesn’t quantify anything for us. Quantifying the travel on the schedule is quite revealing, as the Raptors travel the second-fewest amount of miles in the entire league this year. They also travel less than any other team after the All-Star break, so they could conceivably

Miles traveled is just one measure, but it speaks to the potential value of getting a lot of west-coast games out of the way on one long trip and then spending the bulk of the remainder of the season in one time zone. By traveling less than other teams, the Raptors could be at a disadvantage during the long trip but at a relative rest advantage or neutral position the rest of the time – the Raptors are at a rest disadvantage 19 times (tied for fifth fewest) and at a rest advantage 20 times (low-middle of the pack). They also have 14 back-to-backs, just below the league average of 14.4.

Takeaways

There’s no real way to say whether the schedule sets up favorably, or how much so. So much of it comes down to preference of sequencing and how good teams actually end up being. What we do know, though, is that the Raptors have a built-in edge being in the East, that even within the East they avoid good teams like Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Miami teams a fourth time, and that they travel less than almost any other team in the league, especially down the stretch. Early six-game trip aside, it’s hard not to look at all of that and gain a sense of moderate comfort in Toronto’s ability to navigate this slate and remain at the approximate level to which they’ve become accustomed.

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Raptors 905 announce 2018 G-League Showcase

Raptors 905 announced Tuesday that they will once again host the G-League Showcase for the 2017-18 season. The news was first reported by Raptors Republic in mid-July and includes the note that the Showcase will likely return in 2019, barring a change in thinking from the league or 905.

This year’s event will be held Jan. 10-13 and once again include two games for all 26 of the league’s teams. With the e

“I think those guys did a great job organizing,” president Masai Ujiri told Raptors Republic in July. “I think it was good for the league to get away and come to Toronto, they like the city, and for us it’s preparing and organizing. It means a lot to us. Any time you can host the league in some kind of way it does mean a lot.”

This year’s event will be held Jan. 10-13 and once again include two games for all 26 of the league’s teams. With the event being one day shorter than last year and involving three additional teams, Hershey Centre in Mississauga will also make use of the SportZone complex for an additional court and team facilities. There will be as many as seven games each day for a total of 26 over the course of the mini-tournament.

“We’re thrilled to work in partnership with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and Raptors 905 to bring the NBA G League Showcase back to Mississauga,” NBA G League President Malcolm Turner said in a release. “Last year’s event proved to be successful on and off the court, and I’m looking forward to another week of great basketball and community events in the Greater Toronto Area.”

“We couldn’t be more excited to welcome the NBA G League back to Mississauga as the host team for NBA G League Showcase 2018,” Raptors General Manager Bobby Webster said. “The Showcase is the premier event for the G League and we look forward to working with the League to host all 26 teams this season.”

The Showcase is an annual in-season tournament that takes place right around when NBA teams are able to give players 10-day contracts (Jan. 5), providing an opportunity for the top G-Leaguers to show their stuff in front of a heavy scouting presence. It also helps get the wheels moving a month out from the NBA trade deadline, with plenty of scouts and executives on hand for a mini-summit of sorts. Every G-League team participates and gets two games each, though no actual champion is crowned any longer. The 905 went 2-0 as the hosts last year, becoming the second consecutive team to “win” the showcase before winning the league championship, and two of their players received call-ups from NBA teams in the weeks and months that followed.

Here’s more, from the team’s release:

NBA G League Showcase 2018, the league’s primary in-season scouting event, is expected to draw personnel from all 30 NBA teams.  During or immediately following the last 13 Showcases, more than 50 players earned Call-Ups to the NBA, including the Dallas Mavericks’ Yogi Ferrell, who signed with Dallas from the NBA G League’s Long Island Nets within a week of last season’s event.  Ferrell, who averaged 22.0 points, 7.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds in 37.0 minutes at the Showcase in 2017, went on to earn NBA All-Rookie Second Team honors.

In addition to the full slate of games, NBA G League Showcase 2018 will feature several off-the-court events, including a women-in-sports panel, a coach’s clinic and a chalk talk with referees.  Additionally, the Jr. NBA will return to Mississauga to host clinics for local children, while the NBA G League’s School Day initiative will welcome students from around the region.

The full schedule and ticket information will be announced at a later date.

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Raptors sign Kyle Wiltjer to non-guaranteed deal

The Toronto Raptors are signing Kyle Wiltjer to a training camp deal, a one-year pact at the league minimum with no guarantee. Oliver Maroney and Robby Kalland of Uproxx first reported the news Tuesday (a commenter in the forums here also had it – shouts to that person). The Raptors have since confirmed the deal.

“I’m just really excited to be back in Toronto and Canada,” Wiltjer told Uproxx.

Wiltjer spent last season with the Houston Rockets, appearing in 14 games and averaging 0.9 points and 0.7 rebounds in 3.1 minutes. Around those spot appearances, he saw heavy run in the G-League, where he proved one of the more difficult threats in the entire league as a member of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Wiltjer averaged 20.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 22 regular season games there,s hooting 37.9 percent on nearly 10 3-point attempts per-game. In the postseason, Raptors 905 had to tweak their defensive gameplan to account for him, as he averaged 21.2 points on 40.8 percent on nearly 11 threes per-game. The 905 eventually adjusted and slowed him down some, but his performance as a pick-and-pop weapon from the power forward position was instrumental in RGV’s success.

Prior to landing with the Rockets, Wiltjer spent two seasons at Kentucky and two more at Gonzaga after a transfer year, winning a National Championship in 2012 and earning Second-Team All-American in 2015 and Honorable Mention All-American in 2016. He subsequently went undrafted – the Raptors brought him in for a pre-draft workout – played in Summer League with the Rockets, and signed there before camp.

The Rockets dealt Witljer to the Los Angeles Clippers as salary ballast in the Chris Paul trade in late June, and the Clippers subsequently waived him in July before his 2017-18 salary became guaranteed. He played in Summer League with the Clippers prior to being waived, scoring 23 points in 43 minutes.

The Raptors swooping in to bring Wiltjer into camp makes sense given their lack of shooting and thin depth chart at the four. At 6-foot-10 and 243 pounds, Wiltjer could probably even play some small-ball center if needed, though that skill is more relevant if he’s waived and his rights are acquired by the 905. As a power forward, Wiltjer is a solid rebounder and a serious outside threat with a notable face-up game, though he comes with some defensive limitations due to below-average athleticism for the position. He can keep he ball moving on the offensive end, and his quick release and lack of conscience from outside are such that defenses will have to pay him close attention, even if he’s playing as a lower-usage option. That gravity could be useful on an NBA bench, even in somewhat of a specialist role (to start, anyway – he’s still just 24).

In terms of 14th or 15th men, the Raptors could certainly do worse in terms of plug-and-play offensive pieces at a thin position. Whether Wiltjer ends up on the roster could depend on a number of factors, like the progress of Pascal Siakam and Bruno Caboclo, the recovery timeline of OG Anunoby, and how combo-forwards like Alfonzo McKinnie and Malcolm Miller (when healthy) look. The Raptors currently have 13 players under guaranteed contract, two on two-way deals, McKinnie with a small guarantee, and two players (Wiltjer and Kennedy Meeks) on some form of camp deal. The issue will be that keeping two more players on NBA contracts would push them a little above the luxury tax, and so they may deem a 15th man superfluous. That could make training camp a battle for the 14th roster spot, though they could always keep 15 and waive one of the non-guaranteed players before the Jan. 10 guarantee date. (They could also keep 15 and pay the tax, though the “real” cost of the 15th man then shoots into the millions when tax disbursements are considered.)

Should Wiltjer be waived after camp, the 905 would not need to acquire his rights from Rio Grande, as Wiltjer has technically never entered the G-League player pool except as an assignment player. That means the Raptors could make him a G-League Affiliate Player if he’s cut in camp, should he be open to it and go unclaimed on waivers. (This is likely the plan, but they’ll give Wiltjer the chance to impress in camp, and they’re built such that plans can change.)

Born in Portland, Oregon, Wiltjer has consistently suited up for the Canada Basketball program and becomes the lone Canadian on the Raptors’ training camp roster so far.

Here’s how the roster looks at present:

PG: Lowry, Wright, VanVleet, Brown (two-way)
SG: DeRozan, Powell
SF: Miles, Caboclo, Anunoby (injured), McKinnie (small guarantee)
PF: Ibaka, Siakam, Miller (two-way), Wiltjer (non-guaranteed)
C: Valanciunas, Poeltl, Nogueira, Meeks (Exhibit 10)

Training camp begins on Sept. 26 in Victoria.

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Raptors 2017-18 schedule released: What you need to know

The NBA released the schedule for the 2017-18 season on Monday. Below are some relevant dates for the Toronto Raptors, with a full schedule to follow.

You can find the Raptors full schedule here.

Christmas

As expected, the Raptors will once again be sitting out the league’s marquee Christmas Day slate. There was some thought that a Raptors-Celtics game might be able to garner a nod, but last year’s Wizards-Celtics playoff series must have won out in the end. The schedule is a little underwhelming in parts, but you can see a pretty clear logic for each of the 10 teams selected for a day that’s entirely about U.S. television ratings and isn’t traditionally a straight reward for performance. The Raptors haven’t played on Christmas since 2001.

National TV

The Raptors will be on *true* national television in the U.S. five times this season, down from six a year ago but still well up from two the year prior. They do not have one of the league’s eight opening-week national roll-out slots. Here are the nationally televised dates:

  • January 11 vs. Cleveland (TNT)
  • March 2 at Washington (ESPN)
  • March 7 at Detroit (ESPN)
  • March 21 at Cleveland (ESPN)
  • April 4 vs. Boston (ESPN)

The Raptors will also be on NBA TV seven times for a total of 12 nationally televised games (they were on eight times last year for 14 national games overall). Some may be disappointed in the number of US-wide looks they’ll get given the four-year run they’re on (and how many times some comparable teams get on), but it’s still an improvement from where they were previously (they had 10 total in 2015-16 and nine in 2014-15). Getting on national TV a dozen times is solid considering the factors that go into such things, though it is below the league average and median.

As always, a lot factors into these decisions, particularly that Canadian viewership doesn’t help national U.S. ratings (neutralizing Toronto’s would-be market size advantage), that there are more teams competing for 7/8pm starts than 9/10 ones, and that, you know, the Raptors are in that good-not-great, been-there-a-while, not-super-interesting-from-a-narrative-perspective area. Toronto is an awesome basketball city and the Raptors are a good team, but this is the lot we should all be used to by now.

Opener

The Raptors will open their season at home on Thursday, October 19 against the Chicago Bulls. What a test out of the gate! They’ll also host the Philadelphia 76ers at home (Oct. 21) before playing their first road game in San Antonio (Oct. 23), the first game of a six-game west-coast road trip. So it’s hardly an easy start for the Raptors.

Breakdown

Here’s how often the Raptors will play each opponent:

  • 4 times: Phi, Brk, NYK, Bos, Chi, Det, Ind, Cha, Was, Atl
  • 3 times: Cle, Mil, Mia, Orl
  • 2 times: Western Conference

The Raptors also have 14 back-to-backs but avoid any stretches of four games in five nights.

There are also these splits, per the team:

Games by Month
October: 6 (2 home, 4 road) November: 14 (6 home, 8 road)
December: 14 (6 home, 8 road) January: 15 (9 home, 6 road)
February: 11 (7 home, 4 road) March: 16 (8 home, 8 road)
April: 6 (3 home, 3 road)
Games by Day
Sunday: 13 (9 home, 4 road) Monday: 8 (2 home, 6 road)
Tuesday: 13 (8 home, 5 road) Wednesday: 17 (3 home, 14 road)
Thursday: 7 (4 home, 3 road) Friday: 18 (12 home, 6 road)
Saturday: 6 (3 home, 3 road)

Cavaliers

The Raptors will push the boulder to the top of the mountain only to watch it roll back down on them on the following dates:

  • Thursday, January 11 (home)
  • Wednesday, March 21 (away)
  • Tuesday, April 3 (away)

Celtics

One of the more notable “rivals” of the last year or so and the team the Raptors are probably most in competition with from a general East tiering perspective, the Boston Celtics, are on tap four times as part of the usual Atlantic Division schedule. The division could be decided over these four games:

  • Sunday, November 12 (away)
  • Tuesday, February 6 (home)
  • Saturday, March 31 (away)
  • Wednesday, April 4 (home)

Warriors

The Raptors go head-to-head with the Super Super Team on the following dates:

  • Wednesday, October 25 (away)
  • Saturday, January 13 (home)

Returns

  • Patrick Patterson makes his return to Toronto with the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 18.
  • Cory Joseph will once again be “repping The Six,” this time as a member of the Indiana Pacers, on Dec. 1 and April 6.
  • P.J. Tucker and the Houston Rockets visit on March 9.
  • The DeMarre Carroll Revenge Games (his returns with the Brooklyn Nets) are Dec. 15 and March 23, barring injury.
  • Terrence Ross, Bismack Biyombo, and Jeff Weltman are back this way with the Orlando Magic on April 8.

Home stands/Road trips

The Raptors have the following stands of four games or longer:

  • Oct. 23-Nov. 3: 6-game road-trip (SA, GS, LAL, Por, Den, Uta)
  • Dec. 8-13: 4-game road-trip (Mem, Sac, LAC, Phx)
  • Feb. 2-8: 4-game home-stand (Por, Mem, Bos, NY)

And that’s it! The Raptors have historically disliked extended home stands (or at least, Dwane Casey has said as much), and they have a lot of two- and three-game stands. Only one four-game home-stand isn’t a big deal – they still get 41 at home – and while the opening trip is really tough, getting that west trip (and their longest trip) out of the way early is probably preferable to hitting it later.

Home schedule

For those of you looking ahead to key ticket dates, here is the team’s home-only schedule for the year:

Day Date Opponent Time
Thu. Oct. 19 Chicago 7:30 p.m.
Sat. Oct. 21 Philadelphia 7:30 p.m.
Sun. Nov. 5 Washington 6:00 p.m.
Tue. ‘Nov. 7 Chicago 7:30 p.m.
Thu. Nov. 9 New Orleans 7:30 p.m.
Fri. Nov. 17 New York 7:30 p.m.
Sun. Nov. 19 Washington 6:00 p.m.
Wed. Nov. 29 Charlotte 7:30 p.m.
Fri. Dec. 1 Indiana 7:30 p.m.
Tues. Dec. 5 Phoenix 7:30 p.m.
Fri. Dec. 15 Brooklyn 7:30 p.m.
Sun. Dec. 17 Sacramento 3:30 p.m.
Sat. Dec. 23 Philadelphia 5:00 p.m.
Fri. Dec. 29 Atlanta 7:30 p.m.
Mon. Jan. 1 Milwaukee 7:30 p.m.
Tue. Jan. 9 Miami 7:30 p.m.
Thu. Jan. 11 Cleveland 8:00 p.m.
Sat. Jan. 13 Golden State 7:30 p.m.
Wed. Jan. 17 Detroit 7:30 p.m.
Fri. Jan. 19 San Antonio 7:00 p.m.
Fri. Jan. 26 Utah 7:30 p.m.
Sun. Jan. 28 L.A. Lakers 6:00 p.m.
Tue. Jan. 30 Minnesota 7:30 p.m.
Fri. Feb. 2 Portland 7:30 p.m.
Sun. Feb. 4 Memphis 12:00 p.m.
Tue. Feb. 6 Boston 7:30 p.m.
Thu. Feb. 8 New York 7:30 p.m.
Tue. ‘Feb. 13 Miami 7:00 p.m.
Fri. Feb. 23 Milwaukee 7:30 p.m.
Mon. Feb. 26 Detroit 7:30 p.m.
Sun. Mar. 4 Charlotte 6:00 p.m.
Tue. Mar. 6 Atlanta 7:00 p.m.
Fri. Mar. 9 Houston 7:30 p.m.
Fri. Mar. 17 Dallas 7:30 p.m.
Sun. Mar. 18 Oklahoma City 1:00 p.m.
Fri. Mar. 23 Brooklyn 7:30 p.m.
Sun. Mar. 25 L.A. Clippers 6:00 p.m.
Tue. Mar. 27 Denver 7:30 p.m.
Wed. Apr. 4 Boston 7:00 p.m.
Fri. Apr. 6 Indiana 7:30 p.m.
Sun. Apr. 8 Orlando 6:00 p.m.

Full schedule

And here’s the full schedule:

Day Date Opponent Time
Thu. Oct. 19 Chicago 7:30 p.m.
Sat. Oct. 21 Philadelphia 7:30 p.m.
Mon. Oct. 23 at San Antonio 8:30 p.m.
Wed. Oct. 25 at Golden State 10:30 p.m.
Fri. Oct. 27 at L.A. Lakers 10:30 p.m.
Mon. Oct. 30 at Portland 10:00 p.m.
Wed. Nov. 1 at Denver 9:00 p.m.
Fri. Nov. 3 at Utah 9:00 p.m.
Sun. Nov. 5 Washington 6:00 p.m.
Tue. ‘Nov. 7 Chicago 7:30 p.m.
Thu. Nov. 9 New Orleans 7:30 p.m.
Sun. Nov. 12 at Boston 3:30 p.m.
Tue. Nov. 14 at Houston 8:00 p.m.
Wed. Nov. 15 at New Orleans 8:00 p.m.
Fri. Nov. 17 New York 7:30 p.m.
Sun. Nov. 19 Washington 6:00 p.m.
Wed. Nov. 22 at New York 7:30 p.m.
Fri. Nov. 24 at Indiana 8:00 p.m.
Sat. Nov. 25 at Atlanta 7:30 p.m.
Wed. Nov. 29 Charlotte 7:30 p.m.
Fri. Dec. 1 Indiana 7:30 p.m.
Tues. Dec. 5 Phoenix 7:30 p.m.
Fri. Dec. 8 at Memphis 8:00 p.m.
Sun. Dec. 10 at Sacramento 3:30 p.m.
Mon. Dec. 11 at L.A. Clippers 10:30 p.m.
Wed. Dec. 13 at Phoenix 9:00 p.m.
Fri. Dec. 15 Brooklyn 7:30 p.m.
Sun. Dec. 17 Sacramento 3:30 p.m.
Wed. Dec. 20 at Charlotte 7:00 p.m.
Thu. Dec. 21 at Philadelphia 7:00 p.m.
Sat. Dec. 23 Philadelphia 5:00 p.m.
Tues. Dec. 26 at Dallas 7:00 p.m.
Wed. Dec. 27 at Oklahoma City 8:00 p.m.
Fri. Dec. 29 Atlanta 7:30 p.m.
Mon. Jan. 1 Milwaukee 7:30 p.m.
Wed. Jan. 3 at Chicago 8:00 p.m.
Fri. Jan. 5 at Milwaukee 8:00 p.m.
Mon. Jan. 8 at Brooklyn 7:30 p.m.
Tue. Jan. 9 Miami 7:30 p.m.
Thu. Jan. 11 Cleveland 8:00 p.m.
Sat. Jan. 13 Golden State 7:30 p.m.
Mon. Jan. 15 at Philadelphia 1:00 p.m.
Wed. Jan. 17 Detroit 7:30 p.m.
Fri. Jan. 19 San Antonio 7:00 p.m.
Sat. Jan. 20 at Minnesota 9:00 p.m.
Wed. Jan. 24 at Atlanta 7:30 p.m.
Fri. Jan. 26 Utah 7:30 p.m.
Sun. Jan. 28 L.A. Lakers 6:00 p.m.
Tue. Jan. 30 Minnesota 7:30 p.m.
Thu. Feb. 1 at Washington 7:00 p.m.
Fri. Feb. 2 Portland 7:30 p.m.
Sun. Feb. 4 Memphis 12:00 p.m.
Tue. Feb. 6 Boston 7:30 p.m.
Thu. Feb. 8 New York 7:30 p.m.
Sun. Feb. 11 at Charlotte 1:00 p.m.
Tue. ‘Feb. 13 Miami 7:00 p.m.
Wed. Feb. 14 at Chicago 8:00 p.m.
Fri. Feb. 23 Milwaukee 7:30 p.m.
Mon. Feb. 26 Detroit 7:30 p.m.
Wed. Feb. 28 at Orlando 7:00 p.m.
Fri. Mar. 2 at Washington 8:00 p.m.
Sun. Mar. 4 Charlotte 6:00 p.m.
Tue. Mar. 6 Atlanta 7:00 p.m.
Wed. Mar. 7 at Detroit 8:00 p.m.
Fri. Mar. 9 Houston 7:30 p.m.
Sun. Mar. 11 at New York 1:00 p.m.
Tue. Mar. 13 at Brooklyn 7:30 p.m.
Thu. Mar. 15 at Indiana 7:00 p.m.
Fri. Mar. 17 Dallas 7:30 p.m.
Sun. Mar. 18 Oklahoma City 1:00 p.m.
Tue. Mar. 20 at Orlando 7:00 p.m.
Wed. Mar. 21 at Cleveland 7:00 p.m.
Fri. Mar. 23 Brooklyn 7:30 p.m.
Sun. Mar. 25 L.A. Clippers 6:00 p.m.
Tue. Mar. 27 Denver 7:30 p.m.
Sat. Mar. 31 at Boston 7:30 p.m.
Tue. Apr. 3 at Cleveland 7:00 p.m.
Wed. Apr. 4 Boston 7:00 p.m.
Fri. Apr. 6 Indiana 7:30 p.m.
Sun. Apr. 8 Orlando 6:00 p.m.
Mon. Apr. 9 at Detroit 7:00 p.m.
Wed. Apr. 11 at Miami 8:00 p.m.

Canadian broadcast schedule

The Raptors generally announce their Canadian broadcast schedule after the fact, as TSN and Rogers have to duke it out for games. We’ll update you with a separate post when that information becomes available.

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Raptors Weekly Podcast – Mailbag episode

Host William Lou flies solo to fill the dead air in the dead of summer.

(more…)

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Canada wins gold at Women’s Americup

Photo courtesy @CanBball | Box score

An incredible 2017 continued for Canadian basketball on Sunday, with the women’s senior team capturing the gold medal at the FIBA Women’s Americup tournament.

Things did not look like they were going to go that way early on, with some cold shooting and a long scoreless stretch to start the game conspiring to put them behind out of the gate. With the home crowd behind them, the host Argentina team came out with plenty of energy, locking down on defense and flying around the court, that same energy usually Canada’s defining advantage.

https://twitter.com/FIBA/status/896907980272156672

After digging themselves a seven-point hole at halftime, the Canadian women roared back with a monstrous third quarter, including a decisive 13-2 run at one point.

https://twitter.com/FIBA/status/896913293612208128

A 16-point edge in the quarter gave them a nine-point lead heading into the fourth, and the combination of that momentum and the length and speed that’s made them such a tough matchup all tournament long carried them for a while from there. It wasn’t without a fight, though, as Argentina kept things close, setting up a final five minutes with Canada clutching on to just the smallest of cushions while once again struggling to score against a very stout defense.

With two minutes and change remaining, Argentina would even temporarily take the lead back, only for Kia Nurse to respond. There was a scary moment that followed, with Argentine guard Debora Gonzalez appearing to suffer a knee injury and several of her teammates responding with great emotion. The Argentine side settled and forced a Katherine Plouffe turnover, then grabbed a huge offensive rebound after missing on a pull-up two. The 3-point attempt that followed was also errant, though, and Nirra Fields extended the lead to two by splitting a pair at the free-throw line.

That set up a last-ditch effort for Argentina in the form of a 30-foot heave, but it missed, sending a very impressive host team to tears and once again crowning Canada the Americup champions.

https://twitter.com/FIBA/status/896922218545926144

Barely. Canada finished shooting 33.9 percent for the game but managed 4-of-10 on threes, 17-of-22 at the line, and a massive 13-rebound advantage on the glass. Nurse led three Canadian women in double-figures with 12 points, while Katherine Plouffe grabbed 11 rebounds and Miah-Marie Langlois dished four assists. Fields led the team in scoring for the tournament and had a 7-6-2 line here in 23 minutes, shortened in part due to some foul trouble, and earned tournament MVP honors for her work.

https://twitter.com/CanBball/status/896925207218208769

The win gives Canada a flawless finish in the event, with a perfect 4-0 record in the round robin, a dominant defeat of Brazil in the semifinal, and the victory over Argentina for gold. The win marks Canada’s second consecutive gold medal in the event and third overall, following their victory in Edmonton in 2015. They also won silver in 2013. (Canada hasn’t lost to any team from their region other than the United States in a major tournament since 2013; the U.S. was not participating here.)

By way of finishing top-three in this tournament, they’ve also qualified for the 2018 Women’s World Cup. Canada placed fifth there in 2014 and hasn’t medaled since 1986, something they’ll be looking to rectify as they continue their ascent up the international ladder – Canada ranked sixth in the FIBA update last summer and could push even higher in this year’s update.

The win also continues just a preposterously exciting couple of months for the Canadian program overall. They’ve medalled in all five FIBA events this summer across both genders and multiple age groups, which includes an Under-19 FIBA gold on the men’s side – the first ever FIBA or Olympic gold on that side of the program – and will hopefully continue when the senior men’s team attempt to qualify for the 2019 World Cup at their own Americup tournament beginning later this month.

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Talking Raptors Podcast – S4 E20 – Summer Time Thoughts

With the summer winding down and the season in the near future the guys break down what been going in Raptor land and beyond. On this episode of Talking Raptors, Nick and Barry are joined by friend of the podcast and Editor-in-chief for Exclaim Magazine, James Keast!

They discuss:

– Goodbye Cory Joseph.

– Christmas Day Games.

– Everybody is shooting 3’s.

– ESPN and their constant disrespect.

– New  Jerseys

– Zach Randolph and his Reefer.

All this and a little bit more. As always thank you for listening and we hope you enjoy!

Let’s start getting pumped for some Raptors ball!

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Weekend Open Thread

We promise it won’t be this slow around here between now and the start of training camp on Sept. 25. Or rather, we can’t promise the news cycle won’t be this slow – it almost surely will be, save for some potential training camp additions, Raptors 905 open tryouts, and the like – but our pages won’t be as dead. There’s not a whole heck of a lot left to write about, but after some site-wide downtime, we’ll at least be back to trying. We hope you’ve all been taking some downtime, too, because even when you love something, a little bit of space and time and separation can be healthy.

One thing we didn’t touch on, somewhat intentionally, was the ESPN win projections based on RPM. Because it’s a whole thing.

As a refresher, ESPN uses their Real Plus-Minus statistic to attempt to project win-loss totals for all 30 NBA teams, and then everyone overreacts to the projections. This is not Kevin Pelton saying X will happen, but rather what the average outcome is running a bunch of simulations making some pretty broad assumptions. He doesn’t hate the Toronto Raptors, though this methodology has consistently undersold the Raptors in recent years.

Perhaps there’s something about this Raptors core that projection systems simply can’t grasp. I guess there’s some argument for the synergy and chemistry built over years with the same primary pieces (in the same system) that could lead to over-performance relative to the projected mean. There’s also the potential that the Raptors out-performing their “true talent” in the regular season (their Pythagorean win-loss record in their 56-win season was only 53, as an example of that) and then consistently under-performing relative to expectations in the playoffs says something.

What it says isn’t exactly clear, but projection systems aren’t aiming to capture all of this subtlety. Figuring out a team’s win total based on roster and talent in August isn’t as simple as following the blackjack guide at the tables – the sample size of a season is one, players change and grow and develop, injuries happen, and so on.

Instead, they should be taken in with other information, both qualitative and quantitative. The Raptors have been good, their youth may suggest some upside, and while they’re maybe worse on paper than at this exact moment a year ago, they still look like something close to a top-10 team, all told. That there are questions about the Raptors’ standing in the Eastern Conference isn’t news to Raptors fans, who have spent the summer questioning those same things. So while 43 wins seems, on the surface, a far cry from the level the Raptors have sustained and perhaps too big a drop-off, the RPM projections are a reminder that the margin for error at that level of the league is fairly thin. Even if 43 is well below the Vegas win line, it’s probably not worth getting upset about, and instead it’s worth getting curious about. Will their offense be more varied, helping players improve on that end? Can anyone defend? How much will the youth improve? These are questions that projections don’t necessarily purport to answer.

(The Raptors will surely love having more #ProveEm material for training camp, and DeMar DeRozan jumped on Instragram with a quick “Foh” when the projections came out.)

I guess it’s as good a time as any to ask what your win projections are for the coming year?

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There is a Vince Carter documentary coming to TIFF

A Vicne Carter documentary will air at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, TIFF announced Wednesday.

“The Carter Effect,” directed by Sean Menard, will take an “unprecedented” look at Carter’s career and impact on the Canadian basketball scene. It runs 60 minutes in length, and there aren’t many details otherwise. We know it’ll be a Vince documentary, which should be good regardless, and we know it’s a Menard production, so that goes double, really. This will be worth checking out.

The full TIFF schedule will be released Aug. 22, but you can keep an eye out for any more information on the documentary in the interim here. The festival is Sept. 7-17.

One has to wonder if Patrick Patterson will be back in town for his favorite event.

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Raptors Weekly Podcast – FOH win projections

Host William Lou is joined by Vivek Jacob to discuss this week’s crop of Raptors news.

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VIDEO: Lowry, Team World top Ibaka, Team Africa

Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka went head-to-head at the second ever NBA Africa Game in Johannesburg on Saturday, and the Toronto Raptors point guard got the better of the meeting. Not only did Lowry’s Team World beat Ibaka’s Team Africa, 108-97, but Lowry managed to get the edge in some one-on-one, too.

Lowry was doing Lowry things most of the game, finishing with 13 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and four steals in 23 minutes.

Ibaka wasn’t without his own moments, scoring seven points in 23 minutes and throwing down a big transition dunk.

Victor Oladipo walked away with MVP honors after dropping a game-high 28 points in a losing effort for the Africa side. Elsewhere for Africa, Emmanuel Mudiay put up a 22-9-8 near-triple-double and Clint Capela had an 11-and-10 double-double. Supporting Lowry were DeMarcus Cousins, who had an 11-and-10 double-double, and Courtney Lee, Kemba Walker, Kristaps Porzingis, Andre Drummond, and Jaylen Brown, who all scored in double-figures. Drummond even went 1-of-4 on threes, so, you know, you’re move at EuroBasket, Jonas.

Here are full highlights from the game:

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Long Weekend Open Thread

It’s been a painfully quiet week around here. Yeah, the Raptors announced their training camp location and preseason schedule, and Masai Ujiri, Kyle Lowry, and Serge Ibaka will participate in the NBA Africa Game at 11 am ET this morning (ESPN2, League Pass), but it’s otherwise been dead. We’ll try to find some things to write about next week – if you have anything in particular you want to read about, you can always email/tweet me (Leaving a comment probably isn’t the best route, given how messy these threads get).

Hope you all have a great long weekend.

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NBA Africa Game conference call notes: Ujiri, Lowry, Ibaka

A handful of Toronto Raptors representatives are with the NBA in Johannesburg, South Africa, this week for Saturday’s NBA Africa Game. President Masai Ujiri, point guard Kyle Lowry, and forward Serge Ibaka were available via conference call to discuss the event on Thursday.

Masai Ujiri

On what it means to have two of his players attending with him:

It’s almost like this has become kind of like an All-Star kind of weekend in Africa. It’s unbelievable how much it has grown from two tables when we first started here to tons and tons of people. You can just see Kyle and Serge really observing it and really enjoying it. Kyle came and went on a safari and did all of the activities with his family. He’s really embraced it. He came with 11 people, even. To me, that shows me that he’s taking pride, he’s using this as an instrument to learn. They do great work on the basketball court with the kids. I think for the African kids, you see them. I spent a lot of time with Kyle and Serge today. I’m proud of them that they’re coming here and doing this when you could easily be doing anything else.

On what he thinks Lowry has drawn from it:

You can see it in his eyes, you’re appreciative of what you have, for sure. He has seen where some of your teammates – Pascal was in Basketball Without Borders, that’s how it all started for him – he’s seen where he came from. You meet other people, you meet other NBA players, you get a feel for how they feel about it. They are working with the NBA. The feel of being on the continent is special, and going and doing other things other than basketball. The habitat work they’re doing, tomorrow they’re going to the SOS Village and visiting underprivileged kids. So many things here that I think that are eye-opening. It’s an education and you feel the human side of everything, and you can tell in his eyes that he’s absorbing it really well.

On the impact the event can have on kids and communities:

It’s huge, you know. It’s kids selected from all over Africa, girls and boys, a total of about 80 kids here. Not only that, there’s so much work done in the community here. I can’t imagine when I was between the age of 14 and 18, being in Africa and seeing an NBA player. And these guys are seeing 20, 22, or 24 NBA players, how many there are. These kids are getting to see these guys one-on-one, take pictures with them, interact with them, get coached by them. It’s phenomenal. For the community over here in South Africa and Africa as a whole, for the NBA to come in here and show all of this, a commitment with an NBA office here, the continent is growing with the game. It’s a great way for us to take advantage, and I’m talking as an African. The coaching, learning, there’s a business summit tomorrow, so many activities here that we can learn from and get from all these NBA experts and business people that are here. So lots of stuff going on.

It’s creating so much more awareness. Kids are dreaming big, they’re believing. The business part, which is most important – and when I say that, we have to focus on building facilities and coaching the coaches and taking it to other places other than this – teaching people to go back to their communities and make a difference. Go do something else and improving them in that way is very important. Over the years, it’s so important that they see JoJo Embiid and Luc Mbaha Moute and Gorgui Dieng, guys that have come out of this camp and gone and succeeded. When we do our life skills session, it’s important for us to mention that Luc Mbah a Moute was sitting in those seats, or Gorgui Dieng was sitting in those seats. And then the legends, you know, the Dikembe Mutombos, the work that Amadou Gallo Fall is doing down here, it’s good that these kids and people know that even if you don’t make the NBA, there are other things you can do related to sports. And that’s how big the NBA is. This is definitely a great time.

Kyle Lowry (Team World)

On charity work on the trip:

Actually today has been an unbelievable day with Habitat for Humanity, building homes for the people in need here. I think we built 10 homes. It’s just being out here and giving back as much as we possibly can. And then going through camp and helping the campers, giving them little insights on how to play, how to help them. The experience, it’s an honor to be here and a pleasure of mine to be around.

The game has taken me so many places, and this is another place that I can take off the checklist now. The game of basketball has been amazing to me, to my family. I understands that, that’s why I appreciate it and I give so much back to the game. Being able to experience these things from the game of basketball, it’s pretty cool. There’s no way to say I’m not happy about it. I love it, and I’ll always continue to give back to the game. The NBA and basketball has given so much to grow the game globally, I have an opportunity to be there, to do it.

On going on safari:

Awesome, man. It was an experience that I got a chance to do with my family, I got a chance to really see lions, an elephant, giraffe, leopard, wild dogs, impala, all up close and personal. Those are the type of things you don’t get to experience every day. Then you’ve got your kids and your family with you. Those things right there alone make you feel good about being able to do that and being fortunate enough to have your family and your kids and be able to see those type of things So it was pretty amazing.

On the talent pool at the camp:

It’s just different. The game’s different. It’s not as advanced as our game. There are things they need to learn that they haven’t learned yet. The talent pool, it’s crazy. The length, the height, the size of these kids are pretty impressive. The game isn’t taught from the age of four or five or six years old. It’s usually soccer, the first thing these kids pick up. But I think these kids over here have as much as talent. The things that they’re doing with BWB, will just continue to grow through the game.

On getting to take his kids:

Well, it shows them how lucky they are, that things aren’t as great as we have ’em. It kinda makes them see there’s always a way to give back and there’s always a way to be able to say, you know, you can help someone else. That’s the most important thing you wanna do with your kids. And for me, especially, I wanna let my kids know there’s always ways to give back and you should always give back first and look out for others before yourself.

https://twitter.com/Raptors/status/892771359188803585

Serge Ibaka (Team Africa)

On the experience so far:

Coming from Africa, I feel so proud and blessed to be here in this moment. The last time I missed the game because I was hurt. I’m looking forward to this time, I’m very excited.

It means a lot to me. It’s something I love to do. I’ve been doing this kind of work the last eight years now, since I’ve been in the league and I love to do it, every time I have an opportunity to come back home and do those kind of things, to me, it’s a blessing and it’s my job, it’s my job to do that. Because I know there’s a lot of people watching, a lot of young kids watching, one day, they are going to make it out of there and it’s always good to show them how those things work. Wherever you make it one day, you never forget where you come from. Thank the NBA Cares for giving this opportunity to do this again. I’ve been doing this kind of work with my foundation back home in the Congo, before here, and having another opportunity to come here and do it again, I feel blessed for that.

On potential trash talk when he goes head-to-head with Lowry:

This is the first time I’m doing this with one of my teammates, and Masai of course. It feels good. It’s very nice to see them here. When I saw them here, when I saw Kyle the first day, I I was very happy to see him here.

Right now, we don’t have trash talk, maybe in the game it can happen in the heat of the game. Today we had a long day, we had a lot of activities, we did NBA Cares, so everybody was tired. But I’m sure starting tomorrow, the trash talk gonna start.

Raptors’ assistant Patrick Mutombo is also listed among those participating, and I believe there are even more people from the Raptors’ organization on-hand. The league’s second ever game in Africa is being played in support of three different organizations. From a league release:

NBA Africa Game 2017, which will take place following the 15th edition of Basketball without Borders (BWB) Africa, will once again feature a Team Africa vs. Team World format and will be played in support of UNICEF, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and SOS Children’s Villages South Africa (SOSCVSA). The game will air live at 5:00 pm CAT in sub-Saharan Africa on Kwesé’s TV, Internet and mobile platforms, including Kwesé Free Sports, Kwesé Sports, Kwesé partners Soweto TV (South Africa), Canal+ Afrique (Francophone Africa) and other select free-to- air channels, Kwesesports.com, and the Kwesé app.

The sold-out NBA Africa Game 2015, the first NBA game on the continent, took place Aug. 1, 2015 at Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg. There have been more than 70 current or former NBA players from Africa or with ties to the continent, including NBA Africa Ambassador Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria) and Dikembe Mutombo, both of whom played in NBA Africa Game 2015.

For more information, fans can visit www.NBA.com/Africa, the league’s official online destination in Africa, and follow the NBA on Facebook (NBA Africa) and Twitter (@NBA_Africa).

The game will be on ESPN2 at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday. No word on Canadian airing, but you’ll probably be able to find a stream, at the very least.

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Raptors to hold training camp in Victoria; release preseason schedule

The Toronto Raptors will host their training camp for the 2017-18 season in Victoria, British Columbia, the team announced Thursday.

After holding Media Day at BioSteel Centre on Sept. 25, the Raptors will hold camp on the University of Victoria campus the remainder of the week (Sept. 26-29). That will include an intra-squad game open to the public on Sept. 28.

“It’s an honour to visit a different part of Canada and prepare for our season in the first-class facilities at the University of Victoria,” head coach Dawn Casey said in a release. “We are extremely proud being Canada’s only NBA franchise. Our players and staff feel enthusiasm for basketball in every city we have visited. We don’t ever want to take that for granted.”

This marks the fourth year in a row the Raptors are holding camp in B.C. and the 10th time overall they’ve held camp outside of Ontario.

From B.C., the Raptors will head to Hawaii for a pair of games against the L.A. Clippers on Oct. 1 and 3, then head to Portland for a game on Oct. 5. Here’s the full preseason schedule:

Date Opponent Venue City Local Time Eastern Time
Sunday, October 1 at L.A. Clippers Stan Sheriff Center Honolulu 4:00 p.m. 10:00 p.m.
Tuesday, October 3 at L.A. Clippers Stan Sheriff Center Honolulu 7:00 p.m. 1:00 a.m.
Thursday, October 5 at Portland Moda Center Portland 7:00 p.m. 10:00 p.m.
Tuesday, October 10 vs. Detroit Air Canada Centre Toronto 7:00 p.m. 7:00 p.m.
Friday, October 13 at Chicago United Center Chicago 7:00 p.m. 8:00 p.m.

The NBA regular season begins Oct. 17.

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Raptors Weekly Podcast – Interview with Jeff Landicho of Open Gym

Host William Lou is joined by producer Jeff Landicho of Open Gym.

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Sunday Open Thread

It’s been just way, way too quiet this week. Sure, there’s been some news, but not enough to really keep us going. A review:

And, yeah, that’s about it. Yawn. What is a basketball junkie to do?

The Under 19 Canadian women are in the bronze medal game on Sunday, which is awesome. The boys U19 just won gold, Canada’s first gold in any FIBA or Olympic basketball event ever, and the girls following with a podium finish would be great. A tough loss to the Russians in the semis shouldn’t be anything to dispirit how great a tournament it’s been for them.

Between stretches surfing on bingo sites, there are at least a handful of basketball events you can pay attention to. Crown League wrapped last night, but there’s still The Basketball Tournament (the finals are Aug. 3 on ESPN, though sadly, the team with three Raptors 905 players was knocked out in the final eight), the WNBA, some Drew League highlights, the BIG 3, and hey, it’s been like seven seconds since the comment section devolved into a Jonas Valanciunas debate, so just hold tight until the start of EuroBasket at the end of August. (Damn, is that really how long we have to wait? I’m not going to last the summer.) The Raptors, meanwhile, have a large contingent heading to Africa for Basketball Without Borders next week, so they’re keeping busier than most of us.

If all of that doesn’t do it, there are always bingo sites like www.bingosweets.com to pass your time on. I was surprised to find it quite enjoyable. These bingo sites even have slot machines that are suitable for sports fans. But remember to play responsibly.

I guess we can look more closely at DeRozan’s comments from Tuesday as they pertain to threes, because they’re kind of worthy of an eye-roll. Via the National Post:

I think the media kind of blow it out of proportion like it’s going to be something dramatic, like a complete dramatic 180-degree change. It’s not that at all. It’s just moreso locking in and understanding what it takes to win from every single position. Everyone just knows from our failures, guys stepping up and being better leaders, not just me and Kyle (Lowry) but everybody. I think once we lock in and everyone holds themselves accountable, everything else will come around perfect. That’s all it is.

I’m not even really adding it.  just never really shot it because I always felt like I didn’t need to shoot it. It’s there when I need it. I don’t have to think about it. People always say I can’t do it but I just never really wanted to do it because I always felt like I could do everything else at a high level.

Okay, well, first of all, the reason the media ran with the “culture reset” quote is because it was said quite plainly. Nobody could watch Ujiri’s end-of-season presser and think anything but change was coming. Maybe that’s the fault of having to do a media session two days after elimination, but it’s not as if “the media” just made this up. The man said “culture reset” and other phrases to that effect multiple times.

As for DeRozan adding the three, it’s a bit disingenuous to say he hasn’t needed to shoot it because he’s so good at everything else because, uhh, he’s not the only player on the floor that has an impact on. In any case, DeRozan shot 40 percent from the corners last year, which is encouraging even if you don’t really want him standing there much. He’s a 28.1-percent career 3-point shooter on 841 attempts, but he’s also an 82.8-percent career free-throw shooter and has shot well enough in general over the last four seasons to maintain some faith he can grow into a capable 3-point threat.

You hope, anyway. He’s always gotten better each season, and he’ll need that weapon eventually.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone.

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Powell and Wright win Nike Crown League

This was never going to be a fair contest.

One year after falling to ACE 68-63 in the battle to become Nike Crown League kings, M.A.D.E. took a page out of the Golden State Warriors playbook and stacked the deck in their favor by recruiting Norman Powell and Delon Wright. Despite 6Man putting up a good fight for over a half, there was a sense of inevitability to the 86-74 final score., unfortunately a running theme in basketball this year.

Powell and Wright proved the difference without ever having to kick things into high gear, and were quite happy to be a part of Toronto’s summer Pro-am at Ryerson University.

“It’s a great experience to come out here and play in front of a crowd like this,” Powell said with music blaring and a seemingly endless stream of confetti bolting out of cannons. “To come out after the season and show face, give them (the crowd) a show — give them something to look forward to going into next year — it was a lot of fun.”

While Powell took home the accolades with his customary drives to the rim and thunderous dunks, it was Wright who decisively swung the game M.A.D.E.’s way in not so signature fashion. After 6Man had overcome a sizable early deficit to trail 49-47 in the second half, the former Utah Ute hit a catch-and-shoot three from the left wing and a pull-up triple on their next possession after sizing up his defender. He added another shot from downtown off the bounce just a couple of possessions later, putting the contest to bed.

“It was a good atmosphere,” Wright said after the game. “I’ve never played in this league before, but next year I’ll try and play again.”

That can only bode well for Crown League organizers and for basketball in the city of Toronto, as fans can come out on a summer night and watch their fellow Canadians and very own Raptors inspire them for free. Pascal Siakam made an appearance during the semifinals, and Kelly Olynyk caused a stir in Week 3 with a buzzer-beating game-winner to cap off a 38 point night. In addition to the pros, this was the first time the Crown League was NCAA certified, allowing college players to participate in the tournament.

In the consolation game, Brady Heslip went off once again, dropping 26 points to lead One Love T.O. to third place with a closer-than-the-final-score-suggests 93-81 victory over last year’s champions, ACE. Uncle Jay Triano was in the building to witness the hot shooting, and so was Canada U-19 men’s basketball coach Roy Rana. Adding to the familiar faces were Matt Devlin, and as you would expect at any basketball event of significance in Toronto, Superfan Nav Bhatia was in his favorite courtside baseline seat rocking a Crown League #33 jersey.

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Axel Toupane signs in Lithuania

Photo credit: MattAzevedo.com

Any thought that being waived by the New Orleans Pelicans this week could lead to a Raptors 905 return for Axel Toupane have been put to rest. Toupane has signed with BC Zalgiris Kaunas of the Lithuanian league, the team announced Thursday.

The timing of the move is a bit surprising, as it seemed like Toupane would have had numerous training camp invites from NBA teams. He probably would have had two-way contract offers, too. But leaving money on the table to once again try to edge on to an NBA roster may not have sat well with him after two consecutive G-League seasons (though he earned about $272,000 during that time), and he’ll surely be paid well on his one-and-one deal in Lithuania. Accepting a two-way deal would have capped him at an estimated $271,000 for this year, while a camp invite may not have guaranteed him much at all. It’s hard to fault a player for jumping on a contract offer early, and Toupane may have wanted some stability after playing for three different NBA teams and the 905 over the last two seasons.

Still just 25, Toupane should figure prominently for Zalgiris. Before coming to the G-League, Toupane was a steady reserve in the French league, and he’s improved leaps and bounds in the time since. He’ll join a team coming off of one of their best seasons ever, with an LKL championship and an appearance in Euroleague. Zalgiris are coached by legendary Lithuanian point guard Sarunas Jasikevicius, and Toupane will play alongside notable names like Dee Bost and Brandon Davies.

While it my not have been all that realistic to expect Toupane back for a third tour of duty with the 905, the news continues to thin them out in an official capacity. Here’s a look at their rights sheet at present:

They’ll also have regular access to Malcolm Miller and Lorenzo Brown, the Raptors’ pair of two-way players, any NBA assignees, and potentially Kennedy Meeks and any other Exhibit 10 contracts the Raptors bring in for camp.

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How might a Kyrie Irving trade shake up the East?

Late July is generally not supposed to be the time for landscape altering transactions in the NBA. The heavy lifting is normally done sometime between draft week in late June and shortly after the free agent moratorium ends in early July. Logical teams want to make their big moves first and conduct the rest of their offseason accordingly, filling in the edges around the larger picture front and center.

Life doesn’t always stick to the plan you’d prefer, though. Sometimes, a really good player ups and decides he no longer wants to play with the league’s best player and one of the greatest players of all time. On the court, there’s little sane reasoning for anyone not to want to play with LeBron James, a preternatural basketball phenomenon and, seemingly, one of the most malleable chess pieces in existence. Off the court, though, you can squint and see why it may be tough to be a number two, to live in James’ immense shadow, and to receive mostly blame in hard times and rarely the same effusive praise in good times.

And so it is that Kyrie Irving has told the Cleveland Cavaliers he wants out.

Again, the logic is arguable, but when it comes to a player’s feelings, who are we to really judge? James disagrees with how he’s been characterized in the ordeal and the Cavaliers say any animosity has been “overblown.” Irving’s camp is putting it out there that Irving wants to be his own star, run his own show, and not be beholden to James reportedly sometimes prickly leadership style. The Cavaliers do not have to honor said request, but at a press conference Wednesday introducing new general manager Koby Altman, if you find your way through the spin, it’s clear Cleveland would prefer to not have to deal with yet another in-season circus, which would probably be the case of Irving remains on the roster when the season opens. Altman called it a “fluid situation,” but a trade is believed to be inevitable.

This obviously stands to have an impact on the Toronto Raptors, who will once again measure themselves using the Cavs as the stick in 2017-18. As currently constructed, the Raptors aren’t any closer to catching the Cavs or threatening them in a playoff series, but they’re one of a handful of Eastern Conference teams that might be able to take a swing at them if they falter. In all likelihood, this news only impacts the Raptors to the degree it signals Cleveland’s instability ahead of a huge summer in 2018, when James can leave and further tilt the balance in the East. But even though the Raptors aren’t likely to be able to top Cleveland even without Irving (the Cavs might make it back to the NBA Finals even before accounting for the return for Irving), any changes at the top of the East are worth monitoring.

If you’ve been engaging in sports betting this offseason, you know that the Raptors are well behind Cleveland and Boston in terms of the title odds for Eastern Conference teams. They’re even behind the 76ers, and tied with the Bucks and Wizards. It’s hard to gauge just how much those lines would swing with any given deal, but there are also have odds on an Irving trade, which can inform how the East might shake out post-megadeal.

Irving remaining in Cleveland still remains the most likely outcome (+150), but it’s not favored versus the field. Minnesota (+200) is the most likely landing spot, followed by New York (+550), Phoenix (+600), Boston and Miami (+1000), and Denver and San Antonio (+1200).

For the Raptors, the hope is probably two-fold: Irving doesn’t land in a situation where he would elevate another East team to the second tier (this seems unlikely given the reported asking price from Cleveland and Irving’s own limitations as a true No. 1, however dynamic and exciting he may be), and Irving doesn’t bring a return that makes it more likely James stays beyond next summer (this is next to impossible to tell from outside James’ circle, but anything that strengthens the Cavaliers’ medium-term would hurt; making Cleveland better for 2017-18 doesn’t move the needle much). As for Toronto themselves, they’re off the board as an Irving landing spot, likely because an Irving-Kyle Lowry swap is a case where all three sides would say no (Toronto would get cheaper but probably a little worse considering the defensive side; Cleveland would see their tax payment balloon even further; Irving wouldn’t be the clear-cut No. 1 alongside DeRozan).

Is there a destination you’d like to see Irving land, from a Toronto perspective? From a general NBA fandom perspective? Anywhere that scares you? We need things to talk about here in late July, so thank shammgod for Uncle Drew.

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Raptors sign Lorenzo Brown to 2-way contract

The Toronto Raptors have signed Lorenzo Brown to a two-way contract, the team announced Tuesday.

This is an interesting move on several fronts, most notably because Brown, at age 26 and with three years of NBA experience, will almost surely be one of the most seasoned players to earn a two-way deal. Adding a more experienced player may be a signal that the Raptors plan to use at least this two-way slot to supplement the NBA roster, which currently stands at 14. Were the Raptors to add a 15th player as currently constructed, they’d push into the luxury tax – using Brown and Malcolm Miller (once healthy) as additional depth could be a smart way to effectively fill out the roster without crossing that tax line. By rule of the two-way deal, Brown can spend up to 45 days on the NBA roster, plus any time before G-League camp opens and after the G-League regular season ends.

In Brown, the Raptors land another point guard with size, one who measures fairly similar to Delon Wright at 6-foot-5 and 189 pounds and with a 6-foot-7 wingspan. The Raptors have long loved using two-point guard lineups, and Brown gives them another option when he’s on the roster without sacrificing size. Between the shooting of Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet and the length of Wright and Brown, head coach Dwane Casey will have some options if and when he wants to downsize some.

Brown should be a familiar name, too. A second-round pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2013 after three years at NC State, Brown has spent time in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers, the Wolves, and the Phoenix Suns. Around those stints, he’s played for the Delaware 87ers and Grand Rapids Drive of the G-League and with the Zhejiang Golden Bulls in China. While Brown hasn’t been able to maintain traction in the NBA, he’s a two-time G-League All-Star and has long seemed to be a consistent jumper away from getting over that hump.

That consistency may be coming. While he only shot 30 percent on threes in China last year and is a woeful 10-of-66 in his NBA career (15.2 percent), he’s consistently knocked down threes in Summer League action (38.6 percent over five years and 44 attempts) and, more notably, he’s a 36.2-percent career 3-point shooter over 75 G-League games. Last year, he shot 18-of-51 with Grand Rapids in 11 games, the highest volume he’s shot them at, a good indicator of his growing confidence in that area. He’ll need to continue to show that improved range to be an effective NBA player, and considering he’s a very strong free-throw shooter, there’s reason for optimism there.

Outside of his shooting, Brown brings a ton of rebounding from the position, having averaged 5.5 rebounds in his G-League career and 7.5 in China last year. He’s also a capable ball-handler and a decent distributor, averaging 2.3 assists in 13.2 minutes in his NBA career and 5.2 assists over his four G-League seasons. He’s grown into a higher-usage style on offense thanks to improved finishing, but there’s no reason he can’t slide back into being a facilitator with a change in role, assuming the usual turnover issues of youth are behind him. Defensively, he can be a pest in passing lanes, with a 2.7-percent steal rate in the G-League that was nearly the same in his brief NBA stints. He uses his quickness really well and is a strong on-ball defender at the point as a result.

On the fringe of the NBA for the last few years, Brown is a nice get as a two-way player as far as contributing at the NBA level is concerned. He won’t have the upside of some of the other two-way pieces teams will add, but the Raptors are already stocked with youth and upside, and Brown provides some depth and insurance at the guard spots in the immediate-term with some modest upside if he can hit his threes consistently and comfortably play off the ball some. From a Raptors 905 perspective, the team’s young players will benefit greatly from having a lead guard as smart and tested as Brown around, an area that’s been a bit of a weakness for them in recent years when a point guard hasn’t been on assignment. For Brown, it’s a foot back in the door and a chance to potentially see actual NBA minutes for a quality team on which he’d seam to be a pretty good fit, which explains why he’s willing to be sort of the first “veteran two-way” outside of maybe Anthony Brown.

The move means both of the Raptors’ two-way slots are now filled, taking a two-way for Axel Toupane or a conversion of Kennedy Meeks’ Exhibit 10 to a two-way out off of the table. The roster for training camp now stands at 17.

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Pelicans waive Axel Toupane

Photo credit: KarynStepien.com

The New Orleans Pelicans have waived Axel Toupane, the team announced Tuesday.

Facing a hard cap at the $125.3-million luxury tax apron, the Pelicans decided that Toupane’s modest $100,000 guarantee, which would have been triggered had he been on the roster past today, was too limiting from a flexibility standpoint. It seems like a small amount to split hairs over, but the Pelicans get away with just $25,000 in dead money, a $75,000 saving that’s magnified in importance since they’re less than $4 million from the apron right now and presumably still have work to do. Keeping Toupane (and Quinn Cook) on a minimum deal with only that small guarantee would have been reasonable, too, but if they felt there was a good chance he’d eventually be cut, anyway, then making the move now makes fiscal sense.

This news is relevant from a Toronto Raptors perspective, of course, because Raptors 905 own Toupane’s G-League rights. After bringing Toupane into camp two years ago, the Raptors have helped develop Toupane over the course of two seasons, during which he’s earned three different calls up to the NBA.

Two years ago, he was named the G-League’s Most Improved Player and got a 21-game look with the Denver Nuggets. He showed moderately well there and again with them at Las Vegas Summer League but was cut in favor of Alonzo Gee in camp. He returned to the 905, getting a two-game look from the Milwaukee Bucks in the middle of an All-G-League Third-Team season and then signing a multi-year deal with the Pelicans. He appeared in just two games, with the lightly guaranteed 2017-18 part of that contract the real draw for New Orleans, and Toupane looked solid for them in Summer League.

Where Toupane goes from here is unclear. With three cups of coffee now, it’s clear there will be NBA interest, and he’s done little to dispel the notion that he’s an NBA talent. He hasn’t shot particularly well over his 25 NBA appearances, but he’s an effective multi-position defender capable of guarding wings of any size and even point guards and power forwards in a pinch. Defensively, he’s basically the mold of what a modern defender needs to look like, with quick feet, a solid frame, and length he uses well to disrupt ball-handlers and passing lanes. At the other end of the floor, he’s an aggressive attacker who has lived at the free-throw line in the G-League, and while it’s unlikely an NBA team would ask him to initiate much, that can still be a useful tool, particularly in transition. The limiting factor for Toupane may be his shooting – across the G-League, NBA, Vegas, and preseason, he’s shot just 32.8 percent on threes, though he’s been solid from the corners (41.7 percent with the 905 last year).

Several teams will probably make inquiries on Toupane, and he’d probably have offers for a two-way contract immediately after clearing waivers. The Raptors have not reached out to Toupane yet, but they figure to have that conversation, at least to see where he’s at and the likelihood of him returning to the 905. If the Raptors, or another NBA team, aren’t willing to offer him a standard NBA contract, the decision for Toupane becomes a complex one – there will be sizable overseas offers (he was on the fence about staying in the G-League last year after the Nuggets cut him), and beyond that, he may prefer to go the standard G-League route (possibly after a camp guarantee) instead of taking a two-way deal.

While that may sound strange, consider the economics: A two-way deal caps a player’s earnings around $271,000, and while that’s much higher than a G-League salary, the fact that Toupane has two years of service in the NBA means he’d make up money quickly on a 10-day if called up again. Toupane would earn $86,552 on a 10-day deal and would be eligible for a camp bonus larger than $50,000 if he wasn’t playing on a two-way deal, and so he could conceivably negotiate a decent camp guarantee, head to the G-League as a standard G-League player, and have made up the difference with two 10-day deals (give or take). Toupane has been keen to bet on himself in recent years, and the higher upside bet might be heading back to the 905 if he can’t crack a roster out of camp (perhaps more palatable for him than others, too, as he’s made about $272,000 over the last two years).

It’s difficult to just assume a player’s priorities in these situations. We’ve seen players with NBA experience sign two-ways already (Anthony Brown, Jack Cooley), and there’s always the chance a player can play well enough on a two-way that the NBA team will opt to convert it to a standard NBA deal at some point.

Whatever the case, Toupane will have offers and he’ll have options. Whether he returns to the 905 at any point may be a matter of the Raptors’ willingness to “promote” him up the development chain, or the willingness of someone else to. (If another team signed Toupane to a two-way deal, those rights would supersede the rights the 905 hold.) If he’s back, that will be great news for a 905 team that’s already been quite thinned out this offseason. If he’s not, well, it’s a sign the development program is working at that level and a reminder that the two-way system was a long overdue next step for NBA player development and the G-League in general.

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Raptors Mailbag: Cavaliers fallout, big-picture questions for 2017-18, and more

We’re all basically sitting on our hands until late September now, barring some minor moves, and so I figured an #RRMailbag to pass the time and recalibrate for the rest of the offseason was a reasonable idea. We’ll continue to try to do mini-mailbags when time allows during the offseason, at least until they draw repetitive (spoiler: they probably will immediately). You can find all of the previous editions of the mailbag here, if, for whatever reason, you wanted to read old mailbags.

Before we go ahead: A reminder that we have a Patreon page at patreon.com/RaptorsRepublic. If you appreciate the content we produce, want to support RR, and have the means to do so, any contribution is greatly appreciated and will help us continue to do what we do (and try to do even more). You can also follow me on Twitter for, uhh, tweets, and on Facebook for all of my writing/podcasting/radio stuff. Validate me. You can also ask me questions at any time using #RRMailbag, and I’ll be sure to include them in the next mailbag, no matter how long between.

Alright, let’s get this money.

Cavs fallout

Cleveland’s margin for error would definitely shrink in that scenario, but I’m not sure the downgrade from Kyrie Irving to Derrick Rose, Jose Calderon, and Kay Felder (plus a lot of time with LeBron James as the de facto point guard) swings a four-game sweep to a seven-game loss for Cleveland’s perspective. Simply removing Irving closes the gap and makes it more likely Toronto could upset them, but Cleveland’s also going to get back a fair amount for Irving, from the sounds of it. I’d even argue that some of the proposed frameworks – which are just hypotheticals and might be overshooting Irving’s value – make Cleveland a little better in a one-year window.

We’ll have to see exactly how it shakes out. I think the biggest takeaway from all of this, from Toronto’s perspective, is the instability of the Cavaliers right now. It seems more and more likely James could leave in 2018, and that Cleveland would be in disrepair if he did. Part of the Raptors’ decision to keep the core together was based on the idea that things can change quickly in a conference’s power structure, and that’s more obvious now than maybe ever, with a secondary star trying to orchestrate his way off of a roster with LeBron freaking James.

I would be surprised if there was a name that hit the market that Masai Ujiri didn’t make a call on. It’s his job. I doubt the conversations got very far, though – Cleveland reportedly wants a young player who can contribute now, another rotation piece that can help, and picks. The Raptors can’t put that package together, and they shouldn’t.

The Kyle Lowry question is a more interesting thought experiment in a similar way to the DeMar DeRozan-for-Paul George was. The logic would go something like this: The Raptors would get younger and be paying less, while the Cavs get a similarly capable shooter and someone perhaps more willing to play that No. 2 role. But Lowry’s salary being $11 million or so higher than Irving’s would be tax hell for Cleveland and they may not want to invest three years into someone with the James uncertainty, and the Raptors would be cutting their window short a year and locking in to being a pretty terrible defensive team (you can argue for either Irving or Lowry in a vacuum, but I think the Raptors are better with Lowry based on construction). And if the reports of Irving’s reasons for wanting out are true, he probably wouldn’t love sharing touches and attention with DeRozan, anyway, though it’d be a fun and dynamic backcourt.

The amount that people seem to still want to trade Valanciunas, not value him at all, and think he’d be a useful piece in multi-team scenarios that land the Raptors another big piece kind of astounds me. If Valanciunas could help you land a player like Kevin Love, Valanciunas would be gone by now. He’s a useful player, but I can’t fathom a scenario in which a team is trading a star and is okay with Valanciunas as the return, and the Raptors don’t have much for sweetener – they can’t afford to lose Norman Powell, none of their prospects will move the needled a ton, and they can’t trade a pick earlier than the 2020 draft. On top of which, they don’t have the financial wiggle room to eat extra salary.

As I’ll write a bunch in February, I’m sure, the Raptors are not built particularly well for trades the rest of the season. Those traded player exceptions could be huge in early July next year, but they’re probably not going to be in the mix for any huge names that hit the market until that point. (Unless Ujiri works some magic, an always necessary caveat.)

Big-picture questions

I’ve had some readers tell me I’m way too optimistic about this roster and that I’m way too pessimistic about this roster, so I’m feeling pretty medium. I think my take on the moves and the current construction is colored a bit, because I’ve been expecting the offseason to play out this way for a while. Basically since the trade deadline, I’ve been trying to warn that the kind of cost-cutting moves we’ve seen would be necessary if the team was going to retain Lowry and Serge Ibaka and that it’d be tough to fortify this summer. Other than losing P.J. Tucker, things have more or less gone to form.

Instead of comparing this roster to the start of 2016, let’s compare it to how 2016-17 played out (sorted by minutes for last year):

Shift guys around as you see fit, and the five traditional positions are obviously a bit outdated, but you see the point. The Raptors are losing a third-season of Tucker, two-thirds a season of Terrence Ross, three-quarters a season of Patrick Patterson, and a full season of Cory Joseph and DeMarre Carroll. In their place, they’ll hope for better health for Lowry and DeRozan, get an extra two-thirds a season out of Ibaka, add a full season of C.J. Miles (they should probably only bet on 70 games or so), and hope like hell their young players are ready to step into more meaningful roles. The biggest things that stand out here are a lack of shooting and high-end defenders. The shooting they might be able to cobble together with more ball movement, development from their young players, and simply a greater willingness to shoot them. Defensively, though, it’s hard to look at this roster and see how they wind up back in the top 10 at that end.

The roster today isn’t as good as the one that closed the year last year, but it’s on par with the one they started last year with. The amount of youth on the roster could make for some bumpy stretches, but it also creates some room for upside. They’re probably fighting for the title of third-best regular-season team in the East on paper right now.

I don’t think MLSE would have any issue eating money still owed to Dwane Casey (which is about $12 million over two years). I get that dead money looks a certain way, but it’d be strange management to commit to spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $350 million over this three-year window and then shying away from losing a few million on a coaching change.

With that said, I would say Casey’s seat is only warm, not hot. The Raptors committed to keeping with him, and Ujiri does not seem the type to favor a mid-season coaching change, when options are incredibly limited and, historically, most of the post-change improvement teams see can be chalked up to regression. Jerry Stackhouse was surely a candidate to take over had the Raptors gone in a different direction this summer, but a mid-season coaching change where a coach not even on the NBA staff gets promoted without the benefit of a training camp to install a system, where Raptors 905 have to find a new coach, where Nick Nurse and Rex Kalamian are jumped over…it all just seems like instability that’s antithetical to how the Raptors have been run.

Casey’s a fine coach. I was a little skeptical of keeping him at the helm while trying to execute a “culture reset,” but they’ve made that decision and shouldn’t be too reactive out of the gate as the Raptors try to navigate those changes (if they make them). It’s more a mid-season story than a pre-season one.

Gosh, Blane, do you want the Raptors to blow it up? Why have you never said so?

The Raptors committed to this core for three years. But they’ve maintained a pivot foot by keeping all three of their big pieces on short-term deals that should be movable and by keeping the roster flush with youth. I can’t really fathom a situation in which they blow things up before the 2019 trade deadline (trading their 2018 picks sends a pretty clear message about the near-term commitment), and even then, I don’t think they’d really give up on things before the summer of 2019 unless disaster struck. If you want them to blow it up in Year One of a three-year re-up, you probably need to hope they miss out on home court and get pretty decisively throttled in round one.

(If you were pro-tanking, it might be worthwhile to just set that desire aside for a year or so. They’ve made their decision, and it’s going to be a really boring and frustrating season if your response to every win, loss, injury, or move is anchored in wishing they had blown it up. Be a fan however you want to be a fan, but you’re not getting your wish for a couple of years.)

To recap: The Raptors tried to shop Valanciunas for financial relief, found teams only willing to take him for free rather than giving assets back, and decided to unload other salaries instead. The fit is not perfect, but Valanciunas is a useful piece, the Raptors like him, and they’re not going to give him away, especially now. The financial gain of trading him at this point is more limited (it would still help with 2018 flexibility and open up the option to use one of their trade exceptions, but it’s not as if they could make a big free agent splash suddenly), and having Valanciunas is significantly preferable to having nobody in that spot. They’ll probably keep their finger on the pulse of the center market to see if things change and they might revisit things next summer, but Valanciunas is a Raptor for now. It would only really make sense to trade him at this point in a “basketball trade” that better balances the roster and makes the team better – you’d need someone back who can play in the rotation for you.

I know I was a proponent of shifting Valanciunas to the bench role in the playoffs last year, but I don’t think that makes a ton of sense over 82 games. You’re not trying to maximize every minute from October to April, you’re trying to maximize 48 over 82. And bringing Valanciunas off the bench, while likely a nice fit for him, threatens your depth a bit. Start Ibaka at center and the team is woefully thin at power forward and Jakob Poeltl and Lucas Nogueira are buried on the bench. Starting Poeltl over Valanciunas might make some sense defensively, but Valanciunas is an elite rebounder and screen-setter, and the offense would take a hit for that gain. You could sell me on that – the idea of staggering Lowry and DeRozan so that each bench unit has Valanciunas to help the offense and where his defensive limitations are masked against inferior opponents – but Valanciunas is still good, and he and Ibaka spent almost no time together when Lowry was also healthy. Starting Ibaka at center the way the roster is currently constructed just doesn’t feel like the right allocation of players, even if individually he’d be best off there.

As for Valanciunas’ numbers, I think they’d probably be about the same in a bench role. His usage rate was 20.5 percent with both stars on the court last year, 18.6 percent with only DeRozan, 25.8 percent with only Lowry, and 24.3 percent with neither. His overall usage rate was more or less in line with his career norms, and his efficiency was fairly similar. You can definitely make a case for a higher usage rate in a bench role (or even just with the rotation staggered such that he sees more time with the second unit), particularly if he improves as a passer. He’s not going to see this massive usage spike, though, and most of his points are still going to come from offensive rebounds and rolls to the rim.

Do I buy a team talking up their own player? Considering just two months ago they were doing the same about Carroll, umm, no. There are reasons to be optimistic about Valanciunas because he’s a young, talented player with some elite skills. He’s also been more or less the same guy for a while now, save for some skill progression. I’m not sure how much he could fundamentally change his body, quickness, or ability to read the game at the defensive end, but he can probably continue stretching his range out, improve as a passer, and get back to his 2014-15 levels posting up. He’s still young – he should probably come back a little better.

As for what shape he’ll be in, it’s hard to say. Up until last summer, Valanciunas didn’t really have a bad reputation for this – his Lithuanian coach questioning his commitment and then Valanciunas taking some time off and coming to camp with a few extra pounds around the midsection definitely looked a certain way, but it seems like it’s been retrofitted to his earlier years, when he did a great job of bulking up quickly and was instrumental for his national team. This is Valanciunas’ 11th consecutive summer playing for Lithuania in international competition, and he’s played about 900 extra minutes in those tournaments since being drafted. He takes some time off after the season, for sure, and he should probably have a better August and September than he did last year, but the idea that he’s not committed to basketball has always struck me as disingenuous (and that coach was promptly removed from his post, by the way).

This is a really interesting question and a tough trade-off for the Raptors to manage. Assuming the rest of the starting lineup is Lowry-DeRozan-Ibaka-Valanciunas, you’re left with a difficult choice: Insert your best wing defender and tertiary attacker but be light on spacing, or insert your best shooter and be really light on defense. Miles is an adequate defender but not what you’d call a good one, and DeRozan is DeRozan on that end. Starting Miles would give the offense a ton of breathing room, but that’s a lot of Miles or DeRozan guarding elite scorers. If I had to guess right now, my money would be on Powell for defensive reasons. He’s also earned a chance to run with a bigger role (he’s going to play 30 minutes a night regardless of whether he starts or comes off the bench), and if he and DeRozan both improve as shooters, the Raptors’ offense might be a little more dynamic with the extra slashing and moderate shooting.

DeRozan has played some point guard the last few years, anyway, the team just hasn’t called it that. The DeRozan-and-bench groups had DeRozan initiating instead of Joseph plenty, and even Lowry spent plenty of time spotting up off the ball when the stars shared the floor. DeRozan held the ball nearly five seconds per-touch last year and was fourth among all non-point guards in average time of possession. Casey’s comments, to me, just seem to indicate they’ll continue testing the boundaries of that set up and maybe give DeRozan more opportunity as a pick-and-roll ball-handler (if his passing in the pick-and-roll can improve, that would be big). I doubt there will be many minutes spent with DeRozan as the nominal point guard without one of Lowry/Delon Wright/Fred VanVleet, but he’ll run the offense plenty.

I expect all of my sweet young boys to make enormous improvements. (It’s actually a hard question to answer because young players are supposed to get better and we won’t really know how much of their “improvements” are just from getting more playing time, but a random guess: Wright comes back as an average 3-point shooter.)

As for Wright at the three, I’m skeptical we’ll see it much. That happened some last year because the Raptors had such exceptional point guard depth and were thin everywhere else. That won’t be the case this year, and while VanVleet is a nice player and could infuse some additional shooting, it’s hard to think of a scenario in which the Raptors would go with three point guards (that would mean at least two of DeRozan, Miles, and Powell are on the bench, and those are all good fits in a four-out unit). Wright will probably play in two-point guard lineups plenty and he has the size to defend some wings. He’s a nice, versatile piece, and I’m excited for what he’ll look like in a bigger role.

Lower in the rotation

Nogueira’s in a bit of a tough spot. His advanced metrics last year were really strong when he got to play and he’s the most unique and dynamic of the centers on the roster. He’s weirdly in a place where I would absolutely like to see him play more, but I understand why he doesn’t – he’s inconsistent, they’re invested in Valanciunas and Ibaka and Poeltl, and Poeltl hasn’t done anything to lose the job since taking it around the All-Star break. The team will probably call the backup center job a competition in camp, but it’s Poeltl’s to lose (Nogueira has lost 12 pounds and is down to five-percent body fat, for whatever it’s worth).

As for dealing him, I could see it, but not necessarily to balance the roster specifically – the Raptors can’t add even a minimum salary right now without pushing across the tax line, and with a $2.95-million salary, Nogueira’s probably the guy the salary they could unload easiest if they needed an extra shred of wiggle room. I’m not sure he gets you a rotation player back. Giving him away would be tough – you need three centers over the course of the year, and Nogueira is good! He’ll be a restricted free agent next summer, but if the RFA market this year and cap projections for next year are any indication, it might be tough sledding for him (and the Raptors might want to keep that option open in the event they eventually deal Valanciunas). There’s no rule that you have to deal all pending free agents or have X number of players at each roster spot. I’d be in no rush to unload him unless it helps facilitate something meaningful.

I think Bruno Caboclo will get some minutes this year. He’s done two seasons in the G-League now, and while he’s still young and not a finished product, the Raptors will probably want to see how he looks against NBA competition at some point. He slots into the depth chart as maybe their fourth wing or third power forward right now, and I think power forward is where he’s best off – he’s done a great job adding size over the last few years, and he’s looked better there than on the wing with the 905. He can probably defend either forward spot – I actually think Caboclo’s defense would be something close to fine in the NBA right now, with the usual caveats of inexperience – but at the four, his offensive limitations are harder to exploit.

If he could come in and give the team 11th- or 12th-man minutes, with some 905 time sprinkled in to keep him growing, I think that’s a logical progression for him at this point. Remember: This was always a four-year experiment, he’s still only played maybe a year-and-a-half worth of professional minutes, and he remains very young. The situation, the contract, and the draft pick color things, but Caboclo would be pretty intriguing if he were stripped of that context and looked at in a vacuum. Maybe it doesn’t work out. It’s way more fun to root for Caboclo to figure it out and wind up a decent bench piece, and there’s a path to that if things click a bit this offseason.

I’m not sure Kennedy Meeks will factor in much at the NBA level. They’re clearly intrigued, and the team thinks he can eventually be a power forward if he continues to work on his body (his shot is much nicer than he ever got to show at UNC). That’s going to take some time, though, and there’s no clear path to minutes at the center position while he makes that transition. Macolm Miller is more interesting because the two things he does well – shooting and defending – are in high demand on the roster. The ankle injury is a tough break and he probably won’t get to make a case for time during Raptors’ training camp, but with his length, positional versatility, and malleability in terms of role at both ends, it’s not that difficult to see Miller playing a role at some point.

(As a reminder: Two-way players are allowed up to 45 days on the NBA roster, plus any time before G-League training camp and after the end of the G-League regular season. That time does not count toward the cap/tax. Two-way deals can be converted to regular NBA deals at any time, and then they’d count for cap/tax purposes.)

As currently constructed, the Raptors have 13 guaranteed contracts, one partial guarantee (Alfonzo McKinnie), one two-way (Miller), and one Exhibit 10 (camp deal with a bonus if he goes to 905; Meeks). That means they have four roster spots left for training camp – you can probably bank on another two-way and at least one more Exhibit 10, and they’ll probably push the camp roster to the full 20 as they get longer looks at guys, whether it be on non-guaranteed deals, Exhibit 10s, or whatever.

As for specific names, it’s pretty hard to guess on the non-guaranteed market, because there are just so many names and teams. Jordan Loyd is probably the most likely from the Summer League roster to get an extended look (the 905 would have to acquire his rights if they wanted him there after camp). I know the Raptors had moderate levels of interest in a handful of undrafted free agents and holdovers from their free agent mini-camp, but Dan Tolzman and company have always liked to let that market settle a bit after grabbing the guys they really liked. We’ll probably hear some of these names in the next couple of weeks.

As for Melvin Ejim, I’d love to see him get an NBA look at some point, but he just signed a new deal overseas.

Outside of those fliers, the Raptors could try to sign a veteran to fortify the roster. That veteran would either push the team slightly into the tax or replace McKinnie as the 14th man (McKinnie has only a small guarantee and could be waived after camp if the Raptors are set on avoiding the tax). The names remaining are pretty uninspiring – I don’t think I’d even burn the bi-annual exception on any of them and would shop just at the minimum. The Raptors probably can’t get in the mix for any of the notable restricted free agents (their teams would just match the offer sheet), and while they have trade exceptions available to facilitate sign-and-trades, it would seem unlikely this late. Among the names out there are Arron Afflallo (no longer the defender his reputation suggests but a great shooter and decent fit), Gerald Henderson, Tony Allen, Dante Cunningham, and a bunch of guys who either don’t shoot, don’t defend, or don’t fit. I’m probably missing some names, but it’s an uninspiring list.

Miscellaneous

Training camp begins the fourth week of September.

I’m not clear on exactly what this question is asking. If it’s just the worst player in the NBA that I think will get regular rotation minutes, it’s a tough question, because many of the “worst” players in a given year are young guys that it would seem unfair to hit with that designation just yet. I don’t really feel like being this negative.

Seattle is definitely at the top of the list. And now that Las Vegas has an arena and that infrastructure (as bland as it is), they’d probably be on there – I’ve always felt the NBA made more sense there than the NHL from a spectacle perspective, and the league already has some roots there with Summer League. I’d probably throw one Louisville’s way, given the love for basketball in that general area, though there are market size concerns. I know people probably want me to say Vancouver as the fourth, and it’d be on the table, but I just gave the Pacific Northwest a team back, so I won’t lock that in. The fourth would probably be between Vancouver, Mexico City, and maybe Kansas City/St. Louis, depending on where the first three land. Heck, given Chicago a second team. I don’t know.

Yes. I’m not sure why it’s never gotten more buzz or traction, but with the infrastructure in place and the sport growing here, I don’t see why there wouldn’t be one sometime in the future.

I haven’t been watching anything other than the matches I’m told I have to go check out (it’s just too much wrestling, even for me), but the handful I’ve seen have been awesome, and I’ve read the results from each night. As for a prediction, there are so many different ways it can go, it’s hard to peg down. The markiest part of me wants Kenny Omega to win it again so we can get Omega-Okada III (technically IV because they’ll meet in their G1 block) at WrestleKingdom (with Omega-Ibushi as the G1 final!), but there’s also the interesting Omega-Cody Rhodes story bubbling, the Naito-Okada storyline that’s been building for years and would conclude really nicely with a Naito G1 victory setting that match up, and some other stories they could tell going with a non-Omega/Naito winner (Ishii shocking the world only to later lose the briefcase might make him the most sympathetic babyface in the company). If I had to guess, I’ll go Omega over Naito.

Sadly, we have two months and probably 20 of this exact same mailbag until then.

As a reminder, if you appreciate the content we produce, want to support RR, and have the means to do so, we’ve started a Patreon page at patreon.com/RaptorsRepublic. Any contribution is greatly appreciated and will help us continue to do what we do, and try to do even more.

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Raptors Weekly Podcast – DeMarre and Jonas, everyone’s favorites

Host William Lou is joined by the god himself Blake Murphy to discuss everything Raptors.

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Siakam makes appearance at Crown League Week 4

If the semi-finals were any indication, next week’s Crown League championship game should be incredible. Raptors Republic couldn’t make Week 4 (blame family), and we’re regretful for it – both semi-final games came down to the wire, and Pascal Siakam made an appearance!

In the first semi, M.A.D.E. topped Ace in overtime, marking the second time in a row M.A.D.E. is headed to the title game.

Led by 20 points from Jermaine Anderson and 23 from Dyshawn Pierre, M.A.D.E. were able to hold on against the boost provided by Siakam, the Raptors’ sophomore who showed a great deal of progress at Las Vegas Summer League a few weeks back. Siakam struggled to an uncharacteristic 3-of-11 mark from the free-throw line (he shot 68.8 percent last year) but still had a decent stat-line with 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting and nine rebounds.

From our man William Lou on the scene:

I was at this one. Siakam didn’t look very good. He missed a tonne of free throws that could have secured the win in the 4th quarter and in OT. Siakam also couldn’t keep up with the physicality and lost out on some key rebounds. To be fair he wasn’t nearly as invested as the actual players on the roster, but it was still disappointing to see guys like JeVon Shepherd and Junior Cadougan outplay him.

Even with 25 points from Warren Ward alongside Siakam’s, Ace couldn’t overcome the disparity and the free-throw and 3-point lines, coming up just shy of the finals.

https://twitter.com/pskills43/status/888841942913691649

Later, 6Man topped 1 Love T.O. in a 79-75 nail-biter to punch their ticket. Led by last week’s Player of the Week Richard Amardi and 23 points from Christian Kabongo, 6Man were able to erase a 10-point halftime deficit for the rousing comeback.

https://twitter.com/NikeToronto/status/888605548068950016

In the fifth-place game, Northern Kings edged CIA Bounce 73-72. Duance Notice had 28 points and eight assists to led the way, and Raptors 905er Negus Webster-Chan shot 7-of-18 trying to support, enough to topple Dylan Ennis and Dwight Powell on the other side.

The championship game goes next Friday, with M.A.D.E. taking on 6Man at Kerr Hall. It should be a good one. RR will be on-hand for this one and have a better recap for you that time around.

https://twitter.com/NikeToronto/status/888618930679324673

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Weekend Open Thread: Sports gambling, franchise values, and more

It’s been a busy week of tying up loose ends for the Toronto Raptors. Nothing material has happened, but they closed out a lot of rumors and reports by making things official.

Here’s a quick look back at the coverage from the week:

Outside of the Raptors’ bubble, two interesting things came out that might be worth discussing in the open thread instead of arguing about Jonas Valanciunas or DeMarre Carroll again.

How much are the Raptors worth, hypothetically?

First, the Houston Rockets announced that Leslie Alexander is putting the team up for sale. This doesn’t have an impact on the Raptors, and there’s been no indication that Bell and Rogers have any sort of designs on breaking up, selling off, or buying the other out of MLSE, but it will still be interesting to see what kind of sale price the Rockets command. This would seem to be a pretty good time for owners to duck out, with TV rights at their likely peak, franchise valuations way up, and, in their case, a star and a well-respected executive locked up for the long term.

What the Raptors, who Forbes values at $1.13 billion, might command on the open market is an interesting question. It’s always been difficult to separate the Raptors from the rest of MLSE and, since Bell and Rogers became shared owners, to extract the actual franchise value separate of the TV rights that the owners benefit from. The Los Angeles Clippers sold for well above their Forbes valuation, so where the Rockets’ sale price comes in could kick-start a series of owners getting out at the top. If it shakes down that way.

Micro-gambling could be on the way

The other was an interesting quote from commissioner Adam Silver, who believes gambling on sports will soon be legal in the United States. “My sense is the law will change,” he said at a conference in New York on Tuesday, pushing the importance of in-game betting to keep fans engaged. Again, this is a topic that might not resonate entirely in Canada, where some online gambling sites are geo-blocked due to national laws but where online slots for Canadians are available and provinces can offer things like ProLine. Whether the U.S. changing things builds momentum for Canada to loosen up on restrictions, too, will be worth watching.

It’ll also be fun to see how companies attack micro-gambling if it gets clearance, and just how involved the NBA gets as an investor or partner.

There’s the whole Kyrie Irving-to-Phoenix-to-follow-James-Jones-and-get-away-from-LeBron angle, too, obviously. Anyway, some interesting larger-picture topics to think on as we enter what will likely be a few dead weeks of the offseason. Have a great weekend, everyone.

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Trio of 905ers playing for big money in The Basketball Tournament

Photo credit: MattAzevedo.com

Will Sheehey barely had time to let the sweat dry after his final Summer League game with the Toronto Raptors. E.J. Singler was just returning from a honeymoon in Italy. Christian Watford had quite literally gotten married the day prior. The timing wasn’t perfect, but as the trio of Raptors 905 players reconnected in Las Vegas last weekend, fatigue was set aside for a uniting focus: Winning The Basketball Tournament, the 64-team, $2-million, winner-take-all event that’s grown into one of the marquee basketball events of the summer circuit.

Suiting up for Armored Athlete, the 905ers hit the ground running, blowing out The Pearl 31’s in their opener and then punching their ticket to the Super 16 with a narrow victory over Team 23. With little time to practice together, Armored Athlete were banking on the familiarity bred from a season with those three together, from some holdovers from the last two tournaments (the AA team made the Super 16 a year ago and the final eight the year prior), and from some smaller relationships within the roster (Jalen Reynolds was in Summer League with Sheehey, there are several Indiana alum, and Malcolm Miller was a part of the roster before signing with the Raptors and spraining his ankle) to give them some early momentum.

“I think when you look at these teams in the tournament, the ones that always make the next round or whatever are the teams that played together,” Sheehey says. “There are a lot of alumni teams, so guys that played together in college, there’s the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, they have an alumni team. We should have tried to get the Raptors 905 team, but Stack would have to sacrifice coming to coach, and who knows what would happen? Maybe we’ll do it next year. But yeah, the teams that have played together really have an advantage.”

(An aside: Convincing Jerry Stackhouse to coach a 905 alumni team in this event would probably be as easy as offering him a player-coach role.)

Things get tougher from here, with AA drawing one-seed and last year’s runner-up, Colorado’s alumni team, in the next round. They’ll be without Singler, too, as the games shift from ESPN 3 to ESPN 2 and the expected monetary return of each make or miss becomes painfully more obvious. Beat Colorado and win again Sunday, and the 905ers could be staring down a final four in Baltimore with life- and career-changing money on the line.

The way AA have agreed to split the prize, should they win, could have a significant impact on where Sheehey, Singler, and Watford go from here. All three would receive a $135,000 cut, which could be the difference between being able to handle another season at a paltry G-League salary or the need to head back overseas for a larger pay-day.

“100 percent, yeah. It would be a huge game-changer,” Sheehay says. “Then you can focus on just the opportunities instead of the money. Because a lot of times when deciding where you’re gonna play, it has a lot to do with the money and the contracts that are being offered. The best opportunity for basketball and development is the G-League, just because you’re under a finer microscope, NBA teams are around. But for pay and for your own well-being, Europe is where you’ve gotta go.”

Last year, G-League players topped out at $26,000, while international deals for players like Sheehey and Singler easily reach six figures. Even in the case of Singler, who received a $50,000 guarantee to go to training camp with the Raptors, there’s a lot of money left on the table playing in the G-League. That changes quickly with an NBA call-up, which is the argument for staying, but absent a two-way contract that could pay up to $279,000 this year, it will remain tough for players to do back-to-back seasons accepting a lower salary. Adding $135,000 to their accounts before making that decision is a big deal.

Neither Sheehey or Singler are expected back with the 905 this coming season. Sheehey struggled to shoot the ball in Summer Legaue, his first action since dislocating his elbow toward the end of the 905 season, though he immediately shook off that cold streak in The Tournament. Singler, meanwhile, has been in the Raptors program for over a year and done consecutive G-League campaigns. Both are solid and versatile pieces, but the Raptors have made a few development plays at the wings with the likes of Miller and Alfonzo McKinnie, and the nature of the G-League as currently constructed includes a lot of prospect turnover. If they can’t follow their 905 championship with a TBT title, they’re looking to maybe do so together overseas.

“It was good to team up with E.J. again and play in this tournament, so that was fun. Brought back some good memories,” Sheehey says. “He’s definitely one of my guys. We’re trying to work together to maybe try to get on the same European team or something, with the Raptors thing not working out. We’ll see.”

How winning TBT might change that is unclear for right now. Short Singler this weekend, AA will be relying on their impressive depth rather than carried-over cohesion, hoping a pair of games together has forged enough of a bond to compete with a successful alumni team. And the stakes are higher than just a $2-million shared prize for the champions. Odd though it may have seemed when TBT launched a few years back, the tournament now stands to have a potentially dramatic impact on the career paths of a handful of players still trying to get a foot in the NBA door.

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Can the Raptors win 50 games again? Online casinos seem split

Back on the day after the Toronto Raptors playoff run ended, star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan looked ahead to the potentially tumultuous offseason to come and put his faith in the organization, leaning on the recent past for assurance.

“When the organization understands winning and wants to win, you don’t have to worry about that,” DeRozan said. “I just try to worry about myself and understanding I need to be better for whatever the next season brings. But I understand it’s going to be a team that’s going to try and compete to try and win, not to just figure it out or wait until next year. We showed it this year, winning 50+ again, and always being counted out.”

That DeRozan mentioned 50 wins was not an accident. While an arbitrary round-number cut-off, 50 wins has long been considered the line of demarcation for NBA teams that want to consider themselves good, ma significant distance from the middle of the pack. Whatever goes into that number – over-performance, under-performance, injury, variance, luck, and so on – reaching it is difficult, and maintaining it even tougher.

A new level for Raptors

To wit, the Raptors had never won 50 games in a season until 2015-16, when they went 56-26. Following two years of climbing to new levels of respectability with 48 and then 49 wins, the Raptors blew through the benchmark and into the league’s second tier. A year ago, they took a small step back but still won 51 games, locking themselves in as one of the more longer-tenured teams in the league when it comes to sustaining a certain level of success.

This, despite the constant doubts DeRozan notes. Some of this has been a little overblown as the Raptors look to keep a chip on their collective shoulder, but the Raptors have often out-performed team-level expectations. The team’s beaten different projection systems by small handfuls of wins with regularity, the perfect prove-em fuel for the othered engine the team likes to tout.

Bookmakers, however, have been a little more accurate. A year ago, they came very close, pegging the Raptors for 49.5 wins. That’s close enough, though still a hair low. Looking at how the Las Vegas lines and early projections line up can give us an idea of where the Raptors figure to be slated come October. It doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot, but it’s at least a little informative for calibrating expectations and, if the win total over-under seems particularly out of line, it’s an opportunity to make some money as a reward for your faith in the team.

What are the odds saying this year?

Furthermore, many of Canada’s top casinos online would seem to suggest the Raptors are pegged for another small step backward, with an over-under of 48.5 wins. You can find them as low as 47.5 and as high as 50.5 if you look hard enough, but 48.5 would come out as roughly the mean and modal total.

That seems reasonable. The roster, on paper, is a little worse than last year before pricing in internal development. The Raptors have one of the youngest supporting casts in the league, so that could mean the win total either undershoots their potential or overstates their floor. We won’t know until the three or four or even five young guys slated for larger roles hit the floor. The top of the East is a little better, the ow-middle a little worse, and the Raptors somewhere in between. You can probably safely cast a 45-to-55 band right now and look reasonable anywhere within it.

Missing the 50-game mark wouldn’t be the end of the world so long as the team remains firmly in “good” territory, but you can bet they’ll be aiming for it if it’s on the table late in the year.

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Heslip signs in Turkey to start summer of potentially heavy 905 turnover

Photo credit: MattAzevedo.com

It is next to impossible to have continuity in the G-League, even if you’re a championship team. There are simply too many overseas offers, too much money to be had elsewhere, and too big a risk of stagnancy for players on the fringes of the NBA to stay in one place for too long. Keep moving or get run over, and all of that.

It’s understandable, then, that Brady Heslip has leveraged a terrific season with the 905 into a deal with Tranzonspor of the Turkish League, as the team announced Thursday.

Heslip was instrumental in the 905’s push to a title, hitting the second-most threes ever in a G-League season and averaging 16.1 points and 2.9 assists on 44.5/41.8/87.0 shooting. He took strides as a point guard, too, and while his defense will always be a limitation, it was the best his all-around game has looked as a pro. That was enough to get him a look with the Chicago Bulls in Las Vegas Summer League, and he shook off three poor shooting nights to score 42 points over his final two, hitting 12-of-23 on threes. That doesn’t appear to have been enough to entice an NBA team to give him a contract, and Heslip moving swiftly to sign overseas and find a good fit and a nice payday makes sense.

The man Jerry Stackhouse claims might be the best shooter in the world should return to being a major player on the international scene, where he’s previously had strong seasons in Bosnia and Italy. It’s perhaps a little disappointing he didn’t receive a longer NBA look, and he kind of remains “the line” that separates NBA players from non-NBA players, possessing one elite NBA skill but without the supporting skills to make him worth a flier. He could help an NBA team in a specialist role, to be clear, but at 27, he’s probably on the wrong side of the line teams would draw for using a two-way contract (and the $75,000-$279,000 range may not have been enough to get him to stay, anyway). This pushes a potential NBA breakthrough down the line a year, but it’s not as if Heslip’s shooting touch is going away anytime soon.

The 905 will retain Heslip’s returning player rights in the event he makes a G-League return in the next two years.

This could kick off what should be an offseason heavy on turnover for the 905. Will Sheehey and E.J. Singler are not expected back with the team, and several of the other high-end names have already signed overseas. Here’s how the 905’s returning player rights list looks entering the summer:

The 905 could lose up to two more players from this last in the Aug. 23 expansion draft, where three news teams will select rosters from the existing 23. The 905 took an interesting approach with their expansion draft two seasons ago, selecting a lot of players for the purpose of helping facilitate trades later, using only Scott Suggs in the first year and adding Sheehey and C.J. Leslie the year after.

The G-League draft generally takes place in late October, shortly before the start of training camps. The 905 own all of their 2017 picks, plus a third-round pick from Fort Wayne. There will also be open tryouts sometime in September, from which the 905 can add four players if they go undrafted. They should have regular access to the Raptors’ two-way players (Malcolm Miller and a second to be signed), as well as potential NBA assignees like OG Anunoby, Bruno Caboclo, and Alfonzo McKinnie, and the Raptors can make up to four players Affiliate Players after camp, with Kennedy Meeks standing at the top of the list of potential names there.

There’s a busy offseason to come now that a lot of the work with the parent club has wrapped up. The G-League is damn near impossible to manage, even when you’re the champs.

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Flurry of movement doesn’t change much for Raptors title odds

The Toronto Raptors have completed the bulk of their offseason at this point. It’s been a wild couple of weeks, and yet despite all of the movement, it feels like maybe not a lot has changed.

Kyle Lowry was retained on a three-year deal. Serge Ibaka was brought back on a three-year deal. Out went P.J. Tucker and Patrick Patterson in free agency. DeMarre Carroll was shipped off amid some drama between himself and president Masai Ujiri. Cory Joseph was sent out to make room for C.J. Miles.

The biggest change could be that their vaunted Lowry-and-bench units will have an entirely new look this season. The Raptors will put their faith in one of the youngest supporting casts in basketball, looking to Delon Wright, Norman Powell, Pascal Siakam, and Jakob Poeltl to fill roles and potentially even tapping Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Bruno Caboclo, and Alfonzo McKinnie at different points. This is how you have to build around a top-heavy team if you’re not a heavy tax spender (the Raptors currently have the league’s ninth-highest payroll, which seems fair).

It sounded Tuesday as if the Raptors are done most of their shopping. The main roster stands at 14, the extended camp roster at 16, and the cap situation such that adding anything more than minimums and camp deals could push the Raptors into the luxury tax. That’s something they can do, but it’s a bullet they may not want to use in a season in which their championship chances aren’t particularly strong. Paying a heavy tax bill for a winner or a real contender makes good business sense. Doing so in Year 1 of the renewed three-year window, potentially taking away flexibility or budget for the next two years, might be deemed too short-sighted a move

And to be clear, the window for the Raptors to contend is not particularly open this season. Not while an unhappy LeBron James remains with the Cleveland Cavaliers for at least one more season. The potential for him to leave afterward was an argument in favor of keeping the core together for this three-year run, but he’s not a Laker yet (I kid. Maybe.) Elsewhere, the Boston Celtics have gotten better with the addition of Gordon Hayward and some exciting young talent. Still, they may be gearing up to peak in 2020 or so, depending on how the market plays out the next few months. The Philadelphia 76ers will be better, but their window to contend will be at least a year in the future (barring everything clicking and everyone staying healthy out of the gate). The Washington Wizards and Milwaukee Bucks are around to push the Raptors.

For now, the market suggests the Raptors slot right around where they were last season. Looking at NBA betting offers, the Raptors’ championship odds have actually gotten a little longer since the end of the 2016-17 season. The’re currently coming in at +6,600 after starting at +5000, underscoring a minor shakeup in the Eastern Conference.

Team Open Now
Cleveland +400 +450
Boston +1600 +900
Philadelphia +10000 +5000
Milwaukee +5000 +6600
Toronto +5000 +6600
Washington +3300 +6600
Miami +12500 +10000
Charlotte +12500 +30000
Detroit +12500 +30000
Atlanta +15000 +50000
Brooklyn +50000 +50000
Chicago +10000 +50000
Indiana +10000 +50000
New York +15000 +50000
Orlando +10000 +50000

You can quibble here, like with the Raptors being behind Philadelphia, but there are market factors to consider in the odds, as well as some general biases that take hold in gambling. The real take-aways here are: Cleveland remains a fairly heavy favorite, Boston is the only other team given a legitimate chance, and the Golden State Warriors – still heavy favorites against the entire field – are one of the largest sure-things, on paper, of all-time.

There’s not a lot the Raptors can do between now and training camp to shift these odds much, which is probably both reason not to spend into the tax and ammunition for those who wanted to blow things up. There’s a bet on internal development here, and the Raptors will need a hot start to shift their odds much once the season starts.

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Why The Raptors Didn’t Sign Kelly Olynyk, An Investigation

Let it never be said that we here at Raptors Republic don’t take the demands of our readers seriously, or put our own hot takes ahead of those of even the most scrutinizing Raptors fan. This is an athletic democracy. Which is why when I heard there were some questions being raised about our investigative practices—in this case, a complaint over the lack of  inquest into the particular failing of the team we know and love in obtaining a certain 6’9” center—I readily volunteered my expertise.

You see, I’m the preeminent Kelly Olynyk scholar. Not just here at RR, but across the wide world of unfounded speculation on questionably notable basketball players. Don’t believe me? I’ve already written extensively about the biological makeup of Olynyk, a man made entirely out of other people’s stolen hair, and have tracked his whereabouts in the offseason doggedly, like one might peruse a more rewarding hobby. But I don’t mind the lack of joy in my academia, the reward of enlightening those still in the dark about Kelly Olynyk is my very own Plato’s Cave.

He eats wigs. Sorry to be so blunt about it but I’ve found when handling sensitive information the best practice is to be as transparent as possible. As a man made of hair scraps he once had to pilfer in the night, Olynyk’s life has no doubt gotten more comfortable. Though the details are still murky even for me—the world’s most knowledgeable Kelly Olynyk academic—this not-so gentle giant no doubt has a hefty contractual requirement to keep him in the powder all season long (powdered wigs, I mean). Knowing that, and understanding that the rigorous training and athletic endurance of a professional basketball player requires a diet to match, we have to look at cities with a long history or natural occurrence of wigs as those best suited to sustain a creature like Olynyk.

Boston was a great fit for a habitat rich in wigs and relative obscurity. Not just any wigs, ancient wigs, nutrient dense and folically richer than the modern wig of today. Samuel Adams, The Sons of Liberty, what do you think happened to all these dude’s wigs when they were done tossing tea into the river or whatever? Well they probably ditched them in a revolutionary dumpster, but after that every last one was collected and placed in vault at the Boston Museum. Not to get too Da Vinci Code on everyone but can you guess when these wigs began to disappear? That’s right, 2015, the year Olynyk landed on the Celtics.

For a while it was the perfect arrangement, Brad Stevens got a cheap, lumbering, bruiser of a center in Olynyk, a guy who could fly under the radar and keep in relative obscurity, and the Boston Museum got to get rid of their oldest and rattiest wigs—hassle free. But whether it was the quality of wig he was consuming, or a taste of the spotlight, something changed. We all saw Olynyk explode these past playoffs, channeling guys like Draymond Green, Zaza or the man made entirely of rats, Matthew Dellavedova, when he was on the court. All of a sudden Kelly Olynyk was a name that people knew outside of Boston, more than that, was a name that people were interested in.

Brad Stevens was panicking. He was also fielding frantic calls from the Boston Museum complaining that not just their ratty wigs were going missing, but all their wigs. They had bald mannequins on their hands and their best Tea Party reenactors lived in fear of a tall, gangly shadow cornering them in their dressing rooms, making off with their best wigs and also shaving them bald. Meanwhile, Olynyk was flaunting his stringy playoff beard in the streets, relishing in the attention and the promise of becoming a highly sought after free agent. So Stevens called the only man with a system rigorous enough to whip a Sasquatch like that into shape—Pat Riley.

And Riley gladly accepted. After all, Miami is a veritable cornucopia of wigs. They flow freely from the timeshare closets of snowbirds, tumble off unaccounted for off the heads of some of the country’s most relaxed and tanned judges, and flourish along with the city’s drag scene. More than that, a studied Pat Riley was well aware he had an exit strategy for Olynyk should his taste for wigs, the spotlight and a bigger salary overtake his usefulness.

Florida is the birthplace and home of some strange creatures in its own right—Johnny Depp, Diplo—but none so strange as the skunk ape, or Florida Bigfoot. If Kelly Olynyk grows too big for the Miami Heat system (figuratively and literally) and turns into a deficit, then Riley can simply let him loose to live with his kin in the Everglades. You think he’d be the first player to befall this fate? It’s been the place Miami has been sending some of their more questionable picks and salary dumps for years. The only time it ever backfired was with Chris Andersen, who actually preferred to live in the swamp.

Now that you know the truth of why Ujiri would never bring Olynyk to Toronto, Raptors fans, count your blessings. He would have eaten the Theatre District dry of their wigs in a matter of weeks and put an even bigger strain on the team’s current salary situation. There was no way Toronto could have satisfied this walking barbershop of horrors and I’m not sure any of us would have wanted to see what happened when he got hungry.

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VIDEO: C.J. Miles press conference; Masai Ujiri speaks

The Toronto Raptors introduced new signing C.J. Miles at BioSteel Centre on Tuesday. Here’s the video:

Masai Ujiri also spoke:

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Raptors officially sign Kennedy Meeks

The Toronto Raptors announced Tuesday that they have signed Kennedy Meeks to a contract with undisclosed terms.

Originally reported a few weeks back by Shams Charania, Raptors Republic since confirmed that the deal is an Exhibit 10 contract, which is explained in detail here. Meeks will be in training camp with the Raptors (with no guaranteed money) looking to crack the roster or earn a two-way contract. Failing that, he’d receive a $50,000 bonus if he clears waivers and agrees to become a G-League player with Raptors 905.

I wrote more about Meeks from Las Vegas over at Vice.

This brings the Raptors camp roster to 16.

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Raptors announce C.J. Miles signing

The Toronto Raptors announced at a press conference Tuesday that they have signed unrestricted free agent C.J. Miles.

The deal is reported to be for three years and $25 million, with the third year a player option. The Raptors made way for the move by officially trading Cory Joseph into the cap space of the Indiana Pacers on Friday. As we’ve covered far too much already, the deal was initially reported as a sign-and-trade for Joseph, and while the different sequencing of the parts of the deal look worse from an optics perspective, they accomplish more or less the same thing (I’m not going to dive into the minutiae again).

You can find all of the details and reaction here, and an explanation some of the difficult salary cap gymnastics at play here. And read more about Miles’ terrific fit on offense here.

The Raptors’ roster now stands at 14, plus a two-way player and an Exhibit 10. They have $117.3 million in committed salary but $120.6 million earmarked for luxury tax apron calculations. They’re hard-capped at $125.3 million for the season but still have access to their bi-annual exception and minimum contracts and own a pair of trade exceptions.

Masai Ujiri also mentioned that the team will add more pieces but that they could just be non-guaranteed deals. Video shortly.

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Malcolm Miller undergoes ankle surgery, out 12 weeks

The Toronto Raptors announced Tuesday that two-way player Malcolm Miller underwent arthroscopic surgery on his sprained ankle and is expected to miss 12 weeks.

Better to do it now and get the healing process underway, given it’s the dead of summer. Still, Miller will lose three months of development time and likely won’t be an active member of the Raptors training camp. Instead, his focus might be making the start of the Raptors 905 season.

Miller became the first ever Raptor signed to a two-way deal, and then immediately sprained his ankle in a Summer League practice. He can spend up to 45 days on the NBA roster between the start of G-League training camp and the end of the G-League season, plus any time before or after. Read more here.

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Raptors Weekly Podcast – What’s next?

Host William Lou is joined by Joe Wolfond (@joey_doubleyou) to discuss where the Raptors are and where they’re headed.

(more…)

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Raptors 905 awarded 2018 G-League Showcase

Raptors 905 have been awarded the 2018 G-League Showcase, Raptors Republic learned this week.

The plan also calls for them to host the event in 2019 in a two-year agreement that can be re-evaluated after next year’s mini-tournament. The 905 hosted the 2017 edition of the Showcase as well, turning Hershey Centre in Mississauga into a five-day basketball free-for-all. The organization impressed enough that rather than rotate cities or take it back to the west coast, the G-League has opted to make the GTA a more permanent home for its biggest annual event, at least for the near-term.

The Showcase is an annual in-season tournament that takes place right around when NBA teams are able to give players 10-day contracts (January 5 each year), providing an opportunity for the top G-Leaguers to show their stuff in front of a heavy scouting presence. It also helps get the wheels moving a month out from the NBA trade deadline, with plenty of scouts and executives on hand for a mini-summit of sorts. Every G-League team participates and gets two games each, though no actual champion is crowned any longer. The 905 went 2-0 as the hosts last year, becoming the second consecutive team to “win” the showcase before winning the league championship, and two of their players received call-ups from NBA teams in the weeks and months that followed.

Prior to last year, five consecutive showcases had taken place in California or Nevada and included just a single court. The aim with the change last year was to increase the presence of the tournament and bring it to an even larger market, and the fact that Hershey Centre has the potential to add a second court is an important consideration as the G-League continues to expand.

“I think those guys did a great job organizing,” president Masai Ujiri said of last year’s event. “I think it was good for the league to get away and come to Toronto, they like the city, and for us it’s preparing and organizing. It means a lot to us. Any time you can host the league in some kind of way it does mean a lot.”

This is yet another nice nod to what the entire Raptors’ organization has been building as they continue to establish themselves as one of the league’s top franchises off the court.

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Weekend open thread

With Summer League in the books, I’m off from Las Vegas to Newfoundland, abandoning you for a few days. I just wanted to get a fresh post up so everyone can argue in a clean new comment thread. Have a great weekend, everyone.

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Olynyk lights up Crown League Week 3

1 Love T.O. and ACE had fought tooth and nail from start to finish. ACE looked to have the game well in control after Kelly Olynyk missed two free throws with his team trailing by two with under 30 seconds remaining.

As shooters are prone to doing, though, Olynyk was able to perfectly anticipate his miss by following it up with his own rebound. It was an instinctual play from the Toronto native, before pump faking a defender out of his shoes for an easy lay-in. Tie game.

Then, fter getting a stop on the other end, 1 Love T.O. had a chance to win the game with 1.7 seconds remaining. Inbounding from the right side of the court, there was only one man that was going to get the ball in that situation.

Making a guest appearance for 1 Love T.O. on Friday night at Ryerson University, the newly minted $50 million dollar man for the Miami Heat did not disappoint. With his team struggling to keep up with the hot shooting of ACE’s Warren Ward (24 points on 9-of-11 shooting), Olynyk put 1 Love T.O. on his back, dropping 30 of his 38 points in the second half, and as you can see above, throwing the crowd into a frenzy after what was clearly this year’s signature moment thus far for the event.

The moment was made all the more special when Olynyk went straight into the section of the crowd where Canada’s U-19 men’s basketball team was seated to celebrate. The old school that helped build a path, celebrating with the new that slammed the door down about a week ago with Canada’s first ever gold medal in basketball at any level.

“It’s (Canadian basketball) on the rise, man, it’s on the come up,” Olynyk said proudly after the game. “All those young guys are good, really good. I wish we were that good. The next few years are gonna be fun.”

After a relatively quiet Week 1, largely due to the long weekend, Weeks 2 and 3 at Kerr Hall for the Crown League have drawn excellent crowds that have in turn brought the best out of the players. From Brady Heslip’s hot shooting in Week 1, to Negus Webster-Chan and  Xavier Rathan-Mayes’ all-round performances last week, to Olynyk’s dominant 38 point, 13 rebound performance in Week 3, there is plenty of local talent for fans to celebrate at this event.

“It’s awesome,” Olynyk said. “I walked in here and your heart just drops—being from here—seeing this atmosphere, the type of crowd that’s here. The love and passion for the game is second to none right now. To walk in the door, it’s a wow factor.”

In the other two contests, M.A.D.E. improved to 2-1 with a 102-85 victory over CIA Bounce courtesy of a 23-5-5 night for Junior Cadougan, while Richard Amardi dropped 28 points, nine rebounds, and three blocks in 6Man’s win over Northern Kings.

Next week is semifinals week, and is just a click away for you to attend. Oh, and did I mention it’s FREE?

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Raptors close out Summer League with overtime loss to Cavs

Raptors 75, Cavaliers 78 (OT) | Box Score

It’s always difficult to tell how a game like this one may play out. At the end of a very long 10 days in Las Vegas and coming off of a disappointing loss Thursday, the Toronto Raptors’ Summer League team could have been expected to come out a little flat. Conversely, they desperately wanted to win the championship here, and an angry group of gamers could have just as easily come out looking for a blood against a Cleveland Cavaliers team with a little less in the way of NBA talent. All of the games here are the sort of crapshoot that only Vegas can appreciate, but a mandatory fifth game on the consolation side of things carries with it an especially potent air of randomness.

Adding to that uncertainty was the decision to sit all four players on their summer roster who are already on NBA deals. With the game holding no tangible meaning, the Raptors wanted a longer look at some of the other players here with them and didn’t want to risk injury to a quartet of players who could conceivably have a role for the big club at some point this season by playing them a fifth game in eight days. It was a reasonable decision, though it contributed even further to the cloud of futility around the evening.

To call the game a little sloppy would probably be kind. Does a combined 13 first-quarter turnovers describe it better? The early stages included a bushel of miscues (including a backcourt violation), a fair number of fouls, and poor Cole Huff having to rotate over to grab 905 alumni Edy Tavares. As his near-tournament-leading usage rate may have betrayed, the game started out with some Kennedy Meeks on offense, including a made three out of the gate and a rimmed-out attempt shortly after, and Will Sheehey did his best to play the role of experienced leader of the rag-tag offense. Things came slowly, though, and only a Jordan Loyd three at the end of the frame kept things within five.

Despite seven absences, the Raptors still ran deep, and the second quarter brought some run for what would have been the fourth unit at some point during practices. That sounds a certain way, but it really was kind of fun to see these fringier or very long-term pieces get an opportunity in front of the smattering of league personnel that remained. And since both sides did the same – we see you, Sam Cassell Jr. – things remained close, with the game settling in for a much better flow than early on. It even seemed to give the Raptors a little boost, and as starters filtered back in, Toronto found themselves in a tie game, and then with a two-point lead at the break.

It was more Meeks and Sheehey in the third, and the pair would wind up combining to take __ shots in the game, somewhat of a necessity. Meeks even had some decent defense opposite Tavares, at least preventing him from establishing low and making things difficult. Troy Caupain found a little groove, too, drilling a three and then cutting for a Meeks dish to put the Raptors up five. (The bench for defensive possessions was pretty funny at this point, clapping and roaring in unison as the clock wore on.) Toronto held that lead through the bulk of the quarter, even pushing it to seven at one point.

We now interrupt this recap to bring you some ankle-breaking, courtesy of Loyd on El Hijo de Cassell:

Maybe that was a bit of a monkey’s paw highlight, because the Cavaliers stormed back, not only erasing Toronto’s lead but taking one of their own midway through the fourth. It became a back-and-forth from there, with a sweet finger-roll from Meeks putting the Raptors in control. Cleveland answered and then Meeks missed a three, but on the way back down, Meeks managed to turn away a Tavares attempt. A huge charge draw shortly after gave Toronto a chance to extend the lead beyond one (after they successfully killed seven seconds), and Loyd hit a pair to go up three with 10 seconds to play. The Cavs answered right back out of a timeout with an Andrew White triple, with an enormous amount of consolation-bracket summer-league overtime dread setting in.

So, yeah. On top of everything else, this mostly meaningless game without most of the key players went to overtime. Paul Watson had a great couple of seconds with a driving baseline layup and then a blocked shot at the rim, but Caupain turned the ball over, Loyd missed a three, and it was time to play the fouling game again with the roles reversed. A great defensive possession from Cleveland lead to a missed three, and the Raptors couldn’t convert on a second attempt on an inbounds play. Mercifully, it ended there, though it’s a little disappointing to end here on a loss given how well these unfamiliar pieces pulled together in this one.

(Apologies for the relative brevity and lack of post-game quotes here, but I had to bolt for a red-eye.)

Notes

  • The Raptors opted to sit out Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl, and Alfonzo McKinnie. With four games in a week already and the game mostly meaningless, it was a means of avoiding injury and giving additional run to the guys they need a longer look at.
    • OG Anunoby (knee), Malcolm Miller (ankle), and Goodluck Okonoboh (knee) were sidelined once again.
  • Kennedy Meeks was 8-of-14 for 18 points with nine rebounds and three assists, easily Toronto’s best player on the night. Jordan Loyd had another nice game in support with 13 points, though he missed all four of his threes, and Jalen Reynolds provided a nice 12-and-6 boost with three blocks off the bench.
  • Old friend Edy Tavares was the only notable piece playing for the Cavaliers. The reigning D-League Defensive Player of the Year has had a pretty quiet tournament, but it never takes long to understand the draw, anyway. He had 10 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks here. He’s among the nicer people around, too. T.J. Williams had a nice game for the Cavs, as well, scoring 21 points.
  • It was a good day for Canadians here. I haven’t been doing regular updates in this space, but Dylan Ennis had a monster game for the Warriors (he was shaky the rest of the tournament but great in the Orlando Summer League), and Brady Heslip caught fire over Chicago’s final two games (42 points, 12-of-23 on threes). Dillon Brooks had a nice tournament for Memphis, too. My strategy for the last eight days included a lot of scoping out the Canadians here – my eyes will never forgive me for seeing this much of the summer Bulls .
  • See you next summer, Vegas.
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Raptors waive Justin Hamilton

The Toronto Raptors announced Friday that they have waived center Justin Hamilton.

Hamilton, acquired in the DeMarre Carroll salary dump, was superfluous as the team’s 45th center. Owed $3 million in guaranteed money for this year, the Raptors are expected to use the stretch provision to spread that cap hit out over three seasons.

For more details on the stretch provision, head here. For more details on the Raptors’ current complicated cap situation, head here.

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Raptors officially trade Cory Joseph to Indiana, paving way for C.J. Miles signing

The Toronto Raptors announced Friday that they have traded Cory Joseph to the Indiana Pacers for the draft rights to Emir Preldzic.

This, of course, is the precursor to the announcement that they have signed unrestricted free agent C.J. Miles. Initially reported as a sign-and-trade, the Raptors are structuring this as two separate deals so that Miles can get a two-year deal with a third-year option, a structure that’s not allowed in a sign-and-trade. Instead, the Raptors will create a trade exception in the amount of Joseph’s salary to use at another time (if they even intend to add still) and sign Miles using their non-taxpayer mid-level exception.

Either the full mid-level or a sign-and-trade would have hard-capped the Raptors, so there’s not much difference here in that sense. This is a means of giving Miles the deal he wanted and avoiding giving him an option on a fourth year, with the only real cost being the added complexity of having to acquire a new signing via sign-and-trade. But again, the Raptors may not be adding, anyway, given their proximity to the luxury tax and tax apron, and they are armed with their bi-annual exception and a pair of trade exceptions now. Please don’t get hung up in “Joseph dealt for nothing” – it’s mostly the same deal as before, just structured differently (and nothing may have even changed on their end – it just may have been misreported initially).

Yes, the way it’s structured shows Joseph out for nothing in a salary dump, but that space was required to use the MLE on Miles without crossing the hard cap; it’s just salary cap massaging. If they’re done now, they might be able to avoid the tax and save the two trade exceptions for next July. If they still want to add, there are means of doing so, they just might have to manage a sign-and-trade if it’s a player getting more than $3.3 million. Don’t get too hung up on the details.

You can find all of the details and reaction here, and an explanation some of the difficult salary cap gymnastics at play here.

As for Preldzic, he was a 2009 second-round pick of the Phoenix Suns. Now 29 and playing a bench role in the Turkish league, his draft rights essentially amount to currency (because teams have to send something out in trade), like with DeeAndre Hulett.

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Raptors’ title hopes dashed in dispiriting LVSL loss to Blazers

Raptors 85 , Trail Blazers 91 | Box Score

The Toronto Raptors are snake-bitten at Las Vegas Summer League. For the third year in a row, they were dominant in the opening stage of the tournament. They earned the top overall seed for the second consecutive year, too. As has been the case in each of the last two summers, though, they came up short in the elimination stage, dropping a frustrating 91-85 decision to the Portland Trail Blazers.

“We had a couple turnovers and missed some open shots and they were able to capitalize,” Fred VanVleet said afterward. “We started fouling, the refs tightened up a little bit, and we didn’t adjust well enough. We just didn’t play well enough to win overall.”

The Raptors started out a little sloppier than they have in any other game here, which, you know, on my seventh day in Vegas, I totally understand. With a switch-heavy scheme on ball screens, they missed a few rotations or broke down late in the clock, and Portland made them pay early on to the tune of a six-point lead. Toronto was also a little slower to get going offensively, scoring just six points in the first six-plus minutes before Alfonzo McKinnie slammed home a put-back – his fourth consecutive game with one – off of a tough VanVleet mix. That got things moving a bit, with VanVleet barrelling into chests for fouls and McKinnie coming through with a corner three shortly after. A Will Sheehey dunk off of a turnover looked to wrap a mini-comeback, but some carelessness set back in and the Raptors trailed by four through a frame.

The offense sputtered once again when the bench filtered in, and short of forcing a steady diet of Portland turnovers, the defense grew shaky. Jake Layman had an extended stretch of taking over, turning away a few Sheehey shots, hitting a pair of threes, and floating in for a dunk. If it weren’t for VanVleet sensing the need and then dominating the back half of the second quarter, the Raptors may have been in trouble. As it was, though, VanVleet’s extra gear and pre-veteran poise kept things well in hand, with the teams entering the break tied at 44.

Coming out of the half, Toronto looked to go a little smaller, probably wanting to stagger Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl so they’d both be fresh for what was promising to be a tight stretch run. It was Jordan Loyd giving the team a huge boost in the third quarter, though, chipping in seven points out of the gate. Poeltl was a nice presence on the offensive glass – not exactly a shocker, I realize – and turned away an R.J. Hunter attempt before turning things over to Siakam in an alternate four-around-one look. Siakam’s worst game of the tournament to date continued, and he was back on the bench in short order (he had picked up four fouls in 16 minutes and would eventually foul out). The late-quarter slide cut what had once grown to a seven-point lead to one entering the fourth.

That set up a pretty frustrating final frame for the Raptors, who were on the wrong end of a 12-3 run to dig themselves a tough hole. The small lineup struggled opposite Jarnell Stokes and Caleb Swanigan (Cole Huff on Stokes is a mismatch, you know?), and a few quick turnovers meant the Raptors needed to lean back on their starters for the final six minutes to make up ground.

“I think they had big bodies. Their physicality kind of wore on us, our younger guys. I think they took our legs a little bit,” coach Patrick Mutombo said.

It looked like for the third year in a row after a great start to the tournament, though, it just wasn’t in the cards. VanVleet and McKinnie miscommunicated in transition (it was probably a missed call, to be fair), Poeltl got beat by a Swanigan spin-move, and VanVleet missed a tough shot through contact. But Siakam found VanVleet for a three late in the clock, then stole a high-low after the Raptors were whistled for a pair of fouls, and VanVleet pushed the pace in transition, and Siakam finally got it going with a nice attack from the corner. In a blink, the Raptors were only down three.

Alas, the lack of meaningful contribution from the bench and a frigid 7-of-35 mark from the 3-point line as a team was just too much, and the Raptors couldn’t climb that final summit.

“Yeah, we had a couple rushed ones, but for the most part they were nice looks, open looks off of good penetration and passing,” VanVleet said. “Maybe the passes could have been a little bit more on target, from our part. But you gotta take ’em, and that’s part of it. That’s the way we wanna play going forward, is getting up more threes and pace and moving the ball, so you know, tonight was one of those nights they just didn’t go in, it seemed like.”

They most certainly did not, and despite their late push to try to claw back into it, the Raptors came up on the wrong end of another elimination game. As much as it may appear to be “just” Summer League from the outside, the Raptors wanted to win the championship here in Vegas, especially those who had been a part of the team last year, and even the year before (from a staff perspective). The momentum of the young Raptors going from D-League champions to Summer League champions would have been appreciated, and a longer tournament in a heated one-and-done format creates more opportunities for learning and development.

The team was fairly dejected after the loss, and they’ll probably come out hungry Friday looking to wrap their tournament on a somewhat positive note. It would seem unlikely that any of the three Raptors’ sophomores here will be back again next year, so consider this season a culture reset of sorts for the Summer League team.

Notes

  • As always, yes, all Summer League caveats apply. The context of the tournament needs to be recognized. That doesn’t mean information can’t be pulled from it – positive signs are allowed to breed optimism, and negatives can help inform the rest of a player’s offseason.
  • This was a disappointing time for Siakam to have a shaky outing. He finished with just two points and three rebounds and lacked a bit of the pop and confidence he’s had in earlier games, perhaps because of the quick whistle. Poeltl was efficient when he got looks, finishing with 10 points and six rebounds on five attempts, but he struggled a bit to establish inside against a beefy frontcourt. That left VanVleet to do a lot himself, leading to a 31-6-3 line, though he was upset with himself for playing his way into foul trouble.
    • The big three needed some help here, but outside of McKinnie (11 points, nine rebounds, and a late injury, though he seemed to be okay after the game) and Loyd (17 points), it just wasn’t there. The bench was 1-of-16 on threes, which is a number that is apparently possible.
  • Former Raptors’ second-round pick DeAndre Daniels is here with Portland. He hit a three in the first half but has otherwise had an unremarkable showing. Stokes and Swanigan had a nice game as a twin-towers of sorts inside, even playing together some, and Nick Johnson got hot with his jumper.
  • Goodluck Okonoboh has been ruled out for the remainder of the tournament with knee tendinitis. OG Anunoby (knee) and Malcolm Miller (ankle) are also out for the tournament.
    • Jamario Moon was in attendance.
  • The Raptors now end their tournament against the  Cavaliers at 10:30 pm ET on Friday.
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Raptors-Blazers LVSL Reaction Podcast – Another bad playoff showing

Host William Lou recaps a tough playoff elimination loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

(more…)

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Raptors make DeMarre Carroll trade official

The Toronto Raptors announced Thursday that they have traded DeMarre Carroll, a first-round pick, and a second-round pick to the Brooklyn Nets for Justin Hamilton.

You and read everything you need to know about the deal here. The Raptors are expected to use the stretch provision on Hamilton, unless these Boris Diaw rumours have an impact.

With this domino down, the Raptors now have the means to trade Cory Joseph to the Pacers and sign CJ Miles.

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Report: Raptors had reached out on Boris Diaw

The Toronto Raptors have reached out to the Utah Jazz to inquire about Boris Diaw, according to a report from Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune.

The headline now says “had” because Shams Charania reports the Jazz have waived him ahead of his guarantee date. Most of the analysis that follows still holds, it’s just that if the Raptors are interested, they can work him through the free agent market. But who knows? Maybe this was a last-ditch effort by his agent or Utah to drum up interest. Anyway, it’s content, I guess?

The Jazz have reportedly been shopping Diaw in an attempt to recoup something in return or at least unload his salary ahead of Saturday’s guarantee date on his deal. If Utah can’t find a home for him by then, they may be forced to waive him, as the team needs the financial wiggle room and Diaw’s $7.5-million salary becomes fully guaranteed on that date.

The Jazz don’t have a ton of leverage here, given that their alternative to trading him might be to just cut him loose. That’s a positive if the Raptors are legitimately interested, as they’ve already dealt five draft picks in the last five months and probably wouldn’t be willing to offer a great deal, anyway. Diaw’s contract could be absorbed into the trade exception the Raptors created by dealing Cory Joseph to the Indiana Pacers, though Toronto would have to send something back in order to stay beneath the hard-cap they triggered by signing C.J. Miles with the non-taxpayer mid-level exception.

(The Raptors presently sit a shade above the tax for the purposes of the apron calculation, though some of that amount is tied up in unlikely bonuses for their two All-Stars. Full contract details aren’t made publicly available, so we have to make some assumptions in these cases. Lucas Nogueira would seem to be a likely outbound piece if Toronto needed to clear additional space, though he’s sort of become a one-man welcoming committee with the team’s newer and younger players, and he was terrific in a small sample of play last season. The Raptors also haven’t technically waived Justin Hamilton yet, so they could conceivably send him out to save a sliver of cap hit down the line, saving the Joseph exception. If Utah would accept that, anyway.)

In Diaw, the Raptors would find a gifted frontcourt passer and a nice fit as they attempt to vary their style of play some. While it’s true that the Raptors’ offense has been a drag on the passing numbers and assist percentage of basically every big who has come through the last few years, none of had the singular passing ability and vivacious approach to moving the basketball that Diaw possesses. He owned an assist percentage north of 20 percent last year and has hovered in the high teens and low 20s for most of his career, and while that comes with a cost in terms of turnovers, he’s about as big an addition as the team could make at this stage in terms of adding a piece that could fundamentally help shift the offensive aesthetic.

Outside of passing, Diaw’s utility has tapered off some, completely understandable for a 35-year-old. His 3-point shooting fell off a cliff a season ago after a solid four-year stretch, but it’s still enough of a show-me weapon given the way he’s generally been used in offenses. Toronto would probably ask him to take a greater percentage of his shots from outside, as they do of most power forwards and as the San Antonio Spurs did while Diaw was employed there. He also retains a quality post game, and it’s from that position that some of his niftiest passes get fired. In any case, he’s not going to chew up many possessions himself, clocking in at a steady 16-percent usage rate for his career and in recent years.

Defensively, Diaw isn’t exactly fleet of foot anymore, which has hurt his defensive impact someone given that he’s generally played as an undersized center at that end and isn’t much of a shot-blocker. His shaky defensive rebounding also declined, likely because the Jazz took him out of that center spot some. Utah was a shade worse with him on the court at that end last year, but there’s some noise there given how elite the team defense was overall, and multi-year defensive real plus-minus grades Diaw as something close to a neutral defender. Diaw’s role probably wouldn’t be big enough for this to be a huge detriment to Toronto, so long as they avoided pairing him with Jonas Valanciunas.

Diaw could also be a boon to a locker room that hasn’t always had a steady veteran presence the last few years. Luis Scola and Bismack Biyombo played an important role in that regard, but P.J. Tucker is outbound now, and Patrick Patterson’s loss could be felt from a cultural perspective. Given the speculation about trust in the Raptors’ locker room courtesy of DeMarre Carroll on his way out the door, the Raptors may feel inclined to add another experienced voice. Even if it’s not that, the fun-loving, world-travelling, wine-sipping, espresso-making, photo-journalist would be an exceptional boost to the team’s culture, a genuinely jovial person who would seem, on the surface, to be an ideal connector of people.

All told, the Raptors checking in on Diaw makes sense. It’s probably not worthwhile to swallow his contract, shed a piece in the process to make room, and commit to the tax all for a bench big you’d hope that Pascal Siakam can jump in the rotation, anyway, but it would be understandable, especially if it was just one piece of several more as the Raptors continue to reshape their roster and cap sheet for future years. The savvier play might be to check in on Diaw enough to gauge the likelihood he’s waived, then try to double back on the free agent market, dangling the bi-annual exception that wouldn’t require Toronto to duck under the apron again. The veteran minimum might even register with him, though at that price he’d probably have multiple suitors.

There is also a tiny chance the Raptors have just made a call as a means of potentially unloading money, routing a player to Utah for Diaw that works for salary-matching, only to then waive Diaw before his guarantee date. This would seem unlikely (it’d amount to just giving a player away to further insulate themselves from the tax), but it’s always a consideration with a non-guaranteed deal right before the drop date.

But whatever. Diaw is one of my favorite humans on the planet and the way he approaches the game of basketball is everything the Raptors have needed from a cultural standpoint. It’d be an easy enough sell.

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Large Raptors contingent heading to NBA Africa Game

The NBA and NBPA announced the rosters for the 2017 NBA Africa Game on Thursday and, as you’d expect, there’s a heavy Toronto Raptors contingent heading over for the Aug. 5 event in Johannesburg.

Serge Ibaka will be suiting up for Team Africa, Kyle Lowry will play for Team World, and Patrick Mutombo and Masai Ujiri are listed as participants as well (I believe 905 assistant Nate Mitchell is heading over, too). The game is just one part of a weeks-long trip as Ujiri does his annual philanthropic work on his home continent.

“Basketball is witnessing explosive growth in Africa. Our return to Johannesburg this summer is part of the League’s continued commitment to bring the authentic NBA experience to fans around the world. I would like to thank the NBPA for their participation and for being terrific partners on this game and surrounding events,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a release.

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Raptors Playbook: Zipper Pick & Roll (SLOB)

Photo credit: KarynStepien.com

Raptors Playbook: Zipper Pick & Roll (SLOB)

Over at the Raptors Playbook YouTube channel (@RaptorsPlaybook on Twitter), I am breaking down the X’s & O’s of the Toronto Raptors every Wednesday during the regular season. This week, we’ll focus on a the Las Vegas Summer League Raptors’ SLOB Zipper Pick and Roll. Watch the video embedded below alongside the summary written, and remember to follow and subscribe to never miss out on a video.

This specific sideline out of bounds (SLOB) play is often triggered by a coach or a player making a zipper gesture, as head coach Jama Mahlalela does in this clip here.

The play starts with the point guard making a zipper cut, which is done by running from the strong side baseline to the free throw line. To ensure that the point guard is available to receive the inbounds pass, the power forward will set a down screen for them.

This simple action provides the ancillary benefit of forcing the ball handler’s defender to trail his assignment. As a result of this, the primary defender is often coaxed into tightly pressuring the ball, which is relevant for the ensuing action.

Upon the completion of the entry pass, the point guard will turn into a screen set by the weak side big-man in the middle of the floor. Since the primary defender has had to recover from the zipper cut, they will likely pressure the ball handler tightly and force themselves into trailing over-the-top of the screen.

As the screen setter rolls hard into the paint, a two-on-one advantage is created with the point guard probing into the middle of the floor, trapping their on their hip. At this point, it is up to the ball handler to decide their method of execution. During Summer League, the Raptors have often found Jakob Poeltl rolling to the rim. His improved finishing ability in traffic has made this playcall pretty deadly for Toronto.

When this play is run with two non-shooting big-men on the floor, the power forward will curl from the strong side of the floor, underneath the basket and present himself on the opposite side of the basket in the “slot”. This provides the point guard with the option of a release valve, also known as “shorting” the pick and roll.

This strategy is effective for a few reasons. Firstly, it leaves the weak side of the floor with one shooter that typically lifts or fills above the arc. This creates a “single side bump” for the weak side defender, where they have to walk the fine line of defending their own assignment and “bumping” the rolling screen setter. This plays into the strategy’s second important factor, in that “shorting” the pick and roll is done to combat teams that like to load up on the ball handler in pick and roll scenarios. If the ball handler feels overwhelmed by the increased attention and pressure after a screen, they can use the release valve in the slot to find a better passing angle. This release valve often has a better sightline of how the single weak side defender is playing between their primary assignment and the roll man.

However, when this play is utilized with the screen setter being the only non-shooting big man on the floor, the roll man often has to take on more of a playmaking role, similar to that of the power forward that is “shorting” the previous action.

The screen setter in this instance, Poeltl, wisely opts against rolling hard into the paint where the ball handler would be unable to pass to him. Rather, he short rolls to the free throw line area where he can make a decision based on how the two weak side defenders decide to guard three offensive players. Poeltl sees that the weak side corner defender has completely abandoned their assignment, while the uppermost weak side defender has no intention of recovering to that spot on the floor. Poeltl then makes the smart three-on-two pass to an open corner shooter who converts.

The last important note as it pertains to the Summer League Raptors is that their high frequency of calling this play has seemingly worked to their advantage, as defenders are anticipating the high screen.

To capitalize on this, Fred Van Vleet has shrewdly faked towards the screen before rejecting it and driving towards the emptied paint. In this instance, Van Vleet was able to draw a shooting foul because the defense was ill-prepared and out of position for his drive.

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Raptors earn top seed in Vegas, tournament bracket set

For the second year in a row, the Toronto Raptors have locked down the top seed through the round robin portion of Las Vegas Summer League. The Raptors went 3-0 with a pair of nail-biter wins and one blowout victory, securing the tiebreaker with the most “system quarter points” (quarters won, basically).

The top seed earns Toronto a bye through to Thursday (10 pm ET, NBA TV/TSN GO), where they’ll play the winner of today’s game between Portland and Chicago. After that point, the tournament becomes single-loss elimination, so the Raptors are assured at least two more games but could be done as soon as Friday despite the strong start.

Here’s how things will shake out for the Raptors:

Thursday, 10pm – vs. winner of Por/Chi

If LOSE – Friday, 1030pm – vs loser of Cle/(LA/Phi)
Final game

If WIN – Saturday, 4pm – TBD
If lose – eliminated
If win – Sunday, 6pm
If win again – Monday, 10pm

(Just as a small programming note, I might be a bit scarce around here the next couple days. Something’s come up.)

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Things We Wish We Could See DeMar DeRozan Throw a Basketball At

DeMar DeRozan basically never loses his cool. He’s not that kind of player. There’s also something to be said for the merits and space for “that kind of player” in the composition of the NBA, but that’s a longer thought for another day that’s not in the middle of summer.

DeRozan’s only been ejected four times over the course of his 636-game NBA career. So rather than drum up the dramatics of calling him tossing a ball at or around the wall sort of in the vicinity of a ref’s head as a “sad ending to his 41-point performance”, let’s instead channel that energy into making a list of all of the other things we wish we could see DeMar throw a basketball at.

Kelly Olynyk: Are we 100% sure that human drain clog Olynyk didn’t pop up at the end of the court at that exact moment? The ball hit the wall at a much higher point than the ref in question is tall, and not a single one of us can say that we wouldn’t do the same when faced with an unexpected teen wolf Olynyk sighting.

Spiders: Likewise, who’s to say there wasn’t a gigantic spider skittering across the wall, headed right toward this poor referee’s head when the hawk-eyed, incredibly thoughtful DeRozan happened to spot it? A big thank you is in order, guy.

Guys going by on really loud motorcycles: Dude, you are freaking my dog out.

Forest fires: These things are getting out of control. If you filled a basketball with water, could you huck it at the same velocity? Unfortunately I’m not a physicist, just a dreamer.

Tall guy in front of you at the show: Not my fault your head was the perfect target for the NBA’s calmest player who is just letting off some steam this once.

Aaron Gordon’s drone at the 2017 NBA All-Star Game Dunk Contest: If Paul Pierce knew how to text, don’t you think he’d have been blowing up DeRozan’s phone with a request to knock this poorly planned prop out of the sky?

Waiving a player: What better way is there of waiving a ridiculous trade you already know is not going to make it to the start of the new season than by having DeMar DeRozan whip a ball at that person? Goodbye, Justin Hamilton, I’m pretty sure you’re wanted at a Plumlee impersonator reunion anyway.

Broken Social Scene: There’s a 100% chance you’d hit one out of 400 members.

Space junk: Hate this stuff.

That pepper spray meme cop: If someone could just go ahead and Photoshop this that would be great.

Slackliners: A menace to the chill afternoon park experience for far too long. And a moving target, so that much more deserving of the talents of an NBA All-Star.

Things high up on the shelf: There are some times when I would squander the talents of renowned basketball player to get something down off a tall shelf. The last box of cereal knocked all the way back behind the kind I don’t want at No Frills, for example. This is like three wishes, people, except they absolutely don’t come with a hidden hard lesson to learn that will ultimately entrap you in your greed and guilt for all time.

Guilt, regret, existential doubt: All lined up like milk bottles at a carnival except they aren’t magnetized and even if they were, DeMar could knock ‘em all over for you and get you the big, stuffed, pop-culturally relevant prize of the summer. Probably just the poop emoji again, unfortunately.

Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau: Sorry to make this political but this guy sure could use an expertly aimed basketball to the head to knock his accountability back on track.

Manspreaders: Just picture it, a perfectly aimed basketball, flung from the other end of the subway car, or the front of the bus, with such precision and force that the resulting groan echoes through space and time to dissuade such a spread from ever happening again.

LeBron James: Because it never gets old.

The last rude person you didn’t have a good comeback for right away: Even the most on-point of us can get flustered when someone says something particularly wild to our faces, especially in rush hour transit. Imagine if DeRozan was there, waiting outside of the person in question’s place when they left it the next morning, to throw a basketball at their head while they hopefully held a coffee that proceeded to spill all over them. It wouldn’t be scalding because we’re not after a lawsuit here, just a laugh.

Kelly Olynyk, again: Honestly just watch the clip and tell me you don’t see a huge Sasquatch with an unfortunate full-body goatee lurking around back there.

Emissions: ‘Nuff said!

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Raptors hang on in ugly finish to improve to 3-0 in Vegas

Raptors 82, Nuggets 81 | Box Score

As the Toronto Raptors tipped off their third game of Las Vegas Summer League on Monday, they were faced with a tough philosophical dilemma: Is winning, going 3-0 in the early stage of the tournament, and getting a bye really what gives a team the best odds of winning the whole thing when the result also includes two days off in the desert? The 0-2 Denver Nuggets opposite them, meanwhile, were facing down the prospect of a winless round robin and a path to the consolation bracket, potentially cutting their trip short. Tough calls all around, really.

Of course, there’s too much on the line individually for anyone to think this way, Lakers’ Vegas-tanking be damned. The Raptors want to win, even if the closing moments of their 82-81 victory in this one may have suggested otherwise.

“We’re playing to win this tournament,” said coach Jama Mahlalela. “Winning is your best learning. Finding a way to win the basketball game, that’s the goal of the game, so the more you practice that ultimate goal, the better you’re gonna be.”

Fred VanVleet joked the other day that while his focus was on winning the championship here, he wouldn’t be mad at it if he ended up taking home the Summer League MVP award that his pal Norman Powell was close to securing the last two years. At least, he seemed to be joking. He came out Monday playing like he was deadly serious, dominating the first half against the Nuggets with a perfect shooting line and game-high 13 points. When he wasn’t hitting deep threes or pushing his way to the line, he was facilitating for others, his two assist in the half underselling his floor generalship.

Part of that was degering to Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl for stretches, because the Raptors’ sophomores were once again active early. Poeltl struggled a little bit around the rim opposite the bulky Henry Sims, but that’s an area he’s shown improvement in this week, and he flashed a feathery touch on a couple of looks in the paint. Siakam, meanwhile, continued his hyper-aggressive offensive play, attacking off the bounce and showing off a nifty crossover and behind-the-back move, generally looking like a wing with the ball in his hands rather than a big. He even capped a solid half with a corner three, shortly after he had driven baseline to set one up for Alfonzo McKinnie.

McKinnie, by the way, had a highlight-reel half, throwing down a monster put-back jam, dunking on another possession, missing a near-alley-oop, and getting blocked a couple of times. It was a busy half, and while he shot 3-of-9, he was a big factor in disrupting Denver at both ends and in cleaning up the glass.

The Raptors’ defense wasn’t quite at the level they’d like it to be, though, and it allowed Denver to hang around through the first and most of the second. Toronto pulled away toward the end of the half, opening up a nine-point lead after locking down for an extensive stretch (Denver wound up shooting 38.2 percent through the break).

Things may have gotten out of hand early in the third if it weren’t for a temporary Malik Beasley show on Denver’s side (he had a 12-point quarter, which seemed to give the Nuggets a bit of extra life. As the quarter wore on, Toronto’s defense slipped a bit again, and after a Nikola Radicevic and-one, Siakam quite vocally challenged his teammates to step up the intensity at that end. Siakam followed with another three, this one from the elbow, but the damage had been done and Denver took a two-point lead into the fourth on the back of a 12-of-21 shooting quarter.

An all-bench unit somewhat surprisingly grabbed the lead back, with big-man Jalen Reynolds hitting a three to give the team a boost. Poeltl’s return then saw him spring the floor for a transition dunk, and as VanVleet and Siakam checked back in, they did so down a point with six minutes to go. Poeltl got one over on Sims in the post, then another, and that seemed to fuel both sides, setting up a fenetic back-and-forth down the stretch.

“I think we went to him in the post a few times today, consistently, and he could really slow the game down for us, which is something we needed in that phase of the game,” Mahlalela said.

Siakam and McKinnie both had nice tip-ins to grab a lead, but a few careless mistakes fave Denver late life. Beasley drove baseline down three, missed through help, and Poeltl secured a massive defensive rebound in a sea of bodies.

The finish, well, it was peak Summer League. VanVleet turned the ball over when double-teamed on a full-court press, Siakam fouled on a three, Siakam then turned over the inbounds, stole the ball back, and double-dribbled, all for Denver to turn the ball over on their final possession to end the game. Raptors win, or fail to lose.

“You know, it’s a learning time,” Mahlalela said. “We’re gonna have a lot of film to watch and a lot of different situations to correct. And that’s good for us. These close games really are when you do a lot of learning, for the coaches and for the players. It’s actually exciting in a situation like that, ’cause we can learn so much from that game.”

The Raptors now have the dangerous two days off in Vegas, with a complete off-day tomorrow and a practice to shake off any rust on Wednesday. A championship is in the midst, and they’ll have to turn those lessons to better execution if they’re going to hang a Vegas banner next to their G-League one.

Notes

  • As always, yes, all Summer League caveats apply. The context of the tournament needs to be recognized. That doesn’t mean information can’t be pulled from it – positive signs are allowed to breed optimism, and negatives can help inform the rest of a player’s offseason.
  • VanVleet ended up with a 17-2-3 line after his hot start, but since we know he looks at turnovers on the stat sheet first (he had five), he might not feel he had as good a game as he did. Poeltl finished with a third consecutive double-double (17-and-10). Siakam had 14 points, seven rebounds, three blocks, and most notably from a development perspective, four assists.
    • McKinnie had 11 points, and though he shot 5-of-15, it was a better performance than that line. The 1-of-6 mark on threes is a big focus for him the rest of the offseason. He also added 11 rebounds and dished two dimes, and he continues to find a groove defending as he transitions from primarily a power forward to a wing here for Toronto.
  • The Nuggets didn’t get much from their NBA talent outside of Beasley. Juan Hernangomez showed some nice flashes but shot poorly, and Tyler Lydon was a complete non-factor.
  • Kennedy Meeks and Will Sheehey sat out for equal parts rest (they’d have three practice days and three games in six days) and to get a look at some of the other players here. OG Anunoby (knee) and Malcolm Miller (ankle) are out for the tournament. Norman Powell and Delon Wright were on the bench again.
  • The Raptors don’t play until Thursday now. We probably won’t know the time until late Tuesday, and we won’t know the opponent until Wednesday.
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Everything so far (and DeRozan losing his cool at Drew League)

It’s been a whirlwind couple of days, so in the event anyone was logged off enjoying their weekend and is still playing catch-up, here’s a rundown of what the Raptors have done so far. Click the links for full breakdowns of the moves.

Trades

Free agency

Other moves

Summer League

Resources

Other important things

DeMar wildin’ out

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Cap sheet update: Trade assumptions, Lowry & Ibaka details, explanations

With the lifting of the free agent moratorium on Thursday came official word Friday that the Toronto Raptors had re-signed Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka to three-year contracts. It wasn’t news at that point, but the Raptors filing the actual paperwork meant we’d eventually get details of the contracts, including how the salaries are structured annually and, in the case of Lowry, how much of his deal was guaranteed (reports differed).

Thanks to Eric Pincus over at Basketball Insiders, we now have at least some of that information. (Contract details are not publicly available, but Pincus manages to get them and pass them on.) Luckily for our purposes, they line up pretty closely with the assumptions we’ve been using in our cap work. and so I wrote this post…and then a trade happened…and then another…and then a waiving. So this has been rewritten a bunch and is a bit of a mess. Enjoy!

What follows are some quick details on each of the Raptors’ offseason moves so far.

Kyle Lowry’s contract – $93M guaranteed, $7M “unlikely bonuses”

Reports had Lowry’s deal coming in at $100 million over three years initially, and then with only $90 million guaranteed. The reality is somewhere in between: $93 million is firm, while $7 million comes in the form of “unlikely bonuses” (not, as I tweeted out in a sleepy haze on the weekend, $7 in unlikely bonuses, which is how my contract with RR is structured).

NBA contracts are allowed to include incentives on a number of different fronts, but the only ones that matter for us are performance bonuses. Those can be based on any number of things, with the league applying a tag of “likely” or “unlikely” to each based on whether the player achieved that mark in the year prior (unless one side thinks the prior year is not a fair indicator, due to injury or some other factor, in which case an expert determines the likelihood). So if Lowry has $7 million in “unlikely” bonuses, that means he has $7 million tied up in things he didn’t accomplish last year, whether it be assists per-game, an All-NBA team, etc (it can’t be games played).

The presence of unlikely bonuses is important to note because they are treated a little differently for salary cap and luxury tax purposes, compared to likely bonuses or fully guaranteed money. Unlikely bonuses do not count in the cap hit when determining team salary for cap room. That is, if the Raptors were to have cap space right now, this new information could conceivably help them by creating additional space, since the unlikely bonuses don’t count for that number. Essentially, Lowry’s deal can be looked at like this:

Year 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
Cap Hit $28,703,704 $31,000,000 $33,296,297
Potential Salary $30,864,198 $33,333,334 $35,802,470

Because things need to be as complicated as possible, though, the unlikely bonuses do count when determining team salary for luxury tax apron purposes. While it’s true that the luxury tax number is determined by how the cap sheet looks on the day of the team’s 82nd regular season game, the league can’t very well let teams accidentally break the rules if unlikely bonuses hit. The Raptors don’t have cap space right now, but they are concerned about crossing the tax apron. Another way to look at Lowry’s deal, then, is this:

Cap # $28,703,704
Tax Apron $30,864,198
Tax # TBD

All told, this new information doesn’t really help the Raptors for the remainder of their offseason in flexibility terms. They’re still at the same risk of crossing the apron, and Lowry’s number on their theoretical books right now is what we had assumed before. It might, however, change their thinking in terms of their willingness to spend into the tax. If they feel like Lowry really is unlikely to achieve these marks, then our assumption for their salary we use for hypothetical luxury tax payment can be $2,160,485 lower.

I’ve left the actual number that will be used for calculating the team’s tax bill blank because that will be determined at the end of the year, when we’ll know how many of the incentives Lowry reached. (Reaching an incentive would also make it “likely” in future years and change the cap number.)

Notice above, too, that we’ve used the maximum raises of eight percent of the year one salary. We don’t know this is the structure for sure, but since it’s Ibaka’s structure and it lines up logically with what the Raptors probably referred. If the details come out and this is not the case, the Raptors will be even tighter to the tax this year. (We’ll get into why the raise structure is important in a bit.)

A note on DeMar DeRozan

When DeRozan signed last year, there were different numbers for his total contract going around – $137.5M, $139M, and $145M. We only ever got confirmation that the $137.5 million was his base with likely bonuses included, but we can be pretty sure there are unlikely bonuses as well. I dug as best I could to confirm the unlikely amount, and I’m more comfortable with using $1.5 million as the assumption rather than $7.5 million, based on the information available to us.

(This got less attention last year because the Raptors weren’t a tax team – being near the tax really opens up a lot of fun [!!] CBA complications for us to consider.)

This is roughly how DeRozan’s deal would have looked when signed, given our assumptions:

Year 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21
Cap # $26,540,100 $27,739,975 $27,739,975 $27,739,975 $27,739,975
Tax Apron # $26,829,628 $28,042,593 $28,042,593 $28,042,593 $28,042,593

Serge Ibaka’s contract – back-loaded

The three-year pact for Ibaka is pretty straight forward. My assumption had been that the Raptors would back-load the deal as much as possible since they’re so tight up against the tax this year, and that’s what they did. Contracts can be increased annually by eight percent of the first-year salary (not compounding), and with a $65-million deal, that gives us the following annual figures:

2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
$20,061,729 $21,666,667 $23,271,606

It’s nice that the Raptors were able to lessen their hit this year, but the cost obviously comes in later years. The cap is currently projected to increase by three percent for 2018-19 and 5.9 percent the year after that, meaning Ibaka’s raises outstrip the projected cap inflation. Ibaka, then, will take up an escalating percentage of the cap:

2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
20.3% 21.2% 21.5%

That’s mostly fine. The Raptors have traded a modicum of extra wiggle room the next two years to help with their tax situation now. Since they don’t figure to have cap space, anyway, this will mostly impact how they tip-toe around the tax and apron. Here’s a look at how the team’s big three take up the cap based on current projections (note that DeRozan has the same salary each year):

Year 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
Big 3 $ $78,665,902 $82,739,975.84 $86,814,051
Cap Projection $99,000,000 $102,000,000 $108,000,000
% of Cap 79.5% 81.1% 80.4%

Fred VanVleet, Alfonzo McKinnie, OG Anunoby

VanVleet has a fully non-guaranteed year at the league minimum on his deal for 2018-19, but as I reported Sunday, the Raptors are going to let that guarantee on July 20. They remain very high on him, and the trade of Cory Joseph opens up the point guard depth chart.

As for McKinnie, I reported Saturday he had signed essentially the same deal VanVleet did a year ago – a two-year minimum contract with a nice guarantee in year one, albeit one that won’t move the needle a bunch for the Raptors. McKinnie will be important for our bookkeeping later, both because a team has to have 14 players anyway, and because he has a legitimate shot at cracking the roster.

Both players will count as $1,471,382 for the purposes of the tax apron calculation, as the league treats all minimum contracts as minimums for players with two years of service time for bookkeeping (to avoid incentivizing veterans out of the league due to cost).

Anunoby also signed his rookie deal.

Kennedy Meeks & Malcolm Miller

Just as a reminder, Meeks signed an Exhibit 10 training camp deal that will pay him the rookie minimum (non-guaranteed) if he makes the roster and a $50,000 bonus if he’s waived and agrees to become a G-League affiliate player. Malcolm Miller became the first Raptor ever signed to a two-way contract, one that will pay him $75,000 prorated for his time in the G-League and the rookie minimum prorated for his time in the NBA (up to 45 days, plus time before and after the G-League season).

Neither of these deals count toward team salary unless they’re later converted to NBA contracts.

DeMarre Carroll traded

We went into some of the cap fallout when I wrote up the Carroll trade, but it sheds $11.8 million this year and $15.4 million next year. Justin Hamilton returns with $3 million owed to him this year, an amount the team is using the “stretch provision” to spread out over three years.

To illustrate the value of unloading Carroll, not only does it open up more flexibility, get them closer to having the full mid-level available to them, and create an $11.8-million trade exception, it also saves the team $22,016,328 in luxury tax dollars based on their before-and-after salary snapshot at that exact moment. (Tax is charged on an escalating marginal scale, so of the $11.8 million cut from the bill here, some came with a $1.50 tax per dollar into the tax, some with $1.75, and some with $2.50.)

The net of the Carroll deal and Hamilton waiver looks like this:

Year 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
Pre-Trade $14,800,000 $15,200,000 $0
Post-Trade $3,000,000 $0 $0
Post-Stretch $1,000,000 $1,000,000 $1,000,000
Space Saved $13,800,000 $14,200,000 -$1,000,000

This trade also created an $11.8-million trade exception for the Raptors. What that means is that the Raptors can absorb up to $11.9 million in salary  (the exception plus $100,000) in a trade without sending salary back out. Given their tax situation and proximity to the apron, it doesn’t seem super likely they’ll use it right now, but things change quickly, and they can always opt to use just a chunk of it to take on a mid-sized salary. The trade exception can’t be combined with any other exceptions or with a player for salary-matching purposes, it’s basically just a one-way ticket to absorb money. They have a year to use it, so it might be an asset worth holding onto into next summer, too.

C.J. Miles sign-and-trade for Cory Joseph – HARD CAP

Things kept rolling with news the Raptors would flip Joseph in a sign-and-trade to the Pacers for Miles. An important note off the top: Acquiring a player in a sign-and-trade triggers a hard cap at the luxury tax apron amount. For the remainder of 2017-18, the Raptors will not be allowed to exceed $125.3 million in team salary under any circumstances, including injury. No mid-level can push them past it, the trade exception can’t, nothing. $125.3 million is it.

As a side note, though, it’s not entirely clear the Raptors are using a sign-and-trade here. Miles is reportedly signing a three-year deal worth $25 million with a player option on the third year. Cool, great deal. Except sign-and-trade contracts can’t have an option until the fourth year, so Miles’ deal would either need to be three years plus a fourth-year option, or be signed using the full non-taxpayer mid-level exception. If Miles wants the two-plus-one structure, the Raptors could send Cory Joseph into Indiana’s cap space in one deal (creating another trade exception), then sign Miles using the full mid-level exception that would open up.

The issue there is that the Raptors would then have lost the mid-level exception, and using the non-taxpayer version still triggers the hard cap. Part of the value of the Miles deal was that the Raptors maintained their mid-level in the process. If Miles takes it up, Toronto will only have the bi-annual exception and minimum contracts to offer on the market.

For now, we’ll assume Miles’ deal is just three years guaranteed with the maximum allowable raises. The cap sheet change for the trade looks like this (Joseph’s salary next year is a player option):

Year 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
Joseph $7,630,000 $7,945,000 $0
Miles $7,936,508 $8,333,333 $8,730,159
Space Change -$306,508 -$388,333 -$8,730,159

Where things stand

Here’s a look at the Raptors’ cap sheet right now:

Again, this sheet does not include Lowry’s unlikely incentives, because it’s the cap sheet. Since the Raptors have blown past it, it’s not particularly relevant this offseason (they’ll keep the rights to Nando De Colo and Jason Thompson since they won’t need the space; they also have the $11.8-million trade exception, which they’d lose in the extremely unlikely event they ducked under the cap in the next year).

Here’s a look at the Raptors’ team salary for the purposes of calculating the tax apron:

Here we see Lowry’s unlikely incentives back on, a bump in the number for Vanvleet and McKinnie (to the amount for a veteran with two years of service time).Cap holds aren’t included in this calculation.

Right now, the Raptors are incredibly close to the tax line, just a shade over by our numbers here. If Lowry and DeRozan don’t hit their incentives, they probably finish the season under the tax line (though again, they still count for apron purposes). Some of our assumptions here could change the exact numbers a little bit, but the takeaway is going to be the same: Toronto can get under the luxury tax if they want to, or they could use the extra wiggle room they’ve gained to add a piece. There are two ways they could go from here.

OPTION 1: Get under the tax. Unload a player, likely Lucas Nogueira, for little salary in return, then sign a player to the minimum to replace him on the roster. This would trim $1.5 million further, though the Raptors would be running with only 14 players. They might not even have to do that, if avoiding the tax is their goal – they’ll know internally just how likely the incentive structures are, and they might be okay proceeding as is, trusting they’ll come in under the line. They could then observe how the team looks as the season rolls along, later doing something to get under the tax line for certain or to improve the roster.

As a side note, getting under the tax isn’t just about saving MLSE money. If teams pay into the tax in three years out of any four-year stretch, there are “repeater” penalties that make the tax even more prohibitive and further limit flexibility. Avoiding the tax this year would give the Raptors the cushion of being able to spend into the tax the next two seasons without fear of the repeater penalties. That’s pretty significant, given how expensive the core remains and how big a raise Powell could be in line for. (You also become a recipient of tax money if you’re not paying into it, and it’s possible the Raptors could roll that windfall over into next year’s tax budget, internally.)

OPTION 2: Fortify this group. As noted several times, the Raptors can, under no circumstance, cross the $125.3-million tax apron amount. Miles is either a sign-and-trade or the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, and either triggers the hard cap. Right now, they’re about $4.65 million beneath that mark, so they’d have about $4.65 million to play with on the market (using a chunk of the mid-level exception).

They can increase that number, though. If they’re fine with rolling with 14 players, they could waive McKinnie and leave just his guarantee, increasing that number to $6.02 million. They could trade Nogueira for little in return and (almost, or perhaps entirely) open up the $8.41-million non-taxpayer mid-level (up to $36.15 million over four years). They could trade Valanciunas and this entire post becomes worthless because their salary structure changes completely. If Miles ends up signing into the mid-level, by the way, the Raptors wouldn’t have that weapon to use. They’d still have the $3.29-million bi-annual exception to use in that case, plus the smaller trade exception from dealing Joseph separately.

There are a lot of different ways things can go from here, and there are a number of interesting names still on the market (a post for another time). The trick now becomes convincing them to sign for the limited funds available (something Masai Ujiri has done well with in the past), if the plan is to add. The Raptors surely aren’t done, but whether that means tinkering or making another major move or just adding and eating the luxury tax payment remains unclear.

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A Deep Stats Dive into CJ Miles’ Offense

Do you miss Terrence Ross? Whether you mourned the loss of the blistering flamethrower scorer or celebrated his passage from the Raptors should be indicative of whether you will appreciate CJ Miles. Miles is a knockdown shooter who does little else on the court. Miles is Ross, but better; he almost never plays away from his strengths. So what will the Raptors get from Miles? The advanced stats from his 2016-17 season show that his skills will fit as snugly into the Raptors’ offense as a kitten into a cardboard box. Note: all stats are drawn from nba.com and the 2016-17 NBA season.

MORE: Report & reaction – Raptors to acquire C.J. Miles in sign-and-trade

Miles is a low-usage role player who knows his job and does it well. He almost never tries to go it alone in isolation (1% of his plays) and rarely turns the ball over. Even as a relatively low-usage player (18.3%, identical to Cory Joseph, the outgoing player sent to acquire Miles), Miles turned the ball over less than almost anyone in the league. Among rotation players, he had the fifth-lowest turnover ratio (turnovers per 100 possessions) in the NBA, at 5.2. For comparison’s sake, Patrick Patterson had the lowest turnover ratio on the Raptors, at 7.2. Ross clocked in at 7.3.

As an explanation, it’s easy to keep possession of the basketball when all you do is shoot; Miles doesn’t ever really pass the ball (averaging 16.7 passes per game, identical to noted black hole Terrence Ross), which fits right into the Raptors’ 2016-17 scheme! Tired of watching Patrick Patterson pass instead of shooting the open 3? Prepare to be jolted awake.

Even better, Miles hit over 50% of his corner 3s on the season (ridiculous!). Correspondingly, Miles is a devastating spot-up shooter. A huge 32.8% of his plays on the season came off of spot-ups, in which he scored 1.34 points per possession, good for 97.9 percentile in the league. That’s juuuust ahead of some guy named Steph Curry, who scored 1.33 points per possession off of spot-up plays.

Miles is not an excellent shooter coming off of screens, only scoring 0.88 points per possession despite 26% of his plays coming in that flavour. However, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry draw so much attention with the ball that Miles should have enough space on spot-ups to not need Kyle Korver-esque flurries of off-ball screens to get open. Instead of watching Miles run around screens like Terrence Ross used to, expect to watch Miles stand lazily in the corner, only to rain fire after another Raptor drives into the paint. On simple catch-and-shoot plays, Miles shot an exceptional 42.6% from 3. Those plays should be more available to Miles than ever this upcoming season.

As evidence of how well Miles will work with DeRozan and Lowry, Miles was incredible last season when playing with Paul George; the two-man lineup led commonly used Pacers’ lineups in net rating, at 4.6, and offensive rating, at 110.1. When playing without George, Miles’ play dropped off considerably, as he took fewer 3s and made them at a much lower rate. Miles needs to play with a ball-dominant scorer in order to be effective. With the Raptors, Miles will have 2 stars creating space and feeding him the ball so he can do what he does best. He should thrive like a hipster in Seattle.

CJ Miles is disastrous at creating his own shot, shooting 29.7% from 3 on pull-ups. His shooting percentages crater after 1 or more dribble or 1 or more seconds of touching the ball. He is not an offense unto himself, and he needs someone to create his space for him. Miles moves slower than the security line at the airport, as he ran 4.30 miles an hour on average while playing offense. In comparison, noted runner Joe Ingles ran 4.30 miles an hour on offense, and the immobile Brook Lopez ran at the blistering pace of 4.31 miles an hour. Maybe his inability to create space due to being slow as hell is why Miles is such a bad shooter when coming off of a screen. Miles will not make many plays, but he won’t try to make plays. He will hit corner 3s.

Miles will rarely touch the ball on offense for the Raptors, and he will almost immediately shoot after the ball hits his hands. In fact, he was among the top 15 players in the league in points per touch (ahead of studs like Paul George and Anthony Davis). This makes sense for a guy who rarely touches the ball, but almost always shoots it (and quite accurately) when it finds his hands.

So what is Miles bringing to the Raptors’ offense? He is an elite shooter after someone passes him the ball, but not in any other situation. He immediately becomes a basketball disaster if he dribbles, passes, holds the ball for 1 second, or really even moves much at all. Despite those weaknesses, CJ Miles fits as well as your favourite jean jacket into the Raptors’ 2016-17 offensive game plan. He will not bring about the much-vaunted #culturechange.

However, one statistic warms my heart more than all the others, especially after repeatedly jolting awake from cold, sweaty nightmares about bricked, wide-open Raptors 3s in the playoffs: CJ Miles shot a mammoth 46.9% on wide-open 3s. Klay Thompson shot 46.8%.

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Raptors Weekly Podcast – Looking at the bigger picture

Host William Lou is joined by Zarar Siddiqi to take a big picture assessment of the Raptors this offseason.

(more…)

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Report: Raptors to use stretch provision on Justin Hamilton

Justin Hamilton’s career as a member of the Toronto Raptors didn’t even last 24 hypothetical hours.

While the trade that brought him to the Raptors in exchange for DeMarre Carroll and two picks isn’t even official yet, the Raptors are already moving on from the 7-footer. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reports that the Raptors will waive Hamilton once the trade goes through and use the stretch provision to spread his cap hit out over the next three years.

As predicted in the write-up of the trade, stretching Hamilton buys the Raptors a little bit of extra flexibility now at a small cost later. Hamilton is owed $3 million guaranteed for this season, and the stretch provision allows the Raptors to instead have a $1-million cap hit on their books this year and the next two. Considering their proximity to the luxury tax, this could wind up not only saving them in terms of tax payment but also pushing them below the line, meaning they’d be on the receiving end of tax payments.

There’s still a lot of offseason left, of course, and this might not just be about savings. Stretching Hamilton now also buys the Raptors a little bit of wiggle room under the tax apron in case they plan to try to open up the full non-taxpayer mid-level exception. The team is already hard-capped at the apron because of the sign-and-trade acquisition of C.J. Miles, so there’s no longer a flexibility cost to using the larger MLE, if they can create the room. Their team salary for luxury tax purposes right now is roughly $119 million (only including Alfonzo McKinnie’s guarantee for now), about $6 million below the apron – they’d need to shed a salary, maybe Lucas Nogueira, to open up the full space, but it’s a lot easier now than with Hamilton completely on the books.

(I’m juggling a few articles at once right now so my numbers might not be perfect – I’ll do a full cap sheet update when we get numbers for Kyle Lowry and Miles.)

And parting ways with Hamilton is fine from a roster perspective. He’s a useful third center, but he’s the least interesting of the Raptors’ gaggle of big men. There was never going to be a use for him here, and he was simply the cost of unloading Carroll in a deal that worked for both sides (along with, you know, two picks). This is mostly just a bookkeeping note, then, one that might become a lot more important as the rest of their offseason unfolds.

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Canada wins gold at FIBA U-19 World Cup

We don’t normally cover junior international tournaments here at RR, but I figured today was a worthy cause to expand our Canada Basketball coverage beyond the major senior men’s events. Because what a day it was for basketball in Canada – For the first time since 1936, Canada played in the gold medal game in an Olympic or World Cup event.

Canada 79, Italy 60 | Box Score

Coming off of the heels of a rousing upset of the United States on Saturday, in which R.J. Barrett led the 20-point underdogs with a ridiculous 38-13-5 line, Canada took on Italy, themselves having upset Spain in their semi-final, for the Under-19 FIBA World Cup. Canada entered as an 11-point favorite despite their roster missing several key names for the tournament. Consider it a nod to the depth of the Canadian program right now and an acknowledgment of the All-Tournament performances of Barrett and Abu Kigab.

Roy Rana’s squad felt no hangover from their enormous win a day prior, given a major boost from the return of point guard Lindell Wigginton, who had missed the semi-final with a concussion. Canada wasted no time in asserting any residual momentum, opening up an 18-4 lead in the game’s early minutes. Italy settled in and made it a more reasoned first quarter from there, but the damage had been done with a 14-point lead through a frame, led by seven points from a geeked up Wigginton and some really nice play from Nate Darling for a second day in a row. Canada was everywhere defensively early on and used their energy to build a big lead on the boards at both ends.

Canada’s finishing abandoned them a bit in the second quarter, with a few good looks in close rimming out, but that didn’t really slow things down overall. Barrett continued to lead the team well at the offensive end, Kigab continued his strong play and took over for a stretch, and Danilo Djuricic made a few savvy plays to keep things humming. All the while, Canada’s defense remained intense save for a brief sputter late when they seemed to get a bit complacent, limiting Italy to 36.8-percent shooting through a half, enough to take a 15-point lead into the break.

Rana seemed able to use that shaky close to the half as a teaching tool at the break, and Canada came out looking to end things in the third. With the defense dialed back in, Italy just couldn’t manage clean looks, and they hardly had a chance on the glass. Barrett continued the steady floor generalship alongside Wigginton, Darling stayed hot, and Djuricic was all over the boards. Canada looked a significantly better team by this point, their speed and athleticism just too much for the Italians to keep up with. The lead swelled to 21 entering the final frame, and barring an epic collapse, Canada was poised to cruise to their first gold medal.

That’s more or less what they did from there, ultimately winning 79-60, led by another big 18-12-4 game from Barrett, earning him Most Valuable Player honors.

It’s almost impossible to understate the importance of this victory for Canadian basketball. The upset of the U.S. in Barrett’s international coming out party will be what’s remembered most, but securing the country’s first ever gold medal in a major international tournament is an enormous deal. Canadian basketball fans should be proud and excited, and there’s a genuine feeling that this is just the beginning of a generation of talent growth in this country materializing in podium finishes at the international level.

A question…

Over the last two years, we’ve covered most of the major international events, like Canada’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament and any games involving Raptors at the Olympic or continental championship level. We obviously don’t have the staff or budget to cover every FIBA tournament and age level, but if there’s serious interest, we can try to commit, in the future, to getting a recap up of at least any knockout-stage games of the U-19s. Barrett is a really exciting prospect, and he’s just the tip of the iceberg for the groundswell of talent coming up.

It’s unclear what, exactly, the appetite for this kind of coverage is. This might be a case of just a few hardcores wanting coverage to that level. But if it’s something that’s important to you and you’d like us to try to do more of, please do let me know in the comments or on Twitter, and I’ll try my best to make sure we have at least some coverage.

For those curious, here are the major events still left in 2017 for Canada:

  • FIBA U-19 women’s World Cup (July 22-30)
  • FIBA women’s AmeriCup (Aug. 6-13)
  • FIBA men’s AmeriCup (Aug. 25-Sept. 3)
  • FIBA men’s 2019 World Cup qualifier Part 1 (Nov. 24-27)
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Report & Reaction: Raptors dealing Joseph for Miles in sign-and-trade

The Toronto Raptors are finalizing a sign-and-trade with the Indiana Pacers that would see C.J. Miles land in Toronto in exchange for Cory Joseph, according to a report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Miles’ contract will be for three years and $25 million with a player option on the third year, a really nice value.

The details are still being worked out, but Wojnarowski reports that there is momentum and it should be completed soon.

Miles has long made sense as a Raptors target as the sort of versatile defender and shooter that the current depth chart is sorely lacking. With P.J. Tucker, Patrick Patterson, and DeMarre Carroll all outbound, the Raptors had lost three of their five best long-range shooters and a large volume of their threes from a year ago, right as the team talks up the need to introduce more threes to the offense. In Miles, they land an effective long-range shooter at high volume, someone who has shot 36.1 percent from long-range for his career and 37.8 percent on 5.5 attempts per-game over the last five years.

There’s more to Miles’ game than just the outside stroke, though he’s never shot particularly well inside the line. He flashed encouraging skill as a passer early on in his career when he was mostly a guard, and while his assist rate has dropped off precipitously over time, he generally makes the right decisions, and he rarely turns the ball over, always a Raptors staple. His usage shrunk a year ago in Indiana, which came with a spike in true-shooting percentage, although historically he’s hovered around league average in terms of usage and overall offensive efficiency. The fit in Toronto should help him maintain his strong 2016-17 production, and he’ll be able to feast on open corner threes, which the Raptors’ offense does a decent job creating for role players already.

At the defensive end, Miles is a piece the Raptors can slot in at small forward and use in switchy multi-wing lineups. He’s 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds with a decent wingspan and nice lateral quickness, and he and Norman Powell should be able to cross-match seamlessly when they share the floor. Miles has even played some power forward in recent years, and the Raptors figure to play a lot of three-wing or two-guard, two-wing lineups around a single big this coming year.

Overall, Miles is a really nice piece. Multi-year real plus-minus shows him as about a net neutral player, while he was a modest positive a year ago. The Pacers have been better with him on the floor than without in four of the last five seasons. He’s also generally regarded as a quality person and locker room presence, something the Raptors value highly. He’s a useful two-way piece and about as round-peg-in-round-hole a fit as you can get this time of year. It’s unclear whether he’ll start or come off the bench, but the guess here is Powell gets the first crack at starting and Miles adds some much-needed shooting to the second unit.

Getting him for a hair over $8 million annually is a serious bargain, one the Raptors really needed to find to fill out the roster. A bit of patience seems to have paid off here, and the Raptors now have another core piece on the same timeline (or close to it, given the option year) as their three stars.

Losing Joseph hurts, of course, and he’s a really nice addition for Indiana. A beloved hometown player, Joseph’s emerged as one of the best backup point guards in basketball. He’s been a great part of the team’s improving culture the last few years (and a hilarious stalwart in every commerical in rotation in Canada). He’ll fit in well in Indiana, sharing duties at the point with Darren Collison and playing alongside Victor Oladipo in a new-look backcourt, and the opportunity for an even bigger role is well-timed for him, given his (potential) impending free agency in 2018. Joseph has two years remaining on his deal but can opt out after this coming season, and flipping him before that point for a useful piece on a similar salary with longer term is a nice piece of business.

Joseph is also a bit superfluous with the emergence of Delon Wright, who has shown himself to be ready for NBA backup duties for some time now. Slowed by a shoulder injury to start last year, Wright eventually found a groove, providing savvy and annoying defense with his length and using his bouncy, amoebic drives to draw attention and create for teammates the other way. A maestro in transition, Wright will need to continue getting stronger to improve his finishing, and even just his confidence shooting at the rim. He’ll also need to continue to stretch his range out to the 3-point line, something that’s come along fairly well but isn’t an established weapon just yet. He’s ready for a bigger role and the Raptors remain incredibly high on him, with DeMar DeRozan in particular taking an interest in his development this summer.

Behind Wright, Fred VanVleet is a steady hand manning the third-string duties. Considering he may be the second-best shooter on the team behind Kyle Lowry, VanVleet could figure into smaller lineups at times, and there’s always a chance he pushes Wright for the backup spot at times, as he did during Lowry’s injury last year. Having two young guards the team trusts push each other behind Lowry is hardly the worst thing for the Raptors, and if either or both struggle, the team has two-guards capable of running the offense for brief stretches, too.

The Raptors’ depth at the point allowed them to deal from a position of strength here. Given their proclivity for two-guard lineups, they weren’t exactly having their hand forced here, but unloading a guard or center always seemed the likely path to landing a forward and balancing the roster a bit. As things stand, their lineup card looks a little closer to an opening-day setup.

PGs: Lowry, Wright, VanVleet
Wings: DeRozan, Powell, Miles, Caboclo, Anunoby, McKinnie
Bigs: Ibaka, Valanciunas, Poeltl, Siakam, Nogueira, Hamilton

Sadly, this ends the 12 hours or so where it looked like Bruno Caboclo might get rotation minutes. The team remains encouraged by his defensive progress and physical growth, and they’re extremely high on OG Anunoby when he gets healthy, too. They needed help at the forward position, though, as a competitive team can’t really have those kind of question marks out of the gate.

There’s still plenty of time and potentially more moves to come. Quick math shows the Raptors a hair over the luxury tax right now, and being so close to it, they may look to shed a salary to avoid paying altogether. Using the stretch provision on Justin Hamilton might do it, or they may be able to dangle Lucas Nogueira in an attempt to recoup some of their current draft-pick deficit. At present, Toronto has access to the taxpayer mid-level exception, too, and shaving some salary could open up the full mid-level exception. Because they acquired a player via sign-and-trade, they’re now hard-capped at $125.3 million for the season, though. (We’ll do a full cap update when we know the exact numbers on deals for Lowry and Miles.)

Today, the Raptors make a lot more sense than 24 hours ago. It’s tough to see players like Tucker, Patterson, Joseph, and Carroll go, and the team might take some time to gel as they work in new pieces and turn more responsibility over to some young players.

Out: Tucker, Patterson, Joseph, Carroll, 2018 1st, 2018 2nd
In: Miles, Anunoby

Some overhauling was always going to be the cost of retaining three stars at market rate, and the Raptors’ trust in their player development and their ability to find smart deals like this one gave them the confidence to go ahead with what looked like an ill-fitting group on July 1. It’s tough, and the Raptors are a little thinner now if no internal development is priced in. But it’s necessary, and Miles – a player I’d been barking about trying to land on Twitter for over a week – is about as good a fill-in as the Raptors could hope for on this market. They’re now a little more balanced, a little less burdened by the specter of a big tax bill or the tax apron, and they’ve left themselves plenty of time to continue to tweak.

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Raptors make Miller & McKinnie signings official

The Toronto Raptors announced Sunday that they have signed Malcolm Miller and Alfonzo McKinnie.

Miller is the recipient of the team’s first ever two-way contract. We broke down what that all means here. Unfortunately, Miller suffered a sprained ankle just before Las Vegas Summer League began and is here on crutches and in a walking boot, expected to be sidelined a couple of weeks. He’ll be ready in time for training camp.

Raptors Republic broke the news of McKinnie’s signing late Saturday. The former D-League tryout player is on a partially guaranteed multi-year deal, similar to the one Fred VanVleet signed last year. It is not a two-way or an Exhibit 10 like Kennedy Meeks signed.

Click those links for more on each of these stories. This is just the Raptors confirming earlier reports for us.

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Raptors sign OG Anunoby

The Toronto Raptors announced Sunday that they have signed OG Anunoby.

The No. 23 pick in the 2017 draft, Anunoby will almost surely have signed for the full 120 percent of his recommended draft slot, as almost all first-round picks do. If that’s the case, his rookie scale deal will pay him $1.65 million this coming season and $1.95 million in 2018-19, with team options for 2019-20 and 2020-21 at $2.28 million and $3.87 million, respectively. All told, he could earn $9.75 million on his rookie deal. Should both options ultimately be picked up (usually the case unless a prospect is a serious bust), Anunoby would be eligible for an extension in the summer of 2020 or become a restricted free agent in 2021.

This is all just a procedural matter, really. In the previous collective bargaining agreement, there was some incentive for teams to delay the signing of first-round picks, as their cap holds were set to 100 percent of scale. Now, the cap hold amount is equal to the maximum for that rookie’s draft slot, so there’s no cap space advantage to waiting. In fact, so long as the plan is for the player to play this year (rather than being stashed overseas), there’s some incentive to sign right away to start the clock on the 30-day no-trade window (Anunoby can’t be dealt until Aug. 8).

There really wasn’t any question the Raptors would sign Anunoby, even coming off of an ACL tear in January. Anunoby is with the team for Las Vegas Summer League, though he won’t be participating in games.

You can read more on Anunoby here:

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The Tracy McGrady Curse Continues

The curse of Tracy McGrady has claimed its latest victim.

What’s that you say? You aren’t familiar with the curse of Tracy McGrady? Oh, well, take a seat and allow me to tell you a tale of how McGrady and the dark arts have engulfed the Toronto Raptors for the past seventeen years.

The curse was laid down on August 3rd, 2000, when McGrady officially left Toronto to become a member of the Orlando Magic. That story is well-covered territory, but the event didn’t just deprive the Raptors of McGrady’s prodigious talents. No, it also put a curse on any player the Raptors would attempt to replace him with. McGrady didn’t just leave and become a seven-time All-Star, he salted the earth behind him so that nothing could grow in his stead.

Unconvinced? Don’t believe in curses? Well, let’s walk you through the grizzly history of which I speak.

Corliss Williamson

Williamson had been a standout small forward in Sacramento for five years before being traded to Toronto for Doug Christie. He was a hulking forward, in the mold of the kinds of players that the Raptors were looking to surround superstar Vince Carter with (Antonio Davis, Charles Oakley, Kevin Willis), and he could score efficiently, to boot. Unfortunately, he would prove to be totally ineffective once hit by the McGrady curse, posting his worst season since his rookie year in points, shooting percentage and rebounding. The Raptors traded him to Detroit after just 42 games, and while they got fan-favorite Jerome Williams in return, Williamson’s game was rediscovered with the Pistons, and he won the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2002 (the only Piston to ever do so).

Lamond Murray

Lamond Murray was an impressive get for Toronto in the summer of 2002, and one of the cruelest victims of McGrady’s curse. He was not only a standout small forward, coming off of an impressive 16.6 ppg season (on 42% three point shooting) in Cleveland, but he was also the return for one of the worst contracts in the team’s early history (Michael ‘Yogi’ Stewart). However, Murray tore a ligament in his right foot during preseason and wound up missing the entirety of the regular season. Murray was a shell of his former self when he returned to the court, averaging 6 ppg over the next two seasons on sub-40% shooting. He was out of the league shortly thereafter.

Michael Curry

Don’t remember Michael Curry? Well, when Kevin O’Neil was brought in for his disastrous one-year stint as head coach, he was tasked with fixing up the team’s putrid defence, which to him meant starting the season with newly-acquired Curry as the team’s small forward. Curry was a defensive-minded veteran from the Pistons that the Raptors acquired in the summer of 2003 for point guard Linsey Hunter. Unfortunately, by age 35, the game had passed him by, and he was unable to make much of a difference to the team’s defence. He was, however, able to make his mark on offence, by shooting a ghastly 38% from the floor and making himself all but unplayable. While the team would finish the season 6th in opponent’s field goal percentage, they themselves ranked 28th in shooting. Curry was out of the starting five within 15 games and O’Neil was out as coach after one season.

Jalen Rose

If there was an opposite to the ‘defense-first’ player that Curry (once) was, then it was Jalen Rose, the man that effectively replaced him. Rose was a unrepentant gunner who notched a .529 True Shooting Percentage in 177 games with the Raptors and was one of the most indifferent defensive players the team has ever paid. Rose always felt like a desperation move by Glenn Grunwald, a Hail Mary play to save his job as the team’s GM. He was a pseudo-star that he could pair with Vince Carter and evoke what it might have been like if he’d been able to retain McGrady four years earlier. Instead, what he got was an indifferent very-much-not-a-star-player making more money than Carter and a one-way ticket out of the executive suite that summer.

Rafael Araujo/Charlie Villanueva/Joey Graham

Yes, only one of those players is a small forward, but Raptors fans with any pedigree know where this one is going. In back-to-back drafts (2004 and 2005), the Toronto Raptors were led by Rob Babcock and he selected these three players in the first round (the team had two picks in 2005). To do so, they famously passed on Andre Iguodala and Danny Granger. While Granger would see his career cut short by injury, even he would have given the Raptors much more than that threesome ever could. Either one of those players could have made a tremendous impact during the Chris Bosh era in Toronto. Graham, the lone small forward in the bunch, was a tantalizing physical specimen that could not have been less interested in being an impactful basketball player. The Raptors toyed with the idea of him as the small forward of the future for four years before finally letting him walk at the end of his rookie contract.

Jorge Garbajosa

Garbo was one of the brightest finds in Bryan Colangelo’s first summer as the Raptors’ GM. A rugged Spanish forward making his NBA debut at age 29, Garbajosa was a savvy and essential part of what was the best regular season the Raptors had had to date. Then, in a late-March contest against the sad sack Boston Celtics, Garbajosa attempted to block an Al Jefferson dunk with five minutes left in the game, landed wrong, and broke his left leg. The team never recovered, he was too essential to their very personality, and Garbajosa’s NBA career was effectively over. Colangelo would cite that injury for years to come as a derailing event, his great ‘what if?’ of the Chris Bosh era.

Jason Kapono

After the Garbajosa injury, Colangelo felt the team needed to replace his outside shooting in the starting lineup. That summer he lavished the full mid-level exception on Kapono, a standout three-point shooter from a system in Miami that was far better equipped to provide him with open outside looks. Kapono lasted seven games as a starter in 2007, and while he shot a league-high 48.3% from three that season, he did it on less than half the attempts that he had managed with the Heat (3.1 versus 1.5 per game). He also proved to be a horrendous defender when he didn’t have Shaquille O’Neal, Udonis Haslem, and Alonzo Mourning playing behind him. Not only was Kapono painfully ineffective, the team already had standout three-point shooters in Jose Calderon and Anthony Parker and was in desperate need of rebounding in the front court. Kapono clogged Toronto’s cap for two years before being traded to Philadelphia for fan favorite, Reggie Evans.

Shawn Marion

Shawn Marion was a former All-Star and, in many ways, the ideal small forward for Toronto’s team. In fact, he’s probably the most effectively player on this list after Garbajosa. However, he had no interest in playing for a lottery-bound club and bolted as soon as free agency hit. That’s not so bad, though, right? Of all of the cursed players on this list, he seems the least actually cursed. Well, that is until you remember that the trade that brought him to Toronto sent Jermaine O’Neal, who had one extra year at $23-million on his contract, to Miami. That contract helped Pat Riley amass an expiring contract bonanza that would give him the ability to sign Chris Bosh away from Toronto the following summer. Oops.

Hedo Turkoglu

The Raptors were blessed with cap space in the one summer where there weren’t great players to spend it on. They chased the ‘best’ of the class, which was former Most Improved Player Turkoglu, and they got him despite a supposed deal already being in place with Portland. It wouldn’t take the Blazers long to breathe a sigh of relief, though, as Turkoglu was a terrible fit in Toronto and basically shut it down after landing his big payday of $56-million (remember how quaint ‘big payday’s’ were eight years ago?). Turkoglu was a point forward that needed the ball in his hands to be effective. Toronto already had Calderon, who also needed the ball in his hands to be effective. Turkoglu sulked. He was traded after one year for Leandro Barbosa.

Linas Kleiza/Sonny Weems/James Johnson/Julian Wright/Alan Anderson/Rasual Butler

To replace Turkoglu, the Raptors threw a four-year, $20-million offer sheet at Denver Nuggets bench player, Linas Kleiza. Kleiza, however, wasn’t able to lock-down the starting spot, and the team bounced around for the next two seasons trying several different options at the small forward spot. There is no great curse story that applies to any one of these options, merely that, taken in total, they were so painfully mediocre that one could be convinced that the next guy could be an improvement over this group.

Landry Fields

In an attempt to secure the last years of Steve Nash’s career, Bryan Colangelo attempted to handcuff New York’s cap space by inking Landry Fields to a rich offer sheet. Well, Nash went to the Lakers, New York didn’t match Toronto’s offer, and Fields became a Raptors. Unfortunately, Fields also had nerve damage in his right arm, and multiple surgeries were never able to correct it. Like Murray and Garbajosa before him, Fields’ career was effectively over after being hit by the McGrady curse.

Rudy Gay

This was Colangelo’s “Jalen Rose trade” – his Hail Mary to save his job in Toronto. He threw all of the chips that he had into a pseudo-star that clashed stylistically with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. All three were ball-dominant players, and they never meshed on the court. Gay never shot better than 42% as a member of the Raptors, and his 17.6 shot attempts per game were far better distributed elsewhere on the roster. When Gay arrived, he was also making more than the next two highest-paid Raptors combined ($16.5-million versus $10-million for Andrea Bargnani and $6.3-million for Landry Fields). When Masai Ujiri was brought in that offseason to replace Colangelo, one of his first orders of business was to get out from under that burdensome contract.

DeMarre Carroll

So, as you can see, Carroll is just the latest member of a coterie of players that have made up Toronto’s cursed position. He was lavished with a rich contract to act as the 3-and-D counterpart to DeMar DeRozan on the wing, but his nagging injury issues prevented him from ever replicating his breakout year in Atlanta. Also, his four-year, $60-million contract was signed (like many were over the previous two offseasons) under the presumption that the salary cap would grow far larger than it actually did. Once the Raptors paid DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, Carroll became a cap burden that was preventing the team from improving, and it took two draft picks to unload him.

There are two names conspicuously absent from this list, and that’s Morris Peterson and Terrence Ross. The thing is, neither one was brought in with the expectation that they would solve the team’s small forward problem, like so many others on this list were. Instead, these draftees were the ones left to clean up after all of these mistakes. They were the ones conscripted into duty when it served the needs of the team, when one of these ‘saviors’ proved to be unable to live up to their expectations. Both did yeoman’s work to fill-in while never actually being trusted to handle the position full-time, and so both were effectively spared from the curse. Look for Norman Powell to join their ranks.

So, looking at the names on this list, it’s hard to come to any other conclusion than McGrady cursed his position on his way out of town. From grizzly injuries to cap-crippling trades to plain ol’ ineffective play, Toronto’s small forward position has been a mess ever since McGrady bolted for Orlando. If you have any decency in your heart, you will say a prayer for whatever man is pushed into this position next, because he’s about to see his career hit a brick wall as Toronto’s starting small forward.

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Report: Raptors trade DeMarre Carroll, 1st, & 2nd to Nets

The Toronto Raptors have traded DeMarre Carroll, a lottery protected 2018 first-round pick, and a 2018 second-round pick (owed to them from Orlando or the Lakers) to the Brooklyn nets for Justin Hamilton, according to a report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

A pair of picks is a steep price to pay to unload salary, but in shedding Carroll, the Raptors free themselves of the $14.8 million this year and $15.4 million next year, substantial sums as they were backed up against the luxury tax and, potentially, the luxury tax apron. Hamilton will make $3 million this season, so the net savings works out to $27.2 million over two years. After doling out three-year deals to Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka as the salary cap and luxury tax marks came in below initial projections, Toronto figured to be in a long-term bind in fiscal terms, without the flexibility to supplement the core in a meaningful way.

This frees them up to add another, cheaper piece now, makes the full non-taxpayer mid-level exception available closer to a reality (they’d still need to shed salary), and clears the books a bit ahead of Norman Powell’s restricted free agency next summer. They save $11.8 million now and have $15.4 million to wiggle with next year, and while the cap sheet in both seasons is still messy, this is a big help.

The cost, however, is substantial. Even as a team that figures to pick in the 20s, surrendering a first-round pick hurts. The Raptors have put an enormous emphasis on player development in recent years, and the loss of a pick is not just the loss of currency and a lottery ticket but of four years of an inexpensive player who they might be able to turn to for production. Adding a second-rounder on top of that, one acquired for outbound general manager Jeff Weltman, adds to the pain. The Raptors have no picks in 2018 as things currently stand, and they have four young players hitting restricted free agency next summer. That puts an even greater onus on the player development and scouting side, and Masai Ujiri will surely be on the hunt for an extra pick down the line.

But moving Carroll was always going to cost them, and it must have been the preferable option to dealing Jonas Valanciunas or Cory Joseph. There could still be more moves to come, however. Valanciunas is somewhat superfluous with Ibaka best suited to the five and Jakob Poeltl in tow, and Joseph might be able to net them a return that refills the draft cache some. For now, Carroll was likely deemed the most burdensome salary and they did what it took to unload him.

Signed to a lucrative four-year deal in 2015, the 30-year-old Carroll was slowed by myriad injuries during his time with the Raptors, never quite finding a groove for replicating his performance from his Atlanta Hawks days. While he did great work as a member of the community and was generally a pleasure to have around the tema, his defense dropped off precipitously and his 3-point stroke went wayward. Over two seasons, he appeared in just 98 regular season games, averaging 9.4 points and 4.1 rebounds while shooting 39.6 percent from the floor. His advanced metrics remained decent at times (although not in the playoffs), but it was clear he had lost a step against quicker wings and couldn’t quite handle power wings down low.

It got to the point this year in the playoffs where Carroll was finally removed from the starting lineup – too late, mind you – and that seemed to put the writing on the wall. The Raptors had talked up a potential return to form for the combo-forward, but there’s not a great track record of players in their 30s rediscovering defensive juice after two rough years.

In Brooklyn, Carroll will get a chance to play the role of leader and elder statesman while still get significant minutes. His 3-point shot should rebound closer to his career norms, and a more democratic Brooklyn offense might be what he needs to get back to his #CarrollCuts ways, when he expertly carved through defenses for cheap buckets while with the Hawks. Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson was an assistant during those Atlanta years and, Woj reports, has an “affinity” for the well-dressed veteran. Here’s hoping, because Sr. Swag Daddy and the Atlantic Division’s 2017 sportsmanship award nominee deserves a break at this point.

With Hamilton, the Raptors don’t land anything all too intriguing. The 27-year-old is a solid piece, but with so many centers already on the roster, he probably doesn’t factor into plans significantly. A year ago, he averaged 6.9 points and 4.1 rebounds, hitting 30.6 percent of his threes as an emerging stretch-five of sorts. He’s a decent shot-blocker but isn’t a great rebounder, and real plus-minus ranked him among the worst centers in terms of impact last year. It wouldn’t be a disaster to play him, but he’s the least interesting big on the team at present. It’s possible the team tries to route him elsewhere or even eats his salary altogether (they could use the stretch provision and just have a $1-million hit on the books for each of the next three years, too).

The move leaves the Raptors in an awkward spot from a roster-balance perspective. They have four centers and a power forward best off at center, and they have next to no forwards. Powell figures to start and play a massive role now, which has been a long time coming, slotting in alongside DeMar DeRozan. Behind him, there’s basically smaller units, the untested Bruno Caboclo, injured rookie OG Anunoby, and Alfonzo McKinnie, who we broke had signed Saturday. They’ve also lost three of their best 3-point shooters in a year where they’re trying to add more threes to the offense, and they’ve lost two strong defenders in P.J. Tucker and Patrick Patterson and a third they were at one point comfortable with in Carroll. They’re thin in a few key spots. More moves are definitely on the way.

PG: Lowry, Joseph, Wright, VanVleet
SG: DeRozan
SF: Powell, Caboclo, Anunoby, McKinnie
PF: Ibaka, Siakam
C: Valanciunas, Poeltl, Nogueira, Hamilton
Other: Meeks (Exhibit 10), Miller (two-way)

This gets the Raptors down to an estimated $120.6 million in salary committed (give or take), just a hair over the luxury tax and still less than $5 million from the apron. They can safely use the smaller mid-level and only worry about the tax bill, or they can move Joseph or Valanciunas and open up the full mid-level, though that triggers a hard cap. They’ll also now have an $11.8-million trade exception they can use to acquire someone without sending salary out, a useful chip for the next year. We’ll do a full cap sheet breakdown when we know the specifics of Lowry’s deal sometime this week.

It’s a good first step, if a costly one. Now, Ujiri and company can approach the rest of the offseason building the team without the specter of the tax apron hanging over them.

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Raptors to sign Alfonzo McKinnie to multi-year deal

The Toronto Raptors are signing Alfonzo McKinnie to a multi-year, partially guaranteed contract, Raptors Republic learned Saturday.

McKinnie will head to training camp with the team and compete for a roster spot. This is not one of the new two-way contracts like Malcolm Miller signed or an Exhibit 10 like Kennedy Meeks signed, it’s closer to Fred VanVleet’s deal from a year ago – McKinnie has a guarantee that will preclude him from being a two-way or G-League player for the Raptors (Windy City owns his G-League rights, anyway, which wouldn’t matter on a two-way deal but would if they had tried to make him an Exhibit 10), and if he’s cut that guarantee will count toward team salary. If he makes the team, his deal won’t fully guarantee until later in the season and will have a fully non-guaranteed 2018-19 year on the end of it. Again, very similar to VanVleet’s from a year ago. Old school.

The Raptors’ roster now stands at 15, or 17, depending on how you want to look at it (you can have up to 20 until the end of camp). They have 15 players on traditional NBA contracts, plus Meeks and Miller (we’re including OG Anunoby here, though he’s yet to officially sign). Of those, 14 have guarantee deals, which would, on paper, mean McKinnie and Meeks and whoever else is brought in will be competing for the final roster spot. That’s similar to how the team used that 15th spot VanVleet ultimately won last year.

Things can obviously change still. It’s an open secret that the Raptors would like to make a cost-cutting trade that could open up a roster spot or shift the depth chart. They still have the taxpayer mid-level exception at their disposal, should they find themselves able to stomach the luxury tax hit that might come with it. It’s early. For now, McKinnie is being brought into camp on a standard deal with a partial guarantee, and he’ll be given every chance to compete for a roster spot.

That’s something the Raptors see him doing in earnest. McKinnie has spent his career a bit off-radar thanks to injury trouble, to the extent that he paid to try out for the Windy City Bulls of the G-League last year. He turned that tryout into a training camp invite, then a roster spot, then eventually played his way onto the G-League All-Star team. That rapid progression got him a look at the Raptors’ free agent mini-camp in June, he parlayed that into an invite to Las Vegas Summer League, and now here he is, with an NBA deal.

He’s had a nice start to his Raptors tenure, too, standing out through two summer games. His explosiveness is obvious, as is his defensive potential, it’ll just be a matter of developing the 24-year-old from here, particularly his 3-point shot. It’s something he didn’t really show at Eastern Illinois, and while it improved at Green Bay, it was over a relatively small sample. Even last year with Windy City, he only shot 30.8 percent from there. That he still posted a strong true-shooting percentage speaks to his ability to get to the rim and score inside the arc.

There’s a lot to be intrigued by here. He’s proven he’s an elite G-Leaguer already and hasn’t looked out of place with three of the team’s regulars in the team’s 2-0 start. It’s definitely a profile and a story worth taking an extended look at.

I’ll have something more substantial on McKinnie sometime this week from Vegas.

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Raptors-Timberwolves LVSL Reaction Podcast, with some DeMarre talk

Host William Lou give his initial thoughts on the DeMarre Carroll trade, then recaps Raptors-Timberwolves Las Vegas Summer League action.

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Raptors roll Timberwolves to improve to 2-0 in Vegas

Raptors 97, Timberwolves 72 | Box Score

Ahh, the Minnesota Timberwolves, the dastardly would-be rival who not only injured Delon Wright at Las Vegas Summer League a year ago but also ended the Toronto Raptors’ championship hopes with a Tyus Jones buzzer-beater. The rosters may not have very many of the same players, and you almost certainly didn’t remember that game until being reminded of it, but damn if the Raptors weren’t fired up for revenge. Or, you know, just because that’s how you’re supposed to play here.

Either way, the Raptors came out strong and never let up on Saturday, steamrolling the Wolves to improve to 2-0 in the tournament. While the team has talked up the value of close games as a learning experience, they’re okay with a decisive victory, too.

“Yes, absolutely, because the game started 0-0 and then we got to the blowout,” coach Patrick Mutombo said. “Guys played hard from the start. I thought it was good focus on details and preparation, guys did a good job executing.”

You want a culture reset? Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam, and Kennedy Meeks all attempted threes in the first quarter, shooting a combined 2-of-4. It’s nice that they all have the confidence to let fly, and it’s letting the Raptors try some different things like Poeltl winding up in the corner. This may or may not be a larger part of the NBA plan next year – the summer Raptors have always tried new things that didn’t necessarily materialize in October – but it’s nice that all five bigs the Raptors have under contract (plus Meeks) at least have the confidence to step in to one as a trailer at the top or popping out to the elbow.

“if our offense produced the shot, we’re okay with it,” Mutombo said of his bigs taking threes. “Nothing forced, and as long as it’s in the flow of our offense and it makes sense, we’re okay with it.”

Still in the “new things” department, the coaching staff looked to get a few different players some run at the shooting guard spot, and Jordan Loyd gave them a really nice boost early on. The push to impress in small minutes can sometimes lead to mistakes in this environment, but Loyd, Cole Huff, and Justin Edwards were steady and within themselves.

“You didn’t see as many big outbursts from me, Pascal, and Jakob,” Fred VanVleet said. “But I thought we had a lot more contributions from our bench. Jordan Loyd came in and he was a surprisingly good addition. He was great today. I don’t know what his stats ended up being, but he just made the game work easier.”

Some nice defensive possessions that forced Minnesota into some late-clock attempts held them to 20 points on their first 20 possessions, and the Raptors held a five-point lead after a frame. Where a bench-heavy group struggled yesterday, the Raptors kept course early in the second. Will Sheehey shook off a tough opener to provide a veteran hand alongside Poeltl, and Troy Caupain acquitted himself well running the offense. Edwards missed a put-back but chased down the rebounder for a mid-court steal, and the resultant Sheehey triple had the Raptors up double-digits midway through the quarter. VanVleet returned and, after having a pull-up attempt on a big switch blocked, brought some nice pace variation, pushing for his own shot or outletting for lightning-fast Alfonzo McKinnie in transition but slowing things down if nothing was there.

It was enough to hold a seven-point lead into halftime, out of which VanVleet flipped that switch he’s shown here and in the G-League before. Pushing off of rebounds, getting into bodies for tough finishes (and and-ones), and then using the attention he was getting to dump off to Siakam, VanVleet was in complete control for a few minutes, quickly stretching the lead to 13. Potential harbingers of system tweaks continued, with the Raptors running a split-cut above a Poeltl post-up (something they should have been doing much more of above Jonas Valanciunas post-ups for some time), and it flowed nicely into a pick-and-roll.

VanVleet continued taking a beating to finish (the biggest part of his game he needed to work on this summer), Loyd gave a few more good minutes including an acrobatic and-one, and Meeks cleaned up as a rim-runner and offensive rebounder inside. A filthy Siakam drive for a dunk against Raphiael Putney drove the hammer home on a huge third quarter, giving the Raptors a 22-point edge heading into what promised to be a garbage-time frame.

Poeltl still saw a few minutes to complete the double double, and the Raptors got an extended look at some of the depth pieces they brought in, always a valuable endeavor.

“The thing is, we focus on us and we wanna make sure that regardless of the score we are still working on good habits, we’re executing our system,” Mutombo said. “Because ultimately, this is a great platform for our guys to keep learning and growing. So regardless of what the score is, we still wanna make sure we have the right approach, the right focus, and we work on the right stuff.”

Coming off of a slow start that built into a fun comeback with some strong late-game execution Friday, this one was a bit more to formula for a team with more NBA and near-NBA talent than some other teams in Vegas. Players like VanVleet, Sikam, and Poeltl should be outplaying some squads here, and getting to see them pull out a tough one and then dominate in short order has made for a good all-around start to the tournament.

Notes

  • As always, yes, all Summer League caveats apply. The context of the tournament needs to be recognized. That doesn’t mean information can’t be pulled from it – positive signs are allowed to breed optimism, and negatives can help inform the rest of a player’s offseason.
  • The three NBA Raptors once again led the way. VanVleet had 18-5-5 in 22 minutes, Siakam was dominant with 17 points in 22 minutes, Poeltl had a 15-and-10 double-double in 26 minutes, and all three had a plus-minus of at least 17.
    • Meeks had another solid outing, too, with 12 points on seven shots in nine minutes (he’s not shy). Loyd, Huff, and Sheehey gave good minutes on the wing. McKinnie continued to show really interesting flashes that show why the Raptors want a long look at him, too.
  • Minnesota didn’t have a ton of NBA talent here. V.J. Beachem is a shooter whose shot wasn’t dropping, Perry Ellis had a quiet game, and Raphiael Putney was just OK. Marcus Paige and Jack Gibbs had nice nights.
  • OG Anunoby (knee) and Malcolm Miller (ankle) are out for the tournament. There was once again a large Raptors presence, from the office to coaching staff to roster out in support. You can’t convince me Norman Powell isn’t actually an assistant coach.
  • Shout out to The Starters. I got a chance to catch up with them quickly today, and they remain just the best group of people. They deserve all the success that’s come their way.
  • The Raptors don’t play until Monday, but they’ll have an intrasquad scrimmage tomorrow morning.
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Crown League Week 2 Wrap-up

While the Toronto Raptors opened their Las Vegas Summer League campaign with a win over the New Orleans Pelicans, the Crown League did its best to entertain those looking for hoops action in the 6ix.

Word is clearly getting around about the third edition of the league, and the burgeoning local talent on display did not disappoint in its second week. Negus Webster-Chan, sporting a serious tan after a trip to Hawaii, led the Northern Kings to a thrilling 74-71 victory over last year’s runner-up M.A.D.E. with 21 points, eight rebounds, and five assists.

Webster-Chan had all the facets of his game working Friday night.

He came out aggressive early on to help the Northern Kings to an early 20-9 lead, and when M.A.D.E. cut the lead to just three with under a minute remaining in the half, he came back with a tough and-1 drive to the bucket, and a three-pointer that pushed their lead back up to nine heading into the break.

Even after M.A.D.E. put together another run to tie the game in the second half, it was Webster-Chan again who provided the calming influence with a message to the team.

“Those are a lot of vets on M.A.D.E., just play hard and give it all you got,” he said. “I wanna see guys diving on the floor — I don’t care if it’s Pro-am or Summer League — we want everybody just working hard and showing the crowd that we’re not just here to have fun, we want to win.”

This is perhaps some of the maturity and confidence that comes with winning an NBA G-League title with the Raptors 905, and it helped him earn ‘Player of the Week’ honors.

Another player who showed his desire to win was Markham’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes. Representing CIA Bounce in the final game of the night, Rathan-Mayes finished with a 10 point, 11 rebound, 10 assist triple-double to guide his team to a 67-57 victory over 1 Love T.O. Rathan-Mayes is fresh off an Orlando Pro Summer League campaign with the New York Knicks, and those reps clearly helped him maintain a rhythm in this one. Missing tonight’s contest for 1 Love T.O. was Brady Heslip, who is with the Chicago Bulls Summer League squad in Las Vegas.

The first game of the night featured defending champion ACE and 6Man, with ACE bouncing back from their Week 1 defeat at the hands of M.A.D.E. with a 72-59 victory. After a tight first half that saw Johnny Berhanemeskel and Ammanuel Diressa match each other shot-for-shot, it was Berhanemeskel who maintained the hot hand in the second half to help ACE pull away. The Ottawa native finished with 25 points that included six 3-point makes, while Toronto’s Diressa finished with 18 points and five 3-pointers.

If you missed out on all this free entertainment, there are still three more Fridays to get in on the action. Simple click here to sign up, and you can look forward to Canadian talent hooping, DJs and MCs providing entertainment, and much more. The night lasts around five hours beginning at 6:30pm.

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Raptors-Pelicans LVSL Reaction Podcast – FVV is a hero

Host William Lou returns to the reaction podcast assignment, at least for one night, to recap Raptors-Pelicans.

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VanVleet’s late and-1 lifts Raptors to victory in Summer League opener

Raptors 96, Pelicans 93 | Box Score

If there was any concern that a lack of perennial MVP candidate Norman Powell or third-year stalwarts Delon Wright and Bruno Caboclo would keep the 2017 Las Vegas Summer League Toronto Raptors from being exciting, Fred VanVleet and company put that to rest in the team’s tournament opener on Friday. A fun back-and-forth battle with some solid NBA potential on either side came down to the wire, with VanVleet’s late-game heroics helping the Raptors get off to yet another strong start in the desert with a 96-93 victory at Cox Pavillion.

The Raptors came out looking spry and geeked up for some real game action, with their three NBA players almost immediately looking like they’ll have big tournaments. VanVleet has been entrusted with running an unfamiliar group because of his poise and steadiness, and he quickly racked up assists spreading the ball to multiple teammates and then hit a pull-up three to get his own. Jakob Poeltl finished on a number of dives, something he struggled with here last year, and there was a clear edict to get him more involved than he’s accustomed (he was the league’s least passed-to player last year). Even some of the Raptors’ pet sets got the ball to the dive man, which was a nice wrinkle with a more motion-heavy offense. (Don’t get too excited – their summer teams always run a lot of motion offense.) Pascal Siakam, meanwhile, basically repeated his encouraging 15-minute snapshot from last summer, out-running opposing bigs and making a few heady plays within the offense.

There were bumps. Siakam passed up a couple of good threes (he’d hit one in the second), a bit of a disappointment given how well that shot is reportedly coming along. And the team, looking to move the ball against scattered defenses, racked up turnovers quickly. At the defensive end, the execution would occasionally break down, a completely understandable result early on here, although it’s worth noting that last year’s squad was ridiculous defensively out of the gate.

“It’s my job to make their jobs easier,” VanVleet explained of his role with the new guys. “I just try to impose that throughout the game. Obviously, me Jakob and Pascal have a great rhythm together, but it’s just about getting the other guys in that rhythm. It’ll take a little bit of time. I think you saw early on with the turnovers that we had, a little bit of off-rhythm stuff. ”

As the bench began filtering in, the Raptors’ new reserves couldn’t quite lock in, and it took a Troy Caupain buzzer-beater to wrap the first quarter in a draw. A group led by Caupain and Kennedy Meeks but with none of the NBA Raptors built a bit of a deficit to start the second quarter. That let Quinn Cook get hot and led to Jordan Crawford becoming his personal hype man from the bench, and Cheick Diallo remained a problem anywhere from 18 feet and in (there was a nice sequence where Poeltl contested a Keith Benson post-up well despite getting driven into the paint a bit, but Siakam was whistled for a foul on Diallo, leading Siakam to smile and plead to the ref that “you can’t do that;” Siakam came right back and blocked a James Young attempt at the rim). The Raptors couldn’t close the gap by the break, entering halftime down seven even after an Alfonzo McKinnie put-back in the closing seconds.

Unable to cut into the lead in the third despite a quick burst from Canadian Mychal Mulder, the Raptors tried to ratchet up the pressure on defense, getting into the ball from three-quarters. That seemed to disrupt the Pelicans’ flow, and VanVleet pushing the ball back the other way got Poeltl and Siakam a couple of nice looks from just outrunning their counterparts (and in Poeltl’s case, converting on more tough finishes). A lead as big as 11 was erased entirely at one point, and the Raptors entered the fourth with a manageable two-point hill to climb.

Things began to unravel again thanks to some defensive miscues and a few untimely turnovers sandwiched around a great lob pass from Troy Caupain to Will Sheehey for a soft-touch layup. When Jama Mahlalela went back to VanVleet and Siakam at the midway mark of the fourth (Poeltl missed the last few minutes in order to get three stitches above his eye), they were once again down six. VanVleet rebounded from a tough mid-range miss with a driving layup after splitting the defense, Siakam followed with a feathery jumper when he looked dead having picked up his dribble high on the block, and VanVleet opted to bookend it with another basket at the rim. A Siakam post-up against Toupane (on the heels of Siakam containing Toupane on the perimeter for a missed three) gave the Raptors a late lead.

“Pascal being a leader on the court, and finding ways for him to do that,” Mahlalela said when asked what the team is looking for from the former No. 27 pick this week. “And you saw that today, commanding the ball and doing something with it. That’s a real growth for him as a mature basketball player.”

The sides traded buckets down the stretch from there, every Siakam step-through or Meeks finish answered with a Cook step-back or heady Diallo play. Out of a timeout and down four, Siakam drove the lane and drew an extra defender, opening up a dump-off for Meeks, and then the Pelicans completely lost Siakam leaking out after a stop, allowing him to tie things back up at the stripe. The Raptors forced a turnover at midcourt immediately after and a tipped rebound made its way to VanVleet, who eventually drove at Cook for a go-ahead and-one too late for New Orleans to respond.

“We were thinking stop, and they came down and threw the ball away, so we had it,” VanVleet said. “I think Alfonzo got a wide-open three, didn’t go. I battled for the rebound and threw it out to Troy. I thought he was gonna shoot it, so I screamed at him. At that point I was just trying to figure out the best way to get the ball back, so instead of waiting I just went and got it. Wanted to get into a ball-screen, ended up going away from it, and was able to get a shot up on the rim and it went down.

“And finally got a call.”

The Raptors love getting their players experience in tight games, whatever the stakes, and in that sense this win seemed to count extra.

“You know, close games are the best thing you can do, because you learn so much from those situations,” Mahlalela said. “Our guys really handled the end-of-game situation well Their composure and their execution was great, and they can learn from that. Close games, you can really watch the film and study things.”

It wasn’t a perfect start, but with only two days of practice, it’s about as good as they could have reasonably hoped. Their NBA guys looked like NBA guys at Summer League, their one tryout contract was the next best player on the floor for them, and it’s easy to see them playing a little better with a full game from Poeltl and some extra time to iron out the turnovers.

Notes

  • Yeah, we’re copping my Raptors 905 recap format here with half-gamer, half-notes. I figure it lends itself better to games like these where people might not be as concerned about the game-flow as the actual player performances.
    • As always, yes, all Summer League caveats apply. The context of the tournament needs to be recognized. That doesn’t mean information can’t be pulled from it – positive signs are allowed to breed optimism, and negatives can help inform the rest of a player’s offseason (personally, I find negatives to be a bit more concerning than positives are encouraging here, but that varies based on the player and skill in question).
  • Most of the recap focusing on three Raptors is fitting now, looking at the boxscore. Siakam was dominant with 24 points on 14 shots, VanVleet had an easy 18 points, nine assists, and plus-12 rating, and Poeltl shot 6-of-8 for a 12-and-10 double-double in just 23 minutes. Meeks had the biggest impact of anyone not on the NBA roster with 15 points and nine rebounds off the bench, finding a quick chemistry with VanVleet. Will Sheehey had a bit of a rough outing, his first since dislocating his elbow before the 905 playoff run. Alfonzo McKinnie and Troy Caupain were really solid in their roles and have a little more to show still.
  • Old friend Axel Toupane was across the court in this one but had a bit of a rough outing, shooting 2-of-9. His first step is ridiculous, and if he continues to improve as a playmaker on those drives, like he showed some here, that’s a nice complementary skillset for a defense-first player. He has a non-guaranteed deal with the Pelicans for this season and figures to get a good look in training camp.
    • Also suiting up for the Pelicans was Cheick Diallo, who looked really good here against a quality Raptors frontcourt. Diallo finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds, showing improved range and making a nice dump-off while rumbling to the rim.
  • OG Anunoby (knee) and Malcolm Miller (ankle) are out for the tournament. Anunoby signed autographs for fans after the game.
    • Among your Raptors in attendance in Vegas: Almost the entire front office, Lucas Nogueira (on the bench for this one), Norman Powell, Delon Wright, Bruno Caboclo, and DeMar DeRozan. There may be more, too, but those are the ones I could spot.
  • The Raptors play again tomorrow, tipping off against the Minnesota Timberwolves at 6:30 ET.
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Malcolm Miller to miss Summer League with ankle sprain

Malcolm Miller’s career as a Toronto Raptors is off to an inauspicious start. Expected to make his unofficial debut with the club in their Las Vegas Summer League opener on Friday, Miller will instead miss the entire tournament due to a right ankle sprain.

Signed to the team’s first ever two-way contract on Thursday, Miller suffered the injury sometime in the last two days of practice. With three games in the next four days, it just doesn’t make a great deal of sense to push things, and Miller will instead stay around the team and look to get a jump start on learning the team’s system.

Considering he figures to be a part of the Raptors’ plans this year – two-way players can spend up to 45 days on the NBA roster, plus any time before G-League training camp and after the G-League regular season – it would have been nice to get a closer look at him here in Vegas. A potential 3-and-D combo-forward, the 24-year-old is a nice development piece for the coming season, but fans will have to wait until the preseason to see how he looks lined up alongside some of his Raptors (or Raptors 905) teammates.

This is the second change to the Summer Raptors, as Matt Thomas was removed from the roster last week for undisclosed reasons and replaced by Canadian Mychal Mulder.

We’ll have full coverage of each Summer League game.

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VIDEO: Kyle Lowry re-introductory presser

The Toronto Raptors re-introduced Kyle Lowry, fresh off of a new three-year deal, at Air Canada Centre on Friday. Here’s the video of his press conference:

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VIDEO: Serge Ibaka re-introductory presser

The Toronto Raptors re-introduced Serge Ibaka, fresh off of a new three-year deal, at Air Canada Centre on Friday. Here’s the video of his press conference:

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Raptors announce re-signings; Ujiri says he’s a Raptor for life

The Toronto Raptors announced Friday that they have re-signed Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry.

“We are thrilled with the skills and intangibles Serge brings to our team,” Raptors President Masai Ujiri said of Ibaka in a release. “He is one of the top two-way power forwards in the NBA and his ability to stretch the floor is a valuable asset today’s game.”

“Kyle has been a valuable part of our team’s success the past five years,” he said in a second release. “He has grown as a player and person during his time in Toronto and we are excited that he wants to be here to help us continue building a championship program.”

Both players will be re-introduced at Air Canada Centre on Friday starting at 10am, where team president Masai Ujiri will also speak.

During the early part of the availability, Ujiri offered that “I’m hoping to be a Toronto Raptor for life, whether you guys like it or not,” when asked about the earlier Knicks rumors. We’ll have video of the pressers shortly.

The signings were agreed to and reported over the weekend, but because of the NBA’s free agent moratorium, teams were unable to announce deals officially until noon today. Ibaka signed Sunday on a deal reported to be worth $65 million over three years, and Lowry followed shortly after with a reported three-year, $100-million contract. The structure of each remains unknown, but should come to light in the coming days as official paperwork is filed with the league. The structures will inform a great deal about just how inflexible a spot Toronto presently finds themself in, financially.

You can read analysis of the Ibaka re-signing here, and of the Lowry re-signing here.

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Plugging Holes

The thing I love most about the NBA offseason is seeing what everybody gets up to on their summer vacations. Somewhere in between trolling players Instagram accounts and picturing a clandestine reunion of the banana boat crew—in the turquoise waters of the Bahamas at midnight—trades will happen. But with free agency almost over my attention has begrudgingly shifted from beach photos to the state of the Raptors, who aren’t enjoying the water so much as they might soon be taking it on.

With the departure of PJ Tucker and Patrick Patterson, the Raptors roster is left who two pretty sizeable defensive holes.

Picture a boat with two size 15 shoe-shaped holes gouged in the sides, and two more holes for whatever size PJ Tucker’s shoes are. I won’t guess because I only speculate with the facts. Now picture the remaining Raptors roster sitting in the boat. Kyle Lowry is valiantly trying to paddle forward, JV is uncomfortable because he can’t figure out the rhythm of paddling but he’s trying, Bruno is looking forlornly over the side, Carroll is using his hands to bail water and DeMar is tasked with plotting a course for this sinking thing. The point of this vivid, alarmingly reminiscent to Watson and the Shark metaphor is all to say the Raptors aren’t going to be able to focus on what they need this season—a solid on-court rapport between Lowry and Ibaka, giving DeMar the tools he needs to continue down the improved defensive path he was starting on at the end of this past season, and better, more substantial minutes for our rookies—and move forward if they continually have to bail proverbial water, or right a franchise in desperate need of defensive ballast.

Lowry and Ibaka both coming back next season is a gift no Raptor fan was sure they were going to get. That can’t really be overstated. But the loss of Tucker to the Rockets for a paltry (in NBA money) 8 million, and the defensive price we’ll pay for it on the court, makes it seem even more like something management should have coughed up. Beyond that, the confidence Tucker instilled in the team, the hustle and toughness and emphasis on work, turned the tide in games that looked like sure losses later in the season. I remain hopeful that the lessons Tucker brought to Toronto didn’t leave with him, and that DeRozan will step comfortably into his spot as the team’s leader and continue to mature. But I also know the penchant this team can have for becoming human head cases when it counts, instead of getting in front of a bad game and working together.

And as far as glue guys who could bring the team together, Patrick Patterson was always the one quietly supporting however he could. When he was on, he could be counted on to make clutch shots and good, sometimes stealthy defensive decisions. When he was off, well, he still managed to make the team 10 points better per 100 possessions over the last two seasons when he was on the floor. Like Amir Johnson, he could be underappreciated for the subtle alchemy he brought to the team and to city. He wanted to be here. Try to look at this picture and not choke up (a Co-op cab and a Beck Taxi). He’ll do well in OKC, even if it was highway robbery for how cheap they got him, but you can’t think that the Raptors are only facing a defensive deficit—we’re facing a personality one too.

Based on the free agents still available, it seems unlikely that any could be a good fit in Toronto. I’m relieved that walking human hairball Kelly Olynyk has signed with the Heat. I’m all for dumping a bunch of money on thoughtful defense, the team is already into luxury tax so what’s another few mill, but this guy is going the Zaza way and would not have been a fit with Raptors team culture. C.J. Miles, Mareese Speights and Vince Carter’s names were thrown around. Whatever state of disrepair your feelings might still be in over Carter leaving Toronto, you have to admit it would have been cool, though not a long-term solution to the ongoing defensive problem.

Summer League will be a good boost for Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam and most dependable man alive, Fred VanVleet. Poeltl and VanVleet showed huge improvement during the playoff stretch and Siakam did a complete 180 with Raptors 905. Norman Powell has reliably come back better every season and while OG Anunoby is a big question mark, he’s still a hopeful one.

Three other big question marks—Cory Joseph, JV, DeMarre Carroll—find themselves in a kind of offseason stasis period. JV and Carroll are both being shopped around with Joseph to sweeten any potential deal. Valančiūnas has always been frustrating because he improves during each regular season and then basically gets body snatched in the playoffs. So with fine tuning and management showing him some confidence, JV could certainly help in making next season’s defensive strategy less bleak, but he really needs a plan.

I don’t begrudge Ujiri his job this summer, and he’s always managed to work magic in desperate times, but without a better defensive look the Raptors will be floundering at the start of next season. I hate to go pure Popovich but good defense is like one big banana boat for the whole entire team. Good defense means not drowning.

@wtevs

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July 6 open thread: Moratorium ends; Vince signs in Sacramento

Kyle Lowry is returning on a 3-year, $100-million deal – reaction

Serge Ibaka re-signs on 3-year, $65-million deal – reaction

P.J. Tucker signs with Houston on 4-year, $32-million deal – reaction

Patrick Patterson signs with Oklahoma City on 3-year, $16.4-million deal – reaction

The NBA’s free agent moratorium ends today at noon, which means the last five days of fervent speculation and unofficial activity will materialize in a fun game of filing paperwork, sequencing transactions, and maybe finding out specifics about how contracts are structured (please). At noon, all of these deals can begin coming official. Expect the Toronto Raptors to announce the re-signings of Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka and set a press conference time and date. Expect a lot of the league to do the same. This might be when some more mid-level pieces start to drop into place, too (Hi, CJ Miles), though the Raptors are likely still focused on finding a way to shed salary.

It should be a busy day, although we won’t update things like reported deals becoming official. Today will probably be the last open thread, and then I’m off for Summer League tomorrow. Let’s try to keep the comments a little more civil today.

Resources & Required Reading

If you haven’t yet, go and read my free agency primer, which goes into a lot of the details about the Raptors’ cap situations and what they can and can’t do. Some other links:

As a quick refresher, this is what the Raptors’ cap sheet looks at right this second, based on the assumption that Ibaka’s deal is completely back-loaded and that Lowry’s deal contains $100 million in back-loaded cap hit:

If Lowry’s cap number only comes in at $90 million over three years and is completely back-loaded, his cap hit for this year could drop by about $3.09 million, which would be a pretty enormous deal. They’d still need to dump salary, but they’d be within one big contract of getting under the tax line. We probably won’t know for sure until the moratorium ends on July 6.

(Notes: I’m displaying this just a little different from yesterday. I’m also excluding De Colo/Thompson from the tax number since their cap holds won’t count but do effect the salary cap. VanVleet has a higher tax number than cap number, too [equal to Powell’s].)

To help calibrate with the new CBA and rise in cap, here’s a chart containing all of the maximums and exception amounts, based on the new $99,093,000-million salary cap (note that for the minimum salaries, those deals can run longer if cap space is used, but they max out at two years if a team is using the minimum player salary exception):

Here are a few other very useful resources:

Raptors rumors

A reminder: There is a ton of information to sort through this time of year. Some of it will be legitimate, some of it will be misinformation. Always consider the source, their track record, and why a player/agent/team may want information out in the world.

Thursday

Where things stand – End of Wednesday

  • Kyle Lowry is back on a three-year deal worth a reported $100 million. Bruce Arthur reports that only $90 million of that is guaranteed, but we’ll have to wait to see the contract breakdown before adjusting his cap number, in case the non-guaranteed portion is built into likely bonuses.
  • Serge Ibaka is also back, on a three-year, $65-million deal.
  • P.J. Tucker has signed with the Rockets. It hurts.
  • Patrick Patterson is headed to OKC on a three-year deal. I wrote about it more here.
  • The Raptors were once in on Amir Johnson but he signed in Philly.
  • Toronto is trying to shed salary to lessen their tax hit and improve flexibility. There’s nothing imminent there. Indiana signing Darren Collison likely ended any chance of Cory Joseph being flipped there.

Reported agreements/close – Thursday

The following deals have either been reported as done or in the finalization stages. Until noon on July 6, nothing is absolutely locked in (remember DeAndre Jordan?), but if it’s on this list, it’s done per a reporter on the trusted list.

  • Kelly Olynyk, Heat, 4 years, $50M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Rudy Gay, Spurs, 2 years, $17M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Milos Teodosic (!!), Clippers, 2 years, $12.3M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks, 2 years, $10M (Tim MacMahon)
  • Vince Carter, Kings, 1 year, $8M (Adrian Wojnarowski)

Reported agreements/close – Earlier

The following deals have either been reported as done or in the finalization stages. Until noon on July 6, nothing is absolutely locked in (remember DeAndre Jordan?), but if it’s on this list, it’s done per a reporter on the trusted list.

  • Steph Curry, Warriors, 5 years, $201M (Shams Charania)
  • Blake Griffin, Clippers, 5 years, $175M (Sam Amick)
  • Gordon Hayward, Celtics, 4 years, $128M (Gordon Hayward/Shams Charania) (potential sign-and-trade)
  • Jrue Holiday, Pelicans, 5 years, $126M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Otto Porter, Nets, 4 years, $104M (Offer sheet) (Shams Charania)
  • Kyle Lowry, Raptors, 3 years, $100M (Michael Scotto)
  • Paul Millsap, Nuggets, 3 years, $90M (Shams Charania)
  • Serge Ibaka, Raptors, 3 years, $65M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Danilo Gallinari, Clippers, 3 years, $65M (Adrian Wojnarowski (3-team sign-and-trade)
  • Jeff Teague, Timberwolves, 3 years, $57M (Marc Stein)
  • George Hill, Kings, 3 years, $57M (Shams Charania)
  • Kevin Durant, Warriors, 2 years, $53M (Marcus Thompson)
  • Joe Ingles, Jazz, 4 years, $52M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Dion Waiters, Heat, 4 years, $52M (Adrian Wojnarowski/Michael Scotto)
  • Patty Mills, Spurs, 4 years, $50M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Andre Iguodala, Warriors, 3 years, $48M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Tony Snell, Bucks, 4 years, $46M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Cristiano Felicio, Bulls, 4 years, $32M (Shams Charania)
  • PJ Tucker, Rockets, 4 years, $32M (Shams Charania)
  • Andre Roberson, Thunder, 3 years, $30M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Taj Gibson, Timberwolves, 2 years, $28M (Shams Charania)
  • Zach Randolph, Kings, 2 years, $24M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Shaun Livingston, Warriors, 3 years, $24M (Chris Haynes)
  • JJ Redick, 76ers, 1 year, $23M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Kyle Korver, Cavaliers, 3 years, $22M (Shams Charania)
  • Langston Galloway, Pistons, 3 years, $21M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Darren Collison, Pacers, 2 years, $20M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Patrick Patterson, Thunder, 3 years, $16.4M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Amir Johnson, 76ers, 1 year, $11M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Nene, Rockets, 3 years, $11M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Ben McLemore, Grizzlies, 2 years, $10.7M (Chris Haynes)
  • Justin Holiday, Bulls, 2 years, $9M (Shams Charania)
  • Jodie Meeks, Wizards, 2 years, $7M (Shams Charania)
  • Nick Young, Warriors, 1 year, $5.2M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Michael Carter-Williams, Hornets, 1 year, $2.7M (Rick Bonnell)
  • Wayne Selden, Grizzlies, 2 years, TBD (Michael Scotto)
  • Daniel Theis, Celtics, 2 years, TBD (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Jose Calderon, Cavaliers, 1 year, $2.3M (Jeff Zilgitt)
  • David West, Warriors, 1 year, $2.3M (David Aldridge)
  • Omri Casspi, Warriors, 1 year, $2.1M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Mike Scott, Wizards, 1 year, $1.7M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Ron Baker, Knicks, TBD, TBD (Ron Baker on Twitter)

Trades & Other

  • Miami is trading Josh McRoberts and a pick to Dallas for A.J. Hammons (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Indiana waived Monta Ellis with the stretch provision. (Shams Charania)
  • Miami waived Chris Bosh (and no, I don’t have any additional info on his medical status). (Miami Heat)
  • The Nuggets sign-and-trade Danilo Gallinari to the Clippers, Atlanta receives Jamal Crawford, Diamond Stone, and a first-round pick, and Denver gets a second-round pick. (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • The Pacers are trading Paul George to the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Seriously. (Ramona Shelburne first)
  • The Wolves are trading Ricky Rubio to Utah for a first-round pick. (A whole mess of people at once)
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Raptors sign Malcolm Miller to 2-way contract

The Toronto Raptors have signed the first two-way contract in franchise history.

The honor of landing the team’s first hybrid roster spot goes to Malcolm Miller, according to a report from Doug Smith of the Toronto Star.

This seems to have been in the making for a few weeks now. Miller was first brought in to Toronto for the team’s two-day free-agent mini-camp at BioSteel Centre in June and was named to their Las Vegas Summer League roster shortly after. While there’s obvious competition from both of those groups for a spot – Alfonzo McKinnie and Jalen Reynolds were also at the workout and are on the Vegas roster, Kennedy Meeks has signed an Exhibit 10 deal that the team can convert to a two-way contract, and a handful of other interesting undrafted or G-League players are on the Summer League team – Miller appears to be a player the Raptors narrowed in on quite quickly.

A four-year senior out of Holy Cross, Miller jumped on the draft radar with a strong fourth season that marked a college career of annual improvement. With an emerging 3-point shot and a more multi-faceted offensive game, Miller carved out a larger role, ultimately averaging 14.5 points and earning Patriot League Second-Team honors. That wasn’t enough to get him quite in the mix, and he went undrafted.

Miller caught on with the Boston Celtics both for Summer League and for training camp that year. Over two Summer League tournaments, he averaged four points and 2.3 rebounds in just 12.1 minutes, then played just a handful of seconds in a single preseason game. Such is the life of an undrafted free agent, and accepting that reality, Miller jumped at the chance to be an Affiliate Player of the Celtics with the Maine Red Claws. In 47 games there, he averaged 12.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1.3 blocks, shooting 49.6 percent from the floor and 39.8 percent on threes.From there, Miller opted to head to Germany for the 2016-17 season, where his role shrunk but he still proved efficient. In 18.7 minutes, he put up 6.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.1 assists with a 62.4 true-shooting percentage, including a 38.5-percent mark from long-range.

A 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot wingspan and an 11-foot-11 max vertical touch, Miller’s an interesting prospect in the modern NBA. He has the length, size (he’s 210 pounds at last measure), and athleticism to project as a solid defender at either forward spot, and while he doesn’t quite have the ball-skill or passing to play a major role from the wing (he can get into the paint himself but won’t create a ton off the dribble), the steady 3-point production could make him the typical stretch four that’s quite en vogue. It’s hard to project defense from non-NBA samples, but he was an elite shot-blocker for his position in college, and his block rate was nearly four percent in Germany.

Still just 24, Miller has the raw pieces teams look for in 3-and-D prospects, and it’s presently a position of need on the parent club. He won’t be with them much, mind you, as the new two-way contracts limit a player’s NBA time to 45 days, plus any time before the beginning of G-League training camp and after the end of the G-League regular season. With the new tiered salary system for hybrid roster spots, the promise of some NBA time and a higher G-League salary is enough to compete with another season overseas, and Miller could earn up to an estimated $279,000 if he spends the maximum allowable time with the Raptors (with a much higher downside than on other G-League deals).

As a side-note, Miller won’t be eligible for the NBA playoff roster, though every two-way contract does have a conversion option that will allow the Raptors to convert this to an NBA minimum contract, should Miller impress and the need arise. As things stand, Miller will be with the Raptors for Summer League and training camp, then spend the bulk of his time with Raptors 905 (they don’t need to acquire his rights, as a two-way deal supersedes returning player rights) with occasional trips down the Gardiner to check in with the Raptors.

Miller will now be locked in to Raptors history as their first ever two-way contract signee. As a refresher, NBA teams now have two roster spots to give these kind of deals, which don’t count toward the salary cap or luxury tax (this has no bearing on the Raptors’ free agent situation). They’re a step toward creating a more robust development system and giving teams more control over developmental prospects, allowing them to take chances on helping a guy like Miller take the next step in his evolution with some certainty they’ll reap the benefits if it works out (players on two-way deals can’t be poached by other NBA teams). You can read more about the new two-way contract system here, I won’t bog the post down with more detail than that.

So, yeah, keep a closer eye on Miller in Vegas than you had maybe planned to. He’ll probably see a good slice of time at both forward spots, and he and Pascal Siakam could be a fun small-ball frontcourt for stretches there.

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Raptors to wear Sun Life Financial patch on 2017-18 jerseys

The Toronto Raptors are the latest NBA team to announce a jersey advertisement partnership, revealing Thursday that they’ll wear a Sun Life Financial patch for the 2017-18 season.

The Raptors announced the partnership in a press release:

“We’re thrilled to announce this new, first of its kind partnership with the Raptors and MLSE,” said Lisa Ritchie, Senior Vice-President & Chief Marketing Officer, Sun Life Financial. “These are great brands coming together, connecting with fans of the game and encouraging Canadians from coast to coast to live a healthy and active lifestyle. I look forward to the 2017-18 Raptors season when we officially launch this exciting program in support of diabetes and wellness.”

This is an exciting time in Raptors’ history and we’re thrilled to share it with Sun Life, an iconic Canadian brand who has been a trusted partner of ours over the past seven years,” said David Hopkinson, Chief Commercial Officer, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. “This partnership, while breaking new ground, puts an important issue affecting our community first and represents an initiative that we can all take great pride in.”

While the specifics are unclear, the release also notes that the partnership will feature a “prominent program in support of diabetes awareness and prevention,” which is something that hits close for me personally, so, kudos (it’s a long-standing Sun Life endeavor). More details will come when the sides unveil the new jersey sometime in the fall.

The deal is reportedly worth $5 million per-year.

The NBA will allow teams to wear corporate logos beginning this year as part of a three-year pilot run, and the Raptors’ will appear in the top left of the jersey. They follow Boston, Sacramento, Philadelphia, and several others taking the leap. Based on the mock-up from Raptors.com pictured here, it’s fairly unintrusive (and the far more intriguing question is what the jerseys, switching over to Nike this year, will look like, and how many the team will keep in rotation). That the logo mocked up is black-and-white rather than Sun Life’s trademark yellow is an important consideration here. The ads also won’t appear on the retail version of jerseys, for now.

Basically, it is what it is – the NBA saw a chance to make additional ad revenue, and the Raptors are taking advantage while also doing what they can to leverage it for charitable benefit.

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DeMar DeRozan gets Canadian NBA 2K18 cover

DeMar DeRozan will be on the cover of the Canadian release of NBA 2K18.

This is the first time the NBA has given Canada its own cover for the popular series, and as DeRozan told Joseph Casciaro of theScore, it’s something that means a lot to him:

It was just an honor to be mentioned – to have a conversation of me even having an option to be on it. It was something I didn’t even honestly believe when my agent first came to me and told me,” DeRozan told theScore of receiving midseason news about the cover opportunity. “So now to see the cover, and for it to be released, it’s something that I still don’t believe. It’s definitely an honor.

I remember being a kid, creating a player in the video game, and being excited just doing that. The next thing was being in the college basketball game, and then the next thing, being in the NBA game. Seeing your face, seeing yourself evolve in the game, and looking even more real, to hearing your voice in the game, to now, being on the cover. It’s something that’s extremely awesome and definitely mind-blowing.

This is a pretty awesome nod for a player that’s meant a ton to the Toronto Raptors franchise and the continued and rapid growth of basketball in Canada. This is so cool.

Kyrie Irving is on the U.S. cover and Shaquille O’Neal graces the cover of a Legend Edition. The game comes out Sept. 19.

Photo courtesy: 2K Sports

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Talking Raptors Podcast – S4 E19 – Return Of The Mack

Listen. We have been gone for a long time. Technology tried to kill the podcast but we fought it off and have returned to the pod-world. A lot has happened since the last episode and we try our best to cover the more enticing stories.

On this episode of Talking Raptors, Nick and Barry sit down and discuss:

– Hello Lowry and Ibaka

– Goodbye 2Pat and Tucker

– The Boston Celtics

– Banana Boat Crew

– Dwayne Casey and Moore’s Suits

– Social Media Madness

All this and a little bit more. As always thanks for listening and we hope you enjoy! We wont be gone for that long again and we hope you missed us as much as we missed you.

P.S. Trust Masai

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July 5 free agency open thread

Kyle Lowry is returning on a 3-year, $100-million deal – reaction

Serge Ibaka re-signs on 3-year, $65-million deal – reaction

P.J. Tucker signs with Houston on 4-year, $32-million deal – reaction

Patrick Patterson signs with Oklahoma City on 3-year, $16.4-million deal – reaction

The Toronto Raptors’ four unrestricted free agents have found homes. Two are back, two are outbound, and the Raptors will now look to find a 15th man to help making up for some of the lost versatility and defense. Or they won’t, yet. They still need to shed salary unless they plan on spending well into the luxury tax for a team that doesn’t figure to go further than the second or third round of the playoffs. They’ve said they’ll spend into the tax, but doing so exorbitantly would seem unlikely. The hard part about their situation is that it makes it difficult to go looking for targets while we wait, because until the salary-shedding shoe drops, we don’t know if they’ll be operating with just the veteran minimum, with a taxpayer mid-level, or maybe even the non-taxpayer mid-level. The trade domino is the big one, but who knows if it’s happening?

And so we wait. And update with anything that comes in throughout the day.

As for how to pass the time, I will try this starspins free game, after asking how to choose the best no deposit slot?

Resources & Required Reading

If you haven’t yet, go and read my free agency primer, which goes into a lot of the details about the Raptors’ cap situations and what they can and can’t do. Some other links:

As a quick refresher, this is what the Raptors’ cap sheet looks at right this second, based on the assumption that Ibaka’s deal is completely back-loaded and that Lowry’s deal contains $100 million in back-loaded cap hit:

If Lowry’s cap number only comes in at $90 million over three years and is completely back-loaded, his cap hit for this year could drop by about $3.09 million, which would be a pretty enormous deal. They’d still need to dump salary, but they’d be within one big contract of getting under the tax line. We probably won’t know for sure until the moratorium ends on July 6.

(Notes: I’m displaying this just a little different from yesterday. I’m also excluding De Colo/Thompson from the tax number since their cap holds won’t count but do effect the salary cap. VanVleet has a higher tax number than cap number, too [equal to Powell’s].)

To help calibrate with the new CBA and rise in cap, here’s a chart containing all of the maximums and exception amounts, based on the new $99,093,000-million salary cap (note that for the minimum salaries, those deals can run longer if cap space is used, but they max out at two years if a team is using the minimum player salary exception):

Here are a few other very useful resources:

Raptors rumors

A reminder: There is a ton of information to sort through this time of year. Some of it will be legitimate, some of it will be misinformation. Always consider the source, their track record, and why a player/agent/team may want information out in the world.

Wednesday

  • Nothing. Like, less than nothing.

Where things stand – End of Tuesday

  • Kyle Lowry is back on a three-year deal worth a reported $100 million. Bruce Arthur reports that only $90 million of that is guaranteed, but we’ll have to wait to see the contract breakdown before adjusting his cap number, in case the non-guaranteed portion is built into likely bonuses.
  • Serge Ibaka is also back, on a three-year, $65-million deal.
  • P.J. Tucker has signed with the Rockets. It hurts.
  • Patrick Patterson is headed to OKC on a three-year deal. I wrote about it more here.
  • The Raptors were once in on Amir Johnson but he signed in Philly.
  • Toronto is trying to shed salary to lessen their tax hit and improve flexibility. There’s nothing imminent there. Indiana signing Darren Collison likely ended any chance of Cory Joseph being flipped there.

Reported agreements/close – Wednesday

The following deals have either been reported as done or in the finalization stages. Until noon on July 6, nothing is absolutely locked in (remember DeAndre Jordan?), but if it’s on this list, it’s done per a reporter on the trusted list.

  • Dion Waiters, Heat, 4 years, $52M (Adrian Wojnarowski/Michael Scotto)
  • Nick Young, Warriors, 1 year, $5.2M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Indiana waived Monta Ellis (Shams Charania)

Reported agreements/close – Earlier

The following deals have either been reported as done or in the finalization stages. Until noon on July 6, nothing is absolutely locked in (remember DeAndre Jordan?), but if it’s on this list, it’s done per a reporter on the trusted list.

  • Steph Curry, Warriors, 5 years, $201M (Shams Charania)
  • Blake Griffin, Clippers, 5 years, $175M (Sam Amick)
  • Gordon Hayward, Celtics, 4 years, $128M (Gordon Hayward/Shams Charania)
  • Jrue Holiday, Pelicans, 5 years, $126M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Otto Porter, Nets, 4 years, $104M (Offer sheet) (Shams Charania)
  • Kyle Lowry, Raptors, 3 years, $100M (Michael Scotto)
  • Paul Millsap, Nuggets, 3 years, $90M (Shams Charania)
  • Serge Ibaka, Raptors, 3 years, $65M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Danilo Gallinari, Clippers, 3 years, $65M (Adrian Wojnarowski (3-team sign-and-trade)
  • Jeff Teague, Timberwolves, 3 years, $57M (Marc Stein)
  • George Hill, Kings, 3 years, $57M (Shams Charania)
  • Kevin Durant, Warriors, 2 years, $53M (Marcus Thompson)
  • Joe Ingles, Jazz, 4 years, $52M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Patty Mills, Spurs, 4 years, $50M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Andre Iguodala, Warriors, 3 years, $48M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Tony Snell, Bucks, 4 years, $46M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Cristiano Felicio, Bulls, 4 years, $32M (Shams Charania)
  • PJ Tucker, Rockets, 4 years, $32M (Shams Charania)
  • Taj Gibson, Timberwolves, 2 years, $28M (Shams Charania)
  • Zach Randolph, Kings, 2 years, $24M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Shaun Livingston, Warriors, 3 years, $24M (Chris Haynes)
  • JJ Redick, 76ers, 1 year, $23M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Kyle Korver, Cavaliers, 3 years, $22M (Shams Charania)
  • Langston Galloway, Pistons, 3 years, $21M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Darren Collison, Pacers, 2 years, $20M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Patrick Patterson, Thunder, 3 years, $16.4M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Amir Johnson, 76ers, 1 year, $11M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Nene, Rockets, 3 years, $11M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Ben McLemore, Grizzlies, 2 years, $10.7M (Chris Haynes)
  • Justin Holiday, Bulls, 2 years, $9M (Shams Charania)
  • Jodie Meeks, Wizards, 2 years, $7M (Shams Charania)
  • Michael Carter-Williams, Hornets, 1 year, $2.7M (Rick Bonnell)
  • Wayne Selden, Grizzlies, 2 years, TBD (Michael Scotto)
  • Daniel Theis, Celtics, 2 years, TBD (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Jose Calderon, Cavaliers, 1 year, $2.3M (Jeff Zilgitt)
  • David West, Warriors, 1 year, $2.3M (David Aldridge)
  • Omri Casspi, Warriors, 1 year, $2.1M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Mike Scott, Wizards, 1 year, $1.7M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Ron Baker, Knicks, TBD, TBD (Ron Baker on Twitter)

Trades

  • The Nuggets sign-and-trade Danilo Gallinari to the Clippers, Atlanta receives Jamal Crawford, Diamond Stone, and a first-round pick, and Denver gets a second-round pick.
  • The Pacers are trading Paul George to the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Seriously. (Ramona Shelburne first)
  • The Wolves are trading Ricky Rubio to Utah for a first-round pick. (A whole mess of people at once)
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Report & Reaction: Patrick Patterson signs with Thunder

The Patrick Patterson era in Toronto has come to a conclusion.

Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that Patterson has signed a three-year, $16.4-million deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The third year is a player option, and Patterson is expected to start in the new-look Thunder lineup that includes Paul George alongside Russell Westbrook.

To call this a discount would be an understatement, as just a few months ago it seemed like Patterson was headed for a pay day in the neighborhood of $12- or even $15-million annually. After players like Jon Leuer and Mirza Teletovic received eight-figure annual salaries last summer, Patterson seemed a good candidate to price himself out of the Raptors’ range eventually. Instead, he suffered a knee injury that derailed his season, seemed to sap his confidence, and apparently cratered his market. An annual hit of $5.5 million for Patterson is an exceptional deal for the Thunder, another nice piece of business for Sam Presti in an offseason full of them (he’s effectively saved money turning Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, and Taj Gibson into George and Patterson, and landing Patterson for the taxpayer mid-level avoids the hard cap).

How, exactly, Patterson’s value got to this point was a little tough to watch, given all the good he’d contributed to that point. Always a reliable defender, Patterson derived most of his offensive value from his ability to knock down threes. Threes are by their nature a high-variance shot, but Patterson seemed exceptionally streaky, and with a steady diet of catch-and-shoot looks, cold streaks stood out. That he was cold in back-to-back playoff runs, shooting 30 and 30.8 percent, respectively, masks that his shot is still plenty reliable in a large sample, but his 2016-17 playoff performance was shaky on the whole was disappointing, and his role surprisingly diminished. There was some chicken-or-the-egg going on there, but Patterson never really rediscovered his groove after missing 10 of 12 games and then six more later, losing playing time to the incoming P.J. Tucker and Serge Ibaka.

To be clear, that explains what may have gone into Patterson’s market value taking a hit but does not stand to knock Patterson as a player overall. The 2017 market as a whole has been very unkind to free agents, and Patterson is worth more than this salary in a vacuum. As cap space was eaten up quickly, though, it seemed Patterson may be destined for one of the mid-level exception amounts. There was even a thought that, with Patterson’s market apparently light and the Raptors light on options, a one-year reunion would be best for both sides. But the relationship between the sides seemed to fray toward the end of the year, Patterson missed his locker clean-out day, and there wasn’t a hint that the sides may still be talking. Landing in Oklahoma City, when he can opt out in two years at age 30 for one more multi-year deal, is a smart bet on his own longevity and his fit there (which, again, is terrific).

It’s just at a price well below the value Patterson provides. Even with the nods to his second-half struggles and a couple of poor playoff series, Patterson has a large sample of data suggesting his value extends well beyond that salary. His value to the Raptors has been consistently pronounced, with Patterson ranking not only along the Raptors’ leaders in plus-minus, but among the league’s leaders in plus-minus on a regular basis.

Patterson has “only” averaged 7.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists for the Raptors, but he’s shot 37.3 percent on more than three threes per-game, doesn’t turn the ball over much, and stood as one of the team’s best and most versatile defenders. Initially a defender at the four only, Patterson eventually showed he could hang with tougher power threes or even play some small-ball center when needed, opening up a lot of flexibility and switching options for head coach Dwane Casey on that end. He’s a below-average rebounder and doesn’t offer much other than 3-point shooting on offense – he improved a bit putting the ball on the floor to attack closeouts but it never materialized in a higher assist rate or free-throw rate – but his defensive versatility proved immensely important to Toronto, and the his presence as a pick-and-pop threat was an important part of many of Toronto’s pet sets, particularly when they played lineups light on shooting.

All told, Patterson became something of an advanced-stats darling in Toronto, taking up Amir Johnson’s mantle as the guy making a big impact without large counting stats. Over his three-and-a-half seasons in Toronto, he was worth 16.5 win shares, 100th in the NBA during that span. He was 56th in Box Plus-Minus, 61st in value over replacement player, and ranked in the top-15 among all power forwards in real plus-minus in each of the last two seasons. This is a lot of ways of saying the Raptors were much better off with Patterson than without him – Toronto outscored opponents by 1,117 points with Patterson on the floor in his three full seasons with the team, the 16th-highest total in the NBA (only two players ranked higher with fewer minutes). That’s a bigger plus-minus than Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, or any other Raptor in that span. And sure, there’s noise there, as Patterson mostly came off the bench and spent a good deal of his minutes with Lowry, but after a certain amount of time, the role player has to get some credit, too.

The entire time Patterson was in Toronto, the team was looking for a starting power forward. He wasn’t a top-tier option, but he was passed over for Luis Scola, Pascal Siakam, and others because of some ill-conceived thought he couldn’t start based on a few preseason games and then a few postseason games in which he didn’t knock down threes but still played well overall. It is not among the basketball world’s grave injustices, but Patterson was always sitting there ready to fill in as a starter, a natural fit with the rest of the starting lineup. Instead, he earned raves for being a super-sub or “sixth starter,” and the Raptors relied on him in a role more commensurate with his value late in games.

He’ll get to start now in OKC, and he’ll be in a spot where he fits well once again. He’ll knock down some threes, play some defense that goes under the radar, and quietly outproduce this contract. He’ll have cold streaks from long-range, and that variance will confuse his production again. But he’ll be good, and he’ll be steady. That’s what he’s been in Toronto for years, and while it’s understandable that sometimes it’s time to call a relationship over, the Raptors will miss that floor-spacing at the four and the defensive intelligence around the court. They’ll miss his subtle impact and the reliability he provided in the second unit. He was one of the Raptors four or five most important players during the best stretch in franchise history, and you don’t just replace that internally without a bump or two in the road. Losing him and Tucker together is very hard on the power forward position and the team’s defensive potential. Patterson was also a great advocate for the city, for as much as that matters.

Alas, you can’t keep everyone, the Raptors would have been diving deeper into the luxury tax to retain him, and maybe Patterson didn’t want to stay, anyway. He probably didn’t want to stay, reading the tea leaves and some late-season subtext. It’s a good opportunity for Patterson, even if he didn’t get the big pay-day that was expected a while back. If he has many more good days than bad, as he did here, that’ll be a heck of a deal for the Thunder.

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July 4 free agency open thread: Celtics land Hayward for real this time; Patterson leaves

Kyle Lowry is returning on a 3-year, $100-million deal – reaction

Serge Ibaka re-signs on 3-year, $65-million deal – reaction

Patrick Patterson signs with Oklahoma City on 3-year, $16.4-million deal – reaction

P.J. Tucker signs with Houston on 4-year, $32-million deal – reaction

Today is probably going to be a quiet one. The NBA universe surely would have liked a dead July 4 to enjoy, but that’s never going to happen so long as the free agent moratorium period kicks off July. Plus, there’s the enormous Gordon Hayward domino to fall, which stands to have a huge impact on one of the conferences. From a Raptors perspective, they’d like to move quick to unload salary, but the market for such a move has not at all been kind, to the point that it’s not even really worth speculating right now on what moves they could still make (I mean, you can, but my answer to everything is going to be that it depends on how much salary they can dump and what it costs). I’d guess today is quiet once again on the Raptors front before tomorrow picks back up a bit.

Still, we’ll update with anything that comes in throughout the day.

In the meantime, a quick look for basketball betting tips at the OddsDigger sports betting portal shows that Houston’s moves have really made a difference, pushing them from +2500 to +1000 to win the championship. That’s behind only Golden State, Cleveland, and in some places, Boston. So their aggression is resonating.

Resources & Required Reading

If you haven’t yet, go and read my free agency primer, which goes into a lot of the details about the Raptors’ cap situations and what they can and can’t do. Some other links:

As a quick refresher, this is what the Raptors’ cap sheet looks at right this second, based on the assumption that Ibaka’s deal is completely back-loaded and that Lowry’s deal contains $100 million in back-loaded cap hit:

If Lowry’s cap number only comes in at $90 million over three years and is completely back-loaded, his cap hit for this year could drop by about $3.09 million, which would be a pretty enormous deal. They’d still need to dump salary, but they’d be within one big contract of getting under the tax line. We probably won’t know for sure until the moratorium ends on July 6.

(Notes: I’m displaying this just a little different from yesterday. I’m also excluding De Colo/Thompson from the tax number since their cap holds won’t count but do effect the salary cap. VanVleet has a higher tax number than cap number, too [equal to Powell’s].)

To help calibrate with the new CBA and rise in cap, here’s a chart containing all of the maximums and exception amounts, based on the new $99,093,000-million salary cap (note that for the minimum salaries, those deals can run longer if cap space is used, but they max out at two years if a team is using the minimum player salary exception):

Here are a few other very useful resources:

Raptors rumors

A reminder: There is a ton of information to sort through this time of year. Some of it will be legitimate, some of it will be misinformation. Always consider the source, their track record, and why a player/agent/team may want information out in the world.

Tuesday

  • 10:30pm: Patrick Patterson is headed to OKC on a three-year deal. I wrote about it more here.
  • 7:52pm: Okay, NOW Hayward has signed with Boston. For real this time. No take backs, no erasies.
  • 2:32pm: HOLD UP. David Aldridge reports now that Hayward has not made a decision, and earlier report were untrue. And now everyone is reporting it. Strap in.
  • 2:30pm: In a non-Raptors move that has a pretty big impact on the Eastern Conference, Gordon Hayward is signing with the Boston Celtics, per Chris Haynes. That’s unfortunate, as it makes the top of the East heavier sledding and makes Toronto’s biggest competition to be runner-up to Cleveland a little stiffer.
  • 1:15pm: Nothing’s going on, so I’ll plug some other stuff. At The Athletic, I wrote about the changing NBA market forces and how they played a part in where the Raptors are. For Vice, I wrote about the necessary but unfortunate inflexibility built into how things currently stand. And still no Hayward news. I’m bored.

Where things stand – End of Monday

  • Kyle Lowry is back on a three-year deal worth a reported $100 million. Bruce Arthur reports that only $90 million of that is guaranteed, but we’ll have to wait to see the contract breakdown before adjusting his cap number, in case the non-guaranteed portion is built into likely bonuses.
  • Serge Ibaka is also back, on a three-year, $65-million deal.
  • P.J. Tucker has signed with the Rockets. It hurts.
  • All quiet on the Patrick Patterson front, though he met with Sacramento and is not expected back with the Raptors.
  • The Raptors were once in on Amir Johnson but he signed in Philly.
  • Toronto is trying to shed salary to lessen their tax hit and improve flexibility. There’s nothing imminent there. Indiana signing Darren Collison likely ended any chance of Cory Joseph being flipped there.

Reported agreements/close – Tuesday

The following deals have either been reported as done or in the finalization stages. Until noon on July 6, nothing is absolutely locked in (remember DeAndre Jordan?), but if it’s on this list, it’s done per a reporter on the trusted list.

  • Gordon Hayward But Actually This Time, Celtics, 4 years, $128M (Gordon Hayward/Shams Charania)
  • Gordon Hayward, Celtics, TBD, TBD (Chris Haynes)
  • Otto Porter, Nets, 4 years, $104M (Offer sheet) (Shams Charania)
  • George Hill, Kings, 3 years, $57M (Shams Charania)
  • Zach Randolph, Kings, 2 years, $24M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Patrick Patterson, Thunder, 3 years, $16.4M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Omri Casspi, Warriors, 1 year, $2.1M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Mike Scott, Wizards, 1 year, $1.7M (Adrian Wojnarowski)

Reported agreements/close – Earlier

The following deals have either been reported as done or in the finalization stages. Until noon on July 6, nothing is absolutely locked in (remember DeAndre Jordan?), but if it’s on this list, it’s done per a reporter on the trusted list.

  • Steph Curry, Warriors, 5 years, $201M (Shams Charania)
  • Blake Griffin, Clippers, 5 years, $175M (Sam Amick)
  • Jrue Holiday, Pelicans, 5 years, $126M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Kyle Lowry, Raptors, 3 years, $100M (Michael Scotto)
  • Paul Millsap, Nuggets, 3 years, $90M (Shams Charania)
  • Serge Ibaka, Raptors, 3 years, $65M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Danilo Gallinari, Clippers, 3 years, $65M (Adrian Wojnarowski (3-team sign-and-trade)
  • Jeff Teague, Timberwolves, 3 years, $57M (Marc Stein)
  • Kevin Durant, Warriors, 2 years, $53M (Marcus Thompson)
  • Joe Ingles, Jazz, 4 years, $52M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Patty Mills, Spurs, 4 years, $50M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Andre Iguodala, Warriors, 3 years, $48M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Tony Snell, Bucks, 4 years, $46M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Cristiano Felicio, Bulls, 4 years, $32M (Shams Charania)
  • PJ Tucker, Rockets, 4 years, $32M (Shams Charania)
  • Taj Gibson, Timberwolves, 2 years, $28M (Shams Charania)
  • Shaun Livingston, Warriors, 3 years, $24M (Chris Haynes)
  • JJ Redick, 76ers, 1 year, $23M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Kyle Korver, Cavaliers, 3 years, $22M (Shams Charania)
  • Langston Galloway, Pistons, 3 years, $21M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Darren Collison, Pacers, 2 years, $20M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Amir Johnson, 76ers, 1 year, $11M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Nene, Rockets, 3 years, $11M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Ben McLemore, Grizzlies, 2 years, $10.7M (Chris Haynes)
  • Justin Holiday, Bulls, 2 years, $9M (Shams Charania)
  • Jodie Meeks, Wizards, 2 years, $7M (Shams Charania)
  • Michael Carter-Williams, Hornets, 1 year, $2.7M (Rick Bonnell)
  • Wayne Selden, Grizzlies, 2 years, TBD (Michael Scotto)
  • Daniel Theis, Celtics, 2 years, TBD (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Jose Calderon, Cavaliers, 1 year, $2.3M (Jeff Zilgitt)
  • David West, Warriors, 1 year, $2.3M (David Aldridge)
  • Ron Baker, Knicks, TBD, TBD (Ron Baker on Twitter)

Trades

  • The Nuggets sign-and-trade Danilo Gallinari to the Clippers, Atlanta receives Jamal Crawford, Diamond Stone, and a first-round pick, and Denver gets a second-round pick.
  • The Pacers are trading Paul George to the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Seriously. (Ramona Shelburne first)
  • The Wolves are trading Ricky Rubio to Utah for a first-round pick. (A whole mess of people at once)

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July 3 free agency open thread

Kyle Lowry is returning on a 3-year, $100-million deal – reaction

Serge Ibaka re-signs on 3-year, $65-million deal – reaction

P.J. Tucker signs with Houston on 4-year, $32-million deal – reaction

Most of the frenzy for the Toronto Raptors is complete. Today might be a quiet day. They lost P.J. Tucker, they re-signed Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, and they haven’t been attached to Patrick Patterson yet at all. We know they’d like to shed salary, and that Cory Joseph, DeMarre Carroll, and Jonas Valanciunas would be the candidates. We can guess that if they did so, they may then make a move to fill out the roster. In all likelihood, they’ll be in a bit of a holding pattern now that the big work is done and they need to accomplish the unenviable task of unloading money.

Still, we’ll update with anything that comes in throughout the day.

Resources & Required Reading

If you haven’t yet, go and read my free agency primer, which goes into a lot of the details about the Raptors’ cap situations and what they can and can’t do. Some other links:

As a quick refresher, this is what the Raptors’ cap sheet looks at right this second, based on the assumption that Ibaka’s deal is completely back-loaded and that Lowry’s deal contains $100 million in back-loaded cap hit:

If Lowry’s cap number only comes in at $90 million over three years and is completely back-loaded, his cap hit for this year could drop by about $3.09 million, which would be a pretty enormous deal. They’d still need to dump salary, but they’d be within one big contract of getting under the tax line.

(Notes: I’m displaying this just a little different from yesterday. I’m also excluding De Colo/Thompson from the tax number since their cap holds won’t count but do effect the salary cap. VanVleet has a higher tax number than cap number, too [equal to Powell’s].)

To help calibrate with the new CBA and rise in cap, here’s a chart containing all of the maximums and exception amounts, based on the new $99,093,000-million salary cap (note that for the minimum salaries, those deals can run longer if cap space is used, but they max out at two years if a team is using the minimum player salary exception):

Here are a few other very useful resources:

Raptors rumors

A reminder: There is a ton of information to sort through this time of year. Some of it will be legitimate, some of it will be misinformation. Always consider the source, their track record, and why a player/agent/team may want information out in the world.

Monday

  • 8pm: Indiana signed Darren Collison, so while they still have ample cap space to potentially absorb a contract, they no longer seem to be a fit for Joseph.
  • 6pm: I assure you, I’m still alive, and nothing has happened. There are rumblings about other teams, with the only one even remotely related to the Raptors being that a whole load of teams are trying to move salary, meaning the handful of teams with the space and the stomach for it have a great deal of leverage in asking for the moon. A source indicated that the asking price to take on any of the three Raptors in a trade is still too high (or the return too low), something Josh Lewenberg of TSN corroborated. It seems like that aspect of the offseason may need another day or two to breathe (with the fall out from guys like Gordon Hayward and Danilo Gallinari having an effect). It may even need to wait until after the moratorium ends, when some teams are forced into revealing their hand in terms of deal sequencing and the RFA market should get moving.
  •  1:15pm: No, I haven’t abandoned you. There’s just nothing going on, other than the Cavs failing to match ESPN on a contract for Chauncey Billups and some FOX Sports shenanigans. It’s nice out, go enjoy the holiday. I’ll have you covered when you come back.

Where things stand – End of Sunday

  • Kyle Lowry is back on a three-year deal worth a reported $100 million. Bruce Arthur reports that only $90 million of that is guaranteed, but we’ll have to wait to see the contract breakdown before adjusting his cap number, in case the non-guaranteed portion is built into likely bonuses.
  • Serge Ibaka is also back, on a three-year, $65-million deal.
  • P.J. Tucker has signed with the Rockets. It hurts.
  • All quiet on the Patrick Patterson front, though he met with Sacramento.
  • The Raptors were once in on Amir Johnson but he signed in Philly.
  • Toronto is trying to shed salary to lessen their tax hit and improve flexibility. There’s nothing imminent there.

Reported agreements/close – Monday

The following deals have either been reported as done or in the finalization stages. Until noon on July 6, nothing is absolutely locked in (remember DeAndre Jordan?), but if it’s on this list, it’s done per a reporter on the trusted list.

  • Kevin Durant, Warriors, 2 years, $53M (Marcus Thompson)
  • Darren Collison, Pacers, 2 years, $20M (Adrian Wojnarowski)

Reported agreements/close – Saturday

The following deals have either been reported as done or in the finalization stages. Until noon on July 6, nothing is absolutely locked in (remember DeAndre Jordan?), but if it’s on this list, it’s done per a reporter on the trusted list.

  • Steph Curry, Warriors, 5 years, $201M (Shams Charania)
  • Blake Griffin, Clippers, 5 years, $175M (Sam Amick)
  • Jrue Holiday, Pelicans, 5 years, $126M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Kyle Lowry, Raptors, 3 years, $100M (Michael Scotto)
  • Paul Millsap, Nuggets, 3 years, $90M (Shams Charania)
  • Serge Ibaka, Raptors, 3 years, $65M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Jeff Teague, Timberwolves, 3 years, $57M (Marc Stein)
  • Joe Ingles, Jazz, 4 years, $52M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Patty Mills, Spurs, 4 years, $50M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Andre Iguodala, Warriors, 3 years, $48M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Tony Snell, Bucks, 4 years, $46M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Cristiano Felicio, Bulls, 4 years, $32M (Shams Charania)
  • PJ Tucker, Rockets, 4 years, $32M (Shams Charania)
  • Taj Gibson, Timberwolves, 2 years, $28M (Shams Charania)
  • Shaun Livingston, Warriors, 3 years, $24M (Chris Haynes)
  • JJ Redick, 76ers, 1 year, $23M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Kyle Korver, Cavaliers, 3 years, $22M (Shams Charania)
  • Langston Galloway, Pistons, 3 years, $21M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Amir Johnson, 76ers, 1 year, $11M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Nene, Rockets, 3 years, $11M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Ben McLemore, Grizzlies, 2 years, $10.7M (Chris Haynes)
  • Justin Holiday, Bulls, 2 years, $9M (Shams Charania)
  • Jodie Meeks, Wizards, 2 years, $7M (Shams Charania)
  • Michael Carter-Williams, Hornets, 1 year, $2.7M (Rick Bonnell)
  • Wayne Selden, Grizzlies, 2 years, TBD (Michael Scotto)
  • Daniel Theis, Celtics, 2 years, TBD (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Jose Calderon, Cavaliers, 1 year, $2.3M (Jeff Zilgitt)
  • David West, Warriors, 1 year, $2.3M (David Aldridge)
  • Ron Baker, Knicks, TBD, TBD (Ron Baker on Twitter)

Trades

  • The Pacers are trading Paul George to the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Seriously. (Ramona Shelburne first)
  • The Wolves are trading Ricky Rubio to Utah for a first-round pick. (A whole mess of people at once)

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Raptors Weekly Podcast – Lowry and Ibaka back, Tucker walks

Host William Lou drops two podcasts to react to the Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry signings.

(more…)

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Kyle Lowry, Raptors commit to 3-year window with $100M deal

The Toronto Raptors are going to keep the success of the greatest era in franchise history rolling a little longer.

In the most pivotal offseason in franchise history, the Raptors worked swiftly to lock in their core for a three-year window, signing Kyle Lowry to a three-year pact worth a reported $100 million plus incentives and signing Serge Ibaka to a three-year, $65-million contract. The lengths of these deals line up with the player option on the five-year near-max deal that DeMar DeRozan signed shortly after the stroke of midnight last year, and all told Masai Ujiri has sent a clear message in free agency’s opening weekend: This team is going to try to compete until 2020.

Lowry was the biggest piece, and while his signing came after Ibaka’s, it was the priority of the summer for Toronto. At the start of the season, the discussion centered on whether the Raptors could stomach giving Lowry his enormous maximum, particularly with a fifth year. Closer to free agency, the talk was whether Lowry wanted to come back, or whether the Raptors would pony up the necessary cash to make him happy. The market for point guards sorted itself out quickly, and Lowry didn’t have many destinations remaining as leverage. At one point, multiple reports suggested that Lowry may only earn in the $27-million range annually on a shorter deal, a far cry from the five-year, $200-million contract that had once been bandied about.

All told, to secure an All-Star point guard for three years at a sub-max rate, even a 31-year-old without a substantial market, is a fair piece of business. A source indicated to Raptors Republic that Lowry wanted a fourth year, and these negotiations probably weren’t as smooth as they were with DeRozan a year ago. Upping the annual salary to something closer to the max likely helped knock off a dangerous fourth year in a season in which Lowry would turn 35, limiting the back-end downside for Toronto. This is a good deal from Toronto’s side, and while Lowry’s spent his career being mostly underpaid, this is life-altering money, a clear statement that the franchise believes in Lowry as a top-tier point guard and someone worth continuing to build around.

And make no mistake, Lowry is immensely important to this franchise. Not only does he serve as a sort of avatar of the accidental, unpredicted quality of this era, he has been the engine through all of it. He fits perfectly with the way the Raptors have presented themselves as the NBA’s “other.” His feisty demeanor, while occasionally off-putting for short bursts, has helped set the Raptors’ own identity as one of the league’s more sustained comeback specialists and difficult-to-play teams. His friendship with DeRozan and their leadership of the locker room, along with head coach Dwane Casey, has helped to instil the type of off-court culture the Raptors have long sought to achieve. He is the beating heart here, and losing Lowry would have meant ripping the heart out of the entire core.

On the court, he has been reason 1A for the team’s success over the last four years. He has made himself into one of the league’s best scorers off the drive, a strong pick-and-roll playmaker, a gritty defender when consistently engaged, and perhaps most importantly, one of the league’s most lethal high-volume long-range shooters. His ability to spot up around DeRozan’s work inside the arc is immensely important, and the threat of him pulling up from 30 feet helps stretch out defenses in transition. He is the best creator of threes for teammates, too. Any talk of this team becoming more reliant on the three without Lowry was outlandish.

For years now, the on-off numbers have screamed that Lowry is not only Toronto’s most important player but one of the league’s most important. He has been worth more than 40 win shares over the last four years and consistently graded well by just about any catch-all metric we have available to us. However flawed those may be individually, there is a consensus among them that Lowry has spent this team’s peak years as one of the 20 most important players in basketball, if not one of the top 10. Before his injury a season ago, he was playing at a level that may have earned him some fifth-place MVP votes had he continued.

(As always, this is to say nothing of DeRozan’s value, or to needlessly rank them. They are a duo, and will tell you as much. The team has built itself that way. They can be appreciated individually without slighting the other, and they can be appreciated together. Their friendship and chemistry has been one of the best Toronto sports subplots of the last decade.)

There are some concerns with Lowry, to be sure. His defense slipped some last year. He’s broken down in three of the last four seasons (the team can probably help their own cause in that regard by no longer playing him top-10 minutes). While he’s been mostly good overall in the postseason, he’s had some shaky stretches and shot the ball poorly overall. He is 31 and undersized. These pale compared to the reasons for re-signing him. Still, He ratchets his defense up when it matters. His injuries have been somewhat fluky and unrelated, and the Raptors should take better care of him. The postseason struggles are hard to explain, but that’s why the team is exploring a change in their offensive approach. He doesn’t have 31-year-old minutes on him, he’s learned to take better care of his body as his career’s gone on, and shooting is a skill that ages well.

He is among the three or four best players in franchise history, and while nobody will touch Vince Carter for most important unless they win a championship, Lowry will have a very compelling case for “best” when this contract has run its course. (I imagine he and DeRozan arguing about this over McFlurrys at age 45 on a beach somewhere.)

If the Raptors wanted to remain competitive, re-signing Lowry at this price is a no-brainer.

Hanging over any offseason moves Toronto made was always going to be the question of whether to continue with this group or take a few steps back for a better window to compete down the line. It’s a tough call, something there is no right or wrong answer for. It’s a matter of perspective, on what constitutes success for a team, on whether a championship is the only barometer, on whether a franchise rising to the level of quality organization and sustaining it for four years, or seven, or however many, is important enough to lock in to the league’s second tier a while longer. Retaining a superstar is still a big deal for this franchise. Turning their back on the best run they’ve had would have been painful, if comparably justified. It’s not a decision Ujiri and company took lightly, and while some will pine for a tanking if and when the Raptors fall short of a championship in this window, there is justification for being good and maximizing a window most teams – even the tankers – dream of getting to open at some point.

The deals for Lowry and Ibaka, then, need to be viewed through the lens of the Raptors making the most of this core. It’s an expensive Sunday, with $165 million committed to go along with the some $82 million DeRozan is owed over the next three seasons. But both signings are at roughly market value and significantly lessen the risk by shortening the term and coming in under the max, meaning both will probably be moveable if the team opts to pivot before 2020. If they don’t, they have a few seasons to try to fortify around an expensive trio, armed with eight young players of varying degrees of intrigue on entry-level contracts for this season.

The work is not done. The Raptors have plenty of cap gymnastics to work their way through, still. If Lowry and Ibaka’s deals are both fully back-loaded, the Raptors have an estimated $132.2 million in salary committed to 14 players. That’s not only well into the luxury tax, but it’s past the tax apron. The Raptors have the $5.19-million taxpayer mid-level exception available to use on a 15th player, but it seems a near certainty that they will unload a salary at some point, maybe two. Their commitment for 2018-19 is nearly as large already, making a few assumptions, with no players set to come off the books and only one player option. Norman Powell is due a big raise in restricted free agency next summer. (Lucas Nogueira and Bruno Caboclo will also be restricted free agents, albeit easier cap casualties if need be.)

The Raptors are committed to this core, but the core needs to lose pieces to feasibly supplement it in the coming years, odd though that may seem. They have until their 82nd regular season game to trim their tax bill, but they’d be well-served trying to do so now so they have a better sense of what they’ll look like and can begin building accordingly.

Cory Joseph, DeMarre Carroll, and Jonas Valanciunas have all had their names come up in rumblings. Joseph is a valuable piece and a well-liked player but somewhat redundant with Lowry back and Delon Wright ready to take up backup minutes. Of the names they could shop, Joseph is the most likely to return draft-pick assets, but he alone doesn’t drop them below the tax, if that’s the goal. Carroll is more needed in the wake of P.J. Tucker’s departure and may cost a pick to unload, but his contract is the worst of the three. Valanciunas and Ibaka at their salaries, with two other decent young centers on the roster, is a poor allocation of resources, and Valanciunas has long felt like a potential piece for sale if Ibaka came back. It is immensely difficult to give things away, especially when those players are useful or well-liked.

None of this is about the individual player, really, but about the realities of paying for top talent at the top of the roster. Something has to give, and Toronto will either say goodbye to someone for fiscal reasons. This is part of why Ujiri and company have kept a steady pipeline of young talent despite any pull to add cheap veterans at the end of the roster, as Wrights and Powells and Poeltls should, theoretically, be able to step in as the second tier of players become too expensive. It’s risky, but a look around the league at most of the teams trying to remain competitive in an increasingly top-heavy league shows it’s hard to keep middle-class talent along with stars. Again, these are the sacrifices of keeping the group together. Your best players are more valuable than the role players who support them, and you have to trust your player development to catch you behind those sacrifices.

How you feel about the deals will almost surely align with your position on the tank-or-compete continuum. This is not a championship core as currently constructed, and with a good many of the same pieces coming back, the “culture reset” that was promised at the end of the season appears set to be more tweaking than overhauling. That might be fine. LeBron James still exists, but he’s a threat to leave the Cavaliers and the conference next year. Boston still hasn’t cashed in for the near-term, though they continue to try. Philadelphia is incredibly exciting, but their three most important pieces have played a combined 31 NBA games and zero playoff games. Milwaukee and Washington are good. Toronto will have stiff competition at the top of the East’s second tier. Looking the other direction, the apparent tanking vacuum that was setting itself up has been filled by a handful of East teams taking steps back. The Raptors may not have been able to get bad enough fast enough to beat those tankers, and even if they had, blowing things up and kicking the can five or six years down the line offers no promise – of a title, or of even returning to this level.

As I’ve written a lot this offseason, preferring either path is totally justified. The Raptors have chosen to stay competitive, and they’ve signed two of their three stars, including one of the best players in franchise history, to reasonable deals to keep the window open for three years. It is not a championship window, but it’s a window to be relevant, competitive, and be in a position to take advantage of any major shift of tides in the East. They are on a clock now. So, too, is Ujiri as he tries to massage the margins here and find creative ways to make this core better.

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Kyle Lowry announces return to Toronto; reportedly for 3 years, $100M

“Home.”

That’s how Kyle Lowry explained his decision to return to the Toronto Raptors in a Players’ Tribune article posted Sunday afternoon. Lowry explained further:

When I had to make my free-agency decision, there was a lot going through my head, a lot of roads my mind was traveling down. Family, first and foremost, and what’s going to make them happy, and give them the best life. Basketball, of course, and where I’d like to play for these next several years. And then there was also the gut-check aspect — just what I was feeling in my heart.

But for me, at the end of the day, this was an easy decision. And all of those roads … they all led me back to the same place: home.

They all led me back to Toronto.

Take a look here.

The kicker? His conclusion:

And if you start something?

Man, you finish it.

The deal is reportedly for three years and $100 million, as first reported by Michael Scotto. There are incentives that could push it higher, but for now, that’s close enough to his max for Lowry to feel well respected and a short enough term for the Raptors to feel comfortable with the deal.

Head here for analysis on the deal.

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Report & Reaction: Raptors re-sign Serge Ibaka to 3-year, $65M deal

The Toronto Raptors have re-signed Serge Ibaka to a three-year, $65-million contract, according to a report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

That’s a pretty reasonable price for Ibaka, right about in line with what the market had seemed to suggest over the past few days and a number that should be tolerable for the Raptors as they look to remain competitive in a shifting Eastern Conference landscape. It’s not a discount, to be sure, and it’s maybe a tad higher than the Raptors were maybe hoping when the market opened as it did. Still, $21-22-million annually, with only a three-year term, for a 27-year-old combo-big who can stretch the floor and play quality defense is a fair enough deal.

The Raptors have long sought a power forward like Ibaka, finally landing him a week ahead of the trade deadline in a deal that sent Terrence Ross and what became the No. 25 pick to Orlando. Ibaka was a nice fit down the stretch, shooting well from long-range to help a shooting-starved team space the floor with some floor inversion and as a pick-and-pop threat, and he helped push the defense to new heights out of the All-Star break. The infusion of Ibaka and P.J. Tucker kept the Raptors afloat at 14-7 while Kyle Lowry was injured and raised their defensive ceiling, and while the team ultimately didn’t fare any better agains the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs, Ibaka was instrumental against the Milwaukee Bucks in the series prior.

Re-signing Ibaka at market rate is something most assumed was in the cards when Masai Ujiri initially pulled the trigger on the trade. That was called into question a bit as the Raptors set out on an offseason of soul-searching to determine a direction. Here, the Raptors have re-committed to Ibaka being a part of the core alongside Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, a quality trio, albeit one with a definitive (and somewhat underwhelming) ceiling so long as the top of the league is constructed as it is currently.

There still isn’t word on the status of Lowry, but considering the fates of Lowry and Ibaka seemed tied and they share an agent, this would seem to suggest a Lowry deal could follow, too. It wouldn’t make a great deal of sense to bring Ibaka back and not Lowry, as that would amount to committing to the same middle path some people are staunchly against, only with a much lower ceiling and an even lower floor. Without the benefit of inside information, the expectation should be that a Lowry deal will flow rather quickly from this one, though things are obviously always subject to change, especially with how quickly things have changed over the last two weeks.

Assuming maximum annual raises, Ibaka’s deal could start as low as $20 million for this coming season, which is an important number as the Raptors appear to be maneuvering to avoid being too deep into the luxury tax. If Lowry’s deal starts around the rumored $27-million range, then the Raptors would have about $128.2 million committed to 14 players, a shade over the luxury tax apron. That’s why the team has been rumored to be shopping DeMarre Carroll and Jonas Valanciunas in recent weeks and why the latest reports have the Raptors shopping Cory Joseph, possibly to Indiana, for only draft picks in return.

That current salary figure is over the luxury tax apron and doesn’t include a 15th man on the roster or the use of any exception. The Raptors would be limited to the taxpayer mid-level exception as currently set up, which starts at $5.19 million, but may be too tax-averse to use it. Moving Joseph wouldn’t get them below the tax but would lessen the hit, and they have Delon Wright ready to handle backup minutes. Paying a team to take Carroll – likely with a first-round pick – opens up more flexibility at a greater cost, a trade-off they may be game for if it opens up access to the $8.41-million non-taxpayer mid-level exception in the process. They’d be thin on the wing in that scenario, but Norman Powell is ready for a bigger role, and OG Anunoby and Bruno Caboclo could eventually supply depth (I mean, maybe).

The market for Valanciunas is still largely unknown, but the re-up for Ibaka makes him the most interesting potential salary dump. Ibaka was acquired to fill that power forward void, but he and Valanciunas didn’t mesh particularly well together, and most evidence suggests the 27-year-old Ibaka is better off playing center at this point. Ibaka himself has more or less indicated as much, and Ibaka at the five is a better fit for how the Raptors would prefer to defend, while also helping paper over some of their shooting issues by adding a stretchy center. He isn’t as quick laterally or as athletic as he was prior to injuries in Oklahoma City, and his rim protection numbers are good enough to suggest he may be better cast close to the rim. He’d still play some power forward in any roster scenario. He should be playing the bulk of his minutes at center, or alongside a center that allows Ibaka to play more of an inside role on defense.

With Ibaka shifting to center more frequently and Jakob Poeltl and Lucas Nogueira available to soak up backup minutes, Valanciunas would seem superfluous within the context of a fiscal crunch. That’s not to say he’s not a good piece, because he is. He is among the league’s best screen-setters, an elite rebounder, and comfortable in an efficient low-usage role on offense. Arguments have long been made that the Raptors could make greater use of him on offense, while others point to his defense as a limiting factor for the team. Valanciunas is divisive, but the push to move him wouldn’t necessarily be about the quality of player, but the fit, the salary cap situation, and the fact that a 25-year-old big with some decent offensive polish may still have value in a frigid market for centers. The Raptors should not just give him away, they’d have to figure out a way around being a poor rebounding team without him, and they’d probably need to add a discount power forward somehow if he’s gone. The market might be too cool on bigs to justify it at the return he’d bring back. But Valanciunas is now the most logical trade chip if the team doesn’t like his fit with Ibaka and really needs to avoid a heavy tax payment.

To be clear, MLSE has committed to spending into the tax, but Ujiir may not want to use that bullet just yet for a team with a ceiling something short of championship contention. Working with the assumption that the $125.3-million tax apron line is their internal budget is probably fair. Something will have to give here, whether it’s Valanciunas, Carroll at a cost, or Joseph with a razor-tight budget to fill out the roster afterward.

Jeff Zilgitt reports that there are no options on the deal, meaning Ibaka’s new contract lines up with the option year for DeMar DeRozan’s current deal and for the rumored length on a Lowry talk. That would mean the Raptors appear to be committing to this core for a three-year window, which, while not the unanimously desired approach, is a reasonable one. There is value in remaining good for a while longer and continuing to build up the organization, and the East is in flux. LeBron James is a legitimate threat to leave Cleveland in 2018, Boston appears poised to attack more in 2020 than 2018 the way things are going, and Milwaukee and Philadelphia, while incredibly intriguing, are yet to win a playoff series (or make the playoffs, in Philly’s case).

Other threats loom, and the moves to sap depth that Toronto may require to keep this group together threaten to weaken them some if there’s not internal growth. That’s the argument against moving forward, along with the championship-or-bust mentality some have. That’s a justified belief. The Raptors, with this group, don’t really have a path to championship contendership. But things change quickly, it’s important to create a semblance of stability and franchise quality, and the Raptors keep themselves in a position to take advantage if fortune or injury change the power structure in their conference. Realistically, they’ll also maintain a pivot foot with everyone on a three-year timeline, and Ibaka’s deal at these numbers should be moveable.

However you feel about the Ibaka signing will almost surely line up with where you stand on the continuum of overarching franchise goals. Ibaka is a move toward staying good for three more years, which is important for a franchise still building itself as a quality one. It also implies a ceiling, with a pretty inflexible cap sheet and no clear means of pushing this core higher short of hitting a home run on a late draft pick, and it pushes any eventual bottoming out further down the line.

If they’re going to keep going in this direction and lock in to running it back, with whatever system changes come with a “culture reset” and any internal improvement from their very young supporting cast, then this Ibaka deal is more than reasonable. It’s also the second of many shoes still to drop, and we won’t have a clear picture of exactly what the plan is here for a few days or weeks still.

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Loss of Tucker to Rockets complicates Raptors’ plans from here

P.J. Tucker hadn’t slept for 30 hours.

Arriving at Air Canada Centre after a delayed red-eye flight following a buzzer-beating announcement that he had been acquired by the Toronto Raptors for Jared Sullinger and two second-round picks, Tucker would take no suggestion – from his wife, from his agent, from precedent – that he wouldn’t be suiting up. For the first time since mid-way through his rookie season a decade prior, Tucker was a Raptors, and that meant he’d be on the court, in a Raptors uniform, at the first moment possible.

Debuting alongside fellow deadline-week acquisition Serge Ibaka, Tucker proved a much-needed jolt of life. The Raptors were to be without Kyle Lowry for most of the remainder of the regular season, and if the Raptors were to prevent a slide without their star point guard, there would have to be a new tone set at the defensive end. Tucker’s always been well-regarded for his defense – DeMar DeRozan warned of his prowess upon arrival – but it can be difficult to grasp the importance of such a skill and style until it plays out.

Tucker did not take long to force a shift in the team’s defensive attitude. A late-game strip of diminutive Boston Celtics star Isaiah Thomas helped the Raptors complete an unlikely comeback, he publicly called for better defensive effort and attention from DeRozan, and he pushed, at every turn, for greater intensity and a more pronounced focus on defensive identity up and down the roster. Tucker helped kick-start a season-saving 14-7 run without Lowry in which the Raptors would transform into one of the league’s better defensive outfits. They were not better without Lowry (nor would they be moving forward), but the co-incidence of the arrival of Ibaka, a lengthy rim protector, and Tucker, a voracious on-ball defender, helped stabilize in the wake of Lowry’s absence and helped fortify for when he returned.

Things didn’t play out exactly as everyone grew to hope over the season’s final two months. The Raptors’ offense never quite found it’s early-season groove again, the upstart Milwaukee Bucks presented a tough six-game challenge, and LeBron James seemed to take personal the suggestions (note: guilty) that this was the most open the window to topple the Cleveland Cavaliers had been since his return to Akron. Lowry was hurt again, the Raptors were summarily dispatched in four games, and the lasting image of the season became an exhausted Tucker, finally starting games, fighting with James tooth-and-nail, possession-for-possession, inch-for-inch for 46-plus minutes, a futile but admirable effort to stave off inevitability.

As the Raptors looked ahead to next year, the complicated question of whether to take a major step back or roll the core back to be competitive but unthreatening once again was a complicated one. There are tough decisions to make, and in most cases, the Raptors hold the cards. The market for Lowry appears cool, and their willingness to pay him more than most to get a deal done may soon materialize. An agreement with Ibaka has long been thought to be a matter of formality. Based on how the Raptors structured their July 1 schedule and that Patrick Patterson skipped locker clean-out day at BioSteel Centre at the conclusion of the season, it seemed clear the Raptors had also made the choice to pursue Tucker over Patterson for a scenario in which they’d retain three free agents and probably look to shed salary elsewhere. The Raptors talked up a culture reset, and while it’s always seemed more buzz-word than action plan without any significant changes to the roster or coaching staff, Tucker’s defensive force of personality would be a key to changing the team’s makeup on that side of the ball.

Late Saturday night, Shams Charania broke the news that Tucker has signed with the Houston Rockets on a four-year, $32-million deal.

According to Brian Windhorst, the Raptors came correct with a three-year, $33-million offer that would have paid the 32-year-old more salary over a shorter term. Even considering the state income tax advantage of playing in Texas, the Raptors’ offer was, in pure financial terms, better. They stepped to the table with a very competitive offer, and the $11-million annual hit suggests the team almost certainly had a salary-shedding move lined up behind it. The Raptors can’t be blamed for their efforts here.

Reading the context of the situation, Tucker opted for the situation that gives him a better chance of chasing a championship, and it’s difficult to fault him for that. He played overseas for years trying to re-establish himself, then spent years in the playoff-free Phoenix wilderness. He is fiercely competitive, and Chris Paul, the Rockets’ new point guard, is one hell of a salesman. Tucker is a natural fit in Houston, where he’ll play a lot of small-ball power forward, feast on a high volume of mostly open corner threes, and take up the assignment of the opponent’s most difficult check. He is a terrific role player, and Houston is an excellent team in great need of exactly the role Tucker plays.

The loss hurts for the Raptors, who have little means of replacing him. They could return their attention to Patterson, though the tea leaves certainly suggest that relationship has come to a conclusion. Depending on exactly where the numbers come in for Lowry and Ibaka could get use of the full $8.41-million non-taxpayer mid-level exception, which would let them get into the market for players in this same price range (C.J. Miles, who should make more than this but appears to have a very quiet market out of the gate, would be a magnificent addition). The loss of Tucker probably means that the Raptors are less committed to shedding the salary of DeMarre Carroll, or at least less motivated to attach an asset to it on the way out the door, because they need him a little more now. Shedding Jonas Valanciunas’ deal would now necessitate bringing in another power forward (it may have, anyway, given how poor a rebounding team the Raptors figure to be without him).

The Raptors should call the Rockets on a potential sign-and-trade to recoup something for Tucker. It won’t be much – any visions of Trevor Ariza or a major rotation piece should be dispelled – but Houston has a great deal of incentive to work Tucker in via trade in order to preserve their mid-level exception for other pieces (potentially split between Zhou Qi and Nene). The math isn’t easy. With maximum annual raises, Tucker’s outgoing salary would be $7.45 million, which means Houston has to send out at least $4.25 million in guaranteed salary to make the math work. They don’t have a player that fits, but they could send out the non-guaranteed deals of Shawn Long, Tim Quarterman, and Ryan Kelly, all of whom the Raptors would probably waive, and throw a pick Toronto’s way for as a thank you for making it happen. It’s not a certainty Houston would be amenable to this, or that Toronto would be, or that they can find a way for the salary matching math to work perfectly within the new collective bargaining agreement rules  (it’s close, at least) and Houston’s own complicated offseason sequencing plans (a question for them). But it’s worth a call to explore.

Whatever the case, the Raptors won’t be able to fill that Tucker-sized void. It would seem strange that the entire offseason plan tilts on a player who spent a third of the year with them, but this seems like it could cause a significant shift in their approach. Lowry is the big domino that everything flows from. The delay in a deal that everyone seems to think is once again something close to inevitable suggests the Raptors may be lining up all of their pieces before committing to anything (or to present to Lowry and Ibaka, or both), and they’ll now need to shift gears.

They can play the exception market using the taxpayer mid-level, or try to squeeze in the larger non-taxpayer mid-level. They can continue to shop Carroll and Valanciunas, but they’ll need much more firm succession plans in place and may need to return a useful player (they should be less eager to pay someone to take them now). Moving Cory Joseph in a roster-balancing trade (read: a non-salary dump) might have to be explored. Norman Powell stands to be an immensely important player to the Raptors next season now, and as currently constructed, Bruno Caboclo or OG Anunoby could eventually be fighting for backup forward minutes (the Raptors also just loss one hell of a mentor for Anunoby, a potential defensive ace, which was a part of the draw in bringing Tucker back). There are options, but they’re a little thinner with a presumed piece gone.

Toronto is now left to adjust and configure a new plan for keeping this team as competitive as they were last year around the Lowry-DeRozan core, if they’re still committed to doing so. As recently as yesterday evening, Adrian Wojnarowski was reporting that the Raptors are still considering a youth movement, though that may be posturing to a degree. Tucker doesn’t shift a franchise direction, but he does call into question if the team can even sustain their level from last season. Masai Ujiri said the team had considered several different paths, and they probably have a contingency here. Losses in free agency happen. This one hurts.

Tucker is not a star, but he’s hard to replace, on the court and spiritually. Whomever they land is unlikely to have the same galvanizing presence on the team’s defence and their personality. It’s hard to see anyone else turning 24 games into a fan-favorite legacy. P.J. Tucker could defend your life decisions to your parents, P.J. Tucker could stop you from drunk-texting your ex, and so on. He’ll now be providing that impact in a very good situation in Houston, and there seems to be little the Raptors could have done about it. It sounds like it’s going to be great for him.

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July 2 open thread: Lowry back, Tucker explains departure, Ibaka re-ups, salary dump coming?

Kyle Lowry is returning on a 3-year, $100-million deal – reaction

Serge Ibaka re-signs on 3-year, $65-million deal – reaction

P.J. Tucker signs with Houston on 4-year, $32-million deal – reaction

Given the July 1 open thread has been rolling on for over a day now, it’s time to start fresh with a July 2 open thread. I’ll refer you to yesterday’s thread for a wealth of rumors and updates, including some cap figures. For now, I’ll just drop a few relevant resources and links before we get into it.

Resources & Required Reading

If you haven’t yet, go and read my free agency primer, which goes into a lot of the details about the Raptors’ cap situations and what they can and can’t do. Some other links:

As a quick refresher, this is what the Raptors’ cap sheet looks at right this second:

(Notes: I’m displaying this just a little different from yesterday. I’m also excluding De Colo/Thompson from the tax number since their cap holds won’t count but do effect the salary cap. VanVleet has a higher tax number than cap number, too [equal to Powell’s].)

To help calibrate with the new CBA and rise in cap, here’s a chart containing all of the maximums and exception amounts, based on the new $99,093,000-million salary cap (note that for the minimum salaries, those deals can run longer if cap space is used, but they max out at two years if a team is using the minimum player salary exception):

Here are a few other very useful resources:

Raptors rumors

A reminder: There is a ton of information to sort through this time of year. Some of it will be legitimate, some of it will be misinformation. Always consider the source, their track record, and why a player/agent/team may want information out in the world.

Sunday

  • 5:20pm: Kyle Lowry announced in a Players’ Tribune article that he’s returning to the Raptors. Michael Scotto was first to report it’s a three-year, $100-million deal. More to
  • 4:40pm: Minor note tangentially related to Raptors – Nene’s new deal with Houston fits into the non-Bird exception, so it doesn’t need to eat into their mid-level exception. That likely takes a sign-and-trade for Tucker off of the table, as Houston probably wouldn’t want to trigger their hard cap and commit themselves to a smaller mid-level when they could just sign Tucker instead.
  • 3:55pm: P.J. Tucker explained his decision to leave Toronto for Houston, noting that  but that in Houston, he feels he has an even greater opportunity to make some noise. He also spoke about the impact of Trevor Ariza, Mike D’Antoni, and Houston’s two star guards. Mark Berman tweeted a bunch more quotes.
  • 11:55am: The Raptors have re-signed Serge Ibaka to a three-year, $65M deal, per Adrian Wojnarowski. I wrote a column reacting to the deal more here.
  • 10:45am: Michael Scotto reports that the Raptors have discussed a deal with the Pacers that would send Cory Joseph to Indiana.
    • Scotto reports that the Raptors are looking for draft-pick compensation in return. The feeling here has long been that the Raptors wouldn’t have much trouble finding a home for Joseph if they needed to, and they obviously have a succession plan in place at point guard. But giving away a useful player for little in return, just to trim the tax bill, would be tough to swallow. That’s the situation the Raptors find themselves in as they look to lock down Lowry and Ibaka and avoid an excessive luxury tax penalty. If it’s been tough sledding trying to deal Carroll or Valanciunas, or if the departure of Tucker has changed those plans, then Joseph is the logical piece to move to lessen the tax bill. It’s just, you know, he’s a nice piece, too. The specifics here will be interesting.
    • Side note: Yes, I love C.J. Miles, too. But a sign-and-trade triggers the hard cap for Toronto, Miles has to be amenable, and Indy may ask for more back to take on salary and sign-and-trade a player.
  • 8:30am: I wrote a column on the loss of Tucker and what it means for the Raptors from here.
  • 1:30am: The Rockets have signed PJ Tucker to a four-year, $32M deal, per Shams Charania. Brian Windhorst is reporting that the Raptors offered three years and $33M, but Chris Paul and the chance to play a big role on a team making a real threat in the West won out. Tough to fault Tucker there, but it’s a blow to Toronto’s plans. More on this in the morning.

Wrap-up from Saturday

Check the July 1 open thread for far more detail on these things.

  • All through Saturday, we heard the Raptors met with and have been progressing toward deals with Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, but nothing was imminent.
    • Lowry’s market has dried up quickly and the sides might be considering a short-term framework than we initially expected. The latest reports have consistently suggested a three-year deal now seems likely, and the numbers bandied about project in the $27-28-million range per-year, give or take, which would be a really good deal for Toronto in the keep-it-together scenario.
    • Ibaka’s market is estimated to be around $20 million, and the Rockets and Heat are among the potential suitors, though Toronto has consistently sounded like his most likely landing spot.
    • The Raptors reportedly met with P.J. Tucker early Saturday, and he’s also had interest from Cleveland and Sacramento, likely among others. Reports from the big names have the Raptors less confident in a Tucker deal than ones for Lowry and Ibaka. Tucker is meeting with the Kings on Sunday.
    • Patrick Patterson’s name has been pretty quiet, though he reportedly met with Sacramento. If his market is cool because of a shaky second half, he could wind up a really nice value for someone.
  • Through all of this, Adrian Wojnarowski has maintained that the Raptors are still considering a youth movement. That may mean the Raptors want to line up all of their ducks and be comfortable with their situation before pulling the trigger. It may also be a leverage play, or one of those earnest declarations that also doesn’t hurt in negotiations.
  • Woj also confirmed most of our long-held belief that the Raptors may look to unload a large salary. We’ve all assumed Jonas Valanciunas and DeMarre Carroll were the names (based mostly on their cap numbers), and Woj used Carroll by name. Whether they can find a home for either is an interesting subplot for the market as a whole. They might need to sweeten a deal, depending on the player and team.
  • The Raptors were in on Amir Johnson but he signed with Philly.
  • The Raptors really haven’t been linked to any other free agents.

Reported agreements/close – Sunday

The following deals have either been reported as done or in the finalization stages. Until noon on July 6, nothing is absolutely locked in (remember DeAndre Jordan?), but if it’s on this list, it’s done per a reporter on the trusted list.

  • Kyle Lowry, Raptors, 3 years, $100M (Michael Scotto)
  • Serge Ibaka, Raptors, 3 years, $65M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Andre Iguodala, Warriors, 3 years, $48M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • PJ Tucker, Rockets, 4 years, $32M (Shams Charania)
  • Taj Gibson, Timberwolves, 2 years, $28M (Shams Charania)
  • Kyle Korver, Cavaliers, 3 years, $22M (Shams Charania)
  • Nene, Rockets, 3 years, $11M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Ben McLemore, Grizzlies, 2 years, $10.7M (Chris Haynes)
  • Justin Holiday, Bulls, 2 years, $9M (Shams Charania)
  • Jodie Meeks, Wizards, 2 years, $7M (Shams Charania)

Reported agreements/close – Saturday

The following deals have either been reported as done or in the finalization stages. Until noon on July 6, nothing is absolutely locked in (remember DeAndre Jordan?), but if it’s on this list, it’s done per a reporter on the trusted list.

  • Steph Curry, Warriors, 5 years, $201M (Shams Charania)
  • Blake Griffin, Clippers, 5 years, $175M (Sam Amick)
  • Jrue Holiday, Pelicans, 5 years, $126M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Jeff Teague, Timberwolves, 3 years, $57M (Marc Stein)
  • Joe Ingles, Jazz, 4 years, $52M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Patty Mills, Spurs, 4 years, $50M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Tony Snell, Bucks, 4 years, $46M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Cristiano Felicio, Bulls, 4 years, $32M (Shams Charania)
  • Shaun Livingston, Warriors, 3 years, $24M (Chris Haynes)
  • JJ Redick, 76ers, 1 year, $22M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Langston Galloway, Pistons, 3 years, $21M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Amir Johnson, 76ers, 1 year, $11M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Michael Carter-Williams, Hornets, 1 year, $2.7M (Rick Bonnell)
  • Wayne Selden, Grizzlies, 2 years, TBD (Michael Scotto)
  • Daniel Theis, Celtics, 2 years, TBD (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Jose Calderon, Cavaliers, 1 year, $2.3M (Jeff Zilgitt)
  • David West, Warriors, 1 year, $2.3M (David Aldridge)
  • Ron Baker, Knicks, TBD, TBD (Ron Baker on Twitter)

Trades

  • The Pacers are trading Paul George to the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Seriously. (Ramona Shelburne first)
  • The Wolves are trading Ricky Rubio to Utah for a first-round pick. (A whole mess of people at once)

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Crown League Week 1 Wrap up

The Crown League is back. For the third straight year, Toronto and Nike have come together to showcase basketball at Ryerson University’s Kerr Hall. There are three games between the six teams involved from 6:30pm till about 11:00pm for five weeks.

Unlike the two previous editions, the league is now sanctioned NCAA, meaning Division I student-athletes are eligible to play.

To start this week’s proceedings, 1 LOVE T.O. defeated the Northern Kings 69-58, with 2017 NBA G-League champion with the Raptors 905, Brady Heslip, putting on an absolute clinic with 28 points on 17 shots. He had a fun edge to him all night, even getting a little boisterous after a couple of stops on defense. The Kings defenders tried everything to stop him, but to no avail. They resorted to double-teams to get the ball out of his hands, but it just led to layups and dunks for his teammates .Heslip ended the night with ‘Player of the Week’ honors as well for his performance.

Duane Notice out of Woodbridge led all scorers for the Kings with 13, but all eyes were on Nickiel Alexander-Walker. The 18-year old got the crowd’s attention a few times courtesy of his quickness and ability to break down the defense, but couldn’t take the lid off the basket. His 10 points came on 3-for-13 shooting, and he’ll be hoping to shake off that rust as the league goes on.

In the second game, 6Man easily disposed of CIA Bounce 64-46, after the Bounce squad came out cold as ice early. They managed just 12 points in the first half, and never really got going till they went into a full court press late to force some turnovers and get some easy buckets. Shouts to Akil Augustine for trying his best to keep the crowd in it with his AND1 style play-by-play.

The final game was between last year’s finalists, ACE and M.A.D.E., with the latter getting a bit of revenge in a hard fought 79-74 victory. The squads featured the likes of Myck Kabongo, Junior Cadougan, and Jermaine Anderson, and you could feel the vibe of two teams that had battled for the title before.

All in all, it’s a good opportunity to support the local talent for free on a Friday night. All you need to do is sign up here to attend.

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News & notes: Raptors extend QO to De Colo; Knicks’ chase of Ujiri done; 3 free agent meetings set

A quick smattering of news and notes before the free agency madness begins.

Raptors qualify Nando De Colo

The Toronto Raptors have extended a qualifying offer to Nando De Colo, retaining his restricted free agency rights, Raptors Republic reported Friday.

This is strictly a bookkeeping note, as De Colo is one year into a three-year deal with CSKA Moscow reportedly worth 10-million Euro. The Raptors have continued to qualify De Colo each summer since he left the NBA in 2014 in order to maintain his Early Bird and RFA rights if he ever does return, a logical approach given that there is no real cost to doing so – De Colo will have a cap hold on the books until the qualifying offer expires, but the Raptors can simply pull the offer and renounce his rights if they need the extra sliver of cap space this offseason (they don’t figure to).

We checked in on De Colo about a month ago, noting that this annual tracking of his rights is worthwhile given the player he’s become overseas. He’s among a small handful who could be considered the best guard outside of the NBA, with a trophy case full of EuroLeague and VTB League MVPs, championships, and All-VTB/EuroLeague honors. This past season, he averaged 18.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.1 steals while shooting 53.7 percent from the floor, 41.9 percent on threes, and 94.1 percent at the line. Yes, that’s a high-volume easy clearance of the 50/40/90 threshold, with a good number of assists by international standards.

Originally acquired for Austin Daye in what seemed like a roster-balancing move, the rights to De Colo could hold some value two years down the line (his deal is believed to have an expensive out clause). He’ll be 32 by that time, but if De Colo ever wanted to make the jump back to the NBA, there would figure to be at least a handful of teams interested in an experienced veteran backup. By extending the qualifying offer again here, the Raptors keep themselves in a position to hold the right to match and exceed the salary cap to sign him.

The Knicks are done pursuing Masai Ujiri

According to reports from Ramona Shelburne of ESPN and comments from Bruce Arthur on Naylor & Landsberg this morning, the New York Knicks are telling others around the league that they have ceased their pursuit of Raptors president Masai Ujiri to fill their triangle-shaped front office hole. Shelburne reports that the Knicks are not expected to ask permission to speak to Ujiri, who has four years at a very competitive salary left on the new deal he received from MLSE last fall.

However much fire there actually was to the smoke that James Dolan had enlisted Tim Leiweke in part to (once again) chase Ujiri, it’s calming to hear that there’s no longer anything to it, if there once was. I wrote about the situation a bit here in writing about Bobby Webster and the team’s internal development of front office personnel, and while the theme of that piece is that there’s good reason to believe in the people the Raptors have coming up the ladder, losing both Ujiri and Jeff Weltman in the same pivotal offseason would have been difficult. It never seemed exceptionally likely that Ujiri would be tempted by the opportunity to work for Dolan, but New York has some serious advantages despite its marquee basketball franchise, and the chatter from some reporters was that there was at least a little something to this. Hearing a firm no now allows us all to shift our attention to July 1, and if there were any uncertainty on the team side, it should be put to rest as the team approaches players at midnight.

The Knicks, meanwhile, are focusing their attention on David Griffin, while a few other names (including Isiah Thomas, because Knicks forever) have been rumbled about.

Meeting with Lowry, Ibaka, and Tucker

Ujiri remaining in Toronto means he will be leading the charge into free agency, as expected. Flanked by Webster and probably a few others, Ujiri is expected to meet with marquee unrestricted free agents Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka in Orlando this weekend, per Michael Grange of Sportsnet. Lowry and Ibaka share an agent, which is convenient logistically. Michael Scotto reports that the Raptors also have a Saturday meeting lined up with P.J. Tucker, which sure points to Toronto firmly being in “keep it together” mode.

We’ll have daily open threads up to pass along any league news, and any pertinent Raptors rumors or actual news will, of course, get its own post immediately (assuming it doesn’t come during the brief two/three-hour sleeps I expect to sustain me over the next few days).

Norman Powell notes

Norman Powell’s $1.47-million contract for 2017-18 became guaranteed yesterday. Long a certainty, this is just another bookkeeping matter. Powell is eligible for an extension after July 15, but given the restrictive rules regarding extensions, it seems unlikely he’d want to go that route. His max extension would tack on four years and an estimated $41.9 million, which, while a nice pay day, is probably a number at which he’d rather bet on himself and a more robust restricted free agent market next summer.

Summer League roster change

The Raptors announced Friday that Matt Thomas is off of the roster for Las Vegas Summer League and is being replaced by Mychal Mulder. That’s a tough loss for the Raptors, as Thomas is an elite shooter and would have provided a nice bit of spacing for the team’s other youngsters. In Mulder, the Raptors give the open spot to a Windsor native who showed great flashes in two years at Vincennes but struggled to find consistent playing time in two seasons with Kentucky. A 6-foot-4 wing, Mulder shot 40.2 percent on threes and 79.7 percent from the line for his college career.

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The MLE Target – Omri Casspi

With less than a day remaining until the NBA begins its annual musical chairs dance, very little is known about which direction the lone Canadian franchise will choose. Will Ujiri stay or go? Will the club opt for maximizing the current window, begin a full rebuild, or something in between? Does Lowry even want to stay? In nearly every scenario, the team’s salary structure places a significant constraint on any decision to be made this summer (Blake’s primer).

With that in mind, I chose to focus on a free agent I believe the Raptors should pursue with the MLE if they decide they want to stay competitive – 29-year-old forward Omri Casspi. The 6-foot-9 veteran has become an unrestricted free agent following one of the worst seasons of his career – he was erased from Dave Joerger’s rotation early in the year at Sacramento, got injured in his first game with the Pelicans, was subsequently waived by New Orleans, and closed out the campaign with a whimper in Minnesota. The jury is still out whether the events of the last twelve months lowered his value to the MLE level, but the scenario appears realistic enough to consider.

The curious part of the story is that Casspi is only a year removed from his most complete season in 2015/16, when he posted career highs in nearly every statistical category, including points (11.8), rebounds (5.9) and 3-point percentage (40.9%). With his value at arguably an all-time low, Casspi will be looking for the right fit and environment to reinvigorate his career. Could Toronto be that fit?

The Good 

Every role player intent on a long career in the NBA needs at least one skill at an elite or close to it level, and Casspi has found his. By far the most marketable skill in his arsenal is the long range bomb. The Israeli forward has posted a 36.7% conversion rate throughout his career from long range. More impressively, two of his best marks came within the last three seasons, posting 40.2% in the 14/15 campaign (0.5 makes per game), and the aforementioned 40.9% in 15/16 (1.6 makes per contest). Like the rest of his game, with the tumultuous season that saw him suit up for three different franchises in 2016/17, his long range shot dipped to 34.9% (0.4 makes). Shooting and spacing is crucial in today’s NBA, and the Raptors especially need more of it.

If one were to make the argument that those two 40+ seasons were an aberration and Casspi will likely regress closer to his career norms, the point can be made that Patterson would give the Raptors exactly the same output (36.8% career 3-point shooter). This ignores a noteworthy difference between the two players – Omri Casspi will never pass up an open shot. As much as he’s trademarked the triple of late, an underrated part of his game is his mentality – he has the mentality of a shooter, oozing confidence whether he’s finding the bottom of the net or not. And when he does get it going, watch out (as the duel against Steph Curry in Casspi’s 36-point explosion against the Warriors in 2015 suggests):

Another part of his game that needed work was strength, to equip himself with the tools necessary to become a better rebounder and be a viable option as a power forward. This improvement, too, was showcased in the season before last, as he recorded 5.9 rebounds per contest and posted a 20.1 defensive rebound percentage (stands at 17% for his career, comparable to guys like Bebe Nogueira, Amir Johnson and Tyreke Evans).

What the Raptors would get with Casspi is a veteran who knows his role, exudes confidence, and is a legitimate stretch-four who is capable of running the floor (he hasn’t dipped below 47% from the field in the past three seasons). Becoming a consistent presence on the defensive glass would be an added bonus.

The Bad 

Casspi is not considered a defensive stalwart by any means, especially when compared with the high-IQ play of Patterson on that end of the floor. That was likely part of the reason he fell out of Houston’s rotation come playoff time in 2013/14, the only season he spent on a winning roster. To date, Omri has not appeared in a postseason game, partly due to the fact that most of his career was spent with the dysfunctional Kings. That could be a deal breaker for a team aiming to make a deep run, as he’ll have little time to adjust to the higher level of intensity.

Another surprising knock on Casspi is his below-average free throw shooting – 67.5% for his career. Worse still, he posted marks below 65% in the last two seasons. This is unusual for a quality long range shooter, but doesn’t stand to be a major issue as he only attempts 1.9 free throws per contest. He also has a penchant for dribbling himself into trouble trying to break down his man, resulting in wild passes out to the perimeter that sometimes miss their mark or get picked off. Both of these deficiencies can be mitigated by limiting him to being a spot up threat and transition finisher on offense, which is often all that’s required when playing alongside two ball-dominant star guards in Lowry and DeRozan.

Verdict 

At the end of the day, the Raptors won’t have much cap room to work with, and at the MLE level, finding a quality two-way player may be asking too much. At that price range a team will be looking for a specialized role player with the right mentality. Casspi would fill a glaring hole within the roster when it comes to shooting, and won’t be afraid to keep hoisting them anytime he sees daylight. If rebuilding is taken off the table, this is the guy Ujiri and Webster should target this July.

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July 1 free agency open thread: Ibaka releases statement; Lowry deal sounds close

While everyone else is getting ready for their Canada Day (or July 4) long weekend, the basketball world is at the starting line of the 2017-18 season, champing at the bit to strike first in free agency, leverage cap space in what should be the final (modest) bump from the New TV Money before a leveling off, and ultimately change the landscape of the NBA in short order. Free agency began at the stroke of midnight. Based on precedent and the wildness that’s taken hold of the offseason already, there could be a firestorm of activity right at the stroke of midnight. Some reports have suggested the market will play out slower this time around, but attitudes and urgency change when the clock officially starts.

For the Toronto Raptors, this may be the biggest offseason of their existence. The franchise’s star point guard is a free agent and seeking a well-deserved big-money deal, and there are potential suitors looking to pry him away. Serge Ibaka is likewise a free agent, and while Toronto would seem to have the inside track, his future probably flows from Lowry’s. P.J. Tucker and Patrick Patterson are also free agents, the Raptors could be facing a luxury tax crunch that may force the shedding of salary via trade, and if things don’t go as planned – and the plan does appear to be to keep things rolling for another 50-55-win season, if Lowry is amenable to a return – then anything is on the table.

We won’t know the exact cap level until July 6, when the league’s free agent moratorium is lifted and all of the moves you’ll hear rumored over the next week can become official. That won’t stop teams from being incredibly active, and you’re going to see some insane numbers being thrown around. Over the weekend, we’ll have daily open threads to discuss the latest rumors and signings, and of course, we’ll make separate posts if the Raptors do anything or are attached to anything of note.

For now, consider the open thread a means of discussing all the insanity. It’ll be updated regularly.

Resources & Required Reading

If you haven’t yet, go and read my free agency primer, which goes into a lot of the details about the Raptors’ cap situations and what they can and can’t do. I’ve also written a bunch on cap specifics and the offseason in general. Hopefully somewhere within these links is an answer to any question you may have:

As a quick refresher, this is what the Raptors’ cap sheet looks at right this second:

(Notes: Updated for new cap number 7/1; the Raptors also have a UFA cap hold for Jason Thompson left over from 2015-16, which is not included by accident but wasn’t worth updating the graphic because it’s fairly meaningless.)

To help calibrate with the new CBA and rise in cap, here’s a chart containing all of the maximums and exception amounts, based on the new $99,093,000-million salary cap (note that for the minimum salaries, those deals can run longer if cap space is used, but they max out at two years if a team is using the minimum player salary exception):

(Note: Updated for new cap number.)

Here are a few other very useful resources:

Raptors rumors

A reminder: There is a ton of information to sort through this time of year. Some of it will be legitimate, some of it will be misinformation. Always consider the source, their track record, and why a player/agent/team may want information out in the world.

Serge Ibaka releases a statement

On Twitter on Saturday night, Serge Ibaka released a passionate and thoughtful statement about unspecified reports that he’s found unfair, damaging, and hurtful. The subtext here, I think, points to the constant questions about his actual age, which have never been fair or particularly humorous. I’m not sure to which specific media reports he may be referring, or if something came up in a meeting or report or what, but the constant questioning of the ages of African and Asian players without any evidence perpetuates a harmful myth about all players from those countries.

Anyway, here’s Ibaka’s statement:

Saturday, daytime

  • 10:30pm: Jeff Zilgitt passes along that there’s a growing sense that Lowry will return to the Raptors and that it could be something close to the three-year, $27-million per-year we discussed below that lines up really nicely with DeRozan’s deal in terms of length. We covered it below, but if the Raptors are bringing the main group back, pretty much anything at three years is a big sigh of relief, and a cap hit below $30 million is a big win.
    • Chris Haynes also passes along that P.J. Tucker will meet with Sacramento tomorrow.
  • 7:45pm: Speaking on ESPN2, Woj confirmed the long-held belief that the Raptors could (or are) shopping DeMarre Carroll in a salary-dump type move. There’s almost no chance you can do that without kicking in a first-round pick or one of the better prospects, but it’s worth exploring. He also said that the Raptors continue to progress toward deals with Lowry and Ibaka but that nothing is imminent and the team is still weighing all of their options.
  • 6pm: It’s all very quiet on the Raptors front other than continued Ibaka-Heat rumblings (and boy would that be a dangerous combination). One note to pass along is that Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that Phoenix is backing out of their free agent chase and shifting their cap space to potentially absorb bad contracts and pick up assets in the process.
    • I wonder if there may be some Carroll-and-prospect/pick(s) for Dudley framework that the teams could kick around there. Dudley wouldn’t save the Raptors Carroll’s full amount, of course, but he’s a very useful piece and an equally strong locker room presence, and the Raptors would shed $4.8 million for this year, plus any picks or prospects, in such a swap. The financial effect is even more profound next year, when Carroll’s salary increases and Dudley’s decreases. This may not be enough of a financial panacea or player upgrade for the Raptors to kick in real assets, but it’s worth a call.
    • I’m less certain, but maybe Phoenix could be sold on Valanciunas? Alex Len is an RFA, the team figures to shop Tyson Chandler at some point, and Valanciunas, while somewhat pricey given the center market, is a young big with conceivably untapped upside, the type of gamble a team like Phoenix shouldn’t mind taking. Their young power forwards are also decent complements since they skew stretchier. As always, the valuation of Valanciunas probably varies a lot team-to-team, making a specific partner hard to figure.
    • Amir Johnson is also off the market, joining Bryan Colangelo in Philly. That ends any rumored Raptors’ interest. It’s a really nice fit, with Johnson getting a big one-year pay-day, the Sixers landing a capable big-man and a terrific veteran presence for a young room, and neither side committing for term.
  • 12:15pm: Michael Grange of Sportsnet is reporting that the Raptors are “confident” deals will get done for Lowry and Ibaka but are less so with respect to Tucker. There isn’t much in terms of detail beyond that, but this would seem to line up with the context from everything in the last 16 hours or so.
  • 9:55am: Speaking on NBA TV this morning, David Aldridge reported that the Raptors could offer Lowry something equal or close to what DeMar DeRozan received last year, in annual terms. DeRozan will earn roughly $27.7 million in each of the next four seasons (the fourth a player option), which means something like three years and $85 million (a figure I hypothesized earlier) could be on the table. It’s still unclear what the term may be – two-plus-one, three-plus-one, three straight, etc – but a cap hit in the $26-29 million range would be a big win compared to the $34.68-million Year One max that was a part of the Lowry discussion not all that long ago.
    • It would be incredibly fitting for Lowry and DeRozan to have the exact same deal from here – three years, $83.2M, with player options for 2020-21 at $27.74M each.
  • 7:20am: It sounds like Ujiri and Andy Miller have been busy. David Aldridge is reporting that they were meeting “late into the night” on a potential deal. It’s been really hard to peg down the details of where, when, and how the Raptors have been meeting with their free agents. They were supposed to have met with Tucker last night, Lowry and Ibaka sometime this morning. Whatever the case, things continue to move along on that front, it seems.
    • I wonder if Ujiri and Miller were maybe working on a couple of potential frameworks to lay in front of Lowry this morning. Given his market may have dried up some, presenting him with a few options in terms of term and annual salary may be a way to slide him a lower offer than expected without ruffling feathers. Earlier reports suggested term is the biggest thing for the Raptors, so maybe something like three years and $85 million, with an option in year three or tacked on as a fourth to give him some control. Maybe there’s a two-year balloon offer there, or a nice, small cap hit over four if Lowry wants to maximize total dollars. With a cooler market and five years no longer a necessary hammer, there are a lot of options to work with here.

Saturday, late-night

  • 3:30am: There’s finally some news on the Patrick Patterson front! Sam Amick reports that he had a meeting with the Kings sometime last night. That’s not an obvious fit, but the Kings are being aggressive trying to surround their young core with solid veteran pieces, from the sounds of it. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of deal Patterson ultimately lands – he’s one of the more interesting free agent cases given his shaky second half and the fact that so much of his value is derived at the margins or in the intangible.
  • 2:45am: Tim Bontemps reports that the estimated cap and tax levels for the next two seasons are $102M/$123M and $108M/$131M. That’s important info as Raptors plan for the next few seasons.
  • 1:45am: Speaking on ESPN SportsCenter, Adrian Wojnarowski passed along a few small Lowry tidbits. Namely, that Ujiri and agent Andy Miller have gone back and forth a bit and while a deal is “not imminent,” “they’ll talk again tomorrow.” Woj also made note that the Raptors gave strong consideration to a youth movement, but that the shifting East have them instead weighing the length and term they want to commit to this core, particularly their free agents. It wasn’t much information, but there you go.
    • There’s some minor stuff to unpack here, but nothing we haven’t addressed in the lead-up to free agency. A blow-it-up approach was considered and should have been. If they see a window still existing to be among the two or three best teams in the East, that’s a reasonable course, too, but controlling the length of the commitment is paramount.
    • Woj didn’t really talk salary specifics.
    • Here’s the full transcript:

  • 12:35am: Speaking on ESPN SportsCenter, Adrian Wojnarowski said there is a “significant chance” Ibaka remains with the Raptors. Specifics were scarce, but Woj was clear that Houston would like to try to figure out a way to work him in. He’s sure to have other suitors, too. Woj is always first on news for Andy Miller clients, so him saying Ibaka is likely Toronto-bound should be taken as legitimate (with the small posturing grain-of-salt all reports require, of course).
  • 12:15am: The NBA has reportedly set the cap number at $99,093,000 for the 2017-18 season. This is such a small change that most of our analysis and assumptions don’t have to change – we’ll update the numbers after moves happen, of course, but for the purposes of the work we’ve done to this point, it’s going to be close enough.
    • Changes to Lowry’s max:
      • Year One max: $34,682,550
      • 4-year max with another team : $149.11M
      • 4-year max with Raptors: $155.38M
      • 5-year max with Raptors: $201.12M
  • 12am: The Spurs and Wolves reportedly have deals with Mills and Teague, respectively.  There really aren’t many terrific fits left for Lowry on the market outside of maybe Denver but, you know, things change quickly. (Denver is also a suitor for George Hill, per Shams Charania.)
  • 11pm: This technically came in around 11 p.m., but I wanted to separate it: On ESPN SportsCenter, Ramona Shelburne said that the current feeling is that Lowry will return to Toronto on “a shorter term deal than expected.”
    • This could be good news, if it materializes, considering the sticking point on a potential Lowry deal has always been what the fourth and fifth season might look like. If the Raptors offer, say, a three-year deal, they may be willing to go higher on annual salary. If the market is cool for Lowry overall, or at least cooler than originally believed, then he may me more amenable to maximizing money now and dealing with his age-35 and -36 seasons when they come. Ujiri has often given players an option year at the end of their deals, and a three-plus-one, or even a two-plus-one, could afford Lowry some additional control.
    • The counter to this is that the Raptors would likely be trading off term for a higher annual hit, which would limit their flexibility for fortifying this core over the term of the deal. That’s not nothing.
    • Obviously, we can’t judge this until more details come down. Shelburne didn’t report it as done, and there’s a lot of time left. Shorter term could also mean a one-year deal where Lowry waits out a better market, or something else that isn’t a clear win. The annual hit also obviously matters, but if it’s a three-year sub-max – Lowry getting the full max has felt off the table for a bit now – it’ll almost certainly be graded as a good move for Toronto.
    • Something to watch for: The Raptors potentially structuring the term of deals so the window for this group firmly ends at a certain point. Whether that’s in the summer of 2021 when DeRozan’s deal expires, 2020 when he can opt out. With the cap set to plateau a bit over the next few years, cap space and expirings will once again have value, and timing a transition between eras could be a sound strategy.

Pre-midnight

  • The Raptors are set to meet with Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and P.J. Tucker on Saturday, per Michael Grange, Michael Scotto, and Chris Haynes.
    • Having the first meetings is good. July 1 agreements are also, in recent history, less good than deals made later in free agency. There’s a cost to acting sooner, which may seem backwards given the certainty the player side receives, but deals that get done sooner also may get done because offers are above-market. This also doesn’t mean the Raptors have a major inside edge; an interested incumbent gets the first meeting quite often. It’s not necessarily a good or bad thing, though it does signal that the Raptors’ primary plan is to remain competitive.
      • The Raptors are set to meet with Tucker in Philadelphia first, shortly after midnight, per Haynes.
      • That would seem to mean the plan is then to head to Orlando for a breakfast meeting with Lowry and Ibaka, lining up close enough with Grange’s earlier report. Don’t concern yourself much with the timing here – it could just be a logistical thing and likely doesn’t speak to any sort of priority hierarchy on Toronto’s part (you could even make the case letting Lowry wait to feel out what could be a tepid market is a savvy play, depending on your concern level with him taking things the wrong way). It is, however, kind of funny that they’re meeting with Tucker, who resides in Arizona and is from North Carolina, in Lowry’s hometown while Lowry’s in Orlando.
    • Dave McMenamin reports that the Cavaliers would like Tucker. They have the mini-MLE to offer ($5.19M). Haynes adds that Tucker has a meeting scheduled with the Kings this weekend, too.
    • Zach Lowe reported the market for Ibaka is in the $20-million range. Ira Winderman reported the Heat among the potential suitors. Ibaka fits a lot of places.
    • Patrick Patterson may as well be a ghost.
  • Ricky Rubio being dealt to Utah makes Minnesota a legitimate suitor for Lowry, per multiple reporters.
    • They’re also looking at Jeff Teague and George Hill, and the Teague rumors have picked up enough steam (mostly via Marc Stein) that it seems like a certainty. Minnesota is a fun fit for Lowry, and Doug Smith tweeted earlier that there was talk of back-channel conversations heating up. There was a storm of information about the Wolves’ plans at the position, so take it in the proper context. This whole situation was a nice pre-midnight reminder of what the process is like and that we can’t take every report of interest or intent as a sign of a future certainty.
    • Lowry’s non-Raptors suitors are probably Minnesota, San Antonio, and Denver in some order, with a few others likely to place calls. Teague, Hill, and Jrue Holiday (likely to stay in New Orleans by the sounds of it) are his competition for high-end point guard money.
  • The Raptors continue to show interest in Amir Johnson, per Ian Begley.
    • I can’t imagine this is a major priority, and it would probably happen after other dominoes fall. Sean Deveney reports the Raptors will meet with him in Los Angeles tomorrow, but at this point, there aren’t enough Raptors execs to go around.

Reported agreements/close – Saturday

The following deals have either been reported as done or in the finalization stages. Until noon on July 6, nothing is absolutely locked in (remember DeAndre Jordan?), but if it’s on this list, it’s done per a reporter on the trusted list.

Re-sign

  • Steph Curry, Warriors, 5 years, $201M (Shams Charania)
  • Blake Griffin, Clippers, 5 years, $175M (Sam Amick)
  • Jrue Holiday, Pelicans, 5 years, $126M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Joe Ingles, Jazz, 4 years, $52M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Patty Mills, Spurs, 4 years, $50M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Tony Snell, Bucks, 4 years, $46M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Cristiano Felicio, Bulls, 4 years, $32M (Shams Charania)
  • Shaun Livingston, Warriors, 3 years, $24M (Chris Haynes)
  • Wayne Selden, Grizzlies, 2 years, TBD (Michael Scotto)
  • David West, Warriors, 1 year, $2.3M (David Aldridge)
  • Ron Baker, Knicks, TBD, TBD (Ron Baker on Twitter)

New homes

  • Jeff Teague, Timberwolves, 3 years, $57M (Marc Stein)
  • JJ Redick, 76ers, 1 year, $22M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Langston Galloway, Pistons, 3 years, $21M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Amir Johnson, 76ers, 1 year, $11M (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Michael Carter-Williams, Hornets, 1 year, $2.7M (Rick Bonnell)
  • Daniel Theis, Celtics, 2 years, TBD (Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Jose Calderon, Cavaliers, 1 year, $2.3M (Jeff Zilgitt)

Trades (only including trades since the draft, which was also insane)

  • The Pacers are trading Paul George to the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Seriously. (Ramona Shelburne first)
  • The Wolves are trading Ricky Rubio to Utah for a first-round pick. (A whole mess of people at once)
  • The Clippers traded Chris Paul to the Rockets for Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Sam Dekker, Darrun Hilliard, Kyle Wiltjer, DeAndre Liggins and a 2018 first-round pick.
    • The Rockets acquired a Hilliard, Liggins, Jarrod Uthoff, Shaun Long, Tim Quarterman, and Ryan Kelly in small side-deals for cash or future second-rounders.
  • These aren’t trades, but Mike Dunleavy, Isaiah Canaan, Rajon Rondo, Mo Ndour, Gerald Henderson, Festus Ezeli, Darrun Hilliard, Paul Pierce, Jordan Hill, and Arron Afflalo have all been waived since draft night.

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Webster’s promotion shows Raptors building succession plan they hope they won’t need

Amid swirling chaos around the league, the Toronto Raptors officially named Bobby Webster their new general manager on Wednesday.

Webster, who was expected to take up the mantle Jeff Weltman vacated when he left for the Orlando magic earlier this offseason, was introduced at BioSteel Centre following a strong introduction on the part of team president Masai Ujiri. At 32, Webster becomes the youngest general manager in the NBA (take that, Kyle Dubas!). While little is known about Webster at the personal level – he was born in Texas, was raised and educated in Hawaii (‘Iolani School class of 2002), and is Japanese-American – his age and relative anonymity do not point to inexperience.

In one of his first moves upon arriving from Denver in 2013, Ujiri plucked Webster from the NBA league office, where he had spent seven seasons in the league’s collective bargaining agreement group and consulting all 30 teams on salary cap matters. Prior to that, Webster spent a season in the Magic organization. His original title with the Raptors was vice president of basketball management and strategy and last summer, Ujiri promoted him to assistant general manager (he retained the vice president of basketball strategy part of his title). All told, while he was initially a cap specialist, Webster’s had his hands in just about everything since joining the organization.

Long considered to be a rising star on the league’s executive track, Webster now has 12 years of experience, and it would stand to reason that the years spent advising teams at a league-level and then learning under one of the most respected executive teams in basketball are as valuable as any years of experience a young executive could accrue. (Webster joked that he’s “not as helpful anymore” since he wasn’t in the league office as the new CBA took hold.) The Raptors thought highly enough of Webster’s progress and stock to give him the promotion last year in part to ward off suitors, and Ujiri is clearly comfortable with Webster assuming his right hand.

Whether or not Webster will wind up a successful general manager can’t really be known. There’s no real telling how people will do as elevated, specifically as they grow to have a voice that “is a little louder,” in Webster’s words. Evaluating management is difficult. But Webster’s resume to date and rapid rise speak volumes about his intelligence, work ethic, and connection with other executives, and Ujiri has always done well in surrounding himself with high-caliber people. Ujiri will still have the final say, of course, but the front office has worked in a collaborative nature for more or less his entire tenure here, and he’ll empower Webster, who will feel a shared ownership over the team’s direction. In promoting a smart, talented person from within the organization rather than seeking an outside hire, Ujiri maintains some semblance of stability despite the loss of Weltman and sends a strong signal to others both within the organization and outside about how the Raptors will grow, foster, and promote talent.

“I know the questions will be asked about hiring somebody outside, but with the Raptors, we believe in development,” Ujiri said. “It’s not only on court development, I think front office, coaching, we want to give opportunity, and to give opportunity to a young man like this is very well deserved.”

That the Raptors had a succession plan in place for the loss of Weltman, which was a long time coming, speaks to a longer-term plan in place beyond just the roster. The cost of becoming a good organization is that other teams are going to want to hire away your good people. There’s nothing that can really be done about this, because there are only so many jobs and promotions out there, and you want your people to feel confident they’ll be able to advance their careers with success in your organization. The mark of a strong franchise is not only having those desirable people, but finding, maintaining, and developing a pipeline of people who can become the next one other teams want to steal away. That’s how your organization, basketball or otherwise, maintains success, never being at risk of the loss of one person sending things spiraling.

Whether the Raptors are quite there yet with the promotions of Webster, Dan Tolzman, and Keith Boyarsky might soon be tested. That’s a nice triumvirate considering the mix of strengths, expertise, and experience (Webster obviously has the cap down pat, Tolzman has worked for years on the personnel side, and Boyarsky gets a bump from director of analytics), and under Ujiri, it stands to be a pretty good group as they gain experience together. But the timing of Webster’s introduction was either serendipitous or ominous, depending on your outlook. Wednesday’s pre-Chris Paul news cycle was dominated by the mess in Gotham and the news that Knicks owner James Dolan has interest – for the second time in as many years – in bringing in Ujiri to play Batman.

Losing one executive in the chain and continuing to move forward on the strength of your depth is one thing. Losing Ujiri, the architect of the team, the most important off-court individual in the organization, and the second major piece of the front office in as many months would be a much bigger deal. The ladder of succession is probably not designed for the two top rungs to be taken out simultaneously, and even if it were, the loss of both Ujiri and Weltman in short order would be damaging.

Whether this is a threat worth considering is a matter of speculation. Ujiri would seem to have a comfortable place in Toronto, where he has complete autonomy in both financial and decision-making terms under Larry Tanenbaum, has the highest possible title for an NBA executive, and had his deal extended last season (the common belief is that Ujiri has four years and change left on a deal that pays him a very competitive salary). He has brought the Raptors the most success they’ve experienced and has talked about bringing a championship to Toronto, installed Raptors 905 and BioSteel Centre to continue to foster that growth, and built his staff for the long-term. MLSE facilitates and contributes to Ujiri’s immense charitable works, too. One would think if it came down to it, MLSE would pay an even more competitive salary if absolutely necessary.

There are very good reasons to stay, and this type of noise always exists at this time of year (these same Knicks reports emerged last April). At the same time, it’s difficult to rule anything out until there’s a firm ‘no,’ and this year’s flirtation has not been dismissed nearly as summarily as last year’s. The substantial smoke has a cause. Dolan doesn’t seem like a particularly attractive boss to work for, but Ujiri likely believes he could command autonomy, and Dolan would make it worth his while financially. New York is also New York, and though the days of that being a significant market advantage may be in the past, its allure remains, on several fronts. Tim Leiweke, who initially brought Ujiri to Toronto, is leading the recruiting charge, and the NBA would almost surely like to see it happen given the chance for a marquee, big-market franchise to be better positioned for a rebound to relevance. The Raptors are in a better position than the Knicks, of course, but it’s not a perfect one, and New York could be an attractive challenge.

(The Raptors would stand to be compensated well, at least, and whatever regime stepped into place would have a few additional assets to build with. The conversation would probably start at one first-round pick but would need to go much higher to return fair value. As of Wednesday’s presser, the Knicks had not requested permission to formally speak with Ujiri, so it’s early on still. These things can move incredibly quickly.)

This is all speculative, and team- league-source money appears to be flying all over the board. This could all just being the general offseason rumblings and wish-listing of a wealthy man on tilt., with a recruiting lieutenant trying to push the likelihood in the media. It could also be something real.

“There’s speculation everyday. I don’t think I need to necessarily comment on that specifically,” Webster said when asked about the Ujiri rumors. “But the stability between Larry and Masai in this organization I think is clear and I’m happy to be part of all of it.” (Earlier, he said “I think Masai will 100 percent by the guy in charge” when discussing free agency.)

Again, the timing is interesting, and Ujiri left the stage for Webster before he could be asked any questions about the rumors, so it remains at least a remote possibility until it’s no longer a remote possibility. Were Ujiri to leave, it would mark a major loss in organizational equity, profile, and leadership, no matter how strong the team he’d leave behind. There’s just not really a way around that. However you grade the job he’s done – and that can vary, given that the core pieces were here when he arrived and his record in free agency isn’t nearly as strong as his record through trades – or how much credit falls solely on his shoulders, or how much institutional knowledge and infrastructure he’d leave behind (this is an important consideration when projecting a post-Ujiri structure), this would hurt significantly, as it would for most franchises with a strong frontman.

What Wednesday showed was that the Raptors are committed to building and developing on the front office side, and should Ujiri ever leave sometime down the line, they’re putting themselves in a position to survive. Good organizations have good people, other organizations are going to want those people, and more good people need to be discovered and groomed to insulate against those eventual departures. Losing Weltman was tough but expected, and Wednesday’s promotion of a trio of intelligent front office talent is evidence the Raptors believe in the people they’ve been growing with over the last four years to help the franchise continue to grow over the next four.

They’ll just be in a much better position to do so if the person who put that group together in the first place is still at the helm, an uncertainty that clouded what should have been a banner day for the team.

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VIDEO: Bobby Webster press conference

The Toronto Raptors introduced Bobby Webster as their new general manager at BioSteel Centre on Wednesday. Here’s a bit about the move, and I’ll have a column on it for the morning.

Here’s the video:

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Raptors promote Webster to GM as front office shuffles

The Toronto Raptors announced on Wednesday that they have promoted Bobby Webster to the position of general manager. Dan Tolzman has been promoted to assistant general manager and vice president of player personnel, and Keith Boyarsky has been promoted to vice president of basketball strategy and research. Tolzman will continue in his previous role as Raptors 905 general manager, at least for now.

Here’s the team’s release:

These moves, or moves like them, were expected for some time now. I wrote a bit about it here. They are not related to any potential Knicks interest in president Masai Ujiri – see Zarar’s quick take on that here for more – but were necessary after Jeff Weltman left for Orlando.

More on this later after I finish moving, hopefully, though it’s nothing we haven’t touched on plenty already.

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Report: Knicks be Knicking; Want Masai Ujiri to run Sh*t Show

This was reported a while back as well, but now it has been formally blessed by a WojBomb:

I find it quite relevant to simply quote our last report on this rumour:

Look, maybe there’s something here, because money talks and it’s a marquee franchise and all, but I don’t think there’s much to worry about here from a Raptors perspective. Of course a bad team is interested in a well-regarded executive from a rival club, one in their division, no less. There’s absolutely nothing in the report to suggest the interest is mutual, and there’s never been any indication Ujiri is anything but happy in Toronto. This is much, much more a Knicks story than a Raptors one.

Now, my personal view on this is that the days of a big city attracting free-agents and executives just because of their location are long gone.  There’s too many cases of executives and players re-upping at less sexy locations to build franchises.  Control, stability and predictability are valued more than Broadway or Beverley Hills, and Masai Ujiri falls into the former camp.  He also has to feel he has unfinished business in Toronto, after having been convincingly defeated by the Cavs the last two seasons.

An approach will undoubtedly be made, and Ujiri owes himself to at least listen but ultimately he’s smart enough to know that working with James Dolan is a step just below hell.

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Raptors announce Summer League roster: Who and what you need to know

The Toronto Raptors announced their roster for the 2017 Las Vegas Summer League on Tuesday. The roster is as follows:

NO. PLAYER POS HT WT BIRTHDATE PRIOR TO NBA/HOME COUNTRY NBA EXP.
3 OG Anunoby F 6-8 232 7/17/1997 Indiana/England R
8 Troy Caupain G 6-4 210 11/29/1995 Cincinnati/USA R
14 Justin Edwards G 6-4 200 10/31/1992 Kansas State/Canada R
15 Cole Huff F 6-8 210 3/28/1994 Creighton/USA R
19 Tidjan Keita F 6-10 200 11/30/1996 Thetford Academy (QC)/France R
18 Jordan Loyd G 6-4 210 7/27/1993 Indianapolis/USA R
34 Alfonzo McKinnie F 6-8 215 9/17/1992 Wisconsin-Green Bay/USA R
1 Kennedy Meeks F-C 6-10 277 2/5/1995 North Carolina/USA R
13 Malcolm Miller G-F 6-7 210 3/6/1993 Holy Cross/USA R
11 Goodluck Okonoboh F-C 6-10 220 9/30/1994 UNLV/USA R
42 Jakob Poeltl C 7-0 248 10/15/1995 Utah/Austria 1
33 Jalen Reynolds C 6-10 238 12/30/1992 Xavier/USA R
12 Will Sheehey G-F 6-6 200 1/16/1992 Indiana/USA R
43 Pascal Siakam F 6-9 230 4/2/1994 New Mexico State/Cameroon 1
21 Matt Thomas G 6-5 193 8/4/1994 Iowa State/USA R
23 Fred VanVleet G 6-0 195 2/25/1994 Wichita State/USA 1
22 Paul Watson G-F 6-7 210 12/30/1994 Fresno State/USA R
SUMMER LEAGUE COACHES: Jama Mahlalela & Patrick Mutombo

Their schedule for the tournament is as follows:

Fri. July 7 – 6 p.m. ET vs. New Orleans, NBA TV – Cox Pavillion

Sat. July 8 – 6:30 p.m. ET vs. Minnesota, NBA TV – Thomas & Mack Center

Mon. July 10 – 8 p.m. ET vs. Denver, ESPNU – Cox Pavillion

The Raptors will get at least two more games, but the schedule will depend on seeding. Teams seeded 9-24 will play July 12, while teams seeded 1-8 and the winners from the 9-24 games will play July 13. There’s a July 14 schedule date for losing teams needing a fifth game, and then the quarters, semis, and finals will run July 15, 16, and 17.

Check back momentarily for some background on each name on the roster.

Coaches

Jama Mahlalela: A UBC product, Mahlalela worked with NBA Cares before landing on the Raptors’ staff for the 2013-14 season. Considered a player development specialist, Mahlalela earns raves for his enthusiastic, optimistic, high-energy approach and has been tasked with leading pre-draft workouts and co-coaching last year’s summer team. He earned a bump to the third assistant’s chair ahead of the 2016-17 season.

Patrick Mutombo: Added to the staff last summer, Mutombo was brought in for his experience on the player development side through his time with the Denver Nuggets and Austin Spurs. He’s a former D-Leaguer himself. This should be more good experience as Mutombo builds his resume.

Perhaps most notable here is the absence of Jerry Stackhouse from the LVSL coaching staff. Stackhouse split the duties with Mahlalela last summer before becoming head coach of Raptors 905, where he led the team to a championship and was named D-League Coach of the Year. He made a definitive impression and is considered among the league’s top rookie coaching candidates. This is probably just the Raptors trying to increase the experience level of others on the staff in a head coaching role, and Stackhouse will probably be around to lend a hand, but there will certainly be speculation as to whether this is smoke ahead of potential coaching carousel fire.

Raptors

OG Anunoby: The No. 23 overall pick is technically on the roster but will not play in the tournament. Anunoby tore the ACL in his right knee in January and is currently rehabilitating the injury in the Los Angeles area. Even without getting on the court, Vegas should prove a useful experience for Anunoby, who can get to know his coaches and teammates and begin learning the system from the front row of the bench.

Jakob Poeltl: If there’s a player who doesn’t threaten to stand out much in a format like Summer League, it’s probably Poeltl. Already a smart, heady player after just one year in the league, the 21-year-old will probably do a lot of cerebral things to help the summer squad that don’t necessarily show up on the box score or highlight reel. The league’s least-passed-to player over his 54 regular season games, Poeltl will probably have a larger showcase here but still not a featured role (he took 21 field-goal attempts in 126 minutes here last year). Poeltl turned in a nice rookie season, and this should be a good chance to see how any work on his body or range is coming along.

Pascal Siakam: Watch out for threes! Seriously, once Siakam was sent down to the D-League after his half-season pressed into emergency starting duty, the biggest thing that stood out about his game was how much smoother his shooting stroke looked from the start of the year. If brief glimpses at BioSteel Centre the past couple weeks are any indication, that progress is continuing along well. The expectation shouldn’t be elite marksmanship or anything, but Siakam hitting that shot with regularity would help with some of the fit issues that eventually saw him lose his spot (although he would have, anyway, once Serge Ibaka was acquired). Siakam earned a lot of fans very quickly in just a 15-minute sample here last summer. The backwards nature of his rookie season may have taken some shine off, but this should be a good reminder of the fun things the 23-year-old can bring to the table.

Fred VanVleet: A year ago, VanVleet turned this showcase into a two-year NBA deal, then filled in admirably as a third point guard and, afterward, helped lead Raptors 905 to a championship. Here, he’ll be tasked with being the experienced, steady hand leading the younger group, which speaks to the team’s trust in him at just 23. VanVleet probably doesn’t have a ton to prove here, but it’s a chance to work on his game, flash range he only got to show in a small sample last season, and perhaps convince the team that the four-point-guard hierarchy is worth shaking up.

Raptors 905

Goodluck Okonoboh: Stackhouse’s “pitbull” with the 905, the former top college recruit didn’t see the floor a lot in his first pro season due to the frontcourt depth at the D-League level. When he did play, he was a giant ball of energy, turning away shots and crashing the glass with abandon. That was enough that when Edy Tavares was called up late in the year, the 905 turned to Okonoboh to start for spot minutes. Still just 22, the 905 would probably like to get him back again this year and see what he can do with more than 51 minutes of regular-season action.

Will Sheehey: An untimely injury prevented Sheehey’s season from getting the attention it deserved during the 905’s push to a title, but the fact remains that he was a key part of their system at both ends of the floor. The Indiana product averaged 10.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, two assists, and 1.3 steals in 23.6 minutes, shot 48.5 percent overall, hit 35.6 percent of his threes, and switched across multiple positions at the other end of the floor. The Raptors have talked about potentially using their two-way contracts to “promote” 905ers, and a strong Vegas showing could have Sheehey in the mix for one, or at least a camp invite.

Exhibit 10 Deals

Kennedy Meeks: The Raptors signed Meeks shortly after he went undrafted, making him their first Exhibit 10 contract. That means he’ll be in camp with the team, and the Raptors can either choose to convert the deal into a two-way contract or try to make Meeks a G-League Affiliate Player, in which case he’d receive a $50,000 bonus for agreeing to go. Meeks is a big, physical body with underrated agility and soft hands, and he probably figures to be the summer team’s best rebounding presence. You can read more about Meeks here.

Undrafted Free Agents

Troy Caupain: Outside of Meeks, Caupain is the big undrafted fish here. While he was ranked outside of the top 100 by most draft rankers, Kevin Pelton’s model at ESPN ranked him 44th, and the Raptors thought enough of him to bring him in for a pre-draft workout. A four-year senior out of Cincinnati, Caupain has shown he can play either guard spot, work as a distributor or spot up, and use his 6-foot-4 frame to decent effect on defense. The limiting factor for Caupain as a prospect may be his 3-point shot, as he hit just 33.8 percent of a high volume of attempts during his college career. If he can hone that weapon, he’ll have the all-around game to make him worth tracking, and he’s still just 21.

Cole Huff: An over-aged senior thanks to a mid-college transfer from Nevada to Creighton, Huff may be one of the best shooters on the Vegas roster. Over his four college seasons, he shot 39.2 percent on threes, and that mark jumped to 46.3 percent as a senior. Considering he took a fair number of shots and is also a strong free-throw shooter, that would appear to be a skill that’s ready to translate to the NBA 3-point line. Huff’s collegiate numbers don’t jump off the page otherwise – he averaged 9.2 points and 3.9 rebounds this year – but he has experience in a defined system role, which should make the transition to a similar role seamless, whether it’s in the G-League or overseas.

Tidjan Keita: The most unknown name on the roster really shouldn’t be, because Keita could be a long-term diamond in the rough. Originally from France, Keita’s been playing high-school ball at the Thetford Academy in Thetford Mines, Quebec. Despite his relatively unknown high-school status, Keita is already 20, but that didn’t stop DraftExpress from ranking him as their No. 89 prospect. A bit off-board, sure, but with a 6-foot-10, 200-pound frame and a 7-foot-3 wingspan, it’s easy to see why the Raptors would be interested. Game footage is limited, but workout videos show an agile big with a lot of burst and athleticism. He’ll be an interesting test of the organization’s willingness to chase raw tools and perhaps a litmus for how they intend to use their two-way contracts.

Matt Thomas: A senior out of Iowa State, The Iceman didn’t get ranked in any major top 100 but he did earn a pre-draft workout invite from the Raptors. They liked what they saw enough to extend the Vegas invite, and Thomas will rival Huff (and a couple others) as the team’s best long-range marksman. Over his final two college years, Thomas shot 43.8 percent on nearly six 3-point attempts per game, and he’s an elite free-throw shooter, giving him one of the best potential NBA 3-point projections out there. That’s a great skill to get a foot in the door, and the 22-year-old will look to show he can contribute beyond a specialist role – he averaged 12.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.7 assists this year and earned his second consecutive All-Big 12 honorable mention.

Update: Thomas has been scratched from the roster and replaced by Windsor native Mychal Mulder.

Paul Watson: Another unranked undrafted free agent the Raptors worked out during the pre-draft process, the Fresno State product is coming off of a decent close to his college career. While Watson never matched the efficiency he showed as a freshman, he did improve as a rebounder and secondary playmaker. He averaged 11.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in his final year, with his best true-shooting percentage since in three seasons (52 percent). A decline in 3-point percentage precluded him from having what probably would have been considered a career-year offensively, but there’s enough sample – four years at nearly four attempts per-game – to feel confident in Watson’s 36.2-percent mark from long-range at least portending respectability from the deeper NBA line.

Other Free Agents

Justin Edwards: A little Can-Con for you, the Whitby native has been on the Raptors’ radar since pre-draft workouts a year ago. He wound up undrafted after four years split between Maine and Kansas State but found a home in the Hungarian League, where he had a productive season. In 47 games there, Edwards averaged 14.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists,a nd 1./5 steals, shooting 46 percent overall and 34.9 percent on threes. The 6-foot-4 guard developing additional range from outside is a nice step forward, as he shot just 29.3 percent in college and never topped 33 percent, and that tool is kind of a must-have for him to take the next step.

Jordan Loyd: After a five-year college career (Gurman and then Indianapolis), Loyd headed to the D-League for his first pro season last year, providing a great return on Fort Wayne’s third-round draft pick. In 49 games, the 6-foot-4 guard averaged 15.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, and four assists, and while he was only moderately efficient overall, his 34.2-percent mark from long-range is encouraging. Loyd shot 40 percent from three in his college career and seemed to transition fairly well to the deeper line, which will be important for his development as a spark-plug scorer and secondary distributor.

Alfonzo McKinnie: Perhaps the most fun story on the roster, McKinnie paid his way into a tryout with the Windy City Bulls last season before turning that into a camp deal, a roster spot, and then a place on the D-League All-Star Team. The Raptors liked enough of what they saw from McKinnie in the D-League a year ago to bring him in for the free agent mini-camp they had earlier this month, and if he continues to impress in Vegas, McKinnie could figure to be a candidate for a two-way contract or a camp invite. The 24-year-old averaged 14.9 points and 9.2 rebounds in 50 D-League games last year while shooting 51 percent from the floor and 30.8 percent on threes. The 3-ball is something to watch, too, as McKinnie shot 35.1 percent on a small volume over four college seasons (with Eastern Illinois and then Green Bay) and 36 percent in a short stint in Mexico in 2015-16. He also has some notable defensive potential given his athleticism and rebounding, but he’s not a finished product in that regard just yet.

Malcolm Miller: Another name that parlayed a strong pro season into an invite to that free agent mini-camp, the 24-year-old Miller will be playing in his fifth Summer League tournament over the last three years (the previous four were with Boston across the Vegas and Utah leagues). The four-year Holy Cross product was even in camp with the Celtics in 2015 and then headed to the D-League, where he averaged 12.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1.3 blocks while hitting 39.8 percent of a high volume of threes (and 49.6 percent overall). Miller opted to play in the German League last year, taking on a smaller role but still proving efficient with 6.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in his 18.7 minutes per-game with a 62.4 true-shooting percentage.

Jalen Reynolds: The Raptors have been tracking Reynolds for a while now, bringing him in for a pre-draft workout in 2016 and then again for the mini-camp a few weeks back. Reynolds ultimately went undrafted last year but turned in a strong season in Italy, averaging 12.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in just 21 minutes while shooting 60.4 percent from the floor. Reynolds still hasn’t stretched his range out much, but he’s a quality rebounder for the power forward position and an efficient scorer inside.

Note: I refer to the G-League as the D-League when writing in the past tense.

Rotation

It’s silly to try to peg things down like this (in terms of depth and what position a lot of these fluid wing/forwards will play), but here’s how the roster shapes up in rough strokes:

PG: VanVleet, Caupain, Loyd
SG: Sheehey, Edwards, Thomas Mulder
SF: McKinnie, Miller, Huff, Watson
PF: Siakam, Reynolds, Keita
C: Poeltl, Meeks, Okonoboh
INJ: Anunoby

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Raptors Free Agency Primer: Cap sheet, assets, exceptions, and more

While everyone else is getting ready for their Canada Day (or July 4) long weekend, the basketball world will be at the starting line of the 2017-18 season, champing at the bit to strike first in free agency, leverage another (and, for now, final) increase in the salary cap. Free agency begins at the stroke of midnight late Friday/early Saturday, and with it we venture further into the New TV Money Era, where a lucrative national rights deal has pushed the NBA’s salary cap from $70 million to $94 million and now $99 million, based on the latest reports. From here, it’s expected to level off, and while many teams appear to be stockpiling cap space for a more loaded free agent class in 2018, there’s ample money to be thrown around over the next few weeks.

Despite the increase, the salary cap is coming in at a level below expectations. It was once estimated at $103 million, and while $99 million is a small decrease in percentage terms, it also lowers the luxury tax and tax apron lines, which figures to make life difficult for the Toronto Raptors. Like the cap boom happened at a somewhat unfortunate time on the team’s upswing, the lower tax threshold threatens the team’s flexibility in a pivotal summer. With big money committed to DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas, and DeMarre Carroll already, president Masai Ujiri and staff will have to unload a salary, negotiate below-market deals for their four unrestricted free agents, or make some tough decisions on which of those free agents takes precedence. (This says nothing, of course, of the much larger overarching decisions about which direction the franchise should be heading.) There are means of clearing cap space, and the Raptors are oddly in a better position to retain key pieces than last summer (when their team salary was lower but the options available to them fewer) if they can afford it.

All of this will require some careful salary gap gymnastics. Luckily, the Raptors’ front office is well-staffed to execute such machinations, with former league cap adviser Bobby Webster expected to assume the title of general manager any day now, Ujiri possessing a strong track record of landing bargain fliers, and a strong player development staff making sure the inexpensive back end is ready to contribute where the offseason agenda may leave a hole. Still, it won’t be easy, and something on the roster will surely have to give.

What follows is an explanation of the contract situations and cap rules that the Raptors face right now. This is the fourth year in a row I’ve done this post in the hopes of helping readers understand why certain moves can or can not happen, and how they may come to pass. The league has a new collective bargaining agreement kicking in on July 1, so this will be a little different than prior years, although not significantly. Some of it will be in less detail than is necessary for a thorough understanding and some of it will be in more detail than is necessary for a cursory understanding (apologies if I haven’t correctly navigated that middle-ground) – if you have any questions, tweet them to me @BlakeMurphyODC or email them to me at eblakemurphy1@gmail.com, and I’ll do a follow-up post explaining certain rules or scenarios.

Note: All salary data comes courtesy of Basketball Insiders or my own calculations based on the new CBA document. (Yes, I have read the entire thing now. I don’t recommend it.) Normally, I’d throw a shout to CBAFAQ.com here, but Larry Coon’s indispensable guide is yet to be updated for the new CBA. Most of the information there is still useful for these purposes, though, and that site should be your first stop for all questions. The lack of CBAFAQ update to help means that there’s a chance I’ve misunderstood something going through the CBA myself, and I’ll update accordingly. Also, a thanks to Daniel Hackett, who I have probably clarified some of this stuff with at some point as we figured out the new climate, and to Cole Zwicker, who helped me clarify an area.

Contracts, holds, and explanations

Contracts
The Raptors have the following contracts on their books for 2017-18:

One new note to make this year is that players on non-guaranteed contracts now count for only their guaranteed amount in the outbound salary part of trades, not the full non-guaranteed amount. This doesn’t matter much for low-salaried players like Powell and VanVleet who wouldn’t bring much salary back, anyway, but it could come up if, say, a Kyle Lowry gets a partially guaranteed fifth year on a new deal.

(The amounts for Siakam will change in a second – see the Big Picture subsection below.)

Unrestricted Free Agents
The Raptors have the following unrestricted free agents, with their cap holds and rights types highlighted:

(Note: The Raptors also have a UFA cap hold for Jason Thompson left over from 2015-16, which I initially forgot to include. It’s pretty meaningless – he won’t be back, and if the Raptors blow things up, they’ll renounce his rights and clear it, anyway. Bookkeeping wise, it remains, because you don’t renounce these things until you need to.)

Having those expiring contracts doesn’t necessarily give the Raptors cap space. Until the rights to those players are renounced, the players have cap holds, which count for the purposes of the salary cap to prevent teams from signing a bunch of free agents with cap space and then signing their own guys. In many cases, ordering signings in that way can still be beneficial, but for the Raptors, they would need to renounce a lot of rights to clear up space.

The usefulness of lower cap holds isn’t much in play for Toronto here, but the Bird rights they hold on each player are. Full Bird rights allow a team to exceed the salary cap to re-sign their own player up to the maximum contract. So the Raptors can’t really find their way into much cap space through helpful cap tools (like reasonable cap holds) to pursue high-end free agents from other teams, but they can use rights to go well over the cap to keep their team together.

(Early Bird and Non-Bird rights also exist and allow teams to exceed the cap to re-sign their players up to certain raise amounts, but the Raptors hold full Bird rights on each of their free agents, so we won’t go into those here.)

Each of these cap holds exist until the Raptors renounce their rights or the players sign new deals. In reality, the team would only renounce rights if they required the cap space that doing so creates, which would only be the case in the “blow it up” scenario. The specifics of the cap holds aren’t that important this year, except to explain why the Raptors don’t have cap space even when their total salary is currently below the cap.

As an aside, Drake is also a free agent, but global ambassadors don’t have cap holds.

Restricted Free Agents
The Raptors have the following restricted free agents, with their cap holds highlighted:

nando
Yes, that Nando De Colo. The Raptors still own his rights in restricted free agency (and his Early Bird rights), even though he’s playing on a multi-year deal with CSKA Moscow. If the Raptors want to retain his RFA rights, they’ll need to issue him a $1.83-million qualifying offer by June 30, one that will stay on the books all summer (note that I used his cap hold amount rather than his $1.83-million qualifying offer) unless the Raptors rescind his rights.

This is mostly just a bookkeeping note – De Colo isn’t coming over, but if their offseason maneuvering allows, the Raptors may be able to maintain his rights and keep him on the books through the summer. In an offseason in which they don’t figure to have cap space, anyway, there’s little cost to issuing him a qualifying offer to retain his rights. I wrote more about this here.

Non-guaranteed Deals
The Raptors have the following non-guaranteed deals:

Powell’s deal guarantees on June 29, VanVleet’s on July 20. These can often be helpful for the purposes of flexibility or if a deal doesn’t work out, but as I wrote a few weeks ago, letting these deals guarantee is about as close to a no-brainer as it gets. They can be considered regular contracts for our purposes.

One new note to make this year is that players on non-guaranteed contracts now count for only their guaranteed amount in the outbound salary part of trades, not the full non-guaranteed amount. This doesn’t matter much for low-salaried players like Powell and VanVleet who wouldn’t bring much salary back, anyway, but it could come up if, say, a Kyle Lowry gets a partially guaranteed fifth year on a new deal.

Kennedy Meeks has been signed to an Exhibit 10 deal with a $50,000 base compensation, but Exhibit 10 bonuses do not count for the purposes of the team salary calculation. Two-way contracts, if and when the Raptors give them out, also don’t count in the team salary calculation.

Also off the Books
The small guarantees paid to Brady Heslip, Jarrod Uthoff, E.J. Singler, and Yanick Moreira from last year are cleared from the ledger as of July 1.

Draft picks
The Raptors have the following first-round draft picks, with their cap holds highlighted:

In a new CBA wrinkle, the cap hold for first-round draft picks is now equal to 120 percent of the rookie scale amount for that draft slot. This is because in almost all cases, first-round picks sign for 120 percent of scale. Anunoby is unlikely to be any different, but if he signed for less, his cap number would decrease accordingly. Once Anunoby signs his deal, he can’t be traded for 30 days.

New CBA wrinkle – Two-way contracts

Starting this year, NBA rosters are expanding to 17 with the addition of a pair of two-way roster spots. On one of these deals, a player will receive a higher D-League salary for their time spent in the D-League and a prorated amount of the NBA minimum while in the NBA. Time in the NBA is capped at 45 days during the regular season, plus any time before the start of D-League training camp and after the conclusion of the D-League regular season. These players are not eligible for the NBA playoff roster, though the team will hold the option to convert the two-way contract to a regular NBA contract at the minimum (for that player’s service time) at any point. This could be a post of its own. And in fact, it is.

The big picture

Here’s how the Raptors’ cap sheet looks at present:

I couldn’t decide if the luxury tax calculation was worth including in this post or not. The tax is charged on an escalating marginal basis, such that the first $4,999,999 is taxed at $1.50 per dollar, and the tax increases for each subsequent $5-million block. It’s basically an escalating penalty the further over the tax you go, to where trimming, say, $14.8 million could wind up saving the team significantly more depending on which tax block they sit in at the time. We’ll go into some of these scenarios in the coming weeks as we update the cap sheet. A note: The luxury tax owed is calculated based on the roster for Game 82, so the Raptors could conceivably enter the season well into the tax and get under it later in the year.

You’ll notice here that the amount charged for Siakam is slightly lower than in their salary sections above. That’s because the new CBA bumped up the league minimums and rookie scale amounts. For league minimum contracts like VanVleet and Powell, both the actual salary and the salary for the calculation gets bumped. For players on rookie scale deals, though, the old contract amount counts for cap/tax purposes. This is the smallest of details, but depending on how deep into the tax the Raptors go, it could wind up being a difference of a couple hundred thousand in tax payments. There’s some confusion on exactly how this works in the new CBA, so it may be best to just ignore it until we have some clarity, given how small the impact is to the team’s real flexibility.

The cap sheet above isn’t all that helpful for offseason planning, because, well, there’s no way they’re going to rival the largest payroll of all time. We also don’t need to include De Colo in any “still be good” scenarios, because his hold won’t count toward team salary and will eventually disappear when the qualifying offer expires.

For illustrative purposes, this is what the cap sheet would look like if they renounced the rights to all of their free agents (the “maximize cap space” or “probably blow it up” scenario):

We could go into a bunch of different scenarios in between. I won’t do that. It’s too many screenshots. To illustrate, though, we’ll do one more, which is where the Raptors hope to retain Lowry, Ibaka, and one of Patterson or Tucker.

This scenario not only has the benefit of being just 15 players, but I think it’s a reasonable salary and tax payment amount for readers to keep in mind.

I think the team would probably like to stay under the $125-million tax apron, which would mean spending only an estimated $44.68 million on their three free agents (or that amount, plus any salary they can shed – an article of its own). Going over the apron restricts flexibility in terms of available exceptions, taking on salary in trade, sign-and-trades, and protections on restricted free agents. The total team salary is also calculated a little differently for the apron (cap holds are excluded, unlikely bonuses count in full, and some other wrinkles), but this is outside of the scope of this article – it will be worth it’s own discussion later in the summer if the Raptors appear set to cross that mark.

However the specifics shake out, it’s unlikely the Raptors have cap space if they intend to remain competitive, barring some selling off of pieces.

Exceptions

There are sometimes scenarios in which it makes sense for a team to stay above the cap. If the Raptors opt to do so (which they almost certainly will), they open themselves up to the non-taxpayer or taxpayer mid-level exception. They would also have the bi-annual exception if they’re below the tax apron. If the Raptors duck below the cap at any point, they’ll instead have only that cap space and the room mid-level exception.

Get under cap
If the Raptors go under the cap by renouncing multiple free agents, they’ll have the following:

Cap space: Depends on how many free agents they lose/renounce, but up to an estimated maximum of $17.8 million
Room mid-level exception: $4.328.000 (one- or two-year deals with a 5-percent raise; can be split between players)

Stay above cap, below tax apron
If the Raptors stay over the cap as outlined but below the tax apron (after using the exception in question), they’ll have the following:

Cap space: $0
Non-taxpayer mid-level exception: $8,406,000 (up to a four-year deal, with raises of 5 percent of the first-year salary; can be split between players)
Bi-annual exception: $3,290,000 (one- or two-year deals with a 5-percent raise; can’t be used two years in a row; can be split between players)

As a side-note, if a team uses the Bi-Annual Exception, the apron becomes a hard cap the team can’t cross for the rest of the season. If they use more than $5,192,000 of the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, the apron becomes a hard cap. (The hard cap at the level of the apron is also triggered if a team acquires a player in a sign-and-trade, for those trying to get sneaky.)

Stay above cap, reach tax apron
If the Raptors stay over the cap as outlined and an exception would push them above the tax apron, they’ll have the following:

Cap space: $0
Taxpayer mid-level exception: $5,192,000 (up to a three-year deal, with raises of 5 percent of the first-year salary; can be split between players)

As a note, these exceptions are only available so long as they won’t push a team over the “apron,” which is $6 million above the luxury tax. It would also create a hard-cap for the Raptors at the apron.

The Raptors would also have the minimum player salary exception, which allows you to exceed the cap to sign players on veteran minimum deals, so long as they haven’t triggered a hard cap.

Trade Exceptions
The Raptors have no meaningful available trade exceptions. They have one for $328,000 that expires on Feb. 23 and is more or less just a book-keeping note. They would lose this trade exception if they went under the cap, which would be a tragedy.

Assets

Picks
The Raptors own all of their own future first-round picks and all of their own second-round picks from 2019 onward. They do not own their own 2018 second-round pick, but will receive either the Magic’s or Lakers’ second-round pick that year, whichever is less valuable (the worse/lower pick).

Draft Rights
The Raptors own the draft rights to DeeAndre Hulett from back in 2000. Hulett was never anything more than a footnote – while these rights mean little, they also cost little, and in the event the Raptors wanted to acquire someone for nothing (think Luke Ridnour for Tomislav Zubcic in 2015), these rights can be used as “consideration” (both teams need to send something to the other in a deal).

The Raptors previously held the draft rights to DeAndre Daniels, too, but released him a few weeks back. There’s no reason for the move, necessarily, but it’s an act of good-will to the player (and agent) since the Raptors had no immediate plans for him.

Cash
The league allows teams to send out and receive up to $5.1 million in a season. This resets July 1, so the Raptors will have the full amount available to both send and receive.

Wrap

That’s a lot to sort through. The front office doesn’t have an easy job, and putting this together is a stressful endeavor because I know there are a handful of fans out there who will want even more detail/explanation and some who thought this was too in-depth for what a general fan needs. This is meant to be a pretty high-level preview of what the Raptors are working with entering the offseason (that is: not a complete scenario analysis), and I’ll do my best to keep updating with new posts as the team’s salary cap situation changes over the next few weeks.

The key points you need to know:

  • There stands to be a fair amount of money chasing a good-not-great free agent class, creating some uncertainty. There are a few big dominoes that the league could pause waiting to fall into place, or there could be a frenzy after midnight on July 1 (though nothing can officially be completed until noon on July 6).
  • The Raptors won’t have salary cap space unless they’re taking a major step back, but often teams are better off staying above the cap and using exceptions to fortify, anyway. It’s not ideal, but it’s workable. It means the Raptors are far more likely to be active retaining their own free agents or through trade than on the open market (think last summer).
  • The Raptors can get creative by trading players away, so  lot of additional scenarios are on the table in theory. They require homes for Carroll and/or Valanciunas, though, which may not be simple, and even then they wouldn’t figure to be a player for any major name.
  • All of this adds up such that there’s really no means of replacing Lowry if he walks. They’d still have to renounce their other free agents to get into meaningful cap space, and it may not be enough to land a Jrue Holiday or George Hill, depending on how the market plays out. Trades exist, sure, but Lowry is a huge, huge domino for this offseason.
    • I’ve written this a few times elsewhere, but a reminder: The sign-and-trade is not as common as it used to be. That’s because Lowry can’t get a single dollar more that way – your max in a sign-and-trade is the same as your max signing with a new team in free agency. Lowry would only be open to a sign-and-trade if it helped land him on a team that lacks the total cap space to sign him.
    • Lowry’s maximum salaries: $149M on a four-year max from another team, $155.2M on a four-year max from the Raptors, and $201M on a five-year max from the Raptors.

If you have any questions, tweet them to me @BlakeMurphyODC or email them to me at eblakemurphy1@gmail.com, and I’ll do a follow-up post explaining certain rules or scenarios.

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NBA Award voting: Several Raptors earn votes; DeRozan appears in sketch

The NBA held its first ever award show on Monday, and while no Toronto Raptors were finalists for any award, the global ambassador did a pretty solid job hosting.

And hey, as the voting results filtered out, it was revealed that the Raptors ended up with some love further down ballots.

  • DeMar DeRozan received one fifth-place vote for Most Valuable Player, finishing 11th overall. (Chris Bosh finished seventh one year, the highest a Raptor has ever ranked.)
  • DeMar DeRozan also received one third-place vote for Most Improved Player.
  • Kyle Lowry placed eight in Teammate of the Year voting.
  • Jakob Poeltl and Fred VanVleet each got one vote for All-Rookie Second Team.
  • P.J. Tucker received three votes for All-Defensive Second Team. Serge Ibaka received one.
  • DeMarre Carroll placed sixth in voting for the Sportsmanship Award (he was the Atlantic Division nominee).
  • Masai Ujiri received two third-place votes for Executive of the Year.
  • Dwane Casey received one second-place vote and two third-place votes for Coach of the Year, placing ninth overall.
  • No Raptors received votes for Sixth Man of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year.

Prior to Monday night, DeMar DeRozan had been named to the All-NBA Third-Team, Jerry Stackhouse had been named the D-League Coach of the Year, Edy Tavares had been named D-League Defensive Player of the Year, and Tavares and Axel Toupane had been named to All-D-League Teams.

There was also this tonight:

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Summer Slam: RR’s 3on3 Basketball Tournament Is Back – Sign Up Now!

SOLD OUT! This tournament is sold out – we’ll make another post in a few months announcing our next tournament.

It’s that time of year again: Time to come out and dunk on the Raptors Republic crew. The annual RR tournament is back

The Details:

What: Summer Slam – The 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament

When: August 20, 2017, at 9:00 AM

Where: Variety Village Courts – 3701 Danforth Avenue, Scarborough, ON M1N 2G2 (venue website, Google Maps)

Cost: The cost per team is $150, transferable to raptorsrepublic@gmail.com

How to Sign Your Team Up

  • Step 1: Send $150 via Email Money Transfer to raptorsrepublic@gmail.com (make sure to send your email as well, and set the password as raptors). This will reserve a spot for your team, after which we’ll follow up directly with you to get jersey sizes etc.
    Step 2: Fill out the form below.

Rules and FAQs

  • This is a 3-on-3 indoor basketball tournament with one substitute allowed, for a maximum four people per team.
  • There are slots for 16 teams, and we can’t expand beyond that, so sign up quickly. This is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Four are already spoken for by teams from the Raptors’ online community.
  • Each team will play 3 games in a round-robin format (ends around 11), and a minimum of one-game in the knockout round (starts right after). Each team guaranteed to play at least four games.
  • Games are 3-on-3 in the half-court, and use a running clock of 15 minutes. They are refereed.
  • You must be 18 years of age or older to participate in the tournament.
  • You must have proper basketball shoes (no running shoes or sneakers are allowed).
  • This is a tournament for all skill-levels and if history is any indication, it’ll follow the normal distribution.  There will be some really good teams, some not-so-really good teams, and some in between. Historically, nobody gets dominated in all of their games, there will be a nice mix. Most of all, though, everyone is guaranteed to have a lot of fun and meet great people.
  • Winners and runners-up will receive prizes.
  • All participants receive a Raptors Republic reversible-mesh jersey.
  • Questions? Email raptorsrepublic@gmail.com.

We’d like to thank Pizza Pizza for supporting the tournament once again this yea.

Once again, you can get your team in by paying $150 via Email Money Transfer to raptorsrepublic@gmail.com (be sure to provide your email, and set the password as raptors), and please fill out the form below once you’ve paid.

Teams
1. Raptors Republic (Blake Murphy)
2. Raptors HQ (Daniel Reynolds)
3. Talking Raptors (Talking Raptors)
4. The Defeated (William Lou)
5-16. TBD

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Monday news & notes: Webster expected to be announced as GM, LVSL roster taking shape

Ahead of what should be a pretty busy week of speculation and rumor, I just wanted to drop a quick news and notes post to touch on a few items that aren’t really worthy of their own post just yet.

Bobby Webster, soon to be the GM

When the Orlando Magic poached Toronto Raptors general manager Jeff Weltman to be their president of basketball operations last month, the speculation here was that the Raptors would promote assistant general manager Bobby Webster to the position.

Webster was brought to the organization from the league office and has long been considered to be on the executive fast-track in the NBA, and team president Masai Ujiri dropped general manager from his title last summer in part to keep Webster (and Weltman) moving up in job title. Initially a cap specialist, Webster’s had his hands in just about everything since joining the organization, and promoting a smart, talented person from within not only maintains stability but sends a strong signal to potential future hires, too.That the Raptors have a strong succession plan up and down the organization if names are shuffled only solidifies that, with Raptors 905 general manager and Raptors director of player personnel Dan Tolzman there to step into Webster’s old role, and any number of bright minds available to step up further down the ladder. (It also makes sense because the Raptors can’t offer the president title and autonomy that some high-level execs might command on the open market.)

Anyway, it’s been all quiet on that front since. On Tuesday, Ujiri revealed that a decision had been made on that front, but that the team was holding off on making an announcement. That was likely because they wanted to time it properly around the draft and free agency.

Expect an announcement sometime in the coming days, and expect it to be Webster getting the nod. It’s been a bit of an open secret, but Josh Lewenberg of TSN is reporting that an announcement will come this week confirming the long-held speculation. At 32, Webster will become the league’s youngest general manager.

Cap level estimated to be lower than originally expected

Webster’s first piece of business officially in the role will be helping Ujiri’s team navigate a lower-than-expected salary cap. I wrote about this in Thursday’s draft open thread, but I’ll republish here in case anybody didn’t catch it

The NBA told teams Wednesday that the 2017-18 salary cap and luxury tax projections have been decreased from $101M and $121M, respectively, to $99M and $119M. This has pretty big implications for the Raptors. Quickly:

  • Kyle Lowry’s maximum salaries decrease as a result. He can now earn only $149M on a four-year max from another team, $155.2M on a four-year max from the Raptors, and $201M on a five-year max from the Raptors.
    • The net effect here is probably that it’s a little more likely Lowry stays. It doesn’t have as much to do with the exact dollar amount, necessarily, but that it’s now more difficult for two of his biggest perceived suitors (Houston, San Antonio, and now maybe Minnesota) to get the requisite cap space to sign him away. Yes, Utah and Denver and some others remain threats, and sign-and-trades are there as a tool (although not a super-likely one since Lowry can’t get a penny more this way), but it’s probably slightly more likely Lowry stays now than before.
    • This matters a little less if the Raptors are going to play hardball on a salary number, though. If the Raptors are willing to give the four-year max, Toronto remains his best financial option, and it’s tough for lurking teams to get too competitive on salary without some cap gymnastics. If the Raptors are only willing to go to some number below the max, though, it’s obviously easier for competing teams to make a comparably attractive offer. Toronto can still dangle a fifth year, too, to trump any other offer, but they don’t sound incredibly willing to do so, based on rumblings.
  • This is a net negative for the Raptors overall. If they want to remain competitive, a decrease in the luxury tax level makes their post-Lowry cap crunch even more difficult and further ratchets up the need to shed a salary this offseason. The lower luxury tax apron ($125M), which acts as a sort of hard-cap in certain offseason scenarios, ties their hands a little further. And if they opt to blow things up instead, this stands to limit the cap space with which they could chase young free agents.
    • Keep $125M in mind this offseason. If that winds up being the tax apron, I’d imagine the Raptors will treat that as their hard cap. They’re willing to spend into the tax, but probably not to an exceptional degree, and the apron not only keeps luxury tax payments in check, but going over it triggers a bunch of difficulty managing the roster the rest of the season. (Also keep in mind that tax is charged based on how the cap sheet stands at the end of the year, but the apron can cause difficulty before that point.)

Summer League roster taking shape

The Raptors didn’t announce their roster for Las Vegas Summer League until June 30 last year, but it’s beginning to take shape, and we can confirm 10 names for the team. Joining sophomores Fred VanVleet, Jakob Poeltl, and Pascal Siakam will be undrafted free agent signing Kennedy Meeks, Raptors 905 swingman Will Sheehey, and five other players you may or may not be familiar with in Troy Caupain Jr., Tidjane Keita, Matthew Thomas, Paul Watson Jr., and Justin Edwards.

Here’s how the roster would shake up (roughly) with a handful of names still to be added:

PG: Fred VanVleet (Raptors), Troy Caupain Jr. (undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati)
SG: Justin Edwards (free agent, last played in Hungary, Canadian), Matt Thomas (undrafted free agent out of Iowa State)
SF: Will Sheehey (Raptors 905), Paul Watson Jr. (undrafted free agent out of Fresno State), Cole Huff (undrafted free agent out of Creighton)
PF: Pascal Siakam (Raptors), Tidjane Keita (undrafted free agent out of Quebec)
C: Jakob Poeltl (Raptors), Kennedy Meeks (Exhibit 10 deal)

Expect more names in the coming days, including perhaps another 905er. The Raptors have their two two-way contracts and a few more Exhibit 10 deals to dangle, but they may opt to wait until after Summer League to give those out, as they did with most of theirs a year ago.

(Side-note: Some of the 10 names above were gathered from tweets by the players or their former schools. In the case of Sheehey, Michael Scotto first reported it, and Shams Charania broke the Meeks signing last week. RR is reporting the three Raptors names [and absences], confirmed the other names on the list, and reported that Meeks’ deal, previously reported only as a partial guarantee, is, in fact an Exhibit 10 contract.)

Award votes

Jakob Poeltl and Fred VanVleet each got one vote for All-Rookie Second Team.

P.J. Tucker received three votes for All-Defensive Second Team. Serge Ibaka received one.

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OG Anunoby scouting report

Our young son William Lou is up to his usual excellence over on his Medium page, dropping a detailed scouting report on the Toronto Raptors’ No. 23 overall pick, OG Anunoby. A sampling:

What’s his elite skill?

Defensive versatility and athleticism. Anunoby is the ideal modern defender who is comfortable guarding both on the perimeter and in the paint. His 7–3 wingspan rivals that of centers (for reference: Jakob Poeltl’s wingspan is also 7–3) , while his quick feet allows him to stick with guards.

“I feel like athletic enough, strong enough, and smart enough to defend every position,” Anunoby said at his Raptors introductory press scrum.

Anunoby was frequently asked to switch on ball screens in college, so he spent plenty of time chasing around point guards. He showed great technique in sliding his feet, cutting off penetration, then using his go-go gadget arms to challenge shots.

Go check that out, and if you’ve missed anything else on the Anunoby front, I’ve got you covered with a bunch of pieces here.

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Raptors Weekly Podcast – Welcome OG Anunoby

Host William Lou is joined by podcast OG Andrew Thompson to discuss the newest addition to the Raptors.

(more…)

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Weekend Open Thread

Things finally picked up! And the Raptors selected OG Anunoby with the No. 23 pick in the draft. Catch up on the week here, and enjoy the weekend.

All things OG

News & Rumors

Podcasts

Other

Outside Writing

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VIDEO: OG Anunoby introductory press conference

The Toronto Raptors introduced No. 23 pick OG Anunoby at BioSteel Centre on Friday.

Here’s all you need to know about Anunoby, and here are the videos of Dwane Casey and Masai Ujiri discussing the pick last night.

Here’s the video of the rookie’s introductory press conference:

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Report: Raptors agree to deal with Kennedy Meeks

The Toronto Raptors have agreed to a partially guaranteed deal with undrafted free agent Kennedy Meeks, according to a report from Shams Charania of The Vertical.

The senior out of North Carolina was among the names the Raptors brought in to BioSteel Centre during the pre-draft workout process, and when he didn’t hear his name called on Thursday, it stood to reason that the Raptors would make an inquiry. Landing Meeks without acquiring a second-round pick is a nice piece of business, although he was expected to slide outside of the 60 names chosen, anyway. Prior to the draft, Meeks was ranked anywhere from 65th to outside of the top-100, a wide range speaking to disagreement about his ultimate NBA potential.

https://twitter.com/Asapmeeks03/status/878125011587956736

Some analytic models looked favorably in the 22-year-old despite being a senior, which is encouraging. In his fourth year at UNC, Meeks averaged 12.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, one assists, 1.2 blocks, and one steal, shooting 55.5 percent from the floor. That’s something close to in line with his production in the three years prior, though it was his best rebounding and shot-blocking year and his highest-usage role yet. It’s expected that seniors will play a little better, but doing so in an elite conference is still a good sign.

In Meeks, the Raptors land a very smart and skilled player, one who knows his way around the paint, can read the floor, and has the soft hands required to finish in close or kick back out to the perimeter. He doesn’t have much of a face-up game and never hit a college three (he only attempted one), but he can do enough in the post to be a factor, using his strong frame to work his way into space or move others off the glass. He has better mobility than his frame would suggest, too, a sort of agile below-the-rim player that’s somewhat rare. Defensively, he’s a less sure bet to contribute, as he isn’t particularly athletic and doesn’t measure exceptionally well at center (a 7-foot-1 wingspan and 8-foot-10 standing reach), where he’ll have to play. He figures to be a pretty solid rebounder at that end, anyway.

Despite Meeks being 22, the Raptors may see some upside to still tap into. Over the years, Meeks has done a great job changing his body, and he weighs 20 pounds less now than he did in high school. The Raptors may think that with the additional guidance of an NBA staff, Meeks could work his way to being more functionally athletic, and it’s pretty clear he’s willing to do the work from the progress he’s already made.

Fans will probably be familiar with Meeks from his appearances in the NCAA Tournament, where he was a beast on a big stage. He didn’t have the best of games against Gonzaga in the National Championship (seven points, 10 rebounds, two blocks), but he was a monster against Oregon in the Final Four (25-and-14 with three steals) and posted double-digit rebounds in five of the team’s six tournament games. He also had a great showing in the live action portion of the combine, though his defensive shortcomings were on display there, too. If he can play with that same intensity with regularity, it will make up for some of his deficiencies, because he has the body and strength to be a force on the boards.

Details of the contract weren’t immediately made clear, but it will be interesting to see what the specifics are. Charania reports that it’s a partially guaranteed deal, but the new collective bargaining agreement clouds what, specifically, the deal may be. In prior years, the Raptors could give a player any guarantee they wanted, and then if he was cut in camp, they’d have the option to make him a D-League Affiliate Player, with the guarantee working as sort of a supplement to the D-League salary (if the player was open to it). Yanick Moreira and Jarrod Uthoff received these kind of deals last summer, and Axel Toupane, Shannon Scott, and Michale Kyser the year before that.

That remains an option now in the G-League setup, but there are a few tweaks worth mentioning. The NBA now gives teams a pair of additional “hybrid” roster spots for two-way contracts that allow the player to split time between NBA and G-League, increasing their salary to as much as $279,000 (rather than $26,000 plus whatever camp guarantee they received). You can read more about that here, I won’t bog you down with details in this post. What’s important to note is that Charania didn’t specify the deal was a two-way deal, which likely means the Raptors are giving Meeks a guarantee and keeping their options open. The deal probably contains what’s called an Exhibit 10, which will give the Raptors the option to convert the contract to a two-way contract sometime before the start of the NBA season (assuming his guarantee isn’t for more than $50,000, which would then make him ineligible).

If you don’t care for those details: It’s probably the usual Summer League and training camp deal you’re used to, Meeks may be on the radar to become a Raptors 905 piece if he’s open to it, and the Raptors could have the option to convert the deal to a two-way contract. This probably doesn’t have a big impact on the NBA side unless the roster changes significantly this summer, or Meeks really impresses.

This isn’t the steal of the century or anything, but Meeks is a really strong rebounder, a talented scorer and passer in the post, and a player who may have some upside remaining despite being 22. As far as quickly signed undrafted free agents go, it’s a nice fit, and he’ll slot in behind Jakob Poeltl on the roster for Vegas, when we’ll get to see how his development is coming along.

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Raptors Weekly Extra Podcast, June 23 – Draft reaction

The Extra returns with the usual crew to break down the draft.

(more…)

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VIDEO: Dwane Casey and Masai Ujiri discuss Anunoby selection

The Toronto Raptors used the No. 23 overall pick on OG Anunoby on Thursday. You can read about him here, and catch up with some video here.

Head coach Dwane Casey was at the BioSteel Centre to discuss the pick:

So, too, was president Masai Ujiri:

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Top undrafted free agents

At the end of the 2017 NBA Draft, there were still a handful of interesting names available. As always.

We don’t know how the Raptors will have ranked these guys, but this exercise a year ago revealed Fred VanVleet as a potential target of the team ahead of Las Vegas Summer League, so I’m deeming it worthwhile again. The Raptors, after all, will have Summer League spots to fill (including an extra one since OG Anunoby won’t be playing), and the two new two-way contracts available to teams could make sense for undrafted free agents. Unfortunately, a lot of the really intriguing players that seemed to be slipping got scooped up eventually. Still, some decent fliers are out there.

Here are the top names still available, based on our weighted composite rankings:

Rank Player Ford Express O’Connor Riddell Vecenie Pelton Average High Low
42 Cameron Oliver 46 55 38 30 48 41 43.2 30 55
44 Johnathan Motley 40 39 41 47 36 99 45.9 36 47
49 Devin Robinson 45 49 37 45 52 94 50.0 37 52
54 P.J. Dozier 52 52 52 46 47 105 54.8 46 52
56 L.J. Peak 86 46 49 37 53 105 58.8 37 86
61 Derrick Walton Jr. 59 73 77 70 14 63.6 59 77
62 Andrew White 69 68 54 68 60 85 65.7 54 69
63 V.J. Beachem 66 67 55 76 67 64 66.0 55 76
65 Kobi Simmons 51 76 58 74 82 66.7 51 76
67 Alberto Abalde 105 48 66 63 55 68.8 48 105
68 Jeremy Morgan 68 105 78 55 10 69.1 55 105
69 Luke Kornet 71 69 87 78 27 70.8 69 87
70 Nigel Hayes 73 80 60 83 59 72.3 60 83
72 Eric Mika 63 82 81 84 57 75.2 63 84
73 Jonathan Jeanne 83 42 105 105 15 76.1 42 105
74 James Blackmon Jr. 84 83   86 76 29 76.3 76 86
75 Chris Boucher 56 86   93 97 24 76.4 56 97
76 Jake Wiley 105 63 71 69 87 78.1 63 105
77 Melo Trimble 77 84 83 81 54 78.2 77 84
79 Isaiah Briscoe 67 71 98 71 105 79.9 67 98
80 George de Paula 105 72 56 94 81.8 56 105

(Note: Oliver, Blackmon, and Boucher have already signed with Houston, Philly, and Golden State, respectively. Damn this stuff moves quick.)

And here’s a look at the list of undrafted players who the Raptors worked out in the pre-draft process:

Player Date Average High Low
Johnathan Motley 23-May 45.9 36 47
Devin Robinson 6-Jun 50.0 37 52
P.J. Dozier 5-Jun 54.8 46 52
Kobi Simmons 22-May 66.7 51 76
Nigel Hayes 7-Jun 72.3 60 83
Jonathan Jeanne 7-Jun 76.1 42 105
Isaiah Briscoe 23-May 79.9 67 98
Kennedy Meeks 5-Jun 85.6 65 105
Isaac Humphries 13-Jun 87.2 81 105
Antonius Cleveland 30-May 95.2 85 105
T.J. Williams 17-May 97.9 89 105
Troy Caupain 7-Jun 98.2 105 105
Austin Nichols 30-May 98.9 93 105
Chance Comanche 13-Jun 101.2 88 105
Xavier Rathan-Mayes 23-May 102.6 94 105
Dylan Ennis 17-May #N/A #N/A #N/A
Jeremy Hollowell 17-May #N/A #N/A #N/A
Rashawn Thomas 17-May #N/A #N/A #N/A
Tyler Cavanaugh 18-May #N/A #N/A #N/A
Sebastian Saiz 23-May #N/A #N/A #N/A
Nate Britt 30-May #N/A #N/A #N/A
Scoochie Smith 30-May #N/A #N/A #N/A
Matt Jones 5-Jun #N/A #N/A #N/A
Jordan Matthews 5-Jun #N/A #N/A #N/A
Matt Thomas 5-Jun #N/A #N/A #N/A
Justin Tuoyo 5-Jun #N/A #N/A #N/A
J.J. Frazier 6-Jun #N/A #N/A #N/A
Quinton Hooker 6-Jun #N/A #N/A #N/A
Hassan Martin 6-Jun #N/A #N/A #N/A
Paul Watson 6-Jun #N/A #N/A #N/A
Kasey Hill 7-Jun #N/A #N/A #N/A
Luke Fischer 7-Jun #N/A #N/A #N/A
Seth Allen 13-Jun #N/A #N/A #N/A
Naz Mitrou-Long 13-Jun #N/A #N/A #N/A

Will any of these wind up on the roster in Vegas or, like VanVleet, earn a spot with the main team? It’s way too early to figure. The Raptors have done well by undrafted free agents in recent years, have earned a strong reputation for player development, and have a solid situation to offer undrafted free agents.

(As a side-note, it was rumored to be quite expensive to buy into the second round before the draft, and things played out that way. Golden State paid $3.5M for the No. 38 pick, and the Raptors only had $2.5M to offer in any deal. That probably could have gotten them a pick in the 50s, but maybe not the early-40s, and that would have been a hefty price once the juicy names started flying off the board.)

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VIDEO: OG Anunoby strength, weaknesses, highlights, and draft interview

The Toronto Raptors used the No. 23 overall pick on OG Anunoby on Thursday. You can read about him here.

Here’s a look at his strengths:

Here’s a look at his weaknesses:

And here’s a highlight package:

And here’s his interview at the draft:

Check back Monday for a more detailed scouting report on the Indiana product.

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Raptors select OG Anunoby with No. 23 pick

The Toronto Raptors have made what Fran Fraschilla has conveniently coined the “sexy blogger pick,”selecting small forward OG Anunoby with the No. 23 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Anunoby spent most of the draft process figuring to be off the board by the time the Raptors selected, but his stock seemed to tumble a bit closer to draft night. Fraschilla’s comments are rooted in the fact that rankings on the internet appeared to be more optimistic about Anunoby than the feeling from teams, but the real reason may be that internet rankings are more risk-seeking than NBA teams to be. That’s because the big concern with Anunoby is that he may contribute little in 2017-18, and it’s unclear when he may be healthy enough to play. Anunoby missed the final 15 games of his sophomore season with Indiana after undergoing surgery on his right ACL, and reports vary on when he may be able to get back onto the floor.

“I think it effected my draft, but everything happens for a reason,” Anunoby said on the broadcast after being picked. Asked what he tried to show teams in the interim, he said, “My personality, my character, how hard a worker I am, and how much I care about the team.” (Anunoby also revealed he’ll continue to wear his trademark short-shorts at the NBA level.)

The injury kept Anunoby from working out with teams during the pre-draft process, though the Raptors did meet with Anunoby last week (a meeting likely made possible by his stock starting to slide a bit). That conspired to make him one of the higher-risk, higher-reward players, and in rolling the dice here, the Raptors are swinging for the fences on a talent level that’s clearly much higher than this pick slot. Of the primary draft rankers we use here at Raptors Republic, Anunoby ranked as high as 11th and didn’t rank lower than 18th (averaging 14th), and Kevin Pelton’s analytic model at ESPN graded him as the No. 7 prospect in the class. (Shout out to DraftExpress for nailing him mocked to the Raptors.) It’s exactly the type of upside play that can help a team in the Raptors’ position whether they stay the course and try to remain competitive or whether they take a few steps back and push things down the line – Anunoby should be able to help by the second half of the season, and failing that, he has some serious long-term potential.

Anunoby said on draft media day that he believes he can get back on the court by November (about two months ahead of schedule), but the Raptors are in a position to bring him along slowly. They could use a player at the forward positions, to be sure, but they figure to be deep enough to give him time to get back to 100 percent and shake off any rust while he learns the system with Raptors 905. He was also able to measure up at the combine, where he posted an encouraging 7-foot-2.25-inch wingspan, an 8-foot-11.5-inch standing reach, speaking to his immense defensive potential.

In fact, Anunoby may be the best defensive prospect in the draft, depending on how you feel about Jordan Bell. The exceptional length translates into terrific perimeter defense, and several scouts have referred to him as the best on-ball defender in the draft. He’s not quite as good in help situations, where he tends to over-commit a bit, but he’s a terrific athlete who should develop his help-and-recover skills (he has exceptional burst to cover swaths of space quickly) and should ultimately have the length to be a presence at the rim playing the four in smaller lineups. Really, he could be able to defend as many as four positions, with a body that should fill out enough to play power forward comfortably and the length, quickness, and defensive instincts to corral even smaller, faster wings on the outside. The term “NBA-ready body” is thrown around too loosely, but given the strength in his lower half, he’s somewhere close. The hope will have to be that it materializes in better rebounding in time, because he wasn’t particularly strong in that regard.

There is just so much to like about his defensive potential.

The questions come on the offensive side of the floor, where Anunoby is still fairly limited despite decent college production. As a 19-year-old sophomore, he averaged 11.1 points on 55.7-percent shooting, which is nice, but he hasn’t shown much semblance of range (he was 27-of-74 on college threes over two seasons), and his free-throw shooting, a strong predictor of future 3-point shooting, is fairly weak (56.3 percent this year). As Cole Zwicker has pointed out, he releases the ball really flat with a low release point, which could make it tough to extend his mechanics to the NBA 3-point line. It’s worth noting that the Raptors have taken chances on non-shooters in recent years, believing they can improve that skill through player development, specifically if they can identify a mechanical flaw that can be ironed out with repetition. (Nick Nurse is probably pulling his hair out, though.)

Elsewhere, Anunoby is a better passer than he maybe gets credit for, averaging 1.4 assists and making quality reads when he has a beat to process. He can also put the ball on the floor a little in space, which will be huge, because teams are going to completely abandon him when he’s spotting up and then close out late, so continuing to develop those skills in space will be an important early priority. It should help that he’s an explosive athlete, with a decent first step that will become more effective if teams eventually have to respect his jumper. There probably won’t be much point running plays for him early on, because he’s not really a threat on the move, hasn’t initiated in the pick-and-roll much, and will mostly just be a finisher to start (he’s incredibly strong and a fast rim-runner, making him an obvious transition threat and a potential option as a screener in some Raptors pet sets). He has a bit of a post-game, too, something the Raptors will probably only see in the G-League to start.

All told, Anunoby has a ways to go on the offensive end, and that’s probably why the mileage of NBA teams varied (along with the injury issues). The Raptors aren’t shy about developing offense, and given what their needs have been for years now – versatile, multi-position defenders – he can help fill a consistent hole. His downside is probably that of a quality one-way bench defender, but if the Raptors think they can turn a fairly raw offensive profile into a useful player on that end, the ceiling becomes pretty high. There are a wide range of outcomes, but it’s important for prospects to have something they can hang their hat on and do well out of the gate to buy them minutes and the requisite rope to develop, and Anunoby has that in spades at the defensive end of the floor.

“Luckily, he fell to us,” head coach Dwane Casey said. “There was a lot of teams behind us that were salivating to get him…He can guard one-through-five, easily. He’s a P.J. Tucker clone, practically.”

Whether you like the pick or not will depend on your individual risk preference and whether another non-shooter is a problem for you. He’s not a great short-term fit on offense, but the No. 23 pick didn’t figure to play a major role out of the gate anyway. There were a lot of likable names still on the board, like Semi Ojeleye or Ike Anigbogu, or a handful of others. In Anunoby, the Raptors took a potentially undervalued asset with top-10 upside, betting on his health, the character at play, and their own ability to turn him into a two-way piece. And in terms of the character, he’s almost surely someone the Raptors were attracted to, given how much they value maturity (watching interviews, he comes off as straight-forward and sincere, if a little unentertaining).

If nothing else, he’s another defender to throw out at a number of positions in a number of lineup types, and that’s a pretty useful piece to have and a pretty decent floor. There are a range of ceiling outcomes, most of which are worth being excited about with the No. 23 pick. Patience will be key with yet another prospect.

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Draft Day rumor/open thread: Final mocks have Bolden or Anunoby; Raps could shop Valanciunas

Throughout the day, I’ll continue updating this thread with the latest rumors, deals, and mock drafts. Check back often.

The draft starts at 7, with the first picks coming at 7:30.

(Here’s the hub for all of our draft content, and a final ranking list, by the way.)

Mock Drafts

Latest Update: 6:25 p.m. – It’s still quiet but at least we got one more mock

Chad Ford: Ford still has Jonah Bolden going to the Raptors at 23 in his Mock 8.1, where he’s been all day, pointing out that Masai Ujiri “has a penchant for finding and drafting similar under-the-radar prospects.” Bolden’s a super interesting name after leaving UCLA to become the Adriatic League’s Rookie of the Year, and thanks to a commenter directing me to some YouTube videos, I was able to watch a bit more beyond his freshman year. Ford has no notes or rumors on the Raptors front in his mock, though he lists Semi Ojeleye, Tony Bradley, and Tyler Lydon as other potential picks there.

DraftExpress: In Jonathan Givony’s 10:30 update, he has OG Anunoby sliding to the Raptors at No. 23. Whether it’s injury concern, the risk of him losing some development time because of it, or a raw offensive game, or what, this is the lowest Anunoby’s felt in the entire process. He’s a guy the Raptors spoke with and would seem like a fit with the style of player they’ve been attracted to in the past, and the Raptors probably wouldn’t have an issue with getting little return from the No. 23 spot in Year One.

DX previously had the Raptors taking Tyler Lydon, though their early-morning update moved to Anunoby and has held there. It’s worth a reminder here that while Ford has historically gotten the highest number of pick slots exactly right, it’s DraftExpress that’s performed the best with mock drafts in terms of average error. In other words, they do a better job having guys in their firm draft range than anyone else. Tyler Lydon, Semi Ojeleye, Anzejs Pasecniks, and Harry Giles sandwich the Anunoby pick here.

Draft-specific news and rumors

  • 6:50 p.m.: Michael Grange of Sportsnet cites multiple league sources who indicate the Raptors have looked into moving Jonas Valanciunas with the No. 23 pick. Zach Lowe adds that the Raptors are quietly exploring “a lot of different things.”
    • Grange doesn’t speculate on a return, but this has long made sense as a means of shedding significant salary ahead of a tough luxury tax crunch while also still returning an asset. As I mentioned earlier in this thread, using Valanciunas to move up a bit in the draft could serve two ends (improving the pick and saving money), but finding a trade partner is the tough part. It’s not necessarily a Valanciunas thing – I know he’s divisive, but he remains a useful piece on a decent deal – but if the Raptors want to keep most of the core together, they’ll have to cut salary somewhere, and finding a home for DeMarre Carroll would be much tougher (and probably costlier). It doesn’t make a lot of sense to bring both Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka back, given financial constraints. It’d be tough to watch a long-time core piece go. It may wind up being the best thing for the team and player, though, depending on the deal.
  • 5 p.m.: Nothing. Nothing is happening. The Raptors don’t leak.
  • 2 p.m.: Michael Scotto informs us that the Raptors are gauging the market for the No. 23 pick and are open to moving down. This meshes with what Masai Ujiri said Tuesday, which is that they’re still exploring a number of uses for the pick and are prepared for (and comfortable with) a number of scenarios depending on what happens leading up to the draft. We’ve now heard the Raptors are willing to move up or down, and they’re probably open to moving out altogether.
    • It’s easy to kind of scoff at reports like this, because of course the Raptors are willing to move in different directions if the market makes sense. But Scotto is almost surely hearing from a team that’s engaged with Toronto (Scotto has become a trusted name over the last two seasons), and hey, it’s a slow news day so far. If nothing else, it’s nice to know that A) the Raptors are always active, and B) they run a ship that only lets the slightest glimmers of information leak (and this probably isn’t coming from them).
    • My best guess here is that the Raptors would probably like to attach the No. 23 pick to Jonas Valanciunas in a move that nets them an asset back but helps trim a lot of salary in the process ahead of a luxury tax crunch.
  • 9 a.m.: Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun got a quote from OG Anunoby talking about what the Raptors told him during an interview. Yes, that means Anunoby is the one name that we know the Raptors met with who wasn’t on the public workout list. Word is they didn’t physically work anyone out privately, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Anunoby wasn’t the only name they interviewed. There’s also the usual matter of agency-run camps and pro days, the combine, and so on – they’re not making any picks blind here, regardless of the workout list.

Other Raptors news and rumors

Thursday rumors…

  • Damn, it’s quiet. What else did we expect, though?
  • 1:30 p.m.: I’m ordering pizza.
  • 2:30 p.m.: I’ve officially booked my flight and hotel for Summer League. Hopefully there’s an actual pick to cover.

Prior to Thursday…

  • The NBA told teams Wednesday that the 2017-18 salary cap and luxury tax projections have been decreased from $101M and $121M, respectively, to $99M and $119M. This has pretty big implications for the Raptors. Quickly:
    • Kyle Lowry’s maximum salaries decrease as a result. He can now earn only $149M on a four-year max from another team, $155.2M on a four-year max from the Raptors, and $201M on a five-year max from the Raptors.
      • The net effect here is probably that it’s a little more likely Lowry stays. It doesn’t have as much to do with the money,necessarily, but that it’s now more difficult for two of his biggest perceived suitors (Houston and San Antonio) to get the requisite cap space to sign him away. Yes, Utah and Denver and some others remain threats, and sign-and-trades are there as a tool (although not a super-likely one since Lowry can’t get a penny more this way), but it’s probably slightly more likely Lowry stays now than before.
      • The Rockets, by the way, are interested, though they’re interested in all of the star free agents, per Marc Stein. Houston would need to shed salary, but that ma not prove too difficult with some semi-attractive salaries to dangle.
    • This is a net negative for the Raptors overall, though. If they want to remain competitive, a decrease in the luxury tax level makes their post-Lowry cap crunch even more difficult and further ratchets up the need to shed a salary this offseason. The lower luxury tax apron ($125M), which acts as a sort of hard-cap in certain offseason scenarios, ties their hands a little further. And if they opt to blow things up instead, this stands to limit the cap space with which they could chase young free agents.

Non-Raptors news and rumors

Thursday rumors...

  • 7:55 p.m.: Woj reports that the Celtics are close on a deal for Paul George and I am dead inside. Mercifully, Woj is saying those talks have stalled.
  • 7:40 p.m.: The Wolves are close to acquiring Jimmy Butler, per Marc Stein. The Bulls will get Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the No. 7 pick, and the Wolves will get the No. 16 pick along with Butler. Good googly moogly.
  • 6:20 p.m.: Teams are still exploring deals and willing to make moves if the right deal comes along. Pizza is still delicious, etc.
  • 6:15 p.m.: Chris Haynes reports that the Nuggets and Suns engaged on a Bledsoe-for-Mudiay-and-#13 swap.
  • 5:05 p.m.: Per Briand Windhorst, the Cavs have discussed a deal for Danny Green, but the Spurs have a high asking price. Considering the Cavs don’t have a GM, it’d probably be tough to get a deal done.
  • There was also a bit more Drummond buzz, particularly with the Kings, but Sam Amick poured cold water on it.
  • 2:50 p.m.: There seems to be a lot of actual traction on a Porzingis deal, with the Celtics looking to acquire an extra lottery pick (likely from Minnesota) to pair with No. 3 and a future pick. It’s a lot to digest. Ian Begley has had most of the inside stuff on this one. (Some reports have them asking for even more.)
  • A shocking one: Several teams are open to moving up or down in the draft if the right deal is there.
  • 12:30 p.m.: More notably, last year’s Jimmy Butler-to-Minnesota rumors appear ready to pick back up.
    • And oh, hey, Woj says Ricky Rubio’s name is in the wind, as usual. Poor guy.
  • 10:10 a.m.: The Spurs have engaged with teams on LaMarcus Aldridge, looking to land a top-10 pick (and clear cap space, I’d imagine). That’s an interesting one.
    • The Suns and Blazers are out there in rumors, but nothing seems to have a ton of traction just yet.

Prior to Thursday…

  • A quick run down of the trades that have already been made or reportedly agreed to:
    • Not sure if you heard, but the Celtics traded the No. 1 pick to the 76ers for the No. 3 pick and a conditional future first (the Lakers’ pick in 2018 if it falls 2-5, otherwise the Kings’ pick in 2019 if it’s not No. 1).
    • The Lakers traded D’Angelo Russell and TIM Mozgov to the Nets for Brook Lopez and the No. 27 pick.
    • The Hornets traded Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli, and the No. 41 pick to Atlanta for Dwight Howard and the No. 31 pick.
    • Tim Frazier was dealt to the Wizards for the No. 52 pick.
    • Greg Monroe picked up his option for next year, taking at least one big off the market. Dwyane Wade picked up his option, too.
    • Nick Young declined his option. He sure can shoot. Aron Baynes declined an option, too, and the Wolves waived Nikola Pekovic. Much earlier, the Kings had waived Anthony Tolliver.
  • And a run down of some rumors:
    • Danny Green could be available as the Spurs look to make room.
    • DeAndre Jordan could move, and the Clippers and Pistons have broached a Jordan-Andre Drummond swap.
    • Paul George rumors have quieted down, but league experts initially expected today to work as sort of a soft deadline for the Pacers.
    • Patrick Beverley is being shopped as the Rockets look to clear space. Lou Williams and Ryan Anderson could be dangled, too.
    • The Grizzlies may only be willing to offer Tony Allen the minimum, which you’d think would make him look elsewhere. Vince Carter hinted last night he could take less money to sign with the Warriors.
    • The Hawks could be open to sign-and-trading Paul Millsap, which would be a heck of an interesting situation. (From the Raptors’ perspective, it’d be tough to put together an attractive offer that works under the cap rules, but you can bet they’ll call and see if something can be worked out.)
  • The Knicks remain the worst. What a mess. Kristaps Porzingis is going to wind up somewhere else and be a goddam stud.
  • Similarly, the Cavs are a bit of a mess – after letting David Griffin walk (dumb), Chauncey Billups may not even accept the presidency, and they’re entering the draft and maybe free agency without a management team in place. LeBron James won Cleveland their title…he likely feels comfortable leaving again if the situation worsens, and he can become a free agent next summer.

Keep checking back throughout the day!

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Draft day hub: Workout list, rankings, podcasts, and more

Here’s everything you need to keep you prepared for draft day in one convenient location.

Open thread

Draft day rumor/open thread

Workouts

A full list of everyone the Raptors publicly worked out

The following players worked out for the Raptors, sorted by the date they visited with a link to their workout notes:

  • May 17: Dylan Ennis, T.J. Williams, Rawle Alkins, Jeremy Hollowell, Rashawn Thomas, Tyler Lydon
  • May 18: T.J. Leaf, Tyler Cavanaugh
  • May 22: Tyler Dorsey, Kobi Simmons, Dillon Brooks, Semi Ojeleye, Markis McDuffie, Jonathan Williams
  • May 23: Isaiah Briscoe, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Justin Jackson, MiKyle McIntosh, Sebastian Saiz, Jonathan Motley
  • May 30Nate Britt, Scoochie Smith, Damyean Dotson, Antonius Cleveland, Caleb Swanigan, Austin Nichols
  • June 5Matt Jones, Jordan Matthews, Matt Thomas, P.J. Dozier, Justin Tuoyo, Kennedy Meeks
  • June 6Wesley Iwundu, Devin Robinson, J.J. Frazier, Quinton Hooker, Hassan Martin, Paul Watson
  • June 7Kasey Hill, Troy Caupain, Nigel Hayes, Kyle Kuzma, Ike Anigbogu (interview only), Jonathan Jeanne, Luke Fischer
  • June 13: Sindarius Thornwell, Seth Allen, Naz Mitrou-Long, Dwayne Bacon, Chance Comanche, Isaac Humphries

Interviewed, no media availability – OG Anunoby

Rankings

A final look at rankings around the NBA Draft universe

Mailbags

A draft-week mailbag

Podcasts

Part 1 – An NCAA/D-League scout and Spencer Redmond

Part 2 – Sam Vecenie and William Lou

Part 3 – Joshua Riddell and Dane Belbeck

Other

Masai Ujiri talks draft – notes and quotes

Masai Ujiri talks draft – video

Other Resources

The work of Draft Express, Chad Ford, Sam Vecenie, Kevin O’Connor, Cole Zwicker, and Joshua Riddell is invaluable.

Elsewhere

On the Raptors approach to pre-draft workouts

On the Canadians they’ve worked out

On finding shooting in the draft

On how two-way contracts could factor in late in or after the draft

On draft night kicking off what could be a crazy couple of weeks for the Raptors

What You Want

Who do you want at No. 23?

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Final 2017 Draft Rankings

Draft day is finally here, which means all of the rankers we know and love so much have finalized a final top-60 or top-100, and we can look at those rankings to once again recalibrate heading into the big night. The reason to rely on the rankings of experts, at least as a baseline, is that they’re, well, experts. The people whose work I’ll cite below focus on college ball and the draft as their primary gig, and while I personally love to watch the NCAA and spend hours once the playoffs end trying to catch up with video, they’ve all spent far more time, tracked the prospects for years in some cases, and will have the benefit of more in-person viewings, meetings, and impressions from within the NBA. There’s nothing wrong with knowing what you don’t know and letting the expertise of intelligent people guide your own research. (Or so I tell myself.)

The big takeaway from tracking these rankings over the last few weeks is that there remains a ton of volatility and a wide range of opinions on most prospects. Considering how wide open the draft is, that stands to make whomever the Raptors wind up with at No. 23 a win in the books of some and a loss in the books of others – there’s a good chance the pick looks like a steal or a reach, and of course, we won’t know the reality for years. That doesn’t mean we don’t dive in like hell to try to figure it out the moment the pick is announced.

By the way, if anyone was wondering about the history of the No. 23 pick: According to DraftExpress, the No. 23 pick has become an All-Star twice, a starter nine times, a backup 21 times, an end-of-the-bench guy 13 times, and never reached the NBA 11 times in the last 56 drafts. The No. 23 pick has averaged 1.62 Estimated Wins Added, averaging 5.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.1 assists with a 9.2 player efficiency rating. This means little as a group-wide snapshot, but I thought I’d pass it along to help set a baseline expectation for player quality.

To help give an idea of who the Raptors looked at, here’s a refresher on the 52 names they brought in to BioSteel Centre. It’s just a small part of the process and doesn’t at all mean this is the list they’re drawing from (a few players had to drop out, guys projected in the lottery are tough to get in, logistical issues come up, and so on). Here you go:

Player Date Note Average High Low
OG Anunoby N/A Interview only 13.4 11 18
Ike Anigbogu 7-Jun Interview only 23.1 15 36
Semi Ojeleye 22-May 28.6 19 38
Tyler Lydon 17-May 32.3 22 50
T.J. Leaf 18-May 34.2 22 44
Caleb Swanigan 30-May 35.5 27 48
Johnathan Motley 23-May 45.9 36 47
Tyler Dorsey 22-May 47.1 39 61
Dillon Brooks 22-May 47.4 38 50
Kyle Kuzma 7-Jun 48.1 41 47
Devin Robinson 6-Jun 50.0 37 52
Wesley Iwundu 6-Jun 50.1 29 53
Sindarius Thornwell 13-Jun 51.3 31 62
P.J. Dozier 5-Jun 54.8 46 52
Dwayne Bacon 13-Jun 60.6 45 74
Damyean Dotson 30-May 60.8 54 68
Kobi Simmons 22-May 66.7 51 76
Nigel Hayes 7-Jun 72.3 60 83
Jonathan Jeanne 7-Jun Medical condition 76.1 42 105
Isaiah Briscoe 23-May 79.9 67 98
Kennedy Meeks 5-Jun 85.6 65 105
Isaac Humphries 13-Jun 87.2 81 105
Antonius Cleveland 30-May 95.2 85 105
T.J. Williams 17-May 97.9 89 105
Troy Caupain 7-Jun 98.2 105 105
Austin Nichols 30-May 98.9 93 105
Chance Comanche 13-Jun 101.2 88 105
Xavier Rathan-Mayes 23-May 102.6 94 105
Dylan Ennis 17-May #N/A #N/A #N/A
Jeremy Hollowell 17-May #N/A #N/A #N/A
Rashawn Thomas 17-May #N/A #N/A #N/A
Rawle Alkins 17-May Withdraw #N/A #N/A #N/A
Tyler Cavanaugh 18-May #N/A #N/A #N/A
Jonathan Williams 22-May Withdraw #N/A #N/A #N/A
Markis McDuffie 22-May Withdraw #N/A #N/A #N/A
Justin Jackson (Mld) 23-May Withdraw #N/A #N/A #N/A
MiKyle McIntosh 23-May Withdraw #N/A #N/A #N/A
Sebastian Saiz 23-May #N/A #N/A #N/A
Nate Britt 30-May #N/A #N/A #N/A
Scoochie Smith 30-May #N/A #N/A #N/A
Matt Jones 5-Jun #N/A #N/A #N/A
Jordan Matthews 5-Jun #N/A #N/A #N/A
Matt Thomas 5-Jun #N/A #N/A #N/A
Justin Tuoyo 5-Jun #N/A #N/A #N/A
J.J. Frazier 6-Jun #N/A #N/A #N/A
Quinton Hooker 6-Jun #N/A #N/A #N/A
Hassan Martin 6-Jun #N/A #N/A #N/A
Paul Watson 6-Jun #N/A #N/A #N/A
Kasey Hill 7-Jun #N/A #N/A #N/A
Luke Fischer 7-Jun #N/A #N/A #N/A
Seth Allen 13-Jun #N/A #N/A #N/A
Naz Mitrou-Long 13-Jun #N/A #N/A #N/A

As a look back, here are our workout notes from each session. (As a side-note, no player came in for a second workout this year, but OG Anunoby did come in for an interview without media availability at one point.)

  • May 17: Dylan Ennis, T.J. Williams, Rawle Alkins, Jeremy Hollowell, Rashawn Thomas, Tyler Lydon
  • May 18: T.J. Leaf, Tyler Cavanaugh
  • May 22: Tyler Dorsey, Kobi Simmons, Dillon Brooks, Semi Ojeleye, Markis McDuffie, Jonathan Williams
  • May 23: Isaiah Briscoe, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Justin Jackson, MiKyle McIntosh, Sebastian Saiz, Jonathan Motley
  • May 30Nate Britt, Scoochie Smith, Damyean Dotson, Antonius Cleveland, Caleb Swanigan, Austin Nichols
  • June 5Matt Jones, Jordan Matthews, Matt Thomas, P.J. Dozier, Justin Tuoyo, Kennedy Meeks
  • June 6Wesley Iwundu, Devin Robinson, J.J. Frazier, Quinton Hooker, Hassan Martin, Paul Watson
  • June 7Kasey Hill, Troy Caupain, Nigel Hayes, Kyle Kuzma, Ike Anigbogu, Jonathan Jeanne, Luke Fischer
  • June 13: Sindarius Thornwell, Seth Allen, Naz Mitrou-Long, Dwayne Bacon, Chance Comanche, Isaac Humphries

And here’s an updated look at the rankings from Chad Ford of ESPN, DraftExpress, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, and Joshua Riddell, plus Kevin Pelton‘s statistical rankings. If a player was not ranked by Ford, DX, or Riddell, they received a 105 (O’Connor’s rankings only go to 60). Pelton’s rankings were weighted less in the average, and some players did not have sufficient statistical data for him to give a ranking to. Each of these rankings were updated at some point this week except DX, who last updated theirs last week.

Rank Player Ford Express O’Connor Riddell Vecenie Pelton Average High Low
1 Markelle Fultz 1 1 1 1 1 4 1.3 1 1
2 Lonzo Ball 2 2 3 2 4 1 2.5 2 4
3 Jonathan Isaac 5 9 5 3 5 2 5.1 3 9
4 Jayson Tatum 4 4 2 4 2 28 5.5 2 4
5 Dennis Smith 7 7 7 5 6 6 6.4 5 7
6 Josh Jackson 3 3 6 6 3 34 6.9 3 6
7 De’Aaron Fox 6 5 4 7 7 38 8.7 4 7
8 Malik Monk 8 6 8 8 8 32 9.8 6 8
9 Lauri Markkanen 10 8 13 9 10 13 10.3 8 13
10 Frank Ntilikina 11 10 9 10 9 23 11.0 9 11
11 Zach Collins 9 17 14 12 11 5 11.9 9 17
12 Donovan Mitchell 14 11 10 11 13 25 13.0 10 14
13 OG Anunoby 13 14 11 14 18 7 13.4 11 18
14 John Collins 16 12 16 18 14 12 14.9 12 18
15 Luke Kennard 15 13 12 24 12 31 16.6 12 24
16 Jarrett Allen 20 18 18 16 21 35 20.1 16 21
17 Ike Anigbogu 17 15 23 36 25 22 23.1 15 36
18 Terrance Ferguson 23 24 25 27 20 23.8 20 27
19 Justin Patton 19 28 19 29 26 21 23.9 19 29
20 Jawun Evans 33 29 26 13 17 37 24.8 13 33
21 Harry Giles 12 26 32 26 23 42 25.5 12 32
22 Anzejs Pasecniks 24 21 15 33 33 33 25.9 15 33
23 D.J. Wilson 28 23 21 21 27 47 26.1 21 28
24 Bam Adebayo 18 34 22 23 22 50 26.2 18 34
25 Justin Jackson 26 16 31 20 15 78 26.7 15 31
26 Derrick White 36 25 27 22 16 43 26.8 16 36
27 Semi Ojeleye 38 20 20 25 19 71 28.6 19 38
28 Jordan Bell 31 35 24 15 24 69 29.7 15 35
29 Josh Hart 30 51 35 19 32 8 31.1 19 51
30 Tyler Lydon 29 22 50 39 29 17 32.3 22 50
31 Isaiah Hartenstein 32 19 43 38 30 32.4 19 43
32 Tony Bradley 21 40 30 42 43 9 32.8 21 43
33 Frank Jackson 27 33 34 32 40 39 33.7 27 40
34 T.J. Leaf 22 36 42 44 31 26 34.2 22 44
35 Caleb Swanigan 37 27 33 48 28 45 35.5 27 48
36 Jonah Bolden 25 44 17 34 51 68 37.3 17 51
37 Monte Morris 39 61 58 17 34 3 38.3 17 61
38 Mathias Lessort 48 32 40 35 37 40 38.5 32 48
39 Ivan Rabb 34 30 36 54 42 48 40.0 30 54
40 Sterling Brown 44 45 28 28 56 58 41.8 28 56
41 Alec Peters 35 31 59 52 49 16 42.5 31 59
42 Cameron Oliver 46 55 38 30 48 41 43.2 30 55
43 Thomas Bryant 49 37 45 57 41 18 43.3 37 57
44 Johnathan Motley 40 39 41 47 36 99 45.9 36 47
45 Frank Mason 41 41 51 49 35 83 47.0 35 51
46 Tyler Dorsey 42 47 44 61 39 52 47.1 39 61
47 Dillon Brooks 47 38 40 50 77 47.4 38 50
48 Kyle Kuzma 43 43<