Nurse welcoming new wings to the program | Siakam gon’ get paid | Oshae on tap | Terrence Davis is my new favourite Raptor
Marc Gasol on uncertainty of his contract status: “I’m always going to be a teammate and I’m always going to be an asset. You control what you can control.”#basketballlifeadvice
— (((Eric Koreen))) (@ekoreen) October 16, 2019
Unprompted, Lowry predicted that VanVleet is going to take a "big jump" this year. After taking him under his wing a few years ago, Kyle said it's been cool seeing Fred do the same for young guys like Terence Davis. "It's called paying it forward. It's awesome."
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) October 15, 2019
There are 8 players Nurse frequently brings up as locks for the rotation (/potential starters): Lowry, FVV, Norm, OG, Siakam, Ibaka, Gasol, McCaw – all holdovers, champions and guys that know what he expects. It's clear those are the guys he trusts, at least early in the season.
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) October 16, 2019
I asked Nick Nurse about how the new guys are fitting in, namely Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. This was not exactly a ringing endorsement: pic.twitter.com/GqAsHTCISc
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) October 16, 2019
The Raptors had Davis ranked inside of their top 35 internally — coincidentally right next to Dewan Hernandez, Davis’ roommate from the G League Elite Mini Camp. The Raptors opted to draft Hernandez, but immediately had discussions about the potential to sign Davis.
Once Davis landed with the Nuggets and turned heads in his Summer League debut, there was little debate about whether to move quickly and get a deal done.
“We liked what we had seen with him throughout all of the different stops through the pre-draft process,” Raptors assistant general manager Dan Tolzman said.”We had scouted him for four years before, and then you kind of start to see him in a different light when you see him in a different situation.”
Davis had other opportunities available to him. The Nuggets, Warriors and Celtics, among others, had strong interest. The Raptors, though, had a few things in their favour, not the least of which was immediacy — the offer was on the table and they were willing to guarantee the first year entirely.
Davis’ camp looked at VanVleet’s example once again, considering the two-year deal he signed as an undrafted free agent that allowed him to hit free agency again quickly and become one of the highest-paid players in his draft class ahead of schedule. That full guarantee was the only one given out to a Summer League free agent this year.
Host William Lou is joined by Katie Heindl to break down the latest news and notes with the Toronto Raptors.
- Pascal Siakam nearing extension with Raptors
- Acquiring Buddy Hield
- Nick Nurse tears into newcomers Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson
- Most interesting Raptors next season
- Twitter questions
It’s certainly not a ringing endorsement of two players coming in with low expectations, but from the view of their own lens, the sacrifice that Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson are being asked to make isn’t quite as straightforward as the veterans a year ago. Those veterans had accomplished plenty individually, while these two are still trying to carve out a niche for themselves in terms of what they bring to the table for any NBA team that’s watching.
Johnson gave a knowing smile on Media Day when asked about which aspect of his game the Raptors would like him to most develop, and it’s not rocket science to understand Hollis-Jefferson faces the same challenge. That their headspace seems a little bit more occupied with showing that they can add something offensively isn’t too much of a surprise. Neither has played for a franchise that knows NBA championship-level basketball, either. That’s going to take some time.
“I think that extra two months is huge,” Nurse said in reference to what playing in May and June did for the team. “It’s because of such a high level you have to concentrate at, play at, film work, walk-throughs. All that stuff is such a high level, it’s really a benefit to be able to play those two months.”
The speed with which a new lineup of Lowry-OG Anunoby-Pascal Siakam-Ibaka-Gasol is grasping where they need to be and how they can better each other highlights the value of those two months. Nurse described a sideline out-of-bounds play run four different times with four players swapping positions. Gasol was communicating with Ibaka about when they should switch and one plays the 4 (power forward) and the other the 5 (center). There was Anunoby and Siakam sharing their thoughts on when one of them is better-suited to be the inbounder. This is the level of attention to detail you learn on a championship run, the subtle changes that can render scouting reports useless.
Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson don’t have the benefit of those two months, but they’d do well to take from those that do. Gasol emphasized the importance of staying in the moment last year, and later spoke of focusing on what he can control and ignoring the things he can’t with regard to his own contract situation. If Nurse has implored them to play with more focus on the defensive end and that that’s their point of entry into playing time, that’s what they’ve got to find a way to do. Chemistry comes with time, but they can’t build that magical C-word if they’re not out on the floor.
Through three exhibition games, Johnson’s played 12.4 minutes per contest (ranked 14th of the 20 players on Toronto’s training camp roster) and is shooting 1-for-10. Hollis-Jefferson is averaging 12.0 minutes (16th) and has committed six turnovers, fourth-most on the team.
There’s always a learning curve when players join a new team, particularly for guys like Johnson or Hollis-Jefferson, who have spent either all or most of their NBA careers with one organization. However, as league veterans – both forwards are going into their fifth season – the expectation is that they should be further along, which explains Nurse’s frustration.
Johnson was drafted eighth-overall by Detroit in 2015 and spent his first three and a half seasons with the Pistons before being traded to New Orleans last February. Hollis-Jefferson, his college teammate at the University of Arizona, went 24th in that same draft and has only played for Brooklyn.
Neither has lived up to early expectations and both come off of their rookie contracts looking to re-establish themselves on smaller, short-term deals. Their jump shots and offensive games haven’t developed the way their former teams had hoped, but their age (Johnson is 23, Hollis-Jefferson is 24), upside and defensive profile appealed to Toronto, who had limited resources with which to replace Leonard and Green over the summer.
For the Raptors, the commitments were low-risk. They signed Hollis-Jefferson to a one-year, $2.5 million contract and Johnson to a slightly pricier 2-year, $7.5 million deal, with a player option in the second season.
Both contracts are fully guaranteed for this season, which generally means those players are a lock to make the team. However, because the Raptors aren’t likely to reach the luxury tax threshold this year, they have enough wiggle room to waive a guaranteed contract and take the cap hit if they feel like somebody else is more deserving of that spot. That seems unlikely, given they still have three open roster spots to fill.
That said, Nurse has put Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson, as well as the rest of his team, on notice here: defend and play hard or open the season on the bench.
There’s every chance that one or both of Hollis-Jefferson and Johnson will get it over the last week of the pre-season and jump up to take the roles that are there for them. Or someone like rookie Terence Davis, third-year centre Chris Boucher or newcomer Matt Thomas will buy into what Nurse is demanding.
But to this point — and there’s only one pre-season game and, maybe, four practices left before stuff starts for real, no one has emerged.
It’s not rocket science, either.
“I think that a lot of it comes down to role. If you come in with offence occupying (your mind), that’s how you think you’re going to get on the floor, you’re going to not play defence very well.
“You’re just trying to flip the mindset around a little bit. There’s some flashes of it, but not enough consistency and I don’t know who those guys are going to be yet.”
The contrast for Nurse, and it confounds him, is that the team’s top seven players — Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Norm Powell – know full well what a great defensive team can accomplish.
There will certainly be blips in the course of a long season and stretches where intense concentration lapses a bit, but the core of the championship team knows what works.
“I think we know who we are,” Nurse said. “I think the best thing that we learned last year was that if we’re really good defensively, it can take us a long ways. And I think our guys understand that.
“Nope, nope, nope,” Nurse said for emphasis. “Those guys have not understood, A) how hard we play, B) our schemes, that defence is a priority for them, etc.
“We’ve got some work to do with all that crew. I tell them, come Tuesday night, there’s a couple spots that are open if somebody wants them. I keep telling you, show me you’re going to play defence, show me you’re going to play hard, show me you understand our coverages, show me. And then, whatever you do at the other end, you’re going to get opportunities just because of who you’re on the floor with. And they’ll come to you.”
But clearly the newcomers have not been showing any of that to Nurse.
“You don’t have to come down and occupy 95 per cent of your mind with how you’re going to break down (the opposing defence) and get your next shot,” Nurse said. “It’s not going to get you on the floor right now. We’ve got some work to do. We’ve got to find who’s going to blend in quickly, defensively, with this crew.”
Again, Nurse didn’t name names, but the original question included Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s name and the obvious other newcomer in that group would be Stanley Johnson, who, even dating back to training camp in Quebec City, has been talking more about his offensive fit than the defensive responsibilities the team would like him to prioritize.
The questions are only of terms and timing. Siakam’s representatives have been consistent in their view that their client deserves a ‘max’ extension — either four years at 25 per cent of the salary cap or, if the Raptors make him a ‘designated player,’ five years at 25 per cent. While the exact figures depend on the 2020-21 salary cap, the deals are projected to be worth either $130 million (over four years) or $168 million (over five years).
From Siakam’s camp, the term is less of a sticking point than the value. They are believed to be open to either four or five years, as long as they are for the maximum allowed per year.
From the Raptors’ point of view, there could be some advantage in sticking to four years. If they give Siakam five years as their designated player and he makes an All-NBA team in 2019-20 Siakam’s deal would become a ‘supermax’ and eat up 30 per cent of the team salary cap (with five-per-cent annual raises) carrying a five-year value of about $191 million. Not cheap, although if Siakam reaches All-NBA levels it might be a good problem to have.
But why wouldn’t Siakam push for the max?
Not only did Siakam lead the non-Kawhi Raptors in points, rebounds and free throws made in the regular season, he was one of the most statistically robust players in the NBA with a True Shooting percentage (which captures two-point shots, three-point shots and free throws attempted and made) of 62.5 — sixth-best among players with at least 800 shot attempts.
Coming off his 2019 Most Improved Player award, Siakam is set to make a mere $2.35 million this coming year, owing to his entrance into the league as the 27th pick in the 2016 Draft. An auspicious beginning, sure, but one that saw the 6’9” Cameroonian forward rise from the G League (where he helped the 905 win a title) to become a mainstay of the Raptors rotation, first as the member of the lovable Bench Broskis and then as one of the pillars on their 2019 NBA championship team. Now Siakam stands to become Toronto’s go-to guy in 2019-20 and, hopefully, beyond. That’s quite a journey.
Which, of course, means it’s now time for Siakam’s payday. As Haynes goes on to suggest, the only way this deal gets done is if the Raptors offer their new number one option a maximum contract. For reference, as Haynes points out, the only other players from the 2016 Draft class who qualified for such signings were Ben Simmons and Jamal Murray, both of whom have already received five-year, $170 million deals. Those two examples are instructive as both represent Designated Player five-year max deals that technically speaking Siakam could qualify for — though it feels unlikely the Raptors would go that route now. There are additional wrinkles to consider here, but let’s deal in the most possible outcome.
So then, what would a Siakam extension look like? According to the math of the Atheletic’s Blake Murphy, he’s due for something in the order of $130 million over four years — a deal that would start him at $29 million for its first year. If the Raptors are serious about keeping Siakam, and he wants to stay, and Haynes’ information on this is right, don’t be surprised to hear numbers like those bandied around by Monday.
As the new centerpiece of the organization, Siakam is poised for another breakout year that should include a hefty raise.
The other extension candidates aren’t so clear.
Sharpshooter Buddy Hield — the sixth pick in 2016 — and the Sacramento Kings appear to be operating under a more strenuous discourse.
The 6-foot-4 guard, who scored a career-high 20.7 points per game last season while shooting 42.7 percent from beyond the arc, recently expressed a level of frustration with how negotiations are going.
“As a player, you want to have that trust that the franchise has your back, and we’re just waiting for them to make a move and come to an agreement,” Hield told the Sacramento Bee last week. “They’re talking, but nothing is moving yet. Nothing has moved. I’m ready to make things happen, man. I want to make Sacramento my home. I’m ready to get this s— done. I want to be here and if it doesn’t happen, then things can go the other way.”
They got Kyle’s signature on a contract, which is a good thing and it gave us a relatively painless off-day story; and now the thing hanging in the air is a deal for Pascal Siakam.
We all know they want him, there’s never been any indication he’d explore other opportunities — and who knows which legitimate high-paying ones will exist next summer anyway — but Monday’s the deadline to get something done.
Of course, Bobby Webster got asked about it when he did a rare scrum with the ink-stained wretches yesterday and here’s the transcript.
“We’re talking. I think there’s a deadline next Monday and we’re hopeful. We’re talking.”
Great. On behalf of all the beat grunts that should have started grinding out preview stuff yesterday, not having something as substantial as a Siakam extension dangling out there would be nice.
I don’t get a feeling either way on whether they’ll get it done.
Makes sense for the Raptors to wait until July for various cap and cap hold rules; I imagine Pascal and his people would rather get it locked in now for peace of mind.
I presume there’s a middle ground to be reached — maybe Siakam takes slightly less than the total max to sign for five years before Monday — and I hope it’s reached like today.
I also hope it’s not reached at some ridiculous hour in the morning like the DeRozan trade, the Kawhi departure and the new Lowry deal.
Some of us need our rest.
Still, Lowry will be Lowry, sense of belligerence and all. He will continue to be the king of the court in Toronto, even with the rise of Siakam and VanVleet. and be in complete control of who is doing what while in the flow of a game. He’ll also no doubt bust some chops in the process.
What’s more, Lowry enters this season as a champion, and has locked his place and status in Toronto for the next two seasons for sure (to say nothing of his legacy beyond that). That’s a comfort for him, and for the broader mood around the team. At this point, everyone knows what Lowry is and what he brings to the team — and that’s enough.
In short, Kyle Lowry over everything.
Toronto Raptors: Who cares? Keep basking in the afterglow of raising a championship banner because Board Man is gone and the hangover will be real.
The Raptors had been tracking Brissett dating back to the 2017 BioSteel All-Canadian Game, if not further, and weren’t turned off by his two somewhat underwhelming seasons at Syracuse. The Syracuse system can be difficult to extrapolate individual performance from thanks in part to its zone-heavy defence, and Brissett was one of 11 players to earn an invite to the NBA Draft Combine after a strong performance at the G League Elite Camp. A strong workout in Toronto allowed him to show off more ball skills than was advertised and he aced his interviews; it put him in the discussion for the Raptors at No. 59 in the 2019 draft.
The Raptors ultimately went with Dewan Hernandez, but when Brissett was still available following Summer League, they were intrigued.
“He’s got great size, athleticism, and a lot of markers that you’re looking for in big NBA wings,” said Raptors assistant general manager Dan Tolzman. “He showed enough interesting traits to where there might be something more than what he was able to show at Syracuse, for whatever reason, whether it was fit or style of play or whatever. It’s just something where some guys, you get them out of a different situation and put them in an NBA system with spacing, you look at guys through a little bit different of a lens. What can you pull out of ’em?”
The connection between player and team would only strengthen as the summer wore on. Shortly after the NBA championship, Nurse agreed to coach the Canadian senior men’s team and Brissett earned an invite to training camp. Initially considered a long shot, Brissett took quick advantage of the opportunity created by the absence of several key players.
It was during his time with Team Canada when Brissett’s summer really began to gain momentum. And while a minor knee injury would limit his participation with Canada to exhibition games only – he returned to Toronto instead of travelling to China for the World Cup – by then he had already left a mark with the Raptors’ staff.
“I think he’s got a great approach to the game,” said Jon Goodwillie, an assistant coach with the Raptors and Canada Basketball. “He really enjoys playing both sides of the ball and you can see that in his approach. He seems to enjoy the defensive side of the ball and he brings great length, rebounding, and shot-making as well. He’s got a good size and he brings a good level of activity and a good, positive approach to the game. And with Canada, he showed he can be a really good wing rebounder.”
The Raptors have started cutting the fat ahead of next week’s Ring Night / season-opener. Per a tweet from the team’s media relations crew, Toronto has waived big man Sagaba Konate, leaving 19 players left in camp.
Konate latched on with the Raptors after going undrafted out of West Virginia, and only got into five minutes of preseason action with the team — a four-point, one-rebound outing that pseudo-NBA game against the Bulls on Sunday.
Konate was in camp on an Exhibit-10 deal, which guarantees a player a little bit of money (between $5,000 and $50,000) if they’re waived and they report to / play for the G-League affiliate, much like Kennedy Meeks was a couple years back. The 905 would appear to be Konate’s next destination.
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