So to clarify re: reports of Siakam being fined $50K for having words with Nick Nurse after loss to Cleveland on Sunday night
1. Siakam has NOT been fined. The team is looking into the occurence but has made no decisoin about what — if any — discipline will result
— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) March 23, 2021
Where does Powell make the most sense?
Honestly? Like, half the league. Eric said Knicks, Bulls and Warriors. The Bulls make less sense to me, so I’ll throw the Nuggets, Celtics and 76ers (if Lowry goes to Miami) in there, too.
What’s a reasonable return to hope for?
I think you’re looking for a player who will be in your plans for 2021-22 and a first-round pick. That might seem high, but there should be a lot of suitors, and the history of the deadline suggests someone such as Powell’s could command a real return, especially if there’s some bidding going on. If the Raptors take back bad salary in a Powell deal, you’d want the package sweetened. Otherwise, some near-term first-round pick and a useful player with years of control seems fair.
There were some rumblings of Powell to the Nets for Spencer Dinwiddie. Isn’t he injured?
He is, and he has a player option for next year he might pick up. Dinwiddie is good, but this kind of deal is about the Nets turning an injured player into one who can help them win a title this year. For that favour, you’re asking more than just Dinwiddie’s rights back. Nic Claxton is probably too big an ask, but that’d be my request if the Nets broached this.
The best intel I can offer is that anything is possible. The Raptors want to get better and will make choices driven by what steps they can take to enhance what they deem as their existing core in Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby, though rookie Malachi Flynn and late bloomer Chris Boucher are part of the equation. And there are those in the organization that still see considerable untapped potential in Terence Davis, whose second year has been less than ideal, on and off the court.
But that doesn’t mean they are desperate to get any kind of return for Lowry and Powell.
VanVleet just turned 27 and Siakam turns 27 next month; Boucher is 28; Anunoby, 23, is just entering his early prime. The Raptors aren’t looking to start from scratch. Far from it.
There is a universe in which the Raptors re-sign both Powell (who turns 28 in May) and Lowry (35 on Thursday) and go hunting for an impactful big who can fill the glaring void left by the departures of Ibaka and Gasol.
Building on what they have with players who have been with the organization and that love Toronto is hardly the worst option. And while re-upping with Lowry and Powell – along with $78 million on the books for VanVleet, Siakam, Anunoby, Flynn and Boucher – could easily push the Raptors near the luxury tax threshold when the rest of the roster is filled out. Money is not considered to be an issue, say insiders.
Starting from that point and figuring out how to improve while getting another couple of quality years from Lowry and Powell is a surer path to contending in the East than breaking the enterprise up and selling for parts of uncertain value.
And if there’s course correction required at some point after that? Lowry’s value isn’t going to fall off a cliff and Powell – presuming he continues shooting at the elite level he has the past two seasons – will always be movable and might be easier to trade while under contract without the uncertainty of free agency clouding the picture.
So not trading Lowry or Powell, or both, on Thursday isn’t out of the realm of possibility and might even be desirable, depending on what happens as the market firms up.
The key message here: the Raptors know they’re on a losing streak, they just aren’t making any decisions based off it.
All that said, Toronto hasn’t closed any doors.
As the losses have mounted, the usual suspects have circled back on Lowry with the likely destinations remaining the Philadelphia 76ers and the Miami Heat, who each view him as someone who could help them get over the top in a highly competitive Eastern Conference.
What Do the Raptors Get Back?
This is the great unknowable. Trade values are nearly impossible to predict and depend on so much more than the player. Personally, I think there is a robust enough market for both players that the Raptors could get a decent return for both — especially with Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster pulling the strings.. The question will be exactly what form that return comes in.
To begin with, the following are what I think are the best offers each of the six teams above can make for Lowry.
Philadelphia: Matisse Thybulle, Tyrese Maxey, Danny Green, Michael Scott, a 2023 1st round pick — for Lowry, Davis, Johnson
Miami: Tyler Herro, Precious Achiuwa, Andre Iguodala, Moe Harkless — for Lowry, Davis, Johnso
Clippers: Ivica Zubac, Terance Mann, Patrick Beverley, Marcus Morris, Lou Williams — for Lowry, Davis, Thomas, Johnson, Baynes
Lakers: After much searching, couldn’t find one. Sorry, not sorry, LeBron.
Dallas: Jalen Brunson, Josh Green, Tim Hardaway Jr, Willie Cauley-Stein, a 2027 1st round pick — for Lowry, Davis, Thomas
Denver: Michael Porter Jr., Gary Harris, Will Barton, a 2021 1st — for Lowry, Davis, Johnson
Philadelphia and Miami have trade exceptions available to help them take back a little depth considering all the pieces they need to cobble together to match Lowry’s salary. Philadelphia has a pick in there (they could send their 2021 as well, but the Raptors may ask for a later pick with more upside to it even if it gets lottery protected). Miami has no picks to trade. These two deals seem the most likely to me, with Philly the leader.
Hope of salvaging their tumultuous 2020-21 campaign is quickly fading, and with Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET NBA trade deadline on the horizon, management has some very big – and potentially very difficult – decisions to make.
Is it time to turn the page on this era, and its most iconic player, and chart a course for what comes next?
It’s a dilemma that’s magnified by the position they find themselves in just days before the deadline – sitting 11th in the Eastern Conference with a 17-26 record and riding a nine-game losing streak – but not one that’s likely to be swayed too heavily by it.
Truth is, team president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster never stopped planning for the future. From the moment left them for the Clippers in the summer of 2019, less than a month after leading them to a title, they’ve been trying to navigate it while also attempting to make the most of the present. It’s a fine line to walk – a balancing act they were able to pull off last season, when they finished with the league’s second-best record.
This year has thrown them just about every curveball imaginable, though. Some of it’s been out of their control, to be sure. The temporary relocation to Tampa has done them no favours and the mid-season COVID-19 outbreak derailed the progress they were making in digging themselves out of an early hole. Still, not pursuing and more aggressively last fall and replacing them with journeymen on short-term deals will go down as a rare misstep for this front office, especially after their presumed target in the 2021 free agent sweepstakes, reigning two-time MVP , signed an extension to stay in Milwaukee.
They still believe in the core. If the deadline was a month earlier, before COVID hit and brought the team to its knees, the likely plan would have been to add around it – upgrade the centre position and maybe bring in some veteran depth to help them make a push in an usually tight Eastern Conference playoff race.
Their view of this club and what it’s capable of at full strength hasn’t changed but the situation has. They’re only 2.5 games out of the 10th seed, which would give them a chance to squeeze into the post-season via the play-in tournament. However, with fewer than 30 games left and the team showing no signs of turning things around, they have to ask themselves if the opportunity cost is worth trying to salvage this season.
As of last week, the Raptors were still telling inquiring teams that they had no intention of moving Lowry ahead of the deadline, but plans can change quickly in the NBA – Ujiri and Lowry know that better than most.
It’s a big question, no doubt. But what is an even bigger question is what they do in the summer. It’s then that they will find out what kind of a franchise they intend to be. Are they a small-market team that has to scratch and claw to build a contending unit? Or can they take big swings to land superstars, splashing money and contracts out to rival the NBA’s marquee players?
For several years now, the league has trended in the direction of superstar clusters. At this particular moment in time, those clusters are centred in Los Angeles and Brooklyn, fuelling the belief in some circles that elite players are always going to end up in one of the few glamour markets, while the rest of the league will be fighting to keep their prized assets from leaving.
It’s a compelling theory. The summer of 2019 saw Kawhi Leonard and Paul George go to the Clippers, joining LeBron James and Anthony Davis in L.A., while Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving went to the New York borough. James Harden has since forced his way into joining them from Houston. That so many superstars have moved to the two biggest cities in the U.S., especially when several of them were under contract to smaller-market teams, does point to a trend.
But is it the cities themselves that are the attraction, or is more complicated than that? The Knicks have repeatedly lost free-agent derbies, and Brooklyn had been an NBA backwater for several years before KD and Kyrie decided to show up there. Chris Paul forced his way out of the Clippers not that long ago, and Leonard and George went there at least in part because Leonard did not want to join LeBron on the Lakers. Golden State was a small-market town until it won a title with homegrown stars, then suddenly it was big and flashy enough to lure Durant there for a spell. Milwaukee is the furthest thing from a glamour town, but it has, at least for now, managed to keep Giannis Antentokounmpo from fleeing at the first opportunity.
So where does Toronto fit in all this? It was, quite obviously, not a big NBA draw for a long time, as evidenced by all the stars who kept leaving. One of Masai Ujiri’s primary objectives was to change that perception, and while the team’s transformation under his stewardship has given the franchise a level of respect around the league it didn’t previously have, that’s not the same as making Toronto a place an untethered NBA star would decide to go. Since Leonard left after the championship run in 2019, much of the team’s building strategy has been geared toward the summer of 2021, when a pile of big-name NBA stars are expected to be on the market. It was to be the moment when the Raptors found out whether all they had done — routinely finishing near the top of the East, winning playoff rounds regularly, even landing a title — would be enough to give Toronto a chance in a bidding war with a big U.S. market.
The Raptors have coveted assets in Kyle Lowry and Norm Powell, each with attributes that contenders would want.
They have contracts that expire or can be voided after this season and their Bird rights — the ability of the team they play for at the end of the season to pay them more than any other team without regard to the salary cap — are key. Both are tremendous players, which is most important, and they would make good teams better.
Still, there seem to be no logical trades that work for them at the moment, either financially or in the return the Raptors receive.
But deadline weeks are weird. What seems impossible and unworkable on Tuesday afternoon can suddenly work out on Thursday morning. Ujiri and Webster will chat with their contemporaries incessantly.
What they must do, however, is disassociate the last 10 games from the next two years. Overreacting to what’s going on now is a dangerous route to take and it would be ill-advised for Ujiri or Webster to blink this week in the light of a losing streak.
Draft picks are nice but dealing either of those two players to legitimate title contenders will yield picks in the late 20s, and there’s never a ton of value there. Moving them for young players sounds great but the Raptors are already to committed to a young core of VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam. Why would they trade into any of those settled positions?
There has been chatter about Lowry going to Miami for a deal perhaps centred on 21-year-old guard Tyler Herro, or even 34-year-old Goran Dragic. Where do they fit in the grand scheme of this Toronto roster construct? Philadelphia and 20-year-old guard Tyrese Maxey? Does he fit the one glaring need in Toronto, which is a young big man? No, he doesn’t. Shooting guard Mattisse Thybulle, 24, would be a better option but finding the money fit seems difficult.
Ujiri and Webster might get something done because things get fluid and a bit more hectic in the hours before a deadline but does it really make sense to do something now when the pre-draft trade period widens the pool of transactional partners?
The funny thing is, it’s foolish to think this season is swirling the drain. There may not be legitimate championship aspirations in Toronto — and that’s a high bar that results in 29 disappointed teams at the end if it is the sole benchmark upon which a season’s success or failure is measured — but this current roster isn’t terrible.
The holes to which Nurse refers, of course, are personnel-related — above his pay grade, in other words. Toronto, as much as it had some modest success before the current losing streak drawing up small-ball lineups to mask its deficiencies in the paint, hasn’t recovered from the off-season departure of centres Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. Even if Chris Boucher has been better than fellow de facto replacement Aron Baynes, they’ve both been spotty at best. And the gaping chasm in what’s supposed to be the heft of the lineup has led to a long list of ills.
For Nurse, the lack of a defensive anchor — not to mention a nonfactor of a bench that plays the third-fewest minutes in the league — has clearly hampered his ability to out-game-plan his sideline counterparts. At his best, in his two previous seasons in Toronto, he was hailed as a nimble tactician known for injecting a dose of a novel defence at the right moment to turn a game. At this season’s worst moments, such curveballs have occasionally seemed beyond the basketball IQ of more than a couple of his current charges. Again, not his fault. Team president Masai Ujiri is responsible for the shortcomings of the roster. Whether or not he and his management team will be able to make the beginnings of an improvement in the lead-up to Thursday’s trade deadline — when the Raptors hold two of the most enticing chips in impending free agents Kyle Lowry and Norman Powell — is the question of the moment.
Still, to say Nurse hasn’t reacted well to the limitations of his arsenal would be an understatement. He has long established himself as one of the league’s most incessant sideline complainers, a perennial league leader in technical fouls who last week he was fined $50,000 (U.S.) for throwing his mask in frustration and berating officials. But if a winning coach can pass off the insufferable whining as savvy lobbying, a losing one risks looking as though he’s lost control. And so it has been with Nurse of late: The vaunted chessmaster has resembled the rec-room hothead who topples the checkerboard in petulant frustration. It hasn’t been a good look, especially since Nurse represents not just the franchise but the country as coach of Canada’s senior men’s national team.
If teams inevitably take on the personality of their coaches, maybe it’s not a surprise that a report surfaced Tuesday that insisted the Raptors fined Pascal Siakam $50,000 for a heated verbal exchange with Nurse in the wake of Saturday’s loss in Cleveland. That Siakam wouldn’t have been pleased with his deployment in that game isn’t surprising. Nurse played eight Raptors in the fourth quarter against the Cavaliers as the Raptors attempted an ill-fated comeback after falling behind by as many as 22 points. Siakam was not one of those players. Siakam sat the final 16:09 of the game after scoring just nine points on 4-for-12 shooting. It wasn’t the first time the max-salary forward had been similarly sidelined. He was benched for the entire fourth quarter of a loss to Miami last month. Given Siakam’s woeful year on the floor, in which he has wildly undershot his contract, it can’t be heartening to the organization that the previous attempt at a wake-up call didn’t work, or that Siakam reacted poorly to the latest bit of pine time.
Send me any Raptors related content that I may have missed (or just say, we all need a shoulder to cry on after 9 losses in a row): [email protected]