Feasibility of Pascal trade | No Tokyo, No core
That framework also doesn’t work under the salary cap. As a deep-tax team, the Warriors would have to send out at least $26.4 million in salary to take Siakam on. Wiseman makes $9.2 million and the No. 7 pick will earn $7.3 million. You’d also have to wait for a month after the pick is signed to use him as salary matching, otherwise he counts as nothing. That’s $16.5 million, leaving Golden State about $10 million short.
The obvious plug-in is Wiggins. That solves a few issues for the Warriors. The math works, for one, and they get out from the two years and $65.2 million still owed to Wiggins. In some frameworks, they could actually shed salary and their luxury tax obligation while upgrading from Wiggins to Siakam. The other option would be to sign-and-trade Kelly Oubre Jr. back to Toronto. That would hard-cap the Raptors and Oubre figures to want good money to play ball on such a deal, but he’s only 25 and, depending on the price, could be a more moveable asset than Wiggins down the line.
The complication here, though, is that Wiggins or Oubre don’t really add to Toronto’s accounting of the deal. I don’t mean that they’re not useful pieces. Wiggins, at 26, has improved a lot, becoming more accepting of high-end role player status without losing too much of the verve that made him such a great prospect. He has not, however, improved enough to be worth his contract. On that deal, he’s what we’d call a negative asset, to where you’d be asking for additional return to eat the money owed to him. Oubre probably threads the needle better as a neutral-value asset in sign-and-trade, but that’s more complicated, and Toronto might prefer whatever framework is most asset-rich in the long run.
If we view Wiggins as a negative asset or Oubre as a neutral one the Raptors aren’t particularly enthused about, then they probably tell Golden State they need more back.
A Wiggins-Wiseman-No. 7 for Siakam deal works if the pick is traded before he’s signed, and it would cut about $15 million from the Warriors’ projected salary sheet (minus whatever they pay to fill those spots). In a larger deal, perhaps sending Chris Boucher back as a second rotation-calibre piece to help the math work and sweeten the deal more, Golden State still saves money (and tax), but we stray further from what the Raptors would consider fair.
The No. 14 pick is an interesting piece to drop into the discussion. If it meant Siakam and Boucher and getting out of the Wiggins money, would the Warriors include No. 14 with No. 7, Wiseman and Wiggins? (Maybe the Raptors give back one of their seconds; having five picks in one draft could be complicated, developmentally.)
You can see quickly how an idea that makes sense for one side — Wiseman and No. 7 for Siakam — gets significantly more complicated when the cap element and the other team’s willingness to engage are considered.
The Canadians had the most talented roster in the competition, but there were two glaring weaknesses and both came to hurt them in their loss on Saturday. Canada lacked size and reliable shooting, and while their wing talent was overwhelming in most games, they couldn’t cover for both weaknesses at once.
The lack of size was always concerning. Dwight Powell was excellent in Canada’s two group stage wins, but even against Greece and China there were moments where his hustle couldn’t cover for what he lacked in size.
But the real issue was depth. Powell could at least hold his own, but none of the reserves were any good, and that cost them in this game. Powell landed in foul trouble and Nurse couldn’t find anyone to plug the gap. Lyles is a power forward who contributes little on defense, and he was also 1-for-7 from the field. Andrew Nicholson fits a similar profile, and while he was a plus offensively, he gave it all back with his inability to move on defense.
Or put it this way: Canada’s frontcourt was single-handedly outdone by Ondrej Balvin, who had 14 points and 19 rebounds. Balvin grabbed as many boards as four centers combined did for Canada, and the only time he was stopped was when Lyles accidentally elbowed him in the head.
The other weakness on this team was outside shooting. It wasn’t a problem against Greece and China, but there was always a lingering fear that Canada might get cold at the worst time since they lacked consistent perimeter threats. Wiggins and Alexander-Walker were their best shooters, and even they are streaky at best. Canada was 4-for-23 from deep at one point, while Czech Republic hit at a 46 percent clip. The three-pointer is the great equalizer and it’s especially dangerous in a one-off game.
Tempers were running hot. Barrett — who was fantastic from start to finish in the semifinal and was probably Canada’s best player in the entire Olympic Qualifying Tournament — chased the refereeing crew down the tunnel after the horn, clearly in a borderline rage, finger-wagging.
And later, on his Twitter account, the 21-year-old clapped back at critics.
He was measured in his response, but the message was clear: ‘just watch me; I’m gonna stuff those words down your damn throat.’
And if you love Canadian basketball and you want to see the men’s program earn a place on the international stage commensurate with the talent the country clearly has in spades, you just had to love it.
Because the only thing that will allow Canada to break through internationally is exactly that: a pride in the jersey and a blood-in-mouth passion to prove those that don’t believe wrong.
Because Canada has players. Everyone knows it. Czech star Tomas Satoransky wasn’t blowing smoke when he said before the event started that — on paper — Canada was probably the second-best team in the world.
What it needs if they are going to make the Olympics in 2024 and beyond is for the most important players in the program to find a way to make Canada’s performance internationally as high on their agendas as the rest of their professional obligations or — at least — have the national team in view when planning how to meet those obligations.
They need to commit to playing at the World Cup and some of the qualifying window in advance of the World Cup in order to gain the mileage necessary to be road worthy in make-or-break games like those that took place in Victoria this weekend.
Because the margins in international basketball are much smaller than most realize. Team USA overwhelms with its NBA talent, but even with a well-stocked roster of all-stars or near all-stars at the World Cup in China in 2019, they finished seventh.
It would be simpler to digest if it were only luck, though. If you looked at the totality of the 45 minutes as a neutral observer, it would be impossible to say the wrong team won based on the implementation and execution of their respective game plans. For most of the game, the Czechs, a decidedly less talented team than Canada, controlled proceedings. While the Czechs had several players join the team only days before arriving in Victoria, giving them little more functional preparation for this particular tournament time than Canada, they did have nine members back from the team that competed at the 2019 World Cup in China. Canada had one, Cory Joseph, who played just 18 minutes on Saturday as Alexander-Walker’s scoring was needed more than the Canadian captain’s quarterbacking.
The Czech Republic had an obvious plan to work through Balvin — Canada’s tallest players gave up four inches to him — and it produced mismatches down low, yielding high-percentage shots for him, or open passes to Czech guards. Balvin had 14 points, 19 rebounds, four assists and five blocks. The Czechs also were better able to implement a few defensive strategies: getting back in transition at all costs, and keeping RJ Barrett away from his left hand. Canada had 14 fast break points, but it did not feel like it at all. Barrett was game, with 23 points and six rebounds, but they were tough ones. As Canada tried to puncture a lead that seemed to bounce between six and 12 points for most of the game, there was not the same commitment to a plan that the Czechs were showing.
“I kind of wish we would have been able to execute a little more down at the offensive end,” Nurse said, mostly speaking of the performance in the first half. “I thought they kind of baited us into some semi-contested shots early in the offence and we just couldn’t continue to oblige them with that. We just needed more actions and more paint and rim attacks and things like that.”
That has become the rub with this team. Yes, in any given tournament, Canada should have a more talented team just because of its depth. Even without players because of injury (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jamal Murray, Chris Boucher) and uncertain contractual status (Kelly Olynyk, Khem Birch, both of whom would have made a difference against Balvin), Canada had the best roster in Victoria. What we are learning, quadrennial by quadrennial, is the talent gap isn’t so wide that it can necessarily overcome a lack of reps, especially in a single-elimination tournament.
Canada played three games, 125 minutes in total, of basketball in this tournament. That doesn’t count training camp or practice time, but you start to wonder whether Canada can ever gain enough of that precious experience to fortify the talent base. The flip side of the talent means that making players consistently available becomes more difficult than for many of their competitors. There is so much money at stake, and if an injury or contract situation jeopardizes that, many players and their NBA team are going to play it safe.
It’s understandable, but it doesn’t make it easier to take, nor does a solution seem apparent.
That’s the reality in these tournaments, where talent only gets you so far. There’s very little room for error in a winner-take-all format. Turkey, the favourite on the opposite side of the bracket, was upset by Greece in the other semi-final later on Saturday.
The FIBA game is different than the NBA. The rules are different. The style of play is different. It’s officiated differently. The teams that tend to find success are the ones that have the most reps, teams that have had a chance to build chemistry over many years together and acquire that valuable FIBA know-how. More often than not, those intangibles offset quickness or athleticism.
That’s been Canada Basketball’s challenge, and will continue to be a challenge as they look ahead to future qualifying windows and turn their attention to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
It’s a catch-22. You want your best players to compete at each event, and to the program’s credit they secured commitments from most of their best players prior to the pandemic, which pushed this tournament back a full year. The problem with relying on NBA players to fill out your roster is there are always going to be legitimate reasons why some of them can’t play.
There are always going to be injuries, like the ones that kept Jamal Murray or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander from being available. There are always going to be guys in between contracts, like Kelly Olynyk and Khem Birch were this summer. Even in a best-case scenario, where you’re getting good turnouts – like they did in Victoria – it still means you’re working with a different group for each qualifying window.
On top of that, you’re working around the busy schedules of your NBA players. This year that meant a very short training camp, which some guys were permitted to join in progress, and no tune-up games ahead of the tournament. It’s tough to build chemistry or establish an identity as a program that way. When you have the amount of elite, high-end talent that the United States has, you can overcome those inherent disadvantages. For all of its promising young talent, Canada still hasn’t been able to do that.
“We’re going to always have turnover, I think,” said Nurse, who isn’t committed to coach Canada beyond this summer. “The injuries and the contract situations always play a part in that, but we’ve got to have some group sticking together, a core group, I think is probably the important thing.”
The future of the sport in this country remains bright. The women have already qualified for Tokyo, where they’ll have a real shot at medalling. Outside of the United States, Canada has produced more NBA players than any other country for seven straight years, with more young talent coming up behind them. However, it’s yet to translate to success for the senior men’s program, and you can understand why some people are getting impatient.
“I’m very disappointed,” Joseph said. “Of course, who wouldn’t be? I think the whole country is disappointed.”
There seems to be one simple way to end an Olympic drought that will reach almost a quarter of a century before the 2024 Paris Games. If they can qualify for the World Cup — seven FIBA Americas teams qualify, and Canada not being among the top seven is incomprehensible — and then finish in the top eight, they will automatically qualify for Paris.
It’s been proven that the last-gasp process, with its inherent pressure and the time commitment it adds to a summer, hasn’t worked for Canada. Making players understand that needs to be Canada Basketball’s most pressing job.
“It’s a relatively new system, too, so that means everybody’s learning about how important things are and how we actually qualify. How do we avoid the next Olympic qualifying tournament, so we can get in there and start planning and know what’s going to happen,” Grunwald said.
Another question concerns Nurse and the senior management now that this season has ended prematurely.
Nurse is not contractually bound to Canada after this summer, and given the qualification timing for the 2023 FIBA World Cup there’s a chance he won’t be able to coach Canada before that because of his Raptors commitments. It is a discussion for the fall.
“I think you know me well enough that I love coaching, and I love coaching this team and Toronto, and I’m just trying to help basketball grow, right?” Nurse said. “We’ll debrief it all. I just want this team to be as good as it can possibly be and we’ll talk about that coming up.”
Grunwald said there have already been preliminary discussions with Nurse, and coaching continuity certainly is important. But even at the FIBA level it’s a players’ game, and getting more good players to represent the country remains an elusive goal for Canada.
It’s better than it has been. It just wasn’t good enough this year.
It was far from a perfect game by the Canadian side. In totality they were outplayed by a more seasoned, more meshed team in the Czech Republic. But again, that is sport. Some days, it’s just not your day.
Across the country people are lamenting the what could have been.
What if all who could have represented us at the FIBA Olympic qualifier in Victoria had said yes is a common refrain.
The thing about that is just about all of them did and the bulk of those that didn’t had very good reasons.
Canada had eight NBA players answer the call. Three others — Shai Gigeous-Alexander, Jamal Murray, and Chris Boucher — had the opportunity to say yes taken from them by injury.
Two others — Kelly Olynyk and Khem Birch — went into the off-season free agents meaning they aren’t under contract to anyone and unprotected (unless they went out and bought their own insurance) should anything happen to them.
It’s easy to sit back and say they should all play for their country but the aforementioned are all very legimate and logical reasons for not being there.
That’s 13 NBA players born in Canada who either said yes or wanted to say yes, but were prevented by their circumstances.
To begin the 20-21 NBA season, there were a total of 17 Canadians on opening night rosters. So the vast majority were in or wanted to be in.
Canadian head coach Nick Nurse suggested in the aftermath of Saturday’s loss that the country needs a core of consistent commitments from the Canadian NBA family so they can build some sort of lasting chemistry that doesn’t need to be developed every three or four years when the program comes calling.
Nurse talked glowingly about the buy-in leading up to this actual training camp he oversaw in Tampa last month.
He spoke of conference calls between the potential players where all but one or two were on the call.
The point is there is a level of commitment from this young core of Canadians in the NBA like never before.