Morning Coffee – Mon, Jul 12

14 mins read
Cover Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

NBA Draft Prospects: Josh Primo, Dalano Banton and five other Canadians on the radar – The Athletic

Chris Duarte, Oregon (senior), 6-foot-6, 190 lbs., 6-foot-7 wingspan, 24 years old
Vecenie board: 12, Vecenie mock: 22, Composite board: 22

Strengths: One of the most NBA-ready games in the draft, plus-shooter with solid handle and secondary playmaking, smart cutter, strong reviews for character and maturity.

Concerns: May be a pure floor play at 24, lacks elite burst or first step, hard to project additional size/strength this late on the development curve.

Raptors fit: Could contribute immediately with length, defence and shooting and the team hasn’t shied from trying to develop older prospects.

Duarte definitely doesn’t sneak in here as a Raptors target classification. Sure, if he slid to 46, he’s the type of help-now wing that the Raptors would be all over. Realistically, he’s one of 15-20 players in the weird fringe zone assistant general manager Dan Tolzman mentioned recently — he’s definitely not in the mix at No. 4 and he won’t be there by the time the next pick rolls around.

He’s also a weird inclusion in the Canadian pool because of some inconsistent reporting about his early years. Duarte was raised in the Dominican Republic — where he played baseball until finding basketball at 13 — and has been a part of their national program. He’s been reported as born in Montreal, but he’s clarified that while his dad has Montreal roots, Duarte himself has only visited once. You know how this goes, though. If he’s even a little Canadian, Canadian fans will include him in the tally.

Anyway, we won’t spend too much time here for those reasons and because a lot’s been written about him already. Sam Vecenie said Duarte’s “skill set is just perfect for an NBA role player,” and John Hollinger had him at No. 19 on his board in part because he’s believed to be rotation ready from the jump.

Business as usual for Masai Ujiri an encouraging sign for Raptors –

And while the clock hasn’t flipped ahead to the 2021-22 season yet, the reality is that Ujiri is a free agent now, free to talk with other teams as he sees fit.

To what extent he has, no one knows, or those that do aren’t saying.

But given the quality of the opportunity in Toronto, Ujiri’s ties to the city and the reality that MLSE has always been prepared to make him the highest-paid executive in the NBA, if not all of sports, the likelihood of Ujiri moving on at this stage is unlikely.

As well, while the possibility of connecting with an expansion franchise and taking on an ownership stake is something that would be intriguing, the reality is the league isn’t ready to add teams at the moment.

Everyone believes it’s on the horizon, no one knows when.

Once again, Ujiri remaining in Toronto is the most likely scenario.

“It’s moving slowly, but it’s moving,” said one source of Ujiri’s talks with MLSE.

So what is the hold up?

Those familiar with the Raptors executive’s process say it’s mainly just Ujiri being Ujiri.

In the same way he’s been methodical and forward-thinking in most of the personnel decisions on the basketball side, he’s leaving no stone unturned on his own deal.

With the 2019 championship banner hanging forever at Scotiabank Arena and with MLSE coming out of a season in which they couldn’t sell a ticket on the hockey or basketball side, Ujiri wants assurances the team will spend to win in the short and long term — that complacency isn’t at hand.

Similarly, he feels after nine years of nearly uninterrupted success he has earned the trust and latitude to make decisions on spending and hiring as he sees fit.

It’s not that ownership doesn’t see it in the same way – “They love him, and they believe in him … he’s won them a championship and they believe he’s going to win them some more,” was how one source close to MLSE put it to me back in May – but a deal as big as Ujiri’s likely will end up being can have ripple effects in an organization that owns two other professional teams and is owned by a pair of publicly traded companies.

They can’t just be seen as randomly giving money or control away.

But the expectation is that Ujiri will get the deal he wants and deserves, sooner than later.

“The richest deal for a president/general manager in team sports history,” said one source.

In the meantime, Ujiri’s doing his job, the same as he ever has, which may be the most telling and encouraging sign of all for Raptors fans.

Scouting reports on next wave of Canadian NBA prospects after winning bronze at FIBA U19 World Cup – The Athletic

The best and worst of Canada’s U19 World Cup team was on display in Sunday’s third-place game against Serbia in Latvia.

After a spirited 92-86 loss to the U.S. a day earlier, Canada made it clear that they felt they didn’t belong in this spot for the tournament’s final game. The luck of the draw with FIBA’s pot system put Canada and the U.S. on the same side of the knockout stage bracket and, to hear big man Zach Edey tell it, Canada felt their semifinal with the Americans was the true gold-medal game.

“We felt they were the only team that could challenge us really,” Edey said. “We’re coming tomorrow with that mindset: just to dominate and make sure that we get our country’s second medal in this event.”

Canada looked the part early against a solid Serbian team. The lead reached 15 points early in the second quarter, with Canada’s speed and ball pressure looking superior to Serbia’s more savvy, half-court advantages. Even Nikola Jovic, Serbia’s standout and leader, lost his composure for a stretch.

But the same issue that plagued Canada earlier in the tournament, and particularly against the U.S., reared its head. As Serbia slowly, then rapidly erased the deficit and pulled ahead thanks to a 20-0 run, the Canadians had no answer and no coherent plan to score when their transition game dried up. An extended, game-changing run without a timeout looks a certain way, but if there’s no offensive system to teach in that timeout, is there really that much value in it? (Yes, there is.) The hubris of looking past the challenge of Serbia was on full display.

It took some time in the second half, but Canada eventually remembered what had held them close with the U.S. in the first place: Ball pressure and transition play. Canada shifted to an aggressive zone that, while leaving some gaps for dump-offs, mostly served to frustrate and kickstart a higher-paced Canadian attack. Caleb Houstan and Ben Mathurin — two of Canada’s best prospects, both of whom had up-and-down offensive tournaments — found their footing as a long defensive duo and they smartened up their halfcourt play. Mathurin then went in full takeover mode, breaking his usual steely, unemotional demeanour with a shimmy for the camera as Canada pulled away again, this time for good.

Led by Mathurin’s 31 points, Canada held on for a 101-92 victory. It marks Canada’s second-ever medal in the men’s FIBA U19 World Cup, coming on the tails of 2017’s gold (with an upset of the U.S. in the semis). The eighth-place finish in 2019 looks far in the rearview mirror now, and except for a Victor Wembanyama-led France, Edey’s comments that Canada felt they were the tournament’s No. 2 or even No. 1-B look legitimate. It wasn’t smooth or decisive, but a bronze medal with their lone loss coming to the U.S. should keep Canada in the No. 2 FIBA world ranking for this age group.

What follows are some scouting notes on the Canadians who participated.

What it’s like on the road and a bit on what’s ahead for the Raptors in Ye Olde Mailbag | The Star

Q: Hey Doug:
Welcome back to the Hazelville megapolis. Anymore work travel on your horizon?
Some questions about Jalen Harris. Being banned from the NBA for at least a year, is he still able to get help from the Raptors, the league and/or the players’ organization to get things sorted out so he can come back, or is he completely on his own? Will the Raptors still retain his rights if/when he does come back? Do you expect him to ever play for the Raptors again?
I read the story about the Siakam trade rumours, it reads as someone’s wishful thinking about the Warriors. However, I think if the right offer was made, he could be traded. Are there any Raptors right now who are untouchable? Is Fred VanVleet the only one?
It was also interesting to see that both Norman Powell and Fred tweeted support for a head coaching gig for Adrian Griffin. Is he still under contract with the Raptors, and teams need to ask permission to speak to him? (As with others, no doubt the Raptors would allow him to move on.)
Appreciated as always

A: There are support programs, including some financial assistance, available to Harris through the team, the league and the players’ association. I would hope and expect he will take advantage of them. I am doubtful now that the Raptors would bring him back but you never know.

If Masai has proven anything, it’s that no one is untouchable in the right deal. What the deal is we cannot know and it’s hard, very hard, to pull off blockbuster trades.

A source told me a while ago that “a couple” of teams had asked permission to talk to Griffin about job openings, as they have in the past. And, yeah, if he got a head coaching offer the Raptors would be glad for him and wish him luck.

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