Morning Coffee – Mon, Feb 13

The future is murky

How the Raptors’ trade deadline outcome could impact roster decisions this off-season – Sportsnet

The offseason scenarios

Let’s run through a couple of examples for this coming offseason.

I’m going to assume $30 million as a starting salary for VanVleet (that puts a four-year deal anywhere from to $105.6 – 134.4 million), $22.5 million for Trent (four-year deal worth $79.2 – 100.8 million), and $17 million for Poeltl (four years, $59.8 – 76.2 million). We’ll also assume free agents Juancho Hernangomez, Dalano Banton, Dowtin and Ron Harper Jr. are gone, for simplicity, and that the Raptors will pick 15th in the draft.

Right now, the Raptors have seven players under contract for certain, plus their first-round pick, Thaddeus Young (only $1 million of $8 million guaranteed), and three player options (VanVleet, Trent and Porter). Again, for simplicity, we’ll assume Young is waived (you eat his $1 million) and Porter picks up his option because he’s coming off injury.

That takes you to nine players and you’re already at $97.5 million in salary, with a $134-million projected salary cap and a $162-million projected luxury tax line.

(The exact cap number will differ when we know the cap line and the amount of cap holds, etc. The takeaways will be the same.)

The cap space here doesn’t matter much because you hold rights on all three, as explained. It is notable, though, that even if all three left, your cap space is only enough for a maximum salary for a player with six years of experience or fewer.

Let’s assume the Raptors won’t want to spend into the tax, and that because of Porter’s unclear status, no team wants to take his contract on. We also need to fill out the roster, and because the Raptors don’t have any second-round picks, minimum-salary players will each count as an estimated $1.95 million against the tax. Now you’re looking at $60.6 million for your three free agents.

Using our contract assumptions from above, the Raptors would be $8.9 million into the luxury tax after signing the trio and filling out the roster with minimums (and leaving one roster spot open).

Let’s be friendlier. Porter is such a well-respected veteran that a team takes him on for free. They don’t give you anything, but it doesn’t cost you picks to unload him. You also purchase two second-round picks at the draft. Your own second-round picks count for less against the tax than another minimum player. The money you paid for the picks is real, but that money doesn’t count against the tax. You then have to sign a minimum player to replace Porter’s spot.

Now, you’re only $2.8 million above the tax. That’s pretty easy to get beneath! Finding a home for Malachi Flynn and adding another minimum salary almost gets you there. Chris Boucher would have a lot of suitors if you shopped him for a cheaper bench piece, although you’d hate to see him leave.

Let’s be less friendly now. Porter can’t be dealt without a sweetener attached. The price of second-round picks in the draft is too expensive, so you stick with regular minimum-contract players. You also lose in the play-in tournament. You get a few lottery balls for your trouble, they don’t go your way, and you have a higher yet slightly more expensive pick at No. 12. What’s more, VanVleet, Trent and Poeltl all know you have no means of replacing them, they negotiate hard, and each makes a bit more than you initially budgeted for.

Now you’re looking at a cap sheet that’s $14.1 million over the tax line. Not even moving Boucher and Flynn for a pick gets you clear of the tax once you sign minimum-salary replacements. You can revisit O.G. Anunoby deals, but if you’re in win-now mode, I can’t imagine any such deal would make you better in the moment.

Hopefully that gives you a sense of the range of outcomes with different moves and contract levels. And that’s before using any sort of mid-level exception or improving the team via trade.

Raptors’ future is murky after missed opportunity at trade deadline – Yahoo

The future is murky

The Raptors are undoubtedly better than their record indicates, with a positive net rating and an unlucky 14-18 record in close games being good indicators. But they are not contenders — not even close.

The Raptors have the 20th ranked half-court defense and 27th best half-court offense on a point per possession basis, two of the biggest indicators of playoff success. And while Poeltl could help improve both of those numbers marginally, the Raptors still have a ton of holes to fill and a lot of room to grow before they can actually compete with the best teams in the East.

According to Ujiri, that growth has to come from within before it comes from the outside, saying “Sometimes it’s how we’ve operated with development on our team: I think it has to come a lot of times from the inside. Whether that inside provides an opportunity outside later on, I don’t know. We have to rise here with development and our talent and it does take time.”

Ujiri added: “I truly believe that it’s going to be internally, it has to rise. And then when the opportunity comes, you put it together.”

By “put it together,” Ujiri means the Raptors are trying to keep their options open and strike at the right time, whether it’s as buyers or sellers. They think they have put themselves in a good position to be flexible, saying “We have good young talented players. Does it all fit together? We’re hoping. Does it amount to wins? We’re hoping. But if it doesn’t, I think we’re in a great position to re-energize this team, whether it’s a retool or rebuild or any way you look at it.”

While that may be true, the Raptors have put a ton of pressure on themselves this offseason with the moves they made at the deadline, now holding three pending free agents in VanVleet, Trent Jr. and Poeltl. While Ujiri said he believes in the players on this Raptors team and that “we are always focused on trying to retain our players,” he also said that “everything we could have done today [regarding trades] maybe we could do in the summer” in the form of sign-and-trade deals.

“This is the first year, outside of the year in Tampa, that we’ve had really bumpy times here. This is, I think, the most bumpy it’s been for us and we acknowledge that, we know that, and we hope to solve it,” Ujiri said. “But I just want to caution everyone that it’s not going to be overnight. That’s what happens with young players and young teams: You have to build gradually and hopefully we get there but hopefully in the short term we make a good assessment at the end of the season.”

The Poeltl acquisition hasn’t fundamentally changed the Raptors’ ceiling, as they are still in all likelihood set for a first-round exit this playoffs. But they are better. And the deal was never just about this season — it was about the future, too. Given that it was the only realistic way to add a starting-caliber center to the roster, it’s not the end-of-the-world trade some Raptors fans are making it out to be.

But, again, it only puts more pressure on the Raptors this offseason. Poeltl may give them a better chance to evaluate what they really have, but if they come to the same conclusions regarding their personnel in the summer that they came to at the trade deadline, they will likely have missed out on a real opportunity to trade players at peak value in order to better set themselves up for the future.

As always, only time will tell. But next time, don’t be surprised when Ujiri does the exact opposite of what everyone is expecting him to.

5 things: VanVleet, Siakam step up for Raptors in Nurse’s absence – Sportsnet

Defensively, the matchups were much trickier. Toronto wanted to keep its main scorers out of the action to avoid foul trouble, and left the harder defensive assignments to the young duo of Achiuwa and Barnes.

Achiuwa was matched up with Bojan Bogdanovic, who is having his best season at the age of 33, and he used all his veteran smarts to get around the difference in athleticism. Achiuwa pressed up on the perimeter to take away the three, so Bogdanovic countered his aggression by using up fakes and screens to get downhill before either drawing the foul or delivering a bump to finish at the basket.

Achiuwa is ordinarily a diligent defender, but could not get a handle on his man.

Barnes was left with the task of covering Ivey, who is mostly a slasher but can also sometimes get hot. As always, the Raptors asked Barnes to play the ball handler very tight, hoping to cut off passing angles and create deflections, but Ivey was able to withstand the pressure and use his quick first step to get into the lane where he would then either make a play or finish.

Toronto’s help defence was again a step late, as Jakob Poeltl ended up fouling out for the first time in over a calendar year, although a few of the calls were very unlucky in his favour. One way to make things easier is just to not pressure the ball so much that it constantly leads to blow-by drives that put the defence into rotation, but clearly this is a strategic emphasis for this coaching staff.

Raptors-Pistons observations: Jakob Poeltl is already making a difference – The Athletic

Poeltl power

Just two games and one practice in, Poeltl is positively affecting the team.

The impact of Poeltl’s screening has been evident in his first two games back. Friday against the Jazz, you saw that mostly when he screened for players with the ball. Against the Pistons, he did a good job of screening off the ball, freeing up Fred VanVleet for a pair of catch-and-shoot opportunities.

“It’s like he never left — just kind of the chemistry there,” VanVleet said. “I forgot how much we talk (on defence), just talk during the whole game and trying to find ways to be successful.”

He had nice moments in more obvious ways, too. He found a cutting Scottie Barnes with a nice look for the first basket of the game, looked smooth around the rim on some of his attempts and turned away three shots. He was a team-high plus-11. The Pistons scored 121.6 points per 100 possessions for the game but just 94.1 in Poeltl’s 25 minutes.

“Certainly,” Raptors assistant coach Adrian Griffin said, “we’re better when he’s on the floor.”

Lamentably, he fouled out after picking up five in 17 minutes against the Jazz. He was in almost exclusively dropback coverage in San Antonio and is being asked to play with a lot more ball pressure in Toronto. It will be interesting to see whether the Raptors’ coaching staff comes back from the All-Star break with a plan to play more dropback coverage.

“We have a very active style of defence,” Poeltl said. “It’s not something I don’t know at all. I’ve played that style before. It’s different to the last couple years in San Antonio, for sure. It’s definitely something I can do.”

You got a vote from me

Dwane Casey never goes out of his way to shower his former organization with praise. He didn’t love being fired after a coach-of-the-year season, and that’s understandable. However, he still has plenty of love for some of his former players.

The Pistons coach said he uses Pascal Siakam as an example to his young players frequently. Casey said that given his work ethic, he always felt Siakam would become a solid rotation player or starter.

“Unbelievable. From where Pascal started and where he is today, (that) is all Pascal,” Casey said. “I don’t know if any other player will top the work he’s put in.”

To that end, Casey made it sound like he voted for Siakam to be an All-Star reserve. Siakam missed the cut originally when the coaches selected the seven reserves but made the game as an injury replacement.

“He deserved it,” Casey said. “I don’t know what the other crazy coaches, 14 coaches, 13 coaches, whatever it is, were thinking about. He should have been on the first ballot.”

Each conference’s head coaches pick the seven reserves, and coaches are not allowed to write in players from their own team. Siakam had a slow start but a great second half. He carried an otherwise all-reserve lineup to start the fourth quarter as the Raptors extended their lead at a key time. He also had one of the nicest unintentional assists I’ve ever seen. Siakam scored 22 of his 28 points in the second half.

Pistons vs. Raptors final score: Pistons’ furious rally falls short – Detroit Bad Boys

Through the first three quarters, the chances of Detroit winning looked rather slim. The Pistons has already turned the ball over 18 times. They were behind by as much as 14, which is exactly how many points they allowed off of turnovers. But great offense by Bojan Bogdanovic, Ivey, and Alec Burks kept them alive. Bogdanovic finished with 33 points, his seventh 30-point game this season. His ability to get to the line and drive by defenders was on full display. Even more impressive was his efficiency, getting to 33 points on just 18 attempts.

Ivey had a solid bounce back performance, with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Even more impressive was his seven assists with just two turnovers. Ivey hit clutch shots down the stretch, created multiple opportunities with his playmaking, and didn’t force the issue with his shot selection. Ivey has grown as a playmaker tremendously from the start of the season, and is showing why he also can run the offense alongside Cade Cunningham.

Both Burks and Hamidou Diallo were a spark plug for the Pistons off the bench, combining for 39 points. While Burks was a marksman going 4-of-7 from beyond the arc, Diallo forced the issue in the interior. And in addition, Hami showed some flashes of his midrange game, going 4-of-5 inside the arc. Taking that offensive effort and combining it with the effort he brings on the defensive end, Diallo is continuing to make a case for a key role in Troy Weaver’s restoration.

Isaiah Livers did not have a particuarly flashy game. Yet, even though Livers shot 1-of-5 from the field and 0-of-4 from three, he had the highest plus-minus on the team with +16. Why? Because of the effort Livers brought on the defensive end. When he checked into the game in the first quarter, Detroit went on a 15-6 run. And when Livers was on the court in the final stretch? Detroit went on an 18-9 run. Trading Bey was reportedly in part to open more room for Isaiah Livers in the rotation. With defensive performances like Livers has had over the past two games since the deadline, it’s easy to see why.

The key to Detroit’s offensive success Sunday was their movement of the ball. The Pistons finished with 25 assists as a team, out-doing the Raptors by 4. The Pistons are currently 25th in the NBA with 22.8 assists per game. The more the ball moves, the more this offense seems to create open opportunities, whether at the cup or beyond the arc. Over their past three games, that average has increased to 23.3, with 29 total assists in their last game against San Antonio. If Detroit can continue this trend, they will surely be more competitive over their final 24 games.

Raptors pull out the one point victory against Detroit Pistons – Raptors HQ

The second half started with Pascal Siakam being a little more active, allowing the Raptors to expand their lead just a little. At the end of three quarters he had 17 points, four assists and three rebounds.

Toronto was able to take better advantage of offensive opportunities in the third quarter, with VanVleet raising his point total to 29. After having a quiet first half, Siakam looked more like himself in the second half, getting back to his technical ball handling and helping the Raptors make that push later in the game in order to win.

Watching Pascal Siakam play basketball is really something else. It was one of those days, as I watched him operate with precision despite being doubled by the opposing team, that I thought about HOW COOL it is that he is a Raptor. Anyway, he’s great.

Raptors led 84-77 after three quarters.

The fourth quarter kicked off with a GORGEOUS behind the back assist from Pascal to Boucher. Now, he did not mean to make this move… but it looked cool, so we’ll take it. Pascal Siakam quickly racked up the points, and thanks to him, VanVleet, and Scottie Barnes the team was able to maintain their 10+ point lead through most of the fourth… I said most, not all.

The Pistons make a comeback. Are we shocked? No.

Jakob Poeltl unfortunately fouled out with two and a half minutes to go, leaving the Raptors vulnerable to a late game push but Detroit. He mentioned post game that he is not worried about the high foul count in his two games since returning to Toronto, due to the physical nature of Toronto’s defensive schemes. He was confident that with time, he will adjust.

The Pistons made an effort to capitalize on the lack of size in the paint, coming within four points of the Raptors down the stretch. It was Precious Achiuwa who scored one of two free throws, to bring it to a two possession game.

Thankfully he did, because Pistons rookie Jaden Ivey sunk a buzzer three — but it was not enough. Raptors win by one, 119-118.

Fred VanVleet ends the game with 35 points on 12-26 shots from the field, six three pointers, eight assists, and three rebounds. Pascal Siakam ends with 28 points on 10-19 from the field, six assists and four rebounds. Scottie Barnes also had a great night with 20 points on 5-6 shots from the field, 3-4 three point shots, two assists and four rebounds.

The score itself isn’t a great indication of this game — it wasn’t BAD. Sure, do the Raptors need to avoid late game close call situations like this? Yes. Should the bench be contributing more? For sure. Could we spend all day analyzing this? It’s basically all anyone does these days!

Yet, they won, a win is a win, and if you’ve made it this far instead of watching the SuperBowl, I’d be shocked. So, enjoy the Rihanna concert and we’ll run it back on Tuesday when the Raptors play the Orlando Magic at home.

Raptors’ Fred VanVleet scores just enough to beat Pistons | The Star

VanVleet is back to where he’s always been as an NBA offensive threat, able to knock down three-pointers, get to the rim and draw contact, and initiate a Raptors offence that has found its groove in the last three weeks. He had eight assists against just one turnover in a terrific offensive performance Sunday.

“(It’s) staying locked in, keep working, get my legs under me, finding ways to get the shots,” he said. “I think I had to adjust again to the way defences (were) playing me, and the way we were playing offensively.

“Tonight, being able to get three catch-and-shoots right out of the gate, I think that helps a lot. It depends game to game, it’s not always going to go my way but got to take advantage when I get the chances.”

VanVleet and Pascal Siakam combined for 63 points and 14 assists as Toronto’s best players dominated the lowly Pistons, who fell to 15-43 with the loss.

And Toronto’s two veterans made it easier for fill-in Raptors coach Adrian Griffin, who served as the head coach with Nick Nurse away tending to a personal issue.

“I was joking but I wasn’t joking when I walked in the locker room after the game; they were cheering me and I said, ‘Thanks for helping me coach the game tonight,’ ” Griffin said of VanVleet and Siakam. “Freddy was awesome calling a lot of plays and sets on the offensive end, same with Pascal.”

It’s unclear how long Nurse will be away from the team but Griffin is a more-than-capable substitute. He has run a few games by himself over the years alongside Nurse, so it’s not entirely new to him and he’s got the backing of the team’s veterans.

“I’m not going to take the credit for Griff, man,” VanVleet said. “He did a great job stepping in for Coach and I thought he was very prepared and communicated very well for us, it’s always a collaborative effort.”

The Raptors needed every one of VanVleet’s points and all that collaboration because of another suspect fourth-quarter defensive showing that almost cost them the game.

After spitting up a game Friday night by allowing Utah to score 39 points in the fourth quarter, Toronto gave up 41 in the fourth to the Pistons on Sunday.

“You’ve got to expect it’s going to be a hard-fought game,” Griffin said. “Even in the first half, when we were up a point, you can feel the tension in the building like we’re supposed to be up 20.

“This is the NBA, every win and every game is going to be hard-fought and tough, and I thought our guys were resilient.”

Raptors Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam Star in Win vs Pistons – Sports Illustrated Toronto Raptors

“I think, one, he’s a great screener. Anytime you get two on the ball, you’ve done your job, especially as a big and then when you roll to even put pressure on the rim which forces the defense to collapse,” said Raptors assistant coach Adrian Griffin following Saturday’s practice as he filled in for Nick Nurse who is attending to a personal matter. “Quick decisions, skip passes, hitting the roller, kick out, or hitting the roller finishing is going to help our spacing tremendously.”

VanVleet looked right at home beside the big man as if the chemistry they’d formed back in 2018 hadn’t disappeared at all. Of his six three-pointers Sunday, four came after some sort of screen from Poeltl.

“It’s like he never left,” VanVleet said. “Even the plays, I forgot how much we talk.”

The fit alongside Precious Achiuwa, however, is a little awkward for now. Achiuwa didn’t seem comfortable in the forward spot, struggling with the decisions on the perimeter on both ends of the court. Bojan Bogdanovic gave him all kinds of trouble, zig-zagging his way through screens and putting Achiuwa in awkward spots.

“I know Bogdanovic had 33 points, but Precious did a good job on him for the for the most part and you have to guard him with multiple guys anyway,” said Griffin. “But Precious had a couple open looks on the perimeter and I think he was turning them down and I just said ‘listen, like you work hard for those shots. We see you in the gym every day working hard and we trust you.’”

But for Siakam and VanVleet, the extra size on the court was a blessing. Both players found ways to rise up for mid-range jumpers with ease, using screens from Poeltl and Achiuwa to create buckets for themselves. After a hot start from VanVleet, Siakam took over in the second half en route to a 28-point showing as Toronto tried to pull away from Detroit in the third quarter.

“Knowing the plays a little bit better helps. The offence becomes more fluid. Defensive principles are a little easier to understand having walked through it a couple times in practice. That really helped,” said Poeltl of his second game with the team since the deadline. “The chemistry with Fred and Pascal, I’m not too worried about. We picked that up right away.”

In typical Raptors fashion, Toronto wouldn’t make it easy. The Raptors jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter only to watch it get erased minutes later. Even a 10-0 run early in the third quarter spurred on by VanVleet wouldn’t put Detroit away.

Toronto nearly blew it in the fourth, watching another double-digit lead nearly vanish as a Jaden Ivey pulled Detroit to within one possession with a three-pointer in the final 10 seconds. VanVleet and Achiuwa went 3-for-4 from the free-throw line in the final seconds as Toronto barely did enough to win. Ivey’s final three, a desperation attempt as the clock expired was of no use in a four-point game.

Poeltl’s impact won’t show up in the box score Sunday as he finished the game with just six points and five rebounds before ultimately fouling out late. But a plus-11 in 25 minutes showed the kind of impact the big fella should have for Toronto down the stretch.

Raptors veterans VanVleet and Siakam carry load in win over Pistons | Toronto Sun

Siakam struggled early to find the range with just six points in the first half on 2-of-9 shooting. But he picked it up in the second half, going 8-for-10 on his way to 28 points.

“You had two championship players right there that carried them home with Pascal and Freddie,” Pistons head coach Dwane Casey said. “They were the difference in the game. They carried the team. They did a great job. We tried to double team, but Pascal did a great job of going to work even before the double team could get there. Fred set the tone for them early by making some tough threes.”

Article content
VanVleet’s season has been anything but consistent, particularly his shooting which has been back to form of late.

“Yeah, probably a combination of a lot of things,” VanVleet said speaking specifically of his three-point shooting, which was 6-for-13 on Sunday.

“Just staying locked in, keep working, getting my legs under me, finding ways to get the shots. I think I had to adjust to the way the defence was playing me and the way we were playing offensively.

“And today, being able to get three catching shoots right off the gate, I think that helps a lot,” he said. “Depends game to game, it’s not always going to go my way, but I have to take advantage when I get the chance to.”

Outside of Siakam and VanVleet, the only other Raptor to surpass 15 points in this one was Scottie Barnes, who got to the free throw line 10 times and finished with 20 points including a clutch three in the final two minutes with the Pistons threatening.

Article content
It still came down to a nail-biter with the Pistons closing to within a three-pointer with 10.1 seconds remaining as Jaden Ivey hit a step-back three.

Toronto called a timeout before the ensuing in-bounds, moving the ball up to the Detroit side of the court where the Pistons were forced to foul VanVleet, who hit both to seal the game.

Detroit did hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to make it that much closer.

The fourth quarter defensive issues that cost the Raptors the game Friday night almost came back to bite them again. Bojan Bogdanovic had 22 of his Pistons-high 33 points in the second half and 12 of those in the fourth quarter.

The Pistons managed to put up 41 in that final quarter, making the Raptors sweat this one out right to the final whistle.

NBA Power Rankings: Here come the Suns; Mavs rise, Nets drop; trade deadline ratings – The Athletic

Tier 5: I’ll admit it; I’m baffled by them

22. Toronto Raptors (previously 24th) | 27-31 | +0.6 net rating

Weekly slate: Win over Spurs, Loss to Jazz, Win over Pistons

Did the trade deadline serve them well? Technically, yes. The Raptors went into the deadline with everybody wondering if they’d send Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., and O.G. Anunoby to new homes. Instead, they acquired Jakob Poeltl for Khem Birch and a first-round pick. Was that the right call for Masai Ujiri? I’ve thought this Raptors team was better than their performance all season long. It looks like they’ll give themselves the chance to prove that opinion right or wrong. Let’s see if they hang onto VanVleet and Trent this summer.

Trade Deadline Rating (1-10): 5.5

What’s next? They’re competing with Chicago and Washington for getting into the Play-In Tournament. There’s no reason, other than mass injuries, that should stop them from passing both of those teams.

NBA Power Rankings: Post-Trade Deadline Edition | Bleacher Report

21. Toronto Raptors (26-30)

Jakob Poeltl and Fred VanVleetVaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images
Previous Rank: 24
Net Rating: +0.7

The sub-.500 Toronto Raptors have been all over the rumor mill of late. O.G. Anunoby, in particular, seemed to pop up in a new report every day.

But by the time the trade deadline came and went, Toronto turned out to be surprise buyers. And the addition of Jakob Poeltl should bring stability to the bench and versatility to the team as a whole.

The Raptors’ pursuit of truly positionless basketball has been admirable, but Poeltl now allows them to adjust to teams that want to bully them with more traditional bigs inside.

With Poeltl in the rotation, there’s time for Toronto to drag itself to a record more in line with a point differential that’s been positive all season.

1 thought on “Morning Coffee – Mon, Feb 13”

Leave a Comment