Morning Coffee – Tue, Jun 20

The Draft, OG, Siakam, part of the season is shifting into high gear.

Five questions the Raptors must answer as the NBA’s silly season begins – Sportsnet

In isolation, the choices the Raptors are facing aren’t all that significant for an NBA team. Rare is the franchise not dealing with important player personnel decisions. But given where the Raptors stand and the number of seemingly interconnected choices they have to make, it’s not too much of a stretch to suggest that the calls the front office makes — or don’t make — in the coming weeks will shape the Raptors’ direction for years to come.

And while it’s common to suggest the Raptors are shrouding the entire process in mystery, that’s not necessarily the case. They haven’t published a manifesto or anything, but their words and actions certainly provide some basis for what direction things might take in the coming weeks.

Perhaps the most significant thing is that there isn’t an appetite to tear things down and start over, as we’ve seen some other ‘limbo’ teams do in recent years. The Washington Wizards moving on from Bradley Beal on the weekend being the most recent example of that, and how moves made by the Utah Jazz last summer or the Orlando Magic, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder before that can be categorized.

Breaking things up and selling them off for parts has never been seriously entertained in private conversations I’ve had. Publicly the stance hasn’t been all that different. The Raptors don’t see themselves as all that inferior — if at all — to the Miami Heat, who have made the NBA Finals two of the last four seasons. The ‘lowly’ Knicks made the second round this year, and the Sixers, Bucks — and even the Celtics — have proven themselves beatable in the right circumstances.

Why step back if you believe yourself not all that far behind?

“There is parity in the league, and I just don’t view breaking down a team as the only way to build a team,” Ujiri said at his end of season media conference.

There are always caveats about opportunities unseen that may present themselves. This time last year it was a Kevin Durant trade request. Last week it was Bradley Beal — though with Beal wielding a no-trade clause, he had the power to dictate where Washington could trade him. The Raptors aren’t dogmatic; they’re open to possibilities.

But the most likely scenario? The biggest move they make this summer has already happened with the parting of head coach Nick Nurse and the jettisoning of his staff.

“What I’m hearing now is they’re not going to trade from their core,” said one league source.

Said another: “It wouldn’t surprise me if they run it back. There is a lot of holding and waiting going on.”

Ignoring whether they should or not, the challenge is how, exactly, they can thread the needle and pay good players their market value while avoiding the luxury tax, which would kick in on cumulative salaries above $162 million.

Is a blockbuster Raptors trade in store on NBA draft night? | The Star

Toronto has been linked to Charlotte’s second overall pick and Portland’s third, although it’s hardly breaking news that executives from a team that’s missed the playoffs two out of three years would be exploring all possibilities. And it’s been well documented through a recent seven-week search for a new coach that Ujiri and Webster do thorough due diligence. It would be derelict if they didn’t make calls and have conversations about moving up when the prize could be highly regarded G League guard Scoot Henderson.

What makes this draft unique for the Raptors, and is feeding much of the anticipation that something substantial might happen Thursday night, is that Toronto needs to rejuvenate the roster and has more bits than usual to parcel with the 13th pick.

Would they entertain offers for Pascal Siakam?

Could they be convinced to part with Anunoby?

How does Thad Young’s $8-million contract (U.S.), only $1 million of which is guaranteed, fit into any possible deal as financial ballast?

And what of Gary Trent Jr. who has to decide Tuesday whether to opt in to the final year of his contract? If Trent, as unlikely as it may seem, decides to come back for the final year at roughly $18.5 million, is that expiring contract movable in a larger transaction?

Ujiri, Webster and Tolzman aren’t divulging anything, even the names of prospects they’ve had in Toronto for workouts. It is, and always has been, the way they operate, which makes the sourced reports of what the Raptors might do so tiring. The organization doesn’t leak information. Much of what is being tossed around is guesswork or extrapolation, and gives Raptors management little credit for keeping their intent under wraps.

One other reason for increased hope that something substantial will happen — and substantial doesn’t guarantee successful — is Ujiri’s wish to have the franchise somehow reset itself from last season.

“The last (game of the) year really summed up what has gone on in this organization, the feel and spirit of who we really are,” he said after firing coach Nick Nurse. “It’s been very disappointing for us. We want to gain momentum back as a team, togetherness. All the things, culture, that we have stood for here, I think we lacked this year.”

History of 13th pick of NBA Draft shows Raptors have shot at a star | Toronto Sun

Of the past 30 No. 13 picks since 1993, 11 can fairly be deemed outright busts. So you have just shy of a 40% chance of completely whiffing here, based on three decades of data.

A lot of solid rotation pieces tend to get grabbed at 13. Names like Kelly Olynyk, Corey Maggette, Derek Anderson, Corliss Williamson, Thabo Sefolosha, Ed Davis, Tyler Herro and Markieff Morris. Would someone of that calibre be good enough for the Raptors?

If we add who went next since 1993, we actually get less confident about the likelihood of the Raptors adding a key piece. Only two No. 14 selections from the past three decades became all-stars — Bam Adebayo and Peja Stojakovic.

New champion Michael Porter Jr. fell to there because of his injury history and Michael Dickerson sure was a fun Vancouver Grizzlies player before he got hurt, but let’s just say that’s a dire history.

But, again, this is an inexact science. Add in former No. 15 selections and you get all-timers Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard and Steve Nash, steady big man Al Jefferson, and three good picks in a row more recently (Mark Williams, Corey Kispert and Cole Anthony).

That has been the case at 16, too, with AJ Griffin, Alperen Sengun and Isaiah Stewart all looking like nice young players (Sengun in particular has all-star potential).

But, back to the Raptors. Under current management, Toronto has done an above-average job at the draft. But with much of this group’s drafting success in the rearview mirror, there’s pressure to get No. 13 right. While every draft has more busts than hits overall, their track record should give Raptors fans reason for optimism.

Masai Ujiri and Co. hit grand slams on Pascal Siakam (27th), O.G. Anunoby (23rd), Norman Powell (46th) and Fred VanVleet (undrafted), homered on Scottie Barnes (fourth), doubled on Jakob Poeltl (ninth), Delon Wright (20th) and maybe Christian Koloko (33rd).

But they also struck out completely in 2020 (Malachi Flynn, 29th), 2014 (Bruno Caboclo 20th, DeAndre Daniels 37th) and a number of second-round flyers. The team didn’t have a first-round selection in 2018 or 2019 due to trades.

10 NBA Players Who Could Be Dealt Next After Bradley Beal Trade | Bleacher Report

As the Raptors face an uncertain offseason, teams will undoubtedly call about O.G. Anunoby’s availability.

If Toronto embraces a rebuild around Scottie Barnes, or is afraid of losing Anunoby in free agency next season, there’s a good chance the 25-year-old forward gets moved.

Every team needs three-and-D wings, and Anunoby is one of the best the NBA has to offer. In addition to his 16.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 38.7 percent mark from three, he led the league in steals (1.9 per game) while finishing with a defensive estimated plus-minus of plus-3.3, good for third-highest in the league, per Dunks & Threes.

Michael Scotto of HoopsHype wrote: “Several teams have reportedly expressed trade interest in Anunoby, including the Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings. It’s worth noting the Portland Trail Blazers also coveted Anunoby ahead of last year’s NBA draft involving the seventh overall pick, which was eventually used to select Shaedon Sharpe.”

Indiana could offer Toronto the No. 7 overall pick this season, while the Kings could build an offer around players like Davion Mitchell and future first-round picks.

Any team that tries to trade for Anunoby has to be confident it can re-sign him next summer, when he’ll almost certainly turn down a $19.9 million player option in hopes of a bigger payday.

Best Trade Landing Spots: Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings

Raptors Rumors: Teams ‘Pretty Worn out’ by Talks with TOR amid Anunoby, Siakam Buzz | Bleacher Report

According to Matt Moore of Action Network, “it’s fair to say front offices are pretty worn out on the attempts by Toronto to get ‘blood from a stone’ as one executive put it at the deadline in any deal. Multiple sources have described the Raptors as frustrating to deal with.”

From Toronto’s perspective, there is something to be said for holding out for the best deal. That is especially the case with multiple suitors, and Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reported Sunday that “several teams” are interested in Anunoby.

However, there is also an argument to be made that the Raptors shouldn’t have been as stingy during trade discussions this past season.

After all, they finished No. 10 in the Eastern Conference and lost to the Chicago Bulls in the play-in tournament. It was an unceremonious end to a season defined by a failure to live up to expectations, and selling at the deadline could have accelerated a rebuild.

Now Fred VanVleet is an unrestricted free agent, and Gary Trent Jr. has a player option and could be on the way out. Toronto could have landed significant assets for both of them in February and instead could be left with little to show for either this offseason.

A rebuild could be in order, especially with Anunoby a season away from his own player option and Siakam entering what will be the final campaign of his current deal.

Moore added that “there is a growing sense among executives who have called the Raptors (albeit with some caution) that Pascal Siakam may be easier to deal with than Anunoby currently” in terms of potential deals, but there is once again uncertainty about Toronto’s direction.