Morning Coffee – Thu, Jun 29

Vucevic sets the ceiling on a Poeltl deal | VanVleet has suitors; but does he really? | Raptors are being offered trash for their stars but they are the ones being difficult to work with /sarcasm

Raptors focused on re-signing VanVleet and Poeltl but challenges remain – Sportsnet

That leads us to VanVleet, the seven-year Raptors veteran and former all-star who struggled through a rough start to finish up another excellent all-around season as the Raptors’ only experienced point guard.

From the moment that it was announced as breaking news in the buildup to the NBA Finals broadcast that VanVleet — as had long been expected — was declining his $22.8 option for the 2023-24 season to test free agency, it’s been clear VanVleet was going to push his market to the limit.

For most of last season — and especially in the wake of VanVleet shelving the possibility of signing a four-year extension for $114 million — the understanding was that he was seeking a deal with an average value of $30 million over three or four years, with three years and $90 million the most likely landing spot.

But all it takes is one bidder to upset a carefully laid plan and the Houston Rockets — who are pivoting from throwing all their eggs in the James Harden basket, per sources — could be that bidder.

One league source told me the Rockets, armed with $60 million in cap room and no state tax in Texas, are going to tempt VanVleet with a two-year deal for $80 million adding veteran stability to a roster teeming with talented players on rookie contracts.

Canadian Dillon Brooks is another Rockets target as is Milwaukee Bucks centre Brook Lopez, according to sources.

“Everyone outside the [Raptors] seem to say VanVleet is leaving,” said one league source. “But if you’re an agent, that’s what you want everyone to say.”

Another source with knowledge of the situation in Houston suggested the possibility of the Rockets’ signing Lopez is overblown — “not happening,” they said, and the notion of a $40 million offer for VanVleet has yet to materialize, though the Rockets’ interest in the Raptors point guard is very much real.

For their part, the Raptors have remained confident they can reach an agreement with VanVleet and feel he wants to remain in Toronto as well, but they aren’t in a position to match a $40 million offer.

“They might have a glass ceiling on the upper end of what they’re willing to pay,” said one source.

As outlined above, going over $30 million for VanVleet would complicate their efforts to sign Poeltl and likely require additional roster moves to remain under the $165 million luxury tax line. As it stands, the Raptors believe they have just enough room to sign their incumbent starting guard and centre to deals in their projected salary ranges with only some minor pruning done to remain under the punitive tax threshold.

Five places VanVleet could play if he doesn’t return to Toronto | The Star

The Rockets, armed with about $60 million in cap space, could throw a deal starting at $40 million on the table that would unquestionably get VanVleet’s attention. But does he want, at this point in his career, to be one of a very few adults in the room on a team that hasn’t won more than 22 games a season for three years?

San Antonio
Are the Spurs ready to take the big swing right now or would they like the Victor Wembanyama era to unfold a bit first? They have the cap space to satisfy VanVleet’s financial desires but they also have in-house options to at least start the next giant steps behind this year’s No. 1 draft pick

L.A. Lakers
How well would VanVleet look rounding out a roster built around LeBron James and Anthony Davis in a short-term pursuit of a championship? He’d look really good. Any move to L. A. would have to be a sign-and-trade and it’s hard to imagine the Raptors wanting to pay DeAngelo Russell. Now, if the Lakers were to throw Austin Reaves in there …

This seemed like an intriguing possibility until Orlando started stockpiling point guards — the newly drafted Anthony Black, Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs, Cole Anthony. None of them are VanVleet but it’s not like the young Magic are one piece away from contention.

This one might seem like a stretch since the basketball world fully expects the Mavericks to bring back Kyrie Irving to pair with Luka Doncic. But if Dallas seeks a drama-free existence, wouldn’t they consider VanVleet?

Expected changed at top of Raptors’ roster not so likely anymore | Toronto Sun

All signs are now pointing to a team content to run it back.

If the Raptors do the expected, now, and bring back Fred VanVleet and re-sign Jakob Poeltl and don’t trade any of Pascal Siakam, O.G. Anunoby or Gary Trent Jr, the only other move of note this off-season will be a coaching switch. Out with Nick Nurse, who clearly no longer wanted to be here, and in with Darko Rajakovic, who couldn’t be happier in his new job.

Yes, Gradey Dick is in the fold and brings some much-needed shooting to the roster, but there was always going to be some return from the draft, so that change was coming anyway.

No one outside of Ujiri and Bobby Webster and those inside the Raptors front office know for sure what impact that Siakam draft day bombshell had on any of these plans.

Siakam and his team let it be known through the media that any team trading for him should not expect to have his rights beyond next season when his deal is up. He and his team made it clear that they were primarily interested in remaining in Toronto, so whatever assets another team might be willing to give up for Siakam’s services now, they would only be getting a year of Siakam in return.

Again, only a handful of people know if Siakam was ever truly on the trading block, whether Portland was willing to part with that No. 3 selection in the draft and whatever salary filler was necessary in exchange for Siakam. If that was in play, that was a deal that made sense for both teams for many reasons, but it didn’t make sense for Siakam, and he made that known.

Maybe there was even a deal in the making with Atlanta.

Ever since, the talk from around the league is any teams asking about Siakam or Anunoby, for that matter, are quickly being shut down by Toronto.

VanVleet could still be in a new uniform by the end of Friday, particularly if Houston decides to lay out $40 million a season for him, which they are fully capable of doing right now with a young and mostly under control roster.

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The Raptors, who do not want to go into the luxury tax in a season until they appear to have a team that is a championship contender, would be able to hit $30 million a year or thereabouts and still stay out of the tax once all their other business was done.

But the feeling, and this is only a feeling, in Toronto is VanVleet would remain with the only team he has ever known as long as the gap between what he can get elsewhere isn’t huge.

Nikola Vucevic Sets Center Market For Jakob Poeltl With New Bulls Extension – Sports Illustrated

The 32-year-old has reportedly signed a three-year, $60 million extension to return to the Chicago Bulls, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. The deal comes in at the same number many had predicted Toronto Raptors center Jakob Poeltl will sign for as he heads into free agency this summer.

Vucevic averaged 17.6 points and 11 rebounds per game last season while shooting 34.9% from behind the arc. He helped lead the Bulls to a play-in berth, but his lackluster defense hampered Chicago throughout the year.

While Poeltl, 27, didn’t put up the same kind of numbers, averaging just 12.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, and has never developed into a shooter, his defensive game is considerably better than Vucevic’s. He’s also five years younger than Vucevic.

Poeltl is expected to re-sign in Toronto this summer, though the San Antonio Spurs are reportedly interested in bringing back the 7-foot-1 Austrian who they traded at the trade deadline, per Michael Grange of Sportsnet. It’s possible Poeltl’s market eclipses the $20 million annually figure, though it will be difficult for the Raptors to re-sign Poeltl and Fred VanVleet while remaining under the luxury tax threshold without making a cost-saving trade elsewhere on the roster.

Canadian women counting on the collective as AmeriCup begins | The Star

It may not be the most individually talented group the Canadians can put together — there are some key components missing — but there is a cohesion, a common sense of purpose and a belief in the collective that the team is banking on at the AmeriCup tournament that begins Saturday in Mexico.

“A nice mix of pro players, some young ones who haven’t even made it to college yet and some who have experience playing at the NCAA level,” veteran centre Kayla Alexander said before the team left for the tournament. “Very talented, very athletic, but what I love about this group is we get along so well. I think we’re building great chemistry and everybody wants to compete and work hard.”

There are no WNBA players on the 12-women roster announced Wednesday. Program stalwart and team captain Natalie Achonwa is away handling the responsibilities of a first-time mom. It has left head coach Victor Lapena with an interesting mix of teenagers, collegians and European pros to begin the qualification process for the 2024 Paris Olympics at the 10-team AmeriCup.

“It’s a very young team, very different,” Lapena said. “Maybe we don’t have the talent of (WNBA) players and Natalie, etc., but I feel something special with this team. I feel like I can help them as a coach, it’s my moment to lead them, be a good leader, trust in them and give them confidence.”

Alexander, Aaliyah Edwards, Nirra Fields, Shay Colley, Aislin Konig and Sami Hill will be the veteran core, augmented by the experience of the likes of Taya Hanson, Merrisah Russell and Emily Potter. The true youth comes from 17-year-old Syla Swords, 18-year-old Cassandre Prosper and 21-year-old collegian Yvonne Ejim.

The 32-year-old Alexander, a six-year vet who has played in the WNBA and top European leagues, has become the team’s leader.

“It’s been fun, it’s been a big responsibility but, honestly, the girls make it so easy,” she said. “I just try to lead by example. It’s the girls, us as a team, doing the hard work, going out there and working hard and competing and trying to prepare ourselves to perform and get the job done in Mexico.”