Morning Coffee – Mon, Jul 10

A Siakam decision needs to come fast | Nowell making a case at summer league

Separation between Raptors, Siakam widening as prospects start slow at Summer League – Sportsnet

For the Raptors the most notable absence all weekend has been Pascal Siakam, the Raptors All-Atar forward who has been featured in trade rumours for the past few weeks.

No one wants to go on the record as to why Siakam has stayed away, but it seems reasonable to guess that since the Raptors have yet to discuss a contract extension, and instead Siakam has been prominently featured in trade talks, he isn’t all that keen to be on-site in Vegas. After all, it would be awkward cheering on Raptors’ prospects only to learn he’s being dealt the next day, or whatever.

Siakam is coming off a season in which he averaged 24.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists and the 29-year-old Siakam is eligible for as much as $192 million over four years on a deal that would kick in for the 2024-25 season.

As for if, when, or where Siakam might be traded?

Per league sources, the Raptors are still listening, trying to gauge the market value for their leading scorer and leading returning – in theory — playmaker. Atlanta remains a possibility and Indiana has also reached out.

The Raptors don’t intend to drag the process out for weeks or months, but they don’t seem ready to close the door on a Siakam trade yet. Meanwhile, they still remain committed to avoiding a total rebuild – in other words, nothing they do or don’t do with Siakam will make them any more inclined to trade O.G. Anunoby, the 25-year-old all-NBA defender who also has one year left on his deal. Teams are welcome to call about Anunoby, but don’t expect a call back, is the message.

But even if the Raptors do decide not to trade Siakam – and the seven-year veteran has made it clear his preference is to stay in Toronto – it will be interesting to see how they can foster the kind of team-first, family-type environment the Raptors are hoping to create under new head coach Darko Rajakovic, who has been upfront about making third year forward Scottie Barnes more of the focal point on offence. 

Sure, Siakam’s not the first — and won’t be the last — player to have felt a chill when it comes time to talk contract. Putting someone’s value in dollars and cents is a difficult part of the business. 

But even when things get a little frosty, typically the prospect of a big payday goes a long way towards smoothing over hard feelings and that may end up being the case with Siakam – if the Raptors don’t end up trading the elite forward. 

But it’s hard to imagine it won’t be an issue that will need to be addressed if they don’t.

Gradey Dick is showing he’s more than a one-dimensional shooter for Raptors – The Athletic

However, the reasons that experts were saying the Kansas kid is more than just a shooter were clear.

Dick has a knack for being in the right spot. He is very active on the offensive glass, with a special ability to follow his own misses. He had a tip-in against the Bulls on Friday, and created second-chance opportunities off his own misfires twice against Cleveland. He also uses his gravity in multiple ways: as a cutter and with his pump fake. Let’s just say the summer league version against the Raptors, like many recent versions of the club, lacks the spacing to fully exploit that often.

His cuts resulted in a lot of turnovers, with the Raptors’ spacing not ideal. He used his pump fake, something teammate Markquis Nowell encouraged him to deploy, to get teammate DJ Hogg an open 3 against the Cavs. Even if he isn’t going to be asked to create much with the real Raptors, it’s good to know the instincts and skills are there to become a secondary playmaker in time. He led the Raptors with eight rebounds and four assists against the Cavaliers.

“He’s got an all-around game. I know he came in as a shooter.” Raptors assistant coach and summer league coach Pat Delany said on Sunday. “That’s what he does. It’s a strength of his. But I also think, too, there are other things that he does offensively as well — the passing, the cutting, the movement without the ball.”

He’s also defensively aware, if not ready for the physicality that will necessitate. He’s going to get beat up on the glass and in one-on-one matchups, as he is just not strong enough yet to hang with professionals. He is notably less built than even similar shooting-focussed players, such as Chicago’s Nate Darling and Toronto’s Joe Wieskamp. But it would be surprising if he looks lost often. He even blew up a play against the Cavaliers staying attached as his man cut across the court, the pass ultimately thrown out of bounds.

“I mean, that’s what I do,” Dick said on Friday. “’I try to bring 110 percent, so I’m going to find my way on the ground with random stuff, either just trying to make a layup or diving on the floor for a loose ball. But that’s not really too much of a change. But I think what’s beneficial for me was playing in the Big 12 this past season, going over that competition level. And I’m just knowing obviously there’s going to be a whole step up with grown men out here.”

Raptors must not put off decision on Pascal Siakam | Toronto Sun

There was the Run it Back option, which meant re-signing likely fee agents Fred VanVleet, Jakob Poeltl and Gary Trent Jr. and hanging on to the other key players. An alternative we dubbed The Hokey Pokey, because the Raptors would be putting one foot in and another out by letting one or two members of the core go. Finally, there was The Full Monty, letting at least two of the aforementioned trio go elsewhere and also dealing either Pascal Siakam or O.G. Anunoby.

The off-season is a long way from being over of course, but it appears the Raptors are doing the Hokey Pokey, whether that was Plan A or not. VanVleet officially signed his massive new deal with the Houston Rockets on Friday, putting a bow on his time with the only NBA franchise he’s known. Before that, Trent surprisingly decided to opt into the final year of his deal, thus putting off free agency until next season, with a chance, according to multiple reports, that a long-term deal with the Raptors will be worked out before then.

The team pivoted to sign veteran point guard Dennis Schroder, who is coming off a strong second stint with the Los Angeles Lakers, young forward Jalen McDaniels and worked out a long-term deal with its starting centre, Poeltl.

Smooth shooting Gradey Dick was selected 13th overall out of Kansas and was expected to make his summer league debut in Las Vegas on Friday night. The front office and new coach Darko Rajakovic will also keep a close eye there on guard Markquis Nowell, former two-way player Ron Harper Jr., and Joe Wieskamp, who still has a shot at making the team. There’s still a hope that this year Otto Porter Jr., last year’s big free agent signing, might be able to stay healthy and make some sort of a contribution, but there’s also a lot of roster duplication with Chris Boucher, Precious Achiuwa, Christian Koloko and Thad Young all battling for minutes up front beyond Siakam and Poeltl, barring further changes. And oh yes, what of Siakam? The two-time All-NBA forward is understandably in demand, but it remains to be seen if Toronto actually prefers to deal him or sign him to a new mega-extension and whether there’s even an offer out there that the Raptors would accept should they opt to move on from the team’s best player and build around former rookie of the year Scottie Barnes.

The Raptors’ Joe Wieskamp discovers there are no guarantees | The Star

The best thing is that the six-foot-six shooting guard/small forward is auditioning for a new boss. Wieskamp was buried, like so many other young players, by Nick Nurse last season, playing just 50 minutes over nine games.

Now it’s Rajakovic and a fresh start.

“I feel like he’s showing interest in each and every guy and truly cares about us and wants to see us each develop,” Wieskamp said. “Each of us young guys that were there (in Toronto) all summer, he was hopping drills right away, telling us things that we can improve on. I feel like he’s committed to developing the whole roster.”

Whether or not Wieskamp has the floor-stretching, three-point shooting the Raptors need is unknown but the team’s roster imbalance would seem to lend itself to keeping him, if only as a deep rotation backup.

There isn’t a ton of shooting up and down the roster, particularly in the backcourt, a skill Wieskamp presumably has. If he can get through this week and the guarantee date, who knows what his confidence will be like.

“You kind of learn it’s a cutthroat business and, at the end of the day, you have to perform,” he said. “It can be overwhelming if you think big picture or you think, ‘I have to wait to my guarantee date’ or ‘I gotta wait until the season.’

“My mentality is try to take it one day at a time, like Coach (Rajakovic) always says, just win the day. If you can become a better player the next day, then it’s going to amount to more down the road. If you just keep that short-term mindset where you’re just focused on each day, it won’t allow you to get overwhelmed.”

And it might mean almost two million reasons to celebrate in a week or so.

Raptors See Step Forward From Gradey Dick in Clunker – Sports Illustrated

It wasn’t a perfect game from Toronto’s first-round pick Gradey Dick, but it was a step in the right direction for the 19-year-old sharpshooter. The Cavaliers ran him off the line and were aggressive in their closeouts, forcing him to step inside for mid-range jumpers most of the afternoon.

After a 0-for-2 start, he settled in, dribbling around a screen for a mid-range bucket, and followed it up moments later with an off-balanced spin-move floater that spun around the rim before falling.

His shooting stroke looked fine, just 5-for-13 from the field Sunday, but he grabbed eight rebounds, including following up his own short jumper and nailing a put-back floater. He added two assists and could have been credited for another one with a stellar pass off the dribble to find Mouhamadou Gueye who was fouled going up for a dunk.

Markquis Nowell’s audacity and flair make him a joyful Raptor to watch – The Athletic

More notable than the celebrations is the on-court style. Nowell throws passes with audacity, including no-look alley-oops and bounce passes to trailers.

“I feel like in New York City, point guard style is crafty, flashy with passing, with shooting, with dribbling,” Nowell said of his hometown. “I try to play that way, but also play professional in a way that doesn’t hinder me on the court, and just play with that joy that every New York City point guard has.”

“You’ve always got to be ready there in the corner,” added fellow Raptors rookie Gradey Dick, who played at Kansas while Nowell was at Kansas State. “He may be looking (at you, turn and spin) 360 degrees to (pass) back to you.”

Nowell’s height is going to be an issue at times, no doubt. He tried to fire a pocket pass to Moses Wright at one point, but Dalen Terry, Chicago’s 6-foot-7 first-round draft pick from a year ago, was hounding him. Nowell’s pass practically hit Terry in the back of his elbows. At other points, Terry rose up in the mid-range as if Nowell wasn’t there. Nowell’s contests on 3-pointers are not going to dissuade anybody.

He knows how to compete within his means, though. He disrupted a pair of Bulls’ fast breaks: one by getting in between the obvious passing lane and another by swiping down on a layup attempt to give Brown time to get back in the play, blocking the shot. He finished with 17 points, including four 3s, and five assists, leading the Raptors.

“I think we spoke about it the other day: He’s got a heart of a champion. He’s a winner. That’s a flair to his game,” said Raptors assistant coach Pat Delany, who is the head coach of the Summer League team. “Coaching him, you’ve got to allow him a little bit of that leash because it brings a lot more good than it does bad. … It brings an energy to our group. It brings, obviously, the energy of the crowd. We could feel that as well.”

Raptors’ Nowell has an admirer in Summer League teammate Brown | The Star

Moses Brown is getting an up-close look at the unique skills of Summer League teammate Markquis Nowell.

The seven-foot-two Brown has been the beneficiary of a handful of excellent pick-and-roll passes from the five-foot-seven Nowell in a couple of Raptors losses.

“He’s just an amazing point guard,” Brown said after the Raptors were hammered 99-76 by the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday.

Nowell, guaranteed a job in the Raptors organization now by virtue of his two-way contract, has made an impression. He has issues finishing at the rim because of his size and his shot could use some work but he’s shown a high level of creativity. He and Brown, in particular, have been an effective combination.

“Him being able to see and make those reads is important, too,” Brown said. “I got to make sure I’m doing my job and getting him open, putting him in those spots.”

While Nowell will be with the Raptors or their G League affiliates in Mississauga next season, Brown has nothing guaranteed another week of the Summer League season. And with the Raptors seemingly full of centres with Jakob Poeltl, Chris Boucher and Christian Koloko, it’s hard to imagine Brown sticking anywhere but the G League with the Raptors. He’s also now with his seventh team in five NBA seasons, so this might be his last chance.

“Just the ability to be able to protect the rim and rebound,” he said of what he needs to show the Raptors. “I did look at (other Summer League opportunities) and thought (Toronto) would be a good opportunity for me and I still continue to think that.”