Morning Coffee – Tue, Oct 24

Darko's impact won't be judged by wins | Scottie has DPOY chops | Raptors situation heading into the season

NBA Power Rankings: Where All 30 Teams Start On Opening Night | Bleacher Report

25. Toronto Raptors
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Scottie BarnesJordan Jones/NBAE via Getty Images
They might not have slapped the label on him, but Scottie Barnes essentially played point guard as a freshman at Florida State. And though he won Rookie of the Year with the Toronto Raptors, it hasn’t felt like they’ve truly embraced his point forward potential.

But this preseason offered some hints that they might be ready to do so in 2023-24.
Dennis Schröder was ostensibly brought in to replace Fred VanVleet, but Barnes still averaged 5.7 assists per 75 possessions in the exhibitions when he was given plenty of opportunities to create.

Putting him in the middle of the floor and allowing him to attack the rim and then look for shooters will be a good way to mitigate his own struggles from the outside. And a leap from Barnes could more than make up for the loss of VanVleet.

Raptors roster breakdown: How final cut impacts cap, Raptors 905 and more – Sportsnet

What are Exhibit 10s and who else has one?

The deal Winslow signed is called an Exhibit 10 contract. It is a one-year minimum contract with no guaranteed money, and teams have the right to convert the player to a two-way contract if he is eligible (Winslow is not). These deals can be used as legitimate camp tryout deals, where a team can evaluate a player and keep whoever wins a spot.

In most cases though, Exhibit 10 deals are used to get an early start on building G League rosters. By signing an Exhibit 10, a player receives a $75,000 bonus if they spend 60 days in the G League. Considering most G Leaguers earn about $40,500 for the season, an Exhibit 10 fundamentally changes the economics of playing in the G League versus going overseas, where most G Leaguers could earn more. Despite the bonus, those players can still be signed by any NBA team while in the G League.

The Raptors used all six of their Exhibit 10s to stock Raptors 905 for the year ahead. In addition to Winslow, Gueye, and Maker, the Raptors had previously signed and waived Kevin Obanor and Darryl Morsell for this reason.

On Sunday, Omari Moore became the sixth and final Exhibit 10, as he was signed and will be subsequently waived. Because the Raptors made this move this late in camp, they will incur a $6,434 cap hit. (Moore receives that $6,434, by the way, which is significant after spending the summer on a two-way with the Bucks that paid him zero dollars.)

Two-ways and Raptors 905 roundup

Those six Exhibit 10s make the core of Raptors 905 for the year ahead. They will be joined regularly by the Raptors’ three two-way players, Nowell, Ron Harper Jr., and camp standout Javon Freeman-Liberty. Those players will mostly be with the 905 but can spend up to 50 games on the active NBA roster.

Harper and Freeman-Liberty have their two-ways guaranteed for the maximum amount, which is $279,900, while Nowell has $75,000 guaranteed.

Despite those guarantees, two-ways are very easy to swap out, as they do not count against the cap or tax. The Raptors could waive one of their two-ways in order to promote another 905er into the spot or to sign someone from another G League organization. They could also convert a two-way player to an NBA deal, if they had a roster spot, and then sign someone else into the two-way spot. Other teams can’t sign your two-way, unlike the Exhibit 10 players, so there is value in having a 905er on a two-way versus an Exhibit 10 or standard G League deal.

The 905 roster currently includes Nowell, Harper, Freeman-LIberty, Winslow, Maker, Gueye, Obanor, Morsell, and Wells.

They can include four more players, either via returning player rights or through the G League draft and open tryouts. The draft and tryout system usually don’t provide much value, so expect a few returners to be in the mix. Jaysean Paige, Jaylen Morris, Keith Williams, and Tra-Deon Hollins are the four players the 905 hold the rights to who are not playing somewhere else right now. Paige and Morris, in particular, would be really nice complements to the existing group.

Raptors 905 camp begins Oct. 30. We’ll provide a breakdown sometime during camp to help you get to know the roster.

The cap and tax situation

Now that the cuts have been made, we have a clear picture of the Raptors’ financial situation.

Note that the cap and tax numbers are slightly different, as the league uses different criteria for which parts of salary count under the tax. Jakob Poeltl, Thad Young, and Gary Trent Jr., for example, have small bonuses considered “unlikely” that count for the tax and not the cap.

The Raptors have $1.93 million in wiggle room beneath the tax right now, and that expands to $3.18 million if you ignore “unlikely” incentives. That amount is notable for any trades the Raptors engage in, or with any late-season signings. Last year, non-tax teams received about $15 million in payouts from tax-paying teams, so when you’re this close to the tax line, most teams will make sure they avoid it.

2023-24 NBA season preview – Rankings, predictions, odds, more – ESPN

24. Toronto Raptors

When we last saw them … After losing in the play-in tournament last season, Toronto dismissed Nick Nurse after five impressive seasons and replaced him with longtime NBA assistant Darko Rajakovic. Then, the team’s on-court leader, Fred VanVleet, left to join the Houston Rockets in free agency, becoming the latest player to depart from the Raptors with nothing coming back in the last few years.

Now, Toronto enters this season with not only a new coach and a new point guard — freshly minted FIBA World Cup MVP Dennis Schroder — but also both Pascal Siakam and O.G. Anunoby one year away from free agency. This leaves Toronto in yet another precarious position when it comes to keeping top-end talent on the roster — something that will hang over the team yet again this season. And, after last year ended with a play-in loss to the Bulls, making it further in the postseason will be a challenge. — Bontemps

Win-loss projections

ESPN Forecast: 36-46

Caesars: 37.5 wins | Title odds: +1250

NBA Power Rankings: Nuggets are No. 1 to start season; question, random prediction for each team – The Athletic

Rank: 21

What do we like? I still like this roster quite a bit, and I’m in for anything that is building around Scottie Barnes. The Raptors must figure out what they want to be, especially after losing Fred VanVleet. They abandoned needing only 6-9 guys by reacquiring Jakob Poeltl last season. A more traditional approach all season could settle things down in a way they struggled with last season.

What do we question? Media Day left me questioning this team a lot, given the weird energy between Masai Ujiri’s comments and Pascal Siakam’s response about selfish play on the team. The Raptors are trying but failing to move Siakam. I just don’t know if this team has enough to overcome any down times this season. I like the talent but not the vibes emanating from Toronto so far. And the Raptors just couldn’t make shots last season (27th in true shooting percentage).

One random prediction: Siakam gets moved before the deadline.

NBA anonymous coaches poll 2023: Who are the league’s best defenders right now? – The Athletic

Defensive up-and-comers

We asked the coaches to name a few of the league’s young players who one day will challenge for first-team or second-team All-Defensive honors.

The coaches mentioned these players:

Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors forward/wing (22 years old): “He’s a young guy that has the ability and the size. He has the same concepts as these other guys: a pure defensive versatility with his size and speed and strength, the ability to guard multiple positions and multiple coverages.” — Eastern Conference assistant coach

Armstrong, Nurse and Rautins all optimistic, believe Raptors are better than last year

The NBA is back and the Raptors enter the season with a new coach, a new point guard, and new questions surrounding the team. Jack Armstrong, Leo Rautins and Kia Nurse break down what to expect from Toronto after so many changes in the summer, and which player will define the Raps’ season.

Setting the Pick: Will Raptors surpass their projected win total this season?

The Raptors will have to adjust to a new playing style and a fairly new roster but have managed to go over their win total in four of the last six seasons. To examine how things are looking heading into this new campaign, here’s TSN’s Wesley Cheng.

Schroder-Rajakovic connection central to any Raptors success – Toronto Star

“I want to be very invested in them as human beings,” he said of his players that first day on the job. “I see every player as a person with family. Whatever is going on in those lives, I want those guys to know and to feel that I really care about them.”

What was made apparent in the short pre-season is that both Rajakovic and Schröder will console, cajole, teach or do whatever’s necessary. But there hasn’t been any yelling or histrionics. There have been hugs and quiet private conversations.

It’s not that ex-coach Nick Nurse and departed point guard Fred VanVleet were raving lunatics, but they could be forceful because of their status in the organization.

Rajakovic and Schröder are just different, at least through the first month of training camp and a short pre-season. It’s noticeable and there’s no reason to think it won’t carry over through the long, arduous regular season.

“He’s just a guy who keeps it real, keeping people accountable, making sure everybody gets on the same page,” Schröder said of the coach, who was on the Oklahoma City staff when the point guard was traded from Atlanta in July 2018.

“And I’m the same way, always direct. That’s the reason I think we get along so well.”

Having that as a baseline to the relationship should allow it to flourish and, the Raptors hope, trickle down throughout the roster.

Schröder and Rajakovic are still in the information gathering process with the other Raptors but a united coach/point guard front is a vital first step.

Their shared European basketball upbringing helps, too.

“I did not think about that in those terms, but probably, yes,” the coach said of those similar on-court backgrounds. “In Europe from the youngest age, we’re trying to coach and teach players how to play with pace, how to play with a lot of passing.

“We actually are teaching a lot of passing, so that’s kind of the style of (the) majority of the teams in Europe play.”

To be sure, there are many other factors that will determine how well the Raptors fare in the regular season that begins when the Minnesota Timberwolves visit Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday night.

Wins should not be measuring stick for Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic | Toronto Sun

There’s no bombshell trade on the horizon, no sense in even beginning to imagine this Raptors team competing with the likes of Milwaukee or Boston for top seed in the East.

More than anything, the 2023-24 season will be one of development and also reclamation.

Success for Rajakovic will be gleaned in how Scottie Barnes emerges in a halfcourt offence, how Barnes regains the joy he clearly possessed during his rookie season and if he’s able to knock down three-pointers.

Under Rajakovic, success will be gleaned in how he manages Pascal Siakam, the team’s best player who begins his eighth season in Toronto in what could arguably be his last here unless a long-term deal is made.

In recent years, when the ball was in Siakam’s hands with a game on the line, there have been more instances when shots didn’t drop.

There’s no Fred VanVleet to help shoulder the leadership role, but more shots will be available with VanVleet now residing in Houston with the Rockets.

There’s also the matter on how Rajakovic is able to expand O.G. Anunoby’s game, especially on offence. The defensive versatility remains but so do the questions on offence and whether Anunoby is capable of taking his game to another level.

For what it’s worth, one of the primary beneficiaries of Rajakovic’s coaching during the pre-season involved Malachi Flynn.

One must avoid the temptation of looking too much when exhibition games are played, but Flynn looked less encumbered and seemed to play with much-needed excitement under Rajakovic.

Gradey Dick has shown a flair, but the kid is a rookie and it remains unknown how and when Rajakovic will unleash the sharpshooter.

The signs of any good coach arrive in the execution of sets following timeouts, how quarters end and how minutes get doled out.

Raptors Don't Reach Contract Extension With Precious Achiuwa – Sports Illustrated

Toronto has not agreed to terms on a contract extension with the 24-year-old ahead of Monday’s deadline. Achiuwa will now head into restricted free agency next offseason assuming the Raptors tender him a $6.28 million qualifying offer.

It isn’t all that surprising that Achiuwa did not agree to a deal with the Raptors. He has shown impressive upside in his two years with the organization, but he’s also been inconsistent and was teetering on the edge of the rotation at times last season. It made more sense for both parties to get a deal done next summer after Achiuwa proves who he is over the course of his third year with the Raptors.

Malachi Flynn also did not receive an extension from Toronto. He too remains on the final year of his contract, though a $5.81 million qualifying offer is less likely unless Flynn proves he can be a rotation player for the Raptors this season.

Achiuwa and Flynn now join a long list of 2024 free agents for Toronto that likely includes Pascal Siakam, O.G. Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr., Otto Porter Jr. Thad Young, and Garrett Temple.

The Raptors have said they do not think having so many pending free agents will be a problem for the team this season.