Chris Boucher

Raptors Notes: Boucher, Nurse, Player Development

After playing 164 total minutes in his first two NBA seasons, Raptors big man Chris Boucher has become a more regular part of the team’s rotation in 2019/20, averaging 13.2 MPG in 55 contests. Asked on Wednesday what he thinks he has proven this season, Boucher had a quick answer, per Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun.

“That I can play,” Boucher said. “Obviously, there’s a lot of stuff that I can get better at, but I think that my technique I was able to show right out of the door and kind of find ways to help the team win. I think that’s what’s most important. That I could be effective in the game. I think I’ve learned that.”

Boucher will be a restricted free agent this offseason. However, given the unusual nature of the NBA’s current hiatus and the uncertainty surrounding when the offseason will even take place, Boucher said his next contract isn’t something that’s currently on his mind.

“I knew this (contract) stuff was coming, so, obviously, it’s gonna be a process, but for me right now that’s not what I’m thinking about,” Boucher said. “There’s way more important things to be thinking about right now.”

Let’s round up some more Raptors-related items…

  • Eric Koreen of The Athletic provides an interesting breakdown on why Raptors head coach Nick Nurse looks like the odds-on favorite to win the NBA’s Coach of the Year award for 2019/20.
  • Identifying, acquiring, and developing under-the-radar gems – including Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and Terence Davis – has been a major factor in the Raptors’ success in recent years. Blake Murphy of The Athletic explores how Toronto’s ability to identify and develop that talent sets the club apart.
  • In case you missed it, on Wednesday we identified VanVleet as one of five Eastern Conference free-agents-to-be who have boosted their value with strong 2019/20 performances.

Eastern Notes: Boucher, Aminu, Heat, Celtics

Raptors forward Chris Boucher has apologized on social media for violating the team’s self-quarantine mandate, Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets. Boucher was spotted grocery shopping in Toronto. The Raptors were asked to isolate themselves after playing the Jazz last Monday, two nights before Rudy Gobert became the first NBA player known to contract the coronavirus.

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Magic forward Al-Farouq Aminu might be able to play if and when the season restarts, Josh Robbins of The Athletic speculates. Aminu underwent surgery to repair torn meniscus cartilage in his right knee on January 7 and he was not wearing a brace last week, Robbins notes. Forward Jonathan Isaac, who injured his knee in early January, was still wearing a brace and would be less likely to return, Robbins adds.
  • With the stoppage in place, the Heat are back in the luxury tax with no viable options to change that status before season’s end, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes. Miami appears resigned to accepting the tax as part of its 2019/20 payroll, having bypassed opportunities to get below the tax at the trade deadline and the March 1 buyout deadline, Winderman adds.
  • The Celtics will pay team-employed game night staff through the end of the regularly scheduled season, Jay King of The Athletic tweets. They have no current plan to help out the employees of TD Garden who work their games regularly, as they don’t own the arena, King adds.

Raptors Notes: Powell, Boucher, Gasol, Siakam

Raptors shooting guard Norman Powell has been playing some of the best basketball of his NBA career during his fifth NBA season, as Toronto Star reporter Doug Smith details.

Powell, in the second year of a four-year, $42MM extension with the team, also stands as one of the only Toronto players on a long-term deal. Before tonight’s win against the Pistons, Powell had been averaging career bests in points (14.6 PPG), rebounds (3.9 RPG), minutes (28.7), and field goal percentage (49.8%). 

“I’m just being able to read what the defense is doing,” Powell observed. “How they’re playing, where their bigs are at, whether it is a finish or a kick-out or a drop-off to the bigs, just … being aggressive.”

There’s more out of Canada:

  • In another piece, The Toronto Star’s Doug Smith notes that the play of emerging Raptors forward Chris Boucher has earned the Oregon alum more rotation minutes this season. A solid shot-blocker with good shooting range, the 6’9″ third year player has given head coach Nick Nurse reason to ponder making some lineup adjustments. “It’s not an easy thing to figure out,” Nurse allowed. “If you say you want to give someone more minutes that means you are taking some away from somebody else, and I don’t really know who that is right now.”
  • The Raptors’ latest victory may have come at a cost. Starters Powell and center Marc Gasol both suffered injuries, and will be reassessed in Toronto tomorrow. Blake Murphy of The Athletic reports that Gasol left the game with a strained left hamstring and Powell hurt his left shoulder on a Blake Griffin screen. Powell missed 21 games last season with a left shoulder subluxation against a Rudy Gobert screen.
  • Rod Beard of The Detroit News reports that Pistons head coach Dwane Casey did not anticipate Pascal Siakam‘s improvement from defensive role player to, now, one of the league’s best two-players. “I didn’t see that he would be a superstar and he is a superstar in our league right now,” Casey noted. “He started 38 games in his first year… Shooting was his last resort; it was his last offensive option.” The fourth-year forward is averaging 25.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG, and 3.6 APG for the 19-8 Raptors.

Atlantic Notes: Morris, Raptors, Nets, Jordan

Knicks forward Marcus Morris recently expressed some disappointment that he didn’t get an opportunity to remain with the Celtics when he became a free agent this summer. Responding to those comments in an appearance today on Toucher and Rich in Boston, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge acknowledged that the C’s didn’t make Morris an offer once the team locked in on Kemba Walker. However, Ainge did say the team put a three-year extension offer on the table for Morris before the 2018/19 season began (Twitter link via Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston).

Because Morris was earning a fairly modest salary last season, the Celtics’ ability to give him a significant raise would have been limited. As ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes (via Twitter), Boston would have been able to offer up to about $34.36MM for three years, the same deal Spencer Dinwiddie got from Brooklyn.

Whether or not the Celtics went as high as $34MM+, Morris did better as a free agent in terms of 2019/20 salary — but his $15MM deal with New York only covers one season. If he had known what awaited him in free agency, it’s possible he would have more open to that three-year extension offer last year. And if he had accepted it, it likely would have had a ripple effect on the Celtics’ future plans, including perhaps their ability to land Walker.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • With Patrick McCaw out at least a month after undergoing knee surgery, head coach Nick Nurse said before Wednesday’s game that undrafted rookie Terence Davis will get the first shot at becoming the eighth man in the Raptors‘ rotation (Twitter link via Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca). Davis committed five fouls in just seven minutes on Wednesday, but still looks like the frontrunner for those minutes, according to Blake Murphy of The Athletic, who views Matt Thomas and Chris Boucher as other candidates.
  • Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot could have made more money by returning overseas, but he decided to accept a two-way contract with the Nets, as he explains to Chris Milholen of NetsDaily. “I wanted to still keep a foot in the NBA,” said Luwawu-Cabarrot, who played with Long Island Nets head coach Shaun Fein several years ago in France. “The Nets always gave their two-ways an opportunity to play and that was the goal. I am just trying to get better with everything I work on. In the G League, be a leader of the team, try to do something good with the team.”
  • In other Nets news, Brian Lewis of The New York Post explores Rodions Kurucs‘ struggles to adjust to a new role this season, while Peter Botte of The New York Post says DeAndre Jordan‘s ankle injury isn’t as bad as initially feared. Jordan is being listed as day-to-day.

Salaries For Kenrich Williams, Others To Become Guaranteed

There was never any real doubt that Kenrich Williams would make the Pelicans‘ regular season roster, but doing so will give him some financial security. As ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes (via Twitter), Williams is one of three players who will have his salary for 2019/20 fully guaranteed today, barring any last-minute roster moves.

Williams, 24, emerged as a rotation player for the Pelicans last season, averaging 6.1 PPG and 4.8 RPG in 46 games (23.5 MPG). He’ll likely see regular minutes to start this season too, as New Orleans doesn’t have a ton of depth at the forward position now that Darius Miller is out for the season and Zion Williamson will miss six to eight weeks.

Williams’ $1,416,852 salary for ’19/20 had already been partially guaranteed for $200K, per Basketball Insiders’ contract data. After today, he’ll become the 14th Pelican with a fully guaranteed contract for this season, leaving Jahlil Okafor as the only player on a non-guaranteed deal.

[RELATED: 2019/20 Non-Guaranteed Contracts By Team]

Here are the other players who will receive salary guarantees if they remain under contract through today, per Marks:

  • Chris Boucher (Raptors): $125,000 partial guarantee increases to full guarantee of $1,588,231.
  • Malcolm Miller (Raptors): $150,000 partial guarantee increases to full guarantee of $1,588,231.
  • Ryan Anderson (Rockets): $250,000 partial guarantee increases to $500,000 partial guarantee (full salary is $2,564,753 with a $1,620,564 cap hit).

Raptors Waive Cameron Payne, Devin Robinson

The Raptors have cut a pair of training camp invitees, according to Blake Murphy of The Athletic, who tweets that the team has placed point guard Cameron Payne and small forward Devin Robinson on waivers.

Payne, who was competing to be Toronto’s third point guard, had a partial guarantee of $150K, so the Raptors will be on the hook for that money, which will count against their cap. Robinson, who appeared to be in the running for a two-way contract, had a non-guaranteed deal.

After waiving Matt Morgan on Friday, the Raptors are now carrying 17 players, including 12 on fully guaranteed contracts. Dewan Hernandez and Chris Boucher appear likely to earn regular-season roster spots, leaving Malcolm Miller and Isaiah Taylor battling for the 15th spot, Murphy tweets. Oshae Brissett‘s contract will likely be converted into a two-way deal.

As Murphy notes (via Twitter), the Raptors’ preference may be to retain Miller, cutting Taylor and then re-signing him to fill the other two-way contract slot after he clears waivers. However, it’s not clear if Taylor would be on board with that plan — or if he’d go unclaimed on waivers.

The Raptors don’t have to make their final decisions today since Miller and Taylor both have partial guarantees. Keeping both players until Monday’s roster deadline won’t result in any extra dead money on the club’s cap.

Atlantic Notes: Kanter, Davis, Boucher, Robinson

The Celtics are still decided whether to use center Enes Kanter as a starter or have him play a bigger role on the second unit, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald reports. Kanter signed a two-year deal worth approximately $10MM to be a rotation player for Boston.

“Everybody’s preference is to start,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “But he didn’t seem to me like he was losing sleep over it. He understands what we were thinking, and I told him no decisions have been made. We’re still mixing and matching. We’ll be doing it all the way until Oct. 21.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Raptors guard Fred VanVleet has taken rookie Terence Davis under his wing, Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun writes. The former Ole Miss guard went undrafted but earned a two-year deal from Toronto after impressing with the Nuggets’ summer league team. “He’s got to get a lot better obviously to be able to help this team but you see flashes,” VanVleet said. “You see what he brings to the table. But he’s kind of in an awkward position. I know they’re asking him to do some primary ball-handling which is probably not natural for him so I think in a more traditional second unit with a point guard (on the floor with him) he can play off the ball more.”
  • Raptors power forward Chris Boucher has impressed coach Nick Nurse to the point where he might be a rotation player, Wolstat tweets. Boucher’s $1,588,231 salary becomes guaranteed if he makes the opening night roster. Up to that point, Boucher has a $125K guarantee. The 6’10” Boucher appeared in 28 games with the Raptors last season and is one of eight players on the training camp roster with a partial or non-guaranteed contract.
  • Center Mitchell Robinson has already outplayed his team-friendly four-year contract and an extension may be in the Knicks’ best interests, as Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News examines. Robinson is eligible next summer for a four-year extension in excess of $53MM. Robinson could sign that extension as early as July and would require the Knicks to tear up Robinson’s $1.8MM team option for 2021/22, Bondy adds.

Raptors Notes: Ujiri, Camp Battles, T. Davis, Lowry

Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri reportedly drew interest from the Wizards this spring when Washington was in the market for a new head of basketball operations, and will likely continue to be targeted by teams making front office changes.

However, speaking to Frank Isola of The Athletic last weekend about his job status, Ujiri made it clear he intends to remain in Toronto at least through the end of his current contract in 2021, if not longer.

“The most important thing is that when you sign a contract you’re obligated to serve it,” Ujiri said. “I signed the contract and I have time left on that contract and I will serve the time. This place has been unbelievable to me. It’s been just a blessing.”

Here’s more on the Raptors:

Atlantic Notes: Ntilikina, Adel, Raptors, Nets Staff

Frank Ntilikina‘s last coach in the French Pro A League told the enigmatic Knicks guard that he must build off his strong showing the FIBA World Cup, Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic reports. Vincent Collet knows this could be a make-or-break year for the lottery pick. Ntilikina helped Team France win a bronze medal in the tournament. “I told him he must keep going,” Collet told Vorkunov. “He must take advantage of the World Cup. When you start the camp, you must show them you are not the same Frank anymore.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Nets’ G League affiliate, the Long Island Nets, acquired the returning player rights to Deng Adel from Raptors 905, according to a team press release. Brooklyn had already signed the small forward to an Exhibit 10 contract. Adel played on a two-way contract with the Cavaliers during the second half of last season, then became a free agent. Long Island also acquired the returning player rights of JaKarr Sampson from the Windy City Bulls in the three-team G league swap. Sampson signed with the Pacers in August.
  • The five players who have partially guaranteed contracts with the Raptors will likely compete for three roster spots, as Blake Murphy of The Athletic details in an examination of the team’s salary cap situation. A dozen players have fully guaranteed deals and will almost assuredly make the squad. That leaves Cameron Payne, Isaiah Taylor, Dewan Hernandez, Chris Boucher and Malcolm Miller vying for the remaining spots on the 15-man opening night roster. Hernandez might have the biggest edge because he has the most guaranteed money and the most team-friendly contract long-term, Murphy adds.
  • Former NBA center Tiago Splitter has been promoted by the Nets to player development coach, according to a team press release. Splitter joined the organization after retiring in February 2018. The other staff additions or promotions included J.R. Holden (director of player personnel), Daniel Jones (physical performance coach) and Ryan Forehan-Kelly (player development coordinator).

Raptors Notes: Siakam, Roster, Taylor, Tampering

Several coaches and executives believe Raptors forward Pascal Siakam has a strong case for a maximum extension after his breakthrough season, writes Frank Urbina of HoopsHype. Siakam was fighting for playing time in his first two NBA campaigns, but he earned Most Improved Player honors for 2018/19 by posting a 16.9/6.9/3.1 line in 80 games.

“With Toronto in the situation that they’re in, no longer having Kawhi Leonard or Danny Green, Pascal Siakam may be a safe bet for them and they may want to give him a max extension to lock him up,” one Western Conference coach said. “I’ve been impressed with his development; he’s improved into a highly, highly serviceable player who’s very efficient and does a lot for that team. From the outside looking in, it seems like he’ll be able to continue his development too. He seems highly motivated and very grateful to be in the situation he’s in and he doesn’t take anything for granted.”

However, a couple of executives questioned whether Toronto should commit to a full max deal right now, saying it might be wiser to let him play out this season and negotiate with him as a restricted free agent next summer.

There’s more from Toronto:

  • Doug Smith of The Toronto Star takes a look at the battle for roster spots as training camp draws closer. With 12 players holding guaranteed contracts and three with Exhibit 10 deals, Smith expects the competition for the three open slots to be decided among Cameron Payne, Isaiah Taylor, Malcolm Miller, Chris Boucher and Dewan Hernandez.
  • The two-year contract that Taylor signed this week contains a $50K guarantee for the first season, but no protection beyond that, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. If he stays on the roster, Taylor will receive $1.62MM for this season and $1.76MM for 2020/21. Marks notes that it’s similar to the deal that Payne received, though Payne’s guarantee was $150K.
  • Columnist Dave Feschuk of The Toronto Star calls the NBA’s newly-adopted tougher stance on tampering more of a “nuisance” than a deterrent. He adds that little could be done to punish the Clippers for their aggressive recruitment of Leonard last season because the wealth of owner Steve Ballmer makes a $10MM fine insignificant, and most of the team’s upcoming draft picks already belong to Oklahoma City from the Paul George trade.