Fred VanVleet

Atlantic Notes: Butler, Hayward, Fultz, VanVleet

While Jimmy Butler‘s three-team wish list of preferred trade destinations includes the Knicks, his interest in New York has been overstated, per USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt (Twitter link).

Zillgitt notes that Butler’s main goal is to compete sooner than later, and joining a Knicks team in rebuild mode does not accomplish that. Butler’s list also includes the Nets and Clippers, but more teams have since been reported as possible destinations. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Pistons, Rockets, Heat, Sixers and Trail Blazers also have interest. Also, the Cavaliers have entered the sweepstakes.

Knicks brass has been adamant that the organization will not deviate from its plan to not trade young players and draft picks. Acquiring Butler, a 29-year-old All-Star, would require both.

Check out more Atlantic Division notes:

  •  Celtics star Gordon Hayward is expected to sign a multi-year sneaker deal, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Hayward, who missed nearly all of last season after a freak ankle injury, Hayward has reportedly been pursued by several major companies, including Nike, New Balance and the Chinese company Anta.
  • Sixers guard Markelle Fultz has worked hard on improving his jump shot and is ready to make an impact this season, writes Rich Hofmann of The Athletic (subscription required). “This summer was really just me working to get my mechanics back, my confidence back, my swagger back,” Fultz said.
  • The Raptors signed Fred VanVleet quickly after free agency opened this summer, keeping a vital part of Toronto’s bench. Blake Murphy of The Athletic (subscription required) examines the process and VanVleet’s new contract.

Northwest Notes: Jazz, VanVleet, Blazers, Wolves

The Jazz were fairly quiet in free agency over the summer, reaching new deals with their own free agents like Derrick Favors, Dante Exum, and Raul Neto, but not bringing in any outside targets. However, according to Blake Murphy of The Athletic, Utah was in the mix for at least one noteworthy free agent: Fred VanVleet.

In a story on VanVleet’s restricted free agency, Murphy – citing a league source – reports that the Jazz “somewhat unexpectedly tried to get into the mix” for the Raptors’ point guard. Utah didn’t have cap room this offseason, but could have used the mid-level exception to give VanVleet a similar deal to the one he received from Toronto (two years, $18MM). It’s not clear how seriously the Jazz considered VanVleet, but if they had landed him, it’s unlikely that the club would have invested so heavily in Exum ($28.8MM over three years).

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The Trail Blazers have become the latest NBA team to secure a jersey patch sponsorship deal, announcing today that they’ve partnered with Performance Health. As a result, a Biofreeze logo will be featured on Portland’s uniform starting in the 2018/19 season. The Blazers are the 24th NBA club to add an advertisement patch to their jerseys since the start of last season.
  • Pat Zipfel, who had been the head coach at Division II school Mansfield, has accepted a role with the Timberwolves, per Andy Malnoske of NBC Elmira (Twitter link). Previously an assistant coach for the Rockets and Timberwolves, Zipfel also has served as an advance scout for multiple NBA teams. It’s unclear what his new title in Minnesota will be.
  • Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News takes an in-depth look at Jairus Lyles‘ quest to earn a roster spot with the Jazz for the 2018/19 season. The former UMBC standout will face an uphill battle — Utah has 14 players on guaranteed contracts, with Royce O’Neale expected to fill the 15th and final roster spot.
  • In case you missed the biggest news out of the Northwest today, Jimmy Butler has requested a trade from the Timberwolves. Here are the latest rumors on Butler.

Raptors Notes: Ujiri, Leonard, DeRozan, VanVleet

By trading away franchise cornerstone DeMar DeRozan, Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri demonstrated his belief that Toronto’s roster, as constructed pre-Kawhi Leonard, wasn’t going to get the job done against the Celtics or the rest of the Eastern Conference, reports Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports.

But now that Leonard is a Raptor, the obvious question becomes, for how long? The Lakers, like most everyone else who follows or reports on the NBA, believe they will land Leonard next summer. Yet, the brass in L.A. felt the same way last summer when they saw Paul George, who publicly voiced his desire to play in Hollywood, be traded to the Thunder only to re-sign with Oklahoma City earlier this month without so much as a second look at the Lakers.

Per Mannix, however, this feels different. The Raptors don’t have an MVP sidekick to pair with Leonard like the Thunder have in Russell Westbrook, and as Chris Haynes of ESPN blunty tweeted earlier today, Leonard has “no desire” to play in Toronto. But then again, Toronto is not an undesirable city, it plays host to one of the most rabid fan bases in all of professional sports, and Ujiri will have an entire year to sell Leonard on a future in Canada.

Ultimately Ujiri, who another front office executive tagged as “really impressive” and a “tremendous asset,” chose to roll the dice on an MVP-caliber player knowing that there were risks attached. It remains to be seen, at least until next summer, whether Ujiri’s gamble will payoff.

There’s more from The North:

  • In a subsequent tweet from Haynes, the ESPN scribe mentions how players around the NBA have not failed to notice that the Raptors have yet to make a statement thanking DeRozan for his contributions over a nine-year period with the franchise.
  • In another article for Yahoo Sports, Michael Lee opines that the DeRozan/Leonard trade is unique because both of the marquee players involved are furious with the deal. For his part, DeRozan is particularly hurt because he claims to have been told by the Raptors just recently that he wouldn’t be traded out of Toronto. And after former franchise stars like Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, and Chris Bosh bolted, it seems cruel for a player like DeRozan, who actually wanted to stay in Toronto, to be sent packing without his approval.
  • In other Raptors‘ news, re-signed guard Fred VanVleet sat down with Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype for a wide-ranging interview detailing everything from his free agency experience this summer and last season’s breakout performance to his thoughts on former coach Dwane Casey and new head coach Nick Nurse.

Atlantic Rumors: Gaines, Nurse, Celtics, Knox

Clarence Gaines Jr. is no longer with the Knicks’ organization, Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic reports. Gaines was the team’s VP of player personnel under former team president Phil Jackson, who credited Gaines for lobbying to select Kristaps Porzingis in the 2015 lottery. Gaines did scouting for the current regime last season. Several newcomers have been hired by the front office and Gaines did not have strong ties to GM Scott Perry, Ian Begley of ESPN notes. Gaines’ contract expired after last season.

In other developments around the Atlantic Division:

  • Challenging DeMar DeRozan to become a better defender is just one of the things new Raptors coach Nick Nurse has in mind for next season, Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun writes. Nurse is trying to devise ways to play two smaller guards, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, together and still minimize the issues that it presents defending pick-and-rolls, Wolstat continues. Playing Serge Ibaka more often at center is another wrinkle Nurse plans to employ, Wolstat adds.
  • The Celtics are planning to hold onto their $8.641MM mid-level exception for the balance of the offseason, Keith Smith of RealGM tweets. Their priority is to re-sign restricted free agents Marcus Smart and Jabari Bird and see what develops during the season, Smith adds.
  • Strong summer-league showings by first-round pick Kevin Knox and second-rounder Mitchell Robinson have made the Knicks look wise in their selections, ESPN’s Andre Snellings writes. Knox should jump right into the Knicks’ starting lineup at small forward, while Robinson could eventually work his way into the rotation. While neither player shows superstar potential, they both have skill sets that should translate to the league, Snellings adds.
  • The Nets have positioned themselves to make a big splash next summer, Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype notes. They can create enough salary-cap room to sign two first-tier free agents to go along with two first-round picks, provided that the protections on the pick the Nuggets sent them don’t kick in.
  • Knicks coach David Fizdale will head off to Latvia on July 22nd to visit with Porzingis and check on his progress from knee surgery, Marc Berman of the New York Post reports.

Trevor Ariza Signs One-Year Deal With Suns

JULY 6: Ariza’s deal with the Suns is now official, the team confirmed in a press release“Phoenix was the most aggressive team and the team that showed the most interest in me,” Ariza said today at his introductory press conference. “We all want to feel appreciated and wanted. When a team shows that much appreciation for what you do, naturally you are attracted to something like that.” (Twitter link from Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle). 

JUNE 30: The Suns and Trevor Ariza have reached an agreement on a one-year, $15MM contract, reports Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Phoenix will use most – if not all – of its available cap room to complete the signing.

Ariza, who turns 33 on Saturday, averaged 11.7 PPG and 4.4 RPG with a .368 3PT% in 67 regular-season games for the Rockets. While his season ended on a low note following an 0-for-12 shooting performance in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, the veteran played a key role in Houston, knocking down corner threes and playing excellent perimeter defense. His departure will be a blow to the West’s No. 1 seed.

The Suns, meanwhile, continue to add depth to their frontcourt. In the last two drafts, Phoenix has used lottery picks to add Josh Jackson and Mikal Bridges. The team also locked up T.J. Warren to a long-term extension that will take effect this year.

Given Phoenix’s need in the backcourt, the decision to devote the majority of its available cap room to Ariza is a little surprising. However, three-and-D wings are one of the most coveted assets in the modern NBA, and Ariza will provide veteran locker-room leadership as part of a young Suns roster.

While it’s not clear how the Suns will address their hole at the point, their deal with Ariza could be good news for a team like the Raptors, who had been concerned that Phoenix might sign Fred VanVleet to an aggressive offer sheet, tweets Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun. The Suns seem likely to be in the market for a less expensive point guard now.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raptors Re-Sign Fred VanVleet

JULY 6: VanVleet’s new contract is official, the Raptors announced in a press release. “We all know Fred’s personal motto is ‘Bet on Yourself.’ We know that Fred is no gamble – he’s hardworking, dedicated, and smart, and has been fantastic for us,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said. “We’re thrilled he’ll be a big part of the Toronto Raptors for seasons to come.”

JULY 1: The Raptors have agreed to re-sign free agent point guard Fred VanVleet, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Charania reports that it will be a two-year, $18MM contract, while Michael Scotto of The Athletic adds (via Twitter) that the deal won’t include any option years.Fred VanVleet of the Toronto Raptors vertical

VanVleet, who initially joined the Raptors as an undrafted free agent out of Wichita State in 2016, emerged as a key part of the team’s rotation in 2017/18. The leader of the NBA’s most productive five-man second unit, VanVleet averaged 8.6 PPG and 3.2 APG with a .414 3PT%. He was frequently a part of Toronto’s crunch-time lineups, and was a finalist for the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award.

Even without account for VanVleet, the Raptors already have $126MM+ in guaranteed money on their books for 2018/19, so there was some concern about the club’s ability to bring back the key reserve, particularly if the 24-year-old received a lucrative offer sheet from a rival suitor. However, a prime landing spot for VanVleet disappeared early on Sunday morning when the Suns committed their cap room to a deal for Trevor Ariza rather than using it to pursue a point guard.

With VanVleet projected to get a starting salary close to $9MM, the Raptors are set to go well into tax territory, so the team may look to cut costs elsewhere. Multiple reports this offseason have stated that no one on Toronto’s roster is untouchable, including highly-paid veterans like Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas, and C.J. Miles. The club was also said to be gauging the market for Norman Powell.

The Raptors will use their Early Bird rights to re-sign VanVleet, so they’ll still have the taxpayer mid-level exception available.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Derrick Favors Sets Meeting With Jazz

Representatives of the Jazz will meet with free agent big man Derrick Favors Sunday afternoon in Atlanta, writes Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune.

Both sides are confident that Favors will return to Utah, tweets Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. He cites the Suns as a team that might take a chance on Favors, but adds that Phoenix needs a point guard and is in the market for Toronto’s Fred VanVleet.
Favors, 26, has been in Utah since arriving in a 2011 trade. He averaged 15.8 points and 9.2 rebounds in 77 games this season and played particularly well when starting center Rudy Gobert was sidelined by injuries.
The Jazz have said they will place a priority on keeping Favors, along with restricted free agents Dante Exum and Raul Neto. They must also decide by Sunday whether to guarantee a $5.25MM contract for Thabo Sefolosha, with Jones stating that Sefolosha’s camp is confident they will.

Raptors Issue QOs To VanVleet, Miller, De Colo

The Raptors have extended qualifying offers to Fred VanVleet, Malcolm Miller, and Nando De Colo, ensuring that all three players will become restricted free agents, the team announced today (via Twitter).

VanVleet, the most notable of the three players, had a breakout season for the Raptors in 2017/18. The leader of the team’s second unit, VanVleet averaged 8.6 PPG and 3.2 APG with a .414 3PT% and was a finalist for the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award. His qualifying offer is worth just under $1.7MM.

As Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca detailed earlier today, the Raptors are wary of a rival suitor back-loading an offer sheet to VanVleet via the Arenas provision. However, if the 24-year-old doesn’t receive any over-the-top offers from other teams, there’s a good chance he’ll remain in Toronto on a new multiyear deal.

Miller was on a two-way contract with the Raptors in 2017/18, so his QO will be a one-year, two-way contract offer with a $50K guarantee.

As for De Colo, he hasn’t played in the NBA since the 2013/14 season, but the Raptors have retained the right of first refusal on the 31-year-old since then by issuing qualifying offers each year. De Colo seems unlikely to return to the NBA at this point, given his success overseas — the CSKA Moscow guard has earned First Team All-EuroLeague honors for three straight seasons. As such, the Raps’ QO looks like a mere formality.

The only Raptors player eligible for restricted free agency who didn’t receive a qualifying offer today is Lucas Nogueira. The team has a couple more days to issue a QO if it changes its mind, but it appears Nogueira will become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins.

Lou Williams Wins Sixth Man Award

Lou Williams career year earned him the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award, it was announced at the NBA’s annual awards show. The 31-year-old Clippers guard easily beat out the other finalists, the Rockets’ Eric Gordon and the Raptors’ Fred VanVleet.

Williams had always provided instant offense off the bench during his career but he turned it a couple of notches this past season. He easily surpassed his previous scoring standards by averaging 22.6 PPG while dishing out 5.3 APG, another career best. Williams shot 43.5% from the field and 35.9% on 3-point attempts in 79 games in 19 career starts.

Williams scored 30 or more points in 17 games and blew up for a career-best 50 points against the Warriors on January 10th. Gordon won the award in 2017 while Williams was one of the finalists.

Raptors Gauging Interest In Swingman Norman Powell

The Raptors are gauging interest in Norman Powell prior to the draft, Josh Lewenberg of The Sports Network reports.

Any potential suitor would have to believe the 6’4” swingman has untapped potential, considering his four-year, $42MM extension kicks in next season. Powell was a disappointment in his third NBA season, as his production and playing time tailed off from his sophomore campaign.

He’ll make approximately $9.37MM in the first year of the contract. However, the extension doesn’t kick in until July 1st, which makes him easier to trade before that time. The acquiring team would only have to match or absorb the $1.47MM he made last season to make the trade work. If he’s dealt after this month, the acquiring team would have to match up salaries or absorb his salary from the first year of the extension.

Powell lost his starting spot early in the season and averaged 5.5 PPG, 1.7 RPG and 1.3 APG in 15.2 MPG while appearing in 70 games. His long-range shooting was an issue, as he knocked down just 28.5% of his 3-point tries. He averaged 8.4 PPG and made 32.4% of his 3-point attempts during his second season.

Toronto’s front office believes it has enough depth at the wing positions to deal Powell, Lewenberg continues, and his combination of youth, athleticism and high character could draw some interest. The return would be minimal, Lewenberg opines, perhaps nothing more than a second-round pick. Removing Powell’s salary would give them more cap space to retain restricted free agent Fred VanVleet, which GM Bobby Webster considers his highest offseason priority.