Goran Dragic

Raptors Notes: Roster Battle, Siakam, Boucher, Anunoby

The fight to make the Raptors‘ 15-man regular season squad has been one of the NBA’s more competitive preseason roster battles, with Sam Dekker, Ishmail Wainright, and Isaac Bonga vying to earn two spots (or just one, if Toronto opens the season with 14 players). Addressing the competition today, Dekker said he’ll be happy for Wainright and/or Bonga if they beat him out for a roster spot.

“These are guys I’ll stay in touch with for a long time no matter what and I’m always going to cheer for them, because it’s the weakness of a man to root for someone to fail,” Dekker said, adding that his current teammates are some of the “kindest human beings” he knows (Twitter link via Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca).

Wainright also expressed gratitude for the opportunity to make his case for a regular season roster spot, regardless of what the Raptors decide.

“No matter how it goes, I’m not going to hang my head,” Wainright said (Twitter link via Lewenberg). “My family always told me when one door closes, another opens. I’m coming out of this a better man, a better basketball player, a better person, period… Whatever happens, I gave it my all from start to finish.”

All three players have had strong camps, according to Lewenberg (Twitter link). While many teams will set their rosters by Saturday, the Raptors could wait until Monday if they want, since Dekker, Wainright, and Bonga all have partial guarantees. That means their cap hits would remain unchanged if they don’t clear waivers until after the regular season begins, unlike a player on a non-guaranteed deal, who must be waived by Saturday for a team to avoid incurring a small cap charge.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Appearing on SiriusXM NBA Radio on Tuesday, head coach Nick Nurse said that Pascal Siakam (shoulder) is starting contact work this week and may only be a few weeks away from returning, while big man Chris Boucher (finger) is about 10 days away (Twitter link via Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca).
  • With Siakam sidelined to start the season and Kyle Lowry no longer a Raptor, the team is grooming OG Anunoby to be a centerpiece of its offense, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. “He’s our number one option right now,” Fred VanVleet said of his teammate. “He’s been great, he’s been assertive finding his spots, I think me and him are finding a little bit of rhythm together, so it’s good to see.”
  • Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca takes a look at the battle between Goran Dragic and Gary Trent Jr. for the second starting spot in the backcourt alongside VanVleet, suggesting Dragic appears to have the upper hand.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic didn’t love the terms of the Raptors’ free agent contracts with Trent and Khem Birch, but praised the team for getting Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk on a minimum-salary deal. Hollinger projects the team to finish with a 40-42 record, good for ninth in the East.

Raptors Notes: Dragic, Siakam, Vaccination Status

Goran Dragic doesn’t know how long he’ll be with the Raptors, but he’s willing to accept whatever role the team wants him to play, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. The veteran guard was acquired from the Heat this summer in the Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade. There were rumors at the time that he might be shipped to Dallas, but that deal never materialized.

With a $19.5MM expiring contract, the 35-year-old point guard could become a valuable trade chip before the February deadline. A report this week said no deal involving Dragic appears imminent, and Toronto has little incentive to pursue a buyout before the deadline arrives.

Dragic used Monday’s media day to repeat an apology for comments he made to Slovenian reporters last month indicating that he didn’t want to be with the Raptors. He told Smith that his statement was taken out of context.

“You know, it came out wrong. I did apologize and I want to apologize right now, too,” Dragic said. “It was not my intention. But you know, the organization and the players, they welcomed (me). It was really nice; all the guys are nice. They want me, you know, to feel comfortable and I do feel comfortable here, for the past two weeks.”

There’s more from Toronto:

  • Pascal Siakam hasn’t been cleared for contact yet in his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery, but the Raptors are optimistic about his progress, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. “He looks good,” said general manager Bobby Webster. “He’s in a really positive head space. I think he’s happy and ready to go.” Siakam has been working out on his own at the team’s practice facility, and coach Nick Nurse hopes he’ll be ready relatively early in the season (Twitter link). American Thanksgiving, which falls on November 25, could be a realistic target date, tweets Michael Grange of The Athletic.
  • Lowry’s departure leaves Siakam as the team leader for the first time in his career, notes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. Koreen suggests that Siakam may benefit from a month or so of not playing, which will give him a chance to study his teammates and see the best ways he can help. “We had a conversation with Masai (Ujiri), and it was me, it was OG (Anunoby) and it was Fred (VanVleet),” Siakam said. “Everyone else is gonna be young. … ‘We’re gonna go wherever you guys take us.’ I think that’s the focus. … I don’t like the word ‘the guy.’ I don’t like using it. I want to be the guy who wins. I want to win. I remember when we went to Vegas for dinner and I’m sitting there and I’m like, ‘Damn, I feel like I’m the oldest here.’ It was weird, a weird feeling I never had before. It’s gonna be a process, but I’m excited about it.”
  • Visiting players who haven’t been vaccinated will be able to receive a National Interest Exemption to play in Toronto, according to The Athletic. They must test negative after arriving in Canada and won’t be able to leave the team hotel, other than to go to Scotiabank Arena. Raptors players are almost fully vaccinated and the team expects to reach that status by opening night, according to Murphy (Twitter link).

Stein’s Latest: Timberwolves, Ujiri, Simmons, Lacob, Dragic

Incoming Timberwolves owners Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore won’t assume majority control of the the franchise from Glen Taylor until 2023, but they’re operating in some ways as if they’re already the team’s primary owners, says Marc Stein of Substack.

Shortly after Gersson Rosas was dismissed this week, Timberwolves reporter Dane Moore suggested (via Twitter) that rumors have circulated for months that Rodriguez and Lore want to bring in a “top-five” front office executive. Stein doesn’t specifically confirm that rumor, but he corroborates it, writing that word circulated at Summer League in August that A-Rod and Lore would have loved to make a run at veteran executive Masai Ujiri, who ultimately re-upped with the Raptors.

While those reports suggest that the Wolves’ new ownership group wants to make a splash, league sources tell Stein that Sachin Gupta is expected to get every chance to impress the team during his time running the basketball operations department. According to Moore (Twitter link), Gupta – whose title is executive VP of basketball operations – doesn’t technically have the “interim” tag attached to his position, an indication that he’ll receive serious consideration for the permanent job.

Here’s more from Stein’s latest NBA roundup:

  • According to Stein, teams around the NBA are skeptical that the Sixers genuinely want to bring back Ben Simmons, viewing Doc Riversmedia comments on Wednesday as an attempt to regain trade leverage rather than a legitimate effort to mend the team’s relationship with Simmons.
  • It may seem odd that Warriors owner Joe Lacob was fined for comments about Simmons that didn’t even mention him by name and made it clear that Golden State isn’t really interested in the Sixers star. However, Stein says the tampering penalty was “as automatic as these ever get,” since there was no doubt Lacob was referring to Simmons, and his comments could be viewed as an attempt to diminish the 25-year-old’s trade value.
  • It doesn’t appear that any deal involving Goran Dragic is imminent. Stein writes that the Raptors want to be as competitive as possible this season, and Dragic can help with those efforts. Toronto also believes that more appealing trade scenarios could arise once the season gets underway and more teams need a point guard due to injuries or underperformance.

Atlantic Notes: DeRozan, Dragic, Celtics, Simmons

Knicks general manager Scott Perry had contemplated pursuing swingman DeMar DeRozan in free agency this summer, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post. DeRozan eventually joined the Bulls through a three-year, $81.9MM sign-and-trade with San Antonio. The Knicks ultimately decided to add sharpshooting wing Evan Fournier on a four-year contract that could be worth up to $78MM.

The 28-year-old Fournier, who connected on 41.3% of his 6.7 three-point attempts per game for the Magic and Celtics last year, is potentially a cleaner offensive fit with the Knicks than the 32-year-old DeRozan would have been. DeRozan, a four-time All-Star while with the Raptors, is an excellent ball handler and an elite mid-range jump shooter, but lacks a reliable outside shot.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The fate of new Raptors point guard Goran Dragic is one of the prime subjects of a detailed new mailbag with Eric Koreen of The Athletic. Koreen contends that, because Dragic is on an expiring $19MM deal, he may have value in a trade. Koreen adds that a buyout would only transpire if Toronto team president Masai Ujiri is unable to find a suitable trade partner for Dragic before the 2022 deadline. Koreen also addresses the team’s thinking in not extending offers to free agent centers Jarrett Allen and Richaun Holmes.
  • After undergoing some significant behind-the-scenes changes during the offseason, the Celtics also made some notable changes on the court. In a new article, Zach Harper of The Athletic recaps and grades the club’s summer. The club added point guard Dennis Schröder on a team-friendly one-year, $5.9MM deal. Boston also traded away oft-injured point guard Kemba Walker in exchange for former Celtics All-Star big man Al Horford. The team also moved on from swingman Evan Fournier, decided to take a flyer on 3-and-D wing Josh Richardson, and added former Boston reserve Enes Kanter to their forward and center rotations, respectively. Harper forecasts that Boston ultimately upgraded its roster and could become a threat in the East again.
  • With training camp fast approaching, it is quite possible that the Sixers will now be affected by an extended Ben Simmons holdout ahead of a blockbuster trade, Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice writes. If a deal can’t be reached before the preseason starts, Neubeck wonders if the rest of the club can deal with the drama. Neubeck opines that, should a teammate, coach, or executive besmirch Simmons to the media, it could adversely affect Philadelphia’s potential return package in a trade. Neubeck also speculates about how an on-court absence for Simmons could expand the roles of Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle.

Atlantic Notes: Dragic, Christian, Hernangomez, Jordan

The Raptors and Goran Dragic have not engaged in buyout talks, according to ESPN’s Jordan Schultz (Twitter link), who says a report stating the point guard is on track to sign with the Mavericks is inaccurate. Dragic, who was acquired in the sign-and-trade with Miami that sent Kyle Lowry to the Heat, still has trade value, which gives Toronto less incentive to explore a possible buyout.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Celtics have hired Jarell Christian as the head coach of their G League affiliate in Maine, according to HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto. Clevis Murray was the first to report that Christian was expected to fill that position (Twitter link). Christian, 35, has been in the Wizards’ organization since 2019. He spent one season as head coach of the Capital City Go-Go, Washington’s NBA G League affiliate, before becoming an assistant coach last season.
  • The pending acquisition of Juan Hernangomez by the Celtics from the Grizzlies is a low-risk move, Jay King of The Athletic writes. Boston gave up two guards who probably wouldn’t have been in the rotation and the pick swap wasn’t a huge sweetener, King continues. Hernangomez could help them space the floor with his perimeter shooting and if he doesn’t pan out, his 2022/23 salary of $7.4MM can be cast off, since it’s not guaranteed.
  • By trading DeAndre Jordan rather than waiving him and using the stretch provision over five years, the Nets made a wise financial move, as Bobby Marks of ESPN’s explains (Twitter link). The agreed-upon trade with the Pistons allows Brooklyn to avoid have dead money on the cap, which is essential for a luxury tax team. They also shed his salary over the next two seasons and acquired players on smaller contracts, which will reduce their tax liability in the short run.

Implications Of Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk Deal For Raptors

With the signing of Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, the battles for the Raptors’ final roster spots are coming into focus, Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets.

Murphy writes that the player option included in Mykhailiuk’s deal makes it very likely he gets one of the team’s final roster spots, especially given Toronto’s lack of guaranteed depth at the shooting guard spot. Second-round pick David Johnson and partially-guaranteed Ishmail Wainright are the only shooting guards on the roster beyond Gary Trent Jr. Fred VanVleet has seen plenty of time at the position in recent years, but is almost certainly going to start games as the team’s point guard.

Murphy adds that if Mykhailiuk is guaranteed a spot on the 15-man roster, that means that Wainright, Freddie Gillespie, Sam Dekker, Isaac Bonga, and Yuta Watanabe will vie for the final three openings. Gillespie and Watanabe both showed promise for the Raptors in limited time last season, while Bonga has at times proved an interesting, potential-filled player as a 6’9″ playmaker with decent defensive instincts and some shooting ability.

Murphy added in a response to his initial tweet that Watanabe is considered a heavy favorite for a spot after his strong play last season, but given his non-guaranteed contract, he’s not quite a lock. Murphy also says that Egyptian big man Anas Mahmoud is likely to receive an Exhibit 10 deal.

In a final tweet, Murphy adds that the Raptors are operating like a team that knows that it’ll be able to move Goran Dragic by the deadline to avoid a tax bill.

Mavs Notes: Doncic Extension, Dragic, Hardaway, Brown

The Mavericks recently traveled to the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana to present star Luka Doncic with his five-year, $207MM extension, the most expensive rookie contract in NBA history, writes ESPN’s Royce Young.

According to team owner Mark Cuban, having the signing take place in Doncic’s home country was meant to send a message to the 22-year-old, two-time All-NBA guard:

Just to confirm to Luka how important he is to us and how this is just the beginning,” Cuban said. “We want him to know we’re there for him, whether that’s here in Slovenia, in Dallas, or anywhere in the world. Part of this process is not only getting to know him but getting to know what’s important to him. How he looks at things.”

Doncic, for his part, claims that his signing the Mavs’ offer was “never in doubt.”

We have more news from the Mavericks:

  • Tim Cato and Blake Murphy of The Athletic discuss why Goran Dragic remains a Raptor, rather than having being re-routed to Dallas. Murphy writes that the Raptors have no incentive to buy out Dragic, who could still return value in a trade. Cato adds that the Mavs would be more likely to include Dwight Powell in trade talks than Maxi Kleber, but Josh Green could be a candidate to be moved if he remains in a limited role and the team continues to struggle in its non-Doncic minutes.
  • Details have emerged on Tim Hardaway Jr.‘s $75MM contract with the Mavs. Tim MacMahon of ESPN breaks down the descending structure of Hardaway’s deal, which will start at $21.3MM and end in the 2024/25 season at $16.19MM.
  • Recently-signed Sterling Brown‘s contract is fully guaranteed at $6MM over two years, tweets ESPN’s Zach Lowe. The contract will come out of the Mavs’ bi-annual exception. Given Dallas’ lack of wing depth and his defensive ability at 6’5 and career 37.4% shooting from three, Brown will likely be counted on as an important bench contributor this season.

Fischer’s Latest: Markkanen, DeRozan, Hield, Hart, Suns, More

The Pelicans, Mavericks, Celtics, and Timberwolves are among the teams that have shown interest in Bulls restricted free agent Lauri Markkanen, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, who hears from sources that the price tag on the power forward would be about $15MM per year.

Landing Markkanen would be a challenge for any of those teams, however, as they’re all over the cap and would have to acquire the RFA forward via sign-and-trade. New Orleans has a traded player exception big enough to fit Markkanen, but the other teams would likely to have rely on salary-matching or offer him a lower salary (Dallas has a TPE worth $10.872MM, while Boston has one worth $9.72MM). Acquiring a player via sign-and-trade also results in a hard cap, which the Celtics are reportedly resisting.

On top of all that, Fischer confirms a previous report that the Bulls are seeking a first-round pick to accommodate a Markkanen sign-and-trade and don’t want to take on any salary, preferring any contracts to be rerouted to a third team. If they maintain that stance, the Bulls would make it very difficult for Markkanen to do anything but accept his $9MM qualifying offer.

“Chicago is playing this masterfully from no other perspective than a contract management standpoint,” a team capologist told Fischer. “It won’t do any favors relationship-wise, but they’re bleeding his market based on their tax situation, and nobody else can offer him any kind of money without them.”

As we wait to see what happens with Markkanen, it’s worth noting that the Hornets – previously rumored to be eyeing the forward – weren’t listed by Fischer as one of the teams in the hunt, and president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak told reporters today that the team is likely done with its “heavy lifting” this offseason (Twitter link via Rod Boone of SI.com).

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • The Sixers, Suns, Trail Blazers, Warriors, Celtics, and Knicks were among the teams that expressed interest in DeMar DeRozan before he reached a deal with the Bulls, per Fischer. However, New York agreed to sign Evan Fournier and most of the other teams would’ve had to figure out complicated sign-and-trade arrangements to accommodate DeRozan, who never really entertained the idea of signing for the mid-level exception, sources tell Fischer.
  • The Pelicans and Kings discussed the possibility of swapping Buddy Hield and Josh Hart (via sign-and-trade) as part of New Orleans’ trade with Memphis, Fischer writes. It’s unclear if anything along those lines is still being considered now that the Pelicans’ deal with the Grizzlies has been completed — base year compensation rules would complicate a one-for-one swap.
  • The Suns are weighing their options for their final open roster spot and have gauged the trade value of 2020 lottery pick Jalen Smith, sources tell Fischer.
  • The Raptors will meet with Goran Dragic‘s camp at Summer League in Las Vegas to further discuss the point guard’s situation, according to Fischer.
  • Zach LaVine has told Bulls staffers he’s committed to improving defensively next season, Fischer says.

Goran Dragic Apologizes For Comments On Trade To Raptors

Veteran point guard Goran Dragic, who was traded from the Heat to the Raptors in the Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade deal last week, apologized on Monday for comments he made in his home country of Slovenia about the trade, writes Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca.

A clip that surfaced on Twitter on Monday of Dragic speaking to Slovenian reporters was accompanied by the English caption, “Toronto is not my preferred destination. I have higher ambitions.” While there was some uncertainty about whether something may have been lost in translation, Dragic didn’t claim he was misquoted. He did tell Grange, however, that the context of the quote was missing.

“I was in the center of the city and the journalists were there and I was asked about Toronto and it was basically taken out of context,” Dragic said. “I told them that I had spent seven years in Miami and that would be the preferred destination for me because my family is there and everything, not Toronto.”

Dragic, who is on an expiring $19.5MM contract, was always expected to be part of the Raptors’ return for Lowry after the Heat picked up his team option, but there was speculation for much of last week that he might be flipped to a third team. The Mavericks were frequently mentioned as a potential destination, since Dallas had been on the lookout for a point guard in free agency and joining the Mavs would give Dragic the opportunity to team up with fellow Slovenian Luka Doncic.

It’s still possible Dragic will be moved to the Mavs or another team at some point, but no deal appears imminent, and he told Grange he’s prepared to spend the 2021/22 season in Toronto.

“My message basically, to all Toronto fans, is I would like to apologize,” Dragic said. “It didn’t come out the right way. I know they love their team, and they should be proud, it is one of the best organizations in the NBA. They’ve already won a championship and I didn’t, so what I said, it really was not appropriate.

“… I’ve always been professional. You can ask a bunch of people. Everywhere I’ve played, wherever I’m going to play, I’m going to be professional and do my job,” he continued. “I love basketball, I love to play and I’m going to give 100% wherever I play. Right now I’m (with) Toronto and that’s my main thing to think about.”

Asked during an appearance on 590 The Fan in Toronto about Dragic, Raptors general manager Bobby Webster cautioned that the 35-year-old’s comments were translated to English and he’d want to “get it directly” from the point guard to understand what he meant, Grange writes. Webster also stressed that the Raptors aren’t a rebuilding team looking to jettison veterans.

“We feel like we’re gonna be competitive, we have a core — as we’ve talked about — that’s been around for a while and has won at the highest level as well,” Webster said. “So think that we’ll just give it some time here to see how (Dragic) would fit in and if he likes it here or not. I think he’s a pro and he’s been around a lot and he’s obviously entitled to wanting to make the most of his years as his career comes down here … so I don’t think it’s in any way a slight or anything like that.”

The Lowry sign-and-trade was officially completed on Friday, so it can no longer be expanded to include a third team, but Dragic could be flipped to a new team immediately as long as his salary isn’t aggregated with another player’s in the deal.

Raptors Notes: Lowry, Achiuwa, Dragic, Birch, TPE, Ujiri

There was some speculation leading up to free agency that Toronto would make an effort to re-sign veteran point guard Kyle Lowry, but comments made on Friday by the six-time All-Star and by Raptors general manager Bobby Webster suggested both sides felt the time was right to move on, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca.

“I think the direction Toronto is going in is they want to give the opportunities to (Fred VanVleet), Pascal (Siakam), OG (Anunoby), a couple young guys, the young draft picks they have,” Lowry told reporters. “They have some great core pieces. They’re in great hands and great shape. It was a situation for me where it was an opportunity to do something different… It’s time to turn the page in the book.”

Webster conveyed a similar sentiment: “You probably could see (during the 2020/21 second half) the direction the team was going in, and jumping up in the draft to get the fourth pick, philosophically, I think going young became kind of a more desirable path.”

Once they recognized Lowry would be moving on, the Raptors could’ve decided to let him walk in order to open up cap room to pursue a free agent. However, that path offered less certainty, especially if the team made an offer sheet to a restricted free agent (such as Jarrett Allen) not knowing whether it would be matched. The Raptors preferred to acquire Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa via a sign-and-trade with the Heat, Lewenberg writes.

“Precious is a huge part of this deal for us,” Webster said. “We really liked him last year in the draft so I think that was a huge get in the sense of a young player that we like and fits.”

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Throughout the week, there were rumors that Toronto may try to flip Dragic to a third team after acquiring him via sign-and-trade. Webster said on Friday that’s not Plan A. “Obviously, if we got an offer that was too good to refuse we’d listen but ultimately we want Goran here,” the Raptors’ GM said, per Lewenberg. “He’s happy to be here, obviously he’s been able to carve out a very nice career for himself. Talking to (team president) Masai (Ujiri), talking to everyone here, we’ve watched him a ton and I know a lot of people have seen him kill us. As a basketball player, as a vet, he provides a lot of value to us.”
  • After his new three-year deal with the Raptors was formally announced on Friday, Canadian center Khem Birch told reporters he was focused throughout free agency on returning to the team, as Doug Smith of The Toronto Star writes. “It feels like a dream come true,” Birch said. “It’s so surreal right now … just one of those free agencies where I knew where I wanted to go. I don’t even know what other teams were interested in me. I just wanted to come here regardless of the price or the years or anything. I just knew this was a great fit. I’m just happy I’m here.”
  • The Raptors will generate a traded player exception as a result of the Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade to Miami. It’ll be worth somewhere between $4.8MM and $7.7MM, depending on the specific structure of Lowry’s new contract, writes Blake Murphy of The Athletic.
  • Speaking to Jared Weiss of The Athletic, Raptors chairman Larry Tanenbaum confirmed that Masai Ujiri‘s new vice chairman title won’t give him an ownership stake in the franchise, but said it reflects his standing in the organization. “I chair the Raptors, but it’s just a recognition that we’re really working together,” Tanenbaum said. “We’re partners.”
  • Tanenbaum added in the same interview that the team’s plan is to have Lowry retire as a Raptor down the road and to retire his number. “He will retire as a Raptor and his number will absolutely go up there,” Tanenbaum said. “The honor will be the first one (for the Raptors) and I love Kyle.”