Isaac Bonga

Atlantic Notes: Irving, Nets, Celtics, Bonga

Nets coach Steve Nash said Kyrie Irving “looks great, considering” and is “getting close” to making his season debut, according to Peter Botte of The New York Post. Irving, who can only play in road games because he hasn’t complied with New York City’s vaccination requirement, could return Wednesday at Indiana, although Nash hasn’t committed to that date.

“He was in isolation for however many days, 10-plus days, I think. For him to come out of that and look as good as he has playing with the stay ready group and getting his rhythm back has been exciting,” Nash said. “We have to give him time to really get his feet under him, but as far as how he looks, he looks very gifted.”

Irving rejoined the team for practice last week after clearing health and safety protocols. If he doesn’t play Wednesday, the next opportunity will be January 12 at Chicago.

“I think he’s on his way. It’s getting close,” Nash added. “We’ve just got to make sure we don’t make a hasty decision, but it’s coming.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Nash experimented Thursday by starting LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Claxton on the front line alongside Kevin Durant and he may use that super-sized lineup again, Botte adds in a separate story. “That was really my first time being out there with L.A. (Aldridge). We’ll definitely adjust to it once we get more reps in. Hopefully, we go to it a lot in the near future,” Claxton said. “The biggest adjustment is just having another big on the court.”
  • The Celtics will have to decide soon whether to be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, and the team isn’t making the decision easy for president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, writes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. After going 6-9 in December, Boston closed out the month by routing the Suns, who have the second-best record in the league. The Celtics are currently in ninth place, part of a logjam of teams between fifth and 12th that are just three and a half games apart.
  • With Isaac Bonga clearing protocols, the Raptors aren’t currently eligible for any more 10-day hardship contracts, tweets Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca. The team’s latest injury report lists Bonga as out for today’s game due to conditioning, rather than the health and safety protocols. Today marks the end of Daniel Oturu‘s 10-day deal.

COVID-19 Updates: Celtics, Lakers, Raptors

Celtics reserve point guard Dennis Schröder has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols and will not play in today’s Christmas game against the Bucks, the team has announced (Twitter link). He joins eight other Celtics in the protocols.

In a more positive twist, Juancho Hernangómez, Jabari Parker, and Brodric Thomas have exited the league’s COVID-19 protocols and are available for today’s game, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic (via Twitter). Guards Marcus Smart, who has been dealing with a hip injury, and Romeo Langford, who has missed time due to an Achilles injury, are also available. Boston center Al Horford is out of the league’s coronavirus protocols but is still working on his conditioning and has been ruled out for the contest.

Here are more COVID-19 protocol updates from around the NBA:

  • Lakers guards Avery Bradley and Malik Monk have left the league’s COVID-19 protocols and will be able to suit up today for Los Angeles against the Nets, per Bill Oram of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • Raptors players Khem Birch, Isaac Bonga, and Justin Champagnie have entered the league’s COVID-19 protocols, though Dalano Banton has apparently exited, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN (Twitter link). A total of 10 Toronto players are now in the protocols. Toronto’s previously-scheduled game on Wednesday, against the Bulls, was canceled as a result of the Raptors not having enough players available. The team’s next game is scheduled for tomorrow against the Cavaliers. Lewenberg adds (via Twitter) that Raptors rookie shooting guard David Johnson (calf) and veteran point guard Goran Dragic (personal) also continue to be unavailable.
  • Keep track of all the NBA players within the league’s health and safety protocols on our tracker here.

Raptors Notes: Anunoby, Dragic, Bench, Boucher

Raptors forward OG Anunoby appeared to be nearing a return from his hip injury last week, having been listed as questionable for multiple games. However, he still hasn’t played and was held out of practice on Monday, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca.

As Lewenberg explains (via Twitter), Anunoby hasn’t suffered a setback, but he has “hit a wall” in his recovery process, per head coach Nick Nurse. An MRI didn’t show any significant concerns, but the injury isn’t healing as rapidly as the team hoped and remains very sore, according to Lewenberg. There’s still no timeline set for Anunoby’s return.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Goran Dragic‘s personal absence from the Raptors figures to increase speculation about him moving on to a new team, but league sources tell Marc Stein that the big picture remains unchanged for the veteran point guard — a trade market hasn’t materialized for Dragic, and it’s still too early in the season for the two sides to have a productive buyout discussion. While it’s possible Dragic has played his last game for the Raptors, it sounds he’ll probably remain on the roster for at least a few more weeks, if not all the way to the trade deadline.
  • It looked briefly last week as if the Raptors might soon have a fully healthy roster, but that hasn’t materialized, and the team’s depth continues to be tested, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca, who notes that Toronto ranks last in the NBA in bench scoring. The Raptors’ reliance on their reserves is highlighting the inexperience and inconsistency of that group, Lewenberg adds.
  • Chris Boucher was pulled from the rotation for Sunday’s game vs. Boston, with his minutes going to Isaac Bonga, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. As Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun observes, Boucher looked like a major success story last season, but he’ll be a free agent in 2022 and the Raptors will have to listen if he draws trade interest before then.

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Brown, Schröder, VanVleet, Bonga, Claxton

A report stating that the Celtics have interest in Ben Simmons prompted Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe to explore whether Boston should aggressively pursue a deal for Simmons, and Jay King and Rich Hofmann of The Athletic to discuss whether the 25-year-old would make the C’s a better team.

Simmons’ play-making ability would make him an intriguing fit for the Celtics and Washburn hears from a league source that the three-time All-Star would be interested in coming to Boston. However, the general sense is that it would be very difficult for the two division rivals to find an agreement that works for both sides. The Sixers are unlikely to accept an offer that doesn’t include Jaylen Brown, whereas the Celtics are unlikely to include Brown in any offer.

In fact, multiple league sources who spoke to Brian Robb of MassLive.com were “adamant” that the Celtics don’t have any interest in moving Brown at all, either for Simmons or in any other deal. I’m sure Boston would reconsider that stance if a player a tier above Brown became available, but presumably the team doesn’t view Simmons as that sort of player.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • The Celtics intend to keep Dennis Schröder in their starting lineup while Brown recovers from his hamstring strain in order to have Josh Richardson and the club’s young wings remain in their bench roles, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic.
  • Besides wanting to get back to the playoffs, Raptors guard Fred VanVleet has a series of individual goals that he’d like to achieve, as he said on The Raptors Show with Will Lou (link via Sportsnet.ca).“I definitely would like to be an All-Star,” VanVleet said. “I want to win all the awards. I want to be All-Defensive … Those are all goals that I have. The good thing for me is that I probably won’t achieve any of those if we aren’t a good team or a top team.”
  • Raptors forward Isaac Bonga has accepted a G League assignment, according to Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter links). Because he’s in his fourth NBA season, Bonga had to sign off on being sent to the NBAGL. The 22-year-old has only logged seven minutes across three games in Toronto so far, but should get a chance to play a starring role for the Raptors 905 when they open their season on Thursday.
  • The Nets recalled center Nicolas Claxton from the G League on Tuesday, tweets Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. Despite being back with Brooklyn, Claxton has been ruled out for Wednesday’s game and there’s still no indication he’s closer to returning from the illness that has sidelined him since October 25.

Raptors Notes: Dekker, Bonga, Siakam, Barnes

The Raptors‘ decision to waive Sam Dekker came down to Isaac Bonga having more of the qualities that the organization values, writes Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca. Both players were signed to partially guaranteed deals and had agreed to delay their guarantee dates until today, but keeping both would have inhibited Toronto’s ability to get below the luxury tax threshold.

Dekker improved his outside shot while playing in Turkey last season, but Bonga is 6’8″ with a 7-foot wingspan and can play several positions. At 21, he’s five-and-a-half years younger than Dekker and may be a better investment for the future. Even though Dekker only got into one game for the Raptors, coach Nick Nurse said it wasn’t an easy choice on which player to keep.

“It was pretty close all the way,” Nurse said. “Isaac probably just kind of filled the role that we want. He’s got size, he’s kind of a versatile defender, he’s on the offensive glass. He’s kind of a real role-playing guy that we think we can throw in there at any time. He’s good enough to get into games right now, to be honest with you, but we can’t play everybody. … We were real close on it. Sam was awesome. He spent a lot of time with us from the moment, all the way back from when we first looked at him in the sort-of open run situation, and he spent a lot of time working the job. But it’s the tough side of it, man. Tough side. Sorry to see him go.”

There’s more from Toronto:

  • Bonga has only played seven total minutes this season, but the Raptors believe he can handle a rotation spot, Murphy adds. He got consistent playing time during his two years with the Wizards, and Toronto identified him as a low-cost target in free agency. Murphy believes the best move for Bonga is to get consistent playing time in the G League, but he and the players union would have to sign off on the move because he’s in his fourth NBA season.
  • Pascal Siakam is ready for his season debut Sunday after recovering from shoulder surgery and he likes what he has seen from the Raptors in their 6-4 start, per Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca. “I wanted to be out there throughout the whole process,” he said, “but I’m excited to be back out there and just be with your teammates and do whatever I can to help.”
  • Friday’s game with the Cavaliers featured a matchup between two early favorites for Rookie of the Year, and both Scottie Barnes and Evan Mobley looked like worthy candidates, according to Steven Loung of Sportsnet.ca. While scoring has a major effect on the voting, Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff notes that Barnes and Mobley are special because of what they provide on defense. “Both of those guys are uniquely framed,” he said, “they’re mobile and agile and it gives them an opportunity to be impactful defensively.”

Raptors Waive Sam Dekker

NOVEMBER 6: The team has officially waived Dekker, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. Bonga’s $1.67MM contract has been fully guaranteed, Lewenberg adds.


NOVEMBER 5: The Raptors are waiving forward Sam Dekker, tweets Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca. Dekker was on a partially guaranteed deal, so he will still earn $350K, the guaranteed portion of his contract.

Dekker had been in a battle with Isaac Bonga for the 14th spot on the roster. Both players previously agreed to push back their guarantee date to November 6.

Dekker only appeared in one regular season game for the Raptors, logging one minute, though he had some nice performances in the preseason. He last played in the NBA in 2018/19, having spent the past two seasons playing in Europe.

The move allows the Raptors to stay under the luxury tax threshold, as was mentioned in our previous articles.

Assuming he clears waivers, Dekker will become an unrestricted free agent.

As for Bonga, it’s unclear if the Raptors intend to guarantee his minimum salary for 2021/22. It’s possible the two sides could agree to push his guarantee date back. He could even be waived too, though the team would have to get back up to 14 players within two weeks in that scenario. For now, his spot on the roster at least appears safer than Dekker’s.

Early NBA Salary Guarantee Dates For 2021/22

There are currently 30 players on standard NBA contracts whose 2021/22 salaries aren’t yet fully guaranteed. In most cases, those players will receive their full guarantees if they remain under contract through January 7. Because the league-wide salary guarantee date is January 10, a player must clear waivers before that date if a team wants to avoid being on the hook for his full salary.

A handful of players have earlier trigger dates, however. Those players will receive either full guarantees or an increased partial guarantee on certain dates before January 7.

These dates are fairly malleable — if a player and team reach an agreement, they can be pushed back. The Raptors took that route with Isaac Bonga and Sam Dekker, for example. Both players were originally on track to have their full minimum-salary contracts for 2021/22 become guaranteed if they made the team’s opening-night roster. However, they agreed to push their guarantee dates back a few weeks, to November 6.

Those agreements between a player and team aren’t always reported right away, so our list of early salary guarantee dates is a tentative one, based on information from Basketball Insiders, Spotrac, and HoopsHype, as well as our own data.

Here are the salary guarantee dates to watch prior to January 7:

November 6:

  • Isaac Bonga (Raptors): Partial guarantee ($250,000) increases to full guarantee ($1,729,217).
  • Sam Dekker (Raptors): Partial guarantee ($350,000) increases to full guarantee ($1,789,256).

December 1:

  • Chimezie Metu (Kings): Partial guarantee ($881,398) increases to full guarantee ($1,762,796).

December 11:

  • PJ Dozier (Nuggets): Partial guarantee ($400,000) increases to full guarantee ($1,910,860).

December 15:

  • DeAndre’ Bembry (Nets): Partial guarantee ($750,000) increases to larger partial guarantee ($1,250,000).
  • Kenrich Williams (Thunder): Partial guarantee increases to full guarantee ($2,000,000).
    • Note: Williams’ partial guarantee is based on a salary of about $11,494 per day. For instance, 30 days into the regular season, he’ll have earned $344,828.

Raptors Notes: Dragic, Dekker, Bonga, Achiuwa, Barnes

The Raptors are on a four-game winning streak, but Goran Dragic has been a DNP-CD in all four games, raising questions about his place on the roster. While the veteran point guard clearly isn’t a long-term keeper for the Raptors, there’s no indication that he’ll be traded or bought out anytime soon, writes Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca.

As Grange explains, it’s too early in the season for any real trade market to develop for Dragic, and it’s unlikely that either the player or the team wants to make significant concessions in a buyout arrangement.

For now then, the two sides remain in an “amicable” holding pattern, says Grange — Dragic will remain on the roster as a respected veteran and talented backup, and his situation will be revisited closer to the February trade deadline.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Within the same story, Grange says the Raptors seem likely to cut either Sam Dekker or Isaac Bonga in the coming days. Both players’ salaries for 2021/22 will become guaranteed if they remain on the roster through November 6 and Toronto can duck under the luxury tax line by waiving one or the other. Dekker and Bonga have played a combined eight total minutes this season, and would be pushed further down the depth chart once Pascal Siakam and Yuta Watanabe return from their respective injuries.
  • Precious Achiuwa was one of the Raptors’ key offseason acquisitions, but the young center has experienced some growing pains so far this season. As Eric Koreen of The Athletic writes, head coach Nick Nurse benched Achiuwa in favor of backup center Khem Birch to open the second half of the team’s win over the Knicks on Monday. Although Birch doesn’t have Achiuwa’s upside, the veteran has exhibited better fundamentals, playing solid team defense, setting screens, and rebounding.
  • Rookie forward Scottie Barnes will miss a second straight game on Wednesday vs. Washington due to a right thumb sprain, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca.

Atlantic Notes: Bonga, Simmons, Harden, Tatum

German-born wing Isaac Bonga was able to make the Raptors’ opening roster thanks in part to help from two of the best coaches Canada has to offer, in current German national team head coach Gordie Herbert and assistant coach Roy Rana, per Doug Smith of the Toronto Star.

 “Their development and what they do up here, we all know,” the 21-year-old said in discussing the appeal of joining the Raptors on a non-guaranteed deal during the 2021 offseason. “Obviously in the past, people can see what they did with people like Pascal [Siakam], Chris [Boucher], OG [Anunoby].”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Though he still wants to be dealt, Sixers All-Star Ben Simmons has at least been physically present for practice in recent days and isn’t against playing for the team until a trade can be worked out, says Shams Charania of The Athletic. However, Simmons remains disengaged and isn’t “mentally ready” to get back to normal, sources tell The Athletic. Charania details the events of a tense practice that ultimately led to the 25-year-old’s one-game suspension today.
  • Nets All-Star guard James Harden didn’t come to terms on an extension agreement with Brooklyn before the October 18 deadline. Per Brian Lewis of the New York Post, the Nets tendered Harden a $161MM extension offer. After successfully signing All-Star forward Kevin Durant to a lucrative contract extension earlier this summer, Nets team president Sean Marks expressed confidence he would be able to ink both Harden and All-Star guard Kyrie Irving to extensions before the season. Neither player has been locked up long-term, and both could opt out of their deals to become free agents in the summer of 2022. Lewis notes that Harden will be eligible for a four-year, $223MM extension next summer. “I love it here, I feel at home,” Harden said of his future with the club, per Cassidy Hubbarth of ESPN (Twitter link). “For me individually, I just want to focus on this year… I don’t plan on leaving this organization.”
  • Celtics All-Star forward Jayson Tatum hopes to become an undeniable two-way force this season, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston“The next step is … just dominating,” Tatum said. “Not going out there and being just the best player — like dominating the game. So people walk away from the game and be like there’s nothing they could do, on both ends.”

Salary Guarantee Dates For Raptors’ Dekker, Bonga Pushed To Nov. 6

Raptors forwards Sam Dekker and Isaac Bonga earned spots on the team’s opening-night roster, but their minimum salaries won’t become fully guaranteed quite yet. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link), both players have agreed to push back their salary guarantee dates to November 6. The two contracts were originally set to become guaranteed today.

Players whose contracts are non-guaranteed are typically paid by the day until their guarantee date, but Dekker has a $350K partial guarantee on his full-season salary of $1,789,256, while Bonga’s $1,729,217 salary includes a partial guarantee of $200K. That means the first 20 days of Bonga’s season are already covered by his partial guarantee, while Dekker’s partial guarantee covers the first 35 days of the season.

It’s perhaps no coincidence that November 6 is the 19th day of the NBA season, meaning the Raptors won’t be on the hook for any extra money for either Dekker or Bonga up until that date. If either player is waived on November 6, he’d still just be owed the amount of his partial guarantee. In essence, Toronto is extending the competition for the 14th roster spot by another few weeks.

It’s possible the Raptors could opt to keep both Dekker and Bonga beyond November 6, fully guaranteeing both of their salaries for 2021/22. However, it seems somewhat unlikely, since doing so would put the team over the tax line, as Marks notes (via Twitter).

Additionally, as Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca observes (via Twitter), the Raptors hope to have a healthier roster by early November. Yuta Watanabe (calf) and Chris Boucher (finger) may be back by that point, with Pascal Siakam (shoulder) getting closer to a return. That would reduce the need to carry a 15th man.

Dekker, a 2015 first-round pick who has been out of the NBA since the end of the 2018/19 season, spent time in Russia and Turkey before getting an opportunity with Toronto. Bonga signed with the Raptors this summer after spending his first three seasons with the Lakers and Wizards. He started 49 games for Washington in 2019/20, but saw his role cut back significantly last season.