Pascal Siakam

Ripple Effect Of Hiatus On Contracts, Cap, Offseason Dates

Given the typically rigid nature of the NBA’s annual calendar, the current hiatus threatens to complicate a number of dates and deadlines that will arrive in the coming months. In his latest Insider-only article for ESPN.com, Bobby Marks takes a closer look at how those dates – linked to contracts and the salary cap – may be impacted, noting that the NBA and NBPA are expected to collectively bargain a set of transition rules once the league establishes a return timeline.

For instance, there are 29 player options and 12 team options that are currently scheduled to be exercised or declined before the end of June. Those dates will almost certainly have to be adjusted. The same goes for certain salary guarantee dates and the expiry dates on traded player exceptions, as Marks explains. Of course, the start of the 2020/21 league year will have to be pushed back too, so players with expiring contracts don’t become free agents on July 1.

Contract incentives will also be an issue worth keeping an eye on. Marks observes that during the lockout-shortened 2011/12 season, players’ incentives were prorated based on the fact that the league played 66 games instead of 82 games. The NBA could take similar measures this season. For instance, if a player needs to play 1,000 minutes to earn a bonus and his team ends up playing just 70 of 82 games, his incentive requirement would be adjusted so he only needs to play 70/82nds of 1,000 minutes (854 minutes).

Marks’ article is jam-packed with interesting info and is worth checking out in full if you have an Insider subscription. Here are a few more highlights:

  • Although the NBA’s basketball related income for 2019/20 is projected to take a huge hit as a result of this hiatus and the controversy with China in the fall, it’s too early to say what that will mean for the 2020/21 salary cap, according to Marks. In situations like this, the NBA and NBPA generally negotiate in good faith a cap adjustment that satisfies both sides, so we’re unlikely to see a big drop-off next year.
  • Still, with the cap for the next year or two no longer expected to increase by nearly as much as the NBA initially projected, the ripple effect could be significant. Maximum-salary contract extensions scheduled to go into effect next season or in 2021/22 for players like Jamal Murray, Ben Simmons, Pascal Siakam, and Damian Lillard won’t be as lucrative as previously estimated, and teams will no longer have as much cap or tax flexibility as expected. As Marks points out, that could influence players with option decisions — they may be more inclined to opt in for ’20/21, with less leaguewide spending power available in the offseason.
  • Resuming the regular season – rather than just jumping straight to the playoffs – may not be a top priority for many fans, but there are reasons why the NBA won’t want to skip that step, Marks writes. Teams that wanted to make roster moves prior to the postseason wouldn’t get a chance to do so if the NBA moves straight from its current moratorium to the playoffs. For example, in that scenario, the Thunder wouldn’t get the opportunity to convert two-way player Luguentz Dort to their 15-man roster. As such, the NBA may want to play a few regular season games or at least give teams a few days to make necessary roster moves.

Siakam, Powell Return To Raptors

Rising Raptors star power forward Pascal Siakam and guard Norman Powell will both return to the starting five for Toronto in Sunday’s game against the Spurs, TSN’s Josh Lewenberg reports (Twitter link). Both will be placed on a minutes limit in their first game back since December. Lewenberg also notes that starting center Marc Gasol remains out (Twitter link).

Siakam, Powell, and Gasol, all Raptors starters, had all been sidelined indefinitely since a December 19 tilt against the Pistons. Siakam had been battling a stretched groin, Gasol a hamstring injury, and Powell a subluxation of his left shoulder.

Siakam is currently third in Eastern Conference All-Star frontcourt balloting, with 1,730,763 fan votes received as of January 9th, according to an Associated Press report (link via SI.com).

A fantastic two-way player, the 6’9″ Siakam had emerged as a borderline MVP candidate with his sterling performance for the 25-13 Raptors. For the 2019/20 season, the No. 27 pick in the 2016 NBA draft out of New Mexico State is averaging career-highs of 25.1 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 3.6 APG, 81.3% free throw shooting, and 39.2% shooting on 6.3 three-point attempts across 27 games.

Powell has also taken a leap this season, logging a career-high slash line of 14.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.1 SPG, and 4.9 three-point attempts per game. The 6’3″ shooting guard, drafted No. 46 out of UCLA in 2015, is connecting on 38.9% of those looks. Powell has also been appearing in a career-high 28.9 minutes a night for the Raptors.

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, Siakam, Gallinari, C’s, Sixers

While some pundits still believe the Raptors might target future assets at the deadline, that’s clearly not the plan, according to Bruce Arthur of The Toronto Star, who argues that the team should prioritize upgrading its roster and securing its spot among the Eastern Conference contenders.

Before the Raptors make any roster changes, it would benefit the front office to see the team’s full roster in action, something that hasn’t happened much this season. Currently, four of Toronto’s top six players in minutes per game – Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Norman Powell, and Fred VanVleet – are sidelined, but the club may begin to clear its injured list soon.

Siakam, Gasol, and Powell all took part in practice on Friday on a limited basis, and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski hears that there’s hope Siakam could be back in the lineup within the next week or so. A Sunday return would be a bit ambitious for Siakam or Gasol, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said today, but Powell is on track to be back on Sunday (Twitter link via Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca).

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Danilo Gallinari is among the potential trade targets the Celtics have monitored, a source tells Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. Pincus lays out how Boston could acquire a player like Gallinari or Andre Drummond, but since it would almost certainly involve moving Gordon Hayward or a package headed by Marcus Smart, I’m skeptical the C’s will seriously pursue either player.
  • The Sixers were victorious on Thursday in the first game of what could be a multi-week absence for Joel Embiid, but Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports argues the team should still be worried about not having its star center active. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Bobby Marks point out (via Twitter) that Norvel Pelle only has five NBA days left on his two-way contract and will have to return to the G League soon if Philadelphia doesn’t open up a 15-man roster spot for him.
  • After Kawhi Leonard denied having any offseason interest in the Knicks, the club found a way to put a positive spin on those comments, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. According to Berman, Kawhi’s uncle Dennis Robertson was in touch with the Knicks in the summer and wanted Leonard to listen to the team’s pitch. The Knicks claimed they canceled their scheduled meeting because they felt they were long shots for Leonard and believe the forward’s recent comments validate that decision, Berman notes.

Atlantic Notes: LeVert, Irving, Siakam, Gasol, Leonard

Nets guard Caris LeVert made his highly-anticipated return against the Raptors on Saturday night, seeing his first in-game action with the team since November 10.

LeVert, who had missed the last 24 games after undergoing surgery to address ligament damage in his thumb, finished with 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting off the bench despite being on a minutes restriction.

“I felt pretty good out there. Obviously we wanted to get a win, but just me personally, I felt pretty good,” LeVert said, as relayed by Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

LeVert is widely considered as one of the most talented players on the Nets when healthy, and it’s possible he’ll rejoin the team’s starting lineup in the coming weeks. He averaged 13.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game in 40 contests last season.

“Just adds one of our best players to the lineup quite honestly,” head coach Kenny Atkinson said of LeVert’s return. “A dynamic player, athleticism, quickness, speed. A guy that knows our system too. It’s not like some guy we signed out of the blue. I feel comfortable once he gets his rhythm. He knows what we’re doing on both sides of the ball so that’s a big comfort level.”

The Nets have been plagued with injuries to start the season, playing without Kevin Durant (torn Achilles’ rehab), Kyrie Irving (right shoulder; 11 games played), LeVert and others. Brooklyn owns the seventh-best record in the East at 16-18.

Here are some other notes from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • Alex Schiffer of The Athletic details what we know about Kyrie Irving‘s lingering right shoulder injury, which has forced the six-time All-Star to miss the past 23 games. Irving recently received a cortisone shot for the shoulder impingement, opting to go this route instead of having arthroscopic surgery — for now. “I’m in a better place now that it’s been some significant time,” Irving said. “I tried to go without any anti-inflammatories, which is why it took so long. Now I’m at a place where the next step was to either get a cortisone shot or get surgery. So that was the ultimatum I was fixed with. So now I’m just doing the best I can to live off this cortisone and move forward if I need surgery in the future.”
  • Raptors big men Pascal Siakam (groin) and Marc Gasol (hamstring) still aren’t close to returning to action, head coach Nick Nurse said, as relayed by Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link). “I would still say, if I was guessing, the order of comeback would probably be Matt [Thomas] and Norm [Powell], Marc and then lastly Pascal if that’s the case,” Nurse said. “But I think we’re still, I mean, we’re still a ways away with Marc and Pascal. I think Norm and Matt are in the front-view mirror, let’s put it that way.”
  • Kawhi Leonard said he never considered joining the Knicks in free agency and denied scheduling a meeting with the team, Ian Begley of SNY.tv writes. “I never said I was considering going to the Knicks. Everybody knew where I wanted to go once I requested the trade so I don’t know where that came from,” Leonard said. New York lost out on Kawhi, who signed with the Clippers, as well as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, who signed with the Nets. The Knicks claimed they pulled out of a scheduled meeting with Leonard.

Raptors Notes: Siakam, Gasol, Powell, VanVleet

The Raptors, who have already been without Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, and a handful of role players for stretches this season, will now put their roster depth to its biggest test yet. The team announced on Thursday that Pascal Siakam (groin), Marc Gasol (hamstring), and Norman Powell (shoulder) will all be sidelined indefinitely.

Siakam has been Toronto’s leading scorer and a borderline MVP candidate so far this season, while Gasol has been the team’s most valuable player on the defensive end. The loss of Powell shouldn’t be understated either — the 26-year-old swingman had been enjoying perhaps the best stretch of his career, averaging 16.8 PPG on .515/.423/.828 shooting in his last 20 games (30.8 MPG).

Here’s more on the Raptors as they look to fill the holes created by their latest series of injuries:

  • While the Raptors didn’t offer a definitive recovery timeline for any of their three newly-injured players, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Gasol is likely to miss a “period of weeks.” Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter links) suggests that Siakam’s injury will likely be the most short-term of the three, while Powell’s injury figures to keep him out the longest. Siakam’s groin issue is believed to be a mild strain that the club is handling with caution, Grange notes.
  • As both Grange and Eric Koreen of The Athletic point out, Powell’s shoulder subluxation sounds similar to an injury he suffered last season, which cost him six weeks. Koreen believes it will be a “best-case scenario” for Toronto if Gasol and Powell each only miss a few weeks.
  • Getting Fred VanVleet, Matt Thomas, and Stanley Johnson back soon would help the Raptors address their depth concerns, Blake Murphy of The Athletic notes in an in-depth look on the fallout of the team’s injury woes. There’s hope that VanVleet may be able to return as early as Friday, but Grange says Thomas will likely be out for another week or so.
  • Koreen, Murphy, and Grange all wonder if the Raptors might consider adding someone to their roster. The 15-man squad is currently full though, so in order to make room for someone new, Toronto would have to trade or waive a back-of-the-roster player — or qualify for a hardship exception, which appears unlikely for now.

Pascal Siakam Among Raptors Out Indefinitely

Earlier today, we passed along word that Marc Gasol will miss time with a hamstring injury and the news from The North has gotten worse. Pascal Siakam and Norman Powell are each out indefinitely, the Raptors announced in a press release.

Siakam sustained a stretched groin, per the team, after landing awkwardly during the Raptors’ tilt against the Pistons. Powell also left that game after colliding with another player and the wing has been diagnosed with subluxation of his left shoulder.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Gasol will miss “a period of weeks” with his injury. The team didn’t put a timetable on it, instead calling the big man out indefinitely as well. Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link) hears that Siakam will likely be the quickest to return of the three.

After a summer that saw Toronto win an NBA championship and lose Kawhi Leonard, the team came back this year focused and it shows in the Raptors’ 19-8 record. The club sits fourth in the Eastern Conference as of this writing. However, it’ll be tough for the Raptors to remain to hold their position in the standings, given their injuries and the fact that the Sixers and Pacers are within a game of them.

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.

Community Shootaround: Could Siakam Repeat As Most Improved Player?

Raptors forward Pascal Siakam was the runaway winner of the NBA’s 2018/19 Most Improved Player award, capturing 86 of 100 possible first-place votes, and he was certainly deserving of the honor. Siakam was one of the key contributors for the eventual NBA champions, guarding all five positions and increasing his numbers across the board – including a PPG bump from 7.3 to 16.9 – while scoring even more efficiently than he had before.

So far this season though, Siakam may have taken an even more significant step forward, as John Hollinger of The Athletic writes. After increasing his scoring output by 9.6 points per game a year ago, Siakam has tacked on 10.3 more PPG this season, boosting that number to 27.2 PPG overall. His usage rate has jumped from 20.8 to 30.5, and while his overall field goal percentage has dipped a little, he’s become a more dangerous threat from outside, knocking down 2.3 threes per game at a 37.3% rate (up from 1.0 and 36.9%).

As Hollinger outlines, Siakam has made his latest strides by finding creative new ways to score. He’s a threat in the post, off the dribble, in the pick-and-roll, and from beyond the arc.

Last season, one of Siakam’s Achilles heels was his inability to make above-the-break threes. As ESPN’s Zach Lowe observes (via Twitter), the 25-year-old only attempted 29% of his three-pointers from above the break in 2018/19, making just 27% on those attempts. This year, 75% of his threes are coming from that area, and he has converted 42% of them.

Siakam isn’t Kawhi Leonard – even if his early-season numbers are remarkably similar to Kawhi’s full-season 2018/19 averages – but he has quickly become the Raptors’ new go-to offensive play-maker in Leonard’s absence this season. While his numbers through 11 games may not be sustainable, he looks like an All-Star lock, and if he can maintain anything close to this pace, he figures to be in the All-NBA conversation too. However, the most intriguing Siakam subplot this season may be whether he can win his second consecutive Most Improved Player award.

As Hollinger writes, no one has come close to being named MIP for two straight seasons. Of the last 10 winners, more than half have regressed a year after winning the award, and even the ones that have continued to improve have only taken modest steps forward. But the early returns on Siakam this season suggest he’ll have a case.

There were certainly be other good MIP candidates this season. Brandon Ingram, Luke Kennard, Luka Doncic, Trae Young, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are a few of the early contenders, though some voters shy away from second-year players, which could hurt Doncic, Young, and SGA. For that matter, some voters are reluctant to pick repeat award winners in general, but the novelty of doing so for an award like MIP that never has repeat winners might actually work in Siakam’s favor.

What do you think? Is it realistic to expect Siakam to be in the Most Improved Player conversation for a second consecutive year? Could he actually win the award again? If you’re not bullish on his chances, which candidate(s) do you like so far?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!

Atlantic Notes: Siakam, OG, Burke, Sixers

With the Raptors facing a bevy of injuries, Pascal Siakam will get an opportunity to showcase his point guard skills, as Doug Smith of The Toronto Star relays.

“Depending on what the matchup is, you can do it,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said. “We’ve got to be careful on it and stuff like that, but it’s good to get a lot of reps of it and see what kind of offense we can run from it. I think we found a few things he can run up there at the point.”

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • OG Anunoby saw an eye specialist today and has been diagnosed with an eye contusion, the Raptors announced (Twitter link). The forward will miss at least Toronto’s next game on Wednesday in Portland.
  • Trey Burke is capitalizing on the opportunity he’s receiving with Ben Simmons sidelined, Lauren Rosen of NBA.com writes. Burke, who joined the Sixers on a one-year deal this offseason, credits his preparedness for his ability to step into a larger role with the club.“This is a new situation for me – a championship-type organization,” Burke said. “I know I was going to have to be patient.”
  • Quinn Davis of Basketball Insiders breaks down the Sixers‘ point guard situation behind Simmons. In addition to Burke, the team has Raul Neto, and Josh Richardson has been running some point recently.

Atlantic Notes: Barrett, Siakam, Celtics, Lowry

Following the team’s 104-102 loss to Boston on Friday, Knicks coach David Fizdale praised rookie forward RJ Barrett and the durability he has shown, comparing his attitude to 2019 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.

“He’s really put together. There’s times he’s not sweating and I’m like, ‘Are you going hard?’” Fizdale said, “But he is. He’s playing really hard. The only other guy I saw who I’ve coached against that doesn’t look like is breaking a sweat is Kawhi. Kawhi doesn’t look like he’s breathing (hard). RJ has that same act where he’s out there, his face doesn’t change and he’s going about his business.’’

Barrett, who was selected by the Knicks third overall in June’s NBA Draft, has averaged 17.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 36.5 minutes through the team’s first six games.

New York sports an intriguing young mix headlined by Barrett and center Mitchell Robinson, though the team’s just 1-6 on the campaign. The Knicks have upcoming games scheduled against Sacramento (2-5), Detroit (3-4) and Dallas (4-2) this week.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • Raptors star Pascal Siakam is proving his worth in a leadership role with the team, Matt John of Basketball Insiders writes. Siakam, who signed a four-year, $130MM extension with the team last month, has averaged 26 points and 8.5 rebounds through six games. Toronto is seeking its seventh straight playoff appearance behind Siakam, Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and others, sporting a competitive group despite losing Leonard in free agency last summer.
  • The Raptors need to find a way to reduce Kyle Lowry‘s workload this season, Laura Armstrong of The Toronto Star writes. Lowry, who turns 34 in March, is in his 14th NBA season and is coming off a campaign in which he averaged 34 minutes per contest.
  • Former Celtics star Paul Pierce believes a weight has been lifted in the absence of Kyrie Irving this season, as relayed by Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. “I mean, everybody knows that,” Pierce said. “I’m not even in the building yet, and I’m hearing every day that everybody feels like a weight’s been lifted off of them. Just walking around, you can tell. Or just seeing it on the court. It’s different.”