Pascal Siakam

Atlantic Notes: Nets, Irving, Raptors, Siakam, Knicks

Rival teams believe the Nets would be open to making a sign-and-trade deal involving Kyrie Irving this offseason, Ian Begley of SNY.tv writes. Irving could turn down a $36.5MM player option to enter unrestricted free agency.

The 30-year-old appeared in 29 games this season, averaging 27.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists per contest. He missed much of the season because of New York City’s vaccine requirement, which prevented the team from building needed chemistry.

Finalizing a sign-and-trade agreement involving Irving would be challenging, given that his value isn’t at its peak right now. Whether or not Kyrie is back, the Nets intend to target high-character players this offseason to complement Kevin Durant, according to Begley.

Here are some other notes from the Atlantic:

  • Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca puts together a Raptors free agency primer, highlighting the team’s free agents, draft picks and general outlook. Toronto is coming off a season in which it finished with the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference at 48-34. The team lost in six games to Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs.
  • Raptors star Pascal Siakam discussed receiving All-NBA honors for the second straight season, as relayed by Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca. Siakam made the All-NBA Third Team this season, averaging 22.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. “Going through what I’ve been through as a person and as a basketball player it makes me grow,” Siakam said. “And knowing how fast things can change, I also understand the responsibility that I have to keep the pressure on, keep my foot on the gas, knowing that there’s always [new] levels I can get to.”
  • Fred Katz of The Athletic examines the Knicks’ offseason in his latest mailbag. New York missed the playoffs this season after an impressive 2020/21 campaign. The team owns the No. 11 pick in the draft and has center Mitchell Robinson entering unrestricted free agency.

2021/2022 All-NBA Teams Announced

The 2021/22 All-NBA teams have officially been announced by the NBA. For the fourth straight season, Bucks All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was unanimously selected to the All-NBA First Team by a voter panel of 100 media members. Antetokounmpo, 27, is making his sixth All-NBA team overall.

Antetokounmpo, reigning MVP Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, and Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic received the most votes. Suns All-Star shooting guard Devin Booker and Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid rounded out the list of top five vote-getters. Because the All-NBA teams, unlike the All-Star squads, require just one center per team, Embiid was relegated to an All-NBA Second Team placing.

Below is a list of the three All-NBA teams. Vote tallies are listed in parentheses next to player names. Five points were awarded to players for a First Team Vote, three points netted for a Second Team vote, and one for a Third Team vote. Antetokounmpo earned a perfect 500 points.

All-NBA First Team

All-NBA Second Team

All-NBA Third Team

Jazz center Rudy Gobert and shooting guard Donovan Mitchell, Heat center Bam Adebayo and small forward Jimmy Butler, Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown, Bucks guards Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, Grizzlies shooting guard Desmond Bane, Suns small forward Mikal Bridges, Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray, and Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet all received All-NBA votes. Surprisingly, Nets point guard Kyrie Irving, who played in just 29 games this season, also received a single vote.

As we previously outlined, the All-NBA selections come with significant financial ramifications. As a result of being named to All-NBA teams, Booker and Towns have become eligible for super-max extensions that would begin in 2024/25. If they’re signed this offseason, those deals would be for four years and would start at 35% of the ’24/25 cap. According to Bobby Marks of ESPN (via Twitter), they currently project to be worth $211MM apiece.

Young’s five-year contract extension, which was signed last August and will go into effect in 2022/23, will now be worth 30% of next season’s cap instead of 25% by virtue of his All-NBA selection. Based on a projected $122MM cap, that means it’ll be worth about $212MM instead of $177MM.

Jokic had already met the super-max requirements prior to this announcement, since he won last year’s MVP award — he’s eligible to sign a five-year, super-max extension this offseason and has said he plans to do so. Doncic, who signed a maximum-salary contract extension last summer, also previously met the super-max criteria by earning All-NBA nods in 2020 and 2021.

Notable players who are not eligible this offseason for super-max deals include Morant and Bulls shooting guard Zach LaVine. As Marks tweets, Morant needs to make the All-NBA team again in 2023 to qualify for a starting salary worth 30% of the cap (instead of 25%) on his next deal.

LaVine, a free agent this offseason, would have been eligible to earn up to 35% of next season’s cap from the Bulls if he had made an All-NBA team, but will instead be able to earn no more than 30% of the ’22/23 cap on his next contract.

With their inclusions, Morant, Booker, and Young are making their All-NBA team debuts. Meanwhile, on the other side of the NBA aging curve, two 37-year-old veterans further cemented their Hall of Fame credentials during the 2021/22 season. James made his 18th All-NBA team, while Paul was named to his 11th All-NBA team.

Sixers Optimistic About Joel Embiid’s Return

Joel Embiid will miss the first two games of the Sixers‘ series with the Heat, but the team is hopeful that he can be ready for Game 3 or 4, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Embiid, who suffered an orbital fracture and a mild concussion in Thursday’s game, still must clear the league’s concussion protocol, Wojnarowski notes, adding that he will also see a doctor this week to see how much the orbital fracture has healed.

Embiid was injured late in Game 6 against Toronto when Pascal Siakam accidentally elbowed him in the face. Siakam has apologized, according to Justin Grasso of Sports Illustrated.

“Obviously, on the play [after], I feel bad — awful that I hit his face — but I was trying to make a move,” Siakam explained. “I apologized to him after that. You know, that was definitely not my intention.”

Sixers coach Doc Rivers, who has been criticized for still having Embiid in the game with a 29-point lead and less than four minutes remaining, defended his decision on Saturday.

Raptors Notes: Barnes, Offseason, Young, Achiuwa

The Raptors were unable to complete a historic comeback after falling behind 3-0 in their first-round series with the Sixers, getting blown out in the second half of Thursday’s Game 6. Still, Toronto exceeded expectations this season, having come into the year as a projected lottery team.

“I think we took a lot of steps,” standout forward Pascal Siakam said after Thursday’s loss, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. “We got a lot better over the season. It was obviously up and down, but we did get better. Knowing this team and our front office and the people that we have in the organization, I know that the goal is to continue to get better and improve and be a way better team next year.”

Besides getting an impressive bounce-back season from Siakam, who is a legitimate All-NBA candidate, the Raptors saw players like Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and Gary Trent Jr. take another step forward and Precious Achiuwa evolve from a roll of the dice into a potential long-term cornerstone.

The team’s biggest win, according to Lewenberg, was the selection of Scottie Barnes in last year’s draft — it’s “impossible to overstate his importance” to the team and its future on the heels of his Rookie of the Year debut, Lewenberg writes.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Despite the strides the Raptors made in 2021/22, there are important areas that need to be addressed. In particular, the club needs to add more shooting, writes Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca. Toronto’s lack of shooting was its undoing against Philadelphia, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic, who notes that the team made just 7-of-35 (20.0%) three-pointers in Game 6 and 29.9% for the series. While Fred VanVleet‘s injury absence contributed to those struggles, the team could still use another outside threat or two.
  • Upgrading the bench will be another top priority for the Raptors this summer, Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link) writes in his offseason preview. Toronto has Bird rights on both Thaddeus Young and Chris Boucher and could re-sign them without dipping into its mid-level exception. The front office has also shown a knack for identifying young talent outside of the draft lottery, Marks adds, so the No. 33 pick could be useful for adding an inexpensive contributor.
  • Within his preview, Marks notes that VanVleet will become extension-eligible in July and Siakam will become eligible for a new deal in October. Both players are on contracts that run through 2024, though VanVleet has a player option for 2023/24 and could theoretically become a free agent in ’23.
  • Speaking on Friday to reporters, Young conveyed how impressed he was with the Raptors after coming over from San Antonio at February’s trade deadline. This organization is elite,” Young said, per Lewenberg (Twitter link). “One of the top I’ve ever been a part of… I loved everything about this experience. As far as the team, the sky is the limit… This team can be really, really scary.” Young added that his family will be his top priority as he enters free agency and didn’t rule out the possibility of undergoing surgery on his injured thumb (Twitter links via Koreen and Grange).
  • The pairing of Achiuwa and the Raptors represents a perfect marriage between a player and an organizational philosophy, Koreen writes for The Athletic. The team’s willingness to experiment with Achiuwa rather than trying to rein him in or pigeonhole him has paid dividends so far, says Koreen.

Atlantic Notes: Siakam, Simmons, Smart, Maxey

The Raptors, down 3-0 in their first-round playoff series against the Sixers, need more production from star forward Pascal Siakam, but criticism of the 2020 All-Star should be nuanced, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca.

Siakam underwhelmed during the team’s 104-101 Game 3 overtime loss on Wednesday, scoring just 12 points on 6-of-16 shooting, a far cry from the 22.0 PPG, 6.5 RPG and 6.5 APG he put up in the team’s two games in Philadelphia. Siakam also missed all five of his field goal attempts during the game’s second half and overtime.

Lewenberg writes that Sixers starting power forward Tobias Harris handles chief defensive duties on Siakam outside the paint, while All-Star center Joel Embiid guards him inside. Siakam has struggled to adjust to the defensive attention, but Lewenberg cautions that the 28-year-old still has room to grow, even after his six NBA seasons.

“I think for me, I just gotta stay aggressive, get to my spots and live with the results,” Siakam said. “I think that the experience from just being in the playoffs, we all learn from it. Even players that have been in the league a long time, that [have] been in many playoff games, I’m sure that there’s some series where they learn something about themselves or about their game or how they can evolve.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • In what has been a topsy-turvy kind of season for the Nets, it is perhaps fitting that the newest star player, Ben Simmons, is set to play for the first time in the fourth game of a playoff series, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Lewis observes that, should the Nets lose to the Celtics again tonight, Simmons will be rejoining the club as it faces a 3-0 deficit. Mental health issues and a desire to be traded resulted in Simmons opting to sit out while with the Sixers, prior to being traded in exchange for James Harden at the deadline. A back injury has hampered him since joining Brooklyn.
  • Celtics guard Marcus Smart, the newly-minted 2022 Defensive Player of the Year, hasn’t just been excellent on defense in helping Boston achieve a 2-0 series edge against the Nets, writes Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald. He is also averaging 16.0 PPG and 5.5 APG across the team’s first two playoff contests. After spending years as a combo guard, his emergence as a passer may be surprising some, but not Smart. “To hear people say I’m not a point guard or, oh my gosh, I can’t believe he’s a point guard — I was a top-six pick, as a point guard,” Smart said. “I was chosen as a point guard — for some reason. It is funny but I just continue to keep getting better, working on my game, and not really worried about everybody else.” Team president Brad Stevens praised Smart’s ability to handle plays mapped out by head coach Ime Udoka. “He’s got a lot of the qualities that really good point guards have,” Stevens said. “I think what we wanted to do this year, and Ime and his staff has done a really good job of coaching to, is we wanted to be big and versatile.”
  • Second-year Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey has taken significant strides this season, and that has continued apace during the team’s first-round matchup against the Raptors. Tim Bontemps of ESPN details Maxey’s rise, noting that he put in the hours during the offseason to grow his game as a long-range shooter. “In my exit interview [last season], my goal was to get one percent better every single day,” Maxey says. “I stuck with it the entire summer.” After shooting 54.7% from the restricted area during his rookie season, Maxey converted 60.5% of his looks around the rim this year. He also saw his three-point shooting improve from making 30.1% of his 1.7 looks a night last year to 42.7% on 4 attempts this year. “I would get up, and I’d be in the gym,” Maxey said of his prep as a three-point shooter during the offseason. “First one in the gym at 6 a.m. and I’d try to make at least 700, 800 shots. And then I’d go lift and I’d come back again at 10 [a.m.] and I’m doing the same thing.”

Atlantic Notes: Young, Siakam, VanVleet, Harden, Pressure

Raptors veteran Thaddeus Young has mixed feelings about facing his former club in the first-round of the playoffs, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. Young was drafted by the Sixers back in 2007 and spent his first seven seasons with the team.

Honestly, that’s where I grew up,” Young said. “That’s where I went from being a boy to a man. I started my family there, married my wife, (had my) two kids. I went from being a kid, getting drafted seven days after turning 19 years old, and then to leave there at 26 and go to another team, it was definitely a hard situation for me because I thought I would always be there.”

Philly will always be another home for me. I still talk to people that sit courtside. I still talk to some of the people that work in the organization all the time. They’re family, but at the end of the day I’m with Toronto Raptors now and this is my new family. And I have to make sure that my new family is gonna get this win and get this series.”

As Lewenberg notes, Young is the only player in his thirties (he’s 33) on Toronto’s roster, and his experience and leadership has been invaluable to the young team.

I think he’s been super vocal,” Pascal Siakam said of Young. “He’s been through a lot, he’s played in big games, and he’s been in the league for [a long time], so I think that’s another presence. Obviously, we (referring to himself and Fred VanVleet) like to think of ourselves as vets, but we have six years of experience in the NBA and he has 15. That’s so many games and I think that we can definitely learn from him.”

Here’s more from the Atlantic:

  • The Raptors need Siakam and VanVleet to lead the way in the postseason, according to Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. Siakam and VanVleet are polar opposites in terms of leadership styles, Smith notes. VanVleet is vocal and intense, holding teammates and himself accountable, while Siakam is a quiet, lead-by-example type. Both players will be critical to the team’s chances of making a deep playoff run.
  • Sixers guard James Harden claims he isn’t feeling any pressure to perform in the playoffs, as ESPN’s Tim Bontemps relays. “Pressure, no. I feel good,” Harden said with a smile after Thursday’s practice at the team’s facility. “I’m ready to hoop. There’s nothing to it.” Harden also gave credit to the Raptors, his first-round opponent. “They just fly around,” Harden said. “They play extremely hard. They kind of junk up the game. They have a lot of guys that are tall, athletic, long and solid defenders. They use their length very well, and they just have each other’s back. They run around, they scramble, and they fly around defensively, so for us we have to execute, making sure we’re crisp in our passes and if the shot’s available, take it.”
  • The stakes are extremely high for the Sixers after they made the major trade to acquire Harden, contends Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. If the 76ers have another early exit, they’ll have a tough decision to make with the 32-year-old former MVP, who’s expected to pick up his $47.4MM player option this summer and will be eligible for a massive four-year extension worth over $220MM.

Atlantic Notes: Durant, Nash, Barrett, Siakam, Knicks

Nets superstar Kevin Durant praised head coach Steve Nash for the job he’s been doing in his second season, as Chris Milholen of NetsDaily relays. Nash, hired in 2020, has pushed through a tumultuous season, which has included Durant missing time due to injury, Kyrie Irving‘s part-time availability and James Harden‘s trade request.

“I think he’s done a great job. The last two years, he’s been dealt a wild hand: injuries, trades, disgruntled players, guys in and out of the lineup, and stuff that he can’t control,” said Durant, his “disgruntled” player comment apparently referring to James Harden. “I felt like he’s handled it the best as he could.”

Nash spent 18 seasons in the league as a player, retiring in 2014. That career included eight All-Star appearances, though the former MVP never served as an assistant coach after retirement. Still, Brooklyn owns the seventh-best record in the East (44-38) and won four straight games to end the season.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • Knicks swingman RJ Barrett suffered a knee injury against the Wizards on Thursday, but Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News (Twitter link) hears it isn’t serious. New York ruled Barrett out for its finale on Sunday, calling it a right knee sprain. The 21-year-old raised his scoring average from 17.6 to 20.0 points per game this season, but his shooting numbers slipped from last year (44% to 41% from the field and 40% to 34% from deep).
  • Michael Grange of Sportsnet examines how Raptors star Pascal Siakam reclaimed his place among the NBA’s elite players. Siakam finished the regular season, the best of his professional career, averaging 22.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. The 28-year-old also shot 49.4% from the floor and 34.4% from three-point range, leading Toronto to the fifth-best record in the East.
  • Marc Berman of the New York Post explores the potential futures for each player on the Knicks, terming the roster as “broken.” New York failed to make the play-in tournament after a successful season last year, finishing the campaign on a disappointing note.

Atlantic Notes: Williams, Siakam, Brown, Sims

It would be a big surprise if Celtics center Robert Williams returned during the first round of the playoffs, but the door isn’t entirely closed on that possibility, Jay King of The Athletic tweets. Williams, who underwent left knee surgery on March 30, hasn’t technically been ruled out because players react differently to surgeries, according to coach Ime Udoka. However, the expectation is that Williams won’t be available, Udoka added.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Raptors forward Pascal Siakam had another huge game on Thursday, piling up 37 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists against Philadelphia. Siakam has become an all-around force who deserves a spot on one of the All-NBA teams, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports writes. “I think I’m continuing to get better,” Siakam said. “It’s been a good long road for me and I just always believed all the work I have put in is going to pay off.”
  • Jaylen Brown had a triple-double against Milwaukee on Thursday. Just being on the court was enough to add to Brown’s bank account. The Celtics forward gained a $482,143 bonus for playing in his 65th game this season, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets. The bonus was deemed likely heading into the season and does not impact Brown’s cap hit, Marks adds.
  • Knicks two-way player Jericho Sims notched 10 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks in 35 minutes against Brooklyn on Wednesday. Sims has a similar skill set to Mitchell Robinson, who is headed to free agency this summer, and could replace him in the rotation next season, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. “Great feet, the athleticism is terrific,” coach Tom Thibodeau said of Sims. “We haven’t seen the playmaking in the paint he has. As time goes on, we’ll see that he’s a very good playmaker in the paint. You’ll see him kick out and find the open guy.’’

Atlantic Notes: Curry, Siakam, Sixers, Fitts

In his second game back from a left ankle injury, Nets guard Seth Curry re-injured the same ankle, leaving Monday’s game late in the second quarter with what the team has initially diagnosed as a sprain, per Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post. Brooklyn is hopeful that Curry’s latest injury isn’t too significant.

“We’ll see what it’s like [Tuesday], but speaking to him at halftime, it didn’t sound like he thought it was doom and gloom,” head coach Steve Nash said after the Nets’ win over Utah. “Hopefully, it’s a quick recovery, but you never know how these things respond, if they balloon up over night. … I think he feels optimistic that it’s not too bad.”

Although Ben Simmons was ostensibly the centerpiece of the Nets’ James Harden trade last month, Curry has provided the most value so far, averaging 15.5 PPG on .493/.471/.846 shooting in 13 games (30.3 MPG) since arriving in Brooklyn.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Raptors forward Pascal Siakam has reemerged as an All-NBA candidate this season, averaging 22.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG, and 5.1 APG with a .488 FG% through 59 games (37.7 MPG). However, as Eric Koreen of The Athletic outlines, Siakam’s odds of making an All-NBA team will be slim if voters view DeMar DeRozan as a forward and/or list Nikola Jokic or Joel Embiid at forward to squeeze both onto the First Team.
  • The Sixers have performed very well when both Embiid and Harden are on the court, but have struggled in recent weeks with just one of their two stars playing, according to Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com, who says the team will need to find a way to address that issue. Both Embiid (back soreness) and Harden (left hamstring injury recovery) missed Monday’s game, but Philadelphia pulled out a 113-106 upset over the top-seeded Heat.
  • Malik Fitts‘ new two-year contract with the Celtics is, as expected, worth the minimum salary and is non-guaranteed for next season. Fitts will receive a partial guarantee of $50K if he’s still under contract beyond September 1, tweets Keith Smith of Spotrac.

Raptors Notes: Barnes, VanVleet, Anunoby, Flynn, Siakam

Rookie Scottie Barnes may be the fulcrum on which the Raptors‘ future balances, according to Michael Grange of Sportnet. Barnes was stellar during the team’s current five-game winning streak, with all the victories coming on the road.

Barnes is an extremely versatile player who epitomizes the positionless nature of the modern NBA. With long arms and a relentless motor, the 20-year-old has an uncanny knack for the ball.

If you’re a guy who has a nose for the basketball that means usually you have good anticipation about what’s coming ahead of time, before it happens,” head coach Nick Nurse said of Barnes. “Guys that seem to end up where the ball ends up, that takes, I think, an anticipation or a thinking ahead or just playing a lot. I know he’s 20 but we’ve talked about all the stories of they could never get him out of the gym, he was always playing pickup in multiple age groups … he’s played a lot I think to acquire that sense.”

Barnes is one of the leading candidates for Rookie of the Year; through 61 games (35.6 MPG), all starts, he’s averaging 15.3 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.2 SPG and 0.8 BPG on .490/.316/.732 shooting.

At 39-30, Toronto currently has the same record as Cleveland, but the Cavs hold the tiebreaker for the sixth seed in the East.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Fred VanVleet‘s maturity makes him the emotional leader of the Raptors, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. “Obviously me being the leader and the point guard out there, it’s my job to be the calming presence. Sometimes I do a good job of that, sometimes I don’t. But for the most part, I’m glad with his team’s disposition and whether things are good or bad or up or down, we’ve done a great job of sticking together,” VanVleet said. “I think it just speaks to our chemistry. … We’re (able to have) honest, open communication. And that helps a lot. There are a lot of runs in a game and different things throughout the season, and you got to be able to just stay even-keeled throughout.” The first-time All-Star and 2019 NBA champion has been struggling with a knee injury, but he’s still serving as a mentor and leader for the young Toronto squad, as Koreen details.
  • OG Anunoby will miss at least one more week due to his fractured right ring finger, which still isn’t fully healed, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. He’ll be reevaluated again next week.
  • Malachi Flynn had a small tear in his left hamstring, per Lewenberg (Twitter link). Flynn suffered the injury two weeks ago and was ruled out indefinitely, but the hamstring is almost healed and Nurse says Flynn might be back in about a week.
  • Count Lakers head coach Frank Vogel as an admirer of Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, as Grange relays (via Twitter). “He’s one of the best players in the league in my opinion,” Vogel said of Siakam. The 27-year-old is having an outstanding season, averaging 22.0 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 5.1 APG, and 1.3 SPG on .486/.358/.744 shooting through 56 games (37.6 MPG) this season.