Pascal Siakam

Raptors Notes: Lowry, Leonard, Siakam

In advance of an ESPN showdown between two Eastern Conference leaders – the Raptors and Sixers – in Toronto on Wednesday night, Kyle Lowry sat down with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols (video link) to discuss a handful of topics, including the offseason trade that sent DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio and his relationship with Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri.

Acknowledging that he felt “some type of way on the personal side” after the Raptors sent his best friend to the Spurs, Lowry didn’t offer much when asked about where things stand with Ujiri.

“He’s the president of basketball operations, and that’s it,” Lowry said. “I come out here and do my job. He does his job and I do my job, right? That’s what you do.”

As Eric Koreen of The Athletic observes in a Twitter thread, Lowry and Ujiri may not exactly be buddy-buddy, but the veteran point guard has talked in the past about how grateful he is for the team’s investment in him. There’s also nothing to indicate that any lingering unease about how the DeRozan trade went down is a distraction for the Raptors or Lowry, who – by all accounts – has been a terrific teammate and leader this season.

Here’s more out of Toronto:

  • The Raptors have been working hard for years to turn Toronto into an attractive destination for NBA players, and Kawhi Leonard‘s upcoming free agency decision will represent the next big test of the club’s place in the league, as Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com writes.
  • In an excellent piece for ESPN.com, Jackie MacMullan takes an in-depth look at the unusual road to the NBA traveled by Pascal Siakam, who looks like an early frontrunner for this season’s Most Improved Player award.
  • Despite their league-best 20-5 record, the Raptors have endured some injury woes, rebounding and shooting issues, and some “clunky stretches” this season, writes Bruce Arthur of The Toronto Star. In other words, there may be room for improvement. “There have been some ups and downs; it seems like a lot of ups because we’ve been winning a lot,” Lowry said. “The flaws that you see, they’re fixable. If we fix this, imagine how much better we could be.”

Atlantic Notes: Rozier, Siakam, Fisher, Raptors

Celtics guard Terry Rozier is still getting adjusted to his role off the bench, competing with Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown for minutes in Boston’s crowded backcourt. He was the team’s starting point guard in the spring when Irving was sidelined, but has been limited to just 22.7 minutes per game in 10 contests this season.

“I go from starting in the playoffs to coming off the bench … I’m pretty sure it’s not easy for nobody,” Rozier said, according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “But I’m not complaining. And, if you know me, I would never be the one to complain about it.

“I would never go to the media or bring out the unhappy thing. Like I said, people that know me know I wouldn’t do that. I’ve never been a selfish type of person, selfish player. You can tell the way I play I’m all about team.

“Everything will be all right. It’s not as bad as people make it seem.”

Bill Simmons of The Ringer tweeted Thursday that Rozier was unhappy with his playing time and that Boston could look to trade him before February’s deadline. At least seven teams would have interest in trading for Rozier, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, but Rozier seems content to stay in Boston for now.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Pascal Siakam‘s early season play has changed the Raptors, playing a key role in the team’s hot 10-1 start, Anisa Jamal of FanSided writes. Siakam has averaged 12.5 points and seven rebounds in 27.9 minutes per game, starting in every contest but one.
  • Derek Fisher wouldn’t have accepted the Knicks‘ head coaching job if he knew running the triangle offense was mandatory, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “I wasn’t smart enough to ask the right questions going into taking and accepting the job,” Fisher said.
  • The Raptors have remained flexible with their starting lineups, a key component to their success this season, Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times writes. “We’ve got maybe eight starters and we’re giving them a chance to start every once in a while,” said coach Nick Nurse, who labeled the importance of being versatile.

Raptors Exercise 2019/20 Options On Siakam, Anunoby

The Raptors have exercised their 2019/20 rookie scale options on forwards Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, the team has announced in a press release. We learned earlier today that the team would be passing on Malachi Richardson‘s ’19/20 option.

[RELATED: Decisions On 2019/20 Rookie Scale Options]

Siakam’s fourth-year option will count for just $2,351,839 on Toronto’s cap next season, while Anunoby’s third-year option is even more modest, coming in at $2,281,800. The Raptors may be over the tax line again next season if Kawhi Leonard re-signs, but exercising the options on Siakam and Anunoby was an easy decision for the team, given the on-court value the duo provides.

Siakam, the 27th overall pick in the 2016 draft, has started seven of the Raptors’ eight games this season and has looked better than ever, with 10.9 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, and 1.3 SPG, plus a .594 FG%. Anunoby has missed a few games early in the season for personal reasons, but continues to develop into a reliable three-and-D wing.

The Raps will face more decisions on Siakam and Anunoby after July 1, 2019, when Siakam will become eligible for a rookie scale extension and the club will have the opportunity to pick up Anunoby’s fourth-year option for 2020/21.

Atlantic Notes: LeVert, Valanciunas, Nets Prospects, Redick

Caris LeVert‘s impressive early-season performances could make the Nets a more attractive free agent destination, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer points out. The Nets guard, who is averaging 24.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 4.0 APG, is a versatile talent who can mesh with anyone because of his passing, cutting and spot-up shooting, O’Connor continues. Brooklyn’s front office looks smart for taking LeVert off the table in trade discussions with the Timberwolves for Jimmy Butler, O’Connor adds.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • There hasn’t been any grumbling from Raptors players who have seen their minutes reduced, Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun reports. Jonas Valanciunas, Norman Powell and Pascal Siakam, among others, will see their playing time fluctuate depending on the opponent. “We are sharing the minutes. We don’t know what matchups are going to come to us,” Valanciunas told Wolstat. “We have versatility. Just have different things for different matchups. We have different lineups, different people going at some different players.”
  • Nets draft-and-stash prospects Aleksandar Vezenkov and Isaia Cordinier are off to good start overseas, according to a NetsDaily.com post. Vezenkov, a 6’9” forward has played three Euroleague games for Olympiacos and is averaging 9.7 PPG and 3.3 RPG in 17.0 MPG. Cordinier, a 6’5” shooting guard who plays in the French League, returned to action on Friday after missing last season with knee tendinitis. It’s uncertain whether they’ll pursue NBA careers next season. Another draft-and-stash player, Juan Pablo Vaulet, was sent home by his Argentine team for undisclosed reasons.
  • Sixers guard J.J. Redick believes the Magic made a smart move by trading him to the Bucks five years ago, Josh Robbins of The Athletic reports. Redick was heading into unrestricted free agency at the time but would have liked to finish out that season with Orlando. He would have considered a long-term deal with the Magic that summer. Orlando acquired forward Tobias Harris and two other players in the deal. “The trade for Tobias was definitely in Orlando’s favor,” Redick told Robbins. “You get a guy who’s going to get you 18 [points] and 8 [rebounds] at 22, or whatever age Tobias was at the time. … Things obviously didn’t turn out great for them subsequently, but I think they made the right call.”

And-Ones: NBA Africa Game, Global Camp, Upshaw

Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan and Sixers center Joel Embiid will headline the rosters in this summer’s NBA Africa Game, the league announced today. The event, which will take place on Saturday, August 4 in Pretoria, South Africa, will feature a Team Africa vs. Team World format, with Cameroon native Embiid heading Team Africa and DeRozan representing Team World.

Joining Embiid on Team Africa will be fellow NBAers Al-Farouq Aminu, Bismack Biyombo, Cheick Diallo, Evan Fournier, Serge Ibaka, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Pascal Siakam. DeRozan’s teamates on Team World will include Harrison Barnes, Danilo Gallinari, Rudy Gay, Khris Middleton, and Hassan Whiteside.

Here are a few more odds and ends from across the basketball world:

  • A total of 40 draft-eligible prospects from outside the United States will take part in the NBA Global Camp 2018 in Treviso, Italy from June 2-5, the NBA announced on Wednesday. While Luka Doncic won’t attend the pre-draft showcase, there will be plenty of prospects worth watching, including Cedevita forward Dzanan Musa, who is the No. 19 prospect on Jonathan Givony’s big board at ESPN.com.
  • The mother of Zeke Upshaw, the G League player who passed away earlier this year after collapsing during a Grand Rapids Drive game, has filed a federal lawsuit accusing the NBA and the Pistons of negligence. The suit alleges that the defendants failed to provide the Drive with the “the resources, policies, and procedures reasonably necessary” to prevent or handle Upshaw’s collapse. Noah Trister of The Associated Press has the full story and more details.
  • Now that two-way contracts have been in effect for nearly a full year, Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days explores what sort of changes we may see to the rules surrounding those contracts in the future.

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, Okafor, Embiid

The Raptors reinvented their offense after a memorable offseason press conference in which president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri suggested that change would be coming. As Scott Cacciola of the New York Times, the team’s plan to change it’s mindset without actually changing its roster has actually worked.

With a desire to adapt to the ever-changing NBA landscape, the Raptors charged assistant coach Nick Nurse with the task of modernizing the team’s offense, ushering them from an era of one-and-one play into a new one that rewards ball movement and three-point shooting.

Prior to joining the Raptors, Nurse served as the head coach of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, a G League team that paced the league in three-point attempts during his time there. Already this season, he’s convinced every Raptor, with the exception of Jakob Poeltl, to hoist a three.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Raptors are making the most out of second-year forward Pascal Siakam‘s rare motor, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes. “That’s something that’s kind of small but it’s huge, because a lot of guys can’t run like him and don’t want to run like him and don’t have the desire to run like him, and he does,” head coach Dwane Casey says. “And he focuses on it. He thinks about it. He knows that’s how he can score, is outrun people down the floor.
  • It wasn’t long ago when Jahlil Okafor led the Sixers in scoring. These days the 21-year-old center can’t even get on the court. The trend seems eerily similar to the Nerlens Noel situation from last season, Sarah Todd of The Inquirer writes.
  • Despite only operating at 81% capacity, Sixers center Joel Embiid believes he’s the NBA’s best defensive player, Keith Pompey of The Inquirer writes. “Not to be cocky, but I think I’m the best defensive player in the league right now,” Embiid said. “I’m still getting better. My blocks are a little down [compared to last season]. I’m a better rebounder this year.

Atlantic Notes: Covington, Siakam, Porzingis

While the common reaction may be to tout Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as prime examples of The Process paying off, Keith Pompey of The Inquirer writes that Robert Covington may be a better example.

Covington, now a coveted (and well-paid) three-and-D specialist, was an unpolished, lanky three-point shooter when the Sixers picked him up during the 2014/15 season. It was head coach Brett Brown who challenged him to round out his game.

The Process, Pompey writes, was about developing young players amid all the years of tanking so a completed project like Covington – who now averages 16.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, not to mention 3.7 threes per contest at a .491 clip – is as fine an embodiment as any of the Sixers’ transition.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • With D’Angelo Russell and Jeremy Lin in street clothes, now is Isaiah Whitehead‘s time to earn playing time at the point guard position, Greg Joyce of the New York Post writes. “I think I’ve matured a lot since last year,” Whitehead says of the fluctuations in his role with the Nets. “I don’t think I would have been able to handle that last year. But I’ve matured a lot, knowing it’s for the better. … I think I reacted well to it.
  • Second-year forward Pascal Siakam has made an impact on Raptors games with his relentless energy level, Michael Grange of Sportsnet writes. “He don’t get tired,” teammate DeMar DeRozan says. “I don’t understand it. Y’all should see him before practice. He’s out there doing all types of drills, already sweating and everything. It’s crazy to see.
  • An eclectic offseason training regime can be credited, at least in part, with Kristaps Porzingis‘ emergence as a superstar this season, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. The Knicks big man trained with a professional boxer and went on a safari in South Africa.

Raptors Exercise Options On Wright, Poeltl, Siakam

The Raptors have exercised three team options for the 2018/19 season, announcing today in a press release that they’ve picked up Delon Wright‘s fourth year option, as well as third-year options for Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam.

[RELATED: Decisions On 2018/19 Rookie Scale Team Options]

Wright, the 20th overall pick in the 2015 draft, appeared in just 27 games for the Raptors last season, with Kyle Lowry and Cory Joseph ahead of him on the depth chart for most of the year. However, with Joseph no longer on the roster, Wright figures to be in line for a larger role as he and Fred VanVleet back up Lowry. His fourth-year option for 2018/19 will count for $2,536,898 on Toronto’s cap.

Poeltl and Siakam, meanwhile, will also be relied upon for more significant roles this season. The two 2016 first-rounders didn’t play a ton as rookies last season, but the offseason departures of Patrick Patterson, P.J. Tucker, and DeMarre Carroll will open up more frontcourt minutes in the Raptors’ rotation.

Poeltl, last year’s ninth overall pick, has the most expensive 2018/19 option of the three, at $2,947,320. Siakam’s is worth $1,544,951. The Raptors will have to decide next offseason on fourth-year options for 2019/20 for the duo. If those are exercised, Poeltl and Siakam will become extension-eligible in the summer of 2019, and would be on track to be restricted free agents in 2020.

Raptors’ Affiliate Wins NBA D-League Championship

Thursday was a good night for the Raptors’ organization. Not only did the NBA squad pull out a Game 6 victory in Milwaukee to make it through to the second round, but Toronto’s D-League affiliate, Raptors 905, won its first NBADL championship.

The Raptors’ affiliate dropped the first game of the D-League’s best-of-three Finals to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Rockets’ NBADL team, on Sunday. However, the club bounced back with a win on Tuesday and a resounding 122-96 victory on Thursday night to clinch the series.

While many of the contributors to the championship roster aren’t under contract with the Raptors, former first-round picks Bruno Caboclo and Pascal Siakam played major roles in the team’s postseason run, as did undrafted rookie Fred VanVleet. The trio combined for 76 points on Tuesday, with Caboclo (31 points, 11 rebounds) and VanVleet (28 points, 14 assists) leading the way. All three players remain under team control for the Raptors through at least next season.

While D-League excellence doesn’t necessarily translate to NBA success, the development of their young players is certainly a positive sign for the Raptors, who could be at risk of losing NBA rotation pieces this summer — Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, P.J. Tucker, and Patrick Patterson will all be eligible for free agency, and re-signing them would likely take Toronto deep into luxury-tax territory.

Meanwhile, the championship win is another major step forward for Raptors 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse, who was named the D-League’s Coach of the Year last week. Stackhouse will be looking to join the NBA’s head coaching ranks at some point, and his first-year performance for Toronto’s affiliate will look pretty good on his résumé.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the Raptors’ affiliate figures to officially go down as the last D-League champion in league history. Starting next season, the NBADL will be re-branded as the NBAGL — the NBA Gatorade League.

NBA D-League Assignments/Recalls: 4/25/17

Here are Tuesday’s D-League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

  • In what could be the last D-League assignments of the season, Bruno Caboclo, Pascal Siakam, and Fred VanVleet have been sent to the Raptors 905 by the Raptors, the team announced today (Twitter link). Toronto’s D-League affiliate will look to extend the NBADL Finals to a third and deciding game with a win tonight, and VanVleet – who appeared briefly at the end of the Raptors’ win over Milwaukee on Monday – will Caboclo and Siakam as added reinforcements.
  • The Raptors 905’s opponent in the D-League Finals, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, likely won’t make any moves today — Kyle Wiltjer, Chinanu Onuaku, and Isaiah Taylor have been assigned to the Vipers for the last 10 days and will presumably remain with the Rockets‘ D-League affiliate as the club looks to clinch the NBADL title.