Ivo Simovic

Raptors Notes: Coaching Staff, Poeltl, Trent, Dick

New Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic clarified the roles that several of his assistants will have this season, explaining that Pat Delany is his lead assistant and defensive coordinator, Jama Mahlalela will oversee the offense, and James Wade will be focused on analytics, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (Twitter link).

In the second row of the bench, Mike Batiste will work with the Raptors’ big men, Jim Sann will work primarily with the team’s younger players, Ivo Simovic and Vin Bhavnani will focus on scouting, and Mery Andrade and Drew Jones will be player development coaches, Lewenberg adds (via Twitter).

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • After signing a new four-year, $78MM contract with the Raptors this offseason, Jakob Poeltl won’t just be asked to set screens and be a rim-runner on offense. Rajakovic would like to run more of the offense through Poeltl this season, as Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca writes. “Jakob is a great pick-and-roll player, but we’re going to use Jakob with the ball in his hands, we want to cut around him,” Rajakovic said. “He’s a really good passer, very unselfish player, so we’re going to be trying to play through him even more.”
  • Based on the Raptors’ lineups in scrimmages, it looks like the starting five will be Dennis Schröder, Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, and Poeltl, tweets Lewenberg. That would make Gary Trent Jr., who has started 128 of 153 games since arriving in Toronto, part of a second unit that also figures to feature Jalen McDaniels, Chris Boucher, and Malachi Flynn.
  • It remains to be seen whether veterans like Garrett Temple and Otto Porter Jr. will crack Toronto’s regular rotation, but they’re already providing value as veteran leaders for youngsters like No. 13 overall pick Gradey Dick, Lewenberg details in a TSN.ca story. “That’s the real OG,” Dick said of Temple. “Him, Otto, those guys are huge mentors to me right now. I can’t tell you the age gap between us; I can probably be their son. … I think it’s huge, [having] a guy that’s been in the league that long, learning the ropes from him and just trying to take everything that he says and put it into my game.”

Raptors Announce Darko Rajakovic’s 2023/24 Coaching Staff

The Raptors will have a new head coach and a new-look coaching staff for the 2023/24 NBA season. After parting ways with Nick Nurse in April and hiring Darko Rajakovic in June, the team issued a press release on Tuesday announcing what Rajakovic’s staff will look like.

“This coaching staff reflects the team we want to see on the court – high character, high energy, and high creativity,” Rajakovic said in a statement. “We’ve already begun the work we know needs to be done as we head into our first season in Toronto together. We’re excited by the talent, by our team’s potential, and by the job ahead.”

Here are the Raptors’ assistants under Rajakovic for ’23/24, including several names that were previously reported:

Front of the bench:

  • Pat Delany, an experienced NBA assistant who has worked for Charlotte, Orlando, and – most recently – the Wizards.
  • Jama Mahlalela, who is returning to Toronto after spending eight seasons with the Raptors from 2013-21 (six as an assistant and two as the Raptors 905 head coach). He was an assistant with the Warriors from 2021-23.
  • James Wade, who has spent the last five seasons in the WNBA as the general manager and head coach of the Chicago Sky. He was previously an assistant under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio from 2012-16.

Second row:

  • Mike Batiste, a former assistant with the Hornets, the Magic, and – this past season – the Rockets. He has also held player development roles with the Nets and Wizards.
  • Vin Bhavnani, a longtime member of the Thunder organization who was an assistant coach for the last four seasons after serving as the manager of advance scouting/player development for five years.
  • Drew Jones, who was most recently a Pistons assistant from 2021-23.
  • Jim Sann, who has been with the Raptors as an assistant coach since 2016/17, serving under both Dwane Casey and Nurse.
  • Ivo Simovic, an experienced assistant at the NCAA level. He was on UCLA’s staff last season.

The Raptors have also hired Noah Lewis and Rashaun Broadus as assistant video coordinators/player development coaches, per today’s announcement.

Atlantic Notes: Harden, Mills, Simmons, Simovic, Knicks

The Rockets remain a serious contender to sign James Harden, a source close to the Sixers star told Sam Amick of The Athletic. Recent speculation has trended toward Harden remaining in Philadelphia, but his camp wants to make it clear that Houston is still an option.

While it seems odd for a top player to consider leaving a title contender for a rebuilding franchise, Amick notes that a battle for leverage is behind all the leaks regarding Harden’s future. At age 33, his ability to land a near-max contract is limited unless he’s able to create the impression that more than one team is interested. Amick observes that both Philadelphia and Houston have been convinced throughout the process that they’re the prohibitive favorite to land Harden and that he’s only using the other team as a leverage ploy.

Keeping Harden is vital to the Sixers’ title hopes and they could be facing a “gap year” if he decides to leave, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN (video link). He states that Philadelphia would only have about $9MM in cap space without Harden, leaving almost no ability to replace him unless the team can unload other salary.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Patty Mills is hoping Ben Simmons can take the court for Australia in the FIBA World Cup this summer as a prelude to a healthy season with the Nets, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Mills is encouraged by what he has seen from Simmons’ offseason workouts. “We’re still a few weeks away yet,” Mills said. “From all accords and from what I’ve heard, he’s looking after his body and getting to the shape and health that I think everyone wants and needs him to be. So I think first and foremost for him is just about getting to that part where he can be Ben again.”
  • Ivo Simovic, an assistant at UCLA, is finalizing an agreement to join Darko Rajakovic‘s coaching staff with the Raptors, tweets Pete Thamel of ESPN. Simovic and Rajakovic have teamed up before in Serbia and Spain, according to Thamel.
  • Fred Katz of The Athletic explores 10 potential targets for the Knicks with their non-taxpayer mid-level exception. Katz cites Nuggets swingman Bruce Brown as one possibility, although Brown might be able to exceed the MLE on the open market and he doesn’t solve the team’s need for more outside shooting.