James Wade

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.

Raptors Notes: VanVleet, Schroder, Anunoby, Coaching Staff

The Raptors and Rockets both increased their offers to Fred VanVleet Friday night before he decided to sign with Houston, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca.

Toronto had been hesitant to exceed $90MM over three years, with one source describing it to Grange as a “glass ceiling.” Although VanVleet is one of the most accomplished players in franchise history, he has missed 30 combined games due to injury over the last two years and he shot career lows both from the field and from three-point range last season. There were also concerns that going beyond that limit would inhibit the team’s ability to make other moves, such as re-signing center Jakob Poeltl.

The situation changed when rumors of James Harden returning to Houston died down and the Raptors realized that VanVleet had become the Rockets’ number one target. During a meeting with VanVleet shortly after the start of free agency, Raptors officials presented him with an expanded offer that brought it to $120MM for four seasons.

Sources tell Grange that VanVleet next met with the Rockets, who also added a year to their offer, increasing it to three years at nearly $129MM. After nearly three hours of waiting, the Raptors learned that they were losing their starting point guard.

There’s more from Toronto:

  • Lakers players will miss Dennis Schröder, whom the Raptors quickly signed as VanVleet’s replacement, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Austin Reaves called Schroder “one of the best teammates I’ve met” and said his commitment to winning over everything else made him stand out.
  • Before OG Anunoby finalized a change in his representation, he told prospective agents that he wants a situation with more ball-handling and playmaking responsibilities when he signs his next contract, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. VanVleet’s departure and the addition of Darko Rajakovic as head coach might provide that opportunity for Anunoby in Toronto, Fischer suggests.
  • James Wade is the latest addition to Rajakovic’s coaching staff, tweets James Kay of TheNextHoops. Wade had been the general manager and head coach of the WNBA’s Chicago Sky.