OG Anunoby

Blazers Rumors: Grant, Thybulle, Reddish, No. 3 Pick, Sharpe, More

Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant still appears on track to become a free agent this offseason rather than accepting the maximum four-year, $113MM extension he can sign until June 30. Appearing on the HoopsHype podcast with Michael Scotto, Sean Highkin of The Rose Garden Report said he doesn’t expect the annual salary on Grant’s next deal to be worth more than about $30MM, but suggests that the forward may be waiting until free agency in order to get a fifth year from Portland.

“I think it’s going to come out around five years, $150 million, with probably a player option,” Highkin said. “I know he gets talked about as one of the top free agents on the market, but I’d expect that gets done pretty quickly. It might even be a (6:01 pm) on June 30th type of signing.”

As for restricted free agents Matisse Thybulle and Cam Reddish, Highkin views Thybulle as the player who is more likely to re-sign with the Blazers, suggesting that the former Sixer will be a priority for the front office. Highkin is less certain about Portland’s appetite for a new deal with Reddish, telling Scotto that the team would probably have interest in bringing back the former lottery pick if the price is right.

Here are more highlights from the conversation between Scotto and Highkin:

  • Scotto has gotten the sense that the Trail Blazers are comfortable keeping the No. 3 overall pick and drafting either Brandon Miller and Scoot Henderson, even as they plan to continue building around Damian Lillard. However, Highkin believes Portland is far more likely to trade the pick for an established veteran, mentioning two-way forwards like Jaylen Brown and Pascal Siakam as potential targets while downplaying the likelihood of the club pursuing offensive-minded players like Zach LaVine. Another Raptors forward, OG Anunoby, has also been linked to the Blazers and would be a good fit on the roster, but Highkin doesn’t expect Portland to give up the No. 3 pick for Anunoby.
  • There are some people in Portland who believe Shaedon Sharpe has All-Star potential, according to Scotto. Highkin agrees that the Blazers are high on Sharpe and expects he’ll be kept out of any trade that doesn’t return a superstar (Joel Embiid or something like that”). Anfernee Simons is the more likely trade candidate, Highkin explains, given his larger cap hit and his fit next to Lillard. Sharpe, who has more size and defensive upside than Simons, is the more logical long-term backcourt partner for Dame.
  • The Blazers may make some changes to their coaching staff this summer to give Chauncey Billups some more experienced assistants, Highkin notes. The organization remains optimistic about Billups’ potential as a head coach and wants to give him an opportunity to lead a more competitive roster, Highkin adds.
  • When the Blazers signed Jusuf Nurkic to a four-year, $70MM contract last offseason, that didn’t necessarily mean they thought he was their center of the future, according to Highkin, who believes the team is “very open” to moving Nurkic and will explore trade possibilities this summer. Highkin suggests that Nurkic’s willingness to be shut down with a leg injury in 2021/22 when Portland went into tank mode played a part in Portland’s decision to “take care” of him in free agency last summer.

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, Barnes, Knicks, B. Brown, Nets

It could be a “fascinating” offseason in Toronto, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, who said in the latest episode of his Hoop Collective podcast that people who have been in touch with the Raptors recently have gotten the sense that the front office doesn’t yet know which direction it will take with its roster.

As Windhorst outlines, one path would see the Raptors re-sign Fred VanVleet, extend Pascal Siakam, and potentially pursue additional upgrades. Conversely, the team could make changes to its core, perhaps exploring a sign-and-trade of VanVleet and other deals involving players like Siakam and/or OG Anunoby. The front office’s decision on a direction for the roster isn’t necessarily separate from its ongoing head coaching search, Windhorst observes.

“They’ve interviewed a bunch of different coaches and it’s not clear which way they’re going to go,” he said. “They’ve gotta probably make a decision about whether or not they’re going to keep these guys together, and that is going to influence the kind of coach you hire.”

Windhorst points to Will Hardy and the Jazz last spring as an example of a head coaching hire that was made at the same time a team decided to retool its roster. If the Raptors have a similar overhaul in mind, they could target a coach who specializes in player development, though it seems unlikely that they’ll blow things up to the same extent Utah did.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Eric Koreen and Seth Partnow of The Athletic consider how the Raptors should view Scottie Barnes‘ sophomore slump following his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2021/22. Partnow, acknowledging that the team would’ve liked to see Barnes make greater strides as a play-maker, shooter, and defender last season, says he’d be “concerned but not worried” about the 21-year-old’s development.
  • The Knicks have the assets to be serious players for any impact player who hits the trade block, but will the right star actually become available for the team this offseason? In a story for subscribers, Peter Botte of The New York Post explores that question.
  • As Lucas Kaplan of NetsDaily relays, Nuggets guard Bruce Brown suggested during an appearance on The Dan LeBatard Show that the Nets‘ front office was interested in re-signing him last summer, but declined to go into details on why things didn’t work out. “I don’t know who made the decision, but I just know the front office wanted me back,” Brown said, spurring speculation that either Nets owner Joe Tsai or one or both of Brooklyn’s then-stars (Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving) played a part in Brown’s exit.

NBA Announces 2022/23 All-Defensive Teams

The NBA has officially announced its All-Defensive teams for the 2022/23 season.

A total of 100 media members vote on the All-Defensive awards, with players receiving two points for a First Team vote and one point for a Second Team vote. This year’s All-Defensive teams are as follows:

First Team

Second Team

Unsurprisingly, Jackson – who was this season’s Defensive Player of the Year – received the most First Team votes (96) and showed up on the most overall ballots (99). Only one voter didn’t have Jackson on either All-Defensive team.

Milwaukee teammates Holiday (94) and Lopez (85) received the second- and third-most First Team votes. No other player earned more than 50.

While the Bucks have two players on the First Team, it’s a bit surprising to see former DPOY Giannis Antetokounmpo miss out altogether. Antetokounmpo earned 16 First Team votes and 28 Second Team votes for a total of 60 points, the most of any player who didn’t earn All-Defensive honors. Although he received more total points than Brooks or Adebayo, Giannis didn’t make the cut because there were four forwards with more points than him.

Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels (40 points), Celtics guard Marcus Smart (35), Nets guard Mikal Bridges (33), and Nets center Nic Claxton (25) would have joined Antetokounmpo on a hypothetical All-Defensive Third Team as the highest vote-getters who fell just short.

A total of 38 players showed up on at least one ballot — the full voting results can be viewed here.

Being named to an All-Defensive team will benefit a pair of players financially, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (via Twitter). White earned a $250K bonus for his Second Team nod, while Holiday will receive $129,600 for making the First Team.

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, C. Johnson, Rupert, Raptors

Joel Embiid called his return to the court “rusty” and coach Doc Rivers said the newly crowned MVP had “growing pains.” Even so, the Sixers were happy to have Embiid back in action Wednesday night, but they’ll need him to play much better to give them a chance to get past the Celtics, writes Rich Hofmann of The Athletic.

Returning from a sprained LCL in his right knee, Embiid played nearly 27 minutes and contributed 15 points, three rebounds and five blocks, but Boston dominated the second half of Game 2 to even up the series. It was Embiid’s first appearance since he suffered the injury on April 20, and he and the team believed it was important for him to resume playing as soon as possible to help reestablish a rhythm.

Embiid added that his injury would normally keep him sidelined for about four to six weeks, and he accepts that he’s not going to be 100 percent during the series.

“I just felt like it probably would have been the same result as far as how I’m feeling if I would have come back in Game 3. Probably rusty and not myself,” he said. “But I feel like I just got this out of the way. Disappointed by the loss, but that’s a step towards getting back to myself.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Rockets and maybe a couple more teams are likely to make a run at Nets forward Cameron Johnson in free agency, John Hollinger of The Athletic states in a discussion with fellow Athletic writer Alex Schiffer about Brooklyn’s offseason. Hollinger expects Johnson’s next contract to start in the $20MM range, which creates a challenging situation for the Nets, who are about $10MM below the luxury tax line. Re-signing Johnson without cutting salary elsewhere would subject Brooklyn to the repeater tax for a team that’s unlikely to be among the top contenders in the East. Hollinger believes Royce O’Neale‘s $9.6MM contract would be easy to move if they keep Johnson, or the front office could consider stretching the final-year salaries for Joe Harris or Patty Mills.
  • The Nets may not keep both first-round picks they have at No. 21 and 22, but French shooting guard Rayan Rupert is a name to watch in that range, Hollinger adds. Schiffer notes that general manager Sean Marks has traveled to New Zealand twice to watch Rupert in action.
  • Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby are the most likely players to move if the Raptors are looking for an offseason roster shakeup, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic. Koreen creates trade tiers for Toronto’s roster and considers Scottie Barnes to be the only player who’s “practically untouchable.”

Raptors’ Anunoby Becomes Part-Owner Of London Lions

Raptors forward OG Anunoby has invested in the London Lions of the British Basketball League, becoming a part-owner of the team, the club announced in a press release.

While the BBL hasn’t historically been considered one of Europe’s top-basketball leagues, it has been growing in popularity in recent years.

The Lions have been one of the league’s most successful franchises during that time, winning the BBL Cup in the 10-team league in both 2019 and 2023 and reaching the postseason final in three of the BBL’s last four full seasons. The 30-4 Lions will enter this year’s playoffs as the league’s top seed.

“It’s great to see everything that is going on in British basketball right now, which is why I am really excited to join the London Lions,” Anunoby said in a statement. “I just want to do my part as a role model to all the young hoopers in London and across the entire UK. I look forward to visiting the team in the off-season and can’t wait to help build with the organisation.”

It’s not unprecedented for international NBA players to invest in professional teams in their home countries. Yao Ming (Shanghai Sharks) and Tony Parker (ASVEL Basket) are among the NBA stars who have done so over the years. They controlled – or still control, in Parker’s case – majority shares of those teams, while Anunoby will have a minority stake in the Lions.

Anunoby, whose four-year, $72MM contract with the Raptors is guaranteed through next season with a player option for 2024/25, was born in London.

Raptors Notes: Siakam, Nurse, Anunoby, VanVleet, Trent

There’s an expectation around the NBA that changes will be coming in Toronto after the Raptors were eliminated from the play-in tournament on Wednesday, capping a disappointing season, writes Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com.

“I think everybody in the league knows that Toronto is going to be heading to a break-up,” an opposing executive told Bulpett.

It remains to be seen what those changes might look like. Three of the Raptors’ top six players – Fred VanVleet, Jakob Poeltl, and Gary Trent Jr. – appear headed for free agency; OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam could see their names resurface in trade rumors; and there’s no guarantee that head coach Nick Nurse will return.

“They’re going to get rid of some of their assets and just go in another direction,” a source from another team said to Bulpett. “Who it is, I don’t know. But I know that Anunoby’s name comes up all the time. Interestingly enough, Siakam’s name is not as well regarded as you would have thought. The guy gets buckets. He can score. But it do think he and Gary Trent carry the same label. They can score, but I’m not sure they help you win.

“VanVleet’s a player, and so is Scottie Barnes. Poeltl is a competent center. … Siakam is one of the better scorers in the league. And all Gary Trent does is make buckets. … I like their talent level. We’d love to have some of that. But together, what they have doesn’t work. It just doesn’t. I think Nurse has been around, and he realizes when the bloom is off the rose.”

For his part, Nurse was noncommittal when asked about his own future this week. He previously stated that it’s something he’ll consider and discuss with the front office after the season and reiterated that point on Thursday.

“(Raptors president) Masai (Ujiri) really wants to win. I really want to win,” Nurse said (Twitter link via Lewenberg). “We’re driving to figure out how to get back to a championship level. Our communication is open and honest with each other. That’s all I can say there.”

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • While there’s an expectation that both players will turn down their 2023/24 player options, neither VanVleet nor Trent was willing to commit to that direction when they spoke to reporters on Thursday, according to stories from ESPN and The Canadian Press (via The Toronto Star). “Not too much rush to jump into a decision about opting out,” VanVleet said. “It will take some time.”
  • Asked if he would be interested in discussing a contract extension with the Raptors this offseason, Anunoby expressed a willingness to do so, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. “They haven’t come to me with anything (yet) and if they did I would definitely talk to them,” Anunoby said. “I love Toronto. I love our teammates. I love the staff.” The NBA’s new CBA will allow Toronto to offer Anunoby a raise of up to 40% on next year’s $18.6MM salary instead of just 20%, putting the team in position to make a stronger offer.
  • Dave Feschuk of The Toronto Star argues that the Raptors are in the midst of an identity crisis and “need a serious organizational rethink,” while Eric Koreen of The Athletic conveys a similar sentiment, writing that the team is due for an overhaul from both a stylistic and personnel perspective.
  • With the Raptors’ 2019 championship growing more distant in the rear view mirror, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca says the team needs to “mentally, emotionally, and spiritually” cut ties with that era in order to move forward. VanVleet doesn’t disagree. “I think we just got to find another identity, whatever that is,” said the veteran guard. “… We can’t try to do that by osmosis and try to carry over a championship from four years ago and expect to add that to a group that we have now.”
  • Doug Smith of The Toronto Star identifies five key areas the Raptors need to deal with this summer, starting with Nurse’s status.

Raptors Notes: Barnes, Shooting Struggles, Strange Season, Anunoby

The evolution of second-year Raptors forward Scottie Barnes, the reigning Rookie Of The Year, is ultimately more important than how the team performs in this year’s playoffs, opines Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca.

“I’m not super different [that last year],” Barnes said following Toronto’s last game of the regular season. “I do the same things, just a little bit better.”

“The biggest thing is [Barnes] is still really, really young,” head coach Nick Nurse said. “We like a lot of things about him, a lot about his approach. He’s competitive. He’s big. He’s strong. He loves to play. Those skills and things, I think, are what he has to continue to work on and improve. You know how it is: If you’re gonna be an All-Star or a great player in this league, you’ve got to score.”

There’s more out of Toronto:

  • The Raptors have had an underwhelming shooting regular season from long range, Grange writes in another article. “I think, listen, for us to really hit another level I think our shot-making still has to get a little better,” Nurse said. “I think we’re creating really good shots for guys that are pretty good historical shooters, and those numbers still have some room to go up.” Toronto will square off against the Bulls in a must-win play-in game Wednesday.
  • The Raptors’ disappointing 41-41 2022/23 season was marred by inconsistent play including an unsustainable defense, an ill-fitting roster, and perhaps some coaching issues, writes Doug Smith of The Star.
  • Versatile defender OG Anunoby could serve as the key to the Raptors’ efforts against the Bulls during their play-in matchup, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. Anunoby will most likely be tasked with stopping Chicago’s lone All-Star, ex-Raptor DeMar DeRozan, a former teammate of Anunoby’s. “He’s a very patient player,” Anunoby said. “When I came in I was definitely over-aggressive, biting on his head fakes and stuff, just little tricks he had. I definitely learned from him.”

Damian Lillard Wants Trail Blazers To Target Veteran Help

The Trail Blazers used a 2-15 finish to grab the fifth-best odds in next month’s lottery, but that doesn’t mean the team will try to rebuild through the draft, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic.

Franchise cornerstone Damian Lillard made that clear after Sunday’s 56-point loss to the Warriors in the season finale. This marks the second straight year that Portland has failed to qualify for the play-in tournament, and Lillard said he’s doesn’t want to continue on that path.

“I’m just not interested in that. That’s not a secret,’’ Lillard responded when asked about bringing in more young talent. “I want a chance to go for it. And if the route is to (draft youth), then that’s not my route.”

What that means, according to Quick, is that the Blazers will likely try to trade their first-round pick unless they land the No. 1 selection in the draft. They have a 10.5% chance to get French phenom Victor Wembanyama, but anything else won’t be enough for Lillard, who wants the team to be aggressive in targeting veteran help this offseason.

Lillard’s friendship with Jerami Grant played a role in Portland’s decision to trade for him last summer, and Lillard indicated that’s he’s talked to other players who have expressed a desire to join the Trail Blazers.

“I know there are guys that want to do it, I will just say that,” Lillard said. “I know there are guys who really move the needle and want to do it. But knowing that and actually making something happen to make that a reality is a completely separate thing.”

General manager Joe Cronin and head coach Chauncey Billups expressed similar sentiments on Sunday, with Cronin stating that the organization has a “target group” of players it will look to acquire. Quick notes that Portland was among the teams that pursued the RaptorsOG Anunoby before the trade deadline. He names the Nets’ Mikal Bridges and the Celtics’ Jaylen Brown as other players the Blazers might have strong interest in, but they may be beyond the team’s reach.

“We have our favorites,’’ Cronin said. “The ability to get them is not easy.’’

Lillard, who’s coming off his best scoring season at 32.2 PPG, made it clear that he’s not issuing an ultimatum as he did two years ago. He remains committed to staying in Portland and now has the security of an extension that runs through the 2026/27 season. He plans to work with Cronin and Billups on moves that will hopefully turn the Blazers into contenders.

“We all want the same things,” Cronin said. “Whether we are able to go out and accomplish what we want to do … we’ll see.”

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Anunoby, Knicks Draft, Brunson

Joel Embiid is listed as questionable as the Sixers square off against the Nuggets on Monday in a battle of MVP candidates. Embiid said that if he plays, he won’t be focused on his individual matchup with Nikola Jokic, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes.

“These types of matchups, whether it’s against (Giannis Antetokounmpo) whether it’s against him, it’s cool and all,” Embiid said, “but at the end of the day, it’s always about Milwaukee against Philly or Denver against Philly. (Individual matchups) is not where the focus should be. The focus is on making sure everything is running right for later on (during the playoffs).”

If he does play, Embiid says he’ll need a night off soon to rest his sore calf, Pompey tweets.

“I’ve been playing a lot of minutes, I’ve been playing every single game.” Embiid said. “So to add to that, dealing with the calf and whatever the foot, I think at some point you gotta look at the bigger picture, which is the playoffs, obviously.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • OG Anunoby was a prominent trade candidate before February’s deadline but the Raptors were glad to have him on Sunday. He poured in 29 points in a pivotal victory over the Wizards, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes. “I think that almost all the time he catches and shoots, it’s a good shot — even if he’s pretty covered, especially in the corner,” coach Nick Nurse said. “He’s a really high-percentage, high-contest corner three shooter. He had a couple of mid-rangers off the catch, too — which, again, I like. He was feeling it, obviously. I think when guys are feeling it, you want them to get to wherever they can get to and let it go, so I think that’s what was going on (Sunday).”
  • The Knicks could benefit from the Mavericks’ misery, Jared Schwartz of the New York Post notes. Dallas owes New York a first-round pick, though it’s top-10 protected. Dallas is currently 11th in the Western Conference after losing its last four games. The first-rounder also has protections for 2024 and 2025, and if it does not convey within those three years, the Knicks would receive a second-round pick.
  • Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson practiced on Sunday and is listed as questionable to play Monday against Houston after missing Thursday’s game against Orlando due to a sprained right wrist, according to Dan Martin of the New York Post. Coach Tom Thibodeau said Brunson “did everything in practice” on Sunday and the team will reevaluate him before the game.

Raptors Notes: Starting Five, Poeltl, Koloko, Anunoby

The trade-deadline addition of Jakob Poeltl has finally given the Raptors a starting five that can dominate opposing lineups, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic.

For most of the last two seasons, Toronto’s go-to five-man group of Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, Scottie Barnes, and Gary Trent Jr. only narrowly outscored opponents. However, since replacing Trent in that group with Poeltl, the Raptors’ starting five has become a major strength.

The lineup with Trent has played a team-high 378 minutes this season and posted a plus-0.8 net rating. The five-man group featuring Poeltl has already logged 163 minutes and has an impressive plus-17.3 net rating during that time. While Poeltl’s rim-protecting ability has helped stabilize Toronto’s defense, the club’s offense has also been highly effective when he’s on the floor, scoring 123.6 points per 100 possessions.

“(Poeltl has) given us a little bit better screening game, a roll threat,” head coach Nick Nurse said, per Koreen. “When you got the roll threat going, it usually gives you a little bit of a weakside catch-and-shoot opportunity.”

In order to keep their successful new starting five together next season, the Raptors will likely need to negotiate new deals for both Poeltl and VanVleet, since both players can reach unrestricted free agency this summer. Trent will also likely be a free agent.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • After not being a part of the Raptors’ rotation for several weeks, Christian Koloko logged 12 minutes in Thursday’s victory over Oklahoma City, Koreen notes. Nurse said this week that he’d like to keep either Poeltl or Koloko on the floor most of the time to anchor the defense, so the rookie could see more regular minutes in the coming weeks.
  • Anunoby is something of a defensive “unicorn,” writes Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca, observing that the Raptors forward has guarded everyone from Bradley Beal to DeMar DeRozan to Nikola Jokic in recent weeks. “He’s positionless. Positionless defense,” Nurse said. “He’s probably optimal at his position, a wing player. Probably. But he does so good on two-guards and bigs when he needs to, as well. He hasn’t really guarded his position in the last several games.”
  • Within the same story, Murphy takes a deep dive on how possible changes to the NBA’s rules governing veteran extensions could affect the Raptors’ ability to lock up Anunoby before he becomes eligible for free agency in 2024. As Murphy details, the current rules would limit Toronto’s best extension offer to about $100MM over four years, but if the NBA allows extensions to begin at 150% of the player’s previous salary instead of 120%, the Raptors could bump their offer as high as approximately $125MM over four years.
  • As Doug Smith of The Toronto Star points out, the Raptors will finish their season next month with two games in Boston and one vs. Milwaukee, so they could benefit from load management if the Celtics and Bucks are locked into playoff seeds and decide not to play their starters big minutes in those games.