OG Anunoby

Latest On Raptors’ Interest In Damian Lillard

The Raptors are now the frontrunners to land Damian Lillard, two high-ranking executives told ESPN’s Marc Spears.

Reports of genuine interest by Toronto’s front office to land the perennial All-Star guard have surfaced in recent days. It’s almost been a foregone conclusion since Lillard requested a trade at the beginning of July that he would inevitably end up with the Heat, his preferred destination.

However, there haven’t been any substantial trade conversations between the Trail Blazers and Heat, according to Spears. Meanwhile, the Raptors have had recent conversations with the Blazers regarding Lillard, though there’s nothing imminent in terms a potential blockbuster deal.

That could change soon. Those same unnamed executives believe Lillard will be dealt before media day next Monday.

Toronto’s package could include some combination of Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes and/or OG Anunoby. The Blazers are also highly interested in the Raptors’ first-round pick, Gradey Dick. The Heat initially offered a trade package that included Tyler Herro and two first-round draft picks, according to Spears’ sources.

While the Raptors front office has long admired Lillard, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports isn’t quite sure if it will go all-in on a 33-year-old point guard with a four-year contract worth upwards of $216MM. Lewenberg doubts the Raptors would include Barnes in any deal and doesn’t see the 29-year-old Siakam as a fit for the Blazers.

He speculates a Lillard package from the Raptors could include Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr., Dick, salary filler and multiple first-round picks. In that case, Toronto might need to lift the protections on the 2024 pick it sent to San Antonio in the deadline-day trade for Jakob Poeltl last February.

Whether Lillard would be happy to go north of the border is a major question mark. He believes he’d have a great shot at a ring by joining forces with Heat stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. The lack of a state tax in Florida, greater marketing potential and the Heat’s renowned culture also intrigue him, according to Spears.

Atlantic Notes: Nets, Giannis, Hart, Harden

For the first time in years, the Nets will report to training camp without a superstar on their roster, but they have plenty of assets ready for when the next one becomes available, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Brooklyn is in a transition phase after shipping out Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in separate deals last February. Those trades gave the team a foundation built around Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson, along with a parcel of draft assets that can match any team in the league.

The Nets have seven tradable first-round picks through 2030, along with four others that could be involved in swaps. They own unprotected firsts from the Suns in 2027 and 2029 and one from the Mavericks in 2029. Lewis points out that those picks could greatly increase in value as the core in Phoenix becomes older and especially if Irving and Luka Doncic eventually decide to leave Dallas.

Lewis doesn’t expect Brooklyn to use any of its assets to chase players who are currently on the market such as Damian Lillard, Tyler Herro or James Harden. The front office wants to be fully stocked in case a major star such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Donovan Mitchell or Doncic eventually becomes available.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Knicks risk missing out on other opportunities if they decide to wait for the possibility of an Antetokounmpo trade, Ian Begley of SNY.tv states in a mailbag column. He points to Raptors forward OG Anunoby as an example of a useful talent who might be available through trade, but New York can’t make a bid for him if the front office is determined to preserve its assets for a run at Antetokounmpo. Begley also notes that Antetokounmpo could ultimately decide to stay in Milwaukee or force his way to another team.
  • The Knicks appear to have Josh Hart penciled in as their backup power forward, Begley adds. New York hasn’t signed anyone to replace Obi Toppin after trading him to Indiana, and using Hart in that role could open up playing time for free agent addition Ryan Arcidiacono.
  • The attention being focused on a potential Lillard deal is holding up any progress the Sixers could be making on a Harden trade, Derek Bodner states on the latest PHLY Sports podcast. Philadelphia talked to the Trail Blazers about a Lillard deal this summer, Kyle Neubeck adds, but he cautions that doesn’t mean the teams were ever close to a deal.

Raptors Considered Legitimate Suitor For Damian Lillard

The Heat have long been viewed as the frontrunner to land Damian Lillard, in large part because Miami is his preferred destination.

However, outside of the Heat, the Raptors are one of the top contenders – “if not the most viable threat” – to trade for the Trail Blazers star, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. Fischer draws a comparison to the Donovan Mitchell deal last year, when the Knicks were long viewed as the favorite to land the All-NBA guard but the Cavaliers surprisingly traded for him instead.

A couple different reporters have cited the Raptors as a possible Lillard suitor, and Fischer suggests their interest is more than just cursory. Still, despite being involved in plenty of rumors over the past year, Toronto’s lack of actual moves has created skepticism around the league that the team will actually acquire Lillard, Fischer writes.

As for what Toronto would give up, OG Anunoby is a name worth watching, according to Fischer, but it’s unclear where the defensive stalwart would eventually land in a potential deal. Sources tell Fischer that Scottie Barnes is off limits and Pascal Siakam is unlikely to be involved, but first-rounder Gradey Dick could be included.

The Trail Blazers are focused on finding the “greatest possible return” for Lillard, sources tell Fischer, and have “strongly considered” the possibility of acquiring Suns center Deandre Ayton as part of a multi-team framework. Ayton’s potential involvement was first reported by John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 on Thursday night.

The Bulls are also interested in Lillard, Fischer confirms, but teams around the league — including Portland — aren’t excited about acquiring Zach LaVine, who has been available for a few months now, as Fischer has reported multiple times.

Raptors Notes: Anunoby, Barnes, Siakam, Achiuwa, Lillard

The Raptors reportedly received offers of multiple first-round picks for OG Anunoby at the February trade deadline, but the “upside value” of those picks is “believed to have been low,” according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Anunoby made his first All-Defensive appearance in 2022/23. Still just 26 years old, he led the NBA in steals per game last season (1.9) while averaging 16.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists on a .476/.387/.838 shooting line in 67 contests (35.6 minutes).

However, Anunoby’s trade value is likely mitigated by the fact that he can become a free agent in 2024 if he turns down his $19.9MM player option for ’24/25, which is basically a lock. His floor for a new deal could be the five-year, $160MM contract Jerami Grant signed to remain with Portland.

The Raptors have reportedly been unwilling to take calls on Anunoby this summer, so there’s no sign they’re trying to move him right now.

Here’s more from Toronto:

  • With Dennis Schröder as the only proven point guard on the roster, the Raptors will likely lean more heavily on Scottie Barnes for play-making duties, Charania adds. The ’21/22 Rookie of the Year averaged 4.8 assists against 2.0 turnovers last season.
  • In a mailbag for The Athletic, Eric Koreen states that while top basketball executive Masai Ujiri has the “reputation of a big deal-maker,” Koreen considers Ujiri’s normal mode of operation as being closer to “conservative opportunism.” In addition to highly valuing their own players, that may explain why the Raptors haven’t made further roster moves, despite fans clamoring for the front office to pick a path.
  • Why didn’t the Raptors accept the Hawks’ reported offer for Pascal Siakam? According to Koreen, they simply think he’s worth more than that, and will have more value to either Toronto or another team on a new contract, as opposed to his expiring deal.
  • Precious Achiuwa is the player on Toronto’s roster most likely to have a breakout season, Koreen writes. He also explains why a Damian Lillard trade between Toronto and Portland wouldn’t make much sense for the Raptors or the Trail Blazers.

Atlantic Notes: Udofia, Raptors, White, Porzingis, Knicks

The Long Island Nets, Brooklyn’s NBA G League affiliate, have named Mfon Udofia as head coach, according to a league press release. Brooklyn’s intent to hire Udofia for the G League club was previously reported.

“We’re pleased to welcome Mfon to the Nets family,” Long Island Nets GM J.R. Holden said. “His passion for the game and dynamic coaching style have prepared him to lead our development team on Long Island. Our organization is excited to support Mfon and his staff as they lead the next generation of talent this upcoming season.”

Udofia spent last season as an assistant coach with the Ontario Clippers in the G League. He had prior stints with several other NBAGL franchises.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Raptors may not be done dealing, but The Athletic’s Eric Koreen examines how the rotation might shake out if the roster remains unchanged. Koreen believes either Pascal Siakam or Scottie Barnes must be on the court at all times for play-making purposes and either OG Anunoby or Gary Trent Jr. need to be on the floor for shooting purposes. He also doesn’t see lottery pick Gradey Dick as a member of a nine-man rotation, given the team’s other commitments.
  • With Derrick White the undisputed starting point man with the Celtics, The Athletic’s Jared Weiss breaks down how a pick-and-roll partnership between White and Kristaps Porzingis can unlock the team’s full offensive potential.
  • Miles McBride, Jericho Sims or Isaiah Roby could force their way into the Knicks’ rotation, The Athletic’s Fred Katz writes, though if coach Tom Thibodeau goes with his usual nine-man rotation, minutes will be hard to come by for that trio. Katz looks at various lineup combinations and which starter might play with the second unit when the usual four reserves are on the floor.

Spurs Interested In Evan Fournier?

In addition to a few playoff hopefuls, the Spurs have also shown some interest in trading for Knicks wing Evan Fournier, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

As Begley outlines, Fournier shares an agent with fellow Frenchman Victor Wembanyama, the No. 1 overall pick of last month’s draft. Fournier spoke last week about being intrigued by the possibility of joining San Antonio.

The 30-year-old’s $18.9MM pseudo-expiring contract (he has a team option worth $19MM in 2024/25) wouldn’t be viewed favorably by rival teams after he was pulled from New York’s rotation early last season. Fournier appeared in just 27 games in ’22/23, averaging 6.1 PPG and 1.8 RPG while shooting career worsts of 40.4% on twos and 30.7% on threes.

On the other hand, Fournier started all 80 of his games in ’21/22, averaging 14.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.1 APG and 1.0 SPG while converting the fourth-most three-pointers in the league (241, a career high). He holds a career mark of 37.9% from beyond the arc.

After making multiple deals this offseason, the Spurs no longer have the salary cap room to accommodate Fournier’s salary outright, Begley notes — they’d have to send salary back to adhere to the NBA’s trade rules. The Knicks also haven’t shown any inclination to attach draft assets to move off Fournier’s contract, Begley adds, but presumably would be more open to doing so if they could get a potential rotation player or two in return.

Fournier has come up in a couple other trade rumors this summer, but he remains on the Knicks’ roster for now, although he certainly hopes that isn’t the case when the season starts. It’s worth noting that Begley’s article is a week old, and a report a few days ago indicated Fournier could eventually become a buyout candidate if New York can’t trade him.

Begley’s mailbag column also touches on a handful of other topics. For example, he expresses skepticism that the Knicks were ever seriously interested in Bulls guard/forward Zach LaVine this offseason, despite having exploratory trade talks on the two-time All-Star at the February deadline. Begley also hears the Raptors were shutting down trade inquiries on OG Anunoby — a player the Knicks like — earlier this month.

Atlantic Notes: Knicks’ Roster, Bridges, VanVleet, Brown

The Knicks have 12 players on fully or partially guaranteed deals, leaving at least two spots potentially open for free agents. They could look at a variety of players to fill those slots, according to Fred Katz of The Athletic. Hamidou Diallo, Terence Davis and Taj Gibson are some of the available players that could provide depth in areas of need, in Katz’ view.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets forward Mikal Bridges is thrilled he was asked to play for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup, he told Paul George on Podcast P (hat tip to Eurohoops.net). “(Team USA head coach) Steve Kerr brought up the idea to me, and I was like, hell yeah, I’m here, just please let me know. I kind of had the idea there, and then I ended up going to Brooklyn and playing really well,” Bridges said. “After that, when I saw him again and we talked about it, I was really ready for it. So, no, definitely, there was nothing holding me back from that, unless I had some injury or something happen, but no, I was ready. I’m very excited.”
  • Fred VanVleet made 47% of the Raptors’ pull-up 3-pointers and took 42% of their pull-up attempts last season. So how will Toronto replace that element of its offensive game? The Athletic’s Eric Koreen explores that topic, stating that Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby could all take on more responsibility, whether creating those shots or becoming more effective at them.
  • The trade kicker in Jaylen Brown‘s reported super-max extension with the Celtics is less than the 15% max, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe tweets. Brown will also be on a six-month pay schedule each season during his new deal, rather than having the payments spread out over 12 months.

Atlantic Notes: Chandler, Siakam, Anonoby, Harden, Harris

Kennedy Chandler is hoping for a two-way contract offer from the Nets after getting extensive playing time with their Summer League team, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Chandler averaged 14.0 points, 5.4 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game in Las Vegas, but he did little to ease concerns about his outside shot. He was just 2-of-14 from beyond the arc during Summer League after shooting 13.3% on three-pointers with the Grizzlies last season.

Armoni Brooks and second-round pick Jalen Wilson hold two of Brooklyn’s two-way spots, but there’s an opening after RaiQuan Gray, who was in line for the other one, was waived this week. Chandler is expected to receive consideration, according to Lewis, but his fate might depend on who else becomes available.

Chandler was an intriguing prospect with Memphis a year ago after a strong season at Tennessee and a 41 1/2-inch leap at the draft combine. However, he was waived on the final weekend of the season when the Grizzlies promoted Kenneth Lofton Jr. to a standard contract. Chandler has guaranteed money for two more years, but he doesn’t want to face the end of his NBA career at age 20.

“That’s the whole point of me playing this summer,” he said. “I want to play every single game, kill, dominate whoever is in front of me. And not just worry about myself, honestly. You just worry about doing what I can do; then the rest will come.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Raptors are exploring the market for Pascal Siakam, but they aren’t interested in trading OG Anunoby, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic. Koreen confirms that Toronto talked to Charlotte and Portland about moving Siakam in a deal for the No. 2 or No. 3 pick, but never got close to a trade with either team. He adds that if Raptors officials don’t like the offers they get for Siakam, they’re likely to begin extension talks sometime this summer.
  • As Sixers guard James Harden waits for a trade, he has removed any mention of the team or Philadelphia from his social media accounts, per Dhani Joseph of The New York Post.
  • Sixers owner Josh Harris felt “humbled and awed” after his group’s purchase of the NFL’s Washington Commanders for a record $6.05 billion was finalized this week, writes John Keim of ESPN. “I feel an awesome responsibility to the city of Washington,” said Harris, who grew up in the area. “I know what I’ve got to do. It comes down to winning. It’s on me and on our ownership group to deliver. That’s what we’re going to do.”

Atlantic Notes: Siakam, Wieskamp, Anunoby, Harden, Walsh

Raptors forward Pascal Siakam is still a potential trade candidate for Toronto, but the club is taking its time and showing no urgency to make a move, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star.

There’s “more smoke than fire” around Siakam, according to Star, who says the Raptors do not feel a particular obligation to move their veteran star, who at present appears happy to remain with the only NBA team he’s ever known.

The 6’9″ forward submitted his most prolific scoring season yet on a middling 41-41 club in 2022/23, averaging 24.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 5.8 APG, 0.9 SPG and 0.5 BPG.

Smith adds that the $1.9MM non-guaranteed contract of sharpshooter Joe Wieskamp is due to be fully guaranteed Monday, but predicts that Wieskamp is more likely be released than retained.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The Knicks, who boast one of the best collections of assets in the league, may have the inclination and the pieces to make a trade for Raptors 3-and-D swingman OG Anunoby, writes Zach Braziller of The New York Post. Anunoby was one of the most coveted players to not be moved during this past season’s trade deadline. The 2022/23 All-Defensive Second Teamer averaged 16.8 PPG on .476/.387/.838 shooting splits, 5.0 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.9 SPG across his 67 available contests last year.
  • Although rival front offices believe the Sixers are hoping to hold on to star point guard James Harden, a source close to the 2018 MVP says he still wants to be traded for the third time in three seasons, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic.
  • Celtics rookie forward Jordan Walsh has been solid enough during his Summer League run with Boston that it’s conceivable he could eventually slot into the team’s rotation as a possible Grant Williams replacement this year, opines Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Williams, of course, was sent to Dallas in a three-team sign-and-trade earlier this week.

Trade Rumors: Harden, Bogdanovic, Mavs, Zion, Blazers

Although James Harden hasn’t backed off the trade request he made in June, there’s no indication that the Sixers are on the verge of dealing the former MVP, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne said during an appearance on NBA Today on Tuesday (YouTube link).

“(Harden and the Sixers) have spoken again, and he still reiterated he wants to be traded,” Shelburne said. “Now, this isn’t a demand, it’s a request. I think the Sixers have said, ‘Okay, we will try to trade you,’ but there is no hurry to do this. I think the Sixers understand that they have the leverage here. James has picked up his option… He’s going to be a free agent after this season, so at some point he needs to play, whether that’s in Philadelphia or elsewhere.”

The situation in Philadelphia, as Shelburne portrays it, isn’t acrimonious. While Harden would prefer to play elsewhere, it’s not necessarily a sure thing that he’ll be wearing another uniform when the 2023/24 season begins.

“There is a sense that if they can give it some time – and he’s cool with his teammates, he’s been talking to Joel Embiid, he’s been talking to Patrick Beverley, P.J. Tucker – that eventually maybe those fences can be mended, and there is a path to reconciliation with James Harden,” Shelburne said. “But for now, he has reiterated his trade request.”

Here are a few more trade-related items from around the NBA:

  • In the latest episode of his Howdy Partners podcast (YouTube link; hat tip to The Smoking Cuban), ESPN’s Tim MacMahon said he has “heard some rumblings” about the Mavericks circling back to Pistons forward Bojan Bogdanovic, who was linked to Dallas prior to the draft. MacMahon cautions that he’s not sure the Mavs have the assets to land Bogdanovic, given Detroit’s high asking price, and suggests Dallas’ priority may be to trade for a starting-caliber center.
  • According to Jake Madison of Locked on Pelicans (Twitter link), Chris Haynes of TNT said on a TV broadcast last Friday that league executives got the sense this offseason that Pelicans forward Zion Williamson could be had “for the right situation and the right package.” However, sources have told Zach Lowe of ESPN (Insider link) that New Orleans wasn’t prepared to “pivot away” from Williamson on draft day, and ESPN’s Andrew Lopez said in the latest Hoop Collective podcast (YouTube link) that the Pelicans’ trade offers for the No. 2 and No. 3 picks in this year’s draft were heavily based around future picks, not players.
  • Within that same ESPN.com story, Lowe says he hasn’t heard compelling evidence that a “sensible” trade was available for the Trail Blazers with the No. 3 overall pick last month. The Nets never showed any interest in giving up Mikal Bridges for a package based around the No. 3 pick and Anfernee Simons, according to Lowe, who says the Heat “chuckled” at the idea of Portland asking for Bam Adebayo. The Raptors also weren’t ready to move off of Pascal Siakam or OG Anunoby as of draft day, Lowe adds, though it’s unclear if the Blazers would have moved the No. 3 pick in a deal for either player.