Scottie Barnes

Alex Caruso Wins NBA’s Hustle Award For 2023/24

Bulls guard/forward Alex Caruso has won the Hustle Award for the 2023/24 season, the NBA announced in a press release written by Brian Martin.

According to the league, the award “honors a player who makes impactful effort plays that might not appear in the box score.” The award was created eight years ago, with Grizzlies guard Marcus Smart being a three-time winner.

Some of the hustle statistics that the NBA tracks include deflections, loose balls recovered, charges drawn, screen assists, contested shots and box-outs. Caruso led in the league in deflections per game (3.7) and on a per-minute basis, he ranked first in loose balls recovered and seventh in charges drawn.

Caruso, who was named to the All-Defensive First Team in ’22/23, is one of the NBA’s top defenders and is known for his all-out playing style. He ranked fourth in the league in steals per game (1.7) and averaged a career-high 1.0 block per game this season.

As Martin details, when Caruso was on the court, Chicago had the equivalent of Boston’s 110.6 defensive rating, which ranked second in the NBA. When he wasn’t playing, the Bulls had the equivalent of the league’s 24th-ranked defense.

A former undrafted free agent who made it into the NBA by working his way through the G League, Caruso won a championship with the Lakers in 2020. The 30-year-old had a strong all-around season in ’23/24, averaging 10.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG and 3.5 APG on .468/.408/.760 shooting in 71 games (28.7 MPG). Several of those figures represented career highs.

Caruso will earn $9.89MM in ’24/25, which is the final season of his contract. He’ll be eligible for a veteran extension this offseason.

The top five finishers for the 2023/24 Hustle Award were, in order: Caruso, Raptors forward Scottie Barnes, Warriors guard Brandin Podziemski, Thunder wing Luguentz Dort, and Hornets forward Grant Williams.

As Howard Beck of The Ringer tweets, the award is determined by aggregating the hustle stats the league tracks, so there is no voting panel.

Raptors Notes: Poeltl, Olynyk, Quickley, Barnes, Porter

The Raptors expected to win a lot more than 25 games this season, but there’s more optimism than disappointment as players look to the future, writes Michael Grange of While a series of injuries led to a nosedive after the All-Star break, there’s a feeling that things will be different with a chance to start over this fall.

“I think for sure there’s a lot of things to be excited about,” said Jakob Poeltl, who missed the final 21 games with a dislocated finger. “You could see that at times when we had our guys out there on the court — we really had limited time playing together — but still it felt good, and it looked good, and the results were there. And I don’t think those were outliers; it was more that almost all of the losses were more of the outliers than when we were actually performing. 

“So that gives you a lot of confidence. That gives me a lot of hope looking forward to next season, to be able to show that more and to be able to show that from an overall talent perspective I don’t think we are where we’re supposed to be in the standings. To be able to show that will be cool.”

Grange notes that the team went through a major upheaval in the middle of the season, as seven players were traded away within six weeks, including franchise cornerstones Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby. In addition to Poeltl, Scottie Barnes and Chris Boucher also suffered season-ending injuries, while the deaths of relatives took RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley away from the team for a while.

“The dominos just fell,” said Kelly Olynyk, who was acquired from Utah at the trade deadline. “Injury, injury, injury, obviously, personal stuff that you can’t discount, guys having to be away from the team, that was a tough stretch there.”

There’s more from Toronto:

  • Quickley sounds eager to re-sign with the Raptors in free agency this summer, Grange adds. The 24-year-old guard averaged a career-best 18.6 PPG after being acquired from New York in late December. “I’ve absolutely loved Toronto since the day I got here,” Quickley said. “They’ve done nothing but show me love. Love is an action word. It’s not just something you just throw around. They’ve done that from the day I got here to today. So obviously the team and my agent have to handle everything, but I love being here in Toronto absolutely.” The Raptors can make Quickley a restricted free agent by submitting an $8.5MM qualifying offer.
  • The most encouraging thing to come from Toronto’s season was the progress of Barnes, who reached a new level before a broken finger put him out of action on March 1, observes Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. “I played against Scottie when I was younger,” Barrett said. “But seeing it up close and personal every day, it’s amazing what he does. He does everything.”
  • The Raptors issued a statement after the NBA announced Jontay Porter‘s lifetime ban for his involvement in a gambling scandal, Lewenberg tweets. “The Raptors are fully supportive of the league’s decision to ban Jontay Porter from the NBA and are grateful for the swift resolution to this investigation,” it reads. “We will continue to cooperate with all ongoing inquiries.”

Raptors Notes: Dick, Quickley, Freeman-Liberty, Barnes, Temple, Porter

Raptors rookie guard Gradey Dick, the 13th overall pick in the 2023 draft, began his first season in the league bouncing in and out of the rotation. However, he has been firmly entrenched as a rotation player since Jan. 20 and is averaging 11.2 points per game while shooting 39.3% from beyond the arc since then.’s Michael Grange details how Dick underwent a mid-year turnaround and became one of the bright points in an otherwise disappointing Raptors season.

The rookie sharpshooter struggled in the fall, shooting just 24.4% from three in his first 14 games and going through G League assignments. According to Grange, a mid-January meeting with head coach Darko Rajakovic led to a plan to save Dick’s rookie season — a plan that included more intense, hands-on trainings. Since then, he has looked like the player the Raptors thought they were getting when they selected him in last year’s draft out of Kansas.

I told somebody just the other day: He’s progressed the most as a rookie — easily — on the court, as anyone I’ve seen,” teammate Garrett Temple said. “His game play, his ability to accept coaching and put it into play, the defensive things that he’s able to do now versus what he was able to do to begin his season. On court, he’s been even more impressive than just off-court in my opinion because he progressed so much and you know, I’m really proud of him for that. He’s gonna be a player in this league, no question. He’ll be fine in this league for a long time.

We have more from the Raptors:

  • Immanuel Quickley is set to be the Raptors’ point guard of the future after arriving in the OG Anunoby trade alongside RJ Barrett, and he’s due for a major pay raise as he approaches restricted free agency this summer, Grange writes. Quickley has averaged 18.7 points and 6.8 assists per contestsince arriving in Toronto, and there’s little doubt he’s going to be the team’s long-term starter there, assuming he re-signs this offseason.
  • While there’s no wondering who the starter will be at point guard, there are more questions regarding who will back up Quickley moving forward. In the same piece, Grange points to Javon Freeman-Liberty as one potential option to monitor. “[Freeman-Liberty] is showing really good signs of willingness to be exposed, to be vulnerable, to learn, to fail and to grow through the process,” Rajakovic said. “I think it’s just the question a lot, a lot of repetition. He is going to have amazing summer, amazing opportunity ahead of him, another summer league opportunities. So it’s gonna be good opportunity for him to make that next jump.
  • After being ruled out for the season with a hand injury, it sounds as though Scottie Barnes is progressing well. According to Grange (Twitter link), Barnes is progressing to reconditioning and has gone through some controlled scrimmages. Grange adds that Barnes should be 100% healthy and available by the summer.
  • Jontay Porter remains away from the Raptors as he deals with an NBA investigation regarding betting irregularities surrounding his games. Temple, a vocal veteran voice for the team, said during an appearance on The Raptors Show (Twitter link) that he plans to reach out to Porter in the coming days. “In the days ahead I’ll probably send a text, ‘Just checking on you, seeing how you’re doing,‘” Temple said. “No reply is needed in those scenarios… just a situation to let guys know we didn’t forget about you.

Atlantic Notes: Dowtin, Queta, Melton, Poeltl, Barnes, Rajakovic

The new deals signed by Jeff Dowtin with the Sixers and Neemias Queta with the Celtics are two-way contracts with second-year team options for 2024/25, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter links).

Both Dowtin and Queta were on two-way deals before promoted to their respective teams’ 15-man rosters, and both players received minimum-salary contracts.

Here are more notes from around the Atlantic:

  • Sixers guard De’Anthony Melton, who has been sidelined since February 27 due to back issues and has only played five games since the calendar turned to 2024, has been upgraded to questionable for Tuesday’s game vs. Detroit, tweets Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. While Melton’s comeback efforts have flown somewhat under the radar, overshadowed by Joel Embiid‘s recent return, it would be a major boost for the 76ers if they can get the versatile guard back in action before the postseason tips off.
  • Asked on Sunday about Jakob Poeltl‘s and Scottie Barnes‘ recoveries from hand surgeries, Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic told reporters that although neither player has formally been ruled out for the season, he’s not counting on either one returning this week (Twitter links via Josh Lewenberg of and Michael Grange of Sportsnet). Both Poeltl and Barnes continue to go through the ramp-up process — even if they’re not back in action in the coming days, the goal is to get them in the best possible shape heading into the offseason.
  • In a pair of stories for The Athletic, Eric Koreen considers what we can learn from Rajakovic’s first year as the Raptors‘ head coach and hands out his end-of-season awards, including naming Poeltl the most underappreciated Raptor of 2023/24.

Raptors Notes: Porter, Quickley, Barrett, Barnes, Poeltl

In the wake of news that Jontay Porter is being investigated by the NBA following multiple instances of betting irregularities, his Raptors teammates discussed the issue with reporters in general terms on Monday night, with Garrett Temple (an NBPA vice president) stressing that nothing has been proven yet, according to Michael Grange of

While Raptors players weren’t willing to speculate or go into much detail about Porter’s situation specifically, they spoke about the impact that the increasing popularity – and legality – of sports betting has had on them. Forward Jordan Nwora said that “people bet on silly things on a daily basis” and that players hear about it “non-stop” when they don’t reach certain benchmarks.

“(Hearing from fans) has been a part of it for probably the past two or three years,” Raptors wing Ochai Agbaji added. “And fans, you know, slamming you for not hitting their bet, that’s an every night thing for every single one of us in this locker room.”

The widespread legalization of sports betting is a fairly recent development, which the NBA and other major sports leagues are still learning how to navigate. Temple acknowledged the venue that gambling brings in is significant, while also pointing out that it’s a bit “awkward” to have major betting outlets serving as NBA sponsors.

“You watch a game, and you may see FanDuel or DraftKings as a big-time sponsor for a team, but obviously it’s illegal for us to (bet on) any type of professional basketball … we understand that,” Temple said. “Sports betting has always been around, it just obviously is even more available. But as players, you don’t really think about it. As a veteran, I don’t really think about it as much because (not betting on basketball) has always been a rule. It’s not as if a rule change happened. So it is awkward but at the same time, like I say, we understand what we’re getting ourselves into.”

Here’s more on Porter and the Raptors:

  • DraftKings wasn’t the only sportsbook to get significant action on Porter prop bets on the dates the NBA is looking into, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and David Purdum (Twitter link). A source tells ESPN that multiple bettors attempted to wager significant amounts (“upwards of $10-20K”) on Porter unders for that January 26 game that the forward left early due to what the team said was an aggravation of his eye injury.
  • Adam Laskaris of Daily Hive takes a deep dive into Porter’s social media history, detailing how the Raptors forward maintained an account under the moniker “TayTrades11” to share financial advice and noting that he promoted a college basketball parlay bet at least once. There’s no indication that any of that activity was illegal or prohibited by league rules, but I imagine the NBA will take a close look at the account as part of its probe.
  • Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett, who have both been away from the Raptors for personal reasons, participated in Tuesday’s practice and are considered day-to-day, tweets Josh Lewenberg of However, both players will remain sidelined for Wednesday’s game vs. their former Knicks team as they ramp up their conditioning, per Blake Murphy of (Twitter link).
  • Scottie Barnes and Jakob Poeltl, who are both recovering from hand surgeries, are doing a bit of light on-court work but haven’t been cleared for contact, Lewenberg adds, tweeting that it’s still up in the air whether either player will return this season.
  • With the Raptors dealing with a series of injuries on the court and various challenges off of it – including the investigation into Porter and the recent death of Barrett’s brother – Kelly Olynyk looked to find a silver lining in what has been a “really tough” stretch. “A lot of guys are getting opportunities here that they may not have gotten (elsewhere),” Olynyk said (Twitter link via Lewenberg). “I hope that they’re seizing those opportunities and taking advantage of them to the best of their abilities, and hopefully they can parlay it into something for them that maybe they wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to do (elsewhere).”

And-Ones: Cousins, LeBron, Redick, Value Contracts, 2025 FAs

Former All-NBA big man DeMarcus Cousins will be returning to the Taiwan Beer Leopards in mid-April, according to Chen Jung-chen and James Lo of Focus Taiwan. Cousins played four games for the Leopards in January.

Super excited to be back and gearing up for an epic season of playoffs with my teammates and all of you,” Cousins said in a video released on the team’s Facebook page. “Your support means the world, let’s lock it in and go all the way for this championship run.”

While he hasn’t officially announced his retirement from the NBA, the 33-year-old said in an interview last month that he doesn’t really expect to be back in the league. Since playing for the Nuggets in 2021/22, the four-time All-Star has been out of the NBA, competing professionally in Puerto Rico and Taiwan.

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

  • Lakers superstar LeBron James and ESPN commentator JJ Redick are starting a new podcast that’s “planned to be a pure conversation about basketball,” reports Andrew Marchand of The Athletic. “It’s meant to be a very free-flowing conversation about the sport and about the game,” former NBA sharpshooter Redick told Marchand. “If you look at it in a very simplistic way, it’s just about basketball.” A teaser of the Mind the Game podcast was released on YouTube, with the first full episode debuting tomorrow.
  • With several caveats (no maximum or minimum-salary deals, no rookie scale deals, no second-round exception deals), Keith Smith of Spotrac lists what he believes are the 10 best value contracts in the NBA. Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, the East’s reigning Player of the Week, ranks No. 1, followed by Grizzlies forward/center Jaren Jackson Jr. at No. 2.
  • Frank Urbina and Raul Barrigon of HoopsHype rank 75 players who could potentially be free agents in 2025, with the top spot going to Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, followed by Knicks star Brunson. Donovan Mitchell (Cavaliers), Scottie Barnes (Raptors) and Lauri Markkanen (Jazz) round out the top five.

Raptors Notes: Olynyk, Carton, Gueye, Barnes

The contract extension that Kelly Olynyk reached with the Raptors had an added bonus: It clears the way for the longtime member of the Canadian Olympic team to play in the Paris Olympics, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports notes.

If he had been a free agent, it would have been difficult to secure insurance ahead of Canada’s training camp, which opens in Toronto in late June.

“That was definitely a big part of it, as well, getting this out of the way,” he said. “To not have [the contract situation] on your plate and your mind, just be able to play free and easy, and then obviously in the summer just be able to work out, train, and be present right at the start with no complications was a big factor. That also played a huge part in the decision.”

Olynyk, acquired from Utah, signed a two-year, $26.25MM extension. The Toronto native hopes to remain with the Raptors the remainder of his career.

“They traded for me, they wanted me here,” Olynyk said. “Just to reciprocate that love and show that I do want to be here, too – I’ve wanted to be here since I was four years old. It’s special, to create that trust and that bond. Hopefully I’ll be here for the rest of my career.”

We have more on the Raptors:

  • Securing Olynyk’s services on a reasonable contract was a savvy move by the franchise, according to The Athletic’s Eric Koreen. Olynyk’s first year salary of approximately $12.8MM is less than the $18.3MM cap hold he would have had as a free agent. That potentially will give Toronto $5.3MM in extra cap room. On the court, Olynyk’s skill set will help head coach Darko Rajakovic continue to build his movement-heavy offense, Koreen adds.
  • The two-way contracts for D.J. Carton and Mouhamadou Gueye are both two-year deals, Blake Murphy of Sportsnet tweets. They’ll get the full guarantee allowable (50% of a 2024/25 two-way contract) if they remain with the team on two-way deals next season. The Raptors also have option to convert their contracts to standard deals at any time over the two-year period.
  • Scottie Barnes hasn’t formally been ruled out for the season after he underwent hand surgery on Monday, Lewenberg tweets. “Everybody would like him to come back and finish the season,” Rajakovic said. “I know he’s eager but we just don’t have enough information at this time.”

Scottie Barnes Undergoes Surgery For Fractured Hand

Raptors forward Scottie Barnes underwent surgery on the third metacarpal bone in his left hand on Monday, the team announced in a press release. The surgery was performed in Los Angeles and while no timetable was provided in the release, the expectation is he’ll miss the remainder of the regular season, according to TSN’s Josh Lewenberg (Twitter link).

As Lewenberg observes, the average time lost for fractured metacarpal bones is 18 games (Twitter link). It was already expected when he was injured, but with 21 games left in Toronto’s season, there’s no sense in rushing Barnes — a staple for the future of the franchise — back from injury in a year where the Raptors will almost certainly miss the postseason.

Barnes enjoyed his first All-Star appearance in his third season with the Raptors, improving his averages across the board to 19.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.5 blocks per game as he became the face of the franchise.

He will likely finish the year with 60 games played, which means he’s ineligible for postseason awards, since those require 65 games played as of this season.

Ochai Agbaji, acquired at the deadline, took over the majority of Barnes’ minutes. He drew a start in the team’s Sunday win over the Hornets and recorded 13 points and nine rebounds in over 32 minutes. Toronto will likely use the rest of the season to continue dedicating playing time to their young, end-of-bench pieces to determine who will be part of the long-term core.

Atlantic Notes: Maxey, Sixers, Simmons, Barnes, Agbaji

Tyrese Maxey capped a rare weekend at home by leading the Sixers to a win at Dallas on Sunday afternoon, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Garland, Texas, native had a large contingent of family members in the crowd to watch his 24-point performance in a much-needed road victory. He had an injury scare when he was struck in the back of the head late in the third quarter, but he said the presence of his family inspired him to keep playing.

“I will say this, when I did hit my head, I saw my twin nieces,” Maxey said. “They were up, like, ‘Boy, you better get up and you better be OK, or we’re coming down there.’”

Pompey notes that Maxey has been forced to become Philadelphia’s primary scorer in the wake of Joel Embiid‘s meniscus injury. At the beginning of the season, coach Nick Nurse wanted Maxey to focus on running the offense and improving his defense. But the loss of Embiid created a need for Maxey to carry more of the offensive load, and the recent addition of Kyle Lowry has taken away some of his play-making duties.

“He’s clearly our best offensive player, like, clearly, and we need him to shoot a lot,” Nurse said. “And he’s still not quite thinking, ‘I’m coming down, I’m going to shoot it like five times in a row if I make one.’ I’m still pushing the aggressive part of it first and foremost, because it’s really not his total nature yet.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Sixers have won back-to-back games since Nurse inserted Lowry and Mohamed Bamba into the starting lineup, Pompey notes in a separate story. Backup big man Paul Reed is coming off the bench again like he was when Embiid was healthy. “I think he’s comfortable in that role,” Maxey said. “That’s the role he plays when the big fella is here. So I think it just got him going. He was out there playing with a lot more energy. I think he likes the new role.”
  • Ben Simmons remains on the Nets‘ injury report, although the reason has changed, per Jared Schwartz of The New York Post. Simmons missed the last two games with left leg soreness and sat out the game before that due to rest and maintenance because he hasn’t received medical clearance to play in back-to-backs. He has been ruled out for tonight with a left lower back nerve impingement, a condition that caused him to miss a significant chunk of time earlier this season, tweets Ian Begley of SNY.
  • Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic said “nothing is off the table” in terms of treatment for Scottie Barnes, who fractured a bone in his left hand last week, according to Michael Grange of Barnes’ absence has already created an opportunity for Ochai Agbaji, acquired from Utah at the trade deadline, who made his first start with Toronto Sunday night.

Eastern Notes: Hornets, Peterson, Clifford, Bridges, Pistons, Murray, Raptors

By all accounts, the Hornets made a strong choice in reportedly deciding on Nets executive Jeff Peterson to run their front office, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer.

One source who has spent plenty of time around Peterson called it a “great, great get” for the Hornets, while a high-ranking executive who previously worked with Peterson referred to him as “incredibly intelligent and super genuine,” Boone reports.

Peterson will have many items on his to-do list in the coming weeks and months once he’s officially hired, according to Boone, who points to head coach Steve Clifford‘s future as one major decision awaiting the new head of basketball operations. The Hornets don’t owe Clifford any additional guaranteed money, Boone writes, so if they decide not to retain him beyond the season, they could simply turn down his team option for 2024/25.

Peterson will also face an important free agency decision this summer on Miles Bridges, who has picked up where he left off on the court this season but has been the subject of multiple domestic violence accusations in the past two years. His most recent legal case was dismissed last month. Multiple league sources tell Boone that Charlotte could face competition from the Pistons for the former Michigan State forward.

In the shorter term, Peterson may look to start filling out his new front office. According to Boone, one candidate for a possible assistant general manager role is Matt Tellem, Brooklyn’s director of strategic planning and an assistant GM for the G League’s Long Island Nets. Tellem is considered a salary cap expert, says Boone.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Although the Pistons envision trade-deadline acquisitions Quentin Grimes and Simone Fontecchio as key pieces of next season’s team, they plan to bring both wings off the bench for now and take a look at five of their recent first-round picks as starters, writes Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press (subscription required). Healthy and back from his three-game suspension, Isaiah Stewart will continue to be part of Detroit’s starting five alongside Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Ausar Thompson, and Jalen Duren for the foreseeable future, barring injuries. The hope is that Stewart’s defense will make up for the first unit having less spacing, Sankofa explains.
  • Hawks guard Dejounte Murray has locked in a $500K bonus on top of his base salary this season after making his 125th three-pointer of the season on Saturday, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The bonus had been deemed likely and already counted against Murray’s $18.2MM cap hit because he earning that incentive last season by making 133 threes.
  • Raptors star Scottie Barnes is out indefinitely after fracturing his hand on Friday and may have played his last game of the 2023/24 season. However, Warriors forward Draymond Green believes Barnes is capable of great things next year and beyond, as Michael Grange of relays. “Scottie is an incredible player,” Green said on Friday. “… Me playing the point forward position, I’m not going to sit up here and act like I was the first one to ever do it, but I think I’ve done it a little differently than most. And he’ll take that to another level. … I think Scottie will do way more than I ever did.”
  • Barnes’ injury was unfortunately timed, given that the new-look Raptors were beginning to show some promise, according to Josh Lewenberg of, who explores what the All-Star’s absence means for the team going forward.