Stanley Johnson

Raptors Notes: Birch, Trent, Anunoby, Harris, More

Fourth-year center Khem Birch will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, giving him the freedom to sign with any team, but his comments following Sunday’s regular season finale made it sound as if he’d like to stick with the Raptors, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca, who tweets that Birch said fit is as important as money in free agency.

“I got lucky,” Birch said of his late-season move from the Magic to the Raptors. “If I would’ve stayed in Orlando people probably would’ve thought I’m just a regular bench big who can’t score. I’m fortunate these guys believed in me.”

After averaging 4.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in 188 total games in Orlando (16.5 MPG), Birch put up 11.6 PPG and 7.2 RPG in 18 games (29.8 MPG) with Toronto and didn’t sacrifice efficiency — his field-goal percentage increased to 55.8% despite the fact that he was attempting a career-high 1.6 threes per game as a Raptor.

Here’s more on the Raptors, who missed the postseason for the first time since 2013:

  • As a restricted free agent who was a key trade-deadline acquisition for the Raptors, Gary Trent Jr. is a good bet to remain with the team, though he indicated today that he’s prepared for any scenario. According to Lewenberg (Twitter link), Trent said he understands that the NBA is a business and that – as an RFA – his future isn’t fully in his hands, but said he’d “definitely” be open to being a Raptor going forward.
  • OG Anunoby said that his injured calf is getting better and that he’s looking forward to carrying over his work this season into the summer, tweets Blake Murphy of The Athletic. Anunoby missed the final eight games of the season due to that calf issue.
  • With so many regular contributors injured or resting near the end of the season, many of the Raptors’ bench players have had a chance to shine. As Holly MacKenzie writes for the team’s official site, Stanley Johnson and Jalen Harris each established a new career-high for points in a game in the season’s final week (Harris did it twice).
  • Harris and Malachi Flynn didn’t receive a ton of attention this season compared to other members of the 2020/21 rookie class, but both players look like good fits in the Raptors’ culture and could stick around for a while, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic.

Raptors Notes: Powell, Baynes, Lowry, Cumberland

If the Raptors are buyers at the trade deadline, the contracts of Patrick McCawAron Baynes, Stanley Johnson and Norman Powell are the ones most likely to be included in a deal for an impact player, according to The Athletic’s Eric Koreen. Powell, who holds an $11.6MM option on his contract for next season, and Kyle Lowry ($30.5MM expiring contract) are the players most likely to be traded if Toronto goes into sell mode. However, it’s likely that the team values Powell’s Bird rights to the point where it would take a very strong offer to part with the scoring wing, Koreen speculates.

We have more on the Raptors:

  • The success of smaller lineups could alter the front office’s approach to the trade market, Blake Murphy of The Athletic notes. The team has gotten positive results by using OG Anunoby as the de facto starting center and moving Baynes to the bench. That could result in expanding its options beyond an upgrade at center, rather than overpaying a potential trade partner for a big man.
  • Lowry deserves to finish out the season, if not his career, with the Raptors, Scott Stinson of The National Post opines. He’s been the only constant in the team’s sustained period of success and his days with the franchise shouldn’t end in pursuit of assets.
  • The club’s G League team, Raptors 905, has traded center Dewan Hernandez to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers for guard Jarron Cumberland, JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets. Raptors 905 is also receiving Stockton’s original second-round pick in the 2021/22 G League Draft via Canton. Hernandez, 24, played six games with Toronto last season. The undrafted Cumberland played four college seasons with Cincinnati.
  • In case you missed it, the Raptors have signed big man Donta Hall to a 10-day contract.

Raptors Notes: Watanabe, Johnson, McCaw, Harris, 3-Point Shots

Yuta Watanabe and Stanley Johnson have emerged as key bench contributors for the Raptors, Doug Smith of The Toronto Star notes. “I think both (Watanabe) and Stanley have been doing a good job … when they check in to get our offense into another gear,” coach Nick Nurse said. Both players are trying to solidify the futures in the league. Johnson is headed to unrestricted free agency, while Watanabe is on a two-way deal.

We have more on the Raptors:

  • Patrick McCaw is showing some progress from his knee injury that has kept him out this season, Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets. McCaw participated in the non-contact portion of practice on Thursday. OG Anunoby (calf) and Norman Powell (quad) both missed Friday’s game against Sacramento.
  • Rookie guard Jalen Harris is joining Raptors 905 at the G League bubble in Orlando, Murphy adds in another tweet. The second-round pick from Nevada has appeared in two NBA games.
  • Toronto is on pace to take the second-most 3-pointers in league history and that may explain why the team is shooting fewer free throws, Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star notes. The Raptors were averaging 43.2 3-point attempts a game heading into Friday’s action but taking just 20.2 foul shots. The over-reliance on 3-point shots may help explain forward Pascal Siakam‘s slow start, Feschuk adds.

Atlantic Notes: Johnson, Reed, Rivers, Green

Former lottery pick Stanley Johnson has reinvented himself as a versatile rotation swingman for the Raptors, writes Blake Murphy of The Athletic. The 24-year-old Johnson is averaging 16.1 MPG for Toronto this season.

Playing in a more limited role than his first team, the Pistons, may have expected when they selected him with the No. 8 pick out of Arizona in 2015, Johnson has been able to hone in on the defensive end and build up his play-making. He is also connecting on a career-high 42.5% of his 1.3 three-point attempts a night.

Murphy notes that Johnson’s willingness to adjust to a role-player position with the Raptors could significantly extend his NBA career. The former lottery pick will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Two-way Sixers power forward Paul Reed will join the club’s G League affiliate – the Delaware Blue Coats – as it departs for the NBAGL’s Orlando “bubble” campus ahead of the 2021 season, tweets Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • New Knicks off-guard Austin Rivers notes that New York has been dealing with an exhausting schedule, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post“Oh, we’re definitely tired,’’ Rivers said. “I don’t know how a schedule could be tougher than what we’ve played. Physically and mentally. At the same time, it is what it is. Here we are.”
  • Multi-faceted Nets forward Jeff Green has helped Brooklyn’s suddenly thinned-out frontcourt following the trade that brought in All-Star James Harden, according to Greg Joyce of The New York Post“It helps when you get Kevin [Durant] and Kyrie [Irving] and James on your team,” Green said. “A lot of attention is going to be on those guys, so I want to do my part in being ready to shoot. It just comes with repetition, the work that I’m putting in to make sure I’m prepared for those times where they are swinging the ball my way and I’m able to shoot.” Green is averaging 12.1 PPG and 4.7 rebounds in 32.9 MPG since the deal.

Atlantic Notes: Payton, Raptors, LeVert, Johnson

Elfrid Payton remains the starting point guard for the Knicks ahead of breakout rookie Immanuel Quickley and veteran off-guard Austin Rivers thanks to Payton’s solid defense, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau was diplomatically effusive in his praise of both Payton and Quickley, the latter of whom Berman notes has become a fan favorite. “I love both guys — they’re different and bring different things to the team,’’ Thibodeau said Sunday. “Elfrid, when you look at his defense and size, a lot of these guards, particularly point guards in the NBA today, they’re a load to deal with. Elfrid has a good understanding how to defend them.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets-turned-Pacers wing Caris LeVert was notified by Brooklyn GM Sean Marks during their 2020 offseason that he might be traded in 2020/21, according to J Michael of the Indianapolis Star“Sean was very honest with me from the first time the rumors came out. He told me don’t rule it out,” LeVert said. “I didn’t know it was going to happen. I just knew that it was a possibility and there was a lot of speculation.” 
  • With the Raptors having finally established a consistent rotation, the team is rebounding from an ugly beginning to its season, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes. Toronto is on a three-game win streak following a 2-8 start. “I think that we’re continuing to find out things about our team that are improving the team,” head coach Nick Nurse said yesterday. “Guys are comfortable with the guys that we’re putting out there and I think those guys have chipped in pretty considerably.
  • Hustling in practice has carved out a rotation role for Raptors reserve forward Stanley Johnson, per Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. “I think the important quality is that he’s maintained … a really strong work ethic day in and day out, which isn’t easy to do for somebody who’s been in the league for a while when you’re not hitting the court for really long stretches of time,” Nurse said. Johnson is averaging 14.7 MPG for Toronto in 11 contests.

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Embiid, Johnson, Watanabe, Knicks

Ben Simmons is keeping a positive attitude — at least publicly — despite the knowledge the Sixers were willing to deal him to acquire James Harden, according to Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Simmons had a triple-double against Miami on Thursday. “I am blessed. I get to play the game I love every day at the highest level in the world, so there’s far worse things going on in the world,” he said. “So I’m in a blessed position. If you tell me I’ll never play the game again, that would be a different story.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Sixers center Joel Embiid will miss the next two games due to right knee discomfort, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. Embiid won’t join the team during its road trip to Memphis and Oklahoma City. Embiid only played 24 minutes and was held to nine points and five rebounds against Miami on Thursday.
  • Stanley Johnson and Yuta Watanabe provided a defensive spark for the Raptors on Thursday and could be in line for bigger roles, according to TSN’s Josh Lewenberg. Johnson, who becomes a free agent after the season, played 21 minutes and Watanabe, who earned a two-way contract in training camp, played 15 against Charlotte. “They did a great job of just playing hard,” coach Nick Nurse said. “They were keeping balls alive, they were jarring balls loose on the defensive end, they were limiting them to one shot.”
  • The Knicks shouldn’t deviate from their rebuilding plan despite the splashy moves made by the cross-town Nets, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post opines. The Knicks are playing harder under new coach Tom Thibodeau and they will get healthier and continue to improve as long as they exercise patience.

Atlantic Notes: Raptors’ Start, Johnson, Thibodeau, Nets

The Raptors are struggling to cope with a slow start, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Fred VanVleet, who opted to re-sign with the club, admits that the 1-5 start has been tough to take.

“This is probably uncharted territory for most of us,” VanVleet said. “Just speaking for myself, I’ve never been a part of something like this. … There’s a boatload of problems and we’ve got to find ways to solve them.”

Pascal Siakam and free agent signee Aron Baynes have performed poorly in the early going.

“I think [Siakam] is gonna work himself back into it a little bit more, and I think we don’t worry about it,” Kyle Lowry said. “We can’t worry about him too much. We’ve got to figure it out and all of us come together.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Stanley Johnson has displaced Matt Thomas in the Raptors’ rotation, Bontemps tweets. Coach Nick Nurse wants more size on the wing and has been disappointed in the play of both Thomas and Terence Davis. Johnson, noted for his defense, played 11 scoreless minutes but contributed two assists and three steals in 11 minutes against Boston on Monday. Davis held his rotation spot, scoring 13 points in 17 minutes. Johnson exercised a $3.8MM player option prior to the season and will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.
  • Julius Randle has been the Knicks’ top player in their 4-3 start, and he gives plenty of credit to new coach Tom Thibodeau, according to Steve Popper of Newsday. Randle said Thibodeau’s attention to detail has created a greater focus. “Thibs every day is on us,” he said. “He’s a great leader for us and given us a game plan we believe in every day and we’re coming into every game focused and locked into the game plan of what we need to do.”
  • The Nets are below .500 and won’t have Kevin Durant for as many as four games. But coach Steve Nash sees a silver lining, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. “Plenty to clean up,” Nash said. “It’s early. We can’t lose our minds over it, and we can’t get overly frustrated. … And you know what? It’s good for us. It’s good to get a little tension. We’ve got to get comfortable being uncomfortable, so here we are.”

Raptors’ Stanley Johnson Opts In For 2020/21

Raptors forward Stanley Johnson has picked up his option for the 2020/21 season, the team announced today (Twitter link via Blake Murphy of The Athletic).

Johnson, who signed a two-year deal with Toronto last summer using the bi-annual exception, earned $3.623MM in 2019/20 and will make $3.804MM in his option year.

After spending the first four years of his career in Detroit and New Orleans, Johnson had an extremely limited role in Toronto last season, averaging 2.4 PPG and 1.5 RPG in just 25 games (6.0 MPG). While Johnson dealt with some injury issues, he also didn’t show enough to secure a regular rotation spot when healthy and played mostly garbage-time minutes for the Raptors.

If the Raptors believe there’s still more potential to unlock in Johnson, they could bring him back as a member of their regular-season roster in 2020/21. If they want to free up his roster spot, he’ll be a candidate to be traded or released within the next week or two.

Assuming he plays out the season on his current deal, Johnson will be an unrestricted free agent in 2021.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Playoff Edition

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. With the playoffs ongoing at the Orlando campus, it’s time to examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors.

Rajon Rondo, Lakers, 34, PG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $5.2MM deal in 2019

Just when it seems that Rondo’s career is winding down, he reinforces how effective he can be when he’s healthy. Rondo was an afterthought when play resumes, as he was still recovering from a busted right hand. Coach Frank Vogel didn’t hesitate to give Rondo a large role once he was ready to play again in the conference semifinals. Rondo piled up 10 points, nine assists and five steals in the Lakers’ Game 2 win over Houston and 21 points and nine assists in Game 3. He came up two assists shy of a triple-double in Game 4. Rondo has a $2.62MM player option for next season. He’s given himself the flexibility of opting out and getting a better offer in free agency.

Jae Crowder, Heat, 30, SF (Up) – Signed to a five-year, $35MM deal in 2015

Crowder has played a major role in the Heat’s surprising run to the Eastern Conference semifinals. His defense against Giannis Antetokounmpo and 3-point shooting were instrumental as Miami knocked off the top seed. He averaged 15.2 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 2.2 APG in 33.6 MPG and made 43.2% of his shots during the conference semifinals. When Miami acquired Crowder from the Grizzlies before the trade deadline, it was assumed Andre Iguodala would make the biggest impact. Instead, Crowder has re-established his value. He’ll attract plenty of attention on the free agent market and could get a full mid-level from a playoff contender.

Mason Plumlee, Nuggets, 30, C (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $41MM deal in 2017

Plumlee got steady playing time as Nikola Jokic’s backup during the regular season, averaging 7.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG and 2.5 APG in 17.3 MPG. As the playoffs have progressed, Plumlee’s minutes have plummeted and so has his confidence. Even with his six-point outing in Game 5 against the Clippers on Friday, the big man is averaging more fouls (2.2) than points (1.6) in 10.3 MPG uring the postseason. That, plus the fact Plumlee doesn’t stretch defenses, complicates his ability to find a home in unrestricted free agency this offseason. Plumlee will probably be staring at veteran’s minimum offers, a far cry from what he received three years ago.

Stanley Johnson, Raptors, 24, SF (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $7.4MM deal in 2019

Johnson’s representatives did their client a big favor by securing a player option on the second year of his contract. It would be foolhardy for Johnson to pass up the guaranteed $3.8MM and test the free agent waters, considering he’s spent most of the season at the end of Toronto’s bench. Johnson’s postseason minutes have consisted of three late-game appearances in blowouts. He wasn’t in the rotation throughout the regular season, either. Johnson was the eighth pick of the 2015 draft and his first team, Detroit, is still lamenting the fact it picked him instead of Devin Booker, Myles Turner or Justise Winslow.

Brad Wanamaker, Celtics, 31, PG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $1.44MM deal in 2019

Coaches often shorten their rotations during the postseason but Wanamaker has continued to receive steady bench minutes from coach Brad Stevens. He’s averaged 5.8 PPG and 1.7 APG in 17.8 MPG and made the most of his limited 3-point opportunities (52.6%). Wanamaker, who spent most of his career overseas, re-signed with the Celtics last season on a minimum deal. He’s a restricted free agent but his qualifying offer of $1.82MM is peanuts by NBA standards. He’s improved his chances of the Celtics extending that offer, unless they have their eyes on another free agent point guard to back up Kemba Walker.

Batum, DeRozan Among Players With Earlier Option Decision Deadlines

Most veterans who have player options in their contracts for the 2020/21 season will have an October 17 deadline to either exercise or decline that option. That Saturday represents the second-last day of the 2019/20 league year under the NBA’s new calendar, meaning it would coincide in a normal year with June 29, the usual player option decision deadline.

However, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, some of the players who have to make option decisions for 2020/21 have slightly earlier deadlines. For instance, if the Spurs don’t make the postseason, DeMar DeRozan will be required to make his decision within seven days of the team’s last game, per Marks.

The full list of player options for ’20/21 can be found on our free agents page, but here are the options which must be exercised or declined before October 17, according to Marks:

The rest of this season’s player option decisions must be made by October 17, a deadline that applies to nearly every team option for 2020/21 as well. The only team options with earlier decision dates are minimum-salary ones for Deonte Burton (Thunder) and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Pistons), which are due by October 15, per Marks.