Toronto Raptors

2018 Free Agent Stock Watch: Toronto Raptors

Last summer, the Raptors made the decision to commit to the core that powered them to four consecutive playoff berths. As a result, the organization is somewhat financially handcuffed for the foreseeable future.

Given such financial constraints – the team already has $126MM on its books for 2018/19 – Toronto will need continue to rely heavily on the starters that the roster has been built around.

That said, a conscious decision to speed up the game has helped the team show signs of growth in other areas, and in addition to an impressive starting five, the Raps suddenly boast one of the more intriguing second units in the league.

While many of Toronto’s key rotation players are under team control through 2018/19 and beyond, not all of them are, and retaining each and every one of them may prove difficult.

Fred VanVleet of the Toronto Raptors verticalFred VanVleet, PG, 24 (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $1.8MM deal in 2016
The undrafted guard out of Wichita State has proved to be one of the driving factors behind Toronto’s impressive second unit. His ability to handle the offense and knock down threes has helped facilitate the Raps’ transition from an iso-heavy squad to one that swings the ball and gets everybody involved. While VanVleet may have been the team’s No. 3 point guard to start the season, early returns from 2017/18 show that there is plenty of room in the rotation for both VanVleet and Delon Wright. For tax reasons, don’t expect the Raps to break the bank for the restricted free agent, but it’s a safe bet that the sharpshooter will land a bigger deal than his first NBA contract. Even if that doesn’t happen in Toronto.

Bruno Caboclo, SF, 22 (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $7MM deal in 2014
Toronto’s famously raw project hasn’t quite shown the growth that members of the team’s front office hoped they’d see when they inexplicably drafted him with their 2014 first-round pick. Caboclo remains as tantalizing a physical prospect as any, but hasn’t even reached a point where he can thrive in the G League on a consistent basis. There may still be some glimmer of promise in the 22-year-old out of Brazil, but again, the Raps may not want to venture further into luxury tax territory to chase it.

Lucas Nogueira, C, 25 (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $8.5MM deal in 2014
While he may have a ceiling as a high-energy reserve, Nogueira’s length and athleticism can be a plus for team’s looking to add cheap frontcourt depth. Nogueira will be a restricted free agent in the summer and could well find a team interested in taking a flyer on him. In that scenario, it won’t be hard for opposing teams to outbid the Raptors, especially considering that they’ve had success with Jakob Poeltl serving as the team’s primary backup big.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Atlantic Notes: Fultz, Nets, DeRozan, Burke, Knicks

Markelle Fultz has missed almost 40 games this season as he’s battled a phantom shoulder injury that has taken away his ability to shoot the ball. While Fultz is practicing with the team, he is still a long way from making a return and the situation has head coach Brett Brown confused, per ESPN.

Fultz shot 50% from the field in his lone college season; he impressed the Sixers so much that the team traded up to draft him first overall in last year’s draft. However, a muscular imbalance in the shoulder hampered Fultz’s shot so much that he did not even attempt a three-point shot while healthy. Brown said he has “never experienced anything like this” but that Philadelphia is dedicated to helping Fultz find his stroke.

“It’s reclaiming the shot that he used to have,” Brown said. “The timeline of when that happens, none of us know. But I feel like there is discomfort in his shoulder and it does affect his shot.”

In four games this season, Fultz averaged 6.0 PPG, 2.3 RPG, and 1.8 APG while shooting 33% from the field.

Check out other Atlantic Division notes below:

  • Jahlil Okafor and D’Angelo Russell, two of the first three overall picks in the 2015 NBA Draft, are with the Nets organization now and general manager Sean Marks is impressed with their maturity. As Net Income at NetsDaily writes, Marks spoke to WFAN recently gave a glowing review of the organization and how it has helped its young players get acclimated.
  • Raptors star DeMar DeRozan was fined $15,000 for public criticism of the league’s officiating, the NBA announced on Tuesday.
  • Trey Burke played just eight minutes of the Knicks‘ win over the Nets on Monday but his impact was noticeable, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Burke lit up the G League with the Knicks’ affiliate and showed glimpses of the player who was the ninth overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.
  • In a separate story, Berman of the New York Post examines the Knicks‘ potential strategy as the trade deadline nears. At 20-24, the Knicks are currently three games out of the eighth playoff spot. A strong run could put the team in playoff position but head coach Jeff Hornacek has repeatedly stated the developing the young players comes before worrying about the playoffs. Berman notes that if the Knicks sell, their main priority will be clearing up the logjam at center that features four capable players (Enes Kanter, Kyle O’Quinn, Willy Hernangomez, and Joakim Noah).

Eastern Rumors: Magic, Mirotic, Parker, Simmons

The Magic will likely be in firesale mode approaching the trade deadline, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times. Rival executives expect Orlando, which has sunk to the bottom of the conference standings, to shop guards Evan Fournier and Elfrid Payton and swingman Mario Hezonja, Stein adds. Fournier is signed through the 2020/21 season at $17MM annually. Payton can become a restricted free agent in the summer, while Hezonja will be an unrestricted free agent after the team declined to pick up his fourth-year option in October.

In other items regarding the Eastern Conference:

  • Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic is now eligible to be dealt and admitted to reporters, including ESPN’s Nick Friedell, that he’s motivated by the trade chatter. He signed a two-year, $27MM contract in September that includes a team option for next season. That made him ineligible to be moved until mid-January. “This is kind of some motivation for me,” he said. “I know it sounds weird. But people are talking, ‘OK, Niko be gone’ and ‘Bye bye, Niko’ or whatever. But for me, it’s OK, just do what you’ve got to do. Play well and try to do your best until the last day and not be distracted.”
  • Bucks forward Jabari Parker believes he’ll make his season debut before the All-Star break, he told Scott Grodsky of CBS 58 in Milwaukee. Parker tore his ACL in February, his second major knee injury since entering the league. Parker, who was assigned to the Bucks’ G League affiliate on Monday to continue his rehab, is targeting “the first two weeks before the All-Star game. It’s probably in that area.”
  • Sixers rookie Ben Simmons vows he won’t back down from a challenge, according to an Associated Press report. Simmons and the Raptors’ Kyle Lowry were ejected during the closing seconds on Monday after an altercation. Simmons believes that veteran opponents are trying to intimidate him. “I don’t know if they’re trying to test me or see how I am on the court, but I won’t play around,” he said.

Nikola Mirotic, 15 Others Become Trade-Eligible

Today is January 15, which means that trade restrictions have lifted for most of the rest of the NBA’s 2017 offseason signees. While the majority of those ’17 free agents became trade-eligible on December 15, there was a small subset of free agent signees whose trade ineligibility lasted for another month.

The 16 players whose trade restrictions lift today meet a specific set of criteria: Not only did they re-sign with their previous teams this offseason, but they received raises of at least 20%, their salaries are worth more than the minimum, and their teams were over the cap, using Bird or Early Bird rights to sign them.

The most notable name in this group is Bulls power forward Nikola Mirotic. He’s not the best player on the list — Blake Griffin and Kyle Lowry would be among those vying for that honor. But Mirotic is the most likely player to be dealt out of the 16 guys becoming trade-eligible today. He has been linked to a handful of teams already, including the Jazz, Pistons, and Trail Blazers.

Here are the 16 players becoming trade-eligible today:

With three and a half weeks left until this season’s February 8 trade deadline, nearly all of the NBA’s players are now eligible to be dealt. The only players still ineligible to be moved are those who signed free agent contracts later than October 15, plus certain players who signed contract extensions in the offseason.

Hawks guard Isaiah Taylor (January 17), Nuggets forward Richard Jefferson (January 19), and Pelicans guard Jameer Nelson (January 22) are now the only remaining players who will become trade-eligible between today and February 8. For the full list of players who won’t become trade-eligible before this year’s deadline, click here.

Serge Ibaka, James Johnson Receive One-Game Suspensions

Raptors big man Serge Ibaka and Heat forward James Johnson have each been hit with one-game suspensions for their roles in an altercation that took place in Tuesday night’s game in Toronto, the NBA announced today. The two veterans exchanged punches midway through the third quarter.

DeMar DeRozan and Goran Dragic were also penalized for getting into it during Tuesday’s game, but they avoided suspensions. DeRozan was fined $25K, while Dragic received a $10K fine.

The Raptors will now be without Ibaka for Thursday night’s showdown with the Cavaliers, a game that Kyle Lowry is also expected to miss due to a bruised tailbone. While Toronto will be short-handed for that game, the team will gain a little more breathing room below the tax threshold with Ibaka losing a game’s worth of salary, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks details in a tweet.

As for Johnson, he’ll miss the Heat’s Wednesday game in Indiana.

Kyle Lowry Diagnosed With Bruised Tailbone, Back Spasms

  • Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry was diagnosed with a bruised tailbone and back spasms, according to the Raptors (via Twitter). X-rays on Lowry were negative and he will be evaluated daily. Lowry suffered the injury on Monday against the Nets in Brooklyn after taking a hard fall.

Two Cavaliers Trade Exceptions Expire

Two traded player exceptions created by the Cavaliers in last January’s acquisition of Kyle Korver expired this week, as expected. One of those two trade exceptions was already utilized by the Cavs in the offseason, and the amount left on it made it virtually impossible to use again. However, the other one, worth about $4.84MM, wasn’t used at all.

[RELATED: Outstanding NBA Trade Exceptions]

Despite letting those two trade exceptions expire, the Cavs remain well-stocked with TPEs in the event that they need one to make a deal at next month’s deadline. Most notably, they hold one worth approximately $5.81MM, which will be available until late August.

The following trade exceptions around the NBA will also expire if they’re not used by the February 8 trade deadline:

  • Milwaukee Bucks: $5,000,000
  • New Orleans Pelicans: $3,517,200
  • Chicago Bulls: $1,589,480
  • Dallas Mavericks: $1,514,160
  • Milwaukee Bucks: $1,151,241 (expires on February 2)
  • Cleveland Cavaliers: $980,431
  • Dallas Mavericks: $621,362
  • Washington Wizards: $425,973
  • Portland Trail Blazers: $407,210
  • Toronto Raptors: $328,000

While they won’t expire until sometime in the offseason, the Trail Blazers ($12.97MM), Raptors ($11.8MM), and Clippers ($7.27MM) also have sizable trade exceptions worth keeping an eye on. Still, all three of those clubs have potential luxury tax concerns, so they’re unlikely to take on big salaries at the deadline without sending out any money.

For more information on how trade exceptions work, be sure to check out our glossary entry on the subject.

Norman Powell Cedes Minutes To Teammates

  • Raptors swingman Norman Powell has seen his role decrease of late thanks to the solid play of other young players in the lineup. “He’s always been up and down, in and out of the lineup,” teammate Kyle Lowry told Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. “I think he consistently stays ready as a professional athlete and does his job. It’s just a tough spot for him to be in right now.

Raptors Embrace Modern NBA Style Of Play

  • After an early postseason exit at the hands of the Cavaliers last season, the Raptors realized they had to change their style of play to have a chance at the NBA championship in 2017/18. Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports provides an in-depth look at how DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and the rest of the Toronto team embraced the fast-paced, three-point minded NBA style.

Raptors Suspend Serge Ibaka For One Game

The Raptors have suspended forward Serge Ibaka for one game due to a violation of team rules, the team announced in a press release on Friday (via Twitter). Ibaka’s suspension is the result of an altercation with a Raptors staff member after a game against the Thunder on December 27.

“Both parties have apologized. We’ve discussed this internally as a team, and we won’t be discussing it any further,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said in a statement about the suspension. “Now we’re focused on moving forward together, and we look forward to having Serge back in the lineup.”

Ibaka, 28, has been solid for Toronto this season, averaging 13.8 PPG and 6.0 RPG in 30 games. He will miss tonight’s game against the Hawks but should be ready for team’s next contest against the Bucks on Monday.

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