Raptors Rumors

Eastern Notes: Raptors, Kanter, Lamb, Sixers

The Raptors have started the season with a 13-4 record, but major changes to the roster and coaching staff have prevented the team from reaching its full potential so far.

Nick Nurse was hired as new head coach, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green were acquired in a blockbuster trade, and the rapid improvement of third-year player Pascal Siakam has forced the team to shuffle lineups in the season’s first month.

“We’re not executing as much as we’d like to, obviously,” Green said, according to Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. “I think that we get a little stagnant at times late in games, but that just comes from us being new to each other … figuring it out and learning.”

Toronto lost three straight games entering Saturday’s win over the Bulls, still resting atop the Eastern Conference with the best record. The team has a solid mix of players who can play on both ends, and the more experience the club gains together, the better they can become.

“Once we get a little more rhythm and identity, we’ll have some good go-to plays down the stretch that we know we can rely on,” Green said.

There’s more from the Eastern Conference today:

  • The Knicks are trying to pacify Enes Kanter, Marc Berman of the New York post opines, suggesting Kanter could be unhappy with sitting down the stretch of the team’s game against the Pelicans Friday. Kanter played 15 minutes and was the first player to leave the locker room, also sending a cryptic tweet moments after the game. He opted not to answer media questions directed towards his playing time.
  • Hornets guard Jeremy Lamb has thrived in his first year of being a starter, Basketball Insiders’ Spencer Davies writes. Lamb has averaged a career-best 13.4 points per game in his fourth season with Charlotte. “Being a starting two-guard in the league is not easy,” coach James Borrego said. “You gotta guard every single night, can’t take a night off. So I give (Jeremy) a lot of credit. He’s grown up a lot this season. I’m proud of him and I think he’s growing every single game.”
  • The 76ers‘ acquisition of Jimmy Butler will force them to face new challenges in the future, Derek Bodner of The Athletic writes. Philadelphia is expected to be in the forefront of contention in the East, with the team featuring a “Big 3” of Butler, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Southeast Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Southeast Division:

Dewayne Dedmon, Hawks, 29, C (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $14.1MM deal in 2017
Dedmon’s journeyman career had been on an upward path the past couple of seasons but appears to have plateaued under new coach Lloyd Pierce. Dedmon was coming off the bench before missing a few games for personal reasons after starting 46 games last season under Mike Budenholzer. His playing time has taken a hit from 24.9 MPG to 19.7. Dedmon is making $7.2MM but will likely have to settle for a veteran’s minimum deal or something close to it in unrestricted free agency next summer.

Wayne Ellington, Heat, 30, SG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $6.27MM deal in 2018
The Heat have an overload of options at the wing positions but Ellington’s shooting has made him a steady rotation presence since recovering from an ankle injury. Over the past five games, Ellington is shooting 44.7% on his 3-point attempts. That’s the main reason coach Erik Spoestra has played him an average of 28.6 MPG over that span. Ellington settled for a one-year contract in free agency this summer and his outside shooting should lead to multi-year offers in July.

Jeremy Lamb, Hornets, 26, SG (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $21MM deal in 2016
Lamb averaged double digits in scoring for the first time in his career last season and he’s established himself as a starter this season. Lamb is averaging 12.9 PPG as Kemba Walker‘s backcourt partner while shooting a career-best 39.2% from long range. He’s also been a factor on defense (career high 1.4 SPG). Lamb is making $7.49MM and his shooting and defensive length will grant him a healthy raise when he hits the open market in July.

Terrence Ross, Magic, 27, SG/SF (Up) — Signed to a three-year, $31.5MM deal in 2016
Ross appeared in only 24 games last season due to a knee injury. He started most of the games he was able to play for Orlando after being dealt by the Raptors in February 2017 but new coach Steve Clifford has made him a second-unit contributor. Thus far, Ross has thrived in that role, averaging 13.9 PPG while making a career-high 39.3% of his threes. That kind of production will give him consideration for the Sixth Man award if he keeps it up. It would also lead to multi-year offers next summer for Ross, who is making $10.5MM.

Kelly Oubre, Wizards, 22, SF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $9.2MM deal in 2015
The Wizards have finally shown some signs of life, winning their last three games, but Oubre has been heading in the opposite direction. He’s scored in single digits in five of the last six games. He’s also been in a prolonged shooting slump, making 14% of his 3-point tries over the last nine games. The capped-out Wizards must extend a $4,485,665 qualifying offer to Oubre next June to make him a restricted free agent. If he has a down year, the Wizards’ decision will become even tougher.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Atlantic Notes: Casey, Smart, Celtics, Nets

Dwane Casey made his return to Toronto on Wednesday, guiding the Pistons to a 106-104 victory over the Raptors in his first game back since being fired as Toronto’s coach. The Raptors made the surprising decision to let go of Casey after his team was swept by the Cavaliers in the spring.

“Nobody likes getting fired,” Casey told Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “If anybody expects you to like who fired you or be happy with that, that’s not realistic. The fans are some of the best fans in all of sports, whether it’s soccer, baseball or basketball.

“From that standpoint, there are no hard feelings, but you always have a (figurative) two-by-four on your shoulder for the person who fired you when you were doing well.”

Casey’s peers believed he was doing well, voting for him to win the Coach of the Year award around the time he was dismissed from Toronto. Wednesday’s victory could signify a sense of revenge against his former team.

“It is specifically pointing the finger at me — and that’s their prerogative,” Casey said. “They said I was the problem. I know what we did over a seven-year period there and starting from the rebuilding, developing and in the lottery to where they are now.

“They can’t take that away. A lot of people can take credit for all the good and put all the bad on me — and that’s fine.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic division tonight:

  • The Celtics could benefit from starting Marcus Smart, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston writes. “I’d like to see us find some consistency at some point,” head coach Brad Stevens said. “I think that it’s not consistent, whatever our issues are.” The Celtics have started the 2018/19 season with an 8-6 record.
  • Kyrie Irving downplayed his call for the Celtics to sign another veteran, explaining his comments to the media this week. “I wasn’t speaking about anyone specific,” Irving said, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. “I just was speaking to like a vet that’s been through a championship run, through championship runs, that’s able to be patient with this team as well as understand what we’re going through of just figuring out the pieces and how they mesh well together.” Celtics general manager Danny Ainge claimed he hasn’t spoken to Irving about his comments.
  • Nets training camp invitee Mitch Creek is continuing to pursue his dream of becoming an NBA player, as relayed by NetsDaily. Creek, 26, called the Nets “an elite program everywhere you go” and praised the coaching staff, performance team and others. He currently plays for the Long Island Nets, Brooklyn’s G League affiliate.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 11/13/18

Here are Tuesday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

Latest On Jimmy Butler Trade To Philadelphia

The Timberwolves and Sixers agreed on Saturday to one of the biggest trades in recent years. Jimmy Butler is headed to Philadelphia, while Dario Saric and Robert Covington headline the package that Minnesota is receiving.

We have more news to pass along on this blockbuster:

  • Butler had shown an interest in Philadelphia long before Saturday. Butler scheduled a free agent meeting with the Sixers  in 2015, when they were still in the early stages of building a contender, before he re-signed with the Bulls, Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated tweets.
  • If Butler agrees to a max contract with Philadelphia, Markelle Fultz‘s long-term prospects with the organization would be in serious doubt, Zach Lowe of ESPN tweets. There are plenty of other questions regarding how Fultz fits with core group that Philadelphia has assembled and the team’s brass will closely monitor how all the personalities mesh, Lowe adds. The top 2017 pick is averaging just 8.9 PPG and 3.6 APG  in 24.3 MPG and will now have to compete with another All-Star for touches.
  • Minnesota avoided sending Butler to a Western Conference contender, one of the goals it set in trade talks involving the disgruntled swingman, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN notes (Twitter link). The Rockets had been mentioned prominently as a possible destination but even a package of four future first-round picks couldn’t entice the Timberwolves to send him to a conference rival. The Sixers became the most viable trade partner once the Heat pulled Josh Richardson out of trade discussions, Wojnarowski adds.
  • The Sixers were prepared to offer a similar package to the Spurs to acquire Kawhi Leonard this summer, Fischer reports in another tweet. Philadelphia was willing to give up Saric, Covington and a first-rounder to San Antonio before the Spurs opted to deal Leonard to the Raptors. The Spurs’ decision to decline the Sixers’ offer thus far seems like a wise move, considering Saric’s early shooting slump (30% from long range), Jabari Young of The Athletic tweets. Toronto’s package, with DeMar DeRozan as the centerpiece, has helped San Antonio get off to a 6-4 start despite a rash of injuries.
  • Buyout candidates will be even more intrigued to join the Sixers for the stretch run, Alex Kennedy of Hoops Hype tweets. Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli joined Philadelphia in that fashion last season, Kennedy adds, and the incentive for players seeking a ring to hop on Philadelphia’s bandwagon has dramatically increased.
  • The Timberwolves considered three offers from different teams before picking the Sixers’ package, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets.
  • Philadelphia will likely move J.J. Redick back into the starting lineup because his 3-point shooting will be needed on the first unit, Keith Smith of RealGM tweets.
  • The earliest that Butler could make his Sixers debut, once the trade is finalized, is Wednesday against the Magic, Wojnarowski adds in another tweet.

How Early Hot, Cold Streaks May Impact Traded Draft Picks

The Raptors, NuggetsBucks, Grizzlies, and Kings are among the NBA teams that have made the strongest impression in the first month of the 2018/19 season, outperforming expectations early in the year. On the other end of the spectrum, the Cavaliers and Mavericks have been among the league’s worst teams, underperforming expectations that weren’t all that high to begin with.

These teams all have something in common — they’ve traded away their 2019 first-round picks, often with protections on them. We still have about 70 games to go in ’18/19, so it’s way too early to determine exactly where those picks will fall, or even whether or not they’ll changes hands in many cases. However, based on what we’ve seen from those teams so far, we have a better idea of what to expect the rest of the way than we did a month ago.

Let’s take a look at how some of those early-season trades may affect 2019’s traded first round picks…

Toronto Raptors (11-1)
First-round pick traded to Spurs (top-20 protected)

Even with top-20 protection, this pick looks like a very safe bet to change hands. If the season ended today, it would be No. 30, since Toronto has the NBA’s best record.

Denver Nuggets (9-2)
First-round pick traded to Nets (top-12 protected)

After a season in which the Nuggets narrowly missed the playoffs, it wasn’t unreasonable for Brooklyn to hope this pick would fall in the mid-teens. Instead, with Denver looking like one of the Western Conference’s best teams so far, it may land well into the 20s.

Milwaukee Bucks (9-2)
First-round pick traded to Suns (top-3 protected; 17-30 protected)

The unusual protections on this pick will likely to prevent it from changing hands for a second consecutive year, since it projects to fall in the 17-30 range. If Milwaukee’s 2019 first-rounder doesn’t convey, the Bucks would owe the Suns their 2020 first-rounder, with top-7 protection.

Memphis Grizzlies (6-4)
First-round pick traded to Celtics (top-8 protected)

After finishing last season with a 22-60 record, the Grizzlies were no lock to take a major step forward in 2018/19. In the early going though, the club looks like a legitimate playoff contender. Assuming Memphis can remain in the postseason mix, even if it’s just on the outskirts, this pick should stay out of the top eight and get sent to Boston.

Sacramento Kings (6-5)
First-round pick traded to Sixers (if it’s No. 1 overall or if it’s less favorable than Sixers’ pick) or Celtics (if it’s more favorable than Sixers’ pick and isn’t No. 1 overall)

The Kings, who were expected to be one of the NBA’s worst teams entering the season, would generate some fascinating drama between the Sixers and Celtics if their pick ends up in play for No. 1 overall. However, Sacramento’s young roster has created more problems than anticipated for opponents so far, with the team occupying a playoff spot for now.

Despite the Kings’ hot start, a finish in the lottery still seems likely, but if Sacramento keeps exceeding expectations, the team’s first-round pick will almost certainly end up in Boston instead of Philadelphia, avoiding that No. 1 spot.

Los Angeles Clippers (6-5)
First-round pick traded to Celtics (top-14 protected)

This could be one to watch all season long — the Clippers currently hold a playoff spot in the West by one game, but teams like the Jazz, Lakers, Pelicans, and Rockets are right on their tail. If the Clips eventually fall out of the top eight in the West, they’ll keep their 2019 pick and would owe Boston their top-14 protected 2020 first-rounder. If L.A. keeps winning, the Celtics have a real shot at ending up with four first-rounders next spring.

Dallas Mavericks (3-8)
First-round pick traded to Hawks (top-5 protected)

After drafting NBA-ready prospect Luka Doncic and signing DeAndre Jordan, the Mavericks hoped to contend for the postseason and expected to lose this pick. Given the way Dallas has struggled so far, that no longer looks like a sure thing. I don’t view the Mavs as a bottom-five team in the NBA, but if they don’t turn things around soon, an aggressive second-half tank is a possibility. The Hawks would love for this pick to land in the back half of the top 10.

Cleveland Cavaliers (1-10)
First-round pick traded to Hawks (top-10 protected)

While Atlanta may luck out with the Mavs’ pick, the Hawks will probably have to wait at least one more year to get anything from the Cavaliers, who have the NBA’s worst record so far and aren’t exactly in position to turn things around. If the Cavs keep their 2019 first-rounder, they’ll owe the Hawks their top-10 protected 2020 pick.

Raptors Notes: Roster Balance, Leonard, Ibaka

Speaking to Joshua Clipperton of The Canadian Press (link via Sportsnet.ca), former NBA commissioner David Stern acknowledged that the NBA’s move to Vancouver was one of the failures of his tenure. However, he said that he views the Raptors – Canada’s other 1995 expansion team – as a “great success” and says the idea that players don’t want to land in Toronto is outdated and died long ago.

“Toronto has the most wonderful array of sports assets and a cosmopolitan community and a great building,” Stern said. “It’s a pleasure to see that it is a destination city that players want to go to.”

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • The Raptors’ summer blockbuster with the Spurs allowed Toronto to replace two non-shooters with two quintessential three-and-D wings in Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Now, the rotation is loaded with versatile three-and-D players and the Raptors’ roster looks like a model for other teams to emulate, writes Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer.
  • Speaking of Leonard, Blake Murphy of The Athletic takes an early look at the relationship between the star forward and his new team, a topic that will get more and more attention as Kawhi’s 2019 free agency nears. As Murphy observes, the Raptors don’t want to put a full-court recruiting press on Leonard all season, preferring to let the team’s success be the primary selling point. With an 11-1 record so far, Toronto is off to a good start in that regard.
  • Serge Ibaka has reversed some worrying trends so far this season and looks like a rejuvenated player. Frank Urbina of HoopsHype explores what changed for Ibaka and whether those improvements are sustainable.
  • In other Raptors news, Norman Powell is expected to miss the next four to six weeks with a shoulder injury, as we relayed earlier this week.

NBA Super-Max Candidates To Watch In 2018/19

The Designated Veteran Extension, as we explain our glossary entry on the subject, is a relatively new addition to the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. It allows players with 7-9 years of experience, who would normally qualify for a maximum starting salary of 30% of the cap, to qualify for a “super-max” contract that starts at 35% of the cap, a level normally reserved players with 10+ years of experience.

A player who has seven or eight years of NBA service with one or two years left on his contract becomes eligible for a Designated Veteran Extension if he meets the required performance criteria and hasn’t been traded since his first four years in the league. A Designated Veteran contract can also be signed by a player who is technically a free agent if he has eight or nine years of service and meets the required criteria.

The performance criteria is as follows (only one of the following must be true):

  • The player was named to an All-NBA team in the most recent season, or in two of the last three seasons.
  • The player was named the NBA MVP in any of the three most recent seasons.
  • The player was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in the most recent season, or in two of the last three seasons.

With those criteria in mind, it’s worth keeping an eye on several players who could qualify for a super-max veteran contract with their play this season. Let’s dive in and examine a few of those guys…

Players who already qualify for a super-max contract:

Davis can’t yet sign a Designated Veteran Extension, but his All-NBA appearances over the last two seasons have ensured that he’ll qualify, even if he somehow doesn’t earn another All-NBA nod in 2018/19.

As of next July, the Pelicans will be able to offer Davis a contract extension that tacks an additional five years onto his $27.09MM salary for 2019/20. Based on the NBA’s latest cap projection for 2020/21 ($118MM), that five-year extension would be worth a staggering $239.54MM.

Players who could qualify for a super-max contract by meeting the criteria in 2018/19:

Technically, any player who earns an All-NBA spot in 2018/19 and meets the contract criteria can qualify for a super-max, but the players listed above are probably the only legitimately viable candidates. And even in this group, guys like Beal and Drummond are a real stretch — if they were to improbably make an All-NBA team, their clubs still probably wouldn’t put Designated Veteran Extension offers on the table, since they’re not bona fide superstars.

Thompson and Walker will both be unrestricted free agents in 2019, so if they meet the DVE criteria, they’d be eligible for five-year contracts with their respective teams worth up to a projected $221.27MM. Lillard and Green are still under contract for at least one more year beyond this season, but they’d qualify for super-max extensions if they meet the criteria — Lillard could get an extra four years, while Green could get five.

A team can only give Designated Veteran Extensions to two players, so the Warriors wouldn’t be able to offer both Thompson and Green super-max contracts, since Stephen Curry already has one. On the plus side, Kevin Durant won’t figure into this equation for Golden State, since he has 10+ years of experience. A deal starting at 35% of the cap for Durant wouldn’t count toward the Dubs’ super-max limit.

Finally, while Antetokounmpo can qualify for a super-max by earning All-NBA honors this season, he wouldn’t actually be able to sign such a deal until 2020, since he’ll only have six years of experience at the end of the 2018/19 campaign. Essentially, he’d be in the same spot that Anthony Davis is in now.

Players who can no longer qualify for a super-max contract because they were traded:

Butler, Irving, and Leonard are probably more worthy of a super-max investment than most of the players in the above group, but they no longer qualify because they were traded while on their second contracts — Butler from the Bulls, Irving from the Cavaliers, and Leonard from the Spurs. They’ll need to reach 10 years of NBA experience before qualifying for a starting salary worth up to 35% of the cap.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Atlantic Notes: Rozier, Siakam, Fisher, Raptors

Celtics guard Terry Rozier is still getting adjusted to his role off the bench, competing with Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown for minutes in Boston’s crowded backcourt. He was the team’s starting point guard in the spring when Irving was sidelined, but has been limited to just 22.7 minutes per game in 10 contests this season.

“I go from starting in the playoffs to coming off the bench … I’m pretty sure it’s not easy for nobody,” Rozier said, according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “But I’m not complaining. And, if you know me, I would never be the one to complain about it.

“I would never go to the media or bring out the unhappy thing. Like I said, people that know me know I wouldn’t do that. I’ve never been a selfish type of person, selfish player. You can tell the way I play I’m all about team.

“Everything will be all right. It’s not as bad as people make it seem.”

Bill Simmons of The Ringer tweeted Thursday that Rozier was unhappy with his playing time and that Boston could look to trade him before February’s deadline. At least seven teams would have interest in trading for Rozier, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, but Rozier seems content to stay in Boston for now.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Pascal Siakam‘s early season play has changed the Raptors, playing a key role in the team’s hot 10-1 start, Anisa Jamal of FanSided writes. Siakam has averaged 12.5 points and seven rebounds in 27.9 minutes per game, starting in every contest but one.
  • Derek Fisher wouldn’t have accepted the Knicks‘ head coaching job if he knew running the triangle offense was mandatory, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “I wasn’t smart enough to ask the right questions going into taking and accepting the job,” Fisher said.
  • The Raptors have remained flexible with their starting lineups, a key component to their success this season, Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times writes. “We’ve got maybe eight starters and we’re giving them a chance to start every once in a while,” said coach Nick Nurse, who labeled the importance of being versatile.

Kyle Lowry Talks DeRozan, Kawhi, Raptors

When the Raptors traded DeMar DeRozan to the Spurs in July in a package for Kawhi Leonard, it broke up one of the NBA’s most likeable duos, leaving Kyle Lowry in Toronto while his best friend DeRozan headed to San Antonio.

Speaking to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated on Wednesday night after the Raptors beat the Kings, Lowry opened up about that trade and about his club’s offseason. While Lowry’s unwillingness to speak to reporters about the deal at a Team USA mini-camp during the summer was viewed as a sign of his possible unhappiness, the veteran point guard tells Spears that he never does any interviews in the summer, and that his silence wasn’t directly related to that trade.

Acknowledging that he was “a little emotional” when he first learned of the blockbuster deal, Lowry said that “everyone made peace with it” and is in a good place now. He also shared his thoughts on several other topics in his conversation with Spears. Here are some of the highlights:

On the eventual returns to Toronto for former head coach Dwane Casey and DeRozan:

“I’m not looking forward to seeing coach next week. It’s weird. Then seeing DeMar is going to be different. It’s going to weird. And I’m sure they are going to show a video tribute, and I might get emotional. I won’t cry. I won’t do that. We have always talked about it by saying that we’re going to reflect on our careers when we are done and sitting on our porches chilling sipping on some lemonade.”

On how he feels about the Raptors’ changes now that the dust has settled:

“Our record is good. We’re playing well. For me, it’s long-, long-term. Stay level[-headed]. You can’t worry about this and that. You got to make sure that when the time comes, April, May, June, that we are still playing. That’s when you get asked about what the team is and what this year is. Right now, we’re just 12 games in. It’s too early to tell. We got to just stay the path.”

On playing with Leonard:

“He’s a great player. He’s still getting his feet under him. I still believe he has some work to do. Like today, he was a little off a little bit. But he’s doing his job and he is going to continue to get better.”

On whether he still wanted to be in Toronto after the team traded DeRozan:

“That’s a good question. I just wanted to be where I could win and I was wanted. And it was here. They didn’t trade me. So, I guess this was the situation I was going to be in. And as a professional with the situation I am going to be in, I’m going to do my job.”