Raptors Rumors

2024 NBA Offseason Preview: Toronto Raptors

The Raptors held their own without Kawhi Leonard following their championship season, winning 53 games in 2019/20 after the star forward departed for Los Angeles. And they remained solidly in the Eastern Conference playoff picture after losing Kyle Lowry two years later to the Heat, winning 48 games in ’21/22.

Eventually though, bleeding talent – including former Coach of the Year Nick Nurse last offseason – caught up with the Raptors, who decided during the 2023/24 season to take a step back by trading away impact forwards Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby for packages heavy on young talent and future draft picks.

Having moved on from nearly every player who was part of that 2019 championship team (Chris Boucher is still hanging around, for now), the Raptors bottomed out, losing 19 of their final 21 games to close out the 2023/24 season and finishing with a 25-57 record, their worst mark since 2011.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to salvage their 2024 first-round pick, which they traded to San Antonio at the 2023 deadline in a package for Jakob Poeltl. The pick, which was top-six protected, had about a 46% chance to stick with the Raptors, but it ended up slipping to No. 8 on draft lottery day, so it’ll be controlled by the Spurs.

Not having the opportunity to add a potential cornerstone using that lottery pick is discouraging, but president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri has shown in the past that he’s capable of quickly turning around a team’s fortunes, and the Raptors’ roster is hardly devoid of talent. Former Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes is a future star; Immanuel Quickley looks like the club’s point guard of the future; Canadian forward RJ Barrett played some of the best basketball of his career after coming over in the Anunoby trade; 2023 first-rounder Gradey Dick looked much better in the second half of the season than he did in the first; and the duo of Poeltl and Kelly Olynyk makes for a perfectly serviceable NBA center rotation.

The Raptors’ Offseason Plan

The good news about the Raptors giving up their 2024 first-round pick is that all of their first-rounders going forward will be unencumbered — if they had kept this year’s pick, they still would’ve owed a lightly protected 2025 first-rounder to the Spurs.

That means that if Toronto wants to lean further into its rebuild and aim for a top pick in the 2025 draft, that’s an option. But given the level of veteran talent already on the roster, it may not be the most viable option unless the Raptors follow up their Anunoby and Siakam trades by continuing to sell off vets for long-term assets.

That approach probably doesn’t make sense. Barnes isn’t going anywhere; Quickly and Barrett probably aren’t either. And it’s not as if the Raptors would get a significant haul back if they put solid but unspectacular players like Poeltl, Olynyk, Bruce Brown, and Boucher on the trade block. So it seems safe to assume that Toronto will use its cap room and its draft picks to attempt to move the retooling process incrementally forward, without skipping steps forward or taking another step backward.

That doesn’t mean no veterans will be dealt though. Boucher, who received inconsistent playing time under first-year head coach Darko Rajakovic last season, is an obvious trade candidate entering a contract year. The Raptors should be able to get a second-round pick or two for him if they take back a less favorable expiring deal (perhaps someone like P.J. Tucker). It’s hard to envision them getting a first-round pick back for Boucher even if they’re willing to take on an onerous multiyear contract, but they could potentially land a more productive player in that scenario.

Brown is another trade candidate worth watching. His $23MM team option for 2024/25 is an overpay, so Toronto will have to decide whether or not it makes sense to pick it up at all. Brown is a useful role player who would have significant value if he was earning about half that price, and the Raptors won’t want to lose him for nothing, but they’ll have to scout the market and make sure they extract positive value for him in a trade before they decide to exercise his option.

For what it’s worth, declining the option doesn’t necessarily mean Toronto won’t get anything back for Brown. Non-Bird rights aren’t worth much for a player coming off a minimum or near-minimum salary, but due to his oversized 2023/24 cap hit, Brown’s Non-Bird rights could accommodate a starting salary worth up to $26.4MM. The versatile wing had plenty of suitors in the range of the full mid-level (approximately $12-13MM) last season — it’s possible the Raptors could use their Non-Bird rights to give him a multiyear deal in that neighborhood and sign-and-trade him to an over-the-cap team intent on using its MLE on someone else.

Poeltl is one more trade candidate to keep an eye on, though I suspect he’s more likely to be dealt at the 2025 deadline or the ’25 offseason unless a really favorable offer emerges this summer.

Quickley and Gary Trent Jr. are the Raptors’ two key free agents. Quickley is restricted, which makes his free agency a little more straightforward, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll come at a team-friendly rate. While offer sheets have become increasingly rare, all it takes is one rival suitor to put pressure on Toronto and jack up Quickley’s price.

It’s safe to assume Quickley’s agents will point to deals signed within the past two years by young guards like Tyler Herro (four years, $120MM), Jordan Poole (four years, $123MM), and Devin Vassell (five years, $135MM) as references for Quickley, who finished second in Sixth Man of the Year voting a year ago. The Raptors will argue that Quickley’s résumé isn’t as decorated as that of Herro (2022’s Sixth Man of the Year) or Poole (a key contributor on the Warriors’ 2022 championship team) when they signed their respective extensions, but it’d still be surprising if the young guard gets less than $25MM per year.

Trent is a trickier case. On paper, he looks like an obvious keeper as a 25-year-old who makes three-pointers (38.6% for his career) and has defensive upside. But Trent’s on-court impact has been inconsistent, and depending on his asking price, it’s unclear if it makes sense for the retooling Raptors to invest in him long-term.

As is the case with Brown, Trent is a valuable enough asset that Toronto won’t want to let him go without getting any form of compensation, so perhaps he re-signs with the Raptors at a market-value rate and becomes a potential trade chip sooner rather than later, following in the footsteps of guys like Kyle Kuzma and D’Angelo Russell last year.

While the Raptors don’t control their own lottery pick, they do have a couple selections in the top 31 of this year’s draft, by way of the Pacers (No. 19) and Pistons (No. 31). This year’s draft class may not be elite at the top, but it has solid enough depth, and Toronto will get a couple chances to try to strike gold on a low-cost prospect.

Ujiri and the Raptors often deviate from consensus – most memorably in 2021 by drafting Barnes over Jalen Suggs – so it will be interesting to see how they use those picks. Given how far away they are from contention, they can afford to roll the dice on a younger player rather than going after one who can contribute right away. French forward Tidjane Salaun, Kansas wing Johnny Furphy, Miami swingman Kyshawn George, Pitt guard Carlton Carrington, and G League Ignite forward Tyler Smith are among the players in that range who fit the bill.

Finally, while it may be the most important move the Raptors make this summer, signing Barnes to a rookie scale extension should be fairly straightforward. The step toward stardom that the 22-year-old took in his third season warrants a maximum-salary investment, and no player has ever turned down a max rookie scale extension, so that negotiation shouldn’t be a particularly long one.

Salary Cap Situation

Guaranteed Salary

Non-Guaranteed Salary

  • Javon Freeman-Liberty ($1,791,857)
    • Partial guarantee. Rest of salary noted above.
  • D.J. Carton (two-way)
  • Mouhamadou Gueye (two-way)
  • Total: $1,791,857

Dead/Retained Salary

  • None

Player Options

  • None

Team Options

Restricted Free Agents

Two-Way Free Agents

  • None

Draft Picks

  • No. 19 overall pick ($3,475,200 cap hold)
  • No. 31 overall pick (no cap hold)
  • Total (cap holds): $3,475,200

Extension-Eligible Players

  • Scottie Barnes (rookie scale)
  • Chris Boucher (veteran)
  • Gary Trent Jr. (veteran)
    • Extension-eligible until June 30.

Note: Unless otherwise indicated, these players are eligible for extensions beginning in July.

Unrestricted Free Agents

Other Cap Holds

  • Will Barton ($2,093,637 cap hold)
  • Total (cap holds): $2,093,637

Note: Barton’s cap hold is on the Raptors’ books from a prior season because he hasn’t been renounced. He can’t be used in a sign-and-trade deal.

Cap Exceptions Available

Note: The Raptors project to operate under the cap, though they’ll have the option of remaining over the cap if they retain Brown and Trent. If they were to operate over the cap, they’d lose the room exception and would have access to the mid-level exception ($12,859,000) and three trade exceptions (worth $10,171,292, $1,607,916, and $1,379,527).

  • Room exception: $8,006,000

Atlantic Notes: Brown, Bokmeyer, Anunoby, McBride, Hart

While the Raptors didn’t trade Bruce Brown Jr. again after they acquired him from the Pacers this season, that might change this offseason. The Raptors have until June 29 to exercise Brown’s $23MM team option for next season and, according to Doug Smith of The Toronto Star, a handful of sources think that Toronto will pick up that option and trade Brown quickly, rather than waiting until the 2025 deadline.

Trading Brown would give the Raptors some leeway when it comes to talks with free agent wing Gary Trent Jr. According to Smith, the sentiment is that Toronto won’t start the season with both Brown and Trent on the roster. Trent is still just 25 and his outside shooting ability might make him more appealing in the long run.

The Raptors acquired Brown as part of the trade that sent Pascal Siakam to Indiana. He averaged 9.6 points in 34 games with Toronto after registering 12.1 PPG in 33 games in Indiana. Despite the slight dip in production, Brown is still viewed as a valuable rotation player with defensive prowess and positional versatility.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Nets hired Justin Bokmeyer to their front office as their new director of basketball operations, Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic reports. This move is likely related to the Hornets hiring away Ryan Gisriel, Brooklyn’s former executive director of basketball and business operations. Bokmeyer worked in international basketball operations before going to the NBA. He also helped guide the NBA Academy program and assisted in launching the Basketball Africa League.
  • OG Anunoby, who is dealing with a hamstring injury, has missed the past four games for the Knicks. According to The Athletic’s Fred Katz (Twitter link), head coach Tom Thibodeau said Anunoby’s health is “basically the same.” The forward is doing some light on-court work, but it remains unclear when exactly he will return.
  • Miles McBride began the season on the bench, but the Knicks are now calling on him to handle the most important defensive assignments, Newsday’s Steve Popper observes. He was inserted into the starting lineup in Game 5 and was the primary defender against the engine of the Pacers’ offense in Tyrese Haliburton, who scored just 13 points on the night. McBride still thinks he has room for improvement. “I think I’ve got to go up a level,” McBride said. “… Obviously he didn’t go scoreless, and he was still impactful in a way, so my goal is for guys to go scoreless and to make as minimum of an impact on the game.” McBride finished Game 6 as the team’s second-highest scorer, with only Jalen Brunson (31 points) exceeding McBride’s 20 points.
  • Josh Hart exited Game 6 in the fourth quarter with what the team called abdominal soreness and didn’t return, according to the team (Twitter link). Hart left the game a couple times due to injury, going to the locker room after the first quarter and again later in the game. The severity is unclear — considering the Knicks were trailing significantly at the time,  it’s possible this was more of a precautionary move in order to preserve an important role player for Game 7 on Sunday.

Atlantic Notes: Thibodeau, Sixers, Raptors, Nets

Asked before Tuesday’s Game 5 about the outside perception that Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau is running his players into the ground, Josh Hart – who leads all NBA players with 44.1 minutes per game in the postseason – scoffed at the idea, according to Peter Botte of The New York Post.

“You expect ignorance when people have no idea what goes on in this building,” Hart said. “People love to have a narrative or a label and run with it. None of those guys are here watching us practice. None of those guys are watching what we do. At the end of the day, seventh year of my career, I’ve probably had more off days than I’ve had in other days. We don’t go contact in practice. Everyone thinks we do three-hour practices of scrimmaging. It’s idiotic to put (the Knicks’ injury woes) on him. He’s not going to say anything about it. He’s going to take it on the chin and keep on moving.”

Within an in-depth feature on Thibodeau, Tim Keown of ESPN notes that the Knicks’ head coach has a knack for staggering his timeouts during games in order to give his players as much rest as possible even when they’re playing heavy minutes. That’s something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by those who play for him.

“I would say he’s one of the most prepared coaches,” Donte DiVincenzo said. “That’s not a shot at any other coach, but Thibs is on a whole ‘nother level. He knows every single movement they’re going to do, every single adjustment they’re going to make. We go through it all, and being the more prepared team makes you more confident, and when you’re more confident, you play more loose.

“The way he runs a game,” DiVincenzo added, “you kind of forget the minutes sometimes.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer considers whether the Sixers are likely to use their substantial 2024 cap room on free agents, noting that many of the top players on this year’s market could end up being unavailable, since they’re candidates to sign extensions or free agent contracts with their current teams. “The main mistake that could be made that we won’t make is if some of the better options don’t go our way,” president of basketball operations Daryl Morey said last month. “Trade into our cap space, free agents, turn our draft picks into things – if all those things don’t yield what we want, we are definitely not going to just sign some player for a lot of money who’s just an OK player.”
  • Sunday’s draft lottery results mean the Raptors won’t control their own first-round pick – No. 8 overall – this year, having committed it to San Antonio in last year’s Jakob Poeltl trade. As Eric Koreen of The Athletic writes, that outcome gives the franchise an opportunity to learn from its past mistakes and to have a clean slate going forward. Toronto holds all of its own first-rounders beginning in 2025, so if the team wants to take a patient approach to its retooling process, the front office won’t have to worry about losing a lottery pick in a stronger draft year.
  • Lucas Kaplan of NetsDaily rounds up a few items related to the Nets‘ offseason, including following up on the report stating that the Rockets asked Brooklyn earlier this year about swapping draft assets. According to Kaplan, league sources say the talks between the Rockets and the Nets “reached nothing beyond light-hearted conversation.”

Hawks Win 2024 NBA Draft Lottery; Wizards, Rockets, Spurs In Top 4

The Hawks have won the 2024 NBA draft lottery, jumping all the way up from No. 10 in the pre-lottery order to No. 1.

Atlanta had just a 3% chance of claiming this year’s top pick. Those are the longest odds for any team that has won the lottery since the NBA revamped the format prior to the 2019 draft.

The full lottery order for the 2024 draft is as follows:

  1. Atlanta Hawks
  2. Washington Wizards
  3. Houston Rockets (from Nets)
  4. San Antonio Spurs
  5. Detroit Pistons
  6. Charlotte Hornets
  7. Portland Trail Blazers
  8. San Antonio Spurs (from Raptors)
  9. Memphis Grizzlies
  10. Utah Jazz
  11. Chicago Bulls
  12. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Rockets)
  13. Sacramento Kings
  14. Portland Trail Blazers (from Warriors)

There’s no consensus No. 1 pick in 2024 like there was with Victor Wembanyama a year ago, so the Hawks will have plenty of options to consider in the coming weeks.

French big man Alexandre Sarr, French forward Zaccharie Risacher, UConn center Donovan Clingan, G League Ignite wing Ron Holland, Ignite forward Matas Buzelis, Serbian point guard Nikola Topic, and Kentucky guard Rob Dillingham are among the prospects expected to be in the mix for the top few picks.

Some of those players look like better fits than others on the current Atlanta roster, but there has been an expectation that the Hawks will make some significant changes this summer, with Trae Young and Dejounte Murray viewed as possible trade candidates. Atlanta’s front office will have to take those potential moves into account as it weighs what to do with the No. 1 pick.

Washington, Houston, and San Antonio are among the other big winners of draft lottery day. The Wizards entered the day ranked second in the pre-lottery order and no team had better odds at the top pick, but they also had just a 27.4% chance to remain in the top two, so they can’t complain about the outcome. It will be the second lottery pick for the current front office, which will get the opportunity to add another building block to last year’s No. 7 overall selection Bilal Coulibaly.

The Rockets‘ own pick at No. 12 will be sent to the Thunder as a result of 2019’s Russell Westbrook trade, but Houston will pick third overall thanks to one of the unprotected Nets first-rounders that was included in the 2021 James Harden blockbuster. Prior to the lottery, that pick had just the ninth-best odds to move into the top three (14.5%).

A report this week stated that the Rockets are interested in trading their lottery selection for future draft assets after having made nine first-round picks in the past three years. Assuming Houston’s stance hasn’t changed following the lottery results, the fact that the pick is now No. 3 instead of No. 9 should significantly improve its value on the trade market.

The Spurs, meanwhile, had an eventful lottery day, landing a pair of picks in the top eight as they look to build a contending team around Wembanyama. Their own pick moved up one spot, from No. 5 in the pre-lottery order to No. 4, and they also secured a second pick as a result of Toronto dropping from No. 6 to No. 8.

The Raptors traded their top-six protected 2024 first-round pick to San Antonio in a package for Jakob Poeltl last year and would have retained it if no teams had leapfrogged them into the top four. Because Atlanta and Houston both moved up, that No. 8 pick will be controlled by the Spurs — the Raptors’ obligation to San Antonio is complete and they’ll control all their own first-rounders beginning in 2025.

It’s another disappointing lottery day for the Pistons, who – for a second consecutive year – finished with the NBA’s worst record and ended up with the No. 5 overall pick. For what it’s worth, Detroit only had about a 50/50 chance (52.1%) in each case to land in the top four, due to the flatter nature of the odds under the NBA’s current format. Still, losing that coin flip in back-to-back years is a discouraging outcome for a Pistons team whose rebuild hasn’t progressed at the rate the organization hoped.

While no team dropped as far as the Pistons (four spots), the Hornets (No. 3 to No. 6), Trail Blazers (No. 4 to No. 7), Grizzlies (No. 7 to No. 9), and Jazz (No. 8 to No. 10) also moved back multiple spots as a result of the lottery.

If Utah had fallen one more spot, the Jazz would’ve owed their top-10 protected first-round pick to the Thunder, but that obligation will roll over to 2025 instead — the pick will retain its top-10 protection next year.

The Wizards, Pistons, Hornets, Trail Blazers, and Kings also had traded picks fall into their protected range and will owe their 2025 first-rounders to rival teams. The Knicks will receive Washington’s 2025 pick if it’s not in the top 10 and Detroit’s pick if it’s not in the top 13. The Spurs will control Charlotte’s lottery-protected 2025 pick; the Bulls would get Portland’s 2025 pick if it’s outside the lottery; and the Hawks will acquire the Kings’ 2025 first-rounder if it doesn’t end up in the top 12.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the Warriors would have retained their 2024 first-rounder in the unlikely event that it had moved into the top four. Because it stayed at No. 14, it was sent to Portland and Golden State has no further obligation to the Blazers.

Atlantic Notes: Valanciunas, Harris, Sixers, Knicks, Raptors Pick

There’s a sense that Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas won’t return to the team this offseason, and the Sixers could be an option for him in free agency. According to PHLY Sports’ Kyle Neubeck (Twitter link), Philadelphia “kicked the tires” on a trade for the big man earlier this season. Equipped with spending power this offseason, circling back to Valanciunas might make sense for the 76ers.

The 32-year-old big man would be arguably the best backup center that Joel Embiid has had in Philly. In his last three seasons with New Orleans, Valanciunas averaged 14.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game while making 54.9% of his shots from the field.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • In a mailbag previewing Philadelphia’s offseason, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes that it would be shocking if Tobias Harris returned to the team, adding that he “strongly” believes Harris’ tenure in Philly is over. Pompey also sees the Sixers undergoing a complete roster overhaul this summer.
  • Bringing on Leon Rose and Tom Thibodeau — as well as acquiring players like Jalen Brunson and OG Anunoby — are obvious reasons for the Knicks‘ success this season. However, as detailed in a piece by ESPN’s Chris Herring, some of the moves they didn’t make also helped the Knicks achieve their best record in over a decade. While the Knicks were panned for missing out on the likes of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Donovan Mitchell over the past few years, it allowed them to maintain their assets and develop from within.
  • The Raptors are in a no-win situation at this week’s draft lottery, TSN’s Josh Lewenberg writes. The Raptors have the sixth-best odds at the top overall pick but in the likely event it falls out of the top six (54.2% chance), Toronto owes its pick to San Antonio as per the Jakob Poeltl trade in 2023. Keeping the pick and landing in the top six sounds good in theory, but in that event, the Raptors then owe a top-six protected pick in 2025, which would limit their flexibility going forward.

Eastern Notes: Pistons, Horst, Butler, Sixers, Hornets, Nets, More

Now that the Bucks‘ season has come to an end, the Pistons are expected to formally seek permission to interview Milwaukee general manager Jon Horst for their president of basketball operations job soon, Marc Stein reports in his latest story at Substack. According to Stein, it’s not yet known whether the Bucks will grant Detroit permission to meet with Horst, a Michigan native who began his NBA career in the Pistons’ basketball operations department.

Elsewhere in his Substack article, Stein says that Jimmy Butler‘s future has become an “increasingly hot topic” around the NBA following the Heat‘s first-round playoff exit. Multiple rival teams have wondered if the Sixers will make a run at trading for Butler this offseason in an effort to reunite the star swingman with good friend Joel Embiid, per Stein. The Embiid/Butler 76ers took the eventual-champion Raptors down to the wire in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2019, but were broken up less than two months later when Butler was signed-and-traded to Miami.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Several executives around the NBA thought the Hornets would have concluded their head coaching search by now, but the team is taking a “very methodical” approach to the process and there’s no specific timeline to make a hire, Rod Boone writes in a mailbag for The Charlotte Observer. Boone’s mailbag also explores Charlotte’s draft strategy and how to revitalize the team’s brand, among other topics.
  • How much of a difference could it make for the Nets to have a healthy Ben Simmons and Dariq Whitehead next season? Net Income of Nets Daily explores that subject, citing league insiders who say Brooklyn has no plans to waive Simmons this offseason.
  • With Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby set to square off in the second round of the playoffs as members of the Pacers and Knicks, respectively, the Raptors will “catch some sass” for trading away both players this season, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. Given how well the two forwards have played alongside backcourt stars – Tyrese Haliburton in Indiana and Jalen Brunson in New York – Koreen wonders if things went wrong in Toronto because the club couldn’t find the right “dynamic” guard to allow Siakam and Anunoby to play their proper roles.
  • James L. Edwards III of The Athletic previews next week’s draft combine from a Pistons perspective, identifying the players the club will have its eye on in the top five and naming a few prospects who could make sense at No. 53. Edwards views Alexandre Sarr as the player likeliest to be atop Detroit’s board, with Stephon Castle, Cody Williams, Donovan Clingan, and Matas Buzelis in the next tier.

Atlantic Notes: Batum, Nets, Ex-Raptors, Celtics-Cavs

Sixers forward Nicolas Batum kept things fairly open when it came to talk of his potential NBA retirement, writes Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The 35-year-old is now a free agent, having wrapped up his two-year, $22.6MM contract at the end of Philadelphia’s 2023/24 season. There were rumors prior to the season that it could be his last in the NBA.

Batum told gathered media that he is, for now, just thinking about playing for his native Team France in this year’s Paris Olympics. He then reflected on his initial impressions of the Sixers.

“One thing I’ve learned is Philly is not for everybody, though,” Batum said. “You’ve got to be ready to play for that city, and I loved it. … I could feel the passion of this city for sports, for the Sixers. And I [felt] it right away, my first game against the Wizards. I [came] in and could feel it… And those fans, even when they’re not happy, you get booed, but I understand why. … I tried to [say to myself], ‘OK, they’re right. Because we suck right now, so we’ve got to play better.’”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The Nets are set to retain assistant coach Jay Hernandez under new head coach Jordi Fernandez, but will be parting ways with assistants Will Weaver and Ronnie Burrell, reports Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link).
  • A pair of beloved former Raptors championship-era teammates, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam, are set to square off against one another for the first team in an impending matchup between the former’s Knicks and the latter’s Pacers, writes Zach Braziller of The New York Post. “Yeah, it’ll be weird,” Anunoby said this weekend. “I never played against him. He’s always been my teammate, so it’ll be weird, but it’ll be cool, I’m sure. He’s looking forward to it, too.”
  • The NBA has revealed its full schedule for the Celtics’ second-round series against the Cavaliers. Game 1 will tip off on Tuesday, in Boston, at 6 p.m. CT via TNT. They’ll meet again for Game 2 on Thursday, at the same time, on ESPN. The series will move to Cleveland for Game 3 on Saturday, and will start a bit later, at 7:30 p.m. CT, on ABC. A start time for Monday’s Game 4 has yet to be announced.

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.

Patrick Williams, Tyus Jones Could Be Free Agent Targets

Could Bulls forward Patrick Williams get a fresh start with the Raptors? The Athletic’s Eric Koreen believes Williams could be a realistic free agent target and good fit in Toronto, even though he’ll be eligible for restricted free agency. Caleb Martin, Tyus Jones and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are some of the other free agents who could fill a need on Toronto’s roster, Koreen adds.

Eastern Notes: Lillard, Giannis, Wright, Raptors, Hornets

After Shams Charania reported earlier today that Damian Lillard‘s availability for Game 4 of the Bucks‘ series with Indiana is uncertain, head coach Doc Rivers confirmed that the star guard is dealing with an Achilles strain, telling reporters that Lillard underwent an MRI.

Rivers didn’t know the results of that MRI when he spoke to the media, but he indicated that he isn’t necessarily counting on having Lillard available on Sunday, per Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“Not looking great, but we don’t know yet,” Rivers said.

As for the Bucks’ other injured star, Rivers said that Giannis Antetokounmpo (calf strain) will be working out “hard” on Sunday morning and that the team would “make a decision” on him after that (Twitter link via Jamal Collier of ESPN).

Asked if Antetokounmpo could be available for Game 4 following his Sunday morning workout, Rivers replied, “I doubt it, but we’ll see.”

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference: