Toronto Raptors

Poll: Best Unrestricted Free Agent Point Guard

Among unrestricted free agents this offseason, point guard is easily the deepest position. Stephen Curry, Kyle Lowry, George Hill, Jeff Teague, Jrue Holiday, and Derrick Rose headline this group. Deron Williams, Darren Collison, and Patty Mills are also unrestricted free agents. In all, there are 28 unrestricted free agent point guards this offseason.

Two-time MVP Curry has scarcely been mentioned as an unrestricted free agent because most take for granted that he will return to the Warriors to dominate the NBA with the likes of Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green for years to come.

Probably the second best player in this group, Lowry, will be coming off a breakout season, but he is 31 years old, has a long history of playoff struggles, and the Raptors would need to offer him a 5-year max contract. Still, Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combine for one of the most lethal backcourts in the league, and it is difficult to imagine Toronto not laying out the red carpet for its star point guard’s return.

After seven seasons with the Hawks, Teague played in all 82 games for the Pacers, averaging 15.3 PPG, 7.8 APG, and 1.2 SPG.

Although limited to 49 games due to injury in his first campaign with the Jazz, Hill averaged a career-high 16.9 PPG to go with an impressive slash line of .477/.403/.801.

Holiday shot a career-high 45.4% from the floor for the Pelicans, posting 15.4 PPG, 7.3 APG, and 1.5 SPG.

Rose, a former MVP, averaged 18.0 PPG and 4.4 APG, while shooting a stellar 47.1% in 64 games in his first season with the Knicks.

Without further ado, here’s today’s poll question: Beyond Curry and Lowry, who among this group would be most helpful for a team to sign and suit up as their starting point guard next season? Don’t limit yourself to a click of a button. Do you believe someone in the group is better than each of the available options? Are we underrating someone’s potential? Let us know in the comment section below. We look forward to your insight!

 

Atlantic Notes: Anthony, Sixers, Weltman, Stevens

Knicks legend and former Phil Jackson teammate Earl “The Pearl” Monroe tells Marc Berman of the New York Post he doesn’t believe the Zen Master surrounded Carmelo Anthony with enough help. The Knicks are coming off their fourth losing season and Jackson has made it known he wants Anthony to waive his no-trade clause and play elsewhere.

“I thought this team was going to be pretty good with Derrick Rose coming in and Courtney Lee, though I’m not sure he’s a starting guard,’’ Monroe said. “But there was no chemistry, not even in the locker room. And Melo, he has done what he was brought here to do.”

Moroe added that center Joakim Noah, who struggled with injuries and suspension in the first year of a four-year, $72MM deal, could have been the vocal leader and presence but could not do so. Anthony, 32, for his part played well, averaging 22.4 PPG and 5.9 RPG in 74 games. This offseason, however, it appears that Jackson’s objective is to trade Anthony in lieu of acquiring reinforcements for him.

Here are additional notes from the Atlantic division:

  • Jeff Goodman of ESPN joined CSN New England to discuss the Celtics and stressed that head coach Brad Stevens is the organization’s biggest draw. While Isaiah Thomas becoming an elite scorer may be enticing to some players, Goodman says that him dominating the ball for most of the game will turn away a lot of players. The Celtics, in Goodman’s view, are the closest team to winning a title that isn’t the Cavaliers, Warriors, or possible the Spurs.
  • After missing out on several future All-Star caliber talent in recent years, the 2017 NBA Draft will be crucial for the 76ers, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. In 2013, Michael Carter-Williams was Philadelphia’s first round pick (11th overall) and Rookie  of the Year. Four picks later, the team missed out on Giannis Antetokounmpo; in 2015, the team took Jahlil Okafor but missed out on talent like Kristaps Porzingis and Devin Booker.
  • Raptors President Masai Ujiri is currently searching for a replacement for the recently departed Jeff Weltman, who joined the Magic as team president. Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports (via Twitter) reports that the team is considering internal candidates with Bobby Webster as possibility.

Five Key Offseason Questions: Toronto Raptors

The Raptors remain in the midst of their best multiyear stretch in franchise history. After never winning more than 47 games in a season during the first 18 years of their existence, the Raps have topped that total in each of the last four years, recording 50+ wins for the second time in 2016/17. After winning only one playoff series in the first 20 years of the team’s existence, Toronto notched three postseason series victories in the last two seasons.

Still, the Raptors’ 2016/17 season ended on a sour note. After acquiring Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker at the trade deadline in an effort to seriously threaten the Cavaliers in the East, Toronto was thoroughly outmatched in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, failing to win a single game against Cleveland. The resounding defeat created uncertainty about what the future looks like for the Raptors, particularly since key players like Ibaka, Tucker, and Kyle Lowry are unrestricted free agents this summer.

Here are five important questions facing the Raptors as they enter the offseason…

1. Can the Raptors afford to re-sign multiple key free agents?Kyle Lowry vertical

Before considering whether or not it makes on-court sense to re-sign several of their key free agents, the Raptors will need to determine exactly how far into tax territory ownership is willing to go to keep this roster intact. With about $77MM already in guaranteed salaries on the books for 2017/18, the club would likely need to commit another $60MM+ to re-sign Lowry ($30MM), Ibaka ($20MM), and Tucker ($10MM). And that’s assuming Patrick Patterson, another valuable rotation piece, doesn’t return, since team president Masai Ujiri has said it’s not realistic to bring back all four players.

Those salary figures are estimates, but I think they’re in the general ballpark, and they’d put the Raptors way over the projected $121MM tax line. Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the company that owns the Raptors, has no shortage of money available, but it’s not like this is a championship roster that needs to be kept intact at any cost. Ownership will almost certainly draw the line somewhere — depending on where that line is drawn, it may not be realistic for the Raptors to re-sign certain free agents unless they move other contracts in trades.

2. Can the Raptors afford not to re-sign multiple key free agents?

After watching the Cavaliers’ decimation of the Raptors in this year’s playoffs, it’s easy to say Toronto should blow up its roster, focus on adding young talent, and work toward contending a few years from now, when LeBron James‘ peak is over. But that’s much easier said than done.

Read more

Raptors Work Out Multiple Prospects

Knicks Target Tucker, Cunningham, Simmons

The Knicks are putting together their free agent shopping list with an eye toward players who can contribute on offense and defense, writes Ian Begley of ESPN.com.

One of those players is Raptors small forward P.J. Tucker, who previously played for coach Jeff Hornacek in Phoenix. Hornacek describes Tucker as an intense defender and a leader in the locker room. He could also give the Knicks a 3-point threat, shooting 35.7 from long distance this season, including 40% after a midseason trade to Toronto.

Another target is Pelicans small forward Dante Cunningham, who was the top 3-point shooter in New Orleans this year at 39.2%. Cunningham is also a solid defender and helped the Pels to a 13-8 record when he played at least 28 minutes per game.

Spurs forward Jonathon Simmons has fans in the Knicks organization, but he will be in demand around the league. Simmons is a restricted free agent, so San Antonio can match any offer he receives.

New York will enter free agency with about $19MM to spend, although that number could change significantly if efforts to trade Carmelo Anthony are successful. In addition to adding talent this summer, the Knicks are hoping to retain shooting guard Justin Holiday, who played all 82 games and averaged 7.7 points per night in his first year with the team.

The Knicks may also reopen trade talks for Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio, Begley adds. New York and Minnesota discussed a deal involving Rubio at the trade deadline, and Knicks officials might still be interested.

New York will be looking for more players in the mold of Courtney Lee, who was their lone success among last summer’s major moves. Lee, who is signed for three more seasons, believes the Knicks worked out many of their problems late in the season and are headed in the right direction. He also defended center Joakim Noah, who became a lightning rod for criticism after signing a four-year, $72MM contract.

“Joakim had a lot of injuries that people weren’t aware of during the season,” Lee said. “I know how tough he is and how prideful he is and I’m looking forward to him coming back 100 percent healthy and doing what he does for us on the court. I know he will come back strong and help lead for us.”

Magic Choose Weltman As President of Basketball Operations

MAY 23, 9:31am: The Magic have announced the hiring of Weltman and will hold a press conference Wednesday, according to Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel.

MAY 22, 6:54pm: Bucks GM John Hammond also interviewed for the job, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.

5:43pm: Raptors GM Jeff Weltman has reached a five-year agreement with the Magic to become their President of Basketball Operations, sources told The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The deal was finalized in a meeting between Weltman and Orlando’s CEO Alex Martins, as well as the team’s ownership group, Wojnarowski continues. He replaces Rob Hennigan, who was fired last month.

The Magic had seriously considered making an offer to Cavaliers GM David Griffin, but focused their attention on Weltman in recent weeks, Wojnarowski adds. Weltman had been working under Raptors president Masai Ujiri. He previously had high-level jobs with the Bucks and Nuggets after starting his front-office career with the Clippers. He had been with the Raptors since 2013 after leaving the Bucks organization.

Weltman will have the ability to hire a GM who’ll report to him but Matt Lloyd, who had been serving as the interim GM, could remain with the organization, Wojnarowski adds.

The Raptors will likely fill the GM vacancy with assistant GM Bobby Webster, Toronto beat reporter Doug Smith tweets.

Draft Notes: Aldridge, Robinson, McIntosh, Kuzma

The Celtics are likely to select one of the top two point guards, Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball, rather than moving their pick, according to David Aldridge of NBA.com. Boston has to protect itself with a tough decision coming on whether to re-sign Isaiah Thomas in the summer of 2018 and Fultz would make the most sense, Aldridge continues. Ball would be a natural fit with the Lakers, while the Sixers will probably go with small forward Josh Jackson, though Kentucky’s Malik Monk is an intriguing alternative, Aldridge adds. A trade in which the Suns move up a spot to snag Jackson to settle their small forward issues isn’t out of the question, according to Aldridge, who goes through each team’s need on a pick-by-pick basis.

In other news involving the draft:

  • Austin Peay’s Josh Robinson will hire an agent, meaning he won’t be able to return to the university, Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com reports (Twitter link). The 6’2″ guard, who missed time this season after being suspended from the school’s basketball team, will look to play overseas.
  • MiKyle McIntosh is working out for the Raptors today, Goodman tweets. The Illinois State product has until Wednesday to make a final decision on entering the draft.
  • Iowa State point guard Monte Morris headed the list of prospects worked out by the Kings today, Sean Cunningham of KXTV tweets. Morris is considered second-round material by both DraftExpress and ESPN’s Chad Ford.
  • Gonzaga point guard Nigel Williams-Goss and Indiana big man Thomas Bryant were among the prospects the Lakers worked out on Monday, Robert Morales of the Orange County Register reports. None of the players Los Angeles brought in are considered first-round prospects.
  • University of Utah forward Kyle Kuzma, who has already hired an agent, will work out for the Jazz on Tuesday, according to Aaron Falk and Tony Jones of the Salt Lake City Tribune. The 6’9” Kuzma, who is considered a second-round prospect, was one of the other hopefuls who worked for the Lakers on Monday.

Bontemps Examines Raps' Future; Workouts For Leaf, Cavanaugh

No Paul George, Gordon Hayward On All-NBA Teams

The NBA has officially announced its All-NBA teams for the 2016/17 season, and neither Paul George nor Gordon Hayward is among the 15 players honored. That’s big news for both players and their teams, since they’ll be ineligible for the Designated Veteran Extension, reducing the amount of money the Pacers and Jazz – respectively – could offer their star forwards in contract extensions this offseason.

Here are this year’s All-NBA teams:

All-NBA First Team

All-NBA Second Team

All-NBA Third Team

Based on this year’s All-NBA voting results, Wall is now eligible to sign a Designated Veteran Extension this summer, while Leonard is eligible to sign one next summer. Harden, Westbrook, and Curry are also eligible to sign DVEs this summer, as Bobby Marks of The Vertical notes (via Twitter).

Those Designated Veteran Extensions – which are dependent on a player making an All-NBA team in the year before he signs an extension, or in two of the previous three years – apply to players finishing up their rookie scale extensions. They allow a player re-signing with his own team to earn up to 35% of the salary cap, rather than just 30%. So, if we assume a $101MM salary cap for 2017/18, a player like Curry could sign a new Warriors contract with a starting salary of $35.35MM, instead of $30.3MM.

The Pacers and Jazz will still be able to offer George and Hayward larger and longer contracts than any other team, but the advantage won’t be as significant as it would have been if those players had earned All-NBA spots. Teams can offer their own Bird-rights free agents up to five years (instead of four) and 8% raises (instead of 5%).

Hayward figures to opt out of his contract and become a free agent this summer, while George is expected to reach free agency in 2018. George could still become eligible for the DVE in ’18 if the Pacers hang onto him through next season and he earns All-NBA honors a year from now. However, there’s no guarantee that Indiana will be willing to take that risk.

As for the rest of the All-NBA votes, there weren’t any major surprises, particularly on the first two teams. Perhaps the biggest surprise, in a year which was dominated by four clear-cut MVP candidates, is that Harden was the only player who received 100 out of 100 possible First Team votes. Westbrook and James received 99 apiece, while Leonard received 96.

Note: Hoops Rumors readers voted last month on All-NBA teams, and our squads looked awfully close to the official ones, with a couple notable exceptions. You can check out the results of our voting right here.

Hoops Links Vol. 5: Shirley Temple Lies, Milkshake Theft, More

Welcome to the fifth installment of Hoops Links, where we round up our favorite content from around the NBA blogosphere and shine a light on it here. Every week we set out to feature entertaining, original content powered by the blogging community.

See your own piece plugged? Well done! Now share the love by spreading the word about Hoops Links – we’re talking favs, retweets, postcards to mom and everything in between. Help us build a bigger stage for your best work!

If you want to hit us up with a link in the future, make sure to drop me a line on Twitter (@AustinKent) or even just email HoopsRumorsTips@Sports.ws. Remember, we want to be intrigued and captivated. It also helps if the content is relatively fresh (considering we publish on Thursdays).

Without further ado…


With a roster full of young players and a negligible chance of winning a meaningful amount of ball games, the Suns made the decision with months remaining in the season to tank unabashedly. After Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery, in which Phoenix dropped from a projected No. 2 seed to the No. 4 seed, Adam Maynes of Valley of the Suns wrote a spirited column suggesting that the organization got what it deserved.

Rating: 9 out of 10 Angry Earl Watsons
Author: Adam Maynes – @Adam4America
Link: Phoenix Suns tank fail


Joel Embiid verticalWe’re all happy to buy into the quirky Joel Embiid narrative whenever the goofy big man does something like sip a Shirley Temple on live television. But what if we’re living a lie? Kyle Neubeck of Liberty Ballers revealed that the pink beverage at Embiid’s side during the Draft Lottery was little more than a prop.

Rating: 8 out of 10 Red Pills
Author: Kyle Neubeck – @KyleNeubeck
Link: Joel Embiid’s Shirley Temple prop


Are the Bulls less likely to deal Jimmy Butler to the Celtics now that Boston has landed the No. 1 pick in the draft? Vijay Vemu of Blog A Bull suggests as much, writing that Danny Ainge took a risk holding onto the pick at the deadline rather than going the safe route and dealing for an established star.

Rating: 7 out of 10 Fortunate Gambles
Author: Vijay Vemu – @VJVemu
Link: Jimmy Butler to Celtics less likely


The Hawks could have done more to involve Dwight Howard in their offense, Da’Vonte Hughes of Soaring Down South writes, suggesting that the big man had reason to be upset with how he was utilized during his first season Atlanta.

Rating: 8 out of 10 Neglected Supermen
Author: Da’Vonte Hughes – @CookieByNature
Link: Dwight Howard non-option for Hawks


Did you forget that Joel Anthony was still in the NBA? You aren’t alone. Dan Devine of Ball Don’t Lie noticed the big man’s name trending on Twitter and discovered that people all around the world were shocked to see the veteran big man suit up in the Spurs‘ blowout loss Wednesday.

Rating: 8 out of 10 Two-Time NBA Champions
Author: Dan Devine – @YourManDevine
Link: Joel Anthony trends on Twitter


There are similarities between Jimmy Butler and Stanley Johnson, including underwhelming freshman and sophomore seasons, says Luke Wolthuis of Piston Powered. Could Johnson, a well-built two-way forward, make a leap similar to that of Butler’s in Year 3?

Rating: 7 out of 10 Better Late Than Nevers
Author: Luke Wolthuis – @WolthuisLuke
Link: Stanley Johnson, Jimmy Butler comparison


Harrison Barnes verticalAlthough he may not win the award, Harrison Barnes deserves a spot in the Most Improved Player conversation, Sam Guertler of Mavs Moneyball suggests. The forward’s offensive game improved dramatically in his first year as a targeted weapon in Dallas, without any compromise in efficiency.

Rating: 8 out of 10 Additional Better Late Than Nevers
Author: Sam Guertler – @SamGuertler
Link: Harrison Barnes Most Improved Player


It takes a delicate balance of usefulness and expendability for a player to suit up for three different franchises in one season. This year, Ersan Ilyasova dressed for the Thunder, Sixers, and Hawks, and still managed to set a new career high for points in a season. Miles Wray of The Step Back took a good long look at how the season stands up historically.

Rating: 9 out of 10 Bonus Points For Playing For Two Altogether Different Teams Last Year
Author: Miles Wray – @MilesWray
Link: NBA players who play for three teams in one season


It was hard to evaluate the first season in the NBA for Jakob Poeltl, a lottery pick on a reigning Eastern Conference Finals squad, but Brian Boake set out to do so anyway for Raptors Rapture. In Poeltl, the Raptors have a cheap, malleable option to audition as their Stretch 5 of the Future.

Rating: 8 out of 10 Teenage Mutant Ninjas
Author: Brian Boake – @NewmarketBrian
Link: Jakob Poeltl’s future with Raptors


Over the years, Gregg Popovich has simply owned Mike D’Antoni in the NBA playoffs, so much so that the J.R. Wilco over at Pounding the Rock had a particularly specific video commissioned just to drive home the point.

Rating: 9 out of 10 Academy Award-Winning Method Actors
Author: J.R. Wilco – @JRWilco
Link: Gregg Popovich, Mike D’Antoni History

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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