Raptors Rumors

Cox: Should Raptors Even Be Pursuing Durant?

  • Damien Cox of The Toronto Star considers whether or not the Raptors should be seriously pursuing Durant, given the way the Nets forward’s recent demands have defied the “traditional owner-management-coach-player hierarchy” and the effect that could have on the culture the team has built in Toronto.

No Changes To U.S.-Canada Border Rules For Unvaccinated NBA Players

The NBA informed teams today in a memo that, as things currently stand, players who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 without a valid medical reason will remain ineligible to play games in Toronto for the 2022/23 season, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report (Twitter link).

Fischer’s report is missing some key contextual information. For one, the policy that prevents unvaccinated players from playing in Toronto wasn’t implemented by the Raptors or the NBA, but by the Canadian government, which has restrictions against non-residents entering the county without being vaccinated.

Last season, there were no exemptions from this rule for NBA players, and it appears that won’t change going forward.

It’s also worth noting that the United States has a border policy on unvaccinated travelers that’s virtually identical to Canada’s (it’s why, for instance, tennis star Novak Djokovic isn’t expected to be eligible to play in the U.S. Open later this month). However, since most NBA travel takes place domestically within the U.S., that policy doesn’t prevent unvaccinated players from suiting up in any cities besides Toronto unless that city has a specific vaccine mandate of its own, as New York did for much of the 2022/23 season.

There has been no indication that the Canadian government will drop its vaccination requirement for travelers anytime soon, which is presumably why the NBA sent out a memo to teams now reminding them of that policy. But if that requirement is amended or dropped at some point during the 2022/23 season, there’s no reason to believe the NBA would institute any new restrictions preventing unvaccinated players from traveling back and forth across the U.S.-Canada border.

A huge majority of NBA players are vaccinated against COVID-19 — the exact percentage was estimated last season to be around 97%. So only a small handful of players, including Nets star Kyrie Irving, figure to be affected by the border policy.

Nets’ Durant Reportedly Reiterates Trade Request, Gives Tsai Ultimatum

In a face-to-face meeting with Nets owner Joe Tsai in London on Saturday, star forward Kevin Durant reiterated his desire to be traded and gave Tsai an ultimatum, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

According to Charania, Durant told the Nets owner that he needs to choose between trading him or firing general manager Sean Marks and head coach Steve Nash. Durant said that he doesn’t have faith in the team’s direction, sources tell The Athletic.

Charania says his sources described Saturday’s meeting as “transparent and professional,” adding that the Nets have “direct knowledge of the reasons behind Durant’s request” and have reason to believe he’ll be resolute in his stance. People around the NBA have speculated about the possibility that the two-time Finals MVP won’t report to training camp if the Nets don’t make a deal within the next seven weeks, per Charania.

Sources tell The Athletic that Brooklyn has spoken to nearly every team in the NBA about a possible Durant trade, but no club has met the Nets’ “sky-high” asking price. According to Charania, the Celtics, Heat, and Raptors are widely viewed as the most legitimate suitors for the 33-year-old, who is entering the first season of a four-year, maximum-salary extension.

Charania cites sources who say that Tsai and the Nets have “made clear privately that they will take every last asset from a team that trades for Durant.” However, it’s hard to see how the team has the leverage to make that sort of deal, given these latest developments in the summer saga.

Of course, Marks and Nash held their current positions when Durant signed that four-year extension a year ago, and the star forward was believed to have played a role in Nash’s hiring in the first place, back in 2020. It’s unclear why Durant has soured to such a significant extent on Brooklyn’s leadership group.

It’s possible Durant’s dissatisfaction is related, at least in part, to the team’s handling of his good friend Kyrie Irving. The Nets refused to allow Irving to be a part-time player during the first half of last season when vaccine requirements prohibited him from playing home games. The club then opted against offering Kyrie a lucrative long-term extension this offseason.

While recent reports have indicated that Irving plans to be a Net to start the 2022/23 season, there’s a belief that Brooklyn will seriously consider trading him if and when the team finds a Durant deal it likes.

Checking In Again On Unsigned 2022 Draft Picks

We’re about a month-and-a-half removed from the 2022 NBA draft, and – as our tracker shows – 46 of the 58 players selected on June 23 have signed their first NBA contracts.

The 12 unsigned players are as follows:

  1. Toronto Raptors: Christian Koloko, F/C
  2. Detroit Pistons: Gabriele Procida, G
  3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Khalifa Diop, C
  4. New Orleans Pelicans: E.J. Liddell, F
  5. Denver Nuggets: Ismael Kamagate, C
  6. Indiana Pacers: Kendall Brown, F
  7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Matteo Spagnolo, G
  8. New Orleans Pelicans: Karlo Matkovic, F
  9. Washington Wizards: Yannick Nzosa, C
  10. Golden State Warriors: Gui Santos, F
  11. Cleveland Cavaliers: Luke Travers, G/F
  12. Milwaukee Bucks: Hugo Besson, G

Most of these prospects will likely spend the 2022/23 season playing in non-NBA leagues around the world. Procida, Diop, Kamagate, Spagnolo, Matkovic, Nzosa, Santos, Travers, and Besson are all good bets to be draft-and-stash players.

That essentially just leaves three 2022 draftees in limbo: Koloko, Liddell, and Brown.

A player selected within the first five picks of the second round, like Koloko was, virtually always receives a multiyear contract that includes at least a year or two of guaranteed money. It’s hard to imagine that won’t be the case for Koloko, despite the Raptors‘ roster crunch. Toronto already has 13 players on guaranteed contracts, with three players on partial guarantees vying for a regular season spot, so if Koloko signs, it would leave one fewer spot up for grabs.

It’s worth noting that once Koloko officially signs, he’ll be ineligible to be traded for 30 days, so it’s possible the Raptors are keeping their options open in case their Kevin Durant trade talks with the Nets get serious.

Toronto may also be mulling whether to use a portion of its mid-level exception to sign Koloko to a contract that spans three or four years. Taking that route, instead of signing him to a two-year, minimum-salary contract, would ensure he remains under team control for an extra season or two, but would hard-cap the Raptors for the 2022/23 season, since the club already used $6MM of its MLE to sign Otto Porter.

Liddell, meanwhile, suffered an unfortunate break to begin his professional career, tearing his ACL during the Las Vegas Summer League. Before he sustained that injury, the question was probably whether Liddell would receive a standard contract or a two-way deal. Now, the question is whether New Orleans still willing to sign him to a two-way contract or whether the team wants to use that slot on someone who could actually contribute on the court in 2022/23.

If they fill their two-way slots, the Pelicans would probably like to see Liddell sign a G League contract and spend the season rehabbing with the Birmingham Squadron before he signs his first NBA deal a year from now.

As for Brown, it remains to be seen whether he’ll begin the season on the Pacers‘ standard 15-man roster or on a two-way deal. For now, Indiana could go in either direction, but the club could be waiting to see whether there are any more trades to be made before training camp begins — if the Pacers were to complete a deal involving Myles Turner and/or Buddy Hield, the number of players they receive in that trade would have an impact on whether or not there’s room on the standard roster for Brown.

For example, if Indiana send Turner and Hield to the Lakers in exchange for Russell Westbrook and draft assets, then bought out Westbrook, it would open up two extra spots on the projected 15-man roster. In that scenario, signing Brown to a three- or four-year standard contract would make sense.

25 Of NBA’s 30 Teams Have Made At Least One Offseason Trade

Since the 2022 NBA offseason began, 26 trades have been made, as our tracker shows. A total of 25 teams have been involved in those 26 deals, with 15 clubs (half the league) completing multiple trades.

The Raptors, Heat, Bulls, Pelicans, and Clippers are the only teams that have not been part of at least one trade since their seasons ended this spring. While most of those clubs were pretty active in free agency, it has been an especially quiet offseason in New Orleans, where the Pelicans also haven’t made a single free agent signing.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Timberwolves have been the NBA’s most active team on the trade market this summer, with new president of basketball operations Tim Connelly putting his stamp on the franchise in his first few months on the job. After making four draft-night deals in June, Minnesota finalized the offseason’s biggest trade by acquiring Rudy Gobert from the Jazz just over a month ago.

The Hawks and Knicks, with four deals apiece, have been the next most active teams on the trade market. A pair of Atlanta’s moves were minor, but the other two – acquiring Dejounte Murray and sending Kevin Huerter to Sacramento – will have a major impact on the team going forward. As for New York, most of Leon Rose‘s deals involved shuffling around draft picks and clearing cap room for the team’s free agent signings of Jalen Brunson and Isaiah Hartenstein.

Here are a few more details on this summer’s 26 trades:

  • The Pacers, Pistons, Nuggets, Grizzlies, and Kings have each made three trades. The other teams to make multiple deals are the Hornets, Thunder, Jazz, Trail Blazers, Mavericks, Rockets, and Spurs, with two apiece.
  • That leaves the Sixers, Nets, Celtics, Cavaliers, Bucks, Magic, Wizards, Lakers, Warriors, and Suns as the clubs that have each completed just one trade.
  • All 26 of this offseason’s trades have consisted of just two teams, with no three- or four-team deals made so far. A draft-night agreement involving the Hornets, Knicks, and Pistons was originally reported as a three-team trade, but was ultimately completed as two separate deals.
  • Not a single player has been signed-and-traded so far during the 2022 offseason. That’s pretty surprising, since 27 free agents changed teams via sign-and-trade in the three years from 2019-21 and only four teams used cap room this offseason — sign-and-trades are typically more common in years when most clubs are operating over the cap.
  • Eight first round picks from the 2022 draft were traded this summer, and four of those were dealt twice: Jalen Duren (Charlotte to New York to Detroit); Walker Kessler (Memphis to Minnesota to Utah); Wendell Moore (Dallas to Houston to Minnesota); and TyTy Washington (Memphis to Minnesota to Houston).
  • Another dozen second round 2022 picks changed hands this offseason, including one that was on the move twice (No. 46 pick Ismael Kamagate from Detroit to Portland to Denver).
  • A total of 15 future round picks (2023 and beyond) were included in trades this summer, including a pair that changed hands twice. Six of those first round picks were unprotected, while nine included protections.
  • Another 19 future second round picks (2023 and beyond) were also traded, with two of those 19 dealt twice. All but one of those traded second rounders was unprotected.

NBA Schedule Not Expected For At Least Another Week

Everyone eagerly anticipating the release of the schedule for the 2022/23 season will have to wait a little longer, according to NBA insider Marc Stein (Twitter link). Sources tell Stein that the schedule isn’t expected to be revealed until after next week, which puts the date sometime in mid-August.

The league typically releases its schedule during the second week of August, although that has been affected over the past two years by shortened offseasons caused by the pandemic. Last year’s schedule was announced on August 20.

Possible trades involving Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Donovan Mitchell may be slowing the process this summer as the schedule makers wait to see if any of those situations get resolved before locking in prime TV dates.

A few things are known about the upcoming season, including league-wide media days on September 26, followed by the start of training camps a day later. The Pistons and Bulls will travel to France for the January 19 NBA Paris Game, according to the league’s website, and All-Star Weekend is set for February 17-19 in Salt Lake City.

The preseason schedule is virtually set and will begin with the defending champion Warriors facing the Wizards in Tokyo for a pair of games September 30 and October 2. The Raptors and Jazz will meet October 2 in Edmonton, the Bucks and Hawks will square off October 6 and 8 in Abu Dhabi, and the Raptors and Celtics will play Oct. 15 in Montreal.

Based on past schedules, the 2022/23 regular season will likely tip off on October 18.

Atlantic Notes: Brunson, Irving, Raptors

As the NBA continues its investigation into the timing of the Knicks‘ free agent acquisition of point guard Jalen BrunsonFred Katz of The Athletic parses through the extant evidence. Rumors ahead of 2022 free agency suggested Brunson would leave the Mavericks for the Knicks to the tune of a fresh four-year, $104MM deal. When that chatter proved to be true, the league opted to look into just what transpired, and when.

Katz notes that it’s difficult to discern just what kind of pre-free agency conversations the NBA will frown upon, in part given the fact that Jalen’s father, former New York point guard Rick Brunson, was hired as an assistant coach under Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau in June. Knicks team president Leon Rose, once an NBA agent representing Rick, has known both Brunsons for decades.

Last year, the league opted to penalize the Bulls and Heat for what it perceived to be tampering violations in their 2021 sign-and-trade moves for Lonzo Ball and Kyle Lowry, respectively. Each team was forced to surrender an upcoming second-round pick. This year, in addition to the Knicks, the NBA is also investigating the Sixers for possible tampering violations.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • When Nets point guard Kyrie Irving returned to his native New Jersey for his pro-am “More Than A Run” All-Star Game at Kean University, Brooklyn made a point to showcase the moment on the team’s official social media platforms. In an effort to read the tea leaves, Adam Zagoria of NJ.com suggests that it appears to be increasingly possible Irving returns to Brooklyn this fall, rather than being offloaded in a trade ahead of the season. Kyrie’s teammates Kessler Edwards, David Duke Jr., and Royce O’Neale were all in attendance at the New Jersey event.
  • Heat point guard Kyle Lowry, at some point during his successful run with the Raptors, attempted to lure Vince Carter back to Toronto, Lowry revealed on Carter’s podcast The Vince Carter Show (Twitter video link via Uninterrupted Canada). “I tried to get Vince back with us at one point,” Lowry said. “We had conversations,” Carter confirmed. “We tried to get it done, it didn’t work out,” Lowry continued. “I was one of the biggest advocates that tried to get him back in Toronto and Vince was all-in.” It is unclear exactly when this recruitment transpired, but presumably this came fairly late in Carter’s illustrious career. The Raptors originally drafted Carter with the fifth pick out of North Carolina. The 6’6″ wing was named to his first five All-Star teams while with Toronto, before eventually being traded to the Nets in the midst of what was to be his sixth consecutive All-Star season in 2004/05. An eight-time All-Star overall, Carter would go on to play for an NBA-record 22 seasons. He finally retired at age 43 in 2020, following a two-year stint as a bench role player with the Hawks.
  • In case you missed it, 6’11” Serbian power forward/center Filip Petrusev, who was drafted with the No. 50 pick by the Sixers in 2021, expressed confidence in Philadelphia’s developmental plan for him. Petrusev, a native Serbian, will suit up for Serbian club Crvena Zvezda during the 2022/23 season.

Atlantic Notes: Grimes, Vonleh, Nurse, Maxey, Rivers

In an effort to upgrade his skills on the ball and as a play-maker, second-year Knicks guard Quentin Grimes trained with four-time NBA All-Star and current University of Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway for a second consecutive offseason, per Zach Braziller of the New York Post (subscription required).

“He’s kind of like a big uncle to me,” Grimes said of Hardaway. “Just took me under his wing and helped me play the point guard position a lot better, because that’s what I was in high school… Last year, they didn’t necessarily need me to do that — got to come in, play extremely hard on defense, knock down shots. I feel like next year my role will be expanded a little bit more. … I’m a scorer, really. I love getting to the mid-range, getting all the way to the rim, getting fouled. I like having an all-around game.”

The 6’5″ shooting guard out of Houston was selected with the No. 25 pick in the 2021 draft. A right kneecap injury and a bout with COVID-19 limited his on-court availability to just 46 contests. In 17.1 MPG, he averaging 6.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.0 APG and 0.7 SPG. As Braziller writes, Grimes shone bright during Summer League in Las Vegas last month, averaging 21.4 PPG on 41% field goal shooting, plus 4.2 RPG and 4.0 APG.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Jared Weiss of The Athletic explores how 2014 lottery pick Noah Vonleh could help the Celtics if he makes the team’s 15-man regular season roster following his training camp audition. Weiss thinks Boston could benefit from Vonleh’s abilities as a screener with some defensive versatility as a post presence. In 339 games played for seven teams, the 26-year-old holds averages of 4.9 PPG and 5.1 RPG. He spent last year with the Shanghai Sharks of the CBA. In terms of NBA action, Vonleh most recently suited up for the Nets during the 2020/21 season.
  • Raptors head coach Nick Nurse is preparing to juggle the challenge of doling out time for three exciting bench players who are still in early phases of their NBA development, per Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. When it comes allocating rotation minutes for Malachi Flynn, Dalano Banton and Justin Champagnie, Nurse spoke candidly about his approach. “I can envision sitting in front of [media members] a lot here coming up in these press conferences, pre- and post-game, asking me about why he played and why he didn’t,” Nurse said. “I think there will be some serious finessing about it, but it’s turning in my head a little bit and I can see us using a lot of them different ways.”
  • During an appearance on the Vince Carter Show podcast, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers heaped praise on breakout shooting guard Tyrese Maxey (h/t to Adam Herman of NBC Sports Philadelphia for the transcription). “He’s the most impressive young player I’ve ever had, in 21 years of coaching,” Rivers said. “His work ethic, Vince, is beyond belief.” As Herman notes, Rivers has coached All-Stars like Blake Griffin, Al Jefferson, Ben Wallace, and Rajon Rondo in similarly early phases of their NBA careers. Maxey enjoyed an excellent second season in 2021/22. His 17.5 PPG, 4.3 APG, and 3.2 RPG are all almost double his rookie season output.

Heat Notes: Lowry, Crowder, Yurtseven, Jovic

Heat point guard Kyle Lowry still won’t reveal the specifics of the family situation that caused him to miss nine games in January and February, and he tells Doug Smith of The Toronto Star that it hasn’t been fully resolved. Lowry said the issue continued to be a distraction even after he resumed playing.

“It’s definitely something that kind of derailed my whole season and kept me derailed for a long time,” Lowry said. “Still to this day, it’s still something I deal with every single day, I actually got a phone call just now about it. It’s life, life happens and you just have to continue to get better and focus on the things you can control and try to help as best you can because at the end of the day, I can’t do this or that, all I can do is go to people who can help me and hopefully I can help them and we can kind of work together and collaborate.”

Lowry was in Toronto today to take part in the Nick Nurse Foundation golf tournament. Even though he chose to leave the Raptors in free agency last summer, Lowry has remained friendly with his former coach.

“Nick’s a friend of mine and we got closer and closer and as the years went on we trusted each other more and more,” Lowry said. “To keep a relationship with a guy like him, obviously I’m here for a reason, he’s such a great man, he’s helped me in my career tremendously and all I can do is try to give back as much to him as he’s given to me.”

There’s more on the Heat:

  • Miami would be interested in bringing back versatile forward Jae Crowder, but there’s no easy way to match salaries in a trade with the Suns, tweets Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Crowder, who is entering the final year of his contract, raised some eyebrows this week when he tweeted“Change is inevitable.. Growth is optional.!! I believe its time for a change… I wanna continue growing!” Although Crowder doesn’t specify that he’s talking about basketball, the message has led to speculation that he wants to play somewhere else.
  • Omer Yurtseven will have to improve defensively to earn regular playing time, per Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Winderman adds that the Heat view Yurtseven as a backup to starting center Bam Adebayo, but he’ll have to compete with Dewayne Dedmon for those minutes.
  • First-round pick Nikola Jovic won’t play for the Serbian national team in the World Cup qualifier or EuroBasket, according to Winderman (Twitter link). Jovic will focus on preparing for Miami’s training camp, which starts in late September. Yurtseven is also expected to bypass international competitions with Turkey (Twitter link).