Raptors Rumors

Free Agent Stock Watch 2020: Atlantic 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 take a look at players from the Atlantic Division:

Furkan Korkmaz, Sixers, 22, SG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $3.34MM deal in 2019
This was the player the Sixers envisioned when they made Korkmaz a draft-and-stash pick in 2016. Korkmaz has become a steady presence in Philadelphia’s rotation and is averaging 8.9 PPG while shooting 39.5% from deep. He’s made a significant impact in the last five games, averaging 16.6 PPG while lifting the Sixers to four victories. With Josh Richardson out a few weeks with a hamstring injury, Korkmaz figures to get even more playing time in the near future. Korkmaz’s $1.76MM contract for next season isn’t guaranteed but it’s a foregone conclusion Philadelphia will retain him.

Joe Harris, Nets, 28, SF (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $16MM deal in 2018
Overall, Harris’ numbers are virtually identical to last season’s output, other than a dropoff from an outstanding 47.4% success rate on 3-point tries to a still very solid 40.8%. However, like his team, Harris has been in a slump. He’s scored 13 or fewer points in his last seven games and made seven more turnovers than 3-pointers during that stretch. Harris is too established to stay in this funk for very long. He will still receive offers well above his current salary of $7.67MM but stretches like this might temper some of the enthusiasm for his services when he heads into unrestricted free agency this summer.

Wayne Ellington, Knicks, 32, SG (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $16MM deal in 2019
Ellington had a couple of good years in Miami and gave Detroit a lift during the second half of last season but he’s been a non-factor with the Knicks. Ellington has only appeared in 23 games, averaging 4.0 PPG in 14.3 MPG while making just 30.9% of his 3-point attempts. If Ellington isn’t knocking down his threes, there’s no reason to play him. Ellington hasn’t seen any court time since January 14. Only $1MM of Ellington’s $8MM contract for next season is guaranteed. Safe to say that Ellington will not have to other $7MM forwarded to his bank account. He may struggle to find anything more than the veteran’s minimum on the market this summer.

Fred VanVleet, Raptors, 25, SG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $18MM deal in 2018
The arrow continues to point upward for the fourth-year guard, whose production has steadily climbed as his playing time has expanded. VanVleet has missed some games this season due to injuries, most recently a hamstring strain. In the 34 games he’s started, he’s averaging 18.5 PPG, 6.8 APG and 2.0 SPG while shooting 40.2% on 3-point attempts. In the first three games since returning to action, VanVleet averaged 23.7 PPG and made 14 of 19 3-point attempts. He could be looking at offers in the $20-25MM per year range as an unrestricted free agent.

Enes Kanter, Celtics, 27, C (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $9.77MM deal in 2019
Kanter was the third overall pick in the draft back in 2011, so it’s easy to overlook the fact he’s still just 27 years old. Kanter has always been a double-double machine when given extended minutes. He’s averaging 18.5 MPG, his lowest amount of court time since the 2012-13 season with Utah. Yet he’s posted six doubles-doubles since New Year’s Eve, including a game-changing 18-point, 11-rebound outing against the Lakers this week. Kanter holds a $5MM player option on his contract for next season. He might test the market again and see if he can get a better deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ujiri: Raptors Will "Die Trying" To Defend Their Title

  • While there has been speculation since Kawhi Leonard‘s departure last summer that the Raptors could become sellers due to their expiring veteran contracts, their success this season has made that increasingly unlikely. President of basketball operations Masai Ujiri essentially confirmed as much this week when he said the Raps will “die trying” to defend their title, as Julia Kreuz of Sportsnet.ca relays. “If we do something (on the trade market), it’s out of the fact that we think this is giving us a chance, or a bigger chance, and right now I think we have that chance, if we continue to play ball and continue to figure it out,” Ujiri said.
  • The Nets‘ and Raptors‘ G League teams swapped a pair of players with NBA experience, as the Raptors 905 traded swingman Justin Anderson to the Long Island Nets for big man Henry Ellenson. Ellenson was a two-way player for Brooklyn earlier in the season, while Anderson was on a 10-day contract with the Nets this month. Kelsea O’Brien of Raptors Republic first reported the deal (via Twitter).

Poll: Eastern Conference’s No. 2 Seed

Barring a major second-half swoon, the Bucks won’t give up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference this season. At 38-6, Milwaukee is on pace to win over 70 games and currently has an eight-game cushion over the next-best team in the conference.

While the race for the top seed in the East may already be over, a fascinating race is developing for the No. 2 spot. With six potential contenders in the conference, the importance of nabbing that second seed shouldn’t be understated. Not only would it set up a first-round matchup against a less dangerous opponents like the Magic or Nets, it would also mean avoiding the Bucks until the Eastern Conference Finals and holding home court advantage for two rounds.

As we enter the second half of the season, the Heat currently hold the second seed, but the margin is extremely tight. Here’s what the standings look like for the five teams vying for the No. 2 seed, entering today’s action:

  1. Miami Heat (29-13)
  2. Toronto Raptors (28-14)
  3. Boston Celtics (27-14)
  4. Indiana Pacers (28-15)
  5. Philadelphia 76ers (28-16)

All five teams are separated by just two games, so one hot or cold streak could have a significant impact on seeding. Just ask the Celtics, who could fall out of the top four tonight for the first time since October if their current losing streak extends to four games.

With a real incentive tied to claiming the No. 2 seed, the second-half race among these five teams should be fascinating. The Raptors finally have a healthy roster, and the Pacers will be getting star guard Victor Oladipo back next week. The Sixers have been shakier than expected all year long, but showed their upside on Christmas Day when they dismantled the Bucks. The Celtics and the Heat are in position to potentially upgrade their rosters at the trade deadline if they so choose.

Of course, we should also consider each team’s second-half schedule. According to Tankathon.com, the Heat, Sixers, and Raptors have three of the NBA’s easiest remaining slates, while the Pacers’ schedule ranks in the middle of the pack and the Celtics’ is the eighth-hardest.

What do you think? Which of these five teams do you like best to finish the season strong and claim the No. 2 seed in the East?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

23 Trade Exceptions To Expire Within Next Month

As NBA teams consider their trade options before the February 6 deadline, it’s worth keeping in mind that a number of clubs hold traded player exceptions. These traded player exceptions allow over-the-cap clubs to acquire a player – or multiple players – whose salary fits within the TPE without having to send out any salary in return.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors Glossary: Traded Player Exception]

Traded player exceptions can’t be combined with another salary or exception and often aren’t worth much, so most of them ultimately go unused. Still, they can come in handy every now and then, particularly for under-the-tax clubs that don’t mind adding a little more money to their books.

Last season, a total of 23 trades were completed between January 22 and February 7, resulting in 23 trade exceptions that haven’t yet been used or renounced and will expire if they’re not used by this year’s trade deadline.

Here are those traded player exceptions, listed in order of value, with the expiration date noted in parentheses for each TPE:

  • Dallas Mavericks: $11,825,694 (2/7)
  • Miami Heat: $6,270,000 (2/7)
  • Houston Rockets: $3,620,016 (2/7)
  • Houston Rockets: $3,206,160 (2/7)
  • Toronto Raptors: $2,536,898 (2/7)
  • Detroit Pistons: $2,500,000 (2/6)
  • Portland Trail Blazers: $1,740,000 (2/7)
  • Houston Rockets: $1,621,415 (2/7)
  • Toronto Raptors: $1,569,360 (2/6)
  • Cleveland Cavaliers: $1,544,951 (2/7)
  • Houston Rockets: $1,544,951 (2/7)
  • Oklahoma City Thunder: $1,544,951 (2/3)
  • Cleveland Cavaliers: $1,512,601 (2/7)
  • Houston Rockets: $1,512,601 (1/22)
  • Houston Rockets: $1,512,601 (2/7)
  • Memphis Grizzlies: $1,512,601 (2/7)
  • Toronto Raptors: $1,512,601 (2/7)
  • Dallas Mavericks: $1,233,152 (1/31)
  • Detroit Pistons: $1,140,682 (2/7)
  • Washington Wizards: $311,913 (2/6)
  • Cleveland Cavaliers: $266,728 (2/4)
  • Memphis Grizzlies: $184,467 (2/7)
  • Washington Wizards: $183,148 (2/7)

For the full list of traded player exceptions currently available, including a Warriors TPE worth $17MM that probably can’t be used until July, click here.

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Rose, Wooten, Anderson

There are few players who are off the table in trade talks for the Knicks, as I recently wrote for SLAM Magazine. RJ Barrett, who injured his ankle earlier tonight, and Mitchell Robinson are both unlikely to be dealt. Everyone else on the roster seems available for the right price, including Marcus Morris, who returned from a five-game absence in the loss tonight.

As we wait to see which players from New York get traded before the deadline, let’s take a look around the Atlantic Division:

  • Should the Sixers trade for Derrick Rose? ESPN’s Tracy McGrady (video link) believes the point guard could be the right target for Philadelphia at this year’s trade deadline.
  • Kenny Wooten‘s two-way contract with the Knicks runs through two seasons, ESPN Bobby Mark tweets. Wooten’s deal is just one of seven like it in the NBA.
  • Javonte Green is getting a chance to live out his dream with the Celtics, as he tells NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg.“When I first got the offer from [Danny Ainge], it was a dream come true,” said Green. “I still don’t think it’s really hit me. But every day, a random day, I can just be going to the grocery store, and I’m like, ‘Yo, I’m really in the NBA.’”
  • Justin Anderson will re-join the Raptors‘ G League affiliate, per the team’s Twitter feed. Anderson was with the Raptors 905 before signing a 10-day deal with Brooklyn.

Raptors Waive Shamorie Ponds, Sign Paul Watson

5:50pm: The Raptors have officially signed Watson to a two-way deal, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN.

7:39am: The Raptors are making a change to one of their two-way contract slots, announcing this morning in a press release that they’ve waived guard Shamorie Ponds. According to Brad Rowland of UPROXX Sports (Twitter link), guard Paul Watson is expected to sign a two-way deal with Toronto.

Ponds, 21, joined the Rockets last summer after going undrafted out of St. John’s. He was cut at the end of the preseason and appeared to be on track to join Houston’s G League affiliate. Instead, he was scooped up a few days later by the Raptors, who signed him to a two-way contract.

While he didn’t see much NBA action, logging 11 total minutes in four games, Ponds has been a regular part of the rotation for the Raptors 905 in the G League. He has averaged 14.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.3 APG, and 2.1 APG in 18 NBAGL contests (28.1 MPG).

As for Watson, he spent most of the season with the Raptors 905 too before signing a 10-day contract with the Hawks on January 6. Atlanta released Watson on Tuesday, a day before that deal was set to expire. If he had played out his full 10-day pact, he wouldn’t have been eligible to sign a two-way contract before today’s deadline, so the Hawks did him a favor by letting him go early.

The 25-year-old Fresno State alum has averaged 18.4 PPG and 7.4 RPG with a .533 FG% and .467 3PT% in 13 games (34.4 MPG) for Toronto’s G League affiliate this season. Now that the Raptors are getting healthy, Watson will likely continue to spend most of his time at the NBAGL level, rather than with the NBA club.

Marc Gasol Ready To Return For Raptors

After getting two injured players – Pascal Siakam and Norman Powell – back on Sunday, the Raptors will get more reinforcements on Wednesday, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca, who tweets that Marc Gasol is set to return to the team. The big man has been sidelined since December 18 due to a hamstring injury.

With Gasol healthy again, the Raptors will have a decision to make. Gasol was the team’s starting center before going on the injured list, but Serge Ibaka has been playing some of his best basketball in years during Gasol’s absence, averaging 18.1 PPG and 10.3 RPG with a .541 FG% and a .441 3PT% in 12 games as a starter.

According to Raptors lead assistant coach Adrian Griffin, head coach Nick Nurse will make the decision on who will start at center (Twitter link via Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun). Nurse likes to experiment with his lineups and may try different combinations when Gasol returns, but I’d be surprised if the former Defensive Player of the Year doesn’t reclaim his starting spot, either right away or down the road.

Gasol and Ibaka are on expiring contracts, so both veteran Raptors centers will be motivated to finish the season strong.

Siakam, Powell Return To Raptors

Rising Raptors star power forward Pascal Siakam and guard Norman Powell will both return to the starting five for Toronto in Sunday’s game against the Spurs, TSN’s Josh Lewenberg reports (Twitter link). Both will be placed on a minutes limit in their first game back since December. Lewenberg also notes that starting center Marc Gasol remains out (Twitter link).

Siakam, Powell, and Gasol, all Raptors starters, had all been sidelined indefinitely since a December 19 tilt against the Pistons. Siakam had been battling a stretched groin, Gasol a hamstring injury, and Powell a subluxation of his left shoulder.

Siakam is currently third in Eastern Conference All-Star frontcourt balloting, with 1,730,763 fan votes received as of January 9th, according to an Associated Press report (link via SI.com).

A fantastic two-way player, the 6’9″ Siakam had emerged as a borderline MVP candidate with his sterling performance for the 25-13 Raptors. For the 2019/20 season, the No. 27 pick in the 2016 NBA draft out of New Mexico State is averaging career-highs of 25.1 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 3.6 APG, 81.3% free throw shooting, and 39.2% shooting on 6.3 three-point attempts across 27 games.

Powell has also taken a leap this season, logging a career-high slash line of 14.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.1 SPG, and 4.9 three-point attempts per game. The 6’3″ shooting guard, drafted No. 46 out of UCLA in 2015, is connecting on 38.9% of those looks. Powell has also been appearing in a career-high 28.9 minutes a night for the Raptors.

DeRozan Remains Polarizing As He Returns To Face Raptors

  • Polarizing, old-fashioned Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan returns to the team for whom he made four All-Star appearances today, the Raptors, as Josh Lewenberg of TSN reports. His former teammate, current Raptors All-Star Kyle Lowry, reflected on his contributions to Toronto basketball. “I think he poured his heart into the city,” Lowry said. “He gave the city and lot and the city [saw] him grow from a boy to being a man.”