- Danny Green‘s free agency decision won’t alter the direction of the Raptors in the same way that Kawhi Leonard‘s will, but Green has been a crucial piece in Toronto this season and is also on an expiring contract. As James Herbert of CBSSports.com writes, Green is enjoying his time with the Raptors and wouldn’t mind staying with the club beyond this season — alongside Leonard. “I hope he sticks around as long as I’m here,” Green said of Kawhi. “And I hope to stick around.”
- Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri is doing some in-person scouting in Lithuania, according to Donatas Urbonas, who tweets that Ujiri watched top prospect Deividas Sirvydis this week (hat tip to Sportando). ESPN’s Jonathan Givony had the Lithuanian forward ranked at No. 31 in his most recent mock draft.
- Patrick McCaw‘s first few months of the season have been eventful. He sat out the start of the year as he looked to maximize his earnings from the Warriors as an RFA, then signed an offer sheet with Cleveland. However, days later, the Cavaliers waived him. After signing with the Raptors, he’s thrilled with the new opportunity, Laura Armstrong of The Toronto Star writes.
- Blake Murphy of The Athletic examines how the NBA’s roster rules brought the Raptors to sign Patrick McCaw as a free agent. The Cavaliers waived McCaw days after signing him in restricted free agency, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent and sign with any team. McCaw is expected to provide backcourt depth for the Raptors as they ready themselves for a deep postseason run.
JANUARY 10: Patrick McCaw has officially signed his one-year contract with the Raptors, according to the NBA’s transactions log. McCaw was waived by the Cavaliers on Monday, allowing him to enter unrestricted free agency and sign with any team.
JANUARY 9: Shooting guard Patrick McCaw will sign with the Raptors, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. McCaw, who cleared waivers today, will receive a one-year deal worth $786K, the pro-rated amount of the veterans’ minimum, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).
The signing will end an eventful two-week odyssey for McCaw that will eventually leave him right where he started. Because he is set to sign a one-year contract, he will become a restricted free agent again at the end of the season if the Raptors submit a qualifying offer, and the team will be able to match any offer he receives.
McCaw had been waiting for a contract since July, but nothing materialized until December 28 when the Cavaliers signed him to a non-guaranteed offer sheet worth $6MM over two years. The Warriors elected not to match, sending him to Cleveland, but only for a few days. The Cavs waived McCaw on Sunday, paying him about $323K for his brief stay with the team.
McCaw spent his first two NBA seasons with Golden State, but turned down a qualifying offer from the team over the summer and a subsequent two-year, $5.2MM offer with only a guarantee on the first year. That still would have paid him substantially more than he will make in about a half season with the Cavs and Raptors. McCaw explained that he didn’t want to re-sign with the Warriors because he was seeking “a new opportunity.”
The NBA plans to review the unusual way that Cleveland handled the McCaw situation. There are accusations that the Cavaliers circumvented the salary cap, signing McCaw only so he could have a path toward unrestricted free agency with no intention of keeping him. The franchise faces fines or a loss of draft picks if the league determines something inappropriate happened. McCaw played just three games during his time in Cleveland, averaging 1.7 PPG.
The expected signing will bring Toronto back to the league minimum of 14 players and increase the team’s projected luxury tax bill by $2.56MM to $34.74MM, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). The bill was at $34.5MM before Lorenzo Brown was waived on Monday.
Over the course of the 2018/19 NBA season, up until February’s trade deadline, we’re keeping an eye on potential trade candidates from around the NBA, monitoring their value and exploring the likelihood that they’ll be moved. Each of these looks at possible trade candidates focuses on a specific division, as we zero in on three players from that division.
The Atlantic was viewed as one of the NBA’s most top-heavy divisions entering the season, with experts and fans banking on the Celtics, Raptors, and Sixers to be the top three teams in the East. Those teams have – for the most part – delivered on expectations (they’re all on pace for 50+ wins), and now a fourth Atlantic club has unexpectedly entered the playoff picture — the 21-22 Nets currently hold the No. 6 seed. As a result, the division could feature four buyers at the trade deadline next month.
Here’s our latest look at a few possible trade candidates from the Atlantic…
Enes Kanter, C
New York Knicks
$18.62MM cap hit; unrestricted free agent in 2019
As talented as Kanter is as an inside scorer and rebounder, he doesn’t have the versatility necessary to excel as a primary frontcourt option for a contender. Modern NBA big men need to make outside shots and/or protect the rim to make themselves indispensable to teams, and Kanter does neither. He’s also earning more than $18MM.
Still, Kanter’s offensive and rebounding talents have value, and the Knicks likely won’t be asking for much as they seek out a potential trade. New York figures to prioritize player development over winning games during the second half, and Kanter has made it clear he’s not on board with that approach, so the club may be best served to end the relationship sooner rather than later, even if the return is minimal.
The Knicks won’t want to take back any multiyear money for Kanter’s expiring contract, given their 2019 free agency aspirations, which will limit their options. A trade that involves another sizable expiring contract or two would be ideal.
The team has reportedly discussed the possibility of a Kanter/Zach Randolph swap with the Kings, but Sacramento is reluctant to move forward on such a trade without dumping at least one more expiring deal. In that scenario, the Kings would probably have to attach an asset like a draft pick or young prospect to entice the Knicks.
Kenneth Faried, F/C
$13.76MM cap hit; UFA in 2019
Faried has a pricey expiring contract and has been out of the Nets‘ rotation for most of the season, which seemingly makes him a prime buyout candidate, rather than a trade candidate. Still, if Brooklyn moves on from Faried, the club will explore the trade market before trying to negotiate a buyout (or simply waiving him).
With injuries plaguing the Nets’ roster, Faried got a chance to play 29 minutes in the team’s loss to Boston on Monday. He proved he’s still capable of crashing the boards, racking up a team-high 12 rebounds, including five on the offensive end. He spent some time as Brooklyn’s primary big man and alongside fellow bigs like Jarrett Allen or Ed Davis. Most intriguingly, he attempted four three-point shots, making one. By comparison, Faried had made 2-of-20 three-pointers in 441 career games entering this season.
If Faried can start knocking down outside shots with regularity, it could change his career trajectory — just ask former Net Brook Lopez. But he probably hasn’t shown enough yet to be a worthwhile gamble for any potential Brooklyn trade partners, unless it’s in a swap for unwanted expiring contracts. Faried remains a more likely buyout candidate than trade chip for now.
Norman Powell, G/F
$9.37MM cap hit; three years, $32.6MM left on deal after this season
After signing a four-year contract extension during the fall of 2017, Powell turned in a dismal 2017/18 performance, averaging just 5.5 PPG with a .401 FG% and .285 3PT% (all career worsts). He has enjoyed a modest bounce-back season so far in 2018/19, the first year of his extension, posting 6.9 PPG with a .467 FG% and .333 3PT% in 21 games.
Still, at $10MM+ per year over four seasons, Powell is overpaid for his current role and production in Toronto. The Raptors are in the luxury tax this season and will remain there if they’re able to convince Kawhi Leonard to re-sign, so moving Powell’s contract would provide some long-term cap relief. It’s also a good size for salary-matching if the Raptors seek out a trade for a veteran play-maker or sharpshooter who could contribute more in the short term.
At age 25, Powell still has room to get better, and could develop into a reliable three-and-D wing with some play-making ability. But he hasn’t shown enough yet to make his long-term deal a positive asset. If Toronto wants to get a player of value back in return for him, the team would likely have to throw in a future draft pick or two as well.
- NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Atlantic (11/23)
- NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Atlantic (10/31)
- The rest of our NBA Trade Candidate series
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The NBA will speak to representatives for Patrick McCaw tomorrow as part of its investigation into whether the Cavaliers acted improperly in signing him to a non-guaranteed offer sheet and waiving him shortly afterward, writes Mark Medina of The San Jose Mercury News.
McCaw spent barely a week with Cleveland and appeared in three games after agreeing to a two-year, $6MM offer sheet that the Warriors elected not to match. Cleveland didn’t guarantee any money in the offer, so the club was only on the hook for about $323K. The decision to release him a day before this season’s $3MM salary would have guaranteed led to accusations that the Cavs only gave McCaw the offer as a way to make him an unrestricted free agent and give him a way out of Golden State.
Shortly after clearing waivers today, McCaw agreed to join the Raptors on a veteran’s minimum contract for the rest of the season. His representatives contacted about eight other teams before settling on the deal with Toronto, according to Medina.
The Cavaliers face severe penalties, including fines and possible loss of draft picks, if the league determines they violated the collective bargaining agreement. However, their recent roster chaos gives them a strong defense, contends Joe Vardon of The Athletic.
Cleveland had just nine healthy players on December 28 when it extended the offer sheet to McCaw. One of the starters that night was two-way player Jaron Blossomgame, while fellow two-way player Jalen Jones was on the bench. The Cavs needed extra wing players because Rodney Hood was sidelined with Achilles soreness and David Nwaba was out with lower leg injuries.
During McCaw’s first game in Cleveland, Matthew Dellavedova was injured while stepping on another player’s foot, leaving the team without a backup point guard. The Cavaliers bolstered that position by waiving McCaw and signing former Bull Cameron Payne.
“I don’t think it was as much what didn’t happen [with McCaw], it was really mostly what we needed,” coach Larry Drew said. “With Delly going down, we really didn’t have a backup point. I had to throw Alec [Burks] in there as backup point, and that wasn’t really fair to him. So we made the decision.”
Vardon adds that under the circumstances, it would be difficult to build a strong case against the franchise unless McCaw or agent Bill Duffy admits that an under-the-table agreement was in place.
Jonas Valanciunas‘ left thumb injury continues to heal and his condition keeps improving, but the Raptors center is still several weeks away from returning to the court, the team announced today in a press release.
According to the Raptors, Valanciunas is now wearing a splint on his left thumb for basketball activities only. He’ll use the splint on that thumb – which he dislocated on December 12 – for about four more weeks and will be regularly evaluated as he rehabs the injury over that period.
Although Valanciunas will likely be sidelined until about the All-Star break, he’s not behind schedule in his recovery. In fact, as Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca observes (via Twitter), the veteran big man was supposed to be in a cast for four weeks, but he had that cast replaced with a smaller brace two weeks ago, so he appears to actually be ahead of schedule.
With Valanciunas out of the lineup, Serge Ibaka has seen a slightly increased role, while Greg Monroe has received regular minutes. Pascal Siakam has also spent some time at center, with two-way player Chris Boucher occasionally making his way into the rotation too.
The Raptors currently have two open roster spots after cutting Lorenzo Brown on Monday, and will have to fill at least one of those openings within the next couple weeks. Signing a big man to a 10-day contract or two is an option if the club is concerned at all about its frontcourt depth. Toronto could also promote Boucher to the 15-man squad and use his two-way slot on someone else, though that’s just my speculation.
Despite playing only half their games so far this season with both of their All-Stars – Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry – in the lineup, the Raptors have one of the NBA’s best records. Their 30-12 mark puts them a half-game ahead of the 28-11 Bucks, though they technically trail Milwaukee by percentage points.
With Lowry now back in the lineup after battling back and hip issues and Leonard potentially ready to start playing in back-to-backs soon, the Raptors are well positioned for a big second half. And the team’s performance the rest of the way – and in the postseason – could go a long way toward determining whether Leonard remains in Toronto beyond this season, a subject Chris Mannix explores in his latest piece for SI.com.
Mannix’s article features several interesting notes and tidbits on Kawhi and the Raptors, so we’ll round up a few highlights here:
- According to Mannix, the Raptors are prepared to offer Leonard a five-year, maximum-salary offer – or any other deal he’s interested in – this offseason, and don’t view that sort of an investment as a risk.
- While Leonard’s upcoming free agency is rarely discussed in the Raptors’ locker room, everyone knows how important his decision will be in determining the future of the franchise, per Mannix. “We need him to stay,” Serge Ibaka said. “He keeps everybody safe — no one is safe if he leaves.”
- Even before the Raptors acquired Leonard, president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri had been itching to shake up his roster, according to Mannix, who reports that Ujiri approached the Thunder last season about a possible swap centered around DeMar DeRozan and Paul George.
- Speaking of George, Mannix writes that Raptors officials have privately acknowledged that the Thunder’s success in retaining George emboldened them to roll the dice on Leonard. Of course, George’s bond with Russell Westbrook contributed in large part to PG13’s decision to remain in Oklahoma City. It remains to be seen if Kyle Lowry can be that same sort of recruiter, given his “frosty” relationship with Ujiri, who traded away his best friend DeRozan.
- When the NBA issued a memo last month reminding teams of its anti-tampering rules, it was viewed by most as a response to LeBron James‘ comments about Anthony Davis. However, several clubs, including Toronto, interpreted the memo’s reference to “intentional” and “repeated” social courtesies as a message to the Clippers, says Mannix. The Clips have reportedly been sending officials, including president of basketball ops Lawrence Frank, to a number of Raptors games this season as they eye Leonard as a 2019 free agent target.
The Raptors have placed guard Lorenzo Brown on waivers, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Like other players who were waived today, Brown had a contract that would have become fully guaranteed by 5pm Eastern.
The reigning G League MVP, Brown was a two-way player for Toronto last season before signing a standard contract over the summer. He appeared in 26 games this year, averaging just 2.1 PPG in 8.2 minutes per night. The 28-year-old has also played for the Sixers, Timberwolves and Suns.
If Brown decides to return to the G League, his rights are held by the Pistons’ affiliate in Grand Rapids, notes Adam Johnson of 2 Ways and 10 Days (Twitter link).
The move leaves Toronto with 13 players, one below the league minimum. The team will have two weeks to add to its roster.
The Raptors’ luxury tax projection falls from $34.5MM to $32.2MM, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). Brown received $800K in guaranteed money on his deal.
- As Kyle Lowry missed his sixth straight game tonight with back trouble, the Raptors are looking for another playmaker before next month’s trade deadline, according to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. He states the best target would be the Timberwolves’ Jeff Teague, who isn’t being shopped but has become more expendable with productive seasons from Derrick Rose and Tyus Jones. Other possibilities include the Mavericks’ J.J. Barea or Devin Harris and the Hawks’ Jeremy Lin.