Yuta Watanabe

Atlantic Notes: Watanabe, Gillespie, Schroder, Williams, Maxey

The Raptors have 12 players with guaranteed contracts and five others with non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed deals. Eric Koreen of The Athletic speculates on who might grab the remaining roster openings, with Yuta Watanabe and Freddie Gillespie most likely to nail down spots. That would leave Sam Dekker, Ishmail Wainright and Isaac Bonga in a battle for the final spot, unless Toronto chooses to carry 14 players on the regular roster.

We have more on the Atlantic Division:

  • Dennis Schroder cost himself serious money but passing on a four-year, $84MM extension offer from the Lakers but he’s taking a lighthearted approach to that mistake, Brianna Williams of ESPN relays. In an Instagram post, the Celtics guard — who settled for a one-year, $5.9MM contract — said he “fumbled the bag” and invited fans to insert their best joke about his bad free agent gamble.
  • Details on Robert Williams‘ extension with the Celtics were reported late last month and now Keith Smith provides more specifics on the incentives in the four-year deal (Twitter link). Williams will make $446,429 if he plays 69 games; an additional $223,215 if the team reaches the conference semifinals along with meeting the games criteria; $223,214 more if the Celtics make the Eastern Conference finals; and $446,429 if he’s named to the league’s All-Defense First Team, or $223,215 if he’s named to the All-Defense Second Team. Those incentives will increase by 8% per year after the deal goes into effect in 2022/23.
  • Would the Sixers benefit from Tyrese Maxey‘s offensive skills in the starting lineup? Kyle Neubeck of Philly Voice takes a closer look at whether playing Maxey with the other starters would make Philadelphia a better postseason team in the long run.

Implications Of Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk Deal For Raptors

With the signing of Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, the battles for the Raptors’ final roster spots are coming into focus, Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets.

Murphy writes that the player option included in Mykhailiuk’s deal makes it very likely he gets one of the team’s final roster spots, especially given Toronto’s lack of guaranteed depth at the shooting guard spot. Second-round pick David Johnson and partially-guaranteed Ishmail Wainright are the only shooting guards on the roster beyond Gary Trent Jr. Fred VanVleet has seen plenty of time at the position in recent years, but is almost certainly going to start games as the team’s point guard.

Murphy adds that if Mykhailiuk is guaranteed a spot on the 15-man roster, that means that Wainright, Freddie Gillespie, Sam Dekker, Isaac Bonga, and Yuta Watanabe will vie for the final three openings. Gillespie and Watanabe both showed promise for the Raptors in limited time last season, while Bonga has at times proved an interesting, potential-filled player as a 6’9″ playmaker with decent defensive instincts and some shooting ability.

Murphy added in a response to his initial tweet that Watanabe is considered a heavy favorite for a spot after his strong play last season, but given his non-guaranteed contract, he’s not quite a lock. Murphy also says that Egyptian big man Anas Mahmoud is likely to receive an Exhibit 10 deal.

In a final tweet, Murphy adds that the Raptors are operating like a team that knows that it’ll be able to move Goran Dragic by the deadline to avoid a tax bill.

Contract Details: Clippers, THT, Ball, Nwaba, Bembry, Raptors

After reporting over the weekend that the Clippers used about $3.9MM of their taxpayer mid-level exception to sign Justise Winslow, ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Instagram video) confirmed today that the team used the leftover portion of that MLE to sign second-round picks Jason Preston and Brandon Boston Jr. to three-year deals, with Preston getting a little more than the rookie minimum.

Keith Smith of Spotrac shares those salary figures down to the dollar, tweeting that Winslow’s first-year salary is $3,902,439 while Preston’s is $1,062,303. Combined with Boston’s rookie minimum of $925,258, those three salaries add up to exactly $5.89MM, the amount of the taxpayer mid-level exception.

Here are a few more details on new contracts from around the NBA:

  • While Talen Horton-Tucker‘s three-year deal with the Lakers was initially said to be worth $32MM, the year-by-year breakdown provided by Smith works out to a total of $30.78MM (Twitter link).
  • Lonzo Ball‘s four-year deal with the Bulls also came in slightly lower than expected, according to Smith, who says it has a base value of $80MM, with $1MM in annual unlikely incentives (Twitter link).
  • David Nwaba‘s three-year, $15MM contract with the Rockets has two fully guaranteed seasons followed by a third-year team option, according to Marks (Instagram video).
  • DeAndre’ Bembry‘s minimum-salary deal with the Nets has a partial guarantee of $750K for now, tweets Smith. That number will increase to $1.25MM on December 15 before becoming fully guaranteed in January.
  • Blake Murphy of The Athletic (Twitter links) shares some Raptors contract details, reporting that Gary Trent Jr.‘s deal has a base value of $51.84MM, with $250K in annual unlikely incentives. Murphy adds that Ishmail Wainright got a $250K guarantee in 2021/22 – plus a $125K guarantee in ’22/23 – on his minimum-salary contract, while Yuta Watanabe‘s minimum-salary deal is now partially guaranteed for $375K. Watanabe would get his full guarantee if he makes the regular season roster.

Lowe’s Latest: K. Williams, Payne, Monk, Burks, Hartenstein

For the 10th year in a row, ESPN’s Zach Lowe has named his end-of-season “Luke Walton All-Stars,” honoring overlooked rotation players and NBA journeymen who have impressed him most over the course of the year.

Nets guard Bruce Brown, Warriors forward Juan Toscano-Anderson, and Raptors teammates Yuta Watanabe and DeAndre’ Bembry are among the players who made Lowe’s list, which also includes a handful of interesting tidbits on some of his choices. Here are a few highlights:

  • Thunder forward Kenrich Williams, who resisted signing a two-way contract multiple times earlier in his career, has enjoyed a breakout year in Oklahoma City. Sources tell Lowe that several playoff teams expressed trade interest in Williams prior to March’s deadline, but he wanted to remain in OKC, where he’s under contract for two more years (both non-guaranteed).
  • Suns guard Cameron Payne told Lowe that he thought his NBA career might be over in 2020, when the Mavericks opted to sign Trey Burke over him for the summer restart after he had played well for Dallas’ G League affiliate. However, he got an opportunity shortly thereafter with Phoenix, in large part because head coach Monty Williams had gotten to know him during their time with the Thunder.
  • Another former first-round pick, Hornets guard Malik Monk, was concerned about his NBA career last year as well, following his suspension for violating the NBA’s drug policy, his brother Marcus Monk told Lowe. The former Kentucky standout has enjoyed a career year while trying to let go of tension about his role, Lowe writes. “Guys who have success in college think the NBA is going to go a certain way,” Marcus said. “You think you’re invincible. Malik fell victim to that. I’m proud of how he matured.”
  • Before he signed a one-year, $6MM contract with the Knicks last fall, Alec Burks discussed a deal with the Bulls, according to Lowe. Burks’ familiarity with Knicks assistant Johnnie Bryant from their time in Utah was a factor in his decision to choose New York.
  • After an underwhelming stint in Denver, Isaiah Hartenstein has played well for the Cavaliers, averaging 8.3 PPG and 6.0 RPG in 16 games (17.9 MPG). Lowe says he wouldn’t be surprised if Hartenstein turns down his minimum-salary player option for 2021/22 to seek a new deal.

Raptors Notes: Centers, Watanabe, Trent, Boucher

The recent additions of centers Khem Birch and Freddie Gillespie seem to have fixed the depth trouble at center that has plagued the Raptors all season, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN. At 6’9″, both are nominally a bit undersized for the position, but compensate in strength and awareness.

“It’s definitely a good fit,” Gillespie, on his second 10-day deal with the club, said. “I think the Raptors looked at my skill set and said that’s something we could use. When a team brings you in clearly you offer something that they need.”

There’s more out of Toronto-by-way-of-Tampa:

  • Raptors head coach Nick Nurse noted that the club had considered converting Yuta Watanabe‘s contract to a standard deal for a while, tweets Blake Murphy of The Athletic. “We thought he deserved it,” Nurse said. “We had the roster spot to do it with… He’s certainly under consideration to be part of this team going forward.” Watanabe’s new deal covers next season as well as this one, but isn’t fully guaranteed for 2021/22.
  • New Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr. is enjoy his tenure with his new team, as he recently told reporters (video link via The Toronto Star). “It’s an amazing fit,” Trent said. “Everybody comes in and works hard, so you know this is the perfect place for me. This is the perfect fit for me.”
  • The Raptors expect to examine the sprained left knee of forward Chris Boucher via an MRI scan tonight, and to have more information on his health going forward tomorrow, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN.

Raptors Promote Yuta Watanabe To 15-Man Roster

7:20am: Watanabe’s second-year salary is non-guaranteed, but would become partially guaranteed for $375K if he remains under contract for three days beyond the free agency moratorium in August, reports Murphy (Twitter link). If he makes next season’s regular season roster, Watanabe would receive his full ’21/22 guarantee.

6:38am: The Raptors have elevated Yuta Watanabe to their 15-man roster, announcing today in a press release that they’ve signed the third-year forward to a standard contract.

Watanabe had spent the season on a two-way deal with Toronto, having had his Exhibit 10 contract converted before the regular season began in December. Originally considered a depth piece, the 26-year-old has become a more regular rotation fixture, appearing in 39 games for the club.

While he is valued more for his defense and his energy off the bench than his offense, Watanabe has shot the ball well this season too, averaging 4.0 PPG and 3.3 RPG on .448/.400/.826 shooting in 13.4 minutes per contest. Those numbers all exceed the ones he put up in two seasons in Memphis from 2018-20.

The exact details of Watanabe weren’t announced in the Raptors’ press release, but the team used its full mid-level exception prior to the season signing Aron Baynes and Alex Len, and didn’t have its bi-annual exception available this season. As such, we can safely assume it’s a minimum-salary deal, and Blake Murphy of The Athletic (Twitter link) confirms it covers next season as well, though it’s unclear if the 2021/22 salary is partially guaranteed or non-guaranteed.

Watanabe’s rest-of-season salary, at least, will be fully guaranteed — he’ll make $321,893 the rest of the way, in addition to what he has already earned on his two-way contract.

The Raptors now have a full 15-man roster, with 14 players on standard contracts and Freddie Gillespie on a 10-day deal. Jalen Harris is Toronto’s lone two-way player, so the club could fill its other two-way slot at some point before the regular season ends on May 16.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raptors Notes: Watanabe, Lowry, Drummond, G League

Raptors forward Yuta Watanabe has been able to eke out a consistent rotational role with Toronto this season, as Doug Smith of The Toronto Star details. Watanabe, who went undrafted in 2018 out of George Washington University, spent two seasons on a two-way deal with the Grizzlies before joining the Raptors at the start of the 2020/21 season. Watanabe is averaging 12.2 MPG with the club, converting 42.9% of his 1.6 three-point attempts.

All-Star teammate Kyle Lowry hailed the 6’9″ wing’s contributions: “He’s going to dive for loose balls, and he’s going to be at the right spot, and he’s going to give you everything (he’s) got. He just plays with an extreme hardness.”

Smith notes that Watanabe, currently on a two-way contract with Toronto, is likely to see his deal converted to a full NBA contract within the next month.

There’s more out of Toronto:

  • Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report wonders if Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry‘s charmed tenure with Toronto may be wrapping up soon. “There’s a time capsule for everybody and everything,” one Western Conference executive said, “and it’s probably just time to move on.” Lowry signed a one-year, $30.5MM extension with Toronto that will make him an unrestricted free agent at the end of the current 2020/21 season. Though he has been his reliably excellent self, the team has stumbled out of the gate to a 10-13 record and the No. 9 seed in the East. Fischer points to several teams who could benefit from the still-productive lead guard’s services this season, including the Heat, Clippers, Pelicans and Magic.
  • After the Raptors’ title-winning frontcourt tandem of Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol fled for championship-caliber rosters in sunny Los Angeles during the offseason, the club could still be mulling ways to fortify its center position. Sources tell The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor that the Raptors are among the teams interested in adding Cavaliers center Andre Drummond, currently earning $28.8MM this season on an expiring deal.
  • The Raptors are sending rookies Malachi Flynn and Jalen Harris to the NBAGL’s Orlando “bubble” campus to get some extended development this season. Doug Smith of The Toronto Star previews their upcoming adventure with Toronto’s G League affiliate, Raptors 905.

Two-Way Players Making Bids For Promotions

Players on two-way contracts are free to appear in NBA games, but there are limitations on the amount of time they can spend with their respective NBA teams. Even in 2020/21, with those restrictions loosened a little, each two-way player can only appear in 50 of his team’s 72 games, assuming he signed before the season began.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors Glossary: Two-Way Contracts]

While 50 games should be more than enough for most teams to get through the season without maxing out the eligibility of their two-way players, some have emerged as regular rotation pieces for their respective clubs and are likely to reach the 50-game mark before season’s end, barring an injury.

In order to remove those restrictions, a team has to promote a two-way player to its 15-man roster, either converting him to a rest-of-season, minimum-salary contract or negotiating a new multiyear deal.

While it’s a little early in the 2020/21 season to determine which two-way players will ultimately end up being promoted to 15-man rosters, a handful of players on two-way deals have made strong cases for standard contracts in the early going.

Here are some of the top candidates to receive promotions among this year’s two-way players:

Jordan McLaughlin (Timberwolves)

McLaughlin spent the 2019/20 season on a two-way contract with the Timberwolves and played well enough to earn a standard deal in the offseason, having averaged 7.6 points, 4.2 assists, and 1.1 steals per game with a .489/.382/.667 shooting line in 30 contests (19.7 MPG).

A restricted free agent, McLaughlin reportedly received a multiyear contract offer from Minnesota, but it would’ve been a team-friendly deal that included multiple non-guaranteed years. The 24-year-old opted to bet on himself instead, playing another year on a two-way contract and hoping for a better opportunity when he returns to the free agent market in the summer of 2021.

We’ll have to wait to see whether or not that was the right call, but so far it doesn’t look like last season was a fluke. With D’Angelo Russell, Ricky Rubio, and Anthony Edwards in the picture, there are fewer backcourt minutes to go around, but McLaughlin has played well in a limited role, with 5.5 PPG, 4.1 APG, and .455/.375/.800 shooting in 17.2 MPG (11 games).

Garrison Mathews (Wizards)

Like McLaughlin, Mathews was on a two-way contract last season and played well, but ended up having to take another two-way deal. He’s once again proving that he deserves consideration for a promotion, with 8.9 PPG and 1.4 SPG on .429/.405/.889 shooting through 10 games (19.7 MPG).

Unfortunately for Mathews, the Wizards currently have a full 15-man roster made up of mostly non-expendable players. If the team cuts recent signee Alex Len at some point or makes a trades that opens up a roster spot, that could create an opportunity for Mathews.

Yuta Watanabe (Raptors)

Invited to training camp on an Exhibit 10 contract alongside other NBA veterans like Henry Ellenson and Alize Johnson in the fall, Watanabe played his way onto the 17-man regular season roster, with the Raptors converting his non-guaranteed camp deal into a two-way contract at the end of the preseason.

Since then, Watanabe who spent the last two years on a two-way deal with the Grizzlies, has gradually been making a case for more playing time. His box-score numbers (3.9 PPG and 3.4 RPG) are modest, but he’s been hot from three-point range so far, knocking down 12-of-25 attempts (48.0%) and is providing energy and defensive itensity off the bench.

In Toronto’s last five games, Watanabe has been one of the team’s most-used bench players, logging 18.8 minutes per game and bumping his averages to 8.0 PPG and 5.0 RPG.

Since releasing Len, the Raptors have been holding an open spot on their 15-man roster. If that spot doesn’t get filled in a trade at some point in the coming weeks, Watanabe looks like the best bet to fill it before the end of the season.

Others to watch:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raptors Notes: Watanabe, Johnson, McCaw, Harris, 3-Point Shots

Yuta Watanabe and Stanley Johnson have emerged as key bench contributors for the Raptors, Doug Smith of The Toronto Star notes. “I think both (Watanabe) and Stanley have been doing a good job … when they check in to get our offense into another gear,” coach Nick Nurse said. Both players are trying to solidify the futures in the league. Johnson is headed to unrestricted free agency, while Watanabe is on a two-way deal.

We have more on the Raptors:

  • Patrick McCaw is showing some progress from his knee injury that has kept him out this season, Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets. McCaw participated in the non-contact portion of practice on Thursday. OG Anunoby (calf) and Norman Powell (quad) both missed Friday’s game against Sacramento.
  • Rookie guard Jalen Harris is joining Raptors 905 at the G League bubble in Orlando, Murphy adds in another tweet. The second-round pick from Nevada has appeared in two NBA games.
  • Toronto is on pace to take the second-most 3-pointers in league history and that may explain why the team is shooting fewer free throws, Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star notes. The Raptors were averaging 43.2 3-point attempts a game heading into Friday’s action but taking just 20.2 foul shots. The over-reliance on 3-point shots may help explain forward Pascal Siakam‘s slow start, Feschuk adds.

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Embiid, Johnson, Watanabe, Knicks

Ben Simmons is keeping a positive attitude — at least publicly — despite the knowledge the Sixers were willing to deal him to acquire James Harden, according to Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Simmons had a triple-double against Miami on Thursday. “I am blessed. I get to play the game I love every day at the highest level in the world, so there’s far worse things going on in the world,” he said. “So I’m in a blessed position. If you tell me I’ll never play the game again, that would be a different story.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Sixers center Joel Embiid will miss the next two games due to right knee discomfort, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. Embiid won’t join the team during its road trip to Memphis and Oklahoma City. Embiid only played 24 minutes and was held to nine points and five rebounds against Miami on Thursday.
  • Stanley Johnson and Yuta Watanabe provided a defensive spark for the Raptors on Thursday and could be in line for bigger roles, according to TSN’s Josh Lewenberg. Johnson, who becomes a free agent after the season, played 21 minutes and Watanabe, who earned a two-way contract in training camp, played 15 against Charlotte. “They did a great job of just playing hard,” coach Nick Nurse said. “They were keeping balls alive, they were jarring balls loose on the defensive end, they were limiting them to one shot.”
  • The Knicks shouldn’t deviate from their rebuilding plan despite the splashy moves made by the cross-town Nets, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post opines. The Knicks are playing harder under new coach Tom Thibodeau and they will get healthier and continue to improve as long as they exercise patience.