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NBA Brooklyn Nets DeMarre Carroll

DeMarre Carroll Knew What He Was Getting With The Raptors

DeMarre Carroll has created quite the stir with his comments about the Toronto Raptors after being traded in a pure salary dump move to the Brooklyn Nets. When the Toronto Sun’s Ryan Wolstat reported Carroll’s words “ISO” they brought to the surface some deep passions in parts of the Raptors fan base.

“I wasn’t surprised because I knew it was a lot of things going on last year that didn’t come out,” Carroll told Postmedia on Sunday in his first interview following the deal.

“I wasn’t happy, my agent, we thought the style of ball was going to be different, it was going to be more team-oriented, but I guess it was still ISO (isolation), so I thought they would have moved me last year, but that didn’t happen.”

However, Carroll knew exactly what he was getting into when he quickly agreed to sign with the Raptors in the summer of 2015 while the Detroit Pistons were waiting to talk to him in the hotel lobby.

“Toronto came and we had a lengthy meeting and we kind of went back-and-forth and we got a deal done,” Carroll said about his first meeting in free agency. “But Detroit was in the hotel waiting to have their meeting, so I felt kind of bad to tell all those teams I wasn’t going to visit, but at the same time, it’s a business. I think the business of basketball is what’s best for the individual and that’s what I did.”

Carroll wanted to win and he knew his best chance at winning was to join a playoff team with a couple of All-Stars where he would have a role.

“That was very big,” Carroll responded to Pro Bball Report about joining a winning team in July 2015. “I was drooling at the mouth just to play along aside of guys like Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Those are two All-Star guys and they bring a lot. When I used to guard DeMar, he’s one of the toughest guys because of his ability to put the ball in the hoop at a very rapid pace.

“So it was really just a sign to come to a winning program and to help this team as much as I can.”

Carroll knew what his role was going to be and he embraced it. It was his job to defend. DeRozan was going to be set free to score more.

“I actually told DeMar, I said now you don’t have to fight with those big guys like LeBron James and Kevin Durant no more, you can just go out there and take this team to the promised land.”

Things didn’t go as planned for Carroll in Toronto. A knee injury suffered with the Hawks in the just completed postseason run to the Conference Final came back to knock him out of 56 games in 2015-16 and he was never really 100 percent even after he came back.

The 2016-17 season started with knee soreness that hung around until the new year. Then just as he was putting a solid stretch of games together, he was accidentally kicked in the head as he fell and he wasn’t really the same the rest of the way. Even Carroll had to admit he wasn’t the same guy after it happened.

“I really didn’t have the whole summer to workout like most guys, so at the end of the day I am trying to get my rhythm and everything thru the season,” Carroll told Pro Bball Report in February. “My knee is great (now). I got nicks and bruises, finger and elbow, but the knee’s great, so I just got to keep pushing.

“I am slowly getting there. It’s not only physical, it’s mental. I’m trying to come back and missing shots and my finger and everything and all this, but now I am feeling more comfortable. Hopefully going into the playoffs I’ll be playing the best basketball.”

He never really got all the way back in time for the playoffs.

Carroll ended the season coming off the bench in the second round playing fewer minutes each night. That had to be a very tough way to end the season for this very proud player.

However, it didn’t take very long after the trade to Brooklyn for Carroll to get back on the positive vibe he felt for Toronto two years ago. In a courtside interview at NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, he had a very positive outlook for the Raptors future once again

“(The Raptors) have talent. They definitely have the talent (to get by the Cavs),” Carroll said. “Coach Casey, he tries his best to get the best out of his guys and Masai (Ujiri) brings in a lot of talent to go around those two All-Stars Kyle and DeMar, so they have the talent. Just have to try to put it all together.

“Biggest key, especially for Toronto is just being healthy going into the playoffs. I feel like each year wasn’t healthy. It kind of made our run short.”

He’s not wrong.

Carroll knew from the start he was joining a team where the best players are “ISO” players and he knew his role was to provide defense so they would have more freedom to do what they do best. It was just unfortunate that he was never physically healthy enough to do his part. It’s no reflection on Carroll, he tried. It just didn’t work out.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

NBA Milwaukee Bucks Jason Terry and Greg Monroe

Should The Raptors Take A Look At The Bucks Greg Monroe?

It seems like Greg Monroe has been on the trading block ever since Milwaukee signed him to that three-year $50 million deal in the summer of 2015. So, with just one year remaining on his contract, now could be the time he can be moved and just maybe the Raptors should be taking a look.

“Monroe had the opportunity to opt out of his contract at the start of the month but opted to remain with the Bucks and collect $17.8 million for the remaining year on his contract.”  wrote Gery Woelfel  in Woelfel’s Press Box. “Monroe looks slim and trim and is in perhaps the best shape of his pro career.”

A big body in the post with very good midrange shooting and a solid rebounder, Monroe has been like an overpaid square peg in a round hole with the Bucks. After being a starter for his first six NBA seasons, Monroe came off the bench in all 81 regular season games and the 6 playoff games he played in last year.

However, that doesn’t mean Monroe hasn’t produced. He was the Bucks best offensive rebounder at 10.8 percent of the available boards and best rebounder overall (17 percent) on a team that finished 29th out of 30 NBA teams on the glass. And he was fourth in team scoring (11.7 points) in just 22.5 minutes per game.

His “successful” move to the bench didn’t stop the trade rumors and Monroe knows if the Bucks could move him, they would.

he knows he is still the subject of considerable trade conjecture.

Some NBA officials said Milwaukee is still clearly receptive to moving Monroe.

“I’d like to stay but that’s up to them,’’ said Monroe, referring to the Bucks’ front office.

The Raptors and the Bucks faced off in the first round of the playoffs with Toronto winning the final three games to take the series 4-2. While the move of Norman Powell into the starting lineup got all the headlines, of arguably equal importance was the Raptors sending starting center Jonas Valanciunas to the bench to match up with and neutralize Monroe.

In the first three games of that first round series Monroe averaged a very effective 16 points on 54.8 percent shooting off the bench while the starter Valanciunas struggled scoring 10 points on 37.5 percent shooting. The Raptors went 1-2.

In the final three games Monroe dipped to 10.3 points on 50 percent shooting while Valanciunas was a more effective 8.7 points at 62.5 percent. Monroe was held to just 6 points in the 3-point Game Six loss at home.

The new matchups favored the Raptors and there was little the Bucks could do about it.

Since the draft there have been rumors about the Bucks wanting to shakeup their big man rotation. Sure, they are very excited about the return of Jabari Parker in the new year and seeing what Thon Maker can do in his second season, but neither of these two young promising players showed anything encouraging on the glass.

The Bucks still need to upgrade their rebounding. Staying 29th in the NBA at anything isn’t where a team with high expectations wants to be.

However, the Raptors have also been trying to move Valanciunas since the draft as president Masai Ujiri was trying to manipulate his payroll to get under the tax and, at the same time, change his team’s style of play.

Ujiri solved his tax problem by dumping DeMarre Carroll’s $30 million in Brooklyn and he’s been looking for a decent return on Valanciunas in a market that hasn’t been very friendly to traditional centers.

If the Bucks want rebounding and a big man who can defend the post against other traditional centers, Valanciunas is a good option.

He’s been top ten in rebounding percentage in each of the past three seasons and the Bucks could use his 12 points and 9.5 rebounds in 26 minutes in the worst way. The knock on Valanciunas has been his trouble handling quicker stretch fours and fives, but the Bucks have that issue well covered with their other young big men. They need someone who can board with and slow down a guy like Valanciunas.

There are also signs Valanciunas has stretched his comfortable shooting range out to the free throw line and possibly even to the three-point line given time.

The Raptors are looking for change and Monroe would seem to be the kind of change Ujiri is looking for. Once considered a strictly “me” type player who didn’t seem all that happy in Detroit, Monroe is 27-years-old now and is saying the right things.

“I’m happy,’’ said Monroe, who attended the Bucks-Jazz game Friday night at Cox Pavilion on the UNLV campus. “I had no reason to leave. I want to build on what we started last year.’’

Monroe does the one thing the Raptors have been unsuccessful at getting Valanciunas to do. He moves the ball effectively. Where Valanciunas has only assisted on 4.2 percent of teammate field goals while he’s on the floor over his career with no signs of improvement, Monroe has averaged 13.2 percent and bumped that to 17.3 percent coming off the bench last year. Monroe could be the ball moving big man Ujiri wants to add in his new style of offense.

While Monroe has always been something of a tease in the NBA, a big man with star potential who could never quite put it all together, there’s a good argument to be made that he has never been in the right situation. The 2017-18 Raptors could be that situation.

A straight up trade of Monroe for Valanciunas works and does solve another problem for the Bucks. The $2.4 million difference in salary gets Milwaukee below the luxury tax line and if it’s important to Ujiri, he can stay below the tax as well.

It isn’t always easy trading with potential conference rivals, but sometimes the two teams have what each other needs. Both the Raptors and the Bucks would be better off after making this deal.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_inside

Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Powell Wright VanVleet Siakam Poeltl 2017

Are The Raptors Opting For Youthful Excitement?

The further Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri gets into July, the fewer his options are to actually move the needle on expectations heading into the upcoming season. So, apparently, the Raptors are opting to develop the young guys and at least it has the potential to produce some youthful excitement.

Ujiri has done a good job of getting below the luxury tax threshold as, once again, that was a lot more important than he let on before the draft. The Raptors may be hard-capped at $125 million in total salaries, but the tax bill will be minimal or zero with a little room left over to go add some cheap veteran help.

Like last year, the Raptors currently have what should be a pretty solid eight man rotation with a few positive changes.

  1. All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are back to lead the show.
  2. New three-point threat C.J. Miles is a major upgrade on the wing over DeMarre Carroll in terms of actually being about to hit threes.
  3. Serge Ibaka will be around for training camp and the start of the season this year. At power forward or center, he’s a huge upgrade. And, yes,
  4. Even Jonas Valanciunas is a veteran that can rebound and give smaller centers fits in the paint and on the glass (until he’s traded?)
  5. Third year players Delon Wright and Norman Powell are expected to be solid young additions to the rotation playing significant minutes at guard and on the wing.
  6. Last year’s lottery pick Jakob Poeltl looked pretty good backing up center after the All-Star break and is an obvious successor to Valanciunas if and when JV gets traded.

The impact of youth on the Raptors season will be evident from the start. They’ll need Powell, Wright and Poeltl to bring all the energy and excitement they can.

However, like last year, the rest of the roster has its question marks. (Thus the need to find another cheap reliable veteran.).

Lucas Nogueira could be an impact player at power forward and center if he could get out of his own way. It’s on him to get serious and focus on basketball. Hopefully, head coach Dwane Casey isn’t forced into using “Bebe” because he doesn’t have a better option and the 25-year-old from Brazil earns a spot in the rotation at training camp. The Raptors leading shot blocker and turnover machine from last season is a guy that could move the needle on the season, if he’s ready, if he really wants to, t.b.d. (not holding my breath.)

The other project from Brazil, 21-year-old Bruno Caboclo, finally played well in the NBA D-League championship run by the Raptors 905, but that was after a pretty mediocre regular D-League season. No one is counting on anything from Bruno. His brief appearances in the NBA over three seasons don’t fill one with confidence. He’s a straight up ‘show me you deserve to be here’ player.

The NBA D-League Championship MVP Pascal Siakam started 38 games as a rookie for the Raptors at the start of last year solely because the viable rotation was that thin, so at least he has some NBA experience and he is improving. But is he really ready to backup power forward this year as a 9th or 10th man? Casey might not have another option but to go with the potential of this young developing athlete again. It could be exciting, but not necessarily in a good way (yet). He can fly around a court though.

As soon as he is 100 percent healthy, ready or not, rookie forward OG Anunoby is going to get a look. He missed NBA Summer League rehabbing his knee. It’s hoped he’ll be back in time for training camp, but no guarantees. He’s an uber-athlete, but hasn’t played since January, so no one will really have any idea what to expect this year, but in terms of excitement, his coaches and his fans can’t wait to find out.

Reminding everyone of a young Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet keeps showing enough to believe he’s going to stick in the NBA for a long time. The problem is, even if he unexpectedly beats out Wright for minutes at backup point guard, that isn’t going to move the needle on the Raptors season. It’s more likely his big impact will come if one of the four guards ahead of him gets hurt and he steps up to fill in the gap.

With the Raptors just over the luxury tax line, eventually the recently acquired Justin Hamilton will be traded or waived and stretched. The excitement Hamilton is expected to be providing comes when he makes room for someone else.

Did you see the Pogo Stick Alfonzo McKinnie has been riding at NBA Summer League for the Raptors? The 6’8 24-year-old forward should be reminding everyone of Jamario Moon back in 2007-08. He has a $100,000 guarantee on a two-year minimum contract, so he still has to make the team at training camp, but at the very least, this kid will be fun to watch in preseason. If you want excitement, you should be hoping he makes it.

Getting below the luxury tax threshold is good for the Raptors corporate owners. Watching the young guys play during the regular season isn’t even a bad deal for the fans as they will be exciting. However, for anyone hoping against hope this team would be trying to surpass the Cavaliers this season, how much luxury tax the Raptors were prepared to pay was a benchmark.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_inside

Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

NBA Free Agents LucMbah a Moute and Dante Cunningham

Raptors Need Some Cheap Veteran Help At Forward

Ever since the Toronto Raptors let James Johnson walk away in free agency a year ago, they’ve needed a cheap reliable veteran forward that can play both positions and doesn’t mind (too much) that he could lose his job to some young guy who isn’t better than him yet.

The Raptors have two All-Star guards with solid young backups, two really good forwards and way too many centers, but as the center market for trades is looking kind of iffy, they may have to sort through the bargain bin of remaining free agents to fill that obvious forward hole in the rotation until one or both of Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby are ready to take it.

If president Masai Ujiri is swinging for the fences, he could take a run at Grizzlies restricted free agent power forward/center JaMychal Green with a sign-and-trade offer in the four-years $50-60 million range. Memphis loves him, but doesn’t want to pay him and so maybe there’s a chance, a slim chance they’d take the younger Jonas Valanciunas in return.

The 27-year-old Green is the big mobile type defender that fits the current NBA as is his developing three-point shot (33.3% 3FG on 45 attempts in 2015-16, 37.9% 3FG on 145 attempts last season.) He’d look really good in a Raptors uniform.

But it’s probably going to be tough to trade Valanciunas and get reasonable value back, so maybe one of the handful of overlooked free agent forwards could fit the bill.

The Pelicans 30-year-old forward  Dante Cunningham gave up $3.1 million to become a free agent this summer and it’s starting to get late in the game. Considered a versatile defender with limited offense who developed a three-point shot over the last two seasons (39.2% 3FG on 181 attempts last year), he’s already been passed by the secondary tier of free agents who signed on the cheap.

Forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will be 31 in September and he declined a $2.3 million player option with the Clippers in June. It’s previously been suggested by Rogers Michael Grange that the Raptors have shown some interest. Just like Cunningham, Mbah a Moute is considered a versatile defender with limited offense who has also been working on his three-point shot (39.1% 3FG on 110 attempts last year.)

As long as the price and the term are right, either Cunningham or Mbah a Moute could be a good fit on the Raptors.

Then there’s the 35-year-old Boris Diaw who was just waived by the Jazz because his numbers have fallen off a cliff and they could save $7 million by cutting him. There are still several players available that could provide a veteran presence if that’s all Ujiri wants? But the pickings are getting thin.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_inside

Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

Knicks Carmelo Anthony trade 2017

Can Raptors Be A Third Team In A Carmelo Anthony Trade?

There are still a few options/ long shots out there for Raptors president Masai Ujiri to make a move before the season starts, but perhaps none more exciting than attempting to squeeze into the rumored Carmelo Anthony to the Rockets or Cavs trades as a third or fourth team, assuming the Knicks might be interested in Valanciunas?

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Knicks aren’t all that interested in older players with years left on their contracts and that has stalled out the process as all sides are looking for partners to facilitate a deal.

the Knicks and Rockets are confident that they have a willing third-team trade partner

The fourth team was needed to move a particular player contract that neither the Knicks nor Rockets could or would accept in the deal

The Knicks’ front office has been privately saying that the organization’s marching orders are now focusing on players 25 years old and younger

Three team deals are tough enough, but adding a fourth team dramatically boosts the complexity and likelihood nothing gets done. However, Toronto has a 25-year-old starting center they’ve been rumored to be shopping and an apparent motivation to reduce payroll that should make the Raptors easier to deal with.

(using the ESPN trade machine)

A move like this wouldn’t change the direction Ujiri is taking, but it would help re-balance the roster, cut $8 million off the payroll this year and $16.5 million next season.

It’s pure speculation, but the 32-year-old 6’8 Trevor Ariza could be the perfect veteran to mentor the Raptors young forwards and upgrade the team’s starting unit.

In New York, where nothing ever seems to go their way, landing Eric Gordon and Valanciunas for Carmelo Anthony should be seen as hitting one out of the park. (At least it shouldn’t be viewed as embarrassing.) Assuming Dolan can get over the fact he’s been burned by trading with Ujiri in the past?

In the extremely unlikely event the Cavaliers would entertain a trade including their conference rivals, the Raptors would almost certainly be interested in doing a deal.

There is a lot of motivation on the Knicks, Rockets and even the Cavaliers to find a way to make a very difficult trade happen. They might just have to swallow hard and allow a team like Toronto to squeeze in there to get it done.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Lucas Nogueira

Can Raptors Trust Lucas Nogueira To Be In The Rotation?

It took until his third year for Lucas Nogueira to gain head coach Dwane Casey’s trust enough to crack the Raptors rotation and even though he lost his minutes after Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker arrived, if one looks at what he did objectively, the Raptors should seriously want to see what he could do coming into his fourth NBA season.

Nogueira has an image problem, mostly of his own making, but exaggerated by those annoying Raptors NBA TV ads where he says he is only competing against himself, he is not competing with Jonas Valanciunas and Jakob Poeltl. Does he know just how naive that sounds?

It’s a theme that started a couple of years ago when Nogueira left a solid impression that he believed he is in the NBA for a reason and doesn’t have to prove anything to anybody. Call it poor communication in a second language or just the musings of a young player totally unaware of just how brutal the NBA can be.

Putting all that negative press aside, Nogueira made an impact last year and if he comes to training camp ready to compete for minutes, he does bring things the Raptors want and need.

When he’s focused and on his game, Nogueira is a flat out fast, exceptionally long and athletic 7-footer with quick feet and hands, good timing, an excellent screen setter and a way above average shot blocker.

Let’s put just how good he can be in perspective. Last season the NBA’s leading shot blocker Rudy Gobert blocked 6.35 percent of the two-point shots while he was on the floor and Serge Ibaka was tenth best at 4.2 percent per basketball-reference. Nogueira didn’t play enough total minutes to qualify, but he swatted 7.1 percent of the two-point shots attempted while he was on the court. The Raptors needed that.

In the 55 games he played more than 3 seconds, he only failed to block a shot 7 times. Even in a three-point shooting happy era, rim protection is still a big deal. Averaging just 19.1 minutes, he was Toronto’s leading shot blocker at 1.6 per game.

His offense is limited and that supposed three-point shot he’s working on isn’t proven, but of the few shots he does take (2.7 per game), over 75 percent are at the rim and he puts in over 75 percent of them.

There is a reason Nogueira doesn’t have the ball in his hands very often, however, he turned the ball over 1 out of every 5 plays he was involved in and unfortunately for Nogueira, that’s hard not to notice.

His 9’6 standing reach and 7’6 wingspan means he can erase some his defensive miscues and make everyone forget that the turnover causing the chance he just erased was caused by him in the first place, but it feels like most of his mistakes come from a lack of focus and that’s on him.

However, for all the warts with his game, he was worth it last year. Of the returning players, Nogueira has the third best +/- of +3.1 points, the second best net rating +9.8 and perhaps most importantly, he showed he could play at both power forward and center.

With all of the Raptors injuries, consistent 5-man units were tough to keep together last year, but of those units that played at least 5 games together, the third best at +2.7 points featured Nogueira at power forward for 10 games.

Using NBA Stats for 2-man units playing over 40 games together, Lowry and Nogueira were the Raptors second best pair on the court with a +/- of +4.3 points in 15.6 minutes.

It isn’t going to be easy to convince anyone, possibly not even coach Casey, that Nogueira should be a significant part of the rotation next season. The 25-year-old from Brazil is almost certainly going to cost the coach his voice almost every night he plays him.

However, unless the Raptors make another move via trade or free agency, Casey’s only other option to soak up minutes at the four spot could be second year forward Pascal Siakam, but at least there’s some competition so the decision doesn’t have to be made solely on trust. Even if Nogueira won’t acknowledge it, it’s pretty much a guarantee Siakam knows he’s competing for minutes.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

   Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors rookie OG Anunoby 2017

Raptors Betting On OG Anunoby For Next Season?

With the standard line after drafting just about any player, Raptors president Masai Ujiri was upbeat and surprised a player like OG Anunoby was available when he was drafted with the 23rd pick. We’ve heard this before, but does it mean he’ll be betting on Anunoby for next season?

“If he doesn’t have that injury, I don’t think we have a shot (at Anunoby),” Ujiri said immediately after the draft. “We liked him. We really liked him. We just feel lucky.

“He’s a player we feel has to develop, but I think will develop quickly. He’s already a top defender type player.

“I don’t know what the timeline (is), especially with injury. It’s tough to say when he can break thru (to the rotation.)”

As reported by CBS Sports Matt Norlander, Anunoby was a projected top 15 pick at the start of his sophomore college season and when he injured his ACL in January, he was averaging 11.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks, so the 6’8 combo forward with the 7’2 wingspan was on his way to the draft lottery and did receive a Green Room invite.

Since his breakout performance in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, Anunoby has been projected as a future first-round NBA pick.

In October, he was seen as a top-15 pick in a loaded draft.

8 Points 9 Seconds Luke Parrish, also saw a future star in Anunoby,

Before an ACL injury in January, OG Anunoby looked like the next NBA star in the making. He has incredible size and length, along with superior athleticism.

Not only is Anunoby freakishly long, but he’s also freakishly athletic.

I’m not saying he is going to be as good as the Spurs’ star (Kawhi Leonard), but he has a similar game. Both guys are long and defensive-minded. When Kawhi came in to the league, he did not have a very good jump shot, much like Anunoby.

Draft Express Jonathan Givony lays out exactly what the Raptors hope they’ve found,

Anunoby has an elite physical profile for a NBA combo forward, standing 6’8 in shoes, with a chiseled frame and a reported 7’6 wingspan that will easily allow him to play power forward or even spend time at the center position in smaller lineups. He moves like a wing, being light on his feet and capable of playing above the rim impressively in space, as he demonstrated with a number of powerful highlight-reel caliber finishes over the past two years.

However, the big question is, when will Anunoby be ready for full contact practice and games?

“My rehab? I’m two months ahead of schedule right now,” Anunoby said after the draft. ” I’m starting to do a lot more on the court. I started running. I should be back full go October, November.”

Prior to the draft, Ujiri only got to see Anunoby workout twice and the workout was restricted to shooting. The Raptors had to rely on what they saw during the college season and the workout tapes they could get a hold of, but make no mistake, they liked what they saw.

“He’s a big time talent,” said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. “If it wasn’t for his injury he would have went higher.

“He is one of the top defenders available in the draft.”

Earlier indications are Anunoby has been working out at the Las Vegas Summer League even though there is no chance he’ll play. It’s possible he’s ready for training camp, but it’s equally possible he’s not ready to go until after Christmas.

However, make no mistake, Ujiri sees a big role for Anunoby this season. The Raptors view him as a talent they have to let play thru his mistakes because he’ll develop fast and they aren’t going to hold him back unless his knee isn’t 100 percent.

There is a chance the Raptors have drafted a future starting small forward and maybe, if he still has all of his pre-injury bounce and develops his three-point shot like Leonard did in San Antonio, there’s a chance he becomes a star.

Since it’s obvious Ujiri is planning on giving some of his young guys a chance to shine – Norman Powell, Delon Wright, and possibly Jakob Poeltl – it makes sense to see what he’s got in Anunoby as soon as the rookie’s ready.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

NBA Indiana Pacers CJ Miles and Toronto Raptors Cory Joseph

Raptors Trade Cory Joseph For Three-Point Wing C.J. Miles

Raptors president Masai Ujiri continued his efforts to re-balance his roster and find additional three-point shooting today by working out a sign-and-trade with the Indiana Pacers to acquire free agent wing C.J. Miles for backup point guard Cory Joseph.

The 30-year-old Miles is coming off a career three-point shooting year averaging 41.3 percent on 5.4 three-point attempts per game.

The transaction cannot be completed until the trade sending DeMarre Carroll to the Nets is finalized as the Raptors will be hard capped at the luxury tax line plus $6 million ($125 million) for the balance of the 2017-18 season on completion of the sign-and trade.

 

CBS Sports Chris Barnewall reported earlier this year that Miles, a decent defender and dramatically improved three-point shooter, was looking for a bigger payday by becoming a free agent this summer.

Not only will he see a more secure, long-term contract, but if recent history says anything then he’ll likely get paid somewhere in the $10 million per year range.

Indiana struggled to find consistency from most of its role guys, but Miles was one of the few the Pacers found reliable. Miles is a decent defender, but his real value is shooting. He’s seen massive improvements over the last few years, and his 40 percent from 3-point range last season was a career high. There are concerns about Miles being able to repeat that, but he should be a serviceable player for whoever signs him.

Miles averaged 10.7 points and 3 rebounds in 23.4 minutes last season and shot an outstanding 50.8 percent on corner threes. He is expected to become an important veteran addition to head coach Dwane Casey’s rotation as Powell and the rookie OG Anunoby continue to develop.

In Toronto, Ujiri had found himself with three backup point guards all capable of filling the role with the improving play of Fred VanVleet and, especially with the Carroll trade, woefully thin on the wing. Joseph at $7.7 million this year and a player option for $8 million next season had become the most expensive option and was eating into minutes at backup shooting guard that would have more appropriately been going to the cheaper and better defender and shooter Powell.

Joseph was the first player originally from the Toronto area who had a significant role with the Raptors and his positive outgoing personality will be missed. Unfortunately, the 26-year-old’s game didn’t progress over the two years while he was playing in his home town and two other players Ujiri brought in, Delon Wright and VanVleet look like they might be better if given the chance.

NBA Toronto Raptors backup PG stats 2016-17

With the trade Ujiri has answered the question about whether this team would go significantly into luxury tax territory in order to compete with the Cleveland Cavaliers. While his moves this summer have made basketball and financial sense, they have also made it impossible for Toronto to spend further than $6 million above the luxury tax line this year.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri

Check Out Pro Bball Report On The Potent Lifestyle Magazine

Check out Pro Bball Report editor Stephen Brotherston’s article about the Toronto Raptors on The Potent Lifestyle Magazine.

Raptors Hit The Wall?

Eventually it happens with every successful professional sports team. Whatever got them on their current run starts to run out of steam. The fans continue to show up for a while reliving the memories, but the passion isn’t the same. In Toronto, the fans seem to know the Raptors have hit the wall.

Also check out Studio to Street Wear, the Artist’s Showcase, Music, and lots more in this inaugural relaunch issue.

NBA San Antonio Spurs LaMarcus Aldridge and Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas

Raptors Should Just Go For It This Season

Already deep in luxury tax territory and unsuccessfully looking to dump contracts even at the expense of potentially getting worse, Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri should be looking to do more than just being a top four team in the Eastern Conference. He should got for it and take his shot at getting to the NBA Finals.

As Basketball Insiders senior writer Joel Brigham reported recently, overall the East has gotten weaker with Jimmy Butler, Paul George and Paul Millsap heading west. The top four in the East aren’t about to change, although maybe things between the top teams could become at least a little more interesting.

Cleveland, Boston, Toronto and Washington look almost certain to keep their top-four status in the conference simply by bringing back the same players they had a year ago. Add Milwaukee to that conversation, too

Chicago, Indiana and Atlanta all made the playoffs last year but each will vie for the conference’s worst record next season after losing their stars

Boston took the first steps towards becoming more competitive with the Cavs by getting Gordon Hayward’s commitment for next season. Although they still have more moves left to create the needed cap space to sign Hayward and they’ll probably want to do something about carrying four small forwards that all need to play next season.

Expect the Wizards to match anything restricted free agent Otto Porter signs on July 6th.

The Raptors will bring back starters Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, but have lost rotation players P.J. Tucker and Patrick Patterson to free agency and are rumored to be looking to dump salary because of luxury tax concerns.

All three of these pretenders will be competitive during the regular season, but unless they have another major move up their sleeve, no one is going to give them more than a puncher’s chance at knocking off a healthy Cavs squad in the playoffs.

The Celtics with Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford and Gordon Hayward still need rebounding and they have the trade pieces to go get a difference maker. Of course the Celtics with Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Brooklyn’s 2018 first round draft pick could choose to tread water as a 50-win team while their young guys develop instead?

Built around John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards will have continuity and if they can find some offense off the bench, it can be argued they don’t need anything else, but they really need that bench to step up.

The Raptors are built around Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Ibaka, but like the Celtics, they need another impact player if they are going to be more than pretenders in the East.

(Players shown in the positions they would like to play)

The Raptors could make do with the players they have, even if it isn’t practical luxury tax wise. Delon Wright has the size to play on the wing. DeMarre Carroll can play both forward spots and Ibaka can play power forward (like he has for most of his career.) But this isn’t the best use of team resources.

The favored move seems to be to find a team to take on Carroll’s salary to solve the luxury tax issue, but this doesn’t help re-balance the roster or help move the needle of the team’s outlook for next season.

No, Ujiri needs to go big if this team is going to be significantly better than last season. He needs to add an impact player, preferably while reducing his luxury tax position.

Once teams can actually start signing free agents on July 6th and reality sets in around the league, trade season can start in earnest and there is one multiple-time All-Star rumored to have shopped around at the draft because he wasn’t happy, the Spurs LaMarcus Aldridge.

The almost 32-year-old five-time All-Star power forward wasn’t named to the All-Star team for first time since 2012 last year. He posted his lowest scoring (17.3 points per game), fewest field goals made (6.9) and worst rebounding numbers (7.3) since his rookie season way back in 2006-07. However, he was still an impact player and as has been a big man trend, he added a three-point shot and hit 41 percent of his 56 attempts last season.

In addition to Aldridge being unhappy, general manager R.C. Burford isn’t going to have star point guard Tony Parker to start the season, if at all. It doesn’t look like free agency is going all that well either besides the return of Patty Mills, so an aging Spurs team could use some young ready-to-go players for next season.

If the Raptors sent Jonas Valanciunas, Cory Joseph and Lucas Nogueira to the Spurs for Aldridge, the Raptors would get another impact player who can shoot plus shave $4.5 million off their payroll, and the Spurs would get to fill some holes with a young starting center, a backup point guard they know well and a young developing big man.

The Raptors tax situation becomes a lot more palatable and the players fall into roles they prefer/fit.

If Aldridge can re-gain his All-Star form of a year ago, which should be a lot easier in the NBA East, Toronto would at least get a second look as a potential competitor for the Cavs come playoff time.

At this point in early July, nothing is set in stone, however, expect the Celtics to make a move to address those rebounding concerns, look for the Wizards bench to improve and the Raptors will do … something.

Ujiri created a three-year window with the contracts of DeRozan, Lowry and Ibaka, so he may as well go for it this year if he can and there may be no better opportunity to snag an impact player than the situation in San Antonio with Aldridge. That is unless Danny Ainge beats him to it.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

   Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

 

NBA Minnesota Timberwolves Shabazz Muhammad and Miami Heat James Johnson and Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson

What Is The Next Shoe To Drop For The Toronto Raptors

It feels like things are stalling out in the NBA for trades and free agency as teams wait on Gordon Hayward and the few remaining free agents with profile to decide where they want to go/ who wants them plus what is likely the inevitable return of Otto Porter to the Wizards after he signs an offer sheet with somebody. But until there’s some clarity, the next shoe to drop for teams like the Toronto Raptors is left hanging up in the air.

The Raptors aren’t the only ones looking to dump salary, the Bucks, Celtics? and likely and handful of other teams are also waiting for the big picture to work itself out as well. Toronto, however, after coming to terms with Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka is in a must deal versus might or would like to deal situation.

Toronto Raptors NBA

It likely isn’t as bad as being $17 million over the luxury tax line in Toronto. The first year salaries of Lowry and Ibaka combined could be about $5 million less than the three-year average, VanVleet is not guaranteed and can still be released, and their first round draft pick isn’t signed/could still be traded, but if paying the tax is a big deal for president Masai Ujiri, he still needs to move at least one of Jonas Valanciunas, DeMarre Carroll or (for a partial tax savings) Cory Joseph.

The most obvious shoe to drop is at point guard.

The Raptors have four and nobody needs four healthy point guards on their roster. The easy solution is to waive the non-guaranteed deal of VanVleet, but he’s a cheap option as a third string backup and Ujiri has been noticed trying to shop the $7.6 million expiring contract of Joseph.

A potential deal with Indiana apparently fell though, but solid young backup point guards are a reasonably valuable commodity. Joseph is trade-able.

Ideally Joseph would be packaged with Carroll or Valanciunas so Ujiri could get something of value back and still dip below tax line.

Even if the fan base couldn’t hold the door open fast enough to help Carroll move on, he is still a useful player at a position of need, assuming he can stay healthy. So, Ujiri can’t be too fussy if it’s his traditional slow-footed rebounding center Valanciunas or the disappointing ‘3-and-D’ forward Carroll who he manages to off load to save the tax. Both players are starters and would have a useful role coming off the bench in what is expected to be a higher scoring small ball focused Raptors rotation next season.

However, if Ujiri can find a way to fill the gaps in the rotation caused by their departure, internally, by way of trade or free agency, then both Valanciunas and Carroll could be on their way out for cheaper options.

While what could come back by way of trade is harder to judge, if Ujiri could move both Carroll and Valanciunas, there are still some interesting options in free agency.

The Timberwolves have withdrawn the qualifying offer from small forward Shabazz Muhammad.

Combo forward James Johnson is available and a known quantity in Toronto.

Patrick Patterson becomes a viable option who knows the Raptors systems and has been a very effective, if at times frustrating, glue guy.

Another option could be Clipper free agent Luc Mbah Moute who evolved into a 39 percent three-point shooter last season.

At this point in free agency, the list of second tier options is long. However, the first step is clearing enough space below the luxury tax line to make room.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry Comes Home To The Raptors

Kyle Lowry got his salary and president Masai Ujiri got his term as the Toronto Raptors re-acquired their free agent All-Star point guard on a three-year $100 million deal.

It’s more money per year than most analysts were expecting Lowry could command, but it only commits Toronto to Lowry until age 34 when he should still be still playing his best basketball. A compromise to be sure that matches the contract terms of DeMar DeRozan (player option) and Serge Ibaka.

Ensuring no one had any doubt after the fact that Toronto was where he wanted to be, Lowry posted “Home” on The Players Tribune.

When I had to make my free-agency decision, there was a lot going through my head, a lot of roads my mind was traveling down. Family, first and foremost, and what’s going to make them happy, and give them the best life. Basketball, of course, and where I’d like to play for these next several years. And then there was also the gut-check aspect — just what I was feeling in my heart.

But for me, at the end of the day, this was an easy decision. And all of those roads … they all led me back to the same place: home.

They all led me back to Toronto.

The ability to re-sign All-Star DeMar DeRozan last summer and All-Star Kyle Lowry this summer is something Raptors would have been hard pressed to even imagine before the Masai Ujiri era started in Toronto.

Add in Serge Ibaka agreeing to re-up for another three years and there is almost a semblance of hope that this organization will not slide back into another long dark stretch as an NBA Lottery team with little hope every time a key free agent has the option to leave.

Ujiri can get good players to re-up in Toronto and he can do it on reasonable terms. Now if only he could get his corporate masters at MLSE to open the vault and let him spend the kind of money that needs to be committed to have more than a ghost of a chance at reaching the NBA Finals. But, maybe, one thing at a time.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Brooklyn Nets Quincy Acy

Suns Or Nets Could Take On A Raptors Salary Dump

If as it appears Raptors president Masai Ujiri is looking hard for a way to dump salary, then his best and possibly only options are with the Nets and Suns, but it’s going to cost him. When everyone knows you are desperately trying to move a player, they are going to demand a pound of flesh.

Neither the Nets nor the Suns are under any delusions about where their respective franchises currently stand, but they do have salary cap space and they know that can be a very valuable commodity to a team like Toronto.

Maybe they take on DeMarre Carroll’s two years and $30 million, but not without a nice sweetener like a first round draft pick or a young player still on his rookie deal.

Ujiri can look elsewhere for unbalanced trades for the more desirable Cory Joseph or Jonas Valanciunas, but those will likely be “basketball trades” as opposed to straight salary dumps and when it comes to moving Valanciunas, he’ll want to stick that young man out West. Ujiri wouldn’t want his starting center coming back to embarrass him twice a year at home in the Eastern Conference.

In dealing with the Nets, Ujiri could ask for the feel good move of requesting forward Quincy Acy and his $1.7 million non-guaranteed deal back. Acy was a popular player in Toronto three season ago for his hustle and the 26-year-old has shot 40 percent from three on 139 attempts over the past two years, so maybe he’s worth another look.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Serge Ibaka

Serge Ibaka Returns To The Raptors

After the Magic traded Serge Ibaka to the Raptors at the trade deadline, it came out that Toronto was the only destination the big man had indicated he would re-sign with next summer and apparently he will. Adrian Wojnarowski reports Ibaka has agreed to a team friendly three year $65 million deal.

If anyone is still wondering why a deal with Kyle Lowry hasn’t been put to bed yet, look no further than the number of years Ibaka got.

President Masai Ujiri did get a very favorable deal with Ibaka.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Cory Joseph and Jonas Valanciunas and DeMarre Carroll

Are The Raptors Still Afraid Of The Luxury Tax?

Just ignore the annual comments from whomever the Raptors GM is this year about being willing and able to spend into the Tax, by all appearances, the Raptors are going cheap… again. Maybe we’re jumping to conclusions, but this team is still afraid of the NBA Luxury Tax.

As the negotiations drag out with Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, almost certainly about dollars and length of contract, the Raptors have already lost P.J. Tucker to the Rockets because of what has become their ongoing fear of spending into the tax.

The rumors about Toronto trying to dump salary in order to “make room” under the luxury tax are coming more frequently and gaining credibility.

This is especially disappointing in light of the overwhelming fan support in Toronto which boasted the third highest attendance in the NBA last season and the very deep pockets of their corporate owners (Rogers and Bell own MLSE) where the profit or loss of the Raptors wouldn’t even make a footnote in their annual statement.

If moving out salaries is the only way Masai Ujiri is allowed to re-sign Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, then MLSE has seriously handcuffed the Raptors president.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors P.J. Tucker

As Raptors Dither, P.J. Tucker Joins The Rockets

The Raptors wanted P.J. Tucker back next season and they made the 32-year-old a high-ball offer of $33 million over three years, but he opted to take less money and join former Clippers superstar Chris Paul in Houston with the Rockets. As the Raptors dither with free agent Kyle Lowry, president Masai Ujiri couldn’t get done what Tucker really wanted fast enough.

The Raptors didn’t give up much to get Tucker at the trade deadline in February, but this was a guy Ujiri really wanted back. A veteran with a physical presence that isn’t always easy to find. While Tucker doesn’t do much for a team on the stats sheet, he does make an impact on the court.

It really looks like Tucker’s decision was all about going with the sure thing. At the locker clean out media availability, Tucker made it pretty clear he wasn’t coming back unless the team re-signed Kyle Lowry.

“I think fit is everything,” Tucker said about his impending free agency. “I want to go to a team I can help push to the next level.”

“I look to be a piece going towards something. It’s not just the money. It’s a bunch of things that goes into it and seeing where I fit.

“You got to let (free agency) play out.”

Faced with making a decision to join a very good Rockets team that has Paul committed to playing there next season versus agreeing to return to a Raptors team that still hasn’t been able to come to terms with Lowry or Serge Ibaka, it wasn’t all that hard a decision to make when the dollars are this close.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James

LeBron James Is Against NBA CBA Maximum Salary Limits

As Stephen Curry agrees to a new NBA record $201 million contract which will be surpassed within a year, LeBron James couldn’t help but note just how much more valuable Curry is to the Golden State Warriors franchise than the NBA CBA maximum salary limits permit.

James is right of course and by putting maximum salary limits on what players can earn, the NBA has created the possibility of super teams coming together and dominating the Association.

However, it should be pointed out that James is a senior member of the player’s association that collectively bargained for the limits in the current CBA.

If there was no limit on an individual player’s salary, the superstars in the NBA could command nearly the entire salary cap space. Teams would pay it. James would get offers that meant the rest of the roster he’d be playing with would be on NBA minimum salaries. He’d likely take it to. That $400 million contract number would become very possible if he wasn’t limited by the CBA.

However, the potential future owner of an NBA franchise might not like the power a change like this to the CBA would give to players like James, Curry, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Paul George or James Harden and it’s been proven that without limits, owners can’t help themselves and their often huge mistakes would become franchise crippling.

So maybe James the player was acting like James the future NBA owner during those CBA negotiations?

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry

Jrue Holiday Signing Sets A Floor Under Kyle Lowry

The Pelicans didn’t waste any time getting veteran point guard Jrue Holiday to commitment to stay long term in New Orleans with a five-year deal that could pay upwards of $150 million. Don’t think the Raptors Kyle Lowry hasn’t noticed, he’s better than Holiday, so that deal sets the floor.

The 27-year-old Holiday averaged 15.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.5 steals and shot 35.6 percent from three point range. He’s good, but not Kyle Lowry good.

Lowry is older at 31-years-old, but he is the heart and sole of the Raptors and one of the top offensive guards in the Association. He averaged 22.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.5 steals and shot an outstanding 41.2 percent from three.

Lowry is four years older, but don’t tell him that. He still sees a long career ahead and if it’s durability that comes into question, Holiday has averaged 51.5 games played per season over the past four years, while Lowry has averaged 71.5 games over the same period.

President Masai Ujiri knows what he’s got in the combination of DeMar DeRozan and Lowry. These guards have led the Raptors to home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs for four years straight and that has meant a lot of extra money in the pockets of team owner Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

Last summer DeRozan re-signed for five years and $137.5 million with a player option in year five. That has to be the ceiling Ujiri would like to get to, but that maybe optimistic in light of what Holiday got.

Lowry is a proud and competitive guy. Taking less money than a player he knows he’s better than is going to be hard to swallow and Ujiri knows it.

The two sides met last night and the odds are they will come to a new deal in short order and it’s likely neither side ends up being 100 percent happy, but don’t worry about Lowry. The great grandkids he can’t imagine yet won’t be missing any meals.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

 

NBA Minnesota Timberwolves Jeff Teague

Instant NBA Free Agent Action At Midnight

There is no waiting for the morning for these NBA free agents:

Jeff Teague to the Timberwolves

Tony Snell stays in Milwaukee

Patty Mills stays in San Antonio

Stephen Curry nears $201 million deal to stay in Golden State

Cristiano Felicio to stay in Chicago

Shaun Livingston to stay in Golden State

Blake Griffin to stay with the Clippers

Nene to remain in Houston

Remember none of these announcements are “signed deals” as teams cannot actually sign free agents until July 6th.

NBA Toronto Raptors Serge Ibaka and Masai Ujiri and Kyle Lowry

Canada Day Is A Referendum On The Raptors

As Canada celebrates it’s 150th year as a Country on July 1st, free agency opens and the Toronto Raptors face a referendum as an NBA franchise where players want to be and where a very wealthy ownership group is willing to spend … or not. The big party in the North may dominate the local news coverage for a time, but there will be no hiding from the results of the referendum on the Raptors.

The Raptors, finally, for the first time in franchise history, are a very good team, maybe not a genuine NBA Finals contender yet, but a real Eastern Conference Finals contender that with a little or a lot of luck (bad luck luck on the Cleveland Cavaliers part) could have snuck into the NBA Finals in each of the past two years.

All that is in jeopardy on July 1st as the Raptors have four key rotation players entering unrestricted free agency which means the players will decide where they want to play next season and all president Masai Ujiri can do is offer them a contract and try to talk them into coming back.

Three-time All-Star Kyle Lowry, three-time NBA All-Defensive first team big man Serge Ibaka, and veteran ‘3-and-D’ combo forwards P.J. Tucker and Patrick Patterson will decide if they want to play in Toronto next season.

ESPN currently puts the odds of the Raptors winning an NBA Title at 80:1, behind the Bucks and Timberwolves, tied with the Heat, Pelicans and (are they crazy) 76ers. It’s obvious how ESPN believes the referendum on the Raptors will turn out.

However, ESPN is better known in Canada for seeming to forget Toronto even has an NBA franchise. Attempts in recent years by the Raptors to keep their own free agents have gone pretty well.

Lowry was traded to the Raptors in the summer of 2012 and had to fight his way into the starting line-up. A cranky player with a huge chip on his shoulder who always seemed to be in conflict with head coach Dwane Casey, Ujiri got Lowry to re-up in free agency during the summer of 2014 on a team friendly contract.

All that’s happened with Lowry since then is he’s become an All-Star on a playoff team that’s been to the Eastern Conference Finals and is desired and respected around the league. DeMar DeRozan has become his best friend and their families are tight, so ESPN, explain exactly why he’s not re-signing again this summer?

Patrick Patterson came to Toronto in a trade deadline deal in 2013 and re-signed with the Raptors on a very team friendly contract in 2014. After bouncing around the league in unpalatable situations, all he’s done in Toronto is go to the playoffs every year and play for a head coach that obviously supports him.

There is a risk if the Raptors re-sign their other three free agents that Ujiri doesn’t have a big enough budget to re-acquire Patterson, but it won’t be because Patterson doesn’t want to be in Toronto.

Ibaka and Tucker were 2017 trade deadline moves, so it’s harder to make a call about how badly they want to return, however, all indications are they are interested and they were key pieces of Casey’s rotation.

However, wanting to return and re-signing these unrestricted free agents may not coincide unless Ujiri really does have the ability to commit the Raptors to a massive increase in payroll next season. While he may not have to outbid other teams, he can’t insult these guys with below market bids either.

This referendum is as much about the Raptors ownership group being willing to spend the money they have and can easily afford to invest in these players as it is about Raptors free agents interest in playing for Toronto.

In light of other recent news, this referendum could have bigger implications than just whether some key players are back or not.

The Knicks have finally addressed the disaster that was Phil Jackson and the New York media has focused in on Masai Ujiri as the executive who could put this storied franchise back on track.

Ignoring the fact Ujiri is still under contract to the Raptors and the Knicks would have to: a) ask for permission to talk to him; b) pay some serious compensation in draft picks and dollars; and, c) bribe Ujiri to leave with an outrageous contract, this isn’t an impossible scenario.

Imagine Ujiri is handcuffed by the Raptors ownership and the promised budget that is supposed to allow him to pay significant luxury tax dollars next season isn’t there. His free agents walk, the Raptors are thrust into a rebuilding program, and Ujiri is seriously embarrassed with what he was forced to offer players he has built close relationships with.

In one act of putting profits ahead of winning and player relations, the Raptors turn back the clock and once again become a team players can’t wait to leave.

What has been a very stable Raptors franchise over the past four years: general manager, coach Casey, Lowry and DeRozan could all be at risk. This is one referendum the Raptors can’t afford to lose.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.