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Toronto Raptors Bismack Biyombo, DeMar DeRozan and Cleveland Cavaliers J.R. Smith

NBA Free Agent Salaries Won’t Rise As Much As Expected

There is a rising fear that NBA salaries are about to explode this summer as the first wave of new National TV money drives the Salary Cap from $70 million to an estimated $92 million this July. However, not everyone in-the-know believes that players once considered just above average or below star-level are going to cash in as some are forecasting.

ESPN’s Tim MacMahon quotes Mavericks owner Mark Cuban as saying,

“Every player thinks it’s just going to be a money train this summer. There’s a lot of money; there’s not THAT much money. … And I think there’s going to be teams that save their money for next year, because it’s a better free agent class. People just presume now that everybody’s going to get paid a lot of money, and it’ll be interesting to see if that happens.”

The salary cap is set to rise about 31 percent in July and that is a lot of money – around $22 million, but it’s going to rise an estimated $16 million more the following year and if teams commit big money to this year’s suspect free agent crop, it’s unlikely they’ll be in a position to do it again the next year when things could get really interesting.

Fans and players are dreaming about the availability of Kevin Durant this summer, but if Durant wants to maximize his own value, he’ll re-sign with the Thunder, follow LeBron James’ path and become a free agent again next year when he can ask for a salary starting at $35 million per season. Nabbing either of this year’s top two free agents is purely a pipe dream. Any action here is down the road.

Dwyane Wade, Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki don’t even register on other teams want lists as all three have shown no interest in leaving their current teams.

Matt Moore of CBS believes the third best free agent this summer is the Pistons Andre Drummond and as a player coming off his rookie deal, he could command a salary starting at about $22 million. He might just get it too as even half decent young centers are hard to find, but that’s a lot of money when one looks at what the Raptors extended Jonas Valanciunas for last summer. The Raptors and Valanciunas haven’t exactly been overwhelmed by the Pistons young center, if anything at the center spot Valanciunas has had the edge in head-to-head games and he’s set to earn $14.4 million next season.

Al Horford is next up on Moore’s list and the big man would be a nice add to a lot of teams’ rosters, but a max player? Is 15 points, 7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks suddenly worth over $25 million a season for a 30-year-old who might have shoulder issues as he gets older. He could take a strong team in need of a power forward to the next level, but no one should be looking at Horford as a foundation piece.

Grizzlies Mike Conley will get a lot of looks simply because there just aren’t any other proven starting point guards to go after, but no one as looked at Conley (15.3 points and 6.1 assists) as one the best point guards in the league before this and tying up max money this year means you’d have no shot at the point guard riches about to hit free agency next season. Rose, Westbrook, Curry, Lowry or even Hill, Teague, Mills or Livingston in 2017.

The Raptors free agent DeMar DeRozan is still just 26-years-old and was second in Eastern Conference scoring behind LeBron James last season. Now that’s a guy who can command max money this summer, but don’t be surprised if he accepts less from Toronto.

Bradley Beal is publicly demanding a max deal and the Wizards probably feel compelled to give their restricted free agent what he wants, but they’ll cringe doing it and they should. Beal has never come close to playing a full season and missed 46 games over the last two years. He can shoot, he can score, but guys with his injury history don’t usually get max deals and the teams that have done this in the past usually regret it.

The Warriors restricted free agent Harrison Barnes is the foil to Beal’s hope for a max contract. If you could have either player, it’s Barnes hands down.

Nicolas Batum’s name has been bandied about as a future max player all of last season, but it’s really hard to believe an NBA GM would see a 15 point, 6 rebound, 5 assist glue-guy in that light. A good player who usually misses 10 or more games each season, Batum is closer to the Raptors DeMarre Carroll than a franchise centerpiece. Carroll signed for $15 million per season last summer, so give the 27-year-old small forward a rise, the cap went up, but let’s not think every GM has suddenly lost their minds.

Hassan Whiteside seems to be rubbing his hands with glee and hoping the desperate Lakers will let him cash-in. He’s still young, hopefully developing and has every reason to believe he should earn at least as much as Drummond. However, the Heat didn’t always seem all that enamored with his defense and he is coming back from an MCL strain incurred during the playoffs. Can the hype convince a GM into handing him a max deal?

The concept of center Dwight Howard as a max player has died a natural death. He won’t be “underpaid”, but don’t expect teams to fight over landing him either.

A lot has been made of the Raptors Bismack Biyombo based on his 22 starts in the regular season and 10 playoff starts. He put up some monster rebounding games. He also completely disappeared in other games and is limited offensively. Still, there are projections of him earning $17 to 20 million next season – really? Biyombo deserves a big raise from his $2.8 million salary and he’ll get it, but he’s publicly offered a hometown discount to Toronto and common sense he’ll be back for between $10-12 million a season.

Other free agents getting a lot of notice are:

Paul Gasol, he’s 35-years-old

Dion Waiters, nice young role player with potential

Chandler Parsons and his knee injuries

J.R. Smith, he’ll shoot you into and out of games

Ryan Anderson, a stretch four that can’t play defense and has injury issues

Kent Bazemore might be another DeMarre Carroll

Festus Ezeli is a big center and really nice backup

and the list goes on and on.

There are lots of players in free agency that would be nice to have, but massively overpaying them? The role players, old players, bounce-backers and guys coming off of injury that seem to dominate much of the 2016 free agent class, go with Cuban’s assessment, prices will be held down by GMs saving at least some of their salary cap space for next summer. Of course, there will always be someone that gets caught up by “money burning a hole in their pocket,” just don’t expect the extravagance to be widespread.

 

 

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 Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 


 

NBA Atlanta Hawks Al Horford

Atlanta Has A Hold On Hawks Al Horford

The Atlanta Hawks drafted Al Horford third overall in 2007 and a team that hadn’t been in the playoffs since the turn of the century hasn’t missed the postseason since then. The big power forward/center has been an All-Star four times and knows how fortunate he’s been. Atlanta has a hold on Horford that isn’t going to be easy for other NBA franchises to break when he becomes a free agent this summer.

“I’ve been very fortunate because some guys, they never get to be part of a playoff team, they never get to experience it,” Horford told Pro Bball Report. “I think the older you get, the more you realize that it’s just not given, it’s actually a big deal. I like the team that we have. I feel that we can do some special things. I am just glad we have the opportunity to be in the playoffs this year.”

Horford turns 30 in June and has spent all of his nine NBA seasons with the Hawks, something that is becoming more of a rarity with each passing year. Staying that long with one team in one city allows a player to put down roots and become part of a community. Stability, especially with a well run successful organization is a comfortable place to be.

“For me it brings a lot of stability,” Horford said. “My family, most of them live in Atlanta. We have kind of made our niche there. There have been some coaching changes and things like that, but just the fact that you are in the same city and same organization, its been nice to see the Hawks organization grow to a better place and our fans starting to rally more and more around us, so it’s been really nice.”

Horford was joined by Jeff Teague two years later when the point guard was drafted 19th overall by the Hawks in 2009 and having long term teammates only strengthens the bond to a franchise. It helps an organization be successful.

“I think so,” Horford said. “It gives stability. I feel like you have guys that can teach the guys that are coming in or at least show them what to expect. It brings a lot of stability into a locker room.”

After nine years, it’s like Horford has become a fixture in the Hawks organization. He knows everybody and everybody knows him. It seemed strange to see his name being bandied about as a trade target at the NBA trade deadline because of his pending unrestricted free agent status this July. Horford hasn’t given the impression he wants to leave Atlanta.

“I know everybody, the front office, coaches, ball boys. I am just very familiar with everyone,” Horford said. “I’ve just been really lucky and it’s something I don’t take it for granted. I am very grateful.”

“(Free agency) is one of those things that a person has to feel comfortable and at peace with whatever decision they make. There are going to be great opportunities with all the (league) revenues going up. At the end of the day, especially for guys that have been on multiple teams and have seen how different it can be and maybe not be part of a playoff team every year, I feel that guys will be willing to sacrifice, but it all depends on the individual. It really depends on where you are at financially, how do you feel about the team you are with?”

At this point it seems like only the Hawks themselves could make Horford feel like he’d want a change this July, but there won’t be a lack of other suitors. Horford’s services will be in high demand as a reliable, no-nonsense All-Star who could be the missing piece on a contending team or the missing piece on a team just outside of the playoff picture.

However, Horford is comfortable in Atlanta. The city and the franchise has a hold on their All-Star. This pending free agent doesn’t sound like a player looking for the exits.

 

 

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

The Myth American Athletes Pay More Tax In Toronto Blown Away

Every now and then somebody tries to explain the inability of the Toronto Blue Jays, Raptors or Maple Leafs to land some available big name free agent using Canada’s exceedingly high personal income tax rates. That overly simplified explanation couldn’t be further from the truth. While income tax rates vary widely between individual provinces and states, there is no escaping federal taxes in either Country and that’s the really big nut in this discussion.

There would be no point in trying to say income taxes are simple, no one would believe it anyway. However, it should be understood that Canada and the United States have tax treaties in place that ensure their citizens only pay income taxes once. There is no double taxation and residents of one Country get tax credits for taxes paid to the other Country.

Canadians are almost undoubtedly unaware that the highest personal tax rate in the U.S. at the federal level is a comparatively shocking 39.6 percent plus US citizens pay an additional 2.35 percent Medicare tax. That’s about 42 percent before getting to local and state income taxes.

In Canada, the highest marginal tax rate is only 29 percent. Unfortunately, if you live in Toronto, provincial taxes will bump that as high as 49.53 percent.

Now it’s been true for a long time that if you are comparing Toronto to New York or Los Angeles, you’d be splitting hairs as far as your personal income tax bill goes when earning a top athletes’ salary. The difference comes when players start considering the income tax free states like Florida or Texas, but it’s not as big a difference as first impressions would lead one to believe.

Crowe Soberman (actual tax experts) have done some great examples using the Blue Jays in 2013 and the Raptors in 2015. Based on these examples, if players say they are making their decisions based on personal income tax costs, they are full of something – and it smells.

Ignoring contract restructuring and using all the variables described above, we computed that the tax bill for a player who is a resident of Florida and moves from the Marlins to the Blue Jays with $100 million left on his contract is only an additional $2.7 million, over the life of the entire contract.

That’s a increased income tax cost of 2.7 percent of his contract to play in Toronto for a baseball player over playing in Florida or Texas. Pretty much no one makes a contract decision in professional sports based on that amount of money.

In basketball (and it would be safe to assume hockey would be similar), residency rules increase the no state income tax advantage, but it’s still not as big a difference as most people would assume.

We computed the tax bill for the point guard on a $12 million per year contract. Our point guard is going to pay approximately $5.92 million in taxes and social security payments per year on his contract. For comparative purposes, had that player signed with the Rockets or Heat, he would have only paid $5.12 million in taxes and social security.

While that’s slightly more than double what the baseball player would be hit with, it is still only 6.67 percent of the contract and that’s a number the team, the player and his agent should be able to easily handle in negotiations. The advantage of teams in income tax free jurisdictions certainly isn’t overwhelming or untenable.

These discussions are not unique to Toronto either. Pretty much every team outside of Florida and Texas has to deal with the same issue. In the basketball example, Crowe Soberman calculates the player would be $63,000 better off in New York and $70,000 worse off in Los Angeles and no one raises personal income tax rates as an impediment to attracting professional athletes to those markets.

This summer the Toronto Raptors managed to sign a $60 million free agent without a whisper about Canadian tax rates. The issue shouldn’t come up with hockey players either. However, the Blue Jays have ‘rented’ All-Star pitcher David Price for the playoff drive and some of the talking heads are suggesting the team will have to significantly outbid US teams in free agency to keep him because of the income tax differences. Don’t believe them. If Price decides not to sign in Toronto, personal income taxes will not be the deciding factor. All it takes is a little information to blow that myth away.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

POR_Wright_Dorell

Raptors Should Target Free Agent Forward Dorell Wright

The Toronto Raptors roster is set save for one open position that could either go to another young player expected to head immediately to the NBA D-League or an NBA veteran who could mentor and fill in as needed during the regular season. With rookies Delon Wright and Norman Powell already signed and sophomores Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira returning, one might expect the decision about what type of player would prove to be the most useful next season should be a no-brainer.

Of course President and General Manager Masai Ujiri could just leave the 15th roster spot open, but with the team so far below the luxury tax line that there is no chance of getting there, picking up a minimum salary player who could prove useful just seems like the logical thing to do.

The Raptors own free agent Tyler Hansbrough is still out there and he proved his worth last season as a young veteran player who willingly played out of position at center and always hustled no matter the role or the minutes Head coach Dwane Casey gave him. The 29-year-old should be holding out for a chance to join a team that at least has a backup role of some kind he could fill. The Raptors just don’t have any minutes for him and would likely give Nogueira first shot at any that did come available. Still Hansbrough would be a great practice player if he wants the job?

However, there is another intriguing 29-year-old veteran who might eventually find a role or at least provide support to the rookies and a very interesting story line. Dorell Wright is an 11-year NBA veteran who won a championship with the Heat as a young player. The brother of Raptors rookie Delon is a three-point shooting backup small forward who has averaged 36.5 percent on 3.1 three-point attempts over his NBA career.

Dorell missed the end of last season with Portland when he broke his left hand. The injury eventually needed surgery, but he was back on the court in early June, so it would be safe to assume he’s likely going to be ready by the start of the season.

Dorell has already been active in helping his younger brother Delon with the transition to the NBA and it has become apparent their is a lot of family support available for the Raptors rookie – support that would only be stronger if Dorell was playing in Toronto. Dorell only played three games with the Heat as a rookie and just 20 games the next season before getting his chance to finally contribute meaningful minutes the year after his team won a championship. He has real life experience that could benefit all of the Raptors rookies and sophomores.

Like Hansbrough, Dorell Wright would have to be comfortable without a spot in the rotation at the start of the season and accept mentoring younger players that would get the first crack at minutes if injuries opened up some playing time.

Deciding what to do with a team’s 15th roster spot shouldn’t be critical on a team expecting to win a Division title and it’s not. However, any small advantage a final player coming into a team can provide that might help down the road should get some serious consideration.

 

 


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.

 

 

 

 

 

Norman-Powell-b

Toronto Raptors Are Pretty Much Done With Free Agency

It has been a very good summer in Toronto for Raptors President and General Manager Masai Ujiri. He landed the free agents he targeted to change the culture and the mood is decidedly upbeat around the team. With only a little salary cap space left with which to work and no playing time to offer the handful of interesting free agents still on the market, the Raptors are pretty much done with free agency. Only a few important loose ends remain to look after.

Ujiri’s roster has taken shape. All but two of the roster spots are spoken for and his second round pick Norman Powell is dominating the Las Vegas NBA Summer League and forcing his team’s hand. If the Raptors want to protect their bird right’s down the line with this promising young prospect, they’ll have to use some of their available salary cap space to secure Powell to a three-year deal for more than the minimum salary exception provides.

Players that have shown less than the outstanding athleticism and skill Powell has been able to demonstrate at Summer League get signed to guaranteed NBA contracts. Baring something unforeseen, Powell will be with the big club in October.

Ujiri likes a little competition at camp and in what probably becomes the first of two or three minor moves, it looks like Raptors Summer League power forward Ronald Roberts will be offered a partially guaranteed contract. This is anticipated to be a training camp invite and, like in past seasons, Ujiri should be expected to sign a couple more promising prospects to battle it out for the last remaining roster spot.

Roberts has jump out of the gym hops and played very well in the NBA D-League and overseas last season after a solid four-year college career at St. Joseph’s. He has done enough at Summer League to get another look.

The Raptors 2015-16 roster is shaping up like this:

PG: Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, rookie Delon Wright

SG: DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, (rookie Norman Powell)

SF: DeMarre Carroll, James Johnson, Bruno Caboclo

PF: Luis Scola, Patrick Patterson, (Ronald Roberts or someone else?)

C: Jonas Valanciunas, (Bismack Biyombo), Lucas Nogueira

With only a little over $2.2 million in cap space left, the Raptors have to decide how they will use it before signing Biyombo with their Room Exception. That’s also just enough space to retain their rights to guard Nando De Colo who is expected to stay in Europe and is a player Ujiri is likely keeping an eye on for next season, if only as a trade asset. A little patience in allowing everything to run its course will be required.

It’s still possible the Raptors find a free agent they like that fits into their available salary cap space and who’ll sign without a promise of playing time, however, that becomes more unlikely with each passing day. Powell is just too intriguing to risk losing at this point and Ujiri’s history suggests available money doesn’t burn a hole in his pocket. He’ll do what he’s done in the past. This free agency period looks like a wrap.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Carroll & JosephThe Rise Of The Toronto Raptors

A couple of years ago the Toronto Raptors were mired in the NBA Lottery. They were soft and easy pickings for the rest of the league. In many ways comparing DeMarre Carroll to Lou Williams is the entire thrust of GM Masai Ujiri’s summer moves. Ujiri wanted a tougher team, better rebounding and defense, a team that was more in tune with the strengths of his head coach.

 

 

 

Tristan Thompson - cropped

A Door Opens For The Raptors To Pursue Tristan Thompson

As LeBron James signed a brand new two-year contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, a door opened slightly for the Toronto Raptors to pursue restricted free agent Canadian power forward Tristan Thompson.

Everyone seems to remember James saying he wanted Thompson back next season and there were plenty of “experts” implying James wouldn’t sign before a deal got done with his NBA Finals starting power forward. However, what seems to be missed is precisely what James said, “Tristan should probably be a Cavalier for his whole career.” Probably being the most overlooked word in that sentence.

“I appreciate the compliment, if that’s a compliment, from LeBron,” Thompson said.

It isn’t hard to remember that it was James who insisted the Cavs trade for power forward Kevin Love last summer and that trade cost Thompson his starting job in Cleveland. It’s even easier to remember that James actively recruited the unrestricted free agent Love this summer and the Cavs quickly agreed to give Love a new max deal. Thompson hasn’t been so lucky.

Now James can still definitely make Thompson’s return to the Cavaliers a personal priority, however, there now seems to be some doubt about whether or not that will happen.

So just maybe James and Thompson aren’t joined at the hip after all.

If the Cavaliers all-but-in-name general manager James isn’t insisting on Thompson’s return and simply wants to win as many NBA Championships as possible, he may have looked at the Cavs roster and realized his team needs some more depth – preferably players that aren’t as old as dirt and might actually be useful at some point.

Toronto likely isn’t the only team James could approve the Cavs discussing a sign-and-trade for Thompson with, but they would probably be the most motivated team and a franchise Thompson is likely to accept a trade to.

The Raptors wouldn’t decimate their roster to get Thompson, but they would almost certainly be willing to trade some of their bench and possibly even one of their extra first round draft picks to acquire the rising Canadian – dare we say? – star.

A package that included Terence Ross, Patrick Patterson and Lucas Nogueira would add a badly needed three-point shooting wing to replace J.R. Smith, a solid backup power forward to replace Thompson and a project center in his second NBA season to a depleted Cavaliers roster that has limited options beyond minimum salary veterans at this point.

The Raptors would get the starting power forward that seems to be missing from their roster presently.

As has been the case since his return to Cleveland, most decisions of any importance will ultimately rest with James. If James insists the Cavs give Thompson his max deal, owner Dan Gilbert will swallow hard once again and make it happen. If James lets the team decide or remembers how a lack of depth just cost him a championship, Cavs GM David Griffin could be on the phone to Toronto.

 

 

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.

 

 

James ThompsonCavaliers LeBron James Finally Endorses Tristan Thompson – Sort Of

Having James move his status from – Love’s backup to ‘you should probably be a Cavalier‘ – isn’t exactly the ringing endorsement Thompson should feel he has earned over the last three weeks. It still sounds like the King is continuing to hedge his bets in favor of a better option?

 

 

 

NBA commissioner Adam Silver

New NBA Salary Cap Even Higher Than Expected

When the league first started guessing at what the NBA Salary Cap for the 2015-16 season would be, they were suggesting $67 million would be about right. Then during the July Moratorium, there was an oops, maybe that should be $69 million. Now it looks like even that guess wasn’t high enough. Get out your calculators and increase those estimates of available cap space after all those free agent commitments, the 2015-16 Salary Cap will be set at $70 million.

Correspondingly the luxury tax line will jump to $84.7 million and the apron, which becomes a hard cap under a whole host of common scenarios, will be $88.7 million.

This means a whole lot of teams still have room to maneuver in free agency and a new flurry of deals should get done over the next few days. The uncertainty over the salary cap during the Moratorium period likely caused a lot of general managers pause at the end, but they can take the gloves off and get back to work in earnest now.

While this could be a game changer for a lot of teams, it’s an even bigger windfall for those free agents still sitting on the sidelines.

 

Official NBA Press Release

NBA SALARY CAP FOR 2015-16 SEASON JUMPS TO $70 MILLION

NEW YORK, July 8, 2015 – The National Basketball Association today announced that the Salary Cap has increased by 11% to an all-time high of $70 million for the 2015-16 season. The tax level for the 2015-16 season increased by 10.3% to $84.740 million.

The Salary Cap and tax level go into effect at 12:01 a.m. ET on Thursday, July 9, when the league’s “moratorium period” ends and teams can begin signing free agents and making trades.

The minimum team salary, which is set at 90% of the Salary Cap, is $63 million for the 2015-16 season.

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement provides for three different mid-level exceptions depending on a team’s salary level. The non-taxpayer mid-level for this season is $5.464 million, the taxpayer mid-level is $3.376 million and the mid-level for a team with room under the Salary Cap is $2.814 million.

Sullinger Olynyk Amir Johnson

Why Celtics And Raptors Should Be Trade Partners

It would be mutually beneficial if these two division rivals could sit down and complete a couple of trades over the next few days.

The Boston Celtics committed to the Toronto Raptors free agent power forward Amir Johnson and then they traded for the Warriors veteran power forward David Lee dropping last season’s starting power forward Jared Sullinger and one-time starting center Kelly Olynyk to no better than fourth and fifth on the team’s big men depth chart this October.

As pointed out by Basketball Insiders, there’s at least one obvious must do deal here.

If the Celtics can work a sign and trade for Johnson via the Rajon Rondo trade exception, with a non-guaranteed third season, the team would be able to stay over the cap and keep their numerous trade exceptions and Mid-Level Exception.

In order to sign Johnson as a free agent in a couple of days, the Celtics would have to renounce their various exceptions including the very useful traded player exceptions from Rondo ($12.9 million) and Tayshaun Prince ($7.7 million). By using the Rondo trade exception to acquire Johnson from Toronto, Boston gets to hang onto the Prince exception, their other smaller traded player exceptions and their MLE. As the Celtics are starting to look like a playoff threat again this year, those exceptions could prove especially valuable.

The incentive for the Raptors to participate is an $11.75 million traded player exception for Johnson that could be just what they need to acquire another impact player this season. This looks like an easy win-win.

The Celtics big man situation could provide a separate opportunity.

Sullinger has been a thorn in the side of the Raptors averaging 20 points and 12 rebounds over 4 games against Toronto two seasons ago and 12 points and 9 rebounds over 4 games last year. When a young player takes advantage of your team, GMs tend to notice. The only knocks on Sullinger are his injury history and an admitted need to lose weight this summer.

Olynyk is Canadian, a stretch-four/five and just entering his third NBA season. He would be an enticing prospect to develop under the Raptors banner in Toronto.

What the Celtics could expect to get back for a player(s) they’ve bumped to the back of their rotation is to be determined, but it can’t be too much or they’d still be starting. Toronto, on the other hand, could use the depth at the big man spot coming off the bench.

While Boston would probably prefer to not potentially be helping out the Raptors, this is one of those situations where both teams can get what they want. If a call hasn’t been made already, someone is dropping the ball.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Boozer and Hansbrough

Toronto Raptors Have Few Options Left In Free Agency

After getting Spurs free agent guard Cory Joseph to agree to come to Toronto, Raptors President and General Manager Masai Ujiri has few options left in free agency and not many open roster spots. There should be some wiggle room left, however, it’s safe to say that most of the money the Raptors had available has been committed.

The final word on the NBA salary cap won’t be out until Wednesday, but it is expected to be in the $67 to $69 million range and leaning towards the high side. With the Raptors anticipated commitments to DeMarre Carroll, Bismack Biyombo, Joseph and their first round draft pick Delon Wright, the team has roughly $67.8 million committed to 12 players plus $2.75 million to Luke Ridnour who can be/should be waived by July 10th or traded. (Basketball Insiders team salary page) http://www.basketballinsiders.com/toronto-raptors-team-salary/

With some imaginative timing on renouncing cap holds for players and exceptions, Ujiri can probably keep these 13 players if he so chooses, although Ridnour is likely gone.

There are no restrictions on signing free agent players to minimum salary contracts and until the official 2015-16 salary cap numbers are out, the Raptors don’t really know just how much flexibility they’ll have beyond that. It helps that Biyombo’s salary fits into the Raptors room exception that becomes available after renouncing their MLE and BAE.

The good news for the Raptors is if there is a free agent still out there that Ujiri would like to acquire, he probably has a shot at signing him with whatever he’s got left to work with.

Raptors Depth Chart

PG: Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, Delon Wright, (Luke Ridnour)
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross
SF: DeMarre Carroll, James Johnson
PF: Patrick Patterson, Bruno Caboclo
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Bismack Biyombo, Lucas Nogueira

The Raptors have players that can play multiple positions and that helps – a lot.

Joseph and Wright can play both guard spots.

DeRozan and Ross can play both wing positions.

Carroll, Johnson and Caboclo can play both forward positions.

Biyombo can play power forward or center.

So, Ujiri has options. He could make do with what he already has for next season.

Power forward is the only position without at least both a starter and a decent backup.

If Ujiri slots in Patterson as his main guy at power forward, then he could bring back Casey-favorite Tyler Hansbrough to provide hustle and defense off the bench and maintain some continuity from last year. While Patterson has struggled in his few attempts at starting, he defended well on the perimeter and in the post as well as being an effective floor stretcher and game finisher for Coach Casey. He should be ready to start this season.

If Ujiri wants a player with proven starting ability, a low budget veteran like Carlos Boozer could fill the gap, especially if his minutes were kept modest. Boozer takes a knock for his defense, however, he still rebounds an impressive 25 percent of the available defensive boards and Toronto would benefit from his experience.

Toronto could use another wing player, but there aren’t any minutes available. Instead of sliding in a minimum salary free agent veteran, Ujiri could give second round pick Norman Powell a shot at third string shooting guard – assuming he earns it at practice and Summer League. Even though he’d be undersized at the three, Powell has the length to play both wing positions and he has a defensive-orientation, besides, Nogueira and Caboclo could use the company on the Raptors905.

Of course, there are always the prospects playing hard in the NBA Summer Leagues that could catch someone’s fancy.

As is normally the case, a week into free agency and the pickings and the available salary cap space get a little thin. Ujiri has options, there are players available, however, this isn’t often the time a GM makes or breaks his roster. Most of the heavy lifting in free agency has been done. If the Raptors want another player they can count on to have a significant impact next season, they’ll be looking at trades.
 

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.

 

 

 

free agents Biyombo Carroll JosephPro Bball Report Week in Review 07/06/15

On Pro Bball Report recently: Team Canada, NBA Free Agency, Raptors, Cory Joseph, Knicks, Lakers, Amir Johnson, DeMarre Carroll, Bismack Biyombo, Raptors905, Tristan Thompson, LaMarcus Aldridge, David West, David Lee, Delon Wright, Norman Powell, Luke Ridnour and more.

 

 

 

Team Canada Cory Joseph

Raptors Go All-Defense, Nab Spurs Cory Joseph

In a totally predicable scenario, once the Spurs landed LaMarcus Aldridge, the Raptors would be able to land their defensive-minded guard of choice, Canadian Cory Joseph. What’s been next for the Raptors this summer has been getting head coach Dwane Casey defense-oriented players that fit the style he likes to play.

The Spurs had little choice but to renounce their rights to Joseph in order to stay under the salary cap and claim this season’s top free agent prize and the Raptors wasted little time in opening up discussions to bring the local boy back home.

Joseph was third on the Spurs point guard depth chart, but his play defies his status. He will be a huge addition to the Raptors rotation off the bench.

Known as a defensive-oriented guard, the 23-year-old averaged 6.8 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 18.3 minutes in 79 regular season games in his best season with the Spurs last year. He shot an impressive 50.4 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from three-point range, however, where he really impressed was in his 14 starts.

One of the Raptors biggest vulnerabilities became painfully obvious when starting point guard Kyle Lowry hurt his back. After looking strong all season, Toronto suddenly looked very, very ordinary. As a starter Joseph averaged 13.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 34.6 minutes last year. He shot 56.2 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from three-point range. It’s safe to say the Raptors need a backup guard who can start if needed next season.

The all-defense summer in Toronto started with trading guard Greivis Vasquez and drafting guard Delon Wright in the first round followed by guard Norman Powell in the second round. Then the Raptors stealthily targeted the Hawks free agent forward DeMarre Carroll, followed by the Hornets free agent center Bismack Biyombo and now the Spurs free agent guard Cory Joseph. Toronto has gone all-in to get back to being a top-10 defensive team in the NBA next season.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Thompson and West

If Cavs Get David West, Can Raptors Get Thompson?

All of a sudden, the noise surrounding the stalled negotiations with the Cavs Canadian power forward Tristan Thompson has started to take on new meaning. Thompson wants a max deal this summer and it looked like he was about to get something very close to that from Cleveland a few days ago, but unexpectedly things started to change.
 


 
The luxury tax bill the Cavaliers are about to face should give any owner pause, but how can general manager Dan Gilbert say no when it’s really LeBron James pulling all the strings.

 


 
Maybe he finds a more enticing string? David West is still a polished proven veteran, even as he approaches 35-years-old, and the unrestricted free agent has made it very clear he wants to win a lot more than he wants another big contract. If he wanted money, he would have picked up his option with the Pacers.
 


 
This isn’t going to be an easy get for either the Spurs, Wizards or the Cavaliers, but if West is looking for the surest road to the NBA Finals, the Cavs are in the lead by a landslide. No one realistically sees the Wizards as an immediate threat to LeBron James in the East and in the West, the Spurs will be tested and there is no guarantee they can beat the current NBA Champion Golden State Warriors – with or without West.

If Cleveland can come to a deal with West while leaving Thompson twisting in a wind of his own making, the potential luxury tax savings will be huge. The Cavaliers will be deep into the NBA’s penalty for high spending teams before adding a max contract for Thompson to their bloated payroll, it will likely cost at least $70 million to re-sign Tristan Thompson in salary plus luxury tax next season. Nabbing West on a minimum deal just keeps looking better and better.

What the Cavs appear to be waiting on is the blessing from the team’s real GM LeBron James.
 


 
It shouldn’t surprise anyone if Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri is not so quietly waiting on the sidelines for West to land in Cleveland. Gilbert knows he only has to pick up the phone and a sign-and-trade with Toronto will quickly become a done deal assuming James allows it to happen. The Cavaliers pick up another cheap piece to their championship puzzle for next season in West, while the Raptors absorb the bulk of Thompson’s salary into their available cap space and throw a young player or two back to make up any shortfall.

A lot of balls remain in the air and the Cavs can get nothing done with a Thompson trade until Gilbert has West on board and the real GM James gives the okay. This year’s NBA free agency continues to amaze with unexpected signings and possibilities. (It must suck at times to be a coach or GM in Cleveland these days?)

 

 

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 San Antonio Spurs LaMarcus Aldridge

LaMarcus Aldridge To Sign With The San Antonio Spurs

The wait is finally over, the most coveted NBA unrestricted free agent actually available, LaMarcus Aldridge, has decided to sign with the San Antonio Spurs according to the always reliable Adrian Wojnarowski.

 

 

Now the Lakers, Heat, Suns, Rockets, Raptors, Mavericks, etc can get back to focusing on what can be accomplished in free agency, if they haven’t already started.

 

 

 

LaMarcus Aldridge Indecision Creates Hope And Issues
So LaMarcus Aldridge can’t make up his mind. The experts all think he should just sign with the iconic Spurs and the rationale is sound, but it hasn’t happened yet. There must be a reason and it’s probably centered squarely in the Eastern Conference and all this waiting is creating (false?) hope and real issues for the teams waiting on him.

 

 

 

Biyombo Hansbrough Joseph

What’s Next For The Toronto Raptors In Free Agency?

No one knows for sure what LaMarcus Aldridge is thinking these days, but if he does the logical thing and abandons the Western Conference for Toronto, he is the future of the Raptors and what’s next is filling in the holes with young guys and minimum salary veterans. However, the front-running Spurs, all-in Suns, hopeful Rockets and yes, even the sad-sack Lakers are still in this race, so counting on Aldridge for next season definitely requires a really practical backup plan. Then there’s this crazy notion Aldridge has been just doing all this for the attention and will re-sign with the Trail Blazers… what the…. it’s his right.

As Aldridge ponders, the best alternatives – like say David West – are being courted heavily and no one wants to be your second choice. If Aldridge takes the weekend to decide, Toronto will need to have lined up plans “C”, “D”, and possibly “E”. Free Agent pickings will start to get thin really quickly.

As things sit on Friday afternoon, the Raptors starting unit consists of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll (to be signed), Patrick Patterson and Jonas Valanciunas. Their backups are rookie Delon Wright, Terrence Ross, James Johnson, Bruno Caboclo, Lucas Nogueira and the likely-to-be-waived Luke Ridnour.

At a minimum, the Raptors need to add a guard, power forward and a center and if second round picks Norman Powell and/or DeAndre Daniels enter the mix, those additions had better be rotation worthy.

If the salary cap rises to $69 million as expected and Ridnour is waived, Toronto could have between $10 and $13 million under the cap if Aldridge decides to go elsewhere. (There’s just a lot of information that remains uncertain.)

However, if President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri’s focus on obtaining tough two-way players continues, he may still have options he likes in free agency.

If Ujiri is lucky, David West is still available and willing to sign for something under $8 million per season, but when have the Raptors ever been that lucky?

Assuming the Spurs win the Aldridge sweepstakes, the qualifying offer to Cory Joseph will almost certainly have to be rescinded making him an unrestricted free agent. As a defensive-minded backup point guard with a much improved jump shot, he’d be perfect in Head Coach Dwane Casey’s system and allow the rookie Wright to be the team’s fourth guard.

Last year’s Sixth-Man Lou Williams could even still be available and it’s somewhat surprising that he hasn’t been spoken for already. Williams isn’t exactly a defensive-minded guard, but he definitely helped Toronto win a few games last season.

At power forward, there may yet be better rated options than Tyler Hansbrough available, but there won’t be a better fit in terms of accepting a role and having instant chemistry in small ball lineups with Patterson. Hansbrough won’t command significant term or dollars and that flexibility could come in handy next summer when the free agent free-for-all starts all over again. A very low risk addition who will practice hard and play hard on command. A proven Coach Casey type guy.

It would be nice if unrestricted free agent Kosta Koufos lasts long enough to be picked up next week, although he really shouldn’t. He was a solid backup center for a tough-minded team in Memphis last year and he’ll do the same for his next team. If he’s gone or his price has moved out of the Raptors range, then in keeping with finding a defensive-minded player that can rebound and block shots, unrestricted free agent Bismack Biyombo fits the bill. Either player passes as a tenacious rebounder that can swat away anything within reach, just don’t expect them to lead the bench in scoring.

Leave to Ujiri’s imagination to still find a homerun if the Raptors lose Aldridge to the crowd pursuing him, nothing should surprise Toronto fans at this point.

There is no point in targeting restricted free agents until after July 8th as their own club has three days to match an offer sheet, so giving them a heads up is counterproductive.

There is a world of trade possibilities for a team with salary cap space and multiple first round draft picks in each of the next two years like Toronto. However, it’s still free agent season and trades that start to make sense aren’t expected to happen until after the July moratorium has ended.

It isn’t over until it’s over. In the meantime it’s just hurry up and wait.
 

 
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 San Antonio Spurs LaMarcus Aldridge

LaMarcus Aldridge Indecision Creates Hope And Issues

So LaMarcus Aldridge can’t make up his mind. The experts all think he should just sign with the iconic Spurs and the rationale is sound, but it hasn’t happened yet. There must be a reason and it’s probably centered squarely in the Eastern Conference and all this waiting is creating (false?) hope and real issues for the teams waiting on him.

Aldridge wants to win and why shouldn’t he? As the best player on a middlin’ good team in Portland, he knows just how tough it is to get out of the West where even really good teams can get bounced in the first round of the playoffs. He’s a perfect fit in Houston beside Dwight Howard. Tim Duncan on the Spurs gives him a chance at the Finals next season. Even the Suns look very solid with him on the team. However, he knows, deep down, no one is promised anything in the West.

The Toronto Raptors presentation impressed Aldridge. President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri is a polished GM. Head Coach Dwane Casey has excellent rapport with players and they undoubtedly laid out a plan that included Aldridge making the Raptors contenders in the East. That probably wasn’t what he expected, but playing in the East has to sound a whole lot better than spending the rest of his career battling in the Western Conference.

However, the Raptors spent the bulk of their available salary cap space on DeMarre Carroll and while that move takes them a step closer to contention, now they would have to dump salary or do a sign-and-trade with Portland to get Aldridge a max deal. The only good part of that situation is Portland might just do it to keep him out of the Western Conference.

Somewhat confirming Aldridge’s fascination with heading East was his dinner with Pat Riley of the HEAT. After re-committing to Dwyane Wade, the Heat have no cap space and almost no possibility of signing Aldridge, but Miami is a market that is easier to envision a star like Aldridge wanting to go to. It just isn’t going to happen this year.

All this waiting has started to create real issues for some teams. The Spurs have already gone all in by sending Tiago Splitter to the Hawks for nothing to make room for Aldridge. He’ll be missed if this doesn’t pan out. The Suns got all excited and sent Marcus Morris, Reggie Bullock and Danny Granger to Detroit to bolster their claim of being dead serious in their pursuit of Aldridge. But, neither team is guaranteed anything and that cap space may not even bring back comparable talent to what they lost if Aldridge decides to go elsewhere. Even teams that haven’t gone all in could be missing out on other free agents that could help them.

It might look like Aldridge is just enjoying the free dinners and lavish praise being heaped on him by every team he graces with his presence, but there is more to it than that. This really is a huge decision that will likely determine his chances of ever sniffing the Finals. The problems created by taking his time aren’t his.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Amir Johnson and DeMarre Carroll

The Remake Of The Toronto Raptors Has Begun

By Frank McLean

July 1st, 2015 will be remembered as the day the remake of the Toronto Raptors began. It was a day of addition and subtraction. The addition is forward DeMarre Carroll from the Atlanta Hawks.

Carroll is a surprise addition in that the word on the street was that the Raptors were setting their sights on LaMarcus Aldridge of the Portland Trailblazers. But Carroll was someone who definitely fits the criteria of this Raptors rebuild to improve defense.

Thought of as one of the NBA’s best defenders on the perimeter, Carroll is also dangerous from 3-point territory hitting on 39.5 % of his shots behind the arch. He gives the team toughness at the small forward position.

The Carroll signing fits the improve defense theme of draft night too as the clubs first round pick of a both-ends-of-the-court point guard Delon Wright of Utah and second round pick of Norman Powell of UCLA fit the bill.

Carroll was arguably the Atlanta Hawks best performer in this past spring’s playoffs. He had 7-games of 20-or-more points and 5 games of 8-or-more rebounds. Unfortunately he injured his knee in the first game of the Eastern Conference Final versus the Cleveland Cavaliers, which affected his shooting ability and pretty well contributed the Hawks demise.

If the Raptors had him this year, you know they would not have bowed out 4-straight to the Washington Wizards.

Carroll does not come cheap. USA Today confirmed with one of their league sources that the deal is worth 4-year 60-million dollars and that would make the Carroll contract the most expensive free agent contract in Raptors history. (NBA rules state that any free agent signings cannot be made official until midnight on July 9th.)

The subtraction is that of forward Amir Johnson.

Reports Monday afternoon had Johnson inking a 2-year deal for 24-million dollars with the Boston Celtics. That’s not bad for a player who has been playing hurt with bad ankles the last couple of seasons and struggles to stay healthy enough to play 60-games a season.

In his 6-seasons in Toronto he became one of the city’s all time fan favorites in any of the major pro sports teams. A friend of mine who just moved to Toronto this past year and is a big basketball fan asked me what the big deal is with Johnson and why do the fans love him. I told my friend that Toronto fans love the underdog over the superstars, the guy with limited abilities and a big heart.

When it came to hockey’s Toronto Maple Leafs no one was bigger than Tie Domi when it came to being a fan favorite. His limited hockey skills were made up with his David versus Goliath attitude and when the few times he actually put the puck in the net you would have thought the Leafs won the Stanley Cup.

Raptors fans knew how much pain Johnson played in with the bad ankles. When he made a big rebound and slam dunk they knew that it didn’t come easy and the roar of the crowd was always a little louder than others. That’s why they loved him.

Johnson was a guy who never turned down an autograph request from a fan. For us in the media he always had time for us even if we had a dumb question.

He loved the fact the Toronto was one of the safer places you could live in compared to most big cities in the United States. With a young family that was most important. He actually told us media hounds one night in a postgame scrum that his all-time favorite store to shop in was Canadian Tire.

“There’s nothing like that in the States” Johnson said.

He became one of us, because when you talk to Raptors fans they are still bitter the way Damon Stoudamire, Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady couldn’t leave Toronto fast enough thinking the grass was greener playing with a US based team. That’s why they loved him.

It was tough decision for GM Masai Ujiri to let him go. Not only did the fans love Johnson, but there was not one employee of the Toronto Raptors that has a bad word to say about him.

But Ujiri could not let his heart stand in the way of making this basketball team better. He hinted that days before the draft when he brought up being swept in the first round of the playoffs meant changes were coming. This is why GMs are paid big bucks to make the tough decisions. He needed younger healthier players, cue DeMarre Carroll.

Ujiri is familiar with Carroll and knows what he’s getting. When Ujiri was running the Denver Nuggets he once brought him in as a training camp invitee. Although he had waive him later during the season, GMs have long memories and his body of work in Atlanta makes him a fit for this Raptors team.

Meanwhile in Boston, Celtics GM Danny Ainge and Coach Brad Stevens get a veteran player in Johnson who will be an extra coach to guide a very young club to next level. He will be a mentor to a young team about the ways of life in the NBA, the same way Kevin Garnett was at one time for Doc Rivers when he was the coach. Just don’t expect him to be a bully like Garnett, there will always be a hug with every tough love lecture from Johnson.

He won’t have to start games. All the Celtics should want from him is to come off the bench and give the starters a break. That will help with the wear and tear on a bum ankle.

So the remake has begun in Raptorsland. The team right now has just-under 8 million dollars left in cap space. If they can make a minor trade they just might be able to get it to around 10-million.

The Raptors are a better team now than they were the night the Washington Wizards ended their season. There is still more to be done in this rebuild and it will be fun to watch.

 

 

Frank McLean - small sizeVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

Amir Johnson closeupAmir Johnson Wants To Re-Sign With The Toronto Raptors

“I would love to come back,” Johnson said. “My daughter was born and raised here so I would love to stay just because my family is here, but we’ll see what happens at the end of the season. Family is always the key to everybody’s moves. You do what is best for your family. Family is everything.”

 

David West - cropped

David West Should Be The Most Wanted Free Agent Left

NBA teams have committed billions on the first day of free agency with mega-deals for all the top names that signed, but the Pacers big man David West should be the most wanted free agent left on the board for a select group of teams because he doesn’t want your money per USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick.

David West is willing to put his money where his mouth is – even if he loses quite a bit of it in the process.

“At this point in my career, it’s all about winning,” West said. “And again, I don’t want to be in a position where we’re just fighting to make the playoffs, I want to be in a spot where we can legitimately taste the finals.”

West turns 35 later this year, but he still managed 11.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.7 blocks and 28.7 minutes for the Pacers last year. He still shot over 47 percent from the field and remains a mid-range assassin from 16 feet out to the three-point line and a nearly unstoppable beast under the basket. For a rebounding challenged team, West continues to vacuum up almost 20 percent of all the available defensive rebounds and he knows what to do with the ball, West is a great passer for a big man.

Acquiring West isn’t for the long term, he provides leadership and impact right now and the prudent team would have a younger energetic backup as West isn’t going to be soaking up huge minutes. However, he could still be the difference between being a good team and a real threat in the right situation.

It really isn’t all that hard to see which teams are missing what West could provide to them next season – Toronto.

 

 

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 San Antonio Spurs LaMarcus Aldridge

Raptors Meeting With LaMarcus Aldridge Goes Well

The Toronto Raptors finally had their meeting with the NBA’s most desirable free agent that was actually available this morning.

 


It’s only the second morning of free agency, but the wait seemed to take forever as news trickled out about which teams had made an impression on LaMarcus Aldridge. It seems the initial reaction after every meeting so far has been it went well, at least until someone that hasn’t been schooled in diplomacy leaks out some unconfirmed detail.

Aldridge hasn’t ruled out any team and has no reason to do so until he announces his decision, but the obvious favorites are the iconic Spurs from his home state of Texas and the more lucrative monetary deal he can get by returning to Portland.

After agreeing to terms with DeMarre Carroll, the Raptors would have to do a sign-and-trade to nab Aldridge or find a team to absorb a few players while sending nothing back to make cap space, but those conditions haven’t stopped Aldridge from considering other teams.

The Raptors have one thing the more favored teams in the Western Conference can’t offer him, Toronto provides a route to the Conference Finals and thus a chance at the Finals without going through the nightmare of teams in the West. If Aldridge is sick of looking at the Warriors, Clippers, Rockets, Spurs, Grizzlies, Thunder, Mavericks and now Pelicans and possibly Suns clogging up the playoff picture and making getting out of the first round an adventure every year, he just might want to move East.

 

 

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.

 

 

Raptors GM Ujiri Throws A Curve To Open Free Agency
So all that noise about the Raptors meeting with free agent power forward LaMarcus Aldridge may have turned into smoke as President and General Manger, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri was actually meeting with the Hawks small forward DeMarre Carroll first and the Raptors GM wasted no time in getting a deal done.

 

 

West and Williams

Raptors GM Ujiri Throws A Curve To Open Free Agency

So all that noise about the Raptors meeting with free agent power forward LaMarcus Aldridge turned into smoke as President and General Manger, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri was actually meeting with the Hawks small forward DeMarre Carroll first and the Raptors GM wasted no time in getting a deal done. Well done Ujiri, the best moves are often the ones no one saw coming and are done and put to bed before anyone can mess them up.

The timing almost seems suspicious. No sooner had the Spurs finished jumping through all the flaming hoops required to make Aldridge a max offer including sending Tiago Splitter to the Hawks for salary cap space than Carroll is tweeting he had come to a deal with the Raptors.

So the Raptors won’t be adding a current All-Star power forward to their lineup this season, instead they finally have a real solution at small forward. However, what hasn’t changed is the team still hasn’t solved its rebounding and rim protection issues. Ujiri isn’t finished yet, although the salary cap space to go after free agents with is starting to get low.

Toronto can likely still put together about 10 to 12 million in cap space and still has their $5.4 million Mid-Level exception and $2.1 Bi-Annual exception to go after free agents, plus they have trade exceptions of $6.4 million and $2.4 million. (No you cannot combine exceptions with anything)

Those trade exceptions could become become particularly useful if another team (like the Spurs) needs to dump salary in a hurry to clear salary cap space in order to sign a free agent and GMs tend to like having them around during the season just in case an opportunity crops up.

Toronto has the option to bring back Six-Man Lou Williams and that possibility has to be tempting. Williams wins teams games when he’s hot and can carry a team while coming off the bench. However, Ujiri has to question if that would be the best use of his limited cap space, especially with a veteran power forward still on the market and looking to join a winner.

Even at 34-year-old, West is still a superior rebounder and a tough physical force anywhere inside the three-point line. He’d fit on a Coach Casey led team like a hand in a glove. The only question is, after turning down a $12.7 million option year with the Pacers, would West take three-years and $25-30 million from the Raptors? West is pretty much precisely the missing veteran presence the Raptors need next season.

Of course, Ujiri could look at spreading his remaining salary cap space over several players instead of just one, although it would be difficult to generate the same impact.

It should be obvious Ujiri came to free agency with plan. This ride isn’t over yet in Toronto.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

DeMarre Carroll - croppedRaptors Land Hawks Free Agent DeMarre Carroll
Apparently Raptors GM Masai Ujiri wasn’t including Terrence Ross when he kept saying he wanted to keep giving his guys a chance to show what they could do as on the first day of free agency he committed the bulk of his available salary cap space to land the Hawks unrestricted free agent small forward DeMarre Carroll with a four-year $60 million offer.

 

 

 

DeMarre Carroll - cropped

Raptors Land Hawks Free Agent DeMarre Carroll

Apparently Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri wasn’t including Terrence Ross when he kept saying he wanted to keep giving his guys a chance to show what they could do as on the first day of free agency he committed the bulk of his available salary cap space to land the Hawks unrestricted free agent small forward DeMarre Carroll with a four-year $60 million offer.

 


 

Carroll is a huge get for the Raptors Ujiri. Called a “Junkyard Dog” in college, Carroll is a Coach Casey style player, someone known for playing hard on every possession. At 6’8, Carroll has the size to play against the bigger small forwards in the NBA, something the Raptors have been lacking in their last two playoff appearances and with a 39.5 three-point field goal percentage, he can stretch the floor. Actually Carroll has proven to be a lot more than just a “3-and-D” guy as he has shown he can fill it up from the mid-range and in close just as well.

“The first thing about DeMarre that we all see, before he was here and now that he’s here, is just that he’s a great competitor,” said coach Mike Budenholzer (via Draft Express). “He’s one of the ultimate competitors in our league. He plays so hard on every possession. That’s probably more important than anything, as basic and fundamental as it may seem.”

In Atlanta, Carroll hasn’t been a huge stats guy, averaging just 12.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.3 steals and 31.3 minutes last season. However, he is just the kind of “glue-guy” or team player that should fit into the type of team Ujiri has been trying to build. In some ways, Ujiri is acknowledging the Raptors can’t compete for the big name free agents – at least not yet – and must continue to build along the same lines that created the Atlanta Hawks recent success.

With the move, the Raptors go from suspect depth on the wing to extremely solid if not elite with DeMar DeRozan and Carroll starting and Ross and James Johnson backing them up. However, Ujiri still has a fairly big hole a power forward unless the team intends to play small ball all season.

The advantage of acquiring Carroll is Ujiri can afford to sacrifice some offense at power forward in favor of rebounding, shot blocking and screen setting and that opens up a lot of alternatives in free agency and potential trades.

 


 

 

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.

 

 

Ujiri, Drake, Leiweke All-Star Jersey

What Are The Raptors Needs In Free Agency?

Well a superstar like LaMarcus Aldridge would be nice and President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri has created the necessary flexibility to make that possible, but aside from hitting a homerun, what are the Raptors needs in free agency?

Toronto has won the Atlantic Division back-to-back with a starting lineup of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas. The 9 point 6 rebound Johnson is an unrestricted free agent and not expected to return, however, DeRozan, Ross and Valanciunas are all young players that Ujiri expects – nay requires – to take another step in their development over the summer. The Raptors can seriously argue that they are just one player away from contention assuming that player is a star level starting power forward to replace Johnson.

The Raptors have retained backup forwards James Johnson, Patrick Patterson and Bruno Caboclo plus center Lucas Nogueira, so just nabbing a new starting power forward wouldn’t complete Ujiri’s summer workload. There are other obvious, albeit less critical, holes that need filling.

Point Guard

Additions: rookie Delon Wright, possibly veteran Luke Ridnour
Subtractions: veteran backup Greivis Vasquez

23-year-old Wright, winner of the Cousy award, is more NBA ready than most rookies and all of the past winners of that award have “made it” in the NBA, but a veteran backup is needed just in case and it’s hard to see Ridnour filling that role or even still being on the team in two weeks.

The ideal solution would be to steal restricted free agent Cory Joseph from the Spurs.

Shooting Guard

Potential additions: rookie Norman Powell, restricted free agent Nando DeColo
Subtractions: Sixth Man award winner Lou Williams

The rookie Powell could be the backup shooting guard of the future in Toronto, but that feels rushed.

If the Raptors could get their 28-year-old former Spurs rookie DeColo to return to Toronto from Moscow he could fill the gap, otherwise a veteran like 32-year-old unrestricted free agent Leandro Barbosa would make a good target.

Small Forward

Subtractions: veteran third string Landry Fields

Ujiri signed James Johnson to fill the backup small forward role last summer and despite his inconsistencies, he can still do the job. There remains some consternation among the fan base about relying on Ross to carry a heavy load and most people would be more comfortable with Ross in a backup role (or just plain gone), but that seems unlikely with Ujiri’s desire to continue giving his guys a chance to show what they can do.

At the very least the Raptors should pursue a veteran small forward to provide some toughness just in case Ross stagnates again and Johnson puts himself back in Coach Casey’s doghouse. The return of 32-year-old Alan Anderson would do the trick. (Try not to cringe.)

Power Forward

Potential additions: rookie DeAndre Daniels
Subtractions: starter Amir Johnson, backup Tyler Hansbrough

Toronto has a gaping hole at power forward, a hole they need to fill via free agency. Patterson has developed rapidly in Toronto and has the potential to become a stretch four/ defensive specialist worthy of starting, but he has been an impact player off the bench and that’s the role he should continue to fill next season. James Johnson can backup power forward as well, but he is best suited to an injury reserve/ third string role here.

Ujiri hopes to land Aldridge which would make his team a contender in the weak East. The Cavaliers restricted free agent Tristan Thompson would be a solid addition if Aldridge is gone and solve the Raptors rebounding woes in one stroke. Other potential targets that would meet the Raptors objectives include: Paul Millsap, Greg Monroe and David West.

Toronto also needs to add a backup power forward and Tyler Hansbrough would be the obvious choice for continuity and team chemistry. Alternatively, unrestricted free agent Jonas Jerebko is a solid rebounder who could be an effective backup in Toronto.

Daniels has been working out in Toronto for a few months now, but we won’t get a decent look at him until Summer League and Caboclo remains a mystery as well.

Center

Subtractions: veteran backup Chuck Hayes

Hayes won the Raptors several games last season and his veteran presence will be missed, unless of course Ujiri offers the undersized 10-year veteran a job.

The call in Toronto remains rebounding and rim protection and getting a backup center capable of providing those two things is high on Ujiri’s priority list. The team never got to see if the uber-athletic Nogueira could translate his shot blocking and rim running to the NBA because of persistent nagging injuries, but maybe he is the answer to the Raptors needs – with legitimate reasons to be cautious.

To ensure his team has a true backup center next season, Ujiri could go after the now unrestricted free agent Bismack Biyombo. Biyombo is a shot blocking and rebounding machine, although his offense is limited to setting screens and grabbing second chance opportunities for his teammates.

 

With the Raptors hosting the 2016 NBA All-Star Game, the team is hoping for a homerun in free agency and with the high possibility of three-peating as Atlantic Division winners, Ujiri has something to sell to free agents this summer. However, most of the Raptors eggs are in the star power forward basket and Ujiri needs to land a player that can give him a lot more than Amir Johnson has provided over the last couple of seasons if he is to be seen as a winner in free agency.

 

 

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.