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NBA OKC Thunder Patrick Patterson

Raptors Masai Ujiri Dodged Another Patrick Patterson Injury

Call it good planning, inside knowledge or just plain blind luck, but Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri dodged another potentially damaging injury situation by allowing free agent Patrick Patterson to sign a “bargain” contract with the Thunder this summer.

The Thunder issued a press release outlining the situation.

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Patrick Patterson underwent a successful arthroscopic procedure today on his left knee…

Patterson will be re-evaluated in 4-6 weeks.

As described on Rotoworld,

we’ll consider him questionable for training camp. He did struggle with his knee last season

Patterson was having an impact season as a player on an expiring contract up until the end of December when he hurt his knee in Phoenix. After sitting out four games, he came back too soon and ended up sitting for six more. He then played for for a week before being forced to sit back down for another six games.

While his stats looked okay after getting back to stay, his play on the court didn’t and he lost minutes to P.J.Tucker before falling completely off the rails in the postseason for the second time in a row.

After failing to step up in the playoffs in successive years, Ujiri had a good enough reason to look elsewhere when making his plans for next season.

Injury prone or not, Patterson wasn’t likely to be re-signed in Toronto despite the fact the Raptors are short on veterans to fill in their bench, but seeing the popular forward continuing to be impacted by knee problems this summer should make losing his services just a little easier to accept.



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 Patrick Patterson

Raptors Lose Patrick Patterson To The Thunder

It was inevitable that the Toronto Raptors were going to lose Patrick Patterson to free agency this summer because of luxury tax constraints, but at least he’s heading West to the Oklahoma City Thunder on a three-year $16.4 million dollar deal. The Raptors will only have to face him twice a year.

Patterson was the last of the four players Toronto received from the Sacramento Kings in December 2013 in the Rudy Gay trade that turned the Raptors from soft perennial losers into a four-time playoff team. He will be missed.

Once again Patterson should have a solid shot at the starting job at the start of the season and maybe in Oklahoma City the role suites him better. For reasons no one could understand, including Patterson, he could never get comfortable in the starting line-up with the Raptors and it wasn’t because they didn’t need him in that role.

The big forward was an above average defender with genuine three-point range and over the past four seasons he figured prominently in a number of Raptors victories. However, his three-point shot had a nasty habit of disappearing at precisely the wrong time.

Raptors fans will remember this career 36.8 percent three-point shooter hit on only 30 percent of his attempts from three during the run to the Eastern Conference Finals two springs ago, going just 3-11 in those last three games against Cleveland.

In this year’s playoffs, Patterson shot 30.8 percent from three over the 10 games, but only 22.2 percent in the Cavs second round sweep of the Raptors. He was part of the reason president Masai Ujiri lamented about the team’s three-point shooters not hitting three-point shots in the playoffs.

Those playoff blips aside, Toronto consistently played better with Patterson on the court. He was a ball mover and reliable defender. The classic glue-guy and the Thunder are sure to appreciate the stability he can bring to a team at both ends of the court.

The hardest part about seeing Patterson leave for the Thunder is, at that salary, he’d still look really good in a Raptors uniform.



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.




2017 NBA free agents Raptors Patrick Patterson and Timberwolves Shabazz Mohammad and Warriors Ian Clark and Pacers Jeff Teague collage

Some NBA Free Agents Your Team Can Actually Get

There is no more exciting time for most teams and most fans than NBA free agency, but it can quickly become the most disappointing couple of weeks in the off season when you strike out.

If a team is going to put all their focus into hitting a home run, they had better have a really good idea about why that player is going to choose them over all of those other opportunities because as you wait, the next best options are coming off the board.

Here’s our list of getable free agents that if you act fast, you just might just lock up before the competition realizes what happened.

Point Guard

Jeff Teague, Pacers UFA, 29-years-old

2016-17, 15.3 pts, 4.0* rbs, 7.8* asts, 1.2 stls, 35.7% 3FG

* career best

A former one-time All-Star, reliable starting point guard who has only played one year with the Pacers. While other teams are wasting their efforts pursuing Kyle Lowry and George Hill, impress Teague and solve your point guard issues.

Micheal Carter-Williams, Bulls UFA, 25-years-old

2016-17, 6.6 pts, 3.4 rbs, 2.5 asts, 0.8 stls, 23.4% 3FG

The 2014 NBA ROY saw his minutes slashed in Chicago and made an unrestricted free agent this summer, but if your team is out of cap space and not planning on a postseason run, giving this big point guard another second chance might not be such a bad idea. He was an 11/5/5 player with 1.5 steals for the Bucks two seasons ago.

Shooting Guard

Dion Waiters, Heat UFA, 25-years-old

2016-17, 15.8 pts, 3.3 rbs, 4.3 asts, 0.9 stls, 39.5% 3FG

It was a breakout season for Waiters and teams will have their eye on the possibility of stealing him from the Heat as his current team doesn’t hold his Bird Rights. Strike fast with a big offer while Miami is focused on Gordon Hayward and you might just steal him.

Ian Clark, Warriors UFA, 26-years-old

2016-17, 6.8 pts, 1.6 rbs, 1.2 asts, 0.5 stls, 37.4% 3FG

The Warriors only hold Clark’s early bird rights, so this is one player you can outbid a luxury tax sensitive team for. He put up those numbers in less than 15 minutes a game. It’s time he got his chance to show everyone what he’s made of.

Small Forward

Shabazz Muhammad, Timberwolves RFA, 24-years-old

2016-17, 9.9 pts, 2.8 rbs, 0.4 asts, 33.8% 3FG

While the Timberwolves are busy gloating over the acquisition of Jimmy Butler and looking for the next piece of the playoff puzzle, Shabazz is kind of sitting on the outside looking in, but this a solid young defensive wing who could become a real steal if, as the expression goes, “the lights come on” with a change of scenery.

Luc Mbah a Moute, Clippers UFA, 30-years-old

2016-17, 6.1 pts, 2.1 rbs, 0.5 asts, 1.0 stls, 39.1% 3FG

The Clippers are in trouble and only hold Mbah a Monte’s early bird rights, so pile on and pick apart the carcass. This guy went from a defensive forward to a  much more valuable ‘3-and-D’ forward last season and there is a lot of teams that could use him coming off the bench.

Power Forward

James Johnson, Heat UFA, 30-years-old

2016-17, 12.8 pts, 4.9 rbs, 3.6 asts, 1.0 stls, 1.1 blks, 34% 3FG

A non-bird free agent means the Heat have to use salary cap space to re-sign him, thus making James Johnson a great target for other teams. A breakout season that James should be crediting to the tough love he got in Toronto – the place where he finally figured out how and when to shoot the three-ball without it being embarrassing.

Patrick Patterson, Raptors UFA, 28-years-old

2016-17, 6.8 pts, 4.5 rbs, 1.2 asts, 37.2% 3FG

While the Raptors are distracted by Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, Patterson should be an easy target and a reasonable contract.

The ‘3-and-D” Patterson is one of those glue-guys who makes other people around him better even if he isn’t filling the stats sheet while doing it.


Dewayne Dedmon, Spurs UFA, 27-years-old

2016-17, 5.1 pts, 6.5 rbs, 0.6 asts, 0.8 blks

Dedmon played 17.5 minutes a game for Pop last season and that alone should put this guy on your radar.  The Spurs don’t hold his bird rights either, so he is very getable.

Zaza Pachulia, Warriors UFA, 33-years-old

2016-17, 6.1, 5.9 rbs, 1.9 asts, 0.8 steals

If your team needs an infusion of toughness, grit, nastiness, Pachulia can still bring it. Culture change in a 6’11 don’t give a crap how it gets done center. The Warriors don’t hold his bird rights.


If your team is on the cusp and has a load of salary cap space to burn, sure take a run at Hayward, Blake Griffin, or Paul Millsap. Not sure any of those big name free agents are using your team as anything more than a free lunch and a means to extract a better contract from someone else? Then move down a tier and get a player that can actually help move you closer to your goals before someone else gets them.



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 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.




NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan Serge Ibaka Kyle Lowry 2017 collage

Basketball Insiders Think Raptors Will Stay The Course

Options for Raptors president Masai Ujiri next season are limited and his best scenario will be to stay the course says Basketball Insiders editor Steve Kyler in his look at the future in Toronto.

1.  Attacking the free agent market to get better next next season isn’t an option as Ujiri has no real cap space to work with again this summer.

even if the Raptors said no thank you to all of their free agents, they would enter the off-season with $24.188 million in cap space. Said differently, that’s not even room for one max free agent.

2. Kyle Lowry will re-sign with the Raptors. For lots of reasons other than just the money. Lowry loves his life in Toronto and considers DeMar DeRozan “family.” Besides, there just aren’t many landing spots out there for a 31-year-old All-Star point guard that wants to win and get paid.

As much as people want to speculate about the future landing spot for Lowry, the likely outcome of the situation is he re-signs in Toronto on a whopper of a contract.

3. Serge Ibaka wanted to be traded to Toronto and the Raptors have done everything they could to make Ibaka love the move. Over and over again Ibaka has said he wants to play more at center and coach Casey accommodated him and not just to make Ibaka happy. Ujiri wants changes and Ibaka is the kind of change (a stretch-five that blocks shots) this team is looking for. Expect Ibaka to be back on a new $100 million plus contract.

Raptors president Masai Ujiri had been after Ibaka in trade for some time. Most in NBA circles believe that Ibaka made it clear to the Magic the only team he wanted to land with was Toronto

4. Patrick Patterson is likely the odd man out in free agency. He’s a “3-and-D” power forward that seems to get hurt every season and then loses his stroke. The Raptors would like to keep him as a backup power forward if the price is right, but the risk in free agency is he gets priced out of his value to Toronto.

As good as Patrick Patterson has been for the Raptors, he may be priced too high if they can reach deals with Lowry and Ibaka.

5. P.J. Tucker is a guy Ujiri acquired to fill a gaping hole at combo-forward and he impressed big time during the postseason. The Raptors want him back, but Tucker made it really clear after the season he wants to come back only if the Raptors are keeping their big name free agents – especially Lowry.

P.J Tucker has said he’d like to be back with the Raptors and his price tag might be reasonable enough to work even if the Raptors pay out big money to Lowry and Ibaka.

6. Ujiri will be active in the trade market, if not right away in July, later in the summer as teams are trying to fill holes in their rosters or ahead of the trade deadline. Moving one of his big contracts like DeMarre Carroll would make paying the luxury tax bill from re-signing his own free agents much less painful.

the situation becomes easier if the Raptors can off-load a bigger contract that no longer fits the plan going forward

Even Jonas Valanciunas could be on the block if the goal is to start Ibaka at center and let the cheaper Lucas Nogueira and  Jakob Poeltl compete for the backup center role.

As much as Jonas Valanciunas has meant to the Raptors, moving his $15.46 million salary would solve more problems for the future than he does as a player.

The Raptors are a 50 win team that been to the postseason four straight years and to stay on the radar in hockey-mad Toronto, that’s pretty much the floor and Ujiri knows it. The Raptors will “try to change the culture,” but they aren’t going to tank to do it. At least not voluntarily.

Look for head coach Dwane Casey and his two All-Stars, Lowry and DeRozan, to be back in Toronto again next season putting together another 50 win season and hoping they’ve found the magic (Ibaka) that can take them up another level. As Kyler explains, they don’t have much choice.

Be sure to check out all of Kyler’s analysis here.



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 DeMarre Carroll PJ Tucker Serge Ibaka Patrick Patterson collage

Magic Have Four Raptors On Their Radar This Summer

In the oops of all oops, an agent of an Orlando Magic player inadvertently tweeted out a list of the guys the team would like to target this summer by trade or in free agency and it looks like four current Toronto Raptors players are squarely in their sights.

CBS Sports NBA captured the image before the Magic realized what they’d done and Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel reported on the team’s embarrassment.

Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said the lists are “not indicative of plans” and were “simply listing options, including some of which other teams have inquired about.”

Orlando Magic tweet

Included on the lists are the Toronto Raptors DeMarre Carroll, P.J. Tucker, Patrick Patterson and Serge Ibaka.

This lists are long and undoubtedly very preliminary, but they do give an idea of what the Magic could be going after in draft day deals and in July. This isn’t April 1st, are we sure this was an accident?




NBA Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson

Raptors Mr. Serious Patrick Patterson Is A Fun Guy

The Raptors Patrick Patterson could be called Mr. Serious as the twenty-something forward has acted more like a veteran in his 30s since his arrival in Toronto about three years ago, but the big kid is still just 27-years-old and he’s really a fun guy if you pay attention to what he does off the court.

“Deep down I’m just a big kid at heart,” Patterson told Pro Bball Report. “All the little spoofs and videos that fans see at the game, how they see how I interact with them at my ‘Pat Presents’ (Patterson’s own fan promotion event), how they see how I interact at team functions on stage and how they see how I interact with my teammates, that’s who I truly am. Not the guy on the court, that’s completely different.

“What (fans) see, energetic, laughing, joking around, talkative, just out there, that’s who I am.”

However, what the causal fan sees is a serious, focused, defensive-minded power forward who has been a key contributor off the bench on a pretty good Raptors team, but this year is different. His role is changing. Now he’s one of just four players on the roster over 26-years-old who started the season with more than five years in the league, a veteran (of sorts) on very young team.

“It’s weird to think that I’ve been in the league so long and the situation with our team being so young,” Patterson said. “It’s weird to think about, but it’s good, it gives me something to think about, to work on as far as leadership and having people who look up to me and ask for advice and I can offer my opinion and they respect that and they don’t take my words for granted.

“It’s a good thing. It’s crazy to think about going back from day one playing in Houston to now that I’m a vet. Coaches, teammates they all look upon me to lead and set the right example and do the things on and off the court and just be responsible.”

And he takes his responsibilities seriously. There is never anything reported about Patterson on or off the court that hasn’t set a good example. However, just in case anybody needed a reminder that Mr. Serious still is a big fun loving kid, Patrick broke out the full Halloween outfit after his career-high five block effort in Monday night’s win over over the Nuggets and gave credit to the boom-box on his shoulder for the defensive effort.

“To the boom-box, I’m going to take it old school back to my high school days when I was blocking shots,” Patterson responded.

He is still just a big kid at heart. Just get him off the court first.



Patterson knows there is more than one way to be a leader.



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 Terrence Ross, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll

Raptors Are Fighting To Be The Next Man Up In Toronto Again

Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has one of those nice problems to have. He has too many deserving players and not enough minutes to go around leaving a group of guys fighting to be the next man up when opportunity finally knocks.

Even with the departure of starter Luis Scola, back up center Bismack Biyombo and heavily used fill-in James Johnson, finding meaningful minutes for players outside of the team’s top nine players will be a challenge unless someone gets hurt.

Plus, if Casey can, he’d like to find more minutes for some of the guys in his top nine, but if all of them were to just average playing the minutes they had last season, he’d have to create about 10 more minutes a game just to do that.

The Raptors will feature a three guard rotation with Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Cory Joseph soaking up virtually all of the minutes at the one and the two spots. These three very durable guards averaged so many minutes last season (98.5 minutes combined out of 96 available) that the only way Casey could keep them on the floor was to play them together. In 74 games Casey ran a lineup of Lowry, Joseph, DeRozan, Patrick Patterson and one of Jonas Valanciunas or Bismack Biyombo for an average of 3.2 minutes per game.

Heading into this season, the developing Joseph could see even more than the 25.6 minutes he averaged in his first go around in Toronto and since the All-Stars DeRozan and Lowry aren’t likely to be cut back, those minutes will have to come from somewhere (someone) else.

The one player Casey has already hinted at trying to “protect” this season so he’s available in good shape for the playoffs is DeMarre Carroll. Carroll averaged 30.2 minutes, but only played in 26 games due to injury and has only recently returned to playing five-on-five basketball in practice. Known as the Junkyard Dog 2.0, Carroll won’t exactly be excited about playing 24-26 minutes a game, but he’s secure in his contract and a team player. Besides, Casey knows he has to create minutes for the very deserving Norman Powell somehow, someway.

With very limited opportunities expected to be available at shooting guard, Casey will be left searching for ways to get Powell and three-point specialist and all around super tease Terrence Ross 24 minutes a game each this season. Casey can create time by playing small ball and the Raptors, like so many other NBA teams these days, have featured very successful lineups of guards and wings with one big man on the court.

Ross led the Raptors bench in three-point attempts last season (4.6), averaging 9.9 points in 23.9 minutes. As much as Ross can frustrate the fans for not doing more, Toronto needs his ability to stretch the floor. Post All-Star break, Powell averaged 9.6 points in 22.8 minutes and hit on 45.5 percent of his 3.1 three-point attempts, plus Casey loves his physical brand of defense.

The squeeze may come with the big men, although it won’t be easy to sit these guys down either.

Jonas Valanciunas was third in Raptors scoring (12.8 points) in just 26 minutes per game last season and he came up huge in the postseason before he was injured. Now entering his fifth NBA season, the pressure will be on to find JV more playing time. It’s easy to project Valanciunas at his 2016 pre-injury playoff numbers of 15 points, 12.1 rebounds, a steal and 1.4 blocks if he gets 28 to 30 minutes a night.

The crunch may come with Jared Sullinger and Patrick Patterson. Sullinger averaged 23.6 minutes a game in Boston putting up 10.3 points and a team best 8.3 rebounds. He replaces Scola (21.5 minutes per game) at starting power forward, plus Sullinger is expected to spend some time at backup center. Patterson played 25.6 minutes a game last year. However, both players are on expiring contracts and will be pushing hard for a bigger role this time around.

Sullinger and Patterson are highly motivated and very talented players, so Casey isn’t likely to find any minutes here to hand out to someone else. If anything, these two guys should be expected to earn more playing time than last season. It just isn’t that easy to see where the additional minutes for them are going to come from.

Then there’s the crew fighting to be the next man up if and when Casey needs someone.

Sitting on the sidelines and hoping to make an impression on coach Casey at training camp are centers Lucas Nogueira, rookie (9th pick) Jacob Poeltl and rookie (27th pick) center/power forward Pascal Siakam (who is eerily similar to Biyombo except this kid can score too). In other circumstances, on a team without so many quality big men or not fighting for a high playoff seed, these guys would play.

Nogueira has natural gifts of length, hops and quicks that are hard to find. He has the ability to be the best screen setter on the team, the potential to be a three-point threat or to feed the post from the outside for dunks and layups, and a is natural shot blocker. He just has to stay healthy and put it all together for longer than a quarter at a time.

Poeltl was described as the least likely player to be a bust in this year’s draft, a back-handed compliment to be sure, but not wrong. He has all the earmarks of a solid traditional NBA center. He might even become better than JV given time to develop.

Siakam is the guy everyone is likely to get excited about. High energy with more skill than he’s been given credit for, this is the guy to watch in preseason – even if he’s the one pegged as most likely to see time in the 905 right away. There’s just a “Norman Powell-like” feel to this kid.

Just maybe Casey makes the effort/sacrifice to create a few minutes for one of these three big men at backup center?

There never really was an issue with Delon Wright or Bruno Caboclo.

Wright won’t be available until December and he might not even get backup minutes at point guard if Lowry or Joseph aren’t available. Powell looked just as good as Wright running the offense with the 905 last season.

Is Bruno still two years away? t.b.d.

Of the six guys in training camp hoping to land the 15th roster spot, 26-year-old 905 Wing E.J. Singler has the three-point stroke and all around game that would make him an ideal replacement for last season’s injury reserve James Johnson. However, nothing is for certain with this group.

Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has a lot of decisions to make before the regular season starts, but they feel more like tweaks than earth shattering moves. His biggest issue may be trying to keep everybody happy with the number of minutes he has available and to keep guys fighting to get more.



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 OKC Thunder Serge Ibaka

Thunder Serge Ibaka Is Being Shopped

As suggested earlier by Pro Bball Report, opportunity knocks for Toronto Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri as the Thunder are shopping the three-time NBA All-Defensive First Team power forward Serge Ibaka.

As discussed two weeks ago,

Once again Thunder GM Sam Presti will be feeling the heat and he can see it coming … like James Harden, Jeff Green and Reggie Jackson before him, Serge Ibaka will be a free agent next summer and Presti must know by now, he isn’t getting three players on big contracts in OKC, he needs to re-jig his roster again.

The 26-year-old four-time NBA block leader has been in decline over the past two seasons, but his numbers are still impactful at 12.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game in 2015-16. It’s worth the gamble that he’ll rebound in a contract year.

Ibaka needs a change of scenery. His once feared percentage of shots blocked in 2011-12 is now half of what it once was and his scoring, rebounding and three-point shooting has dipped noticeably in each of the past two seasons as well. However, he’s still putting up good numbers for a starting power forward and it shouldn’t be hard to convince oneself he’ll bounce-back big in a contract year.

Ibaka’s contract is a modest $12.3 million, so putting enough salary together shouldn’t be an issue in completing a trade and the Thunder don’t have a draft pick in 2016, so Ujiri can help Presti out big time with the 9th and 27th overall picks available for the Raptors to grease a trade.

Patrick Patterson and Nogueira for Ibaka straight up with the possibility of the 27th 2016 first round draft pick being put on the table should get Presti’s attention.

This deal would only be possible because Patterson is the much cheaper version of a “3-and D” power forward and once again Presti is looking for ways to pay Durant and Westbrook true max money while surrounding them with the complimentary talent the Thunder can afford to hang onto.

This would be a case of the rich getting richer at the expense of a small market team, but it is well past the time Toronto starting acting like the highly profitable big market team that it is.



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 Patrick Patterson and Luis Scola

Raptors Scola And Patterson Sent Cavs Love To The Bench

Can we just stop the ‘I’m missing open shots’ excuse already and give credit where credit is due. The Raptors Luis Scola and Patrick Patterson have tag-teamed the Cavs Kevin Love into two terrible games in Toronto that saw the All-Star relegated to the bench in the fourth quarter by head coach Tryonn Lue.

Neither Love nor Lue could accept the fact that Love just couldn’t get anything going against the opposing Raptors bigs and kept going back to the same well in the post only to be turned away again and again.

“I thought in Game Three they did a great job of just being physical with (Love), trying to push him off his spots because he’s a great post player,” Lue said prior to Game Four. “It’s been tough for him in this series, but we’re going to get him going and he’ll be ready tonight, so look for a heavy dose of Kevin.”

It was more of the same in Game Four. The veteran Scola is bigger and stronger than Love and the more Love tried to overpower Scola in the paint, the more frustrated he got. When Patterson was subbed in, Love went right back into the post only to increase his level of frustration.

“Luis is probably the most decorated player on our team as far as winning championships, world championships,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said prior to Game Four. “He’s probably the most experienced player. He’s a veteran. He’s been there before. The moment is not going to bother him. He’s started I don’t know how many games for us this year, so he gives us a lot. A ball mover, he’s smart. So he gives a lot as far as a player is concerned and it’s not a mystery. He has a better matchup in this series with Love and Frye.”

Scola is giving Toronto absolutely nothing in terms of scoring, but he’s been making Love look bad at the start of games and keeping one of the Cavs ‘Big Three’ and most important scorers off the scoresheet is a lot more important than his own offense. Then Patterson has been coming in and continuing the pressure.

Patterson isn’t about to say anything to discourage Lue’s approach with Love or Love’s desire to attack in the paint and why would he? If the Cavs ‘Big Three’ become a ‘Big Two’, the Raptors should win this series.

“They are posting up KLove and KLove is getting great looks,” Patterson said. “KLove is getting opportunities to score the ball, but for us, for anybody, we want to be physical without fouling and watch him and make every single catch tough and difficult and whenever the person does shoot the ball, we want to contest to the best of our abilities. Whether they make it or not, as long as we carry out our defensive principles that’s all that matters and KLove is just missing shots.”

That’s the angle I’d run with as a Raptors player too. Keep on attacking the paint Love, Scola or Patterson is waiting for you.



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 Jonas Valanciunas, Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry

The Raptors Lack Of Depth Is Showing

When you are going up against a team that has the highest payroll in the league and was in the NBA Finals last year, any deficiencies are going to be exposed and the Toronto Raptors started this season trying to build on their recent success with five players expected to spend a lot of time in the NBA Development League. It was never expected to take much for their lack of depth to start showing.

Just like in the regular season, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has been juggling line-ups throughout the postseason due to various issues and injuries to his starters. While unexpected opportunities to play were a benefit to the team before the postseason, missing a starter or two as the competition ramps up in the playoffs isn’t as easy to work with.

“Our rhythm is off offensively because of our starters,” Casey said at shootaround prior to Game Two against the Cavaliers. “The guys that were with that (second) group are now starters. That’s one issue and so we are going to try to remedy that with different rotations, getting different guys in there to make sure we make up for that offensively because we do have some guys out of position.

“That happened in the second quarter (of Game One vs the Cavs), end of the first, start of the second last game.”

Early in the postseason Casey inserted Patrick Patterson in place of Luis Scola who had started all season. Patterson was playing more minutes off the bench than Scola during the regular season and Scola seems to have lost the shooting touch that made him so effective from three-point range this year, but Patterson’s shooting and defense has been badly missed in the second unit. Patterson’s absence from the second unit was noticeable long before Game One in Cleveland.

Then in the second round Jonas Valanciunas was hurt and Bismack Biyombo got the start. Another change and another hole when Casey goes to his bench.

Even losing rookie Norman Powell could be having an effect. He eventually took the starting small forward job when DeMarre Carroll was injured during the season, but fell out of the rotation altogether in the second round of the playoffs trying to guard Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson. His energy is missing and could be a logical addition to play bigger minutes with Casey’s second unit in Game Two.

The easy and obvious change for Casey to consider is to return Scola to the starting unit and hope his veteran can give him 15 minutes of defense on Kevin Love. That way Patterson can bolster the second unit while still giving him 30 plus minutes and closing out each of the quarters.

The other benefit of returning Patterson to the second unit is it may help get Cory Joseph out of his funk. Joseph hasn’t looked good since the second unit was shaken up.

“Cory is not playing instinctively,” Casey said. ” The way he normally plays. He is thinking way too much.”

Joseph would almost certainly play better surrounded by the guys he was used to playing with during the regular season. He wouldn’t have to think so much, he’d know where his guys would be and what they can do.

No matter what Casey decides, his options are limited. Bruno Caboclo won’t dress. Valanciunas is still injured. Lucas Nogueira or Delon Wright would be desperation moves and Jason Thompson, while a veteran, just hasn’t played that much. As Casey likes to remind everyone, the Raptors are a work in progress.

A better effort is expected from Toronto in Game Two, however, there is only so much Casey can tweak with his rotation. The Raptors aren’t carrying a wealth of playoff tested veterans on the back end of their bench. To do that, you need to build your roster more like the Cavaliers.



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

Raptors Heat Series Is Like A Hockey Game Says Cory Joseph

The Toronto Raptors – Miami Heat second round playoff series has become a war of attrition. First it was Jonas Valanciunas and Hassan Whiteside battling until both were lost to injury in Game Three. Then DeMarre Carroll and Luol Deng were sidelined in Game Five. The series has become so physical that the Raptors Canadian Cory Joseph suggests it’s like a hockey game out there.

“It’s basketball,” Joseph said. “You know I’m Canadian. We like hockey. We play hockey a little bit. I don’t try anything that’s hockey, this is basketball. I don’t try anything that’s not basketball related, but it’s competitive.”

Goran Dragic must have got that retroactive technical foul for taking a swing at Joseph because the two of them haven’t been in an actual physical battle for position on the court all series.

Joseph admitted he was trying to protect his pocketbook with his answers and while it is still basketball out there, it’s more like old-time basketball when players traded shots going down the court and established position with a hard forearm to the chest. The scoring has suffered in the melee, but these games are being played hard and they are fun to watch if you know what to look for and aren’t expecting a lot of pretty plays.

Both teams are coached to play tough. To not let anyone move anywhere without “feeling” a defender and on offense, they are expected to fight their way through the defense. It’s a battle players on these two teams are expected to embrace.

“It’s playoffs,” Patrick Patterson told Pro Bball Report. “I take it we’re dishing just as much as we are receiving. At the end of the day, the playoffs are a very physical game. You do whatever it takes to get a loose ball, a rebound, to get a stop, to stop your man from getting to the basket or scoring.

“A lot of pushing. A lot of shoving. A lot of stuff going on out there on the court.

“It’s a lot of fun. You are able to bang, push and shove, no calls being made. It’s just playing free out there.”

This isn’t regular season basketball anymore. Nothing that has been happening on the court resembles what went on before the playoffs and both coaches are loving it.

“A big part of it is how both teams are defending,” Heat head coach Eric Spoelstra said after Game Five. “Neither team played like this during the regular season and it’s just coming down to how many plays you can make during the course of the game. How efficient you can be with your offense even if you aren’t scoring big and inevitably it comes down to those final possessions coming down the stretch.

“I don’t know if the offense is going to trend for either team.

“Our guys love this, love this kind of competition.”

The defense being played in this series is over the top and at a level that isn’t often seen even in the postseason (anymore). Both Toronto and Miami averaged over a 100 points per game during the regular season, but only Miami has been able to crack the century mark with overtime in Game One and since then the Heat has averaged just 92 points per game. The Raptors are only averaging 94.6 points per game.

“The defense always picks up in the playoffs,” Joseph told Pro Bball Report prior to Game Five. “We are both being physical with each other and we stopping, we’re trying to hold each other to each’s weaknesses and it’s working pretty good.”

Even after spending four seasons with the very disciplined Spurs, Joseph can’t remember scoring being this hard to get in the playoffs.

“Actually, no I haven’t,” Joseph said. “I haven’t been where it’s this close. I’ve been in a couple of Game Sevens in terms of where nobody can break ahead.

“We are just playing hard and holding each other to each other’s weaknesses and trying to take away each other’s strengths and it’s been working. It’s been pretty low scoring.

“It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be a grind it out game.”

Count on it, with these two teams and these two head coaches, they’ll be grinding it out like it’s a hockey game right to the bitter end of this series.



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 Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson

Beating Pacers Isn’t Enough For Raptors Patrick Patterson

The Toronto Raptors head to Indiana with their first round playoff series tied at one game apiece, thanks in large part to reserves Cory Joseph and Patrick Patterson. As an NBA Champion with the Spurs, Joseph is used to winning, but Patterson has never been out of the first round of the playoffs and just getting there isn’t enough anymore.

“In order for us to have a successful year in my eyes, we have to advance out of the first round,” Patrick Patterson told Pro Bball Report. “Despite all the accomplishments and accolades and records that we set, at the end of the day for this to be a successful year we have to advance outside of this first round.

“That’s my focus. That’s where my eye is on, getting to the second round. Trying to do whatever I can possible out there on the court. Whether it’s setting screens, talking, communicating, taking advantage of my opportunities offensively, rebounding. Whatever I can do to get my teammates going and our juices flowing. That’s just my mindset for the playoffs.”

The early first round offensive struggles of the Raptors All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have been worked over ad nauseam, but this Raptors team is deeper than just their star players. Toronto’s solid reserves have stepped things up in the postseason to average 44.5 points on 55.8 percent shooting from the field and 47.1 percent from three led by Patterson with an unbelievable true shooting percentage of 96.8 and 11.5 points per game. Joseph is second on the team in scoring at 17 points per game and an 88.2 true shooting percentage.

If you’ve watched Joseph play for Team Canada in the summer, you’ve witnessed his ability to step up and take over a game as a lead guard when called upon. The NBA playoffs are a bigger stage and this is the biggest role of his NBA career, but the local Toronto kid has always had this in him.

Since Patterson arrived in Toronto, he’s been a Coach Casey favorite for his defense and three-point shot, but it’s never been certain if there would ever be anything more to his game and that’s something he’s been working on dispelling all season. It hasn’t always looked pretty and some of Patterson’s moves during games have been especially cringe-worthy, but it looks like he’s put everything together in time for the playoffs.

“It’s something I am trying to improve on as far as attacking the basket, putting the ball on the floor and finishing with confidence,” Patterson said. “(I am) a lot (more) comfortable. Just repetition and practice, putting the work in after practice on my own time. Teams do run me off (the three-point line), so being able to make a play whether it’s a pass or some type of finish around the rim.”

If anything Patterson has looked like a man possessed in the first two games against the Pacers at both ends of the court. The 27-year-old forward has found another gear, timing and touch.

He promised Toronto fans a win in Game Two and he’s one player who hasn’t minced words about what an acceptable level of achievement will be for the Raptors in this postseason. Patterson is saying what everyone inside and outside of the Raptors organization believes. This time, just getting to the playoffs isn’t good enough.



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 Patrick Patterson

Is Patrick Patterson The Raptors LeBron James Stopper?

It’s been a long transition from college center to NBA traditional power forward to stretch four and now sometimes a power three for the Toronto Raptors and it hasn’t always been a pretty voyage, but Patrick Patterson just sees it as the way things are in today’s game and he plans on going with the flow.

“It’s just evolution,” Patterson told Pro Bball Report after the Raptors beat Cleveland in Toronto recently. “The game has changed over time. Every single pit stop that I’ve been in my career it seems like something different or something changes or coaches want something different from me. Now it’s guarding on the perimeter. It’s moving my feet laterally and guarding ones, twos and threes, so it’s adaptation pretty much.”

LeBron James has redefined the small forward position. At 6’8 and 250 lbs (at least), James not only looks bigger than a lot of power forwards, he is bigger and stronger, but his ball handling skills, passing ability and shooting let him control the game from the perimeter. He’s a load to guard for a traditional wing. He’s not alone either, the Knicks Carmelo Anthony and the Pacers Paul George fit in this category and Joe Johnson powered the Nets past Toronto two years ago in the playoffs when they had no one to guard someone that strong at that position.

Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri brought in free agent DeMarre Carroll this summer to be Toronto’s power small forward or at least to guard that position, but Carroll’s been out of action since the beginning of January, so head coach Dwane Casey has been forced to lean on another option – the 6’9 240 lb Patterson.

Patterson took to the challenge of guarding James thru parts of the Raptors 99-97 win over the Cavs at the end of February and he did pretty well.

“I’m hoping well enough,” Patterson exclaimed. “Obviously well enough to get the win. Just trying to carry out the defensive schemes and just try to limit (James’) touches as much as possible.”

Patterson’s ability to stay with more mobile players on the perimeter, especially those bigger mobile players than can just power thru the typical wing has its benefits even after Carroll returns sometime in March (hopefully).

“Just gradually getting better at it (and) whenever D.C. (Carroll) gets back, have him on the perimeter and J.J. (Johnson) as well and myself as well, so being able to match up and switch on the perimeter rather than carrying out different coverages throughout the course of the game.”

Not to mention the obvious benefits of having enough capable warm bodies to guard a player like James or George if the starting small forward were to get into foul trouble.

“(Patterson) did a good job. Pat is learning,” Casey said. “He is learning to guard those positions, those power threes. I thought he did a decent job against Carmelo (Anthony) and now tonight against James. He got to have that because until you get that extra body back in Carroll, he and James Johnson have to really man that position. You got a lot of guys at that spot. A lot of guys at that big bulky power three position that can handle the ball, run pick-and-rolls and Pat is learning to do that.”

Previously Patterson has told Pro Bball Report that, “now it’s a small man’s game,” but maybe not so much and definitely not all the time. Sometimes it’s still a big man’s game with players big enough to play power forward and center handling the ball, setting up plays and shooting like it a guard.



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 Patrick PattersonCan Patrick Patterson Evolve Into A Power Small Forward?

“To be able to have a five that can play four/five or a four that can play three/four/five or a wing that can play every position that’s definitely valuable in this league and that’s what teams tend to gravitate toward,” Patterson said.



NBA Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri

Raptors Search For A Power Forward Dragging To The Deadline

The standard noise in the days leading up to the NBA trade deadline is general managers will only let their obvious trade targets go if other teams “blow them away.” The premise being their non-All-Star who wasn’t a lottery draft pick should somehow command an All-Star player or premium lottery draft pick in return – PLEASE, everyone knows that’s not going to happen. Then there’s the player on the expiring deal and no matter how good they are, the team getting them faces the same risk as the team trading them, so how high does one value a short term rental?

Thus the search for the player who everyone knows is on the market and could possibly help a team inevitably drags out to the final days or even the final minutes before the NBA trade deadline shuts this all down until after the playoffs.

In Toronto, general manager Masai Ujiri has said openly that he is looking for a power forward to boost his team’s chances in the postseason.

“We understand that there is a window in the NBA now”

“that power forward position has always been a position that we need to get better.”

As ESPN’s Marc Stein said in a video on Tuesday morning,

“Toronto is definitely a team to keep an eye on.”

“Look for Toronto to try and get a power forward. They’ve been chasing. They’ve been talking to all kinds of different teams, Kenneth Faried, Thaddeus Young, they’ve talked Phoenix both about Markieff Morris and P.J. Tucker. Ryan Anderson in New Orleans is another one.”

Those are some the most most common names that have been bandied about as Ujiri really is talking to everyone about anyone that could possibly help his team at the forward spot.

What is Toronto likely to be offering in trade?

Ujiri is expected to tie his own hands with his continuing desire to develop his own talent and that is likely to protect him from making a bad deal.

The Raptors own the New York Knicks first round draft pick in June and it’s going to be a lottery pick. Even though the Raptors have four first round picks over the next two seasons, Ujiri values draft picks highly and that pending lottery pick could net him Canadian guard Jamal Murray who is playing for Kentucky where head coach Dwane Casey is an alumni. Now that’s going to be a tough asset to let go of. Toronto’s own first round draft picks over the next two seasons, expected to be in the mid-twenties, shouldn’t be so hard to extract though.

The Raptors are expected to make DeMar DeRozan their big free agent signing in July, so their All-Star shooting guard isn’t going anywhere.

Both Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross were extended this summer making their contracts subject to the NBA’s “poison pill provision.” They would be very difficult to trade, but not impossible, although trading either of these players has never seemed to be on Ujiri’s mind.

It should be noted that Luis Scola is playing on a one-year deal and can’t be traded without his consent as he would lose his Early-Bird rights (NBA CBA FAQ #100). Since Scola signed with Toronto for a shot at a deep run in the playoffs, getting that permission doesn’t seem likely.

It’s obvious head coach Dwane Casey trusts “3-and-D” power forward Patrick Patterson’s defense despite the low offensive output that can be expected on a consistent basis. Patterson is mature for his age, reliable, and usually plays more like a 30-year-old veteran than a 26-year-old who is still developing many aspects of his game. Unfortunately for Casey and Patterson, he has the only contract over $5 million that Ujiri might entertain trading. As in any deal, you got to give something of value to get something of value.

Ujiri’s other obvious trade asset from Casey’s rotation is forward James Johnson. Johnson has settled into a tenth man role whose highest value to the Raptors is as an injury replacement. He has proven to be a very valuable fill-in for DeMarre Carroll and can step in for any of the Raptors wings or big men if needed. It’s been a long tough road for Casey to get Johnson to this point where he accepts his role and is productive in it without becoming sullen or a distraction. This is a guy worth keeping around next season to cover off the inevitable injuries that happen to every team every season.

Other general managers have likely noticed the change in Johnson’s attitude as well and this very versatile forward could be the “value” veteran Ujiri has to include to get a deal to happen.

Toronto also has five players that have spent time in the NBA D-League this season: rookies Delon Wright and Norman Powell, sophomores Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira and Canadian prospect/project Anthony Bennett. They will have little to no impact on how this season turns out for Toronto and as much as Ujiri values young talent, if they are needed to get the player he wants, they’re gone.

Who’s out there associated with the Raptors at the deadline?

Just about every forward option out there comes with some shortcoming or baggage. Slam dunk trades are hard to come by, although Ujiri has put together some impressive winners as a GM.

  • Pelicans Ryan Anderson, expiring $8.5 million salary

Deadly and reliable three-point shooter whose defense is suspect. He could start if Casey can find a way to hide him on defense.

  • Nets Thaddeus Young, contract has 3 more years remaining,  $11.2 million salary (15% trade kicker)

Young is having a career year on the glass averaging 15.1 points and 9.1 rebounds. An upgrade at starting power forward for Toronto. No three-point game.

  • Nuggets Kenneth Faried, contract has 3 more years remaining,  $11.2 million salary

Undersized energizer bunny power forward. A Ujiri guy who rebounds and blocks shots, but defense? Has taken 12 three-point shots over his five seasons.

  • Suns Markieff Morris, contract has 3 more years remaining,  $8 million salary
  • Suns P.J. Tucker, next season non-guaranteed, $5.5 million salary

The Suns players could be looked at like a package or individually. Morris has pending unresolved legal troubles and has a strong, seemingly immature personality. Tucker is no shrinking violet either.

This pair of players could be franchise changing. It’s just hard to know if the change will be positive or not. High risk, high return is possible. Let’s just say they are very intriguing.

  • Bulls Taj Gibson, contract has 1 more year remaining,  $8 million salary

Gibson is a better rebounding version of Patterson, but without the three-point shot. This sounds like something the Bulls would be more interested in than Toronto.

  • Bulls Pau Gasol, player option for next season, $7.5 million salary

Rumors about Gasol are hard to come by, but if the Bulls see their playoff chances slipping away due to the multiple injuries – and they should. It’s time to cash in on Gasol before he walks away for nothing in July.

  • Hawks Al Horford, expiring $12 million salary
  • Hawks Kent Bazemore, expiring $2 million salary

Rumors about the Hawks blowing this team up abound and if they’re true, getting value back for pending free agents will be a top priority before the trade deadline.

Ujiri would have to be salivating about the prospects of playing All-Star power forward Al Horford beside his old teammate DeMarre Carroll in the playoffs. Bazemore could be the filler to get Ujiri to consider trading an asset(s) that wouldn’t otherwise be on the table.

When Atlanta is looking for teams that should be willing to pay the most – take the biggest risks trading for players who could walk in July – Toronto has to be at the top of their list.

  • Other teams

Toronto is well known for running a tight-lipped organization. The trade rumors don’t leak out from there. However, where last year Ujiri was saying, “my phone is always on,” this year he’s pretty much admitting he’s the one making the calls.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise if Ujiri gets a deal done at the trade deadline this year and neither should it be a surprise if he does a deal no one saw coming.



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 Masai UjiriRaptors GM Masai Ujiri Confirms He Wants A Power Forward

With just over a week before the NBA trade deadline, Toronto Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri confirmed what everyone has been speculating about, he’s looking for a power forward at the trade deadline.



NBA Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson

Raptors Coach Casey Keeps Singling Out Patrick Patterson

It’s been a recurring theme with Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey after games recently. He keeps singling out Patrick Patterson for praise despite the forward’s typically unspectacular scoring and rebounding. Casey likes Patterson’s defense and three-point shooting and he’s been making a point of illustrating just how big an impact his backup power forward has been having by going to the only stat on the game sheet that shows his value – the plus/minus.

“Pat was a plus 23 and he was three for four from the field,” Casey said after the road win over Detroit on Monday. “So he was doing some energetic things defensively. Active, moving without the basketball which is just as important. He was screening and creating space.

“I thought Pat did an excellent job of that tonight, of challenging, of running guys off the three-point line.”

It was actually an above average offensive night for Patterson in Detroit as he scored 9 points and Casey didn’t even seem to notice his power forward had zero rebounds. It was the +23 that caught his Coach’s eye – again. On the season, Patterson is averaging 6.2 points and 4.2 rebounds in 24.2 minutes while shooting 34.7 percent from three-point range.

Patterson leads his team in the much maligned plus/minus stat with a +5.3 on the season. Kyle Lowry is second on the Raptors with a +4.9.

It doesn’t take a cynic to figure out Casey has been doing a sales job on Patterson’s value to the Raptors lately. Casey plays Patterson 8.7 minutes in the fourth quarter on average which is more than any other player on the team except Lowry and Cory Joseph and he knows Patterson is president and general manager Masai Ujiri’s best trade asset heading towards the NBA trade deadline.

Casey might not be wrong to be trying to protect (or promote?) one of his go-to fourth quarter guys either. Since Toronto began their current 14 win and 1 loss streak, Patterson has stepped his game even further. The points and rebounds have barely deviated from his season averages despite playing 27.5 minutes per game and shooting an improved 39.6 percent from three-point range, however, his team leading plus/minus has been averaging +11.1 and Casey hasn’t been shy about mentioning that stat after games on a regular basis.

This isn’t Casey’s first rodeo. He can read the same articles suggesting Ujiri is on the hunt for a power forward as everyone else and he might just know it for a fact as well – not that he could say anything. Casey can, however, let everyone know – subtly  – the guys he likes on his current roster and why. Especially the guys that don’t have the jump off the page stats that make their value obvious.

Either as a sales job to the Toronto media just in case Ujiri doesn’t bring in an impact power forward in trade or to try and raise Patterson’s profile so Ujiri can make such a deal actually happen at the trade deadline, the message remains the same. Patterson’s value is a lot higher than just the points and rebounds he puts up each night and if you believe the message, Ujiri will have to land a pretty impressive player to make trading Patterson worth 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.




NBA New Orleans Pelicans Ryan Anderson

Should The Raptors Pursue Pelicans Ryan Anderson

Last year Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri stood pat at the NBA trade deadline, but when the season was over, he as much admitted that was a mistake. Although the situation is different this time around, it’s not completely different as no one is really sure just what this version of his team will produce come playoff time.

The trade pickings are suspect at this point and depending on your team’s need – thin, but there are situations like the New Orleans Pelicans where proven stretch-four Ryan Anderson is rumored to be available for the right price. Basketball Insiders Steve Kyler reports,

Pelicans sources admitted that moving Anderson was likely to happen just because of the business of the situation, but cautioned that New Orleans wouldn’t do a bad deal just to make a trade

With the NBA trade deadline set on Thursday February 18 at 3pm ET, there isn’t a lot of time left for a GM to set his sights on a target that could make a real difference to his team in the second half and in the postseason. In Toronto, with DeMarre Carroll expected to return soon after the All-Star break to fill the hole at small forward, the only real position of need is at power forward and that’s only because Patrick Patterson is back in a shooting slump.

NBA Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson

Toronto’s “3-and-D” forward has been struggling with his shot going back to last December and while his defense remains consistent and Patterson remains a Coach Casey favorite, the Raptors have been missing his offense all too often. Maybe it’s time to consider trading Patterson?

it’s been over a year since this “3-and-D” stretch-four has enjoyed a month shooting over 34 percent from three-point range  (52.6 percent, December 2014). Two of his last three months have been in the mid-20s. (December 2015 25.8 percent, April 2015 27.3 percent).

It looked like Patterson had turned things around in the first two weeks of January when he was firing three-balls at a 50 percent clip, but since then it’s back to the mid-20s from deep and only a Raptors winning streak has kept this from becoming a problem. Ujiri has to be feeling the pressure to upgrade at this position after last season’s post All-Star break malaise.

Despite his struggles, the 26-year-old Patterson is developing other aspects of his game. His ability to drive and finish is improving rapidly and he is getting to more contested rebounds this season, but it’s his ability to defend on the perimeter and in the post continues to be the primary reason why Casey will be reluctant to lose his services. Patterson is under contract for a very reasonable $6 million next season.

At 27-years-old, Anderson is in the final year of a deal that pays him $8.5 million this season and the Pelicans are not expected to be interested in matching what he’s likely to fetch in free agency this summer and that’s if Anderson wants to rejoin a lottery team as a backup to Anthony Davis.

Primarily coming off the bench, Anderson is averaging 17.4 points and 6 boards and is shooting 40 percent from three-point range this year. He has the offensive talent to win games and has four games of 30 or more points already this season. His overall rebounding numbers closely approximate Patterson’s, although Anderson has been a lot better on the offensive glass than Patterson over his career.

While Casey might be more comfortable with Patterson’s defense, Anderson is an obvious upgrade talent-wise as described by Bourbon Street Shots Michael McNamara,

Despite just having a few months on his contract, Anderson has good value around the league. He has a skill set that opens up an offense, as he draws big men out of the paint, and can hurt opponents with a post game and offensive rebounding if they put a smaller guy on him. The Pelicans have chosen not to crash the offensive glass a lot this year, in favor of defensive transition, but in a league that is playing more small ball, Anderson could tilt a series down low.

CBS Sports Matt Moore suggests the Pelicans will be looking for players that fit with Coach Alvin Gentry’s (defensive) system for what they see as a valuable asset,

If he’s paired with a good enough defensive scheme and rim protector, you’ve got the best of what the modern stretch four can offer

As for what the Pelicans would want, you’d have to assume they want some guard depth with their lukewarm approach towards Norris Cole, and to add some defensive forwards who can also run in Alvin Gentry’s system.

Sliding Anderson in place of Patterson beside Bismack Biyombo could be just what the Raptors need to take things to the next level in April.

If the Raptors are willing to pair Patterson with a young guard like Norman Powell or Delon Wright plus a first round draft pick, the 18-29 lottery bound Pelicans will have trouble turning it down for the expiring contract of Anderson.

That would be a lot for the Raptors to give up for a player who could move on in free agency in July. However, when your season will be evaluated based on how your team performs in the playoffs and your GM has admitted he’s overstocked with developing players and draft picks, the price suddenly doesn’t seem so unreasonable.

It’s a risk worth taking and if it Anderson performs as expected, Toronto can dig into their corporate owners’ very deep pockets to re-sign him.



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 Patrick Patterson

Can Patrick Patterson Evolve Into A Power Small Forward?

The Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson is a player whose game has been evolving since his days under Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari. An undersized center that Calipari encouraged to start developing a jump shot who eventually became a “3-and-D” power forward in the NBA, Patterson has been taking the next step in his evolution with the Raptors this season. Is a combo forward or power small forward role in his future?

“My whole life I was a center,” Patterson told Pro Bball Report. “All the way up until my Junior year when Coach Calipari came to Kentucky and had me work out with the wings and the guards. Then getting to the NBA and having Coach Adelman encourage me to shoot mid-range jump shots while at the same time still looking at the post and then Coach Kevin McHale came in and right off the bat he told me he wanted me to shoot threes and that’s what I’ve been doing for the longest time. Now I am just starting to read the defense and as I knock down more shots, the defense wants to run me off my opportunities to shoot the three, so I have been working on that in-between game.”

NBA Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson

Although it feels like Patterson has been turning down more three-point attempts than in past years, in fact he’s actually been firing more long range bombs than ever before. It’s just he’s been obviously looking for opportunities to drive on any type of close out and the results have been mixed. This is something new for the center turned power forward turned combo forward? and he’s still figuring it out, but with the way the game is evolving, if he can take this next step, it would represent a big improvement in what he can bring to a team.

It seems like Patterson may have finally started to figure some things out. The change in style that was likely a major contributing factor in him shooting 35.6 percent from the field and 30.2 percent from three-point range for the first two months of the season has been adapted to. Since the new year Patterson has been making better decisions about when to drive and when to shoot and his field goal percentages reflect it. In January it’s 51.8 percent from the field and 51.4 percent from three and the 8 game sample size is starting to get big enough to think maybe this is a trend.

In the second quarter of the recent game against the Nets, Patterson drove out of the corner like a wing and hit a 4′ floater. Then on two occasions in the fourth quarter he drove from the side and made a 14′ bank shot and later a 7′ bank shot to avoid the shot blocking presence of Brook Lopez in the paint who already had blocked two shots in the game. If he hadn’t of been working on these types of situations all season (with suspect results), they could have gone unnoticed, but they are a good sign. Patterson made the right decision about when to drive and he made the right decision reading the defense.

“I saw Brook Lopez, Cory (Joseph) made a great pass to me, Thad Young was closing out high so I drove baseline. I wanted to keep going, but I saw Lopez there, so a two foot floater off the glass,” Patterson described the play.

Patterson wasn’t any where near two feet away when he threw up the floater off the glass to avoid Lopez, but he made the right call.

The NBA is changing and versatility is becoming a highly sought after skill. Big men that can stretch the floor and play like a wing. Big wings that can guard traditional power forwards and be a disruptive force on offense. Even big guards that can play on the wing and drive opposing coaches crazy. It’s a different game and Patterson sees where it’s heading.

“The NBA has evolved, players have evolved,” Patterson said. “The NBA has changed over the years and now it’s a small man’s game. Small ball that Golden State plays, being able to play Draymond Green at the five, Iguodala at the four, that’s what the game is now. To be able to have a five that can play four/five or a four that can play three/four/five or a wing that can play every position that’s definitely valuable in this league and that’s what teams tend to gravitate toward is the small ball and to play multiple positions.”

Unfortunately for the players, no one said being versatile was easy. Change means some players will be left behind and Patterson isn’t planning on being one of them.

“It’s extremely difficult,” Patterson said. “Especially on the defensive end you are guarding these guys who have done it for years, who are naturally at that position and you are still trying to get better at it. Being able to stay in front of a wing or stay in front of a guard at a normal pace consistently and at the same time stay on the perimeter and hit perimeter jump shots, make reads on the offensive end and gravitate back to the post and guard big guys in the post, it’s extremely difficult, but that’s what the league is now.

“The league is changing the game, evolving and taking advantage of all the opportunities.

“There is still so much more that I can work on, improve on and I look forward to getting better at. Definitely my ball handling, being able to handle the rock out on the perimeter, create opportunities and drive to the basket confidently, successfully. That’s an area of my game that’s going to get there eventually. It’s all about evolution, it’s all about evolving, it’s all about getting better, working on your craft, working on areas of your game to help you out, but most importantly better your team and your chances to win games.”

Just 26-years-old (he only seems older), Patterson is a big guy, 6’9 240 lbs and he moves well. Head coach Dwane Casey has been having him chase stretch-fours and big threes around the perimeter pretty much since the first day he arrived in Toronto. However, what he’s doing this year seems to be more of his own making. Patterson wants to continue his evolution and be able to do more, especially at the offensive end of the court. He should be able to do it too.

A power small forward? A combo forward? Or maybe just a power forward that can play the three/four/five as needed in this ever changing NBA? Becoming more versatile is journey Patterson has been on ever since Coach Calipari sent him off to work out with the guards and wings. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if he still has a lot more to bring to the game.



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 Patrick Patterson

Is It Time To Trade Raptors Patrick Patterson?

No one is more frustrated with the Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson’s season than Patrick Patterson. Head coach Dwane Casey’s favorite stretch-four hasn’t exactly been filling the net with long range bombs this year and it’s easy to see the frustration on Patterson’s face and in his game. Even after a good game or two, Patterson will downplay what just happened.

I’ll feel comfortable when I’m shooting (three-pointers) above 38 percent,” Patterson told Pro Bball Report recently. “Until then, no.”

Patrick Patterson warmup Paul Saini FYLMM

It’s a long ways back to 38 percent shooting from three-point range for the 26-year-old young veteran power forward at this point. Even after starting out the 2016 new year with five games averaging 50 percent from the field and 50 percent from three, Patterson is still only shooting a dismal 37.7 percent from the field for the season and just 32.9 percent from three and it’s been over a year since this “3-and-D” stretch-four has enjoyed a month shooting over 34 percent from three-point range  (52.6 percent, December 2014). Two of his last three months have been in the mid-20s. (December 2015 25.8 percent, April 2015 27.3 percent).

Patterson continues to enjoy the support of his head coach, probably because of his mobility and hustle on defense as much as Casey’s mantra that, ‘shooters don’t forget how to shoot.’ However, it’s been a while since Patterson has shown he can still be the same effective offensive threat that the team and their fans fell in love with after Patterson’s arrival from Sacramento in December 2013. That season Patterson was a 41.1 percent long range threat in Toronto.

On the bright side, the big man is shooting 37.7 percent from three at home this year, so maybe there’s hope he’ll figure things out on the road (28.8 percent)?

The rationale for considering Patterson a trade asset is simple. Despite his shooting struggles, he is easily the Raptors best trade asset that they might actually consider trading (outside of the Knicks first round draft pick). His $6.2 million salary is high enough to actually make any number of trades possible and with Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas signing extensions before the season started (creating a trade poison pill provision), the team just doesn’t have many other options.

The Raptors are having a decent enough season despite their injuries and it’s expected they’ll be able to hang onto the Atlantic Division crown and a playoff spot despite losing starting small forward DeMarre Carroll for the next couple of months. However, under the new rules that might not be enough to guarantee them home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs and this year success or failure will be determined by how far they can advance beyond the first round.

Getting an unfavorable playoff seeding because of injury woes just isn’t going to cut it after this summer’s upgrades and last spring’s playoff debacle. If president and general manager Masai Ujiri can figure out a way to upgrade at forward, he’s got to consider it.

It’s a very unsettled trade market in the NBA right now, so Ujiri may have no choice but to wait until closer to the trade deadline and that gives Patterson more time to get a handle on his own game, but Ujiri let trade opportunities pass him by last season and it cost his team in the playoffs. He isn’t going to make that mistake again. There will be teams with interesting talent available again this year.

In the East, Brooklyn needs draft picks and young players to build around. Starting combo forward Thaddeus Young might be a nice fit in the Raptors rotation? – especially with Carroll on the shelf.

In the West, Phoenix could look to re-tool/re-build as their season implodes and P.J. Tucker, Mirza Teletovic or Markieff Morris might be available.

13 teams in the East and 14 teams in the West shouldn’t have given up hope of attaining a playoff spot yet, but that’s likely to change by the end of January.

It’s no secret that Ujiri likes to develop his own players, but this time it’s different. The expectations and the stakes are higher. Skip disappointing the fans, if he wants to keep his roster together, Ujiri must show a commitment to winning and he’ll have to give up an asset or assets to get a player he believes can help the Raptors win in the playoffs this year. Patterson might just be the player he has to sacrifice to get a deal 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.




Toronto NBA Raptors Patrick Patterson Can The Raptors Patrick Patterson End His Shooting Slump

“It just takes time. I am a team oriented guy. I care more about my teammates than myself. It takes time to get used to everybody and get comfortable out there.”

NBA Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson

Can The Raptors Patrick Patterson End His Shooting Slump

Toronto Raptors stretch-four Patrick Patterson has started out the season in a shooting slump. All too often it looks like he has been turning down shots from the three-point line and the usually reliable power forward has only averaged 5.4 points and 4.3 rebounds thru his first 22 games.

Head coach Dwane Casey counts on Patterson as a big man who can defend the perimeter against other stretch-fours as well as being able to space the floor at the other end and knock down close to 40 percent of his long range attempts. However, getting off to a slow start is really nothing new. Patterson has averaged just 33.3 percent from three-point range in the month of November for his career and that’s what he averaged this year.

This time may be a little different however. Patterson has been trying to expand his game by attempting to blow-by defenders that crowd him on the perimeter. The results have been mixed, but it’s a skill-set the big man needs to add to his arsenal.

Patrick Patterson sitting facing right

“Pretty much it’s my in-between game, so if they run me off, being able to either score the basketball or provide opportunities for my teammates,” Patterson told Pro Bball Report. “If they run me off, being able to do something else. Teams aren’t allowing me to shoot as many threes as I used to and the more threes you shoot, the better you shoot, the more often teams will run you off, so that’s what they have been doing.

“This summer was all about working on my in-between game and being able to make a good pass to an open teammate or just create a shot for me off the bounce.”

One of the side benefits of being willing to come in off the perimeter has been a more active Patterson on the glass. While he’s not grabbing any more rebounds than before, he is fighting for more contested rebounds.

“I am just attacking the glass,” Patterson said. “Staying aggressive, finding my opportunities to attack the glass and also get back on defense and in transition. Luckily I’ve been getting some rebounds when my teammates need me to get them, but it’s all about consistency.”

If history is an indicator, the shooting slump may about to end. Patterson’s best shooting month over his career has been December when he averages 41.8 percent from three-point range. The first few games of the month this year haven’t measured up yet, but there is still a long ways to go.

“Honestly I have no idea (why),” Patterson said. “Hopefully it continues, but is there anything different that I do? No. It’s all the same routine. Maybe my shots just decide to fall for some reason in December, but I am honestly not sure why.”

There is one reason why Patterson may have a history of slow starts. He has never started a season playing with the same guys in his unit on the floor. It seems like every year he has to rebuild chemistry with new teammates and more importantly a new guard. Last year it was Lou Williams coming in off the bench and dominating the ball. This year it’s a very different style with Cory Joseph and virtually an entirely new second unit that he needs to mesh with in order to get the clean looks he needs to get his three-point percentage up.

“Just getting back into the swing of things,” Patterson said. “Getting used to the teammates, getting used to the system again, getting used to playing at the NBA level again.

“From the trade my first year to adding on Lou (Williams) and J.J. (James Johnson) my second year to being the only one left from the trade and having Bismack (Biyombo) and Cory Joseph, so it just seems like one thing after another with me as far as adapting to a new system and adapting to new teammates.

“It just takes time. I am a team oriented guy. I care more about my teammates than myself. It takes time to get used to everybody and get comfortable out there.”

History suggests we’ll see the old Patterson nailing three-balls at critical moments with consistency soon enough. As Coach Casey strongly believes, shooters don’t forget how to shoot. This shooting slump will end and with all the injuries the Raptors have been experiencing, the sooner the better.



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.