- Eric Koreen of The Athletic looks at some potential trade ideas for Raptors All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry, noting that Toronto does not have to trade the veteran point guard – who is scheduled to make $31M next season – unless something drastic happens in the offseason. One trade that Koreen proposes is Lowry and a couple of draft picks to the Wizards for Bradley Beal. However, that proposal, among others, is tough and extremely unlikely.
Despite rumblings that a reunion with his old team in Spain could be in the cards for veteran center Marc Gasol, Barcelona head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius told Spanish outlet Gigantes Del Basket that the team hasn’t spoken to Gasol, as Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando relays.
Spanish podcast host Sergi Carmona (Twitter link) reported earlier today that Gasol had reached an agreement with Barcelona, but Ernest Macia of Catalunya Radio (Twitter links) hears there’s nothing currently happening between the two sides, and Jasikevicius’ comments also suggest no deal is done. Carmona has locked his Twitter account since publishing his initial report.
While we have no confirmation that any agreement between Barcelona and Gasol is imminent, there’s reason to believe it could be a possibility at some point this offseason. Previous reports have indicated that the 35-year-old big man may consider a return to Europe as a free agent this year. And Barcelona would be a familiar setting — Gasol spent three seasons with the club from 2003-06 before eventually making the move to the NBA.
For what it’s worth, Marc’s brother Pau Gasol was also said to have a deal in place with Barcelona back in July, but that report was shot down by the team and there have been no updates on Pau since then.
If Marc does elect to head back overseas, it would help simplify the Raptors’ decision-making process in this offseason. The team may not be able to re-sign all of its key free agents, including Gasol, Fred VanVleet, and Serge Ibaka. A Gasol exit would allow the team to focus its efforts on retaining Ibaka in the frontcourt in addition trying to re-sign VanVleet.
Raptors president Masai Ujiri would get plenty of offers around the league if he became available. The chairman of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, Larry Tanenbaum, vows to not let that happen, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star reports.
Tanenbaum said he’ll eventually reach an extension with Ujiri, who has a year remaining on his contract.
The Raptors extended coach Nick Nurse’s contract after Toronto was eliminated from the postseason. They’re also close to an extension agreement with GM Bobby Webster, who is also under contract through next season.
“We have time and we’re going to work through the process in the right time and the right way, I know that for sure,” Tanenbaum said.
Once a deal is reached with Webster, Tanenbaum will turn his attention toward locking up Ujiri to a multi-year extension.
“Masai is getting (extensions) done (with Nurse and Webster) and we, too, will get it done,” Tanenbaum said.
Ujiri and Webster have important roster decisions to make this offseason with Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka headed to unrestricted free agency and OG Anunoby eligible for a rookie scale extension.
Potential top-10 selection Precious Achiuwa has interviewed with a number of lottery teams, Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype tweets. Achiuwa, a power forward who averaged 15.8 PPG and 10.8 MPG as a Memphis freshman last season, has talked to the Kings, Wizards, Knicks, Nets, Cavaliers, Suns, Spurs, Pistons and Thunder, among others. He’s currently listed at No. 10 overall on ESPN’s list of this year’s top 100 prospects.
We have more on the draft:
- Duke point guard Tre Jones has spoken with the Bucks, Suns, Thunder and Timberwolves, among others, according to Kennedy (Twitter link). Jones had an interview lined up with the Bulls, but it was postponed due to their coaching change. Jones anticipates he’ll be a mid- to late-first round pick. He’s currently listed at No. 34 overall by ESPN.
- Combo guard RJ Hampton, who played last season in Australia’s NBL, has talked to the Wizards, Kings, Thunder, Pistons, Suns, Trail Blazers, Knicks and Bulls, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington tweets. He posted modest stats in 15 NBL games before suffering a hip flexor injury and returning the U.S. Hampton is currently ranked No. 13 by ESPN and Hughes speculates he could be a late lottery steal like Michael Porter Jr., who sat out for a year after getting drafted by the Nuggets.
- Stanford point guard Tyrell Terry has interviewed with the Suns, Thunder, 76ers, Raptors, Knicks, Nets, Warriors, Timberwolves and Bulls, Kennedy tweets. He’s pegged at No. 42 in ESPN’s rankings. He averaged 14.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 3.2 APG as a freshman.
With the NBA’s virtual combine underway, a handful of this year’s top draft-eligible prospects are speaking with reporters today on conference calls and are revealing some information about their pre-draft meetings.
French point guard Killian Hayes, for instance, confirmed that he has interviewed with the Spurs, Wizards, Knicks, Bulls, and Warriors, adding that his agent has told him to expect to come off the board between No. 2 and No. 10 on draft night (Twitter link via Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic).
Maryland big man Jalen Smith told reporters, including Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington (Twitter links), that he has met with the Wizards, Spurs, Raptors, Nets, Suns, and Bulls, among other teams. Smith ranks No. 20 on ESPN’s big board.
Potential No. 1 pick LaMelo Ball was more evasive when asked about his meetings, refusing to name any teams he has talked to except for the Knicks, as K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago tweets. That meeting occurred prior to the lottery, per Steve Popper of Newsday (Twitter link).
While it’s possible Ball has had other meetings with top teams that he declined to mention, Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link) hears that the guard’s interview with the Timberwolves is still to come. Minnesota, of course, holds the top pick in the draft.
Here’s more on the draft:
- There’s a belief around the NBA that the Timberwolves may make an effort to trade down from No. 1, but if they keep that pick, multiple sources believe they’ll select LaMelo Ball rather than Anthony Edwards, says Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report.
- According to Wasserman, there’s some concern among scouts and executives about Edwards’ professionalism, drive, and desire to win. While the Georgia wing still figures to come off the board early, the likelihood of him falling to No. 3 appears to have increased, Wasserman notes.
- One scout who spoke to Bleacher Report said his team will be putting more stock this year into prospects’ basketball IQ and other intangibles, and Wasserman believes other clubs around the NBA could take a similar approach. Tyrese Haliburton and Isaac Okoro are among the players who could benefit from that trend, Wasserman adds.
- Czech guard Vit Krejci, who is playing for Zaragoza in Spain, has suffered a left ACL injury that will require surgery and is expected to sideline him for the rest of the season, according to the team (hat tip to Sportando). Krejci had declared for the 2020 NBA draft as an early entrant, but could still withdraw his name before the league’s November deadline.
Making an appearance today on Sportsnet program Tim and Sid in Canada, Raptors head coach (and 2020 Coach of the Year) Nick Nurse said that he expects free agent starting guard Fred VanVleet to re-sign with Toronto, per Sportsnet’s Steven Loung (Twitter link).
As we discussed previously, VanVleet, the premiere unrestricted free agent guard of this offseason, could command something close to the four-year, $85MM contract guard Malcolm Brogdon agreed to in a sign-and-trade with the Pacers last season. VanVleet proved a key contributor for the Raptors, who enjoyed a strong season after losing Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard in free agency.
VanVleet had his best year during the 2019/20 season, as he became a full-time starter for the first time with the Raptors. Brogdon was a similarly high-level starting creator for an East contender at the same junction in his career as VanVleet finds himself in now, his age-26 season.
- In a conference call today, Nick Nurse talked about his new extension with the Raptors, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “I don’t know if it’s a load off my mind or anything,” Nurse said. “Obviously, man, I love being here and love the job, and there’s nothing not to love, man.”
- Blake Murphy and Eric Koreen of The Athletic explore a few Raptors offseason topics, including how much the team’s initial offer to free agent guard Fred VanVleet should be worth, while Doug Smith of The Toronto Star says that president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri and GM Bobby Webster will earn their money during this offseason of uncertainty.
Raptors shooting guard Norman Powell had his best year ever in 2019/20 at age 26, prompting Eric Koreen of The Athletic to wonder whether or not this offseason may be the perfect time to trade Powell. He is set to earn $10.9MM in 2020/21, and has an $11.6MM player option for 2021/22.
Koreen posits that Powell may be able to command more money on the open market were he to opt out of the final year of his deal. If the Raptors re-sign guard Fred VanVleet, who figures to be one of the premiere free agents in 2020, Koreen opines that flipping Powell’s contract ahead of a free agent-heavy 2021 offseason may make the most sense for Toronto’s future team-building.
There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:
- Following a two-day hotel quarantine, the Knicks started their first in-market group workouts under new head coach Tom Thibodeau today at their Westchester Country training facility, according to Steve Popper of Newsday. Popper reports that nearly all Knicks players, including everyone on a team option for next season, participated in individual workouts last week.
- Unrestricted Nets free agent wing Joe Harris, one of the best three-point shooters in the league, will not be wanting for suitors during the offseason, Brian Lewis of the New York Post reports. Teams with cap space Lewis anticipates having interest include the Knicks, Hawks, Hornets and Timberwolves, though Harris might also be targeted as part of a sign-and-trade deal for an over-the-cap club, such as the Warriors or Sixers. Both Golden State and Philadelphia project to be taxpayers, which would complicate any sign-and-trade deal.
- Celtics small forward Jaylen Brown has quietly ascended during the NBA’s Disney World restart to become one of the key leaders for Boston, Marcus Thompson of The Athletic writes in an extensive profile.
Bulls executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas made a personal connection with Billy Donovan that helped him land his new coach, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said this morning on “Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin” (video link). After Donovan left the Thunder two weeks ago, Karnisovas wanted to set up a meeting right away, according to Woj. The Bulls executive flew to Donovan’s Florida home a few days later and was able to sell him on the job.
Wojnarowski notes that Chicago has a recent history of taking chances on college coaches and veteran assistants, but has rarely hired someone with previous NBA head coaching experience. He adds that the Bulls have the talent to compete for a playoff spot in the East and Donovan could turn them into a desirable market for free agents.
Donovan said he didn’t want to be part of a rebuilding job in OKC, but Wojnarowski believes that will be less of a concern in Chicago. He said the Thunder are “cycling down” with a lot of veteran players and draft picks and may bottom out for a while before becoming good again. The Bulls have “players on the uptick” and could become contenders with the right coach.
There’s more on the NBA’s coaching carousel:
- Wojnarowski passed along a few other rumors today (video link). The Sixers are ready to start bringing in coaching candidates and have already started conversations with Mike D’Antoni and Tyronn Lue. Chauncey Billups is a name to watch for the Pacers, who have shown a willingness to hire former players with no coaching experience and surround them with a veteran staff. The Pelicans have been doing a “ton of background” and haven’t started formal interviews yet. The Rockets like interviewing a lot of people whenever they have an opening and will consider various combinations of head coaches and lead assistants. Woj expects the interview process to be lengthy in both Houston and Oklahoma City.
- Raptors head coach Nick Nurse told Sirius XM Radio that assistant Nate Bjorkgren has interviewed for the opening with the Pacers (Twitter link).
- The Kings‘ front office shakeup shouldn’t affect the job security of coach Luke Walton, Sam Amick of The Athletic said on a recent HoopsHype podcast. Amick believes new head of basketball operations Monte McNair was told before he was hired that the organization is “pretty invested both financially and kind of spiritually in Luke.”