- Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said on Tuesday that there was no timeline for Fred VanVleet‘s return from a hip injury, as Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca tweets. However, according to Blake Murphy of The Athletic (Twitter link), VanVleet will serve his one-game suspension on Wednesday. Because VanVleet was suspended while injured, he wasn’t able to serve the one-game ban until he was cleared to play, so it sounds like his return may be imminent.
- Besides missing VanVleet tonight, the Raptors will also be without Kyle Lowry (rest/toe) and Gary Trent Jr. (ankle), Murphy notes (via Twitter). Despite a brutal 4-17 slump, Toronto is still just two games out of the 10th seed in the East, but injuries have prevented the team from making a push for a play-in spot.
- Khem Birch has fulfilled a childhood dream by signing with the Raptors, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports writes. Birch grew up in Montreal and was a fan of Canada’s NBA team. “We always supported them just because they’re the home team,” he said. “My dad used to always complain about the team, yell at the TV and stuff. And now I’m on the team, so this is just a surreal moment.” Birch signed with Toronto for the rest of this season after being let go by Orlando and clearing waivers.
“I think he’s a guy that could become a quality backup big man in this league,” the Raptors’ head coach said. “He’s got some length, athleticism, shot blocking and rebounding. I’m excited to have him and hope we can help him develop.”
Birch joins the Raptors after having cleared waivers following his buyout from the Magic, where he was a solid contributor.
- Many Raptors players are more concerned about their future contracts than helping contribute to a potential team tank during a strange season for Toronto-by-way-of-Tampa, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports.
6:35pm: The signing is official, the Raptors announced on Twitter.
Toronto was expected to be Birch’s next destination, as long as he cleared waivers today. Any team that claimed him would have inherited the $3MM expiring contract he had with Orlando. If Birch’s signing takes place Sunday, he will earn $416K for the rest of the season and the Raptors will have a $389K cap hit, tweets Blake Murphy of The Athletic. Birch gave back $413,964 in a buyout deal with the Magic, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link).
Even if Birch signs right away, he’s not expected to play in tonight’s game at Cleveland, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. There’s a chance his Raptors debut could come Sunday in New York, Lewenberg adds. Toronto has been struggling through injuries and will only have nine players available tonight (Twitter link).
Birch, who was born in Montreal and went to school in Ontario, will become the sixth Canadian to play for the Raptors in team history, according to Lewenberg (Twitter link).
The 28-year-old served as the Magic’s primary backup center for most of the year, but his role was diminished as Orlando began to emphasize its younger players. He averaged 5.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in 48 games this season.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
APRIL 9: The Raptors have officially waived McCaw, the team announced in a press release.
Blake Murphy of The Athletic adds (Twitter link) that McCaw has appeared in just five games for Toronto since March 2020. Left knee injuries have limited his availability, as he has had surgery to address the issues twice while with the Raptors.
The 6’7″ shooting guard/small forward out of UNLV was selected with the No. 38 pick in the 2016 NBA draft, and spent his first two seasons as a bench contributor for the Warriors on consecutive title-winning teams before logging time on the Cavaliers and Raptors.
Between his years spent with the Warriors and Raptors, the defensively-inclined McCaw has won three championships. Most recently, McCaw’s knee problems have sidelined the 25-year-old since March 22.
By waiving him now, the Raptors are giving McCaw time to sign on with another team and remain eligible to play in the postseason, though whether or not a team will take a chance on him at present remains an open question. Tomorrow is the last day a player can be released and retain his postseason eligibility.
APRIL 8: The Raptors have officially completed the signing of Gillespie to a 10-day contract, per a team press release.
Gillespie, a rookie power forward who went undrafted out of Baylor in November, was the second overall pick in the NBA G League draft and spent the bubble season with the Memphis Hustle. As a full-time starter, he averaged a double-double (10.5 PPG, 10.3 RPG) to go along with 2.3 BPG in 15 contests (27.8 MPG).
Gillespie spoke to Hoops Rumors earlier this season about the unconventional path he has taken to the professional level. This 10-day deal with Toronto will give him an opportunity to play in his first ever NBA regular season game.
The Raptors only have 13 players on standard contracts and need to add a 14th man by Thursday, so it’s a safe bet that Gillespie’s deal will be finalized tomorrow if it doesn’t become official today. The 23-year-old will earn $61,528 during his first 10 days in the NBA.
2:49pm: The Magic have officially released Birch, the team announced in a press release. He’ll clear waivers on Saturday afternoon if no team places a claim.
9:15am: The Magic intend to waive center Khem Birch in order to give him an opportunity to play more elsewhere, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link), who reports – with Shams Charania – that Birch is a good bet to end up with the Raptors.
Birch, 28, was a key part of the Magic’s rotation earlier in the season, serving as Nikola Vucevic‘s primary backup and averaging 6.9 PPG and 6.0 RPG in 22.0 minutes per game through his first 28 contests.
However, his role has been reduced since then, partly due to a dip in production (3.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG, .314 FG% in his last 20 games) and also because Orlando is focused on developing former lottery picks Wendell Carter and Mohamed Bamba.
Assuming he’s officially released today or tomorrow, Birch will retain his postseason eligibility for a new club. Teams with $3MM in cap room or a trade exception worth at least $3MM would have the opportunity to nab the big man off waivers, but if he goes unclaimed, it sounds like Toronto would be his top choice.
While the Raptors aren’t a title contender, the fit would make sense for a couple reasons. For one, Birch is a Canadian, having been born in Montreal and attended high school in Ontario, so – even though they’re playing in Tampa this season – the Raptors are essentially his hometown team.
Additionally, Toronto has been on the lookout for help at the five since losing Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka in free agency last fall, so Birch would have the opportunity to play right away. The Raptors are also still just two games back of the No. 10 seed in the East, so Birch could help them push for a spot in the play-in tournament.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The NBA has suspended three players – Raptors guards Fred VanVleet and DeAndre’ Bembry, along with Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker – for one game apiece, the league announced today in a press release.
The three players left the bench area during an on-court altercation during the Raptors/Lakers game on Tuesday (video link). After Dennis Schröder committed a foul on a OG Anunoby shot attempt, the two players got tangled up and Anunoby grabbed Schroder by the leg, flipping him to the ground. Players from both teams entered the fray at that point.
According to today’s announcement, Anunoby received a $30K fine for initiating the incident, while Lakers big man Montrezl Harrell has been docked $20K for aggressively entering the altercation and shoving Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr.
As Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets, the one-game suspension will be costliest for VanVleet, who will forfeit $146,552 of his salary. Bembry ($11,980) and Horton-Tucker ($10,469) will also each lose one game’s worth of pay.
Horton-Tucker and Bembry will serve their suspensions tonight, while VanVleet will serve his one-game ban once he’s healthy and ready to return from his hip ailment.
Although they’ll be missing Horton-Tucker, and Kyle Kuzma is listed as questionable with calf tightness, the Lakers will get some reinforcements for Thursday’s contest vs. Miami, as head coach Frank Vogel said today that both Ben McLemore (protocols) and Andre Drummond (toe) will be available (Twitter link via Mike Trudell).
In an early look at the NBA’s 2021 free agent period, Sam Amick and John Hollinger of The Athletic write that three NBA teams – the Knicks, Thunder, and Spurs – project to have more than enough cap room for a maximum-salary contract this offseason, even if they were to win the draft lottery.
Besides those clubs, the Mavericks and Hornets should be among the clubs with the most space, according to Amick and Hollinger. The Athletic’s duo projects Dallas to be about $35MM below the cap if Josh Richardson opts out, while Charlotte will have about $26MM of room.
Other teams could create cap room, but that will hinge on one or two major roster decisions. For instance, the Raptors could get up to about $25MM in space, but not if they intend to re-sign Kyle Lowry. The Suns (Chris Paul) are in a similar position, with the Heat, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Hawks, Cavaliers, Bulls, and Pistons among the other teams whose cap space – or lack thereof – will depend on what happens with certain free agents.
Here’s more from Amick and Hollinger on 2021 free agency:
- Although Kawhi Leonard projects to be the top free agent on the market this summer, team sources and rival executives widely expect him to re-sign with the Clippers, per The Athletic. It’s possible that could change if Los Angeles exits the postseason early, but there’s no indication at this point that Leonard’s free agency will be as dramatic as it was in 2019.
- A source with knowledge of DeMar DeRozan‘s outlook tells The Athletic he’ll take a “wide open” approach to free agency. That doesn’t necessarily rule out a new deal with the Spurs, though a March report suggested DeRozan has interest in playing elsewhere next season and perhaps returning to the Eastern Conference.
- Amick and Hollinger believe both DeRozan and Paul will keep Jrue Holiday‘s new four-year deal ($135MM guaranteed, $25MM in incentives) very much in mind when they negotiate their next contracts. However, it’s not a perfect comparable for either player, since Paul is five years older than Holiday and DeRozan isn’t the defender that Holiday is.
- Veteran guard DeAndre’ Bembry signed a two-year deal with the Raptors before the season, and while the signing went under the radar, he has been vital to his new team. As Doug Smith of The Toronto Star writes, Bembry is capable of guarding at least three positions on defense and has shown enough on offense to earn himself regular playing time.