Raptors Rumors

Nando De Colo Officially Leaves CSKA Moscow

  • Nando De Colo and CSKA Moscow have officially parted ways, the team announced today (via Twitter). De Colo, who previously played for San Antonio and Toronto, hinted during his exit interview that he may look to return to the NBA this summer (Twitter link via Dmitry Planidin of DefPenHoops), as was previously rumored. The Raptors still hold the right of first refusal on De Colo as an NBA free agent.

Raptors, Clippers Remain Frontrunners For Kawhi Leonard

As has been the case for much of the 2018/19 league year, the Raptors and Clippers appear poised to battle it out this summer for a commitment from Kawhi Leonard, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said today during an appearance on Get Up (video link), referring to Leonard’s upcoming free agency as a “Raptors-Clippers fight.”

According to Wojnarowski, it’s possible that Leonard will take meetings with other teams beyond the Raptors and Clippers, but the star forward is unlikely to seriously consider the Lakers, despite his reported interest in playing in his hometown of Los Angeles.

“Kawhi Leonard’s focused on Los Angeles, but it’s the Clippers, not the Lakers,” said Wojnarowski, who pointed to the Lakers’ lack of a maximum-salary slot as one reason why they’re not a serious contender for Leonard. Additionally, after leading the Raptors to a championship, Kawhi isn’t expected to want to play “third wheel” on a roster that features LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Woj adds.

Leonard enjoyed perhaps the best season of his career in 2018/19, establishing new career highs in PPG (26.6) and RPG (7.3), among other categories, in 60 regular season games for the Raptors. He capped off his year with one of the most dominant postseason runs in recent league history, as his 30.5 PPG and 9.1 RPG in 24 playoff contests helped lead Toronto to its first NBA title.

While there have been whispers all season that returning home to L.A. is Leonard’s top priority in free agency, he has given no indication publicly of which way he might be leaning. The Raptors, with Leonard’s Bird rights, will have the ability to offer him more years and money than any rival suitor.

Atlantic Notes: Sixers, Draft, Anunoby

The Sixers want to select someone in the mold of Landry Shamet with the No. 24 overall pick.

“[Shamet has] always been an overcomer and mature and very very self-aware,” senior director of scouting Vince Rozman said (via Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer). “…I think those are the guys that tend to make it in that range, because they know their role and they know what’s going to be asked of them.”

Pompey suggests that Cameron Johnson fits the profile and speculates that the UNC product may slip in the draft because of his age. Johnson turned 23 in March.

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

And-Ones: Durant, Superteams, French National Team

Multiple teams around the NBA still consider Kevin Durant a talent worth investing max money in, despite the ruptured Achilles that will sideline him through 2019/20. Ben Golliver of the Washington Post weighs in on several franchises that could entertain the idea this summer.

Golliver writes that the Clippers, backed by billionaire Steve Ballmer could afford to sign Durant, tinker with the impressive lineup that led them to the postseason this spring, and then hit the ground running with Durant in 2020/21. That’s a scenario that would be ever dreamier if they were able to land Kawhi Leonard this summer as well.

Of course Durant’s absence next season will still have some impact on his value. Could the revelation that Durant won’t play in 2019/20 derail a potential pairing with Kyrie Irving in New York? Would Irving prefer instead to work with a different star in Brooklyn?

These are questions we’ll get answers to eventually but for now one thing is clear, Durant’s value remains high but that’s not to say that his Achilles hasn’t still thrown the league for a loop.

There’s more from around the league:

  • Is this the beginning of the end of the Superteam Era? Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN wonders as much in a video released on Instagram, suggesting players around the league are showing a greater interest in leading their own teams. For the past decade, star players have seemingly gravitated to one another to stack the deck and win championships but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, if the Raptors’ 2019 title plays a small role in the ushering out the Superteam Era, they’ll be walking right back into a climate that saw former Raptor star Tracy McGrady bolt the franchise for the chance to get out of Vince Carter‘s shadow and lead his own Magic squad.
  • Former Knicks forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas has received interest from a number of NBA teams and has several offers to join teams on non-guaranteed pre-season camp deals, international basketball reported Donatas Urbonas tweets.
  • The preliminary French national team for the 2019 World Cup has been revealed and a number of household NBA names will fortify a competitive roster. As seen at Sportando, Rudy Gobert, Nicolas Batum and Evan Fournier are the biggest names on the preliminary roster but they’re not the only ones with big league credentials.

Ujiri Under Investigation For Incident With Police Officer

Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri is under investigation for suspicion of misdemeanor battery on a police officer during the NBA Finals, according to an ESPN report.

The alleged incident occurred on the Oracle Arena floor at Oracle Arena after the Raptors captured Game 6 to clinch the championship. Ujiri was stopped by a deputy, according to Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, as he tried to join the celebration on the floor.

“Mr. Ujiri was unknown to the deputy at that time. He [the deputy] asked him for a credential,” said Sgt. Ray Kelly, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office. “He shoved the deputy out of the way and walked toward the court. The deputy pushed back. The president came forward more with a more significant push and ended up striking the deputy in the face.”

Ujiri watched the end of the game on television outside the Raptors’ locker room, then came through the tunnel to the floor to join the celebration.

The NBA requires extra credentials to gain access to the floor when the series is clinched, the report notes. Kelly claimed Masai either didn’t have the credentials or didn’t show them.

A season ticket holder who was standing next to the officer told The Associated Press’ Rob Gillies that officer didn’t ask for Ujiri’s credential. The same fan also said Ujiri did not strike the officer in the face (Twitter link).

The investigation should be completed by next week.

Atlantic Notes: Grousbeck, Leonard, Durant, Workouts

The feeling that the Celtics were done in by selfishness goes all the way to the top of the organization, writes Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald. Co-owner Wyc Grousbeck admits to being “frustrated and disappointed” with this season, which began with Boston as a heavy favorite to reach the NBA Finals and ended with a loss in the conference semifinals.

“We had free agents who wanted minutes, and players who wanted to be All-Stars,” Grousbeck said. “I don’t know. There was a lot of ‘I want this, I want that,’ I guess. I’m not in the huddles or the locker room on a daily basis, but it’s frustrating.”

The most prominent name among those free agents is Kyrie Irving, who is rumored to be headed to Brooklyn when free agency kicks off at the end of the month. Grousbeck said management has discussed some “exotic scenarios” if the Celtics lose Irving and can’t trade for Anthony Davis. He adds that he hasn’t directly asked Irving to remain in Boston.

“I haven’t talked to Kyrie in those terms,” Grousbeck said. “Our two free agent negotiators are (coach) Brad (Stevens) and president of basketball operations Danny (Ainge). But Kyrie knows how we feel about him, that we feel very positive about him, and the discussions will go on over the next few weeks.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • No one should regret not making a strong play for Kawhi Leonard last summer more than the Celtics, argues Zach Lowe of ESPN. Boston had plenty of assets to offer when the Spurs put Leonard on the market, but wasn’t willing to part with Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown unless there were more assurances about Leonard’s health and willingness to re-sign with the organization. Lowe notes that the Celtics thought they already had a championship team in place and that adding another maximum-salary player to go with Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford wouldn’t have been sustainable for long.
  • A max deal for Kevin Durant would be too risky unless another star is joining him on the Knicks, contends Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. The concerns lie beyond just missing all of next season, Bondy adds. With load management likely in effect, it’s hard to see how Durant plays more than 65 games in 2020/21 or beyond. He will be 32 when he returns and could plunge New York into a repeat of Kristaps Porzingis situation.
  • Miami center Dewan Hernandez is working out for the Knicks today, tweets Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Shaw guard Amir Hinton had a session for New York.
  • The Sixers are hosting six players for a workout today, tweets Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. On the schedule are Kyle Alexander (Tennessee), Daulton Holmes (Point Loma Nazarene), Mahir Johnson (Goldey-Beacom), Nick Mayo (Eastern Kentucky), Jordan Poole (Michigan) and Isaiah Roby (Nebraska).

Wizards Denying Masai Ujiri Rumor

The Wizards have “no imminent plans” to make an offer to Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri, tweets Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. A source close to the organization is downplaying reports that Washington will offer Ujiri up to $10MM a season to run the front office.

The Wizards have not named a new permanent head of basketball operations since Ernie Grunfeld was dismissed in April. There was a failed attempt last month to lure Nuggets president Tim Connelly, but otherwise the search for a new executive has been quiet, leading to speculation that the Wizards were waiting for the NBA Finals to end so they could make a play for Ujiri.

Ujiri was considered among the league’s top executives even before adding an NBA title to his resume last night. He built successful teams in Denver prior to coming to Toronto and transforming that team into a championship contender through a series of bold moves.

Ujiri is also under contract for the next two seasons, meaning the Raptors could demand compensation from any team that tries to poach him. Fred Katz of The Athletic recently noted that Toronto set the price at two first-round picks when Ujiri had discussions with the Knicks a few seasons ago.

Larry Tanenbaum, owner of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of the Raptors, told Michael Grange of Rogers Sportsnet last night that he’s not worried about losing Ujiri (Twitter link).

“I know Masai. He’s like my son. There’s no chance he’s leaving Toronto,” Tanenbaum said. “… I think if you ask Masai, he’s got everything he wants.”

Raptors Notes: Leonard, Green, Siakam, Frye

Kawhi Leonard didn’t feel like discussing his upcoming free agency after leading the Raptors to their first-ever NBA championship, but he did talk about trust, relays Sam Amick of The Athletic. Leonard completed a comeback story by being named NBA Finals MVP a year after being limited to nine games because of a quad injury. That led to a messy divorce with the Spurs, whose team doctors disagreed with the diagnosis of Leonard’s personal physicians.

“Last year, a lot of people were doubting me,” Leonard said. “They thought I was either faking an injury or didn’t want to play for a team. That was disappointing to go me that that was out in the media, because I love the game of basketball. Like I always say, if we’re not playing this game, if we’re hurt, I mean you’re down. So me just going through that, and I just knew that I would have to make myself happy and no one else. And I have to trust myself. And whatever, it doesn’t matter what anybody has to say about me. I know who I am as a person, I know how I feel, and always just trust yourself. And that was my goal and my focus. And that’s why one of the things that I take on the floor.”

There has been speculation about Leonard’s next move since he was traded to Toronto last July, and Amick acknowledges that originally that’s not where he wanted to go. There’s no guarantee that leading a team to a title will make Leonard interested in a longer relationship, but he now has a bond with the city and the organization that wasn’t there before.

“You bring a championship to this country, man – not just this city, but this country and this organization – within one year, that’s legendary type stuff,” longtime teammate Danny Green said.”Regardless of what he does, he did his job.”

There’s more this morning from Toronto:

  • The Raptors will give Leonard and his representatives freedom to pick whatever contract length they want, ranging from one to five years, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Leonard is eligible for a five-year deal worth $189.7MM, but there have been rumors he might want a shorter commitment. Marks speculates that he may seek a three-year pact worth $106MM with a player option after the second year, putting him back into free agency in 2022 with 10 years of service.
  • Marks believes the team should wait before giving an extension to Pascal Siakam, who will be eligible this offseason. A strong contender for Most Improved Player, Siakam would have just a $7MM cap hold next summer without an extension, roughly $22MM less than the first year of a max salary. If Leonard doesn’t re-sign, Toronto projects to have $69MM to $86MM in cap space available for 2020.
  • The Raptors tried to sign the recently retired Channing Frye last summer, but he opted to stay with the Cavaliers because of his familiarity with the organization and a pledge from the front office to try to contend, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

Wizards Preparing Massive Offer For Masai Ujiri

The Wizards will attempt to poach Masai Ujiri from the Raptors to become their head of basketball operations and may be willing to pay upwards of $10MM annually to pry him from Toronto, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com reports. The Athletic’s Fred Katz and David Aldridge (Twitter link) hear from sources that the offer could be in the six-year, $60MM range.

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis is expected to reach out to Toronto’s ownership group to request formal permission to speak with Ujiri, Woj writes.

In addition to the massive financial package, Washington may offer Ujiri a lead role in Monumental Sports and Entertainment, the company that oversees the Wizards and the NHL’s Capitals.

The Wizards’ search for a top basketball executive has been on hold since the franchise was unable to come to terms with Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly. The team also interviewed Danny Ferry and Troy Weaver for the position, but interim GM Tommy Sheppard has been running the show since Ernie Grunfeld was let go.

After overseeing a perennial 50-win team in Denver, Ujiri moved on to Toronto in 2013, where he played a significant role in building this season’s championship roster. Ujiri made major moves for Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and Marc Gasol, while also acquiring under-the-radar contributors like Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet.

The Toronto Raptors Win The 2019 NBA Finals

The Toronto Raptors have won the 2019 NBA Finals.

The Raptors pulled out the Game 6 victory over the Warriors, winning the series 4-2. Masai Ujiri‘s decision to shake up arguably the franchise’s most successful team in order to bring in Kawhi Leonard pays the ultimate dividend: An NBA Championship.

Ujiri’s work deserves recognition for more than just the Leonard acquisition. Drafting Pascal Siakam, recognizing Fred VanVleet‘s potential, and making the decision to stand pat with Kyle Lowry at point guard are among the shrewd moves the executive made to put the franchise in this position.

Golden State saw Kevin Durant return from a calf ailment only to fall to an Achilles injury during the series. Kevon Looney was in and out of the lineup, and Klay Thompson missed one game and parts of two others. With injuries piling up, the Warriors simply didn’t have the depth to match up with a complete Raptors team.

Leonard takes home a Finals MVP for the second time in his career, having won the award during the Spurs’ run in 2014.