Raptors Rumors

Atlantic Notes: Lowry, Raptors, Brown, Toppin, Sixers

The 2018 trade that sent DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio in a package for Kawhi Leonard ultimately helped make the Raptors champions the following year, but it created some hard feelings at the time, as DeRozan and his good friend Kyle Lowry felt blindsided by the deal. According to Lowry, when he neared free agency earlier this year, that experience helped him and the Raptors avoid a similar situation.

“Sometimes franchises have to do what’s best for them, but I was in a position where I had say and I had…I wouldn’t say power — but I had a little bit of, ‘Listen, it’s not going to be a good look if we don’t collaborate on this together,'” Lowry told Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times. “We all agreed that to be on the same page was the best thing to do, and that was that.

“With DeMar not having the autonomy of having a decision, I think it was just such a different circumstance. It prepared them to not do that to me.”

The Raptors were in touch with Lowry at the trade deadline when they discussed him with a handful of teams. After no deal materialized at that time, the team worked with the veteran guard in the offseason to help steer him to his desired destination (Miami) via sign-and-trade.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Nets guard Bruce Brown was expected to play a key role for the team with Kyrie Irving unavailable indefinitely, but Brown was out of the rotation until garbage time in Tuesday’s opener, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post. Head coach Steve Nash doesn’t expect that to be permanent. “He’s definitely going to play for us, he’s definitely going to be a part of what we do,”  Nash said. “I just think right now we’re looking at exploring some other things until we understand what we have. With Bruce, I know what we got. … We know what he brings, and he’ll be a big part of this team.”
  • Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post takes a closer look at Obi Toppin‘s promising sophomore-season debut and what it could mean for the Knicks if Tom Thibodeau becomes comfortable regularly playing the former lottery pick alongside fellow power forward Julius Randle.
  • Prosper Karangwa, who holds the role of VP of player personnel in the Sixers‘ front office, has been named the general manager of the Delaware Blue Coats, the team’s G League affiliate (Twitter link). Karangwa’s first task will be leading the team through Saturday’s draft — Delaware currently holds the first overall pick.

Ishmail Wainright Signs Two-Way Deal With Suns

OCTOBER 22: Wainright has officially joined the Suns on a two-way deal, per the team (Twitter link).

OCTOBER 21: Ishmail Wainright is signing a two-way contract with the Suns, his agents Jim Tanner and Deirunas Visockas told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). 

Wainright, 27, was in the Raptors’ training camp. Toronto waived him on Saturday. Wainwright had some partial guarantees on his minimum-salary contract with Toronto, as he’ll collect $250K from the Raptors this season and $125K in 2022/23.

Wainright, who went undrafted out of Baylor in 2017, played for a number of international leagues prior to this season. In 2020/21, he suited up for Strasbourg in France, registering 11.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.5 APG, and 1.8 SPG on .485/.320/.726 shooting in 36 games (28.1 MPG). He’s considered a solid defender, and could carve out a niche role with the Suns.

With Wainright joining the defending conference champions, the Magic are the only team with an unfilled two-way spot. Chandler Hutchison holds Phoenix’s other two-way contract.

Raptors Notes: Boucher, Roster, Nurse, Tax

After missing the entire preseason due to a dislocated finger, Raptors big man Chris Boucher has been cleared to return for the team’s regular season opener, writes Lori Ewing of The Canadian Press (link via The Toronto Star).

Boucher had a breakout year in 2020/21, averaging 13.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and 1.9 BPG in 60 games (24.2 MPG). He’s expected to once again play a regular role in the Raptors’ frontcourt this season before becoming eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2022.

“My whole career, my whole time in Toronto, nothing has been promised … I had to work for everything, I see it the same way this year,” Boucher said of his mindset in a contract year, per Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link). “… At the end of the day I gotta be consistent, that’s the one remaining thing I gotta focus on.”

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Toronto’s roster, which is heavy on long, versatile forwards, is unlikely any group the franchise has put together in its 27 years of existence, opines Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. As Smith observes, 11 of the Raptors’ 15 players on standard contracts have listed heights of at least 6’7″, but none are taller than 6’9″.
  • Having lost veteran leaders like Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, and Marc Gasol in recent years, head coach Nick Nurse will be tasked with leading a less experienced group this season, Smith writes for The Toronto Star. While Nurse adjusts his style to accommodate the new-look roster, Fred VanVleet says he’s helping the newcomers adapt to Nurse’s outside-the-box approach to coaching. “He’s a little weird at times, but he won us a championship, so he knows what he’s doing,” VanVleet said.
  • Following the Raptors’ roster cuts on the weekend, Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca took an in-depth look at the team’s cap and tax situation and which recently-waived players are – or aren’t – expected to play in the G League with the Raptors 905. Toronto’s team salary is currently above the luxury tax line, but the club still has the flexibility to duck below that line after pushing back the salary guarantee dates for Sam Dekker and Isaac Bonga.

Raptors Have 10 International Players On Roster

  • The NBA announced on Tuesday that this season’s opening-night rosters feature a total of 109 international players from 39 countries. That includes a record number of players from Canada (18) Germany (seven), and the Bahamas (three). Appropriately, the Raptors lead the league with 10 international players.

Atlantic Notes: Bonga, Simmons, Harden, Tatum

German-born wing Isaac Bonga was able to make the Raptors’ opening roster thanks in part to help from two of the best coaches Canada has to offer, in current German national team head coach Gordie Herbert and assistant coach Roy Rana, per Doug Smith of the Toronto Star.

 “Their development and what they do up here, we all know,” the 21-year-old said in discussing the appeal of joining the Raptors on a non-guaranteed deal during the 2021 offseason. “Obviously in the past, people can see what they did with people like Pascal [Siakam], Chris [Boucher], OG [Anunoby].”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Though he still wants to be dealt, Sixers All-Star Ben Simmons has at least been physically present for practice in recent days and isn’t against playing for the team until a trade can be worked out, says Shams Charania of The Athletic. However, Simmons remains disengaged and isn’t “mentally ready” to get back to normal, sources tell The Athletic. Charania details the events of a tense practice that ultimately led to the 25-year-old’s one-game suspension today.
  • Nets All-Star guard James Harden didn’t come to terms on an extension agreement with Brooklyn before the October 18 deadline. Per Brian Lewis of the New York Post, the Nets tendered Harden a $161MM extension offer. After successfully signing All-Star forward Kevin Durant to a lucrative contract extension earlier this summer, Nets team president Sean Marks expressed confidence he would be able to ink both Harden and All-Star guard Kyrie Irving to extensions before the season. Neither player has been locked up long-term, and both could opt out of their deals to become free agents in the summer of 2022. Lewis notes that Harden will be eligible for a four-year, $223MM extension next summer. “I love it here, I feel at home,” Harden said of his future with the club, per Cassidy Hubbarth of ESPN (Twitter link). “For me individually, I just want to focus on this year… I don’t plan on leaving this organization.”
  • Celtics All-Star forward Jayson Tatum hopes to become an undeniable two-way force this season, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston“The next step is … just dominating,” Tatum said. “Not going out there and being just the best player — like dominating the game. So people walk away from the game and be like there’s nothing they could do, on both ends.”

Raptors Exercise 2022/23 Options On Achiuwa, Flynn

The Raptors have exercised their third-year team options on big man Precious Achiuwa and guard Malachi Flynn, the team announced today in a press release. Both options are for the 2022/23 season.

Achiuwa, the 20th overall pick in the 2020 draft, averaged 5.0 PPG and 3.4 RPG in 61 games (12.1 MPG) for the Heat as a rookie last season. He was dealt to the Raptors this summer along with Goran Dragic in the Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade. His 2022/23 option will pay him approximately $2.84MM.

Flynn, selected nine spots after Achiuwa at No. 29 in last year’s draft, averaged 7.5 PPG and 2.9 APG in 47 games (19.7 MPG) in his rookie year. He saw most of his playing time in the second half when Lowry was sidelined, and could take on a more regular role this season with the six-time All-Star no longer in the picture, though veteran point guards Fred VanVleet and Dragic are still ahead of him on the depth chart. Flynn’s ’22/23 option is worth about $2.15MM.

Teams have until November 1 to pick up their 2022/23 rookie scale options on first-round picks from the 2019 and 2020 drafts. We’re tracking all the decisions right here.

Cap/Contract Notes: Taxpayers, Allen, Carter, Shamet, Gafford

Now that all 30 regular season rosters have been set, 10 teams project to be taxpayers, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The Warriors, Nets, Clippers, Lakers, Bucks, Jazz, Sixers, Celtics, Trail Blazers, and Raptors are currently over the luxury tax threshold.

Some of those teams are in better shape than others. While the Warriors ($159.9MM) and Nets ($110.4MM) project to have nine-figure tax bills, the Raptors are barely into tax territory and should be able to sneak below the line, perhaps by waiving one of their two players who have partially guaranteed deals.

Besides Golden State and Brooklyn, the Clippers, Lakers, Bucks, and Jazz all have projected tax bills exceeding $33MM, according to Marks. The Sixers, Celtics, Blazers, and Raptors would owe less than $8MM each based on the current numbers.

Of course, these numbers can and will change over the course of the season as teams make roster moves, since tax bills are determined by the team’s year-end salary. For now though, the 20 non-taxpayers project to receive year-end payments of $12.7MM, Marks notes.

Here are a few more cap- and contract-related notes from around the NBA:

  • Grayson Allen‘s two-year extension with the Bucks features a base value of $17MM ($8.5MM per year) in guaranteed money, plus incentives, tweets Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. The exact value of the incentives is $1.275MM annually, Hoops Rumors has learned. Currently, those are a mix of likely and unlikely bonuses, but since the deal doesn’t begin until 2022/23, those likely/unlikely designations will ultimately be based on what happens this coming season.
  • Wendell Carter Jr.‘s four-year extension with the Magic has a descending structure, Scotto tweets. It starts at $14.15MM in year one and dips to $10.85MM by year four. The deal is fully guaranteed, with no options.
  • In addition to having a team option on its fourth year, Landry Shamet‘s extension with the Suns has a non-guaranteed salary in year three, Hoops Rumors has learned. The last two years both have June 29 trigger dates, in 2024 and 2025. Only $19.75MM of Shamet’s $42.5MM deal is fully guaranteed for now.
  • Daniel Gafford‘s three-year extension with the Wizards doesn’t include any options or incentives, tweets John Hollinger of The Athletic.

Salary Guarantee Dates For Raptors’ Dekker, Bonga Pushed To Nov. 6

Raptors forwards Sam Dekker and Isaac Bonga earned spots on the team’s opening-night roster, but their minimum salaries won’t become fully guaranteed quite yet. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link), both players have agreed to push back their salary guarantee dates to November 6. The two contracts were originally set to become guaranteed today.

Players whose contracts are non-guaranteed are typically paid by the day until their guarantee date, but Dekker has a $350K partial guarantee on his full-season salary of $1,789,256, while Bonga’s $1,729,217 salary includes a partial guarantee of $200K. That means the first 20 days of Bonga’s season are already covered by his partial guarantee, while Dekker’s partial guarantee covers the first 35 days of the season.

It’s perhaps no coincidence that November 6 is the 19th day of the NBA season, meaning the Raptors won’t be on the hook for any extra money for either Dekker or Bonga up until that date. If either player is waived on November 6, he’d still just be owed the amount of his partial guarantee. In essence, Toronto is extending the competition for the 14th roster spot by another few weeks.

It’s possible the Raptors could opt to keep both Dekker and Bonga beyond November 6, fully guaranteeing both of their salaries for 2021/22. However, it seems somewhat unlikely, since doing so would put the team over the tax line, as Marks notes (via Twitter).

Additionally, as Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca observes (via Twitter), the Raptors hope to have a healthier roster by early November. Yuta Watanabe (calf) and Chris Boucher (finger) may be back by that point, with Pascal Siakam (shoulder) getting closer to a return. That would reduce the need to carry a 15th man.

Dekker, a 2015 first-round pick who has been out of the NBA since the end of the 2018/19 season, spent time in Russia and Turkey before getting an opportunity with Toronto. Bonga signed with the Raptors this summer after spending his first three seasons with the Lakers and Wizards. He started 49 games for Washington in 2019/20, but saw his role cut back significantly last season.

Nate Bjorkgren Back With Raptors As Assistant

The Raptors are listing Nate Bjorkgren as an assistant coach, Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca tweets.

Bjorkgren was at Toronto’s training camp as a consultant and it seems the club has rehired him in his previous capacity. Bjorkgren was on Nick Nurse’s staff until he was hired as the Pacers’ head coach prior to last season. His tumultuous one-year stint ended in June when the team fired him.

Bjorkgren reportedly had major communication issues with players and coaches alike in Indiana and the front office opted to bring back Rick Carlisle for a second stint. Bjorkgren had one more guaranteed year on his contract.

He was an assistant on Nurse’s Team Canada staff this summer.

Raptors Waive Ishmail Wainright

The Raptors have placed Ishmail Wainright on waivers, according to Blake Murphy of Sportsnet (Twitter links). That could clear the way for Sam Dekker and Isaac Bonga to make the team’s 15-man roster, though the final roster deadline isn’t until Monday.

Wainwright, 27, had been playing overseas since going undrafted out of Baylor in 2017. Murphy expects other teams to have interest in Wainwright because of his versatility on defense.

Dekker, a 2015 first-round pick, has been out of the league since the end of the 2018/19 season. He spent time in Russia and Turkey before getting an opportunity with Toronto.

Bonga signed with the Raptors as an unrestricted free agent this summer after the Wizards opted not to give him a qualifying offer. The 2018 second-round pick started 49 of 66 games in 2019/20, averaging 5.0 PPG and 3.4 RPG in 18.9 MPG. His playing time dropped dramatically this past season, as he played in 40 games (eight starts) and posted modest stats (2.0 PPG, 1.7 RPG in 10.8 MPG).

Toronto will take on some dead money for Wainright if he goes unclaimed on waivers, since he had some partial guarantees on his minimum-salary contract. He’s owed $250K this season and $125K in 2022/23.

Dekker and Bonga have partial guarantees too, but their salaries for 2021/22 will reportedly become fully guaranteed if they make the opening-night roster. If the Raptors want to avoid locking in both of those cap hits, they could still decide to cut one of them before Monday’s deadline.