- Swingman Norman Powell has returned to the bench with Kyle Lowry back in the lineup but he’ll be an important part of the Raptors’ second unit, Josh Lewenberg of TSN reports. Powell scored 23 points against the Heat on Tuesday. Coach Nick Nurse told Powell “‘your role is an off the bench guy for this team, so let’s go kick some butt in this role and start getting used to it.’ And I was proud of him for doing that last night. He was huge.” Powell’s contract runs through 2021/22 but includes an $11.6MM early termination option.
Having thrived as the Raptors‘ starting point guard without Kyle Lowry in the lineup for the team’s last 11 contests, Fred VanVleet may be raising the value of his next contract with each game, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. During that Lowry-less stretch, Toronto has a 9-2 record and VanVleet has averaged 21.2 PPG, 7.5 APG, and 2.4 SPG with a .402 3PT%.
VanVleet will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, and Lewenberg speculates that Malcolm Brogdon‘s four-year, $85MM deal from this past offseason could end up being the baseline for the Raptors’ point guard if he keeps up his current pace.
In an appearance on Brian Windhorst’s ESPN podcast (hat tip to RealGM), Bobby Marks said he heard from one team last week that believes VanVleet may even command between $25-30MM next summer, with a handful of rebuilding clubs among the candidates to make a run at the Raptors’ up-and-coming star using cap space. “I almost fell off my chair when they told me that,” Marks admitted.
Of the Cavaliers‘ five upcoming free agents, Tristan Thompson is the one they would most like to re-sign for the long term, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com writes in a mailbag column. Thompson is putting up the best numbers of his career this season, averaging 14.1 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. He is also a team leader whose work ethic serves as a model for a very young roster.
Sources tell Fedor that the team hasn’t had any conversations with Thompson’s agents about a possible extension. The front office believes he wouldn’t be willing to make a commitment now when he stands to get a huge payday next summer.
Fedor notes that the Cavs’ chances of keeping Thompson seem pretty good because most contenders are either set at center or won’t have much money to spend. One exception could be the Raptors, who have Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol with expiring contracts. Thompson is a Toronto native and may be interested in returning home with a more successful organization.
There’s more on the Cavaliers, all courtesy of Fedor:
- Matthew Dellavedova, another impending free agent, will continue to get playing time despite his broken jumper. Coach John Beilein sees him as one of the team’s best defenders and leans on his ability to run the offense with the second unit. Dellavedova is shooting a career-worst 25% from the field and has made just 3-of-31 shots beyond the arc.
- After selecting Collin Sexton and Darius Garland the past two years, the Cavaliers could face a difficult decision in a 2020 draft that filled with small guards. Fedor believes management would be willing to gamble on North Carolina’s Cole Anthony or Georgia’s Anthony Edwards if they believe they are better long-range prospects than Sexton or Garland. Another name to watch could be Israeli swingman Deni Avdija, who is expected to be the first international player off the board. Cavs general manager Koby Altman recently made a trip to see Avdija, and scouting director Brandon Weems is planning to watch his Maccabi Tel Aviv team later this season.
- The Cavaliers’ rebuilding situation will limit their free agency appeal, so Fedor believes the best strategy could be to make a generous offer for a restricted free agent. Brandon Ingram would be at the top of that list, but the Pelicans will likely match any offer to the centerpiece of the Anthony Davis trade. Other options include the Kings‘ Bogdan Bogdanovic and the Suns‘ Dario Saric.
Knicks head coach David Fizdale is using the term “tough love” to describe his decision to bench second-year forward Kevin Knox, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post. Knox was held out of Friday’s loss to the Sixers and had only been averaging 12.1 minutes per night in the previous four games. It’s been a trend for the ninth overall pick in last year’s draft, whose minutes have fallen from 28.8 per game in 2018/19 to 19.8 this season.
“Sometimes they’ve got to go through some tough love to find themselves and watch the game from 25,000 feet, see it, and see the things that I’m emphasizing,” Fizdale said after Saturday’s practice. “I was tough on Frank (Ntilikina) last year and I just feel like Frank has come back with a whole different mindset about how he’s going to go about this season. I’ve been so happy with the way he’s played and produced. But I do think a little bit of tough love on some of these young guys isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”
Knox will be “a consideration, for sure” to return to the lineup today, Fizdale added. Marcus Morris is listed as questionable for the game because of cervical spasms in his neck.
There’s more from New York this morning:
- Ntilikina tells Botte that he benefited from last year’s experience and encourages Knox to find ways to help the team when he’s not on the court. Ntilikina began this season out of the rotation, but has made 14 consecutive starts at point guard. He said an offseason meeting with Fizdale gave him a new perspective. “There’s a lot of noise with this team, a lot of expectations,” Ntilikina explained. “Around this city, a lot of expectations. Obviously, those expectations are for us to get better. But what we have to understand, too, is we have expectations, and [Fizdale] wants us to get better, and he wants us to be the best team possible. He wants us to be the best possible, that’s the same for every player.”
- Former Knicks guard Trey Burke, who was part of the package sent to Dallas in the Kristaps Porzingis trade, offered some insight into Porzingis’ perspective on the deal and his falling out with management in New York, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. “A lot of things the press said, he felt like wasn’t true,’’ Burke said. “He feels like there was a narrative that got out about him, he couldn’t defend himself. I don’t know if (Dallas) told him not to talk that much, but he wasn’t talking. I do think he has his side.’’
- The Knicks may try to lure Raptors executive Masai Ujiri after the season ends, and there are fears in Toronto that he might accept their offer, according to Steve Popper of Newsday. Ujiri may view New York City as a larger platform to help expand his Giants of Africa foundation, which aids children in his home continent.
- Undrafted rookie guard Terence Davis signed a two-year contract with the Raptors in July and he’s quickly paying dividends, Arten Zwelling of SportsNet Canada reports. He’s averaging 13.0 PPG and 3.5 APG over the last four games. “I really focus on the task at hand,” he said. “Coming here and just getting better every single day. Even on off days. If it’s getting treatment, getting shots up, just doing something, just staying ahead.”
Justise Winslow has been sidelined most of the month with a concussion but he’s closer to returning, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets. The Heat’s point forward is expected to practice on Tuesday. Winslow hasn’t played since November 5. He suffered the brain injury in a collision with Nuggets forward Paul Millsap. Coach Erik Spoelstra said Winslow formally remains in the protocol, Winderman adds.
We have more injury updates:
- Raptors guard Matt Thomas has a fractured left middle finger and missed Monday’s game, Lori Ewing of The Canadian Press tweets. The rookie suffered the injury at Atlanta on Saturday. Thomas, a shooting guard out of Iowa State, is averaging 4.8 PPG in 11.3 MPG while making 53.8 percent of his 3-point attempts over 12 games.
- Bucks forward Khris Middleton has gone through contact work in practice and played 5-on-5 as recently as Monday, coach Mike Budenholzer told Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link). Middleton suffered a left thigh contusion on November 10th and was expected to miss 3-4 weeks. Budenholzer said Middleton might be ahead of the original timetable for his return.
- Magic center Nikola Vucevic said his right ankle sprain is not as severe as he originally feared when he suffered the injury last Wednesday, Josh Robbins of The Athletic tweets. However, he also has a bone bruise that will take some time to heal. He hasn’t been able to do any kind of running, Robbins adds. Vucevic is expected to miss a minimum of four weeks.
Kyle Lowry is targeting December 1 for his return to the lineup, Michael Grange of Rogers Sportsnet relays (Twitter link). Lowry hasn’t played for the Raptors since early November because of a thumb injury.
Here’s more from Toronto:
- There was hope that Serge Ibaka would make his return on Saturday, Grange notes, but the big man will not return from his right ankle injury this weekend. Patrick McCaw, who is recovering from a knee injury, is ahead of schedule but there is still no definite timetable for his return.
- Trevor Cole of Toronto Life delivers an in-depth profile of Raptors GM Masai Ujiri, detailing the executive’s routines and his path to the top of the organization in Toronto. Ujiri began his career in international scouting.
- In the same piece, Raptors guard Fred VanVleet provided some insight into what makes Ujiri great. “He values the little things about a person more than just their basketball talent,” said VanVleet.
Here are Thursday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA:
- The Wizards assigned Isaac Bonga, Admiral Schofield, and Justin Robinson to the Capital City Go-Go, the team announces on its Twitter feed. Bonga was recalled later today, as the team only sent him down for practice.
- The Raptors are sending Dewan Hernandez back to the Raptors 905, Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets. Hernandez saw action with the NBA club on Wednesday.
- The Thunder have recalled Justin Patton from the Oklahoma City Blue, the team’s website relays. Patton has played six minutes for the Thunder this season.
- The Clippers have assigned Mfiondu Kabengele and guard Derrick Walton Jr. to the Agua Caliente Clippers, the team announces. Kabengele was the No. 27 overall pick in the 2019 draft (selected by Brooklyn and traded to Los Angeles).
- The Jazz have recalled Miye Oni and Nigel Williams-Goss from the Salt Lake City Stars, per the team’s Twitter feed. Oni has seen action in four G League games this season while Williams-Goss has played in two games.
- The Rockets recalled Gary Clark from the Grande Valley Vipers, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Clark should see playing time this weekend with the Rockets facing a back-to-back and Danuel House likely to be sidelined.