June 12, 2018, 12:47 pm
The Raptors went for it in 2016-17, adding Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker at the deadline to finally go toe-to-toe with LeBron. They were swept. After some soul-searching they came back with a new culture and a play style that fit right in with the modern NBA. Surprisingly, it worked like a charm – at least for most of the year. It was another franchise-best season for the Raptors that ended in the same old crushing disappointment.
The Raptors promised a culture reset coming into the season after years of guard-dominant, unimaginative play kept returning the same unsatisfactory results. It required buy-in from everyone – Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Dwane Casey were the main actors but everyone needed to get on the same page. The secondary options were supposed to be ready when the ball came their way, as the team was set to empower its depth guys to get involved and take shots when available.
Masai Ujiri felt that the team was close after taking a big swing at the previous trade deadline and decided to bring back the core pieces, re-signing Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka in free agency to twin three-year deals. DeMarre Carroll was exiled to Brooklyn in a salary dump. Cory Joseph was traded to the Pacers for C.J. Miles to help space things out and open up time for the younger backcourt options. OG Anunoby, coming off a knee injury, fell to the Raptors at pick 23 in the draft. It wasn’t a perfect offseason as P.J. Tucker signed with the Rockets after Ujiri tried hard to keep him in the fold and Patrick Patterson joined the Thunder on a fairly cheap deal, but the Raptors kept their most important player, a theoretically above-average power forward and found a legitimate 3-point threat.
Toronto got off to a middling start and DeRozan and Lowry met with Casey to discuss the merits of their new playstyle after they were thumped in Denver. The coach preached patience and the Raptors took off from there as the two stars bought in. The bench players flourished, as the growth of Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl exceeded even the wildest of expectations. Those four, plus Miles, formed a bench mob that graded out as one of the NBA’s best five-man units. Lowry and DeRozan got more rest than ever since the Raps became competitive. Anunoby took the starting small forward job and ran with it, putting together some big defensive games and showcasing incredible defensive potential. Even Jonas Valanciunas got the green light to bomb away from deep and connected at a 40 percent clip.
The Raptors established another franchise-best season, taking home the East’s top seed and the league’s second-best record with a 59-23 campaign. The culture reset most certainly worked as the team rose from 22nd in 3-point attempts per game (24.3) to third this season (33.0). Even with a mediocre conversion rate, it was clear that the Raptors were dedicated to modernizing their shot spectrum in a move that was long overdue. They also made a huge jump from dead last to 11th in terms of assist percentage. DeRozan and Lowry were still driving the bus but no longer had to do it all on their own.
Things were supposed to be different in the postseason. There were demons to overcome and the Raptors were far more equipped to do so. The Wizards weren’t much of a challenge in round one, though the series did get to 2-2 before Toronto hit the gas pedal a bit. But LeBron. LeBron is always there, always ready, never worried. Even though the Cavs boasted a terrible defense, Cleveland’s offensive attack was just too much to handle. Ibaka turned to dust on live television and despite valiant efforts from Anunoby and Siakam, there was nothing to be done against The King. DeRozan was substandard, Valanciunas was too slow (though he was one of the few who didn’t give up) and Miles went cold. Two close losses composed half of another four game sweep but the Raptors are too good for moral victories, no matter how small. Dwane Casey, the likely Coach of the Year, was sent packing.
Now the Raptors are left to wonder how there can be more soul-searching when no soul remains.
The dismissal of Casey will look bad given the hardware that’s coming his way, but the issue is far more complicated than that. He’s done a wonderful job of dragging the organization to competency and reining in the feisty Lowry. Casey even deserves credit for revamping the team’s playstyle (or at least letting assistant Nick Nurse reprogram the offense). If you want someone who excels in the big picture, Casey’s your guy. It’s understandable, however, that the Raptors feel that they’ve gone as far as they can with Casey at the helm. The micro aspects of coaching – tactics, rotations, play-calling – that come into focus in the playoffs ended up being his downfall.
While the Raptors match up with the Cavs terribly from a personnel perspective, there was no chance for them to hang around given the amount of time it took to adjust to simple sets and actions. Poor Miles was left alone to crash and bang with LeBron or Kevin Love in the post for possession after possession. They couldn’t snuff out simple corner offense from Love and George Hill. The Cavs have butchered the Raptors with the same offensive sets for three years running and there was still no progress towards even slowing them down. Despite their reputation the Raptors were a mediocre defensive team from the middle of the regular season onwards, though it was largely ignored until they were getting ethered.
Toronto was also thrown off their own game a bit as they ranked 13 out of 16 with just 26.7 3-point attempts per game in the postseason. Despite the stylistic shifts, they were still easy enough to scheme for and Cleveland didn’t have major issues forcing Toronto to their second and third options on offense. The roster doesn’t boast a ton of consistent 3-point threats but the fact that they couldn’t even generate looks falls on the coaching staff. They still scored well in the playoffs overall (second-most points per possession in the field) but seemed to revert back a little bit as opponents were able to alter their shot spectrum somewhat easily.
Fred VanVleet, Sixth Man of the Year Finalist and the most important reserve, was injured in a meaningless (for them) Game 82 that the Raptors played straight for reasons unknown. He wasn’t himself in the playoffs and the Raptors were already a bit short on deep shooting threats. There are other larger issues at play with Casey’s tenure overall, including an obvious over-reliance on his two guards and the curious development and usage of Valanciunas – though that one is a bit more chicken-and-egg in nature.
And while Casey will get tons of credit for changing the Raptors’ DNA, it’s also worth pointing out that it took five years with the same core to try and modernize the offense. If the praise comes in for playing a more modern game that unlocks the next level, you have to acknowledge that the previous system was holding them back. It’s worth wondering what last year’s team, with better defensive depth in Tucker, Patterson and Carroll, amongst others, could’ve done in a system where they were trusted to impact both ends of the floor rather than perch in the corners.
That’s not to say that he’s a bad coach. Far from it, in fact. The ISO-only critiques are old hat but no less incorrect than they’ve ever been, and he’s done a great job of steadily improving a team that lacks true top-end talent. Casey is undoubtedly the most successful coach in team history and is going to win Coach of the Year. But it was just time. He’ll head to Detroit and try and do what he did with the Raptors, at least in the early years – take a team with some interesting talent and build them into a consistent, competitive group. It might not happen overnight but Casey will get you to that point at the very least. It’s what comes after that’s his stumbling block – the final, unassailable hurdle that drove Toronto to change.
So the job belongs to his former assistant, Nick Nurse. It’s a hire that isn’t without criticism, as it seems a bit pointless to hire a top assistant from the guy who couldn’t get the job done, but there are some nice qualifications here. Nurse has six years of head coaching experience in the D-League, including two championships and a .610 winning percentage. Working under the Rockets in Rio Grande Valley, Nurse is no stranger to analytically friendly basketball and was the driving force behind Toronto’s motion offense this season. It’s an overdue opportunity for Nurse, who should push the Raptors further into the modern age.
ADP: 28/24 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 18/18 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 26/30 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 78
2017-18 averages: 78 G | 78 GS | 32.2 MP | 16.2 PTS | 3.1 3PM | 5.6 REB | 6.9 AST | 1.1 STL | 0.2 BLK | 2.3 TOV | .427 FG% | .854 FT% |
After years of empty talk, the Raptors finally followed through and limited Lowry’s minutes in the regular season. Despite a sizable cut from 37.4 to 32.2 minutes per contest, Lowry remained a solid second-third round fantasy player. While that led to some obvious statistical declines, fantasy owners were probably ecstatic to see Lowry stay healthy for much of the year and stick around to actually play at full strength in the fantasy playoffs. He missed three games due to a back issue after a scary landing in Brooklyn but that was the only appearance on the injury report this year.
As far as bad news goes, Lowry did lose about six points per game and nearly half a steal. He also saw his shooting percentage drop from .464 to .427, though that mark from 2016-17 stands out as an anomaly that was picked up in an injury-shortened season. On the flip side, he saw a big jump in free throw percentage, set a new career-high in rebounds and maintained his excellent output in both assists and triples despite the cut in playing time. DeRozan may get the hype but Lowry is Toronto’s engine as the team simply can’t weather off nights from their point guard. He struggled adjusting to the new system early in the season and would often take a back seat from a scoring perspective but did a nice job stretching the floor, finding the right man and keeping things running smoothly while getting his points in the flow of the offense. Standard Lowry things, really.
Lowry was also able to remain effective in the playoffs, and he mentioned that he still had plenty more to give after the second round. The diminished workload clearly paid off and should be the norm going forward. Sentimentally, it resulted in less Kyle Lowry Over Everything performances but it came with better basketball and a more consistently productive player. If the Raptors can find some better shooters, either from outside the organization or through internal improvement, he should see some extra assists as well. The early returns on Lowry in a more modern offense were good and he may still improve (even as he ages) if the team continues down that path.
ADP: 30/30 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 25/28(8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 46/47 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 80
2017-18 averages: 80 G | 80 GS | 33.9 MP | 23.0 PTS | 1.1 3PM | 3.9 REB | 5.2 AST | 1.1 STL | 0.3 BLK | 2.2 TOV | .456 FG% | .825 FT% |
DeRozan did it again – he took the summer to tangibly improve a new facet of his game. This year he took strides as both a 3-point shooter and a playmaker, and both ended up being necessary and encouraged in Toronto’s new offense. He posted career-highs in threes and assists by a comfortable margin and stayed healthy as a result of the Raptors committing to cutting his minutes. He also established a new franchise scoring record with 52 points against Milwaukee in January.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing for DeRozan but ultimately he embraced a more egalitarian offensive style and did a nice job navigating the traps and doubles that gave him fits in previous seasons. There were still lots of predictable sets to get DeRozan the ball in his spots but for the most part he was comfortable easing into things rather than forcing the action. Here’s hoping that it keeps up, assuming Toronto doesn’t blow it up and try to trade him in the offseason.
Going forward, it’s tough to project much more room for improvement from a fantasy perspective. DeRozan could bring his points up at the expense of some dimes. He could also stand to further improve his 3-point shot but it’ll merely be a secondary option rather than a steady part of his game – it’s just not in his DNA even if he’s passable. The big summertime work should come on the defensive end, but that’ll help the Raptors more than us. DeRozan is a solid early-middle round player who has done well to prove his worth over the last few seasons.
ADP: 59/51 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 66/55(8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 89/73 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 76
2017-18 averages: 76 G | 76 GS | 27.5 MP | 12.6 PTS | 1.4 3PM | 6.3 REB | 0.8 AST | 0.4 STL | 1.3 BLK | 1.2 TOV | .483 FG% | .797 FT% |
Ibaka was a disappointment for fantasy owners this season, and while he had a long stretch of games with a block in the middle of the year he failed to live up to expectations for the most part. The Raptors will probably look to trade him and his bloated contract away if possible but seem unlikely to find any takers unless they take on an equally cumbersome deal. His decline was readily apparent this year and it was particularly painful to watch in the postseason. Ibaka’s history of knee issues means that he’s susceptible to lulls in the regular season but the rest built into the playoff schedule couldn’t help him perform well outside of Game 1 against the Wizards. Soreness in both knees cost him three games this season but the difference in his performance is night and day when he can get some extended rest.
A step back could’ve been expected given the adjustment to Toronto’s new offense, but Ibaka tied a career-low in blocks this season and had his worst rebounding campaign since his rookie year. Not coincidentally, he also saw the fourth-lowest playing time of his career. In regards to the new playstyle, there were nights when it looked like Serge was the only guy to miss the memo. He’s not a strong quick-decision-maker and can really bog things down when he gets the rock.
At this point, with his block rate and rebounding rate declining in lockstep, it’s tough to endorse Ibaka as a middle-round guy. His swats remain valuable and there’s a chance that the new coaching staff will play more to his strengths but the big man is probably not going to come off the draft board before 80.
ADP: 71/72 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 57/50(8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 77/72 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 77
2017-18 averages: 77 G | 77 GS | 22.4 MP | 12.7 PTS | 0.4 3PM | 8.6 REB | 1.1 AST | 0.4 STL | 0.9 BLK | 1.5 TOV | .568 FG% | .806 FT% |
Valanciunas came into the season as the subject of offseason trade speculation but wound up making strides in pretty much all of his problem areas. His lack of footspeed will continue to put a hard cap on his versatility but to his credit, JV developed an outside jumper and cleaned up a lot of his mental issues on defense. He was also one of the few players who didn’t totally wilt in the second round of the postseason and deserved a fairer shake from the coaching staff despite the tough matchup. He missed four games in October because of a sore ankle but was otherwise healthy, contributing to a strong season in terms of total value.
Unfortunately, the growth of Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam meant that Valanciunas saw his playing time decrease from 25.8 minutes a night in 2016-17 to just 22.4 this season. Those two are just better overall defenders and often got the nod in the closing group. Valanciunas might be in line for more work under a new coaching staff as no matter his output in the scoring column or on the glass Dwane Casey never seemed ready to just let him play. Keep an ear to the ground about his minutes whenever the Raptors do make their new hire, as Valanciunas offers solid top-60 upside thanks to his strong combination of points, rebounds, blocks and efficiency from both the field and the stripe.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 244/233 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 304/283 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 74
2017-18 averages: 74 G | 62 GS | 25.3 MP | 5.9 PTS | 1.0 3PM | 2.5 REB | 0.7 AST | 0.7 STL | 0.2 BLK | 0.6 TOV | .471 FG% | .629 FT% |
An ACL tear at Indiana really hurt Anunoby’s draft stock and the Raptors were delighted to snag him at No. 23 even if he wasn’t able to return until December. That proved to be no issue, as Anunoby beat all the timetables and was ready by opening night, missing only eight games because of a sprained ankle in March. He’d step in as the starting small forward when Norman Powell sprained his ankle and took off running, showing a lot of great signs in his first year.
Initially expected to be a subpar shooter, OG ended up clicking at 37.1 percent from deep – including a January where he was just hitting 19.4 percent of his triples. There were some natural ebbs and flows but Anunoby was encouraged to shoot and would often follow up airballs with confident takes. He exudes an air of calm and wasn’t afraid of the moment in the postseason, where he did a reasonable job on LeBron James considering his rookie status. Anunoby ended up being Toronto’s second or third-best player in the playoffs, which is bad for the present but great for the future. As a low-maintenance player he’ll need to significantly increase the cash counters to be a fantasy factor, so he can be safely ignored outside of very deep leagues.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 146/130 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 180/158 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 76
2017-18 averages: 76 G | 0 GS | 20.0 MP | 8.6 PTS | 1.4 3PM | 2.4 REB | 3.2 AST | 0.9 STL | 0.3 BLK | 1.0 TOV | .426 FG% | .832 FT% |
VanVleet was the breakout star for the Raptors this season, rising from undrafted free agent to Sixth Man of the Year finalist in two short campaigns. VanVleet gave the team some invaluable floor spacing, dribble penetration and solid perimeter defense despite his short and stocky stature. His injury in a meaningless Game 82 lingered throughout the playoffs and made life a lot harder on Toronto than it needed to be otherwise, as FVV emerged as a key cog of the team’s rotation and frequent member of the closing lineup.
VanVleet missed a little bit of time with a right hand contusion, a tight back and a right knee contusion but was fairly consistent from wire-to-wire.
Heading into restricted free agency, expect the Raptors to do everything they can to keep him in the fold. It might require some other moves but VanVleet proved himself too important this season, so unless some other team comes in with a surprisingly above-market offer it’ll be interesting to see how the Raptors fit his new salary in. Mr. Bet On Yourself is about to get paid. For fantasy purposes, this type of output looks repeatable assuming the Raptors run it back under a new coach. He’s a nice option for threes, assists and steals to fill out the end of your roster.
ADP: N/A / 143 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 212/185 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 240/210 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 70
2017-18 averages: 70 G | 3 GS | 19.1 MP | 10.0 PTS | 2.3 3PM | 2.2 REB | 0.8 AST | 0.5 STL | 0.3 BLK | 0.6 TOV | .379 FG% | .835 FT% |
Miles came over in the offseason as the return in the Cory Joseph trade and became one of the few reliable 3-point shooters on the roster. As such, it’s not surprising that he set a new career-best in triples per game but he did disappoint in terms of efficiency and peripheral numbers. Miles (or maybe it’s Kilometers now) hit just 36.1 percent of his threes after hitting 41.3 percent in 2016-17 and was just .379 from the field overall – the third-worst mark in his 13-year career, topping only his first two years in the league out of high school. Miles was one of two main contenders to earn the starting small forward job but ended up being the veteran leader of the Raptors’ young bench.
He played less than expected and had to deal with a variety of injuries and external factors that limited him throughout the year. Miles missed three games because of illness on the year in addition to three with a sore knee, three in the wake of a dental procedure and one with a sore left shoulder. Additionally, he missed two games for personal reasons and became a father this season. He admitted early on that there was a major adjustment period both on and off the court and it showed in his streaky play. Miles could be in line for a bigger role now that he’s more settled in but it’s tough to see him as anything more than a 3-point specialist. He won’t have the same opportunity at winning a starting job this year.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 150/135 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 157/142 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 69
2017-18 averages: 69 G | 4 GS | 20.8 MP | 8.0 PTS | 0.8 3PM | 2.9 REB | 2.9 AST | 1.0 STL | 0.5 BLK | 1.1 TOV | .465 FG% | .829 FT% |
Though Wright was leapfrogged on the depth chart by Fred VanVleet, the two are able to split time in the rotation thanks to their diverse skillsets. Wright’s length makes him a great fit on the wing in three-guard lineups and he’s Kyle Anderson-esque in his natural ability to keep opponents off balance with his change of pace. Everything that Wright does is frenetic and a beat away from what’s expected, and his length and handle make him a solid drive-and-kick guy who can hit tough looks at the rim. While his jumper isn’t picturesque, he also managed to hit 36.6 percent of his triples this season.
Wright did miss 12 games with a dislocated right shoulder this season, though he ended up getting lucky since he has had surgery on the same shoulder already in his three-year career. He missed one additional game in March with a sprained big toe.
The real fantasy appeal here is in Wright’s ability to leverage his length into defensive stats. He doesn’t need a ton of playing time to be an asset for steals, blocks and assists, and as he continues to improve his offense his ceiling will only rise. If the Raptors end up making a move in the backcourt, Wright stands to benefit immensely. He’s someone to nab in the late rounds of deeper leagues and a reasonable flier in 12-team formats.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 157/136 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 215/192 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 81
2017-18 averages: 81 G | 5 GS | 20.7 MP | 7.3 PTS | 0.4 3PM | 4.5 REB | 2.0 AST | 0.8 STL | 0.5 BLK | 0.8 TOV | .508 FG% | .621 FT% |
Siakam didn’t play on opening night but was a rotation fixture thereafter, emerging as a vital part of the second unit. He has the most upside of any of the bench mob and the Raptors asked him to take on a number of tough defensive assignments throughout the year. His flighty 3-point shooting (22 percent) needs to improve but the team encouraged him to take open looks and allowed him to bring the ball up and initiate the offense some as the season wore on.
While he has tantalizing physical tools and great potential as a defender, his fantasy appeal for now rides on doing a little bit of everything. Siakam won’t be a foundational piece on a fantasy roster but if you roll with him for a week you’ll probably get enough rebounds, steals and blocks with non-zero output in assists and threes. Hopefully he continues to progress, as the Raptors clearly feel he can shoulder more of an offensive burden as his game develops.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 119/109 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 181/161 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 82
2017-18 averages: 82 G | 0 GS | 18.6 MP | 6.9 PTS | 0.0 3PM | 4.8 REB | 0.7 AST | 0.5 STL | 1.2 BLK | 1.0 TOV | .659 FG% | .594 FT% |
Poeltl was yet another of Toronto’s youngsters who took a nice step forward this past season, becoming the clear backup center and a valuable part of the rotation. It was never shocking to see him in closing lineups and there were nights where he looked like an upgrade on Valanciunas. Poeltl is a faster player who times his cuts well in addition to being a superior rim protector, even if he has a poor habit of trying to contest everything rather than box out his own man.
Fantasy-wise, the Austrian is a blocks and rebounds guy who generates most of his value by simply playing every night. It’ll be interesting to track his minutes next season since Casey never seemed willing to really take the chains of Valanciunas – the next coach might not have the same issue, especially if JV continues his progress. Poeltl could still stand to get stronger and polish up his offensive game but is a heady player who can carve out low-end value in this type of role. He’s a high-floor player for the Raptors and a key member of the frontcourt rotation.
ADP: N/A / 140 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 274/283(8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 351/367 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 70
2017-18 averages: 70 G | 18 GS | 15.2 MP | 5.5 PTS | 0.8 3PM | 1.7 REB | 1.3 AST | 0.5 STL | 0.2 BLK | 0.9 TOV | .401 FG% | .821 FT% |
This was supposed to be Powell’s year. Fresh off a nice contract extension and the trade of DeMarre Carroll, Norm was free to ascend to the starting five with C.J. Miles’ shooting needed in the second unit. He proceeded to flop spectacularly. Powell started the first 12 games of the year but wasn’t anything to write home about before going down for four games with a hip pointer injury. At that point OG Anunoby took hold of the starting small forward gig and never let go. Norm would miss two more in March with a sprained ankle but his other absences were just DNPs.
It was painfully obvious that Powell’s confidence was shot and he wound up clicking at just 28.5 percent from deep. He was clanking from the outside and rarely had intentions of passing out of drives. Once teams caught onto that it was basically game over. The Raptors might try and move him for a little salary relief this summer but if he returns, the team will try to prop him back up. He’s flashed solid two-way potential and has drawn rave reviews for his work ethic, so they won’t just give up here. It’ll be tough for Powell to become a fantasy factor, however, as this was probably his best shot at locking down a big-minute role. He’s been surpassed by the entire bench mob.
ADP: N/A / 137 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 308/288 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 343/305 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 49
2017-18 averages: 49 G | 3 GS | 8.5 MP | 2.5 PTS | 0.1 3PM | 1.8 REB | 0.4 AST | 0.5 STL | 0.9 BLK | 0.3 TOV | .613 FG% | .679 FT% |
Outside of Powell, nobody was hurt more by the development of Toronto’s youth than Nogueira. Bebe, who sang in a samba band last season before his busy schedule put that on the back burner, saw a huge decrease in playing time from 19.1 minutes a night to just 8.5 this season. It’s a little surprising that he didn’t see more as despite his occasional vanishing acts and roller coaster performances, Nogueira is the best passer amongst the Raptors bigs. More generally, he’s just tons of fun.
A restricted free agent that may be a cap sacrifice, Bebe could easily turn in standard league value if he ends up with a team that will play him. The per-minute defensive numbers are very appealing and he was a top-100 player for stretches in 2016-17 when he was actually getting run. The odds are long, but file his name away just in case he ends up winning a backup center job somewhere.
The Raptors don’t have a ton of routes to take this offseason barring a shocking trade of either Lowry or DeRozan. Ujiri structured their contracts (plus Ibaka’s) in such a way that next summer looks like his potential escape hatch. Still, it’s expected that they’ll at least try and get rid of Ibaka without taking back an equally smelly deal and you could say the same of Norman Powell. Valanciunas might find himself in the rumor mill again after his strong season rehabbed some value. While some salary relief would be nice, the best odds remain on this team coming back as is with Nurse calling the shots.
Expect Toronto to retain Fred VanVleet as long as the price isn’t prohibitively above-market. The player development staff will continue to coax burgeoning offensive games out of Wright, Siakam and Anunoby. DeRozan will be back in the lab, hopefully focusing on defense. The window is very much closing for this iteration of the Raptors but their play under a refreshed system provides enough optimism to give this one more crack rather than strip down a 59-win team. It’s now a matter of whether or not they can improve their personnel enough to take more steps before that window slams shut. Games 1-82 no longer matter. It’s about getting to 90 and beyond.
May 27, 2020, 7:52 pmZach LaVineSG, Chicago Bulls
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reported that the Bulls were cleared by the Governor of Illinois and Chicago city officials to open practice facilities on Friday for voluntary workouts that would follow the NBA guidelines.
The NBA's guidelines currently state that a maximum of four players are allowed in the facility at any given time and there can only be one player per hoop. The Bulls are currently eight games behind the Orlando Magic for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls may not play again this season given how far behind they are in the standings and the recent reports of proposals to not continue the regular season.
Source: K.C. Johnson on Twitter
May 27, 2020, 7:08 pmLuka DoncicPG-SF, Dallas Mavericks
Marc Stein of the New York Times has reported that the Mavs plan to open their practice facility on Thursday.
This news would make the Mavs the 23rd team to have their facilities open for "voluntary and socially distanced player workouts". Continue to monitor the wire as we should learn more about the potential of the league resuming in early June.
Source: Marc Stein on Twitter
May 26, 2020, 10:07 pmKawhi LeonardSF, Los Angeles Clippers
On Tuesday afternoon, AmicoHoops reported (via Twitter) that an unidentified NBA GM told them the league has seriously discussed resuming the current NBA season on Wednesday, July 22.
Nothing has been officially announced, by any means, and this is the first we've heard of specific target date(s) from anyone. It's looking like the continuation of the season will occur in Orlando at Walt Disney World at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, which has accommodations for at least some of what the NBA has planned for a resuming activity. As we have relayed numerous times recently, the next week or two seem to be a likely window for some decisions from Adam Silver and Co. at the NBA league office to start to come down. Stay tuned, hoops fans.
Source: AmicoHoops on Twitter
May 26, 2020, 8:47 pmDamian LillardPG, Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard announced on Tuesday evening that, in the event of a continuation of the NBA season, he would not be participating if the Blazers are scheduled to play 'meaningless games' with no shot at making the playoffs.
"If we come back and they're just like, 'We're adding a few games to finish the regular season,' and they're throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don't have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I'm going to be with my team because I'm a part of the team. But I'm not going to be participating," Lillard told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday morning. It's hard to blame him, as it is quite easy to see the potential situation from his point of view. There have been countless scenarios tossed around by the league office during the pandemic period, but nothing is set in stone so far. Lillard, for his part, is only interested in returning to action if there exists a legitimate shot for his Blazers to reach the NBA Finals. Fair enough.
Source: Yahoo! Sports
May 26, 2020, 8:34 pmJoel EmbiidC, Philadelphia Sixers
The Sixers, who have their practice facility located in nearby Camden, NJ, will allow voluntary player workouts at the facility beginning on Wednesday, raising the number of NBA teams who have been able to do so to 22.
The Celtics, Knicks, Bulls, Pistons, Wizards, Mavericks, Spurs and Warriors are the final teams remaining who are unable to return to their practice facilities. The NBA seems to be inching ever so close to, at the very least, announcing a plan for a continuation of the current season. This next week or two should be very eventful on that front.
Source: Marc Stein on Twitter
May 26, 2020, 8:26 pmClint CapelaC, Atlanta Hawks
Hawks GM Travis Schlenk indicated on Tuesday that Clint Capela (right heel, plantar fasciitis) could very well play in the event of an NBA restart.
"Clint [Capela] says he's feeling better, and there's a possibility that we can get him back on the court," Schlenk said in a phone interview with ESPN. "Practicing and playing five games would be valuable to us." Capela has yet to see the floor for the Hawks since he was acquired at the deadline from the Rockets, and one would have to surmise that he would be under a heavy minutes restriction if the league resumes and if the Hawks deem him healthy enough to give it a go. Still two big "ifs," but this is obviously positive news for the Hawks and potentially for fantasy owners who have managed to stash Capela in an injury slot this long.
May 26, 2020, 8:17 pmMohamed BambaC, Orlando Magic
Magic center Mo Bamba said on Tuesday that he's spent the quarantine period bulking up, self-proclaiming that he's put on close to 30 pounds of muscle.
Bamba said of his time off, ""I’ve worked my tail off during this quarantine. This is going to sound weird, but I put on probably about 28 pounds since quarantine (started)." He laughed and added that only about 2.5 percent of the weight he's put on is body fat. Bamba, along with many other NBA players, "can’t wait to get back out there and work" which is a great sign for the Magic and their fans. Jonathan Isaac is becoming more and more of a potential option for the team when/if the season is resumed as the days pass, so his presence would limit Bamba's chances on the offensive end of the floor. The team has yet to decide whether or not they want to play Isaac at all the rest of the season, regardless of the rumblings about a restart from the league office. However, this bulk-up on Bamba's part is nonetheless pretty impressive and is certainly noteworthy.
May 25, 2020, 3:16 pmTerry RozierPG, Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets are the latest team to re-open their facilities, with the Novant Health Training Center set to open up on Tuesday.
With this, there are only eight teams left to open their practice courts back up, though nobody has been able to engage in any sort of team work yet. Individual workouts are better than no workouts, however, and the league appears to be getting its ducks in a row in terms of returning to play. There's still no firm timelines but things do appear to be heading in the right direction.
Source: Charlotte Hornets
May 25, 2020, 3:13 pmJon LeuerPF, Milwaukee Bucks
Jon Leuer has announced his retirement from basketball.
Injuries completely destroyed Leuer's career, as he played in a combined 49 games over the previous two seasons with zero appearances in the 2019-20 campaign. Leuer's high point came with the Suns, where he averaged 8.5 points to go with 5.6 rebounds, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks and a 38.2 mark from deep. His eight-year career comes to an end, with Leuer saying that his body simply won't let him play at a high level anymore.
Source: Jon Leuer on Instagram
May 24, 2020, 9:20 pmKyrie IrvingPG, Brooklyn Nets
Following Governor Andrew Cuomo's greenlight from earlier on Sunday, the Nets will reopen their practice facilities on Tuesday.
The team will open its doors to voluntary player workouts. The team's statement went on to elaborate that they would strictly follow NBA and infectious disease expert protocols as they resume activities. It's another small step in the right direction as the NBA continues its climb towards trying to play actual games.
Source: Malika Andrews on Twitter