• Kyle Lowry will probably get the last spot in player introductions when the Raptors open the season on Tuesday night. It was where the team hyped up Kawhi Leonard a season ago as the city rolled out the red carpet to get him to stay.

    For Toronto’s next hopeful star, no such practices will be needed.

    The Raptors and Pascal Siakam made quick work of negotiations on a contract extension, with the sides agreeing to a four-year max contract for the reigning Most Improved Player.

    Siakam, the biggest victory in the franchise’s player development record, and a critical component of the franchise’s crowning achievement, is locked in as the centerpiece of the next era in Raptors basketball.

    While some media types bristled at giving Siakam $130 million, it’s a richly deserved reward for a franchise player who is still exploring his ceiling. Some (okay, one) of the other deals for impending RFAs quickly set that straight, too.

    Odds are that Siakam would’ve received a max offer in next summer’s weak class of free agents. Although Toronto could’ve waited for that to happen and try to keep maximum salary flexibility in the meantime, such a deal was always going to come from somewhere, and the Raptors were always going to match it. Players whose efficiency rises in tandem with usage, at a demanding spot on the floor, with consistent displays of top-end, two-way potential, get those max deals – and often the sweetener of a player option, too.

    Acquiring players like this is difficult, and playing too much cat-and-mouse isn’t worth the trouble when it’s clear that both parties have the same goal in mind.

    Ultimately it just didn’t make sense to risk alienating a player like Siakam, who represents so much of what the organization is about, by selling the future flexibility angle. Siakam is the future, more or less. Whatever the Raptors could’ve accomplished by maintaining peak flexibility into next summer would be completely undone had it soured Siakam on Toronto as his long-term home.

    For the Raptors, it’s clear that they have a type. Masai Ujiri and company have no issues doling out cash to high-character players that won’t put their feet up, and the team’s big money deals in his tenure (Siakam, Lowry and DeMar DeRozan) have been given to players with a strong work ethic.

    In the case of DeRozan and Lowry, both have worked to gradually evolve their games over time, with DeRozan notably coming back as an improved player every summer by adding to his toolkit. The Raptors know Siakam and his work habits better than anyone, and can proceed confidently knowing that he won’t rest on his laurels given the work he’s put in to get to this point in the first place.

    Moreover, the Raptors should feel good about this bet because there’s no telling what Siakam’s ceiling is. Even if the 25-year-old stagnates, which isn’t impossible given that he’s a shade older than the league’s other young stars, or if the adjustment to franchise face and primary scorer doesn’t go smoothly, the team is simply paying the market rate of players who have shown the sort of potential that Siakam has.

    If he keeps improving – and remember, Siakam started playing basketball less than a decade ago – then everyone will be sitting pretty. His unique circumstances make this a tough situation to project, but if Siakam is already this good, then why not roll the dice on him getting better after he’s made astronomical leaps so far?

    Siakam just blitzed the league, and though he did have some rough patches in the postseason – particularly against Philadelphia – he should be better prepared to shoulder a primary scoring load. This is a player who went from the sixth or seventh guy in the rotation to someone whose most frequent defensive matchups in the postseason were Jonathan Isaac, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Draymond Green.

    That leap took place in one year and he averaged 19.0 points per game on 47 percent from the field in the playoffs, even as teams freely allowed him space to attempt jumpers.

    Perhaps most importantly, the Raptors get the benefit of locking Siakam in for his theoretical prime years with this extension taking him into age 30.

    For the cynical out there, Siakam, even at his lofty new salary, is not going to become the sort of dead-weight asset that can’t be moved. If Ujiri should find an opportunity, he’s got a valuable trade chip in the bag with a top-level player and a big number that should help with salary matching, assuming an expensive star player would be his target.

    Although Ujiri has shown he can strike a deal at a moment’s notice, for now Siakam is shaping up as the first home-grown star to stay in Toronto through his very best seasons.

    That’s not inconsequential for a team who has to deal with the unfortunate truth that they just don’t seem to be a destination in free agency, or at least one that the superstar class has taken seriously. The Raptors have been built on guys that were overlooked elsewhere, and Siakam is familiar with that grind. It should not change him, even as he enters the league’s upper echelon as a certified star.

    Beyond what this means for Siakam, it’s also a selling point for the Raptors’ development program. They’ve shown an intense willingness to make everyone, whether that’s ‘project picks’ or undrafted types, better. They are not champions without the creation of an entire G League franchise to ensure that players like Siakam could develop carefully and according to plan. An extension like this is a sign to the rest of the league.

    Look what can be achieved in Toronto. Look at the growth that can happen in Toronto. Look at what the reward can be.”

    The Raptors may never be able to bring in a superstar without sacrificing other players in a trade, but they have made themselves an attractive option for the second and third tier of players who bring imperfections to the table. The franchise is used to that hustle, and players who fit that bill should be taking note.

    So yes, the Raptors sacrificed a bit in inking this deal now. They could’ve emerged as potential players next summer, either as a dumping ground for bad contracts attached to assets or a wheel-greaser in more complicated deals. The potential downside in moving this to the back burner, however, was far greater than the potential reward.

    Starting on Tuesday, the Raptors will enter a new era with Pascal Siakam at the fore. Only time will tell how high he can climb, but Toronto was happy to pay the price of admission to find out firsthand.

Fantasy News

  • Jabari Parker
    PF, Atlanta Hawks

    Jabari Parker (right shoulder pain) has been upgraded to available ahead of Wednesday's matchup against the Bucks.

    Parker has been a great streaming option in the wake of the John Collins suspension. He should continue to be streamed for as long as Collins is out. The question will be how much his fantasy value decreases upon Collins' return to the team.

    Source: NBA Injury Report

  • Pau Gasol
    C, Portland Trail Blazers

    The Blazers have waived Pau Gasol on Wednesday.

    Gasol is 39 years old this season and has yet to play in an NBA game as he has been recovering from a left foot surgery. It seems unlikely that he will be able to return to the NBA at some point this season as he is still rehabbing. He is off the fantasy radar but had a fabulous career and is a candidate for the Hall of Fame.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Jarred Vanderbilt
    PF, Denver Nuggets

    The Nuggets have assigned Jarred Vanderbilt to a G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, on Wednesday.

    Vanderbilt has only played nine minutes across three games for the big league club this season. He will have more opportunity to work on his craft for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. He was selected with the 41st pick in the 2019 draft and is not currently on the fantasy radar outside of deeper dynasty leagues.

    Source: Harrison Wind on Twitter

  • Kevin Love
    PF, Cleveland Cavaliers

    Kevin Love (lower back contusion) has been upgraded to available for Wednesday's matchup against the Heat.

    Love was previously listed as probable and should be ready to rock on Wednesday night. He might see an uptick in usage with Tristan Thompson (rest) already ruled out. He will likely start alongside Larry Nance Jr. in the frontcourt for Wednesday's matchup.

    Source: NBA Injury Report

  • Kawhi Leonard
    SF, Los Angeles Clippers

    Kawhi Leonard is expected to return for Wednesday's tilt against the Celtics after missing three games with a left knee contusion.

    Leonard is a fantasy darling when he plays. The only flaw to his fantasy stat set is that it is likely that he will continue to miss games intermittently throughout the season. Expect a confirmation that confirms that he will play tonight but this news seems to indicate that he is trending in the right direction

    Source: Ohm Youngmisuk on Twitter

  • Marvin Bagley III
    PF, Sacramento Kings

    Marvin Bagley will not play on the Kings four-game road trip due to a right thumb fracture but will be re-evaluated when it ends.

    It appeared that Bagley might play on the trip, but that is no longer the case. He's an intriguing talent, but the long absence has been frustrating for fantasy owners eagerly awaiting his return. Bagley hasn't played since October 23. He averaged 14.9 points and 7.6 rebounds last season.

    Source: Jason Jones on Twitter

  • Henry Ellenson
    PF, Brooklyn Nets

    Henry Ellenson is available to play on Wednesday after returning from the G League.

    Ellenson had been playing for the Long Island Nets on his two-way contract. He'll make his NBA season debut if he gets into the game against the Hornets, but don't expect much production.

    Source: NBA Injury Report

  • Admiral Schofield
    PG, Washington Wizards

    Admiral Schofield has been brought back from the G League for Wednesday's game against the Spurs.

    Despite a 15 point outburst on November 2, Schofield is unlikely to hold much value. However, he will get a chance to impress the Wizards organization in his limited minutes.

    Source: NBA Injury Report

  • Derrick White
    PG, San Antonio Spurs

    Derrick White will miss Wednesday's game with left foot soreness.

    White has been disappointing recently, averaging just five points over his last four games. Dejounte Murray and Patty Mills are likely to see more time on the court.

    Source: NBA Injury Report

  • Shake Milton
    SG, Philadelphia Sixers

    Shake Milton has been recalled from the G League and will be available to play for the Sixers on Wednesday.

    Milton struggled on Tuesday while playing for the Delaware Blue Coats, but he has returned to the Sixers with Josh Richardson injured. Milton is unlikely to make much of a fantasy impact at the moment.

    Source: NBA Injury Report