Apparently tampering is just OK now.
We’re still over two hours from the official start of NBA free agency, but things are already happening. Blake Griffin is returning to the Clippers on a 5-year deal per the Shams God. After trading Ricky Rubio to Utah, the Wolves seem to be on the verge of bringing in a significantly less handsome point guard in Jeff Teague, per Marc Stein. Oh, and the Oklahoma City Thunder just dealt Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for Paul freaking George while Danny Ainge sits in his office polishing off his custom Terry Rozier bobble head. All of this, and it’s not even technically legal for free agents and teams to be talking yet.
On the Raptors front, no news is probably good news. Michael Grange reported this morning that Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster will be meeting with Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka on July 1. Then ESPN’s Chris Haynes decided to drop a geography riddle on us all by reporting that P.J. Tucker will meet with team personnel in Philadelphia after midnight. What’s important is that it seems like the Raptors will be in contact with three of their four free agents on the first day of free agency. With Teague likely headed to Minnesota, Houston already having added Chris Paul and the market saturated with other available point guards, signs are pointing towards a Lowry return to Toronto — that’s not reporting, just basic deductive reasoning. Of course anything can happen, and it’s safest to stay apprehensive until Lowry in fact signs the dotted line, but the moves around the league have broken just about as perfectly as the Raptors’ front office could have hoped.
If you have any questions about the Raptors salary cap situation, Daniel Hackett has you covered in this comprehensive breakdown.
And we have a poll! Vote in here on what you think will happen with the Raptors this off-season.
Stay locked here for more updates as the day progresses. As always, feel free to join the conversation in the comments. And Happy Canada Day!
6:15 - Are the Suns going to make things interesting?
It’s been an oddly quiet afternoon. Nothing on the Raptors front since Michael Grange’s tweet about six hours ago. Phoenix, however, has added some dinner-time intrigue with this latest report from Adrian Wojnarowski.
Sources: Suns out on Millsap pursuit, turning to use cap space to absorb $ dumps paired w/ assets. Open to moving vets, going all-in young.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 1, 2017
Teams with open cap space are scarce. Those who have it — like the Kings and Nets — are reportedly trying to use it on restricted free agents like Otto Porter and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. That Phoenix seems ready to use their cap room as a harboring ground for unwanted contracts is a significant development for any teams looking to offload such deals — like the Raptors. Jonas and Valanciunas and DeMarre Carroll can both provide utility to the Raptors, but if the goal of Masai Ujiri and the front office is to retain Lowry, Ibaka and Tucker, those two are prime candidates for what would be a much-needed salary dump. Could the Suns be open to adding someone like Lucas Nogueira or Pascal Siakam attached to one of Valanciunas or Carroll? If they are, that could open some options for Toronto.
In terms of veterans of interest on the Suns’ roster, Tyson Chandler, 34, makes $13 million in 2017-18 and $13.6 in the following season, the final year of his deal. Jared Dudley, 31, is owed $19.5 million over the next two years. Bringing one of them back in return for whatever outgoing contracts the Suns might accept wouldn’t represent a complete clearing of the books, but every dollar counts.
This is all rampant speculation, by the way. If anything else comes up we’ll keep you posted.
2:47 - Things had better happen soon ...
I just cracked my first Canada Day beverage. Good thing I have stuff pre-written.
1:51 - No news, just more words
Nothing of note from any of the major news breakers over the last hour so, but I did scribble down some words about P.J. Tucker and Patrick Patterson. They’re both important to the Raptors. They’re both seamless fits with essentially any team in the league. They’re both being sought after by the ... Kings? You can read it and hop in those comments here:
12:18pm - More positive signs
Sportsnet’s Michael Grange has added some more smoke to the rumours that Lowry is destined to end up back with the Raptors. And if Grange is right, Serge Ibaka could be coming with him.
Most recent word is Raptors are confident Ibaka and Lowry will get done; facing competition for Tucker.— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) July 1, 2017
This has always felt like the most likely outcome. Lowry and Ibaka have depressed markets, in part due to being too good to fit into most teams’ available cap room. P.J. Tucker was always going to be a tougher piece to retain, A) because the Raptors will already be into the tax if Lowry and Ibaka sign deals at or near their anticipated cost and B) because Tucker is a highly attractive role player who could be had for as little as the Mid-Level Exception.
Still nothing settled, but the signs are pointing towards the Raptors running it back. I’m feeling confident enough that I have a pre-written Lowry article already in the can, if that helps ease your nerves at all.
10:19am - A possible Lowry framework?
Here’s something: On NBA TV’s Free Agency Show, David Aldridge hinted at what a Raptors offer to Lowry might look like. If he’s right, it’ll resemble a framework Raptors fans are familiar with.
.@daldridgetnt reports that Raps are going to offer Lowry something equal, or at least close to, what DeMar got annually.— (((Eric Koreen))) (@ekoreen) July 1, 2017
Per Spotrac.com, DeRozan will make a flat $27.7 million per year over the next three seasons before a player option for the same amount presents itself for the 2020-21 season. Based on Aldridge’s report, and Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst’s earlier statements that Lowry might be in line for a 3-year deal as opposed to something with a longer term, a contract in the range of 3-years and $83 million could potentially be in the cards. Lowry’s max is 5-years/$201 million. This could work out well for the Raptors.
More to come if anything breaks.
7:40am - Morning rumour round-up
Nothing in the way of concrete Raptors news overnight. From what I can see, the only contract that’s been agreed to in the last five or so hours is Jrue Holiday’s 5-years/$126 million deal to stay in New Orleans.
A couple reports in he wee hours did relate to the Raptors’ set of free agents, however. Firstly, this from David Alrdidge:
Meanwhile, Raptors continue plugging away at potential deal to keep Kyle Lowry in fold. Met with his agent late into night.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) July 1, 2017
Encouraging stuff! This isn’t anything that Woj didn’t mention in his TV hits last night, but it’s promising nonetheless that the Raptors seem to be the only team that has been in touch with Lowry and Andy Miller to this point.
Elsewhere, we heard the first bit of information pertaining to Patrick Patterson from USA Today’s Sam Amick, who tweeted that in addition to Andre Iguodala, the Kings met with Patterson on the first night of free agency.
Kings free agency meetings tonight, I'm told: Andre Iguodala and Patrick Patterson.— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) July 1, 2017
Patterson is the only Raptors free agent who the Raptors reportedly did not meet with last night. I’m on the record on many different platforms saying that based on Toronto’s lack of skill and IQ in the front court, I would prefer to see Patterson back with the Raptors than Tucker if it were to come down to a choice between the two. That would seem to be even more improbable now that it has already felt over the last month and a half.
2:30am - 7:30am - Sean sleeping like a normal person
I slept well thanks for asking.
1:55 - Woj appears again
Woj joined Rachel Nichols, Amin Elhassan and Brian Windhorst for another segment on ESPN 2 at about 1:45. Some interesting things were said, but nothing concrete.
He said that Lowry’s agent Andy Miller and Masai Ujiri have tossed around contract structure ideas throughout the night, so that’s good. Of equal interest, Woj said that the Raptors front office has “toyed with the idea of maybe going young,” in the face of potentially locking into an aging core of Lowry, DeRozan and (presumably) Ibaka.
Stripping it down and pivoting to a rebuild is certainly one of the many lanes open to the Raptors this off-season. Ujiri’s roster building process has left the team with eight players on rookie contracts to hypothetically hand the future over to. In the segment, though, Woj pointed out that the mass exodus of talent from the Eastern Conference over the last couple weeks could sway the Raptors back towards staying competitive, with Lowry driving the ship. The Eastern Conference is going to stink next year. Three of last year’s playoff teams look to be preparing to tank. Toronto’s path to being Cleveland’s runner-up doesn’t look so treacherous; if Boston strikes out on Gordon Hayward, that’s yet another break in the Raptors’ favour.
Again, nuking this era of the Raptors and turning to the Norman Powells, Jakob Poeltls and OG Anunobys of the world is an intriguing concept worth some consideration. But that the Raptors already have a head start on a rebuild might work against them. There could be as many as seven or eight teams in the East who could out-suck even a Lowry and Ibaka-less Raptors team next year, not to mention the usual bottom feeders out west. Tanking is anything but a surefire way to turn a franchise around, and its just as likely that you become the present day Magic five years from now as it is that you’ll ascend back to 50-win status. Finding a title-worthy player in the draft is exceedingly hard to do.
I’m just spewing words from my brain at this point. You can probably go to bed. No Raptors moves seem imminent just yet.
1:40am - This is some bullshit
We’re in this for the long haul now.
1:19am - Do something
It’s been more than half an hour since someone on ESPN has mentioned the Raptors. Damn this franchise and their minimal leaks.
“I’m listening for Kyle Lowry information. I’m still listening for Kyle Lowry information. I got nothing,” said Brian Windhorst on ESPN 2 just now. He also echoed Shelburne’s earlier suggestion that Lowry may be looking at a return to Toronto for something like a 3-year deal for “nice money.” In exchange for a shorter deal like that, maybe Lowry asks for a higher annual salary? Something like 3-years, $90 million doesn’t seem so crazy, does it?
While we wait for something to happen, a friendly eminder that Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Blake Griffin do not play for the Boston Celtics.
12:41am - Some Serge Ibaka rumblings!
Adrian Wojnarowski just made his debut on The Jump with Rachel Nichols and friends (no, you’re watching a nefarious stream). Among the nuggets he shared was a mention of Houston’s interest in Serge Ibaka. Problem for the Rockets is that according to Woj, they’re hoping to use the $11-12 million player exception they have to lure Ibaka — but that there is a “significant chance” that he returns to Toronto for more than the Rockets can pony up.
12:07am - LET’S GOOOOO
Within about six seconds the Return of Woj has whittled down the list of potential Kyle Lowry teams even more than we expected. He first confirmed Teague’s 3-year/$57 million contract with the Wolves, and then reported that Patty Mills is heading back to the Spurs for 4 years and $50 million. Those teams were among the most obvious Lowry fits. No longer.
11:12 - Some ... sort of news?
A couple of things to keep an eye on as we’re just one hour away from free agency officially beginning.
Firstly, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne in a SportsCenter hit apparently hinted at the possibility of Lowry returning to the Raptors on a shorter-than-expected deal. I did not see the segment personally, but Blake Murphy aka LeBlog James credited the Raptors fan who passed it along to him, here:
A month-old rumour has also been reignited by Sean Deveney’s latest report that ex-Raptor fan favourite Amir Johnson will meet with three teams in Los Angeles tomorrow: the Rockets, Bulls and yes, the Raptors. A Johnson reunion doesn’t seem easy to facilitate considering the cap squeeze Toronto is under as well as the crowded front court the team already has. If Ibaka returns — which remains an “if” — and Valanciunas’ contract can’t be offloaded, Johnson would figure to be a tad superfluous with younger big man options likely ready for more minutes. In the event the Raptors can move Valanciunas, then perhaps a Johnson return makes sense if he can be squeezed into Toronto’s Mid-Level Exception. Depending on whether or not the Raptors sit over the tax line, that could either be about $5 million (taxpaper MLE) or $8 million; the former seems a tad low for a still-useful big like Johnson.
10:50pm — Sean Woodley goes on Facebook Live to react to the latest news and talk really fast about Kyle Lowry.
FREE AGENCY MADNESS FB LIVE WITH SEAN WOODLEYPosted by Raptors HQ on Friday, June 30, 2017