Last night was the first time it felt like the Raptors might lose Kawhi Leonard. Maybe it was because of all the suddenly (insanely unverified) chatter floating around out there about the Lakers making a push. Maybe it was the lack of noise around the Raptors — which is usually a good thing. Maybe it was just that old Toronto loser mentality creeping back up our collective spines. Whatever it was, I did not care for it.
As of this morning, July 2nd, there is still no official word at all from Kawhi Leonard or his camp. We have no real way of knowing which way he’s leaning, or where he plans on going. My money is still on a return to Toronto — but this waiting..... is killing me.
So let’s do something else. Let’s recount the other deals and league talk out there after another night on the NBA open market. [cues up music]
NBA Night Moves
Isaiah Thomas has agreed to a one-year deal with the Washington Wizards, league source tells ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 2, 2019
This deal points, sadly, to how desperate both Isaiah Thomas, once a legit MVP candidate, and the Wizards, still one of the most poorly run teams this side of the Knicks, have become. They... they need each other now. With John Wall injured for the year, the Wizards will rely on Ish Smith and Thomas to run their team. It’s a look.
Free agent Jordan Bell has agreed to a guaranteed deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves, agents Aaron Mintz and Michael Tellem of CAA told Yahoo Sports.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 1, 2019
Assuming the term and money are favourable for Bell, this feels like a nice little “bet on yourself” move from him, and by extension, the Timberwolves. Obviously Bell slots in as the team’s backup centre behind Karl-Anthony Towns, but at least he comes to the team on the right side of the age bracket and with a bit of pedigree, having spent the last two years under the tutelage of the Warriors.
In a similar vein, we get:
Free agent forward Anthony Tolliver has agreed to a one-year, $2.6M deal with the Portland Trail Blazers, league sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. Tolliver will provide a high-level shooting rotation big.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 2, 2019
Tolliver is definitely a guy. The Blazers need guys.
And to cap the morning roundup, here’s a small news item featuring an old friend:
Woj just said on @GetUpESPN that DeMarcus Cousins is “probably” going to land a deal less than the $9.2M MLE. @hornets can offer the full $9.2M in year one if they like. I wouldn’t necessarily advise it, but it’s not inconceivable he picks a situation like Charlotte.— Spencer Percy (@QCHspencer) July 2, 2019
We began this section talking about Isaiah Thomas, who went from point god to charity case in less than a season. And now we end off by discussing the DeMarcus Cousins situation.
Before he ruptured his Achilles, Boogie, now 28, was due for a max contract from some team — he was putting up 25.2 points per game, 12.9 rebounds, and 5.4 assists, while shooting 47 percent from the floor and 35 percent from deep for the Pelicans. Unfortunately, he only played half that season, and got into just 30 games with his next team, the Warriors.
As Toronto saw firsthand, Cousins is not without some skills. He huffed and puffed his way to a couple of decent appearances in the NBA Finals, this after hurting his quad earlier in the playoffs. But the days of him commanding a $200 million contract are gone. It’s sad because, like Thomas, Cousins could be an electric player when he was really cooking. Now it feels likely he’ll spend the rest of his career bouncing around from team to team, helping where he can, and struggling mightily to regain some version of his old form.
And that’s the mood on July 2nd, the third day of the NBA’s free agency period. The deals are decidedly slowing down now, the chatter quiet, and once again: we wait for Kawhi Leonard.
In the absence of any Kawhi news — it’s been reported that he’s gone completely quiet — we’re left to sift through the dregs. That means some reports like the following:
The Boston Celtics and French center Vincent Poirier have agreed to a two-year deal, league sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. Poirier is a 6-foot-11 center who will provide additional front court depth in Boston.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 2, 2019
Restricted free agent F/C Daniel Theis has agreed to a two-year, $10M deal to stay with the Boston Celtics, CAA agents Michael Tellem and Aaron Mintz tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 2, 2019
So the Celtics added two more big dudes to their roster — a squad now anchored by Kemba Walker. It’ll be interesting to see if Kemba can unit the seemingly disparate camps of Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Gordon Hayward. Keep in mind, Boston lost Al Horford and Kyrie Irving, while also letting Terry Rozier walk. On top of that, there’s no word on the status of Marcus Morris either. The absence of those last two names is no huge loss for the Celtics in isolation, but Poirier and Theis don’t necessarily turn things around for them either.
Meanwhile, in the West, we have another update on the Mavericks, who have opted to spend a bit more money on a player not named Danny Green:
To be clear, there’s no real comparison to make between Dorian Finney-Smith and Green. But it definitely sounds like the Mavericks are done waiting for the Raptors’ sharpshooter, who is in turn still waiting for Kawhi.
And now we get to the other big news, featuring a noted Raptor rival:
Under new salary cap projections, Ben Simmons' maximum contract total has crept slightly higher: $170M. https://t.co/44s3FLz1rf— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 2, 2019
So now the Philadelphia 76ers have Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, and, reportedly, Ben Simmons under massive contracts. (It sounds like the Harris slot would have gone to Jimmy Butler had he taken the deal.) They’ve also locked up Al Horford, and made a sign-and-trade to get Josh Richardson from the Heat. Much like it was last year, Philly’s starting lineup tracks as fearsome — or just extremely large — if nothing else.
The problem? The only other players currently on the roster are Zhaire Smith, Jonah Bolden, a returning Mike Scott, and their 2019 first round pick, Matisse Thybulle. This has to be one of the more top heavy teams around, and unlike last season, it feels like the pieces fit together even worse than before.
Simmons continues to be a problem for Philly in that regard. Since he refuses to take mid-range jumpers or threes, his utility is limited to being the roll man or playing out in transition. The former is a solid idea, if he had someone to set a screen for (Richardson?), the latter only works if he gets chances to run. As it stands, there just feels like too much overlap between Simmons and Embiid, as weird as that sounds — as Raptors fans know, the truly scary player to consider on the Sixers is Embiid.
Still, Philly had to max Simmons, and has to do what they can to build around him. He’s super talented, but it’s hard not to wonder what he would look like in a different situation.
Speaking of the situation:
Chris Haynes on @ESPNLosAngeles says it's been quiet on Kawhi front on mtg details, discussions. Thinks it's on purpose, it's a test from Kawhi's camp. A way for teams to show they can be trusted. "I don't have anything definite, I would expect an answer 4th of July by the latest— Trevor Lane (@Trevor_Lane) July 2, 2019
We’ll ramp up slowly here, as the afternoon and early evening have been slow once again. First, I’ll get this out of the way, there is no Leonard update. In fact, we may be waiting until the end of the week. Is this the same “Woj on ESPN” appearance we quoted for our 3:30 update? You can’t prove it.
Woj says on ESPN that there's "no belief" there will be a Leonard decision today, but either "sometime tomorrow, July 4 or maybe it could even go another day. Kawhi Leonard is taking time here. The decks have been cleared . . . The whole basketball world is waiting . . "— Brad Townsend (@townbrad) July 2, 2019
Meanwhile, the league continues to hum along. Let’s go rapid fire thanks to the troika of Woj, Shams, and Haynes:
- Brad Wanamaker is returning to the Celtics for one year — as Woj points out, he was a 29-year-old rookie last season;
- Willie Cauley-Stein, no. 6 pick in 2015, is heading to the Golden State Warriors for some undisclosed amount and number of years — this makes for an interesting gamble;
- Glenn Robinson III is also joining the Warriors on a two-year deal (with the second a player option). That’s one way to fill out their bench!;
- Ryan Arcidiacono is still a Chicago Bull, thanks to a three-year, $9 million deal;
- Noah Vonleh got just a one-year deal from the Minnesota Timberwolves, for a mere $2 million — this sounds wrong somehow;
- And finally, the big bomb:
Free agent James Ennis has agreed to a two-year, $4.1M deal to return to Philadelphia, with second-year player option, league sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. Ennis turned down more salary from multiple teams to return to a championship contender.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 2, 2019
The newest Raptor Killer, James Ennis, has decided to return to the scene of the crime, Philadelphia. No joke, Ennis was extremely dangerous in his minutes against the Raptors in the second round of the 2019 playoffs. It was incredibly annoying — especially when he was out-playing most of Toronto’s bench. With his return, Ennis gives Philly another wing, and another usable player in their build to reload to take another run at the title.
That said, it is hilarious that Shams added that last sentence, which I assume was sent to him with explicit instructions from Ennis’ agent. “Yes, once you announce the signing, tell everyone that James could have had more money, lots more, from many teams, so many teams. But he’s a winner and he believes in Philly. Tell them all that.”
What a delightful series of pro moves — from the Sixers, from Ennis, from Ennis’ agent, and from Shams.