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#pounditSunday, January 29, 2023

Articles tagged: Toronto Raptors

Report reveals most likely Raptors player to be traded at deadline

Masai Ujiri at a press conference

Sep 25, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri during a press conference at media day at the BioSteel Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Raptors are widely expected to reshuffle the deck at the trade deadline this year, and that could mean the exit of one particular player.

Veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein wrote this week in a Substack piece that Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr. is the most likely player on Toronto’s roster to be moved ahead of the Feb. 9 deadline. Stein adds that he personally thinks neither Pascal Siakam nor OG Anunoby is a candidate for trade. Meanwhile, Stein also says that teams around the league merely have “hope” that the Raptors will welcome trade pitches for Fred VanVleet, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

After winning 48 games and landing a top-five seed last season, the Raptors have been lackluster this year at 22-27 (which is 12th in the East and below the play-in tournament zone). That has given rise to rumors that Toronto could be making wholesale changes to their roster at the trade deadline.

The 24-year-old sharpshooter Trent arrived in Toronto via a 2021 trade with the Portland Trail Blazers. While he is starting and getting a good amount of usage with the Raptors (averaging 18.6 points on 14.5 attempts a game this season), one of Trent’s former teammates recently seemed to indicate that Trent is unhappy in Toronto.

CJ McCollum hints at troubling issues for 1 rival team

CJ McCollum warming up

Apr 5, 2022; Sacramento, California, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum (3) warms up before the game against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

One of the more well-connected players in the NBA is spilling some tea this week about a rival team.

In the most recent episode of his self-titled podcast, New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum hinted at some concerning potential issues for the Toronto Raptors, namely that certain players may be unhappy.

“Something’s gonna happen [with Toronto],” said McCollum. “I don’t know what. There’s rumbling about certain players on the team not being happy, and, due to tampering, I can’t speak to that. But I think they’re gonna move someone at some point … Something needs to change because they’re way too talented to be struggling the way they’ve been struggling throughout the season. They’ve got too many good pieces. They got too many guys who are, not only impactful and quality NBA players on that team, but that would be impactful and quality players on other teams.”

McCollum currently serves as president of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), so he obviously knows a lot. He was also teammates with current Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr. in Portland for several seasons.

After winning 48 games last season and earning the No. 5 seed, Toronto is now 11th in the East at 20-24. While many players from their 2019 title run are still on the roster (like Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby), there have indeed been recent rumors of possible trouble with the Raptors.

Donovan Mitchell took swipe at Raptors after game

Donovan Mitchell at a press conference

Sep 14, 2022; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell speaks to the media during an introductory press conference at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Raptors continue to be rather unpopular with opponents.

The Raptors took down the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Friday night, winning 118-107. They snapped a five-game winning streak by the Cavs and held star player Donovan Mitchell to 12 points on a 4-for-16 shooting stinker.

After the game, Mitchell gave props to the Raptors … only in backhanded fashion. He said the Raptors were “really good” at getting away with fouls.

“When you foul the whole game, and they’re really good at it, they can foul the whole game and the refs aren’t going to call it on each possession,” said Mitchell, per Chris Fedor of “You gotta give them credit. They’re physical … They kicked our a–.”

The Raptors are quickly earning a reputation for extremely physical defense. They play at one of the slowest paces in the league, but that also helps them hold opponents to 110.8 points per game (the seventh-fewest in the NBA). Additionally, Toronto has been playing without a true shooting guard amid Gary Trent Jr’s recent absence, resulting in bigger wings like OG Anunoby and Scottie Barnes holding down the fort instead and hounding rival 2 guards like Mitchell.

The All-Star Mitchell probably has some sympathy here though in his take on the Raptors. Earlier this week, another Eastern Conference opponent called out Toronto over their controversial play style.

Work ethic concerns emerging with 1 young Raptors player?

Nick Nurse in a suit

Mar 8, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse gives instructions during the second quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Raptors may have concerns beyond just their 15-18 record.

Doug Smith of the Toronto Star reported this week that Raptors forward Scottie Barnes raised eyebrows within the organization over the summer by “flit[ting] in and out of team runs in both Las Vegas and Los Angeles.” In other words, Barnes did not consistently participate in offseason pickup games with teammates. Smith also says that Barnes failed to add something new to his game over the summer like many Raptors have done in the past.

The 21-year-old Barnes, the No. 3 overall pick in 2021, burst onto the scene as a rookie. He averaged a strong line of 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game with vicious defense to earn himself Rookie of the Year honors. But Barnes has hit a textbook “sophomore slump” this season, regressing in nearly every major statistical category. Recently, Barnes has even lost a few minutes to bench guys like Chris Boucher and Khem Birch.

Since his standout rookie season, Barnes has mostly just been making the headlines for clowning people online. His development from here will be worth watching closely, particularly if Toronto continues to struggle.

Joel Embiid takes major shot at Raptors

Joel Embiid with a straight face

Apr 16, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) before game one of the first round for the 2022 NBA playoffs against the Toronto Raptors at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Joel Embiid might be playing for France at the 2024 Olympics. But he definitely will not be playing for Canada after the comments that he just made about their NBA team.

The Philadelphia 76ers star Embiid took a big swipe at the Toronto Raptors after they played each other on Monday. Philadelphia won in overtime by a 104-101 final score, but Embiid struggled from the field, going just 6-for-16 (though he did still end up with 28 points).

Addressing reporters afterwards, Embiid called out the Raptors’ play style.

“When you play a team like Toronto, they don’t really care,” the All-Star center Embiid said, per Sam DiGiovanni of ClutchPoints. “It seems like, most of the time, they don’t care about winning. They just want to shut down the other star players.”

Here is the full context of Embiid’s comments, which came after he was asked about the clutch performance of teammate De’Anthony Melton.

The Raptors, who are just 13-18 on the year, are known for their physical brand of defense. Embiid, in particular, had multiple pesky defenders like Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, Chris Boucher, and Pascal Siakam thrown at him during Monday’s game.

At best, Embiid is saying that he does not like the way that the Raptors play. At worst, his comments could be interpreted as an accusation that they are overly physical to the point of being dirty.

In any case, Embiid has it out for Toronto. The 76ers met the Raptors in last year’s playoffs, and Embiid did not care for them then either.

Raptors could reunite with notable former player?

Masai Ujiri at a press conference

Sep 25, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri during a press conference at media day at the BioSteel Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Masai Ujiri may be bringing his guy home.

Veteran San Antonio Spurs reporter LJ Ellis of Spurs Talk reported on Wednesday that the Toronto Raptors are one of the two most persistent teams in pursuit of San Antonio center Jakob Poeltl. The Golden State Warriors are also said to be in that category.

The seven-footer Poeltl, who is averaging 12.9 points and 9.9 rebounds per game this season, was a top-ten pick by the Raptors in the 2016 NBA Draft and played the first two seasons of his career in Toronto. But the Raptors traded him to the Spurs along with DeMar DeRozan as part of the Kawhi Leonard blockbuster in 2019.

There are obviously still a lot of familiar pieces in Toronto for Poeltl, who will be a free agent after the season. Ex-teammates OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, and Fred VanVleet are all still on the team, as is head coach Nick Nurse, who was an assistant under Dwane Casey when Poeltl was there. Additionally, Toronto’s longtime president Ujiri headed the front office group that drafted Poeltl in 2016.

Ellis also notes that the Raptors’ interest in reuniting with Poeltl, 27, dates back to last season’s trade deadline. Granted, Toronto would likely have to surrender quality assets to get Poeltl back and are also competing for him with some other big dogs besides the Warriors.

Raptors hiring brother of 1 star player

Nick Nurse in a suit

Mar 8, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse gives instructions during the second quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Raptors organization now employs both Spicy P and Spicy P’s older brother.

Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports reports Monday that Raptors 905, Toronto’s G League affiliate, have hired Christian Siakam. Christian, the older brother of Raptors big man Pascal Siakam, will serve as an assistant under Raptors 905 coach Eric Khoury.

Pascal has been a real homegrown success story for Toronto. After the Raptors picked him in the late first round of the 2016 NBA Draft, Pascal blossomed into a star. At just 28 years old, Pascal has already won an NBA title with Toronto, made an All-Star team, garnered two All-NBA nods, and won NBA’s Most Improved Player. He has also led the Raptors in scoring in each of the last three seasons.

Toronto is always pretty strategic with their coaching hires. That makes the addition here of another Siakam to the organization pretty noteworthy, especially since Pascal is set to become a free agent in 2024.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander being eyed by 1 prominent East team?

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander looking in

Nov 4, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) warms up before the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has played for the last three years in Oklahoma City, but a more fitting destination may be awaiting him.

Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports reported this week that the Toronto Raptors are closely monitoring Gilgeous-Alexander’s situation with the Thunder in case the 24-year-old eventually tires of leading a rebuild.

Gilgeous-Alexander, a lottery pick back in 2018, has become the face of the Thunder franchise at the moment. He is coming off a career year in 2021-22 where he averaged 24.5 points and 5.9 assists per game. He also begins a new five-year, $179.3 million deal this season (which runs through 2027).

For what it’s worth, Gilgeous-Alexander said in a recent interview that he remains committed to Oklahoma City.

But the Thunder are facing the potential of another lost season, especially after No. 2 draft pick Chet Holmgren was lost for the year with a foot injury. Gilgeous-Alexander is also a Toronto native and plays for Canada’s national team. Thus, the Raptors can make a very strong case to Gilgeous-Alexander (though they are not the only East team reportedly eyeing him right now).

Raptors bringing in former high lottery pick?

Nick Nurse in a suit

Mar 8, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse gives instructions during the second quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Raptors are known for finding uncut gems of talent, and now they could be taking a swing at another one.

Raptors forward Scottie Barnes spoke during a Twitch stream this week and seemed to hint at the team signing ex-No. 6 overall draft pick Jarrett Culver. Barnes noted that Culver was wearing Raptors gear while playing in a recent private run organized by new Toronto assistant Rico Hines.

Culver, 23, was an All-American and the Big 12 Player of the Year in college at Texas Tech. He began his NBA career with Minnesota in 2019 but never got consistent minutes after his rookie year. Culver was sent to Memphis last offseason in the Patrick Beverley trade and made 37 total spot-minute appearances off the bench for the Grizzlies last year, averaging 3.5 points per game. He still remains a free agent, at least officially.

With Svi Mykhailiuk as the only true 2 guard option behind starter Gary Trent Jr, Culver could be an impactful addition for Toronto. But Raptors fans are probably holding their breath for the team to make a bigger move.

Report: 3 teams considered most likely Kevin Durant suitors

Kevin Durant with a hood on

May 8, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) warms up before game against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant still wants the Brooklyn Nets to trade him, and there are at least three teams that remain interested in acquiring the 12-time All-Star.

Durant met with Nets team owner Joe Tsai in London over the weekend and essentially gave him an ultimatum, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports. The choice that he gave Tsai is to either keep Durant and get rid of GM Sean Marks and coach Steve Nash, or fulfill the trade request.

One of the primary reasons Durant has not been traded is the asking price. The Nets are said to have engaged with almost every team in the NBA, but no one is willing to meet their lofty demands. However, Charania notes that three teams are viewed as the “most significant candidates” to land Durant. Those teams are the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat.

The Celtics reportedly offered Brooklyn a package centered around Jaylen Brown. The Nets turned it down and asked for Brown, reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart and multiple draft picks. The belief is that the Nets are interested in what the Celtics could potentially offer. That may not be true for one of the other teams that is pursuing Durant.

The Nets added Royce O’Neale and TJ Warren this offseason. They also had Kyrie Irving opt into his contract and have yet to see how Ben Simmons will fit alongside Durant and Irving. Their preference would almost certainly be to keep Durant, so they may choose him over Nash and Marks.