Delon Wright

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Raptors get validation

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Of course, the Raptors had to wait.

The final second of Game 6 of the NBA Finals took nearly seven minutes. This was never going to be easy for Toronto.

But when the game finally ended – 114-110 with the Raptors as NBA champions – it was oh so satisfying.

Toronto was built boldly then played boldly, upsetting the heavily favored Warriors and gaining validation.

Masai Ujiri upended a successful team in pursuit of something better. Don’t let the payoff totally obscure the risk. Disrupting the best era in franchise history for an injured star was always a real gamble.

Validated.

Kawhi Leonard requested a trade from the Spurs, who are widely viewed as the NBA’s model organization. He couldn’t control where they sent him. He just knew he’d be better off elsewhere. Now, Leonard joins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Bucks and Lakers) and LeBron James (Heat and Cavaliers) as the only players to win Finals MVP with multiple teams.

Validated.

Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol have thrown everything into becoming the best players and teammates they could be. But they still toiled for years – Lowry in Toronto, Gasol in Memphis –  trying to get over the hump with team success. Now, Lowry (13th season) and Gasol (11th season) join a short list of multi-time All-Stars who waited so long to win their first title but got it while still starting.*

Validated.

*Jason Kidd (2011 Mavericks, 17th season), Dirk Nowitzki (2011 Mavericks, 13th season), Shawn Marion (2011 Mavericks, 12th season), Kevin Garnett (2008 Celtics, 13th season), Ray Allen (2008 Celtics, 12th season), Michael Finley (2007 Spurs, 12th season), Glen Rice (2000 Lakers, 11th season), Clyde Drexler (1995 Rockets, 12th season), Jerry West (1972 Lakers, 12th season), Oscar Robertson (1971 Bucks, 11th season)

Pascal Siakam took to basketball just eight years ago, committing to the sport to honor his late father. He rose from Basketball Without Borders in Africa to New Mexico State to an NBA bench role to likely winning Most Improved Player this season. On the biggest stage, he put his stamp on this series.

Validated.

Serge Ibaka cares about his standing within the league. Don’t get him started on how many times he has been snubbed for a defensive award. But he accepted a reserve role this season and just focused on doing his job well. He still still found multiple times to come up big in the Finals.

Validated.

As an undrafted free agent, Fred VanVleet chose a team with three point guards – Lowry, Cory Joseph and Delon Wright – with guaranteed salaries. Most teams kept only three points guards at that time. VanVleet believed in himself and gradually earned a role in Toronto. He hit so many big shots in this series and scored 22 in the Game 6 clincher.

Validated.

Nick Nurse coached at one basketball outpost after another. He shuffled between Great Britain, Belgium, small college, U.S. minor leagues. It wasn’t always a glamorous life. Eventually, he got his shot coaching the Raptors and pushed so many right buttons in the Finals.

Validated.

Twenty-four years ago, the NBA put two expansion franchises in Canada. The Grizzlies left Vancouver just six years later for Memphis. The Raptors remained in Toronto. They remained through losing seasons. They remained as star after star left. They remained as the team got just good enough to get heartbroken annually in the playoffs.

They remained for this.

Validation.

Watch Grizzlies miss free throw, five jumpers on one possession (video)

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Teams sometimes repeatedly grab offensive rebounds and miss putbacks. An 0-for-5 – or even more – possession isn’t unheard of.

But missing a free throw then five jump shots, four of which would have been assisted, on a single possession? That’s a sight to behold.

The Grizzlies did it in their loss to the Warriors yesterday. Delon Wright missed a free throw. Then a 3-pointer. Then another 3-pointer. Jevon Carter missed a 3-pointer. Julian Washburn missed a 3-pointer. Carter missed a shorter shorter jumper.

Finally, Andrew Bogut mercifully ended the spectacle with a defensive rebound.

Watch the possession in all its glory.

Report: Jeremy Lin signing with Raptors after Hawks buyout

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In their trade for Marc Gasol, the Raptors surrendered Delon Wright, leaving them only Kyle Lowry (an All-Star) and Fred VanVleet (one of the NBA’s best backups) as point guards on standard contracts.

Enter Jeremy Lin.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Toronto frequently uses two-point guard lineups. So, there should be plenty of room for Lin to contribute.

He and Hawks had been playing better lately, but Atlanta is focused on rebuilding. So, this isn’t a big loss as much as it shows a lost opportunity.

Lin will likely follow the footsteps of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, who got bought out by the Hawks last season then helped a playoff team (76ers). It’s not ideal for Atlanta to keep losing solid veterans for no return, but the trade deadline has passed. Might as well let Lin go where he wants at this point. Also maybe find a trade next time.

But this is good for the Raptors, good for Lin and – because of that – good for the Hawks’ reputation among players and agents.

Report: Raptors trade Greg Monroe, second-rounder to Nets

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The Raptors traded three players (Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright and C.J. Miles) for Marc Gasol. Toronto traded Malachi Richardson without getting a player in return.

Apparently wanting to trim the roster even further, the Raptors are unloading Greg Monroe.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Teams are required to carry at least 14 players on standard contracts during the regular season. They can drop below that for two weeks at a time. So, the Raptors will fill their roster soon enough.

They just didn’t value Monroe on it.

Gasol replaces Valanciunas as Toronto’s top traditional center. Serge Ibaka will also continue to play plenty of center. So, Monroe’s spot on the depth chart didn’t really change.

But perhaps the Raptors believe they can upgrade on the buyout market. Several bigs should be available.

By trading rather than waiving Monroe, Toronto will get his entire salary removed from the luxury-tax computation. The cost is the second-round pick.

I’m not sure whether the Nets will keep Monroe. They could slot him behind Jarrett Allen and Ed Davis. But the prize was the second-round pick.

Report: Toronto to acquire Marc Gasol in trade from Memphis

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The arms race is on in the East.

It started with Philadelphia trading for Tobias Harris, stacking their starting five and moving them into serious threat mode. The rest of the top of the East felt the need to respond. Milwaukee went out and got Nikola Mirotic from New Orleans to add to their front-line shooting.

Now Toronto has responded, getting Marc Gasol out of Memphis, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Raptors just got better. Maybe much better. Gasol is averaging 15.7 points and 8.6 rebounds a game, but more than the numbers it’s what he opens up in the offense. Gasol is essentially a stretch five who can shoot the three (34.4 percent this season), is a gifted passer, is usually in the right place defensively, and plays a high-IQ game. Nick Nurse can open up his offense a little more with Gasol. He’s not what he was a few years ago, but he’s still an above-average NBA center who can be relied upon in the playoffs.

The second round of the East playoffs and beyond will be a bloodbath.

Toronto had started Serge Ibaka at center this season and brought Jonas Valanciunas off the bench. That almost certainly changes now and Ibaka will have to adapt to a new role, but what this trade gives the Raptors is versatility to adapt to whatever Boston/Milwaukee/Philadelphia throws at them.

Gasol is under contract through 2019-20, with a $25.6 million player option for next season. He had suggested to the Grizzlies that he would opt out, but if Kawhi Leonard stays in Toronto past this season — a big “if” but possible — would Gasol opt-in?

For the Grizzlies, who were determined to trade Gasol rather than get nothing for him, this is probably as good a trade as they could find. It’s not great, but it will save Memphis money and help start the rebuild. Valanciunas has a player option for next season at $17.6 million that he’s expected to opt out of (looking for more long-term security), although he could stay on. Delon Wright will be a restricted free agent this summer, and C.J. Miles has a player option for $8.7 million for next season. The Grizzlies liked that better than the Charlotte offer, which would have added more salary (around $30 million in unwanted total) for next season but provided a mid-first-round pick this summer.