Kyle Lowry

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Report: Kyle Lowry would’ve held out, demanded trade if Raptors didn’t extend his contract

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No Kawhi Leonard? OK. Though his departure undercut their title defense before it began, the Raptors can still enjoy a low-pressure honeymoon season full of familiar faces from the championship run. Everyone knew all along Leonard was a flight risk. Toronto fans can still cheer for a likely playoff team and continue to show appreciation for most of the championship group.

No Kyle Lowry? That would’ve been something else completely. He’s the greatest player in franchise history and a perfect symbol of Toronto’s perseverance. Nobody expected him to go anywhere with with another season left on his contract, not unless the Raptors were getting favorable assets to jumpstart their next era.

Yet, he apparently could’ve forced his way out before agreeing to a one-year, $31 million contract extension.

Michael Grange of Sportsnet:

If the Raptors weren’t going to give him an extension, sources close to Lowry say, he was prepared to hold out and try and force a deal to a destination of his choosing rather than allow the club to control the timing.

It’s one thing to make noise during a negotiation about holding out and demanding a trade. It’s another to actually do it. We’ll never know whether Lowry would’ve followed through.

Still, the mere threat says something about Lowry’s future in Toronto. As beloved as he is there, he apparently doesn’t feel so attached he must stay – even right after a championship.

Of course, there have been multiple occasions where Lowry and the Raptors could’ve parted ways. They keep coming back to each other. Maybe that will continue.

But Lowry’s extension still allows Toronto to trade him. In fact, it might make a trade even more palatable because other teams will get more than a rental.

For now, the Raptors keep a long-time fan favorite. That’ll make the banner-raising ceremony more meaningful. There’s clearly a limit on how far sentimentality will go, though.

Agent: Kyle Lowry, Raptors agree to one-year, $31M contract extension

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The Raptors are in a weird spot: Still enjoying their 2019 NBA title with minimal chance of defending it despite returning so many key players.

These aren’t the 1999 Bulls, who were nearly completely different from the 1998 champion Bulls. Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell are all still in Toronto. But without Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors’ ceiling is far lower.

Is that where the franchise wants to be? Is that where the remaining players want to be?

In the case of Lowry, yes.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors have agreed on a one-year, $31 million contract extension that takes the five-time All-Star guard out of July’s free-agent market, agent Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports told ESPN.

This deal gives Lowry financial security – not location security. The Raptors can still trade him. But he locks in another high salary, maybe his last big payday.

Taking this extension was an interesting choice for him. Lowry will now enter fee agency at age 35 rather than 34. His next contract will likely be worth less. But the extension provides guaranteed money now.

It’s also an interesting choice for the Raptors if they’re open to trading Lowry. Does an extra season on his deal make him more or less valuable? They definitely get more time to find a trade.

Of course, this extension could be designed just to keep Lowry in Toronto longer. He’s so revered there. It’d be a happy ending if he finishes his career with the Raptors, and this deal could get him one step closer.

Toronto now has more reason not to extend Pascal Siakam, which would cut into next summer’s cap space. When the Raptors’ cap room projected to be so high anyway – about $80 million – they could have more easily justified a Siakam extension. With that projected cap space down to about $50 million, Toronto should be more cost-conscious. Extending Siakam could still work, but this nudges the Raptors toward keeping him on his low cap hold then re-signing him in restricted free agency next summer.

Though Lowry wouldn’t have appealed to every team at his age, this also removes a quality free agent from an already-weak 2020 class.

Report: Pascal Siakam seeking max contract extension from Raptors

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Raptors forward Pascal Siakam was playing like a star by the end of last season.

Now, he wants to get paid like one.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Raptors’ rising star Pascal Siakam is seeking a maximum contract extension in discussions with the Raptors, league sources said; otherwise preparing for a 2020 free agency market that would have the restricted free agent as a top player available.

Of course, Siakam wants a max contract (which projects to be worth $168 million over five years). But would he really opt for restricted free agency if he doesn’t get one? Is there no room for salary compromise?

Toronto is disincentivized to give Siakam the max now.

If extended, Siakam will count next offseason at his starting salary on the extension. That projects to be $29 million on a max deal. But without an extension, the Raptors could count Siakam at just $7,055,516 against the cap, use their cap space then exceed the cap to re-sign him to any amount up to the max. That’s an extra $22 million of spending power!

With Kawhi Leonard gone, Siakam will likely assume a larger role this season. He could really boost his stock. But he obviously still can’t get more than the max. Why rush to pay him as much as possible without first seeing how he handles his new situation?

Maybe there’s value in Toronto showing its faith in him. Siakam could be the new franchise player there with Leonard gone and Kyle Lowry aging.

The Raptors also project to have about $80 million in cap room with an unextended Siakam next summer. That could be more space than they know what to do with. Cutting $22 million from that might not make an appreciable difference.

If he becomes a restricted free agent, Siakam would likely draw max offer sheets (which project to be worth about $125 million over four years) in a weak free-agent class. Toronto could always match, but an offer sheet would bring less team control – maybe even a few years less.

Even within a “max extension,” there’s room for haggling on things like options, guarantees and super-max criteria. Perhaps, the Raptors get enough concessions to justify signing him now. Maybe they don’t care and offer him ideal terms, anyway.

It seems highly likely Siakam will be in Toronto for the long haul. By the Oct. 21 deadline, we’ll know whether that’s through an extension.

Adam Silver details league’s tampering efforts, admits ‘there are no silver bullets’

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Kawhi Leonard was talking to Paul George about the two of them teaming up well before the start of free agency — George’s agent had gone to OKC GM Sam Presti before free agency and already asked for a trade.

There’s little to nothing the league can do if players want to talk and plan. Particularly in this case with Leonard, who was about to be a free agent and leave his team.

What the league does not want — and what it’s going to crack down on hard with its new tampering rules — is teams using players as a proxy to do their recruiting for them, something a lot of smaller market teams fear is already happening. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver explained in more detail what he hopes for out of the league’s new tampering regulations in an interview with Sam Amick of The Athletic.

If two players are going out to dinner and say, “Boy, wouldn’t it be great to play in City X together?” That’s not something we’re looking to go after. The only context in which we raised player-to-player communication is where we have a belief that a player is being sent out at the behest of the team to have a conversation with another player that the team itself could not have with that player. In essence, where a player is acting as an agent for the team, and then saying to the player, “What do you think about the following scenario, with the confidence that this is something that my team is willing to do?”…

If a player were to be doing something like that, sort of at the request of his team, that would be inappropriate and that’s something that we are going to be focused on than we have historically. We’re more focused on ensuring that that’s not going on, and if it is, going after it.

In the case of Leonard, who was a free agent, Clippers officials have said on and off the record that they were taken by surprise by Leonard’s request to play with George, that they had not seen that coming. Doc Rivers said Leonard picked George’s name off a list they presented him in a July meeting, and while we know that timeline is not accurate ( at least on Leonard’s end) it’s tough to say the Clippers had Leonard acting as an agent (Leonard was the Clippers’ target).

In Brooklyn, we know that Spencer Dinwiddie had met Kyrie Irving in a business class they were both taking through Harvard, and through that class formed a relationship with Irving and recruited him to Brooklyn. That’s the kind of situation the league has to investigate — was Dinwiddie acting on his own or as an agent of the team? It may well have been on his own, but that’s the kind of situation that raises eyebrows.

Silver’s other theme from his press conference following the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting was he wanted to create a “culture of compliance” around the teams. That’s easier said than done when agents drive some of this, but Silver talked about his goals.

There needs to be — maybe more important, even, than the penalty — a true stigma around cheating. …There’s something unique about sports, (and) I think no one wants to be viewed as having had to cheat to win. And I think what we saw was that it was a slippery slope over time, and people no longer saw themselves as violating our rules. They saw certain practices around tampering, around signings, as business as usual, rather than inappropriate conduct. So a lot of what we’re trying to do is make a cultural shift in this league, and I believe we can do that successfully because I believe teams want to compete on a level playing field…

There are no silver bullets here. There isn’t any one aspect of the package where we came in to say, “This will fix the problem.” This is something that will change over time.

The threat of the league coming down hard on a team and maybe taking away draft picks — which is what teams really fear more than fines or anything else — will have front offices being cautious for a while, likely into next summer. The next move for the league to show they are serious is to make an example of someone with a heavy-handed punishment.

With a down free agent class coming in 2020, there will not be the same motivation to tamper. How much are GMs going to risk to chase Gordon Hayward, Kyle Lowry, or Andre Drummond? Not that much.

Now in 2021, when the free agent class is again franchise changing — potential free agents include Giannis Antetokounmpo, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Bradley Beal, and others — GMs will start taking risks again. It’s a risk vs. reward equation for teams, and when the rewards can be rings, a culture of compliance is a hard sell.

NBCSports.com’s 50 best players in 5 years: Kristaps Porzingis, James Harden, players 20-16

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What is the NBA going to look like in five years? Who will be the game’s best players? The All-Stars, the guys on the cover of 2K24, the guys with signature shoe deals?

As a fun summer project, the NBA team at NBCSports.com put our heads together, pulled out our crystal balls, and tried to project forward who would be the 50 best players in the NBA in five years — in the summer of 2024. We took into account a player’s age, his potential ceiling and how likely he is to reach it, injury history, and more. The team working on this included Dan Feldman, Tom Haberstroh, Rob Dauster, Tommy Beer, Steve Alexander, and Kurt Helin (and thanks to Tess Quinlan and Mia Zanzucchi for the design help).

There were plenty of disagreements (and we don’t expect you to agree with all of our list), but here it is.

Here is the link to here are the links to players 50-4645-41, 40-36, 35-31, 30-26, and 25-21. These are players 20-16 on our list.

20. Pascal Siakam

Last season the switch flipped for Pascal Siakam.

He went from promising young player to critical contributor on both ends for a championship team. He became a guy who could average 21.3 points per game for a month (February). What fueled the change was his jump shot started falling — the season before he shot 22 percent from three, but last season that jumped to 36.9 percent, and with that came more attempts. Coach Nick Nurse believed in Siakam, gave him some freedom and touches, and Siakam responded with a Most Improved Player season.

Siakam will be in his prime the next five years, and the question now becomes just where is his ceiling? He’s a 6’9” elite athlete who is a strong perimeter defender on one end and can create his own shot on the other. There are not a lot of those around. Nurse said that Siakam now has “gotta be the man” for the Raptors, can he be that No. 1 option (Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol will start this season in Toronto but likely are not there a year from now). Siakam got a lot of wide-open looks at threes last season, with defenses often focused on Kawhi Leonard, but how will he adapt when he is the guy at the top of the opponent’s scouting report? (To be fair, defenses focused on him more and more last season with Leonard sitting out games, but this is a new level.)

The next step for Siakam All-Star and maybe All-NBA level seasons. He’s got that in him, both in terms of raw talent and in terms of the work ethic to reach those goals. In five years, he’s going to be one of the game’s elite wings.
—Kurt Helin

19. Kristaps Porzingis

One of the ways we looked at how to evaluate players for this project, projecting out five years ahead, was to ask this question: If you were a GM who could give a player a five-year max contract right now, would you with this guy? And how comfortable would you be with that fifth year?

The Dallas Mavericks answered that question on Kristaps Porzingis with a resounding “we believe” this summer, inking the big man to a five-year, $158 million max extension. They want to pair him and Luka Doncic as the cornerstone of a contending team for years to come (their new Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki).

That’s a big bet on Porzingis as he returns from missing an entire season with a torn ACL — there is not a lot of precedent for mobile guys this size coming back from this injury. When healthy Porzingis is a 7’3″ unicorn of a big man who can defend inside, run the floor, and knockdown threes. He averaged 17.8 points and 7.1 rebounds a game over his career with the Knicks, all while shooting 36.1 percent from three. There are no other big men who bring his skill set to the game.

But will we get the same Porzingis going forward? How well will he move coming back from that ACL, and can he stay healthy? Our evaluators think he can get back to form, or close to it at least, and that why he is on the teens in this list. But if he can get all the way back and stay healthy — two big “ifs” — this ranking will be too low.
—Kurt Helin

18. James Harden

James Harden is the greatest offensive force in the NBA right now. One of the — or, if you ask GM Daryl Morey, THE — most unstoppable offensive force the game has ever seen.

Morey could be right. Harden averaged 36.1 points per game last season, shot 36.8 percent from three, plus dished out 7.5 assists and pulled down 6.6 rebounds a night. His step-back three is the most unguardable shot in the game today. The beard is an unstoppable force right now (unless you take the ball out of his hands to make sure Russell Westbrook is happy, but that’s also a discussion for another day).

The questions for evaluators in this series were, “How good will Harden be at age 34 heading into his age 35 season? How will his game age?”

Probably pretty well, which is why he is still so high on this list (while some of his current elite contemporaries were down farther around 30 on our list). Harden’s game is all about craft, it’s not built on his explosive athleticism or his freakish skills for someone so tall. Harden’s unconventional, hesitation-filled game is more about throwing his defenders off-balance — he has a lot of old-man-at-the-Y in his game. That will still work well as he ages. Harden has logged a lot of miles on his body, and while he’s stayed healthy so far that will be harder and harder to do. Still, there’s no reason to think the perpetual MVP candidate will not still be able to go out in five years, isolate on a defender, and just get a bucket. He’s going to be able to create space and get off his shot. Which is why in five years he’s still going to have a lot of value.
—Kurt Helin

17. Bradley Beal

Right now Bradley Beal is standing at one of the crossroads in his career. The two-time All-Star — who averaged 25.6 points, 5 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game last season — has heard his name come up in trade rumors, but on the other hand the Wizards have put a three-year, $111 million max contract extension on the table in front of him, trying to lock him up.

What does Beal want to do? He has yet to take the safe route and sign the extension, but it sits there on the table if he wants it. He could say he’s not signing any extension with the franchise, essentially forcing a trade. Or — and this may be the most logical option — he can just wait, sign a four-year, $154 million extension next summer, and if he makes the All-NBA team (he was seventh in guard voting last season but there are only six All-NBA guard spots), Beal can get a $250+ million max extension from the Wizards.

Whatever he chooses, wherever he is playing, Beal is going to be one of the top shooting guards in the game the next five years as he is just entering his prime (he will be 31 in 2024). Beal has made more threes in his career than any other player through their age 25 season (Beal has 1,071, Klay Thompson is second at 1,060, then Stephen Curry is third with 905). Beal can shoot the three (35.1 percent last season), put the ball on the floor and drive, moves well off the ball (he ran more total miles last season during games — 222.7 total, or 2.75 per game — than any player in the league), and is an active and willing defender.

With John Wall out likely for the entire coming season in Washington, the Wizards become Beal’s team. He is option No. 1 on offense, the guy who gets to have the ball in his hands when he wants it. Beal is going to get to eat all he wants on offense next season for the Wizards. Providing he still wants to be in Washington.
—Kurt Helin

16. Jaren Jackson Jr.

This kid has Chris Bosh written all over him — and he can be even better. It feels odd to call him “kid” when his game screams wily veteran. Jackson Jr., is still just 19 years old, but he already can stretch the floor and block shots like a seasoned big.

There’s a reason why Kevin Garnett is one of his top statistical comps, but I like the Bosh parallel because of how he came into the league in a similar vein. Drafted No. 4 overall in a stacked draft with Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley, it’s easy to overlook Jackson Jr.’s production, especially playing in a small market like Memphis.

But Jackson’s game is tailor made for the pace-and-space era. He made 51 triples last season and converted 35.9 percent of his tries beyond the arc, making him one of the sweetest shooting bigs in the league already. He has a guard-like handle and moves fluidly on the block. On the other end, he has a great nose for creating turnovers, but there’s plenty of room to grow as a rim protector. If he can iron out his focus and court awareness on the defensive side, he can be a perennial All-Star like Bosh.

With Ja Morant in town, this could be the most promising tandem in the NBA. Jackson Jr., is so young that he still wouldn’t be in his 30s if we looked 10 years down the line instead of five. Get on board now.
—Tom Haberstroh