Toronto Raptors surprised many with some news on Tuesday. The Raptors went out and signed Austin Daye who was a part of the trade that landed Rudy Gay to the Raptors. Daye was selected 15th overall by the Pistons and never really developed into what they had hoped in Detroit.

He listed as a forward, but primarily has played as an oversized and skinny 6 foot 11, 200 lbs soaking wet. In the Garfield cartoon the orange cat said that he was not fat he was just "under tall". Daye is the exact opposite he is not skinny he is just "over tall" I guess.

His stats, which you can check for yourself will not wow you in the slightest. What might stick out is his wildly inconsistent three point shooting. He is coming off his best season shooting it from long range (41.8%) split between Detroit and Memphis. He really struggled though with the Grizzlies shooting just (34.5%) after averaging a scorching hot (52.5%) with the Pistons. Adding to the puzzle the year prior he was a career worst (21%)

What is the appeal of Daye likely his size and length and the hope he can apply that on the defensive end of the floor. It is a theory anyway considering the Raptors are thinking about D first and offense second. Daye also could be a body that would allow the Raptors to consider playing some small ball with Gay playing at the four and Daye at the three.

What might be the bigger message in this signing is the lack of faith in Terrence Ross to play at the three. Ross very likely could start the season on the outside of the rotation looking in. This should be taken as a serious message to the Raptors second year player who's season and career highlight to this point is winning a slam dunk contest. He is rapidly heading towards having a career path like a former Raptor Fred Jones. I have heard the name Gerald Green kicked around too.

In any case this is a very cheap and reasonable deal at just 2 million dollars for 2 seasons. Josh Lewenberg of TSN 1050, and use to be on podcasts on this very website is reporting he has learned the 2nd year of this deal is not guaranteed.  Which is almost like the one year deal the D.J Augustin is on which provides a lot of motivation to produce. That was something that was questioned about Daye in Detroit as well.

In the end it is a lot of talk about a move that is pretty minor in nature. If Daye continues to be an under achiever with just a body type that excites people the Raptors are not really any worse for it. Another low drama and low risk move for Masai Ujiri.

About the only drama this creates is the fact that this news broke around the time we eat around my household. This has happened far to often and I am reminded of that often.

Dwane Casey's Plan For Jonas: FEED HIM MORE

The Raptors have taken notice of what Jonas Valanciunas has been doing so far this off-season. In fact Dwane Casey sees Jonas having a bigger piece of the pie on offensive end of the floor this upcoming season.

“He has developed into the type of player that we can go to on a consistent basis far more than we did last year” Casey stated.  This for anyone that paid attention his MVP performance in Las Vegas would likely agree with.  More to the point Casey sees some development in the basketball IQ of his big center.
“He has done a good job not only scoring out of the low post, but did a good job of reading defences, understanding when to pass, when to score and when to attack.” Casey continued by saying, “ So, I would say he is going to get a big portion of  his offense run through him, around him and not only out of the low post but to quarterback.”

Big plans it would seem for sure but one thing that should be stated is there were quite a few turnovers as part of that development in Las Vegas. Still it became fairly obvious who the best player on the floor was for the Summer League version of the Raptors. Double teams may still come but this will be at the risk of leaving other talented players open like Lowry, Gay and DeRozan.

Jonas’ summer is far from finished as well with an expected participation for his homeland of Lithuania in the upcoming European Championships that will serve as the qualifier for the FIBA World Cup that has been renamed that instead of plan old World Championships. Canada is also getting ready for its own qualifying efforts in Toronto this week for that same tournament. In any case the chances we see Jonas play a big role for his nation likely would seem high coming off his performance this season and in Las Vegas.

He competed for his nation in London at the 2012 Olympics and to say the least was both under utilized and under performed at that event. The plan with his NBA team is the complete 180 degrees from that. The Raptors will be counting on Jonas to log some pretty serious minutes you would have to figure with the current roster in place. His health and development will be critical to any type of success the Raptors hope to enjoy.

He may look nothing like Ryback in the WWE, but it seems very clear the Raptors plan to FEED HIM MORE. Jonas is looking great and clearly is not missing many meals over the off-season and using that fuel to make himself bigger and hopefully better.


Raptors' Roster Will Define The Direction This Season

The Raptors off-season for the most part is done in terms of the major pieces to the puzzle. The biggest thing that happened was the Raptors addressed their Andrea Bargnani problem and actually were able to get some assets for him. It cost them having to take on a couple players that will never suit up as Raptors in Camby and Richardson. They did get Novak and some draft picks. When you compare it to taking on a bad contract it makes much more sense.

The Raptors really have not defined what they will be to any extent, other than they will at least start the season looking to compete. The way I look at things is the Raptors have given the current roster a chance to come out and show they have the talent to build on as a group. If they do not succeed in showing that there is an escape route for Masai Ujiri.

Perhaps the most movable part to the Raptors puzzle could be Kyle Lowry. The Raptors do not seem like they have any interest in looking to commit long term to Lowry at this point. The same might be true as far as Lowry in his interest in sticking with the Raptors long term. Lowry came in with a lot of expectations from some as the alternate plan of Bryan Colangelo after failing to land Steve Nash.

Some going as far as saying the Raptors were actually better off with Lowry. It was not a good season for Nash or for Kyle Lowry. In the end Lowry had injuries and fell into a battle for the starting position with Jose Calderon. They would eventually move Calderon and Lowry was by default the man. He never really developed into the potential all-star talent that people who were high on him coming had suggested. Even the addition of Rudy Gay who is close friends with Lowry did not really take his game up to the next level.

Lowry is in the last year of his deal and Gay technically could be as well. Gay has a player option for another season after this one. While some have suggested he could opt out and walk on the Raptors that seems to lack logic. He is due a big payday with that option and would need to have a tremendous season to even consider such a move. It seems unlikely Gay could make the same money he is getting from the max deal he originally signed with the Grizzlies.

In addition Gay has had the issues with his back and over the off-season had eye surgery to fix a vision problem. The word is that Gay has been working hard in the off-season and looking to improve his three-point shooting. That has been a big issue with a lot of folks that both he and DeRozan lack of ability to make the three and have similar games.

While many have looked at DeRozan has the odd man out it might not make as much sense. Colangelo gave DeMar DeRozan an extension on his contract at roughly 9 million as season. While no one is going to question at this point Gay is the more talented of the two players. He is also making significantly more and is not as durable. Whatever you may critique DeRozan about no one can question his durability.

DeRozan is also getting another summer to work in the USA Basketball system with the training camp going on in Las Vegas. Last season DeRozan took some big strides with have a summer working within that program. Too often it seems Raptor fans are focused on DeRozan’s faults as opposed to his strengths. What has to improve beyond the obvious with his three-point shooting is the defensive play of DeRozan.

What might be true is that Jonas could be growing into the main piece for this team’s future going forward. He was clearly the big story coming out of Las Vegas Summer League. This is league wide not just with the Raptors. He was the MVP of Summer League which is voted on by the media from around the league covering Summer League.

In the end the Raptors roster will determine the direction this team heads by their performance. If the Raptors land the traditional schedule they have been saddled with in the past that will not be easy. The Raptors often end up with a much tougher schedule in the first few months of the season.

Why this is important is in reality the Raptors need to have a clear direction by the end of the calendar year in my view. If the Raptors are not a playoff team or a fringe playoff team (seventh or eighth seed) they need to cut bait and start dismantling this roster. It is far to tempting to get in the hunt for Andrew Wiggins in next season’s draft.

Wiggins can be a game changer for this franchise. A trip back to playoffs for a guaranteed sweep is not worth missing an opportunity at getting Andrew Wiggins. You don’t have to be the worst team to get in that hunt for him. The fact Wiggins has made it known that he would like be a Raptor if it were up to him. That statement was a huge one and will be one that is going to be the elephant in the room if the Raptors struggle this season.

In the end the future is still pretty cloudy but the fact the Raptors have options is a good thing. You get the feeling that the new people running the Raptors have a much more realistic outlook on what it will take to fix this team for the long term. 


Dwight Buycks: Filler or Future?

With the exception of Jose Calderon the Raptors haven't had much success in culling back up guards from ambiguity. Will Solomon, Quincy Douby, Bobby Brown, Ben Uzoh - just to name a few of the bench fodder floor generals of recent memory (none of which are still in the league). When the Raptors plucked Dwight Buycks from BCM Gravelines of France, it felt like more of the same as many a fan asked themselves 'who?' And 'how the hell do you pronounce that?' It's pronounced 'Bikes', by the way. But following an impressive showing at both Orlando (Thunder) and Vegas (Raptors) NBA Summer Leagues, fans are now asking themselves 'how good can this guy be?'

Personally, I didn't watch Buycks suit up for the Thunder during the Orlando Summer League. Masai Ujiri, however, must have liked what he saw from the undrafted product out of Marquette, inking Buycks to guaranteed one-year deal. "Dwight will pick up full court. He's aggressive",  Ujiri speaking in particular about Buycks' ability on the defensive end. On the other side of the ball, Buycks showcased a number of skills in Vegas that could very well bode favorably for a smooth transition at the next level. He routinely found his way into the lane, either beating his man in transition, straight up in the half court, or patiently brushing him off a screen. Not only does he possess quickness, he knows how to harness it, freezing defenders with a hesitation dribble only to explode by them moments later. In other words, he shifts gears - like a 10 speed Buyck. Against Phoenix, Buycks got to the rim at will, totaling 28 points, mostly on lay ups:

He was so good off the dribble he didn't have to rely on his jumper much. That will certainly change once he faces NBA competition. But judging by his numbers with Gravelines last year he appears to be a capable outside shooter at 39.7% on 46-116 from distance. Buycks advertised extensive vision as well, dishing no-look helpers on the break and finding shooters on the button with cross-court one-handed bullet assists. Listed at 6'3", he also possesses solid size at the point.

After going undrafted in 2011, Buycks spent time in the NBA Developmental League, and last year in France. Now, he looks poised to prove he belongs in the NBA. On the other hand, it's just summer league, which can be downright illusory. So, how good can Dwight Buycks be? If given a fair shake in Toronto, good enough to earn an extended residence in the league, and possibly prove an integral spoke in the Raptor's wheel of success moving forward.


NBA Off-Season Chat

As promised we are back to talk NBA Off-Season with our NBA Columnist Stephen Brotherston:


Raptors Roundtable: Vegas Wrap Up Edition

We chat about the Raptors Summer League Performance and the announcement that Raptors are heading to Halifax for training camp for a second season. Myself and Stephen Brotherston:


Masai Speaks, D.J Arrives and Jonas Is MVP of something.

The Raptors are basically ready to roll for next season according to Masai Ujiri who addressed the media yesterday and I made the trip down to Toronto. There should be some final announcements about the staff and Ujiri suggests he might look to invite a few young players to camp at the wing position. This seems a little odd given if you asked most people the Raptors would like to see the fans and media would likely say another big and preferably a center. Here is the full scrum from what he had to say from Raptors.com

The reason for Masai’s chat with media was official announcement of the signing of D.J Augustin. As you heard if you listen to Masai above one of the advantages to Augustin is his experience as a starter. It makes more sense than the combo of Stone and Buycks that was originally the plan. The key reason why is the worry you would have about Kyle Lowry’s health which was an issue last season. It would have been a little scary to say the least with two unproven point guards behind Lowry.

As for Augustin here is his first encounter with Toronto media:

I have always liked D.J Augustin who like T.J Ford came out of Texas. He had the unfortunate luck of being drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats. Who, by the way, are going back to being the Hornets once again. This is great news. D.J above talked about the struggles of being a part of that organization. He moved on from there to the Pacers which have been pretty successful the last few seasons. Augustin himself struggled last year and in the end came to the Raptors on reportedly cheap and one year deal.

This will likely be the biggest market and crowds for Augustin to deal with. While the Pacers have been successful the market in Indiana is far smaller and the fans have not exactly comeback to levels like the days of Reggie Miller in the 90’s. It will be interesting to see how he handles it all. Also the fact the Dwight Buycks had an impressive Summer League and could as some point grow into a contender to be the primary back-up sooner of later. 

No one had a better Summer League than Jonas. He had a video that went viral with being interviewed by DeMar DeRozan. He showed of his larger frame and played consistently well over the 4 games he took part in at Vegas Summer League. It was all topped off Yesterday with being voted on by the media as the MVP of Summer League.

As the Raptors and their fans tend to do this has been met with tremendous hoopla. Keep in mind a past winner of the Summer League MVP is Nate Robinson and you are keeping this accomplishment in its proper prospective.  It is extremely positive how Jonas performed and he will be playing for his country later in Summer which should draw even more attention based on his performance in Las Vegas. At the end of the day what will matter is how he plays in that Raptors jersey at the end of October or start of November that ultimately matters.

So now we settle in and likely make Terrence Ross the worst Raptors since Chris Jeffries as one person tweeted to me. What I mean is that the over analysis of this team will kick into high gear. Keep in mind that this is in place of nothing else for people to write about at the end of the day. Jonas is not going be an All-Star next year and Terrence Ross is likely not getting cut or traded. But it might seem that way by the time October rolls around.

Summer League taken for what it is can be a useful tool. But it is just photograph of a moment in time in the longer off-season development of young players. It should never be taken to mean too much at the end of the day. This applies in both directions in terms of a player’s improvement or lack of improvement.

Chill it is a long summer still ahead of us.


Some Thoughts on Raptors Summer League 2013 Edition

So the Raptors Summer League has come and gone for another year. Sorry I have been out of the loop for last little bit. Had some stuff to do than as you may have heard my hometown had some minor weather issues on Friday night. If you follow me on twitter you are likely aware of the value that I put into Summer League which is not a lot to be honest.

I don’t want that to be confused with the importance it should have for the players that are on the roster of the Toronto Raptors. While what the Raptors do as a collective group in terms of wins and losses is real not of great importance. Yes even with a new gimmick tournament format that remains the truth. So much so that Jonas Valanciunas did not appear in the Raptors “all important” quarterfinals clash with the Suns on Saturday.

In reality Jonas didn’t need to play with or without a sprained finger which was the reason given for his absence from the line-up. He already showed that he has been working hard and that hard work was on display. He looks bigger, he is more aggressive and he dominated the clearly lesser talented he faced. That is what you want to see from your young players at Summer League. He will move on to play for his country in Euro Championships later in the summer. Clearly he is on the right path and will be a starter for the entire season at Center without question. Not going hand out grades in this but if that was being done Jonas could get some version of an A. It was not a perfect performance as we saw lots of turnovers and learning how to deal with double teams which helpful creating some of those turnovers.

Terrence Ross was underwhelming and that is perhaps the kindest way to put it. I have been accused of not liking Ross at times. I don’t think that is true to any degree but to say I have not been as impressed as a majority of people is more than a fair comment. He just isn’t as good as people make him out to be. He was sold when drafted as a guy that can shoot and defend. He has become known more for his dunks and winning a Slam Dunk Contest than anything to do with those attributes. Jamario Moon could dunk as well but that didn’t mean he deserved or belonged in a rotation.

Here is some cold reality if you are a Terrence Ross fan that you may not want to hear. He is going have trouble being a part of this rotation at the end of the day. Think about it and be realistic and you will admit he clearly is not playing ahead of DeRozan or Gay. The Raptors are bringing in Novak who is more experienced and is a better three point shooter. Add in the fact the Landry Fields had an injury plagued season and can only expect he will improve at least to some degree. Where does this leave Ross as the fifth best wing on the roster? He will need to scrap and fight for floor time and he showed little of that against lesser competition at Summer League.

Quincy Acy also will be hard pressed to find floor time this upcoming season. That being said he did nothing but improve his stock and give folks at least the thought that he could play some minutes if needed. He likely will not find his way to the floor mainly because of the addition of Tyler Hansbrough. I may not be a fan of Hansbrough but I am not going to say that he is not good enough to hold off a challenge for minutes from Acy. He is good enough to do that and more. He also could take a bit out of Amir Johnson’s minutes which in the long run might not be a terrible thing if it gives you a more healthy and energetic Amir. Acy closed summer league with a big performance and it was noticed by fellow Baylor alumni Robert Griffin III aka RGIII the QB of the Washington Redskins.

The other player that will be part of the roster is Dwight Buycks who in just two games turned a lot of heads and made a name for himself quickly with Raptors fans. It is not easy to shine as point guard in Summer League where team ball does not exactly rule the day. But shine he did and it will make an interesting battle in training camp with D.J Augustin who was reported as signing a one year deal with the Raptors that they have yet to confirm. Augsutin should be the back-up to Kyle Lowry entering into camp. He didn’t have a particularly good year last season but he is a talented young man that is good friends with former Raptor PG T.J Ford. So if I am a little bias on this it wouldn’t shock me. Still I think this is his job to lose and he will have all the motivation to win it on just a one year deal according to reports.

All that said from what we saw from Buycks he could easily build a case to back-up Kyle Lowry if he is able to have a pre-season that is similar to his Summer League. I like this combo behind Lowry a lot more than I did the one with Stone and Buycks who both are fairly unproven on the NBA level.

As for anyone else on this Summer League Roster you will have long forgot about them by August and so will the Raptors I would imagine. It is very rare when a guy on a Summer League roster can turn that into an invite to a training camp. It is even rarer to turn that into a contract with a team for one of these guys dreaming to make it so. 

I will be organizing another google hangout event to talk about Summer League with a panel that we have yet to determine later in the week. It should be fun and I look forward to it as I hope you will as well.

I just wanted to take minute to thank the folks that have joined the staff this off-season. I really hope you enjoy their contributions as they will be doing more of the writing as we go along. I think a lot of people are under the impression that I aspire to be a writer. In reality, I really don’t and never have to any large degree. What I get the most satisfaction from is producing audio and video content. The addition of reliable and capable staff will allow me to focus more on that. It is what I truly have a passion for and what makes me the most happy. My writing at times can be not for everyone and may in fact break some laws of the English language. It never has really bothered me in the slightest. I attempt to write in a way that is conversational and try my best to make a connection with readers on an individual basis. Talking to you, rather than writing something worthy of praise for my use of the English language. I am not Arron Sorkin, Bruce Arthur or Michael Grange. I have never claimed to be that either. Still, I enjoy writing which likely wasn’t the case when this all started over 5 years ago.

I am always grateful for the support the DNB gets from all of you that read it and listen and watch the things I have produced over the years. If you have learned nothing about me in this time you at least know that I am likely never going to change who and what I am at the end of the day.


Week That Was In The NBA

Raptors' Tank Is Put In The Garage For Now

The Raptors have been adding instead of subtracting, so the tank is in the garage and now the question becomes what the Raptors can do. If they can’t be a playoff team as constructed we can always pull the tank out of the garage. It might not make you the very worst, but only 3 times has the very worst landed the number one pick in 20 years.  For now, the Raptors are taking aim at the postseason.

Look for The Raptors to Be Tough, Physical and Gritty.  Just Like Casey.

If there was one thing the Toronto Raptors were not known for under the rein of Bryan Colangelo it was toughness and the Raptors new President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri is embarrassed by how other teams view the Raptors and it is going to change.

“I’m tired of all this. People come here and everyone calls the team soft or calls the team pushovers or all these stupid names they have mentioned,” Ujiri said.

Anyone still wondering why Tyler Hansbrough was the first free agent the Raptors signed this summer?

Jonas Valanciunas Has Been Feeling The Love In Las Vegas

CBS Sports Zach Harper said, “I loved his physicality. It wasn’t just that he was more aggressive or looked comfortable. Jonas was noticeably more physical and seemed to want to push everybody around. He’s kept his mobility and seemed balanced at the same time. It was against weaker competition, but he dominated.  Borderline All-Star.  If we’re going with a more historical player comparison, I’d say Antonio Davis when he was at his best with the Indiana Pacers.  Maybe as a more modern reference, we could reach for Tyson Chandler.”

Why Julyan Stone Never Made It To Toronto

A week ago free agent Julyan Stone was on the verge of becoming a Toronto Raptor. Ujiri had reached out to re-acquire the third string point guard he had originally signed in Denver. It all made sense. However, it is now readily apparent; Stone had never fully recovered from his injury a year ago and any future he might have with the Raptors hangs on his ability to fully recover while Ujiri still needs a player of his talents.

Raptors Amnesty Linas Kleiza and Sign Point Guard Dwight Buycks

The Toronto Raptors announced on Tuesday evening they have used the team’s amnesty provision to waive forward Linas Kleiza.  Kleiza only appeared in 108 games for the Raptors over three seasons as a knee injury suffered during his first preseason with the team would eventually require surgery.  It’s been obvious, Kleiza never fully recovered from his injury.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Raptors confirmed they had signed free-agent point guard Dwight Buycks.  The 24-year-old Buycks had made a huge impression with the Thunder’s Summer League team in Orlando earlier this month.  Last year, Buycks averaged a team-high 18 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.5 steals in 32 games in the French Pro A League with Gravelines.  Buycks left Marquette as a sophomore in 2011.

Tyler Hansbrough Says He’s Ready to Rumble On Offense

The Raptors officially signed the tough gritty 6’ 9” 250 lb power forward this week.  Tyler Hansbrough has averaged 16.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and a steal per 36 minutes over his four seasons in Indiana. When he started 29 games in his second season, he put up 14.2 points and 6.3 rebounds in 27.5 minutes and last year in his eight starts, he averaged a double-double of 14.8 points and 10.1 rebounds in 26.8 minutes.  He has learned how to be aggressive and effective in the NBA and has averaged a manageable 4 personal fouls per 36 minutes over his career. For comparison, the Raptors Amir Johnson has averaged 5.5 personal fouls per 36 minutes and Aaron Gray is at 6.3.

 Raptors Waive Marcus Camby  and Get Pacers Free Agent DJ Augustin

The Toronto Raptors announced that they have agreed to a buyout with forward/center Marcus Camby and placed him on waivers. If Camby is not picked up by another team over the next 48 hours, he will become an unrestricted free agent. Camby had signed a three-year with the Knicks on July 11, 2012 for $13 million, however, the final season was only guaranteed for $1 million.

Casey wanted the Raptors to become Pacers North and it’s hard to think of a better way to accomplish that goal than by picking off free agents from last season’s Pacers’ roster.  In what should no longer come as a surprise, the Raptors have come to terms with the former Pacers backup point guard D.J. Augustin

This is a solid acquisition for the Raptors.  Toronto had no one with NBA experience to replace starting point guard Kyle Lowry in case of injury or illness.  Augustin has yet to prove he is ready to be a full-time starter in the NBA, but he is more than capable of starting for a few games when needed and being a more than adequate backup.

Raptors Enter Tournament Phase Of Vegas Summer League

The Raptors path is set for the Las Vegas NBA Summer League tournament format and they get the day off on Wednesday having landed the 6th seed in the tournament. They will play the winner of the Pelicans vs. Nuggets set to tip off at 6pm local time in Toronto. The Raptors will play Thursday at that same time 6pm local against the winner.

Stephen Brotherston has covered the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the ACC since 2009.  A member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, Stephen is the editor and publisher of ProBballReport.  You can follow Stephen on twitter @stevesraptors


Google Hangout - Live From Las Vegas Summer League

Join us at 8:20pm for a chat with Raptors Community Manager Jay Satur who is down in Las Vegas with the Raptors:

Raptors Enter Tournament Phase Of Vegas Summer League

Are you sick of Summer League basketball yet? The Raptors path is set for this tournament format and they get the day off today having landed the 6th seed in the tournament. They will play the winner of the Pelicans vs. Nuggets set to tip off at 6pm local time in Toronto. The Raptors will play Thursday at that same time 6pm local against the winner.

If the Raptors win they would advance to the Quarter-Finals and essentially keep playing until they lose. If they were to lose that game on Thursday they would play a consolation round game on Friday and after that be done with Summer League.

At least this is how I have it all figured out. Make no mistake that while this tournament format is interesting it is just an excuse to try and make people buy into the fact that Summer League is relevant. When I say buy in I mean that quite literally. The NBA trying to sell these games and make a buck live in Las Vegas is one thing, to sell them online to have the privilege to see them is another.

Case and point the first half or more to the point the first quarter of the Raptors vs. Kings yesterday. It was so bad at the half TNT announcer Craig Sager was almost apologetic for what people had just seen. Even Sager is not going 100% in summer league. Where is the outlandish Hawaiian shit or long flowered patterned shorts?

What Summer League does do is give us a glimpse at the young players that are part of the roster and see how they are developing since April when the Raptors last played a game that counted in the standings. In that regard you can say the Raptors have been a success regardless of where this summer league squad ends up in this tournament. Jonas Valanciunas has been better and he is getting some experience at being the focus of defences trying to stop him. He has a lot of work to do in that regard as he needs to learn how to see and re-act to double teams better. 

Terrence Ross got off to a slow start but has slowly started to produce. He is working on a much more grounded game in Summer League. Not much high flying as I think Acy and Jonas both have had more dunks than Terrence. Still I can’t help but think given the level of competition we are talking about we should be seeing more out of Terrence Ross. His minutes this year will not be a guarantee like they were last year.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise in summer league has been Quincy Acy. I never need to see Quincy Acy taking three point shots. I think this league in general has gone totally nuts with this idea of trying to get guys that are bangers to stretch the floor. The odds Quincy Acy can get an offensive rebound are much higher than if he can hit a three point shot. Despite the improvements it seems very tough to envision a lot of minutes for Acy unless injury woes hit the Raptors.

The only other roster player we have seen is Dwight Buycks and with only one game under his belt I don’t feel ready to form an opinion on him as of yet. He wasn’t bad in his debut with the Raptors and honestly to play point guard in Summer League is a tough challenge with so many players out for themselves the team concept gets lost. Also you get a lot of turnovers based on the lack of quality of players on the floor at times.

I will never be a fan of Summer League and it is not out of jealousy that I am not in Vegas to cover it. Maybe a little but in reality it just has been hyped up into a bigger event than it actually is. This is not just something we see in basketball but in all sports. Live coverage of the NFL Combine with a bunch of guys doing football drills? It just gets too much at the end of the day. We as society seem to want and crave any little nugget of information no matter how insignificant it may be.

Might have a surprise for you later tonight we shall see.  If I don’t will still be on the radio for my weekly visit with the guys on The Sports Grind that you can check out at 11:15pm on www.cjlo.com


Raptors Vanquish Kings in Summer League Action; Amnesty Kleiza

In a contest fraught with poor decision making, leading to a combined 50 turnovers, the Raptors defeated the Sacramento Kings 81-70 to finish 2-1 in Round 1 of Summer League. All it took was a string of well composed - and turnoverless - possessions down the stretch. When the Kings, spurred by 2013 lottery pick, Ben Mclemore, cut the Toronto lead to single digits midway through the 4th quarter, the Raptors put the ball in the hands of Jonas Valanciunas. First, he impressed the purists with a running left handed hook. Then, on the opposite block, netted the same shot; this time with the right hand. Facing a double team the next time down the floor, the big Lithuanian found Micah Downs, who splashed the open 3 to re-establish the double digit lead and, in effect, put the game out of reach. Valanciunas finished with 18 points, 8 rebounds, and although he tallied 7 turnovers, he made plays when it counted.

After making it official, Dwight Buycks suited up for his Raptors debut, manning the point to the tune of 9 points, 2 assists and 2 steals in over 30 minutes of action. Terrence Ross produced 14 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals. The Raptors now play the waiting game. The rest of Tuesday night's Summer League action will factor largely on their seed and opponent in the next round.

Boxscore: Raptors 81 Kings 70

Raptors Amnesty Kleiza

Masai Ujiri has opted to exercise the amnesty provision on Linas Kleiza. The forward will receive his $4.6 million salary, but it will no longer count against the team's salary cap. Cutting ties with Kleiza allows the club to sink below the luxury tax threshold and avoid a punitive tariff. Kleiza's time in Toronto was bogged down with injuries and spotty shooting, playing only 108 games in a three year span and never eclipsing 35% from downtown while with the Raptors.  

you can follow Will on Twitter @monkeysampan


Raptors Get A W In Their Column In Vegas.

Raptors right back at in Vegas Summer League last night 24 hours after to taking on the Heat they match up with the Summer League Version of the Spurs. This game was a bit of a Canadian basketball family reunion for the Joseph brothers. This was the first time since high school that Devoe Joseph against his brother Cory in a game. Cory would be the better of the two individually with 16 point 6 rebound and 6 assist performance. A quite but effective 14 minutes from Devoe Joseph with  7 points going 3-5 from the field.

As for the game the Raptors would hang on to win after almost letting it slip away. A couple clutch free throws by Jonas Valanciunas would seal the game as the Raptors let a decent size lead of 10 shrink to just 2 late. In the end the Raptors got an 82-76 win to even their record in the Preliminary Round of Vegas Summer League with one game left to play on Tuesday.

Terrence Ross was better in this one with 14 points, 6 rebounds and a couple assists with 2 steals as well. He shot a respectable 6-11 from the field but just 1-3 from three point line. Jonas Valanciunas was not as efficient in game two of Summer League but did record a double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds still issues with turnovers and double teams as he had 4 turnovers. He also in a normal NBA game would have fouled out with 6 fouls but this is Summer League and you get 10. Acy also would have been fouled out in a normal NBA contest with 6 of his own in terms of fouls. He had 9 points and had just 3 rebounds as Jonas was getting a lot of those rebounds.

Joining Ross and Valanciunas in double figures scoring were Micah Downs with 11 and Chris Wright in double figures again for a second day in a row with 13.

Raptors have one more game in the preliminary round on Tuesday and after that are guaranteed at least two more games in the tournament phase of Vegas Summer League. Something new to try and make you think this stuff is more important than it is. 


Jonas Is The Big Story In Raptors Vegas Debut

The big story out of the Raptors opener in Las Vegas Summer League was the play and look of Jonas Valanciunas. Jonas was tearing it up and he looked like the slogan for the WWE video game a few years back: "Bigger, Badder, Better." Jonas had 23 points shooting 8-10 and had 7 rebounds he got to the line 10 time making 7 he did have 5 turnovers.

The other Raptors rookies from last year were far less impressive. Terrence Ross only had 9 points in 20 minutes and  was 3-9. Acy played the most minutes of anyone on the roster with 27 minutes plus and 9 points and 7 rebounds and was a team worst -15 in that time on the floor.

The Raptors after an impressive start and building a lead that got into double digits took their foot off the gas pedal and struggled to defend or score. Miami after getting torched by Jonas early changed course to double teams and that created a lot of the turnovers for Jonas. In the end Miami stormed back and hung on for the win 81-74.

Toronto’s Myck Kabongo who many wanted to see playing for the Raptors in this summer league had his issues playing for Heat in the Orlando Summer league and those followed him to Vegas. He had just 2 points, 2 assists and 2 rebounds his lone two points coming at the line where he was just 2-6.

Miami had 4 players in double figures compared the Raptors with just two Valanciunas with 23 and Wright with 12.

Raptors are back in action tonight with another Canadian Point Guard by way of the Texas Longhorns playing for the opposition in Cory Joseph as he takes part in Vegas Summer League for his squad the Spurs. Game is 10:30 local time if you are able to find it only and will be aired on NBA TV Canada at 10 am tomorrow and hopefully unlike today’s replay we will get to see all 4 quarters. Fingers crossed.


Raptors Round Table

Show will start at 8pm or shortly after:

Note: It was in fact the case that Julyan Stone failed is physical as that story was breaking as we were in process of recording this show.


Raptors' Tank Is Put In The Garage For Now

So tank nation was given a serious blow when Masai Ujiri met with the media. Ujiri suggested that he does not invasion a dismantling of this roster in the short term. Tank nation with visions of Andrew Wiggins dancing in their head must have taken the news like there would be no Christmas this year.

I had expressed on Twitter that for those that were suggesting the Raptors would have a fire sale were probably not right. Ujiri wants to at least see what he has with this team. All of the moves he has made did not suggest he was looking to tank the season away.

The Bargnani trade was a move that was badly needed and everyone seemed to know that. He was able to get return for a player that many would have been fine with him being amnestied. Now instead the Raptors have a shooter in Novak and three draft picks including a first round pick. While this move is one that is about future assets and along with addition by subtraction it was not a blatant move to tank.

The Raptors signed Julyan Stone and plan to have him back-up Kyle Lowry. Stone was a third stringer on Denver but was signed by Ujiri. So Masai sees something in him and is giving him a shot to step up make himself a legitimate back-up in the NBA. He also is a unique prospect based on his size and has a defensive reputation that fits with what Casey wants from defensive first mentality.

The Tyler Hansbrough move also is a move to fit the Casey mindset. It is also is to erase a reputation of the Raptors being labelled as soft according to Ujiri when he addressed the media yesterday.  It also is a smart deal that fits in this two year window where the Raptors have a lot of their talent tied up with contracts. If Hansbrough doesn’t workout Raptors hold the option on the two year deal and can part ways after this season.

Ujiri also indirectly has stated he has no interest in just giving away talent like Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan. Many focus on the fact that both of these guys have similar strengths and weaknesses. While it is foolish to say there is not a point to that, it doesn’t mean you can’t still make it work. Jonny Davis did a poor job with the offence in general and with Gay and DeRozan specifically. The Raptors have brought in Nick Nurse who is expected to take over the offence.  Maybe he can find a way to get something out of these two as a tandem. Don’t we at least want to see if that is possible before we throw one away for next to nothing?

If you are in favour of tanking just because the Raptors don’t take steps now doesn’t mean they have to keep on this path. Ujiri when he establishes what he has and hasn’t with this team he can easily change direction prior to the deadline. If you look when he had the Carmelo Anthony drama to deal with he was pushed in the media to make a deal. He did not listen to the noise and took his time and eventually cut a deal that was widely praised.

There is a lot to be said for dealing from a position of power. If you cave to the pressure and the noise that is never going to happen it takes strength to be a leader.  Ujiri seems to have the respect of his peers and seems to be a very calculated guy. Colangelo seemed to react to the noise and either get defensive or quickly make a move.

This is without mentioning it is extremely hard to enter a season where the goal is to lose. It may make sense to take the risk and try to improve through the draft. However, if the ultimate goal is simply Wiggins or bust, which is only a 25% shot and only if you find a way to be the absolute worst. Not to mention good luck attempting to be worse than the Bobcats, Sixers and Celtics this year. In fact that is just the tip of the tank iceberg.

The NBA looking outside of just our Raptors’ bubble needs to solve this problem. Tanking was suppose to be eliminated by the advent of the NBA Draft Lottery but that is clearly not happening when a big star the likes of Wiggins comes along with a strong draft class behind him.

It is just not right as well. It morally feels wrong. It hurts your entire organization on some level to tank with the hope you get lucky and can wash it all away. It is one thing to establish during a season that you have no chance and to look ahead to the next season. It is another to enter a season with the main goal to lose. Teams that do that deserve to lose at the end of the day.

I like the approach the Ujiri is taking while many may find fault with it, I think it is the smart way to go about this. Two years from now the Raptors have very few commitments contract wise and if things are not working out in the next two years you can slowly transition to a proper rebuild.

So the tank is in the garage and now the question becomes what the Raptors can do. If they can’t be a playoff team as constructed we can always pull the tank out of the garage. It might not make you the very worst but only 3 times has the very worst landed the number one pick in 20 years.

In the end the Raptors can still end up with a ticket in the Wiggins Lottery if this team fails to perform. It likely would mean the end for Dwane Casey. It could be a very new beginning for the Raptors though. As Ujiri said this process is going that will require patience. Patience on both ends of the spectrum are sorely lacking that enduring 18 years of complete frustration. So it is not easy.

Week That Was In The NBA

Raptors Sign Free Agents Tyler Hansbrough and Julyan Stone

On Wednesday Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri confirmed that deals for both Tyler Hansbrough and Julyan Stone had been negotiated, but the final details to get them on board remained outstanding.  A formal announcement confirming these deals should be forthcoming soon.

Ujiri has reached back into his Denver connections once again to reacquire a backup point guard he had originally signed for Nuggets in 2011.  Stone was an undrafted senior out of UTEP and played 26 games over two seasons with the Nuggets. At 6’ 6” he has good size and reach to defend either guard spot, but his 207 minutes of playing time in the NBA provides little indication of his potential.

Hansbrough had an outstanding defensive rating on an outstanding defensive team.  Hansbrough is an energy player that doesn’t need a lot of plays run for him. His activity creates second shot opportunities for his teammates and himself, but it is his physical defensive style that has Casey’s attention.

There isn’t a consensus about the addition of Hansbrough, however, as described earlier in the DNB.

“Raptor fan forums are running amuck already when it comes to Tyler Hansbrough, some love him, some don’t just dislike him, they’re blood is boiling with hate rage. However, in all this ire and agitation one thing is consistent, everyone believes he is a frustrating presence inside the paint from a defensive standpoint, and that he is a true hard worker. I ask, what’s not to like about that?”

Raptors announce New Assistant Coach and Summer League Roster

Raptors announced the hiring of Nick Nurse to the staff. He will also be coaching the Raptors Summer League team which released their preliminary roster.

Nurse has a long resume in the D-League which includes a championship last season with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Nurse is 45 and spent 11 years in Europe prior to his extensive time in the D-League.

The Raptors Summer League team includes Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross, Quincy Acy, and Julyan Stone. 

Big Free Agent Signings

Josh Smith has decided Detroit is the place to be and no one can say the Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars ever lets salary cap money burn a hole in his pocket. This time, however, he may have gotten a little better value for his money than in the recent past.  A seemingly annual All-Star snub, the nine-year veteran has career averages of 15.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.1 blocks. Even at a near maximum dollar contract, Smith is good value.

It is official, the Dwightmare is over. Dwight Howard has met with Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak to confirm that he will be accepting the offer from the Houston Rockets

“We have been informed of Dwight’s decision to not return to the Lakers. Naturally we’re disappointed. However, we will now move forward in a different direction with the future of the franchise and, as always, will do our best to build the best team possible, one our great Lakers fans will be proud to support. To Dwight, we thank him for his time and consideration and for his efforts with us last season. We wish him the best of luck on the remainder of his NBA career.” - Mitch Kupchak

Andre Iguodala left money on the table in Denver to join the Golden State Warriors in a surprise move that left all of the teams involved in last season’s trade involving Andrew Bynum, Howard and Iguodala with nothing to show for their efforts.  No one that is except the Orlando Magic and they have to be pretty happy with how it all turned out.

Quiet Raptors July Moratorium Leads to DeRozan Trade Rumors

In a very quiet July Moratorium for the Raptors, the first big Toronto rumor was that Ujiri was trying to trade DeMar DeRozan to the Clippers for Eris Bledsoe.  The Clippers went in another direction, but with little news about the Raptors, the next Sunday a couple of sources went from saying DeRozan might be available in the right deal to the Raptors are actually shopping him.  There was a caveat, however, this could be just scuttlebutt, but these were sources that are usually in the know and that’s what happens when a team is this quiet during free agency.  Every rumor gets magnified and everyone grasps for any piece of information that might prove to be reliable.

So far, nothing of substance has come from any rumors involving DeRozan.  All Ujiri will confirm is that he is not about to just give away his players.

Canadians at Orlando Summer League

It didn’t take long for Canadian rookie sensation Kelly Olynyk to earn the nickname “KO” from the NBA TV commentators.  KO has been a force on the Summer League floor, confusing defenders with his ability to equally hit the three-point bomb, take the jump shot, dribble and dive for the up and under and otherwise thrive in the painted area.

Olynyk was taken 13th overall by the Dallas Mavericks two weeks ago and traded to Boston on draft night for the rights to the 16th pick, Brazilian center Lucas Nogueira and two future second round draft picks. Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge is looking pretty good right about now.

A nervous Canadian point guard Myck Kabongo made it to the NBA Summer League this week.  Going undrafted after being considered a surefire second round draft pick might eat away at some prospects confidence. College players take a huge chance leaving college early if they don’t land a professional basketball contract right away. Aside from a touch of nerves and an uncharacteristic 3-8 from the free throw line, Kabongo looked good in his professional debut on Monday against Trey Burke and the Jazz.

New NBA Salary Cap, Luxury Tax and Exemption Rules

The NBA has announced that the Salary Cap for next season will be $58.679 million and teams will be subject to Luxury Tax if their player salaries exceed $71.748 million.

The new CBA signed two years ago includes a host of new provisions including much higher Luxury Tax rates, multiple variations of the Mid-Level exception and the possibility for unwary teams to create an actual hard salary cap under certain situations.  This CBA is already having an impact on how NBA teams conduct their business.

Bargnani Trade is Official

The Toronto Raptors have confirmed the acquisition of former Raptors centre Marcus Camby, forwards Steve Novak and Quentin Richardson, a 2016 first-round draft pick and two second-round draft picks, one in 2014 and one in 2017, in exchange for forward/center Andrea Bargnani.

Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the ACC.  A member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, Stephen is the editor and publisher of Pro Bball Report

You can follow Stephen on twitter @stevesraptors


Tyler Hansbrough and the ever silent Masai Ujiri decide to collaborate

First Raptor fans were treated to the trading of Andrea Bargnani, then for the most part, all went silent…like really really silent. In fact the silence was so deafening in an otherwise mad house offseason that fans have gone from joyful speculation, to panic mode. 
The British Navy used to have a slogan during WWII ‘Loose lips sink ships!’ in reference to seaman on leave drinking and revealing more information to potential enemy spies that could lead to devastating consequences. Hey Raptor fans, does this sound familiar? It’s effectively what happened during the Bryan Colangelo era. A potential trade, or trade scenario would be floating out there on the web, or on twitter, and if anyone inside the organization gave these rumours and speculations any attention, then they gained immense traction amongst the Raptor devout. Clearly Masai Ujiri is well aware of this, the only problem is that the fans are used to this…and it’s a great thing. I for one couldn’t be happier to have no idea what the plan is, who we’re really targeting, or the nonsense speculation that runs all too rampant during the summer months. I'll take quiet credibility all day. Personally I’m exhausted by the Dwightmare, despite it not even involving the Toronto Raptors.
The reality is Ujiri has a lot on his plate, rumours and conjecture isn’t something that traditionally helps an organization develop its upcoming season plan, or long term plan either. That being said we’re starting to see a plan unfold incrementally, we have picks again (thank the powers that be), we have a very legitimate 3 point shooter (Novak), and as of last night we have a psycho (Hansbrough). 
Raptor fan forums are running a muck already when it comes to Tyler Hansbrough, some love him, some don’t just dislike him, they’re blood is boiling with hate rage. However, in all this ire and agitation one thing is consistent, everyone believes he is a frustrating presence inside the paint from a defensive standpoint, and that he is a true hard worker. I ask, what’s not to like about that? Someone mentioned fake Oakley…people, let’s be really clear…NO ONE IS OAKLEY, NO ONE OTHER THAN OAK WILL EVER BE EITHER. Ok, glad that’s out of the way. 

So for the Raptor fans that are left pining for that big signing, don’t hold your breath, it might not come this season. For those fans that tend to be a little more grounded and see that Ujiri is attempting to build a team Casey wants (not the armchair coaches like myself) with the resources he can without crippling future plans or cap, then this has been one of the most exciting offseasons yet. 
Wanna talk about it? With me? go for it @i8theball


Raptors Sign A Psycho Pacer

So the Raptors decided to make my return to work a busy day. Third blog of the day but who is counting right. This news is breaking that the Raptors have come to terms with Tyler Hansbrough.

Well the first thing you can say is he is the exact opposite of Andrea Bargnani who officially will be gone to New York when the clock hits midnight. Aside from that he is a nutcase on many levels. He is a nasty dirty player that finds a way to make everyone hate him.

I only ever had one chance to converse with Hansbrough and it was to say the least a less than thrilling experience. He is not exactly mr personality and that is likely being kind.  Some will say he is the sand paper this team might need. I would argue that if you are looking for Charles Oakley in this guy it isn't there.

Oakley for all his toughness and walking a fine line with rules he was also at his core a very intelligent player. So much so that his former coach in New York Jeff Van Gundy has referred to him as the smartest player he ever coached. I don't think anyone is going say that about Hansbrough.

He causes more problems than he solves at the end of the day. If Oakley started something he sure as heck finished it. Hansbrough played for a Pacer team that some feel is model for what the Raptors are trying to build here. That may be true but Hansbrough is not the model citizen to make that vision happen. 

Raptors will not be able to confirm or deny this signing until the new NBA year starts tonight at midnight along with confirmation of the Andrea Bargnani trade with the Knicks.

Raptors Announce A New Assistant and The Vegas League Roster.

Raptors announce the hiring of Nick Nurse to the staff. He will also be coaching the Raptors Summer League team which released their preliminary roster.

Trevor Mbakwe   
Minnesota / USA
Jordan Taylor
Wisconsin / USA
Quincy Acy
Baylor / USA
Julyan Stone
Texas-El Paso / USA
Tywain McKee
Coppin State / USA
Chris Wright
Dayton / USA
Coby Karl
Boise State / USA
Alade Aminu
Georgia Tech / USA
Devoe Joseph
Oregon / Canada
Jonas Valanciunas
Lietuvos Rytas / Lithuania
Micah Downs
Gonzaga / USA
Gregory Echenique
Creighton / Venezuela
Terrence Ross
Washington / USA
Mark Lyons
Arizona / USA

Nurse has a long resume in the D-League which includes a championship last season with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Nurse is 45 and spent 11 years in Europe prior to his extensive time in the D-League. 

The Raptors open there Vegas Summer League on Friday at 7:30 pm Vegas time taking on Miami Heat SL team that could include Toronto's own Myck Kabongo. Kabongo is currently on their roster in Orlando Summer League but in theory could swap to another team time will tell. That is also why the roster above is not a final roster it is a fluid one. Stone and three Raptor Rookies are locks to be there and after that you might see some change. Devoe Joesph is getting another look from the Raptors this season. George Karl's son also another interesting name on the roster.