If Ujiri is looking to make a significant change to his roster, particularly in the starting lineup, a frontcourt shakeup is more likely. Even after a season and a half, the Raptors are not sold on the Ibaka-Valanciunas pairing, according to team sources, believing both are better suited playing centre at this stage of their careers. If it simply came down to preference, Toronto would gladly move on from Ibaka following his inconsistent 2017-18 season and disappointing playoff performance. However, finding a trade partner willing to absorb the $44.9 million he’s owed over the next two seasons would almost certainly require them to take back a bad contract, or cost them additional assets – picks or young players, something Ujiri may be reluctant to do after parting with a first and second-rounder to unload ’s contract a year ago.
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Valanciunas knows that Toronto is actively trying to make moves this off-season in order to improve the roster and/or alleviate luxury tax concerns. “Even if somebody say you’re safe, untradeable, you never know. Maybe they’ll need some player or to be under the tax. Now I feel safe, but I can’t be guaranteed for nothing. I have good relationship with coach Nurse, but it’s business,” he said of his future.
There are two ways to look at the hiring of Nurse from the perspective of a Valanciunas supporter. First would be that he does not fit the small-ball, 3-point-heavy direction toward which Nurse will surely take the offense. That’s already gotten renewed trade talk bubbling around Valanciunas. But sources with knowledge of the situation say that’s not likely, that Valaniunas and Nurse will go nicely together. Valanciunas and Nurse had a good working relationship, and there is a sense that Valanciunas will only be encouraged to develop more confidence in his perimeter game, in an effort to space the floor and create passing and driving lanes for guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
DeRozan, Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas will likely garner the most interest on the market, though Ujiri could look to cut salary in the form of top disappointment Serge Ibaka or Norman Powell, who is about to see his salary take a leap as his extension kicks in.
Exec weighs in: “They’ve shopped him in the past, but the contract is not so bad anymore, and he is playing better. He is a more aggressive defender and rebounder. So the thing that makes another team more willing to trade for him has got to make you think that you don’t really want to deal him after all. If you can find a piece that helps you on the wing, that’s great. But even with JV playing better, there are not a lot of teams looking for back-to-the-basket centers. I don’t see anything happening with him.”
Among the teams that could make a move for Marc Gasol are Toronto, Cleveland, Boston, and Portland. The Celtics and Cavaliers are seen as the class of the East, with Toronto a notch below. That could set up a potential bidding war that Memphis could use to its advantage in landing the best package for Gasol, 32, a former defensive player of the year. Industry sources tell me that the Raptors are open to moving center Jonas Valanciunas and have young players the Griz might be interested in pursuing, including Jakob Poeltl and Lucas Nogueira. Gasol would be a marked upgrade for a “now” team that needs to get to a finals with core stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.
Maintaining that self-belief has been crucial, especially over the last 12 months. Like the rest of us, he’s seen his name pop up in trade rumours. He’s heard people speculate about his position becoming obsolete in the ever-evolving NBA. Has it motivated him? “That is not motivating me at all,” he insisted. “I know what is motivating me – my family, I’ve got my teammates motivating me, the front office who are [telling me] what they want to do motivates me. I understand people got to talk, people are meant to talk, it’s never going to be different these days with social media and all that stuff, I see some [expletive] things but I just don’t give a [expletive]. I know what I’ve got to do, I know what my role is on this team and the team is the most important thing.”
Toronto called dangling Jonas Valanciunas before the deadline, and Sacramento and Phoenix also expressed strong interest in Drummond in June, per sources. There’s enough grease to ultimately move the wheels and find Drummond a new home before the season starts, and he’s almost certainly not finishing out the final four years of his five-year, max contract in Detroit.
It’s no secret that the Raptors have been shopping the 7-footer for the better part of the last six months. It’s been widely reported and Ujiri made little attempt to hide it on Tuesday. “Every player, from all the processes that we went through this summer, every player’s name was in trade talks,” Ujiri insisted. “That’s me being black and white. The players know, the agents know.” “I’ll be transparent,” he continued later, “there were some scenarios where if we’re trying to create [salary cap] space and do some other things in some of the other scenarios we had that maybe we made a move [with Valanciunas]. But with this team now we’re very comfortable.”
They spoke with several teams and a couple of them were willing to simply absorb the salary, according to sources, but the Raptors were reluctant to give Valanciunas away without recouping any value. They had drafted him fifth overall in 2011 and have spent five years’ worth of time and resources developing him. Most importantly, while his market value has crashed, he still has value to them, even in a situational role. He’s a nice luxury to have, assuming you can afford that luxury.
Jonas Valanciunas is still very much a part of the Raptors’ future plans, according to team president Masai Ujiri. Sporting News NBA insider Sean Deveney reported Monday that Toronto has been trying unsuccessfully since the trade deadline to find a taker for the 7-foot center, who’d fallen out of favor in the offseason remake of the team’s rotation players. Ujiri responded with a vote of confidence in the big man.
“We’re very comfortable with JV. We’re not trying to give JV away,” Ujiri told reporters during a press conference Tuesday to introduce newly acquired veteran C.J. Miles. “I’ll be transparent, there were some scenarios where if we’re trying to create space and do some other things in some of the other scenarios we had that maybe we make a move, but with this team now we’re very comfortable.”
Toronto held conversations with Detroit and New Orleans at the deadline and again during the draft, sources told SN. Sacramento, Phoenix, Charlotte, Portland and Atlanta also kicked the tires, but talks never materialized.
Toronto has sought to deal Valanciunas since the February trade deadline. They’d had conversations with Detroit and New Orleans then, sources said, and continued to have discussions around Valanciunas at the draft, but talks with the likes of Sacramento, Phoenix, Charlotte, Portland and Atlanta did not get very far.
Valanciunas could wind up being eclipsed in Toronto, even without a deal. One of the aims of the offseason for the Raptors was to both unload some salary and clear up playing time for some younger, hungrier players the Raptors have been developing. Among those are second-year men Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam, and both had very good showings this summer.
Michael Grange: A couple of league sources have told me that Raps are looking into moving Jonas Valanciunas and the No.23 pick.
Trading Jonas Valanciunas loomed as the alternate cost-cutting measure, but no one needs a center. The most likely Valanciunas deals would return someone else’s unwanted big fella.
Kevin Arnovitz: Valanciunas was in some trade talks.
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July 19, 2018 | 8:27 pm EDT Update
Shams Charania: Sources: Nuggets guard Monte Morris has agreed to a three-year, $4.8M deal with the team. First two seasons guaranteed. Denver converts Morris, the No. 51 pick in 2017, from a two-way contract to a standard deal.
Royce Young: Dennis Schroder appears to be excited about his move to OKC. (And if you’re wondering, he spoke with Sam Presti and Billy Donovan before the trade and understands his role will be as a sixth man.)
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced from NBA Summer League in Las Vegas the winners of the 2018 Mannie Jackson – Basketball’s Human Spirit Award. They are Puerto Rico native, disaster relief advocate and NBA Champion J.J. Barea; five-time WNBA All-Star, education and heart health activist Tina Charles; and 14-year NBA veteran and global education and leadership supporter Boris Diaw. The winners will be recognized on Thursday, September 6that the Reunion Dinner at the Hall of Fame during Enshrinement Weekend.
July 19, 2018 | 7:03 pm EDT Update
David Aldridge: Sixers got involved with deal after Nemanja Bjelica pulled out of verbal agreement to sign with Philly. It left a need for another big/floor stretcher which @Mike Muscala (@PL_MBB !) can help fill. Career 38 percent shooter from three with Hawks.