LAS VEGAS – It might seem strange to peek into the Raptors’ makeshift training facility in a hotel ballroom on the Vegas Strip. Not many familiar faces.
The technical staff has been completely redesigned. The support staff has also undergone a major shake-up, as some former members of the organization are no longer with the Raptors. Hey, there’s a Gama Mahalela out there, but you remember he was actually in the Bay Area for a few years.
There is also knowledge of what happens outside of summer league training. For a long time, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam drove the Raptors to meet in the summer for work. Whether in Las Vegas for the Summer League or in Los Angeles with longtime Siakam coach Rico Hines, both of the starting linebackers in the class of 2016 were on top of any player-led collegiate coaching. This will not be the case this year.
VanVleet went to Houston. Meanwhile, Siakam is at the center of trade rumours. Having already said before the draft that he would not sign an extension with any team he was traded to — the Raptors could offer him a four-year, $192 million extension this season, while another team could be more involved — Siakam hasn’t hung out with Raptors so far. It might be silly to assume that will change.
If he doesn’t sign an extension, either with the Raptors or a team that trades on his behalf, he will likely enter the summer of 2024 as the best free agency. His teammate, OG Anunoby, will be watching closely. That’s even more true after Dejounte Murray and the Hawks agreed to a four-year, $120 million extension on Thursday.
It’s a little surprise for the former all-star. Given that Murray will earn $16 million next season, he can only be offered a starting salary of 140% of that salary starting in the 2024-25 season. This makes his situation similar to that of Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. , which will bring in $18.64 million and $18.56 million, respectively, next season. Under the same rules, the Raptors can offer them extensions up to a maximum starting salary of more than $26 million and total revenue of about $117 million over four years.
For Trent, if the Raptors want to make a deal, there has to be wide enough room for negotiation. It has yet to be proven that he can be an effective full-time player. After Jerami Grant signed a five-year, $160 million deal to stay in Portland in free agency, Anunobi seemed destined for the open market. Grant has proven to be more offensively than Anunobi in his career, but he is older and not as good as a defender. Anunobi and his representative might rightly consider Grant’s average annual salary of $32 million a minimum, given the league’s high earnings.
This is where the Raptors need to learn from this off-season. As John Hollinger wrote recently, the cap area may have been exaggerated a bit. Many of the existing teams have used it this season to accommodate players from other teams. Indiana paid Bruce Brown a lump sum for a one-year contract. Orlando signed Joe Inglis. Houston outscored their competition enough to sign VanVleet and Dillon Brooks, both pickups, while forcing Milwaukee out of their comfort zone to retain Brook Lopez. From the outside, even if the Rockets get better, it looks like an expensive splurge that might not get the team into a Play-In tournament.
This is the problem with the Rockets. It still costs the Raptors. The lesson: It only takes one team to destroy everything. Philadelphia has made noises about its reluctance to sign Tyrese Max to a rookie extension this season, putting them in a low cap next season, due to the possibility of creating a maximum of two contract slots. It’s too early to tell who might join them, if this is the position the 76ers actually find themselves in, but there will always be teams in that position. And some, like this year’s Rockets, will spend aggressively.
We’re looking forward to a tough year, but there seems to be a very good possibility that Jaylen Brown won’t hit the market as an unrestricted free agent next season, since he’s eligible for a Supermax offer this summer. The rest of Unchained’s most influential players, from Paul George to DeMar DeRozan to Klay Thompson, Jrue Holiday, Kawhi Leonard and James Harden, are in their 30s. Some of them will sign extensions this off season.
Either way, if there were no strings attached, Siakam and Anunoby would be among the most sought after proxies on the market. Do the Raptors really want to take the risk of letting more major players leave the franchise for nothing? Whatever they decide with Siakam and Anunoby, they must prioritize a deep understanding of their own minds to revitalize the free agency and league scene. This may mean that the birds of prey are not making the toughest deals in the Siakam trade talks. If Anunubi seems conflicted to stay put, that could mean putting him in the market. Didn’t she like it? Well, that’s the cost of moving either of them, or moving VanVleet, by the last trading date. Anunoby is young and good enough to contribute to a Raptors team with a younger core, but he has to be a part of it.
At this moment? Without VanVleet and Siakam, Scotty Barnes was in Las Vegas on Thursday, getting to know some of his new teammates and coaching staff better.
“When you watch Scotty play, nothing seems to be a burden to him. He loves the ball in his hands. He loves making decisions,” said Darko Rajakovic, new coach. “He was with us in the morning, doing some drills with our vets at camp. He just likes to play the right way. He’s the guy who’s always trying to find his teammates and is very selfless. So I think the more you give him the ball, the more you get for everyone on the team. »
As for who is with him in a Toronto court this year? Again, the birds of prey have some sway in this area. They can’t afford to squander it again.
(Top photo: Wendell Cruz/USA Today)