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With the NBA offseason continuing for all teams outside of Golden State and Boston, one of the most interesting names to emerge in the league’s early trade talks was Toronto Raptors substitute OG Anunoby.
After a distinguished season from Rookie of the Year Scotty Barnes, word spread among rival front offices that Anonobi had become at times unhappy with his role in Toronto, with Barnes joining Pascal Siakam and Fred Vanfleet as head coaches in nurse Nick’s offense.
Two sources familiar with the dynamic told B/R that Anunoby has not directly expressed his displeasure with his situation with the Raptors. The conversation about him was probably motivated by outside interest in getting the services of the fifth year forward.
Returning to the trade deadline, sources said, the Raptors have agreed with the opposing teams that all of the “top six”, including Anonobi, Barnes, Siakam, Vanfleet, Gary Trent Jr and Precious Uchiwa, are untouchable in the trade talks. But Toronto is also widely known for looking forward to a springboard. The Raptors initially chased Garrett Allen last summer. Then in February, Toronto Indiana flirted with both Miles Turner and Domantas Sabonis and contacted San Antonio about Jacob Boltel. Landing a position of this caliber would almost certainly require the Raptors to sacrifice one of these untouchable players.
If Anunoby becomes available in the off-season, expect a long list of interested suitors. Anunoby, 24, is a proven potential client and already has deep post-season experience. He’s also playing under a valuable contract, not even halfway through the $72 million four-year extension that he signed in 2020 (with a player option in 2024-25).
Two landing sites already linked by league personnel are Utah and Portland.
The Jazz are balancing the possibilities of the trade with three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudi Gobert, who has been linked by NBA sources as one of Toronto’s targets to satiate their appetite for a starting edge guard. While there is much debate both within the league and among Utah staff over whether moving Gobert, the Jazz’s true defensive pillar, is the most effective way to improve Utah’s ocean-going issues, it’s clear that Anunoby is a massive plus for any team lacking a winger. .
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To match Joubert’s lofty salary, which will range from $38.2 million to $46.7 million between 2022-23 and 2025-26, Toronto will need to add another significant contract to Anonobi’s average annual salary of $18 million. Including Trent, another bi-directional perimeter powerhouse, will make the math work, but that cost would be too high for Toronto brass and would leave the Raptors with little assured shooting. An early word from league personnel also indicated that the Raptors value Siakam more than Gobert.
The Trail Blazers are still widely expected to pursue trade scenarios with pick number 7 in order to add a supplemental veteran alongside All-NBA guard Damian Lillard, and Anunoby is believed to be one of their primary targets along with Jerami Grant.
Both contracts fit with the $20.9 million trade exception in Portland from the deal that sent C.J. McCollum to New Orleans. There is a possibility that Portland will be looking to create roof space for a maximum salary-free agent like Zach LaVine, but all indications are that the Blazers are guaranteeing Josh Hart $12.9 million for next season, which is likely to deny signing a major free agency. The deadline for Hart’s guarantee is June 25, two days after the NBA draft and nearly a week before free agency begins on July 1.
Getting Hart’s money would require the Blazers to relinquish their rights to freeing agents Jusuf Nurkic and Anfernee Simons in order to continue to make room for the acquisition of a large free agent like LaVine. But the most likely way for Portland to get a great counterpart to Lillard is via a commercial exception, and Anunoby would be a household addition in that scenario.
However, league staff believe Toronto will need a lot more than Hart and the seventh pick to give up on Anonobi, who is the darling of Raptors CEO Masai Ujiri. The value of the Anunoby trade is seen as greater than the well-known Detroit asking price for the Grant: two first-round or first-round picks and a promising newbie prospect.
New York Knicks point guard search
League sources regularly state that New York’s main focus is improvement in the point guard position, but getting another Utah superstar, Donovan Mitchell, remains highly unlikely. Even if Mitchell does eventually request a deal from The Jazz, he still has three full years committed to his contract before a player option at 2025-26. In addition, there is a healthy suspicion around the NBA that the best New York bid for Mitchell will trump other teams’ endeavors, such as a potential package from Miami that would theoretically focus around Tyler Herro as well as another salary and several first-round picks.
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Meanwhile, there is a growing feeling among league members that Galen Bronson will return to Dallas after the Mavericks sprint to the Western Conference Finals. After Dallas was defeated by the Golden State, Mavericks Governor Mark Cuban Reaffirmed by Mark Stein The confidence the staff members had come to expect in maintaining Bronson. Dallas can already give him an extra fifth year and, accordingly, more money than any competitor, especially New York. With Bronson’s upcoming salary expected to exceed $20 million annually, John Collins’ latest five-year, $125 million extension in Atlanta may be a good benchmark for Bronson to stay in Dallas.
Offering the Knicks at a similar price for four years would require significant changes to the cover sheet. They’re already close to sending Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel on the February commercial deadline to clear salary to run at Brunson. At this point in the NBA calendar, to get rid of unwanted contracts, league executives believe New York will have to trade either the No. 11 pick in the June draft or promising points guard Emmanuel Quikley to entice a rival team to do any long-term paycheck.
But the Knicks could suggest something to Bronson that Dallas cannot: an indisputable role as the starting point guard and leading ball-handling. In Dallas, he will always be Luka Doncic’s assistant. The same would be the case in Detroit, where the Pistons are said to envision Bronson as a counterpart to Kid Cunningham. If Bronson wished to be the real one in charge of the team’s attack, this would appear to be the only bird in New York’s hand.
Elsewhere in the bullet point conversation, New York’s interest in Purdue sophomore Jaden Ivey was frequently repeated by league staff. Despite this, Ivy is pretty certain to be selected among the top six selections of the draft, with the Indiana Pacers being considered by many of the executives contacted by B/R as his ground.
While the Knicks are at the bottom of their list of protection options, rival executives have pointed to Minnesota start-up D’Angelo Russell Timberwolves as a potential low-level business target. The New York front office recently added former Minnesota President of Basketball Operations, Gerson Rosas, who previously stalked Russell in free agency and later traded Andrew Wiggins to Golden State for an iconic point guard.
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Sources said the Knicks were not expected to run at Colin Sexton Stadium. The Cavaliers are interested in maintaining him, but finding a salary number that extends the Cleveland guard’s combo tenure can be tricky, especially after the success of the 2021-22 Cavaliers and the team’s increase. Indiana, Detroit, and Washington have all been mentioned as possible early landing sites for Sexton.
Sources told B/R, the pistons are expected to use their cover space to have a single collision player in the front and rear area. While Brunson and Sexton are known as keepers with a real interest in filling the rear area hatch, Detroit is said to be keeping an eye on Knicks center Mitchell Robinson, In addition to the Phoenix Suns tied for the great free agent Dender Eaton.
Coach Charlotte Hornets
On the coaching front, Charlotte is the only team left vacant after the Sacramento Kings hired Mike Brown and the Los Angeles Lakers named Bucks assistant Darvin Hamm as their next play-in caller.
Sources said Hamm reached the final at the Hornets opener and was due to meet Charlotte on Tuesday before agreeing to a four-year deal with the Lakers. The sit-down was supposed to mark the first development of Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak in his search for coaching since he spent the previous week in Los Angeles for agency training and professional days before the draft. Sources told B/R that Kupchak’s multi-year contract extension, which was announced during a recent media availability, is an additional two seasons.
At this juncture, former Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni and Golden State assistant Kenny Atkinson are widely believed to be the last names under serious consideration to replace James Borrego. Sources said that no candidate has met with Charlotte’s main governor Michael Jordan, and it is believed that this will be the final step in the search for the Hornets. That round of interviews could begin as early as this week after Jordan returns from an off-market vacation.
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When the league’s personnel descended on Chicago for the NBA Draft Combine, word seemed to indicate that Atkinson was gaining some momentum in the Hornets’ research. The sources said he telephoned several current Hornets and league employees familiar with the Charlotte organization, with great confidence that the job would eventually be his. Atkinson has been described as a particularly meticulous person, and many of the people close to the coach noted that his research calls were merely a trademark of his personality and approach.
D’Antoni has always been rated as the true front-runner for the job. Best known for his dynamic attacking principles, past success opening Steve Nash in Phoenix and then James Harden with the Rockets, D’Antoni is seen by some as the perfect coach to oversee the next step of Lamelo Ball’s progression as an outstanding goalkeeper. A source familiar with the franchise told B/R that D’Antoni’s profile appears to be more favorable to the Jordan-led Charlotte group.
Atkinson’s remarkable background in player development, highlighted by his success as head coach at Brooklyn, appears to align more with a young team hoping to break out of the Eastern Conference’s playing cycle and into the post-season.
However, various figures in the league have indicated that the similarities between Atkinson and Borrego may eventually work against Atkinson, and help recruit D’Antoni. Sources said the Hornets didn’t have a specific profile for their next coach when they fired Borrego, but it’s clear that Charlotte Brass has sought a different voice and direction than Borrego.
Jake Fisher covers the NBA for Bleacher Report and is author From Built to Lose: How the NBA Age of Tanks Changed the League Forever.