This is usually when the NBA catches its collective breath with the majority of major free agents signed, the summer leagues all wrapped up, and teams pretty much decided on who they’ll invite to training camps come September.
It’s usually a time to kick back, take a vacation, settle down a bit, let the dust settle, and allow fans to take stock of what their teams have been up to and figure out where they can stand. fit into the bigger picture.
These are not those times.
That’s especially true in Toronto where a few gigantic dominoes need to fall before Raptors fans can head out into the summer imagining how the 2022-23 season might unfold.
Most important – and probably the most enduring – is Kevin Durant’s situation in Brooklyn, which is a little clearer now that Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton is out of the market until at least mid-January after the Suns tied an offer sheet he got from Indiana and now can’t trade it anywhere until Jan. 15 and only with his permission.
That leaves the Raptors as they’ve always been, a team with the pieces to entice the Nets to move the former most valuable player.
Whether Toronto would part ways with rookie of the year Scottie Barnes remains a sticking point, and without a rush to do anything on either side, a resolution could drag on in September. NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported Monday that the Nets would not consider trading Durant for the Raptors unless Barnes is in the deal.
And until something does or doesn’t happen — there’s a school of thought, Durant ends up in Brooklyn — analyzing the league as a whole or the East in particular makes little sense.
But there are other factors at play that could impact Toronto.
If the Utah Jazz come up with entertaining offers for star guard Donovan Mitchell, Toronto is unlikely to be interested, but if he moves to an Eastern Conference rival, it could have an impact here by closing any gaps. in the ranking.
It’s one thing for Toronto to shift gears on the roster they’re building to add Durant, it’s hard to see them shifting a consistent outlook for Mitchell. It would be out of place for Vice President Masai Ujiri or General Manager Bobby Webster to deviate from their plan for anything less than truly great generational talent.
And whether the Raptors can make a trade to add shooting depth or backcourt will likely be an August or September decision, once Durant’s situation is finally resolved anyway.
One thing, however, remains certain. The Raptors have some interest in Durant, but they will never release the negotiations through the media and they will work at their own pace. They waited until mid-July to trade Kawhi Leonard in 2018, Ujiri waited until the middle of the following season to move Carmelo Anthony from Denver to the Knicks when he was managing the Nuggets.
They only do things when they want to.
It’s impossible to say for sure where the Raptors fit in the Eastern Conference, but there haven’t been an extraordinary amount of changes that would affect a 48-win Toronto team that was fifth in the conference there. a year ago.
The New York Knicks would appear to be better off with the addition of Jalen Brunson as a free agent from Dallas, and depending on the price they would have to pay for Mitchell from Utah, it could just make the team feel different rather than noticeably better.
Atlanta, another team chasing the Raptors, made a major addition by securing Dejounte Murray from San Antonio, but whether that takes them from a play team to a top four contender won’t be known until the season rolls around. well launched.
Boston, already favorite to remain atop the East, made significant additions by picking up injury-prone Malcolm Brogdon from Indiana and 33-year-old Danilo Gallinari from Atlanta. On paper, the Celtics shouldn’t give up their place near the top of the conference.
All in all, until the Nets do something with Durant and, maybe, Kyrie Irving, or the Knicks take another step, the balance of power in the Deep East hasn’t too much. exchange.
The Raptors went through the summer league season as planned. They gave much-needed playing time to Dalano Banton, who remains intriguing but often too quick to count on, and they discovered that second-round draft pick Christian Koloko is an extraordinarily raw offensive player with strong defensive chops.
Once they sign Koloko, they will have 13 guaranteed contracts for an authorized total of 15, five players – Banton, Justin Champagnie, DJ Wilson, Armoni Brooks and David Johnson will fight for a maximum of two spots. Ron Harper Jr. has one of two two-way deals.
With training camp limited to 20 players, they have virtually a full roster today and while guard Jeff Dowtin has looked impressive at times against Summer League competition, an unguaranteed invitation to camp with an eye on the G League Raptors905 roster would be the best he is likely to get.
As the NBA enters its slowest time of the year, trying to clarify where the Raptors stand, how the East will fall apart, or even what the league will look like when camps open in just over two month is impossible to say.
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