NBA trade deadline: What Shams is hearing about the Raptors and trade talks around the league

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The Athletic

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The NBA trade market has officially heated up with next week’s Feb. 9 deadline upon the league, and conversations among team executives are expected to become more serious as the next few days unfold.

Across the NBA, it’s no secret the Toronto Raptors are viewed as a swing team in this year’s trade market. Raptors vice chairman and president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster have what’s seen as a talented core of attractive pieces in Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, O.G. Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr.

Because of the Raptors’ disappointing season thus far (they are currently 23-28 and in 12th place in the East), rival teams have been informed that the franchise will make a decision about being a buyer or seller – or standing pat – near deadline day, according to league sources who, like all the other sources in this story, were granted anonymity so that they would be able to speak freely. The Raptors are currently 2-1 on their six-game road trip that concludes on Feb. 5.

The Raptors surely have high price tags on their core pieces, such as VanVleet and Anunoby. Will Toronto hold firm with the talent it’s amassed – or enter the lottery sweepstakes and build increasingly around Scottie Barnes?

What’s more, Nick Nurse’s future as Raptors head coach is expected to come into focus this summer, when sources say he will be entering the final year of his contract going into next season. After the 2019-20 season, Nurse – who guided the Raptors to the 2019 NBA championship, won Coach of the Year in 2020, and is regarded among the league’s best coaches – signed a contract extension through 2023-24 worth $8 million per year. The length of the deal has not been previously disclosed by the team. There’s been frustration throughout the roster and staff with the team’s play at points of this season, and that has been directed toward Nurse at times too, according to sources.

Meanwhile, the two players whose names have been part of trade talks since the early part of the season are Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder and Atlanta Hawks big man John Collins. It’s expected both teams will continue strong dialogue regarding both as Feb. 9 nears.

In a new development, the Suns have given permission to the Bucks to meet with Crowder and they met over the weekend, league sources tell The Athletic. The Bucks are believed to be the only team that has received permission to visit one-on-one with Crowder, those sources have also indicated. Multiple teams, including the Miami Heat and Hawks, remain interested in Crowder, who is seen by championship-contending teams as a fortifying acquisition at the deadline.

Both the Suns and Bucks have engaged in serious trade talks for months, with current proposals surrounding Jordan Nwora, George Hill, Serge Ibaka and second-round draft compensation to Phoenix for Crowder, according to sources. The Bucks and Suns have searched for a third team to provide Phoenix with a forward – so what outcome will emerge between now and next Thursday?

For their part, the Hawks, under new head of basketball operations Landry Fields, have won six of their last nine games since Jan. 13 and have taken a patient approach with trade talks. Fields has made clear to rival executives that the team views Collins as a valued asset, not one the franchise will simply dump in any form, according to sources. The newfound approach could lead to more traction in the Collins market over the next two weeks.

The Jazz remain among the teams with strong interest in Collins, and The Athletic’s Kelly Iko reported last week that the Rockets are also pursuing Collins. When the Jazz and Hawks discussed a Collins deal early in the season, Atlanta asked for Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt, according to sources. The Jazz countered by asking for a first-round pick in return, and when the Hawks declined, talks stalled.

It remains to be seen where conversations unfold between Fields and the Jazz’s front office led by CEO Danny Ainge and GM Justin Zanik.

The NBA is less than two weeks from one of the biggest days on the league’s calendar. The buyers and sellers will reveal themselves, and the moves will begin to come. Team executives believe that a championship opportunity is wide open this season, increasing the urgency for some while providing a prolonged marketplace situation. We will have much more to come as talks develop across the league.

More NBA news and notes…

The Hornets are discussing center Mason Plumlee and forward Kelly Oubre Jr. in trade conversations, sources say.

Forward Jalen McDaniels continues to be a name several teams like the Suns, Raptors, Jazz, Pacers and Spurs are closely monitoring, but the Hornets value the 6-foot-9 forward whom they have developed over the past four seasons. Teams with interest and cap space this offseason, such as the Jazz, Pacers and Spurs, may opt to wait until free agency to court McDaniels, who will be unrestricted, instead of trading an asset to acquire him now while having to compensate him in July.

The Jazz are expressing strong interest in Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith, as teams have gotten the impression that Dallas would be open to moving the 29-year-old in the right deal for a star-caliber player, sources say. The Mavericks have an incredibly high price threshold for teams reaching out about Finney-Smith, rival executives say.

In seven seasons with the Mavericks, Finney-Smith has established himself as a critical two-way wing, well-liked teammate and important for the team’s culture, including being a favorite of MVP candidate Luka Doncic. But it’s clear that Finney-Smith has also become one of Dallas’ main pieces if the organization is to pull off a blockbuster deal for an All-Star player ahead of the deadline or in the offseason.

Finney-Smith signed a four-year, $55 million extension last season, placing him under contract through 2024-25 with a player option for 2025-26.

The Nuggets are in active trade conversations around guard Bones Hyland, with teams such as Minnesota expressing interest, according to sources.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Timberwolves guard Jaylen Nowell is leaning toward leaving the team in the offseason via free agency, sources say. Nowell — a 23-year-old guard who is averaging a career-high 10.9 points in 19.7 minutes per game — will be a sought after unrestricted free agent in July. While Nowell has had moments of dynamic scoring this season, he is shooting 43.9 percent from the field and 27.6 percent from 3-point range.

Nowell, who is earning $1.9 million in the final season of his rookie deal, is currently eligible for a maximum extension of four years and $58 million.

San Antonio Spurs

Several teams are increasing their pursuit of Spurs center Jakob Poeltl, and it appears a move to the Eastern Conference could be possible ahead of the deadline. The Raptors and Celtics are among the teams expressing interest in Poeltl, sources say. The 27-year-old will be arguably the top unrestricted free agent big man in July.

Toronto Raptors

The Knicks and Suns are among the interested suitors in Raptors forward O.G. Anunoby, sources say. New York has shown a willingness to offer multiple first-round picks for Anunoby, according to those sources. The Suns, meanwhile, have control of all of their first-round picks — eight in total —through 2030. SNY first reported the Knicks’ interest last week.

 (Top Photo of O.G. Anunoby and Fred VanVleet: Cole Burston/Getty Images)



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