Skip to content

Across the NBA, team executives and players are in the midst of family travel, scouting trips, much-needed rest and recovery and quiet days inside team facilities. August typically consists of the NBA calendar’s dog days, with no real urgency for major moves and no deadline to spur action outside of truly extreme opportunities. The start of training camps in late September seems far away, but it’ll be here soon.

The thing is, this year, several significant situations and extreme opportunities remain unresolved. We are talking about the type of opportunities that could have enough of a domino effect to impact the entire league and all of its 30 teams. In Toronto, the Raptors appear to be facing a major franchise decision with the future of two-time All-Star forward Pascal Siakam. In Portland and Philadelphia, trade requests from superstars Damian Lillard and James Harden remain unfulfilled, and we are nearing the point where awkward training camp situations could unfold.

As for Siakam, the 2019 NBA champion for the Raptors is coming off his best individual season, averaging 24.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game in 2022-23. He has one year left on his contract worth $37.9 million, and in the recent NBA landscape, it’s become increasingly common for a player of his caliber to enter a contract year with clarity on the direction for what’s next — usually, either talks about an extension prior to entering free agency or about a trade elsewhere so the incumbent team receives value before potentially losing him for nothing.

This will be Siakam’s eighth NBA season, so he can sign for 30 percent of the salary cap either now via extension or next offseason as a free agent with the Raptors or any other franchise. The Raptors are eligible to sign Siakam to a maximum contract extension of four years and at least $192 million. Thus far, there have been no substantive conversations surrounding an extension, league sources involved in the discussions who are not authorized to speak publicly tell The Athletic. And for Siakam’s part, the two-way stalwart has never requested to be traded, those sources added.

Several teams have shown interest in pursuing Siakam via trade over the past three months, but the external market has been tempered a bit due to the fact that it’s been made clear, league sources say, that Siakam would not extend with a team that trades for him. Still, the Atlanta Hawks have been the strongest suitor for Siakam, and talks between them and Toronto were fluid and ongoing as recently as Las Vegas Summer League in July.

Atlanta has offered a package centered around De’Andre Hunter, AJ Griffin and draft compensation to Toronto for Siakam, league sources say. But the Raptors are believed to have upped the price on any possible deal at each turn.

For now, talks are at a complete pause, and the Hawks are fully prepared to enter the 2023-24 season with their current team, according to league sources. For now, Siakam is a Raptor, and even without an extension, he could very well remain one through the trade deadline.

The Raptors have been heading toward this moment of truth since at least last season’s trade deadline. Although they could have been sellers, in the back half of the Play-In Tournament with four of their top five players within the last two years of their contracts, the Raptors went out and added Jakob Poeltl, surrendering a top-six protected first-round pick in 2024. They retained Poeltl on a four-year, $80 million contract in the offseason. However, they lost their starting point guard, Fred VanVleet, to a maximum-value two-year offer (plus a team option for a third year) from Houston. Offers at the trade deadline for VanVleet were not overwhelming, but losing a core contributor for no return was not the desired outcome. There were also multi-pick offers for O.G. Anunoby, who has a player option for the 2024-25 season, at the deadline, although the upside value of many of the first-round picks offered is believed to have been low.

If VanVleet had come back, the Raptors could have gone into next year with a starting five that, while short on shooting, outscored their opponents by 59 points in 313 total minutes last season, a net rating of 9.5 points per 100 possessions. The Raptors acted quickly to VanVleet’s departure, signing free agent Dennis Schröder with the non-taxpayer midlevel exception, but he is the only proven point guard on the roster.

More likely, third-year point forward Scottie Barnes will take a larger share of the playmaking duties. As is, putting together a good half-court offense with so little perimeter shooting will be tough for first-time head coach Darko Rajaković.

Siakam and Gary Trent, who is also extension-eligible, will become unrestricted free agents next summer if they do not sign deals before then. The Raptors could offer Anunoby an extension in October, but it is capped at around $117 million over four years, a number that would likely be easily surpassed in free agency. He can also become an unrestricted free agent next summer if he declines a $19.9 million player option.

Let’s take a look at where things stand with the two other situations that we have covered here at length as well.

Where things stand with Damian Lillard: As The Athletic reported last week, there still is no traction from the Portland Trail Blazers on a Lillard trade, and the All-NBA star’s mindset is steadfast toward desiring a trade only to the Miami Heat. Ever since early July, sources involved in discussions who are unauthorized to speak on the matter said the Heat have been prepared to offer the Trail Blazers a package including three to four first-round picks — with Tyler Herro going to a third team for assets — expiring contracts, a young player such as Nikola Jović and potentially second-round picks and draft swaps.

Where things stand with James Harden: The Philadelphia 76ers and LA Clippers are expected to engage again in discussions on a Harden trade this offseason, league sources who are involved in the discussions but unauthorized to speak on the matter say. Harden still prefers to be moved, and Philadelphia is working to honor his wish, as 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey recently said.

Camp updates: Free agent forwards Greg Brown III and Joe Wieskamp have agreed to training camp deals with the Dallas Mavericks, league sources tell The Athletic. Brown was a second-round pick to Portland in 2021 and spent the past two seasons for the Trail Blazers, averaging 3.9 points over 64 games. Wieskamp spent time with the Raptors last season.

— The Athletic’s Eric Koreen and Danny Leroux contributed to this report. 

(Photo of Pascal Siakam and James Harden: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *