Latest NBA Offseason Intel: Does OG Anunoby Want out of Toronto?

Jake FischerContributor IMay 31, 2022

TORONTO, CANADA - APRIL 28: OG Anunoby #3 of the Toronto Raptors looks on during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers during Round 1 Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs on April 28, 2022 at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images)
Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images

As the NBA offseason continues for all teams outside of Golden State and Boston, one of the more intriguing names to emerge in early league trade chatter has been Toronto Raptors swingman OG Anunoby.

Following a standout season from Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes, word has circulated among rival front offices that Anunoby grew dissatisfied at times with his role in Toronto, where Barnes joined Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet as the primary ball-handlers in Nick Nurse's offense. 

Two sources with knowledge of the dynamic told B/R that Anunoby has not directly expressed discontent with his situation with the Raptors. Perhaps the conversation around him has been driven more by external interest in acquiring the fifth-year forward's services. 

Dating back to the trade deadline, sources said, the Raptors have postured with opposing teams that all of their "top six," including Anunoby, Barnes, Siakam, VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr. and Precious Achiuwa, are untouchable in trade conversation. But Toronto is also widely known to covet a starting center. The Raptors initially chased Jarrett Allen last summer. Then in February, Toronto flirted with Indiana about both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis and contacted San Antonio about Jakob Poeltl. Landing a center of that caliber would almost certainly require the Raptors to sacrifice one of those purportedly untouchable players.

If Anunoby becomes available this offseason, expect a long list of interested suitors. Anunoby, 24, is a proven blue-chip prospect who already has deep postseason experience. He's also playing under a value contract, not even halfway through the four-year, $72 million extension he signed in 2020 (with a player option in 2024-25).

Two landing spots already linked by league personnel have been Utah and Portland.

The Jazz are weighing trade possibilities with three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, who NBA sources have pegged as one of Toronto's targets to satisfy its appetite for a starting rim-protector. While there's much debate both around the league and among Utah staffers about whether moving Gobert, the Jazz's true defensive lynchpin, is the most effective avenue to improving Utah's issues guarding on the perimeter, Anunoby would clearly pose as a tremendous addition for any team lacking on the wing.

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH - MAY 01: Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz looks on during a game against the Toronto Raptors at Vivint Smart Home Arena on May 1, 2021 in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

To match Gobert's lofty salary, which will range from $38.2 million to $46.7 million between 2022-23 and 2025-26, Toronto would need to add another significant contract to Anunoby's average annual salary of $18 million. Including Trent, another two-way perimeter force, would make the math work, but that cost might be too rich for Toronto brass and would leave the Raptors with little proven shooting. Early word from league personnel has also suggested the Raptors value Siakam more than Gobert.

The Trail Blazers remain widely expected to pursue trade scenarios with the No. 7 pick in order to add a complementary veteran alongside All-NBA guard Damian Lillard, and Anunoby is believed to be one of their primary targets along with Jerami Grant.

Both contracts would fit into Portland's $20.9 million trade exception from the deal that sent CJ McCollum to New Orleans. There's a possibility Portland looks to create cap space to land a maximum-salary free agent such as Zach LaVine, but all indications point to the Blazers guaranteeing Josh Hart's $12.9 million for next season, which would likely negate a major free-agency signing. The deadline to guarantee Hart is June 25, two days after the NBA draft and nearly a week before free agency begins July 1.

Picking up Hart's money would require the Blazers to renounce their rights to free agents Jusuf Nurkic and Anfernee Simons in order to still create space for a major free-agent acquisition like LaVine. But Portland's most likely route to acquiring a splashy counterpart for Lillard is via trade exception, and Anunoby would be a home run addition in that scenario.

However, league personnel believe Toronto would require far more than Hart and the seventh pick to part with Anunoby, considered to be a darling of Raptors lead executive Masai Ujiri. Anunoby's trade value is seen as greater than Detroit's known asking price for Grant: two first-round picks or a first and a promising rookie-scale prospect.


New York Knicks' Point Guard Search 

League sources regularly mention New York's main offseason focus is to improve at the point guard position, but acquiring Utah's other All-Star, Donovan Mitchell, remains highly unlikely. Even if Mitchell were to ultimately request a trade from the Jazz, he still has three full years committed on his contract before a player option in 2025-26. Plus, there's healthy skepticism around the NBA that New York's best offer for Mitchell would trump other teams' pursuits, such as a potential package from Miami that would theoretically center around Tyler Herro plus other salary and multiple first-round picks.

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH - APRIL 28: Jalen Brunson #13 of the Dallas Mavericks goes up for a shot against Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz during the first half of Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round Playoffs at Vivint Smart Home Arena on April 28, 2022 in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

In the meantime, there's a growing sense among league personnel that Jalen Brunson will return to Dallas following the Mavericks' sprint to the Western Conference Finals. After Dallas' defeat to Golden State, Mavericks governor Mark Cuban reaffirmed to Marc Stein the confidence team personnel have projected in keeping Brunson. Dallas indeed can offer him an additional fifth year and, therefore, more money than any rival, especially New York. With Brunson's next salary expected to exceed $20 million annually, perhaps John Collins' recent five-year, $125 million extension in Atlanta will be a good benchmark for Brunson to remain in Dallas.

The Knicks offering a comparable four-year rate would require notable cap-sheet changes. They already came close to sending out Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel at February's trade deadline to clear salary for a run at Brunson. At this point in the NBA calendar, to move off unwanted contracts, league executives believe New York would have to trade either the No. 11 pick in June's draft or promising point guard Immanuel Quickley to entice a rival team to take on any long-term salary.

But the Knicks can propose something to Brunson that Dallas cannot: an unquestioned role as the starting point guard and lead ball-handler. In Dallas, he will always serve as Luka Doncic's sidekick. The same would be the case in Detroit, where the Pistons are said to envision Brunson as a similar counterpart to Cade Cunningham. If Brunson desires to be the true table-setter of a team's offense, that would seem to be the one bird in New York's hand. 

Elsewhere in the point guard conversation, word of New York's interest in Purdue sophomore Jaden Ivey has been often repeated by league personnel. Ivey, though, is all but assured to be selected within the first six picks of the draft, where the Indiana Pacers are considered by several executives contacted by B/R as his floor.

As the Knicks work down the list of their point guard options, rival executives have pointed to Minnesota Timberwolves starter D'Angelo Russell as a potential lower-level trade target. New York's front office recently added former Minnesota president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, who once chased Russell in free agency and later traded Andrew Wiggins to Golden State for the creative point guard.

MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 26: D'Angelo Russell #0 of the Minnesota Timberwolves looks on against the Memphis Grizzlies during Round 1 Game 5 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs on April 26, 2022 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Knicks are not expected to make a run at Collin Sexton, sources said. The Cavaliers have interest in keeping him, but finding a salary figure that extends the combo guard's tenure in Cleveland may be tricky, especially after the Cavs' 2021-22 success and the team's growing cap figure. Indiana, Detroit and Washington have all been mentioned as early potential landing spots for Sexton.

The Pistons, sources told B/R, are expected to use their cap space to acquire one impact player in the frontcourt and backcourt. While Brunson and Sexton are known as guards of real interest to fill that backcourt slot, Detroit is said to have an eye on Knicks center Mitchell Robinson, in addition to Phoenix Suns restricted free-agent big man Deandre Ayton.


Charlotte Hornets' Coaching Search

On the coaching front, Charlotte is the only team left with a vacancy after the Sacramento Kings hired Mike Brown and the Los Angeles Lakers named Bucks assistant Darvin Ham as their next play-caller.

Ham was a finalist for the Hornets' opening and was scheduled to meet with Charlotte this Tuesday before agreeing on a four-year deal with the Lakers, sources said. The sitdown would have marked Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak's first development in his coaching search since spending the previous week in Los Angeles for agency workouts and pro days in advance of the draft. Kupchak's own multiyear contract extension, which he announced during a recent media availability, is for two more seasons, sources told B/R.

At this juncture, former Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni and Golden State assistant Kenny Atkinson are widely believed to be the final names under serious consideration to replace James Borrego. No candidate has met with Charlotte principal governor Michael Jordan, sources said, believed to be the final step in the Hornets' search process. That round of interviews could begin as early as this week after Jordan returns from an out of market vacation.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 12: Mike D'Antoni of the Houston Rockets talks to the referee during the third quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Five of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on September 12, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

When league personnel descended upon Chicago for the NBA Draft Combine, word seemed to indicate that Atkinson was gaining some momentum in the Hornets' search. He phoned several current Hornets staffers and league personnel familiar with the Charlotte organization, sources said, and projected great confidence that the job would ultimately be his. Atkinson has been described as a particularly thorough person, and several figures close to the coach indicated his research calls were simply a trademark of his personality and approach.

D'Antoni has long been categorized as the true front-runner for the position. Known for his dynamic offensive principles, and his previous success unlocking Steve Nash in Phoenix and then James Harden with the Rockets, D'Antoni is seen by some as the ideal coach to oversee the next step of LaMelo Ball's progression as an elite point guard. One source with knowledge of the franchise told B/R that D'Antoni's profile appears to be more of the preference of Charlotte's Jordan-led group.

Atkinson's noted background in player development, highlighted by his success as the head coach in Brooklyn, would seem to align more with a young team hoping to rise out of the Eastern Conference play-in tournament and into the postseason.

However, various league figures have suggested the similarities between Atkinson and Borrego may ultimately work against Atkinson, and help lead to D'Antoni's hire. The Hornets had no specific profile for their next head coach when they dismissed Borrego, sources said, but Charlotte brass clearly sought a different voice and direction than Borrego's.


Jake Fischer covers the NBA for Bleacher Report and is the author of Built to Lose: How the NBA's Tanking Era Changed the League Forever.