Raptors sign center Khem Birch

The Toronto Raptors have signed center Khem Birch.

Birch, 6-foot-9, 230 pounds, averaged career highs of 5.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 19.8 minutes in 48 games (five starts) with the Orlando Magic this season. He shot .450 (94-209) from the floor and scored in double figures five times, which included three double-doubles.

A native of Montreal, Quebec, Birch is averaging 4.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 16.5 minutes in 188 career games (30 starts) during four seasons in Orlando (2017-21). After going undrafted in 2014, Birch played with Sioux Falls of the NBA G League (2014-15) and overseas in Turkey (2015-16) and Greece (2016-17) prior to signing with the Magic as a free agent in the summer of 2017.

Birch played collegiately at the University of Pittsburgh (2011-12) and UNLV (2012-14) where he was named Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year back-to-back seasons. On the international stage, Birch represented Canada at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China. He was also a member of Canada’s U-18 National Team that captured a bronze medal at the 2010 FIBA Americas Under-18 Championship.

Chris Boucher puts up a 38-point, 19-rebound game

Raptors forward/center Chris Boucher continues to show signs of huge talent, while mostly coming off the bench this season. On Thursday, he started, and put up a monster game. Via the Toronto Star:

Chris Boucher played a game that was better statistically than any ever before by a Raptors big man.

Better by numbers than anything Chris Bosh ever did, or Pascal Siakam, or Antonio Davis, or Jonas Valanciunas, or any of the many other frontcourt players — good and bad — in the first 2,044 games of the franchise’s existence.

It was a wonderful night: 38 points and 19 rebounds in a loss to the Chicago Bulls on Thursday, one rebound shy of the first 30-20 game ever by a Raptor and the first time anyone has reached those numbers in the same game.

There have been better scoring nights — the list of 40-plus games runs the gamut from Acie Earl to Andrea Bargnani to Bosh, who did it nine times.

And there have been better rebounding nights up front — Bismack Biyombo once had 25; Bosh went over 20 twice, as did Valanciunas; Donyell Marshall had 24; Joey Dorsey once grabbed 20.

But never before had anyone put up 38 and 19, and for that Boucher should praised and held in high regard.

The Raptors are just 20-32 this season, which is the 11th best record in the Eastern conference.

Boucher is averaging 13.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 23.6 minutes per game.

Raptors waive Patrick McCaw

The Toronto Raptors have waived forward Patrick McCaw.

In five games this season, McCaw totaled five points, three rebounds and four assists in 33 minutes.

McCaw signed as a free agent Jan. 10, 2019 and re-signed with Raptors the following offseason. In 68 games with Toronto, he averaged 3.6 points, 2.0 rebounds and 18.9 minutes and helped the Raptors capture their first NBA championship in 2019.

Raptors sign forward Freddie Gillespie to 10-day contract

The Toronto Raptors have signed forward Freddie Gillespie to a 10-day contract.

Gillespie, 6-foot-9, 245 pounds, averaged 10.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 27.8 minutes in 15 games (all starts) with the Memphis Hustle in the NBA G League bubble. He shot .570 (73-128) from the field and recorded six double-doubles. Gillespie went undrafted in the 2020 NBA Draft but was picked second overall by the Hustle in the 2020-21 NBA G League Draft.

A native of Saint Paul, Minnesota, Gillespie played two seasons at Division lll Carleton College before transferring to Baylor (2018-20). He averaged 7.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 23.7 minutes in 56 career games (41 starts) with the Bears. As a senior, Gillespie was voted the Big 12 Most Improved Player and earned All-Big 12 Second Team and All-Defensive Team honours.

Fred VanVleet, DeAndre’ Bembry and Talen Horton-Tucker each suspended one game by NBA

Toronto Raptors guards DeAndre’ Bembry and Fred VanVleet and Los Angeles Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker have each been suspended one game without pay and Raptors forward OG Anunoby and Lakers forward-center Montrezl Harrell have each been fined for their roles in an on-court altercation, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

Bembry, VanVleet and Horton-Tucker have each been suspended for leaving the bench area during an on-court altercation.

Anunoby, who received a technical foul and was ejected, has been fined $30,000 for initiating the incident by grabbing Schröder by the leg and recklessly flipping him to the ground after the two became entangled following a common foul committed by Schröder.

Harrell, who received a technical foul and was ejected, has been fined $20,000 for aggressively entering the altercation and shoving Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr.

The incident occurred with 2:24 remaining in the first quarter in the Lakers’ 110-101 win over the Raptors on April 6 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.

Bembry will serve his suspension tonight when the Raptors play host to the Chicago Bulls at Amalie Arena. VanVleet, who has missed the past two games with an injury, will serve his suspension in the next regular season game for which he is eligible and physically able to play.

Horton-Tucker will serve his suspension tonight when the Lakers face the Miami Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Raptors racking up losses in a tough season

The Raptors aren’t having the best of seasons, to put it mildly. Via the Toronto Sun:

Things are dire in Raptor-land. It’s going to take a miracle for them to get back into the middle of the conference and there have been no signs one is coming. They’re going to have to be excellent to even get to seventh or eight in the East (which would mean they’d only have to win one play-in game to qualify for the playoffs, instead of the 9-10 teams, which will have to win two). Long-term there’s no question it would be more beneficial to nab a Top-10 pick, preferably a Top-5 prospect in what’s believed to be a pretty good. And the veterans are battered and exhausted and could benefit from a lower-stress finish/rest down the stretch (although it’s hard to see Kyle Lowry agreeing to a shut-down or an ease-down, since he is reportedly trying to land a new two-year contract for significant money and needs to prove he is still elite and durable at 35. Fred VanVleet is third in minutes-per-game, and 13th in overall minutes despite missing some games while in the protocols. His foot scare against Detroit had to have sent shockwaves through the organization and maybe have them questioning what they’re doing here and how much sense it makes.

The Raptors are just 18-29 this season, which is the 11th best record in the Eastern conference.

Their leading scorers so far in 2020-21 are Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakim each at 20.1 points per game, Kyle Lowry at 17.0 ppg, OG Anunoby at 14.7 ppg, and Chris Boucher off the bench at 13.4 ppg

They recently traded Norman Powell, who was the team’s third leading scorer at 19.6 ppg, for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood.

Raptors trade guard Matt Thomas to Jazz

The Utah Jazz have acquired guard Matt Thomas in a trade with the Toronto Raptors for a future second-round draft pick.

Thomas (6-4, 190, Iowa State) is in his second NBA season, averaging 2.7 points on 41.5 percent from three-point range in 2020-21. For his career, the Onalaska, Wis., native has appeared in 67 games (one start), all with Toronto, with averages of 4.1 points on 45.8 percent from the field and 45.7 percent from beyond the arc and 1.2 rebounds in 9.4 minutes per contest.

The 26-year-old has additional professional experience in Spain’s ACB league, where he played for Monbus Obradoiro in 2017-18 and for Valencia Basket in 2018-19. For Monbus Obradoiro, he owned averages of 15.4 points on 47.2 from the field and 45.9 percent from three, along with 2.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 30 games (26 starts). In 53 games (17 starts) with Valencia, he averaged 11.9 points on 51.5 percent shooting and 48.0 percent from downtown, adding 1.6 assists and 1.4 rebounds per contest.

A four-year collegiate player at Iowa State (2013-17), Thomas appeared in 138 games (77 starts) for the Cyclones. As a senior in 2016-17, he averaged 12.3 points on 47.7 percent from the field and 44.5 percent from three, along with 3.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists, helping Iowa State to a Big 12 Tournament Championship.

Thomas will wear no. 21 for the Jazz.

Raptors trade Terence Davis to Kings, who waive Mfiondu Kabengele

The Sacramento Kings have acquired guard Terence Davis in a trade with the Toronto Raptors for a 2021 second-round draft selection.

And in a subsequent roster move, the Kings have waived forward/center Mfiondu Kabengele.

“Terence is a talented young player that adds depth and scoring ability to our backcourt,” said General Manager Monte McNair. “We are excited to see what he brings to Sacramento.”

During the 2020-21 season, Davis has accrued averages of 6.9 points (.414 FG%, .361 3pt%, .889 FT%), 1.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 14.5 minutes per game in 34 games (4 starts). In two seasons for the Toronto Raptors (2019-21), the former Ole Miss alum has posted averages of 7.3 points (.443 FG%, .379 3pt%, .870 FT%), 2.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 16.1 minutes per game in 106 games (8 starts).

Raptors trade Norman Powell to Trail Blazers for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood

The Portland Trail Blazers have acquired guard Norman Powell in a trade with the Toronto Raptors for guard Gary Trent Jr. and guard/forward Rodney Hood.

“Norman accomplished so much with the Raptors. He committed to the process, he worked on his game, he grew as a person, and he thrived as a player,” Raptors President Masai Ujiri said. “Norman gave us great performances to remember. Norman is an NBA Champion, and he has earned his place as one of the great success stories in franchise history. We are grateful for everything he did for our team and our city.”

Powell, 27, is averaging a career-high 19.6 points (49.8% FG, 43.9% 3-PT, 86.5% FT) to go with 3.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.12 steals and 30.4 minutes through 42 games (31 starts) with Toronto this season. He ranks 10th in the NBA in three-point percentage and 13th in three-pointers made (118).

In his sixth NBA season, Powell (6-3, 215) holds career averages of 9.9 points (46.6% FG, 37.9% 3-PT, 83.0% FT), 2.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 20.2 minutes in 349 games (120 starts), all with the Raptors. The 2019 NBA Champion was originally selected out of UCLA by Milwaukee with the 46th pick of the 2015 NBA Draft before being acquired by Toronto in a draft night trade.

“Gary and Rodney have been valuable members of our organization the past three seasons and we appreciate their numerous contributions on the floor and in the Portland community,” said Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey. “We wish them continued success and happiness in Toronto.”

Trent Jr., 6-foot-5, 209 pounds, is averaging career highs of 15.0 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 30.8 minutes in 41 games (23 starts) this season. He is shooting .414 (217-524) from the field and .397 (121-305) from three-point range. Trent Jr. has scored in double figures in 31 games, including 20 or more nine times, and scored a season-high 28 points Dec. 28 against the LA Lakers.

A native of Columbus, Ohio, Trent Jr. owns career averages of 10.2 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 23.1 minutes in 117 career games (32 starts) with the Blazers. He played one season at Duke (2017-18) prior to being picked 37th overall by Sacramento in the 2018 NBA Draft and traded to Portland on draft night. His father, Gary Trent Sr., appeared in 13 games with the Raptors during the 1997-98 season.

Hood, 6-foot-8, 208 pounds, is averaging 4.7 points, 1.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 19.1 minutes in 38 contests (five starts) this season. He has scored in double digits three times, including a season-best 21 points Jan. 18 vs. San Antonio.

A native of Meridian, Mississippi, Hood was picked 23rd overall by Utah in the 2014 NBA Draft. He is averaging 11.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 26.5 minutes in 379 career games (253 starts) with Utah, Cleveland and Portland. Hood played collegiately at Mississippi State (2011-12) and Duke (2013-14).

Powell will wear No. 24 for the Trail Blazers.

Raptors thoughts heading into the NBA trade deadline

As the trade deadline approaches, it needs to be determined who this season’s real Raptors are. Via the Toronto Star:

Are the Raptors the team that started 2-8 and is currently in a 1-9 swoon? Or are the Raptors the team that rattled off a 14-6 run in between that included wins over all the big boys of the Eastern Conference and showed they still have some big-time fight in them?

It is not easy. And deciding what to do may be harder this year for the president and general manager than it has been at any point in the seven-year run of post-season appearances the Raptors are in danger of seeing broken.

In many ways, it makes no sense to do anything of substance and to ride out the season before making any startling moves.

The Raptors can be good — they can be very good, in fact — and while they certainly have a hole to climb out of, there’s reason to think they won’t.

The Raptors are just 17-23 this season, which is the 11th best record in the Eastern conference. They’re being led in scoring by Fred VanVleet at 19.9 points per game, Pascal Siakam at 19.8 ppg, Norman Powell at 19.7 ppg, Kyle Lowry at 17.8 ppg, Chris Boucher at 14.3 ppg, and OG Anunoby at 13.8 ppg.