Semi Ojeleye To Test 2017 NBA Draft Waters

SMU forward Semi Ojeleye will test the NBA draft waters, sources tell Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv (Twitter link). While Ojeleye will declare for the draft, he won’t immediately hire an agent, giving him the flexibility to withdraw his name by May’s deadline.

A 6’7″ junior, Ojeleye joined SMU for the 2016/17 season after spending two years with Duke. The 22-year-old never saw major minutes for the Blue Devils, but enjoyed a breakout season at SMU, averaging 19.0 PPG and 6.9 RPG with a .487/.424/.785 shooting line.

There appears to be no clear consensus on Ojeleye’s draft stock, with DraftExpress ranking him 31st on the site’s top-100 list, while ESPN’s Chad Ford places him just 82nd on his big board. Going through the pre-draft process over the next couple months should allow Ojeleye to get a sense of how he’s viewed by NBA teams, allowing him to make a more informed decision on whether or not to return to SMU for his senior year.

Our full list of early entrants for this year’s draft can be found right here.

NBA D-League Assignments/Recalls: 3/22/17

Here are Wednesday’s D-League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

  • The Nuggets have assigned Malik Beasley to their D-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, according to a team press release. This will be Beasley’s sixth assignment this season.
  • The Bulls have recalled Cameron Payne from the Windy City Bulls, according to a team press release. Payne played for Chicago’s D-League affiliate on Tuesday, scoring 22 points in 25 minutes.
  • The Raptors have recalled Pascal Siakam from their D-League affiliate, the Raptors 905, according to the team’s Twitter feed. Siakam is one of several 2016 first-rounders whom have been sent to the D-League this season, as Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors details.
  • The Cavaliers have assigned Kay Felder to the Canton Charge, according to the team’s website. Felder has appeared in nine games for Cleveland’s D-League affiliate, scoring 30.4 points per game.
  • The Warriors have assigned Kevon Looney to the Santa Cruz Warriors, according to the team’s website. Looney has appeared in three games for the Warriors’ D-League affiliate this season.

Hoops Rumors 2017 MIT Sloan Conference Coverage

Hoops Rumors attended the 2017 MIT Sloan Conference earlier this month and we delivered several features from the event. We covered commissioner Adam Silver’s sit down with FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver. Silver addressed the league’s strategy when it comes to players’ social media accounts and the commissioner noted that basketball attracts “a certain type of owner,” adding that NBA owners are typically more open to innovation than owners of other North American sports franchises.

NBA owners are embracing the analytics movement. Coaches and players are doing the same, as I discussed in my Evolution of Analytics piece.

We also passed along a feature on Mark Cuban and how the Mavericks have taken a unique approach to building around Dirk Nowitzki. In addition, we spoke with several current and former NBA executives and conducted a poll with topics ranging from the MVP race to front office moves.

Here are more notes from this year’s conference:

  • The midrange game appears to be a lost art, but a look at the numbers tell a different story, as Bucks Director of Basketball Research Seth Partnow told attendees during the conference’s Truth And Myths Of The Three Point Revolution In Basketball session. Teams are no longer designing plays that result in a midrange shot, which has caused a decrease in assisted midrange attempts throughout the league. However, unassisted midrange attempts, which are known as “Star Shots” in NBA circles, have stayed consistent over the last decade. When plays break down, it forces the teams’ top players to create their own offense and in many possessions, the result is a midrange shot off the dribble.
  • The best shot in the NBA is the corner three-pointer, but Partnow noted that only 7.5% of all shots during the 2015/16 campaign were from that area.
  • Partnow said his least favorite stat is defensive three-point percentage. He believes the stat isn’t an indicator of whether or not good defense has been played since once a player shoots the ball, the result is not impacted by the defense. “It’s not luck, but the data points look like luck.”
  • Former NBA executive Bobby Marks told Hoops Rumors that ownership change isn’t worrisome for most members of the front office. “[As an Assistant GM], you’re not in the line of fire.” Marks, who now writes for The Vertical, saw the Nets’ franchise change ownership four times in his 20 years with the club. He began his career as an intern with the franchise before working his way up to assistant GM.
  • The Warriors have struggled without Kevin Durant and if he can’t get back to 100%, the team will have trouble claiming the Western Conference, Marks tells Hoops Rumors. He added that the San Antonio could take advantage of Golden State’s woes, but cautions that the Spurs’ backcourt is their “Achilles heel.” Marks also added that San Antonio’s age showed in its playoff series with the Thunder last season.
  • One anonymous NBA executive told Hoops Rumors that he would rather have Timofey Mozgov‘s contract on his books than Joakim Noah‘s when asked to pick between the two. The executive believes both players will be back-ups on the latter halves of their respective contracts, adding that Mozgov may be better suited for that role. Mozgov signed a four-year, $64MM contract with the Lakers over the summer, while Noah signed a four-year, $72MM deal with the Knicks. Both players are out for the remainder of the season.
  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told a group of students and media members, including Hoops Rumors, that the best way to break into the sports industry is not a sports management degree. The Shark Tank Star recommended computer and data sciences, as those will be important areas in the future of the NBA.
  • During his panel with Nate Silver, Cuban dismissed the notion that referees have the hardest job in sports. “Have you ever seen a ref quit because it’s too hard,” Cuban exclaimed. “Has anyone said ‘I’m going to go back and be an accountant?'”  The league has fined Cuban nearly $2MM, much of which has been a result of criticizing referees, since he took ownership of the Mavericks.

Fantasy Hoops: Ulis, Rondo, Ingram

The fantasy playoffs are underway and Hoops Rumors wants to help you become your league’s champion. Didn’t make the playoffs? Don’t worry, we’ll help you find players who may be undervalued in daily fantasy. Here are some notes and analysis from around the league.

  • The Suns shut down Eric Bledsoe for the remainder of the season and the move creates a massive opportunity for Tyler Ulis. Since Bledsoe was sidelined, Ulis leads the league in minutes per game with 41.3. Over that four-game stretch, he’s fifth in the league in assists per game and he’s added 1.8 steals per contest. He’s available in nearly 50% of ESPN leagues and he faces a great matchup against the Nets on Thursday.
  • The Bulls recently shut down Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo has seen his fantasy value increase as a result. Over the past three games, Rondo saw 31.6 minutes per contest and he averaged 11.7 points, 7.3 assists, and 1.3 steals per game.
  • The Lakers shut down their two highest paid players earlier in the month. Brandon Ingram is starting to benefit from the team’s decision. The rookie has seen 38.5 minutes per contest over his last four games, which ranks sixth in the league. Over that stretch, he’s averaging 17.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals while shooting 51.9% from the field. He’s available in nearly 60% of ESPN leagues.
  • Ivica Zubac, who we discussed in last week’s edition of Fantasy Hoops, is available in over 80% of ESPN leagues. He’s seeing more playing time since the team shut down Timofey Mozgov. Over his last three games, the rookie is averaging 15.0 points and 7.0 rebounds in 28.3 minutes per game.
  • Keep an eye on the status on Jeremy Lin. He injured his ankle over the weekend and Spencer Dinwiddie started and played well in Lin’s place against the Pistons on Tuesday. On Thursday, the Nets will take on the Suns, a team that has given up the most points, the fourth-most assists and the second most steals to the point guard position over the last 10 games. If Lin suits up, both players could be risky plays, but if Lin is ruled out, Dinwiddie could have sneaky upside.
  • Check your waiver wire to see if Marvin Williams is available (as he is in 37% of ESPN leagues). The North Carolina product has seen his role on the Hornets grow recently. Since the All-Star break, he’s averaging 36.1 minutes per game, which is the 10th highest mark in the league over that stretch.

Fantasy questions? Take to the comment section below or tweet me at @CW_Crouse.

Statistics are current through Wednesday afternoon.

Nicolo Melli Drawing NBA Interest

Multiple NBA teams have interest in bringing power forward Nicolo Melli stateside, international journalist David Pick reports (Twitter link). The 26-year-old Melli has played the last two seasons for Brose Bamberg of the German BBL.

Melli worked out for several NBA teams, including the Pistons, Bucks, and Wolves, leading up to the 2013 draft. However, he went undrafted and returned to the Euroleague.

Melli had his best season during the 2016/17 campaign for Brose Bamberg. He averaged 11.7 points and 7.6 rebounds per game while shooting 50.9% from the field. He was named the Euroleague Round 11 MVP.

Joel Embiid To Undergo Surgery On Left Knee

6:20 PM: Embiid will have surgery on his left knee at some point over the next few days, the Sixers announced via its Twitter feed.

4:10 PM: After having been shut down for the season as a result of a knee injury, Joel Embiid is considered “very likely” to undergo surgery on that troublesome left knee, reports ESPN’s Marc Stein. The Sixers have yet to make an official announcement regarding Embiid.

Sources tell Stein that the Sixers have been “extensively exploring” treatment options for Embiid, who suffered a partially torn meniscus and a bone bruise in his left knee earlier this year. When Philadelphia announced three weeks ago that Embiid would miss the rest of the season the team indicated that it was working with “leading specialists” to determine the best course of action for the young center.

Assuming Embiid does go under the knife, a recovery timetable won’t be established until after the procedure, Stein notes. Presumably, the 23-year-old’s rehab timeline would put him on track to be ready for the 2017/18 regular season, but this offseason will be an interesting one for Embiid and the Sixers.

As I noted earlier this month, Embiid is one of several third-year players whose injury issues will complicate contract talks this offseason. The former No. 3 overall pick looked like a potential franchise cornerstone when he was healthy earlier this season, but he has appeared in just 31 games over the course of three NBA seasons. He’ll be extension-eligible for the first time as of July 1, and it will be interesting to see what sort of deal the 76ers are willing to put on the table. If Embiid isn’t extended this year, he’ll be eligible for restricted free agency in 2018.

Draft Updates: Bacon, Peak, Adel, Mika

Florida State forward Dwayne Bacon has decided to enter the 2017 NBA draft, he announced today on Twitter. Although Bacon didn’t explicitly state that he’ll hire an agent and forgo his remaining years of NCAA eligibility, the 21-year-old sophomore didn’t sound like a player who plans to return to school next year.

“This organization has been instrumental in my path and as I look to embark on my professional career, I will carry the many lessons learned,” Bacon said in a statement. “We are truly family here and I’d like to thank Coach Ham, Coach C.Y., Coach Jones, Coach Gates, and the entire faculty and coaching staff for a great two years.”

Assuming Bacon does remain in the draft, as expected, he looks like a possible second-round pick. ESPN and DraftExpress have him ranked 56th and 57th, respectively, on their big boards.

Here are a few more draft-related updates:

  • Georgetown’s L.J. Peak will forgo his senior season in college, according to Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com, who reports that the junior forward intends to sign with an agent. DraftExpress ranks Peak as the No. 76 prospect on its big board.
  • We heard earlier today that Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell will test the NBA draft waters, but he’s not the only Cardinal who will declare his intent. Sophomore forward Deng Adel and junior forward Jaylen Johnson will also test the draft waters without agents, Louisville coach Rick Pitino tells Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv (Twitter link). Mitchell is the most promising prospect of the three, though Adel ranks 34th on DraftExpress’ list of top sophomores.
  • BYU sophomore Eric Mika will enter the 2017 NBA draft, but won’t hire an agent, tweets Jon Rothstein of FanRag Sports. While the 6’10” Mika will have the opportunity to test the draft waters, he could withdraw his name before May’s deadline.
  • With the Sweet 16 set to get underway on Thursday, Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer identifies six under-the-radar NBA prospects to keep an eye on during this week’s NCAA games.

Serge Ibaka, Robin Lopez Get One-Game Suspensions

The NBA has suspended Raptors forward Serge Ibaka and Bulls center Robin Lopez one game apiece for their roles in Tuesday night’s on-court incident in Toronto, per a press release. Lopez will miss Chicago’s game tonight against the Pistons, while Ibaka will sit out the Raptors’ game on Thursday night in Miami.

During the third quarter of Tuesday night’s game between the Raptors and Bulls, Lopez and Ibaka got into an altercation that escalated into a near-fistfight. Both players threw punches, though Lopez missed hitting Ibaka, and Ibaka’s blow just grazed Lopez.

Although the fight could have been worse, it’s still a bit of a surprise that both players received just one-game bans. There was speculation that Ibaka could get a two- or three-game suspension and that Lopez could get an extra game on top of taht for throwing the first punch. Instead, both players received relatively light punishments, though they’ll lose a game’s worth of pay as they serve their respective suspensions.

Raptors assistant Jamaal Magloire was also penalized as a result of the altercation, having been fined $15K for pushing Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic, the league announced.

John Collins To Test 2017 NBA Draft Waters

Wake Forest power forward John Collins will test the NBA draft waters this spring. Evan Daniels of Scout.com reports (via Twitter) that Collins will enter the draft, but won’t sign with an agent, giving him the option of withdrawing his name before May’s deadline.

Collins, a sophomore, enjoyed a breakout year at Wake Forest, averaging an impressive 19.2 PPG and 9.8 RPG in just 26.6 minutes per contest. He also chipped in 1.6 BPG and shot 62.2% from the floor.

ESPN’s Chad Ford notes that Collins has an “old-school” game at power forward, excelling in the low post in addition to rebounding and blocking shots. However, the 19-year-old lacks an “advanced perimeter game,” prompting some scouts to wonder how his game will translate to the NBA, Ford writes. Collins shows up at 22nd on ESPN’s big boardDraftExpress is a little more bullish, placing him at No. 15.

Check out our full list of early entrants to see which other underclassmen are putting their names in the 2017 draft pool.

Warriors Optimistic Durant Can Return Before Playoffs

There is “cautious optimism” within the Warriors organization that Kevin Durant will be able to get back on the court before the end of the regular season, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein and Chris Haynes. There are no guarantees yet, but the club is encouraged by the progress Durant has made in his recovery, per the ESPN duo.

It has been three weeks since the Warriors announced Durant suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain and a tibial bone bruise. At the time, Golden State suggested that the star forward would be re-evaluated in four weeks with an update coming at that time, so that’s still a week away. Still, sources tell Stein and Haynes that Durant is about halfway through his rehabilitation, and it will now be important to see how he responds to increased intensity of that rehab work.

The Warriors lost five of seven games after losing Durant, but have rebounded since then, winning their last five. Although Golden State may not need Durant to lock up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, it would still be a great sign for his chances of making a major impact in the playoffs if he can get back on the court for at least a couple regular season contests in April.

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