2021 NBA Draft

Draft Notes: Cisse, Kuminga, West, International

Forward Moussa Cisse, a top-10 prospect for the class of 2021, will graduate high school a year early and reclassify to this year with an eye toward the 2021 draft, Jonathan Givony of ESPN reports. Cisse was ranked No. 8 among prospects for the 2021 class. The 6’11” Cisse intends to commit to a top college program next week and has narrowed his choices to Kentucky, LSU, Florida State, Georgia, Memphis or Georgetown. “I am trying to find the best way to the NBA,” Cisse said.

We have more draft-related news:

  • Small forward Jonathan Kuminga, the top-ranked player on ESPN’s 2021 prospects list, has the option of reclassifying to this year and is considering the G League, according to Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog.com. Kuminga is “50-50” on reclassifying, but has already narrowed his college choices to Auburn, Duke, Kentucky and Texas Tech, along with the possibility of joining the G League development program. Kuminga has been doing online schoolwork in order to graduate early, Zagoria adds.
  • Marshall guard Jarrod West has elected to withdraw from the draft and return to school for his senior season, Jeff Goodman of Stadium tweets. A three-year starter with the Thundering Herd, West averaged 14.2 PPG, 4.1 APG, and 4.0 RPG last season.
  • Killian Hayes, Deni Avdija and Abdoulaye N’Doye rank as the top international prospects in this year’s draft, according to Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoops Hype. Players who participated in the Australian NBL’s Next Stars program this past season were not included in the rankings. According to ESPN’s latest rankings, Avdija is the top overseas prospect at No. 5 overall with Hayes ranked at No. 9.

Draft Notes: Smart, Mack, Yurtseven, 2021 Draft

As we outlined on Monday morning, this year’s deadline for early entrants to declare for the 2020 NBA draft fell on Sunday night, meaning the league will soon be officially releasing its initial list of early entrants.

As we await that list, we’re still seeing a few more updates trickling in, so we’ll pass along a couple of those in the space below — and take an early look at how this year’s early entry list will impact the 2021 draft class…

  • LSU sophomore guard Javonte Smart has declared for the draft while maintaining his college eligibility, he announced on Instagram. Smart, who presumably submitted his paperwork by Sunday night, averaged 12.5 PPG, 4.2 APG, and 3.5 RPG on .415/.326/.814 shooting in 31 games (34.2 MPG) for the Tigers.
  • Sophomore guard Cam Mack, who previously said he was entering the draft, announced on Twitter that he has changed course and has instead decided to transfer. Mack averaged 12.0 PPG and 6.4 APG in 28 games for Nebraska in 2019/20, but won’t be returning to the Cornhuskers, who suspended him indefinitely near the end of the season.
  • Georgetown big man Omer Yurtseven will enter the draft and won’t return to college, Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports tweets. Born in Turkey, Yurtseven averaged 15.5 PPG and 9.8 RPG in 26 games with the Hoyas. The 7-footer also played two seasons with North Carolina State.
  • ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Insider link) has updated his 2021 mock draft, removing players who have declared for the 2020 draft and listing Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green as the current favorites to go first and second overall. Both Cunningham and Green would likely be No. 1 on big boards in 2020 if they were eligible to be drafted this year, Givony adds.

G League Development Program Revamped, Includes $500K Salaries

The NBA and G League development program for top high school prospects has been restructured, including salaries and incentives of $500K or more, as well as playing exhibitions rather than regular G League contests, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Adrian Wojnarowski report. Previously, the program offered prospects a $125K salary.

The revamped program helped entice ESPN’s No. 1 high school prospect, Jalen Green, to commit to the G League rather than sign with a college team.

The updated one-year development program will be conducted outside of the G League’s traditional team structure, according to the ESPN duo. Rather than playing regular-season games for a G League affiliate, these top prospects would join some veteran players for exhibition games against G League teams, foreign national teams and NBA academies throughout the world. The exhibitions against G League teams, approximately 10-12 games, wouldn’t count in the standings.

Additionally, the salary bonus structure in a player’s contract will likely include incentives for completing community events and attending life skills program coordinated by the G League, sources tell ESPN.

Previously, top prospects and their advisers had concerns about losing their draft value by being overmatched on G League rosters against more experienced and physically mature players.

The veteran pro players on the team could mentor Green and other prospects while potentially benefiting their own careers. Former NBA coach Sam Mitchell is expected to be a candidate to coach the team, according to the ESPN story.

G League president Shareef Abdur-Rahim believes the updated program will be much more appealing to prospects than going overseas for a year. LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton, two of the top prep players last year, chose to play in the Australian league.

“We have kids leaving the United States — Texas and California and Georgia — to go around the world to play, and our NBA community has to travel there to scout them. That’s counter-intuitive,” Abdur-Rahim said. “The NBA is the best development system in the world, and those players shouldn’t have to go somewhere else to develop for a year. They should be in our development system.”

The NBA’s negotiations with the NBPA about eliminating the one-and-done rule for the draft remain stalled, per Woj and Givony, so the G League’s program provides a new bridge to the league for players who aren’t interested in going the college route. For now, those players – such as Green – will still become draft-eligible once they’re a year removed from high school.

Top Prep Prospect Jalen Green Headed To G League

12:58pm: Green has officially committed to participating in the G League program, according to an NBAGL press release relayed by Liz Mullen (Twitter link). Todd has also committed to the G League program, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

10:38am: Jalen Green, the top-rated prospect in this year’s high school class, intends to play in the G League next season, Jonathan Givony of ESPN tweets.

Green will make a formal announcement on Thursday regarding his plans but he’s already informing his college suitors that he’ll enter the G League’s professional pathway program, Givony adds.

[RELATED: New details on G League’s revamped development program]

Green is the first prominent high school player to select the G League, rather than being a one-and-done college player or playing overseas until he’s eligible for the draft. As G League expert Adam Johnson notes, the decision represents a huge coup for the league after all of last year’s high school prospects passed up on the chance to play in the NBA’s developmental program (Twitter link).

Green is a 6’5” shooting guard from Fresno, CA who had a laundry list of suitors. He took official visits to Oregon, Kentucky, Auburn and Memphis.

According to ESPN’s prospect evaluation, Green “is a scoring and play-making guard who is only just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential.” Green played for USA Basketball in the FIBA U17 and U19 World Championships in 2018 and 2019 and won gold medals.

With all the uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic, the option of playing in the G League is becoming increasingly attractive to high school prospects, according to Evan Daniels of 247 Sports. Going overseas is much less attractive due to the pandemic and there’s no way of knowing if and when the college season will be played.

When the G League professional pathway program was announced in the fall of 2018, prospects were to be paid up to $125K. The league is now willing to go higher than that, Daniels adds.

Another major prospect, power forward Isaiah Todd, is also seriously considering the G League, Daniels adds. Todd is ranked No. 13 by ESPN.

And-Ones: Dante, Hampton, 2021 Draft, Grant

Oregon big man N’Faly Dante has been informed that he’ll be ineligible to play at the start of the 2019/20 season because the NCAA missed his clearance date, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. In a statement, the five-star recruit that he has completed the academic requirements and intends to re-enroll to Oregon on December 14 in the hopes of being cleared to play.

Charania refers to Dante as a potential lottery pick in 2020, and NBADraft.net has him ranked 13th overall in the site’s latest mock draft. His name doesn’t show up at all in ESPN’s most recent 2020 mock, but it’s possible that will change if he gets his eligibility issues sorted out.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • R.J. Hampton, a projected 2020 lottery pick, said he had “a lot of room for growth” after his New Zealand Breakers played exhibition games against the Grizzlies and Thunder last week. According to ESPN’s Royce Young, there were nearly 60 NBA scouts and executives in attendance at the game in Oklahoma City.
  • ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz (Insider link) have already unveiled their first mock draft for 2021, with point guard Cade Cunningham in the No. 1 spot.
  • With the Qingdao Eagles signing American-born guard Darius Adams, the Chinese club is apparently parting ways with another one of its U.S. players. According to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando (via Twitter), former Knicks, Bulls, and Magic point guard Jerian Grant is the odd man out for Qingdao and will be released. Carchia initially reported last month that the Eagles were considering waiving Grant.

And-Ones: Pasecniks, Beauchamp, Motiejunas

The No. 25 overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft, Anzejs Pasecniks had his rights renounced by the Sixers earlier this offseason, then joined the Wizards for Summer League action in July. Pasecniks averaged just 4.0 PPG on 28.6% shooting in four games (12.5 MPG), though he did chip in 5.3 RPG.

Despite his modest Summer League numbers, Pasecniks suggests that he’s receiving NBA interest, as Bruno Perkons of Sportazinas.com relays (hat tip to Sportando).

I don’t have a contract at the moment and am a free agent, but let’s just say the negotiations are mostly with NBA teams,” Pasecniks said.

Acquired by Philadelphia from Orlando in a draft-night trade in 2017, Pasecniks remained overseas for the last two seasons, playing for Gran Canaria in Spain. He has yet to sign an NBA contract, so we’ll see if that changes before the 2019/20 season gets underway.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • A top-30 high school recruit, MarJon Beauchamp plans to forgo college and will instead go through a year-long training program with Chameleon BX to prepare for the 2021 NBA draft, writes Jeff Borzello of ESPN.com. Beauchamp was ranked as the fifth-best small forward in the 2020 recruiting class, Borzell notes. A press release from Chameleon BX provides more information on Beauchamp’s decision.
  • After finishing the 2018/19 season with the Spurs, veteran power forward Donatas Motiejunas is headed back overseas for the 2019/20 campaign. Motiejunas recently signed a contract with the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association, tweets journalist Zhang Duo (hat tip to Nicola Lupo of Sportando). The Lithuanian big man previously spent two seasons with China’s Shandong Golden Stars.
  • In an interesting story for ESPN.com, Jackie MacMullan explored how head coaches like Kenny Atkinson (Nets) and Doc Rivers (Clippers) found out about – and reacted to – their teams signing star free agents this offseason. MacMullan also examined the other side of the coin, talking to Nick Nurse (Raptors) and Steve Kerr (Warriors) about losing their stars.
  • The NBA G League released its list of 50 invitees for this year’s NBAGL Player Invitational. The group of undrafted rookies and veteran free agents will get the opportunity to showcase their skills at the event in the hopes of securing a G League roster spot for the 2019/20 season.

NBA: No Major Draft Eligibility Changes Before 2022

The NBA has informed its teams that there will be no changes to the league’s draft eligibility rules to allow players to enter the draft right out of high school until at least 2022, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

Currently, players must be at least 19 years old and must be at least one year removed from high school before they’re eligible to enter the NBA draft, which results in most top prospects attending college for one year before going pro.

Way back in November of 2017, we heard the NBA and the players’ union were discussing the possibility of adjusting draft eligibility rules with an eye toward eliminating that one-and-done path. The Commission on College Basketball subsequently issued a report this past April recommending that the one-and-done rule be altered or eliminated. While that appears likely to happen at some point, a July report indicated it wouldn’t occur until at least 2021 — now we know we’ll have to wait at least one additional year beyond that.

If and when the NBA opens the door for players to enter the draft out of high school, that draft year figures to be flooded with top prospects. For instance, if it happens in 2022, the top high school grads of that year would join that season’s top college freshman in the ’22 draft class. As such, the league would prefer to give teams plenty of notice for when it will happen.

With the league’s draft eligibility rules expected to remain unchanged until at least 2022, the NBA G League is set to offer top high school prospects an alternative to the usual one-and-done route in the NCAA. As we relayed earlier today, “select contracts” worth $125K – well over the standard $35K G League salary – will be available starting in 2019 for elite prospects who aren’t yet draft-eligible.