2022 NBA Draft

And-Ones: Ignite, Key Dates, Two-Way Rules, NBA Africa

With Brian Shaw poised to join the Clippers as an assistant coach on Tyronn Lue‘s staff, the G League Ignite have a head coaching vacancy. And according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the program has identified a candidate to fill that vacancy.

USC associate head coach Jason Hart will be the new head coach of the G League Ignite, sources tell Wojnarowski.

Hart has been a member of the Trojans’ staff since 2013 and has been the club’s associate head coach for the last four seasons, having worked in recent years with players like Onyeka Okongwu and De’Anthony Melton. Hart is a former NBA player himself, appearing in 341 regular season games between 2000-10 for a total of nine teams.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • As expected, the NBA is officially implementing new rules to reduce the use of non-basketball moves to draw fouls, as Shams Charania of The Athletic details in a series of tweets.
  • The NBA has announced a series of key dates for the 2021/22 league year, including a regular season that will run from October 19 through April 10. The 2022 NBA draft will be held on June 23, as the league’s annual calendar gets back to normal.
  • Although players on two-way contracts will have a 50-game limit for next season, teams carrying 14 (or fewer) players on their roster will be limited to 90 total games for their pair of two-way players, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv (Twitter link). The rule, outlined in a memo from the NBA, sounds aimed at reducing the ability of teams to save money (and cap space) by leaning heavily on their two-way players while not carrying a 15th man.
  • Former U.S. president Barack Obama has joined NBA Africa as a strategic partner and a minority stakeholder. Marc J. Spears of ESPN has the story.
  • The NBA G League announced on Tuesday that the Santa Cruz Warriors have been named Franchise of the Year for 2020/21, while Erie BayHawks president Matt Bresee earned Team Executive of the Year honors.

Jean Montero Becomes First International Prospect To Join Overtime Elite

Jean Montero, a 17-year-old point guard from the Dominican Republic, is signing with Overtime Elite, becoming the first international player to join the new basketball league for top high school prospects, reports Jonathan Givony of ESPN.

As Givony explains, Montero – the No. 17 prospect on ESPN’s big board for the 2022 NBA draft – remains under contract with Gran Canaria, so he’ll be on loan from the Spanish team.

Montero, who debuted with the Dominican Republic’s senior national team last fall, played a little for Gran Canaria’s parent club in the EuroCup and ACB during the 2020/21 season. However, he saw more action for Gran Canaria II in Spain’s third division, averaging 18.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.4 APG, and 2.5 SPG in 24 games (29 MPG) for the team, per Givony.

In addition to being the first international prospect to commit to Overtime Elite, Montero is also the first non-twin to sign with the league. Previously, OTE secured commitments from two sets of twins — Matt and Ryan Bewley and Amen and Ausar Thompson.

We shared more details on the new Overtime Elite league in a pair of stories earlier this year.

Top 2022 French Prospect To Take NBL Route

French swingman Ousmane Dieng, who is considered one of the top prospects for the 2022 draft, will play for the New Zealand Breakers next season as part of the NBL’s Next Stars program, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports.

It’s the same route that Hornets guard LaMelo Ball took before being drafted in the lottery last season. Magic rookie R.J. Hampton, the 24th pick in last year’s draft, also used the Next Stars program as a springboard as well as Australian guard Josh Giddey, a potential 2021 lottery pick. Dieng is the first European prospect to make the jump to the Breakers.

The 6’9” Dieng is ranked No. 14 by ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givony for the 2022 draft. Givony views the 18-year-old as a superior passer who has shown versatility as a shot-maker and defender, Wojnarowski adds.

Dieng, who played for Parisian Academy INSEP in France’s third division, was heavily recruited by American college programs as well the NBA’s G League Ignite team. French, Australian, Lithuanian and Spanish teams — including Barcelona — were also bidding for Dieng’s services, Lithuanian journalist Donatas Urbonas tweets.

Draft Notes: G. Brown, Stewart, Mikhailovskii, Hollatz, More

Texas forward Greg Brown is going pro after a single college season, announcing on Instagram that he has decided to enter the 2021 NBA draft and has signed with BDA Sports for representation.

Brown put up relatively modest numbers as a freshman for the Longhorns in 2020/21, averaging 9.3 points and 6.2 rebounds in 26 games (20.6 MPG). However, his athleticism and his long-term upside make him an intriguing prospect — ESPN ranks him at No. 29 on its big board for 2021.

Here are several more draft-related notes and updates:

  • After initially testing the draft waters, Mississippi State sophomore wing D.J. Stewart has decided to hire an agent and remain in the draft, according to Paul Jones of Gene’s Page. Stewart comes in at No. 86 on ESPN’s top-100 list.
  • Russian wing Nikita Mikhailovskii, who sneaks onto ESPN’s big board at No. 94, is entering the draft, agent Arturs Kalnitis tells Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link). The 20-year-old averaged 8.5 PPG on .468/.418/.811 shooting in 24 games (18.3 MPG) for BC Avtodor this season.
  • German guard Justus Hollatz has also declared for the draft, according to agent Dragan Jankovski of BeoBasket (Twitter link). Hollatz currently plays for the Hamburg Towers in Germany.
  • Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report passes along some of the latest buzz he has heard on this year’s draft-eligible prospects, identifying Joshua Primo and JT Thor as potential risers on NBA teams’ boards.
  • Looking ahead to the 2022 NBA draft, Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Insider link) provides his impressions of some of the top prospects who participated in the Iverson Classic over the weekend, including Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero.

And-Ones: Referees, Play-In Tourney, Iverson Classic

While the NBA and its players’ union have provided weekly updates on the number of positive COVID-19 tests among players, we haven’t heard much about how the league’s referees – who travel commercially – have been affected by the coronavirus this season. Baxter Holmes of ESPN fills in some blanks, reporting that 10 of the NBA’s referees are currently sidelined, primarily due to COVID-related issues, and adding that 24 refs have missed at least one game this season due to the league’s health and safety protocols.

A league spokesperson tells Holmes that most of the current absences are related to contact tracing and that the NBA expects all 10 affected referees to be available for the start of the postseason next month.

In the interim, however, the league has had to “call up” six referees from the G League. According to Holmes, a number of teams and executives around the NBA have complained about the performance of those refs, prompting NBA VP of referee development and training Monty McCutchen to defend their performances.

“These were our top six G League officials who would have been getting some NBA games anyway this year. They had to be pressed into some more service, but they are knocking on the door to being staff members,” McCutchen told ESPN. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, let’s just call any random G League (official) because they live in Portland and we’ll pull them up that night.’ They had already reached levels of excellence that meant they were ready for this.”

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • NBA executives believe that flattening the lottery odds and introducing the play-in tournament has helped reduce league-wide tanking among non-playoff teams, according to Howard Beck of SI.com, who says that league sources think the play-in tournament will be adopted on a permanent basis beyond this season.
  • The Iverson Classic All-American Game, which will take place on May 8 in Memphis, has received NBA approval as a certified event, meaning team scouts can attend and evaluate prospects, reports Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link). Top 2022 prospects such as Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren headline the list of participants.
  • A little over five months after the 2020 draft took place, Sam Vecenie, John Hollinger, of James L. Edwards III of The Athletic completed a re-draft of the ’20 class. Among the big risers in The Athletic’s re-draft are LaMelo Ball (No. 3 to No. 1), Tyrese Haliburton (No. 12 to No. 5), Isaiah Stewart (No. 16 to No. 7), Aleksej Pokusevski (No. 17 to No. 7), and Jaden McDaniels (No. 28 to No. 10).

China’s Top Prospect To Join Ignite

China’s top prospect, Fanbo Zeng, has opted to join the G League’s Ignite team, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reports.

Zeng, an 18-year-old 6’10” forward, originally committed to national championship runner-up Gonzaga. He’ll now pursue his NBA dream in the Ignite program, which was designed for top prospects that didn’t want to go the one-and-done route in college.

Zeng, who will be eligible for the 2022 draft, is no stranger to the U.S. He played for Windermere (Fla.) Prep from 2018-20 after moving from China the previous year and was ranked as a four-star prospect.

He was recruited to the Zags by assistant coach Tommy Lloyd, who left Gonzaga to become Arizona’s head coach.

Zeng is the second highly-regarded forward to commit to the Ignite for next season. Five-star recruit Michael Foster Jr. signed with the Ignite on Friday.

The inaugural Ignite featured Jonathan Kuminga and Jalen Green, two of the top five prospects in this year’s NBA draft. However, The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie said in Charania’s story that Zeng is more of a “long-term project” than a surefire first-rounder next year.

And-Ones: Wright-Foreman, B. Johnson, Canada, Banchero

A pair of former NBA players who were on two-way contracts during the 2019/20 season have signed new contracts overseas.

Point guard Justin Wright-Foreman, the 53rd overall pick in the 2019 draft, has joined Chorale Roanne Basket in France for the remainder of the season, the team said in a press release. Wright-Foreman spent all of ’19/20 on a two-way deal with the Jazz, but appeared in just four games and wasn’t retained in the fall. He played for the Erie BayHawks in the G League bubble this winter.

Meanwhile, small forward B.J. Johnson, who appeared in 10 games last season while on a two-way contract with Orlando, has inked a rest-of-season contract with the Brisbane Bullets, the Australian team announced. Like Wright-Foreman, Johnson hasn’t played in the NBA at all in 2020/21, but participated in the NBAGL bubble, averaging 18.4 PPG and 5.6 RPG in 14 games (31.1 MPG) for the Long Island Nets.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

And-Ones: Holmgren, Travel, Mirotic, Giddey

Seven-foot center Chet Holmgren, the top player in this year’s high school recruiting class and a candidate to be the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA draft, has committed to Gonzaga, as Jeff Goodman of Stadium tweets.

While Jalen Suggs and Corey Kispert, among other Zags, appear headed to the NBA, the addition of Holmgrem and the possible return of players like Drew Timme and Andrew Nembhard should make Gonzaga a powerhouse again next season, Goodman notes.

When ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz completed their first 2022 mock draft in December, they wrote that Holmgren is “in a class of his own” and “checks every box” teams want in a top pick. The young center is considered an ideal big man, possessing the ability to block shots, knock down three-pointers, and even handle the ball. He’ll look to cement his place as next year’s first overall pick in his freshman year at Gonzaga.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • The NBA sent a memo to teams announcing that it will eliminate restrictions on international travel for fully vaccinated individuals, reports ESPN’s Givony. Scouts and executives have been prohibited from making international scouting trips all season long, but many will now have the opportunity to do so before the July 29 draft.
  • Speaking of international players, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype polled 15 NBA talent evaluators about the best players currently in leagues around the world. Former NBA forward Nikola Mirotic topped the list, with potential 2021 lottery pick Josh Giddey of the Adelaide 36ers coming in second.
  • Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report examines the impact the compressed schedule and the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols have had on players and coaches, touching on many of the same points that Baxter Holmes of ESPN did last week.

New League To Compete With NCAA, G League For Players

Overtime Elite, a newly-formed basketball league, will compete with college teams and the NBA G League for the services of top high school players, Kevin Draper of The New York Times reports.

Sports media company Overtime will seek to stock its league with approximately 30 players, some as young as 16 years old, by offering a minimum of $100K. Participants could also receive signing bonuses as well as shares in Overtime’s larger business.

The company will provide health and disability insurance, as well as an additional $100K in college scholarship money for players who choose not to play professionally. Anyone who joins the league would forfeit their eligibility to play high school or college basketball.

Last year, the G League became a stronger competitor to the NCAA for the projected one-and-done players coming out of high school. The league formed the Ignite Team, comprised mainly of top prospects, with financial enticements of $500K or more per player.

The new Overtime Elite will be located in one unnamed city, where players will live and train together. An educational support staff will assist in helping the players receive their diplomas.

The basketball operations division will be headed by former 76ers and Kings executive Brandon Williams. Aaron Ryan, who previously worked in the NBA league office, will serve as the league’s commissioner.

And-Ones: McDonald’s Game Rosters, Cooper, Suggs, More

While the game itself won’t be played this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, McDonald’s formally announced its ceremonial rosters this week for the annual All American Game, a showcase of the nation’s top high school players.

The 24-player boys squad is headlined by a number of prospects who are expected to be lottery selections in the 2022 NBA draft, including Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero, and Jabari Smith, whom ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz had as the top three picks in their first ’22 mock draft in December.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Auburn point guard Sharife Cooper, the No. 9 ranked prospect on ESPN’s big board for the 2021 NBA draft, may have played his last game for the Tigers, writes Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com. Cooper is in a walking boot after suffering an ankle injury, and ESPN’s Jimmy Dykes said during Tuesday’s Auburn/Florida broadcast that he’d be surprised if Cooper returns this season. “We will see how the week progresses. We never rush guys back,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “He is working to try and get back, but we just don’t know.”
  • NBA teams picking in the top half of the 2021 lottery will have to determine whether Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs – who is the third-leading scorer for the Bulldogs this season – is capable of becoming a primary option at the next level or if he projects to be a star role player, writes Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer. Suggs is the No. 4 prospect on ESPN’s 2021 big board.
  • Johnathan Williams, who recently parted ways with Turkish team Galatasaray, didn’t take long to find a new home, having signed with Niners Chemnitz in Germany for the rest of the season, according to the club. Williams, a 6’9″ forward/center, spent time with the Lakers in 2018/19 and the Wizards in ’19/20, averaging 5.2 PPG and 4.2 RPG in 39 total NBA games.
  • Former first-round pick Jared Sullinger, who hasn’t played professionally since 2019 and hasn’t been in the NBA since 2017, has reportedly agreed to a deal with Anyang KGC in South Korea, as Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays. Sullinger spoke last month about his goal of making it back to the NBA.