Month: March 2024

Draft Decisions: A. Jackson, Edey, Beekman, More

Andre Jackson Jr., who helped lead Connecticut to a national title, has opted to keep his name in the draft rather than return to the Huskies for another season, writes ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Jackson is projected to be taken late in the first round or early in the second round, Wojnarowski adds. The junior shooting guard ranks 32nd on ESPN’s big board and is projected to go to the Pacers with the 32nd pick in the latest mock draft by Jonathan Givony of ESPN.

“My time at UCONN has been filled with ups and downs but through it all I built relationships with my teammates, coaches, friends and fans that will last forever,” Jackson wrote in a Twitter post. “I’ve made so many memories playing in that jersey and I will miss it. But I’ll always be a husky. Thank you.”

Jackson averaged 6.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.3 steals in six tournament games and was believed to have raised his draft stock significantly, although questions remain about his outside shooting. He took part in the draft combine and went through individual workouts with several teams, including the Hawks, Celtics, Nets, Pacers and Trail Blazers, according to Wojnarowski.

Dozens of draft decisions were announced Wednesday ahead of the 11:59 pm EDT deadline to return to school without losing eligibility. Most late deciders opted to pull out of the draft, but a few prominent names will remain in the pool. They are:

National Player of the Year Zach Edey will withdraw from the draft and return to Purdue for another year, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN. The 7’4″ center averaged 22.9 points and 12.9 rebounds as a junior while shooting 60.7% from the field. Even so, his draft status wasn’t certain as he’s No. 47 in the ESPN rankings.

Another prominent player pulling out of the draft is Virginia’s Reece Beekman, the ACC’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Givony reports. Beekman hopes to boost his draft stock for 2024 after coming in at 43rd in ESPN’s rankings. “I’ve decided to go back to UVA to work towards being a first-round draft pick next year and finish my degree,” he said.

Here are some more players who decided late Wednesday to take their names out of the draft:

Nuggets Notes: Layoff, Jokic, Porter, Roster Construction

The Nuggets are eager to get back to action after a long layoff, writes Parker Gabriel of The Denver Post. Denver’s sweep of the Lakers wrapped up on May 22, so by the time Game 1 of the Finals tips off Thursday night, the team will have gone 10 days without playing. The break provided some welcome rest for the players, but it might have lasted too long.

“I told my wife when Boston won Game 6, it almost felt like – we’d been sitting so long, it almost felt like we weren’t in the playoffs anymore because the only thing we were doing was watching them,” Jeff Green said. “But I watched two good teams battle and when they won, it was like, ‘Now it’s time to refocus.’ The time off, I think it helped in many ways. It allowed us to regroup, touch up on some things, better ourselves. I enjoyed that series. They showed me some things on both ends. I’m looking forward to this matchup.”

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said the Nuggets were focusing their preparation on Miami after the Heat took a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals. More Celtics work was mixed in as Boston rallied to tie the series.

“We’ve been sitting for a long time, we’re going to be a little jittery and anxious to play,” Caldwell-Pope said. “Just try to keep them calm. The first couple possessions are going to be a lot, even for myself. I’ll be feeling anxious, even right now.”

There’s more from Denver:

  • Coach Michael Malone says Nikola Jokic has many of the “selfless superstar” qualities that Tim Duncan exhibited with the Spurs (video link). Even though Jokic has become one of the league’s best players, Malone said he’s never lost focus on helping his teammates and doing whatever is necessary to win.
  • Michael Porter Jr. overcame three back surgeries to reach the NBA Finals, notes Mirin Fader of The Ringer. With his athleticism reduced by the repeated injuries, Porter focused on adding things to his game and has become an improved rebounder, defender and three-point shooter. “There was a lot of sad feelings and there was a lot of really, honestly, depression and anxiety, not knowing if you’re able to fulfill what you thought for your life,” Porter said about last year’s recovery process.
  • Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports takes a look at how the Nuggets’ roster was built, including the 2021 Aaron Gordon trade that meant saying goodbye to Gary Harris, a long-time cornerstone of the franchise.

Pistons Notes: Walker, Miller, Williams, Draft Pick Trades

Houston’s Jarace Walker appears to be the most likely draft choice for the Pistons, but the possibility of Alabama’s Brandon Miller sliding to No. 5 shouldn’t be dismissed, Mike Curtis of The Detroit News writes in a mailbag column. Miller is currently expected to be taken second or third, but unanswered questions about his connection to a fatal shooting in January continue to hang over him. He reportedly brought a legal brief from his attorneys to the draft combine that explained why he couldn’t go into detail about the case.

If the Hornets opt for Scoot Henderson at No. 2, Curtis views the Trail Blazers‘ pick as unpredictable due to rumors that they’re seeking to trade it for veteran help. The Rockets would also have to pass on Miller at No. 4, and while Curtis admits the scenario seems unlikely, he says it’s possible that Miller could continue to slip if teams are concerned about his legal issues.

If Detroit does wind up with Walker, Curtis sees it as a smooth fit for an organization that hopes to rebuild around defense. Walker is considered one of the strongest front court defenders in the draft, and he’s versatile enough to handle either forward position and maybe even see time as a small-ball center. Curtis notes that Walker has exhibited some promise as a play-maker as well.

There’s more from Detroit:

  • A report earlier today indicated that the Pistons are willing to give Monty Williams $10MM per year to become their next head coach, and Marc Stein states in an email that the offers he has heard are $50MM over five years or $60MM over six years. Stein adds that owner Tom Gores‘ recent meetings with finalists Charles Lee and Kevin Ollie came after Williams turned down the team’s first offer. The Pistons view Williams as a perfect choice to establish the culture for a young roster, according to Stein.
  • There’s a wide variance in opinions on prospects after the top three, so the Pistons’ best move might be to trade back and pick up more draft assets, state James L. Edwards III and John Hollinger of The Athletic. The authors view the Thunder, Jazz and Wizards as teams that might have interest in moving up to No. 5.
  • Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press (subscription required) also considers possible trades with the fifth pick, suggesting that it might be used in a package to get Jaylen Brown from the Celtics or Dejounte Murray from the Hawks.

Heat Notes: Herro, Butler, Love, Vincent

Heat guard Tyler Herro may return at some point during the NBA Finals, but he has been officially ruled out for Thursday’s Game 1, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Herro has been sidelined since breaking two fingers in his right hand in Miami’s playoff opener on April 16. He underwent surgery five days later and has said that he’s targeting Game 3 next Wednesday as a possible return date.

Coach Erik Spoelstra explained that Herro still hasn’t participated in any contact drills, which are required before he can be cleared to return.

“He’s still just starting this process,” Spoelstra said. “We have a few days here to continue his work. I can’t make any proclamation until he makes these next important steps of contact and doing more on the court live. We’re all encouraged by his progress but still want to continue to be responsible and make the best decisions.”

There’s more on the Heat:

  • Jimmy Butler is very happy to be in Miami, calling his situation “a match made in heaven,” per Jackson. He credits Heat legend Dwyane Wade for encouraging him to join the franchise earlier in his career. “I’m not perfect, but I’m me,” Butler said. “My style of leadership works here. More than anything I have to give a shout out to D-Wade. He always told me this culture fits who I am and how I go about things. … I love it here and I hope to be here.”
  • Neither Kevin Love nor Cody Zeller played in Game 7 against Boston, but Spoelstra may need to use both big men while trying to match up with Denver’s Nikola Jokic, Jackson adds. Love said he didn’t object to Spoelstra’s decision to replace him in the starting lineup during the last two games of the Eastern Conference Finals. “It made perfect sense to me, honestly,” Love said. “I was eager and wanted to play and kept myself ready. But those matchups, how they took Robert Williams out of the starting lineup and decided to go small, that’s … how it works in the playoffs. I felt I made my impact in two games and maybe one quarter.”
  • Gabe Vincent talks to Sean Cunningham of KTXL about making his second trip to the NBA Finals and getting the opportunity to play this time (Twitter link).

Draft Decisions: Tshiebwe, Phillips, Brown, More

In one of this year’s most anticipated decisions, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe announced that he will keep his name in the NBA draft pool, tweets Jeff Goodman of Stadium.

Tshiebwe was selected as the national player of the year in 2022 after averaging 17.4 points and 15.1 rebounds per game as a junior, and he was an All-American again this season with 16.5 PPG and 13.7 RPG. Despite his lofty college status, Tshiebwe isn’t a sure thing to get drafted, ranking 75th on ESPN’s big board.

“What makes me decide what I’m going to do today is not about me,” Tshiebwe said in his press conference, per Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. “Most of the time I pray and I follow the discernment of God. It’s just I am following what God has put in place, because the decision, if you feel peace and joy and happiness in your heart, that’s what you’ve got to go with.”

A few more high-profile players have decided to remain in the draft ahead of the 11:59 pm EDT deadline to withdraw and retain their NCAA eligibility. Among them are Tennessee’s Julian Phillips, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link). The freshman small forward has gotten positive feedback from NBA teams during the pre-draft process, Givony adds. Phillips, 19, is listed at 34th on ESPN’s rankings, making him a potential late first-round pick.

Also staying in the draft is Kobe Brown of Missouri, tweets Matt Norlander of CBS Sports. Norlander considers the senior power forward a possible second-round pick, and ESPN has him listed at No. 46.

Baylor’s Adam Flagler, who has one year of eligibility remaining, has decided to remain in the draft as well, Goodman tweets. The shooting guard is listed as No. 80 by ESPN.

Among those deciding to withdraw from the draft, today’s most significant decisions involved Florida Atlantic guards Johnell Davis and Alijah Martin, who helped the Owls reach the Final Four in March, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. He projects that their return will make FAU a preseason top-five team for next season.

According to Woj, Martin worked out for the Mavericks, Celtics, Bulls and Clippers, while Davis had sessions with the Celtics, Kings, Bucks, Jazz, Sixers and Pacers.

Here are a few more early entrants who have decided to return to school:

2023 NBA Offseason Preview: Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies were an ascendant team entering the 2022/23 season, having steadily increased their winning percentage from .268 to .683 over the course of the previous five years. Coming off a 56-win showing and their first playoff series win since 2015, the young club was looking to avoid regression and take another step toward title contention.

Memphis did win 51 games in ’22/23, the second-highest total in the Western Conference, but you might be hard-pressed to find many NBA observers willing to call the team’s season a success.

Franchise player Ja Morant, who signed a five-year, maximum-salary extension last summer, began to make more headlines for his troubling behavior off the court than his highlight-reel plays on it, culminating in an eight-game suspension after he flashed a gun at a Colorado strip club during an Instagram Live stream.

Dillon Brooks, whose fiery playing style and penchant for talking trash had come to epitomize the brash attitude of the young Grizzlies, earned a spot on the All-Defensive Second Team. However, his offensive game declined; he earned multiple suspensions for technical and flagrant fouls; and he chose the wrong moments to needle opposing players.

The Grizzlies were quickly eliminated from the playoffs in the first round by the seventh-seeded Lakers, with LeBron James responding to Brooks’ barbs after a Game 2 Memphis win by leading L.A. to three wins in the next four games, including a 40-point trouncing in a decisive Game 6.

Since the Grizzlies’ season ended, Morant has been indefinitely suspended again following another problematic Instagram Live video, while one report indicated that Brooks won’t be re-signed “under any circumstances.” In Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr., the franchise still has a pair of core players untouched by controversy, but Morant’s off-court actions and Brooks’ impending departure create significant uncertainty for the team heading into an important summer.

The Grizzlies’ Offseason Plan

With 13 players on guaranteed contracts for 2023/24, the Grizzlies likely won’t be looking to overhaul their roster or make major changes to their core. But roster tweaks are coming, and Memphis will have work to do with a pair of its cornerstone players – Bane and Morant – this summer.

Let’s start with Bane, who will be eligible for a rookie scale extension beginning on July 1, the week after he turns 25. Bane has made 42.5% of his three-pointers since entering the NBA and has continued to improve as an all-around scorer and distributor, averaging a career-best 21.5 PPG and 4.4 APG this past season. He’s not an elite defender, but he’s no slouch on that end of the floor either, having taken on challenging perimeter assignments when Brooks missed games.

After players like Tyler Herro and Jordan Poole signed rookie scale extensions worth at least $30MM annually last offseason, it’s safe to assume Bane will at least match – and almost certainly exceed – their deals. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Grizzlies put a maximum-salary offer on the table. Memphis isn’t a traditional free agent destination, so the team has to take care of the players it spends years developing, and there’s probably no need to nickel-and-dime one of the club’s rising stars when there are so many question marks surrounding another one.

While the Grizzlies’ offseason business with Bane is standard basketball fare, their approach with Morant will be trickier to map out. As disappointed as the team must be to watch the former No. 2 overall pick make bad decisions off the court, he’s under contract for the next five seasons and remains a major part of Memphis’ future.

The franchise has to hope that the series of incidents within the last year will serve as a wake-up call for the All-Star guard and offer him all the tools and guidance he may need to keep on the straight and narrow. Morant hasn’t faced any criminal charges, so if he avoids trouble going forward, there’s no reason he can’t put the last year behind him and enjoy a long, successful NBA career.

Even with so many players locked in for next season and optimism that the trio of Morant, Bane, and Jackson can continue to get better, the Grizzlies will need to address certain areas of the roster, starting with the hole in the rotation that Brooks’ imminent departure will create.

Brooks’ questionable shot selection and inability to consistently make those shots hurt Memphis’ offense, but he’s a strong, physical defender whose willingness to match up with an opponent’s top perimeter scorer each and every night took the pressure off players like Morant and Bane. It’s virtually impossible to find someone on the free agent market who can play that kind of defense and be a positive on offense for $12.2MM, which is the projected value of the Grizzlies’ mid-level exception (Brooks made $11.4MM last season).

In recent years, the Grizzlies have put their faith in the front office’s ability to draft and develop young players, letting non-core veterans walk in free agency or trading them once they get a bit too expensive for the team’s liking. It will be interesting to see if the team adjusts that philosophy at all this summer after losing Kyle Anderson and De’Anthony Melton a year ago.

If they’re willing to more actively pursue veteran help, the Grizzlies are in position to head to the trade market to seek out an upgrade on Brooks. Armed with all of their own future first-round draft picks, the Warriors’ 2024 first-rounder, and a collection of inexpensive young players, Memphis has the assets to make a play for a higher-end wing such as OG Anunoby.

It actually sounds like the Grizzlies actually attempted that sort of move at the trade deadline, with one report indicating they offered four first-round picks for Mikal Bridges. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough in February and the price for Bridges – if the Nets are even willing to listen – has likely only increased since then.

Still, Brooklyn would be a team worth calling, since a wing like Dorian Finney-Smith or Royce O’Neale could slot nicely into that Brooks’ starting spot. A sign-and-trade for Cameron Johnson would also be worth exploring, though Memphis would likely need to pay a significant price (in terms of both salary and trade assets) to pry him away from the Nets.

The Grizzlies have done a great job in the last five years building a lottery team into a legitimate contender, and if not for the Morant controversy and injuries to Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke this spring, perhaps they would have made a deeper postseason run. But with Brooks departing, Clarke likely to miss most or all of next season due to a torn Achilles, and Morant potentially facing another suspension to start 2023/24, the team will need to find ways to continue fortifying its roster if it wants to take another step toward a championship.

Salary Cap Situation

Guaranteed Salary

Dead/Retained Salary

Player Options

  • None

Team Options

Non-Guaranteed Salary

  • None

Restricted Free Agents

  • None

Two-Way Free Agents

  • None

Draft Picks

  • No. 25 overall ($2,585,040)
  • No. 45 overall (no cap hold)
  • No. 56 overall (no cap hold)
  • Total: $2,585,040

Extension-Eligible Players

  • Dillon Brooks (veteran)
  • Luke Kennard (veteran)
  • Xavier Tillman (veteran)
  • Desmond Bane (rookie scale)

Note: These are players who are either already eligible for an extension or will become eligible before the 2023/24 season begins. Brooks is only eligible until June 30.

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Note: The cap hold for Pons remains on the Grizzlies’ books from a prior season because it hasn’t been renounced. He can’t be used in a sign-and-trade deal.

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Mid-level exception: $12,220,600
  • Bi-annual exception: $4,448,000

Kings To Host 2023 California Classic Summer League

After ceding hosting duties to the Warriors in 2022, the Kings will once again host the California Classic Summer League this July, announcing today in a press release that the event will take place on Monday, July 3 and Wednesday, July 5.

The California Classic, which is held days before the league-wide Las Vegas Summer League, was launched by the Kings in 2018, and took place again in Sacramento in 2019 and 2021 before shifting to San Francisco in 2022.

In each of those four years, the Kings, Warriors, Lakers, and Heat were the only four teams to participate, but the event will expand to six teams this summer, and the two new additions are noteworthy: the Spurs and Hornets will also take part and are scheduled to face each other on July 3.

Given that San Antonio and Charlotte hold the top two picks in this year’s draft, we could see Victor Wembanyama and either Scoot Henderson or Brandon Miller make their Summer League debuts in Sacramento, though it’s entirely possible Wembanyama won’t end up playing at all in July, as John Hollinger of The Athletic tweets.

Each team will play two games — one on the Monday and one on the Wednesday. The California Classic will essentially serve as an opening act for the Vegas Summer League, which will run from July 7-17 and will feature all 30 NBA teams.

Draft Decisions: Bona, J. James, Da Silva, More

College players who declared for the 2023 NBA draft as early entrants while maintaining their NCAA eligibility have until the end of the day on Wednesday to either withdraw from the draft or forgo their remaining eligibility. Players who take the latter route could still technically pull out of the draft before the NBA’s June 12 deadline, but wouldn’t have the option of returning to school if they miss the NCAA’s May 31 deadline.

As a result, we’re getting a flurry of updates today on prospects who had been testing the draft waters.

UCLA’s Adem Bona, for instance, has decided to remove his name from the draft pool and rejoin the Bruins for his sophomore year, reports Jonathan Givony of ESPN. Bona, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, had been the No. 48 player on ESPN’s 2023 big board.

Tennessee wing Josiah-Jordan James, the No. 77 player on ESPN’s board, has also decided to pull out of the 2023 draft and will take advantage of his final year of college eligibility, he announced on Twitter. Colorado forward Tristan Da Silva – ESPN’s No. 83 prospect – will head back to school too, as he tells Givony.

While most players announcing decisions today are withdrawing from the draft, that’s not the case for everyone. Memphis forward Kaodirichi Akobundu-Ehiogu, for instance, has opted to keep his name in the draft and go pro, agent Scott Nichols tells Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link).

In our latest batch of updates, however, Akobundu-Ehiogu is a rarity. Here are several more early entrants who are withdrawing from the draft:

G League Ignite Signs Matas Buzelis, Gets Commitment From Ron Holland

Matas Buzelis, an 18-year-old guard/forward, has officially signed with the G League Ignite, according to a press release. The move had long been expected, with Buzelis’ plan first reported last August.

A consensus five-star recruit, Buzelis was named the MVP of this February’s Basketball Without Borders Global Camp and competed in the McDonald’s All-American Game in March.

He’s currently considered the top player in the NBA’s 2024 draft class by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, who had the Lithuanian-American prospect coming off the board first overall in a ’24 mock draft earlier this year.

The Ignite has also secured a commitment from another potential 2024 lottery pick, according to Jeff Borzello and Paul Biancardi of ESPN, who report that 6’8″ forward Ron Holland will play for the G League club next season.

Holland initially committed to Texas, but decommitted in late April and was recently released from his letter of intent. He also reportedly considered Arkansas before deciding to forgo the college route and play in the NBAGL. Holland admitted to ESPN that the process “was not easy,” but said he’s confident that the Ignite will help him reach his potential and prepare him for the NBA.

“To have a long career, I need to prepare my body and improve my skills as I continue to try to win games,” Holland said. “They have a program to help develop my body and my game. I know I have to work on being a more consistent shooter, along with my footwork and ball handling, so I can score in space on the perimeter against a set defender.”

Holland was the No. 6 pick in ESPN’s aforementioned 2024 mock draft.

Buzelis and Holland will join Thierry Darlan, Dink Pate, London Johnson, and Babacar Sane on the Ignite’s 2023/24 roster. According to Givony (Twitter link), the team would be willing to add one more young NBA prospect to that group.

Pistons Continue To Pursue Monty Williams

The Pistons remain in heavy pursuit of Monty Williams for their head coaching position, according to Shams Charania and James L. Edwards III of The Athletic.

Detroit has been hopeful since Williams was dismissed by Phoenix that he’d consider accepting the Pistons’ job and is preparing an offer in the neighborhood of $10MM per year for the veteran coach, league sources tell Charania and Edwards.

Marc Stein has been on top of this story, reporting last week that the Pistons’ efforts to hire Williams with a “big-money” offer had thus far been unsuccessful, then following up a few days later to say that the team may not have given up on the idea of landing Williams.

When Williams was let go by Phoenix, he still had $20MM+ left on his contract with the team, so there was a sense that he wouldn’t be in any rush to take another head coaching job this offseason. He told interested teams, including the Pistons and Bucks, that he was leaning toward taking a year off, per Charania and Edwards. However, the Pistons appear to be doing all they can to convince him to change his plans.

Reports earlier in May indicated that Detroit had narrowed its head coaching search to Bucks assistant Charles Lee, former Overtime Elite head coach Kevin Ollie, and Pelicans assistant Jarron Collins, but those three candidates have been referred to as finalists for weeks, with little indication that the club was nearing a decision.

If Williams ultimately decides to turn down the Pistons’ pitch, Lee is expected to be the team’s next choice, sources tell The Athletic. Lee and Ollie have both met twice with team owner Tom Gores and general manager Troy Weaver and remain in contention to replace Dwane Casey on Detroit’s bench, according to Charania and Edwards.