AJ Griffin

Draft Rumors: Pistons, Mathurin, Duren, Eason, J. Smith, More

People around the NBA have been “gossiping” about an incredible workout Bennedict Mathurin had with the Pistons, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, who says there’s chatter that members of Detroit’s front office are “infatuated” with the Arizona guard.

Jaden Ivey and Keegan Murray have long been considered the favorites to join Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren, and Paolo Banchero in the top five, but perhaps the Pistons will upend that expectation by targeting Mathurin. For what it’s worth, however, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Insider link) still believes Murray is the favorite over Mathurin at No. 5 if Ivey is off the board.

Within his latest mock draft, Givony also reports that Pistons general manager Troy Weaver is one of Jalen Duren‘s biggest fans in the NBA. While Duren likely won’t be under serious consideration at No. 5, the Pistons could consider trading back into the first round if he slips at all, according to Givony, who points to the Hornets (No. 13 and No. 15) as a possible trade partner for Detroit in a deal involving Gordon Hayward.

Elsewhere in his mock draft, O’Connor writes that the Nuggets (No. 21 and No. 30) and Grizzlies (No. 22 and No. 29) have both made attempts to package their picks in an effort to move up in the first round.

O’Connor suggests Denver’s picks probably aren’t enough to move into the middle of the first round unless the team is willing to include a young player or another future pick. However, he writes that the Grizzlies have been exploring picks as high as the Knicks‘ selection at No. 11. In order to get that high, Memphis would presumably have to take on some unwanted salary or include another asset beyond the team’s two 2022 first-rounders.

Here’s more on the 2022 NBA draft, which is now just hours away:

  • Executives around the league keep connecting LSU forward Tari Eason to the Rockets at No. 17, according to O’Connor. Meanwhile, Zach Harper of The Athletic has heard from sources that the Celtics are also high on Eason and could try to trade into the first round using a young rotation player to draft him. An earlier report indicated Boston was open to discussing Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard, and Harper adds Aaron Nesmith to that list.
  • Auburn’s Jabari Smith tells Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that he’ll be surprised if he’s not drafted first overall tonight. Virtually every major sportsbook made Paolo Banchero the favorite to go No. 1 late last night, but those odds have since swung back in the other direction. Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report speculates (via Twitter) that the Banchero buzz may have been related to contact he and his camp had with the Magic on Wednesday after a Monday visit was canceled, but Fischer — like ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski — reiterates that Smith remains the favorite to be the No. 1 pick.
  • Ian Begley of SNY.tv (video link) views Duke’s AJ Griffin as the most likely pick for the Knicks if they remain at No. 11.
  • The Raptors, who moved down from No. 20 to No. 33 in the draft as a result of their Thaddeus Young trade in February, don’t view the gap between those two selections as significant, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic. As Koreen observes, there’s less of a consensus on prospects further down draft boards than there is at the very top, so several of the players drafted between Nos. 20 and 32 may not be at or near the top of Toronto’s board.

Draft Notes: Ivey, Griffin, Eason, Holmgren

Amid rumors that Sacramento isn’t his preferred landing spot, Purdue guard Jaden Ivey was asked directly during a Monday media session about the prospect of joining the Kings and confirmed that he hasn’t worked out for the team or had any contact with them. Although he didn’t say outright that he doesn’t want to play for the Kings, Ivey wasn’t exactly brimming with enthusiasm when discussing the possibility.

“If I got drafted there, it wouldn’t be the worst option,” he said, per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman (Twitter link).

As James Boyd of The Indianapolis Star tweets, Ivey said the only teams he has worked out for are the Magic and the Pistons, who hold the first and fifth overall picks, respectively. The Kings draft fourth overall.

Interestingly, while Ivey is expected to come off the board long before the Knicks are on the clock at No. 11, the Purdue standout said unprompted that he believes there “could be situations where I can land in New York,” as Zach Braziller of The New York Post writes. The Knicks would likely have to trade up to No. 4 to make that happen.

Here are a few more of Monday’s draft-related notes:

  • Speaking to reporters on Monday, Duke forward AJ Griffin confirmed his previously announced workouts with Indiana and Portland and said he also auditioned for the Pelicans, Spurs, and Knicks, per Jason Sacramento Bee of The Sacramento Bee (Twitter link). The teams Griffin worked out for range from No. 6 to No. 11 in Thursday’s draft.
  • The Hawks, Rockets, and Timberwolves are among the teams LSU forward Tari Eason has worked out for during the pre-draft process, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman (Twitter link). Those three clubs pick between Nos. 16 and 19.
  • In an in-depth profile, Tim Keown of ESPN takes a look at how Chet Holmgren became one of the nation’s top basketball prospects and explores what’s next for the seven-foot “unicorn.”

Northwest Notes: Morris, Hyland, Nuggets Draft, Minott, Wiggins

The impending trade of JaMychal Green to the Thunder portends a very busy summer for the Nuggets, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes.

Denver is intent on maximizing Nikola Jokic‘s prime years, so the fact that the team now has two first-rounders in this year’s draft suggests more moves are coming. It’s unlikely two rookies would have an immediate impact on a team with championship aspirations.

With Jamal Murray returning this season, Monte Morris could be moved. He has an affordable contract and has generated significant interest around the league, a source told Singer. Alternatively, the Nuggets might consider moving Bones Hyland for a much-needed defensive wing player.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • If Denver holds onto the No. 21 pick or trades up in the draft, which wings might interest the front office as it looks to improve the team defensively? Singer lists a handful of wing prospects, including Duke’s AJ Griffin and Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell.
  • University of Memphis forward Josh Minott visited the Jazz and that’s significant, given where Minott is projected to go in the draft, according to Sarah Todd of the Deseret News. Most of the prospects the Jazz have worked out are projected as late second-round selections at best. In contrast, Minott is expected to go higher in the second round and could even sneak into the first round. He’s rated as the No. 46 prospect on ESPN’s Best Available list. Utah doesn’t currently have a draft pick.
  • Andrew Wiggins followed the footsteps of Kevin Garnett and Kevin Love by winning an NBA championship after being dealt by the Timberwolves in a high-profile trade, Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. Reusse seeks out opinions from several sources as to why Wiggins has excelled with Golden State after underperforming with Minnesota.

Central Notes: Pistons Prospects, Griffin, Bucks Wings, Chandler

The Pistons could go in a variety of directions with the No. 5 pick in the upcoming draft, writes James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. According to Edwards, while Purdue guard Jaden Ivey or Iowa forward Keegan Murray seem most likely to be selected, Arizona swingman Bennedict Mathurin enjoyed a good workout with the club and has impressed Detroit’s front office personnel.

Edwards considers the 6’4″ Ivey, a consensus All-American and a 2021/22 All-Big Ten selection, to have the highest ceiling among this trio. In 36 college contests, Ivey averaged 17.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.1 APG and 0.9 SPG with a shooting line of .460/.358/.744.

Edwards acknowledges that the versatile Murray seems more readily capable of contributing at the next level than Ivey. The 6’8″ forward, himself a consensus All-American and 2021/22 All-Big Ten honoree while with the Hawkeyes, averaged 23.5 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 1.5 APG and 1.3 SPG across 35 games.

Mathurin projects to be a solid long-range shooter and wing defender, Edwards writes. Mathurin was a consensus All-American and the 2021/22 Pac-12 Player of the Year during his second season with the Wildcats, averaging 17.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG and 2.5 APG. During his sophomore season, the 6’7″ guard boasted shooting averages of .450/.369/.764.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Former Duke small forward AJ Griffin believes he would be a good match for the Pacers, per James Boyd of the Indianapolis Star. The Pacers possess the sixth pick in the 2022 draft. “I think I would fit perfectly,” Griffin said. “Just being able to play with guys who look for their open teammates and get your teammates going, I think I would fit perfectly… I love [guard Tyrese Haliburton]’s game.” Though Griffin averaged a fairly modest 10.4 PPG and 3.9 RPG as a one-and-done freshman for the Blue Devils, he proved to be a promising three-point shooter, connecting on 44.7% of his 4.1 long-range looks per night. The 18-year-old is currently listed as the ninth-best player on ESPN’s big board.
  • Though the Bucks did not defend their 2021 title in the 2022 postseason, the team’s rotation wings performed at a high level during the 2021/22 season, writes Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Nehm grades the on-court play of All-Star small forward Khris Middleton, swingman Wesley Matthews, guard Pat Connaughton, guard Grayson Allen, and the rest of Milwaukee’s perimeter players.
  • The Cavaliers are set to work out Tennessee point guard Kennedy Chandler on Wednesday, according to Andrew Slater of Pro Insight (Twitter link). Cleveland possesses the No. 14 pick at the end of the 2022 draft lottery. Chandler was the MVP of the 2022 SEC Tournament. A 2022 All-SEC Second Team selection, the 6’0″ guard averaged 13.9 PPG, 4.7 APG and 3.2 RPG on .464/.383/.606 shooting for the Volunteers. Chandler is listed as the No. 19 prospect on the latest ESPN board.

Draft Notes: Green Room, Draft Targets, Comps, Mock, Minott

The list of prospects invited to the green room on draft night has expanded to 16, tweets ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. The list includes all of the top-16 ranked players on ESPN’s big boardChet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero, Jaden Ivey, Keegan Murray, Dyson DanielsShaedon Sharpe, Bennedict Mathurin, AJ Griffin, Jalen Duren, Johnny Davis, Ousmane DiengMalaki BranhamMark Williams, Jeremy Sochan and Ochai Agbaji.

A source tells Givony that the list could expand further, with four more invites still a possibility. The draft is nine days away.

Here are some more draft-related notes:

Draft Notes: Duren, Agbaji, Washington, Griffin, Davis

Longtime coach Larry Brown, now serving as an assistant at the University of Memphis, believes Tigers center Jalen Duren has a bright future in the NBA, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Brown talked to Knicks general manager Scott Perry recently about Duren and teammate Josh Minott, who is projected as a second-round pick. Brown says Duren has similar skills as Heat big man Bam Adebayo.

“A lot of people compare him to Bam,’’ Brown said. “I spent time with Cal [Kentucky coach John Calipari] when Bam was there. Bam doesn’t shoot 3s either. Jalen is 3 inches taller than Bam. … I always teased him: I wanted him to be like [former Pistons center] Ben Wallace because he can run with anybody. He really can run. And can move his feet defensively.’’

The Knicks could consider Duren with the 11th pick if they’re not sure about re-signing free agent center Mitchell Robinson. There are concerns that coach Tom Thibodeau may not want to take the time to develop an 18-year-old center prospect, but Brown is convinced the wait will be worth it.

“If someone’s taking him to be starter on a playoff team, I don’t think it’s completely fair,’’ Brown said. “He’s 18. If you’re looking at a kid to develop and really be a factor, he’s the one you got to consider. … He wants to be coached. That’s important, especially with Thibs. He’ll coach him and demand things, and he’ll respond to that.’”

There’s more draft-related news to pass along:

  • As a four-year college player, Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji is a rarity among potential lottery picks, notes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Agbaji said he’s been studying Desmond Bane, who followed the same path before succeeding with the Grizzlies. “That’s someone that I would say is similar to me game-wise. We’re both athletic, strong and can guard and make plays off the bounce, too,” Agbaji said after working out Friday for the Wizards. “He was a four-year guy, went under the radar and has his feet down in Memphis now. That’s really cool seeing that. He’s one of those guys who I saw his transition into the league.”
  • TyTy Washington sat out the end of his workout with the Wizards on Saturday after banging his knee in a collision, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic. A team trainer checked Washington and said the knee will be OK. The Kentucky guard has also worked out for the Thunder, Knicks and Cavaliers and has upcoming sessions with the Spurs and Pelicans (Twitter link).
  • Duke forward AJ Griffin will work out for the Pacers Monday, tweets James Boyd of The Indianapolis Star. Wisconsin guard Johnny Davis moved his workout with Indiana to Tuesday because of scheduling issues.

Draft Notes: Green Room, Houstan, Nembhard, O’Neal, Gillespie

There were no surprises in the 11 green room invitations forwarded to the draft’s top prospects. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony confirmed that the list includes Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero, Jaden Ivey, Keegan Murray, Shaedon Sharpe, Dyson Daniels, Bennedict Mathurin, AJ Griffin, Jalen Duren and Johnny Davis. Approximately four more green room invites will be sent out next week, a source tells Givony.

We have more draft news:

  • Michigan’s Caleb Houstan and Gonzaga’s Andrew Nembhard, who both hail from Canada, will work out for the Raptors on Friday, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. They’re both considered late first-round or second-round prospects and Toronto has the No. 33 overall pick.
  • LSU forward Shareef O’Neal, son of Shaquille O’Neal, worked out for the Bucks on Thursday, Jovan Buha of The Athletic tweets. The younger O’Neal will visit the Lakers, Cavaliers, Hawks and Wizards in the very near future.
  • Villanova guard Collin Gillespie also worked out for the Bucks on Thursday, Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files tweets. He’ll soon visit the Suns, Nuggets, Jazz and Trail Blazers. Gillespie is ranked at No. 64 on ESPN’s Best Available list.

Northwest Notes: Gobert, Hunter, Jovic, Griffin, Maker

The Hawks have been identified in previous reports as a possible Rudy Gobert suitor, and multiple league sources have indicated the Jazz are interested in De’Andre Hunter, according to Matt Moore of ActionNetwork.com. Hunter is extension-eligible this offseason. However, according to Moore, the Hawks have tried to steer any teams inquiring on Hunter to players like Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kevin Huerter instead.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

Wizards Notes: J. Davis, Prospect Workouts, Point Guards

The Wizards will host a pair of pre-draft workouts on Thursday, including a solo session for a potential target at No. 10. According to Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link), Wisconsin guard Johnny Davis, who is viewed as a potential lottery pick and a viable option for a Washington team in need of backcourt depth, will take part in that solo workout.

Prior to Davis’ audition, the Wizards will host a morning group workout that features Kofi Cockburn (Illinois), Collin Gillespie (Villanova), Quenton Jackson (Texas A&M), Keve Aluma (Virginia Tech), Justin Bean (Utah State), and Marcus Bingham (Michigan State), per Ava Wallace of The Washington Post (Twitter link).

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • In a discussion with Robbins about the Wizards’ possible offseason point guard targets, John Hollinger of The Athletic speculates that Ricky Rubio, Eric Bledsoe, and even John Wall could be among the players Washington shows interest in, assuming Bledsoe and Wall reach free agency. Hollinger also identifies Malcolm Brogdon and Mike Conley as viable options on the trade market, and suggests Tyus Jones would be an ideal fit if he were willing to accept the full mid-level exception.
  • In the same Athletic story, Robbins and Hollinger consider potential targets for the Wizards with the No. 10 pick. G League Ignite guard Dyson Daniels should get serious consideration if he’s still available, according to Hollinger, who also identifies Jeremy Sochan and AJ Griffin as logical fits on the wing.
  • Maryland guard Eric Ayala, Florida forward Anthony Duruji, Richmond forward Grant Golden, Utah State forward Brandon Horvath, Marquette guard Darryl Morsell, and George Mason swingman D’Shawn Schwartz participated in a pre-draft group workout for the Wizards on Wednesday, according to Robbins (Twitter link).
  • Overtime Elite point guard Jean Montero is among the other prospects expected to work out for the Wizards this week, tweets Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

Pacific Notes: Ham, Lakers, Kings, Warriors

Newly-hired Lakers head coach Darvin Ham is earning high praise from those who know him, according to Broderick Turner and Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times.

Ham, who was a Lakers assistant coach from 2011-13 and won a title against L.A. as a player on the Pistons in 2004, has served as an assistant under head coach Mike Budenholzer with the Hawks and Bucks for the past nine seasons. The Bucks won the 2021 NBA championship with Ham on Budenholzer’s staff.

“His work ethic in practice and when we put him in the game, he always seemed to deliver,” former Knicks head coach and current Indiana University coach Mike Woodson said of Ham. “So, you knew that the fact he got into coaching, I knew it would work because that’s a big part of being a good coach. You got to work.”

Metta Sandiford-Artest, who played on the Lakers teams where Ham first cut his coaching teeth as a development assistant under Mike Brown, also had high praise for Ham.  “He definitely understands modern basketball,” Sandiford-Artest said. “He also is capable of communicating in a way where you can receive it the right way.”

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • The Lakers held workouts on Saturday for six NBA hopefuls, per Matthew Barrero of Lakers.com. Baylor guard James Akinjo, Connecticut guard Tyrese Martin, Syracuse forward Cole Swider, USC guard Drew Peterson, Texas A&M guard Quenton Jackson, and Alabama guard Keon Ellis all got a look from the L.A. front office brass. Though Los Angeles does not possess a draft pick this season, the team could trade into the second round or sign an undrafted rookie as a free agent. “There is a good side to it if you’re able to choose your team,” Ellis said. “Even if it happens to be myself, you can’t get too down on it or overthink it. There’s been guys who have gone undrafted and come back with great stories.”
  • The Kings, who possess the fourth pick in the 2022 draft, had at least two key representatives take a look at several high-level prospects during recent pro day workouts in Southern California, writes Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee. Team owner Vivek Ranadive and GM Monte McNair attended a CAA pro day workout for Purdue shooting guard Jaden Ivey and Duke small forward AJ Griffin. McNair attended an additional pro day with another top-10-level player, Arizona shooting guard Bennedict Mathurin, Anderson notes, examining the potential fit of each player.
  • Injured Warriors role players Gary Payton II, Otto Porter Jr. and Andre Iguodala will be gradually included in team practices ahead of the 2022 NBA Finals this week as they continue to recuperate from their respective ailments, per Kendra Andrews of ESPN (Twitter link). The club has leaned on 2021 lottery picks Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody for help in the absence of Payton, Porter and Iguodala.