Hunter Maldonado

Draft Notes: J. Williams, Sasser, LaRavia, Houstan, Minott, More

Santa Clara wing Jalen Williams was perhaps the standout of last week’s draft combine in Chicago, while Houston guard Marcus Sasser looked like the best player at the G League Elite Camp, John Hollinger and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic write as part of their analysis of the combine.

Hollinger and Vecenie suggest that Williams’ stock has “exploded into the stratosphere” as a result of his performance in Chicago and that he looks like a safe bet to be a first-round pick. As for Sasser, he got “nearly unanimous praise” from scouts, who believe he has a chance to start his rookie season on a standard NBA contract, rather than a two-way deal.

The Athletic’s duo shares several more combine-related tidbits in their full story, including identifying Wake Forest forward Jake LaRavia as a prospect who is drawing legitimate interest from contending teams in the last 10 picks of the first round.

Hollinger and Vecenie also say that chatter about Michigan forward Caleb Houstan having received a promise continues to circulate among league insiders. Those insiders have speculated that Oklahoma City at No. 30 could be the team eyeing Houstan, given the Thunder‘s history of shutting down their targets well ahead of draft night.

Here are a few more draft-related notes:

  • Josh Minott, the No. 48 player on ESPN’s 2022 big board, will be keeping his name in the NBA draft, according to his uncle (Twitter link via Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports). The freshman forward played fewer than 500 total minutes in his first and only college season at Memphis in 2021/22.
  • Wyoming guard Hunter Maldonado tells Rothstein (Twitter link) that he’ll withdraw from the draft and use his final year of NCAA eligibility. Maldonado had a big senior year in 2021/22, averaging 18.5 PPG, 6.3 APG, and 5.7 RPG and making the All-Mountain West Conference first team.
  • George Washington junior guard James Bishop will withdraw from the draft and return to school for at least one more year, tweets Rothstein. Bishop has been the Colonials’ go-to scorer since transferring for his sophomore season, averaging 17.6 PPG in 47 games over the last two years.
  • Senior guard Emmanuel Bandoumel will also withdraw from the draft as he transfers from SMU to Nebraska, tweets Rothstein.
  • Former Louisiana senior center Theo Akwuba has withdrawn from the draft and Oklahoma State junior guard Avery Anderson III and Tennessee junior guard Santiago Vescovi are expected to do the same, according to Jeff Goodman of Stadium (all Twitter links). Goodman notes that Akwuba will be transferring to Ole Miss for his final college season.

Southeast Notes: Adebayo, Wizards, Hampton, Hawks

Heat center Bam Adebayo dominated the first two games of the series against the Sixers, but Joel Embiid‘s return changed that, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. After averaging 23.0 points and 10.5 rebounds in Games 1 and 2, Adebayo put up nine points and three rebounds Friday night while shooting 2-of-9 from the field.

Embiid admitted being upset while watching Adebayo while he was sidelined with a concussion and a broken orbital bone and felt like he needed to make a statement in Game 3. Now it’s Adebayo’s turn to respond when the series resumes Sunday night.

“I still got to be aggressive,” Adebayo said after today’s practice. “That’s part of the game. You see different lineups, you see different personnel and then you’ve just got to adjust your attacks.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Poor team chemistry was among the things that sank the Wizards after a 10-3 start, but the organization believes it has already made moves to fix it, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Team president Tommy Sheppard thought the atmosphere in the locker room was better after Spencer Dinwiddie, Davis Bertans and Montrezl Harrell were moved at the trade deadline. More continuity next season could help, adds Hughes, who points out that Washington used a franchise-record 29 players this year and made significant roster changes twice in six months.
  • Magic guard R.J. Hampton improved in some areas but regressed in others as he was asked to adapt to a new role this season, observes Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel. The addition of lottery pick Jalen Suggs and the late-season comeback by Markelle Fultz meant Hampton didn’t handle the ball as much as he did after Orlando acquired him in a trade midway through his rookie season. He also became less efficient in finishing at the rim, which caused his scoring average to fall to 7.6 PPG after averaging 11.2 PPG last year in 26 games with the Magic.
  • The Hawks hosted six players in a draft workout Friday, tweets Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. On hand were San Francisco guard Jamaree Bouyea, Washington State big man Mouhamed Gueye and four wing players, Quenton Jackson of Texas A&M, Abu Kigab of Boise State, Kenneth Lofton Jr. of Louisiana Tech and Hunter Maldonado of Wyoming.

Draft Notes: Aimaq, Maldonado, Lofton, Roberts, More

Utah Valley big man Fardaws Aimaq is testing the NBA draft waters and has entered the NCAA’s transfer portal, he tells Travis Branham of 247Sports.com (Twitter link). Aimaq, who also declared for the draft in 2021 before eventually withdrawing, had a big junior year, averaging 18.9 PPG, 13.6 RPG, and 1.3 BPG in 32 games (34.4 MPG) for Utah Valley.

Wyoming shooting guard Hunter Maldonado will also enter the draft while retaining his remaining year of NCAA eligibility, he announced on Twitter. As a senior in 2021/22, he put up 18.5 PPG, 6.3 APG, and 5.7 RPG in 33 games (37.3 MPG). He has one more year of eligibility left due to the adjustments the NCAA made in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like Aimaq and Maldonado, Louisiana Tech sophomore forward Kenneth Lofton Jr. will test the draft waters this spring, announcing his decision today on Twitter. In 33 games (27.0 MPG) this season, Lofton averaged a double-double, posting 16.5 PPG and 10.5 RPG to go along with 2.8 APG and 1.2 SPG.

Finally, Washington junior forward/center Nate Roberts announced on Twitter that he’s entering the draft and intends to sign with an agent. Roberts, who started all 32 games he played for Washington this season, wasn’t much of an offensive threat, averaging 5.5 PPG, but he was the team’s leading rebounder (7.5 RPG).

Here are a few more draft-related notes:

  • Following the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz (Insider link) evaluated how several of the top prospects fared and updated their mock draft.
  • Meanwhile, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic focused on the top players from a few of the tournament’s Cinderella teams, exploring whether Tyrese Hunter (Iowa State), Hunter Dickinson (Michigan), and Kameron McGusty (Miami), among others, are viable NBA prospects.
  • The Pistons would be the ideal landing spot for Chet Holmgren, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, who ranks the top 11 fits for the Gonzaga big man. O’Connor’s list only includes lottery-bound teams that will have a realistic shot at drafting Holmgren with a top pick.
  • Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report (Twitter link) thinks there’s a noticeable drop-off after the top four prospects in this year’s draft (Holmgren, Paolo Banchero, Jabari Smith, and Jaden Ivey). Jeff Goodman of Stadium disagrees, tweeting that the 2022 class is much stronger throughout the lottery than people give it credit for.