And-Ones: 2024 Draft, Birch, Expansion, Tournament

Sam Vecenie of The Athletic has published his big board for the 2024 NBA draft, while Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo of (Insider link) have shared their top 25 prospects in next year’s draft class. USC guard Isaiah Collier sits atop both lists, but beyond that there are plenty of differences, starting with Vecenie placing Serbian point guard Nikola Topic at No. 2 on his board (he’s ninth at ESPN).

Vecenie is also significantly higher on Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard than ESPN’s duo is, calling him the best freshman in college basketball so far this season and ranking him sixth overall. Givony and Woo have Sheppard at No. 22.

Still, this year’s group of NCAA prospects doesn’t look especially strong at this point, according to Vecenie, who notes that 11 of the top 33 players on his board are either playing overseas or for the G League Ignite.

Even Collier, the top player on The Athletic’s board, comes with some major question marks and holds the top spot somewhat by default. While Vecenie believes the USC guard is the highest-upside prospect in the 2024 class for now, he says Collier wouldn’t have cracked his top eight prospects in the 2023 draft.

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

  • Veteran NBA center Khem Birch, who was waived by San Antonio during the preseason, is said to be drawing interest from Italian club Reyer Venezia, according to reports from Alessandro Maggi of Sportando and Luca D’Alessandro (Twitter link). Birch played in Turkey and Greece from 2015-17 before breaking into the NBA, so if he does head overseas, it wouldn’t be his first professional experience in Europe.
  • With NBA commissioner Adam Silver once again addressing the idea of expansion this week, Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic takes a closer look at where things stand, evaluating how likely the league is to add more teams after its next media deal and discussing which cities have the strongest cases for an expansion franchise.
  • Howard Beck of The Ringer explores the origins of the idea for the NBA’s in-season tournament and details how it eventually come to fruition before considering whether or not the event will have staying power.

And-Ones: Bronny James, Ndongo, Reaves, Messina

Bronny James‘ debut with USC could happen as early as Sunday in a home game against Long Beach State, according to Seth Davis of The Messenger Sports.

The son of Lakers star LeBron James recently received medical clearance from his doctor for a full return to basketball after suffering cardiac arrest in July. He still has to be cleared by the school’s medical staff, Davis adds, but that’s expected to happen sometime this week. If Bronny isn’t ready by Sunday, the next possibility is a December 17 contest against Auburn.

“He’ll have to get in game shape and have full-contact practices and get his timing back before we just throw him into a college basketball game,” Trojans coach Andy Enfield told Davis. “I’d like it to happen sooner rather than later, but right now I just don’t know.”

Bronny is an important name in NBA circles because he’s considered a potential first-round draft pick, and his father has indicated in the past that he would have an interest in joining the team that selects him. On a more immediate level, LeBron said last week that he would skip a Lakers game to watch his son’s first NCAA contest, but L.A. isn’t scheduled to play either this Sunday or December 17.

Enfield said it’s been an enjoyable experience to watch Bronny overcome the health scare that could have derailed his career.

“It’s a great feeling for sure,” he said. “He’s worked out quite a few times with our coaching staff and is able to go through non-contact workouts. It’s just a matter of giving him time to get into basketball shape and learn our system before he plays in it.”

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Georgia Tech freshman Baye Ndongo got the attention of NBA scouts with his performance in Saturday’s upset of Duke, observes John Hollinger of The Athletic. Ndongo had 21 points and five blocks for the Yellow Jackets and showed NBA potential in his ability to roll to the basket and pass to cutting teammates, according to Hollinger. Although Ndongo is undersized for an NBA center at 6’9″ and 214 pounds, Hollinger notes that he was able to match up effective with Blue Devils’ 7-footer Kyle Filipowski.
  • Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports takes a look inside the process of quickly scheduling two additional regular season games for the 22 teams that didn’t advance in the in-season tournament. Among the obstacles was figuring out which teams had open arena dates for Wednesday and Friday, which is when all the games will be played.
  • Lakers guard Austin Reaves has a new arrangement with Chinese sportswear brand Rigorer that will make him a part owner of the company, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. A new version of Reaves’ signature shoe will hit the market Friday.
  • Former Spurs assistant Ettore Messina has a contract extension with Milan that will run through the end of the 2025/26 season, according to Eurohoops. The club made the announcement after rumors that a coaching change was imminent.

And-Ones: Oturu, Top Free Agents, Carter, Tournament

Former NBA center Daniel Oturu will soon join Anadolu Efes Istanbul, according to Oturu is averaging 20.9 points and 10.1 rebounds in nine games for Merkezefendi, another Turkish club.

Merkezefendi head coach Zafer Aktas confirmed Oturu’s transfer to the Euroleague club. “This is a proud moment for me and my team,” Aktas said. “This is the fourth or fifth player we have brought to the EuroLeague level in two-and-a-half years.”

Oturu, a high second-round pick in 2020, played a combined 33 NBA games for the Clippers and Raptors. Oturu didn’t play in the NBA last season.

We have more from the international basketball world:

  • Restricted Sixers free agent Tyrese Maxey tops Hoopshype’s Yossi Gozlan’s list of players who are due for substantial raises. Maxey appears to be in line for a five-year maximum-salary contract in the 2024 offseason. Unrestricted free-agents-to-be OG Anunoby and Nic Claxton rank second and third, respectively, in Gozlan’s top 15 list.
  • LeBron James’ business partner, Maverick Carter, was a client of a bookie who has pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from an illegal gambling operation, The Athletic’s Joe Vardon and Jovan Buha report. Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen and former Major League Baseball All-Star Yasiel Puig were also clients of the bookie, Wayne Nix, who pleaded guilty to participating in a large off-shore betting ring. Carter was accused, according to court filings reviewed by The Athletic, of providing false statements to investigators but was allowed to clarify those statements and was not charged.
  • In a roundtable discussion, ESPN’s Insiders takes a look at the in-season tournament, making predictions about the championship matchup, discussing how the inaugural tournament has worked so far, and addressing what changes might be needed in the future.

And-Ones: Collier, Mock Draft, In-Season Tournament, Ferrell

USC freshman guard Isaiah Collier has moved into the top spot in the latest mock draft from Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo of ESPN. Collier has been outstanding for the Trojans in the early part of the season, averaging 18.2 PPG while shooting 56% on two-point shots and 41% from beyond the arc. However, there are some concerns, Givony and Woo point out, including an abysmal turnover to assist rate of 5.3-to-4.

At 6’5″ and 210 pounds, Collier’s size is an asset for a point guard and he boasts a good combination of strength and speed, the authors add. He’s most effective in the open court, where he can attack the basket and finish at the rim in a variety of ways. He also has outstanding court vision and is comfortable passing with either hand.

French center Alexandre Sarr drops to second in the mock draft, as his defense has been more developed than his offense in Australia’s National Basketball League. With a 7’5″ wingspan, Sarr ranks second in the NBL in block percentage, but he’s shooting just 30% from three-point range and 56% from the foul line. French forward Zaccharie Risacher, Baylor guard Ja’Kobe Walter and G League Ignite forward Ron Holland round out the top five for Givony and Woo.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • There have been complaints about how the point-differential tie-breaker affected some of Tuesday’s in-season tournament games, but Suns star Devin Booker doesn’t see it as a problem, tweets Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “I’ve seen teams upset about it, I don’t know why. I’ve seen players upset about it, I don’t know why,” Booker said. “I wish every game was like that where you play until the end and it wasn’t viewed as disrespectful. Just high competition.” 
  • Seth Partnow of The Athletic suggests making point differential a lower-level tie-breaker in the tournament and giving teams points for each quarter that they win, similar to the system in the former Continental Basketball Association. He believes winning quarters would provide incentive for players to give maximum effort without the feeling that teams are intentionally running up the score.
  • Former NBA guard Yogi Ferrell has signed with KK Buducnost in Montenegro, according to Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops. It marks a return to Europe for the 30-year-old Ferrell after playing for the Shanghai Sharks.

Edmond Sumner Signs With Lithuanian Club

Former NBA guard Edmond Sumner has signed with Lithuania’s Zalgiris Kaunas, the European team tweets.

Zalgiris was searching for a replacement for Naz Mitrou-Long, another former NBA player who signed with Greek’s Olympiacos.

Sumner became a free agent when the Hornets waived him during training camp. He had signed an Exhibit 9 contract prior to camp.

Sumner, 26, averaged 7.1 PPG, 1.5 RPG, and 1.3 APG in 53 games (13.9 MPG) for the Nets last season, posting a shooting line of .461/.356/.917. It was his first season back following an Achilles tear that cost him all of 2021/22.

A second-round pick in 2017, Sumner also appeared in a total of 108 regular season games with Indiana. In his 161-game NBA career, he has averaged 6.2 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 14 minutes per night.

And-Ones: Howard, Harkless, 2024 Draft, Buzelis

Former NBA star Dwight Howard is exploring potential opportunities in Europe and Australia in the hopes of playing his way back to the NBA, reports Donatas Urbonas of As Urbonas explains, if Howard were to sign with a team in the EuroLeague or Australia’s National Basketball League, he’d look to include an NBA out clause in his contract.

Howard, who played in Taiwan last season, met with Golden State in September, but the Warriors opted not to sign him. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year is facing sexual assault and battery allegations and is seeking to dismiss a civil lawsuit in Georgia related to those allegations.

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

  • Veteran NBA forward Maurice Harkless signed a G League contract and has been acquired from the available player pool by the Rip City Remix, the Trail Blazers‘ affiliate (Twitter link). Harkless, a first-round pick in 2012, appeared in 621 NBA regular season games across 10 years, but wasn’t in the league last season. He’s just just 30 years old and will be looking to show with the Remix that he deserves a call-up.
  • In their latest dispatch on the 2024 draft class, Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo of (Insider link) identify Kentucky’s Reed Sheppard and Iowa State’s Milan Momcilovic as the most surprising NCAA freshmen so far this season and single out several prospects who have boosted their stock in November, including Arizona’s Keshad Johnson, Marquette’s Tyler Kolek, and Marquette’s Oso Ighodaro.
  • G League Ignite prospect Matas Buzelis, a contender for the No. 1 spot in the 2024 NBA draft, has yet to make his season debut in the NBAGL’s Showcase Cup due to an ankle injury. The Ignite have taken a cautious approach with Buzelis, according to Woo, who hears from a source that the 6’10” point forward is nearing a return and could play this weekend.

Groups, Hosts Announced For 2024 Olympic Qualifying Tournaments

The 2024 Olympic qualifying tournaments will take place in Spain, Latvia, Greece, and Puerto Rico and will be played from July 2-7, FIBA confirmed on Monday.

A total of 12 men’s basketball teams will compete at the 2024 Olympics in Paris and eight of those spots have already been claimed. Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Serbia, South Sudan, and the U.S. have punched their tickets to Paris.

Twenty-four nations will compete in four six-team tournaments this July for the right to secure one of the final four Olympic basketball berths. In addition to confirming the host cities, FIBA also completed the draw for each of those tournaments on Monday. Here are those results:

Valencia, Spain

  • Group A: Angola, Lebanon, Spain
  • Group B: Bahamas, Finland, Poland

San Juan, Puerto Rico

  • Group A: Ivory Coast, Lithuania, Mexico
  • Group B: Bahrain, Italy, Puerto Rico

Riga, Latvia

  • Group A: Georgia, Latvia, Philippines
  • Group B: Brazil, Cameroon, Montenegro

Piraeus, Greece

  • Group A: Croatia, New Zealand, Slovenia
  • Group B: Dominican Republic, Egypt, Greece

Each team will play two round robin games against the other teams in each group. At that point, the third-place teams in each group will be eliminated, while the first-place team from Group A will face the second-place team in Group B — and vice versa.

The winners of those semifinal matchups will then play one another in the final and the winner of that game will clinch a spot in the Olympics, which are scheduled to begin on July 26, 2024.

Filip Petrusev Officially Signs With Olympiacos

As expected, former Sixers and Kings big man Filip Petrusev has returned to the EuroLeague, officially signing with Olympiacos, according to a press release from the Greek club.

Petrusev’s deal with Olympiacos was reported when he was waived by Sacramento last week. As we relayed over the weekend, the Serbian agreed to a three-year contract from the team. It reportedly includes a third-year club option and NBA outs.

The 50th overall pick in the 2021 draft, Petrusev remained overseas for two seasons before signing a two-year, minimum-salary contract with the 76ers during the 2023 offseason. He received a partial guarantee (approximately $560K) and survived a preseason roster crunch, but was sent to the Clippers in the James Harden blockbuster just eight days into the regular season and then flipped to the Kings in a separate deal.

Petrusev, 23, ultimately appeared in just three games in his NBA rookie season — one for Philadelphia and two for Sacramento. As Eurohoops relays, the forward/center said this week that Kings teammate and former Olympiacos star Sasha Vezenkov helped convince him to return to Europe and join the Greek club, which will give him a chance to play more regularly.

According to Eurohoops, Petrusev isn’t ruling out the possibility of playing again in the NBA down the road, but believes it will be better for his growth to take on a key role in the EuroLeague rather than sitting on the bench in the NBA. And if he does decide to return stateside eventually, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent, rather than having a single team control his rights.

“I didn’t give up on the NBA dream because it didn’t go well this year,” Petrusev said. “I’m young, there’s time for everything. I might come back in two or three years. If I want to return to the NBA, I can go anywhere and not just to the Sixers, where it was my only choice.”

Petrusev joins an Olympiacos roster that features many former NBA players, including Isaiah Canaan, Ignas Brazdeikis, Nigel Williams-Goss, and Naz Mitrou-Long, among others. He previously played in the EuroLeague from 2021-23 as a member of Anadolu Efes and Crvena Zvezda.

And-Ones: Petrusev, 2024 Draft, Trade Candidates, More

After being cut by the Kings on Friday, big man Filip Petrusev should officially clear waivers later today. Nebojsa Covic, the president of Crvena Zvezda, Petrusev’s former team in Serbia, indicated on Saturday that he would be open to bringing back the 23-year-old.

“I heard about it and that Olympiacos made a very decent offer,” Covic said, per Mozzart (hat tip to Eurohoops). “The door of Red Star is open for Petrusev now, but it’s his and his agent’s decision. We’ll let them decide. There won’t be any hard feelings, regardless of this decision.”

Any interest the Serbian club may have in Petrusev appears to be moot. As Covic alluded to, reporting on Friday suggested the NBA rookie is set to join Greek team Olympiacos once he clears waivers, and that deal remains on track to be completed.

Aris Barkas of Eurohoops reports that Petrusev is expected to sign a three-year contract with Olympiacos that includes a third-year team option. The agreement will also include NBA outs in the event that Petrusev is offered another opportunity stateside, according to Barkas.

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

  • Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report has updated his mock draft for 2024, making major changes to rounds one and two. Two of the biggest risers are Pittsburgh’s Carlton Carrington and Virginia’s Ryan Dunn, who weren’t on Wasserman’s previous board but are now projected as lottery picks at No. 10 and No. 14, respectively.
  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype takes a look at a few players who are currently injured or out of their team’s rotation, identifying them as possible in-season trade candidates. A pair of PistonsMonte Morris and James Wiseman – and Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski are among the players singled out by Gozlan.
  • Which players are the NBA’s biggest overachievers and underachievers through the first month of the regular season? Mark Medina names three for each category in a story for Bovada Sportsbook, with 10-time All-Star James Harden and five-time All-Star Klay Thompson showing up in his list of underachievers.

And-Ones: Okafor, Ferrell, Rookies, Player Empowerment

Signing with Zaragoza in Spain hasn’t gone exactly according to plan for former No. 3 overall pick Jahlil Okafor, with the team stumbling out to a 3-7 record after he signed this summer. According to Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia, Okafor is now departing Zaragoza to sign with a Chinese club, the Zhejiang Lions, who will pay for his buyout.

It sounds like the magnitude of the offer received from Zhejiang was the biggest sticking point for Okafor, and that it was more than he could’ve received from Zaragoza, as detailed in a piece from

Zaragoza head coach Porfirio Fisac openly discussed his thought process on the matter before Okafor left, as relayed by

If he leaves, for me right now in his career, it’s a mistake,” Fisac said. “I think he’d be mistaken. He’s played 15 or 20 games and is in good physical condition. It is true that he still has a lot to improve, but we cannot put more pressure on him in terms of changes of pace and efforts.

We are taking care of him. If he stays here, his career will be extended by 10 years. If he goes somewhere else, he will play five more years. It all depends on where the money is or whether you want to earn it today or later. Everyone has their own way of thinking.

Okafor, 27, holds six seasons of NBA experience across stints with the Sixers, Nets, Pelicans and Pistons. His last NBA appearance came in 2020/21 with Detroit. He averages 10.4 points and 4.7 rebounds in 247 games (116 starts) for his career.

We have more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA guard Yogi Ferrell is receiving overseas interest, with Serbian club Partizan reaching out to the 30-year-old guard, according to Partizan is currently dealing with injury issues in the backcourt, leading to their interest in Ferrell. Ferrell appeared in 259 games (53 starts) across five seasons in the NBA with the Nets, Mavericks, Kings, Cavaliers and Clippers. His last NBA appearance came in 2020/21 and he holds career averages of 7.7 points and 2.3 assists.
  • While Chet Holmgren and Victor Wembanyama have seemingly made the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award a two-man race early in the season, the entire crop of first-year players has been impressive. The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie took stock of rookies across the league, ranking Dereck Lively, Brandon Miller, Ausar Thompson, Jordan Hawkins and Cason Wallace as the next five (in order) behind Holmgren and Wembanyama on the league’s rookie ladder. It’s a different take on the rookie class than what ESPN’s Bobby Marks and Kevin Pelton offered last week — ESPN’s duo was a touch higher on Detroit’s Marcus Sasser and lower on Lively, though all of Marks, Pelton and Vecenie agreed Holmgren was the overall most impressive rookie so far.
  • This summer’s trade requests from Damian Lillard and James Harden added another chapter to the NBA’s player empowerment saga. According to Heavy Sports’ Steve Bulpett, NBA owners are seeking ways to prevent or minimize the practice of players demanding trades in the fashion we’ve been accustomed to. “I think the whole player empowerment piece that has been running in the league for last couple of years? I think it’s about run its course, because so many just haven’t worked out,” Bulpett’s Eastern Conference source said.