Potential Lottery Pick Alperen Sengun Enters 2021 Draft

Turkish big man Alperen Sengun has submitted paperwork entering his name into the 2021 NBA draft pool, he tells Jonathan Givony of ESPN.

Sengun, 18, is considered one of the best international prospects in this year’s draft class, currently ranking 14th overall on ESPN’s big board. Givony describes the young center as a “dominant interior scorer” who has the ability to protect the rim, crash the boards, and create scoring opportunities for teammates. NBA scouts have compared him to players such as Kevin Love and Domantas Sabonis, Givony notes.

Sengun’s performance for Besiktas in Turkey this season has helped increase his stock, solidifying him as a projected first-round pick. In 29 Turkish League games (28.3 MPG), he has averaged 19.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.7 blocks per contest, with a .646 FG%.

“At the beginning of the season, I didn’t think my performance would be this high, but with every passing game I felt I could do more and more,” Sengun told ESPN in an email. “I believe that there are no limits for me to get better as a basketball player.”

As Givony details, Sengun intends to play for Turkey in the Olympic qualifying tournament in late June. The Tokyo games overlap with the July 29 draft, but if Turkey doesn’t earn a spot in the Olympics, Sengun would focus on preparing for the draft, including perhaps working out for NBA teams if in-person auditions are permitted.

Draft Notes: Champagnie, Early Entrants, Myrtle Beach Combine

Pittsburgh sophomore wing Justin Champagnie, who initially decided to test the 2021 NBA draft waters in March, has decided to forgo his remaining NCAA eligibility and go pro, agent Todd Ramasar confirms to Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link).

Champagnie enjoyed a breakout year in 2020/21, averaging 18.0 points and 11.1 rebounds per game in 20 contests (34.4 MPG). He’s not a lock to be drafted, but he’ll certainly receive second-round consideration — ESPN currently lists him as the No. 66 prospect on its 2021 big board.

Here are a few more draft-related updates:

  • Agent Misko Raznatovic has announced that several of his clients are entering the draft, including French shooting guard Malcolm Cazalon, Bosnian big man Karlo Matkovic, Serbian forward Dalibor Ilic, and Bosnian center Kenan Kamenjas (all Twitter links). They’ll all retain the ability to withdraw from this year’s draft pool at a later date.
  • Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report has published an update to his full, 60-pick mock draft. Having used Tankathon‘s tool to simulate the lottery results, Wasserman’s mock has the Raptors moving up to No. 2 and taking Evan Mobley, followed by the Kings nabbing Jalen Green at No. 3.
  • Kelly Iko of The Athletic spoke to former NBA scout Pete Mickeal, the creator of the Myrtle Beach International Combine, about the new pre-draft event, which is intended for prospects who may not be featured at the NBA’s official combine. It will take place from June 13-15 and will feature 40 college seniors, along with 20 international prospects.

And-Ones: T. Brown, J. Cole, E. Reid, Klutch

NBA referee Tony Brown will miss the rest of the regular season and postseason after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the NBA announced today in a press release. A 19-year veteran, Brown worked his first NBA Finals in 2020. He’s currently receiving treatment following his diagnosis.

“Tony is a beloved member of the NBA family, and in particular, our officiating family,” NBA senior VP Monty McCutchen said in a statement. “In addition to exemplifying what it means to be a world class referee on the court, Tony also touches so many lives off the court. The NBA officiating family and the entire NBA family stand behind Tony with thoughts and prayers as he embarks upon this courageous battle.”

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

  • J. Cole is set to play for the Rwanda Patriots BBC in the first season of the Basketball Africa League, reports Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. The rapper, whose given name is Jermaine Lamarr Cole, was a walk-on at St. John’s but never played a Division I game before shifting his focus to his music career.
  • The new Overtime League, which hopes to provide top high school prospects with an alternate developmental path, is still seeking its first major commitment, according to Adam Zagoria of Forbes (Twitter link), who hears that five-star recruit Efton Reid passed on a six-figure offer from the league, opting instead to commit to LSU.
  • Former player agent Andy Miller is joining Klutch Sports and will lead a new division of representation for NBA coaches and executives, Klutch CEO Rich Paul tells Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).
  • Evan Drellich and Seth Partnow of The Athletic takes a closer look at Zelus Analytics, a startup sports analytics company that has been received with “a mixture of interest and skepticism” in NBA circles, according to the duo.

Former Pelican Will Magnay Resumes Career In Australia

Former Pelicans big man Will Magnay, who was on a two-way contract with New Orleans until he was waived last month, has returned to his home country of Australia, signing with the Perth Wildcats for the rest of the 2020/21 campaign, per a press release from the team.

“The opportunity to play basketball again, at such a historic team like Perth, is exciting,” Magnay said in a statement. “I’m just dying to get back on the court.”

A 6’10” center, Magnay appeared in just one game for the Pelicans as an NBA rookie, going scoreless in three minutes. He also averaged 9.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 1.5 BPG in 10 appearances (22.2 MPG) for the Erie BayHawks in the G League. He was released in April when New Orleans signed James Nunnally to a two-way deal.

Magnay, who will turn 23 next month, played one year of college ball at Tulsa in 2016/17 before heading back to Australia, where he spent his first three professional seasons under contract with the Brisbane Bullets in the National Basketball League. He was named the NBL’s Most Improved Player in ’19/20 and was the runner-up for the Best Defensive Player award, earning him a shot in the NBA this season.

G League To Launch Franchise In Mexico Next Season

The NBA G League will launch its new franchise in Mexico City next season, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. The team’s nickname is the Capitanes.

Nick Lagios, who has worked for the Lakers‘ South Bay affiliate since 2016, will serve as the team’s GM, Charania adds. Lagios expressed his excitement about running the franchise in an Instagram post.

“It’s an absolute dream to be named the first GM of the Mexico City Capitanes. We will play in the (G League) starting next season,” Lagios wrote. “This is the first Mexican team ever in a USA sports league, which is an honor to be a part of. I hope we can make all of Mexico and Latin America proud and elevate basketball within central and South America. Laker family, I will miss you all but I won’t be leaving LA quite yet!!”

The original announcement that the NBA would add a G League franchise in Mexico City was made in December 2019. The pandemic pushed back the inaugural season by one year.

The Capitanes will play their home games at Gimnasio Juan de la Barrera, an arena that holds about 5,000 fans, and will spend at least the next five years in the G League. They  won’t be affiliated with a specific NBA franchise.

By bringing aboard a franchise like Capitanes that has an existing infrastructure – including a home arena and an ownership group – the NBA was able to expedite the process.

And-Ones: NBA Calendar, Wainright, COVID-19, More

The idea of switching the order of the NBA’s draft and free agency to emulate the NFL’s offseason has been broached in recent years, but has never gained much momentum, according to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports, who has heard in the past that about two-thirds of the league’s teams opposed the idea.

While a league official tells Goodwill that there hasn’t been any serious discussion about a possible change recently, the concept may be gathering a bit more support. A pair of general managers who spoke to Yahoo Sports said they believe about half the league’s teams are in favor of the change now, while the other half remains resistant.

“Teams couldn’t comprehend having to do free agency and then the draft, which in their mind was overwhelming,” one GM said. “But the reality of it is that it’s the same amount of time. Change is hard for a lot of people.”

Some teams have logistical concerns about moving free agency up, since the NBA has to calculate its year-end revenues after the Finals, which in terms determines the coming year’s salary cap. The idea of pushing back Summer League deeper into the summer to make sure it still comes after the draft is also a potential stumbling block, as Goodwill notes.

“I am open to it, (although) one issue becomes the extension of the summer,” a second GM told Yahoo Sports. “I do like how football can fill free agent needs first and supplement their rosters with the draft second. … The calendar works in football’s favor.”

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

  • Former Baylor wing Ishmail Wainright, who played for SIG Strasbourg in France in 2020/21, appeared at one point to be close to signing with Lithuania’s Zalgiris Kaunas, but now may be prioritizing an NBA opportunity, tweets Lithuanian journalist Donatas Urbonas. According to Urbonas, Wainright previously received an offer from the Raptors and is still drawing a lot of interest from NBA teams.
  • The NBA and NBPA announced on Wednesday that there were two new confirmed positive COVID-19 tests among players during the week of April 21-28. That’s slightly down from the three coronavirus positives among players announced on April 21.
  • Paolo Uggetti of The Ringer digs into the experience of playing on a 10-day contract, exploring how the unusual circumstances of this season have made the short-term auditions even more challenging for players than in past years.

Draft Notes: Carton, Ramey, Culver, International Prospects

Marquette sophomore guard D.J. Carton has decided to enter the 2021 NBA draft and forgo his remaining college eligibility, the program announced in a press release.

Carton, who transferred to Marquette after spending his freshman year at Ohio State, averaged 13.0 points and 3.4 assists per game in 27 contests (31.1 MPG) in 2020/21. However, he struggled with his three-point shot, making just 28.2% of his attempts after knocking down 40.0% as a freshman. He also turned the ball over 3.2 times per game.

Here are a few more draft-related updates:

  • Texas junior guard Courtney Ramey announced on Instagram that he’ll test the draft waters. Ramey averaged 12.2 PPG and 3.9 APG in 26 games (33.5 MPG) for the Longhorns in 2020/21.
  • As first reported and as Schuyler Callihan of further details, West Virginia forward/center Derek Culver has decided to leave school and go pro, forgoing his senior year. He put up 14.3 PPG and 9.4 RPG in 29 games (26.3 MPG) for the Mountaineers as a junior.
  • It has been more challenging than ever for NBA teams to scout international prospects in person this year, but there are a handful of players overseas generating buzz as potential first-round picks. Mike Schmitz of ESPN (Insider link) and John Hollinger of The Athletic both took a closer look at some of those top international prospects, with a focus on intriguing Turkish big man Alperen Sengun.
  • Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report identifies three realistic targets for each NBA team with a first-round pick, based on their needs and where they’ll likely be drafting.

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:

Kai Sotto Signs Multiyear Deal with Adelaide 36ers

Kai Sotto, a 7’2″ center from the Philippines who was a member of the G League Ignite, has signed a multiyear contract with the Adelaide 36ers of the National Basketball League, the Australian club announced in a press release.

Sotto will join the team for the 2021/22 season, having signed a two-year deal with an option for a third year. While he could decide to declare for the NBA draft as early as 2022, it’s unclear if his new contract includes an NBA out that would allow him to come stateside before it expires.

Sotto was one of several young prospects who joined the Ignite, the NBA G League’s new select team, for its inaugural season in 2020/21. However, he didn’t end up appearing in any NBAGL games, having left the Ignite in January to train with the Philippines National Team at the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers in Qatar. That event ended up being canceled, but Sotto and the Ignite decided not to have him report back to the Walt Disney World bubble due to the compressed schedule and the quarantine protocols that would have delayed his return.

A four-star recruit in 2020, Sotto remains somewhat of an unknown commodity, as he opted to forgo college and has yet to play in any professional leagues. His time in Adelaide should give him an opportunity to showcase his skills for NBA evaluators.