Isaac Okoro

Southeast Notes: Butler, Isaac, Hawks, Heat

Heat swingman Jimmy Butler, who continues to battle a right foot injury, has been ruled out for Saturday’s matchup with Phoenix, according to Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Twitter link). It will be the third consecutive game that Butler has missed.

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said on Thursday that Butler underwent both an MRI and an X-ray on the foot, which revealed no structural damage, per Barry Jackson and Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. The hope for now is that rest is the best treatment for the All-Star wing.

“Jimmy had his final scan yesterday. And we understand what he’s dealing with,” agent Bernie Lee told The Herald. “And he’s working his butt off to get back on the floor ASAP and to be ready for the playoffs.”

The postseason isn’t scheduled to begin until August 17, so Butler has another 10 days to work his way back from the injury, which is mostly affecting his right ankle, according to Jackson and Chiang.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

Pistons Notes: Brown, Thomas, Draft, Weaver, Casey

The Pistons won’t have to make decisions on three young players with non-guaranteed deals until October, James Edwards III of The Athletic notes.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the Pistons had to decide whether to pick up the contracts of Bruce Brown, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Khyri Thomas during the first two weeks of July with each player scheduled to make approximately $1.66MM next season. That date has been pushed back until after the playoffs are completed in Orlando.

It’s a given that Detroit will exercise its team option on Mykhailiuk and guarantee Brown’s contract, but Thomas’ situation is uncertain. He missed most of the season with a foot injury and returned to action shortly before the stoppage of play. The coaching staff believes Thomas can be a contributor, which helps his chances of getting his deal guaranteed, Edwards adds.

We have more on the Pistons:

  • New GM Troy Weaver has said he’ll be looking for a high-character player in the lottery. That increases the chances that the team will draft Auburn’s Isaac Okoro, USC’s Onyeka Okongwu or Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Though none are currently ranked at the very top of the draft, that trio consistently draws high marks among scouts, college coaches and NBA executives for their personality traits, Langlois adds.
  • The mutual respect between Weaver and coach Dwane Casey bodes well for the franchise’s future, Langlois writes in a separate piece. Casey has proven he can develop talent and he has full confidence that Weaver will acquire the type of talent that can lift the franchise back to prominence, Langlois adds.
  • Assitant GM Pat Garrity is leaving the organization. Get all the details here.

Warriors Targeting Anthony Edwards?

The Warriors are expected to select Georgia guard Anthony Edwards if they land the top pick in this year’s draft and decide to keep it, sources tell Connor Letourneau of The San Francisco Chronicle.

The 18-year-old shooting guard is ranked first on the list of the top 100 prospects compiled by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. Edwards averaged 19.1 points and 5.2 rebounds during his lone season with the Bulldogs.

Golden State can’t finalize any plans until after the lottery, which has been moved to August 25. The Warriors, Cavaliers and Timberwolves will each have a 14% chance at the No. 1 selection in the draft, which has been pushed back to October 15.

Letourneau states that if the Warriors slip to anywhere between the second and fifth picks, they will turn their attention to Iowa State point guard Tyrese Haliburton, Auburn forward Isaac Okoro, Israeli forward Deni Avdija and a few other players.

Another possibility, Letourneau notes, is packaging the pick and using a $17.2MM traded player exception to acquire a proven player. Golden State is hoping to return to title contention next year and may not see anyone in the draft who could be a difference maker right away.

Coronavirus concerns canceled this year’s pre-draft showcases and made individual workouts impossible, so the Warriors have been relying on videos and Zoom chats to assess prospects.

Draft Notes: Okoro, Hayes, Adams, Hunter

Auburn star Isaac Okoro has confirmed, in an interview with Jason Jordan of Sports Illustrated, that he will remain in the NBA draft.

“I’ll be officially in the draft,” Okoro said. “I haven’t posted it on social media, but I feel like it will be the best move for me. It’s always been a dream of mine since I was a little kid to have a chance to make it to the NBA. It feels so surreal right now, but I also know once draft day comes, I’m just gonna be ready for the moment.”

Okoro is projected as a high lottery pick after averaging 12.8 points and 4.4 rebounds for the Tigers as a freshman. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has him rated fourth overall and as the No. 1 small forward on the board in his list of the top 100 prospects. Early entrants have until June 3 to withdraw, but Okoro has already signed with an agency and said his decision is final.

There’s more draft news to pass along:

  • Potential top 10 pick Killian Hayes will skip a three-week tournament that the German league is planning for June, according to Givony. Some teams are permitting players to decide whether they want to participate in the proposed 10-team, 36-game event, which will determine the league champion and an automatic berth in the EuroLeague next season.
  • Jordyn Adams has withdrawn from the draft and will return to Austin Peay, tweets Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports. Adams averaged 17.4 points per game this year as a freshman.
  • Chance Hunter will return to Long Beach State after withdrawing from the draft, Rothstein adds (via Twitter).

Draft Notes: Whitney, Scouting, Bruner, Mock Draft

Freshman forward Kahlil Whitney, who dropped out of Kentucky in January, has declared for the draft and will hire an agent, Jonathan Givony of ESPN reports. Whitney’s stock has taken a major hit since he arrived at Kentucky. He was the No. 12 recruit in the 2019 ESPN 100, but he struggled to keep his spot in the Wildcats’ rotation, averaging 3.3 PPG and 1.7 RPG in 12.8 MPG. He appeared in 18 games before dropping out of school. The 6’7” Whitney is ranked as the No. 80 NBA draft prospect in ESPN’s top 100 for the 2020 draft.

We have more draft-related news:

  • The limitations for scouting prospects due to the pandemic has some executives worried about their evaluations, Keith Smith of NBC Sports reports. For the time being, they can only look at film. As the process moves along, they can conduct virtual meetings with prospects but workouts, and even watching live workouts remotely, are prohibited. There are other concerns as well. “If there are medical red flags, it can take a guy right off our draft board,” an Eastern Conference GM told Smith. “Now, we have to trust what we get from the agent, and there’s different motivation there. Then we, of course, want to see the guy work out.”
  • Jordan Bruner has apparently opted to change schools rather than enter the draft pool. The former Yale forward is transferring to Alabama, Tyler DeLuca of Sooner Sportspad tweets. An earlier report suggested that Bruner, who has one year of eligibility remaining, would enter the draft.
  • The latest ESPN mock draft has the Warriors selecting Georgia guard Anthony Edwards with the No. 1 overall pick. Edwards is ranked No. 1 on ESPN’s best available list. The mock draft, conducted by Givony and Mike Schmitz, has the Cavaliers selecting center James Wiseman with the No. 2 pick and the Hawks taking Auburn swingman Isaac Okoro at No. 3.

Draft Notes: Early Entrants, Haliburton, Hayes, Avdija

The list of early entrants for the 2020 draft continues to grow, with a trio of guards among the latest underclassmen to announce their intent to test the waters this spring.

Wichita State sophomore guard Dexter Dennis, Colgate junior guard Jordan Burns, and UNC Greensboro junior guard Isaiah Miller all made their draft announcements on Twitter.

Dennis averaged 9.2 PPG and 5.0 RPG in 28 games (25.8 MPG) for the Shockers in 2019/20; Burns, a former Patriot Tournament MVP, posted 15.8 PPG, 4.5 APG, and 1.7 SPG in 34 games (32.4 MPG) for the Raiders; and Miller recorded a team-high 17.8 PPG to go along with 2.8 SPG as he earned Player of the Year – and Defensive Player of the Year – honors in the Southern Conference.

Here are a few more draft-related updates:

  • Even after the departure of Leon Rose, the head of the agency’s basketball department, Creative Artists Agency is having no problem continuing to fill out its roster with promising young players. CAA announced on Thursday (via Twitter) that projected lottery pick Tyrese Haliburton will be represented by the firm.
  • Ethan Strauss of The Athletic shares his “unconventional” top five for the 2020 draft, valuing efficiency and production over hype and athleticism and focusing on versatile players who have at least one elite skill. Based on those criteria, French wing Killian Hayes top Strauss’ board, followed by Obi Toppin, Haliburton, Onyeka Okongwu, and Isaac Okoro.
  • With the help of draft expert Fran Fraschilla, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com takes an in-depth look at Israeli swingman Deni Avdija, who is another candidate to be one of the first five players off the board in the 2020 draft. Fraschilla cautions that Avdija’s shot needs some work, but views him as this year’s top international prospect – above Hayes – and believes he belongs in the upper tier of the draft class.

Isaac Okoro To Enter 2020 NBA Draft

Auburn freshman forward Isaac Okoro will declare for the 2020 NBA draft, head coach Bruce Pearl told reporters in a conference call on Friday, per Tom Green of AL.com.

Although Okoro is expected to test the draft waters, retaining his college eligibility and leaving the door open for a return to Auburn, it would be a shock if he doesn’t ultimately decide to keep his name in this year’s draft pool. He’s a surefire lottery pick who currently ranks fourth overall on ESPN’s big board.

ESPN draft gurus Mike Schmitz and Jonathan Givony (Insider link) explained two weeks ago why Okoro’s stock has risen so significantly over the course of the 2019/20 season and why he looks like a top-10 pick – or top-five – pick now after not being included on the duo’s first 2020 mock draft last June.

In 28 games for Auburn as a freshman, Okoro averaged 12.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG, and 2.0 APG with a .514/.290/.672 shooting line. While his overall numbers were modest, Okoro has room to grow offensively and emerged as one of the NCAA’s most impactful defenders, per Schmitz. The 19-year-old earned SEC All-Defense, SEC All-Freshman, and Second Team All-SEC honors in his first and potentially only college season.

He’s the second projected lottery pick to declare for the 2020 draft today, joining Georgia guard Anthony Edwards.

And-Ones: Gortat, Felton, Ball, Okoro

Veteran NBA center Marcin Gortat decided to retire from professional basketball last month, walking away from a league where he played for four teams across 12 years.

Gortat, 36, saw his last NBA season come during the 2018/19 campaign with the Clippers and spent much of this season contemplating his future.

“It’s sad but you know, the whole adventure and the whole ‘Polish Hammer’ thing has to end at some point,” Gortat said, according to Mike DePrisco of NBC Sports. “I’m happy that after 12 years I achieved so much being the 57th pick in the draft. Now, I’ve got the good part and I’m going to enjoy my life and enjoy the other guys watching them play on the court.”

Gortat returned to Washington and watched the Wizards play the Hawks on Friday, receiving a video tribute from the organization. He helped the franchise make the playoffs in four of his five seasons, playing physical basketball on both ends of the floor.

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Free agent Raymond Felton won’t be signing in the Czech Republic after all, according to Niccolo Scavuzzo of Sportando. Felton reportedly reached agreement with Jindřichův Hradec, with the team’s GM suggesting in an official statement that the point guard would report until April, but it appears that announcement was premature.
  • LiAngelo Ball is signing with the Oklahoma City Blue, G League affiliate of the Thunder, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Ball is continuing his pursuit of an NBA deal by way of the G League, with the 21-year-old going undrafted back in 2018.
  • In an article for ESPN Insider, Jonathon Givony and Mike Schmitz detail why Isaac Okoro might be a top-five NBA draft pick this June. Okoro, 19, is a 6-foot-6 small forward who currently plays at Auburn.

And-Ones: P. Gasol, Player Options, 2020 Draft

Veteran big man Pau Gasol suggested earlier this month that he hopes to get healthy in time to represent Spain in the 2020 Olympics, and that he hasn’t given up on the possibility of an NBA comeback. Gasol, who will turn 40 in July, recently reiterated that point to Spain’s Agencia Efe, as relayed by Eurohoops.

“I understand that sooner or later, whether this summer, next season or another, my retirement is inevitable,” Gasol said. “I hope that the foot recovers so that it can allow me to play a little more. We will see how much more. Enjoy one last season.”

Gasol’s foot issues limited him to 30 games in 2018/19 and sidelined him altogether in 2019/20 before he was waived by Portland. At this point, a return to the NBA seems unlikely, but it would be great to see Gasol get healthy and get a farewell season in 2020/21.

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

  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype takes an early look at this summer’s player option decisions, projecting which players are locks to opt in or out, and which decisions will end up being a little trickier. Gozlan singles out Mike Conley, Andre Drummond, and DeMar DeRozan as complicated cases, since they won’t match their 2020/21 option salaries if they opt out, but they could earn more total money on new multiyear deals.
  • Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Insider link) takes a look at some draft-related storylines to watch over the next month in the NCAA, including the final games of Anthony Edwards‘ college career, Isaac Okoro‘s draft stock, and the logjam of first-round point guard prospects.
  • Speaking of Edwards, the Georgia guard remains atop Sam Vecenie’s 2020 draft big board at The Athletic. LaMelo Ball, Deni Avdija, James Wiseman, and Killian Hayes round out Vecenie’s top five.

And-Ones: Mock Draft, Maker, G League Union, Bethea Jr.

Georgia guard Anthony Edwards heads to Cleveland in the latest mock draft compiled by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. Former Memphis center James Wiseman (Golden State), Auburn swingman Isaac Okoro (Atlanta), guard LaMelo Ball (New York) and Israeli swingman Deni Avdija (Charlotte) round out the top five. USC big man Onyeka Okongwu has firmly moved into the top 10 after a couple of big performances against top competition and Givony has him going to Detroit at No. 7.

We have more from the basketball world:

  • Makur Maker has been declared eligible for this year’s draft, Evan Daniels of 247Sports reports. The 6’11” Maker is a five-star recruit currently at Hillcrest Academy in Phoenix but he doesn’t plan to play any more games there, Daniels continues. The question about his eligibility stemmed from not receiving his diploma following his senior year of high school. Maker plans to play in the Iverson Classic All-Star game and the Nike Hoop Summit, Daniels adds.
  • NBA players have voted to support the formation of a union for G League players, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. The vote was held at the NBPA meeting on Monday. Formal approval at the G League level will have to take place before the union can be formed (Twitter links).
  • Raptors 905 guard Michael Bethea Jr. is the subject of a feature story by The Athletic’s Blake Murphy on the life of a G League player.