Ja Morant

Hawks Notes: Draft, No. 8, Reddish, Fernando

The Mavericks agreed to send their top-5 protected 2019 first-rounder to the Hawks as part of the Luka Doncic draft night trade last June. Entering the NBA draft lottery, Dallas had hoped to keep this year’s pick and delay conveying the selection.

Assistant GM Keith Grant told Chris Kirschner of the Athletic that the Mavs would have liked to add another young piece to the Doncic-Kristaps Porzingis nucleus. Still, the team views last year’s trade as a win for both parties.

“We actually do believe that,” Grant said about both teams getting the guy they wanted. “We evaluated every player and thought Luka was our guy. Atlanta obviously had Trae as theirs, and so we had a deal.”

The trade between Dallas and Atlanta had been agreed to prior to the actual draft but was contingent on both Doncic and Trae Young being available at No. 3 and No. 5, respectively.

The Hawks are armed with two top-10 draft selections in this year’s draft and Kirschner passes along more from Atlanta:

  • It would be surprising if the Hawks didn’t pick a wing, assuming they stay at the No. 8 spot, Kirschner hears from sources within the organization. Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver has been linked to Atlanta but it’s hard to envision him falling out of the top seven.
  • Zion Williamson and Ja Morant are widely expected to be the top two picks in the draft. One Hawks executive told Kirschner that he expects three other players—R.J. Barrett, Darius Garland, and Coby White—to be unavailable when Atlanta makes its first selection at No. 8. The Suns and Bulls both covet upgrades at the point guard spot and Garland and White are the best available after Morant.
  • The Hawks have interest in Cam Reddish. While he failed to live up to lofty expectations at Duke, there’s “not much doubt” within Atlanta’s organization that playing alongside Young, John Collins, and Kevin Huerter would allow him to reach his potential, Kirschner adds.
  • Coach Lloyd Pierce prefers a center who can stretch the floor but that wouldn’t stop the team from selecting Jaxson Hayes if he’s the best player on the board at No. 10. “Roster building isn’t always about trying to perfectly pair up guys,” a source tells Kirschner.
  • Multiple sources tell Kirschner that the team likes Bruno Fernando out of Maryland. The big man likely isn’t in play with one of the Hawks‘ two top-10 selections, but the franchise holds three second-round picks (No. 35, No. 41, No. 44).

Knicks Notes: Durant, Davis, Draft, Ntilikina

The possibility of Kevin Durant signing with the Knicks overshadowed all other topics as NBA executives gathered this week for the annual combine, relays Steve Popper of Newsday. He states that most of those in attendance consider it a “fait accompli” that the Warriors’ star will be coming to New York when free agency begins in July.

The combine was peppered with talk of a secret meeting between the Knicks and Durant and rumors that a “handshake deal” is already in place, along with endorsement opportunities. That would be a blatant violation of NBA rules and a huge risk for the team to take when the opportunity to legally negotiate with Durant is just six weeks away. However, even those who don’t buy into such conspiracy talk seem convinced that a move is on the way.

Explaining why Durant might be willing to leave a potential three-time champion, one unidentified front office executive speculates that he is tired of constant “prodding” from Warriors coach Steve Kerr and believes he will never replace Stephen Curry as the team’s most important player. That opportunity would come instantly in New York, where Knicks fans have been clamoring for a star for years.

There’s more today from New York:

  • Knicks president Steve Mills wouldn’t discuss the possibility of including the No. 3 pick in a deal for Anthony Davis, but he insists the team is happy about its position coming out of Tuesday’s lottery, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. Trade talks for Davis remain on hold as Pelicans executive David Griffin tries to convince his star big man to stay with the team, a source tells Berman. Any trade offer for Davis would have to include the two first-rounders from Dallas that were acquired in the Kristaps Porzingis deal, along with two young prospects from a group that includes Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Frank Ntilikina.
  • Berman considers it a”virtual certainty” that New York will take Duke’s R.J. Barrett if the draft proceeds as expected. The Knicks rate Murray State’s Ja Morant slightly higher, but Memphis is likely to grab him with the second pick. New York’s front office met with both players Wednesday at the combine. The Knicks also own the 55th pick and could target a power forward in the second round.
  • The Knicks are willing to part with Ntilikina in exchange for another late first round or early second round selection, Berman adds. That would open more cap room to pick up the options on Allonzo Trier and Damyean Dotson without jeopardizing the ability to offer to max deals in free agency.

Morant Would Be Happy To Play For Grizzlies

Point guard Ja Morant wouldn’t mind if he’s drafted by a small-market team like the Grizzlies, he told David Cobb of the Memphis Commercial Appeal and other media members on Friday.

The Grizzlies are reportedly zeroing in on the Murray State floor leader with the No. 2 selection in the draft. A pair of big-market teams, the Knicks and Lakers, are next in line in the draft, but Morant says it’s all the same to him.

“If a team drafts me, big market or small market, it doesn’t matter,” Morant said at the draft combine. “I’m going to be happy where I’m at.”

Morant could join the Grizzlies’ lottery selection from last season, big man Jaren Jackson Jr., as the key figures in the club’s rebuild. Morant met with the Pelicans, who hold the No. 1 selection and will almost assuredly select Duke’s Zion Williamson, as well as Memphis and New York at the combine. He did not participate in any 5-on-5 games in Chicago.

He admits he’s not familiar with the city of Memphis.

“I just know Memphis Grizzlies basketball and that’s it,” Morant said. “If you ask me about Chicago, I know Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan. It’s just that I’ve never been to places like that and I’m a big basketball guy, so I would probably know basketball.”

Morant took a diplomatic approach to the questions thrown at him. He clearly doesn’t want to say anything that might haunt him in the future. He zoomed up the prospects list in his sophomore season, averaging 24.5 PPG, 10.0 APG and 5.7 RPG while leading the Racers to the NCAA Tournament.

“I really would be happy with any team that drafts me,” Morant said. “That means they see something in me. It’s just an honor to be able to play this game at the highest level and just to be in the position that I’m in.”

Draft Notes: Morant, Garland, Suns, Bucks

While he seems very likely to be selected by Memphis with the No. 2 overall pick, Murray State point guard Ja Morant covered his bases at this week’s draft combine in Chicago, according to Jeremy Woo of SI.com, who reports (via Twitter) that Morant met with the Pelicans, Grizzlies, and Knicks. Those, of course, are the teams with the top three picks in this year’s draft.

While Morant is in attendance at the combine, he’s not participating in the 5-on-5 games this week, per an Associated Press report. That’s no surprise, since it’s rare for top prospects to play in those games and put their stock at risk.

Here’s more on the 2019 NBA draft:

  • If point guard prospect Darius Garland received a promise from a team near the top of the draft, as has been speculated, it seems unlikely it came from the Cavaliers. According to Joe Vardon of The Athletic (via Twitter), Garland left the combine without having met with Cleveland.
  • John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 suggests that Garland, Coby White (UNC), and Jarrett Culver (Texas Tech) are the three players worth keeping a close eye on as possibilities for the Suns at No. 6.
  • USC guard Kevin Porter Jr. is among the players who have met with the Knicks at the combine, tweets Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. The No. 14 prospect on ESPN’s big board, Porter probably isn’t a target for New York unless the club makes some sort of trade.
  • The Bucks are believed to be keeping a close eye on shooting guards at this year’s combine, tweets Gery Woelfel of Woelfel’s Press Box. Milwaukee has the 30th overall pick in the 2019 draft.

Grizzlies “Locked In” On Selecting Ja Morant

In more draft news coming out of Chicago this evening, Jonathan Givony of ESPN is reporting that the Grizzlies have zeroed in on Murray State point guard Ja Morant as their pick for the No. 2 overall selection in this summer’s 2019 NBA Draft.

Memphis, still looking for a new head coach after the ousting of J.B. Bickerstaff, will look to count on Morant to join last year’s lottery selection Jaren Jackson Jr. in leading a rebuild that began with the trade of franchise cornerstone Marc Gasol earlier this year and could see Gasol’s longtime running mate Mike Conley be traded soon as well.

Last night’s runner-up finish in the lottery was a serendipitous turn of events for Memphis, who only had a 12.3% chance of landing a top-2 pick. For months now, it was rumored that the Grizzlies would have preferred to lose their pick (top-8 protected) to the Celtics, but that was under the assumption that the pick didn’t land at the top of the draft.

However, because the Grizzlies kept their 2019 pick, the Celtics now own Memphis’ 2020 first-round pick if it falls out of the top six. In other words, it may pay for Grind City to be at the bottom of league standings again next season, making it all the more likely that Conley is traded sooner rather than later.

Draft Notes: Hawks, Culver, Morant, Knicks

The Pelicans and Grizzlies made meteoric rises in tonight’s draft lottery, landing the first and second picks respectively. It’s widely assumed that Zion Williamson and Ja Morant will be the selections, however, much can happen before the draft next month.

Let’s take a look at some notes from teams that didn’t move up in the lottery:

  • The Hawks are fond of Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver, Sean Deveney of Sporting News writes. The franchise believes Culver’s “blend of athleticism and defensive prowess” will allow him to make the leap from the college ranks to the professional level.  Atlanta owns the Nos. 8 and 10 picks in the draft.
  • Had the Hawks landed the No. 2 pick, they likely would have drafted Culver or made a trade, according to Deveney, who suggests Atlanta was never going to draft Morant. Atlanta is fully committed to Trae Young as its point guard of the future and Young’s game next to Morant would be an awkward fit, writes Deveney.
  • The Cavaliers and the Mavericks are other teams that would have explored options outside of Morant had they landed No. 2, Deveney adds. Cleveland drafted Collin Sexton last June while Dallas invested in Luka Doncic.
  • The Knicks would not have traded Williamson if they landed the No. 1 pick, Adrian Wojnarowski said during ESPN’s Draft Lottery coverage. New York will have no such opportunity, as the team ended up with the No. 3 selection.
  • New York didn’t land the No. 1 pick as the franchise had hoped, but the Suns should be more disappointed than the Knicks in their result, Katherine Fitzgerald of the Arizona Republic writes. Phoenix landed the No. 6 overall pick in the draft.

Full List Of 2019 NBA Draft Combine Participants

The NBA has revealed its list of 66 players who have been invited to next week’s draft combine in Chicago and who are expected to attend. The combine will take place from May 15-19.

While a small handful of top prospects often skip the event, that won’t be the case this year — Zion Williamson and Ja Morant are on the league’s list of 66 names, along with R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, Jarrett Culver, Darius Garland, De’Andre Hunter, and many more. Of course, those top prospects may not participate fully in all of the workouts and scrimmages at the combine.

A few more names figure to be added to this list, as a select number of the 40 draft-eligible prospects participating in the G League Elite Camp earlier in the week are expected to receive invites to the combine.

Here’s the full list of 66 names announced by the NBA today, in alphabetical order:

  1. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, Virginia Tech (sophomore)
  2. R.J. Barrett, G/F, Duke (freshman)
  3. Charles Bassey, C, Western Kentucky (freshman)
  4. Darius Bazley, F, Princeton HS (OH) (N/A)
  5. Bol Bol, C, Oregon (freshman)
  6. Jordan Bone, G, Tennessee (junior)
  7. Brian Bowen, F, USA (born 1998)
  8. Ky Bowman, G, Boston College (junior)
  9. Ignas Brazdeikis, F, Michigan (freshman)
  10. Moses Brown, C, UCLA (freshman)
  11. Brandon Clarke, F, Gonzaga (junior)
  12. Nicolas Claxton, F, Georgia (sophomore)
  13. Jarrett Culver, G/F, Texas Tech (sophomore)
  14. Luguentz Dort, G, Arizona State (freshman)
  15. Devon Dotson, G, Kansas (freshman)
  16. Carsen Edwards, G, Purdue (junior)
  17. Bruno Fernando, F, Maryland (sophomore)
  18. Daniel Gafford, F/C, Arkansas (sophomore)
  19. Darius Garland, G, Vanderbilt (freshman)
  20. Quentin Grimes, G, Kansas (freshman)
  21. Kyle Guy, G, Virginia (junior)
  22. Jaylen Hands, G, UCLA (sophomore)
  23. Jaxson Hayes, F/C, Texas (freshman)
  24. Tyler Herro, G, Kentucky (freshman)
  25. Jaylen Hoard, F, Wake Forest (freshman)
  26. Talen Horton-Tucker, G, Iowa State (freshman)
  27. De’Andre Hunter, F, Virginia (sophomore)
  28. Ty Jerome, G, Virginia (junior)
  29. Cameron Johnson, G, UNC (senior)
  30. Keldon Johnson, F, Kentucky (freshman)
  31. Mfiondu Kabengele, C, Florida State (sophomore)
  32. Louis King, F, Oregon (freshman)
  33. Romeo Langford, G, Indiana (freshman)
  34. Dedric Lawson, F, Kansas (junior)
  35. Jalen Lecque, G, Brewster Academy (NH) (N/A)
  36. Nassir Little, F, UNC (freshman)
  37. Charles Matthews, G, Michigan (junior)
  38. Jalen McDaniels, F, San Diego State (sophomore)
  39. Ja Morant, G, Murray State (sophomore)
  40. Zach Norvell Jr., G, Gonzaga (sophomore)
  41. Jaylen Nowell, G, Washington (sophomore)
  42. Jordan Nwora, F, Louisville (sophomore)
  43. Chuma Okeke, F, Auburn (sophomore)
  44. KZ Okpala, F, Stanford (sophomore)
  45. Miye Oni, G/F, Yale (junior)
  46. Eric Paschall, F, Villanova (senior)
  47. Shamorie Ponds, G, St. John’s (junior)
  48. Jordan Poole, G, Michigan (sophomore)
  49. Jontay Porter, F, Missouri (sophomore)
  50. Kevin Porter Jr, G, USC (freshman)
  51. Neemias Queta, C, Utah State (freshman)
  52. Cam Reddish, F, Duke (freshman)
  53. Naz Reid, C, LSU (freshman)
  54. Isaiah Roby, F, Nebraska (junior)
  55. Luka Samanic, F, Croatia (born 2000)
  56. Admiral Schofield, G, Tennessee (senior)
  57. Simisola Shittu, F, Vanderbilt (freshman)
  58. Killian Tillie, F, Gonzaga (junior)
  59. PJ Washington, F, Kentucky (sophomore)
  60. Tremont Waters, G, LSU (sophomore)
  61. Quinndary Weatherspoon, G, Missippi State (senior)
  62. Coby White, G, UNC (freshman)
  63. Kris Wilkes, G, UCLA (sophomore)
  64. Grant Williams, F, Tennessee (junior)
  65. Zion Williamson, F, Duke (freshman)
  66. Dylan Windler, G, Belmont (senior)

Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga) and Matisse Thybulle (Washington) are among the potential first-round picks who aren’t on the NBA’s list of combine participants, as noted by Jeremy Woo of SI.com and ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Twitter links).

Pacific Notes: James, Durant, Morant, Ball

It’s in the best interest of the Lakers to give LeBron James input on all decisions, Frank Isola of The Athletic opines. While the Lakers don’t normally take that approach with a star player, no one running the club has proven they can build a winner, Isola notes. When they signed James last summer, they knew they had to let his voice be heard, Isola continues. The expected hiring of his former head coach in Cleveland, Tyronn Lue, is an example of James’ already exhibiting his influence, Isola adds.

We have more from around the Pacific Division:

  • Kevin Durant‘s praise of Monty Williams has led to speculation that the Warriors star might consider the Suns in free agency, Jeremy Cluff of Arizona Republic writes. While Cluff acknowledges that scenario is unlikely, Durant gushed about Williams’ character and coaching ability. “He’s a leader and a teacher,” Durant recently told the media. “I’m excited he’s back into coaching and walking those sidelines again. … Especially when you’re talking to him on the basketball court, you have a group of guys that will get better.” Williams was an assistant with the Thunder during the 2015/16 season when Durant played there.
  • Numerous draft pundits and NBA analysts believe Ja Morant would be a perfect fit for the Suns, Cluff relays in a separate story. The Murray State point guard is expected to be a top-three selection and Phoenix has an obvious need for a floor leader.
  • Lonzo Ball said that former business manager and Big Baller Brand co-founder Alan Foster took advantage of his mother’s illness for financial gain, Arthur Weinstein of Sports Illustrated relays. Ball said on James’ TV show ‘The Shop’ that Foster took over the family’s finances after Tina Ball suffered a stroke two years ago. Ball sued Foster last month for more than $2MM in damages, claiming that Foster embezzled $1.5MM from his personal and business accounts.

Western Notes: Capela, Suns, Pelicans, House

Rockets center Clint Capela, who had one of his worst games of the season on Monday in Utah, tells Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com that he has been battling a pair of respiratory illnesses during the playoffs. According to Capela, he was diagnosed on Sunday with adenovirus and a klebsiella infection. He’s treating the illnesses with medication and eye drops, and isn’t expected to back to full health for another four or five days.

“It’s tough, man,” Capela told MacMahon. “Especially when I try to breathe, it’s hard. I’m just going to fight it the best that I can.”

If Capela is slowed again in Game 5, it could open the door a crack for a Jazz comeback, though the Rockets remain heavy favorites to finish off the series on Wednesday night, with or without a fully healthy center.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • As John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 clarifies (via Twitter), the Suns wouldn’t draft Ja Morant over Zion Williamson if they get the No. 1 pick. However, the Suns would be happy to select Morant at No. 2, and could explore trading up to No. 2 if they end up with a slightly lower pick, per Gambadoro. This doesn’t contradict a weekend report from Sam Vecenie of The Athletic, who cited sources that believe Phoenix may prefer to end up with Morant. Vecenie himself expressed skepticism that the team would pass on Williamson at No. 1.
  • Clippers assistant general manager Trent Redden is in New Orleans this week, tweets Scott Kushner of The Advocate. Nothing is official yet, but there have been whispers that the Pelicans plan to hire Redden as their new GM under David Griffin. Redden and Griffin have already met in New Orleans, reports Andrew Lopez of NOLA.com (via Twitter).
  • The latest trip to Salt Lake City for Danuel House reflects how far he has come in the last four-and-a-half months, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. The last time House was in Utah in early December, he was being waived from the Rockets‘ 15-man roster. He ultimately re-signed with the team on a two-way deal, then played his way back onto the 15-man squad before the end of the season. Now, he’s one of Houston’s must trusted reserves, having averaged 23.8 MPG in the first round.

And-Ones: Silver, Mock Draft, Players’ Poll, Belinelli

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is willing to consider shortening the regular season and even the length of games, he said in a press conference on Friday. Silver’s comments were relayed by the Associated Press’ Brian Mahoney“The format we have in place now — I’m a traditionalist on one hand, but on the other hand it’s 50 years old or so, presenting an 82-game season, and there’s nothing magical about it,” Silver said. He also tossed out the idea of reducing the length of games from 48 minutes to 40, the same as college and international games. Holding mid-season tournaments is something else he’s willing to consider. None of the potential changes are close to be implemented, Mahoney adds.

We have more from the basketball world: