Jalen Johnson

Draft Notes: Cooper, Bezhanishvili, Williams, Johnson

Potential late lottery pick Sharife Cooper has been making the rounds. He’s worked out for the Thunder, Rockets, Warriors, Lakers, Clippers and Celtics, Adam Zagoria of the New York Times tweets. As previously noted, Cooper has worked out for the Hornets and has also visited the Pacers. The Auburn point guard is currently ranked No. 17 overall on ESPN’s Best Available list.

We have more draft-related intel:

  • Giorgi Bezhanishvili has recently worked out for the Spurs, Hornets and Bulls, Zagoria reports in another tweet. The junior forward who played for Illinois is a potential second-round selection.
  • Ziaire Williams was brought in for a second workout with the Magic, draft expert Chad Ford tweets. The Stanford freshman wing is ranked No. 24 by ESPN, but Ford views Williams as a potential lottery selection. Orlando owns the No. 5 and 8 picks.
  • Jalen Johnson left Duke in mid-February after losing playing time but he brushes aside questions about his character, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee writes. “Those really aren’t red flags,” Johnson said. “People say a lot of things about me, but they say those things without knowing me. … I don’t like seeing that stuff and I know my parents see that stuff, and I know it hurts them, because at the end of the day these people are making judgments without knowing me, without speaking to me, without saying a word to me.” Johnson is still expected to go in the lottery.

Atlantic Notes: J. Johnson, Duarte, Fournier, Sixers

The Knicks will have a great opportunity to add some immediate help in the 2021 draft, stocked with two first-round and two-second round picks. David Vertsberger of Yahoo Sports examines the pros and cons of intriguing Duke small forward Jalen Johnson in a new piece.

The 19-year-old Johnson appears to have a high upside, per Vertsberger. He has exhibited flashes of being a solid playmaker and dangerous transition option at the next level. Defensive-oriented Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau might enjoy working with Johnson, who should be a valuable contributor on that end of the floor thanks to his athleticism and size (6’9″ with a 6’11” wingspan).

Vertsberger cautions that Johnson’s long-range jump shooting is the biggest question mark in his game, as he took just 1.4 three-point attempts a night during his lone season at Duke (though he did convert 44.4% of them). He also made just 63% of his free-throw attempts, a low number for a ball-handler. Johnson is currently listed as a late-lottery prospect on ESPN’s big board. The Knicks possess the No. 19, No. 21, No. 32 and No. 58 picks this year, so if they want Johnson, they may need to move up.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • 6’6″ three-and-D Oregon wing Chris Duarte could be a perfect fix for what ails the Knicks in this year’s 2021 draft, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post“I’m ready to step in,’’ the 24-year-old said during a Zoom interview with reporters Friday. “No doubt in my mind, [Duarte is] good enough for an NBA rotation now,’’ Oregon assistant coach-turned-DePaul head coach Tony Stubblefield raved. “And he’s ready to impact winning in an NBA franchise. He’s still got more upside to his game.’’ This season, Duarte won the Jerry West Award, given to the country’s top shooting guard, and was honored as the Pac-12 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. Duarte averaged 17.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.7 APG and 1.9 SPG. His shooting percentages are encouraging too: he averaged .532/.424/.810. ESPN projects Duarte to be available within the range of where New York will be selecting, as a mid-to-late first-rounder.
  • Now that Nuggets shooting guard Will Barton will opt out of the final season of his contract this summer, the free agent market for swingmen has gotten that much more competitive. Brian Robb of MassLive suggests that this could help the Celtics retain free agent wing Evan Fournier. Robb notes that no more than five-to-10 clubs will have the salary cap space to add players for more than the full $9.7MM mid-level exception, and thus Barton’s availability could mean one fewer team is in the mix to lure Fournier away with a big-money offer.
  • Wells Fargo Center, home court to the Sixers, is soon set to resume its $300MM renovation, which had been paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. New club level seating tweaks will be added this fall, and further improvements will be built next summer. Mike Sielski of The Philadelphia Inquirer wonders if the club will opt to remain at Wells Fargo long-term or will continue pursuing the rumored construction of their own arena. The team’s lease with Wells Fargo expires in 2031. Sielski notes that the improvements to Wells Fargo could entice Sixers ownership to stay. “I don’t want to get into speculation about how the Sixers think about this,” Valerie Camillo, Wells Fargo’s president of business operations, said. “The Sixers know we want them to stay.”

Draft Notes: Warriors, Hornets, Green Room Invites, Preston

The Warriors brought in some first-round prospects for workouts on Friday, Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweetsChris Duarte, Keon Johnson, Corey Kispert, Trey Murphy III, Ziaire Williams and Ayo Dosunmu visited the Warriors’ training facility. Johnson is the highest-rated prospect on the list, as the Tennessee guard is currently ranked No. 9 overall by ESPN.

Gonzaga’s Kispert (No. 13), Virginia’s Murphy (18), Oregon’s Duarte (23), Stanford’s Williams (24) and Illinois’ Dosunmu (34) could all be off the board by the second round. Golden State holds the seventh and 14th overall picks.

We have more draft-related news and tidbits:

Draft Notes: Top Picks, Barnes, Mitchell, Green Room

With the draft less than two weeks away, more clarity is emerging about the top of the lottery, writes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. The Pistons are reportedly listening to offers involving the No. 1 selection, but league sources tell O’Connor the most likely scenario is that they will keep the pick and take Cade Cunningham. Even if a trade does happen, teams around the league expect Cunningham to be taken first.

The Rockets are leaning toward Jalen Green with the second pick, sources tell O’Connor. Green’s elite athleticism and ability to create his own shot could eventually make him the best player in the draft, O’Connor adds, and rival teams are preparing for him to go to Houston.

Evan Mobley, who ranks higher than Green on many teams’ draft boards, appears to be a good fit for the Cavaliers at No. 3. They may consider a guard if Collin Sexton is traded by draft night, but Mobley makes sense with the current roster. Jalen Suggs appears headed to the Raptors with the fourth pick and would be a young replacement for Kyle Lowry if he leaves in free agency.

O’Connor cites league sources who believe the Magic like Scottie Barnes with the fifth pick, while the Thunder at No. 6 will decide between James Bouknight and Barnes if he’s still on the board. Jonathan Kuminga, who was considered a top five selection early on, isn’t getting much interest from either Orlando or Oklahoma City, O’Connor adds.

There’s more on the draft:

  • Many scouts and executives believe Barnes will be a top five pick, per Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report. Sources tell Wassmerman that the Magic are a good bet to take Barnes, but the Thunder will nab him if Orlando passes. Rival teams also believe the Raptors will consider him with the fourth pick if they’re determined to keep Lowry.
  • Baylor point guard Davion Mitchell held an individual workout for the Warriors on Thursday, according to Anthony Slater of The AthleticMoses Moody, Jalen Johnson and Kai Jones also worked out for the team, but they were in a group session that was held after Mitchell’s workout and interview. Slater examines the arguments for and against drafting Mitchell, who is a strong defender and improved greatly as a three-point shooter last season.
  • Kuminga is among the prospects who have received a Green Room invitation for draft night, Wasserman tweets. Shams Charania of The Athletic reports that Jones (Twitter link) and Australian guard Josh Giddey (Twitter link) have also been invited to join the Green Room, which is reserved for prospects who are expected to be chosen early.

Pacific Notes: Warriors Workouts, Lakers, LeBron, CP3

The Warriors, who hold the seventh and 14th overall picks in this year’s draft, are busy this week working out prospects, many of whom could be in play for one of those two lottery picks.

As Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets, Cameron Thomas, Tre Mann, Isaiah Todd, Quentin Grimes, Nah’Shon Hyland, and LJ Figueroa came in for a group workout with the Warriors on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Baylor’s Davion Mitchell is conducting an individual workout with Golden State before Jalen Johnson, Kai Jones, and Moses Moody audition later in the afternoon, according to Kendra Andrews of NBC Sports Bay Area (Twitter link).

Of those 10 prospects, Mitchell (No. 7), Johnson (12), Moody (16), Jones (20), Mann (22), Thomas (26), Grimes (29), and Hyland (30) are all projected by ESPN to be first-round picks.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

Kings Notes: Haliburton, Draft Workouts, Wagner

Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton is enjoying his experience with the U.S. Select Team, which is giving him a chance to test his skills against some of the NBA’s best players, writes Jason Jones of The Athletic. Haliburton had previous experience in the international format as part of the USA under-19 National Team while at Iowa State.

Haliburton has fully recovered from the hyperextended left knee that brought an early end to his first NBA season. Although he played just 58 games, he was an All-Rookie First Team selection and finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting. He has been working out in Sacramento for the past month and now gets to see how his expanded game fares against elite competition.

“For me to get out and use that stuff against other guys and see it work against them in live action, it helps a lot,” Haliburton said. “And just kind of seeing what other guys are working on at the same time, how other guys are improving. Just taking bits and pieces of that, putting that into my training and things like that.”

There’s more from Sacramento:

Southeast Workouts: Wizards, Magic, Hornets, Hawks

The Wizards worked out six draft prospects today, and there are four more scheduled for tomorrow, according to team announcements. Western Kentucky’s Charles Bassey, Texas’ Greg Brown III, and Isaiah Todd, of the G League Ignite, headlined today’s workouts, along with Jay Huff, Blake Francis, and Colbey Ross.

Tomorrow’s slate of workouts will include Troy Baxter Jr., Obadiah Noel, Jamorko Pickett, and Devontae Shuler.

We have more draft workout news from around the Southeast Division:

  • Corey Kispert, the sharp-shooting senior out of Gonzaga, worked out today for the Magic, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic. The 6’6″ guard/forward would fill a much-needed role for a Magic team that is well-stocked at some positions but still low on shooters.
  • The Hornets worked out potential lottery pick Jalen Johnson today, according to a tweet from the team. Johnson had a turbulent year at Duke, and eventually withdrew from the program, but came in with a high pedigree and an intriguing point-forward skillset.
  • Ruot Monyyong, out of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, will work out for the Hawks on Wednesday, tweets Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. The 6’10 big man was the 2019/20 All-Sun Defensive Player of the Year.

Draft Notes: Early Entrant Decisions, Grimes, Henry, Pacers, More

Justin Bean (Utah State), Eric Ayala (Maryland), Jeenathan Williams (Buffalo), Latrell Jones (Portland), Quentin Scott (Texas State), and De’Vion Harmon (Oklahoma) are all withdrawing from the 2021 NBA draft after testing the waters as early entrants, according to a series of reports from Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports and Jeff Goodman of Stadium (all six links go to Twitter).

Of those six players, three will transfer, with Jones heading to Nicholls State, Scott making the move to Tulane, and Harmon going to Oregon.

Meanwhile, Texas big man Jericho Sims, who boosted his stock with a strong showing at last week’s combine, will remain in the draft. Klutch Sports published a tweet today welcoming Sims to the agency. UCLA’s Chris Smith is also expected to go pro, per Goodman (Twitter link).

Here’s more on the draft:

Central Notes: Cavs’ Lottery Pick, Buford, Diallo, Carlisle

The Cavaliers will not just limit their interview and workout list for the No. 3 pick to USC’s Evan Mobley, the G League Ignite’s Jalen Green and Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Those players are widely considered the next three prospects beyond Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham, who is only expected to visit Detroit

Duke’s Jalen Johnson, who is ranked No. 9 by ESPN, was scheduled to meet with the Cavaliers on Friday. The Cavs are also expected to look at the G League Ignite’s Jonathan Kuminga (rated No. 5) and Florida State’s Scottie Barnes (No. 6). The latter met with Cleveland’s brass on Thursday, Fedor adds.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Chase Buford is leaving his post as the Wisconsin Herd’s head coach in order to become the head coach of the Sydney Kings in Australia’s NBL, according to a team press release. “We are excited for Chase to pursue this opportunity with one of the best clubs in Australia,” said Herd GM Dave Dean. Buford, 32, led the Bucks’ G League team to a league-best 33-10 record before the 2019/20 season was suspended due to the pandemic.
  • Along with mulling what to do with the top pick, the Pistons must decide how high they’re willing to go on restricted free agent Hamidou Diallo, Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link) writes. Diallo is projected to command somewhere in the neighborhood of the mid-level exception, which the Pistons could easily match. Marks also explores the team’s other pending decisions and its cap situation.
  • With his long track record and a four-year contract, Rick Carlisle will command respect in the Pacers’ locker room, J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star (subscription required) writes.

Knicks Considered Unlikely To Keep All Their Draft Picks

A number of rival executives don’t expect the Knicks to hang onto and use all three of their picks in the top 32 of this year’s draft, says Ian Begley of SNY.tv. New York currently controls the 19th, 21st, and 32nd overall selections, but there’s an expectation that the team will be active on or before draft night rather than standing pat.

“I can’t see them carrying three rookies on the roster (next season),” a member of an opposing team told Begley.

As Begley and Marc Berman of The New York Post observe, the Knicks have been meeting at this week’s combine with a number of prospects who are projected to be drafted in the late lottery, including Florida State’s Scottie Barnes, Duke’s Jalen Johnson, and UConn’s James Bouknight. That could be a hint that the club is mulling the possibility of packaging two or more of its picks in an effort to trade up in the draft.

Of course, as Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (via Twitter), it’s not uncommon for teams picking in the 20s to try to talk to lottery prospects at the combine, since they may not be able to get those players into their building for workouts later in the pre-draft process. As such, it’s probably presumptuous to read too much into a few interviews.

Still, Berman has previously reported that there have been talks within the organization about the possibility of moving up, potentially into the 12-13 range. If the Knicks start bringing in some of those upper-level prospects for workouts in the coming weeks, that would be a stronger sign that the team is seriously considering consolidating some of its draft assets in a trade.

New York could also include one or more of its 2021 draft picks in a deal for a veteran player if the right opportunity arises. The club projects to have plenty of cap room once free agency begins, so trading a pick for a player would be a viable option without having to worry about matching salaries.

The Knicks also hold the No. 58 pick in this year’s draft, but that selection is unlikely to move the needle much as a sweetener in any trade. If New York keeps it, it could be used on a player who would sign a two-way contract.