LaMelo Ball

Knicks Notes: Booker, Draft, Wesley, Mini-Camp

Suns guard Devin Booker may be the player to watch as the Knicks try to trade for an unhappy star, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Booker is a former client of new team president Leon Rose, and as a Kentucky alumnus, he has a close relationship with newly hired executive VP William Wesley. Booker had plenty of good things to say about Rose when he became part of New York’s front office.

“I think he’ll do unbelievable,’’ Booker said. “One of the most genuine guys I know. One of the most honest guys I know. So I’m happy for him in his new position. I think the Knicks are in really good hands.’’

Berman suggests the Suns’ lack of success may eventually cause Booker to want to move on. They haven’t come close to making the playoffs in any of his five seasons.

There’s more from New York:

  • Finding a shooter will be a priority in the draft, Berman adds in the same piece. The Knicks own three of the top 38 picks and will be looking for a 3-point threat after shooting just 33% from beyond the arc this season. Berman notes that LaMelo Ball remains the team’s first choice among point guards, but he hasn’t been an effective long-distance shooter. If they draft him, the Knicks are hoping he can develop that part of his game, just like his brother Lonzo has.
  • Wesley has exerted influence over owner James Dolan for the past 15 years and was responsible for at least one disastrous decision, Berman states in a separate story. Wesley reportedly convinced Dolan to hire Steve Mills to replace Glen Grunwald as general manager in 2013 after a 54-28 season. The Knicks haven’t made the playoffs since that move.
  • Steve Popper of Newsday questions whether the Knicks should bother with a planned mini-camp in Chicago for the eight teams that weren’t invited to Orlando. The team wants to bring players together for workouts, but sees no benefit to a combined effort with seven other franchises while the coronavirus continues to spread, Popper writes. New York also has a coaching search to concentrate on and would prefer to hold private sessions so the new coach can begin to teach his system to the players.

Draft Notes: Edwards, Ball, Sleepers, Gach, Oturu, Scrubb

Rich Paul‘s Klutch Sports Group published a tweet on Sunday night welcoming former Georgia guard Anthony Edwards – a candidate to be the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft – to the agency.

The news came about three months after a report indicated that Edwards had signed with Octagon Sports for his representation. However, Edwards’ move to Klutch is understandable — his agent at Octagon, Omar Wilkes, was recently hired as the new head of basketball at Klutch under Paul, the company’s CEO. Edwards is the second notable Wilkes client to follow him to his new firm — Trae Young is doing so as well.

Here’s more on the 2020 NBA draft:

  • LaMelo Ball has moved to the top of a number of experts’ draft boards, but Ethan Strauss isn’t sold on the young guard as a No. 1 pick, explaining his thinking in a piece for The Athletic.
  • ESPN draft experts Jonathan Givony, Mike Schmitz, and Kevin Pelton (Insider link) identify nine potential sleepers in the 2020 draft class, including Kansas center Udoka Azubuike, Michigan State big man Xavier Tillman, and LSU guard Skylar Mays.
  • In a separate Insider-only story, ESPN’s Givony and Schmitz spoke to a handful of prospects about how they’re handling this year’s unusual pre-draft process. “It benefits the players who have a proven résumé,” said TCU’s Desmond Bane, who appeared in 141 college games over four seasons. “There may not be workouts or a combine so teams have to go off of film and interviews.”
  • Utah guard Both Gach will officially withdraw his name from the 2020 draft soon, while Minnesota big man Daniel Oturu plans to start interviewing with NBA teams this week, writes Marcus Fuller of The Star Tribune.
  • Jay Scrubb, who has opted to go pro this year instead of playing at Louisville, has had Zoom interviews with 22 NBA teams so far, including the Knicks and Nets, agent Corey Marcum tells Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com.

Draft Notes: Bishop, Lottery Scenarios, Figueroa, Gach

Having had his waiver for another college season denied by the NCAA, Jermaine Bishop of Norfolk State will keep his name in the 2020 NBA draft and go pro, tweets Jeff Goodman of Stadium.

A 6’1″ guard, Bishop spent two years at Saint Louis before transferring to Norfolk State for his junior year. In 2019/20, he averaged 15.6 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 2.2 APG on .405/.395/.855 shooting in 31 games (33.4 MPG) for the Spartans.

Bishop isn’t a top-100 prospect on ESPN’s big board and seems likely to go undrafted in October, but his outside shooting ability should intrigue professional teams. His .395 3PT% this season came on 8.0 three-point attempts per game.

Here’s more on the draft:

  • In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz break down the various lottery odds and options for the NBA’s bottom eight teams. Although ESPN’s draft gurus view LaMelo Ball as the best option for most of those clubs, they acknowledge that there may be a few tough decisions to make, with no clear No. 1 prospect in this year’s class.
  • After spending two seasons with St. John’s, guard LJ Figueroa is transferring to Oregon. Despite that commitment to the Ducks, Figueroa hasn’t ruled out going pro and his name is still in the draft pool, a source tells Zach Braziller of The New York Post. However, Figueroa is unlikely to remain in the draft.
  • Former Utah swingman Both Gach entered the transfer portal this spring and committed to the University of Minnesota. Gach was testing the draft waters during that process, but the expectation is that he’ll remove his name from draft consideration, a source tells Josh Newman of The Salt Lake Tribune.

Cavaliers Notes: Garland, Sexton, Draft, Love

Statistically, Cavaliers rookie Darius Garland is the NBA’s worst player this season, but Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com believes it’s too early to write him off as a draft bust. The No. 5 pick ranks last in Win Shares, Value Over Replacement Player and ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus and was outshined by several players who were drafted much later.

However, Fedor notes that first-year guards on poor teams usually need time to grow into their games. Teammate Collin Sexton faced similar criticism during his rookie season, but showed significant improvement this year. Garland just turned 20 in January, and his college career was limited to four full games because of a knee injury. He had another procedure on the knee during the offseason that forced him to miss Summer League, then had a foot injury in training camp.

“The world is not patient. You guys are not patient,” Tristan Thompson said. “Lose 10 games in a row you think the season is ending. Everyone is like that. Everyone wants instant results. But life is not like that, especially in a team sport. … It’s a learning curve for everyone and as long as you handle your job and do what you’ve got to do every day the rest will follow and we’ll see.”

There’s more from Cleveland:

  • The Cavs won’t have to make a long-term decision on the future of the Sexton-Garland backcourt until next summer, Fedor writes in a separate story. That’s when Sexton will be eligible for a rookie scale extension that would involve a significant financial investment. In the meantime, Fedor suggests Sexton, Garland and rookie Kevin Porter Jr. could all see starter’s minutes as Cleveland evaluates its young talent.
  • The front office remains split on this year’s best prospect, but LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman are at the top of the Cavaliers’ draft board, Fedor adds in the same piece. If the team doesn’t finish high enough in the lottery to get one of them, Israeli forward Deni Avdija could be the pick because he fills a need. GM Koby Altman and scouting director Brandon Weems both traveled overseas to watch Avdija play, and head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has several former players who have been teammates with Avdija.
  • Jason Lloyd of The Athletic examines how Kevin Love emerged as the NBA’s leading spokesman on mental health issues. Love’s newest cause is calling attention to the lack of diverse therapists available to minorities.

Bryan Colangelo Part Of New Illawarra Hawks Ownership Group

The National Basketball League in Australia has announced that a new ownership group is assuming control of the Illawarra Hawks, one of the league’s nine teams. The group includes former Raptors and Sixers executive Bryan Colangelo, who will take on an advisory role with the Australian club, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

As Wojnarowski explains, Colangelo won’t have a role in making basketball decisions as a president or general manager in Illawarra. However, he’ll assist the franchise “in governance and strategy.”

Although Colangelo recently interviewed for the Bulls’ head of basketball operations position, his involvement in the purchase of the NBL’s Hawks represents his first foray back into the sport since his unceremonious exit from the 76ers in 2018.

Colangelo’s time in Philadelphia came to an end when he resigned after just two years following allegations that he was using burner Twitter accounts to disparage 76ers players and to disclose private information about them. Subsequent reporting suggested that Colangelo’s wife was responsible for creating some or all of those accounts and publishing that sensitive info.

A previous report had indicated that LaMelo Ball would be part of a group purchasing the Hawks, but that deal didn’t materialize, despite some serious negotiations. Ball, a projected top-10 pick in the 2020 draft, played for Illawarra this past season, and the team’s press release mentioned him multiple times.

“The decision in choosing the right owners was not an easy one and I want to acknowledge and thank all those who were part of the thorough process undertaken,” NBL owner and chairman Larry Kestelman said in a statement. “I would like, in particular, to thank LaMelo Ball and his organization for the support and interest shown in wanting to achieve the best outcome for the team that has helped him have a chance at being the number one NBA Draft pick.

“We hope we can explore future opportunities with LaMelo and wish him all the best for the NBA Draft in October and his ambition to be the best ever player in the game.”

And-Ones: WNBA, Ball Brothers, Kyrie, FA Contracts

Like the NBA, the WNBA now has a plan in place to resume play in Florida next month. The WNBA announced today in a press release that it will play a 22-game regular season at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, beginning in July.

We will continue to consult with medical experts and public health officials as well as players, team owners and other stakeholders as we move forward with our execution plan,” commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. “And, despite the disruption caused by the global pandemic to our 2020 season, the WNBA and its Board of Governors believe strongly in supporting and valuing the elite women athletes who play in the WNBA and therefore, players will receive their full pay and benefits during the 2020 season.”

While the NBA was in the midst of its season when the pandemic forced a stoppage, the WNBA’s 2020 campaign had yet to tip off. The season, which would normally consist of 34 games, had originally been scheduled to begin on May 15, but was postponed indefinitely in April.

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

  • As expected, the Ball brothers – Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball, G League guard LiAngelo Ball, and projected 2020 lottery pick LaMelo Ball – have officially signed with Roc Nation Sports for representation, the agency announced today (Twitter link). An April report had indicated that the three brothers were joining Roc Nation together.
  • Although Kyrie Irving has taken plenty of flak for his stance on resuming the season, Michael Lee of The Athletic argues that Irving is just doing his job as an NBPA vice president, and isn’t being an agitator just for the sake of it. In Lee’s view, Irving isn’t trying to blow up the NBA’s restart plan, but is making sure that players’ concerns are heard and addressed.
  • Setting aside rookie contracts and maximum-salary deals, John Hollinger of The Athletic lists the 10 current free agent contracts that he feels represent the best value for teams. The Clippers‘ deal with Ivica Zubac, the Mavericks‘ with Dorian Finney-Smith, and the Celtics‘ with Marcus Smart top Hollinger’s list.

Pacific Notes: Wiseman, Warriors, Sarver, Clippers

The Warriors have already met with some prominent draft prospects via Zoom, including center James Wiseman and guard LaMelo Ball, Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets. Wiseman is currently rated at No. 3 by ESPN with Ball at No. 2, just behind Georgia guard Anthony Edwards. With the draft rescheduled to October 15th, the Warriors anticipate they’ll get to evaluate prospects in person at some point.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • With the Warriors left out of the 22-team restart of the season, Draymond Green stands to benefit the most among the franchise’s players, Slater opines in a separate story. Green had been nursing a variety of injuries prior to the suspension of play and now he’ll get plenty of time to heal up prior to next season. Young players such as Eric Paschall, Jordan Poole, Alen Smailagic and Mychal Mulder will be hurt the most by the long gap between seasons, Slater adds.
  • Suns owner Robert Sarver says there are many hurdles to clear before play can resume in Orlando on July 31, according to Matt Layman of ArizonaSports.com. Sarver made his comments in a radio interview with 98.7 FM. “The logistics with Disney — you know a number of these hotels have had layoffs, have been partially closed or fully closed, and so there’s a re-startup there,” he said. “And then there’s the whole health concern with COVID-19 and how that plays out and making sure that we go back to what our first priority was, which was the health and safety of the players and the staff.”
  • If the Clippers are able to re-sign free agents Marcus Morris and Montrezl Harrell, they’re likely to bring back virtually the same team next season, John Hollinger of The Athletic predicted in a conversation with fellow Athletic writer Jovan Buha. Hollinger believes in that scenario the only additions will be a second-round draft pick and a minimum-contract point guard to replace Reggie Jackson.

Central Notes: Cavs’ Draft, T. Thompson, Prince, Bulls

The Cavaliers have Israeli forward Deni Avdija ranked in their second tier of draft prospects, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Fedor states that the team has done “extensive homework” on Avdija, but evaluation is tricky because he had limited playing time in the EuroLeague.

At 6’9″, Avdija offers athleticism, versatility and play-making, but his outside shot is questionable. Forward is Cleveland’s primary position of need, but Fedor indicates the team plans to take the best player available, regardless of position. He identifies Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and LaMelo Ball as the three players in the team’s first tier.

Fedor also says if the Cavs are interested in Obi Toppin, they should plan to use him as a power forward/center rather than a small forward. According to Fedor, Toppin doesn’t have the offensive skills or the lateral quickness to succeed on the perimeter in the NBA.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • If the Cavaliers‘ season is over, fans may not get the chance to say goodbye to a pair of franchise cornerstones in Tristan Thompson and Matthew Dellavedova, writes Evan Dammarell of Forbes. With Thompson’s $18.5MM and Dellavedova’s $9.6MM contracts deal both coming off the books, Dammarell doesn’t expect either to return next season, although Dellavedova may be willing to accept a veteran’s minimum deal. Thompson told the organization he would like to be traded to a contender before the deadline, Dammarell states, but Cleveland didn’t like any of the offers it received.
  • Former Pistons star Tayshaun Prince has the experience to succeed as the team’s next general manager, contends Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. Prince performs a variety of roles in the Grizzlies’ front office and has become an influential voice since being hired in 2017.
  • Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times looks back at a disappointing season for the Bulls that will be over unless the NBA decides to resume the season for all 30 teams. Cowley hands out a few awards, such as Zach LaVine as player of the year and Coby White as reserve of the year, and says the most significant event was John Paxson’s decision to tell ownership in December that changes were needed in the front office.

Knicks Notes: Ball, Smith Jr., Playoffs, Aller

LaMelo Ball tops the Knicks‘ wish list for this year’s draft, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. A 6’7″ playmaker who spent this season with the Illawarra Hawks in the NBL, Ball would solve New York’s long search for a point guard. However, unless they get some lottery luck, the Knicks would have to trade up to land Ball, who is expected to be among the first players selected.

Berman notes that new team president Leon Rose has experience in dealing with Ball’s controversial father LaVar during his time with Creative Artists Agency. League insiders told Berman that LaVar likes the idea of his son playing in a big market and will attempt to work behind the scenes to get him to New York.

If the Knicks’ pick remains in the 6-10 range, Berman expects Cole AnthonyTyrese Haliburton, Killian Hayes and Tyrese Maxey to all be considered, along with trading down to target RJ Hampton or Kira Lewis.

There’s more from New York:

  • The Knicks would like to part with Dennis Smith Jr.‘s $5.7MM salary for next season if they can put together a trade involving Chris Paul, Berman adds in the same story. The Thunder guard will make $41.36MM in 2020/21, so accommodating his salary would require sending out some contracts. Berman suggests that Kevin Knox ($4.6MM), whom Rose hasn’t committed to keeping, and Frank Ntilikina ($6.2MM) could also be included.
  • A “playoffs plus” scenario being considered in a survey of general managers could leave the Knicks out in the cold, Berman observes in a separate story. New York currently ranks 12th in the East, so it wouldn’t be included if seeds seven through 10 are involved in play-in games for postseason spots.
  • Plenty of people around the league believe Brock Aller will make a difference in the Knicks’ front office, writes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Aller left the Cavaliers last month to become VP of strategy in New York. “He’s a big-picture guy who is also a diabolical genius from a cap standpoint,” said David Griffin, VP of basketball operations for the Pelicans, who formerly served as general manager in Cleveland.

And-Ones: LaMelo, BBL, Salary Cap, Penny

The Illawarra Hawks of Australia’s NBL were unready for the enormous impact inking LaMelo Ball to a contract had on the 2019/20 season, according to ESPN’s Kane Pitman. “It was weird because you had ‘Melo who was like a rock star and just followed so heavily online and with the social media stuff it made it interesting,” Ball’s teammate David Andersen told Pitman.

In just 12 games, Ball won the NBL’s Rookie of the Year award sporting a slash sheet of 17 PPG/7.5  RPG/7 APG. The 18-year-old younger brother of Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball is expected to be a top-five pick in the forthcoming NBA draft.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Germany’s Basketball Bundesliga will resume play, after pausing the league due to the coronavirus pandemic, with a three-week final tournament commencing June 6, per Dario Skerletic of Sportando.
  • An adjusted salary cap would affect each of the NBA’s teams in a variety of ways, as John Hollinger of The Athletic details. Though the 2020/21 cap was projected at $115MM per team in February, that number was predicted prior to the coronavirus pandemic and will almost certainly end up being lower.
  • Memphis Tigers coach Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway opined to ESPN’s The Jump that the G League’s recent recruitment of players straight out of high school will greatly impact college recruitment, including his program, according to ESPN News Services“It’s going to have a huge impact, because it’s just a recruiting war right now when it comes to that,” Hardaway said. “But I think it’s going to affect us because we’re recruiting a bunch of five-stars.”