London Johnson

And-Ones: Suns’ Sale, Expansion, Udoh, Ignite, Warkentien

There wasn’t a ton of trade chatter at the G League Winter Showcase in Las Vegas this past week, but the news of the Sunssale to Mat Ishbia generated plenty of discussion, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. Specifically, the franchise’s $4 billion valuation raised eyebrows, given how far above recent projections it was.

As Hollinger explains, that eye-popping sale price led to speculation on two fronts. For one, there were conversations about whether other franchises could find their way onto the market — for instance, Paul Allen‘s estate appears content to exercise patience before eventually opening the bidding on the Trail Blazers, but it’s possible the Suns’ valuation could help expedite that process. Hollinger adds that there have also been whispers over the years about whether Michael Jordan will sell the Hornets.

Perhaps more importantly, the Suns’ high sale price could be good news for the prospect of NBA expansion. As Hollinger observes, the existing 30 team owners are more likely to agree to bring in two new partners if their cut of the expansion fee high enough to offset their losses from splitting the NBA’s TV deal and other sources of revenue 32 ways instead of 30 ways. The Suns selling for $4 billion increases the odds of expansion fees for teams in cities like Seattle and Las Vegas reaching the neighborhood of $4-5 billion, says Hollinger.

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

  • Former NBA lottery pick Ekpe Udoh is resuming his playing career in Japan, according to Alessandro Maggi of Sportando, who relays that the big man has signed with the Shimane Susanoo Magic. The No. 6 overall pick in the 2010 draft, Udoh appeared in 384 total NBA games, but hasn’t played in the league since the 2018/19 season.
  • Scoot Henderson wasn’t available for the G League Ignite during the league’s Winter Showcase event in Las Vegas this past week, but Jeremy Woo of SI.com got a chance to scout several other Ignite players, including London Johnson, Leonard Miller, Sidy Cissoko, and Mojave King. Woo shares several of his key takeaways on the Ignite’s non-Henderson prospects, identifying Miller and Cissoko as players who have a chance to be selected in the first round of the 2023 NBA draft (Johnson will be draft-eligible in 2024).
  • Veteran NBA executive Mark Warkentien, who won an Executive of the Year award in 2009 as the Nuggets‘ head of basketball operations, has passed away at age 69 (Twitter link via the Nuggets). Warkentien most recently worked in the league as a special assignment evaluator for the Thunder. We at Hoops Rumors send our condolences to his family and friends.

London Johnson To Sign With Ignite For Over $1 Million

Point guard London Johnson will reclassify into the 2022 recruiting class and sign with the NBA G League Ignite this season, The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Sam Vecenie report. Johnson will receive the biggest contract handed out to an Ignite player to date.

The 18-year-old will earn more than $1MM, exceeding Scoot Henderson‘s $1MM salary. Henderson is considered the No. 2 prospect in next year’s draft.

“The main (reason) was being able to play against NBA talent and getting coached from the highest level NBA coaches,” Johnson said of his decision to join the Ignite. “Also, seeing the success from past (prospects), I really felt like I could create my own path and be successful myself.”

The 6’4” Johnson doesn’t plan to enter next year’s draft. He anticipates being in the Ignite program for two seasons.

A dual citizen of the U.S. and Jamaica, he played last season at Norcross High School in Georgia. Johnson played with Henderson briefly in Atlanta.

Johnson was considering North Carolina, Clemson, NC State, Virginia and USC before choosing the G League, according to The Athletic duo.

“I feel like my game will translate even better than it does in high school because of the spacing,” Johnson said. “I try to model my game after Chris Paul. He reads ball screens really well and can score from all three levels. He really tries to get his teammates involved, but also can score.”