Malaki Branham

Spurs Notes: Branham, Wesley, Walker, Sochan, Popovich

Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley impressed the Spurs so much with their competitiveness at a pre-draft workout that the team decided to take both players, writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. The two guards were matched up against each other in a 3-on-3 scrimmage and both took advantage of the opportunity.

“I felt like we was competing for a spot, so I was going extra hard and going after him,” Wesley said of Branham. He also tried to outshine Duke’s Wendell Moore, who took part in the scrimmage as well, explaining, “They had a lot more hype than me, so I wanted to go at them.”

General manager Brian Wright said the Spurs expected Branham to be selected in the mid-teens or possibly late in the lottery and were prepared to trade up for him before he fell to No. 20.

“He’s smart, tough, competitive and coachable, and those are all things we were looking to find in this draft,” Wright said.

There’s more from San Antonio:

  • The addition of two guards casts doubt on the future of Lonnie Walker, who is headed for free agency, Orsborn adds in a separate story. The Spurs can make him restricted by extending a $6.3MM qualifying offer by Wednesday, but there may no longer be a role for him in San Antonio. “He has done a phenomenal job in his development over the years and we saw the consistency he brought, especially in the second half of the season when he really hit his stride,” Wright said. “At the appropriate time, we will sit with (his representatives) and him and try to find out what’s next for him and the franchise.”
  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News looks at the international background of lottery pick Jeremy Sochan, who had to learn basketball from his mother because there weren’t many accomplished coaches in the English town where the family lived when he was young. The organization is impressed by Sochan’s versatility and plans to use him all along the front line.
  • Coach Gregg Popovich called each of the Spurs’ draft picks Thursday night to welcome them to the team, McDonald tweets, adding that it’s a pretty clear indication that Popovich plans to return for another season.

Southeast Draft Notes: Holmgren, Hornets, Williams, O’Neal

Chet Holmgren met with the Magic‘s front office on Wednesday and Thursday, writes Matt Murschel of The Orlando Sentinel. Holmgren is the No. 1 prospect on ESPN’s big board, although his thin frame has caused some other talent evaluators to drop him a bit lower than that.

A person with knowledge of the situation tells Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press that the 20-year-old’s visit included “meetings, interviews and a dinner.” The Magic previously held a solo workout with Jabari Smith, and Paolo Banchero “expects to meet with” Orlando before the draft on June 23, according to Reynolds.

The big men are widely considered the top three prospects in the draft, and the Magic hold the No. 1 overall pick, so it makes perfect sense that they’re meeting with all of them.

In 32 games (26.9 MPG) in his lone college season with Gonzaga, Holmgren was a consensus All-American with averages of 14.1 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 1.9 APG and 3.7 BPG on .607/.390/.717 shooting.

Here are a few more draft-related notes from the Southeast Division:

  • The Hornets, who control the Nos. 13, 15 and 45 picks in the 2022 draft, are hosting a group workout on Friday (Twitter link) featuring Malaki Branham, MarJon Beauchamp, Kendall Brown, Bryce McGowens, Isaiah Whaley and Trevion Williams. Branham (No. 13) and Beauchamp (No. 23) are both projected first-round picks, with McGowens (No. 33) and Brown (No. 38) considered early second-rounders. Williams also has a solid shot to get drafted going by ESPN’s rankings, as he’s No. 56 on the board, but Whaley isn’t listed.
  • Mark Williams has a solo workout with the Wizards on Saturday, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Williams is a potential lottery picked at No. 14 on ESPN’s board, and Washington controls the No. 10 pick. The 7’0″ center averaged 11.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG and 2.8 BPG while shooting 72.1% from the floor and 72.7% from the free-throw line in 39 games (23.6 MPG) as a sophomore for Duke this season, winning ACC Defensive Player of the Year in the process.
  • Shareef O’Neal worked out for the Heat on Thursday, Robbins relays in another tweet. O’Neal only averaged 2.9 PPG and 2.1 RPG in 14 games (9.2 MPG) as a junior for LSU and isn’t considered a strong draft candidate, but perhaps he could be auditioning for summer league as an undrafted free agent. Miami currently controls the No. 27 pick.

Draft Notes: Green Room, Draft Targets, Comps, Mock, Minott

The list of prospects invited to the green room on draft night has expanded to 16, tweets ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. The list includes all of the top-16 ranked players on ESPN’s big boardChet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero, Jaden Ivey, Keegan Murray, Dyson DanielsShaedon Sharpe, Bennedict Mathurin, AJ Griffin, Jalen Duren, Johnny Davis, Ousmane DiengMalaki BranhamMark Williams, Jeremy Sochan and Ochai Agbaji.

A source tells Givony that the list could expand further, with four more invites still a possibility. The draft is nine days away.

Here are some more draft-related notes:

Central Notes: Ibaka, Bucks, Branham, Pacers

Despite some chatter out of Europe regarding his future, veteran Bucks big man Serge Ibaka, an unrestricted free agent this summer, intends to remain in the NBA next season, per Emiliano Carchia of Sportando.

Carchia notes that Italian EuroLeague club Virtus Bologna, winners of the 2021 Italian Serie A, would be interested in adding Ibaka, but the team has not made any formal outreach to the 32-year-old. Before joining the NBA for the 2009/10 season, Ibaka played for two Spanish pro clubs: Bàsquet Manresa and EuroLeague powerhouse Real Madrid.

Last year while with the Clippers and Bucks, Ibaka posted his most modest numbers since his 2009/10 rookie season with the Thunder. For the regular season, the 6’10” power forward/center averaged 6.8 PPG and 4.6 RPG across 16.2 MPG.

Ibaka, a former three-time All-Defensive Team selection and a champion with the Raptors in 2019, played even more minimally in the postseason for Milwaukee. He appeared in only six of the Bucks’ 12 playoff contests this year, averaging 1.5 PPG and 1.7 RPG in just 3.7 MPG when he did play.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The Bucks may look to the upcoming draft to build out their bench depth for the 2022/23 season. Eric Nehm of The Athletic assesses four point guard prospects who could fit for Milwaukee behind 2022 All-Defensive Second Teamer Jrue Holiday: Kentucky guard TyTy Washington, G League Ignite guard Jaden Hardy, Tennessee freshman Kennedy Chandler, and 6’7″ Arizona prospect Dalen Terry.
  • An ankle sprain prevented Ohio State guard Malaki Branham from participating in a group workout with the Cavaliers, but the team was nevertheless intrigued by the NBA prospect following a dinner, per Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (Twitter link). Fedor adds (via Twitter) that Cleveland intends to bring Branham back to its facilities for a healthy workout ahead of the June 23 draft.
  • Due to a flight delay, three prospects missed their group workout with the Pacers on Friday, tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. Baylor forward Jeremy Sochan, Iraurgi Saski Baloia shooting guard Pavel Savkov and Urbas Fuenlabrada guard Ziga Samar were not able to participate in a team workout that also included G League Ignite prospect Dyson Daniels, Oklahoma guard Kameron McGusty and Villanova forward Jermaine Samuels. Given that most prospects have fairly busy schedules leading up to the draft, it is unclear whether this triumvirate’s Pacers workout will be rescheduled.

New York Notes: Nets, M. James, Knicks, Workouts

After playing with the Nets down the stretch in the 2020/21 season, veteran guard Mike James is interested in returning to Brooklyn, a league insider tells NetsDaily. James remains close with star forward Kevin Durant, who traveled to Europe to watch his former teammate play in the EuroLeague this spring.

With Kyrie Irving, Patty Mills, and Goran Dragic all eligible for free agency, the Nets’ backcourt could undergo some changes this offseason, so a reunion with James isn’t out of the question. The team still controls his Non-Bird rights and could offer him either a minimum-salary deal or something slightly above it.

Still, it’s unclear whether the Nets have interest in bringing back James, who threw some cold water on NetsDaily’s report himself in a reply on Twitter.

“(I don’t know) how to even take this rumor,” James wrote. “Would I like to play alongside my friend Kevin? Yes. But I’d also like to play alongside my 10 other of my close friends. Some play in the NBA, Europe and some don’t play professional.”

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York teams:

  • The Knicks worked out a handful of possible lottery targets on Monday. In addition to TyTy Washington, G League Ignite guard Dyson Daniels and Ohio State wing Malaki Branham were also in town to audition for the team, according to Fred Katz of The Athletic and Ian Begley of SNY.tv (Twitter links).
  • Memphis forward Josh Minott, viewed as a probable second-round pick, also worked out for the Knicks on Monday, tweets Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com.
  • Memphis shooting guard Lester Quinones is working out for the Knicks on Tuesday and the Nets on Thursday, a source tells Jake Weingarten of StockRisers.com (Twitter link). Quinones has previously worked out for the Warriors and Lakers, among other teams.
  • Notre Dame forward Paul Atkinson, the 2020 Ivy League Player of the Year at Yale, will work out on Tuesday for the Nets, tweets Zagoria.
  • Fred Katz of The Athletic explores several hypothetical scenarios in which the Knicks trade up from No. 11, weighing how many assets they’d have to give up and whether their potential trade partners would have legitimate interest.

Central Notes: Branham, Terry, Beauchamp, Tillman, Pacers

The Cavaliers are hosting Ohio State’s Malaki Branham for a pre-draft workout on Wednesday, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Cleveland holds the No. 14 overall pick and Branham, a shooting guard, is ranked 13th on ESPN’s Best Available list. He averaged 13.7 PPG and knocked down 41.6% of his 3-pointers in his lone college season.

We have more from the Central Division:

Draft Notes: Mohammed, Decisions, 2022 Mock Drafts, More

Georgetown guard Aminu Mohammed, the No. 80 prospect on ESPN’s big board, will remain in the 2022 NBA draft, sources tell Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Mohammed averaged 13.7 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.8 APG, and 1.6 SPG in 31 games (32.2 MPG) as a freshman for the Hoyas, but struggled with his shot, posting a slash line of .379/.310/.722.

Guard Donovan Williams will also stay in the draft, he told Rothstein (via Twitter). Williams put up 12.7 PPG and 3.3 RPG for UNLV last season.

Northern Iowa guard AJ Green is staying in the draft, he told Cole Bair of 1650KCNZ and The Cedar Rapids Gazette (Twitter link). Green was a two-time Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year for the Panthers.

Former Texas Tech guard Kevin McCullar is withdrawing from the draft and transferring to Kansas, reports Jeff Goodman of Stadium (via Twitter). McCullar averaged 10.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 3.1 APG, and 1.4 SPG as a junior in 2021/22.

With the NCAA’s withdrawal deadline less than four hours away, here are some more draft-related notes:

  • Former Minnesota guard Payton Willis worked out for the Timberwolves on Tuesday and also has a workout scheduled with the Grizzlies later this week, according to Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link). Willis has exhausted his eligibility after spending five seasons in college.
  • Jonathan Givony of ESPN provides his latest mock draft for ’22 (Insider link). He has Michigan’s Caleb Houstan, who just announced he’s staying in the draft, going No. 25 to the Spurs.
  • Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report also released an updated mock draft, with inside information on several prospects. He reports that G League Ignite guard/forward Dyson Daniels could go as high as No. 4, while Ohio State’s Malaki Branham, another draft riser, could be a lottery pick in the Nos. 8-14 range.
  • In a separate article for ESPN (Insider link), Givony explores which ’22 draft prospects are comparable to five breakout players of the ’21/22 postseason. He writes that G League Ignite guard Jaden Hardy, projected to go No. 22 in his mock, resembles Golden State’s Jordan Poole as an aggressive scorer with questionable shot selection and defense.

Cavaliers Rumors: Sexton, LeVert, Trade Targets, More

Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com recently spoke to Michael Scotto about a number of Cavaliers-related topics for the latest edition of the HoopsHype podcast.

Guard Collin Sexton, whose season ended prematurely after suffering a torn meniscus in his left knee just 11 games into the season, will be an interesting player to watch this summer. Sexton will be a restricted free agent once Cleveland tenders him a $7,228,449 qualifying offer. As a restricted free agent, the Cavs will have the ability to match any offer sheet for the 23-year-old, and since he’s coming off an injury and not many teams will have cap space to spend on free agents, a reunion seems likely.

When the Cavs were discussing a rookie scale extension with Sexton’s representatives last summer, the two sides floated a contract similar to the one Bogdan Bogdanovic received from Atlanta, which was four years and $72MM (with a player option in the final season), sources tell Fedor. However, he hears that the Cavs value Sexton in the $15-18MM per year range, while Sexton is seeking something closer to $18-22MM annually.

Although Sexton has undoubtedly been productive on the offense end, averaging 24.3 PPG, 3.1 RPG and 4.4 APG on .475/.371/.815 shooting in 2020/21, Fedor notes that there were questions about Sexton’s fit entering ’21/22, and his injury and the team’s success without him didn’t help his case. Given that he’s a 6’1″ shooting guard and a subpar defender, some teams view the former No. 8 pick as more of a sixth man than a starter, which could hurt his leverage in contract negotiations.

Scotto wonders if the Knicks or Wizards might be interested in Sexton, noting that both teams are looking for guards, but neither team has cap space. As Fedor previously reported, he hears that Cleveland has been curious if the Pistons might pursue Sexton, but sources tell Fedor that the Cavaliers don’t believe any team will end up offering him $20MM+ per season.

Here’s more from Scotto and Fedor:

  • Both the Cavs and Caris LeVert have expressed interest in reaching an extension this summer, and league executives tell Scotto that a shorter deal in the $19-21MM range might make sense for both sides. However, as Fedor observes, LeVert will be on an expiring $18.8MM contract in ’22/23, so if the Cavs don’t like the types of numbers Levert’s agents are throwing out, they could just wait it out and perhaps use him as trade bait next season.
  • Kevin Love improved his trade stock after a bounce-back, healthy season, and both Scotto and Fedor believe that his $28.9MM contract could be used as a trade chip if the team opts to pursue higher-paid veterans.
  • Noting Cleveland needs two-way wing scorers and a solid backup point guard for Darius Garland, Fedor hears the Cavs are interested in a number of veterans as potential trade targets: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Bojan Bogdanovic, Gordon Hayward, Tobias Harris, Harrison Barnes, Gary Trent Jr., Jerami Grant, Aaron Gordon, Andrew Wiggins, and Mike Conley.
  • Although there’s mutual interest in a reunion with Ricky Rubio, Fedor says money could become an obstacle to a deal being completed. Rubio is likely to miss at least a portion of next season after suffering a second torn ACL in his left knee in December, and using the mid-level exception to sign him would reduce the club’s flexibility while still leaving a hole on the roster until he returns.
  • Sources tell Fedor that if a deal with Rubio doesn’t come to fruition, the Cavs would be very open to using their full mid-level to sign Grizzlies backup point guard Tyus Jones, assuming Memphis lets him walk in free agency and he’s unable to get more money elsewhere. Other guards Cleveland might look into in free agency are Delon Wright, Goran Dragic, and Raul Neto. If the Cavs pivot to a wing/forward, Kyle Anderson, Jeremy Lamb, and T.J. Warren are possibilities, according to Fedor.
  • For potential draft candidates with the No. 14 pick, Fedor hears the Cavs are fans of Malaki Branham, Johnny Davis, Bennedict Mathurin, Tari Eason, TyTy Washington, and Jeremy Sochan. Those players range from Nos. 9-18 on ESPN’s big board, so some might not be available at 14.

Eastern Notes: Cavs, Draft, Simmons, Knicks, Ivey

The Cavaliers control three picks in next month’s draft — besides the No. 14 selection, the team also has No. 39 and No. 56. However, the odds of Cleveland drafting three rookies for the 2022/23 roster are low, says Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (subscriber-only link).

Multiple sources have told Fedor that the Cavaliers using the No. 39 pick on a player who will make next season’s team is a “50-50 proposition.” As for No. 56, Fedor suggests that pick is “highly likely” to be used on a prospect who could be stashed internationally with an eye toward the future.

If the Cavaliers don’t have a specific player they like at No. 39 or No. 56, it sounds like at least one of those picks for a future second-rounder or two will be a viable option. In that scenario, Cleveland would gain at least one extra pick that could be used as a sweetener in a future trade or to eventually draft a player when the roster has more openings and is in greater need of an injection of young talent.

Here’s more from around the East:

  • In a separate article for Cleveland.com, Fedor attempts determine which prospects the Cavaliers are most likely to target at No. 14. Fedor stresses that the Cavs are still doing their due diligence and that it’s impossible to know exactly who will be available at the end of the lottery, but identifies Ohio State’s Malaki Branham and LSU’s Tari Eason as two players to watch, adding that Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji would also be a logical fit.
  • Nets guard Ben Simmons is “progressing well” in his rehab from back surgery and is “in great spirits,” a source tells Brian Lewis of The New York Post (Twitter link). It’s a somewhat generic update, but it’s still good news for the Nets that Simmons remains on track for training camp, given the injury setbacks he experienced this spring.
  • The Knicks are doing their homework on Purdue’s Jaden Ivey, having used one of their allotted 20 interviews on him at last week’s draft combine, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. While Berman suggests the meeting is a sign that New York has at least explored the idea of trading up from No. 11, he acknowledges that it’s not unusual for the Knicks to do their due diligence on players projected to be drafted outside of their range, if only to gather information for the future.

Eastern Draft Notes: Pistons, Pacers, Nets, Knicks

Assuming Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, and Paolo Banchero are the top three picks in next month’s draft, the Pistons are expected to zero in on four potential targets at No. 5, sources tell James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. Those players are Jaden Ivey, Keegan Murray, Shaedon Sharpe, and Bennedict Mathurin.

All four prospects intrigue the Pistons, according to Edwards, who says that Murray is considered the most well-rounded of the four, while Sharpe is viewed as a “high-upside gamble.” Edwards adds that some sources believe Mathurin is the best wing in this year’s draft class, while there’s little consensus on Ivey, who is regarded as a top-three prospect by some evaluators and is outside the top five for others.

Here are a few more draft-related notes from around the Eastern Conference:

  • James Akinjo (Baylor), Keon Ellis (Alabama), Justin Lewis (Marquette), and David Roddy (Colorado State) are participating in a pre-draft workout with the Pacers on Monday, per Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files (Twitter links). Gonzaga’s Andrew Nembhard and UCLA’s Johnny Juzang had also been scheduled to take part, but were unable to make it due to weather-related travel issues.
  • Villanova’s Collin Gillespie has worked out for the Nets and has about 10 more pre-draft workouts on tap following the draft combine, tweets Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com.
  • According to Zagoria (Twitter link), Michigan State’s Gabe Brown has workouts with the Hornets and Magic on tap this week after previously auditioning for the Celtics, Nets, and Knicks.
  • Marc Berman of The New York Post explores whether Malaki Branham could be a legitimate target at No. 11 for the Knicks, who met with the Ohio State sharpshooter at last week’s combine.