Marko Simonovic

Central Notes: Doumbouya, Middleton, Antetokoumpo, Simonovic

While fielding a number of questions about the Pistons’ No. 1 pick, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com also addressed the future of 2019 draft pick Sekou Doumbouya. Langlois anticipates Doumbouya, who wasn’t drafted by current general manager Troy Weaver, will play in the summer league where he can show greater consistency and effectiveness. The Pistons must decide this offseason whether to pick up the forward’s fourth-year option at $5.5MM for the 2022/23 season.

We have more on the Central Division:

  • Bucks forward Khris Middleton is focused on the Finals but he’s also a minority owner with the Brisbane Bullets in Australia’s NBL. Middleton told Marc Spears of The Undefeated many players are looking into similar ventures. “Being a part of an ownership group is something I wanted to do, for sure,” Middleton said. “As a player it could be tough. But I realize the responsibilities I had wasn’t going to really affect my basketball career right now. But it’s something I think a lot of players are starting to trend towards is finding ways to invest their money, finding things to do with their money that can grow, and it’s something I’m interested in.”
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo and Middleton are the two main building blocks that made the Bucks a championship-level team. Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today examines the lengthy partnership between the two teammates. Middleton was acquired in 2013 from Detroit in the same year the two-time MVP was drafted. “At first, friendly competition, a guy like him from Detroit and I just got drafted,” Antetokounmpo said. “We just tried to get on the floor, going at one another in practices. But throughout the time, there was a lot of times that he proved that he’s going to do whatever it takes to help the team win. That’s the type of guy that you want next to you.”
  • Draft-and-stash prospect Marko Simonovic is expected to sign with the Bulls this summer and from what K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago hears, he can be a rotation player at least. Simonovic was a second-round pick so the team’s fans should set their expectations for the 6’11” big man accordingly, Johnson adds.

Marko Simonovic Likely To Sign With Bulls

Draft-and-stash prospect Marko Simonovic cannot officially sign with the Bulls until next month but it appears likely that he’ll make the jump to the NBA next season.

An Instagram post from his agent, Misko Raznatovic, displayed a picture of them sitting beside each other with the words, “One way ticket to Chicago!”

It’s uncertain what type of contract the 6’11” Simonovic will be signing with the club. The Bulls could use cap room or an exception to bring him aboard, depending on how their offseason plays out.

Selected as the No. 44 pick in 2020, the 21-year-old center played in Serbia this year for Mega Basket in the ABA Adriatic League. He averaged 15.7 PPG and 9.1 RPG in 31.6 MPG over 25 games. He shot 47.3% overall and 34.9% on his 3-point attempts.

With Daniel Theis and Cristiano Felicio entering unrestricted free agency and Lauri Markkanen headed to restricted free agency, the Bulls could have some openings in the frontcourt.

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Williams, Markkanen, Simonovic

The bold moves that the Bulls made at the trade deadline didn’t get them into the playoffs, but star guard Zach LaVine is encouraged by the direction of the franchise, writes Jamal Collier of The Chicago Tribune. Chicago shook up its roster in late March, including a blockbuster trade to acquire All-Star center Nikola Vucevic from Orlando. The organization is hoping LaVine and Vucevic will be the foundation of the team for years to come.

LaVine is eligible for an extension next season or he could opt for free agency in 2022. Either way, it appears he wants to remain with the franchise.

“Obviously with the trade, it made us a lot better, and I loved it,” LaVine said. “I love it here in Chicago. And I think everybody understands the business of basketball and anything can happen, but I let that stuff handle when it comes by. I don’t think too far into the future about it. I don’t stress about it either. I try to let my game do the talking for me, but also try to worry about the things I haven’t accomplished yet, like winning. This year was great, but also frustrating at the same time.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • LaVine is already looking ahead to next season and is planning offseason workouts with some of his teammates, according to Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. He has invited rookie forward Patrick Williams, who is planning to play in the Summer League, and second-year guard Coby White. “I think that’s a good bonding and team exercise for us, especially in the offseason,” LaVine said. “You’re away from your guys, and everybody needs time away, but once you start ramping back up these are the dudes you’re going to be in battle with. I want to help them just like other players helped me when I was younger going out there and working out.”
  • In his comments to the media on Monday, executive VP of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovas stressed that the Bulls’ front office will remain aggressive going forward in its efforts to improve the roster, as Sam Smith of Bulls.com relays. “We will not settle for mediocrity here,” Karnišovas said. “We’re going to add talent to our roster and from there get better and come back improved and better so we don’t have to sit out another postseason.”
  • Coach Billy Donovan and Karnišovas are expressing support for Lauri Markkanen, but their public comments don’t mean they’ll make a strong effort to keep him when he hits restricted free agency this summer, tweets Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. Karnišovas called Markkanen “an essential part of our team” after a disappointing season that saw him lose his starting job.
  • Karnišovas said draft-and-stash prospect Marko Simonovic is in the team’s plans for the future and will be evaluated further after his season ends, Schaefer tweets. A second-round pick in 2020, the 21-year-old center played in Serbia this year.

Bulls Notes: Williams, Simonovic, Draft, QO Decisions

Making his first draft pick as the head man in an NBA front office on Wednesday night, new Bulls president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas told reporters – including Sam Smith of Bulls.com – that he was pleased to come away with Florida State forward Patrick Williams at No. 4. Karnisovas praised Williams’ athleticism, versatility, ballhandling, and ability to play multiple positions.

“The more we were digging in his background and we were able to see him, that’s how we came to our decision that that’s our guy,” Karnisovas said of Williams. “We need players in our league that can play multiple positions. He’s an elite athlete. At four we were really happy in that position because we knew we had a chance to pick Patrick and we just stayed there and we got our player.”

Williams was one of two picks the Bulls made on Wednesday, along with Montenegrin center Marko Simonovic at No. 44.

“I think overall tonight we drafted players that we were targeting,” Karnisovas said, per Smith. “And it doesn’t happen very often. I received a ton of texts from executives around the league and they were all telling me, ‘Enjoy your night.’ And that’s what I did. It’s special to me. It’s my first night as a lead exec of the Chicago Bulls. I thought it was a very successful night.”

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • Despite rumors that the Bulls had offered Wendell Carter Jr. and the No. 4 pick to move up to No. 2, Karnisovas told reporters after the draft that the club didn’t consider trading up (Twitter link via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago). While that may be true, it’s also plausible that Karnisovas is saying that publicly so as not to make waves with Carter.
  • Simonovic will be stashed overseas for at least one year, Karnisovas said on Wednesday night (Twitter link via Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic). He’s currently under contract with Crvena Zvezda in Serbia.
  • Explaining the Bulls’ decision not to tender qualifying offers to Kris Dunn and Shaquille Harrison, while Denzel Valentine got one, Karnisovas said that the club’s limited roster space and emphasis on shooting were major factors (Twitter link via K.C. Johnson). The president of basketball operations added that Chicago will be “really picky” in free agency.

Draft Notes: International Prospects, Wolves, Suns, Lewis, Terry

The NBA’s deadline for early entrants to withdraw from this year’s draft has now passed, which means it should just be a matter of time before we get an updated official list from the league of the early entrants who have kept their names in this year’s pool.

In the meantime, updates on a handful of international prospects continue to trickle in. According to Nicola Lupo of Sportando, Estonian forward Henri Drell – who is currently playing for Pesaro in Italy – has withdrawn his name from the 2020 draft.

On the other hand, Isralie point guard Yam Madar, a member of Hapoel Tel Aviv, has elected to keep his name in the draft, per Barak Haklai of ynetsport (Twitter link). And after initially announcing that his client Marko Simonovic would be pulling out of the draft, agent Misko Raznatovic has clarified (via Twitter) that Simonovic will remain in the draft after all.

Here’s more on the 2020 NBA draft:

  • An NBA general manager who spoke to Jeff Goodman of Stadium (Twitter link) this morning said he doesn’t envy the Timberwolves and their efforts to maximize the value of the No. 1 pick. The teams at the top are desperate to try and trade down, but there just isn’t much value with the top few picks this year,” the GM said.
  • Within a piece on Kira Lewis Jr., Mike Mazzeo of Forbes says the Timberwolves and Suns are among the teams that have watched the Alabama guard work out in person. Lewis also worked out in person for Detroit, Chicago, New York, and Orlando, as previously reported.
  • Few prospects have increased their stock in recent months as substantially as Stanford’s Tyrell Terry, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, who notes within a profile of Terry that the 20-year-old has interviewed virtually with all 30 NBA teams.
  • In an Insider-only article, Kevin Pelton of ESPN uses advanced stats to break down this year’s prospects into tiers. Pelton has LaMelo Ball on his own in tier one, followed by Anthony Edwards and Tyrese Haliburton in tier two, with Deni Avdija, Onyeka Okongwu, and James Wiseman in tier three.

Draft Notes: Haliburton, Wiseman, Ball, International Players

In a draft full of uncertain prospects, Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton may be the safest pick, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. Haliburton offers good size for a point guard at 6’5″ with a 6’9″ wingspan. He’s also an elite passer, an effective shooter and has natural leadership qualities.

“I’ve had a lot of No. 1, No. 2 picks, and this guy is a difference maker,” said Joe Abunassar, who trained Haliburton at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas after the season was shut down. “As teams look at him, part of that is his approach, his mentality, his personality. Everyone steps up their game when he steps in the game. He’s the most humble guy. I know with him, what you’re getting is a guy that’s going to win games for your franchise.”

Abunasser said Haliburton has gotten stronger since the college basketball season ended, adding roughly 15 to 18 pounds to his frame. With so many lottery teams needing a point guard, he could go higher than projected on draft night.

“He’s a winner. He has an amazing personality,” Abunassar added. “He’s contagious. He’s something that if I was a GM, I’d say we need guys like that.”

There’s more draft news to pass along:

  • There’s increasing chatter around the league that former Memphis center James Wiseman is the most likely No. 1 pick, according to Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report. Sources tell Wasserman that some Golden State officials believe Wiseman will be selected first, whether the Timberwolves keep their pick or not. Sources also say the Hornets “want Wiseman badly” and are interested in trading up to get him.
  • Warriors ownership may put pressure on the front office to select LaMelo Ball with the second pick if Wiseman is off the board, Wasserman adds in the same story. A source close to the team claims Ball has supporters and detractors in the front office. Golden State remains in the market to trade down, with Deni Avdija and Devin Vassell as possible targets.
  • More international prospects have pulled their names out of the draft ahead of today’s deadline, according to Nicola Lupo of SportandoNikola Miskovic, Marko Simonovic and Darko Bajo, all of ABA Liga, have all withdrawn. At No. 70, Simonovic was the only one in ESPN’s list of the top 100 prospects. Serbian big man Filip Petrusev (story link), who is 59th on ESPN’s list, and Lithuanian guard Rokas Jokubaitis (story link) are also skipping this year’s draft. On Saturday, we shared decisions from seven other overseas players.

Draft Notes: Simonovic, Miskovic, Bajo, A. Jones

As we detailed on Wednesday, the deadline for early entrants to declare for the 2020 NBA draft is just days away. Players who aren’t automatically draft-eligible have until the end of the day on Sunday, April 26 to submit their names into this year’s draft pool.

With that in mind, 2020’s list of early entrants continues to grow. Here are details on a few of the latest names joining that group:

  • Montenegrin center Marko Simonovic, who played this season for Mega Bemax in Serbia, has entered the 2020 draft, according to agent Misko Raznatovic (Twitter link). The 20-year-old is not to be confused with the Serbian player of the same name who has been playing professionally since 2003 and is currently a member of Unicaja.
  • Serbian forward Nikola Miskovic has entered the draft, Raznatovic announced (via Twitter). The MVP of 2017’s Europe U18 Championship was also playing for Mega Bemax this season after testing the draft waters last spring.
  • Another of Raznatovic’s clients, Croatian forward Darko Bajo, has declared for the draft again after withdrawing last spring, the agent announced (on Twitter). The 21-year-old played this season for Croatian team KK Split.
  • Nicholls State junior guard Andre Jones recently announced on Twitter that he has decided to test the draft waters. Jones, who transferred after two years at Little Rock, averaged 12.3 PPG and 2.8 APG on .513/.313/.732 in 30 games (24.3 MPG) in 2019/20.