Nate Darling

Kulboka Weighing Two-Way Option With Hornets?

A draft-and-stash prospect is reportedly considering a move to the NBA.

Lithuanian forward Arnoldas Kulboka is expected to leave his European team and one of his options is a two-way contract with the HornetsEnnio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando relays, via Chema de Lucas.

Kulboka officially re-signed with Spanish club Bilbao Basket for two more seasons last June, so he apparently had an opt-out clause. The 23-year-old Kulboka was selected by the Hornets with the No. 55 overall pick in the 2018 draft. His agent stated prior to that contract agreement with Bilbao that his client would have made the jump to the NBA this past season if not for the pandemic.

Kulboka, who stands 6’10”, averaged 9.2 PPG and 4.0 RPG in 22.8 MPG while appearing in 33 contests during the 2020/21 European season. He made 42.5% of his 3-point attempts, which increases his appeal. He was a member of the Hornets’ summer league teams in 2018 and 2o19.

The Hornets ended this season with guards Nate Darling and Grant Riller on two-way deals.

Southeast Notes: Vucevic, Iguodala, Heat, Hornets

Magic center Nikola Vucevic has given the team a feel-good story in the midst of an otherwise difficult campaign, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel writes.

Vucevic, who was named an All-Star for the second time of his career this season, is averaging an impressive 24.6 points, 11.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. He’s also shooting a career-high 41% from three-point range in his 36 contests.

“You get selected among 24 players out of 450 to make it and it’s a special feeling and a huge honor, something I’m very proud of,” Vucevic said. “It just shows that you’ve achieved a great level of respect from coaches around the league, other players around the league, and when you’re able to make it multiple times it kind of fortifies that.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald examines Andre Iguodala‘s veteran impact on the Heat. Iguodala, a former Finals MVP, is currently in his 18th NBA season. “He brings that stability on the floor and even off the floor,” teammate Goran Dragic said of Iguodala. “He has got a lot of experience. He has been in a lot of tough games. He won championships. So it’s always nice to have a guy next to you to ask for some advice. He’s like an open book. … Him, [Udonis Haslem], those two guys are tremendous for our team.”
  • Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel explores whether the Heat should trade for a star player now — even if it impacts the team’s long-term flexibility. Miami has expressed interest in several combo forwards ahead of the March 25 deadline, winning seven of its final 10 games before the All-Star break.
  • The Hornets have recalled centers Vernon Carey Jr. and Nick Richards from their G League affiliate in Greensboro, the team announced (Twitter link). The team also announced (via Twitter) that two-way players Grant Riller and Nate Darling were transferred from the NBAGL to Charlotte.

Hornets Sending McDaniels, Carey, Others To G League Bubble

The Hornets are sending several players from their 16-man roster to the Greensboro Swarm to participate in the NBA G League bubble, the team confirmed today.

According to a press release, second-year forward Jalen McDaniels has been assigned to the Swarm, along with rookies Vernon Carey Jr. and Nick Richards. Additionally, two-way players Grant Riller and Nate Darling have been transferred to the Hornets’ G League affiliate.

McDaniels, Carey, Richards, Riller, and Darling will join a Swarm roster that features Admiral Schofield, the No. 1 pick in this month’s NBAGL draft, and affiliate players Kahlil Whitney, Xavier Sneed, Keandre Cook, and Javin DeLaurier, among others.

Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak told Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer earlier this week that Carey and Richards have looked somewhat “overwhelmed” during their first year in the NBA, and that the team welcomes the opportunity to get them regular playing time at the G League level — especially since the condensed NBA schedule has allowed for fewer practices than normal.

Since McDaniels and the two-way players have also been out of coach James Borrego‘s regular rotation in Charlotte, it makes sense that they’d also be sent to the G League bubble for developmental purposes, as Bonnell writes in a separate story.

While the Hornets will be able to recall any of those five players from the G League to rejoin the NBA roster at any time, those players are expected to spend some or all of the NBAGL season in the bubble, per Bonnell. Given all the protocols in place related to COVID-19, it won’t be as easy logistically for teams to constantly assign and recall players this season, so I imagine we’ll see less back-and-forth movement than usual between the two leagues.

Hornets Sign Riller, Darling To Two-Way Deals

The Hornets have signed guard Grant Riller, a late second-round pick, to a two-way contract, according to a team press release.

Riller had a stellar college career at the College of Charleston. The 56th overall pick of the draft averaged 18.7 PPG and 2.8 APG in 132 career contests.

As previously reported, undrafted guard Nate Darling is the team’s other two-way player and his signing is also official. At Delaware last season, Darling averaged 21.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 2.8 APG in 32 starts.

In a separate release, the Hornets also announced the signing of big man Nick Richards, the 42nd pick of the draft. As a junior at Kentucky last season, he was named to the All-SEC First Team and the SEC All-Defensive Team after averaging 14.0 PPG, 7.8 RPG and 2.1 BPG in 29.7 MPG over 31 games.

Richards received a three-year contract, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets.

Hornets To Sign Nate Darling To Two-Way Deal

The Hornets are signing undrafted free agent guard Nate Darling to a two-way contract, his agents at One Legacy Sports tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Darling, who began his college career at UAB, later transferred to Delaware and had a breakout season in 2019/20. In 32 games (38.3 MPG) in 2019/20, The 22-year-old Canadian averaged 21.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 2.8 APG with a .446/.399/.854 shooting line.

The Hornets finished the ’19/20 campaign with Kobi Simmons and Ray Spalding occupying their two-way slots. Spalding’s deal runs for another year, so it seems safe to assume that Darling will take Simmons’ spot.

Darling will be eligible to be active for up to 50 games with Charlotte this season.

Xavier Tillman, Nate Darling Staying In Draft

Michigan State big man Xavier Tillman has decided to remain in the 2020 NBA draft and hire an agent, forgoing his remaining college eligibility, the school announced in a press release.

Tillman’s decision doesn’t come as a major surprise, since he’s regarded as a solid candidate to be drafted this fall, ranking 40th on ESPN’s big board of 2020 prospects. As a junior in 2019/20, Tillman averaged a double-double in 31 games (32.1 MPG) for the Spartans, recording 13.7 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 3.0 APG, and 2.1 BPG. He was also named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

In a more surprising move, Delaware guard Nate Darling is also keeping his name in the 2020 draft and will go pro, he announced on Twitter.

Darling, who doesn’t show up on ESPN’s top-100 list, appears less likely to be drafted than Tillman, but he had a strong junior year after transferring from Alabama-Birmingham to Delaware. The 6’5″ Canadian led the Blue Hens in scoring with 21.0 PPG on .446/.399/.854 shooting in 32 games (38.3 MPG).

Monday represents the deadline for early entrants in the 2020 draft to withdraw and retain their NCAA eligibility going forward. We passed along updates this morning on several players who have pulled out of the draft within the last day or two.

Since then, at least a couple more prospects have withdrawn. One player who is removing his name from consideration is NJIT guard Zach Cooks, his head coach Brian Kennedy tells Jeff Goodman of Stadium (Twitter link). Cooks will be back for his senior season after averaging 19.7 PPG and 5.2 RPG in 2019/20.

Meanwhile, Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports reports (via Twitter) that Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert is also withdrawing from the draft and returning to school, joining teammate Joel Ayayi among Zags who will be back with the team next season after testing the draft waters.

Draft Decisions: Diane, Cockburn, Darling, Jones

Two-time Big West Player of the Year Lamine Diane is among the latest NCAA underclassmen to declare for the 2020 NBA draft, announcing his decision on Instagram.

A 6’7″ forward, Diane put up monster numbers for Cal State Northridge in his two college seasons, averaging 25.1 PPG, 10.8 RPG, and 2.1 BPG in a total of 52 games (35.5 MPG). The sophomore forward currently ranks as the No. 73 prospect on ESPN’s big board, making him a candidate to be drafted this summer.

Here are a few more updates on early entrants declaring for the 2020 draft:

  • Illinois freshman center Kofi Cockburn announced on Instagram that is entering the draft, and the wording of his statement suggests he intends to go pro, forgoing his remaining eligibility. The big man averaged 13.3 PPG, 8.8 RPG, and 1.4 BPG in 31 games (27.4 MPG) during his first – and potentially only – season with the Fighting Illini.
  • Delaware junior guard Nate Darling announced on Twitter that he’ll test the draft waters while maintaining his college eligibility. Darling averaged 21.0 PPG on .446/.399/.854 shooting in 2019/20 after transferring from UAB.
  • Middle Tennessee guard C.J. Jones is forgoing his final year of college eligibility to enter the draft and go pro, according to an announcement from the program (Twitter link). Jones was the team’s leading scorer in 2019/20, averaging 16.2 PPG with a .400 3PT%.