Draft Notes: Jelavic, Lewis, De Ridder, Ndiaye, Darlan, Cui, Green Room Invites

Croatian big man Andrija Jelavic is withdrawing from the draft, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony tweets. He had been considered a fringe second-round prospect, ranked No. 77 overall on ESPN’s Best Available list.

A trio of other international prospects — Timotej Malovec, Luka Bogavac and Bogoljub Markovic — are also pulling their names from draft consideration. The deadline for international prospects to withdraw came on Sunday afternoon.

We have more draft-related news:

  • Trinidad and Tobago wing Malique Lewis, ranked No. 76 by ESPN, has also decided to pass on the draft, Givony tweets.
  • Forward Thijs De Ridder will withdraw from the draft, Jon Chepkevich of DraftExpress.com tweets. He’ll look to build upon a strong ACB and FIBA Europe Cup season with Bilbao Basket and will be automatically eligible for next year’s draft.
  • Senegalese big man Eli Ndiaye and Central African Republic guard Thierry Darlan (G League Ignite) are also pulling out of the draft, according to Givony (Twitter links). Darlan was ranked N0.  84 overall by ESPN.
  • Chinese wing Yongxi Cui kept his name in the draft, Chepkevich tweets. Cui participated in the G League Elite Camp.
  • There have been 21 green room invitations extended to first-round prospects thus far. There will be four more green room invites made this week, according to Givony (Twitter link). The only player to decline an invitation is two-time National Player of the Year Zach Edey, who will watch from Purdue with family, friends and coaches.

Mavericks Notes: Irving, Doncic, Lively

Kyrie Irving had a pair of rough outings during the first two games of the Finals  in Boston. With the series shifting back to the Celtics’ home court for Game 5 on Monday, the Mavericks guard says he must block out all “self-doubt” with the Mavericks trying to stay alive, The Athletic’s Joe Vardon writes.

Irving shot 13-for-37 from the field in Games 1 and 2.

“Let’s call it what it is, when the fans are chanting ‘Kyrie sucks’ or anything, they feel like they have a psychological edge — and that’s fair,” he said. “If I’m not making shots or turning the ball over, that makes it even more of a pressing issue that they can stay on me for. So I think in order to silence even the self doubt, let alone the crowd doubt, but the self-doubt when you make or miss shots, that’s just as important.”

Irving will switch up his mental approach in Game 5, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.

“Be prepared for what I’m getting myself into,” Irving said. “Most importantly, not making this about me or getting into the energy with anyone else other than my teammates. That’s about it.”

We have more on the Mavs:

  • Head coach Jason Kidd was a top assistant with the Lakers before getting the top job with the Mavericks. Kidd says Luka Doncic and LeBron James have a very comparable mental approach. “They’re very similar,” Kidd told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “They’re very similar, IQ-wise. Both just off the charts. Luka doesn’t have athleticism like LeBron has. But they do a lot of things similar and they both really know the game.”
  • The Mavericks are trying to make history by erasing a 3-0 deficit and Doncic says it’s all about faith in themselves. “I think the most important thing is to show that we believe,” he said, per MacMahon. “I think we showed in Game 4. If not, if we wouldn’t believe, we probably wouldn’t have won that game. So I think obviously the talk is easy to talk about it, but then showing it is another thing. I think we showed it.”
  • Rookie big man Dereck Lively is still amazed how far he’s come in one year, according to Schuyler Dixon of The Associated Press. ”I wouldn’t have expected myself to be in this spot whenever I looked at the draft a year ago,” he said. ”The draft is a week away. Last year, a week away from the draft, my heart was pumping because I didn’t know what was going to happen. And now I’m playing in the NBA Finals.’

Kristaps Porzingis Listed As Questionable For Game 5

Kristaps Porzingis is listed as questionable to play in Game 5 of the Finals on Monday, Jared Weiss of The Athletic tweets.

Porzingis hasn’t played since Game 2 of the Finals. He’s dealing with a torn medial retinaculum and dislocated posterior tibialis tendon in his left leg. The injury is unrelated to the calf strain that kept him out of action for over a month during the postseason.

Porzingis made a sparkling return in Game 1, contributing 20 points, six rebounds and three blocks in 21 minutes. He made more solid contributions in Game 2, supplying 12 points, four rebounds and two blocks in 23 minutes.

After being ruled out for Game 3, he was technically available for Game 4. But with the Celtics leading the series 3-0, coach Joe Mazzulla chose not to use his starting center in what turned out to be a blowout loss.

With the series shifting back to Boston, Porzingis’ status remains up in the air. More clarity could come during the morning shootaround and in Mazzulla’s pregame press conference.

On Sunday, Mazzulla said of Porzingis, “He’s trying and doing everything he can to try to put himself in position to be out there. I know that for sure,” according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps.

International Notes: Valanciunas, Layman, Simonovic, Garza

Unrestricted free agent Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas, the captain of his native Lithuanian national team, is slated to skip his club’s Olympic qualifiers to preserve his body, reports Eurohoops. Valanciunas can’t sign a new contract prior to July 6, and the Olympic qualifying tournament will take place from July 2-7.

If Lithuania wins the six-team tournament in Puerto Rico, it sounds like Valanciunas would like to suit up for the squad at this year’s Paris competition.

“Unfortunately, this situation happened for the first time in my life – not being able to be a national team player,” Valanciunas said. “I’m definitely with the team, my spirit, my advice… I will practice, I will prepare, I believe that I will prepare for Paris, the Olympics. I will help in any way I can. I hope Lithuania understands me and we’ll do what we’ll do in Paris.”

There’s more from around the basketball stratosphere:

  • Journeyman NBA forward Jake Layman is signing a deal to return to Japanese club Seahorses Mikawa, the team announced (via Twitter). As Dario Skerletic of Sportando notes, Layman made his debut with Seahorses Mikawa last season, averaging 15.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals a night. The 30-year-old spent six NBA seasons with the Trail Blazers and Timberwolves, plus the Bulls’ NBAGL affiliate, the Windy City Bulls. He hasn’t been on an NBA roster since being waived by Boston in October 2022.
  • Former NBA center/power forward Marko Simonovic has inked an agreement with Turkish team Bahcesehir, reports Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando. The seven-foot Simonovic, now 24, was the No. 44 pick in the 2020 draft by the Bulls while still playing for Mega Basket. He suited up for Chicago from 2021-23 before ultimately resuming his basketball career abroad. Across 16 NBA games in his two seasons, Simonovic averaged just 1.4 points on 27.3% shooting for Chicago.
  • Reserve Timberwolves center Luka Garza, a restricted free agent this summer, is open to possibly playing in Europe, according to Cesare Milanti of Eurohoops. “I would love [to play] for anyone in the EuroLeague,” Garza said. “When you see crowds like Partizan, Fenerbahce, and all these different teams with such environments.” Last year with Minnesota, the 6’10” big man averaged 4.0 points and 1.2 rebounds in 4.9 minutes a night as a little-used bench player.

Izan Almansa Among Players Withdrawing From Draft

After five workouts with NBA teams, Reggio Emilia center Mouhamed Faye has decided to withdraw from the 2024 draft and will return to the Italian pro club, his agent Matteo Comellini informed Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link). Last year, the 6’9″ big man averaged 7.9 points on 62.4% field goal shooting, while also contributing 4.9 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per contest in 30 games for Reggio Emilia.

Another international prospect, French guard Ilias Kamardine, also plans to withdraw from the draft this year, his rep Herman Manakyan told Givony (via Twitter). Kamardine spent 2023/24 with JDA Dijon in Pro A France. He played sparingly for Dijon last year, averaging 5.3 minutes per game.

6’10” former Illinois power forward Zacharie Perrin, now with SLUC Nancy in his native France, is also opting out of the draft, his agents Nicolas Dos Santos and Max Wiepking tell Givony (Twitter link).

Nineteen-year-old former G League Ignite big man Izan Almansa also intends to withdraw from the draft, his agents Wiepking, Jim Tanner and Guillermo Bermejo have informed Givony  (Twitter link). In an effort to become a first-round draft selection next season, the 6’10” Spaniard is looking to continue his career for a team in Australia or Europe for 2024/25. Across 32 regular season contests (30 starts), Almansa averaged 11.7 points on 56% shooting from the field for the Ignite, along with 7.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 0.7 steals per game.

Of these players, Almansa is the top-ranked prospect on ESPN’s current big board, where he was listed as the No. 49 prospect. Perrin is at No. 67, Kamardine is No. 80, and Faye narrowly made the list at No. 99.

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, George, Oubre, Finals

Sixers center Joel Embiid and Clippers forward Paul George appeared together on ABC’s “NBA Countdown” program Friday ahead of Game 4 of the Finals, prompting speculation that there could be mutual interest in a Philadelphia team-up this summer, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Hopefully, this offseason we find a way to get better and add some pieces,” Embiid said, while shooting a meaningful glance in the direction of George, who was seated next to him.

George, 34, has a $48.8MM player option for the 2024/25 season, and the Sixers could easily carve out maximum-salary cap space. George and the Clippers have yet to come to terms on a new contract extension deal. While the 6’10” forward, a nine-time All-Star, remains a pretty lethal two-way threat, he has struggled with injury issues over the past several seasons.

Pompey writes that, should George become available in free agency, the Sixers think a trio of George, Embiid and All-Star point guard Tyrese Maxey could be enough to help the team compete for championship hardware in 2024/25.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Sixers small forward Kelly Oubre Jr., an unrestricted free agent this summer, has signed with CAA to represent him, the agency announced (via Twitter). The 6’7″ swingman enjoyed a solid debut season with Philadelphia on a veteran’s minimum contract. He played so well, in fact, that he seems to be in line for a major raise this summer. Across 68 games (52 starts), he averaged 15.4 points on a .441/.311/.750 slash line, plus 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.7 blocks.
  • A 122-84 Game 4 massacre in their Finals series with the Mavericks felt like déjà vu to the Celtics, notes Steve Buckley of The Athletic. Dallas, with its back against the wall trailing 3-0 in the series, responded in a huge way, and looks to have some fight left after all. Boston found itself in an 0-3 hole last season, in the Eastern Conference Finals, to the Heat. The Celtics managed to make it a series, winning the next three straight to push Miami to a Game 7, which the Heat won. “A year ago this time, we were down 0-3 and we were essentially fighting for our lives,” All-NBA Celtics forward Jayson Tatum said. “So very short answer, yeah, we understand what it’s like from their point of view, and you know, they came out super aggressive.”
  • In case you missed it, Celtics All-Defensive guard Derrick White is looking like a favorite to replace injured All-NBA Clippers wing Kawhi Leonard on Team USA in next month’s Paris Olympics, should Leonard not recover in time. White could work out a contract extension this summer to stay with Boston. A strong showing for Team USA could help strengthen his case.

Northwest Notes: Jazz, Sexton, Clarkson, Wolves, Nuggets

The Jazz are “casting a wide net” as they decide what to do with their three selections in this year’s draft, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. Sources tell Jones that Purdue center Zach Edey, French forward Tidjane Salaun, Marquette guard Tyler Kolek and Virginia guard Ryan Dunn are among the players Utah has hosted in the past week.

Jones is especially intrigued by Dunn, who he says could be the best perimeter defender in the draft. However, the 6’8″ guard doesn’t have a developed offensive game and he might not fall into the team’s current draft range — No. 10 seems too high to take him, and he could be off the board when the Jazz pick again at No. 29 and 32.

Utah’s most pressing need is a small forward who can contribute on both ends of the court, according to Jones, who examines the potential fit of Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht, Colorado’s Cody Williams, G League Ignite’s Ron Holland and Salaun. He also looks at Providence’s Devin Carter if the Jazz opt for a guard.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Executives from rival teams believe the Jazz could explore trade opportunities this summer involving Collin Sexton and Jordan Clarkson, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Sexton has two years remaining on his contract at $18.4MM and $19.2MM, while Clarkson will make $14MM next season and $14.3MM in 2025/26.
  • The Mavericks’ struggles against Boston in the NBA Finals are an indication that the Timberwolves still aren’t at the level of title contenders, according to Michael Rand of The Star Tribune, who notes that Dallas handled Minnesota pretty convincingly in the conference finals, including a Game 5 rout to close out the series. Rand believes the Wolves should follow the Celtics’ path for improvement and be willing to gamble on a major trade or two.
  • Talk of a Nuggets dynasty has faded with this year’s second-round exit, and Troy Renck of The Denver Post believes the focus should turn to winning the next title. He accuses the organization of taking a “macro view” by trying to win multiple championships rather than doing what is necessary to get the next one. Renck contends that approach led to personnel decisions that created a thin bench and left the team unable to close out Game 7 against Minnesota.

Thunder Notes: Hartenstein, Claxton, Collins, Joe, Wiggins, Giddey, Williams

Following a breakthrough year in which they earned the top seed in the West, the Thunder are in position to address their most glaring need by adding another big man in free agency, writes Keith Smith of Spotrac. Oklahoma City can clear roughly $35MM in cap space, mostly by renouncing the rights to free agent forward Gordon Hayward.

Smith points to Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein and Nets center Nic Claxton as two ideal targets. Hartenstein can contribute on both ends of the court, and he may be easier to obtain because New York is limited in what it can offer. With Early Bird rights on Hartenstein, the Knicks can give him roughly $72.5MM over four years, a figure that OKC can easily top. Claxton would add a shot-blocking element to the team’s already-strong defense, but he’s limited offensively and Brooklyn may be willing to pay whatever it takes to keep him.

Smith lists a few other options if the Thunder decide to pursue a forward rather than a center, such as Pascal Siakam, Patrick Williams, OG Anunoby and Paul George.

If general manager Sam Presti prefers a trade, Smith suggests Jazz big man John Collins, who will make $26.6MM in each of the next two seasons and can be acquired via cap space with about $8.5MM left over. Smith notes that Collins’ contract will expire before OKC has to start handing out extensions to its young players.

There’s more from Oklahoma City:

  • The Thunder will likely pick up their $2.2MM option on Isaiah Joe for next season with an eye toward a possible extension, Smith adds in the same piece. Smith also expects the team to keep Aaron Wiggins, either by exercising its $2MM team option and trying to sign him to an extension or turning down the option and hoping to reach a new deal with him as a restricted free agent. Smith sees Lindy Waters III on the “roster bubble,” while the team’s other free agents likely won’t return.
  • There’s a growing perception that Josh Giddey will be traded this summer, but Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman contends the Australian swingman’s struggles were exaggerated. Even though Giddey was benched in the playoffs and saw his minutes reduced during the regular season, Mussatto notes that he has improved his three-point shooting, having gone from 26.3% as a rookie to 33.7% this season. Mussatto also cautions that it might be too early to make a long-term decision on Giddey, who has another year left on his rookie contract and won’t turn 22 until October.
  • Chet Holmgren‘s return from injury cut into Jaylin Williams‘ playing time, but Williams still showed he can be an effective big man in the Thunder’s system, Mussatto adds in a separate story.

Mavericks Notes: Irving, Lively, Jones, Rotation

The Celtics were hoping Kyrie Irving would lead them to a championship when they traded for him nearly seven years ago. Instead, he went through a tumultuous journey in Boston and Brooklyn before finding happiness with a Mavericks team that’s now standing between the Celtics and an 18th banner.

Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe talked to Irving about all that went wrong during his time in Boston, which eventually led to a bitter breakup with the city. Washburn notes that Irving tended to be a loner when he played for the Celtics, but he has become more likable and more approachable since then.

“Being under the microscope in this business is a lot different for me now than probably four years ago, five years ago, because I’m able to put the big picture of life in perspective and also the game in perspective. It comes easier,” Irving said. “Then also I think the social media, sociopathic behavior. You know, your inner voice is not clear anymore when you’re downloading other voices and other opinions. That can become hard.”

The Mavericks are somewhat of a surprise Finals team after missing the playoffs last season. After Dallas traded for Irving in February 2023, his fit with Luka Doncic initially appeared awkward, but they’ve found a way to make it work. Irving appreciates the situation he’s landed in, and he believes the Mavs can be title contenders for years to come.

“At 32 right now, I just feel like the sky’s the limit,” he said. “I have an opportunity to be on a special team that can be one of the teams that dominates in this era. That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out the past few years, of how to be on a great team, be in an organization where I’m trusted, and also we’re able to succeed and fail together, and doing it in a way where we still have each other’s backs, and no one is giving up on the dream or the goal.”

There’s more on the Mavericks:

  • Dereck Lively II‘s dominance in the middle is one of the reasons the Mavericks believe they can rally from a 3-0 deficit, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. Lively had seven offensive rebounds Friday night and sparked an early game-changing run with a rare three-pointer. He wound up with 11 points and 12 boards, making him the first rookie with back-to-back double-doubles in the Finals in 44 years. League sources tell Fischer that rival teams knew the Mavs were targeting Lively in last year’s draft, and they were able to work out a deal with Oklahoma City after a proposal involving Clint Capela and the Hawks fell through.
  • Shawn Marion, who was part of Dallas’ last title team in 2011, sees elements of his own game in Derrick Jones Jr., per Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. “He’s definitely a shuffle piece that you can put him in different places because he’s very athletic,” Marion said. “He’s mobile. And he’s tall. So he’s got the length. He’s a versatile defender.”
  • Head coach Jason Kidd made rotation changes that might help the Mavericks sustain the momentum from their Game 4 win, observes John Hollinger of The Athletic. Minutes have increased for Lively, Josh Green and Maxi Kleber while decreasing for Jaden Hardy and Tim Hardaway Jr.

Pacific Notes: McGee, Redick, Thompson, Suns

At 36, Kings center JaVale McGee is one of the NBA’s oldest players, but he doesn’t feel like he’s close to the end of his career, writes Marcus D. Smith of The Sacramento Bee. McGee, a first-round pick in the 2008 draft, just wrapped up his 16th season. He’s played for nine teams and won three titles, but there’s a lot he still wants to accomplish, including joining a select list of players who’ve spent two decades in the league.

Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) played 20 years also and (he) played at a very high level for 20 years,” McGee said. “This is before you had a (physical therapist) for every player and the ACL surgery that you can come back from in six months, you know what I’m saying? So there’s a lot of progress and a lot of things in the world now where it’s easier. I don’t say it’s easy, but it’s easier to last that long, so I definitely think it’s possible.”

McGee will be an unrestricted free agent after signing a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal with the Kings last summer. He hopes to stay in Sacramento, a city where he spent part of his childhood when his mother played for the WNBA’s Monarchs, and he wants to help the Kings get back to the playoffs after being eliminated in this year’s play-in tournament. He talked about the team’s chances, saying it will be vital to re-sign free agent guard Malik Monk and make a few other roster additions.

“Definitely getting Malik back is important,” McGee said. “… Getting some more dogs on the team is really important also. I feel like the squad is well put together. We just need to make sure everybody’s on the same page.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • As expected, J.J. Redick had a formal interview with the Lakers on Saturday to discuss their head coaching job, sources tell Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times (subscription required). Multiple members of the organization reportedly talked with Redick, including general manager Rob Pelinka and owner Jeanie Buss.
  • Heading into free agency, longtime Warriors guard Klay Thompson has stopped following the team’s Instagram account, according to Sam Gordon of The San Francisco Chronicle. Gordon points out that unfollowing social media accounts is becoming a common practice for NBA players during negotiations, so it may not be a sign that Thompson intends to leave the Bay Area. However, he reportedly turned down a two-year, $48MM offer before the start of the season, and several suitors figure to be waiting if he can’t reach a new agreement before June 30.
  • Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports examines opportunities the Suns might have to trade up or down in the draft. Bourguet notes that past deals have gutted the team’s supply of draft assets to the point that it only controls the 22nd pick this year and its first-rounder in 2031. He identifies the Pacers, Bucks, Timberwolves, Knicks, Jazz and Wizards as potential trading partners if Phoenix wants to move down, while the Spurs’ pick at No. 8 and the Trail Blazers’ selection at No. 14 could entice the Suns to trade up.