A.J. Johnson

Draft Notes: Bronny, Combine, Edey, Withdrawals

Bronny James‘ NBA draft stock continues to be one of the top storylines of the class, and he looked determined to establish himself as more than just a name at the combine. In the second day of scrimmage play, the USC guard led his team in scoring with 13 points in 23 minutes.

Bronny told reporters he’s trying to earn a roster spot individually of who his father is, according to Yahoo Sports’ Krysten Peek.

Honestly, I feel like this is a serious business,” Bronny said. “I don’t think there would be a thought of, ‘I’m just drafting this kid because I’m going to get his dad.’ I don’t think a GM would really allow that. I think I’ve put in the work and if I get drafted it will be because of not only the player but also the person I am.

According to The Los Angeles Times’ Dan Woike, the Lakers’ No. 55 pick in the draft appears to be the floor for Bronny’s stock, which would allow him to play next to LeBron. However, there’s a chance he could go even higher than that.

According to Peek, the Jazz have expressed an interest in bringing Bronny in for an individual workout and could look to select him with their No. 32 overall pick. Peek also identifies Miami (No. 43 pick), San Antonio (No. 35) and Oklahoma City (who doesn’t own a pick past No. 12) as potential landing spots, though those appear to be more based in speculation than the Utah report.

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has moved Bronny up to No. 54 on his best available list (Twitter link). He was previously at No. 98.

We have more notes on the 2024 draft:

  • ESPN draft experts Givony, Jeremy Woo, Jamal Collier and Bobby Marks teamed up to analyze days two and three of the combine, assessing major takeaways and standouts. Illawara’s AJ Johnson and Colorado’s KJ Simpson were the only two players to make the scrimmage standouts list in back-to-back days. All of ESPN’s analysts agreed it was a general positive for scouts to see more high-level players than usual participate in scrimmages.
  • Former Purdue big man Zach Edey recognizes there are questions about how his game will translate to the next level, according to The Associated Press’s Andrew Seligman. Seligman writes that, despite Edey’s college dominance (25.2 points, 12.2 rebounds last season), the 7’4″ center is viewed as a slow-footed defender who isn’t much of a floor stretcher. Edey said he knows he needs to reinvent aspects of his game at the next level. “I think I need to show people I can shoot the way I believe I can,” Edey said. “But I think, for the most part, teams kind of know what I’m good at. Teams have tons of film on me. Obviously, I think I’m quicker than teams think I am. I think I can shoot better than teams think I can. I have to show that. I’ve been in college four years. They’ve got a lot of film on me. They kind of know what I can do.” Edey is ranked as ESPN’s 15th-best prospect in the class on its best available list.
  • Former Tennessee big man Jonas Aidoo is withdrawing from the 2024 draft and will play for Arkansas next season, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein (Twitter link). He averaged 11.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks on 51.5% shooting from the floor last season for Tennessee.
  • Arizona’s KJ Lewis, a bright, young defender, is withdrawing from the draft and returning to play for the Wildcats next season, Rothstein reports (Twitter link). He averaged 6.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.1 steals in 18.3 minutes in his freshman season.
  • Seton Hall’s Scotty Middleton (transfer from Ohio State) and Notre Dame’s Markus Burton, two impressive freshmen, are also withdrawing from the draft (Twitter links via Rothstein). Middleton was a four-star recruit and averaged 4.4 points in 15.3 minutes at Ohio State. Burton was highly productive in his first season, averaging 17.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists for the Fighting Irish.

Timberwolves Notes: Gobert, Finch, Towns, Draft Workout

Rudy Gobert, who was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year this week, is grateful to the Timberwolves organization for sticking by him after a rough first year in Minnesota, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes.

“When things didn’t go as smoothly as we wanted them to last year, they never doubted me,” Gobert said. “They have shown me love every day, pushing me to be better every day, and I really appreciate that.”

He also feels the entire city has embraced him after many league observers called the blockbuster trade with Utah a disastrous move during and after last season.

“I think we are trying to accomplish something bigger, but more importantly I think I’ve found a home,” he said. “I’ve found a team, a coaching staff, an organization and a city that has embraced me, and a group that has embraced me. I feel like it’s like a family. We are there for each other. We really care about one another.”

We have more on the Timberwolves:

  • Gobert missed Game 2 after the birth of his first child and was thrilled to watch his teammates dismantle the Nuggets in a 106-80 blowout, Dave McMenamin of ESPN relays. “It was incredible,” Gobert said. “I was exhausted, obviously, holding the baby and watching the game at the same time, but I had a little bit of emotions at the end because it felt like there was something special.”
  • Coach Chris Finch has been showing his toughness during the series, running the team shortly after undergoing knee surgery for a ruptured patella tendon. “He hops over on the crutches at times when he’s yelling at guys behind the bench,” Conley told Krawczysnki. “That passion he has for the game, it’s rubbing off on other guys. We’re doing a great job of keeping him involved, keeping him engaged and he’s doing a great job keeping on us and just being who he is.”
  • Karl-Anthony Towns has won the league’s Social Justice award, Marc Spears of Andscape.com reports. Among other issues, Towns has championed voting rights for formerly incarcerated people. He is expected to be given the award prior to Game 3 on Friday.
  • The Wolves will be hosting a pre-draft workout on Thursday for six prospects, mainly potential second-rounders, the team’s PR department tweets. Isaiah Crawford (Louisiana Tech), Thierry Darlan (G League Ignite), Aaron Estrada (Alabama), A.J. Johnson (Illawarra Hawks), Riley Minix (Morehead State) and Jaylen Wells (Washington State) are the participants. Wells is ranked No. 54 on ESPN’s Best Available list, while Johnson is pegged at No. 62.

NBA Announces 78 Invitees For 2024 Draft Combine

The NBA announced today (via Twitter) that 78 prospects have been invited to attend this year’s draft combine, which will take place in Chicago from May 12-19.

In addition to those 78 players, a handful of standout players from the G League Elite Camp, which is also held in Chicago just before the combine begins, are expected to receive invites to stick around for the main event.

Not all of the prospects invited to the combine will end up remaining in the 2024 draft pool, since some are early entrants who are testing the waters while retaining their NCAA eligibility. College players must withdraw from the draft by the end of the day on May 29 if they wish to preserve that eligibility, while non-college players face a decision deadline of June 16. The feedback they receive from NBA teams at the combine may be a deciding factor for players who are on the fence.

Here’s the list of players who have been invited to the 2024 draft combine:

(Note: For players in international leagues, the country listed is where they had been playing, not necessarily where they’re from.)

  1. Michael Ajayi, F, Pepperdine (junior)
  2. Melvin Ajinca, G/F, France (born 2004)
  3. Trey Alexander, G, Creighton (junior)
  4. Izan Almansa, F, G League Ignite (born 2005)
  5. Reece Beekman, G, Virginia (senior)
  6. Adem Bona, F/C, UCLA (sophomore)
  7. Trevon Brazile, F, Arkansas (sophomore)
  8. Jalen Bridges, F, Baylor (senior)
  9. Matas Buzelis, F, G League Ignite (born 2004)
  10. Carlton Carrington, G, Pitt (freshman)
  11. Devin Carter, G, Providence (junior)
  12. Stephon Castle, G, UConn (freshman)
  13. Ulrich Chomche, C, NBA Academy Africa (born 2005)
  14. Cam Christie, G, Minnesota (freshman)
  15. Nique Clifford, G, Colorado State (senior)
  16. Donovan Clingan, C, UConn (sophomore)
  17. Isaiah Collier, G, USC (freshman)
  18. Tristan Da Silva, F, Colorado (senior)
  19. Pacome Dadiet, G/F, Germany (born 2005)
  20. N’Faly Dante, C, Oregon (super-senior)
  21. Rob Dillingham, G, Kentucky (freshman)
  22. Nikola Djurisic, G/F, Serbia (born 2004)
  23. Ryan Dunn, F, Virginia (sophomore)
  24. Zach Edey, C, Purdue (senior)
  25. Justin Edwards, G/F, Kentucky (freshman)
  26. Kyle Filipowski, F/C, Duke (sophomore)
  27. Trentyn Flowers, G/F, Australia (born 2005)
  28. Johnny Furphy, G/F, Kansas (freshman)
  29. Kyshawn George, G/F, Miami (FL) (freshman)
  30. Tyon Grant-Foster, G, Grand Canyon (senior)
  31. PJ Hall, C, Clemson (senior)
  32. Coleman Hawkins, F, Illinois (senior)
  33. Ron Holland, F, G League Ignite (born 2005)
  34. DaRon Holmes II, F, Dayton (junior)
  35. Ariel Hukporti, C, Germany (born 2002)
  36. Oso Ighodaro, F, Marquette (senior)
  37. Harrison Ingram, F, UNC (junior)
  38. Bronny James, G, USC (freshman)
  39. A.J. Johnson, G, Australia (born 2004)
  40. Keshad Johnson, F, Arizona (super-senior)
  41. David Jones, F, Memphis (senior)
  42. Dillon Jones, F, Weber State (senior)
  43. Ryan Kalkbrenner, C, Creighton (senior)
    • Note: Kalkbrenner indicated this week that he intends to return to school, so it’s unclear if he’ll continue to go through the pre-draft process.
  44. Alex Karaban, F, UConn (sophomore)
  45. Bobi Klintman, F, Australia (born 2003)
  46. Dalton Knecht, G, Tennessee (super-senior)
  47. Tyler Kolek, G, Marquette (senior)
  48. Pelle Larsson, G, Arizona (senior)
  49. Jared McCain, G, Duke (freshman)
  50. Kevin McCullar, G, Kansas (super-senior)
  51. Yves Missi, C, Baylor (freshman)
  52. Ajay Mitchell, G, UC Santa Barbara (junior)
  53. Jonathan Mogbo, F/C, San Francisco (senior)
  54. Tristen Newton, G, UConn (super-senior)
  55. Juan Nunez, G, Germany (born 2004)
  56. Quinten Post, F/C, Boston College (super-senior)
  57. Antonio Reeves, G, Kentucky (super-senior)
  58. Zaccharie Risacher, F, France (born 2005)
  59. Jaxson Robinson, G/F, BYU (senior)
  60. Tidjane Salaun, F, France (born 2005)
  61. Hunter Sallis, G, Wake Forest (junior)
  62. Payton Sandfort, G/F, Iowa (junior)
  63. Alexandre Sarr, F/C, Australia (born 2005)
  64. Baylor Scheierman, G/F, Creighton (super-senior)
  65. Mark Sears, G, Alabama (senior)
  66. Terrence Shannon, G, Illinois (super-senior)
  67. Jamal Shead, G, Houston (senior)
  68. Reed Sheppard, G, Kentucky (freshman)
  69. KJ Simpson, G, Colorado (junior)
  70. Tyler Smith, F, G League Ignite (born 2004)
  71. Cam Spencer, G, UConn (super-senior)
  72. Nikola Topic, G, Serbia (born 2005)
  73. JT Toppin, F, New Mexico (freshman)
  74. Jaylon Tyson, G, California (junior)
  75. Ja’Kobe Walter, G, Baylor (freshman)
  76. Kel’el Ware, C, Indiana (sophomore)
  77. Jamir Watkins, G/F, Florida State (junior)
  78. Cody Williams, F, Colorado (freshman)

It’s worth noting that the NBA and the NBPA agreed to a few combine-related changes in their latest Collective Bargaining Agreement. Here are a few of those changes:

  • A player who is invited to the draft combine and declines to attend without an excused absence will be ineligible to be drafted. He would become eligible the following year by attending the combine. There will be exceptions made for a player whose FIBA season is ongoing, who is injured, or who is dealing with a family matter (such as a tragedy or the birth of a child).
  • Players who attend the draft combine will be required to undergo physical exams, share medical history, participate in strength, agility, and performance testing, take part in shooting drills, receive anthropometric measurements, and conduct interviews with teams and the media. Scrimmages won’t be mandatory.
  • Medical results from the combine will be distributed to select teams based on where the player is projected to be drafted. Only teams drafting in the top 10 would get access to medical info for the projected No. 1 pick; teams in the top 15 would receive medical info for players in the 2-6 range, while teams in the top 25 would get access to info for the players in the 7-10 range.

Regarding that last point, Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link) has the details on the top 10 played out this year, noting that the composite ranking was generated based on a combination of publicly available rankings and feedback from a panel of experts, as well as a retained-scouting service.

Sarr is considered the No. 1 overall prospect, per Givony, so only teams drafting in the top 10 will get access to his medicals. Buzelis, Castle, Clingan, Risacher, and Topic are in the 2-6 range, while Dillingham, Holland, Knecht, and Sheppard round out the top 10.

NBA Announces Initial Early Entrant List For 2024 Draft

The NBA has officially released the initial list of early entrants for the 2024 NBA draft, announcing in a press release that 195 players have filed as early entry candidates. Of those prospects, 138 are from colleges, 43 had been playing for teams internationally, and 14 were playing non-college ball stateside (ie. the G League or Overtime Elite).

While that early entrant total obviously far exceeds the number of players who will be selected in this year’s draft (58), it’s down significantly from the figures we’ve seen in recent years. A record 353 early entrants initially declared for the draft in 2021, but that number dropped to 283 in 2022 and 242 a year ago. The NCAA’s NIL policy, which allows college athletes to be paid based on their name, image, and likeness, has presumably been a major factor in that trend.

This year’s total of 195 early entrants figures to decline significantly by May 29 and again by June 16, the two deadlines for players to withdraw their names from the draft pool. But it’s still likely that the eventual number of early entrants will exceed 58 players. That group will join the college seniors with no remaining eligibility and other automatically eligible players in this year’s draft pool.

Our tracker of early entrants for the 2024 draft is fully up to date and can be found right here.

Here are the changes we made to our tracker today:


Newly added players

College players:

These players either didn’t publicly announce that they were entering the draft or we simply missed it when they did.

International players:

These players weren’t previously mentioned on our list of international early entrants. The country listed here indicates where they last played, not necessarily where they were born.

Other players:

  • Abdullah Ahmed, C, Westchester Knicks (born 2003)
  • Somto Cyril, C, Overtime Elite (born 2005)
  • Reynan Dos Santos, G, Overtime Elite (born 2004)
  • Djordjije Jovanovic, F, Ontario Clippers (born 2003)
  • Jalen Lewis, F/C, Overtime Elite (born 2005)
  • Malique Lewis, F, Mexico City Capitanes (born 2004)
  • Babacar Sane, F, G League Ignite (born 2003)

Players removed

Despite reports or announcements that the players below would declare for the draft, they didn’t show up on the NBA’s official list.

That could mean a number of things — they may have decided against entering the draft; they may have entered the draft, then withdrawn; they may have had no NCAA eligibility remaining, making them automatically draft-eligible; they may have incorrectly filed their paperwork; or the NBA may have accidentally omitted some names.

It seems that last possibility is a real one, as Jonathan Givony of ESPN tweets that a “miscommunication or mishap’ at the league office may result in a dozen or more additional names being added to the NBA’s early entrant list.

We’ve still removed the following names from our early entrant list for the time being, but it sounds like some could be re-added soon.

Note: Some of these players may also be transferring to new schools.

And-Ones: Expansion, Luwawu-Cabarrot, NBL, Kemp

The idea of expanding the NBA beyond its current 30 teams is a popular one that the league is widely expected to consider more seriously within the next few years. However, according to Chris Mannix of SI.com, some top team executives around the NBA are worried about the extent to which the league’s talent pool could be diluted by adding more teams. That’s a concern shared by commissioner Adam Silver.

“The dilution point doesn’t get as much attention,” Silver said. “It always fascinates me that in a league of what most people would acknowledge are the 450 best players in the world or close to it, despite enormous amount of basketball being played on a global basis, that even once you take that pool—450 players—there are only so many true difference-makers who without one or possibly two, or maybe even three of those players, you don’t have a realistic chance of winning the championship. And so the more teams you add, the more diluted, potentially, the talent will be around the league.

“… On the other hand, this is a sport that is an Olympic sport. It’s truly played on every corner of the planet. And so I think over time … you have this enormous new pool of top-notch talent that’s constantly coming into the league,” Silver continued. “So do I think the league from a competitive standpoint could absorb two more teams? Absolutely. We’re not there yet. … But overall, my biggest concern is not an impact it would have on competitive balance.”

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

  • Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot‘s contract with Olimpia Milano in Italy has ended, making the former NBA swingman a free agent once again, per Cesare Milanti of Eurohoops.net. Luwawu-Cabarrot has appeared in 328 regular season NBA games since 2016, including 52 with Atlanta in 2021/22. He was in camp with Phoenix last fall.
  • A.J. Johnson, a potential 2024 NBA lottery pick, decommitted from Texas in order to sign with the Illawara Hawks of Australia’s National Basketball League, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Jonathan Givony of ESPN. Johnson is the highest-profile U.S. prospect since LaMelo Ball to forgo college basketball in favor of the NBL’s Next Stars program, Wojnarowski and Givony note.
  • Former Seattle SuperSonics star Shawn Kemp has been charged with first-degree assault related to a shooting incident in Tacoma, Washington in March. ESPN has the story.
  • Under the NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Players Association will receive 50% of team fines, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The current CBA splits player fines between the league and union, but team fines – like the $750K penalty assessed to the Mavericks this week – go only to the NBA.