Adem Bona

Draft Decisions: Bona, J. James, Da Silva, More

College players who declared for the 2023 NBA draft as early entrants while maintaining their NCAA eligibility have until the end of the day on Wednesday to either withdraw from the draft or forgo their remaining eligibility. Players who take the latter route could still technically pull out of the draft before the NBA’s June 12 deadline, but wouldn’t have the option of returning to school if they miss the NCAA’s May 31 deadline.

As a result, we’re getting a flurry of updates today on prospects who had been testing the draft waters.

UCLA’s Adem Bona, for instance, has decided to remove his name from the draft pool and rejoin the Bruins for his sophomore year, reports Jonathan Givony of ESPN. Bona, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, had been the No. 48 player on ESPN’s 2023 big board.

Tennessee wing Josiah-Jordan James, the No. 77 player on ESPN’s board, has also decided to pull out of the 2023 draft and will take advantage of his final year of college eligibility, he announced on Twitter. Colorado forward Tristan Da Silva – ESPN’s No. 83 prospect – will head back to school too, as he tells Givony.

While most players announcing decisions today are withdrawing from the draft, that’s not the case for everyone. Memphis forward Kaodirichi Akobundu-Ehiogu, for instance, has opted to keep his name in the draft and go pro, agent Scott Nichols tells Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link).

In our latest batch of updates, however, Akobundu-Ehiogu is a rarity. Here are several more early entrants who are withdrawing from the draft:

NBA Reveals Players Expected At 2023 Draft Combine

The NBA has announced 78 players that are expected to attend this year’s draft combine, scheduled for May 15-21 at in Chicago, Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports tweets.

Additionally, a select number of standout players from the G League Elite Camp, which takes place May 13-14 in Chicago, will be invited to participate in the combine.

Players will have interviews with NBA teams and participate in five-on-five scrimmages, as well as shooting, strength and agility drills. Some top prospects opt out of the scrimmages.

Victor Wembanyama, the projected top pick, is not on the list. His French League season is still ongoing.

The list of invitees is as follows:

Draft Notes: Bona, Walsh, Nelson, Broome

UCLA big man Adem Bona has decided to test the 2023 NBA draft waters after wrapping up his freshman season, he tells ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. He’ll maintain his remaining NCAA eligibility during the process.

Bona had a promising year in 2022/23, averaging 7.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 1.7 BPG in 22.9 MPG (33 games) for the Bruins, earning Pac-12 All-Defensive and Rookie of the Year honors. He’s the No. 45 player on ESPN’s big board, making him a solid candidate to be drafted.

However, Bona injured his shoulder in the Pac-12 tournament last month, then aggravated the injury during the NCAA tournament. He underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum and isn’t expected to fully recover until the fall, Givony writes.

Bona will be able to go through interviews with NBA teams during the pre-draft process, but will be unable to conduct full workouts, so it remains to be seen whether he’ll opt to keep his name in the draft pool or withdraw and return to school for his sophomore year.

Here are a few more draft-related updates:

  • Freshman forward Jordan Walsh has decided to test the NBA draft waters following his first college season at Arkansas, he tells Curtis Wilkerson of The No. 51 prospect on ESPN’s board, Walsh started 22 of 36 games as a freshman for the Razorbacks, averaging 7.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 1.1 SPG while playing strong, versatile defense.
  • North Dakota State junior power forward Grant Nelson is entering the draft while preserving his remaining NCAA eligibility, he announced on Instagram. A member of the All-Summit first team and the conference’s All-Defensive team in 2022/23, Nelson averaged 17.9 points and 9.3 rebounds in 30 games (30.7 MPG). He ranks 94th on ESPN’s list of 2023 prospects.
  • Auburn junior forward Johni Broome is testing the NBA draft waters for a second straight year, he announced on Instagram. Broome transferred to Auburn after two standout seasons at Morehead State, where he was named the Ohio Valley Conference’s Rookie of the Year in 2021 and Defensive Player of the Year in 2022. He averaged 14.2 PPG, 8.4 RPG, and 2.4 BPG in 33 games (26.5 MPG) as a junior with the Tigers.

And-Ones: Zion, Silver, Chalmers, Bona, Lawson

A panel of 15 NBA evaluators, including four general managers, unanimously agreed that Mavericks star Luka Doncic is the player under 25 whom they would most want to build a franchise around, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, Suns guard Devin Booker, and Grizzlies guard Ja Morant received the next-highest scores in the poll.

As Scotto notes, last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Pelicans big man Zion Williamson, placed just seventh on the evaluators’ list, tied with Nuggets guard Jamal Murray. Among the respondents who spoke to Scotto, the enthusiasm for Williamson’s obvious upside was dampened by long-term weight and injury concerns.

“He’s just a special player inside the arc who’s an elite finisher,” one executive said of the Pelicans’ rising star. “… He’s one of the best finishers behind Giannis (Antetokounmpo) and LeBron (James). He can hit the open man. He’s so physically dominant. His shooting shouldn’t be a problem, but we’ll see. I think he’s always going to be hurt, though.”

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

  • NBA commissioner Adam Silver is expected to be at the league’s Walt Disney World campus this week, sources tell Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link). It’s unclear whether Silver’s visit will be brief or if he plans to stick around through the NBA Finals.
  • Greek club Aris Thessaloniki has announced the signing of former NBA guard Mario Chalmers (hat tip to Sportando). A former two-time champion with Miami, Chalmers spent last season in Athens, but continues to hold out hope of making an NBA comeback.
  • Adem Bona, a 17-year-old Nigerian/Turkish big man, will spend the next two seasons stateside at Prolific Prep in California, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN, who refers to Bona as one of Europe’s “most promising” prospects (Twitter links). He’ll become draft-eligible in 2023, Givony adds.
  • Agent Chris Patrick and The Sports Law Group have ended their representation of former NBA guard Ty Lawson following his ban from the Chinese Basketball Association, reports Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link). Lawson last played in the NBA during the 2018 postseason with Washington.