Arturs Zagars

And-Ones: Zagars, Media Rights, October Deadlines, More

Latvian guard Arturs Zagars is out for at least five months due to a knee injury, Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews reports (Twitter link). As detailed in a piece from Eurohoops, Zagars suffered the injury on October 14 while playing in Lithuania’s top league.

Zagars received NBA interest through the summer following a standout FIBA World Cup performance for Latvia. The 23-year-old guard averaged 12.4 points, 7.4 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game and set a tournament record with 17 assists in his team’s final contest. He ultimately wound up signing a three-year deal with Turkey’s Fenerbahce in September and they loaned him to the BC Wolves of Lithuania, with whom he suffered the injury.

As confirmed by Eurohoops and Urbonas, Zagars suffered an MCL injury and will undergo surgery and continue rehab in Istanbul under Fenerbahce’s medical staff.

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

  • ESPN and TNT are considering signing new media rights deals with the NBA that include fewer games per season, according to The Wall Street Journal (hat tip to RealGM). Such an agreement would allow the league’s two main broadcasting partners to continue working together at an affordable amount. It would also put the NBA in position to explore creating a packge of games for one or more streaming services, with both Amazon and Apple already expressing interest.
  • The NBA’s extension and roster cut-down deadlines are looming, and ESPN’s Bobby Marks (ESPN+ link) broke down every rookie extension and veteran extension candidate, as well as all remaining roster decisions ahead of the season. Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey, Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels and Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley are the major rookie extension candidates to watch, Marks notes, though Maxey likely won’t get a new deal. Many of the veterans facing an October 23 deadline for a contract extension, such as the BucksGiannis Antetokounmpo, are also unlikely to extend because they can earn more money by waiting until the offseason.
  • In another piece exploring the NBA’s October deadlines, Danny Leroux of The Athletic further breaks down the upcoming dates to note. Leroux points out the deadline for decisions on third- and fourth-year team options on rookie contracts is also approaching on October 31.
  • With the tip of the NBA season just days away (October 24), Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype provided a team-by-team look at which players are the most likely to earn consideration for the league’s end-of-season awards. Raptors forward Scottie Barnes gunning for Most Improved Player and Kings guard Malik Monk in the running for Sixth Man of the Year are among Gozlan’s most intriguing picks. Interestingly, Gozlan believes the Pelicans‘ best chance at earning end-of-season recognition is if Zion Williamson enters the MVP conversation.

And-Ones: Zagars, Sophomores, Super-Max, Best Offseason Deals

World Cup standout Arturs Zagars has officially signed with Turkish club Fenerbahce and has been loaned to Lithuanian team BC Wolves, as Johnny Askounis of relays. A recent report suggested that was the likely outcome for Zagars, who attracted NBA interest based in part on his strong play for Latvia at this year’s World Cup.

Zagars averaged 12.4 points, 7.4 assists, and 2.6 rebounds in 25.2 minutes per game across his eight World Cup appearances, making 48.6% of his shots from the floor and 41.7% of his three-pointers. The 23-year-old, who spent last season playing in Lithuania, was named to the All-World Cup Second Team.

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

International Notes: Patton, Sarr, Zagars, Canada

Former NBA center Justin Patton has signed with the Shanxi Loongs of the Chinese Basketball Association, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando.

The 16th overall pick in the 2017 draft, Patton only ended up playing in 22 NBA games for the Timberwolves, Sixers, Thunder, and Rockets between 2017-21 before heading overseas. A series of foot injuries derailed the early part of his professional career, but the 26-year-old has been able to stay on the court more frequently in Israel and France over the past two seasons. This will be Patton’s first stint in China.

Here are a few more notes from around the international basketball world:

  • While he’s not as tantalizing a prospect as Victor Wembanyama, another French center – Alexandre Sarr – is certainly earning fans ahead of the 2024 NBA draft, writes Marc J. Spears of Andscape. The 18-year-old, playing for the Perth Wildcats, averaged 21.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 6.0 blocks in the team’s two games vs. the G League Ignite last week. “Very intriguing prospect,” one NBA general manager said to Spears. “Top-five pick. In the conversation for the No. 1 pick.”
  • Turkish club Fenerbahce is believed to be nearing a deal with World Cup standout Arturs Zagars, according to Aris Barkas and Johnny Askounis of Zagars, whose strong play for Latvia during the World Cup reportedly attracted NBA interest, is expected to be loaned to BC Wolves to start the 2023/24 season if he finalizes an agreement with Fenerbahce, per Eurohoops.
  • Zagars’ showcase of his NBA potential is one of six takeaways Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports wrote about in his World Cup round-up.
  • Veteran forward Melvin Ejim has never played in the NBA since going pro in 2014, but he has represented Canada in several international competitions, earning bronze medals at the 2015 AmeriCup and 2023 World Cup. As Cesare Milanti of relays, Ejim spoke this week about what it means for the Canadian program to knock off the U.S. and to claim a spot in the 2024 Olympics. “Bronze is amazing, but we have the talent, the people, and the organization to go for gold,” he said. “In the Olympics, we can show that.”

NBA Teams Expressing Interest In Arturs Zagars

Latvia’s Arturs Zagars is generating NBA interest after his standout performance in the World Cup, sources tell Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews.

The 23-year-old guard led Latvia to a fifth-place finish in its first-ever World Cup appearance and set a tournament record with 17 assists in the team’s final game against Lithuania. Zagars averaged 12.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 7.4 assists in 25 minutes per game as Latvia defeated established powers such as France, Spain and Brazil.

That showing will increase the opportunities for Zagars, who is a free agent after spending last season with Nevėžis Kėdainiai in the Lithuanian Basketball League. Urbonas states that BC Wolves Vilnius of Lithuania had interest in signing Zagars before the World Cup began, but now it has competition from several top EuroLeague clubs. Some NBA teams are also considering a two-way contract for Zagars, according to Urbonas’ sources.

“I think it’s a fair shot. It’s all about timing, chance and opportunity,” Latvian teammate Davis Bertans said about Zagars’ NBA prospects. “Everything can happen if you end up at the right place at the right time. He has all the tools to do it. He’s relentless, as you can see. They’re putting their best defender on him every single night, and he still delivers for us.”

At 6’3″, Zagars is capable of handling either backcourt position, but he’s primarily used as a point guard. Urbonas notes that he plays with a swagger and is willing to take control of the offense, either by scoring or creating opportunities for teammates. He got a taste of NBA basketball while playing for the Wizards during the 2022 Las Vegas Summer League.

Zagars has played professionally in Europe since 2017, but his progress has been slowed by injuries, including a torn ligament in his ankle that required surgery in 2019. He withdrew from that year’s NBA draft, joining teams in Estonia and Germany before landing in Lithuania. He was hurt again late last season and wasn’t considered definite to play in the World Cup until coach Luca Banchi got to see him in person.

“Only in the training camp I understood that his body was responding well,” Banchi said. “Before, there were question marks, but the guy worked seriously during the summer and probably achieved so much that he couldn’t even predict himself.” 

World Cup Notes: Fontecchio, Jackson Jr., Zagars, Canada

Simone Fontecchio won’t be prominent on many NBA game plans but he’s certainly a major focus for Team USA coach Steve Kerr and his staff in preparations for the quarterfinal match with Italy on Tuesday.

The second-year Jazz forward leads Italy in the tournament at 18.4 points per game. He’s also Italy’s second-leading rebounder at 6.6 per game. He had a 30-point outing against Serbia.

“I’m really happy when I can help my team. I can help my team in a lot of ways – even if I score 0 points,” he said in a story posted on FIBA’s website. “I can play defense, I can get rebounds, I can pass the ball. This team doesn’t need me to score 30, but when I do it of course I am really happy. It’s just the cherry on top. It’s certainly one of the best nights I’ve had in the national team.”

We have more from the World Cup:

  • Team USA center Jaren Jackson Jr. has gotten into early foul trouble in three of the team’s five games. He knows he must be smarter, given the club’s lack of options at the position, according to Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer. “Different rules, different hand positions at different times they call,” Jackson said. “You can be more physical, but you can’t at certain times. You just gotta be super, super careful. You have to understand you’re very, very valuable.”
  • The best non-NBA player in the tournament is Latvia’s point man, Arturs Zagars, John Hollinger of The Athletic opines. The 23-year-old has been set back during his career by multiple injuries. He has displayed superior distribution skills in the World Cup and has been comfortable shooting FIBA threes off the dribble. He played in the Lithuanian domestic league last season. Spain point guard Juan Nunez is the top draft prospect in the tournament, Hollinger adds.
  • Canada’s win over Spain on Sunday was validation for a national team that has often come up short on the world stage, Michael Grange of Sportsnet notes. Canada’s win clinched an Olympic berth and set up a quarterfinal match against Luka Doncic and Slovenia on Wednesday.

Draft Updates: Matthews, Bol, Porter, Withdrawals

Former Michigan guard Charles Matthews suffered some bad luck with the 2019 NBA draft right around the corner, as agent Adam Pensack tells Jonathan Givony of that his client has a torn ACL. The injury occurred during a workout with the Celtics, Givony adds.

Matthews, who had been ranked as the No. 60 prospect on ESPN’s big board and was receiving second-round interest, will head to his hometown of Chicago to undergo surgery to repair the ACL. He hasn’t given up hope of being selected in next week’s draft.

“Injuries are tough, but Charles is an extremely hard worker and will be back stronger than ever,” Pensack told Givony. “He had a series of outstanding workouts lately and has helped himself. Charles will continue that momentum when he returns to action. As of now, we have interest in the second round as Charles is OK signing a two-way contract like Edmond Sumner did with the Indiana Pacers in 2017.”

Let’s round up a few more draft-related items…

  • Bol Bol, who is recovering from a foot fracture, will hold an invite-only workout for select teams on Wednesday, according to Jeremy Woo and Jake Fischer of (Twitter link). Bol is one of the biggest wild cards in the draft for health-related reasons, so Wednesday’s session could have a major impact on where he’s selected.
  • Kevin Porter Jr., a probable first-round pick, has worked out for the Nets, Spurs, and Hornets, and has sessions lined up with the Magic and Hawks, tweets Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Porter’s previously-reported upcoming workouts with the Heat and Wizards will take place on June 13 and June 17, respectively (Twitter links via Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald and Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington).
  • With Monday’s withdrawal deadline looming, several international early entrants are pulling their names out of the 2019 draft pool. According to reports from Givony and Lithuanian journalist Donatas Urbonas (all four Twitter links), the following players are withdrawing: Nikita Mikhailovskii (Russia), Arturs Zagars (Latvia), Henri Drell (France), Tadas Sedekerskis (Lithuania), Gytis Masiulis (Lithuania), and Arnas Velicka (Lithuania).
  • Lithuanian early entrants Deividas Sirvydis and Matas Jogela intend to remain in the draft pool, sources tell Urbonas (Twitter link). According to Givony (all Twitter links), Sekou Doumbouya (France), Goga Bitadze (Georgia), Luka Samanic (Croatia), Adam Mokoka (France), and Marcos Louzada Silva (Brazil) will also stay in the draft.

Draft Notes: Thompson, Zagars, Ngom, Lecque

North Carolina State commit Jalen Lecque has announced his decision to declare for the 2019 NBA Draft, posting a video to his social media page today.

“I would like to thank god, my mom, my dad, my brothers and sisters and my extended family and friends,” Lecque said. “I would like to thank Christ School and Brewster Academy for providing me with the education and giving me the opportunity and making me the man I am today.”

Lecque also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning to NC State if he isn’t selected in the draft, Evan Daniels of 247Sports tweets.

Here are some other draft notes today:

  • Oregon State guard Ethan Thompson has declared for the draft and will hire an agent, according to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports. Thompson started in 63 games during his two seasons at Oregon State, holding per-game averages of 11.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists.
  • Latvian guard Arturs Zagars has entered his name to the draft, his agency You First Sports told ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Twitter link). Zagars was the MVP of the FIBA U18 European Championship and has a strong chance of getting drafted, Givony adds.
  • Ryerson University center Tanor Ngom has declared for the draft, head coach Roy Rana confirmed to Givony. Ngom, a 7’2″ native of Senegal, averaged 11.3 points and 5.6 rebounds on 64% shooting this season. He had notable performances against Duke during a preseason game last year and at the Nike Academy in August.