Azuolas Tubelis

International Notes: Tubelis, Harrison, Caboclo, Whitehead

After going undrafted out of Arizona earlier this year, Lithuanian power forward Azuolas Tubelis signed a two-way contract with the Sixers and spent training camp and the preseason with the NBA club. However, Philadelphia waived Tubelis during the first week of the regular season and he’s now headed back to his home country.

The Lithuanian team Rytas Vilnius announced in a press release that it has signed Tubelis to a three-year contract and will loan him to Neptunas Klaipeda for the 2023/24 season (hat tip to Eurohoops). Tubelis was in Rytas Vilnius’ system from 2018-20 prior to coming stateside and becoming a Wildcat, so the new deal represents a reunion between the two sides.

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

  • Shaquille Harrison appears to be headed to Italy for the 2023/24 season, with Fabrizio Lorenzi of La Repubblica reporting that the veteran NBA guard has reached an agreement to join Olimpia Milano (hat tip to Sportando). As we previously relayed, the Italian club had been eyeing guards with NBA experience as of late. Harrison, who has 180 NBA games under his belt, was in camp with the Grizzlies this fall but was cut before the season began.
  • After Bruno Caboclo signed with KK Partizan on Tuesday, his agency – Hazan Sports Management – explained to Sportando that the forward had only signed a “preliminary” contract and not an official contract with Reyer Venezia, so FIBA allowed his release from that agreement. Reyer Venezia isn’t happy with that explanation, however — the Italian team released a blistering statement referring to FIBA’s ruling as “unfair” and accusing Caboclo’s representatives and KK Partizan of engaging in “illicit conduct.” Reyer intends to contest the decision through the FIBA Appeals Panel.
  • Former NBA guard Isaiah Whitehead, who played 89 games for Brooklyn from 2016-18, spoke to Adam Zagoria of about his harrowing exit from Israel last month, which began when he woke up one morning to the sound of “missiles (and) bombs.” Whitehead had been playing for Ironi Ness Ziona but hopes to get his release from that contract in order to join a new team in Europe. “I’m still under contract in Israel so I gotta figure everything out and see what the exit clause would be,” he told Zagoria.

Sixers Re-Sign Ricky Council To Two-Way Contract

12:12pm: Tubelis has been waived in order to open up a two-way slot for Council, reports Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link).

11:53am: The Sixers have agreed to a new two-way contract with rookie shooting guard Ricky Council, reports Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link). The signing is official, per’s transaction log.

Council, who played two college seasons at Wichita State before transferring to Arkansas for his junior year in 2022/23, averaged 16.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in 34.1 minutes per game (36 games) for the Razorbacks last season. His 27.0% mark on three-point tries left something to be desired, but he was considered one of the top prospects to go undrafted this year.

Following June’s draft, Council quickly latched on with Philadelphia on a two-way deal, playing for the club in Summer League and the preseason before being cut last Friday. The Sixers had to release a two-way player in order to convert Javonte Smart‘s Exhibit 10 deal to a two-way contract.

We don’t know exactly what Philadelphia’s thinking is in waiving Council only to bring him back five days later. However, it’s worth noting that the terms of Terquavion Smith‘s and Azuolas Tubelis‘ two-way deals called for them to have 50% of their full salaries guaranteed if they weren’t waived on or before the first day of the regular season. Council’s previous contract didn’t include those same terms.

It’s possible the Sixers always wanted to retain Council but didn’t want to deny Smith or Tubelis a payday of approximately $205K (each player had already been guaranteed $75K of his $560K two-way salary). Keeping both of those players through opening day on Tuesday ensures they’ll get their salary bumps, which won’t count against Philadelphia’s cap. I’d expect one of them – rather than Smart – was cut to make room for Council, though that hasn’t yet been confirmed.

International Notes: Batum, Randle, Lithuania, Tubelis

Clippers forward Nicolas Batum is playing for France at this year’s World Cup and intends to suit up for the national team at the 2024 Olympics in Paris. However, next year’s Olympics tournament is expected to be the last time Batum represents France in an international competition.

Batum’s wife, Lily Batum, indicated in a tweet that the veteran NBA wing will retire from France’s national team after the 2024 Olympics. Her tweet also suggested that Nicolas will retire as an NBA player following the final year of his contract with the Clippers, though she later clarified in a follow-up tweet that that decision hasn’t been made yet.

Batum, who entered the NBA in 2008 and has spent 15 seasons in the league, will turn 35 later this year. He has spent the last three seasons with the Clippers, but has seen his playing time dip a little in each season, from 27.4 minutes per game in 2020/21 to 24.8 MPG in ’21/22 and 21.9 MPG in ’22/23. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2024.

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

  • AEK Athens and former NBA guard Chasson Randle have agreed to a one-year deal, according to Stavros Barbarousis of Eurohoops. Randle, who has played in a handful of professional leagues around the world, also has 119 NBA appearances on his résumé, having spent time with the Sixers, Knicks, Wizards, Warriors, and Magic between 2016-21.
  • After defeating Finland in an exhibition game on Monday – overcoming a 32-point outing from Lauri Markkanen – Lithuania has finalized its roster for the 2023 World Cup, per Eurohoops. The roster includes a handful of current or former NBA players, headlined by Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas. However, NBA rookie Azuolas Tubelis, who signed a two-way contract with the Sixers last month, didn’t make the final cut.
  • In case you missed it, veteran NBA wing Sterling Brown completed a two-year deal with Germany’s Alba Berlin. We have the full story here.

Sixers Add Council, Tubelis, Smith On Two-Way Deals

JULY 17: The two-way deal for Tubelis is official, the team announced in a press release.

JULY 1: The Sixers have officially signed Council and Smith.

JUNE 23: The new CBA will allow for three two-way contracts and the Sixers wasted no time filling those spots.

Philadelphia are offering contracts to three undrafted players. Arkansas guard Ricky Council IV will take one of those spots, Shams Charania of The Athletic and The Stadium tweets. Arizona big man Azuolas Tubelis and North Carolina State Terquavion Smith are also being signed on two-way deals, Kyle Neubeck of tweets.

Council, a 6’6” guard, averaged 16.3 points for the Razorbacks last season after transferring from Wichita State. His spotty perimeter game (3o.3% on 3-point tries in his college career) hurt his draft stock.

Tubelis, a three-year starter for the Wildcats, averaged 19.8 points and 9.1 rebounds last season. Smith averaged 17.9 points and 4.1 assists for the Wolfpack in his sophomore season.

Additionally, the Sixers are signing Arizona State forward Marcus Bagley on an Exhibit 10 contract. Bagley played only five games the past two seasons due to injuries and a suspension.

Pacific Notes: Westbrook, Vezenkov, Suns, Dunleavy, Lakers

Russell Westbrook will have to balance money vs. playing time when he makes his decision in free agency, write Law Murray and Danny Leroux of The Athletic.

Westbrook took over as the starting point guard after he signed with the Clippers in February and raised his value by averaging 15.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 7.6 assists in 21 games. Leroux speculates that there may not be another team willing to give him a starting role, although opportunities exist if he’s willing to be the first guard off the bench.

The Clippers would prefer to keep Westbrook, but without his Bird rights, they’re limited to an offer of 120% of the veteran’s minimum. Although L.A. could theoretically trim enough salary below the $179.5MM second apron to offer Westbrook the mid-level exception, that wouldn’t be a huge raise because it’s being lowered to $5MM in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Leroux suggests that owner Steve Ballmer could try to re-sign Westbrook with an unspoken understanding that he’ll get a bigger deal next summer when the team will have his Early Bird rights.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Kings are determined to bring Sasha Vezenkov  to Sacramento next season, according to Christos Tsaltas of Sportal. High-ranking team officials traveled to Greece this season to watch Vezenkov in action and to learn more about his character and work habits. The Kings see Vezenkov as a back-up to Keegan Murray and believe they’re versatile enough to play together, Tsaltas adds.
  • Miles Simon and John Lucas III are the latest additions to Frank Vogel‘s coaching staff with the Suns, tweets Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report. Simon was the head coach of the South Bay Lakers in the G League, and they both worked under Vogel in L.A.
  • New general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. was brought to the Warriors‘ management team by his former agent, Bob Myers, shortly after he retired as a player, notes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Myers hired Dunleavy as a scout in 2018, and he worked his way up through the organization. He has been taking on more of Myers’ duties over the past two years, including attending the league’s gatherings of general managers.
  • The Lakers hosted six players for a pre-draft workout on Saturday, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN. On hand were UConn’s Andre Jackson Jr., Stetson’s Sam Peek, Chattanooga’s Jake Stephens, Overtime Elite’s Jazian Gortman, Texas’ Timmy Allen and Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis. L.A. has the 17th and 47th picks in this year’s draft.

Central Notes: LeVert, Mitchell, Pacers’ Workouts, Vucevic

A short-term contract might work for both the Cavaliers and one of their free agents, Caris LeVert, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer opines. LeVert settled into the role of sixth man as the season went along and he wants to re-sign.

Cleveland won’t find a better player with its $12.2MM mid-level exception, according to Fedor, so it makes sense for the Cavs to bring back LeVert and then use the exception to add another rotation piece.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Donovan Mitchell recently expressed on social media his frustration at not being All-NBA First Team. In an “Sideline Stroll w/Ros” interview (video link), Mitchell spoke about the perceived snub in greater detail. “I just felt I should have been First Team,” he said. “So that’s one of my goals next year, is to be First Team. And I felt like I was good enough. But obviously the media members did not.” Mitchell did make the Second Team.
  • The Pacers will host six draft prospects on Monday, including Indiana University star forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, according ot a team press release. Emmanuel Akot (Western Kentucky), Tyree Appleby (Wake Forest), Chris Livingston (Kentucky), Terquavion Smith (NC State) and Azuolas Tubelis (Arizona) will join him at the Pacers’ practice facility.
  • The Bulls are looking to lock up Nikola Vucevic for the next three seasons, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. A report that an extension was being discussed with the center, who will otherwise be a free agent next month, surfaced on Wednesday. The Bulls are apparently not looking to take “big swings” this summer and Cowley disagrees with that strategy for a franchise wallowing in mediocrity.

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: Sanogo, Jackson, Tshiebwe, Bates, Droppers

Adama Sanogo and Andre Jackson Jr. were two key contributors to UConn’s national championship season. Both players have been invited to the NBA Combine in Chicago in May. Adam Zagoria tweets.

Jackson, a combo guard, is a potential first-rounder. He’s currently ranked No. 30 on ESPN’s Best Available list. Despite a stellar college career, Sanogo may have to open some eyes during the pre-draft process in order to get drafted. He’s currently ranked No.  87.

We have more draft-related items:

  • Kentucky’s star big man Oscar Tshiebwe hasn’t ruled out returning to college but he’s got a number of workouts lined up, Zagoria adds in another tweet. Tshiebwe has already scheduled workouts with the Celtics, Bucks, Rockets and Kings. He averaged 16.5 PPG and 13.7 RPG this past season and is currently ranked No. 66 on ESPN’s list.
  • Will guard Emoni Bates get drafted? The Athletic’s Shams Charania, John Hollinger and Brendan Quinn explore that question. Bates averaged 19.2 PPG and 5.8 RPG in 30 games with Eastern Michigan after a tumultuous freshman campaign with Memphis. Bates catches scouts’ attention with his high-level shot-making but doesn’t offer much else, according to The Athletic trio. He’s ranked No. 56 by ESPN and No. 78 by The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie.
  • What do Illinois’ Coleman Hawkins, Houston’s Marcus Sasser and Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis have in common? They are some of the players who have seen their draft stock decline heading into the combine, according to HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto.

Draft Updates: Bailey, Tubelis, Sanogo, Phelps, Johnson

UCLA guard Amari Bailey is declaring for the 2023 NBA draft and will forgo his remaining college eligibility, his mother, Johanna Leia, tells Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link).

As a freshman for UCLA in 2022/23, Bailey averaged 11.2 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.2 APG and 1.1 SPG on .495/.389/.698 shooting in 30 games (26.9 MPG). He helped lead the Bruins to a 31-6 record and a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where they ultimately lost in the Sweet 16 to Gonzaga.

In his analysis at ESPN, Givony writes that Bailey was a projected first-round pick entering the season who had a rough start to his freshman campaign, particularly pointing to his questionable jump shot and uneven decision-making.

However, according to Givony, Bailey had a strong finish to the season and could see his stock rise if he performs well in pre-draft workouts. He is currently No. 42 on ESPN’s big board.

Here are some more early entrants for the 2023 draft:

  • Arizona junior Azuolas Tubelis (No. 68 on ESPN’s board) is entering the draft, he tells Givony, who adds that the Lithuanian forward is expected to forgo his eligibility and turn pro. Tubelis had an impressive junior season for the Wildcats, averaging 19.8 PPG, 9.1 SPG, 2.0 APG and 1.1 SPG while shooting 57% from the field and 76.4% from the line in 35 games (30.1 MPG). According to Givony, Tubelis plans to play at the NBA draft combine next month in an effort to boost his stock.
  • UConn big man Adama Sanogo, who was named Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament after leading the Huskies to the championship, plans to enter the draft, sources tell Adam Zagoria of (Twitter link). It’s unclear if Sanogo, a junior, will be testing the draft waters or keep his name in and go pro. He averaged 17.2 PPG and 7.7 RPG on .606/.365/.766 shooting in 39 games (26.5 MPG) this season. Sanogo is ranked No. 87 on ESPN’s board, so he’s considered a long shot to get drafted.
  • SMU guard Zhuric Phelps is entering the draft while maintaining his college eligibility, as is San Diego State forward Keshad Johnson, who is also entering the transfer portal, the two players announced on social media (Twitter links). Phelps averaged 17.5 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.2 APG and 2.3 SPG on .394/.309/.609 shooting in 30 games (31.4 MPG) as a sophomore for the Mustangs. Johnson, a senior who has one year of eligibility left due to COVID-19, averaged 7.7 PPG and 5.0 RPG on .532/.262/.648 shooting in 39 games (22.2 MPG) for the Aztecs, who made it to the title game for the first time before losing to UConn. Neither player is ranked on ESPN’s board.