Cooper Flagg

And-Ones: Awards, Flagg, Celtics, Thunder, Porter

The finalists for the NBA’s seven end-of-season awards honoring the top performers of the 2023/24 season are set to be unveiled on Sunday, April 21, according to the league (Twitter link). The finalists will be revealed on NBA on TNT at 6:30 p.m.

The performance awards include the Most Valuable Player, the Most Improved Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, Coach of the Year, and Clutch Player of the Year.

Nikola Jokic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luka Doncic are among the expected frontrunners for MVP. Tyrese Maxey and Coby White are considered the favorites for Most Improved, and that may be one of the closer races among all awards. The battle for Sixth Man of the Year, which figures to feature the likes of Naz Reid and Malik Monk, may also be close. Victor Wembanyama is widely expected to earn the Rookie of the Year award and should also receive consideration for Defensive Player of the Year.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Projected 2025 No. 1 overall pick and Duke commit Cooper Flagg recently completed his stint at the Nike Hoop Summit, where top young prospects showcase their skills in front of scouts. Flagg sat down with HoopsHype’s Sam Yip to discuss the event, his upbringing and why he chose to play for the Blue Devils. “Fit and feel,” Flagg said. “Great relationship with Coach Scheyer. Durham is a great place, a great environment. I mean just the environment and the feel and the fit for me.
  • The Celtics and Thunder‘s G League affiliates made the NBAGL Finals this season. That best-of-three series corresponded with the end of the NBA’s regular season, which is when many developmental players often get a chance to shine. Jared Weiss of The Athletic explores how the teams’ two-way players were impacted by bouncing between getting big NBA minutes and having to prepare for a the G League championship. “That’s really the spirit of what the G League is, where you have guys moving between the leagues,” G League commissioner Shareef Abdur-Rahim said. “On any given night, you can be in a G League game and the next night play in an NBA game. That’s illuminated at this time, with how concentrated our playoffs are.” In a fun story, Weiss further explores the logistical side of being a two-way player in the G League. The Oklahoma City Blue won the championship, helped by the presence of two-way Thunder guard Lindy Waters III.
  • In the wake of former Raptors two-way big Jontay Porter being suspended for violating league gambling rules, the NBPA responded in a statement. “The NBPA exists to protect and support the interests of all 450 NBA players – both as individual players and as a collective,” the statement reads. “Adherence to league gambling policies is paramount to maintaining the integrity of our athletes and protecting the future of the sport. The NBPA will make sure Jontay has access to the resources he needs during this time, in light of the NBA’s decision. All players, including Jontay, should be afforded appropriate due process and opportunity to answer to any charges brought against them.

And-Ones: Maluach, 2024 Draft, Abu Dhabi, 40K-Point Club

Khaman Maluach, the top big man in the 2024 recruiting class, has committed to Duke, he tells Jonathan Givony of ESPN. Maluach had been playing at the NBA Academy Africa in Senegal.

The 7’2″ center, who is projected by ESPN to be the No. 3 overall pick in the 2025 NBA draft, will join projected No. 1 pick Cooper Flagg as part of a star-studded recruiting class for the Blue Devils. He chose Duke after also visiting Kentucky, Kansas, and UCLA and receiving offers from the G League Ignite and Australia’s NBL Next Stars program, per Givony.

“Duke is home, that’s where I belong.” Maluach said. “This was the hardest decision I’ve ever made. I felt like I could succeed anywhere, but I was most comfortable going to Duke. All the schools that were recruiting me are big-time programs, but in terms of my development and the relationships I built with the coaches, they were the best.”

Maluach became the third-youngest player in World Cup history last summer when – at age 16 – he played for a South Sudan squad that qualified for the Olympics for the first time ever.

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

And-Ones: Edey, 2025 Draft, Bronny, All-Star Game, EuroLeague, Hordges

Purdue’s star center, Zach Edey, will not return to college next season, Boilermakers coach Matt Painter told Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link).

Edey could have stayed for one more season due to the extra year of eligibility granted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The big man is averaging 23.7 points and 11.8 rebounds and might win National Player of the Year honors for the second straight season.

Edey tested the draft waters last summer before deciding to stay in school. He’s currently listed as the No. 13 overall prospect on ESPN’s Best Available list.

We have more news from around the basketball world:

  • While there’s still plenty of mystery about this year’s draft class, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has already posted a 2025 mock draft with big man Cooper Flagg, who has committed to Duke, as the No. 1 selection. The No. 39 projected pick is an eyebrow raiser: Bronny James. Givony explained on NBA Today (video link) that Bronny “has not produced like a one-and-done player” at USC.  Givony adds that LeBron James‘ son could be a “completely different player” if he returns to college next season.
  • Major League Baseball experimented with its All-Star Game, giving the winning league home field advantage in the World Series. Jalen Brunson suggested a similar solution on his podcast to make the NBA’s All-Star Game more competitive (hat tip to Geoff Magliocchetti of Sports Illustated). “I don’t know if baseball does it anymore, but the winner of the All-Star Game (could get) home-court advantage in the Finals,” he said. “That’s cool. I think that’s one way that could at least make it interesting in the fourth quarter.”
  • EuroLeague championships to be decided in Dubai? It could happen. Abu Dhabi is reportedly offering 75MM to host three editions of the EuroLeague Final Four, according to Sportando. Negotiations are reportedly in the advanced stages.
  • Cedrick Hordges has passed away, NBA Alumni tweets. He played 145 games for the Nuggets from 1980-82 before continuing his pro career in Europe for another 13 seasons.

And-Ones: Watanabe, Japan, Risacher, McDonald’s All-Americans, All-Stars

Japan won its first FIBA World Cup game in 17 years in 2023, and Suns wing Yuta Watanabe was a big part of that team. Watanabe reminisced on his summer in a conversation with HoopsHype’s Sam Yip, expressing optimism for Japan’s future in basketball.

If I’m going to retire in five, six years in a realistic world, we [are probably] not going to be one of the top teams in the world in five years, but I think at least we will be good enough to compete against those great teams,” Watanabe said. “I mean we did a good job against Germany and Australia in the World Cup. We lost by 20 but we won the second half. I think in five, six years we gonna be there to compete against those teams.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • French wing Zaccharie Risacher is making a case to be one of the first players selected in the 2024 draft during a historically productive season, ESPN’s Jeremy Woo writes (ESPN+ link). Risacher boasts a mix of positional size, scoring, play-making, defense and smarts, according to Woo. His physical profile is similar to that of Shane Battier and Ziaire Williams. Woo breaks down the rest of Risacher’s game, explaining why he could go No. 1 overall and considering which teams might make sense for him.
  • The 2024 McDonald’s All-American Game roster was unveiled on ESPN on Tuesday, and it features potential 2025 No. 1 overall picks Cooper Flagg and Ace Bailey (Twitter link via ESPN’s Jonathan Givony). Kentucky commit Boogie Fland, Duke commit Isaiah Evans, Washington commit Zoom Diallo and Rutgers commit Dylan Harper are among others featured on the rosters.
  • Ahead of the All-Star starters being unveiled earlier Thursday, The Ringer’s Michael Pina broke down his official starter ballot, as well as who he thinks the reserves should be. Pina voted for Tyrese Haliburton, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nikola Jokic and Luka Doncic, all of which mirrored the official selections. However, Pina had New York’s Jalen Brunson over Milwaukee’s Damian Lillard on his ballot. He also picked the Lakers’ Anthony Davis and the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard over LeBron James and Phoenix’s Kevin Durant. Check out the rest of his selections here.

And-Ones: 2024 Draft, HS Prospects, Breakout Players, Ray

ESPN draft experts Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo (Insider link) continue to rotate prospects in and out of the No. 1 spot on their draft board for 2024, moving French big man Alexandre Sarr into that top spot in place of USC guard Isaiah Collier, who has struggled for the Trojans as of late.

The 2024 draft class doesn’t have a clear headliner, so the race for No. 1 remains wide open. Matas Buzelis and Ron Holland, two G League Ignite youngsters who were atop ESPN’s big board during the summer of 2023, are now in the back end of the lottery at No. 10 and 11, respectively, while Collier has slipped all the way to No. 8.

Conversely, the latest risers on ESPN’s board include Colorado wing Cody Williams, who is up to No. 3 from No. 10, and Serbian point guard Nikola Topic, who has risen four spots to No. 5. Two more notable prospects who jumped from outside of the lottery into the top seven are French forward Tidjane Salaun and Kentucky guard Rob Dillingham, who moved up nine spots to Nos. 6 and 7, respectively.

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

  • Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report breaks down his top 10 prospects in high school basketball, with Cooper Flagg, Cameron Boozer, and A.J. Dybantsa topping his list.
  • Michael Pina of The Ringer singles out eight players across the NBA who are taking their games to another level this season, from stars like Kings guard De’Aaron Fox and Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton to role players such as Heat sharpshooter Duncan Robinson.
  • Former Nuggets forward James Ray, the No. 5 overall pick in the 1980 draft, died last week at age 66 due to complications from a surgery, as Bennett Durando of The Denver Post writes. A college star for the Jacksonville Dolphins, Ray appeared in 103 NBA games across three seasons for Denver, then spent several years in Europe before retiring as a player.

NBA To Allow Teams To Attend Several High School Showcases

The NBA will allow teams to scout a series of high school events over the course of the 2023/24 season, beginning with the Nike EYBL Scholastic Showcase Games in Las Vegas later this week, reports ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

As Givony explains, after instituting the one-and-done rule, which prevents prospects from entering the draft directly out of high school, the NBA also put a series of “no-contact” rules in place in 2005, prohibiting its clubs from scouting high school players in person. However, front offices have long pushed the league office to loosen those rules and it seems the NBA is complying.

According to Givony, one reason the league is becoming more willing to permit teams to scout high school events and players is the fact that a number of prospects in recent years, including Shaedon Sharpe and Darius Bazley, have opted not to play competitive basketball during the year after high school. Others, such as James Wiseman and Darius Garland, have seen very limited action in their lone college season due to an injury or an eligibility issue.

Being able to scout those prospects at high school events would have given teams more information to base their evaluations on once they became draft-eligible.

This week’s event in Vegas, which will take place when teams are already in town for the in-season tournament final four, will feature top prospects Cooper Flagg and Tre Johnson facing off against one another as members of Montverde Academy and Link Academy, respectively.

Here are the 2023/24 high school events that were certified by the NBA for scouts in a memo sent to teams last month, according to Givony:

  • Nike EYBL Scholastic Showcase Games (Dec. 8-9 in Las Vegas, NV)
  • Sunshine Prep Showcase at IMG Academy (Dec. 14-17 in Bradenton, FL)
  • Tarkanian Classic (Dec. 15-21 in Las Vegas, NV)
  • City of Palms Classic (Dec. 18-23 in Fort Myers, FL)
  • HoopHall Classic (Jan. 11-15, Springfield, MA)
  • Throne National Championship (March 28-31 in New York City, NY)
  • High School Boys Basketball Nationals (April 4-6 in Brownsburg, IN)

And-Ones: Resting Stars, Flagg, Doncic, Rookie Scale Extensions

The NBA enacted a new player participation policy during the summer, but it hasn’t been effective in keeping stars on the court during the first week of the season, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Many of the league’s top players have already sat out games, either for rest purposes or minor injuries.

Vardon points to Sixers center Joel Embiid, who was nearly rested for the team’s home opener on Sunday. It was only the third game of the season, but Embiid played 35 minutes Saturday at Toronto, so coach Nick Nurse considered giving him the night off. Because it was a back-to-back situation, that wouldn’t have violated the new policy.

“There’s nothing injury-wise. We just played last night, traveled and all that stuff,” Nurse explained.

NBA executive vice president Joe Dumars has talked about wanting to re-establish the culture of an 82-game season, but Vardon notes that James HardenJimmy ButlerDevin Booker and Donovan Mitchell are among the players who have already missed games.

However, the policy is at least making teams think twice about keeping their best players out of action. Nurse admits it factored into his decision making when he opted to play Embiid on Sunday, and a source tells Vardon that the Heat checked with the league office before resting Butler in Saturday’s game.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Cooper Flagg, who is expected to be the top pick in the 2025 NBA draft, has announced that he will play college basketball at Duke, per Jeff Borzello of ESPN. The 16-year-old high school star revealed his choice in a commitment video, choosing the Blue Devils over Connecticut. Flagg opted to reclassify in August and will head to college next fall. “After I got on campus, I really started to envision myself in Durham,” Flagg said in his video. “All the love I felt made me really excited, seeing all the Crazies and the atmosphere in Cameron. I’m honored that I have the opportunity to join the Brotherhood.”
  • NBA executives chose Mavericks guard Luka Doncic as the league’s best player under 25 years old, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Doncic narrowly edged Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama for the honor, with one executive calling him “an elite offense all by himself.” Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards, Grizzlies guard Ja Morant and Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley rounded out the top five.
  • Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report grades this year’s rookie scale extensions, which had to be finalized by last Monday, based on their benefit to both the players and their teams.

And-Ones: Dybantsa, Weatherspoon, Breakout Candidates, More

A.J. Dybantsa, a 6’8″ wing from Massachusetts and one of the top high school prospects in the country, intends to reclassify to the 2025 recruiting class, as Jeff Borzello of writes. Dybantsa had previously been the No. 1 player in ESPN’s 2026 recruiting rankings. Now, he becomes the favorite to be selected first overall in the 2026 NBA draft, according to Borzello.

As Borzello explains, Dybantsa, Cooper Flagg, and Cameron Boozer are widely considered the best high school prospects in the country. When ESPN asked 20 college coaches and NBA evaluators to rank the trio this summer, Dybantsa earned seven first-place votes and placed second behind Flagg, who is the frontrunner to be the top pick in the 2025 draft.

“Dybantsa is just the most complete,” one coach told ESPN. “Scores at all three levels. Super athletic. He’s the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft whenever he goes.”

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

  • Former Pelicans assistant Teresa Weatherspoon will be the next head coach of the WNBA’s Chiacgo Sky, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). The former WNBA star was an assistant in New Orleans for four seasons before the team parted ways with her in June.
  • In John Schuhmann’s general manager poll, two players received more votes than Magic forward Franz Wagner for this season’s top breakout candidate. However, Wagner sits atop the list compiled by Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, who spoke to 25 executives around the NBA and has shared the top nine vote-getters. Pistons guard Cade Cunningham and Rockets guard Jalen Green round out Scotto’s top three.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic lists a dozen under-the-radar NBA players whom he expects to have a real impact this season, including Celtics wing Oshae Brissett, Nuggets forward Peyton Watson, Thunder guard Vasilije Micic, and Pelicans forward Naji Marshall.
  • The Capital City Go-Go have traded the returning rights to Isaiah Mucius to the Delaware Blue Coats along with a 2024 first-round pick and 2023 second-round pick in the G League draft. In exchange, the Sixers‘ G League affiliate has sent Michael Foster Jr.‘s returning rights to the Wizards‘ affiliate, the Go-Go announced today (via Twitter).

And-Ones: Cunningham, Jones, Flagg, Macura, Wade

Pistons guard Cade Cunningham tops the list of potential breakout candidates for the upcoming season, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Cunningham, who missed most of last season with a shin injury, dazzled while playing this month for the USA Select Team.

Wizards guard Tyus Jones, who has a chance to start after serving as a backup with the Timberwolves and Grizzlies, and Trail Blazers second-year wing Shaedon Sharpe, who put up big numbers late last season, are among the other players who make Cowley’s list.

We have more news from around the basketball world:

  • Cooper Flagg’s decision to reclassify makes a significant impact on the 2025 draft, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN. The 2025 draft wasn’t considered particularly strong, so with Flagg eligible to be taken that season, that group now has more star power. Despite his unorthodox game built around defense and passing, rather than scoring prowess, Flagg is the early favorite to be the top pick of that draft.
  • J.P. Macura is signing with Happy Casa Brindisi of Italy, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando (Twitter link). Macura made three cameo appearances in the NBA — two games with the Hornets in 2018/19 and one with the Cavaliers the following season. Macura has played the last two seasons in Italy after a one-year stop in Turkey.
  • Dwyane Wade, who was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame on Saturday, wasn’t a slam dunk to be selected by the Heat in the lottery in 2003, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel notes. Team president Pat Riley said the club was in need of a big but when Toronto took Chris Bosh, Wade slipped to Miami’s pick at No. 5 overall.

And-Ones: Edey, Flagg, In-Season Tournament, Bozic, Schmidt

Purdue star center Zach Edey tested the draft waters this past spring. However, he decided to return to school for his senior year after he was unable to convince an NBA team to give him a two-way contract with the opportunity for playing time, writes Dana O’Neil of The Athletic.

That doesn’t mean teams weren’t interested in the NCAA’s reigning National Player of the Year, but none were willing to commit to him weeks in advance of the draft — the withdrawal deadline was 11:59 pm ET on May 31, while the 2023 NBA draft didn’t take place until June 22. Edey was ranked No. 47 on ESPN’s big board at the time, so he may have been a second-round pick.

Edey tells O’Neil that with name, image and license in play, he was in no rush to make it to the NBA for financial reasons, since he’ll be compensated about the same as he would’ve been had he secured a two-way deal.

If this was before NIL, I probably would have left,” Edey said. “That’s fair to say. But now I’m allowed to be rewarded for the season I had last year, for the season my team had last year. This is how NIL was meant to be used, I think. Not the way some schools are using it.”

Instead, the 7’4″ Canadian ultimately returned to the Boilermakers after his mother asked him what he really wanted to do.

I kept thinking, I don’t want to look back on this and say, ‘Damn. I wish I had gone back,'” Edey said, per O’Neil. “I have the rest of my life to work. The NBA is a business. Purdue is a blessing.”

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Top high school prospect Cooper Flagg has reclassified from the 2025 class to 2024, which means he’ll be eligible for the 2025 NBA draft, according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Twitter link). The 16-year-old phenom is a “strong candidate” to be selected first overall in 2025, says Givony.
  • The schedule for the NBA’s new in-season tournament will be announced next Tuesday, August 15, the league announced on Friday (via Twitter). ESPN’s NBA Today will reveal the full schedule at 3:00 pm ET.
  • The Spurs‘ G League affiliate in Austin is losing its head coach, Petar Bozic, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Bozic will be heading to the British Basketball League to coach the London Lions, Woj reports. Bozic was with the Austin Spurs for six seasons — four as an assistant and two as head coach. He will be replacing Ryan Schmidt, who is expected to become the head coach of the Hawks‘ NBAGL affiliate, the College Park Skyhawks, sources tell Emiliano Carchia of Sportando (via Twitter).