Dalton Knecht

Northwest Notes: Jazz, Sexton, Clarkson, Wolves, Nuggets

The Jazz are “casting a wide net” as they decide what to do with their three selections in this year’s draft, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. Sources tell Jones that Purdue center Zach Edey, French forward Tidjane Salaun, Marquette guard Tyler Kolek and Virginia guard Ryan Dunn are among the players Utah has hosted in the past week.

Jones is especially intrigued by Dunn, who he says could be the best perimeter defender in the draft. However, the 6’8″ guard doesn’t have a developed offensive game and he might not fall into the team’s current draft range — No. 10 seems too high to take him, and he could be off the board when the Jazz pick again at No. 29 and 32.

Utah’s most pressing need is a small forward who can contribute on both ends of the court, according to Jones, who examines the potential fit of Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht, Colorado’s Cody Williams, G League Ignite’s Ron Holland and Salaun. He also looks at Providence’s Devin Carter if the Jazz opt for a guard.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Executives from rival teams believe the Jazz could explore trade opportunities this summer involving Collin Sexton and Jordan Clarkson, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Sexton has two years remaining on his contract at $18.4MM and $19.2MM, while Clarkson will make $14MM next season and $14.3MM in 2025/26.
  • The Mavericks’ struggles against Boston in the NBA Finals are an indication that the Timberwolves still aren’t at the level of title contenders, according to Michael Rand of The Star Tribune, who notes that Dallas handled Minnesota pretty convincingly in the conference finals, including a Game 5 rout to close out the series. Rand believes the Wolves should follow the Celtics’ path for improvement and be willing to gamble on a major trade or two.
  • Talk of a Nuggets dynasty has faded with this year’s second-round exit, and Troy Renck of The Denver Post believes the focus should turn to winning the next title. He accuses the organization of taking a “macro view” by trying to win multiple championships rather than doing what is necessary to get the next one. Renck contends that approach led to personnel decisions that created a thin bench and left the team unable to close out Game 7 against Minnesota.

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Mavs, Spurs, Rockets, Pelicans

Luka Doncic has averaged nearly 30 points per night in the first three games of the NBA Finals, but the Mavericks were outscored by 10 points when he was on the floor in Game 1; he committed eight turnovers and missed four free throws in Game 2; and he made just 11-of-27 shots in Game 3 before fouling out of a three-point game with over four minutes still on the clock. He has also been repeatedly targeted on defense over the course of the series.

While head coach Jason Kidd isn’t throwing in the towel on this series with his team facing a 3-0 deficit, he noted on Thursday that no matter what happens the rest of the way, he expects his star player to learn from the challenges he has faced this spring and use those experiences as a springboard to get even better in future seasons.

“The history is there for us to learn from, when you look at great players and the struggles,” Kidd told reporters (story via Dan Devine of Yahoo Sports). “You look at (Michael Jordan) and the struggles that he had against Detroit. You look at some of Magic Johnson’s struggles. You look at LeBron (James‘) first time around (against the Spurs in the 2007 Finals). It’s there to learn from. But the great ones, they use that going into the next season, or the next couple of seasons, to try to get back there. Because now they understand experience is a big thing.”

Here’ more from around the Southwest:

  • Kidd isn’t planning to make any changes to the Mavericks‘ starting lineup in Game 4, he said on Thursday, as Joe Vardon of The Athletic relays.
  • Which prospects in this year’s draft would fit best next to Victor Wembanyama for the Spurs? Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Insider link) considers that question, offering up some suggestions for San Antonio at No. 4, No. 8, No. 35, and No. 48. Kentucky guards Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham are Givony’s top suggestions for the fourth overall pick, while Nikola Topic and Dalton Knecht lead his list at eighth overall. Terrence Shannon, Adem Bona, Cam Spencer, and Jaylen Wells are among the players Givony likes as second-round targets.
  • The Spurs appear to be eyeing more experienced backcourt prospects with their second-round picks, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required), who takes a closer look at Boogie Ellis‘ recent visit to San Antonio and notes that Houston’s Jamal Shead also recently worked out for the club.
  • Shead visited Houston on Friday, confirms Kelly Iko of The Athletic, tweeting that Tyler Thomas (Hofstra), Isaiah Stevens (Colorado State), and N’Faly Dante (Oregon) were among the other prospects working out for the Rockets. The club controls the No. 44 overall pick in addition to No. 3.
  • An evaluation of Smoothie King Center’s infrastructure is nearing completion, according to Christian Clark of NOLA.com, who says the results of that assessment will help determine whether the Pelicans renovate their current arena or need to build a new one.

Northwest Notes: Blazers’ Draft Options, Wolves’ Workouts, Adelman

With the draft just two weeks away, there’s no consensus on which players the Trail Blazers might land with the seventh and 14th picks, writes Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report. He examines several mock drafts and notes they have varied widely on Portland’s selections since last month’s lottery.

With a talented backcourt already in place in Portland, Highkin believes the only certainty is that the Blazers won’t take a guard with their first choice. That would eliminate Kentucky’s Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham, along with Serbia’s Nikola Topic. However, if a recent ACL injury causes Topic to slide down to the end of the lottery, Highkin thinks Portland might be interested.

UConn center Donovan Clingan is a popular projection to the Blazers in recent mock drafts, but there’s also a chance he could be taken in the top three. Highkin doesn’t expect Portland to trade up for Clingan or any other prospect because there’s a strong chance the team can get a player it likes by staying at No. 7.

Highkin observes that the Blazers’ front office typically focuses on potential upside rather than looking for a player with a high floor. He hears Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht had a strong showing when he worked out in Portland.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Trail Blazers are planning to upgrade and expand their practice facility, Highkin adds in a separate story. In February, the team advanced the project by spending $4.6MM to buy a plot of land next to the current facility. The move suggests that owner Jody Allen is in no hurry to sell the franchise, Highkin states.
  • The Timberwolves hosted Texas’ Dylan Disu, Stanford’s Spencer Jones, Serbia’s Bogoljub Markovic, Kentucky’s Antonio Reeves, UConn’s Cam Spencer, and Clemson’s PJ Hall for a pre-draft workout on Wednesday, the team announced (via Twitter). A Sunday workout brought in Utah’s Branden Carlson, Minnesota’s Cam Christie, Serbia’s Nikola Djurisic, Marquette’s Oso Ighodaro, Weber State’s Dillon Jones, and UConn’s Tristen Newton (Twitter link).
  • Bennett Durando of The Denver Post questions why Nuggets assistant David Adelman isn’t getting more consideration from teams that are looking for head coaches. Sources confirmed to Durando that Adelman interviewed this year with the Hornets, Cavaliers and Lakers, but he hasn’t been reported as among the frontrunners for any of those jobs. The Nuggets believe it’s just a matter of time before Adelman gets an opportunity, Durando adds.

Draft Notes: Fit Vs. Value, International Prospects, Top PGs, More

In their latest mock draft for ESPN.com (Insider link), Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo provide two paths — Givony makes each pick based on the team’s biggest need, while Woo chooses the player who would be the best value at that spot.

For example, at No. 1, Givony has the Hawks taking Donovan Clingan, arguing that one of the league’s worst defenses would benefit from adding the draft’s best rim protector, while Woo views Zaccharie Risacher as the choice for Atlanta, since both he and Givony have the French forward ranked as the best prospect in this year’s draft class.

There are several spots where the best fit and best value overlap, including at No. 2 (Alexandre Sarr to the Wizards), No. 4 (Reed Sheppard to the Spurs), No. 5 (Matas Buzelis to the Pistons), No. 6 (Stephon Castle to the Hornets), and No. 12 (Nikola Topic to the Thunder).

Here’s more on the 2024 NBA draft:

  • In another Insider-only story for ESPN.com, Givony and Woo highlight 20 draft prospects who excel in specific areas. For instance, while Givony and Woo consider Kentucky’s Sheppard to be the best spot-up shooter in the 2024 draft class, ESPN’s duo names UConn’s Cam Spencer as the best pull-up shooter and Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht as the best movement shooter. On the other side of the ball, Virginia’s Ryan Dunn is viewed as the best defensive play-maker, UConn’s Castle is recognized as the best on-ball defender, and Risacher is identified as the best off-ball defender.
  • While top prospects Risacher and Sarr and potential lottery picks Tidjane Salaun and Topic have gotten plenty of attention leading up to the draft, there are several other international prospects worth getting familiar with, according to Givony, who provides a primer on a handful of others who could hear their names called on June 26 or 27, including French wing Pacome Dadiet, Spanish point guard Juan Nunez, and Serbian forward Nikola Djurisic.
  • In an interview with Cyro Asseo de Choch of HoopsHype, Djurisic said he has been told his game is similar to that of seven-time All-Star Joe Johnson and likened himself to a “less athletic, taller Anthony Edwards.”
  • Referring to UConn’s Castle as one of the biggest risers in the pre-draft process, Krysten Peek of Yahoo Sports ranks the reigning national champion No. 1 among point guards in this year’s draft class, followed by Topic at No. 2. Kentucky’s Rob Dillingham, Providence’s Devin Carter, and Pitt’s Carlton Carrington round out Peek’s top five point guard prospects.

Risacher, Sarr, Clingan, Nine Others Receive Green Room Invitations

Zaccharie Risacher and Alexandre Sarr, the projected top two picks in the draft, were among 12 players who received green room invites on Tuesday, Jonathan Givony of ESPN reports.

Donovan Clingan and Stephon Castle of national champion UConn were also extended green room invitations along with Reed Sheppard, Matas Buzelis, Dalton Knecht, Tidjane Salaun, Ron Holland, Cody Williams, Devin Carter and Ja’Kobe Walter.

All of those players are projected lottery picks, according to ESPN’s latest mock draft. The only omissions were Kentucky’s Rob Dillingham and Serbian point guard Nikola Topic.

Dillingham still hasn’t completed all the qualifications to be eligible for the draft. He didn’t undergo athletic testing and shooting drills at the draft combine in Chicago last month due to an ankle injury. He hasn’t been able to attend private workouts with NBA teams for the same reasons but he plans to fulfill those requirements at the Lakers’ practice facility on Friday.

Topic’s status as a lottery pick is in jeopardy due to a partially torn ACL. Topic has until June 16 to decide whether or not he wants to keep his name in the draft pool. Topic will be evaluated in the coming days by NBA team doctors to determine his recovery process.

Both Willingham and Topic could still wind up in the green room, as another 11-12 invites are expected to be sent out starting next week, Givony adds.

The fact that the draft is now a two-day event beginning on June 26 could lead to additional scrutiny over the final players invited to the green room. The league doesn’t want players to be forced to wait around an extra day to hear their names called.

Northwest Notes: Knecht, Bjorkgren, Blazers, Jazz, Wolves

Tennessee star Dalton Knecht had a solo pre-draft workout with the Trail Blazers on Thursday, tweets Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report. The 23-year-old wing is ranked No. 8 on ESPN’s big board, while Portland controls a pair of lottery picks (Nos. 7 and 14) and two second-rounders (Nos. 34 and 40).

ESPN recently reported that each team in the 6-10 range holds “strong interest” in Knecht, who averaged 21.7 points and 4.9 rebounds on .458/.397/.772 shooting in 36 games for the Volunteers in 2023/24 (30.6 minutes per contest).

Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report (Twitter link) hears the Blazers will host a 3-on-3 workout next week “that’s supposed to feature” G League Ignite wing Ron Holland, French forward Tidjane Salaun, Virginia wing Ryan Dunn, Purdue center Zach Edey, Baylor center Yves Missi, and Miami guard Kyshawn George. Five of those prospects are projected first-round picks — the only exception is Dunn, who is No. 34 on ESPN’s board.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Nate Bjorkgren, who went 34-38 as head coach of the Pacers in 2020/21, has been attending the Portland’s recent pre-draft workouts, according to Highkin, who points out (via Twitter) that the Trail Blazers have some vacancies on their coaching staff. Bjorkgren had two stints as an assistant with Toronto, most recently in ’22/23.
  • In a press release, the Jazz announced several members of their basketball operations staff have been promoted to new positions. Shane Fenske, who previously served as VP of analytics and insights, is now an assistant GM. Assistant coach Sean Sheldon will move to the front of head coach Will Hardy‘s bench, as previously reported. Andrew Warren, who has been an assistant video coordinator the past two seasons, is now an assistant coach. Several other basketball operations employees have new positions as well.
  • Chris Hine of The Star Tribune examines which players on the Timberwolves‘ roster will return in 2024/25, while John Hollinger of The Athletic wonders if “really good” can be good enough for Wolves guard Anthony Edwards.

Draft Rumors: Buzelis, Clingan, Dillingham, Topic, More

Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo of ESPN recently updated their top-100 list, with several new tidbits of information on prospects ranked in the top 25 (subscription required).

Sources tell Givony that G League Ignite forward Matas Buzelis “will work out for almost every team in the top five.” As Givony writes, teams are intrigued by Buzelis’ size, skills, versatility and long-term upside.

They don’t control a top-five pick, but sources tell Givony that Chicago — Buzelis’ hometown team — watched the 19-year-old in a private workout in Los Angeles “early in the pre-draft process.” The Bulls have explored the viability of moving up from No. 11 overall if the price is right, according to Givony, who adds that head of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas is very familiar with Buzelis and his game (they’re also both Lithuanian).

Here are some more rumors and updates from Givony and Woo:

  • ESPN previously reported that rival teams think the Bulls, Grizzlies and Trail Blazers could be interested in moving up to select UConn center Donovan Clingan, whom Givony describes as a “top-three prospect who might experience a minor drop on draft night because teams that are in the Nos. 3-6 range already have starting centers in place.” The Thunder and Jazz are also viewed as teams who could consider trading up for the 20-year-old. Clingan is still in the Hawks‘ conversation at No. 1, while Atlanta has also explored the possibility of trading down, Givony reports. The Blazers, who recently hosted Clingan for a private workout, are viewed as the big man’s floor at No. 7 overall.
  • Kentucky guard Rob Dillingham, the No. 7 prospect on ESPN’s board, is targeting a mid-June return following an ankle injury, sources tell Givony. That means the 19-year-old will likely only have time “for a handful of workouts” before the first round begins on June 26. Dillingham is on the radar of teams drafting in the top 10 who need a point guard, according to Givony, who suggests trades might need to transpire for him to go early.
  • Nikola Topic, long considered a probable lottery pick, was recently diagnosed with a partially torn ACL in his left knee, as ESPN reported on Wednesday. However, he has only dropped one spot — No. 9 to No. 10 — on ESPN’s latest update, with Givony pointing to Topic’s age (he turns 19 in August) and upside (he was once in consideration for No. 1) as reasons why the Serbian guard is unlikely to have a drastic fall. The Spurs (No. 8), Jazz (No. 10), Thunder (No. 12) and Trail Blazers (No. 14) are viewed as potential landing spots for Topic, depending on how his medicals are evaluated.
  • According to Woo and Givony, Tenneesee wing Dalton Knecht, who comes in at No. 8, has drawn “strong interest” from every team selecting in the 6-10 range (Hornets, Trail Blazers, Spurs, Grizzlies, Jazz). French forward Tidjane Salaun, the No. 9 prospect on ESPN’s board, is expected to draw suitors in the 4-14 range.
  • G League Ignite wing Ron Holland, who ranks No. 11, has either worked out for or will work out for the Heat (No. 15) and Lakers (No. 17), per ESPN. Providence guard Devin Carter recently worked out for the Lakers as well, and his range is expected to be anywhere from No. 8 to No. 15. According to Woo, “playoff-caliber teams” will likely have interest in Carter, 22, if they decide to trade up.
  • Back-to-back college Player of the Year Zach Edey, who ranks No. 16, has an upcoming workout with the Lakers, but it’s possible he could land quite a bit higher than No. 17. According to Givony, the Grizzlies, Jazz, Bulls, Thunder, Trail Blazers and Heat are viewed as viable landing spots for the Canadian big man, who recently worked out for his hometown Raptors as well. Toronto (picking at No. 19) is viewed as Edey’s floor.
  • The Grizzlies and Kings are among the lottery teams with interest in Colorado’s Tristan Da Silva, per Woo. An older prospect, the German combo forward is viewed as a player who can contribute right away but has a lower ceiling than younger players in the class, Woo adds.
  • Givony and Woo have more information on the possible ranges of several other potential first-round picks. The whole article is worth checking out for those who subscribe to ESPN+.

Pacific Notes: Lue, Little, Roddy, Suns’ Front Office, Kings

Tyronn Lue has a year left on his contract and the Clippers reportedly want to extend him, but The Athletic’s Shams Charania said on the Up & Adams show (video link) that the parties are not close to any agreement.

“To my knowledge there hasn’t been any progress in those conversations,” Charania stated. Lue stated shortly after the Clippers were eliminated from postseason contention that he’s eager to sign an extension.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Suns are hamstrung by reaching the second luxury tax apron, which severely limits what they can do in terms of personnel moves. Gerard Bourguet of PHNX Sports explores potential trades involving Nassir Little or David Roddy, noting that Little’s $6.75MM could force the Suns to explore three-team deals if they try to deal him to another team above one of the tax aprons. That’s because apron teams can’t take back more salary than they’re sending out. Roddy’s modest $2.8MM contract includes a team option but they might have to add a draft pick to trade him.
  • The Suns are making some changes to their front office. Assistant general managers Morgan Cato and Trevor Bukstein have not been retained, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype tweets.
  • The Kings have the No. 13 pick but that didn’t deter them from interviewing some of the top prospects at the recent draft combine, according to Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee. The list of players who met with Kings representatives included Alexandre Sarr, Donovan Clingan, Dalton Knecht, Ja’Kobe Walter, Cody Williams and Sacramento native Jared McCain. Sarr is the considered the favorite to be chosen No. 1 overall, while many draft experts have Clingan in their top three.

Draft Notes: Clingan, Risers, Buzelis, Withdrawals

The “buzz and excitement” surrounding former UConn center Donovan Clingan seems to be growing, Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report writes in a post-combine update of his 2024 mock draft. Wasserman had Clingan coming off the board at No. 7 overall in a mock earlier this month, but has bumped the big man up to No. 3 this week after he made a strong impression on NBA evaluators in Chicago.

Zaccharie Risacher (No. 2 to No. 1), Dalton Knecht (No. 10 to No. 7), Tidjane Salaun (No. 21 to No. 12), and Devin Carter (No. 18 to No. 13) are among the other notable lottery risers in Wasserman’s latest mock draft, while Matas Buzelis slipped from No. 5 to No. 11. Opinions are mixed on the G League Ignite forward, according to Wasserman, who says workouts with teams will be “extra important” for Buzelis.

Here are a few more draft updates:

  • Guard Xavier DuSell, who declared for the draft following his senior year at Fresno State, has decided to remove his name from the 2024 poll and take advantage of his extra year of eligibility, tweets Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports. DuSell will be transferring to Nevada for his super-senior season.
  • Following a strong freshman season at Georgia Tech (12.4 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.1 BPG), forward Baye Ndongo will withdraw from the draft and return to the Yellow Jackets, per Rothstein (Twitter link).
  • Jacksonville guard Robert McCray will head back to school for his junior season rather than keeping his name in the draft, tweets Rothstein. McCoy had a breakout season in 2023/24, averaging 18.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG, and 2.9 APG.
  • Guard Keyshawn Hall is pulling out of the draft and will transfer to his third college in three years, according to Rothstein (Twitter link). After playing at UNLV as a freshman and George Mason as a sophomore, Hall will head to UCF for his junior season in 2024/25.
  • VCU sophomore forward Toibu Lawal has officially withdrawn from the draft and will transfer to Virginia Tech for his junior year, tweets Rothstein.
  • As a reminder, the deadline for college early entrants to exit the draft pool and retain their NCAA eligibility is next Wednesday, May 29.

Texas Notes: Sheppard, Knecht, Kentucky, Doncic, Game 5

The Spurs hold two picks in the top eight (No. 4 and No. 8) of this year’s NBA draft. A fresh mock draft from Nick Moyle of The San Antonio Express-News sees San Antonio adding a pair of talented shooters by selecting Kentucky combo guard Reed Sheppard and Tennessee swingman Dalton Knecht.

Sheppard, Moyle contends, could help as both a passer and shooter, though he may have limitations as a lead ball-handler at the pro level. Moyle approves of Knecht’s versatile scoring acumen, and thinks he’d complement Rookie of the Year center Victor Wembanyama and power forward Jeremy Sochan offensively, while cautioning he may struggle defensively.

Knecht, 23, aspires to be a day-one contributor to whichever club drafts him, writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News.

“I can definitely be a guy to plug right in and be able to produce,” Knecht said.

There’s more out of the Lone Star State:

  • The Spurs are keeping tabs on both Kentucky lottery prospects, Sheppard and backcourt colleague Rob Dillingham, per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “I learned a lot from Reed,” Dillingham said of his teammate. “He taught me about being poised and helping my teammates, the little things.”
  • All-NBA Mavericks guard Luka Doncic played through a nagging knee injury to record an impactful 31-point triple-double and secure a key Game 5 win against the Thunder on Wednesday night, writes Tim Cato of The Athletic. “I just (went) out there and had fun,” Doncic said. “It was the old Luka.” Dallas now leads their series 3-2.
  • Following the Mavericks’ 104-92 Game 5 victory, Doncic reflected on how his teammates elevated their play alongside him, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. “This team is special,” Doncic said. “We’ve only been together for what, five months? I’ve been having a lot of fun with this team.” Forward Derrick Jones Jr., who submitted 19 points of his own, revealed postgame that he could tell Doncic was in a rhythm even before Game 5 tipped off. “He came out earlier and was knocking down shots and I was just sitting back saying, ‘It’s going to be a long day for them,’” Jones said.