Isaiah Crawford

Northwest Notes: Conley, Blazers, Nuggets, Thunder

Seventeen-year NBA veteran and Timberwolves guard Mike Conley is the closest he’s ever been to the NBA Finals after winning Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, Andscape’s Marc J. Spears writes. The Wolves went down 3-0 to Dallas but held off elimination on Tuesday night with a 105-100 victory.

This is the biggest game I’ve had in my career,” Conley said after Game 4. “The next game is the biggest game I’ve had in my career. It’s the biggest win. Honestly, it is. If you look at the board and see the seven up there, that is how many games we have left to win. That is how many we are away from a ring.

On a roster with an average age under 27 years old and with a franchise star (Anthony Edwards) who was six years old when Conley entered the league, the point guard is the veteran presence who has played a key role in getting this team this deep into the postseason. Conley, whom head coach Chris Finch says “means everything” to the club, is averaging 11.9 points and 6.0 assists through 14 playoff games this season.

Conley also made the Western Conference Finals in 2013 with Memphis, but he and his team were swept by San Antonio. Tuesday’s win was his first career conference finals win. While Dallas holds a commanding 3-1 lead, Minnesota’s players and coaches continue exude confidence, Spears writes.

It’s one game. Game 5 is Game 7,” Conley said. “This is all we got. Keep our mentality like that. Don’t look at the circus that surrounds us and all the stuff you been hearing. Keep the faith more than anything. The testament with the guys tonight is that we truly didn’t believe this was our last game … This doesn’t come around very often. So, when you get this chance, give everything you got. Don’t be afraid to fail.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Trail Blazers hosted Louisiana Tech’s Isaiah Crawford, UConn’s Alex Karaban, Arizona’s Caleb Love, Boston College’s Quinten Post, Indiana’s Kel’el Ware and Tyler Smith of the G League Ignite for a pre-draft workout on Tuesday, according to Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report (Twitter link). Portland holds picks Nos. 7, 14, 34 and 40. Since the time of the workout, Karaban withdrew from the draft and CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein reports Love is doing the same (Twitter link). Of the players listed, Ware is the highest ranked on ESPN’s best available list (No. 25).
  • Speculating how the Trail Blazers will manage having four picks in this year’s class, Highkin observes in a mailbag (Substack link) that Portland has 14 players on guaranteed contracts next season. If the Blazers do use most or all of their picks, that would likely mean some combination of Malcolm Brogdon, Jerami Grant, Robert Williams III, Matisse Thybulle and Anfernee Simons are out the door, or at the very least, being shopped, Highkin writes. Highkin explains that recent Blazers second-rounders (Rayan Rupert, Jabari Walker) have earned standard contracts, complicating matters at picks 34 and 40. As for likely targets at No. 7, Cody Williams and Tidjane Salaun could be in play, according to Highkin. In the second part of his mailbag (Substack link), he further breaks down what the Blazers will do with their veterans this offseason.
  • The Nuggets don’t have much money to spend on outside free agents this offseason and may be limited to minimum-salary players. Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports analyzes 10 potential low-cost free agents who could make sense in Denver, including Utah’s Kris Dunn, Los Angeles’s Mason Plumlee and Philadelphia’s Kyle Lowry.
  • Thunder general manager Sam Presti emphasized during his end-of-season press conference that he’s focused on building around what he already has. This season showed Oklahoma City’s roster needs additional time to continue to grow more than it needs outside moves, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. Presti also said he doesn’t regret not being more aggressive at the deadline and is pleased with where the roster stands. “I know this is not going to go over well for people,” Presti said “But what we have is an appearance … We have shown up to the postseason. We’ll arrive if we can replicate that. Because there’s a lot of teams that have gotten to the playoffs for one year and then they, for whatever reasons, may not be able to get back there. So the way I would look at that is you can either pick the lock or you can crack the code. Picking the lock, you’re stealing it. Cracking the code, you own it.

Draft Notes: Crawford, Jakimovski, Uzan, Scheierman, Carter

Louisiana Tech’s Isaiah Crawford is planning to stay in the draft, he told CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein (Twitter link).

The 6’6” forward averaged 16.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.1 SPG and 1.7 BPG last season for the Bulldogs. He’s currently listed at No. 81 on ESPN’s Best Available rankings.

Crawford has already worked out for the Timberwolves after participating in the G League Elite Camp.

We have more draft-related news:

  • Andrej Jakimovski plans to withdraw from the draft and play for Colorado next season, Rothstein tweets.  The forward is transferring from Washington State, where he played for four seasons. He averaged 9.7 PPG and 5.6 RPG in 2023/24.
  • Taking a similar approach, Milos Uzan is withdrawing from the draft and transferring to Houston, Rothstein adds in another tweet. Uzan played two seasons at Oklahoma, averaging 9.0 PPG and 4.4 APG last season.
  • Creighton’s Baylor Scheierman, who racked up 26 points, four assists and four steals across two games, was probably the one prospect who did the most to improve his stock in the on-court sessions at the draft combine, according to The Athletic’s John Hollinger. Scheierman will turn 24 by the time training camp opens, Hollinger notes, but his ability to be a plug-and-play wing could make him a popular target in the top half of the second round. Providence’s Devin Carter, who displayed superior leaping ability and bested all of his peers with his sprint time, likely moved into the top 20 of the draft, Hollinger adds.

Timberwolves Notes: Gobert, Finch, Towns, Draft Workout

Rudy Gobert, who was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year this week, is grateful to the Timberwolves organization for sticking by him after a rough first year in Minnesota, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes.

“When things didn’t go as smoothly as we wanted them to last year, they never doubted me,” Gobert said. “They have shown me love every day, pushing me to be better every day, and I really appreciate that.”

He also feels the entire city has embraced him after many league observers called the blockbuster trade with Utah a disastrous move during and after last season.

“I think we are trying to accomplish something bigger, but more importantly I think I’ve found a home,” he said. “I’ve found a team, a coaching staff, an organization and a city that has embraced me, and a group that has embraced me. I feel like it’s like a family. We are there for each other. We really care about one another.”

We have more on the Timberwolves:

  • Gobert missed Game 2 after the birth of his first child and was thrilled to watch his teammates dismantle the Nuggets in a 106-80 blowout, Dave McMenamin of ESPN relays. “It was incredible,” Gobert said. “I was exhausted, obviously, holding the baby and watching the game at the same time, but I had a little bit of emotions at the end because it felt like there was something special.”
  • Coach Chris Finch has been showing his toughness during the series, running the team shortly after undergoing knee surgery for a ruptured patella tendon. “He hops over on the crutches at times when he’s yelling at guys behind the bench,” Conley told Krawczysnki. “That passion he has for the game, it’s rubbing off on other guys. We’re doing a great job of keeping him involved, keeping him engaged and he’s doing a great job keeping on us and just being who he is.”
  • Karl-Anthony Towns has won the league’s Social Justice award, Marc Spears of Andscape.com reports. Among other issues, Towns has championed voting rights for formerly incarcerated people. He is expected to be given the award prior to Game 3 on Friday.
  • The Wolves will be hosting a pre-draft workout on Thursday for six prospects, mainly potential second-rounders, the team’s PR department tweets. Isaiah Crawford (Louisiana Tech), Thierry Darlan (G League Ignite), Aaron Estrada (Alabama), A.J. Johnson (Illawarra Hawks), Riley Minix (Morehead State) and Jaylen Wells (Washington State) are the participants. Wells is ranked No. 54 on ESPN’s Best Available list, while Johnson is pegged at No. 62.

44 Prospects Invited To G League Elite Camp

Forty-four prospects for the 2024 NBA draft were invited to the NBA’s G League Elite Camp, according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Twitter link).

The list of players is as follows:

The field of draft prospects scrimmage for two days in Chicago starting on May 11 ahead of the NBA’s annual draft combine. If players perform well enough, they’re often promoted to the larger combine immediately following the G League Elite Camp. Typically, at least a half dozen players move on.

While the combine usually focuses on the top-ranked players in each draft class, the G League Elite Camp offers opportunity to prospects further down boards who are more likely to go undrafted. Of the 44 names invited to the G League Elite Camp, only 16 rank among ESPN’s top 100 prospects. No prospect ranks higher than No. 48 (Onyenso) on ESPN’s board.

Nine of ESPN’s top 100 prospects have not been invited to Chicago for either event: Armel Traore (France), Zacharie Perrin (France), Andrija Jelavic (Croatia), Yannick Kraag (Netherlands), Tre Mitchell (Kentucky), Ilias Kamardine (France), Dylan Disu (Texas), Riley Minix (Morehead State) and Jonas Aidoo (Tennessee). According to Givony (Twitter link), the NBA might not announce the official list until Monday, so there’s a chance it’s amended.

The G League Elite Camp will give invitees who declared for the draft as early entrants an opportunity to see where they stand ahead of the draft withdrawal deadline on May 29. Not all of the players who participate in this event will remain in the draft pool.

Last year, future NBA players like Hornets forward Leaky Black, Pistons forward Tosan Evbuomwan, Mavericks forward Alex Fudge, Celtics guard Drew Peterson and Nets guard Jaylen Martin all participated in the event. Other recent notable alums of the event include Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado and Clippers guard Terance Mann.

NBA Announces Initial Early Entrant List For 2024 Draft

The NBA has officially released the initial list of early entrants for the 2024 NBA draft, announcing in a press release that 195 players have filed as early entry candidates. Of those prospects, 138 are from colleges, 43 had been playing for teams internationally, and 14 were playing non-college ball stateside (ie. the G League or Overtime Elite).

While that early entrant total obviously far exceeds the number of players who will be selected in this year’s draft (58), it’s down significantly from the figures we’ve seen in recent years. A record 353 early entrants initially declared for the draft in 2021, but that number dropped to 283 in 2022 and 242 a year ago. The NCAA’s NIL policy, which allows college athletes to be paid based on their name, image, and likeness, has presumably been a major factor in that trend.

This year’s total of 195 early entrants figures to decline significantly by May 29 and again by June 16, the two deadlines for players to withdraw their names from the draft pool. But it’s still likely that the eventual number of early entrants will exceed 58 players. That group will join the college seniors with no remaining eligibility and other automatically eligible players in this year’s draft pool.

Our tracker of early entrants for the 2024 draft is fully up to date and can be found right here.

Here are the changes we made to our tracker today:


Newly added players

College players:

These players either didn’t publicly announce that they were entering the draft or we simply missed it when they did.

International players:

These players weren’t previously mentioned on our list of international early entrants. The country listed here indicates where they last played, not necessarily where they were born.

Other players:

  • Abdullah Ahmed, C, Westchester Knicks (born 2003)
  • Somto Cyril, C, Overtime Elite (born 2005)
  • Reynan Dos Santos, G, Overtime Elite (born 2004)
  • Djordjije Jovanovic, F, Ontario Clippers (born 2003)
  • Jalen Lewis, F/C, Overtime Elite (born 2005)
  • Malique Lewis, F, Mexico City Capitanes (born 2004)
  • Babacar Sane, F, G League Ignite (born 2003)

Players removed

Despite reports or announcements that the players below would declare for the draft, they didn’t show up on the NBA’s official list.

That could mean a number of things — they may have decided against entering the draft; they may have entered the draft, then withdrawn; they may have had no NCAA eligibility remaining, making them automatically draft-eligible; they may have incorrectly filed their paperwork; or the NBA may have accidentally omitted some names.

It seems that last possibility is a real one, as Jonathan Givony of ESPN tweets that a “miscommunication or mishap’ at the league office may result in a dozen or more additional names being added to the NBA’s early entrant list.

We’ve still removed the following names from our early entrant list for the time being, but it sounds like some could be re-added soon.

Note: Some of these players may also be transferring to new schools.

Draft Notes: Karaban, Clingan, Talent, Warren, Crawford, Richard

After winning his second consecutive national championship with UConn, sophomore forward Alex Karaban announced (via Twitter) that he’s entering the 2024 draft pool while maintaining his college eligibility.

Karaban, who averaged 13.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 0.9 SPG and 0.8 BPG on .495/.379/.885 shooting in 39 games for the Huskies (31.4 MPG) this season, is ranked No. 41 on ESPN’s big board, making him a projected second-round pick.

Karaban’s college teammate, center Donovan Clingan, already announced he’s entering the draft. Clingan is ranked No. 3 on ESPN’s board and will reportedly receive consideration for the No. 1 overall pick.

However, that doesn’t appear to be the consensus. Five “high-ranking NBA executives” who spoke to Jeff Goodman of The Field of 68 had Clingan ranked anywhere from No. 5 to 20, with most saying mid-to-late lottery (Twitter link).

Here are a few more notes ahead of June’s draft:

  • One general manager Goodman talked to was very critical of the available talent in this year’s class, particularly at the top (Twitter link). “This is an absolutely awful draft,” the GM said. “There’s no guy that projects as a franchise player, no one that even stands out as the No. 1 pick. This is the type of draft that gets someone fired if they get the No. 1 pick.”
  • Count Sam Vecenie of The Athletic among the talent evaluators who are skeptical of any prospect having real star potential in the 2024 draft. His updated big board has several differences with ESPN’s. For example, french forward Zaccharie Risacher, who is No. 1 on ESPN’s list, is No. 8 on Vecenie’s board. He’s higher on UConn’s Stephon Castle, who recently entered the draft — Castle is No. 3 on Vecenie’s board but No. 9 on ESPN.
  • Former Overtime Elite guard Bryson Warren, who was drafted into the NBA G League last year, is entering the 2024 draft (Twitter link). Once a five-star recruit, Warren had a statistically disappointing season for the Sioux Falls Skyforce, averaging just 6.9 PPG and 1.8 APG on .376/.325/.800 shooting in 27 total games (17.4 MPG).
  • Louisiana Tech forward Isaiah Crawford, who’s coming off an impressive senior season in which he averaged 16.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.4 APG, 2.1 SPG and 1.7 SPG on .485/.414/.728 shooting in 32 games (32.9 MPG), is “drawing strong interest from NBA teams,” according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Twitter link). Crawford is participating in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament.
  • Florida junior Will Richard is testing the draft waters while maintaining his college eligibility, he announced on Instagram. The 6’5″ guard averaged 11.4 PPG and 3.9 RPG on .411/.345/.802 shooting in 36 games this season for the Gators (29.5 MPG).