Isaiah Wong

Pacers Notes: Haliburton, Nembhard, Turner, Two-Way Players

Borrowing a video game analogy, Tyrese Haliburton called Lakers star LeBron James the “final boss” that the Pacers have to defeat to win the in-season tournament, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star.

To reach tonight’s title game, Indiana had to get past a Bucks team that features Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard and a Celtics squad headlined by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Before that, there were group play matchups with Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell, Atlanta’s Trae Young, and Detroit’s Cade Cunningham.

None of them has the same mystique as James, who has been one of the league’s elite players for more than two decades. Dopirak points out that Haliburton was just three years old when James played his first NBA game, and the Pacers guard followed him closely until he became a professional himself.

“Like any kid born in 2000, LeBron was my favorite player growing up, and it’s hard for him not to be for a lot of us,” Haliburton said. “Growing up, I was a Cavs fan, then a Heat fan, then a Cavs fan again, then a Lakers fan before I got drafted. It’s just how it went. To be able to compete against him in a championship is kind of like a storybook a little bit, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. But that’s the great part about being in the NBA, getting to compete against your idols on a nightly basis. I really look forward to that.”

There’s more on the Pacers:

  • In tonight’s pre-game meeting with the media, coach Rick Carlisle said Andrew Nembhard has a right knee bone bruise and will be sidelined for at least the next seven days, Dopirak tweets. “We’ll see where he is and evaluate it from there, but not viewed as a long-term thing,” Carlisle said. “But we’ll miss him today.”
  • Before he agreed to a two-year extension in January, it appeared Myles Turner might not be part of the Pacers’ future, and there were persistent rumors during the summer of 2022 that he was headed to the Lakers. In an interview with Chris Hayes of TNT and Bleacher Report (video link), Turner stated that he’s glad things turned out the way they did and he’s eager for the team to have a high-stakes game in front of a national audience. “People getting to see what we’re about here in Indiana,” Turner said. “It’s fun seeing everything through and to say you didn’t quit.”
  • The financial incentive in tonight’s game will be especially important for the two-way players, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. The Pacers’ Kendall Brown, Oscar Tshiebwe and Isaiah Wong will get a half share of the prize money, which means $250K for first place and $100K for second. Two-way contracts pay $559,782 and carry a $279,891 guarantee.

Wong, Tshiebwe Sign Two-Way Contracts With Pacers

Guard Isaiah Wong and power forward Oscar Tshiebwe have inked two-way contracts with the Pacers, the team’s PR department tweets.

Both rookies will look to eventually earn their way to a spot on the 15-man roster.

Wong was chosen with the No. 55 pick of this year’s draft. He played four seasons for Miami (Fla.) and led the Hurricanes to the Final Four this past season. He averaged 16.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.4 steals in 37 games last season. He also displayed a solid perimeter game (38.4% on 3-pointers).

Tshiebwe went undrafted despite a stellar college career at Kentucky. He averaged 16.2 points and 13.7 rebounds for the Wildcats last season. Tshiebwe’s agreement with the Pacers was previously reported and now it’s official.

The 6’9″ big man was a consensus All-American Second Teamer with the Wildcats last season and a consensus All-American First Teamer in 2022.

Under the new CBA, two-way contracts are worth half the rookie minimum, which comes out to $559,782 for each player. They can be partially guaranteed for up to $75K at the time of their signing.

Draft Notes: Wembanyama, Coulibaly, Lewis, Clowney

Although Victor Wembanyama may be the best NBA draft prospect in 20 years, the Spurs understand that his body type carries a certain amount of injury risk, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. McDonald notes that foot injuries have interrupted or even ended the careers of numerous big men, such as Bill Walton, Yao Ming, Arvydas Sabonis and Greg Oden. The latest example is Oklahoma City’s Chet Holmgren, who suffered a foot fracture in an exhibition game last summer that forced him to miss his entire first season.

Wembanyama possesses an agility that has rarely been seen in someone so tall, and he has a team of advisors who have created a specialized training regimen to help him avoid stress injuries. Their prescription includes an all-natural diet with five meals each day, along with 10 hours of sleep.

“When you talk about a generational talent, it often times goes beyond your ability to make a shot or your ability to jump or put the ball on the floor,” Spurs general manager Brian Wright said. “As we’ve studied Victor, he’s very in depth with everything he does. It’s all those little details that go into becoming great.”

There’s more draft news to pass along:

  • Wembanyama is advocating for his French teammate, Bilal Coulibaly, to be selected in the lottery, relays NBA reporter Esfandiar Baraheni (Twitter link). “When I see the top 10 prospects announced at the draft, and for example the twins, Amen and Ausar Thompson, whose profile is similar to Bilal’s,” Wembanyama said, “I tell myself, very factually, that if these players are announced in the first five picks while playing in a league, Overtime Elite, whose level is light years away from what we experience here, then Bilal must be at least a top five.”
  • Pepperdine’s Maxwell Lewis, who worked out for the Trail Blazers on Thursday, views himself as a definite first-round pick, per Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. “In my opinion, after just being in this environment, I feel like I’m a top-20 guy,” Lewis said. “We’ll see. Sky’s the limit.”
  • Alabama’s Noah Clowney is the 20th player to receive a Green Room invitation for draft night, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link).
  • Washington State guard Justin Powell has upcoming workouts scheduled with the Rockets and Nets, tweets Adam Zagoria of
  • The Hornets are hosting six players on Sunday for a pre-draft workout (Twitter link). They are Kam’Ron Blue of Coppin State, GG Jackson of South Carolina, Terry Roberts of Georgia, Vincent Valerio-Bodon of Sopron KC, Jalen Wilson of Kansas and Isaiah Wong of Miami.

Pacific Notes: Paul, St. Jean, Lakers, Warriors

Suns point guard Chris Paul, a 12-time All-Star, is hoping to stick around in Phoenix for the 2023/24 season, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic .

Paul is owed $30.8MM for the 2023/24 season, but only $15.8MM of that money is fully guaranteed, and the club is reportedly weighing its various options with regard to his future. A decision will likely have to be made by June 28, which is when the rest of the 38-year-old’s salary will become guaranteed.

“Absolutely (I want to stay in Phoenix),” Paul said. “I’ve talked with my family, we’ve had conversations about what could be, what might be… I’ve talked with my agent. Talked to my brother.”

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • New Suns head coach Frank Vogel will be adding another familiar face as he continues to round out his bench in Phoenix. Sources inform Marc Stein (Twitter link) that former Mavericks assistant coach Greg St. Jean is set to join the team. St. Jean also served under Vogel with the Lakers.
  • The Lakers, who possess two picks in this year’s draft, held another pre-draft workout on Wednesday. Dave McMenamin of ESPN (via Twitter) reveals that San Diego State guard Adam Seiko, Miami combo guard Isaiah Wong, Florida forward Alex Fudge, Akron guard Xavier Castaneda, G League Ignite shooting guard Mojave King, and Memphis small forward Kaodirichi Akobundu-Ehiogu auditioned for L.A. brass yesterday.
  • The PR team of the Warriors has been honored with the Professional Basketball Writers Association’s 2022/23 Brian McIntyre Media Relations Award, the PBWA announced in a press statement (Twitter link). The PBWA notes that the media relations staffs of the Hawks, Heat, Mavericks and Pistons comprised the other finalists under consideration this year.

Southeast Notes: Magic, Trent, Hawks, Sanogo, Wizards

The Magic hold a pair of lottery picks and an early second-round selection in this month’s draft. What picks would be ideal at those spots? Jeremy Woo of ESPN weighs in on that subject and believes Overtime Elite shooting guard Ausar Thompson and Kansas shooting guard Gradey Dick would make nice fits at No. 6 and No. 11, respectively. Belmont small forward Ben Sheppard would give the Magic another shooting option if they chose him at No. 36, Woo adds.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

Pre-Draft Workouts: Whitmore, Pacers, Hornets, Lakers, More

The Pacers will host Cam Whitmore for an individual workout on Thursday, according to Wheat Hotchkiss of The Villanova forward is part of a group of prospects that are expected to come off the board shortly after the top three of Victor Wembanyama, Brandon Miller and Scoot Henderson. Indiana holds the No. 7 pick in this year’s draft.

The Pacers welcomed Johnell Davis of Florida Atlantic, Adam Flagler of Baylor, Armaan Franklin of Virginia, Nate Laszewski of Notre Dame, Leonard Miller of G League Ignite and Isaiah Wong of Miami to a pre-draft workout on Wednesday, tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. Davis has since decided to pull out of the draft and return to school.

We have a few more updates on draft workouts:

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: K. Brown, Wong, Fudge, P.I.T.

Missouri forward Kobe Brown plans to enter the 2023 NBA draft while maintaining his college eligibility, according to Matt Stahl of The Columbia Daily Tribune.

As Stahl notes, Brown is a projected second-round pick, currently No. 43 on ESPN’s big board. He was an All-SEC First Team member in 2022/23 after averaging 15.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals on an impressive .553/.455/.792 shooting line in 34 games (29.6 MPG).

Jonathan Givony of ESPN writes that Brown has some question marks surrounding his height, frame (he’s listed at 6’7″ and 240 pounds) and defense, but the 23-year-old has a high skill level that seems like it would translate well to the NBA, as he’s a versatile offensive player with a high basketball IQ who can dribble, pass, shoot and score from all over the court.

Brown is a senior, but he has one year of eligibility left due to COVID-19.

Here are a few more draft-related notes:

  • Miami guard Isaiah Wong is declaring for the draft, the team announced (via Twitter). He tested the draft waters in both 2021 and 2022, so he’ll go pro this time around (college prospects can’t withdraw from the draft more than twice). A three-time All-ACC honoree, Wong was named ACC Player of the Year as a senior in ’22/23 after averaging 16.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.4 steals on .445/.384/.845 shooting in 37 games (33.4 MPG). He helped lead the Hurricanes to a Final Four appearance this season, ultimately losing to eventual champion UConn. Wong is ranked No. 71 on ESPN’s board, so he’s considered a fringe second-round pick.
  • Florida forward Alex Fudge will forgo his remaining college eligibility and enter the draft, sources tell Jacob Rudner of Swamp247. As Rudner writes, Fudge had a solid start to ’22/23, but his numbers declined after sustaining a concussion in late January. He wound up averaging 5.8 points and 4.5 rebounds on .397/.229/.589 shooting in 32 games (19.3 MPG) as a redshirt sophomore for the Gators. Viewed as a solid defender, Fudge is not listed on ESPN’s board, which ranks the top 100 prospects ahead of the 2023 draft.
  • Jon Chepkevich of provides the measurements and athletic testing numbers of the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament attendees (Twitter link). The P.I.T. is a showcase for the year’s top senior prospects. Jimmy Butler, Derrick White, Richaun Holmes and Kendrick Nunn are among the many current NBA players who have taken part in the P.I.T. in previous years.

Draft Notes: Ware, Bamba, Nolley, Top Prospects, More

Oregon center Kel’el Ware has decided to transfer to a new school and does not intend to enter the 2023 NBA Draft, he tells Travis Branham of

Ware, who averaged 6.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks on .457/.273/.712 shooting in 35 games (15.8 MPG) as a freshman for the Ducks, is a former top high school recruit and is currently ranked No. 35 on ESPN’s big board.

While Ware was a projected second-round pick, Jonathan Givony of ESPN says (via Twitter) “there were real concerns” about the big man’s chances of getting drafted.

Here are some more draft-related notes:

  • Washington State’s TJ Bamba has decided to test the draft waters. He’s entering the draft while maintaining his college eligibility and will also enter the transfer portal, he announced on Twitter. The junior guard averaged 15.8 points and 3.7 rebounds on .426/.372/.730 shooting in 31 games for the Cougars (32.2 MPG) in 2022/23.
  • Cincinnati guard/forward Landers Nolley will declare for the draft, he tells Givony (Twitter link). According to his own announcement (via Twitter), Nolley will maintain his college eligibility, so he won’t be hiring an agent just yet. Nolley, who has one year of eligibility left after previous stops at Virginia Tech and Memphis, averaged a team-high 16.8 points along with 5.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.0 steal on .447/.417/.750 shooting in 36 games (32.1 MPG) for the Bearcats this season.
  • Which top draft prospects boosted their stock in the NCAA tournament? Givony tackles that subject in a story for ESPN (Insider link). Jordan Hawkins (No. 15 on ESPN’s big board) and Andre Jackson (No. 39) may hear their names called earlier by helping UConn advance to the Final Four.
  • The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor released a new mock draft last week. One surprising pick in his mock is Tennessee forward Julian Phillips, who is ranked No. 56 by ESPN. O’Connor has the freshman going No. 29 to the Pacers.
  • Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report examines what scouts are looking to see from five potential NBA prospects in the Final Four. Miami’s Isaiah Wong and Jordan Miller have a chance to help themselves once again as they face off against UConn, according to Wasserman.

Draft Decisions: J. Lewis, Wong, Flanigan, Pullin, More

Marquette forward Justin Lewis, who entered the draft this spring coming off his sophomore season, has decided to keep his name in the 2022 draft pool, forgoing his remaining NCAA eligibility, reports Jeremy Woo of (Twitter link).

Lewis enjoyed a breakout year in 2021/22, averaging 16.8 PPG and 7.9 RPG on .440/.349/.761 shooting in 32 games (32.2 MPG) for the Golden Eagles. Lewis comes in at No. 45 on ESPN’s latest big board, though Woo suggests he has a chance to be a first-round pick.

With the NCAA’s withdrawal deadline only about 12 hours away, let’s round up several more of the latest draft decisions made by early entrants

  • Miami guard Isaiah Wong is returning to school for his senior year, he announced today (via Instagram). It’s the second time Wong has tested the draft waters and eventually pulled out, so if he declares again next season, he won’t have the option of withdrawing.
  • Auburn junior wing Allen Flanigan is withdrawing from the draft, while UC-Riverside junior guard Zyon Pullin is expected to do the same, reports Jeff Goodman of Stadium (Twitter links).
  • The following players are withdrawing from the draft, according to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (all five are Twitter links): Memphis senior forward DeAndre Williams, senior guard Courtney Ramey, Samford junior guard Ques Glover, senior guard Donald Carey, and Virginia Tech senior forward Justyn Mutts. Ramey, who played for Texas last season, is currently in the transfer portal, while Carey is transferring from Georgetown to Maryland.