JaJuan Johnson

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Nets, Knicks, Raptors

If the Celtics are unable to come back from a 3-1 deficit to knock off the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, they may not be able to help looking back on a pair of 50-50 outcomes from past drafts that didn’t go in their favor.

As Sam Amick of The Athletic details, the first of those draft-day coin flips came in 2011, when the Celtics owned the 27th overall pick and had narrowed down their choice to JaJuan Johnson or Jimmy Butler. Boston selected Johnson, allowing Butler to fall to Chicago at No. 30. Today, Johnson is eight years removed from playing in his last NBA game, while Butler is on the verge of eliminating the C’s from the postseason (albeit after changing teams three times).

Meanwhile, Game 4 star Tyler Herro, who established a new career high on Wednesday with 37 points, was selected by the Heat in the 2019 draft at No. 13, one pick ahead of the Celtics at No. 14. Those draft slots were as a result of a three-team tiebreaker for the Nos. 12-14 selections, after Charlotte, Miami, and Sacramento all finished the season with identical records. The Hornets won the tiebreaker and claimed the No. 12 pick, while the Heat got No. 13. The C’s, who owned the Kings’ pick, ended up at No. 14.

As A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston writes, there was a “collective moan” among the Celtics’ brass after the Heat selected Herro at No. 13 a year ago, since the C’s had their eye on the Kentucky sharpshooter. They would have had a shot to draft him if they’d had better luck in that draft tiebreaker.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Brian Lewis of The New York Post questions whether the Nets really need to make a trade for a third star, suggesting that the missing piece for the roster may instead be a tough wing defender who could be signed using the mid-level exception. Lewis points to veteran forward Andre Roberson as one possibility, assuming he’s fully healthy.
  • David Nurse, a life/skills coach for a number of NBA players, believes that the Knicks will benefit from new assistant coach Johnnie Bryant‘s player development abilities, as Ian Begley of SNY.tv relays. “He focuses on the details and the specifics for each player,” Nurse said on Begley’s podcast, The Putback. “Player development gets thrown out there as a buzzword, like culture. No one really knows what it means. Most (people think of it as) being just rebounding for players, shooting spot shots. But that’s not player development. Johnnie realizes it’s about the details with helping these players that he works with, focusing on their strengths.”
  • Blake Murphy and Eric Koreen of The Athletic explore a few Raptors offseason topics, including how much the team’s initial offer to free agent guard Fred VanVleet should be worth, while Doug Smith of The Toronto Star says that president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri and GM Bobby Webster will earn their money during this offseason of uncertainty.

Texas Notes: Ntilikina, Mudiay, Paul, Rockets

Several Mavericks executives have traveled to Europe over the past month to watch French point guard Frank Ntilikina, relays Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. At 6’5″, Ntilikina is among the bigger point guards in the draft, and he possesses athleticism and skill to go with his size. Dallas is believed to be targeting point guards after waiving Deron Williams in February so he could sign with a contender. The Mavericks hold the No. 9 pick, and Sefko expects Ntilikina to be among the players considered, along with North Carolina State’s Dennis Smith Jr., Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen and Gonzaga’s Zach Collins.

There’s more news today out of Texas:

  • The Mavericks have a better shot at solving their point guard problems through the draft than by trading for someone like Emmanuel Mudiay, writes Matt Mosley of The Dallas Morning News. The seventh pick in the 2015 draft, Mudiay was a heralded prospect but has experienced shooting problems through his first two NBA seasons. He is a 37% shooter from the field and was stuck behind Jameer Nelson in the Nuggets’ rotation. Mosley says Ntilikina or Markkanen would be a better gamble with the No. 9 pick.
  • Signing Chris Paul may not get the Spurs any closer to challenging the Warriors for Western Conference supremacy, argues Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. Adding the All-Star point guard would requiring sacrificing someone like LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol or Danny Green in a trade, and it would destroy the salary flexibility the team has set up for next summer.
  • North Carolina center Kennedy Meeks was the biggest name to attend a pre-draft workout for the Rockets this week, relays Tom Miller of The Grand Forks Herald. Also at the session were Quinton Hooker of North Dakota, Paris Lee of Illinois State, JaJuan Johnson of Marquette, Kavin Gilder-Tilbury of Texas State and Tacko Fall of Central Florida, who decided to withdraw from the draft and return to school. “My agent hadn’t said anything about the Rockets’ interest,” Hooker said. “I was anticipating at least one [NBA tryout]. But for the last month, I’ve just been waiting. It was definitely a humbling experience to get that first one and show my talents.” The Rockets own picks 43 and 45 in next month’s draft.

Draft Workouts: Nets, Smith Jr., Magic, Bucks, Celtics

The Nets will be the only non-playoff team without a close eye on Tuesday night’s lottery results, since the Celtics have swap rights to their first-round pick. But after that swap is made, the Nets will hold the rights to the first-round picks for the two teams in action on Monday night, the Celtics and the Wizards. And Brooklyn is busy exploring its options for those two late first-round selections, along with its second-round pick.

According to Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com, the Nets will bring in Rawle Alkins, Melo Trimble, Kobi Simmons, Davon Reed, Amida Brimah, and Omer Yurtseven for a group workout on Tuesday. On Thursday, Brooklyn will take a closer look at Josh Hart and Tyler Dorsey. Meanwhile, Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan is also expected to be a part of that Thursday workout, per Nathan Baird of The Journal & Courier (Twitter link).

As Brooklyn does its homework on the non-lottery prospects in this year’s draft class, let’s check out a few more workout-related updates, including an additional note on Swanigan:

Western Rumors: Bryant, Rockets, Nuggets

Kobe Bryant is shooting a career-low 33.1% from the field but Lakers coach Byron Scott wants him to stay aggressive offensively, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com. Bryant’s desire to score off isolation plays may be hindering the team’s ball movement but Scott doesn’t plan on telling the aging small forward to stop looking for his shot, Holmes continues. “He’s had 20 years of experience in the league,” Scott told the team’s beat reporters. “We might not have six players that have 20 years in this league combined. He has that privilege, basically. From a coaching standpoint, I want Kobe to be Kobe. Other guys haven’t earned that right yet.”

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • Former first-round pick Jordan Hamilton, who finished last season with the Clippers, has left the Russian club Krasny Oktyabr, aka Volgograd, tweets international journalist David Pick. JaJuan Johnson, another former NBA first-rounder who hasn’t played in the league since 2012, also left the team, Pick adds.
  • The struggling Rockets have slowed down offensively and interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff wants to increase the tempo, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports. Houston was second in pace last season but has slipped to eighth this season. Some of that is due to defensive breakdowns but Bickerstaff also wants to utilize his team’s quickness to a greater extent, especially in the first half, Feigen adds. “That’s one of the things we’re focused on now,” Bickerstaff told the Houston media. “We want to be speedy. We want teams that come in here in the first five minutes of the game … to be overwhelmed by our speed. We have the athletes. We have the skilled players who can get up and down and do those things.”
  • Nuggets first-year coach Michael Malone is generally pleased with his team through the first 14 games, as he relayed to Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post on Monday afternoon. “We lost eight games, but, c’mon, two of those to Golden State,” Malone said. “We lost to OKC when they were healthy. Phoenix twice, [which] is a good basketball team; at San Antonio. We’ve had some tough games, and hopefully as long as we keep on staying together, learning from the losses and growing, we’re going to be OK.”

International Notes: Murphy, Lawal, Johnson

So far today, the international rumor mill is a little busier than the NBA version, so let's round up a few of the latest reports on various teams overseas….

  • Emiliano Carchia of Sportando reports that unrestricted free agent Kevin Murphy will sign with France's SIG Strasbourg. Murphy was selected by the Jazz in the second round of last year's draft, and spent time in both Utah and Reno, with the D-League's Bighorns. The 23-year-old guard was included as the only outgoing piece from Utah to Golden State in the trade that landed the Jazz several expiring contracts and future draft picks, and was later waived by the Warriors.
  • 6'9" forward Gani Lawal has signed with VEF Riga of Latvia, according to the team (hat tip to Sportando). After being selected in the second round of the 2010 draft by the Suns, Lawal appeared in just one regular-season game for Phoenix, but had reportedly been drawing NBA interest again this offseason.
  • Former Celtics big man JaJuan Johnson has signed with Italy's Giorgio Tesi Pistoia, the team announced (translation via Sportando). Johnson was drafted 27th overall in 2011 and spent the 2011/12 season in Boston before being included last summer in the three-way trade that sent Courtney Lee to the C's. After being cut by the Rockets, Johnson played for three D-League teams in '12/13.

International Notes: Smith, Knicks, Johnson

Earlier today, we learned that Suns second round pick Alex Oriakhi will be headed overseas to France.  Here's more news from around the globe..

  • There's speculation that Chris Smith, the younger brother of J.R. Smith, could be preparing to play in Italy, writes Keith Schlosser of Knicks Journal.  The Knicks have been said to be willing to bring the younger Smith into training camp, but that would be more of a courtesy to the newly re-signed elder Smith anyway as his chances of making the opening night roster would be slim.
  • JaJuan Johnson will decide between playing overseas and hooking on with an NBA team in training camp in about three weeks, according to Kyle Neddenriep of the Indianapolis Star.  Johnson, who played in summer league with the Pistons, is fearful that some of the better opportunities overseas could dry up if he goes into camp with an NBA team and doesn't make the cut.
  • Many teams are going with the "draft and stash" philosophy, but Wendell Maxey of Ridiculous Upside wonders if it'll pay off for clubs.  The Sixers could be the latest club to go that route with 54th overall pick Arsalan Kazemi.

D-League Moves: Jordan, Dupree, Greene

We had a pair of trades go down in the D-League today with several notable players changing teams. Let's take a look..

  • The D-Fenders have acquired center Jerome Jordan from the Reno Bighorns in exchange for forward Ronald Dupree and guard Orien Greene, according to Trevor Wong of the Lakers (on Twitter).  Jordan appeared in 21 games for the Knicks last season.
  • The Idaho Stampede, the D-League affiliate of the Trail Blazers, announced that they have acquired JaJuan Johnson via trade with the Canton Charge.  Johnson, 24, has been widely regarded as one of the D-League's top talents in 2012/13 but is considered to be a project.  The 6'10" forward was taken by the Nets with the 27th overall pick in the 2011 draft before being shipped to the Celtics for the rights to MarShon Brooks.

Odds & Ends: Lin, D-League, Ilyasova, Batum

Let's round up a few more Thanksgiving Day notes from around the Association….

  • With Jeremy Lin and the Rockets set to face the Knicks on Friday, most Knicks players don't have much to say about their former teammate, as Howard Beck of the New York Times writes. "I thought he made a great decision for himself, his family and his basketball career," Tyson Chandler said. "I thought the Knicks made the right decision. At the end of the day, it worked out for both parties."
  • Lin, for his part, believes he and Carmelo Anthony could've thrived playing alongside each other with the Knicks, according to Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com.
  • When Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype asked a number of D-League executives and coaches which D-League players would next be called up by an NBA team, JaJuan Johnson's name topped the list.
  • Ersan Ilyasova is at a loss to explain his early-season slump after signing a long-term deal with the Bucks this summer, writes Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Another player that signed a lucrative long-term contract in July, Nicolas Batum is living up to his new deal so far, and tells Joe Freeman of the Oregonian that he wants to keep that up. "It’s what people say about me and what people too scared to say it think about me: ‘Yeah, he’s been good, but it’s only been 11 games. We’re going to see the old Nicolas Batum soon,'" Batum said. "But I’m going to try to avoid that. I’m not the old Nicolas Batum."
  • Darko Rajakovic, who is currently coaching the D-League's Tulsa 66ers, could be just the first of many European coaches to arrive stateside, says Jenni Carlson of the Oklahoman.

International/D-League Updates: Thursday

Here are a few of the latest non-NBA links, from the D-League and overseas:

Johnson, Goudelock, Mack Taken In D-League Draft

The NBA D-League held its annual draft on Friday. Former Celtics forward JaJuan Johnson, traded to the Rockets this summer and waived during training camp, was drafted first overall by the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.

Other players with NBA experience taken in the first round include former Lakers guard Andrew Goudelock, former Wizards guard Shelvin Mack, and former Clippers guard Travis Leslie.

Be sure to check out the official D-League site for the complete draft recap.