Ja’Kobe Walter

And-Ones: U.S. Olympic Team, Paris, Sarr, Topic, Mock Draft

USA Basketball is expected to begin the process of selecting the 2024 Olympic team before the end of January, sources tell Joe Vardon of The Athletic. The organization will begin contacting 35 to 40 names on a list of players, most of whom have either Olympic or World Cup experience, according to Vardon. His sources say the list, which includes a few names from the 2023 World Cup team, will be made public within the next few weeks.

Managing director Grant Hill and coach Steve Kerr have indicated that the “player pools” system may be eliminated, which means invitations will be sent out privately rather than asking established stars to attend tryouts. Vardon notes that last year’s World Cup team was formed this way, but with heavy interest around the NBA in being part of Team USA, there might be benefits to keeping the pool system in place.

With the Nets and Cavaliers in Paris for today’s international game, players are receiving questions about possibly returning to the city for the Olympics this summer, Vardon adds.

“Just waiting to see — if (the invite) comes, it comes,” said Mikal Bridges, who played a prominent role on the 2023 World Cup team. “I don’t think I bear my head on it too much, because I’m so locked in on trying to figure out everything here (with the Nets).”

There’s more news from around the basketball world:

  • Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today looks at the emergence of Paris as a basketball city due to the upcoming Olympics, the impact that Victor Wembanyama is having on the NBA and the status of several French players in this year’s draft. In addition, the NBA announced a partnership on Wednesday with the French Basketball League and the LBN that includes a development program for elite prospects.
  • Projected top-five picks Alexandre Sarr and Nikola Topic are currently sidelined with injuries, but that shouldn’t affect their draft stock, according to Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo of ESPN. With no clear consensus at the top of this year’s draft, the authors admit that playing as many games as possible would be beneficial, but they point out that Sarr and Topic already have established resumes in place. They add that there was concern that Sarr’s hip injury might mark the end of his NBL career in Australia, but he seems determined to finish the season. “We are winning and my goal is to make the playoffs and get the furthest I can,” Sarr said recently. “I’m having fun out there and competing for something. It’s the first time in my life where I’m part of a league where I’m really trying to win something at the end.”
  • Sarr holds onto the No. 1 spot in the latest mock draft from Givony and Woo (Insider subscription required). Rounding out the top five are French wing Zaccharie Risacher, Colorado small forward Cody Williams, Baylor guard Ja’Kobe Walter and Topic.

And-Ones: Collier, Mock Draft, In-Season Tournament, Ferrell

USC freshman guard Isaiah Collier has moved into the top spot in the latest mock draft from Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo of ESPN. Collier has been outstanding for the Trojans in the early part of the season, averaging 18.2 PPG while shooting 56% on two-point shots and 41% from beyond the arc. However, there are some concerns, Givony and Woo point out, including an abysmal turnover to assist rate of 5.3-to-4.

At 6’5″ and 210 pounds, Collier’s size is an asset for a point guard and he boasts a good combination of strength and speed, the authors add. He’s most effective in the open court, where he can attack the basket and finish at the rim in a variety of ways. He also has outstanding court vision and is comfortable passing with either hand.

French center Alexandre Sarr drops to second in the mock draft, as his defense has been more developed than his offense in Australia’s National Basketball League. With a 7’5″ wingspan, Sarr ranks second in the NBL in block percentage, but he’s shooting just 30% from three-point range and 56% from the foul line. French forward Zaccharie Risacher, Baylor guard Ja’Kobe Walter and G League Ignite forward Ron Holland round out the top five for Givony and Woo.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • There have been complaints about how the point-differential tie-breaker affected some of Tuesday’s in-season tournament games, but Suns star Devin Booker doesn’t see it as a problem, tweets Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “I’ve seen teams upset about it, I don’t know why. I’ve seen players upset about it, I don’t know why,” Booker said. “I wish every game was like that where you play until the end and it wasn’t viewed as disrespectful. Just high competition.” 
  • Seth Partnow of The Athletic suggests making point differential a lower-level tie-breaker in the tournament and giving teams points for each quarter that they win, similar to the system in the former Continental Basketball Association. He believes winning quarters would provide incentive for players to give maximum effort without the feeling that teams are intentionally running up the score.
  • Former NBA guard Yogi Ferrell has signed with KK Buducnost in Montenegro, according to Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops. It marks a return to Europe for the 30-year-old Ferrell after playing for the Shanghai Sharks.

And-Ones: Ignite, 2024 Draft, Unsuccessful Pairings, Eddy Curry

The G League Ignite’s impressive collection of talent was on display Wednesday night in Nevada, writes John Hollinger of The Athletic. Six players who may be selected in next year’s draft were on the court for the Ignite, and a seventh, Thierry Darlan of France, missed the game against Perth, Australia, with an ankle injury.

The biggest attraction was guard Ron Holland, whom Hollinger considers the “betting favorite” to be the top pick in 2024. Hollinger adds that Holland isn’t a clear-cut No. 1 choice like Victor Wembanyama was this year, but he looked good in his first pro game, using a mix of explosiveness and ferocity to put up 23 points.

“Ron is very, very competitive” Ignite coach Jason Hart said. “So now I’m wanting to channel it to where the opposition doesn’t know if you’re mad or you’re happy. I just told him to relax, calm down … I think he heard me. But that’s going to be a process because he’s so competitive, and I don’t want to take that from him. That’s his thing; he’s just has to learn how to use it.”

Matas Buzelis and Izan Almansa, who are projected to be top-10 picks, also showed off their skills, Hollinger adds, along with Tyler Smith, London Johnson and Perth prospects Alex Sarr and Ben Henshall. The teams will meet again on Friday.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

And-Ones: 2024 Draft, Flagg, J. Harper, What-Ifs

The projected NBA draft class of 2024 doesn’t have a clear-cut No. 1 prospect like Victor Wembanyama in 2023, but it features a handful of potential high-impact players who could make legitimate cases for that No. 1 spot with strong seasons, writes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer.

For now, O’Connor’s “way-too-early” big board for the 2024 draft is headed by G League point forward Matas Buzelis, followed by his Ignite teammate Ron Holland at No. 2. Baylor freshman Ja’Kobe Walter, UConn freshman Stephon Castle, and another Ignite prospect, power forward Izan Almansa, round out O’Connor’s top five.

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

  • Although he won’t be eligible for the 2024 draft, 16-year-old phenom Cooper Flagg looks like a potential No. 1 overall pick in 2025 or 2026, says Sean Deveney of Heavy.com. Deveney spoke to multiple NBA evaluators to get a sense of what to expect from Flagg. “The kid is going to be a star, as long as he puts in the work,” one GM told Heavy.com. “The book on him is that he has a really good work ethic so you don’t expect that to be a problem, but you can’t tell with guys that young, how they will develop.”
  • Veteran point guard Jared Harper, who has appeared in NBA games for the Suns, Knicks, and Pelicans, has re-signed with Valencia Basket, the Spanish club announced in a press release. Harper first signed with Valencia last September after finishing the 2021/22 season on a two-way deal with New Orleans.
  • In a pair of entertaining articles for ESPN.com, Tim Bontemps takes a look back at the biggest “what-ifs” in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference over the past five years. Lonzo Ball‘s knee injury, Kawhi Leonard‘s free agency departure from Toronto, the Warriors’ decision to draft James Wiseman over LaMelo Ball, and the Rockets’ and Lakers’ trades for Russell Westbrook were among the sliding doors moments explored by Bontemps.