Juan Nunez

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.

Draft Rumors: Grizzlies, Rockets, Bridges, Hawks, Carter, Furphy, Nunez

The Grizzlies are exploring the possibility of trading up in the 2024 NBA draft and have talked to the Rockets about the No. 3 pick, league sources tell Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. In O’Connor’s view, if Memphis or another team makes a trade with Houston for that third overall pick, UConn center Donovan Clingan is the likeliest target.

The Rockets, according to O’Connor, are holding out hope that the Nets would be open to moving Mikal Bridges for a package that includes that No. 3 pick, but Brooklyn’s preference is to retain Bridges and add pieces around him.

If Houston ultimately stays put at No. 3, O’Connor believes that either Clingan or Reed Sheppard is the best bet to come off the board in that spot.

Here are a few more draft-related notes and rumors:

  • While none of the top prospects in this year’s class have visited the Hawks yet, there’s an expectation that will change as the draft nears, writes O’Connor. Zaccharie Risacher told reporters today that he’ll travel to the U.S. soon to visit NBA teams, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic (Twitter link), who speculates that Atlanta could be the first stop for the French forward.
  • O’Connor’s sources say that Providence guard Devin Carter, the No. 13 player on ESPN’s big board, has received a promise somewhere in the lottery. However, O’Connor isn’t sure which team may have made that promise — he has Carter going to Chicago at No. 11 in his latest mock draft.
  • O’Connor refers to Kansas’ Johnny Furphy as one of the “biggest risers of the pre-draft process.” Furphy is up to No. 18 on ESPN’s big board, though O’Connor has him at No. 24 in his mock draft.
  • Spanish point guard Juan Nunez, who declared for the draft as an early entrant, remains undecided on whether or not he’ll withdraw before the NBA’s June 16 deadline, but says he’s leaning toward staying in, tweets Jonathan Givony of ESPN. The No. 37 prospect on ESPN’s board, Nunez added that he has worked out for the Timberwolves and Bucks so far.

NBA Announces 78 Invitees For 2024 Draft Combine

The NBA announced today (via Twitter) that 78 prospects have been invited to attend this year’s draft combine, which will take place in Chicago from May 12-19.

In addition to those 78 players, a handful of standout players from the G League Elite Camp, which is also held in Chicago just before the combine begins, are expected to receive invites to stick around for the main event.

Not all of the prospects invited to the combine will end up remaining in the 2024 draft pool, since some are early entrants who are testing the waters while retaining their NCAA eligibility. College players must withdraw from the draft by the end of the day on May 29 if they wish to preserve that eligibility, while non-college players face a decision deadline of June 16. The feedback they receive from NBA teams at the combine may be a deciding factor for players who are on the fence.

Here’s the list of players who have been invited to the 2024 draft combine:

(Note: For players in international leagues, the country listed is where they had been playing, not necessarily where they’re from.)

  1. Michael Ajayi, F, Pepperdine (junior)
  2. Melvin Ajinca, G/F, France (born 2004)
  3. Trey Alexander, G, Creighton (junior)
  4. Izan Almansa, F, G League Ignite (born 2005)
  5. Reece Beekman, G, Virginia (senior)
  6. Adem Bona, F/C, UCLA (sophomore)
  7. Trevon Brazile, F, Arkansas (sophomore)
  8. Jalen Bridges, F, Baylor (senior)
  9. Matas Buzelis, F, G League Ignite (born 2004)
  10. Carlton Carrington, G, Pitt (freshman)
  11. Devin Carter, G, Providence (junior)
  12. Stephon Castle, G, UConn (freshman)
  13. Ulrich Chomche, C, NBA Academy Africa (born 2005)
  14. Cam Christie, G, Minnesota (freshman)
  15. Nique Clifford, G, Colorado State (senior)
  16. Donovan Clingan, C, UConn (sophomore)
  17. Isaiah Collier, G, USC (freshman)
  18. Tristan Da Silva, F, Colorado (senior)
  19. Pacome Dadiet, G/F, Germany (born 2005)
  20. N’Faly Dante, C, Oregon (super-senior)
  21. Rob Dillingham, G, Kentucky (freshman)
  22. Nikola Djurisic, G/F, Serbia (born 2004)
  23. Ryan Dunn, F, Virginia (sophomore)
  24. Zach Edey, C, Purdue (senior)
  25. Justin Edwards, G/F, Kentucky (freshman)
  26. Kyle Filipowski, F/C, Duke (sophomore)
  27. Trentyn Flowers, G/F, Australia (born 2005)
  28. Johnny Furphy, G/F, Kansas (freshman)
  29. Kyshawn George, G/F, Miami (FL) (freshman)
  30. Tyon Grant-Foster, G, Grand Canyon (senior)
  31. PJ Hall, C, Clemson (senior)
  32. Coleman Hawkins, F, Illinois (senior)
  33. Ron Holland, F, G League Ignite (born 2005)
  34. DaRon Holmes II, F, Dayton (junior)
  35. Ariel Hukporti, C, Germany (born 2002)
  36. Oso Ighodaro, F, Marquette (senior)
  37. Harrison Ingram, F, UNC (junior)
  38. Bronny James, G, USC (freshman)
  39. A.J. Johnson, G, Australia (born 2004)
  40. Keshad Johnson, F, Arizona (super-senior)
  41. David Jones, F, Memphis (senior)
  42. Dillon Jones, F, Weber State (senior)
  43. Ryan Kalkbrenner, C, Creighton (senior)
    • Note: Kalkbrenner indicated this week that he intends to return to school, so it’s unclear if he’ll continue to go through the pre-draft process.
  44. Alex Karaban, F, UConn (sophomore)
  45. Bobi Klintman, F, Australia (born 2003)
  46. Dalton Knecht, G, Tennessee (super-senior)
  47. Tyler Kolek, G, Marquette (senior)
  48. Pelle Larsson, G, Arizona (senior)
  49. Jared McCain, G, Duke (freshman)
  50. Kevin McCullar, G, Kansas (super-senior)
  51. Yves Missi, C, Baylor (freshman)
  52. Ajay Mitchell, G, UC Santa Barbara (junior)
  53. Jonathan Mogbo, F/C, San Francisco (senior)
  54. Tristen Newton, G, UConn (super-senior)
  55. Juan Nunez, G, Germany (born 2004)
  56. Quinten Post, F/C, Boston College (super-senior)
  57. Antonio Reeves, G, Kentucky (super-senior)
  58. Zaccharie Risacher, F, France (born 2005)
  59. Jaxson Robinson, G/F, BYU (senior)
  60. Tidjane Salaun, F, France (born 2005)
  61. Hunter Sallis, G, Wake Forest (junior)
  62. Payton Sandfort, G/F, Iowa (junior)
  63. Alexandre Sarr, F/C, Australia (born 2005)
  64. Baylor Scheierman, G/F, Creighton (super-senior)
  65. Mark Sears, G, Alabama (senior)
  66. Terrence Shannon, G, Illinois (super-senior)
  67. Jamal Shead, G, Houston (senior)
  68. Reed Sheppard, G, Kentucky (freshman)
  69. KJ Simpson, G, Colorado (junior)
  70. Tyler Smith, F, G League Ignite (born 2004)
  71. Cam Spencer, G, UConn (super-senior)
  72. Nikola Topic, G, Serbia (born 2005)
  73. JT Toppin, F, New Mexico (freshman)
  74. Jaylon Tyson, G, California (junior)
  75. Ja’Kobe Walter, G, Baylor (freshman)
  76. Kel’el Ware, C, Indiana (sophomore)
  77. Jamir Watkins, G/F, Florida State (junior)
  78. Cody Williams, F, Colorado (freshman)

It’s worth noting that the NBA and the NBPA agreed to a few combine-related changes in their latest Collective Bargaining Agreement. Here are a few of those changes:

  • A player who is invited to the draft combine and declines to attend without an excused absence will be ineligible to be drafted. He would become eligible the following year by attending the combine. There will be exceptions made for a player whose FIBA season is ongoing, who is injured, or who is dealing with a family matter (such as a tragedy or the birth of a child).
  • Players who attend the draft combine will be required to undergo physical exams, share medical history, participate in strength, agility, and performance testing, take part in shooting drills, receive anthropometric measurements, and conduct interviews with teams and the media. Scrimmages won’t be mandatory.
  • Medical results from the combine will be distributed to select teams based on where the player is projected to be drafted. Only teams drafting in the top 10 would get access to medical info for the projected No. 1 pick; teams in the top 15 would receive medical info for players in the 2-6 range, while teams in the top 25 would get access to info for the players in the 7-10 range.

Regarding that last point, Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link) has the details on the top 10 played out this year, noting that the composite ranking was generated based on a combination of publicly available rankings and feedback from a panel of experts, as well as a retained-scouting service.

Sarr is considered the No. 1 overall prospect, per Givony, so only teams drafting in the top 10 will get access to his medicals. Buzelis, Castle, Clingan, Risacher, and Topic are in the 2-6 range, while Dillingham, Holland, Knecht, and Sheppard round out the top 10.

Potential First-Rounder Juan Nunez Declares For Draft

Spanish point guard Juan Nunez has decided to enter the 2024 NBA draft, he announced today on Twitter.

Nunez, who will turn 20 this June, has spent the past two seasons with Ratiopharm Ulm in Germany after beginning his professional career with Real Madrid. According to Basketball-Reference, he averaged 10.4 points, 5.8 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.9 steals in 25.9 minutes per game across 14 EuroCup appearances this season, with a .505/.361/.537 shooting line.

Nunez has already built an impressive international résumé, having won a Spanish League title with Real Madrid in 2022 and a German League title with Ratiopharm Ulm in 2023. He suited up for the Spanish national team at the 2023 FIBA World Cup, playing regular minutes as Spain’s starting point guard at age 19.

When he tested the draft waters a year ago, Nunez barely cracked the top 60 on ESPN’s big board, but he’s up to No. 26 this time around, making him a potential first-round pick. Presumably, that increases the odds that he’ll remain in the draft this year after withdrawing from the 2023 pool.

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony describes Nunez as an “elite pick-and-roll player with outstanding ball-handling, vision, creativity and overall basketball instincts,” though he cautions that the youngster’s defense is a concern and his jump shot can be streaky.

World Cup Notes: Fontecchio, Jackson Jr., Zagars, Canada

Simone Fontecchio won’t be prominent on many NBA game plans but he’s certainly a major focus for Team USA coach Steve Kerr and his staff in preparations for the quarterfinal match with Italy on Tuesday.

The second-year Jazz forward leads Italy in the tournament at 18.4 points per game. He’s also Italy’s second-leading rebounder at 6.6 per game. He had a 30-point outing against Serbia.

“I’m really happy when I can help my team. I can help my team in a lot of ways – even if I score 0 points,” he said in a story posted on FIBA’s website. “I can play defense, I can get rebounds, I can pass the ball. This team doesn’t need me to score 30, but when I do it of course I am really happy. It’s just the cherry on top. It’s certainly one of the best nights I’ve had in the national team.”

We have more from the World Cup:

  • Team USA center Jaren Jackson Jr. has gotten into early foul trouble in three of the team’s five games. He knows he must be smarter, given the club’s lack of options at the position, according to Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer. “Different rules, different hand positions at different times they call,” Jackson said. “You can be more physical, but you can’t at certain times. You just gotta be super, super careful. You have to understand you’re very, very valuable.”
  • The best non-NBA player in the tournament is Latvia’s point man, Arturs Zagars, John Hollinger of The Athletic opines. The 23-year-old has been set back during his career by multiple injuries. He has displayed superior distribution skills in the World Cup and has been comfortable shooting FIBA threes off the dribble. He played in the Lithuanian domestic league last season. Spain point guard Juan Nunez is the top draft prospect in the tournament, Hollinger adds.
  • Canada’s win over Spain on Sunday was validation for a national team that has often come up short on the world stage, Michael Grange of Sportsnet notes. Canada’s win clinched an Olympic berth and set up a quarterfinal match against Luka Doncic and Slovenia on Wednesday.

World Cup Notes: Canada, Fournier, USA, Mills, Towns

The Canadian national team hasn’t had a ton of success in international competition in recent years and is missing top players like Jamal Murray and Andrew Wiggins at this year’s World Cup. However, Team Canada looked formidable its first group-play game on Friday, outscoring a talented French club by 27 points in the second half en route to a 95-65 win.

“We got our ass kicked,” French wing Evan Fournier told reporters after the game, per Antonis Stroggylakis of Eurohoops. “… They were really physical with us. Taking us out of our set plays. And as a team I think they kind of forced us to do things that we don’t want to do.”

The Canadians leaned heavily on their NBA talent in the victory, with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, RJ Barrett, Dillon Brooks, Luguentz Dort, Dwight Powell, Kelly Olynyk, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker all playing at least 20 minutes. Melvin Ejim was the only other player to log more than five minutes in the game.

Gilgeous-Alexander was the standout, racking up 27 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists in just 27 minutes of action. Powell (+35 in 23 minutes) and Brooks (+33 in 26 minutes) anchored Canada’s aggressive defense.

Canada will face Lebanon on Sunday, while France will look to bounce back against Latvia.

Here’s more on the World Cup:

  • In an Insider-only story, Jonathan Givony and Kevin Pelton of ESPN pick their 15 most interesting players at the World Cup, including reigning NCAA national player of the year Zach Edey (Canada), projected 2024 first-rounder Juan Nunez (Spain) and Fournier (France), who scored a team-high 21 points on Friday after spending most of last season glued to the Knicks‘ bench. A strong World Cup could help earn Fournier a new NBA opportunity via trade or buyout, Pelton notes.
  • Team USA entered Friday as the strong frontrunners to win the 2023 World Cup, but head coach Steve Kerr knows the team can’t afford to get overconfident, as Brian Windhorst of ESPN writes. “Last time through this tournament, we finished seventh, we lost (two) games,” Kerr said. “We recognize how hard this is. These are not the days of 1992. … We may be one of the favorites, but I don’t think anybody’s clear cut. I think there’s a lot of teams that have a shot at this thing.”
  • Following an eventful offseason that saw him traded from Brooklyn to Houston to Oklahoma City to Atlanta, veteran guard Patty Mills provided a reminder on Friday of what he can bring to a team. The Hawks guard scored a team-high 25 points in Australia’s resounding win over Finland. “No surprises there,” Jack White said of Mills’ performance, per Olgun Uluc of ESPN. “We know he can turn it on; that’s what he does… he’s a hell of a leader and it’s what we expect from him.”
  • Prior to the start of the World Cup, Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns spoke to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic about why he’s playing for the Dominican Republic and what it means to him to represent his mother’s native country. Towns and the Dominican Republic team got off to a strong start on Friday, defeating the host Philippines in a game that set a new World Cup attendance record (38,115), as Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press details. Towns scored 26 points in the 87-81 win.

Dayton’s DaRon Holmes II Among Final Draft Early Entrants

Dayton forward DaRon Holmes II was among the players who declared for the 2023 NBA draft ahead of Sunday’s deadline, a source tells Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link). It’s unclear if Holmes will be maintaining his remaining college eligibility or going pro outright.

In 34 games as a sophomore in 2022/23, Holmes averaged 18.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks for the Flyers. He is currently ranked No. 65 on ESPN’s big board, making him perhaps a borderline second-round pick.

Senegalese center Ousmane N’Diaye, who plays for a third division Spanish team (Grupo Eleyco Baskonia), and Spanish small forward Michael Caicedo, who plays for Covirán Granada of Spain’s top league (Liga ACB), have also entered the draft (Twitter links courtesy of Sigma Sports and Global Scouting). N’Diaye is ranked No. 59 on ESPN’s list, while Caicedo is No. 86.

Another possible second-rounder, Spanish point guard Juan Nunez, decided not to declare for the draft, according to Givony (Twitter link). The 18-year-old, who is ranked No. 60 on ESPN’s board, plays for German club Ratiopharm Ulm and is considered a talented passer. He could improve his stock and possibly be a first-round pick next year, Givony adds.

Here are a few more players who entered the draft before yesterday’s deadline: