Kai Sotto

World Cup Notes: Latvia, Japan, Philippines, China, Australia

The Latvian Basketball Association has officially announced the national team’s 12-man roster for the upcoming FIBA World Cup (Twitter link).

Thunder forward Davis Bertans is the only active NBA player on Latvia’s roster, but the team features a handful of former NBAers, including Bertans’ brother Dairis Bertans. Former Nets forward Rodions Kurucs and ex-Wizards big man Anzejs Pasecniks are the other Latvians with NBA experience.

Here are a few more notes on the 2023 World Cup:

  • Japan and the Philippines, two of the host nations of the World Cup, have announced their 12-man rosters for the event. Suns forward Yuta Watanabe is the only NBA player representing Japan in this year’s tournament, while Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson is the lone NBA player for the Philippines (Twitter link). Young center Kai Sotto, who committed to the G League Ignite in 2020 and has spent the past two seasons in Australia, is also suiting up for the Philippines.
  • China and Australia are among the other national teams to finalize their 12-man World Cup squads. There are no surprises in either case — while Timberwolves forward Kyle Anderson is China’s only NBA player (Twitter link), the Boomers have nine active NBAers on a loaded roster that includes up-and-comers like Thunder guard Josh Giddey and Pelicans guard Dyson Daniels (link via BasketNews.com).
  • A panel of ESPN’s basketball writers, including Brian Windhorst, has previewed the 2023 World Cup and made predictions for the event. South Sudan is a popular sleeper pick to make it to the knockout round and potentially earn an Olympic berth, but Team USA is widely expected to win the tournament — France was the only other team to receive a single vote.

Western Notes: Clarkson, Pelicans, Dieng, Elleby

Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson will join the Philippines national team for the next two qualifying games for the 2023 FIBA World Cup, according to an announcement from the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas. The Philippines will be matched up against Lebanon on August 25 and will face Saudi Arabia on August 29.

Young center Kai Sotto, who committed to the G League Ignite in 2020 and then joined the NBL’s Adelaide 36ers for the 2021/22 season, will also suit up for the Philippines in those World Cup qualifying contests.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • After beginning last season with Devonte’ Graham and Nickeil Alexander-Walker as their starting guards, the Pelicans will enter 2022/23 with a more talented and deeper backcourt thanks to the acquisition of CJ McCollum and the emergence of Jose Alvarado and Trey Murphy as rotation players, writes Will Guillory of The Athletic. With Graham, Garrett Temple, Kira Lewis, and lottery pick Dyson Daniels joining McCollum, Alvarado, and Murphy in the backcourt mix, head coach Willie Green will have some difficult rotation decisions to make, as Guillory details.
  • Gorgui Dieng‘s new one-year contract with the Spurs is worth the veteran’s minimum and is fully guaranteed, Hoops Rumors has learned. Dieng will earn a $2,641,682 salary in 2022/23, while San Antonio takes on a cap hit of $1,836,090. The club remains more than $30MM under the salary cap, but there’s no indication that there are any immediate plans for that cap room.
  • CJ Elleby‘s non-guaranteed contract with the Timberwolves is now official, Hoops Rumors has learned. As expected, the deal includes Exhibit 10 language, meaning Elleby could become an affiliate player for the Iowa Wolves or could have his contract turned into a two-way pact.

And-Ones: Russell, Sotto, Douglas

With legendary center Bill Russell passing away at the age of 88 today, figures across the sports world have paid their respects through statements and social media posts. Among those is Tamika Tremaglio, director of the National Basketball Players Association.

“Bill Russell embodies what it means to be a champion in every sense of the word. His on-court accomplishments, including the unfathomable 11 championships and five MVP awards — all achieved with distinct grace and swagger — are entrenched in our NBA culture as the standard to which all inspire,” Tremaglio said as part of a larger statement, as relayed on social media.

Russell’s passing has also drawn statements from other notable figures, including Magic Johnson (Twitter link) Celtics star Jayson Tatum (Twitter link) and Barack Obama (Twitter link).

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • In addition to players and figures around the sports world, many teams released statements about Russell’s passing. Those teams include the Celtics, Kings, Warriors and Suns. Russell impacted generations during his life — both on the court and off.
  • Kai Sotto will remain in the NBL with the Adelaide 36ers next season, as relayed by Sportando. The 20-year-old averaged 7.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game last season.
  • Former NBA guard Toney Douglas has agreed to a deal with Benfica in Portugal, according to Martim Figueiredo (hat tip to Sportando). Douglas last played in Greece. He’s played 394 NBA games during his career, making stops with New York, Houston, Sacramento, Golden State, Miami, New Orleans and Memphis.

Pacers Notes: Warren, Taylor, Sharpe, Keels

T.J. Warren has only appeared in four games over the past two seasons but he could still bring value to the Pacers, even if he’s not on the team next season, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Warren will be an unrestricted free agent this summer but Indiana could sign-and-trade him to a team coveting his services. Warren has averaged 15.5 PPG in his career.

We have more on the Pacers:

  • Pacers assistant Bryce Taylor has been named an assistant coach for EWE Baskets Oldenburg in Germany, Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files reports. Taylor, 35, played in Germany and Italy before retiring prior to this past season.
  • Projected lottery pick Shaedon Sharpe worked out for the Pacers on Monday and feels he could be a difference-maker if they use the No. 6 selection on him, James Boyd of the Indianapolis Star tweets. “I know that (the Pacers are) a great organization, love to develop their players,” he said. “I feel like I could come in and be that go-to guy.”
  • Duke’s Trevor Keels will work out for the team on Tuesday, Boyd adds in another tweet. Keels is a candidate for the Pacers’ second-round selection at No. 31. That’s exactly where the Blue Devils’ wing is rated on ESPN’s Best Available list. As previously reported, center Kai Sotto is also visiting on Tuesday.

Central Notes: Cavs, Williams, Sotto, Pacers, Pistons

As a solid two-way perimeter player with exciting defensive upside, 6’6″ Santa Clara wing Jalen Williams could serve as an ideal fit for the Cavaliers, opines Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Cleveland has the No. 14 pick in this week’s draft.

During the 2021/22 season, the 21-year-old averaged 18.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 4.2 APG and 1.2 SPG, with shooting splits of .513/.396/.809. Fedor notes that Williams is a high-level playmaker, having begun his prep career as a point guard before an eight-inch growth spurt in between his sophomore season of high school and his freshman season at Santa Clara. The First-Team All-West Coast Conference shooting guard/small forward boasts a 7’2″ wingspan and posted a 33.5″ standing vertical.

“He is the biggest riser in this process – and rightfully so,” a league executive said of Williams. “The more I watch, the more I like him. Plug-and-play guy. Can crack a rotation immediately. I think he’s a top 20 guy in this year’s draft.”

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • 7’2″ Adelaide 36ers center Kai Sotto is set to work out for the Pacers on Tuesday, according to Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com, who tweets that Sotto has recovered from a sprained ankle. In 23 contests in Australia’s National Basketball League in 2021/22, the 20-year-old big man averaged 7.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 0.8 BPG. Sotto was voted as the 2022 NBL Fans MVP.
  • With the fifth pick of the 2022 draft in hand, the Pistons are exploring the fit of several potential draft picks, writes Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press. Detroit is looking to build around 2022 All-Rookie first team point guard Cade Cunningham, the first pick in the 2021 draft.
  • In case you missed it, Bucks reserve forward Thanasis Antetokounmpo, older brother of 2021 Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, has opted to exercise his $1.8MM player option for the 2022/23 NBA season with Milwaukee. Across 48 games this season, the 6’6″ forward averaged 3.6 PPG and 2.1 RPG across 9.9 MPG.

Draft Workout Notes: Kings, Wizards, Wolves, Jazz, More

The Kings hosted several prospects for pre-draft workouts on Tuesday and Wednesday, the team announced (Twitter links).

The Tuesday group featured Trey McGowens, Ziga Samar, Ron Harper Jr., Brady Manek and Dallas Walton. Wednesday’s group was Jacob Gilyard, Fatts Russell, Yoan Makoundou, Karlo Matkovic, Yannick Nzosa and Kai Sotto.

The Kings control the fourth, 37th and 49th picks in the 2022 draft, and a handful of those players could be targets with one of those second-round picks. Nzosa, Samar, Harper and Matkovic are ranked between 53rd and 58th on ESPN’s big board.

Here are more workout-related notes from around the NBA:

Draft Notes: Wesley, Sotto, Rockets, Timberwolves

Notre Dame shooting guard Blake Wesley has upcoming workouts scheduled with the Grizzlies, Heat and Bulls, Josh Robbins of The Athletic tweets. Wesley told Robbins he had already worked out for the Spurs, Cavaliers, Bucks and Pistons.

A potential first-round selection, the 6’5” Wesley is ranked No. 27 overall on ESPN’s Best Available list.

We have more draft-related news:

  • International center prospect Kai Sotto will return to NBA team workouts this week on the West Coast after nursing a sprained ankle, Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com tweets. He already worked out for the Knicks, Magic and Hawks, among others. The 7’3” big man from the Philippines spent last season in Australia’s National Basketball League, averaging 7.5 PPG and 4.5 RPG for the Adelaide 36ers.
  • The Rockets are sitting at the No. 3 spot and will presumably take the remaining big man in the trio of Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero, unless there’s a draft-day surprise. The Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen picks the brains of some NBA executives and a college coach to get a handle on how the trio’s skills will translate to the NBA.
  • The Timberwolves brought in six prospects on Monday, Andrew Slater tweets. That group included Tyson Etienne (Wichita State), Jermaine Samuels (Villanova), Aminu Mohammed (Georgetown,) Justin Lewis (Marquette), Fanbo Zeng (G League Ignite) and Kalob Ledoux (Louisiana Tech).

Southeast Draft Notes: Murray, Hawks, Wizards, Hornets

The Magic hold the No. 1 pick and Iowa’s Keegan Murray isn’t expected to go higher than No. 4 in the lottery. That didn’t prevent Orlando from doing its due diligence on the high-scoring wing. Murray came in for a pre-draft workout on Thursday, Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel tweets. The two sides also had a discussion during the draft combine in Chicago, Price adds.

We have more developments from the Southeast Division:

Southeast Notes: Wizards, Heat, Hornets, Magic

After several years of mixed results when picking late in the lottery and in the middle of the first round, the Wizards should aggressively try to move up from No. 10 in this year’s draft, David Aldridge of The Athletic argues.

Aldridge suggests specifically targeting the No. 3 pick and making any assets besides Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis available, including a future first-round pick and some combination of recent first-rounders Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija, and Corey Kispert. If the Rockets’ asking price is too steep, the Wizards should shift their focus to the No. 4 pick, says Aldridge.

I’m skeptical that the Wizards will be able to pry No. 3 away from Houston, given the relative consensus on the top three prospects in this year’s draft, and I’m not sure how eager they should be to give up any future first-round picks, given their current roster situation. But Aldridge believes it would be worth it to roll the dice to land a player like Paolo Banchero or Keegan Murray.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • The Heat won’t make any changes to their starting lineup for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference, head coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters today (Twitter link via Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel). That means Kyle Lowry and Max Strus will continue to start, despite calls to bench them.
  • In a mailbag for The Charlotte Observer, Roderick Boone considers whether Deandre Ayton is a realistic free agent target for the Hornets, looks at where their head coaching search stands, and discusses what to expect from 2021 first-rounder Kai Jones going forward.
  • Kai Sotto, a draft-eligible center from the Philippines, had a workout with the Magic on Thursday, tweets Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel. Sotto played in Australia’s NBL last season after initially committing to the G League Ignite in 2020. He didn’t end up playing for the Ignite due to travel and COVID-19 complications.

New York Notes: Brunson, Stoudemire, Baldwin, Sotto

The Knicks’ top executive, Leon Rose, needs to go all out this summer to sign free agent Jalen Brunson, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post opines. The Knicks settled for Kemba Walker last summer instead of engaging in an all-out bidding war for Fred VanVleet. The same mistake can’t be made this time around, in Vaccaro’s view, so Rose must figure out a way to clear more cap space and give Brunson a competitive offer. Vaccaro also notes Brunson’s father, Rick Brunson, was Rose’s first ever client as a player agent.

We have more on the New York teams:

  • Amar’e Stoudemire clarified comments he made on ESPN shows regarding Kyrie Irving and the Nets organization in an Instagram post (hat tip to Chris Milholen of NetsDaily.com). Stoudemire told coach Steve Nash he was leaving his post as a player development coach due to his religious obligations prior to his TV appearances and has no issue with Nash or GM Sean Marks. He also said he wasn’t trying to blast Irving when he said Irving “hurt us” due to his lack of availability during the season. “You’re not going to turn me against Kyrie. You’re not going to turn me against the Nets. You’re not going to turn me against anyone. So you can forget about it,” Stoudemire said.
  • The Knicks have quietly added Vince Baldwin — a longtime Nike talent scout — as a “talent evaluator,” Marc Berman of the New York Post reports. Baldwin has extensive contacts in the high school and college ranks and is close with Knicks senior executive William Wesley. The Knicks also hired Tim Hardaway Sr. as a scout without making an official announcement.
  • Center prospect Kai Sotto will work out for the Knicks on Monday, Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog.com tweets. The 7’3” big man from the Philippines spent last season in Australia’s National Basketball League, averaging 7.5 PPG and 4.5 RPG for the Adelaide 36ers.