Mark Sears

Draft Notes: Combine, Players To Watch, Wells, Kalkbrenner, Salaun

Prospects are in Chicago for an important week of pre-draft activities, write Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo of ESPN. After the draft lottery takes place on Sunday, players will participate in the three-day combine from Monday through Wednesday. Also set this week are the G League Elite camp, which began today, and agency pro days, all of which will give NBA scouts and executives an up-close look at an unsettled draft pool.

Through an agreement with the players union, the NBA is requiring all invited prospects to take part in the combine. However, they will still be given the option to skip the scrimmages, with Givony and Woo noting that 37 combine participants declined to play in the scrimmages last year.

Numerous players at this year’s combine have retained the option to withdraw from the draft, the authors add, so the process could affect the balance of power in college basketball. Givony and Woo identify Kansas’ Johnny Furphy, USC’s Bronny James, Minnesota’s Cam Christie, Washington State’s Jaylen Wells, BYU’s Jaxson Robinson, Alabama’s Mark Sears, New Mexico’s JT Toppin, Illinois’ Coleman Hawkins, Florida State’s Jamir Watkins and North Florida’s Chaz Lanier as some of the top names who could opt to return to school.

There’s more on the draft:

  • Cam Christie is among the players in position to significantly improve their draft stock this week, Givony and Woo add. They say the brother of Lakers guard Max Christie has “plenty of fans” among NBA scouts after a strong freshman season with the Golden Gophers. Christie, who ranks 36th on ESPN’s Big Board, has a chance to move into the first round with a good showing at the combine. However, he’s also in the NCAA’s transfer portal and has options available if he stays in school. Other players to watch, according to Givony and Woo, are Wells, Watkins, Iowa’s Payton Sandfort and UConn’s Alex Karaban.
  • The NBA has officially confirmed (via Twitter) that Jaylen Wells has been invited to the combine and Creighton’s Ryan Kalkbrenner has withdrawn from the draft. The Wells invitation was reported earlier this week, and Kalkbrenner’s decision had been expected.
  • Potential lottery pick Tidjane Salaun won’t be available for the combine after his Cholet team qualified for the playoffs in France, Givony tweets. The 6’10” power forward is 15th in ESPN’s latest rankings.

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.

Larsson, Hall, Sears Among Latest Draft Early Entrants

Arizona guard Pelle Larsson, who is ranked No. 45 on ESPN’s big board, is forgoing his final season of college eligibility and entering the 2024 draft, agent Daniel Poneman told Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link).

A native of Sweden, Larsson averaged 12.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG and 3.7 APG with an impressive .519/.426/.750 shooting line in 36 games as a senior for the Wildcats in 2023/24 (30.1 MPG). Arizona made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, when it lost to Clemson.

Speaking of Clemson, big man PJ Hall, another potential second-round pick who is No. 59 on ESPN’s board, was on a list of college senior early entrants that was sent to NBA teams a couple days ago, according to Givony (Twitter links). As far as we’re aware, Hall did not make an announcement on whether he intends to test the draft waters or forgo his final year of eligibility.

Alabama’s Mark Sears was on that early entrant list as well, and he recently announced (Instagram link) that he’ll be testing the draft waters. The No. 90-ranked prospect on ESPN’s board, Sears helped lead the Crimson Tide to the Final Four before losing to eventual champion UConn.

Here are a few other players who appeared on the senior early entrant list that Givony provided and are not on our own early entrants list:

As with Hall, we haven’t seen announcements from these four players, so we’re not sure if they’re testing the draft waters or intend to stay in the draft. May 29 is the deadline for college early entrants to withdraw from the draft and return to school, Givony notes.

And-Ones: Clingan, Knecht, Sears, Gambling

UConn center Donovan Clingan is zooming up the draft boards after his dominant performances in the NCAA Tournament. In the latest ESPN mock draft, Jeremy Woo and Jonathan Givony list Clingan as the No. 3 overall selection to Charlotte.

Clingan is averaging 15.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.5 blocks, 2.0 assists and 1.3 steals per game in the tournament, including an overwhelming defensive effort in the Elite Eight against Illinois. Tennessee forward Dalton Knecht, who scored 37 points against Purdue on Sunday, is projected as the No. 8 pick.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • On a similar topic, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor agrees that Clingan has been the biggest riser on draft boards with his tournament performances. O’Connor projects Clingan as a high-level rim protector with potential All-Defensive team ability. He is also an excellent finisher at the rim, has good hands, and makes smart decisions in the post. In fact, UConn’s entire starting five could get drafted, according to O’Connor, who also sees Alabama’s Mark Sears as a Jalen Brunson clone.
  • In the wake of the Jontay Porter investigation, among other gambling-related controversies in other sports, The Athletic’s Jim Trotter criticizes sports leagues for welcoming legalized gambling. Trotter argues that those leagues have sacrificed the ideal of protecting the integrity of their games in order to rake in more money.
  • In case you missed it, Danuel House has changed agents after failing to hook on with another NBA team. He was traded from Philadelphia to Detroit before February’s deadline, then cut loose by the Pistons.

Draft Decisions: Murrell, Baker, Broome, Cross, Cryer, More

Ole Miss guard Matthew Murrell is pulling out of the 2023 NBA draft and returning to school for at least one more year, reports ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. Murrell, who will be a senior in 2023/24, sounds intent on re-entering the draft next spring.

“After gathering feedback from my workouts and team personnel, I am going to continue to build my game at Ole Miss, so I am in the position I want to be in for the 2024 NBA draft,” he said. “I know who I am as a player and how that can translate to the NBA.”

Murrell’s shooting percentages dipped in his junior season, as he made just 36.5% of his shots from the floor, including 30.4% of his three-pointers. But he established new career highs in points (14.4), rebounds (3.5), and assists (2.6) per game and looks like a potential All-SEC player and 2024 second-round pick, according to Givony, who says the “physically gifted” wing impressed NBA executives at a pro day in Chicago earlier this month.

Like Murrell, several other early entrants have opted to remove their names from this year’s draft as the withdrawal deadline for early entrants nears. Here are several of the other players who are headed back to school:

50 Prospects Reportedly Invited To G League Elite Camp

A total of 50 prospects for the 2023 NBA draft have been invited to the NBA’s G League Elite Camp, according to reports from Adam Zagoria of Forbes and Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report (Twitter links).

Those players are as follows:

The name of the G League Elite Camp is a bit of a misnomer — when first introduced, the event showcased NBAGL players, but the field of participants now consists exclusively of draft prospects. The event will take place on May 13 and 14 in Chicago, ahead of this year’s draft combine.

Like the combine, the Elite Camp brings young players to Chicago to meet NBA teams and participate in drills and scrimmages. While the combine focuses on the top prospects in a given draft class, the Elite Camp generally features prospects who are trying to break into that upper echelon of prospects but are more likely to go undrafted. The top performers at the event typically receive invites to the combine.

Of the 50 G League Elite Camp invitees, 15 show up on Jonathan Givony’s list of this year’s top 100 prospects at ESPN.com. However, no Elite Camp invitee ranks higher than No. 58 (Hart) on ESPN’s board.

The G League Elite Camp will give the invitees who declared for the draft as early entrants an opportunity to see where they stand ahead of the draft withdrawal deadline on May 31. Not all of the players who participate in this event will remain in the draft pool.

Some NBA players who have participated in past G League Elite Camps include Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado, Pacers forward Oshae Brissett, Clippers guard Terance Mann, and Heat wing Max Strus.

Draft Notes: McCullar, Cook, Clingan, Early Entrants

Kansas guard Kevin McCullar announced this week that he’ll enter his name in the 2023 NBA draft pool while maintaining his NCAA eligibility, as Michael Swain of Phog.net writes.

McCullar, who played his first three college seasons at Texas Tech before transferring to the Jayhawks, averaged 10.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.4 APG, and 2.0 SPG in 34 games (30.6 MPG) as a senior in 2022/23, earning spots on the All-Big 12 third team and the conference’s All-Defensive squad.

McCullar has one year of college eligibility left due to COVID-19, but is a candidate to be drafted in 2023 if he decides to go pro. He currently ranks 59th overall on ESPN’s big board.

Here are a few more draft-related updates:

  • Junior guard Jalen Cook, who intended to declare for the draft coming off his second consecutive All-AAC season at Tulane, has decided to transfer back to LSU, where he began his college career, tweets Jonathan Givony of ESPN. It sounds like Cook intends to use at least one more season of college eligibility rather than going pro this year.
  • After winning a national championship with UConn as a freshman, center Donovan Clingan will remain at school rather than going pro, he announced on Twitter. Clingan’s numbers as a reserve in 2022/23 were modest (6.9 PPG and 5.6 RPG in 13.1 MPG), but Jeff Goodman of Stadium (Twitter link) said multiple NBA evaluators believe the big man would’ve been selected in the 25-40 range if he’d entered the draft.
  • The following players have declared for the 2023 NBA draft and will test the waters as early entrants: