Melvin Ajinca

Draft Notes: Rockets, Wizards, Suns, France, Big Boards

The Rockets may be more interested in moving their pick than keeping it, Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer reports. Offers for the selection are expected to be entertained until Houston is on the clock at No. 3 in Wednesday’s draft. If Houston does stand pat at No. 3, Reed Sheppard appears to be the heavy favorite for that spot. The Trail Blazers are among the teams that have called the Rockets about moving up to No. 3 in the draft.

According to Fischer, the Wizards have the league convinced they’re honing in on Perth’s Alexandre Sarr. As reported, Sarr hasn’t conducted a private workout for the Hawks, holders of the No. 1 selection, and Fischer reports Sarr’s preferred destination is, in fact, Washington. Beyond their plans at No. 2, the Wizards are a “prime candidate” to move up from No. 26 and have also been seeking a third first-round pick, Says Fischer.

Further down the draft, the Suns are a strong candidate to trade down from No. 22. The goal for the Suns, Fischer writes, would be to accumulate future second-round picks to restock their draft capital for trade flexibility. Additionally, the idea of adding inexpensive rookie contracts onto an expensive roster appeals to Phoenix.

We have more from around the draft:

  • A flood of talent is following 2023 No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama from France, Yahoo Sports’ Krysten Peek writes. His former teammate Bilal Coulibaly was selected No. 7 overall in last year’s draft and another ex-teammate, Armel Traore, could be in play in the second round of this year’s draft. Additionally, Zaccharie Risacher and Sarr are seen as the favorites for the top two draft selections in this class, while Tidjane Salaun, Melvin Ajinca and Pacome Dadiet are all likely to be selected this year too. Down the line, Nolan Traore and Nathan Soliman are picking up steam in future draft classes.
  • Risacher, Sarr and UConn’s Donovan Clingan, in that order, round out ESPN’s top three players on Jonathan Givony’s final big board update before the draft. Givony and Jeremy Woo provide their picks for the top 100 players in the class, with Sheppard, G League Ignite’s Matas Buzelis, UConn’s Stephon Castle, Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht, Kentucky’s Rob Dillingham, Salaun, and Serbia’s Nikola Topic filling in the rest of their top 10 (in that order).
  • Risacher is lower on Sam Vecenie’s draft board at The Athletic, with the French wing coming in at No. 5. Salaun, Buzelis, Dillingham and Topic all sit outside the top 10 of Vecenie’s annual draft guide, while he ranks Colorado’s Cody Williams (No. 6), Providence’s Devin Carter (No. 7), Pitt’s Carlton Carrington (No. 8) and Ron Holland of the G League Ignite (No. 10) among the top 10. I highly recommend both Givony’s and Vecenie’s draft guides if you have a subscription to either platform, as this is some of the top draft content to come out annually.
  • Clingan is the name most linked to the Hawks over the past week, Vecenie writes in a recent mock draft. While Atlanta has openly stated it is content with standing pat at No. 1, Vecenie hears there’s an impression the club is open to making a move if the right deal presents itself. However, Atlanta hasn’t finalized its decision yet and even if it wanted to trade down to select him later, Chicago and Memphis have expressed interest in taking Clingan themselves if they can trade up. Vecenie indeed has Washington landing Sarr and Houston getting Sheppard, but has Risacher falling to San Antonio at No. 4, Buzelis going No. 5 to Detroit and Castle landing in Charlotte at No. 6.

Western Notes: Kings Workout, Jazz Workout, Kolek, Suns’ Targets

The Kings hosted a pre-draft workout on Monday that included two of the top center prospects, two-time National Player of the Year Zach Edey (Purdue) and Kel’el Ware (Indiana), Sean Cunningham of FOX 40 Sacramento tweets. Both are projected to be taken in the first round. Jamison Battle (Ohio St.), Boogie Ellis (USC), Rayj Dennis (Baylor) and Jonathan Mogbo (USF) were the other visitors.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Jazz held a pre-draft workout on Monday that included Melvin Ajinca (France), Ulrich Chomche (Cameroon), Tyler Kolek (Marquette), Ajay Mitchell (UCSB) and Tyler Wahl (Wisconsin), Darren Wolfson tweets. Kolek, a point guard, is considered a first-round pick. All the other prospects except for Wahl are ranked among the Top 50 on ESPN’s Best Available list.
  • Speaking of Kolek, the Suns are expected to target the Marquette floor leader, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Phoenix currently owns the No. 22 pick. The Suns are searching for a traditional point guard.
  • The Suns will only be able to make veteran’s minimum offers to free agents due to their salary cap restraints. Gerald Bourguet of GoPHNX.com looks at 20 free agent wing options, breaking them down by realistic targets and others that may be out of their price range.

NBA’s 2024 Draft Withdrawal Deadline Has Passed

The deadline for early entrants to withdraw from the 2024 NBA draft passed on Sunday at 5:00 pm Eastern time, meaning that any players who haven’t removed their names from consideration at that point will remain in this year’s draft pool.

Because the NCAA has its own draft withdrawal deadline earlier in the spring, the NBA’s deadline typically represents decision day for non-college players, including international prospects. As we relayed on Sunday, several of those international early entrants who initially tested the draft waters decided to pull out before the deadline.

The following players also withdrew from the draft ahead of Sunday’s deadline:

Additionally, there were several reports on Sunday about international prospects who decided to keep their names in the draft pool. Here are those players:

There was no word on Sunday about several of the big-name international prospects, such as Alexandre Sarr, Zaccharie Risacher, and Tidjane Salaun, but there’s no doubt they kept their names in the draft, since they’re projected lottery picks. Nikola Topic is in that group as well, despite the fact that he recently suffered a partially torn ACL.

As our early entrant tracker shows, there are still a handful of prospects whose intentions haven’t been announced or reported, but it shouldn’t be long before we get clarity on them — the NBA will likely announce its official early entrant list for the 2024 draft at some point within the next 24 to 48 hours or so.

Northwest Notes: Markkanen, Thunder, Wallace, Wolves

Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen won’t play for Finland in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Spain, Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops.net reports. Markkanen aggravated an impingement to his right shoulder in late March and the injury has still not fully healed.

“Certainly, this is tough,” the Jazz forward said in a statement. “Representing Finland and playing for the national team is an honor for me. Along with my teammates, we have been talking all season about how sweet it would be to advance to the Olympic Games.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Thunder had an overload of players on their roster last offseason but that won’t be the case this time around, Rylan Stiles of SI.com notes. Oklahoma City will have four open standard contract roster spots available with Gordon Hayward, Bismack Biyombo, Mike Muscala and possibly Lindy Waters III (club option) headed to free agency. They will also have at least one two-way spot available with Olivier Sarr tearing his Achilles late last season. He’s expected to be out all of next season.
  • Cason Wallace exceeded expectations in his rookie season with the Thunder, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. Wallace, the No. 10 pick of last year’s draft, appeared in every game and make the All-Rookie Second Team. He also shot 41.9% from 3-point range and displayed strong defensive skills.
  • In draft news, Melvin Ajinca (France), Jalen Bridges (Baylor), Tristan Enaruna (Cleveland State), Ajay Mitchell (UC Santa Barbara), Jonathan Mogbo (San Francisco) and Baylor Scheierman (Creighton) worked out for the Timberwolves on Monday, the team’s PR department tweets. Scheierman is currently ranked No. 26 on ESPN’s Best Available list.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers

If Kentavious Caldwell-Pope picks up his $15.4MM player option or declines it and signs a new, more lucrative deal with Denver, the Nuggets will be over the second tax apron in 2024/25. That means they would be limited to offering free agents minimum-salary contracts.

With that in mind, Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports lists 10 ring-chasing veterans who might be able to help the Nuggets next season (the players have to be at least 30 years old in ’24/25 and potentially available for the minimum). Some players on Wind’s list include Gary Harris (a former Nugget), Gordon Hayward and Jae Crowder.

According to both Wind and Bennett Durando of The Denver Post (subscriber link), several people within the organization are fans of Hayward’s game, though it’s unclear if he’d actually accept a minimum deal after making $33.3MM last season. The 34-year-old was largely a non-factor with Oklahoma City and has a lengthy injury history, however, so his market is tricky to gauge.

Durando answers a handful of offseason questions related to the Nuggets, writing that the team will likely make small tweaks to the edges of the rotation instead of doing anything drastic.

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • Jim Souhan of The Star Tribune (subscription required) argues the Timberwolves should pay the luxury tax to keep the core of the current roster together for next season no matter which ownership group ultimately prevails in their ongoing dispute for majority control. As Souhan writes, the Wolves just made the Western Conference finals for the second time in franchise history, and this team is much better positioned for continued success than the group from 2004.
  • The Timberwolves‘ roster should look similar in ’24/25, assuming ownership is willing to spend, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune (subscriber link). “They’ve been nothing but supportive with us,” head coach Chris Finch said of the team’s owners. “In many ways, this run that we’ve been on has pushed all of that to the background, and they’ve been 100 percent committed to the team, the team’s efforts and enjoying the success. That stuff will be what it will be. They’ve all pledged that no matter how it shakes out, that they’re going to give us every opportunity to be successful and continue to build, build a winner and a champion and all the things that we’re all trying to do together.”
  • The Trail Blazers held a pre-draft workout with six prospects on Thursday, tweets Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report. Those players were French wing Melvin Ajinca (No. 48 on ESPN’s big board), Minnesota guard Cam Christie (No. 34), G League Ignite guard Thierry Darlan (No. 85), Michigan State forward Malik Hall (unranked), North Carolina forward Harrison Ingram (No. 42) and Arizona forward Keshad Johnson (No. 49). Portland controls four picks in the 2024 draft, including a pair of second-rounders (No. 34 and No. 40).

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.

Draft Notes: PIT Standouts, Dates, Ajinca, Diarra, Watkins

The Portsmouth Invitational Tournament wrapped up last week. The event, which showcases college seniors trying to boost their stock in front of NBA teams, saw two participants — Hunter Tyson and Toumani Camara — get drafted last year, notes Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Insider link).

Washington State forward/center Isaac Jones was “the most productive player” at the 2024 PIT, Givony writes, and he’ll likely be invited to next month’s draft combine in Chicago as a result. The 23-year-old big man was a first-team All-Pac-12 member for the Cougars in 2023/24 and could be a second-round pick, Givony adds.

Morehead State forward Riley Minix and Illiniois guard Marcus Domask were among the other standouts from the tournament, according to Givony.

Here’s more on the upcoming draft:

  • In the same story, Givony highlights several upcoming draft-related dates and deadlines to monitor, including Saturday’s early-entrant deadline.
  • French wing Melvin Ajinca, who is ranked No. 42 on ESPN’s big board, is entering the 2024 NBA Draft, agent Bouna Ndiaye told Givony (Twitter link). The 19-year-old has been playing professionally for Saint-Quentin in France’s top basketball league, LNB Pro A. Givony refers to Ajinca as a possible first-rounder.
  • North Carolina State senior forward Mohamed Diarra, who averaged 6.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG and 1.0 BPG in 40 games this past season for the Wolfpack (22.1 MPG), announced on Twitter that he’s entering the draft. Another French player, Diarra didn’t say anything about maintaining his college eligibility, so we’re assuming he’s going pro.
  • Wing Jamir Watkins, who is ranked No. 81 on ESPN’s board, is also entering the draft (Instagram link). After spending his first two college seasons at VCU, Watkins transferred to Florida State for his junior campaign and averaged 15.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.8 APG and 1.9 SPG on .457/.344/.795 shooting in 33 games for the Seminoles (28.1 MPG). As with Diarra, Watkins didn’t say anything about maintaining his remaining eligibility.