N’Faly Dante

Rockets Add N’Faly Dante Via Two-Way Deal

JULY 9: Dante has officially signed the two-way contract, the team tweets.


JUNE 27: The Rockets are signing undrafted Oregon center N’Faly Dante to a two-way deal, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

The 6’11” big man was a two-time All-Pac-12 honoree and was also named to the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team in 2024. A five-year senior in 2023/24, he enjoyed his most productive season yet as a super-senior, averaging 17 points per game on 69.5% shooting from the field and 61.3% shooting from the charity stripe. Dante also logged averages of 9.2 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.7 steals and 1.6 assists per contest.

Houston only wound up with one pick in the 2024 draft, the third selection, which the Rockets used on sharpshooting Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard. The club traded out from the No. 44 pick in the second round to obtain reserve small forward AJ Griffin from the Hawks as part of a three-team deal.

Draft Workouts: Spurs, Suns, Pacers, Blazers, Lakers, Wolves, Thomas

The Spurs, who are widely expected to draft at least one guard next Wednesday, recently worked out both Stephon Castle of UConn and Devin Carter of Providence, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

As we relayed on Wednesday, recent mock drafts from ESPN and Bleacher Report both have San Antonio drafting Castle at No. 4, and the team is said to be high on Carter as well. Iko confirms as much, writing that the Spurs have “strong interest” in Carter, Castle, and Kentucky’s Reed Sheppard, with Carter’s private workout “resonating” among the team’s decision-makers.

Here’s more pre-draft workout news from around the NBA:

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Mavs, Spurs, Rockets, Pelicans

Luka Doncic has averaged nearly 30 points per night in the first three games of the NBA Finals, but the Mavericks were outscored by 10 points when he was on the floor in Game 1; he committed eight turnovers and missed four free throws in Game 2; and he made just 11-of-27 shots in Game 3 before fouling out of a three-point game with over four minutes still on the clock. He has also been repeatedly targeted on defense over the course of the series.

While head coach Jason Kidd isn’t throwing in the towel on this series with his team facing a 3-0 deficit, he noted on Thursday that no matter what happens the rest of the way, he expects his star player to learn from the challenges he has faced this spring and use those experiences as a springboard to get even better in future seasons.

“The history is there for us to learn from, when you look at great players and the struggles,” Kidd told reporters (story via Dan Devine of Yahoo Sports). “You look at (Michael Jordan) and the struggles that he had against Detroit. You look at some of Magic Johnson’s struggles. You look at LeBron (James‘) first time around (against the Spurs in the 2007 Finals). It’s there to learn from. But the great ones, they use that going into the next season, or the next couple of seasons, to try to get back there. Because now they understand experience is a big thing.”

Here’ more from around the Southwest:

  • Kidd isn’t planning to make any changes to the Mavericks‘ starting lineup in Game 4, he said on Thursday, as Joe Vardon of The Athletic relays.
  • Which prospects in this year’s draft would fit best next to Victor Wembanyama for the Spurs? Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Insider link) considers that question, offering up some suggestions for San Antonio at No. 4, No. 8, No. 35, and No. 48. Kentucky guards Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham are Givony’s top suggestions for the fourth overall pick, while Nikola Topic and Dalton Knecht lead his list at eighth overall. Terrence Shannon, Adem Bona, Cam Spencer, and Jaylen Wells are among the players Givony likes as second-round targets.
  • The Spurs appear to be eyeing more experienced backcourt prospects with their second-round picks, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required), who takes a closer look at Boogie Ellis‘ recent visit to San Antonio and notes that Houston’s Jamal Shead also recently worked out for the club.
  • Shead visited Houston on Friday, confirms Kelly Iko of The Athletic, tweeting that Tyler Thomas (Hofstra), Isaiah Stevens (Colorado State), and N’Faly Dante (Oregon) were among the other prospects working out for the Rockets. The club controls the No. 44 overall pick in addition to No. 3.
  • An evaluation of Smoothie King Center’s infrastructure is nearing completion, according to Christian Clark of NOLA.com, who says the results of that assessment will help determine whether the Pelicans renovate their current arena or need to build a new one.

Draft Notes: Shannon, Dante, Blazers, Magic, Antoine

Illinois guard Terrence Shannon has been found not guilty of all charges at his criminal trial in Kansas, per Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link). Shannon was facing felony charges of first-degree rape and sexual aggravated battery.

According to Givony, NBA teams have been closely monitoring Shannon’s legal situation. At one point he was a projected first-round pick, Givony notes, but he’s currently ranked No. 33 on ESPN’s big board.

Here are some more draft-related notes:

  • Oregon center N’Faly Dante, who is ranked No. 75 on ESPN’s board, appealed to the NCAA for an extra year of college eligibility, but that request has been denied, sources tell Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link).
  • The Trail Blazers hosted a pre-draft workout on Thursday featuring Colorado forward Tristan Da Silva, Serbian guard Nikola Djurisic, Duke big man Kyle Filipowski, Memphis guard David Jones, Arizona guard Pelle Larsson and Maryland guard Jahmir Young, tweets Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report. Portland controls four picks in the upcoming draft: a pair of lottery picks (Nos. 7 and 14) and two second-rounders (Nos. 34 and 40). Da Silva (No. 17 on ESPN’s board) and Filipowski (No. 21) are considered probable first-rounders.
  • The Magic held a pre-draft workout on Wednesday that featured Purdue’s Lance Jones, Syracuse’s Judah Mintz and North Carolina’s Cormac Ryan, according to Cody Taylor of Rookie Wire (Twitter link).
  • Radford guard Bryan Antoine, a McDonald’s All-American in High School, has a workout on Thursday with the Nets, a league source tells Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com (Twitter link). The Knicks will host Antoine for a workout next week, Zagoria adds.

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: Buzelis, Risacher, Castle, Mocks, Early Entrants

Matas Buzelis‘ draft stock has dipped a little over the course of the 2023/24 season, but the G League Ignite forward isn’t lacking for confidence as the pre-draft process nears. Speaking to Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews.com, Buzelis expressed confidence that he’d match up well with Zaccharie Risacher, the No. 1 prospect on ESPN’s big board.

“Of course, I want to see him one-on-one,” Buzelis said. “He just doesn’t want to do that with me. His agent will not do that with me, and I know he won’t. It’s a business decision.”

Asked why he feels as if he has an edge over Risacher in a hypothetical 1-on-1 matchup, Buzelis replied, “My advantage is that I have everything over him.”

While Buzelis has spent the season in the G League, Risacher has been playing for JL Bourg in France, so the two prospects haven’t gone head-to-head. Considered a potential No. 1 overall pick when mock drafts for 2024 were first being published last summer, Buzelis is now at No. 6 on ESPN’s board, though he tells Urbonas that he’s attempting not to focus on where he’s projected to be selected.

“I try not to look at it,” Buzelis said. “It’s obviously there, and I see it. But I try to stay in the zone. I know what I’m capable of, and I don’t look at what number I am. I know if I’m getter better, then I’m winning.”

Here’s more on the 2024 draft:

  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer made updates to both his 2024 big board and mock draft on Wednesday. Interestingly, UConn’s Stephon Castle is now O’Connor’s highest-ranked NCAA prospect, at No. 2 on his big board, but comes in at No. 8 in his mock.
  • Despite Rob Dillingham‘s underwhelming performance in Kentucky’s NCAA tournament loss to Oakland, the freshman guard is still the first college player off the board in the latest mock draft from Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report, at No. 2.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic identifies a few NBA prospects whose draft stocks have risen or dropped as a result of their March Madness performances. Duke’s Jared McCain and Oregon’s N’Faly Dante are among those who are “up,” while Kentucky’s Reed Sheppard and Virginia’s Ryan Dunn are a couple names on the “down” list.
  • The following college players made announcements within the last week indicating that they plan to test the 2024 NBA draft waters:

And-Ones: Dante, Hampton, 2021 Draft, Grant

Oregon big man N’Faly Dante has been informed that he’ll be ineligible to play at the start of the 2019/20 season because the NCAA missed his clearance date, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. In a statement, the five-star recruit that he has completed the academic requirements and intends to re-enroll to Oregon on December 14 in the hopes of being cleared to play.

Charania refers to Dante as a potential lottery pick in 2020, and NBADraft.net has him ranked 13th overall in the site’s latest mock draft. His name doesn’t show up at all in ESPN’s most recent 2020 mock, but it’s possible that will change if he gets his eligibility issues sorted out.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • R.J. Hampton, a projected 2020 lottery pick, said he had “a lot of room for growth” after his New Zealand Breakers played exhibition games against the Grizzlies and Thunder last week. According to ESPN’s Royce Young, there were nearly 60 NBA scouts and executives in attendance at the game in Oklahoma City.
  • ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz (Insider link) have already unveiled their first mock draft for 2021, with point guard Cade Cunningham in the No. 1 spot.
  • With the Qingdao Eagles signing American-born guard Darius Adams, the Chinese club is apparently parting ways with another one of its U.S. players. According to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando (via Twitter), former Knicks, Bulls, and Magic point guard Jerian Grant is the odd man out for Qingdao and will be released. Carchia initially reported last month that the Eagles were considering waiving Grant.