Nikola Topic

Potential No. 1 Pick Nikola Topic Enters NBA Draft

Nikola Topic has decided to put his name into the NBA draft, agent Misko Raznatovic announced (via Twitter).

In a year without a clear No. 1 pick, the 18-year-old Serbian star could be in contention for the first selection. He’s ranked fifth in ESPN’s latest list of the top 100 prospects and would fill a need for a team looking for a skilled ball-handler. The 6’7″ Topic’s creativity and his ability to break down defenses aren’t in question, but there are concerns about his three-point shooting and intensity on defense, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN.

Topic was off to a strong start with Crvena Zvedza in Belgrade before suffering a knee injury that has kept him out of action since January 4. He was still named the ABA League’s Top Prospect and was voted onto the all-league team after averaging 17.9 points and 6.8 assists during the time he was able to play.

Topic received MVP honors while capturing a gold medal with Serbia at the 2023 FIBA U18 European Championship, according to Eurohoops.

Draft Notes: Simpson, Sallis, Christie, Dixon, No. 1 Pick

Colorado point guard KJ Simpson, a junior who is ranked No. 46 on ESPN’s top-100 list, is declaring for the 2024 NBA draft and forgoing his remaining college eligibility, he announced on Twitter.

A member of the All-Pac-12 First Team in 2023/24, Simpson averaged 19.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 4.9 APG and 1.6 SPG on .475/.434/.876 shooting in 37 games this season for the Buffaloes (35.1 MPG), who lost to Marquette in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Another potential second-round pick, Wake Forest guard Hunter Sallis, is entering the draft while maintaining his college eligibility, he tells Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link).

After spending his first two seasons playing a limited role off the bench for Gonzaga, Sallis transferred to Wake Forest and had a breakout junior season for the Demon Deacons, averaging 18.0 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.5 APG and 1.1 SPG on .487/.405/.783 shooting in 34 appearances (35.4 MPG). He earned a spot on the All-ACC First Team for his efforts.

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony says Sallis is an impressive shooter, but there are questions about his passing, defense and thin frame. Sallis is No. 49 on ESPN’s board.

Here are few more notes on the 2024 draft:

  • Minnesota guard Cam Christie announced (via Twitter) that he’s testing the draft waters while maintaining his college eligibility. Christie says he’s “eager to receive feedback” from NBA teams. As a freshman for the Golden Gophers, he averaged 11.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG and 2.2 RPG while shooting 39.1% from three-point range in 33 games (30.1 MPG). Christie is the younger brother of Lakers guard Max Christie.
  • Villanova’s Eric Dixon is declaring for the draft and his announcement (via Instagram) doesn’t say anything about returning to college, so we’re assuming he’s turning pro. As a senior in ’23/24, the 6’8″ forward averaged 16.6 PPG and 6.5 RPG on .465/.346/.862 shooting in 34 games for the Wildcats (30.6 MPG).
  • Unlike last year, there is no consensus choice for 2024’s No. 1 overall pick. As Givony and Jeremy Woo of ESPN write (Insider link), different teams may favor different prospects depending on their evaluations and what they need. Zaccharie Risacher and Alexandre Sarr — a pair of French prospects — are considered the top contenders to go No. 1, but UConn’s Donovan Clingan, Kentucky’s Rob Dillingham, and Serbia’s Nikola Topic could all factor into the equation. It’s also possible that one of Reed Sheppard (Kentucky), Stephon Castle (UConn), Matas Buzelis (G League Ignite) or Ron Holland (Ignite) could end up being the No. 1 pick if they have a strong pre-draft process, according Givony and Woo.

And-Ones: China, Filipowski, Williams, Mock Draft, Scariolo

Nets owner Joe Tsai believes the NBA is interested in resuming its relationship with China, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. In an interview Friday with CNBC, Tsai said previous tensions have thawed and preseason games may return to the country.

“I think the NBA is in a very good place with respect to its relationship with China,” Tsai said. “China is actually the NBA’s biggest fan base. So what happened before, I think it’s water under the bridge.”

China’s leaders were upset in 2019 when Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, who was with the Rockets at the time, tweeted his support for anti-government protesters. Beijing responded by pulling the NBA off state-sponsored CCTV for almost two years, and commissioner Adam Silver estimated in 2021 that the dispute cost his league $400MM.

Tsai believes the NBA needs to include China as part of its appeal to a global market.

“I think just having the fans have real, in-person sort of interaction with the stars,” Tsai said. “I think that’s going to be important.”

There’s more news from around the basketball world:

  • Projected lottery pick Kyle Filipowski of Duke suffered a sprained ankle Saturday when Wake Forest fans stormed the court after a victory over the Blue Devils, per Aaron Beard of The Associated Press. The incident, combined with Iowa star Caitlin Clark being knocked down under similar circumstances last month, have sparked a debate about banning students from running onto the court. “Just trying to get my way off the court, and you know, you’ve got these crazy college students just doing whatever they want,” Filipowski said. “It’s got to be a little more protective when things like that happen.”
  • Jeremy Woo of ESPN (subscription required) examines the case for Colorado’s Cody Williams as the top pick in this year’s draft. Woo notes that the 6’8″ Williams has “viable guard skills” and often takes on a play-maker role in the Buffaloes’ offense. He’s connecting at 47.1% on three-pointers in limited attempts, and Woo sees him developing into an above average shooter. NBA scouts tell Woo that Williams would be a mid- to late-lottery pick in a stronger draft, but the absence of standout talent has him in consideration to be the first player off the board.
  • French center Alexandre Sarr tops the latest mock draft from Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report. Rounding out Wasserman’s top five are Nikola Topic, Zaccharie Risacher, Matas Buzelis and Ron Holland.
  • The new president of the Spanish Federation wants former Raptors assistant Sergio Scariolo to continue coaching the national team for the next four years, according to Eurohoops.

Draft Notes: Buzelis, Ignite, Risacher, Sarr, Mocks

Matas Buzelis, who was the No. 1 prospect in the very first 2024 mock draft that ESPN’s Jonathan Givony published a year ago, had slipped to 10th in ESPN’s prospect rankings last month, but has rebounded nicely as of late, Givony writes in an Insider-only story.

After missing the first part of the G League season due to ankle problems, Buzelis has shown off an improved three-point shot in recent weeks (38.5% in his past 10 games) and has been better on the defensive end of the court, according to Givony, who notes that the Ignite guard/forward made an impact at All-Star weekend, hitting a game-winning shot in the Rising Stars semifinal on Friday.

While Buzelis hasn’t reclaimed that No. 1 spot on ESPN’s big board, he’s back up to No. 6. And, as Givony observes, in a class with no obvious top prospect, a strong finish to the G League season could put the 19-year-old back in the conversation for that first overall pick.

Here are a few more notes on the 2024 NBA draft:

  • Givony and Jeremy Woo of (Insider link) examine where things stand for the G League Ignite, noting that Adam Silver‘s comments at All-Star weekend suggest that the program’s days may be numbered. The Ignite are just 2-19 this season and player development has been inconsistent due to the lack of quality guard play, Woo writes. Still, it seems safe to assume the Ignite will be back for the 2024/25 season, since prospects like Dink Pate and Thierry Darlan are under contract for another year and the program continues to actively recruit high-profile prospects.
  • International prospects Zaccharie Risacher and Alexandre Sarr top the latest mock draft from Givony and Woo, with Kentucky’s Rob Dillingham at No. 3, Buzelis at No. 4, and Colorado’s Cody Williams at No. 5.
  • Risacher and Sarr are also the two players first off the board in the newest mock draft from Sam Vecenie of The Athletic. However, there are significant deviations from ESPN’s mock draft beyond that, starting with Serbian point guard Nikola Topic (No. 3) and Connecticut wing Stephon Castle (No. 5) cracking Vecenie’s top five. Topic is at No. 6 in ESPN’s mock, while Castle is all the way down at No. 15.
  • Krysten Peek of Yahoo Sports has also published a new mock draft for 2024, with Sarr claiming the top spot.

And-Ones: U.S. Olympic Team, Paris, Sarr, Topic, Mock Draft

USA Basketball is expected to begin the process of selecting the 2024 Olympic team before the end of January, sources tell Joe Vardon of The Athletic. The organization will begin contacting 35 to 40 names on a list of players, most of whom have either Olympic or World Cup experience, according to Vardon. His sources say the list, which includes a few names from the 2023 World Cup team, will be made public within the next few weeks.

Managing director Grant Hill and coach Steve Kerr have indicated that the “player pools” system may be eliminated, which means invitations will be sent out privately rather than asking established stars to attend tryouts. Vardon notes that last year’s World Cup team was formed this way, but with heavy interest around the NBA in being part of Team USA, there might be benefits to keeping the pool system in place.

With the Nets and Cavaliers in Paris for today’s international game, players are receiving questions about possibly returning to the city for the Olympics this summer, Vardon adds.

“Just waiting to see — if (the invite) comes, it comes,” said Mikal Bridges, who played a prominent role on the 2023 World Cup team. “I don’t think I bear my head on it too much, because I’m so locked in on trying to figure out everything here (with the Nets).”

There’s more news from around the basketball world:

  • Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today looks at the emergence of Paris as a basketball city due to the upcoming Olympics, the impact that Victor Wembanyama is having on the NBA and the status of several French players in this year’s draft. In addition, the NBA announced a partnership on Wednesday with the French Basketball League and the LBN that includes a development program for elite prospects.
  • Projected top-five picks Alexandre Sarr and Nikola Topic are currently sidelined with injuries, but that shouldn’t affect their draft stock, according to Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo of ESPN. With no clear consensus at the top of this year’s draft, the authors admit that playing as many games as possible would be beneficial, but they point out that Sarr and Topic already have established resumes in place. They add that there was concern that Sarr’s hip injury might mark the end of his NBL career in Australia, but he seems determined to finish the season. “We are winning and my goal is to make the playoffs and get the furthest I can,” Sarr said recently. “I’m having fun out there and competing for something. It’s the first time in my life where I’m part of a league where I’m really trying to win something at the end.”
  • Sarr holds onto the No. 1 spot in the latest mock draft from Givony and Woo (Insider subscription required). Rounding out the top five are French wing Zaccharie Risacher, Colorado small forward Cody Williams, Baylor guard Ja’Kobe Walter and Topic.

And-Ones: Dumars, Nwaba, Vildoza, 2024 Draft

Last week, the Nets became the first team to get fined for resting healthy players since the NBA introduced its new player participation policy in September. Joe Dumars, the league’s executive vice president and head of basketball operations, told ESPN’s Tim Bontemps that the rules will continue to be enforced when teams try to sit multiple players who are not legitimately injured.

“We are serious about this,” Dumars said. “We talked to people, we talked to everyone, all parties we talked to before the season started. And to not follow through with this would not be right of us. It would not be the thing to do, to not follow through. So yeah, we are very serious about this. We communicated, we overly communicated with everyone about this, and we made very clear that if your guys can play or we feel that your guys can play, they should be on the court. And it’s gone over extremely well this year.”

We have more from around the international basketball world:

  • The London Lions have officially signed former NBA guard David Nwaba, Sportando relays. The Lions’ interest in Nwaba was reported by BasketNews last week. Nwaba’s last NBA stint was with Houston in 2021/22. The six-year veteran appeared in 237 regular season games during his NBA career, averaging 6.8 points and 3.7 rebounds in 19.3 minutes per game.
  • Luca Vildoza, who played seven games with Milwaukee in 2021/22, suffered a ruptured lateral meniscus in his left knee while playing for Greece’s Panathinaikos, according to Sportando’s Allesandro Maggi. The Argentinean guard will undergo surgery on Tuesday, according to the Greek club.
  • In his latest mock draft, Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman has the Pistons taking French big man Alexandre Sarr with the top pick. Wasserman compares Sarr, who’s playing in Australia with the Perth Wildcats, with Memphis’ Jaren Jackson Jr. Point guard Nikola Topic, who recently suffered a knee injury while facing EuroLeague competition, goes at the No. 2 spot to the Spurs in Wasserman’s mock, while another European, French wing Zaccharie Risacher, comes off the board at No. 3 to the Wizards.
  • ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo (Insider link) have put out another roundup of notes on 2024 draft prospects, exploring what’s gone wrong for UCLA’s top three NBA prospects (Aday Mara, Adem Bona, and Berke Buyuktuncel) and whether recent injuries to Sarr and Topic will hurt their stock, among other topics.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

International Notes: Dragic, Knight, Roberson, Topic

At a press conference on Thursday, veteran guard Goran Dragic, who recently announced his retirement, said that he received offers from several EuroLeague teams but didn’t want to play in Europe and leave his children in the United States, per SportKlub (hat tip to

Dragic named Olimpia Milano, Real Madrid, Panathinaikos, and Barcelona as some of the teams that had interest in him. However, he had been hoping to work out a deal to remain in the NBA and confirmed he had some discussions with the Heat. After Miami passed on him and no other opportunities arose, the 37-year-old decided to call it a career, noting on Thursday that his left knee isn’t 100% healthy.

Dragic confirmed that he’ll be hosting a farewell event in Ljubljana, Slovenia on August 23 and 24, with NBA stars like Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Jimmy Butler expected to attend — Doncic is a fellow Slovenian, while Antetokounmpo and Butler are former NBA teammates. Dragic added that he hasn’t decided what his next career move will be now that he’s finished as a player.

“I want to stay in basketball,” he said. “I don’t see myself as a coach. You are away from home for too long. Maybe in some other role.”

Here are a few more notes from around the international basketball world:

  • Longtime NBA guard Brandon Knight has signed with AEK Athens for the rest of the 2023/24 season, the Greek team announced in a press release. Knight, who appeared in 451 regular season NBA games from 2011-22, last played in the league with Dallas during the 2021/22 season. The 32-year-old holds career averages of 14.0 points and 3.9 assists per contest for six teams.
  • Veteran forward Andre Roberson will be competing in this month’s Dubai International Basketball Championship, announcing this week that he’ll be part of the team from the Philippines at the event (Twitter video link). Known as a defensive specialist, Roberson appeared in over 300 regular season NBA games from 2013-21. It appears he’ll be on the same roster in Dubai as Dwight Howard, who has also reportedly committed to play for the Filipino squad.
  • Serbian point guard Nikola Topic, who had been rising up 2024 draft boards of late as he debuted for Crvena Zvezda, suffered a knee injury in his second EuroLeague game and is expected to be out for about six weeks, a source tells Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link). Topic is at No. 5 overall in ESPN’s latest prospect rankings for ’24.

And-Ones: 2024 Draft, HS Prospects, Breakout Players, Ray

ESPN draft experts Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo (Insider link) continue to rotate prospects in and out of the No. 1 spot on their draft board for 2024, moving French big man Alexandre Sarr into that top spot in place of USC guard Isaiah Collier, who has struggled for the Trojans as of late.

The 2024 draft class doesn’t have a clear headliner, so the race for No. 1 remains wide open. Matas Buzelis and Ron Holland, two G League Ignite youngsters who were atop ESPN’s big board during the summer of 2023, are now in the back end of the lottery at No. 10 and 11, respectively, while Collier has slipped all the way to No. 8.

Conversely, the latest risers on ESPN’s board include Colorado wing Cody Williams, who is up to No. 3 from No. 10, and Serbian point guard Nikola Topic, who has risen four spots to No. 5. Two more notable prospects who jumped from outside of the lottery into the top seven are French forward Tidjane Salaun and Kentucky guard Rob Dillingham, who moved up nine spots to Nos. 6 and 7, respectively.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report breaks down his top 10 prospects in high school basketball, with Cooper Flagg, Cameron Boozer, and A.J. Dybantsa topping his list.
  • Michael Pina of The Ringer singles out eight players across the NBA who are taking their games to another level this season, from stars like Kings guard De’Aaron Fox and Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton to role players such as Heat sharpshooter Duncan Robinson.
  • Former Nuggets forward James Ray, the No. 5 overall pick in the 1980 draft, died last week at age 66 due to complications from a surgery, as Bennett Durando of The Denver Post writes. A college star for the Jacksonville Dolphins, Ray appeared in 103 NBA games across three seasons for Denver, then spent several years in Europe before retiring as a player.

And-Ones: Topic, Draft, Free Throws, Pangos, Pistons, Knicks

Nikola Topic, a projected top-10 pick in the 2024 draft, was called back to EuroLeague squad Red Star after spending the 2023/24 season so far with Mega MIS on a loan. Topic spoke to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Insider link) about the move and what it means for his draft value.

It’s a huge risk, but I’m ready,” Topic said of the move. “I’m confident in myself 100%. My father, my agent Misko Raznatovic and I understand that this move could affect my draft chances if I don’t do well. But I’m ready to compete and fight.

According to Givony, Topic replaces former NBA player Shabazz Napier, who departed for Milan, and will get a chance to play alongside former NBA guards Milos Teodosic and Nemanja Nedovic. While Red Star courted the Serbian guard heavily in recent weeks, the decision to return was ultimately Topic’s, and he’ll try to help his hometown squad overcome a 6-10 start to the year. Greek coach Giannis Sfairopoulos, who previously coached Deni Avdija, will coach Topic.

We didn’t talk about the role I’ll play,” Topic said. “Whatever he says, I’ll do. If he says to die on the court, I will die. Whatever coach needs, I’ll try my best to do it.

Topic has been impressive in Adriatic League play with Mega MIS so far this year, averaging 18.6 points and 6.9 assists per game and boasting a 63% true shooting percentage. According to Givony, NBA teams will be keeping a close eye on how Topic adjusts to the EuroLeague, which is considered the top level of competition in the world outside of the NBA.

Further breaking down Topic’s game, Givony writes that he’ll almost certainly be asked to adjust his play for a Red Star team ranked last in the league in pace. However, Givony expects the experience will positively benefit Topic’s defense and perimeter shooting.

Basketball is a game of decisions,” Topic said. “It’s a mental game. Using angles. The player that makes a faster decision, that person will win. The EuroLeague is a mind game. It’s a game of reads.

We have more notes from around the basketball world:

  • In the same Insider-only story, Givony and Jeremy Woo break down other draft-related topics. As the duo notes, one reason the 2024 draft class is considered weaker than usual is the fact that it will be older than most — it has a chance to boast the oldest first-round class since 2013. Upperclassmen like Zach Edey, Kevin McCullar and Oso Ighodaro are all playing their ways into first-round consideration while freshmen like Elmarko Jackson, Aday Mara and Caleb Foster are looking more like multi-year college players rather than the one-and-dones they appeared to be before the season, the Givony and Woo explain.
  • NBA coaches and players have made their feelings clear about how games are being refereed, with Warriors coach Steve Kerr among the latest to criticize the officiating this season. The Ringer’s Zach Kram argues the NBA doesn’t actually have a free throw problem though, given that free throw attempts and rates are trending downward. Kram singles out Joel Embiid as someone who’s receiving criticism for going for foul calls, but points out that Embiid leads the league in made field goals per game. Kram concludes that foul calls will always be a cat-and-mouse game for the NBA, as players will seek to push the boundaries to get free points and the league will continually react.
  • Former NBA guard Kevin Pangos is joining Spanish club Valencia after terminating his contract with Olimpia Milano, according to Sportando. Pangos has previously played for Gran Canaria and Barcelona in Spain. The 6’2″ point guard played one season in the NBA in 2021/22, appearing in 24 games (three starts) and totaling 39 points and 30 assists for the Cavaliers.
  • The Feb. 26 game between the Pistons and Knicks has been relocated to Madison Square Garden in New York from Detroit and will now tip off at 7:30 p.m. ET, according to a release from the NBA (Twitter link). “The cause for the change was unique scheduling complications associated with the In-Season Tournament,” the statement reads. Fred Katz of the Athletic tweets the Pistons’ 2-28 start likely factored into the decision — one team will end up playing 42 road games, and the NBA would presumably rather that team be one that’s not in playoff contention.

And-Ones: Officiating, Kabengele, Ignite, Maluach, Topic

While he didn’t complain specifically about the way that Nikola Jokic was officiated on Monday, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr lodged a more general complaint about the officiating during his postgame media session after the Nuggets center made 18-of-18 free throws in a Denver victory, writes Kendra Andrews of ESPN.

“I have a problem with how we are legislating the defense out of the game,” Kerr said. “We are enabling players to B.S. their way to the foul line. If I were a fan, I wouldn’t have wanted to watch the second half of that game. It was disgusting. It was just baiting refs into calls, but the refs have to make those calls … the players are really smart in this league. For the last decade, they’ve gotten smarter and smarter. We have enabled the players, and they are taking full advantage.

“It’s a parade to the free throw line, and it’s disgusting to watch.”

Prior to Monday’s game, the Nuggets ranked dead last in the NBA in free throw makes per game (14.9). Led by Jokic’s 18 foul shots, Denver converted 26-of-32 attempts from the line in Monday’s win.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Former first-round pick Mfiondu Kabengele is making a midseason move from Greece to Italy. The big man has parted ways with AEK Athens and has formally reached an agreement to join Reyer Venezia, the Italian club announced today in a press release. Kabengele appeared in 55 total NBA games for the Clippers, Cavaliers, and Celtics from 2019-23.
  • Sharing their impressions from last week’s G League Showcase Cup, Jeremy Woo and Jonathan Givony of (Insider link) note that it hasn’t been a good year for the G League Ignite, whose top prospects Matas Buzelis and Ron Holland did little to help their draft stock. Conversely, the NBA Academy Africa made a strong impression in Orlando, according to Givony, who was particularly impressed by 7’2″ prospect Khaman Maluach. Maluach appears to be giving strong consideration to playing college ball next season, Givony adds, with Duke and Kansas aggressively pursuing him.
  • Serbian prospect Nikola Topic, a projected top-10 pick, has spent the 2023/24 season so far on loan to Mega Basket, but he’ll be rejoining Crvena Zvezda and playing in the EuroLeague going forward, tweets Givony. The move will give the 18-year-old Topic an opportunity to compete in Europe’s top league for the rest of the season.