Rayan Rupert

Nets Notes: Bridges, C. Jones, Kalkbrenner, Holmes, Bates

There has been speculation that Nets forward Mikal Bridges will be a target for the Trail Blazers if and when they shop the No. 3 overall pick, but John Hollinger of The Athletic is skeptical that a deal centered around that pick would appeal to Brooklyn.

As Hollinger points out, the Nets don’t control their own first-rounders in any of the next four drafts, so they have little incentive to take a step back in the short term. Plus, Bridges is signed to one of the NBA’s most team-friendly contracts through the 2025/26 season.

Alex Schiffer of The Athletic (Twitter link) says he has heard the same thing as Hollinger at the draft combine in Chicago. According to Schiffer, any rumors linking Bridges to Portland are “all talk,” since Brooklyn isn’t interested.

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Many prospects in this year’s draft class have cited Bridges as a player they want to emulate at the NBA level, according to Schiffer. Iowa’s Kris Murray, Villanova’s Cam Whitmore, Pepperdine’s Maxwell Lewis, and Frenchman Rayan Rupert are among the prospects who likened themselves to Bridges. “I want to have the same trajectory and same process he did,” Rupert said. “Mikal Bridges is a big inspiration for me.”
  • Xavier guard Colby Jones told Schiffer that he’s scheduled to work out for the Nets in the coming weeks. Jones is the No. 28 prospect on ESPN’s big board, while Brooklyn owns the Nos. 21 and 22 picks in next month’s draft.
  • Creighton’s Ryan Kalkbrenner and Dayton’s DaRon Holmes II are among the draft prospects who worked out for the Nets prior to the draft combine, Schiffer writes for The Athletic. Kalkbrenner, who has also auditioned for the Bulls, said that his session with Brooklyn went well, but Holmes wasn’t as positive about his workout in Brooklyn. “I didn’t do too well, I feel like, at the Nets,” Holmes said. “I feel like I could have stepped it up a bit, but it was good to learn. Great players there.”
  • Former five-star recruit Emoni Bates has been linked to the Nets and said he’ll work out for them at some point in the coming weeks, according to Schiffer. An Eastern Michigan forward, Bates added that he also has workouts lined up with the Thunder, Suns, Cavaliers, Blazers, and Pistons.
  • In case you missed it, Ben Simmons‘ agent said earlier this week that the former No. 1 overall pick is “progressing really well” in his injury rehab process. We have more details here.

NBA Reveals Players Expected At 2023 Draft Combine

The NBA has announced 78 players that are expected to attend this year’s draft combine, scheduled for May 15-21 at in Chicago, Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports tweets.

Additionally, a select number of standout players from the G League Elite Camp, which takes place May 13-14 in Chicago, will be invited to participate in the combine.

Players will have interviews with NBA teams and participate in five-on-five scrimmages, as well as shooting, strength and agility drills. Some top prospects opt out of the scrimmages.

Victor Wembanyama, the projected top pick, is not on the list. His French League season is still ongoing.

The list of invitees is as follows:

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, C. Johnson, Rupert, Raptors

Joel Embiid called his return to the court “rusty” and coach Doc Rivers said the newly crowned MVP had “growing pains.” Even so, the Sixers were happy to have Embiid back in action Wednesday night, but they’ll need him to play much better to give them a chance to get past the Celtics, writes Rich Hofmann of The Athletic.

Returning from a sprained LCL in his right knee, Embiid played nearly 27 minutes and contributed 15 points, three rebounds and five blocks, but Boston dominated the second half of Game 2 to even up the series. It was Embiid’s first appearance since he suffered the injury on April 20, and he and the team believed it was important for him to resume playing as soon as possible to help reestablish a rhythm.

Embiid added that his injury would normally keep him sidelined for about four to six weeks, and he accepts that he’s not going to be 100 percent during the series.

“I just felt like it probably would have been the same result as far as how I’m feeling if I would have come back in Game 3. Probably rusty and not myself,” he said. “But I feel like I just got this out of the way. Disappointed by the loss, but that’s a step towards getting back to myself.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Rockets and maybe a couple more teams are likely to make a run at Nets forward Cameron Johnson in free agency, John Hollinger of The Athletic states in a discussion with fellow Athletic writer Alex Schiffer about Brooklyn’s offseason. Hollinger expects Johnson’s next contract to start in the $20MM range, which creates a challenging situation for the Nets, who are about $10MM below the luxury tax line. Re-signing Johnson without cutting salary elsewhere would subject Brooklyn to the repeater tax for a team that’s unlikely to be among the top contenders in the East. Hollinger believes Royce O’Neale‘s $9.6MM contract would be easy to move if they keep Johnson, or the front office could consider stretching the final-year salaries for Joe Harris or Patty Mills.
  • The Nets may not keep both first-round picks they have at No. 21 and 22, but French shooting guard Rayan Rupert is a name to watch in that range, Hollinger adds. Schiffer notes that general manager Sean Marks has traveled to New Zealand twice to watch Rupert in action.
  • Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby are the most likely players to move if the Raptors are looking for an offseason roster shakeup, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic. Koreen creates trade tiers for Toronto’s roster and considers Scottie Barnes to be the only player who’s “practically untouchable.”

French Prospect Rayan Rupert Declares For 2023 NBA Draft

French wing Rayan Rupert has declared for the 2023 NBA draft as an early entrant, he tells Jonathan Givony of ESPN. The 18-year-old is viewed as a possible lottery pick, according to Givony, who has him ranked 17th overall on ESPN’s big board of 2023 prospects.

Rupert signed with the New Zealand Breakers of Australia’s National Basketball League prior to the 2022/23 season as part of the NBL’s Next Stars program. A broken wrist sidelined him for two months starting in November, but when healthy, he showed some promise as a three-point shooter, including knocking down 10-of-16 threes during the NBL Blitz tournament in the fall, Givony writes.

While Rupert’s overall numbers, including 6.6 points per game on 36.4% shooting, were underwhelming, NBA teams are intrigued by his size – 6’7″ with a 7’3″ wingspan – as well as his maturity and his unselfish playing style, per Givony.

Rupert, who says he can “change the game” with his defense, named Nets forward Mikal Bridges as an NBA player he models himself after, adding that the year he spent in the NBL helped him grow his game.

“The NBL is a good league for young players,” Rupert said. “They play fast like in the NBA. The Breakers helped me become a better player and person, competing against pros every day. It was a good decision for me to play in the NBL. I had to earn my minutes, focus on my defense, learn how to play off the ball, become a smarter player and use my IQ to impact the game.”

Nets Notes: Simmons, Warren, Marks, Rupert, O’Neale, Claxton

Nets’ Ben Simmons, who is dealing with left knee soreness, is questionable to play Monday against the Lakers, Brian Lewis of the New York Post tweetsT.J. Warren, who has a left shin contusion, is listed as doubtful.

Simmons didn’t play in the 122-115 win over the Knicks on Saturday after suffering the injury against Detroit on Thursday. Warren also missed Saturday’s game after playing on Thursday. Both are considered day-to-day.

We have more on the Nets:

  • GM Sean Marks has been traveling far and wide to scout a point guard, Nets Daily relays. Marks has reportedly twice scouted 18-year-old French point guard 6’7” Rayan Rupert, who plays for the New Zealand Breakers. Marks, who watched Rupert play in Australia and New Zealand, was accompanied on the trip by Nets director of player evaluation, B.J. Johnson. Rupert is currently ranked No. 18 on ESPN’s big board of 2023 prospects.
  • They traded with Utah for Royce O’Neale this summer and it’s worked out well, according to another Nets Daily story. He’s leading the team in minutes played while enjoying a career year. “[He’s] a guy that you trust at the end of the game, who’ll take the right shot, who’ll make the right decision at the end of the game, who doesn’t mind playing on both ends of the floor,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “He has the trust of his coaching staff, his teammates and he’s in the right spot.” O’Neale’s $9.5MM contract for next season is only partially guaranteed at $2.5MM but they’re likely to fully guarantee it, considering his value to the team.
  • Nic Claxton is enjoying the intra-city rivalry with the Knicks, especially since his team has won nine straight against them, Zach Braziller of The New York Post writes. “It does feel like a rivalry just because you felt the energy in there (Saturday),” he said. “We’re here at Barclays and they had a lot of fans and it was definitely a good atmosphere. But me, I’ve never lost to the Knicks since I’ve been in the league, I don’t think. It’s always fun playing the Knicks.” 

And-Ones: Doncic, International Prospects, Playoff Contenders, Bluiett

Mavericks All-Star guard Luka Doncic is hoping to win it all at EuroBasket this year, per Eurohoops. The 6’7″ guard is playing for his native Slovenia in the competition. Led by Doncic and countryman Goran Dragic, the Slovenian national team won EuroBasket in 2017. Dragic retired from international play after the event — but unretired in time to suit up this year’s event.

“We are going to Germany [the locale for the event] to win gold,” Doncic told reporters. “In every competition where we compete, the goal must always be the first place. We will do everything for it, but we will see if we make it. In 2017, no one took us seriously when we announced our attack on the gold medal, today is different. It’s nice when you see that everyone will make an extra effort against us to win.”

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

  • The 2022 FIBA U18 European Championship in Izmir, Turkey featured several intriguing international NBA prospects, as Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Insider link) writes. Givony, evaluating the best candidates among the young talent, considers two French players – versatile shooting guard Sidy Cissoko and defensive-oriented small forward Rayan Rupert – to be the most exciting players at the event.
  • With NBA training camps just a month away and many of the summer’s big transactions in the rear view, Tim Bontemps and Kevin Pelton of ESPN assess which clubs have fully committed to succeeding in the present, and how much of their future leverage they have surrendered to get to this point.
  • Former Pelicans two-way player Trevon Bluiett has agreed to terms on a deal with Polish club MKS Dabrowa Gornicza, a source informs our own JD Shaw (Twitter link). The 27-year-old wing went undrafted out of Xavier in 2018 before joining the Pelicans via a two-way contract. He toiled with NBAGL clubs the Westchester Knicks and the Salt Lake City Stars until 2021, but never ended up making his regular season NBA debut. The 6’6″ swingman subsequently went overseas, playing for clubs in Turkey and Germany.

And-Ones: Okobo, Cleveland, James, Rupert

Former NBA guard Elie Okobo is expected to sign with Monaco, according to Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews.com. The No. 31 pick of the 2018 draft, Okobo is still monitoring his NBA options but if he doesn’t get an offer, he’ll join the Monaco club. He averaged 14.5 PPG for ASVEL Villeurbanne last season. Okobo played in 108 NBA games with Phoenix from 2018-20.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Australia’s Adelaide 36ers have signed Antonius Cleveland on a two-year deal, according to Sportando. The 28-year-old shooting guard played last season with the Illawarra Hawks, averaging 14.2 PPG and 6.6 RPG and getting named the NBL’s Best Defensive Player. Cleveland played 28 games in the NBA, including 11 with Dallas during the 2019/20 season.
  • What does LeBron James want to do after his NBA career? He expressed a desire to become an owner of an NBA franchise in Las Vegas, Dan Feldman of NBC Sports relays. “I want to buy a team, for sure,” James said on his new “The Shop” show. “I want a team in Vegas.”
  • Potential 2023 first-round selection Rayan Rupert will play for the New Zealand Breakers next season, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski writes. Rupert, a French 6’7” wing, is currently projected by ESPN as the No. 21 pick in next year’s draft. Rupert, 18, has drawn comparisons to Phoenix’s Mikal Bridges because of his defensive versatility.