Rayan Rupert

Northwest Notes: Trail Blazers, Henderson, Gobert, George

The Trail Blazers started five rookies in tonight’s game against Denver, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. The lineup consisted of Scoot Henderson, Kris Murray, Rayan Rupert, Toumani Camara and Duop Reath, marking only the second time that a team has started five first-year players since the NBA began tracking starters in 1970/71. The 2012 Warriors were the first, according to a tweet from the Blazers.

The move was necessitated by the team’s lengthy injury list, which grew even longer when guard Anfernee Simons had to leave Friday’s game in the third quarter after hurting his left knee. Coach Chauncey Billups told reporters that Simons will undergo an MRI on Sunday.

Deandre Ayton missed Friday’s game with tendinitis in his left elbow, which is also keeping him out tonight. Jerami Grant is already sidelined with a hamstring issue, and Malcolm Brogdon has been out of action since early February with elbow tendinitis. Billups expressed hope that Grant and Brogdon can return before the end of the season.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Friday marked Henderson’s best performance since suffering a groin injury during the Rising Stars game at All-Star Weekend, observes Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report (subscription required). The No. 3 pick in last year’s draft, who posted 24 points, five rebounds, 10 assists and two steals in the Trail Blazers‘ loss to the Clippers, talked about his experience with the “rookie wall.” “It’s a longer season now, so you kind of get that wall a little later,” Henderson said. “After 50 games in the G League, you’re like, ‘OK, let’s play another one.’ But when you hit 50 or 60 [in the NBA], it’s a little tougher now.”
  • Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert is determined to not let the pain from a sprained rib keep him out of the lineup, per Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops“You got to embrace the pain sometimes. Sometimes the pain of watching hurts more than the pain of the injury itself,” Gobert said. “It is all about playing through that. As long as I can move, able to impact the game, I am going to be out there.”
  • The Timberwolves fired a team employee this week for stealing thousands of files, some of which contained “strategic NBA information,” according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN. Somak Sarkar was charged with felony third-degree burglary.
  • Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune examines the high turnover rate for Jazz rookie guard Keyonte George and how it might impact his NBA future.

Northwest Notes: Smith, Conley, Blazers, Hendricks

Journeyman guard Ish Smith nearly remained with the defending champion Nuggets before he signed with the Hornets but not as a player, Bennett Durando of the Denver Post reports. He was offered a front office role that he described as an apprenticeship. He would have been based out of Charlotte while making trips to Denver to learn the ropes of being a front office exec from various people in basketball operations.

“I was gonna do some consulting, and start learning the business a little bit more,” said Smith, who appeared in 43 regular season and four postseason games with the Nuggets last season. “Start transitioning to some front office. Some coaching.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves guard Mike Conley will enter unrestricted free agency following this season. Conley has been a key figure in Minnesota’s blazing start, averaging 11.5 points and 6.2 assists, and there’s early optimism among league figures that he’ll re-sign with Minnesota, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. Conley, who entered the league in 2007, will turn 37 prior to next season.
  • The Trail Blazers were late to the party but they finally have their own G League team in the Rip City Remix. Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report details how two-way player Ibou Badji and 2023 draft picks Kris Murray and Rayan Rupert have benefited from the experience they’ve gained with the G League club. “It’s so much easier to have them in the same building and have them around,” Remix coach Jim Moran said.
  • Jazz lottery pick Taylor Hendricks is also getting additional experience in the G League after appearing in 11 NBA games. Coach Will Hardy believes that will beneficial to his development, Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets. “He’s gonna get way more minutes than he was when he was with us and continue to improve,” Hardy said. “The road is long for Taylor. I’m not overreacting to anything that goes on with him right now.”

Northwest Notes: Scoot, Malone, Jazz, LaVine

Rookie point guard Scoot Henderson seems to be reinvigorating the Trail Blazers upon returning to action, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian.

Fentress notes that an eye examination indicated that Henderson was in need of contact lenses. He is now wearing goggles to keep the lenses in place. On Wednesday, he suited up for his first game since incurring an ankle injury on November 1. Portland beat the Jazz 121-105.

“It was just as I’m getting older, even though I’m 19, eyesight changes sometimes,” Henderson said. “The doctor just recommended the contacts and just for protection, the goggles. And they are stylish.”

Power forward Jerami Grant appreciated what Henderson brought to the table. Although he scored just three points on 1-of-7 field goal shooting, Henderson also chipped in seven assists and three rebounds and was a plus-15 in 17 minutes of action.

“He brought us a spark,” Grant said. “He pushed the pace for us. We played faster than we’ve been playing over the last whatever games that he hasn’t played.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The Trail Blazers have assigned rookie wing Rayan Rupert to their NBAGL club, the Rip City Remix, Portland has announced (via Twitter).
  • Nuggets head coach Michael Malone recently weighed in on his lucrative new multiyear extension, writes Bennett Durando of The Denver Post. “It’s a place where I truly enjoy going to work every day because of the people I work with,” said Malone, the son of NBA lifer Brendan Malone. “I grew up in this business, and you know how difficult the job can be for a coach, for their assistant coaches, for the families. When I moved to Denver, I think my daughters were in third and fifth grade. And the fact that I’m going to see both my daughters graduate high school (in Denver) — that never happens in this business… So I always remind myself how lucky and fortunate I am, because to coach in the NBA is truly a blessing for me and my family.”
  • With Bulls shooting guard Zach LaVine possibly on the trade block, Tony Jones of The Athletic considers whether he’d be a good fit on the Jazz. LaVine’s skill set as a three-level scorer and terrific offensive contributor capable of improvising creatively late in games make him an intriguing piece for a team in need of some scoring punch. However, his pricey contract, which will pay him $43MM next season, should give Utah some pause, Jones opines.

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Rupert, Reid, Gillespie

In an effort to steer Damian Lillard to the Heat, agent Aaron Goodwin has been contacting other teams and warning them not to pursue a trade with the Trail Blazers, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi. Several executives around the league told Wojnarowski that Goodwin is claiming Lillard won’t be happy if he gets dealt anywhere but Miami.

General managers have insisted to Woj that the tactic is fairly common and won’t impact their interest in a potential Lillard deal. He remains under contract, and the opinion throughout the league is that he’ll play equally well no matter where he winds up.

The two-year, maximum-salary extension that Lillard received last summer makes it more difficult for Portland to find value in return for its star guard, Wojnarowski adds. Although Lillard is under contract through 2026/27, his salary for that season will be more than $63MM, which a lot of teams don’t want to take onto their cap.

Some progress toward a Lillard deal could be made this week as executives gather for the Las Vegas Summer League, but Wojnarowski doesn’t expect a quick resolution. He suggests it may take most of the summer for Portland to find an acceptable offer and that Miami’s best chance could be for the process to drag on so long that other teams in the market for Lillard drop out of the bidding.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Rayan Rupert‘s new contract with the Trail Blazers is fully guaranteed for two seasons and carries a team option for the third year, tweets Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. The New Zealand Breakers star was selected with the 43rd overall pick.
  • The Spurs or Cavaliers might have offered him more, but Naz Reid was happy to bypass free agency in favor of a three-year extension with the Timberwolves, per Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Reid was hoping to remain in Minnesota after spending his first four NBA seasons there. “I started my career here. I wanted to continue my career here,” Reid said. “I’ve gotten better each and every year here as well, so it only made sense. I didn’t want to go anywhere else and continue my journey, as far as I’ve gone. I’ve felt all my teammates and coaches and everybody has been great to me.”
  • Collin Gillespie is eager to show the Nuggets what he can do after suffering a lower left leg fracture last summer, writes Ryan McFadden of The Denver Post. Gillespie received a two-way contract and remained on Denver’s roster even though he wasn’t able to play. “When I got injured, I was like ‘Man, this is not good,’” he said. “But it just tells you about the organization (and) what kind of people they are. It’s a special organization. I was extremely grateful that they stuck with me.”

Trail Blazers Sign No. 43 Pick Rayan Rupert

The Trail Blazers have officially signed second-round pick Rayan Rupert to his first NBA contract, the team announced today in a press release.

Rupert, who just turned 19 in May, played for the New Zealand Breakers last season as part of the Next Stars program in Australia’s National Basketball League. A broken wrist limited him to 20 regular season games, in which he averaged 6.6 PPG and 2.5 RPG on 36.4% shooting.

Although Rupert’s numbers for the Breakers weren’t great, NBA teams were intrigued by his size – 6’7″ with a 7’3″ wingspan – as well as his maturity and his unselfish playing style, as Jonathan Givony of ESPN wrote when the French teenager declared for the draft. He has also flashed some potential as a three-point shooter, making 10-of-16 attempts during the NBL Blitz preseason tournament in September.

International prospects drafted in the second round frequently end up being stashed overseas for at least a year or two, but that clearly wasn’t the plan for Rupert — the No. 43 overall pick immediately received an NBA contract and will be in Portland in 2023/24.

The Blazers’ announcement doesn’t include any further details on Rupert’s deal, but there’s no indication it’s a two-way contract, so the team likely gave him three or four years using the NBA’s new second-round pick exception.

Draft Notes: Bufkin, Wizards, Nets, Jazz, Hornets, Hawks, More

The Wizards recently hosted Michigan guard Kobe Bufkin for a private workout, Michael Scotto reports in his latest aggregate mock draft for HoopsHype.

Bufkin hasn’t worked out for many teams, and his draft status has been somewhat mysterious because of that, though many seem to believe his stock is on the rise. He’s currently ranked No. 18 on ESPN’s best available list, while the Wizards control the No. 8 pick.

Here are a few more notes ahead of the 2023 NBA draft, which kicks off in less than three hours:

  • The Nets recently hosted several potential first-round picks for workouts, including Ohio State’s Brice Sensabaugh, South Carolina’s G.G. Jackson, France’s Sidy Cissoko, and Marquette’s Olivier-Maxence Prosper, league sources tell Scotto. Brooklyn currently controls the 21st and 22nd picks in the first round, but the team has reportedly discussed moving up as well.
  • The Jazz have had trade discussions involving packaging two of their three first-rounders (Nos. 9 and 16), according to Scotto, but they’ve also discussed the latter pick on its own in separate deals.
  • Scotto hears from sources who say the Hornets plan to prioritize retaining restricted free agents Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington as well as unrestricted free agent Dennis Smith Jr. Bridges missed all of last season after pleading no contest to felony domestic violence charges.
  • The Hawks have been active in trade discussions, but they’ve also been busy working out prospects. On Tuesday, Atlanta hosted Cason Wallace (Kentucky), Rayan Rupert (New Zealand Breakers), Brandin Podziemski (Santa Clara), Mojave King (G League Ignite), Seth Lundy (Penn State) and Miles Norris (UC Santa Barbara), tweets Lauren L. Williams of The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. The Hawks control the Nos. 15 and 46 picks. Incidentally, Wallace is the top-ranked prospect of the group according to ESPN, currently ranked No. 15 on their board.
  • Wichita State guard Craig Porter Jr. recently spoke to Alex Kennedy of BasketballNews.com about a number of topics ahead of the draft.

Draft Rumors: Miller, Henderson, Pistons, Howard, Jaquez

Numerous insiders have stated that the Hornets are leaning heavily toward taking Brandon Miller with the No. 2 pick in tonight’s draft, but Miller indicated Wednesday that he hasn’t been promised anything, writes Adam Zagoria of NJ.com.

“Probably when I get drafted is when I’ll know where I’m going,” Miller said. He added that he’ll be equally happy heading to Charlotte with the second pick or Portland at No. 3.

In an updated mock draft released this morning, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic moved G League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson up to No. 2 ahead of Miller. Vecenie has been skeptical of rumors that Charlotte is leaning toward Miller because he’s a better fit, and he continues to doubt leaks that the Hornets have decided on Miller after bringing both players in for a second workout on Monday.

Vecenie points out that general manager Mitch Kupchak said at a news conference Wednesday that team officials didn’t get a lot of new information from that second visit. Vecenie adds that incoming owners Gabe Plotkin and Rich Schnall will be involved in the draft decision, and they may view Henderson as the better prospect.

There’s more draft news to pass along:

  • The Pistons are listening to offers for the No. 5 pick, but their asking price is “prohibitively high,” Jonathan Givony states in ESPN’s updated mock draft (subscription required). He cites the Jazz, who hold the ninth and 16th picks, as a team that would like to move up if Detroit eases its demands. Givony adds that Pistons’ ownership may be reluctant to trade down, hoping to add an exciting prospect after such a difficult season. Givony lists Ausar Thompson as his choice for Detroit, noting that Cam Whitmore has likely fallen into the 6-9 range.
  • Michigan’s Jett Howard tells Sean Deveney of Heavy.com that he worked out this week for the Lakers, who hold pick No. 17. Deveney points out that the freshman guard already has a connection with L.A. general manager Rob Pelinka, who played with Jett’s father, Juwan Howard, for two seasons with the Wolverines. “Rob was there, talked to him a little bit,” Howard said of the 30-minute session with the Lakers. “I have known him so long, it was kind of an organic conversation. And yeah, if they pick me, I would be more than happy to play for them.”
  • The Lakers, Heat (18) and Warriors (19) may all have interest in UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez, Deveney adds in a separate story. Jaquez credits strong workouts with helping to raise his draft stock. “I think I did well in the workouts, I went out there and showed what I can do, and hopefully teams saw what I was capable of,” he said. “There were question marks going into those workouts, I went into those workouts trying to answer those questions. I think that is why I got this invite here.”
  • Jaquez is one of the final additions to the Green Room list issued by the NBA (Twitter link), along with Brandin Podziemski and Rayan Rupert.

Central Notes: Cunningham, Rupert, Griffin, Rubio

Cade Cunningham continues to make progress in his recovery from surgery for a stress fracture in his left shin, Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press writes in a subscriber-only mailbag column. The Pistons haven’t given a recent indication of Cunningham’s status, but Sankofa states that he’s made numerous checks with people in the organization and the response Friday was that “he’s doing very well.”

Cunningham told reporters in April that he was pleased with his progress four months after the operation. He said he was running and taking jump shots and was hoping to start change-of-direction work soon. Sankofa is optimistic that Cunningham will be fully ready for the start of next season.

The 21-year-old guard will be an important part of Detroit’s plans to move into contention for a play-in spot. The top pick in the 2021 draft averaged 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists as a rookie, but was limited to 12 games last season before opting for surgery.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Searching for versatile players to help improve their 29th-ranked defense, the Pacers hosted international prospects Rayan Rupert and Mojave King at a workout Saturday, according to Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Both could still be available when Indiana makes its second pick of the first round at No. 26. “I love being switchable defensively with my wingspan,” said Rupert, who played in the Australian League this season. “Just bringing a lot of energy to my teammates. If I want to get minutes in the NBA next year and have a good career, it’s going to be because of my defense.”
  • At his introductory press conference this week, new Bucks head coach Adrian Griffin said he’s thrilled to have a veteran like Terry Stotts on his staff, per Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Griffin indicated that he plans to rely heavily on advice from the former Trail Blazers head coach. “To get a guy like Terry is a home run,” Griffin said. “He brings unbelievable experience. Yes, he’s a mastermind on the offensive end, but he’s well versed. He brings a wealth of experience. He’s coached elite players in (Damian) Lillard and (CJ) McCollum. I don’t just see him as an offensive coach; he’s gonna be someone that I lean on.”
  • In a TV interview during the Spanish ACB semifinals, Cavaliers guard Ricky Rubio was asked about recent comments that he hopes to finish his career in Europe, according to a Eurohoops report. “The idea when I left Europe to play in the NBA was to come back at some point,” said Rubio, who’s expected to represent Spain in the FIBA World Cup this summer. “I don’t know where I will be mentally and physically and if I will continue to play, but yes, my NBA days are coming to an end!”

Central Notes: Williams, Gueye, Pacers, Bucks

After signing the most lucrative head coaching contract in NBA history, new Pistons head coach Monty Williams has his work cut out for him in reshaping the rebuilding team. Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press (subscription required) unpacks five big issues regarding the club’s current personnel that Williams must tackle.

Most pressing among these questions is how Williams will use 2021 No. 1 draft pick Cade Cunningham, who missed most of his sophomore NBA season with a shin injury. Sankofa also wonders how Williams will balance Cunningham’s touches with the looks afforded 2023 All-Rookie Second Teamer Jaden Ivey, how the club’s new coach will juggle his frontcourt, and more.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The Pacers continue to search far and wide for intriguing young prospects. Today, the team is hosting Washington State forward Mouhamed Gueye for an individual workout, per Pacers.com. Indiana possesses five draft picks this year, including three first-round selections, beginning at No. 7. The team also announced that it will work out two shooting guards, G League Ignite’s Mojave King and the New Zealand Breakers’ Rayan Rupert, on Saturday.
  • Because the Pacers have so many selections in this year’s draft and team president Kevin Pritchard assumes he will trade some of them, the team is making sure to assess all levels of prospects to prepare itself for a variety of different scenarios, according to The Indianapolis Star. Many of the young players who have auditioned for Indiana thus far have enjoyed the experience. “When you can get guys like this in the gym that are competitive and good guys, iron sharpens iron,” UCLA point guard Tyger Campbell said. “You’re going to leave this place better than you were when you came in.”
  • New Bucks head coach Adrian Griffin continues to build out his staff. A source informs Eric Nehm of The Athletic (Twitter link) that Griffin is bringing in Raptors assistant coach Nate Mitchell and Pistons assistant coach DJ Bakker to help fill out his bench. Nehm reveals that Griffin also intends to keep former Mike Budenholzer assistant Josh Oppenheimer. Nehm adds (via Twitter) that another former Budenholzer assistant, Vin Baker, will also return to the fold under Griffin.

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.