Reed Sheppard

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.

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, 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: K. Hall, March Madness, Zizic, Scoring Dip

George Mason guard Keyshawn Hall has opted to test the 2024 NBA draft waters and enter the NCAA transfer portal, he tells Jeff Goodman of The Field of 68 (Twitter link).

Hall spent his first college season at UNLV in 2022/23, then transferred to George Mason, where he enjoyed a breakout sophomore season with the Patriots. He averaged 16.6 points and 8.1 rebounds in 30.6 minutes per game across 29 appearances, with a .474/.357/.844 shooting line. However, he doesn’t show up on ESPN’s list of 2024’s top 100 prospects, so he may decide to stay in school for at least one more year in an effort to improve his stock.

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

  • With the first week of March Madness in the books, Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo of (Insider link) updated their 2024 mock draft and shared some observations on the latest NCAA results, including disappointing final games for Kentucky prospects Rob Dillingham and Reed Sheppard and impressive showings for big men Donovan Clingan of UConn and Zach Edey of Purdue.
  • Former first-round pick Ante Zizic, who appeared in 113 games for the Cavaliers from 2017-20, recently stated that he prefers playing in Europe, referring to the NBA as a “show” and admitting that his stint stateside didn’t “go in the direction I imagined.” Eurohoops has the story, with the quotes from Zizic.
  • Seth Partnow of The Athletic takes a deep dive into the data surrounding the NBA’s league-wide post-All-Star scoring dip, noting that it’s all the more unusual because scoring usually increases near the end of the season. A slightly slower pace of play and fewer free throws being awarded per game are the primary reasons for the decline, Partnow suggests.

And-Ones: West Playoffs, Tavares, EuroLeague Players, Ignite, Draft

Much of the NBA’s Western Conference could be in turmoil this offseason, The Athletic’s John Hollinger writes. There are multiple teams that are all in on their stars but are in or hovering just above play-in territory in the West, including the Warriors, Lakers, Mavericks and Suns. Those four teams could all be in the play-in while being over next year’s projected luxury tax and with numerous first-round picks depleted from their assets.

The Clippers are another team in a different, but similar dilemma. While they were in contention for the No. 1 seed at one point this season, they’re now 5.0 games back, are deep in the tax, don’t control a first-rounder until 2030, and their best players are 32, 33 and 34 years old. Paul George, meanwhile, hasn’t signed a max extension yet and could be an unrestricted free agent this summer if he declines his player option.

The Timberwolves and Nuggets are happy right now given their placement in the standings (and Denver’s 2022/23 title) but are both in win-now mode.

While this is the case every year in both conferences, the stakes feel extremely high given the repercussions each team could face if they bow out of the playoffs early. Many of the aforementioned teams don’t have the cap flexibility or the assets to make significant moves to bolster their chances, Hollinger points out. For some teams, their current iteration is the best chance they’ll have at a title for some time.

The Pelicans, Thunder and Kings are the only three of the top 10 who, at least on paper, have the wherewithal to make obvious and meaningful external improvements/acquisitions this offseason, Hollinger opines. With seven of the conference’s top 10 teams all in, or nearly there, on their current builds, this postseason will be a pivotal one.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA and current Real Madrid center Edy Tavares is exploring his NBA options before he becomes a free agent this offseason, Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews tweets. According to Urbonas, Tavares is looking for a substantial role on a competitive NBA team and is looking for an annual salary that approaches the mid-level exception, worth roughly $12.5MM. Tavares received a multiyear offer from the Trail Blazers last offseason but his buyout clause got in the way. Now set to be a free agent after averaging 9.7 points and 6.4 rebounds in EuroLeague, he’ll likely receive massive offers to stay in EuroLeague, which could dissuade NBA teams from signing him.
  • Tavares headlines a list from Urbonas of 10 EuroLeague names who could make the jump to the NBA this offseason. Tarik Biberovic is one young name making waves, shooting 57.1% from three as of late. He was selected by the Grizzlies in the second round of the 2023 draft and could eventually find his way stateside. A similar article from HoopsHype’s Dionysis Aravantinos explores the same topic, with Gabriele Procida and Markus Howard among the names discussed. Of note, Urbonas writes that Mario Hezonja, who once criticized the NBA, is intending to return to the league at some point and is aggressively exploring the market.
  • With news that the G League Ignite is shutting down after the season, several of the team’s young players are left in limbo in regards to their future options, Yahoo Sports’ Krysten Peek writes. Thierry Darlan, Babacar Sane and London Johnson are among players who could test the NBA draft waters and go to the combine but aren’t facing pressure to stay in the draft. Meanwhile, Dink Pate signed a two-year deal with the Ignite and doesn’t qualify to play college ball next year, so he would need to either play overseas, sign with a different G League team, or join Overtime Elite.
  • With March Madness underway, HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto, The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie and The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor all published mock drafts for the 2024 class. Both Scotto and O’Connor have Alexandre Sarr as the No. 1 pick, while Vecenie gives Zaccharie Risacher that honor. O’Connor moved Kentucky’s Reed Sheppard up to the second slot and Vecenie has him going fourth, but Scotto has him at No. 8. UConn’s Stephon Castle is mocked sixth in Vecenie’s and O’Connor’s drafts but is 15th in Scotto’s. Providence’s Devin Carter (10th in O’Connor’s) and Duke’s Kyle Filipowski (ninth in Scotto’s) are among the other notable differences between the various mocks.

Southwest Notes: Exum, Alvarado, Grizzlies, Rockets

In an interesting story for Yahoo Sports, Jake Fischer describes how Mavericks guard Dante Exum was able to make it back to the NBA after spending two seasons out of the league.

An Australian who sustained multiple major injuries early in his career, Exum only had G League offers in the U.S. and Canada after he was released by Houston in October 2021, and he decided that playing in Europe (for Barcelona and Partizan) was a better pathway for his future.

It’s always a risk. Not many people go to Europe and are able to come back,” Exum said. “It’s hard to get back.

Exum, 28, was considered a raw prospect when he was drafted fifth overall back in 2014. While he showed promise defensively and as a play-maker, he often struggled with scoring efficiency. However, he posted impressive shooting splits in Europe and that has continued in his first season in Dallas — he’s shooting 50% from deep (40-of-80) through 43 games (19.4 MPG), with an excellent 65.6 true shooting percentage.

I think it’s just comfortability, consistency and confidence,” Exum said, per Fischer. “That was the one thing I’ve tried to improve. But I think a lot of times when you’re shooting and you miss one, you kinda get in your head a little bit. I try not to let that happen anymore. At what point do you become a shooter in the sense of how many am I willing to miss before I stop shooting? And I want that number to be high.”

The Mavericks have been much better when Exum is on the court in 2023/24, Fischer writes, particularly when he’s been paired with Luka Doncic. Exum’s $3.15MM salary for next season is non-guaranteed, but it would be surprising if Dallas doesn’t keep him around, considering how well he has fit in as a role player.

Here’s more from the Southwest:

  • Pelicans backup point guard Jose Alvarado makes a big impact on the defensive end despite his diminutive stature, writes Christian Clark of (subscriber link). “It starts with his heart,” head coach Willie Green said. “He plays with his heart and soul every game. It’s hard to bottle that up into a stat. Then you add his instincts. He has tremendous on-court defensive instincts. It’s why he was ACC Defensive Player of the Year. With all the talent in that conference, it was him. He only knows how to play one way. That’s the beautiful part about Jose. He brings it 110% every time he steps on the floor.” New Orleans has a 104.9 defensive rating — 3.5 points per 100 possessions stingier than Minnesota’s league-best mark — when Alvarado is on the court, Clark notes.
  • The injury-ravaged Grizzlies set an unfortunate franchise record on Wednesday when 10-day signee Maozinha Pereira made his NBA debut, per Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. The Brazilian forward, who had been playing for Mexico City in the G League, became the 29th player to appear in a game for the Grizzlies this season, breaking a 28-player mark set in two previous seasons.
  • Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscriber link) lists 14 college prospects for Rockets fans to monitor with the NCAA Tournament underway. Some players mentioned include Purdue’s Zach Edey, UConn’s Stephon Castle and Donovan Clingan, and Kentucky’s Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham. The Rockets control Brooklyn’s 2024 first-round pick, which is currently projected to be No. 8 overall. The fate of their own first-rounder depends on multiple different factors, but as of right now it would likely be conveyed to Oklahoma City as part of a previous trade.

And-Ones: Scoring Rate, McGruder, A. Williams, Sheppard

There has been a noticeable dip in points and fouls per game across the NBA since the All-Star break. According to Marc Stein at Substack, entering Tuesday’s games, teams were averaging 111.7 points and 19.9 free throws per game since the All-Star game, compared to 115.5 points and 22.7 free throws per contest prior to the break.

As Stein notes, there has been some speculation that – following a record-setting first half and an embarrassing All-Star game that saw nearly 400 points scored – the NBA quietly instructed its officials to call fewer shooting fouls in recent weeks.

However, a league spokesperson told Stein that the league office hasn’t given any directive to referees to call games any differently. The NBA’s position, then, is that the recent trend is a statistical anomaly, though those numbers are worth watching down the stretch, Stein writes.

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

  • Olimpia Milano and veteran guard Rodney McGruder have parted ways, the Italian club announced today (via Twitter). Milano’s statement indicates that McGruder was granted permission to return to the U.S. for personal reasons. The 32-year-old wing, who has appeared in over 300 NBA regular season games and was in camp with the Warriors last fall, averaged 7.6 PPG and 2.6 RPG in seven EuroLeague games this season.
  • Drexel big man Amari Williams has opted to enter the NCAA transfer portal while declaring for the 2024 NBA draft, agent George Langberg tells Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link). Williams, who has year of NCAA eligibility remaining, has been named the Colonial Athletic Association’s Defensive Player of the Year for three consecutive seasons, though he’s not on ESPN top-100 prospect list for ’24.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic names the nine NCAA prospects he’ll be watching most closely in March, starting with Kentucky’s Reed Sheppard. Hollinger jokingly suggests that NBA evaluators have been trying to avoid reaching the conclusion that Sheppard is this year’s best college prospect “despite having the evidence punch them in the face every day.” Providence’s Devin Carter and Iowa’s Payton Sandfort are among the less obvious names on Hollinger’s list of players to monitor.

And-Ones: NBA Media Rights, Bell, 2024 Draft, Sheppard

The exclusive media rights negotiating window between the NBA and current partners Disney and Turner is open until April 22, and sources recently told Tom Friend of Sports Business Journal they believe the parties entered those negotiations roughly three-quarters of the way toward an agreement based on their preliminary talks in recent months.

According to Friend, those sources also expect the in-season tournament – now known as the Emirates NBA Cup – to be part of the Disney and Turner packages rather than going to a streaming service such as Apple or Netflix.

Once the current exclusive negotiating window closes on April 22, Amazon and Apple are expected to talk to the NBA, with Amazon considered the favorite for the league’s national streaming rights and Apple viewed as likelier to pursue a smaller “singular” event, such as perhaps the play-in tournament, says Friend. The SBJ report also suggests that NBC is a candidate to regain some broadcast rights.

NBA team executives think the overall media rights deal will end up being worth about $60-72 billion, with negotiations potentially concluding in June or July, Friend reports. The league’s previous media rights deal was worth $24 billion over nine years.

  • Former NBA big man Jordan Bell is leaving the Indiana Mad Ants – the Pacers‘ G League affiliate – with a few weeks remaining in the NBAGL season. According to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files, Bell agreed to a buyout with the Mad Ants and is pursuing an international opportunity. Bell’s destination isn’t yet known, but Agness believes he’s likely headed back to the Chinese Basketball Association, where he played in 2022/23.
  • In an Insider-only story for, Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo preview this week’s NCAA conference tournaments, posing 15 burning questions to be answered, including what version of UConn’s Stephon Castle will show up in the Big East tournament and whether Isaiah Collier‘s stock, which has bounced back since he returned from a hand injury in February, will continue to rise in the Pac-12 tourney.
  • Kentucky freshman Reed Sheppard ranks second overall on the newest 2024 big board from Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer and is the No. 1 pick in O’Connor’s mock draft (to San Antonio).
  • Law Murray of The Athletic takes a look at how all 30 NBA teams have adjusted their rotations and depth charts since the start of the season.

And-Ones: Maluach, 2024 Draft, Abu Dhabi, 40K-Point Club

Khaman Maluach, the top big man in the 2024 recruiting class, has committed to Duke, he tells Jonathan Givony of ESPN. Maluach had been playing at the NBA Academy Africa in Senegal.

The 7’2″ center, who is projected by ESPN to be the No. 3 overall pick in the 2025 NBA draft, will join projected No. 1 pick Cooper Flagg as part of a star-studded recruiting class for the Blue Devils. He chose Duke after also visiting Kentucky, Kansas, and UCLA and receiving offers from the G League Ignite and Australia’s NBL Next Stars program, per Givony.

“Duke is home, that’s where I belong.” Maluach said. “This was the hardest decision I’ve ever made. I felt like I could succeed anywhere, but I was most comfortable going to Duke. All the schools that were recruiting me are big-time programs, but in terms of my development and the relationships I built with the coaches, they were the best.”

Maluach became the third-youngest player in World Cup history last summer when – at age 16 – he played for a South Sudan squad that qualified for the Olympics for the first time ever.

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

And-Ones: 2024 Draft, Birch, Expansion, Tournament

Sam Vecenie of The Athletic has published his big board for the 2024 NBA draft, while Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo of (Insider link) have shared their top 25 prospects in next year’s draft class. USC guard Isaiah Collier sits atop both lists, but beyond that there are plenty of differences, starting with Vecenie placing Serbian point guard Nikola Topic at No. 2 on his board (he’s ninth at ESPN).

Vecenie is also significantly higher on Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard than ESPN’s duo is, calling him the best freshman in college basketball so far this season and ranking him sixth overall. Givony and Woo have Sheppard at No. 22.

Still, this year’s group of NCAA prospects doesn’t look especially strong at this point, according to Vecenie, who notes that 11 of the top 33 players on his board are either playing overseas or for the G League Ignite.

Even Collier, the top player on The Athletic’s board, comes with some major question marks and holds the top spot somewhat by default. While Vecenie believes the USC guard is the highest-upside prospect in the 2024 class for now, he says Collier wouldn’t have cracked his top eight prospects in the 2023 draft.

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

  • Veteran NBA center Khem Birch, who was waived by San Antonio during the preseason, is said to be drawing interest from Italian club Reyer Venezia, according to reports from Alessandro Maggi of Sportando and Luca D’Alessandro (Twitter link). Birch played in Turkey and Greece from 2015-17 before breaking into the NBA, so if he does head overseas, it wouldn’t be his first professional experience in Europe.
  • With NBA commissioner Adam Silver once again addressing the idea of expansion this week, Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic takes a closer look at where things stand, evaluating how likely the league is to add more teams after its next media deal and discussing which cities have the strongest cases for an expansion franchise.
  • Howard Beck of The Ringer explores the origins of the idea for the NBA’s in-season tournament and details how it eventually come to fruition before considering whether or not the event will have staying power.

And-Ones: Howard, Harkless, 2024 Draft, Buzelis

Former NBA star Dwight Howard is exploring potential opportunities in Europe and Australia in the hopes of playing his way back to the NBA, reports Donatas Urbonas of As Urbonas explains, if Howard were to sign with a team in the EuroLeague or Australia’s National Basketball League, he’d look to include an NBA out clause in his contract.

Howard, who played in Taiwan last season, met with Golden State in September, but the Warriors opted not to sign him. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year is facing sexual assault and battery allegations and is seeking to dismiss a civil lawsuit in Georgia related to those allegations.

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

  • Veteran NBA forward Maurice Harkless signed a G League contract and has been acquired from the available player pool by the Rip City Remix, the Trail Blazers‘ affiliate (Twitter link). Harkless, a first-round pick in 2012, appeared in 621 NBA regular season games across 10 years, but wasn’t in the league last season. He’s just just 30 years old and will be looking to show with the Remix that he deserves a call-up.
  • In their latest dispatch on the 2024 draft class, Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo of (Insider link) identify Kentucky’s Reed Sheppard and Iowa State’s Milan Momcilovic as the most surprising NCAA freshmen so far this season and single out several prospects who have boosted their stock in November, including Arizona’s Keshad Johnson, Marquette’s Tyler Kolek, and Marquette’s Oso Ighodaro.
  • G League Ignite prospect Matas Buzelis, a contender for the No. 1 spot in the 2024 NBA draft, has yet to make his season debut in the NBAGL’s Showcase Cup due to an ankle injury. The Ignite have taken a cautious approach with Buzelis, according to Woo, who hears from a source that the 6’10” point forward is nearing a return and could play this weekend.