Precious Achiuwa

NBA Announces 2020/21 Rising Stars Rosters

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the pared-down nature of the NBA’s 2021 All-Star weekend, a Rising Stars Game showcasing the league’s top rookies and sophomores won’t be played this year.

However, the league has still announced the rosters for the event, via NBA Top Shot, naming the 20 players who would have been selected to participate if the game was taking place. Here are those rosters:

U.S. Team:

World Team:

The 20-man group includes eight rookies and 11 sophomores. The 20th player, Porter, made the cut as a sophomore since he missed his entire rookie season in 2018/19 due to an injury — this is technically his third year of NBA service.

Latest On James Harden

James Harden made some late-night headlines on Tuesday, declaring in the wake of a second consecutive blowout loss to the Lakers that he feels the Rockets are “just not good enough” and that he doesn’t believe the situation in Houston can be fixed.

Harden’s comments represent an escalation in his efforts to force his way out of Houston, but the Rockets’ front office has remained determined to have its asking price met, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN, who reiterates that the team is seeking a young franchise cornerstone, along with a collection of draft picks and/or young talent.

A source close to the situation tells MacMahon that the Rockets have had active trade talks with “more than a half dozen teams” and have kept in touch with Harden about those options. The former MVP has continually received assurances from team owner Tilman Fertitta that he’ll be traded, per ESPN, but it seems those assurances haven’t included a specific timeline — and Harden seems to be losing patience.

Here’s more on the situation:

  • Harden’s desire for a trade was reinforced following Sunday’s blowout loss to the Lakers, per Kelly Iko of The Athletic, who says the 31-year-old is eager to maximize his window to contend for a championship and no longer believes that can happen with the Rockets.
  • While Harden has expanded his list of preferred landing spots, sources tell Iko that the Nets remain atop that list. The general belief has been that Brooklyn would offer a package headed by Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen, but one league executive who spoke to Joe Vardon of The Athletic on Tuesday believes that if a trade between the Nets and Rockets happens, it would have to be centered around Kyrie Irving.
  • Tuesday’s performances from Tyler Herro (34 points), Duncan Robinson (26 points), and Precious Achiuwa (17 points and 13 rebounds) helped reaffirm why the Heat are unwilling to send all their talented young players to Houston in a package for Harden, tweets Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Jackson recently reported that Miami is open to offering “a couple” of their young players and a future first-round pick for Harden, but the Rockets want significantly more than that.

Southeast Notes: Heat, Harden, Bradley, Richards, Anthony

When they were exploring a possible James Harden trade before the start of the season, the Heat were open to including “a couple” of their young players and their 2025 first-round pick in a package for the star guard, says Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. However, the Rockets‘ asking price was significantly higher.

According to Jackson, even if the Heat had offered Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Precious Achiuwa, KZ Okpala, and first-round picks in 2025 and 2027 (along with Andre Iguodala and Kelly Olynyk for salary-matching purposes), it’s not clear that would have been enough to satisfy the Rockets.

The Heat reportedly pulled out of Harden discussions on December 21. Jackson writes that team president Pat Riley thinks highly of Harden, but would only be willing to make a deal for the Rockets star at “a price that’s palatable to him and the organization.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Avery Bradley‘s defense has been as strong as advertised, and he’s also making an impact on offense in his first season with the Heat, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Bradley’s play in the early going has impressed his teammates, as well as head coach Erik Spoelstra. “Avery is a guy that can play in any system,” Spoelstra said. “As long as it’s a contending team, he fits. He’s a really good basketball player. He’s a winner. And he’s a two-way player, a legit two-way player.”
  • Rookie Hornets center Nick Richards has been ruled inactive for today’s game against the Hawks due to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols, the team announced (via Twitter). It’s not clear how long those protocols will keep Richards out of action, but it shouldn’t have an impact on Charlotte’s rotation, as he has logged just 11 total minutes so far this season.
  • The Magic have a spotty player development over the last decade, having set the franchise back years by failing to get the most out of the likes of Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, and others, according Josh Robbins of The Athletic, who examines how the team is looking to avoid repeating those failures with 2020 first-rounder Cole Anthony.

Heat Notes: Bradley, Achiuwa, Butler, Bench

Heat guard Avery Bradley made the most of his opportunity on Christmas Day, recording 12 points, four assists and two steals in the team’s first win of the season, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes.

This was Bradley’s first action with Miami, who signed him to a free-agent contract last month. His pesky defense was notably effective against Pelicans guard J.J. Redick, holding the veteran shooter to just 1-of-7 from the floor.

“It’s something that just sort of happened,” Bradley said. “But this league is a league where you have to always be prepared. We’re professional athletes, and part of being professional is always staying ready.

“I knew if I got my opportunity, I was going to make the most of it and go out there and play as hard as I can and leave everything on the floor. And that was my goal, to play that way and live with any mistakes that I make.”

Bradley’s career has been predicated on hard-nosed defense, especially against smaller guards, though many wonder how productive he can be offensively. Should he continue playing as he did on Christmas, the 30-year-old would have a legitimate shot at becoming a regular rotation piece for the defending Eastern champs.

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • Heat rookie Precious Achiuwa is already impressing coaches and teammates alike during his first month in the NBA, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes. Achiuwa finished with 11 points off the bench on Friday, but the 21-year-old fouled out in just 19 minutes off the bench. Still, the Heat are enamored by his skillset, maturity and intangibles, envisioning him as a potential long-term fit next to Bam Adebayo.
  • Jimmy Butler exited Friday’s game early after experiencing stiffness with his injured ankle, Chiang writes in a separate article for the Miami Herald. Butler first sustained the injury against Orlando on Wednesday, attempting to play through it on Christmas. He managed to play 16 total minutes before exiting.
  • Miami’s bench could be exceptionally special this season, Chiang opines, noting how deep the team is for a second consecutive season. While the starting lineup still isn’t finalized, the Heat currently have Goran Dragic, Avery Bradley, Kendrick Nunn, Andre Iguodala, Kelly Olynyk and others all coming off the bench. The team’s depth played a key role in its success last season and could prove to be effective once again this year.

Heat Notes: Frontcourt, FAs, Achiuwa, Dragic, Olynyk

Based on their offseason moves, the Heat certainly don’t appear to be focusing on playing any smaller during the 2020/21 season, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel.

As Winderman observes, the club drafted Precious Achiuwa with its first-round pick, re-signed Meyers Leonard and Udonis Haslem, extended Bam Adebayo, and didn’t trade Kelly Olynyk after he picked up his player option. Chris Silva is also back on a guaranteed salary, with undrafted free agent Paul Eboua vying for a two-way contract.

“I feel like it’ll work because we brought back a lot of skilled big men,” Adebayo said on Sunday. “All of us are versatile. When you got bigs that are versatile, that can help the team and help the guards do different things, it just makes our team better. … Then you have two of us out there on the court at the same time, it’s a big difference. I feel like us being so versatile at the big spot is going to help us out a lot this year.”

Despite the Heat’s size up front, the team is confident it’ll be able to comfortably adjust against any team playing small ball.

“Just because some of us are big men doesn’t necessarily mean we’re put in a box and, ‘Oh, man, if a team goes small, there’s nothing we can do about it,'” Leonard said. “No, no, we still have plenty of athleticism, plenty of versatility at the big position and all the way throughout our roster.”

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • Discussing the Heat’s new free agent additions, head coach Erik Spoelstra referred to Avery Bradley and Maurice Harkless as “plug-and-play guys” and said the team has been fans of both players “for a while,” as Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald writes. “The way they play, they can fit in really in anybody’s system,” Spoelstra said of the two veteran wings.
  • Within that same Herald story, Spoelstra explained that Precious Achiuwa‘s improvement over the course of his freshman year at Memphis and a belief that his game will translate to the next level were factors in the Heat’s decision to draft him at No. 20. “His athleticism, his quickness, his fluidity, his ability to play multiple positions jumped off the screen,” Spoelstra added, per Chiang.
  • After beginning individual workouts last week, Heat point guard Goran Dragic was encouraged by how his left foot felt. A torn plantar fascia in that foot sidelined Dragic during the NBA Finals. “I just finished three straight hard practices, running, shooting,” he said, according to Chiang. “My foot reacted well, no pain, nothing. Just a little bit of stiffness in the morning and that’s it.”
  • While a $12.6MM guarantee was likely a major factor, Kelly Olynyk said this weekend that a desire for continuity following a short offseason also contributed to his decision to exercise his 2020/21 player option. “The way the league is going and the new season just jumped upon us, it just made sense to come back here to a familiar place and continue what we had,” Olynyk said, per Khobi Price of The Sun Sentinel.

Heat Sign Precious Achiuwa To Rookie Deal

The Heat have officially signed first-round pick Precious Achiuwa to his rookie contract, tweeting out a photo today that shows the rookie forward putting pen to paper.

The No. 20 overall pick in last Wednesday’s draft, Achiuwa signed for 120% of his rookie scale figure, the maximum possible amount permitted by the league, per Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald (Twitter link). That’ll result in a $2.58MM first-year salary with an overall value of $12.51MM on his four-year contract.

[RELATED: Rookie Scale Salaries For 2020 NBA First-Round Picks]

In his first and only college season at Memphis, Achiuwa was one of the nation’s most impressive freshmen, averaging 15.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, and 1.9 BPG while shooting 49.3% from the floor in 31 games (30.4 MPG). He was named the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year.

We’re tracking all of this year’s draft pick signings right here.

Draft Rumors: Hornets, Ball, Wolves, Cavs, Achiuwa, Hawks, More

Assuming the Hornets keep the No. 3 pick in tonight’s NBA draft, team owner Michael Jordan has given the “stamp of approval” to select LaMelo Ball, league sources tell Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. James Wiseman has long been considered to be atop Charlotte’s wish list, but if he and Anthony Edwards are the first two players off the board, Ball may be the top prospect available.

O’Connor suggests that “at this stage” it seems as if USC big man Onyeka Okongwu is no longer in serious consideration for the Hornets at No. 3. It’s worth noting that ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his Hoop Collective podcast that there has been some medical-related chatter on Okongwu recently that could affect his stock, though Windhorst cautioned that may just be a smokescreen from a team with interest in him.

Here are several more rumors worth passing along, as we prepare for what should be an eventful 2020 NBA draft:

  • Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report (Twitter link) is hearing that the Timberwolves continue to operate as if they don’t want to pick at No. 1. Sources tell Wasserman that Minnesota is even signaling it could make a pick for another team – such as Wiseman for the Hornets – and try to figure out a deal later.
  • According to O’Connor, the Cavaliers are interested in potentially trading down a little and still selecting Dayton forward Obi Toppin, who has been linked to them frequently as a potential target at No. 5. O’Connor suggests the Pistons (No. 7) could be one potential trade partner for the Cavs if Detroit wants to move up to secure Florida State’s Patrick Williams.
  • Sources tell both O’Connor and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic that the Wizards (No. 9) are high on Memphis power forward Precious Achiuwa. Krawczynski says the Suns (No. 10) are “fond of” Achiuwa as well.
  • Conversations between the Hawks and Timberwolves about a swap that would send the No. 6 pick to Minnesota for No. 17 and Jarrett Culver have stalled, per Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. Atlanta would be open to the idea, but the Wolves have become hesitant about moving Culver unless it helps them land a star, according to Kirschner and Krawczynski. Kirschner adds that talks between the Hawks and teams looking to move up in the draft have “cooled down” as of late.
  • While the Celtics have explored packaging their three first-round picks (Nos. 14, 26, and 30) to move into the mid-lottery, teams in that range have indicated they’d like to stay there, tweets Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.

Heat Notes: Leonard, Carey, Achiuwa, Scrubb

Reiterating a point he made in a previous interview, Heat center Meyers Leonard told Jeremy Werner of 247Sports.com that when he considers his options in free agency, he’ll be looking for a spot where he can contend, rather than one where he can try to put up big numbers.

“I don’t give a damn about numbers. I care about winning,” Leonard said. “I think that they knew that in Miami. I know that (coach Erik Spoelstra) and my teammates sure as hell did. I would tell Bam (Adebayo) often, ‘I don’t give a damn about rebound numbers. You go grab 15, and I’ll block out their best rebounder and you come grab them.'”

Leonard also said that he thinks a reunion is a possibility, but that he’s prepared to consider other landing spots if the Heat decide to move on.

“The NBA is a business. I think there’s mutual interest between Miami and I, but we’ll see,” he said. “There’s other teams that are very interested. I’m in a good spot.”

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • The Heat conducted a private, in-person workout last week with Duke big man Vernon Carey Jr., according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald (Twitter link). Carey is only the No. 43 prospect on ESPN’s big board but has received some first-round buzz and could be an option for Miami at No. 20.
  • Carey is far from the only draft-eligible frontcourt player receiving interest from the Heat. The team also recently worked out Memphis’ Precious Achiuwa and has interest in Maryland’s Jalen Smith, Jackson writes for The Herald. ESPN ranks both players in its top 20.
  • The Heat have conducted two interviews with 6’6″ shooting guard Jay Scrubb, a source tells Jackson. The No. 76 prospect on ESPN’s board, Scrubb is considered one of 2020’s best junior college prospects. Within the same Herald article, Jackson notes that Miami has also interviewed Stanford guard Tyrell Terry.

Draft Rumors: Warriors, Vassell, Suns, Spurs, Mavs, More

The Warriors continue to actively discuss trades involving the No. 2 pick, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Insider link), who writes within his latest mock draft that the Bulls, Pistons, and Knicks are among the candidates to make a deal with Golden State.

If the Warriors remain at No. 2, the team seems more likely to select Memphis center James Wiseman than Georgia guard Anthony Edwards, per Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report. Wasserman has heard that there are some voices in Golden State’s front office against drafting Edwards, as well as mixed opinions within the front office on LaMelo Ball.

As Wasserman details, the Warriors have also expressed “legitimate” interest in sharpshooting wing Devin Vassell, but the assumption is that the club wouldn’t take the Florida State prospect at No. 2 — he’d be an option in a trade-down scenario. Wasserman adds that Vassell’s camp is confident he’ll go in the middle of the lottery and is unlikely to slip past the Kings at No. 12.

Here are a few more draft-related updates and rumors:

  • According to Givony, the Suns (No. 10) are “looking heavily” at point guards and wing players, especially prospects who can complement Devin Booker, while the Spurs (No. 11) are eyeing both big men and wings in the hopes of bolstering their frontcourt.
  • The Mavericks have expressed some interest in trading up into the lottery, league sources tell Jeremy Woo of SI.com. Dallas currently holds the 18th and 31st overall picks.
  • Teams with picks in the 20s aren’t expecting Precious Achiuwa to be available, according to Wasserman, who says the Memphis forward will likely be picked in the 9-18 range.
  • Multiple teams believe Arizona shooting guard Josh Green could slip a little, with some clubs viewing him as a “fringe first-rounder,” writes Wasserman.
  • Jaden McDaniels, Tyrell Terry, Daniel Oturu, Tyrese Maxey, and RJ Hampton are among the first-round candidates with the widest projected draft ranges, per Wasserman.

Draft Notes: Mouaha, Ebeling, Achiuwa, Knicks

The NCAA’s withdrawal deadline for the 2020 NBA draft has long since passed, but the NBA’s own deadline falls 10 days before the draft. That means that a number of international prospects – for whom the NCAA deadline didn’t apply – face final decisions on whether or not to keep their names in this year’s draft pool.

Cameroonian guard Aristide Mouaha and Italian forward Michele Ebeling are two international early entrants who have decided to pull out of the draft, according to a pair of reports from Nicola Lupo of Sportando. Both prospects are currently playing in Italy. Ebeling will become automatically draft-eligible in 2021, while Mouaha is on track to be draft-eligible in 2022 if he doesn’t re-enter his name next year.

As our tracker shows, we still have 34 international prospects listed as early entrants for 2020. It’s safe to assume that many more will withdraw before the November 8 deadline — I’d expect that list to be cut at least in half within the next couple days.

Here’s more on the 2020 NBA draft:

  • Former Memphis big man Precious Achiuwa worked out for the Wizards earlier this week and is working out for the Celtics on Friday, according to Adam Zagoria of Forbes (Twitter link). Achiuwa is the 12th overall prospect on ESPN’s big board, so both Washington at No. 9 and Boston at No. 14 could in play for him.
  • In a pair of Insider articles for ESPN.com, Jonathan Givony, Mike Schmitz, and Kevin Pelton discuss the best wings and big men of this year’s draft class. All three experts rate Deni Avdija as the top wing in the draft, with Givony and Schmitz placing Isaac Okoro second while Pelton takes Devin Vassell. In a bit of a surprise, both Givony and Schmitz pick Onyeka Okongwu over James Wiseman as the top big man prospect.
  • While the Knicks’ No. 8 pick has been the main focus, the team is working diligently on its options at No. 27 and 38 and is hoping to find a “diamond in the rough,” a source tells Marc Berman of The New York Post. Berman examines former Arizona shooting guard Josh Green and Duke center Vernon Carey Jr. as a couple potential late-first-round options for New York, citing one talent evaluator who says Green would be a “perfect fit” for the team.