R.J. Barrett

Knicks Notes: Durant, Davis, Draft, Ntilikina

The possibility of Kevin Durant signing with the Knicks overshadowed all other topics as NBA executives gathered this week for the annual combine, relays Steve Popper of Newsday. He states that most of those in attendance consider it a “fait accompli” that the Warriors’ star will be coming to New York when free agency begins in July.

The combine was peppered with talk of a secret meeting between the Knicks and Durant and rumors that a “handshake deal” is already in place, along with endorsement opportunities. That would be a blatant violation of NBA rules and a huge risk for the team to take when the opportunity to legally negotiate with Durant is just six weeks away. However, even those who don’t buy into such conspiracy talk seem convinced that a move is on the way.

Explaining why Durant might be willing to leave a potential three-time champion, one unidentified front office executive speculates that he is tired of constant “prodding” from Warriors coach Steve Kerr and believes he will never replace Stephen Curry as the team’s most important player. That opportunity would come instantly in New York, where Knicks fans have been clamoring for a star for years.

There’s more today from New York:

  • Knicks president Steve Mills wouldn’t discuss the possibility of including the No. 3 pick in a deal for Anthony Davis, but he insists the team is happy about its position coming out of Tuesday’s lottery, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. Trade talks for Davis remain on hold as Pelicans executive David Griffin tries to convince his star big man to stay with the team, a source tells Berman. Any trade offer for Davis would have to include the two first-rounders from Dallas that were acquired in the Kristaps Porzingis deal, along with two young prospects from a group that includes Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Frank Ntilikina.
  • Berman considers it a”virtual certainty” that New York will take Duke’s R.J. Barrett if the draft proceeds as expected. The Knicks rate Murray State’s Ja Morant slightly higher, but Memphis is likely to grab him with the second pick. New York’s front office met with both players Wednesday at the combine. The Knicks also own the 55th pick and could target a power forward in the second round.
  • The Knicks are willing to part with Ntilikina in exchange for another late first round or early second round selection, Berman adds. That would open more cap room to pick up the options on Allonzo Trier and Damyean Dotson without jeopardizing the ability to offer to max deals in free agency.

Draft Notes: C. White, Barrett, Culver, G. Williams

A number of draft-eligible prospects who attended this week’s combine decided against participating in today’s scrimmages, with at least one prospect leaving the event altogether.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported (via Twitter) that Jalen Lecque, who performed well during Thursday’s scrimmages, decided not to play anymore based on feedback to his family. Croatian forward Luka Samanic followed suit, as did Charles Bassey (Western Kentucky), Moses Brown (UCLA), and DaQuan Jeffries (Tulsa), according to Jeremy Woo of SI.com (via Twitter), who adds that Brown is believed to have suffered an injury on Thursday.

Meanwhile, projected lottery pick Coby White (UNC) left the combine on Friday after interviewing with several teams, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). White’s departure will likely fuel speculation of a draft promise, and while it’s a possibility, there have been no reports yet suggesting that’s the case.

Here’s more on the draft:

Lottery Notes: Pelicans, Knicks, Cavs, Bulls, C’s

Tuesday night was a massive one for the Pelicans, who won the 2019 draft lottery despite entering the night with just a 6.0% of landing that top pick. As William Guillory of The Athletic details, head coach Alvin Gentry was representing the team in the drawing room and was ecstatic when he learned that the team would be drafting first overall, exclaiming “F— yeah!” and high-fiving other representatives in the room.

While the Pelicans will now have the opportunity to build around super-prospect Zion Williamson, Gentry and new head of basketball operations David Griffin remain optimistic that they can convince their current franchise player – Anthony Davis – to be part of the future as well.

“Guys, the one thing you got to understand is [Davis] is still on our roster,” Gentry said on Tuesday, per Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. “He is on our roster. All of that will take care of itself. I’m not worried about it. I know Griff has some plans to talk to him, and it will be fine.”

For his part, Griffin downplayed the effect that landing the No. 1 pick might have on Davis’ situation, while still indicating that he’d like to keep the All-NBA big man around.

“I understand why people want to link the two, because the assumption is that elite players want to play with other elite players, but this doesn’t change anything with the Anthony Davis situation,” Griffin said, according to Nathan Brown of The Advocate. “Maybe it gives him one more sign that things are changing in a different direction.

“This is just one more positive chip at this point, and if Anthony Davis is trying to decide if he can trust if we can build a winner, I hope we can build evidence of that day after day. And if AD wants to be part of that, wonderful. And if he doesn’t buy into what we’re trying to do, that’s okay too.”

Here’s more on Tuesday’s draft lottery:

  • Within his story linked above, Spears cites a source who says Williamson – who left the draft room without comment after the Pelicans won the lottery – was hoping to end up with the Knicks. The Knicks, who are holding the No. 3 pick, won’t have a shot at Zion now, but they have another Duke player firmly on their radar. A league source tells Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com that New York is expected to meet with R.J. Barrett on Wednesday at the draft combine in Chicago.
  • Moving down to fifth in the draft order was close to a worst-case scenario for the Cavaliers, but as Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com observes, it may not be a huge letdown for new head coach John Beilein, who rarely had the opportunity to add five-star recruits during his college coaching career.
  • Bulls executive John Paxson sounds open to the possibility of trading the No. 7 pick, writes Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago. “There’s other things you can do with picks to get better,” Paxson said. “You can trade them, you can do a lot of different things. So again, now that we know where we’re at, thankful to know and we’ll get to work trying to find a way to make best use of it.”
  • The Kings’ pick didn’t move up from No. 14 and the Grizzlies kept their own first-rounder, but things could have gone much worse for the Celtics on lottery night, as Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston explains.
  • Sean Deveney of Sporting News takes a look at some of the winners and losers of Tuesday’s lottery, while ESPN’s Zach Lowe passes along several interesting nuggets from behind the scenes of the event.

Full List Of 2019 NBA Draft Combine Participants

The NBA has revealed its list of 66 players who have been invited to next week’s draft combine in Chicago and who are expected to attend. The combine will take place from May 15-19.

While a small handful of top prospects often skip the event, that won’t be the case this year — Zion Williamson and Ja Morant are on the league’s list of 66 names, along with R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, Jarrett Culver, Darius Garland, De’Andre Hunter, and many more. Of course, those top prospects may not participate fully in all of the workouts and scrimmages at the combine.

A few more names figure to be added to this list, as a select number of the 40 draft-eligible prospects participating in the G League Elite Camp earlier in the week are expected to receive invites to the combine.

Here’s the full list of 66 names announced by the NBA today, in alphabetical order:

  1. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, Virginia Tech (sophomore)
  2. R.J. Barrett, G/F, Duke (freshman)
  3. Charles Bassey, C, Western Kentucky (freshman)
  4. Darius Bazley, F, Princeton HS (OH) (N/A)
  5. Bol Bol, C, Oregon (freshman)
  6. Jordan Bone, G, Tennessee (junior)
  7. Brian Bowen, F, USA (born 1998)
  8. Ky Bowman, G, Boston College (junior)
  9. Ignas Brazdeikis, F, Michigan (freshman)
  10. Moses Brown, C, UCLA (freshman)
  11. Brandon Clarke, F, Gonzaga (junior)
  12. Nicolas Claxton, F, Georgia (sophomore)
  13. Jarrett Culver, G/F, Texas Tech (sophomore)
  14. Luguentz Dort, G, Arizona State (freshman)
  15. Devon Dotson, G, Kansas (freshman)
  16. Carsen Edwards, G, Purdue (junior)
  17. Bruno Fernando, F, Maryland (sophomore)
  18. Daniel Gafford, F/C, Arkansas (sophomore)
  19. Darius Garland, G, Vanderbilt (freshman)
  20. Quentin Grimes, G, Kansas (freshman)
  21. Kyle Guy, G, Virginia (junior)
  22. Jaylen Hands, G, UCLA (sophomore)
  23. Jaxson Hayes, F/C, Texas (freshman)
  24. Tyler Herro, G, Kentucky (freshman)
  25. Jaylen Hoard, F, Wake Forest (freshman)
  26. Talen Horton-Tucker, G, Iowa State (freshman)
  27. De’Andre Hunter, F, Virginia (sophomore)
  28. Ty Jerome, G, Virginia (junior)
  29. Cameron Johnson, G, UNC (senior)
  30. Keldon Johnson, F, Kentucky (freshman)
  31. Mfiondu Kabengele, C, Florida State (sophomore)
  32. Louis King, F, Oregon (freshman)
  33. Romeo Langford, G, Indiana (freshman)
  34. Dedric Lawson, F, Kansas (junior)
  35. Jalen Lecque, G, Brewster Academy (NH) (N/A)
  36. Nassir Little, F, UNC (freshman)
  37. Charles Matthews, G, Michigan (junior)
  38. Jalen McDaniels, F, San Diego State (sophomore)
  39. Ja Morant, G, Murray State (sophomore)
  40. Zach Norvell Jr., G, Gonzaga (sophomore)
  41. Jaylen Nowell, G, Washington (sophomore)
  42. Jordan Nwora, F, Louisville (sophomore)
  43. Chuma Okeke, F, Auburn (sophomore)
  44. KZ Okpala, F, Stanford (sophomore)
  45. Miye Oni, G/F, Yale (junior)
  46. Eric Paschall, F, Villanova (senior)
  47. Shamorie Ponds, G, St. John’s (junior)
  48. Jordan Poole, G, Michigan (sophomore)
  49. Jontay Porter, F, Missouri (sophomore)
  50. Kevin Porter Jr, G, USC (freshman)
  51. Neemias Queta, C, Utah State (freshman)
  52. Cam Reddish, F, Duke (freshman)
  53. Naz Reid, C, LSU (freshman)
  54. Isaiah Roby, F, Nebraska (junior)
  55. Luka Samanic, F, Croatia (born 2000)
  56. Admiral Schofield, G, Tennessee (senior)
  57. Simisola Shittu, F, Vanderbilt (freshman)
  58. Killian Tillie, F, Gonzaga (junior)
  59. PJ Washington, F, Kentucky (sophomore)
  60. Tremont Waters, G, LSU (sophomore)
  61. Quinndary Weatherspoon, G, Missippi State (senior)
  62. Coby White, G, UNC (freshman)
  63. Kris Wilkes, G, UCLA (sophomore)
  64. Grant Williams, F, Tennessee (junior)
  65. Zion Williamson, F, Duke (freshman)
  66. Dylan Windler, G, Belmont (senior)

Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga) and Matisse Thybulle (Washington) are among the potential first-round picks who aren’t on the NBA’s list of combine participants, as noted by Jeremy Woo of SI.com and ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Twitter links).

And-Ones: Silver, Mock Draft, Players’ Poll, Belinelli

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is willing to consider shortening the regular season and even the length of games, he said in a press conference on Friday. Silver’s comments were relayed by the Associated Press’ Brian Mahoney“The format we have in place now — I’m a traditionalist on one hand, but on the other hand it’s 50 years old or so, presenting an 82-game season, and there’s nothing magical about it,” Silver said. He also tossed out the idea of reducing the length of games from 48 minutes to 40, the same as college and international games. Holding mid-season tournaments is something else he’s willing to consider. None of the potential changes are close to be implemented, Mahoney adds.

We have more from the basketball world:

R.J. Barrett Entering 2019 NBA Draft

Duke wing R.J. Barrett, one of the top prospects in this year’s draft class, has formally confirmed that he’s declaring for the 2019 NBA draft, posting a video on Twitter to announce his decision.

In his freshman year with the Blue Devils, Barrett was one of the most productive players in the country, averaging 22.6 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 4.3 APG with a .454/.308/.665 shooting line. He currently ranks as the No. 3 prospect on Jonathan Givony’s big board at ESPN.com, behind only teammate Zion Williamson and Murray State point guard Ja Morant.

As Givony details in his scouting report, Barrett is a “versatile, intelligent player with terrific scoring instincts” who is capable of playing on or off the ball. He also has good physical tools, with the sort of size and athleticism that should transition well to the NBA.

Barrett’s outside shooting and efficiency are areas to focus on as he prepares to go pro. According to Givony, some NBA scouts also question his overall upside, comparing him to second-tier NBA stars like Jimmy Butler and DeMar DeRozan.

Nonetheless, Barrett figures to be one of the first few players to come off the board this June. While he technically has until May 29 to reconsider and withdraw his name, he looks like a lock to keep his name in this year’s draft pool.

NBA Scouts Discuss NCAA Tournament Prospects

Central Florida’s Tacko Fall stepped into the national spotlight with Sunday’s game against Duke, but he may not have improved his draft status, relays Sam Amick of The Athletic. Amick talked to three unidentified NBA scouts about their impressions after the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament and found opinions have changed on a lot of players, but not necessarily on Fall.

“I don’t think (it helped his cause), on the whole,” one scout said of the 7’6″ center, who had 15 points, six rebounds and three blocks against the Blue Devils before fouling out. “I think most scouts, most teams, are going to evaluate him based on (what came before). … Now if you liked Tacko Fall before the game against Duke, then you’ll probably like him a little bit more maybe. And if you didn’t, then I don’t think it’s going to sway you one way or another. He’s so unique that I think he’ll get a chance in some capacity. I don’t know if he gets drafted in the second round, or whatever it is, but I do think he gets a chance.”

The scouts’ consensus is that Murray State point guard Ja Morant has helped himself with his March performances and would likely be the second player taken if the draft were today. He held up well against larger schools and has been consistently good from game to game.

Duke’s Cam Reddish may have fallen the most, not only because of his March Madness games, but his output throughout the year. Once projected as a possible No. 3 pick, Reddish may be slipping out of the top five. “Even when Zion (Williamson) was out, he had opportunities where he could really take a step forward and take advantage of the opportunity,” one scout said. “And he did on a couple of games, but it wasn’t as consistent as you’d like him to be. He’s a tough one, man.”

Here are a few more takes from the scouts on prominent players:

  • Duke forward R.J. Barrett “Yeah, I do think Barrett has the third spot. … I do think Barrett, the fact that he competes (is good). He’s got a little more, to me, obvious flaws in terms of shot selection. Obviously he has some tendencies, in terms of being all left and dominant where he’s going to have to get the right hand at the next level to be as good as he can be. The one thing about Barrett is that he competes and he gets after it and he wants to win, but there are moments when he falls asleep.”
  • Oregon forward Kenny Wooten — People know about (Wooten), but this is the time where owners start watching and other people — even GMs who don’t get a chance (to see them) — they start seeing these guys and (the prospects) start to jump off the page because they have a good game or they play well.”
  • North Carolina forward Nassir Little“There are still question marks with his game, but it was the Washington game where he made a three and he was efficient, right? And he was efficient for multiple games. He didn’t have any assists or anything like that, but there are some signs there where if you want to find a reason to like Nas. I think you can go look at those two games and say, ‘Oh, ok.’ This guy is doing well.”
  • Michigan guard Jordan Poole“He’s a good player, man. He knows how to play. He’s skilled. I think (an NBA team) could work on his efficiency. If he continues to play well, I think he could help himself throughout the rest of the tournament as well and be one of those guys who’s a late riser.”

And-Ones: Bird, Swift, Draft, Acy, Morant

Former Celtics guard Jabari Bird is awaiting sentencing after entering a plea of sufficient facts to the accusation of assaulting his ex-girlfriend, according to an Associated Press report. The plea is not an admission of guilt but acknowledges a likely conviction at trial.

Bird was released on bail after the hearing and will be sentenced May 28. He faced several charges in the alleged attack on the woman in September, including strangulation or suffocation, kidnapping, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Bird’s contract was traded to the Hawks in February, who quickly waived him.

We have more developments from around the basketball world:

  • Power forward Stromile Swift has entered his name in the BIG3 draft pool, the league’s PR department tweets. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2000 draft last appeared in the NBA during the 2008/09 season with the Suns and Nets.
  • NBA executives will scour the country at conference tournaments this week, looking at every possible prospect who might put his name in the draft. It’s a unique opportunity for some players to improve their stock on a big stage, ESPN draft expert Jonathan Givony notes. Las Vegas will be a particular hotbed of activity, with the Pac-12, WCC, WAC and Mountain West holding tournaments there. Givony takes a deep dive in the prospects that the scouts will be perusing this week.
  • Veteran forward Quincy Acy has left the Texas Legends, the G League affiliate of the Mavericks, JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets.  Acy, 28, played 10 games with the Suns this season.
  • Murray State point guard Ja Morant has leapfrogged Duke’s R.J. Barrett as the second-best prospect in the draft behind Zion Williamson, according to Mike Schmitz of ESPN. Morant put on a dazzling display while carrying the Racers through the OVC tournament and into the NCAA Tournament. Givony maintains it’s premature to make that assessment before the draft lottery.

And-Ones: Wizards, 2019 Draft, Williamson, NBAGL

The Wizards recently became the 28th NBA team to reach a jersey patch agreement with a corporate sponsor, teaming with GEICO on a multiyear deal, as the club announced in a press release. GEICO’s logo will now appear on the uniforms of multiple D.C.-area organizations, with the Wizards, the Washington Mystics (WNBA), and the Capital City Go-Go (G League) all getting the advertisement patch.

The Pacers and Thunder are now the only two NBA teams without ads on their uniforms, as we outline here. The NBA’s jersey sponsorship pilot program is set to run through the 2019/20 season, but the league seems likely to extend it beyond that, given its success so far.

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

  • ESPN’s draft gurus, including Jonathan Givony, recently revealed their complete prospect rankings for the 2019 draft, with Duke players nabbing three of the top four spots. R.J. Barrett leads the way, followed by Zion Williamson at No. 3 and Cameron Reddish at No. 4. The Blue Devils’ trio sandwiches North Carolina small forward Nassir Little at No. 2.
  • Speaking of Williamson, Chris Stone of The Sporting News took an in-depth look at the 285-pound youngster, writing that the Duke forward represents a “truly one-of-a-kind prospect.”
  • The NBA G League has reached a multiyear deal with ESPN that will allow ESPN+ subscribers to watch more than 200 games per season, the league announced today in a press release. This season’s broadcast schedule begins with three games on Tuesday.
  • The Timberwolves could still end up trading Jimmy Butler for valuable long-term pieces, and Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine could become long-term core pieces for the Bulls. However, in the view of Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports, the 2017 trade between Minnesota and Chicago is at risk of becoming the sort of blockbuster deal that doesn’t turn out perfectly for either side.

And-Ones: 2019 Draft, Age Minimum, Team USA

After attending a handful of summer events involving top prospects, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz (Insider link) have updated their 2019 NBA mock draft. While Duke freshman R.J. Barrett continues to be viewed as 2019’s top pick, he’s joined in the top three this time around by a fast-rising teammate — Givony and Schmitz have Duke forward Zion Williamson at No. 3 in their latest mock.

Other new names in ESPN’s top 10 include Kentucky freshman wing Keldon Johnson and Oregon freshman center Bol Bol. Johnson excelled in the Wildcats’ exhibition games in the Bahamas, though the ESPN duo was also impressed by Johnson’s teammate PJ Washington, who “looks to be in much better shape” than he was last season. As for Bol, he had a strong showing at the Nike Basketball Academy, as Givony detailed earlier in the month.

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

  • Although the NBA’s draft eligibility rule related to a player’s minimum age won’t change within the next couple years, it seems highly likely to be altered or eliminated at some point. Tom Ziller of SBNation.com explores a few possible alternatives to the current rule.
  • In a step toward the elimination of the one-and-done rule, the NBA, NCAA, and NBPA reached an agreement with USA Basketball, announcing today that Team USA will expand its Men’s Junior National Team program to include additional training camps and year-round player development programming. The program will include approximately 80 top high school prospects, or about 20 per high school class. Here’s the official announcement from USA Basketball, along with more details from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.
  • Players on two-way contracts who spend the maximum allowable number of days with their NBA clubs in 2018/19 will be able to earn up to $385,612 this season, tweets cap expert Albert Nahmad. That’s still well short of the NBA rookie minimum ($838,464), but greatly exceeds the standard $35K G League salary.
  • Shane Rhodes of Basketball Insiders examines some potential surprise teams for the 2018/19 season, suggesting that the Bulls, Mavericks, Pistons, Clippers, and Suns are candidates to exceed expectations.