Victor Wembanyama

And-Ones: Faried, CBA, Wembanyama, Thompson Twins

In a conversation with Sam Yip of HoopsHype, Kenneth Faried admits that it has been “extremely difficult” to be out of the NBA since 2019, since he believes that he’s still capable of playing at that level and helping a team. Faried is currently suiting up for the Mexico City Capitanes in the G League as he seeks an NBA comeback.

“At the same time, patience is a virtue. I’m very patient,” Faried said. “I’m working hard towards showing that I can still do it at that level. … I’m ready, I’m focused, I’m locked in, I’m a better vet, a better person, a better leader and I don’t even need to be a leader. I can be quiet and sit back and just follow whoever the leader is.”

As Yip points out, Faried is one of several NBA veterans playing for Mexico City’s G League team. Shabazz Napier, Gary Clark, and Mason Jones are among the other Capitanes players hoping for a call-up.

“For us to now be on a team, and all trying to have the same kind of goal to make it back to the NBA and try to find a way is great, because we’re not trying to be selfish to each other,” Faried said. “We’re trying to help each other. And everyone’s here trying to help each other get better, trying to showcase that we’re still good enough in great shape and ready for whatever may happen, ready for a contract for real.”

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

  • Don’t expect the NBA’s next Collective Bargaining Agreement to include an upper spending limit (ie. a hard cap), ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said during the latest episode of his Hoop Collective podcast. The NBA was reportedly pushing a de facto hard cap earlier in CBA discussions, but Windhorst believes negotiations between the two sides would be far more contentious if the league was still prioritizing that concept. He does think there will be changes made to the luxury tax system, however.
  • Although the 2017 CBA improved the guidelines for veteran contract extensions and led to a huge uptick in those deals, the rule limiting players to a 20% raise for the first year of an extension is outdated, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN, who notes that it makes it virtually impossible for clubs to extend players who are coming off team-friendly deals. Marks suggests tweaking the rule to allow teams to offer the same amount in an extension that they’d be able to in free agency.
  • Top prospect Victor Wembanyama is expected to play for France’s national team in two World Cup qualifying contests next month, as Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops writes. The February 23 and 26 games conflict with the EuroLeague schedule, but Wembyanama’s Metropolitans 92 aren’t a EuroLeague team.
  • Twins Amen Thompson and Ausar Thompson, projected top-10 picks in the 2023 NBA draft, are looking forward to competing against other top players from their draft class and showing how the Overtime Elite program has benefited them, writes Jacob Polacheck of ZagsBlog.com.

And-Ones: Wembanyama, L. Miller, Elam Ending, Lin

While it’s not as if he needed to further cement his place as the top prospect in the 2023 draft class, Victor Wembanyama put on a dazzling performance in the LNB’s All-Star Game, per an Associated Press report.

Wembanyama was named the MVP of the LNB showcase, which pits the league’s top French players against its non-French stars. The big man racked up 27 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists, leading the French team to a 136-128 victory. The game was Wembanyama’s last as an 18-year-old — he’ll turn 19 next Wednesday before his Metropolitans 92 resume play on January 9.

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

  • Canadian forward Leonard Miller, currently a member of the G League Ignite, is planning to enter the 2023 NBA draft and go pro, he tells Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Miller is viewed as a potential first-round pick and currently ranks 26th overall on ESPN’s big board of 2023 prospects.
  • Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports is the latest reporter to take a closer look at the G League’s experimentation with a “target score” (also known as the Elam Ending). The NBAGL has used a target score in overtime all season long and employed it in the fourth quarter of games during its Winter Showcase in Las Vegas. The new overtime format has “strong supporters” in NBA front offices and the league office, according to Fischer. When we asked you last week whether the NBA should adopt the Elam Ending for overtimes, more of our poll respondents were against it than for it.
  • Veteran point guard Jeremy Lin, who had been playing for the Guangzhou Loong Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association, has left the CBA for the rest of the season, he announced in an Instagram post. “I’m gonna go back to the U.S. to rest and reset before I make a decision with my family for my next step,” Lin wrote. He has appeared in 480 total NBA regular season games, but hasn’t played in the league since 2019, when he was a member of the champion Raptors.

And-Ones: G League Ignite, Henderson, Wembanyama, Thornwell

After attending the G League’s Winter Showcase in Las Vegas last week, John Hollinger of The Athletic came away curious about the long-term future of the G League Ignite.

A handful of top prospects – like Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga, and Dyson Daniels – have played for the Ignite before entering the NBA draft in recent years, and current Ignite guard Scoot Henderson may end up being the best of the bunch. But many of the prospects on the Ignite’s roster only project to be borderline NBA players, as Hollinger observes.

“Why are we paying almost half a million (dollars) for a two-way guy?” one league source said to Hollinger.

Even if the Ignite were attracting only elite prospects, people around the NBA have questioned why the league is paying significant salaries to develop prospects who would simply develop elsewhere if the Ignite didn’t exist, Hollinger writes. The Ignite aren’t playing in front of packed houses and haven’t become must-see television relative to college basketball, where NIL money has helped the NCAA maintain a recruiting edge.

Hollinger adds that most people he has spoken to don’t believe the Ignite are particularly well coached or well run, with prospects like Jaden Hardy looking much better once he left the program.

For what it’s worth, Henderson told Michael Scotto of HoopsHype that he thinks his year with the Ignite has been good for him and that it has helped him develop “as a person” in addition to helping him develop as a player.

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

  • ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Insider link) has updated his 2023 mock draft and provided fresh scouting reports for a handful of his non-lottery prospects, including UCF’s Taylor Hendricks, Ohio State’s Brice Sensabaugh, and Pepperdine’s Maxwell Lewis.
  • According to Givony, a number of NBA executives who attended last week’s G League Winter Showcase said they wouldn’t be surprised if Scoot Henderson, who is out with a nasal fracture, doesn’t play another game this season, since his spot near the top of the 2023 draft is already assured. However, Givony says G League Ignite officials “emphatically” shot down that line of thinking and said Henderson should be back on the court relatively soon.
  • Henderson is the consensus No. 2 prospect in the 2023 class behind Victor Wembanyama, who continues to impress fans and evaluators with his two-way talent. The young French star racked up 26 points and 18 rebounds for Metropolitans 92 in his last game of the calendar year on Monday (link via ESPN).
  • After signing in October with Frutti Extra Bursaspor, veteran guard Sindarius Thornwell has mutually parted ways with the Turkish team two months later, the club announced (via Twitter). Thornwell has appeared in 160 total NBA games, but hasn’t been in the league since 2020/21, when he played for New Orleans and Atlanta.

Southwest Notes: Wood, Williamson, Hayes, Wembanyama

Christian Wood is “open” to signing an extension with the Mavericks, Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets. Wood became eligible this weekend to sign an extension for as much as four years and $77MM.

“I’m happy to be here,” the Mavericks big man said. “That’s what I’ll say. The vibe is good. … I’m open to it.”

On Christmas Day, Wood had arguably his best game since being acquired by the Mavericks from Houston during the offseason. He piled up 30 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, four steals and two blocks in a victory over the Lakers.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Zion Williamson is no longer in the league’s health and safety protocols, ESPN’s Andrew Lopez tweets. He’s not listed on the injury report heading into the Pelicans’ game against Indiana on Monday. Williamson missed two games this past week.
  • Jaxson Hayes has been buried on the Pelicans’ bench, but with Williamson out on Friday, Hayes produced his best outing of the season, William Guillory of The Athletic notes. Hayes had 21 points, six rebounds and four assists against the Thunder. “As a player, you never want to be out of the rotation, but obviously things happen. … Having this opportunity to come back in and show what I can do still was really nice,” Hayes said. The Pelicans will have to extend Hayes a qualifying offer, currently valued at $9,170,460, to make him a restricted free agent next summer.
  • Adding Victor Wembanyama in the draft would make the Rockets a true title contender, according to Sam Vecenie of The Athletic. Jabari Smith Jr. and Wembanyama would make them equally adept in the frontcourt on both ends, Vecenie continues, while Wembanyama would play well off 2021 lottery pick Jalen Green in two-man offensive settings. Vecenie and Kelly Iko take a closer look at Houston’s young core, as well as other fits in next year’s draft.

Southwest Notes: Jones, Chandler, Luka, Mavs, Spurs

With Ja Morant sidelined on Monday due to left ankle soreness, Tyus Jones showed why the Grizzlies made him the NBA’s highest-paid backup point guard this past summer, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Inserted into the starting lineup, Jones responded by scoring 28 points and dishing out 10 assists en route to an impressive Memphis win over Miami.

While we could quibble over whether Jones is technically the NBA’s highest-paid backup point guard (Russell Westbrook is coming off the bench in Los Angeles while earning more than three times as much), the Grizzlies point guard is perhaps the league’s highest-paid point guard who signed his contract expecting to be a backup — even if he doesn’t think of himself that way.

“I feel like I view myself as a starter in this league,” Jones said. “I feel like I am a starter in this league. I just come off the bench, and I have no shame in that. I love being in Memphis, and I take pride in my role.”

Morant’s absence and Jones’ promotion gave Grizzlies rookie Kennedy Chandler the rare chance to play a major role off the bench, and he logged a season-high 26 minutes in the win over the Heat. As Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal details, Chandler has taken advantage this season of the opportunity to lean from the two veteran point guards ahead of him on the depth chart, but admits he has had to adjust to not playing regularly.

“It’s hard. It’s the first time I’ve ever dealt with this. My whole entire life I’ve played 30 minutes (a game),” Chandler said. “This is a business, it’s a growing up moment for me to just keep my mind right.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd recognizes that the workload Luka Doncic has handled so far this season isn’t sustainable, according to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Doncic ranks first in the West with a 37.9% usage rate and is second in the conference in minutes per game (36.8). “For 82 games, it’s no way that he can play at this level, the usage is just way too high. No one can. You know, the things that we ask him to do on the offensive end and then asked him to defend on the other end. It’s a lot,” Kidd said, noting that other players will have to step up for Dallas.
  • Now a member of the Wizards, former Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis is willing to admit in a conversation with Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports that he “just wasn’t the right guy” to be Doncic’s co-star. “On paper, it would be the perfect fit, but it just didn’t mesh the way that we wanted to,” Porzingis said. “We just did not mesh together well. Sometimes it’s like that in the workplace, you know? It just didn’t work out the way you expected.”
  • The Spurs are doing a ton of homework to prepare for the possibility of landing Victor Wembanyama in the 2023 draft, including considering how their current players might mesh with him, according to LJ Ellis of SpursTalk.com. The Spurs won’t have more than a 14% chance of winning the No. 1 pick in next year’s lottery, but it seems likely they’ll be among the top contenders for Wembanyama — San Antonio is currently just 6-18, dead last in the West.

And-Ones: Wembanyama, 2023 Draft, Best Trade Assets, More

Victor Wembanyama led France to a pair of blowout victories in this month’s World Cup qualifiers, scoring 39 total points in 48 minutes as the French team beat Lithuania by 25 points and Bosnia and Herzegovina by 36. The performances on the international stage were the latest reminder why Wembanyama is ranked atop every draft expert’s big board for 2023.

That list of draft experts includes Jonathan Givony of ESPN, who unveiled his full top-100 list for the 2023 NBA draft on Thursday, with the usual suspects (Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson) leading the way.

Givony’s initial list features Overtime Elite’s Amen Thompson at No. 3, Arkansas’ Nick Smith Jr. at No. 4, and Villanova’s Cam Whitmore at No. 5. Keyonte George, Ausar Thompson, Dillon Mitchell, Kel’el Ware, and Brandon Miller round out his top 10.

In an Insider-only story for ESPN.com, Givony also shared his impressions on this year’s Champions Classic, evaluating Duke’s Kyle Filipowski as a lottery prospect and taking a closer look at Gradey Dick‘s strong start to the season for Kansas.

  • Which NBA teams have the best collection of trade assets? Yossi Gozlan and the staff at HoopsHype rank the Thunder, Pelicans, and the Grizzlies as the top three due to their impressive mix of young talent and future draft picks. On the other end of the spectrum, the Wizards are considered the team with the least valuable trade assets.
  • Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today takes a look at nine players who are making an impact this season after changing teams in the summer, starting with Donovan Mitchell in Cleveland, while Frank Urbina of HoopsHype singles out nine players who appear to be taking a major leap forward, including Lauri Markkanen and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
  • In his latest look around the NBA, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer considers whether the Warriors and Bulls will have to turn to the trade market this season, explores Joel Embiid‘s ongoing evolution, and highlights some of the league’s most impressive three-point shooters.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic breaks out the “panic meter” to determine how concerned we should be about some would-be contenders who are off to slow starts. Hollinger isn’t too worried about the Sixers and Clippers, but has serious reservations about the Timberwolves, Nets, and Lakers, with the Heat and Warriors falling in the middle.

Draft Notes: Wembanyama, Henderson, College Prospects, Oden

With the French League season underway, Victor Wembanyama continues to display the talents that make him the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft, writes Jonathan Givony of ESPN. His Metropolitans 92 team is off to a 6-1 start with Wembanyama ranking second in the league in scoring, third in rebounding, first in blocks and fifth in usage rate.

Wembanyama is learning how to use his 7’4″ frame to his advantage, challenging shots on defense and unleashing a turnaround jumper that’s nearly impossible to defend. He’s shooting just 33% from three-point range, a drop-off from his 9-for-18 performance in two games in Las Vegas, and he’s still adapting to the more physical style of play in France, but his coach, Vincent Collet, says that’s to be expected.

“Defense is different [in the United States],” Collet said. “He has more room in the G League game. And probably the referees are protecting more. Sometimes they grab him in France. So that’s something special that didn’t happen [in Las Vegas]. I don’t think he has to play to make seven threes each game.”

Givony notes that Wembanyama will have another international test this week with two FIBA World Cup qualifiers. France will travel to Lithuania on Friday and will host Bosnia and Herzegovina next Monday.

There’s more on the 2023 draft:

  • Scoot Henderson, expected to taken second overall, is off to a more uneven start with the G League Ignite, Givony adds. He posted 25 points and seven assists in his first game, but took some questionable shots and didn’t attempt any three-pointers. He had 25 points again Sunday in his second game, but he needed 28 shots and made critical mistakes down the stretch in a one-point loss. Givony describes Henderson’s best plays as “All-Star caliber,” but says he still needs work on his decision making, especially in the half court.
  • With the college basketball season tipping off today, Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report offers a look at the best prospects and several others who could rise up draft boards by next summer. Included in Wasserman’s top tier are Arkansas’ Anthony Black and Nick Smith Jr., Baylor’s Keyonte George, Alabama’s Brandon Miller, Duke’s Dariq Whitehead and Villanova’s Cam Whitmore.
  • Former No. 1 pick Greg Oden, who’s now director of basketball operations at Butler, can understand the exposure that Wembanyama is getting at such a young age, per Dana Hunsinger Benbow of The Indianapolis Star. “Find something that you enjoy doing and stay with that and always keep that a part of you,” Oden said in offering advice to Wembanyama. “Because this journey is going to mature you a lot faster than everybody else.”

And-Ones: Wembanyama, 2023 Draft, Tanking, More

The NBA will give fans an opportunity to take a closer look at 2023’s projected No. 1 pick over the next several months, announcing on Thursday that all of this season’s Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 games will be available to watch for free on the NBA app. The Metropolitans 92 are, of course, Victor Wembanyama‘s team in France.

The Metropolotians 92 compete in the LNB Betclic ELITE, France’s top basketball league. According to the NBA’s announcement, the French games included on the NBA App will include the All-Star Game on December 29 and the Leaders Cup (playoff) games from February 17-19. The league has a preliminary broadcast schedule right here, though it only includes October and November games for the time being.

The buzz around Wembanyama reached a new level when his French team faced off against the G League Ignite for a pair of exhibition games earlier this month. The NBA is clearly hoping to capitalize off of the increasing level of interest in the 7’3″ super-prospect as he prepares to enter the league in 2023.

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

  • While Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson remains locks to be the first and second players off the board in the 2023 NBA draft, there are plenty of questions behind them in the lottery, according to Sam Vecenie of The Athletic. Vecenie has published an updated version of his ’23 mock draft, projecting Amen Thompson of Overtime Elite to be the No. 3 overall pick, followed by Arkansas’ Nick Smith Jr., Villanova’s Cam Whitmore, Baylor’s Keyonte George, and Duke’s Dariq Whitehead.
  • Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports suggests that the NBA should attempt to curb tanking by prohibiting teams from getting a top-three pick in back-to-back years. He hears that a version of that rule was proposed by the NBA in talks with teams and was resisted by a “small handful” of general managers, despite being favored by commissioner Adam Silver.
  • Suns center Jock Landale and Hornets big man Nick Richards are among the under-the-radar players who are worth getting to know based on their performances in the first 10 days of this NBA season, writes John Hollinger of The Athletic. As Hollinger notes, both Landale and Richards will be restricted free agents in 2023.

And-Ones: Breakout Candidates, Wembanyama, Thornwell

Michael Scotto of HoopsHype polled 20 NBA executives on their top three breakout candidates for the 2022/23 season and found that Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey was the most popular pick. While I’d argue that last season represented a breakout year for Maxey, some executives have far higher expectations for him going forward.

“Maxey’s going to be better than James Harden,” one general manager said to Scotto. “He just keeps getting better and better and will be a huge reason why they have success this season.”

Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton, Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards, Magic forward Franz Wagner, and Rockets guard Jalen Green were among the other popular breakout picks, based on the responses Scotto got from executives. Interestingly, Warriors big man James Wiseman and Pistons forward/center Marvin Bagley III were each picked as this year’s top breakout candidate by one GM.

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

  • In his latest look at the top prospects in the 2023 NBA draft class, David Aldridge of The Athletic passes along several entertaining quotes from NBA executives, including one Eastern Conference exec’s response to whether Scoot Henderson could surpass Victor Wembanyama as next year’s No. 1 pick: “Scoot’s good, but, no. Short of Wembanyama having murdered somebody, there’s just no way.”
  • Veteran guard Sindarius Thornwell has signed with Frutti Extra Bursasport, the Turkish team announced this week (via Twitter). Thornwell has appeared in 160 total NBA games and played for New Orleans and Atlanta in 2020/21, but wasn’t in the league last season.
  • Longtime NBA referee Tony Brown, who officiated over 1,100 games, including one in the 2020 NBA Finals, passed away on Thursday after a fight with pancreatic cancer, according to his family (story via ESPN.com).

And-Ones: NBA Rosters, Barkley, Vildoza, Wembanyama

The NBA’s opening night rosters feature a total of 120 international players, including a record-setting 22 from Canada and 10 from Australia, the league announced today in a press release. All 30 teams have at least one international player, while the Raptors – the NBA’s only international team – lead the way with eight international players.

Meanwhile, the opening night rosters also include a record-setting 234 players with some G League experience, according to the NBA (Twitter link). All 30 teams are carrying at least four players with G League experience, while the Nets‘ roster features a record 12 players who have spent time in the NBAGL — Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons, Markieff Morris, and rookie Alondes Williams are the only Brooklyn players without G League experience.

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

  • The four members of TNT’s Inside the NBA studio show – Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Shaquille O’Neal – have agreed to new multiyear contracts, Warner Bros. Discovery Sports announced this week. Barkley’s new deal covers 10 years and will be worth well above $100MM, reports Andrew Marchand of The New York Post, though Barkley said during an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show that there’s “probably zero chance” he’ll stay for the entire 10 years (story via Awful Announcing).
  • Argentinian guard Luca Vildoza, who spent parts of the last two seasons with the Knicks and Bucks, told Mozzart Sport (hat tip to Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops) that he didn’t get the opportunity he had hoped for in the NBA, but that he still feels like he benefited from his time stateside. “I feel better physically and stronger,” Vildoza said as he prepares to resume playing in Europe. He appeared in seven games for Milwaukee during the 2022 postseason, but has yet to play in a regular season NBA contest.
  • Lakers star LeBron James isn’t the NBA’s highest-paid player in terms of salary this season, but he’ll earn the most money after accounting for endorsements, according to Kurt Badenhausen of Sportico. Baenhausen pegs James’ total 2022/23 earnings at $119.5MM, putting him ahead of Warriors guard Stephen Curry ($93.1MM) and Nets forward Kevin Durant ($91MM).
  • Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report takes a look at which teams can realistically be expected to tank in 2022/23 for a shot to draft Victor Wembanyama next June.