Walker Kessler

Northwest Notes: Green, Hart, Timberwolves Draft, Jazz Targets

JaMychal Green was officially traded to the Thunder by the Nuggets on Thursday, but it’s unlikely the forward will ever suit up for Oklahoma City. General manager Sam Presti says they’ll look to trade Green, Brandon Rahbar of the Daily Thunder tweets. Green, 32, is at the stage of his career where he provides greater value to a contender than a rebuilding team. He’s on an $8.2MM expiring contract for 2022/23.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Josh Hart had his $12.96MM contract guaranteed by the Trail Blazers over the weekend. However, it shouldn’t have major implications on Portland’s offseason moves, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. The Blazers now have $105MM in guaranteed contracts but they’re over the cap because of the free agent holds on Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic. They still could have the flexibility to re-sign those two free agents and use the full $10.5MM mid-level exception to pursue outside targets.
  • The Timberwolves prioritized rebounding in the draft and addressed that by making moves to select Auburn’s Walker Kessler, Chris Hine of the Star Tribune writes. Kessler was the Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year. They also wound up with Duke wing Wendell Moore late in the first round and Memphis wing Josh Minott and Italian guard Matteo Spagnolo in the second round. President of basketball operations Tim Connelly isn’t expecting too much out of those rookies. “We don’t want to put too much expectations on their ability to contribute right away,” he told The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski. “When you have a team that had as much success as we did, it’s hard to put that on your shoulders.”
  • What might the Jazz do with their taxpayer mid-level exception in free agency? Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune lists 25 potential free agent targets — breaking them down into wings, guards and bigs.

Grizzlies Acquire No. 19 Pick Jake LaRavia From Wolves

JUNE 24: The trade is complete, the Grizzlies and Timberwolves announced in a pair of press releases. Officially, LaRavia’s draft rights head to Memphis along with a 2023 second-round pick in exchange for the draft rights to No. 22 pick Walker Kessler and No. 29 pick TyTy Washington.

It’s unclear if that ’23 second-rounder is Minnesota’s own or the Knicks’ second-round pick that the Wolves acquired earlier in the draft.

The Wolves are flipping Washington to the Rockets in a separate trade.


JUNE 23: The Grizzlies have agreed to acquire the No. 19 pick from the Timberwolves and will select Wake Forest forward Jake LaRavia, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). In exchange, Minnesota will receive the No. 22 and No. 29 selections in tonight’s draft, with the Grizzlies also gaining a second-round pick, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter links).

It’s apparently a 2023 second-rounder, Chris Hine of the Star Tribune tweets.

LaRavia, who spent two seasons at Indiana State, moved up draft boards in recent weeks after averaging 14.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG and 3.7 APG for the Demon Deacons last season. With Kyle Anderson entering free agency, LaRavia could compete for a rotation spot in his rookie campaign.

He improved his stock during workouts, as he was originally projected as a borderline first-rounder.

Parlaying two first-rounders for the No. 19 selection doesn’t seem like great value, as Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian notes, but Grizzlies executive Zach Kleiman is unfazed by perceptions as long as he gets the player he wants. Kleiman has traded up for every pick on his watch with the exception of Ja Morant, Herrington adds (Twitter links).

Draft Notes: Mocks, Big Men, O’Neal, Jovic, Kessler

Both John Hollinger of The Athletic and Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report recently released their final mock drafts ahead of tomorrow’s 2022 NBA draft. The divergence between the two starts at the top, with Hollinger projecting Chet Holmgren to go No. 1 overall to the Magic, while Wasserman takes the more common approach with Jabari Smith going to Orlando.

Hollinger notes that Orlando’s front office has shown an affinity for length in the past, and believes Holmgren’s tantalizing rim protection skills might be too enticing to pass up. Wasserman, on the other hand, says Holmgren’s thin frame and “slower delivery when creating” make some talent evaluators slightly nervous, and Smith’s age (he’s a year younger than Holmgren) and maturity make him a safer choice, plus Smith is considered to have as much upside as anyone in the draft.

There’s considerable overlap in several spots between the two mock drafts, but perhaps not in areas one might expect. For example, both mocks have Jaden Ivey going No. 4 to Sacramento, even though the guard hasn’t worked out for or been in contact Kings, and wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about the prospect of joining the team in a media session earlier this week.

As Wasserman observes, the Kings didn’t work out Davion Mitchell or Tyrese Haliburton prior to drafting them with their two most recent lottery picks, so if Ivey is the top prospect on their board, don’t be surprised if he’s selected (Haliburton was traded to Indiana in February for Domantas Sabonis).

Both Hollinger and Wasserman have Wendell Moore Jr. going No. 22 to Memphis, which is interesting because he’s ranked No. 33 on ESPN’s big board, so that’s a pretty sizeable jump up. Hollinger also hears the Grizzlies are fans of Dalen Terry, who is No. 24 on ESPN’s board. Memphis is reportedly interested in moving up in the draft, as it controls the Nos. 29 and 47 picks in addition to No. 22.

Here are a few more draft-related notes:

  • David Aldridge of The Athletic queried college coaches, scouts and NBA executives to get their anonymous opinions on the top-rated big men in the draft, including Holmgren, whom one Western Conference executive described as a “mystery.” “You just don’t know how he and the body are going to react to the next level of stress,” the exec said. “… His skill level is awesome, but who does he guard at the next level? What does he play? Hardest-working freshman ever at Gonzaga. Work ethic and intangibles are way better than what showed up on the court.”
  • Shareef O’Neal, the son of Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O’Neal, said his father was against him leaving school early. “We kind of bump heads about this process,” Shareef said, per Kyle Goon of The Southern California Newsgroup. “He wanted me to stay in school. I wanted to better myself through this. He knows I’m working out with teams. But I’m not gonna lie, we ain’t talked about this.” Shareef isn’t ranked on ESPN’s board, so he’s considered likely to go undrafted.
  • Nikola Jovic and Walker Kessler have become the 23rd and 24th prospects to receive green room invitations, sources tell Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter links). Jovic is ranked No. 27 on ESPN’s board, while Kessler is No. 23.

Givony’s Latest: Sharpe, Magic, Kings, Duarte, Suns, Knicks, More

Kentucky’s Shaedon Sharpe, perhaps the biggest enigma of the 2022 NBA draft, is the subject of several rumors in Jonathan Givony’s latest mock draft at ESPN.com (Insider link).

Givony has Sharpe coming off the board at No. 7 to Portland, writing that Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard is believed to be a fan of the young guard, despite the fact that Sharpe is 12 years younger than Lillard and is on a “completely different timetable.”

A pair of teams picking later in the lottery may also have their sights set on Sharpe. The Thunder, who hold the No. 12 pick, continue to pursue trade-up opportunities, according to Givony, who says Sharpe and Jaden Ivey are among the players Oklahoma City appears to be targeting.

Meanwhile, Sharpe is also said to intrigue the Hornets if they trade up from No. 13, Givony writes, noting that the Kentucky guard surprised other teams when he opted to work out for Charlotte.

Here are a few more of the most interesting tidbits from Givony’s newest mock:

  • Virtually every NBA team expects the Magic to select Jabari Smith first overall and would be surprised if they go in a different direction.
  • The Kings are considered more likely to stand pat than to trade the No. 4 pick, but they’ve had discussions with almost every team behind them in the lottery and even some outside of the lottery, per Givony. Pacers wing Chris Duarte is among the possible trade targets the Kings have done their homework on, Givony adds.
  • Surprisingly, Givony has heard the Suns are among the clubs exploring trade scenarios involving the Pelicans‘ No. 8 pick. Givony suggests Phoenix could potentially include a player like Cameron Johnson in its offer to help create more long-term cap flexibility to retain Deandre Ayton.
  • There’s a widespread belief that the Knicks won’t end up picking at No. 11, Givony reports. they’re “aggressively” exploring scenarios in which they trade back or trade out of the first round.
  • Rival teams believe the Cavaliers are high on Ousmane Dieng, though he could be off the board by No. 14, says Givony.
  • Echoing multiple recent reports, Givony identifies Hawks big man John Collins as a major draft-day trade candidate. Givony goes a step further, suggesting that Collins could even be packaged with Kevin Huerter in a deal involving the Kings‘ No. 4 overall pick.
  • The Bucks (No. 24) are eyeing older prospects who could help them win right away, such as Andrew Nembhard, Jake LaRavia, Christian Braun and Ismael Kamagate, according to Givony, who has heard from rival teams that Milwaukee has also conveyed some interest in trading up into the teens, possibly for a big man like Mark Williams and Walker Kessler.

Full List Of 2022 NBA Draft Combine Participants

The NBA has revealed its list of 76 players who have been invited – and who are expected to attend – next week’s draft combine in Chicago. The combine workouts will take place from May 18-20.

Over the course of the week, players will conduct interviews with NBA teams, participate in five-on-five games, and go through shooting, strength and agility drills.

While several of the prominent names at the top of the draft likely won’t participate in scrimmages, those top prospects are still expected to attend. That group includes Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero, and Jaden Ivey.

A handful of standout players from the G League Elite Camp could be invited to participate in the combine as well.

Here’s the full list of 76 names announced by the NBA today, in alphabetical order, per Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link):

  1. Ochai Agbaji, G/F, Kansas (senior)
  2. Patrick Baldwin Jr., F, Milwaukee (freshman)
  3. Paolo Banchero, F, Duke (freshman)
  4. Dominick Barlow, F, Overtime Elite (auto-eligible)
  5. MarJon Beauchamp, G/F, G League Ignite (auto-eligible)
  6. Hugo Besson, G, Australia (born 2001)
  7. Malaki Branham, G/F, Ohio State (freshman)
  8. Christian Braun, G, Kansas (junior)
  9. Kendall Brown, F, Baylor (freshman)
  10. John Butler Jr., F/C, Florida State (freshman)
  11. Julian Champagnie, G/F, St. John’s (junior)
  12. Kennedy Chandler, G, Tennessee (freshman)
  13. Max Christie, G, Michigan State (freshman)
  14. Kofi Cockburn, C, Illinois (junior)
  15. Dyson Daniels, G, G League Ignite (auto-eligible)
  16. Johnny Davis, G, Wisconsin (sophomore)
  17. JD Davison, G, Alabama (freshman)
  18. Moussa Diabate, F, Michigan (freshman)
  19. Ousmane Dieng, F, Australia (born 2003)
  20. Khalifa Diop, C, Spain (born 2002)
  21. Jalen Duren, C, Memphis (freshman)
  22. Tari Eason, F, LSU (sophomore)
  23. Keon Ellis, G, Alabama (senior)
  24. Michael Foster, F, G League Ignite (auto-eligible)
  25. Collin Gillespie, G, Villanova (super-senior)
  26. AJ Griffin, F, Duke (freshman)
  27. Jaden Hardy, G, G League Ignite (auto-eligible)
  28. Ron Harper Jr., F, Rutgers (senior)
  29. Chet Holmgren, C, Gonzaga (freshman)
  30. Harrison Ingram, F, Stanford (freshman)
  31. Jaden Ivey, G, Purdue (sophomore)
  32. Trayce Jackson-Davis, F, Indiana (junior)
  33. Nikola Jovic, F, Serbia (born 2003)
  34. Johnny Juzang, G, UCLA (junior)
  35. Ismael Kamagate, C, France (born 2001)
  36. Trevor Keels, G, Duke (freshman)
  37. Walker Kessler, F/C, Auburn (sophomore)
  38. Christian Koloko, C, Arizona (junior)
  39. Jake LaRavia, F, Wake Forest (junior)
  40. Justin Lewis, F, Marquette (sophomore)
  41. E.J. Liddell, F, Ohio State (junior)
  42. Bennedict Mathurin, G/F, Arizona (sophomore)
  43. Matthew Mayer, F, Baylor (senior)
  44. Bryce McGowens, G, Nebraska (freshman)
  45. Leonard Miller, F, Canada (born 2003)
  46. Josh Minott, F, Memphis (freshman)
  47. Aminu Mohammed, G/F, Georgetown (freshman)
  48. Iverson Molinar, G, Mississippi State (junior)
  49. Jean Montero, G, Overtime Elite (auto-eligible)
  50. Wendell Moore, F, Duke (junior)
  51. Keegan Murray, F, Iowa (sophomore)
  52. Andrew Nembhard, G, Gonzaga
  53. Scotty Pippen Jr., G, Vanderbilt (junior)
  54. Gabriele Procida, G/F, Italy (born 2002)
  55. Orlando Robinson, F/C, Fresno State (junior)
  56. David Roddy, F, Colorado State (junior)
  57. Ryan Rollins, G, Toledo (sophomore)
  58. Dereon Seabron, G, NC State (sophomore)
  59. Shaedon Sharpe, G, Kentucky (freshman)
  60. Jabari Smith, F, Auburn (freshman)
  61. Terquavion Smith, G, NC State (freshman)
  62. Jeremy Sochan, F, Baylor (freshman)
  63. Matteo Spagnolo, G, Italy (born 2003)
  64. Julian Strawther, G/F, Gonzaga (sophomore)
  65. Dalen Terry, G, Arizona (sophomore)
  66. Drew Timme, F, Gonzaga (junior)
  67. Jabari Walker, F, Colorado (sophomore)
  68. TyTy Washington Jr., G, Kentucky (freshman)
  69. Peyton Watson, G/F, UCLA (freshman)
  70. Blake Wesley, G, Notre Dame (freshman)
  71. Alondes Williams, G, Wake Forest (super-senior)
  72. Jalen Williams, G, Santa Clara (junior)
  73. Jaylin Williams, F/C, Arkansas (sophomore)
  74. Mark Williams, C, Duke (sophomore)
  75. Trevion Williams, F/C, Purdue (senior)
  76. Fanbo Zeng, F, G League Ignite (auto-eligible)

Auburn’s Walker Kessler Declares For NBA Draft

Auburn sophomore Walker Kessler will declare for the NBA Draft and forgo his remaining college eligibility by hiring an agent, he told ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

Kessler is ranked No. 24 on ESPN’s big board. As Givony notes, he received Naismith and NABC National Defensive Player of the Year honors this season, averaging 11.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game.

“This season was a blast for my teammates and I,” Kessler said. “Winning the SEC regular season and being the No. 1 ranked team in the country for the first time in Auburn history was a dream. I really valued all the time I spent with the coaching staff and everyone around the program. It was so much fun.”

Kessler, a 7’1″ center, has impressed scouts with his length and athleticism. He posted the highest shot-blocking percentage in college basketball over the last 15 years, according to Givony.

“I think NBA teams saw the different ways I can impact the game,” Kessler said. “I have good timing as a shot-blocker and can move my feet well switching on ball screens. I’m looking forward to showing the diversity of my game, as well as my mobility.”

The NBA draft will be held on Thursday, June 23 in Brooklyn, New York.