Wesley Saunders

2016 NBA D-League Expansion Draft Results

The NBA D-League conducted its expansion draft today, allowing the league’s three new teams to add the rights to 12 players apiece. The league’s previously-existing 19 teams had been permitted to retain the rights to 10 players each, leaving the rest of their players unprotected and free to be drafted, as Chris Reichert of UpsideMotor.com explained earlier today.

As we noted on Tuesday, the D-League’s three new franchises this year are affiliates for the Nets (Long Island Nets), Hornets (Greensboro Swarm), and Bulls (Windy City Bulls).

The players those three teams added today won’t necessarily play for them this season — in fact, it’s somewhat rare for expansion draftees to suit up for their new clubs, as D-League Digest tweets. Many of those players will try to catch on with an NBA team or will end up playing overseas. Still, the expansion draft gives the D-League’s new teams some assets as they start to build their rosters for the coming season.

Per Reichert, here are the results of today’s expansion draft. The player’s former D-League team is noted in parentheses, and picks are ordered by round. The teams will hold their players’ rights for the next two seasons:

Long Island Nets (Twitter link)

  1. Gary Forbes (Grand Rapids Drive)
  2. Carrick Felix (Santa Cruz Warriors)
  3. Jamaal Franklin (Los Angeles D-Fenders)
  4. Akil Mitchell (Rio Grande Valley Vipers)
  5. Peyton Siva (Delaware 87ers)
  6. Alex Kirk (Canton Charge)
  7. Austin Freeman (Westchester Knicks)
  8. Kendall Gray (Iowa Energy)
  9. Lazar Hayward (Los Angeles D-Fenders)
  10. Dwayne Polee Jr. (Reno Bighorns)
  11. Matt Bouldin (Fort Wayne Mad Ants)
  12. Lewis Jackson (Salt Lake City Stars)

Greensboro Swarm (Twitter link)

  1. Josh Davis (Austin Spurs)
  2. Abdul Gaddy (Maine Red Claws)
  3. Tony Bishop (Rio Grande Valley Vipers)
  4. Scotty Hopson (Sioux Falls Skyforce)
  5. Toure’ Murry (Sioux Falls Skyforce)
  6. Rodney Williams (Oklahoma City Blue)
  7. Josh Huestis (Oklahoma City Blue)
  8. Ralston Turner (Grand Rapids Drive)
  9. Keanau Post (Raptors 905)
  10. Damien Wilkins (Iowa Energy)
  11. Kris Joseph (Westchester Knicks)
  12. Dee Bost (Raptors 905)

Windy City Bulls (Twitter link)

  1. Wesley Saunders (Austin Spurs)
  2. Kiwi Gardner (Santa Cruz Warriors)
  3. Ralph Sampson III (Maine Red Claws)
  4. Booker Woodfox (Texas Legends)
  5. Jerel McNeal (Northern Arizona Suns)
  6. Akeem Richmond (Reno Bighorns)
  7. Casey Prather (Northern Arizona Suns)
  8. Jon Octeus (Canton Charge)
  9. Justin Dentmon (Texas Legends)
  10. Jamal Jones (Delaware 87ers)
  11. Xavier Thames (Fort Wayne Mad Ants)
  12. Ian Chiles (Salt Lake City Stars)

NBA Teams Designate Affiliate Players

NBA teams cut as much as 25% of their rosters at the end of the preseason, but franchises that have D-League affiliates have a way to maintain ties to many of the players they release from the NBA roster. An NBA team can claim the D-League rights to up to four of the players it waives, as long as the players clear waivers, consent to join the D-League, and don’t already have their D-League rights owned by another team. These are known as affiliate players, as our Hoops Rumors Glossary entry details.

NBA teams allocated 46 affiliate players to the D-League at the beginning of the season last year, and this year, that number has risen to 56, according to the list the D-League announced today. These players are going directly to the D-League affiliate of the NBA team that cut them and weren’t eligible for the D-League draft that took place Saturday. Teams that designated fewer than the maximum four affiliate players retain the ability to snag the D-League rights of players they waive during the regular season, but for now, this is the complete list:

Boston Celtics (Maine Red Claws)

Cleveland Cavaliers (Canton Charge)

Dallas Mavericks (Texas Legends)

Detroit Pistons (Grand Rapids Drive)

Golden State Warriors (Santa Cruz Warriors)

Houston Rockets (Rio Grande Valley Vipers)

Indiana Pacers (Fort Wayne Mad Ants)

Los Angeles Lakers (Los Angeles D-Fenders)

Memphis Grizzlies (Iowa Energy)

Miami Heat (Sioux Falls Skyforce)

New York Knicks (Westchester Knicks)

Oklahoma City Thunder (Oklahoma City Blue)

Orlando Magic (Erie BayHawks)

Philadelphia 76ers (Delaware 87ers)

Phoenix Suns (Bakersfield Jam)

Sacramento Kings (Reno Bighorns)

San Antonio Spurs (Austin Spurs)

Toronto Raptors (Raptors 905)

Utah Jazz (Idaho Stampede)

Also, several players who were on NBA preseason rosters are on D-League rosters through means other than the affiliate player rule. Most of them played under D-League contracts at some point within the last two years, meaning their D-League teams have returning player rights to them. Others entered through last weekend’s D-League draft, while others saw their D-League rights conveyed via trade. Most of these players aren’t with the D-League affiliate of the NBA team they were with last month, with a few exceptions.

Roster information from Adam Johnson of D-League Digest, Chris Reichert of Upside & Motor and freelancer and Hoops Rumors contributor Mark Porcaro was used in the creation of this post.

Eastern Notes: Sixers, Knicks, Pistons

The Sixers‘ reputation among several agents around the league likely won’t do the franchise any favors when the team expects to be a player in free agency in the future, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes in an interesting story after speaking with several sources and agents. One agent told Pompey that he doesn’t want his max-level players in Philadelphia, but he is open to his midlevel players signing with the Sixers only if they overpay. Agents also told Pompey that Sixers GM Sam Hinkie is hard to deal with, saying he doesn’t make it a priority to return calls.

Here’s more out of the Eastern Conference:

Atlantic Notes: Zeller, Lee, Ross, Faverani

The Celtics are interested in rookie scale extensions for Tyler Zeller or Jared Sullinger only if they consent to decidedly team-friendly deals, league sources tell Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. The C’s are prioritizing flexibility and the “feeling is” that the team would be pleased to re-sign them in restricted free agency next summer if they perform well this season, Bulpett writes. The extension window for both closes at the end of November 2nd. Perry Jones is also up for a rookie scale extension, but he’s in a fight simply to preserve his roster spot for this season.

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • David Lee concedes that he would have preferred to stay with the Warriors for the rest of his career, but he also makes it clear that he’s “really, really excited” to join the Celtics, Bulpett relays in the same piece.
  • A 50-50 chance exists that the Raptors and Terrence Ross will reach an extension deal by the November 2nd deadline, sources tell Grantland’s Zach Lowe, who takes educated guesses on Zeller and other rookie scale extension candidates.
  • Former Celtics big man Vitor Faverani, who reached a two-year agreement to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv back in July, is likely to be let go by the team due to knee issues, international journalist David Pick reports (Twitter link).
  • Wesley Saunders, who was waived by the Knicks on Friday, is expected to join the team’s D-League affiliate in Westchester, Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com tweets.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Knicks Cut Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Four Others

The Knicks have waived Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Darion Atkins and DaJuan Summers, Travis Trice and Wesley Saunders, the team announced (Twitter link). The moves take the Knicks to 14 players, one below the regular season roster limit. All had $75K partial guarantees except for Trice, who was assured of $50K, and Summers, whose salary is non-guaranteed. The release of Antetokounmpo, a brother of Bucks utilityman Giannis Antetokounmpo, means New York forfeits its draft rights to the player it took 51st overall last season.

Antetokounmpo, 23, doesn’t appear interested in rejoining the Knicks D-League affiliate, the team he played for last season. He averaged 13.9 points in 33.0 minutes per game in the D-League last year but went scoreless in about 13 minutes of preseason action spread over three games this month.

Atkins also failed to register a point over seven total minutes of preseason playing time. The 23-year-old went undrafted out of Virginia this year.

Summers, 27, was the 35th overall pick in 2009 but hasn’t appeared in an NBA regular season game since the 2012/13 season. The power forward averaged 2.5 PPG in 5.8 MPG across four preseason contests with the Knicks this month.

Trice went undrafted out of Michigan State this year. The 22-year-old point guard had four points, two assists and a turnover in about 14 total minutes of playing time over the course of two preseason games.

Saunders, from Harvard, was yet another prospect passed over in this year’s draft who landed with the Knicks. The 22-year-old small forward managed two points in about seven minutes of preseason action spread across a pair of games.

The Knicks have 13 fully guaranteed deals, but Langston Galloway, with his sizable $440K partial guarantee, seems safely ensconced in the 14th spot. New York is reportedly one of a handful of teams with interest in the recently waived Jimmer Fredette.

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Sullinger, Sixers

Knicks president Phil Jackson‘s statement that he’d be more involved with coach Derek Fisher and the team this season could potentially send a confusing message to the locker room, Frank Isola of The New York Daily News writes. “I really don’t know what standpoint he’s coming from,” Carmelo Anthony said of Jackson’s increased role. “If I think I know Phil the way I know him, I think it’s more of being involved with coaching staff, being in with them, watching film with them, kind of opening up dialogue a little bit more, him sitting in the film room with us, after the games, going over the games, watching more tape, talking to the coaching staff.

Here’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The minimum salary deal that the Knicks signed DaJuan Summers to is non-guaranteed, Darion Atkinspact includes a partial guarantee of $75K, Travis Trice‘s arrangement includes $50K in guaranteed money, and Wesley Saundersdeal includes a partial guarantee of $75K, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders relays (on Twitter).
  • Celtics big man Jared Sullinger believes that his improved conditioning will elevate his game to the next level this season, CSNNE.com relays. “A lot of shots that I’ve missed is due to conditioning. A lot of rebounds I missed is due to conditioning. The defensive plays that I’ve missed – conditioning,” said Sullinger. “Now that my conditioning is at a level where I’m comfortable at but can still improve, I think I have a chance [to be an All-Star].
  • Even though Joe Johnson knew that the Nets were going to make some offseason changes, he was still caught by surprise by Deron Williamsbuyout arrangement, Tim Bontemps of The New York Post writes. “I honestly didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Johnson. “But I didn’t see [the buyout] coming. I don’t think [being here] was that bad. It’s not that bad here. To want to get bought out … I couldn’t really put my finger around that one. But I hear that he’s happy and that’s the most important thing. He’s back home, so good for him.
  • The contracts that the Nets signed Justin Harper and Chris Daniels to are both one-year, minimum salary arrangements that include no guaranteed money, Pincus tweets.
  • The success of Sixers big men Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel this season will depend on how effective the outside shooting of Nik Stauskas, Robert Covington and Hollis Thompson is, Bob Cooney of The Philadelphia Daily News writes. “You hear me say this all the time: My offensive world, how I see it, is pace, space and pass,” coach Brett Brown said. “Post spacing really comes with shooters. Maybe the best play that Jahlil has is Covington and Stauskas. He’s got space to do stuff. We experienced it [in San Antonio] all the time. So, these shooters will most definitely complement Nerlens, and especially Jahlil.
  • T.J. McConnell‘s four-year, minimum salary arrangement with the Sixers includes a partial guarantee of $100K for the 2015/16 season, Pincus tweets. The final three seasons are non-guaranteed, and the fourth year is both non-guaranteed and a team option.

Knicks Notes: Anthony, Summers, Atkins

Knicks president Phil Jackson is focused on 2015/16, and he isn’t dwelling on next offseason’s potential crop of free agents, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com writes. “It’s too much between then and now — or now and then — that goes along,” Jackson said. “There’s just a whole season to go through. Teams develop rapidly. I’ve seen multiple teams in the NBA over the years [that] had this chemistry that just brings it together. That’s what we’re looking for, to find guys that have the chemistry that activates them as players and their team effort together.

So we’re not going to hold anything out about this year, next year,” Jackson continued. “We’re going to continue to try to bring the best talent here to Madison Square Garden and the New York Knicks. So that kind of goes unstated.

Here’s more from New York:

  • Coach Derek Fisher doesn’t believe that Carmelo Anthony is disgruntled with the current state of the Knicks, Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com relays (via Twitter). Fisher told Begley regarding ‘Melo’s feelings, “I think he actually enjoys and likes working with these guys.
  • Anthony, who underwent surgery on his left knee back in February, will enter training camp without any medical restrictions, Begley writes in a separate piece. “Medically, he will be fine,” Fisher said. “I think we will still gauge how much we want to put him under in terms of workload and stress in training camp and in the preseason. But we don’t have to artificially hold him back from working hard. We just have to kind of gauge how it is responding to how hard we plan to work in training camp, and let’s be smart along the way.
  • DaJuan Summers‘ one-year deal with the team is non-guaranteed and for the league minimum, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets.
  • The minimum salary deals that Darion Atkins and Wesley Saunders signed are partially guaranteed for $75K, while Travis Trice‘s minimum salary pact includes a partial guarantee of $50K, Pincus confirms (Twitter link).
  • You can view the Knicks’ full preseason roster here.

Knicks Ink Wesley Saunders

SEPTEMBER 10TH, 4:10pm: The Knicks have announced that the signing is official.

JULY 29TH, 8:06am: The partial guarantee will be worth no more than $75K, reports Marc Berman of the New York Post.

JULY 24TH, 8:16pm: The Knicks continue to fill out their roster, and are closing in on an agreement with undrafted free agent Wesley Saunders, league sources tell Shams Charania of RealGM.com (Twitter link). The full contract details are unknown at this juncture, but Charania notes the pact will include a partial guarantee.

New York could be hoping to catch lightning in a bottle for a second time by adding another former Harvard guard to its roster. Jeremy Lin had previously parlayed a successful 35 game run with the Knicks during the 2011/12 campaign into a multiyear deal from the Rockets. The addition of Saunders provides some much needed depth to the Knicks’ backcourt, though he’ll still likely be a longshot to make the regular season roster.

In 30 appearances last season for the Crimson, the 22-year-old averaged 16.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.3 assists in 34.4 minutes per contest. Saunders’ career numbers at Harvard were 12.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, and 3.2 APG to go along with a slash line of .481/.402/.755.

The Knicks were one of the teams on the predraft workout docket for Saunders, as he told Zach Links of Hoops Rumors. The Ivy League prospect spoke to Zach about several topics, including what it was like to balance Harvard academics with basketball.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Jazz, Oubre, Booker

The Nuggets may be looking to deal for another lottery pick, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. Dempsey says Denver, which holds the No. 7 selection, may target a slightly lower pick, possibly No. 8 from the Pistons. He notes Detroit’s need for a small forward and writes that the Nuggets have players to offer. Denver has worked out just one point guard so far — Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant — but Murray State’s Cameron Payne is due in Monday, along with Serbian Nikola Radicevic. The Nuggets are also trying to schedule a visit from Emmanuel Mudiay, who has been widely regarded as a top four selection.

There’s more as Northwest teams prepare for the draft:

  • Six more players are scheduled for workouts with the Jazz Monday, the team tweeted. Due in are Stanford’s Anthony Brown, California-Davis’ Corey Hawkins, Temple’s Jesse Morgan, Harvard’s Wesley Saunders, Bobby Parks Jr. of the Philippines and Mateusz Ponitka of Poland.
  • Kansas’ Kelly Oubre was filled with confidence during Sunday’s workout with the Jazz, tweets Jody Genessy of The Deseret News. Oubre compared himself to NBA stars Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard and James Harden, saying, “I feel like I can be as good as or better than those guys.” Oubre also had a message for NBA teams considering him in the draft: “Whoever calls my name on draft night, I’m going to help them win a championship.” (Twitter link).
  • Kentucky’s Devin Booker is a potential draft steal for the Thunder, writes Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman. Oklahoma finished 22nd in three-point shooting last season and could use a perimeter sniper like Booker. “I know Oklahoma would be a good fit for me,” Booker said. “A lot of good looks with Russell [Westbrook] and KD [Kevin Durant] there. So that’d be nice to have. A few people have said things to me about that’d just be a good fit for me. So we’ll see what happens.”

Q&A With Harvard Guard Wesley Saunders

Throughout the spring and summer, Hoops Rumors will be talking with some of the most intriguing prospects in the 2015 NBA Draft. Today, the Hoops Rumors Draft Prospect Q&A series continues with Harvard point guard Wesley Saunders.  

Many notable figures in U.S. history have cut their teeth at Harvard, but there haven’t been a ton of high-level professional athletes to come out of Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Point guard Wesley Saunders, however, could be an exception.  After leading the Crimson to three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and two memorable upsets, Saunders is now looking to continue his career at the highest level.  Saunders, who is racking up serious frequent flyer miles as he auditions for teams all across the country, spoke with Hoops Rumors at the airport before heading to Atlanta to work out for the Hawks.

Zach Links: What workouts do you have scheduled?

Wesley Saunders: When all is said and done I’ll have worked out for the 76ers, Hawks, Mavericks, Clippers, Bulls, Magic, Bucks, and Knicks.  Wesley Saunders (vertical)

ZL: Do you think it’ll be tough bouncing around from city to city so quickly and giving 100% for each of these?

WS: I don’t necessarily think it’s too much pressure, really.  In the Ivy League we used to play games back-to-back on the weekends, so I have a bit of an advantage over some of the other guys from different conferences because I’m used to it.  I’m used to going out there one night and giving my all on the court and doing it all over again the next night.

ZL: How did the 76ers workout go?

WS: It went well.  It was my first one so I was a little bit nervous.  I didn’t know what to expect going in but I think that those guys have a really great workout plan laid out.  It was fast-paced, quick, and efficient.  I did a lot of shooting drills, some 1-on-1, some 3-on-3.  This is fun for me, we’ve been working out and getting ready for these workouts so I’m well prepared.

ZL: Where are you working out of?  Are you working out with other players?

WS: I’ve been in the Los Angeles area, mostly at USC and Westchester High School.  I’ve mostly been doing it solo but I’ve also worked out a bit with Dwayne Polee since we’re in the same agency.

ZL: If you had to compare yourself to an NBA player, who would it be?

WS: I’d say Wesley Matthews.  I think that coming out of college we have some similar skill sets.  We’re around 6’5″ and 220 pounds.  A lot of people say we’re not super athletic, but we’re certainly athletic enough.  [Matthews] was by no means a lights-out shooter like he is now.  He developed that later on and I think I can develop in the same way that he did.  He created a great career for himself and he’s one of the best shooting guards in the league right now.

ZL: What do you think makes you stand out over other point guards in this class?

WS: I think it’s my versatility.  I have the ability to make plays for myself or for others and I have a high basketball IQ.  I’m good at playing out of the pick-and-roll and that’s like 80 or 90% of the game in the NBA right now.  I can defend against 1s, 2s, or 3s on defense and I just think that I have that jack-of-all-trades quality.  I can fit into a lot of different roles.

ZL: What do you want to work on?

WS: I definitely want to work on my shooting consistency from three-point range.  I shot about 42% from outside this year, but that’s the college three.  The NBA three is a whole different animal.  I also want to improve my lateral quickness and my explosiveness so that I can really stay in front of those quick 1s.

ZL: In the last three years your Harvard teams have wound up on the national stage in the NCAA tournament.  What was your anxiety level like going into each tourney?

WS: I was the most nervous for the first one against New Mexico. I think that was because we had never been there before, so everything was kind of brand new.  We were playing against a really good team and people said they were a possible FInal Four team.  They were a really popular tournament pick.  We were an underdog.  Nobody really knew about us.  We just got into a rhythm and we were able to pull out the win.

The next year against Cincinnati was a little bit different.  Going into it we were really confident.  We felt like with the type of team they were, we could definitely have some success against them.  We went in, we executed our game plan and came out with a victory.

This year against North Carolina, that was another one where we had a lot of nerves.  That’s obviously a program with a storied history and so many great players have come through there.  Obviously we were all familiar with Roy Williams and all the great players they had; at the same time, we’ve been there before.  We’ve been the underdogs, so we knew we could get it done.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t pull it out, but we gave them a good battle.

ZL: I imagine that the academic pressures of playing at Harvard can be pretty overwhelming for some guys.

WS: Honestly, it really wasn’t for me because I went to a great high school and that prepared me for the academic load at Harvard.  It all just came down to time management.

ZL: Was that a concern for you before you committed to Harvard?

WS: I don’t think I had any hesitations about Harvard from that standpoint.  The real hesitation for me was from a basketball standpoint: Was Harvard good enough athletically for me to really achieve my dream in the NBA?  But, after talking to Coach [Tommy] Amaker and getting a feel for his vision of the program and where I would fit in, I felt comfortable that if I worked hard and believed in his system that I would be able to achieve my dream.

ZL: What led you to choose Tandem Sports and Entertainment to represent you?

WS: I just felt like I really fell in line with the players that they have already in their agency.  They have some really high character guys and I really felt like they do things the right way.

Everybody in the agency is honest and trustworthy and they’re people that really want to help me with my career going forward.  I think they’re very professional and, at the same time, they really have a vested interest in my success.  They’re helping me to have not only a great basketball career, but a great life just moving forward, so I definitely felt comfortable with them.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.