Xavier Tillman

Southwest Notes: Thad, Spurs Youth, Wood, Clarke, Tillman

New Spurs forward Thaddeus Young appears to be staying put in San Antonio for the time being. The Suns continue to be intrigued by the versatile veteran, but an immediate move is “doubtful,” per John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM (Twitter link).

Young was sent to the Spurs from Chicago in the sign-and-trade package that netted the Bulls pricey small forward DeMar DeRozan during the 2021 offseason. The 33-year-old Young enjoyed a stellar year with the Bulls in 2020/21, averaging 12.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG and 4.3 APG while logging time at the small forward, power forward, and center positions for a Chicago team in desperate need of his veteran leadership, passing skills, and defensive savvy.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • With longtime leaders DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Patty Mills and Rudy Gay now all gone from the Spurs‘ roster, the club’s young players have developed a strong bond together, writes Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News“The Spurs do a great job of picking people who have great personalities off the court,” said 22-year-old shooting guard Lonnie Walker. “We all hang out every other day, going out to eat, doing something as a team… As we continue to build that trust, it starts to lead onto the court, knowing what each other can do, knowing what each other can’t do, what we should be better at.”
  • When Rockets center Christian Wood first inked a three-year, $41MM deal with Houston in the 2020 offseason, he was not anticipating that he’d soon find himself on a rebuilding roster. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle details how Wood continues to look on the bright side of his new situation. At the time, the club still sported then-All-Star guards James Harden and Russell Westbrook, along with veteran power forward P.J. Tucker. Now all those players have moved on. Westbrook was subsequently traded to the Wizards later in the 2020 offseason (and has now been rerouted to the Lakers), while Harden forced his way onto the Nets and Tucker was sent to the 2021 title-winning Bucks. “I know what we’re trying to build and develop,” Wood said. “I’m looking ahead at the future at what this team has to offer. I know we have a bunch of young talent. I said before, we’re not going to go in try to be the No. 1 seed or No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. But we’re going to try to play every game like it’s our last.”
  • Though they could play together, defensive-oriented 6’8″ Grizzlies bench big men Brandon Clarke and Xavier Tillman Sr. seem poised to compete with each other to carve out rotation roles in Memphis, writes Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian. Herrington suggests that Tillman may have an edge edge over Clarke in the eventual rotation, thanks in part to his solid shooting and half-court passing acumen.

Grizzlies Notes: Offseason, Morant, Winslow

In the wake of the Grizzlies‘ elimination from the postseason, executive VP of basketball operations Zach Kleiman vowed to “keep pushing forward” and expressed a “massive belief” in the team’s core, as Michael Wallace of Grind City Media writes.

[RELATED: Grizzlies Sign Zach Kleiman To Contract Extension]

Kleiman acknowledged that the team’s growth and progress toward contending for a title may not always be linear, but said he’s confident it’s headed in the right direction and that he believes players will want to be part of what the Grizzlies are putting together.

“The culture we’re building, the way we want to play, the personalities of Ja (Morant) and Jaren (Jackson Jr.), players are going to want to play with these guys,” Kleiman said. “We’re building an organization that’s going to compete at the highest level, have the best medical care, the best player development, no state income tax in Memphis, it’s an incredibly comfortable place to live. We’re building something here guys are going to want to continue to be a part of, and I believe something that players are going to be attracted to.”

Here’s more on the Grizzlies:

  • While the Grizzlies need to continue upgrading the roster around him, Ja Morant‘s leadership and next developmental steps will be a crucial part of the team’s offseason, Wallace writes in a separate story for Grind City Media.
  • Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal weighs the pros and cons of bringing back Justise Winslow for the 2021/22 season. Memphis has until August 1 to make a decision on Winslow’s $13MM team option, though the team could technically re-sign him even after declining his option.
  • In the first part of a two-part series, Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian ranks the Grizzlies’ players in order of their importance going forward, starting with the players who aren’t locks to be part of the team’s future. Herrington speculates that Memphis will pick up Winslow’s team option and suggests that if the club makes a major trade, there’s a good chance that at least one of Brandon Clarke and Xavier Tillman would be on the move.

Jaren Jackson Jr. Could Return On Wednesday

Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. could make his season debut on Wednesday. He’s been upgraded to questionable on the team’s injury report for its game against the Clippers, the team’s PR department tweets.

Jackson suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee during the summer and has spent the season rehabbing the injury after undergoing surgery in mid-August. He could provide a major boost to a team sitting in the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference.

Last season, Jackson averaged 17.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 1.6 BPG in 57 starts. The team exercised its option on his contract for next season prior to this season. He’ll make $9.18MM in 2021/22 and then head into a free agency, either restricted or unrestricted, in the summer of ’22 unless he signs a rookie scale extension prior to opening night next season.

In terms of this season, Jackson’s return could impact the playing time of Xavier Tillman, Brandon Clarke and Justise Winslow.

Jackson will be on a minutes restriction, according to Mark Giannotto of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“We’re not going to just throw (Jackson) into the fire and play a heavy load,” coach Taylor Jenkins said. “We’re going to be smart about his minutes and his integration, obviously trying to find the right combinations for him to be successful, for our team to be successful.”

Southwest Notes: Morant, Mills, Ball, Tillman

Grizzlies star Ja Morant returned to the lineup on Saturday days ahead of his initial timetable, energizing his teammates and leading the club to a 106-104 victory over Philadelphia, Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes.

Morant suffered a Grade 2 ankle sprain on Dec. 28 and was given a 3-to-5 week timeline, a brutal blow for a team already playing without Jaren Jackson Jr. In nearly 31 minutes against the Sixers, Morant finished with 17 points and six assists, shooting 7-of-14 from the floor.

“It was huge, in the fact that he wanted to come back so fast,” teammate Xavier Tillman said, as relayed by Bontemps. “For a guy who .. is a franchise kind-of-guy, they’re usually able to take their time and make sure they are 110 percent before they come back. I’m not saying he wasn’t 110 percent, but he was dying and itching to come back and help us win games.

“To see that from your head guy motivates everybody else, including me, being one of the rookies on the team. It’s like, ‘Hey man, forget nicks and bruises. The dude looked like he broke his ankle and he’s itching to get back. If I have nicks and bruises, I can play, and I can give my heart.'”

Here are some other notes from the Southwest Division tonight:

  • Spurs guard Patty Mills confirmed he plans to play for Australia in the Olympics, as relayed by ESPN (hat tip to Sportando). “Everyone who’s a part of that program right now, from the head coach all the way to the equipment manager, everyone’s gotta be locked in and feel the exact same way as we feel: determined, fire burning inside, desire to do everything we possibly can to win this gold medal,” Mills said.
  • Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy issued a brief injury update on Lonzo Ball, who’s currently dealing with bilateral knee tendinopathy. Though Ball didn’t practice on Saturday, Van Gundy is hopeful he can return relatively soon. “He says he feels a lot better,” Van Gundy said, as relayed by Jacob Rude of USA Today. “(He’s) really working hard on strengthening the muscles around that knee which seems to really help. I think he’s pretty optimistic about being able to come at full strength and pretty optimistic that’s (his return) is not in the distant, distant future. I think we’re talking more days to a week than we are weeks.”
  • Grizzlies forward Xavier Tillman also discussed his increased role with the team (as relayed by Evan Barnes of the Commercial Appeal). The rookie finished with 15 points and four steals off the bench on Saturday, proving his worth on both ends of the floor.

Xavier Tillman Signs Four-Year Deal With Grizzlies

NOVEMBER 29: The signing is official, the Grizzlies announced in a press release. Tillman will receive $4.6MM in guaranteed money, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. That breaks down to $1.3MM for the upcoming season, $1.5MM in 2021/22, $1.8MM in 2022/23 and $1.9MM in 2023/24. Marks notes that it’s the second-largest amount of guaranteed money ever for a second-round pick who is headed to the NBA immediately after being drafted.


NOVEMBER 28: The Grizzlies have agreed to a four-year deal with their second-round pick Xavier Tillman, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports (Twitter link).

Memphis traded up in a deal with the Kings to get the 35th overall pick Tillman. The team will be able to give him a four-year contract using a portion of its mid-level exception.

Tillman, 21, was regarded as a solid player in the draft who could be a late first-rounder or an early second-round pick. It was with good reason as he posted outstanding numbers as a junior with Michigan State.

The 6’8″ forward averaged a double-double for the Spartans, posting 13.7 PPG and 10.3 RPG to go with 3.0 APG and 2.1 BPG across 31 games. Tillman was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

Grizzlies, Kings Swap Second-Round Picks

NOVEMBER 19: The Kings officially announced their trade with the Grizzlies, acquiring the rights to Woodard (No. 40) and a 2022 second-round pick in exchange for the rights to Tillman (No. 35).


NOVEMBER 18: The Grizzlies are trading the 40th pick in tonight’s draft and a future second-rounder to the Kings for the 35th selection, tweets Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian. The future second will be the lesser of the Pistons’ or Bulls’ picks in 2022 (Twitter link).

Memphis used that pick to draft Michigan State center Xavier Tillman. The 6’8″ junior averaged 13.7 points and 10.3 rebounds in 31 games for the Spartans last season.

With the 40th pick, Sacramento selected Mississippi State forward Robert Woodard. The 6’7″ sophonmore averaged 11.4 points and 6.5 rebounds in 31 games.

Givony’s Latest: Ball, Edwards, Hornets, Williams, More

Barring a surprise trade that shakes up the top of the draft, LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, and James Wiseman still look like the three players who will come off the board first on November 18, writes Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Insider link). Givony, who has had conversations with multiple team executives, scouts, and agents, says most teams’ front offices are operating under the assumption that Ball will be the No. 1 pick.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether the Timberwolves will be the team making and keeping that top pick in the 2020 draft. According to Givony, executives view the Bulls, Pistons, and Thunder as some of the most realistic candidates to trade up to No. 1 for Ball. Oklahoma City has the No. 25 pick, which would make trading up more difficult, but the Thunder do have a massive collection of future first-rounders they could dangle if they’re genuinely interested in moving up.

Here are several more draft-related tidbits from Givony’s latest roundup:

  • According to Givony, some front offices were underwhelmed by Edwards’ Pro Day performance. Tyrese Maxey, who was in great shape and shot the ball very well, may have made Edwards look a little worse by comparison, some executives told ESPN.
  • Despite reports that they’re eyeing Onyeka Okongwu, the Hornets haven’t seriously considered picking any prospects outside the top tier of Ball, Wiseman, and Edwards, sources tell Givony.
  • After the top three, the next tier of prospects is made up of Deni Avdija, Obi Toppin, Isaac Okoro, Tyrese Haliburton, Patrick Williams, and Okongwu, according to Givony, who says those players all seem likely to be selected in the 4-9 range. Givony adds that Williams has boosted his stock in recent months and is receiving consideration as high as No. 4. Givony also confirms that the Pistons have legit interest in Williams at No. 7, which was previously reported.
  • Picks belonging to the Kings (No. 12), Celtics (14), Timberwolves (17), Mavericks (18), Nets (19), and Heat (20) have popped up frequently in recent trade talks, sources tell ESPN.
  • Upperclassmen like Malachi Flynn, Desmond Bane, Jordan Nwora, and Xavier Tillman are candidates to come off the board late in the first round, since contending teams with late first-round picks may be prioritizing “plug-and-play” prospects who will be best equipped to handle the quick turnaround between the draft and the start of the NBA season, says Givony.

LaMelo Ball Headlines List Of Draft Combine Participants

Potential No. 1 overall pick LaMelo Ball will be among the prospects participating in the revamped virtual draft combine this week, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Ball is scheduled to take part in team interviews and a media session this week, but may not participate in any other portion, Jeremy Woo of SI.com cautions (via Twitter).

While Ball’s participation might be limited, many of this year’s other top prospects aren’t taking part in the event at all. As Woo points out (via Twitter), Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, Obi Toppin, Onyeka Okongwu, Cole Anthony, Aaron Nesmith, Devin Vassell, and Saddiq Bey are among the players who don’t appear on the list of participants sent out by the NBA.

The list of top prospects besides Ball who will be participating in the event includes Precious Achiuwa, Deni Avdija, Tyrese Haliburton, RJ Hampton, Killian Hayes, Theo Maledon, and Isaac Okoro, among others.

Here’s the full list of combine participants, via Charania:

  1. Precious Achiuwa, F, Memphis
  2. Ty-Shon Alexander, G, Creighton
  3. Deni Avdija, F, Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel)
  4. Udoka Azubuike, C, Kansas
  5. LaMelo Ball, G, Illawarra Hawks (Australia)
  6. Desmond Bane, G, TCU
  7. Tyler Bey, F, Colorado
  8. Vernon Carey Jr., C, Duke
  9. Yoeli Childs, F, BYU
  10. Mamadi Diakite, F, Virginia
  11. Devon Dotson, G, Kansas
  12. Paul Eboua, F, VL Pesaro (Italy)
  13. CJ Elleby, F, Washington State
  14. Malachi Flynn, G, San Diego State
  15. Trent Forrest, G, Florida State
  16. Josh Green, G/F, Arizona
  17. Ashton Hagans, G, Kentucky
  18. Tyrese Haliburton, G, Iowa State
  19. Josh Hall, F, Moravian Prep
  20. RJ Hampton, G, New Zealand Breakers (New Zealand)
  21. Jalen Harris, G, Nevada
  22. Killian Hayes, G, Ratiopharm Ulm (Germany)
  23. Markus Howard, G, Marquette
  24. Elijah Hughes, G/F, Syracuse
  25. Isaiah Joe, G, Arkansas
  26. Mason Jones, G, Arkansas
  27. Tre Jones, G, Duke
  28. Nathan Knight, F/C, William & Mary
  29. Kira Lewis, G, Alabama
  30. Theo Maledon, G, ASVEL (France)
  31. Karim Mane, G, Vanier College (Canada)
  32. Nico Mannion, G, Arizona
  33. Naji Marshall, F, Xavier
  34. Kenyon Martin Jr., F, IMG Academy
  35. Skylar Mays, G, LSU
  36. Jaden McDaniels, F, Washington
  37. Sam Merrill, G, Utah State
  38. Zeke Nnaji, F, Arizona
  39. Jordan Nwora, F, Louisville
  40. Isaac Okoro, F, Auburn
  41. Daniel Oturu, C, Minnesota
  42. Reggie Perry, F, Mississippi State
  43. Myles Powell, G, Seton Hall
  44. Payton Pritchard, G, Oregon
  45. Immanuel Quickley, G, Kentucky
  46. Jahmi’us Ramsey, G, Texas Tech
  47. Paul Reed, F, DePaul
  48. Nick Richards, F/C, Kentucky
  49. Grant Riller, G, Charleston
  50. Jay Scrubb, G, John A. Logan College
  51. Jalen Smith, F, Maryland
  52. Cassius Stanley, G, Duke
  53. Lamar Stevens, F, Penn State
  54. Isaiah Stewart, F/C, Washington
  55. Tyrell Terry, G, Stanford
  56. Xavier Tillman, F/C, Michigan State
  57. Kaleb Wesson, F/C, Ohio State
  58. Kahlil Whitney, F, Kentucky
  59. Cassius Winston, G, Michigan State
  60. Robert Woodard II, F, Mississippi State

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA is unable to hold its typical in-person draft combine this year, but the league has put together an alternative combine that will feature interviews through videoconferencing as well as the making of “pro day” videos, which will include strength and agility testing, anthropometric measurements, and shooting drills. Participants will also undergo medical testing and exams.

For more details on this year’s combine, be sure to check out our full story on the changes.

Xavier Tillman, Nate Darling Staying In Draft

Michigan State big man Xavier Tillman has decided to remain in the 2020 NBA draft and hire an agent, forgoing his remaining college eligibility, the school announced in a press release.

Tillman’s decision doesn’t come as a major surprise, since he’s regarded as a solid candidate to be drafted this fall, ranking 40th on ESPN’s big board of 2020 prospects. As a junior in 2019/20, Tillman averaged a double-double in 31 games (32.1 MPG) for the Spartans, recording 13.7 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 3.0 APG, and 2.1 BPG. He was also named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

In a more surprising move, Delaware guard Nate Darling is also keeping his name in the 2020 draft and will go pro, he announced on Twitter.

Darling, who doesn’t show up on ESPN’s top-100 list, appears less likely to be drafted than Tillman, but he had a strong junior year after transferring from Alabama-Birmingham to Delaware. The 6’5″ Canadian led the Blue Hens in scoring with 21.0 PPG on .446/.399/.854 shooting in 32 games (38.3 MPG).

Monday represents the deadline for early entrants in the 2020 draft to withdraw and retain their NCAA eligibility going forward. We passed along updates this morning on several players who have pulled out of the draft within the last day or two.

Since then, at least a couple more prospects have withdrawn. One player who is removing his name from consideration is NJIT guard Zach Cooks, his head coach Brian Kennedy tells Jeff Goodman of Stadium (Twitter link). Cooks will be back for his senior season after averaging 19.7 PPG and 5.2 RPG in 2019/20.

Meanwhile, Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports reports (via Twitter) that Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert is also withdrawing from the draft and returning to school, joining teammate Joel Ayayi among Zags who will be back with the team next season after testing the draft waters.

Draft Notes: Edwards, Ball, Sleepers, Gach, Oturu, Scrubb

Rich Paul‘s Klutch Sports Group published a tweet on Sunday night welcoming former Georgia guard Anthony Edwards – a candidate to be the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft – to the agency.

The news came about three months after a report indicated that Edwards had signed with Octagon Sports for his representation. However, Edwards’ move to Klutch is understandable — his agent at Octagon, Omar Wilkes, was recently hired as the new head of basketball at Klutch under Paul, the company’s CEO. Edwards is the second notable Wilkes client to follow him to his new firm — Trae Young is doing so as well.

Here’s more on the 2020 NBA draft:

  • LaMelo Ball has moved to the top of a number of experts’ draft boards, but Ethan Strauss isn’t sold on the young guard as a No. 1 pick, explaining his thinking in a piece for The Athletic.
  • ESPN draft experts Jonathan Givony, Mike Schmitz, and Kevin Pelton (Insider link) identify nine potential sleepers in the 2020 draft class, including Kansas center Udoka Azubuike, Michigan State big man Xavier Tillman, and LSU guard Skylar Mays.
  • In a separate Insider-only story, ESPN’s Givony and Schmitz spoke to a handful of prospects about how they’re handling this year’s unusual pre-draft process. “It benefits the players who have a proven résumé,” said TCU’s Desmond Bane, who appeared in 141 college games over four seasons. “There may not be workouts or a combine so teams have to go off of film and interviews.”
  • Utah guard Both Gach will officially withdraw his name from the 2020 draft soon, while Minnesota big man Daniel Oturu plans to start interviewing with NBA teams this week, writes Marcus Fuller of The Star Tribune.
  • Jay Scrubb, who has opted to go pro this year instead of playing at Louisville, has had Zoom interviews with 22 NBA teams so far, including the Knicks and Nets, agent Corey Marcum tells Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com.