Zeke Nnaji

Kings Notes: GM Search, Barnes, Holmes, Draft

The Kings may have trouble attracting quality general manager candidates if interim executive VP of basketball operations Joe Dumars guides the franchise through this year’s draft and free agency, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee.

Although the dates may be moved, the draft is currently set for October 16, with free agency getting under way two days later. There have been indications out of Sacramento that the search will be lengthy, and a new GM may not be in place in time. A source tells Anderson that potential candidates “don’t want ownership of those decisions” if they aren’t able to make them.

Anderson points out that the Kings gambled in 2015 when they hired Vlade Divac to run the team with no previous front office experience in the NBA. He doesn’t expect that to happen again, noting that the rumored candidates for the job include Knicks GM Scott Perry, Raptors GM Bobby Webster and a few others, all of whom come from winning organizations.

There’s more from Sacramento:

  • Harrison Barnes tells James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area that the players should accept responsibility for their disappointing performance in Orlando. The Kings went 3-5 in seeding games and extended their streak of missing the playoffs to 14 years. “It starts with personal responsibility, everyone looking in the mirror,” Barnes said. “I can speak for myself and say I got better every game that went on, but I wasn’t at my best in the first game. So you have to own that and move forward from there.”
  • Richaun Holmes didn’t get much notice when he signed with the Kings last summer, but he may have been this season’s MVP, suggests Tracee Jay of NBA.com. Holmes took over the starting center spot early in the year and wound up averaging 12.3 points and 8.1 rebounds, both career highs. He also led the team in win shares among players who appeared in at least 40 games and was second to De’Aaron Fox in PER. “The love they’ve shown, the way they’ve embraced me, it’s very special,” Holmes said of Sacramento fans. “I love playing here. I’m happy to be a part of this culture.”
  • Arizona’s Zeke Nnaji, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, has already interviewed with most of the league and will talk to the Kings next week, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News.

Draft Updates: Petrusev, Livers, Verge, Stanley

Gonzaga big man Filip Petrusev won’t return to the Zags for his junior season. As first reported by Nova.rs – and later confirmed by Jeff Goodman of Stadium, Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports, and Jonathan Givony of ESPN (all Twitter links) – the native of Serbia is returning to his home country, having agreed to a multiyear deal with Mega Bemax.

Petrusev, who averaged 17.5 PPG and 7.9 RPG during a breakout sophomore season at Gonzaga, entered the 2020 NBA draft pool in the spring. For now, his plan is to keep his name in this year’s draft, according to Givony, who had the 20-year-old ranked 70th overall on ESPN’s big board.

Now that his NCAA eligibility is no longer a concern, Petrusev won’t have to finalize that decision by the NCAA’s early entrant withdrawal deadline of August 3. He can instead take until October 6 (the NBA’s withdrawal deadline) to make up his mind.

Here’s more on the 2020 draft:

  • After testing the draft waters, forward Isaiah Livers will head back to Michigan for his senior year, the school announced in a press release. “While it was a limited process due to COVID-19, I want to thank all the NBA teams who took the time to talk to me,” Livers said in a statement. “The information I gathered is going to be invaluable moving forward. But now, we have unfinished business in Ann Arbor.” Livers averaged 12.9 PPG and shot 40.2% from beyond the arc in 21 games (31.5 MPG) as a junior.
  • Arizona State guard Alonzo Verge Jr. is returning to school for his senior season, according to an announcement from the program (video link). Verge, who transferred to the Sun Devils after starting his college career at Moberly Area Community College in Missouri, averaged 14.6 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 2.3 APG in 28 games (26.8 MPG) in 2019/20.
  • Veteran player agent Jerome Stanley is joining Independent Sports & Entertainment, where he’ll co-represent his son, Duke prospect Cassius Stanley, per a SportsBusiness Journal report.
  • Arizona forward Zeke Nnaji, a Minneapolis native, is interviewing with his hometown Timberwolves this week, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News.

Draft Notes: Hart, Hayes, Nnaji, Mamukelashvili

Fresno State guard Niven Hart has decided to keep his name in the 2020 NBA draft, forgoing his remaining college eligibility and going pro, he announced on Twitter.

Hart, who was a freshman in 2019/20, put up modest numbers in his first and only college season, averaging 8.7 PPG and 2.5 RPG in 26 games (17.7 MPG) off the bench for the Bulldogs. He did show some consistency from beyond the arc, knocking down 39.8% of his three-point attempts. However, he doesn’t appear on experts’ big boards for 2020, making him a long shot to be drafted.

Here are a few more draft-related updates:

  • Appearing on the Envergure podcast (French video link), agent Yann Balikouzou indicated that his client Killian Hayes will interview with the Timberwolves and Warriors, but doesn’t expect to talk to the Cavaliers, since they’re unlikely to draft a guard (hat tip to Darren Wolfson).
  • Arizona forward Zeke Nnaji had an interview with the Rockets and is meeting with the Warriors this week, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News.
  • Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com passes along updates on a pair of draft prospects, writing that Seton Hall forward Sandro Mamukelashvili has met with nearly 20 NBA teams, including the Knicks, and tweeting that Louisville big man Steven Enoch has interviewed with 23 teams, including the Nets and Knicks. Mamukelashvili, who is still testing the draft waters, remains undecided about his plans for 2020/21, Zagoria notes.
  • Ethan Strauss of The Athletic takes an early look at the top wings in the 2021 draft class, starting with Oklahoma State commit Cade Cunningham and G League prospect Jalen Green.

Draft Notes: Early Entrants, Golden, West, Nnaji

MaCio Teague (Baylor), Keith Williams (Cincinnati), Denzel Mahoney (Creighton), and Zach Cooks (NJIT) are among the early entrants who have signed with Trinity Best for representation as they navigate the pre-draft process, per Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link).

However, signing with an agent doesn’t mean those players are going pro — because Best is an NCAA-certified rep, Teague, Williams, Mahoney, and Cooks can continue to test the draft waters without forgoing their remaining college eligibility. Because the NCAA has indefinitely postponed its June 3 withdrawal date, those players won’t necessarily have to finalize decisions anytime soon either.

Here’s more on the 2020 NBA draft:

  • Richmond forward Grant Golden has decided to withdraw from the draft and return to school for his senior year, he tells Rothstein (Twitter link). Golden has averaged 15.5 PPG and 6.9 RPG for Richmond in 94 games over his last three seasons.
  • Marshall guard Jarrod West, who elected to test the draft waters this spring, is expected to return to school for his senior season, according to head coach Dan D’Antoni (Twitter link via Rothstein). West, who has been a starter for the Thundering Herd since his freshman year, had a breakout season in 2019/20, averaging 14.2 PPG, 4.1 APG, and 4.0 RPG.
  • Arizona forward Zeke Nnaji, who previously met with New Orleans, Washington, Charlotte, and Utah, has virtual interviews this week with the Knicks, Bucks, and Pistons, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News.

Draft Notes: Jones, Stanley, Oturu, Reed, Nnaji, Combine

A pair of early entrants out of Duke have signed with agents who aren’t NCAA-certified, officially signaling that they’ll go pro and remain in the 2020 NBA draft. Tre Jones has signed with BDA Sports, according to the agency’s Instagram account, while Cassius Stanley has joined ISE Basketball (Twitter link).

Both Blue Devils prospects had been expected to keep their names in the draft, so their moves to secure representation don’t come as a surprise. Both players are ranked in the top 50 on ESPN’s big board for 2020, with Jones coming in at No. 33 and Stanley at No. 50.

Here’s more on the 2020 draft:

  • A couple more players on this year’s early entrants list have signed with agents and will remain in the draft. Minnesota big man Daniel Oturu has joined BDA Sports, per the agency (Instagram link). Meanwhile, DePaul’s Paul Reed has opted for Ron Shade of Octagon, tweets Evan Daniels of 247Sports.com. Oturu and Reed place 36th and 51st respectively on ESPN’s list of 2020’s top prospects.
  • Arizona forward Zeke Nnaji has had virtual meetings with the Pelicans, Wizards, and Hornets so far, and has one lined up with the Jazz later this week, says Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link). A possible first-round pick, Nnaji is ranked 34th overall on ESPN’s big board.
  • The NBA has sent teams ballots to vote on prospects they’d like to see participate in the 2020 draft combine, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). The combine, originally scheduled to take place next week, has been postponed indefinitely, but the league still hopes to hold it in some revamped form, either in-person or virtually.

Arizona’s Zeke Nnaji Declares For 2020 Draft

MARCH 31: Nnaji has confirmed to Jonathan Givony of ESPN that he’s entering the 2020 draft pool. Accoridng to Evan Daniels of 247Sports (Twitter link), the freshman is signing with agent Adam Pensack and intends to forgo his remaining college eligibility.

MARCH 28: Freshman Arizona power forward Zeke Nnaji will declare for the 2020 NBA draft, according to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Nicola Lupo of Sportando notes that Nnaji is currently slotted as the No. 34 prospect in ESPN’s top-100 list of available college basketball players.

The 6’11”, 240-pound Nnaji was named to the 2019/20 All-Pac-12 Team, as well as the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team. The 19-year-old was also honored as the 2019/20 Pac-12 Rooke Of The Year.

Nnaji has averaged 16.1 PPG and 8.6 RPG across 32 games in his lone season for the Wildcats, while shooting 76% from the free throw line and 57% from the field.