Ausar Thompson on Pistons: ‘I just felt like that was a perfect place for me’

With the fourth pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, the Houston Rockets selected Amen Thompson, and with the fifth pick, the Detroit Pistons grabbed his twin brother, Overtime Elite’s Ausar Thompson.

The Thompson Twins become the first brothers to be drafted in the Top-5 in the same draft in NBA history.

Ironically, Amen Thompson is one minute older than the 20-year-old Ausar Thompson, and in terms of the NBA, Amen’s selection was around five minutes before Ausar.

“I think it’s kind of cool going first,” Amen Thompson said after the selection. “It means a lot to my family. Me and Ausar, we were going to be happy whoever went first. But it means a lot to my family seeing all the hard work pay off. Us go back to back, be the first twins in the same draft to go top five; it means a lot.”

In 2022-23, Ausar Thompson 6-7, 215, averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 2.3 steals, and 1.1 blocks in 29.1 minutes across 20 games for the City Reapers of Overtime Elite. He was named Overtime Elite MVP and later named Finals MVP after averaging 21.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.8 assists in the playoffs. 

Amen and Ausar have mostly played together, and now, they will have to adjust, but Ausar believes they will be fine.

“I feel like we’re going to adapt,”  he said. “It may be a little hard, but I think he’s going to be fine. I know I’m going to be fine. I’ll FaceTime him.”

The Detroit Pistons have a lot of young talent, including Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, and Jalen Duren. According to Thompson, Detroit is the perfect place for him.

“I liked what they were talking about,” he said. “I liked the direction they wanted to go in as a team, and I just felt like that was a perfect place for me.”

Thompson is the fourth top-five selection for the Pistons since 1995 (Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, and Darko Milicic) and the third in the last three seasons.

In addition, Detroit agreed in principle to acquire the draft rights to No. 25 overall pick, Marcus Sasser, as part of a larger trade that is not yet final.

Sasser, 6-2, 195, averaged 16.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.6 steals in 30.8 minutes across 36 games in his senior season at Houston. After leading the Cougars to a 33-4 record and a No. 1 seed in the 2023 NCAA Tournament, Sasser was a consensus 2022-23 All-American First Team selection. Sasser won the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year and Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year award in 2022-23. In addition, he was a Lefty Driesell Defensive Player of the Year finalist and Naismith Defensive Player of the Year semifinalist.

He hails from a basketball family as his uncles Jeryl (No. 22 overall to Orlando in 2001) and Jason Sasser (No. 41 overall to Sacramento in 1996) were both drafted into the NBA.

Mavs prioritize defense in NBA Draft

At the end of the season, it was clear the Dallas Mavericks needed more rim protection and rebounding from their bigs. Furthermore, they just needed to be better on the defense. They prioritized those things at the 2023 NBA Draft on Thursday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn and made some trades to do it.

Dallas agreed in principle to acquire the draft rights to center Dereck Lively II (12th overall) from Oklahoma City and the draft rights to forward Olivier-Maxence Prosper (24th overall) from Sacramento in two separate trades that still need to be finalized. 

According to reports, Dallas dealt Davis Bertans and the 10th pick (Cason Wallace) to the Thunder for the 12th pick(Lively) and a $17 million trade exception, which allowed them to acquire Richaun Holmes and the 24th pick from the Kings.

Lively II (7-1, 210) was an early-entry candidate to this year’s draft after spending one season at Duke. In his lone season with the Blue Devils, he averaged 5.2 points (.658 FG%), 5.4 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game across 34 appearances.

The 19-year-old was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team and the ACC All-Defensive Team; Lively II is glad to be drafted and hopes to stay in the NBA for a long time.

“Whenever you finally hear your name on the screen, you hear it in the crowd, you hear it in the loudspeakers, it’s like a dream just getting started,” he said. “My dream is not to get to the NBA but to stay in the NBA. It’s kind of starting the ball rolling, and let’s see where it goes.”

Lively II lives up to his name. He’s a lively body that can block shots and is a lob threat. His skill set is very reminiscent of a center who won a championship with the Mavericks in Tyson Chandler.

Prosper (6-8, 215) spent two seasons at Marquette University, where he averaged 12.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 0.9 steals per game as a junior this past season. The 20-year-old spent his freshman year at Clemson University before transferring to Marquette.

“O-Max,” as he is affectionately called, is another athletic player that can defend and is a good finisher.

Regarding Holmes, he’s an athletic big that can go up and down the floor, a solid finisher around the rim, with decent range on his shot. The 29-year-old, who backed up Domantas Sabonis last season, is an upgrade for the Mavs at the center position. Before last season, he averaged double-figures in points for three straight years(2019-22).

Wembanyama on being number one pick: ‘I’ve been dreaming about this for so long’

The San Antonio Spurs made it official on Thursday when they selected Frenchman Victor Wembanyama with the first overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.

Wembanyama is the first French player selected No. 1 overall in NBA Draft history; in addition, he joins David Robinson and Tim Duncan as the only top overall picks in Spurs franchise history.

“I can’t really describe it. It’s still fresh,” Wembanyama said about being selected number one in the draft. “One of the best feelings of my life. Probably the best night of my life. I’ve been dreaming about this for so long. It’s a dream come true. It’s incredible.”

The 7-3 forward, who has all the skills, has the city of San Antonio excited. Many fans showed up at AT&T Center to celebrate the selection. Wembanyama had a message for the San Antonio faithful.

“My message to them is I’m going to give 100 percent, make all that’s in my power to make this franchise win, to have impact on the franchise and the fan base and the community,” he said.

Wembanyama most recently played with French-club Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 in the LNB Pro A French League during the 2022-23 season, where he helped lead the team to the LNB Pro A Finals and a 23-11 regular season record. In 34 regular season games with Mets 92, he averaged 21.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 3.0 blocks in 32.3 minutes.

The 19-year-old will be coached by the guy who has the most wins in NBA history, Gregg Popovich. When asked if he’s excited or intimidated by Pop, Wembanyama had this to say:

“He’s not intimidating yet, but I’m sure he’s going to get intimidating when I see him in real life.”

Wembanyama has all the makings to be a star; he’s athletic; he can shoot and handle. Everything! He has generational skills and talent. Like Duncan, Robinson, Ginobili, and his fellow Frenchman Tony Parker, he could lead the Spurs to another title.

Wembanyama will wear No. 1 for the Spurs.

Cavs grab Emoni Bates in second round

Coming into the 2023 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers had only one pick, a second-round selection(49). 

Picking that late in the draft, Cleveland had an opportunity to draft the best available player, and that’s what they did. With the 49th pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, the Cavaliers selected Eastern Michigan’s Emoni Bates.

The 19-year-old is an excellent shooter. Last season, the 6-9 Bates finished fourth in the MAC in three-point field goals made per game (2.5). His 76 made three-pointers ranked eighth in a single season in program history.

Bates, who averaged 19.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest, wasn’t the most efficient as he shot just over 40% from the field and 33% from deep last season, but he has ability. There’s a reason he was the 2020 Gatorade National Player of the Year following his senior year of high school.

Over the past two years, things have been a little rocky for Bates. He started his collegiate career at the University of Memphis, where many thought he would be one and done. However, he battled injuries and ultimately decided to transfer to Eastern Michigan.

Unfortunately, things did not start well for Bates. Last September, he was arrested on felony gun charges; ultimately, he pled guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge and was sentenced to 18 months probation. However, he put that behind him and had a solid season at Eastern Michigan. 

At 19, Bates will need time to develop. He’ll need to improve on finishing at the basket and become a willing passer(1.5 apg). In addition, Bates will have to improve on the defensive end. He’ll probably get a lot of time in the G League next season, and hopefully, for him and the Cavs, he can continue to grow as a player.

Hawks sign Tyrese Martin to multi-year contract

The Atlanta Hawks that they have signed rookie Tyrese Martin(No. 51 overall pick this year’s draft) to a multi-year contract, the team announced Saturday.

Through four NBA Summer League games for the Hawks, the 23-year-old Martin is averaging 12.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 24.2 minutes (.475 FG%). He poured in a game-high 21 points on 9-14 shooting from the floor in Atlanta’s 95-88 win over Miami on July 12.

Atlanta acquired Martin’s draft rights, along with cash considerations, from the Golden State Warriors in exchange for the draft rights to Ryan Rollins, the No. 44 pick, on June 23.

Martin saw action in 29 games (all starts) for UConn during the 2021-22 campaign, tallying 13.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 32.1 minutes (.449 FG%, .430 3FG%, .689 FT%).

The 6-6 guard transferred to UConn following a two-year stint at Rhode Island (2018-20). In his two seasons suiting up for UConn, the Huskies made back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament (2021, 2022), punching their ticket in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2011 and 2012. During his time at UConn, Martin appeared in 51 games (50 starts), averaging 12.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 31.2 minutes (.446 FG%, .393 3FG%, .682 FT%). He was named to the 2022 Big East All-Tournament Team and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association District I All-District Team.

Throughout his four-year collegiate career, Martin saw action in 114 games (99 starts), notching 11.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 30.8 minutes.

Mavs’ Harrison on Hardy: ‘He’s a guy who can go get a bucket’

The Dallas Mavericks did not have draft picks for the second straight year, but this season, they found a way to get into the draft and grabbed G League Ignite guard Jaden Hardy after acquiring the 37th pick from Sacramento in exchange for 2024 and 2028 second-round picks Thursday night.

The 6-4 Hardy spent the 2021-22 season with the NBA G League Ignite and averaged a team-high 19.8 points to go along with 4.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game in 24 games. 

“He’s a guy who can go get a bucket,” Mavs GM Nico Harrison said Thursday night. “He’s strong. He’s athletic. He’s a scorer. I think his upside is [that] he’s played with mature guys and been successful with strong, mature guys. I think if you look at a guy doing that in college versus doing that in the G League Ignite, I think it’s closer to what the NBA game is… If you look at his teammates [where] some of them are veterans; he had the ball in his hand because they gave him.”

The 19-year-old Hardy dropped in the draft, surprising many, including Harrison.

“We had him higher than 37 [laughs],” Harrison said Thursday night. “Yeah, we were surprised. We were really shocked that he kept slipping…

“I have no idea. I can’t tell you what other teams are thinking or saying. I’m glad he did, and we are excited that he did. He’s excited to be here, so I’m happy he slipped.”

Hardy was ranked as ESPN’s top guard and the No. 2 player in the 2021 high school class. The Detroit native averaged 30.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 8.4 assists as a junior at Coronado High School (Henderson, Nevada) en route to earning Nevada Gatorade Player of the Year, McDonald’s All-American, and USA Nike Hoops Summit in 2020-21.

Hardy got off to a slow start in the G League, but ultimately, he got acclimated and scored the ball at a high level, scoring over 20 points in the final five games of the season.

“He did struggle early on, but then he figured it out, Harrison said. “It’s kind of like, if you look at the G-League Ignite as an experiment, it shows that it works…

“He’s a young kid, played for the G League Ignite, and he can really score the ball. Super talented, he’s still raw – he’s young, so it’s going take a while. He was a second round draft pick, but he can really score the ball at a high level.”

Hardy can do it effectively off the bounce, is a solid shooter, and is a good addition for the Mavs. He may not contribute immediately, but he definitely has the talent to be a key piece in the future.

Cavs’ Agbaji: ‘I’m just going to be a hard worker, come in, be humble, and represent my city well’

The Cleveland Cavaliers wanted a player who could contribute immediately, and they might have found that in Thursday’s NBA Draft at Barclays Center. 

With the 14th overall pick, the Cavaliers selected Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji.

The 22-year-old Agbaji started in all 39 games this past season as a senior at Kansas, averaging a Big-12 leading 18.8 points and 5.1 rebounds in a team-high 35.0 minutes. Agbaji finished second in the Big-12 in three-point percentage (.409) and three-point field goals made per game (2.64). He helped lead Kansas to its fourth national championship in program history and was named the 2022 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player.

The 6-5 guard also finished as a 2021-22 consensus All-American First Team selection and the 2021-22 Big 12 Player of the Year. 

“First off, I just want to thank the organization and Cleveland for drafting me, believing in me,” Agbaji said Thursday night. “I’m going to give you 110 percent every single day and a positive attitude. That’s really all. I’m just going to be a hard worker, come in, be humble, and represent my city well.”

Cavs president of basketball operations Koby Altman wanted a player who could contribute right away and be a solid fit for the team, and he feels they’ve gotten that with Agbaji.

“This was more about who can come in and really help us, help this team achieve,” Altman said after the selection. “It was a different process in terms of trying to find the most upside swing talent versus who can be the best fit. Certainly more of a finished product than what we’ve drafted in the past.”

Agbaji’s coach at Kansas, Bill Self, credits his work ethic and believes Agbaji will be in the NBA for a long time.

“To see the natural progression that’s taken place and to see him being a guy that is going to make a lot of money playing this game for a long time when he wasn’t projected to do that, it’s been special to watch,” Self said before the draft. “And he deserves all the credit because there’s nobody that works like him.”

This selection shows that the Cavs want to make the playoffs now. No more developmental picks; they were a game away from the playoffs and wanted to ensure that they had enough to get into the postseason.

With Agbaji, the Cavs have a guy who is a solid defender, decent athlete, and a good shooter. Many believe he is your prototypical 3-and-D guy, which should help the Cavs immediately.

In the second round, Cleveland selected center Khalifa Diop with the 39th pick out of Senegal, forward Isaiah Mobley with the 49th pick out of USC, and forward Luke Travers with the 56th pick out of Australia.

Diop (7-1, 240) appeared in 49 games for Gran Canaria in Spain, averaging 6.1 points and 4.2 rebounds in 15.7 minutes. Diop was the winner of the 2021-22 EuroCup Rising Star Trophy, which honors the best under-22 player in the EuroCup. The Senegalese center also represented Senegal at the 2021 FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup, averaging 14.0 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks.

Mobley (6-10, 240) appeared in 32 games (all starts) as a sophomore for USC this past season, averaging team-highs in points (14.2) and rebounds (8.3) in 34.0 minutes. Mobley started in all 64 of his career games for the Trojans and held career averages of 12.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. His brother Evan Mobley was an NBA All-Rookie First Team selection for the Cavaliers this past season and was selected with the 3rd pick by the Cavaliers in the 2021 NBA Draft.

Travers (6-7, 208) played in 27 games (six starts) for the Perth Wildcats in the Australian NBL, averaging 7.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in 22.0 minutes. Travers appeared in 71 NBL games for Perth over three seasons with the club.  

76ers select Springer in first round of NBA Draft, grab two bigs in Round 2

Before the 2021 NBA Draft, it was rumored that the Philadelphia 76ers could move star guard Ben Simmons, but nothing ever materialized, and Simmons is still a Sixer for now. 

Philadelphia kept their draft picks and added guard Jaden Springer (No. 28) from the University of Tennessee, F/C Filip Petrušev (No. 50) of Serbia, and another big in Charles Bassey (No. 53) from Western Kentucky University.    

Springer, 18, led the Volunteers in scoring as a freshman at 12.5 points per game while also pacing the team in three-point percentage at 43%.

In 25 games during his lone collegiate season, the 6-4 guard was an SEC All-Freshman Team selection posted a team-best six games of at least 20 points per contest.

Interestingly enough, Springer’s father, Gary, was selected by the 76ers in the 1984 NBA Draft. In addition, he is the cousin of current NBA player DeAndre’ Bembry, 

Springer is a young player who can get to the basket. He is a decent shooter and defender. Springer is more of a combo-guard at this stage of his development. He might not give the Sixers much this season. However, he can be a decent prospect over time.

The 21-year-old Petrušev(6-11) was the 2019-20 West Coast Conference Player of the Year and spent two seasons playing collegiately at Gonzaga before heading overseas to play in Serbia’s Adriatic League for the 2020-21 season.

During his final year with the Bulldogs, he averaged 17.5 points and 7.9 rebounds while shooting .562 from the floor. This past season, he appeared in 21 games for KK Mega Basket, averaging 23.7 points, which was the highest average in the Adriatic League in 14 years, while also hauling in 7.6 rebounds per contest.

During his lone season competing professionally in his home country of Serbia, he shot .580 from the field and .419 from three-point range. 

Petrušev is not the most athletic player, but he has decent range on his shot. Many believe he has the potential to be a decent backup center on the NBA level.

Bassey, 20, played three collegiate seasons at Western Kentucky University, averaging a double-double with 15.9 points and 10.5 rebounds over 72 career games as a Hilltopper.

As a junior this past season, he tallied 18 double-doubles, the second-most in Division I. Following the 2020-21 season, the 6-11 center was named the Conference USA Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.

Bassey can block shots(3.1 per game last season) and is a decent athlete who can score in the post. He could contribute defensively for Philadelphia this season.

Cavs’ Altman: ‘There’s some real game-changers at the top of this draft’

The Cleveland Cavaliers received the number three overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft as a result of the NBA Draft Lottery, which was conducted virtually on Tuesday night. 

The 2021 NBA Draft will be held on Thursday, July 29th.

The Cavaliers’ 2021 lottery pick will mark the 22nd lottery pick the Cavs have owned all-time and their first time selecting third overall since the current lottery format was introduced in 1985.

This is considered a deep draft, and Cleveland, if they keep the pick, has a chance to get an excellent player.

“There’s some real game-changers at the top of this draft,” Cavs GM Koby Altman said after the lottery. “But it also puts us in a position to capitalize on different opportunities throughout the landscape of the NBA with this position.”

Altman also expects to get some calls from other teams about the third pick.

“We know what pick we have,” Altman said. “We know what calls we will probably get on it. We’ll figure out what we can potentially do with it.”

Coming into the lottery, Cleveland, who was in the fifth-place position, had an 11.5% chance of getting the number one pick, so they should be happy with three. 

Now, what they do should be interesting. Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham is probably going number one to Detroit. You have the Rockets at two, and many mock drafts have them grabbing USC’s Evan Mobley, so that leaves G League Ignite’s Jalen Green, Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs, or maybe even a trade. 

Cleveland has options. Do they continue to add young players, or do they try to trade for an established veteran? We’ll find out in a few weeks, but Altman’s phone will be getting many calls.

The full results of tonight’s Draft Lottery are as follows:

1. Detroit Pistons

2. Houston Rockets

3. Cleveland Cavaliers

4. Toronto Raptors

5. Orlando Magic

6. Oklahoma City Thunder

7. Golden State Warriors

8. Orlando Magic

9. Sacramento Kings

10. New Orleans Pelicans

11. Charlotte Hornets

12. San Antonio Spurs

13. Indiana Pacers

14. Golden State Warriors

Listen below as Altman reacts to getting the third pick in this year’s draft:

NBA Draft set for July 29

 The 2021 NBA Draft will take place on July 29, the league announced on Monday. 

ESPN and ABC will televise the first round, and the second round will air on ESPN. The location of the draft will be announced at a later date, according to the NBA.

The NBA also announced additional key dates related to the draft:

• NBA Draft Combine: Subject to evolving public health conditions, NBA Draft Combine 2021 is scheduled to take place Monday, June 21 through Sunday, June 27. ESPN networks plan to televise the NBA Draft Combine, with coverage featuring five-on-five games and strength and agility testing.

• NBA Draft Lottery: NBA Draft Lottery 2021 presented by will take place on Tuesday, June 22, airing on ESPN at 8:30 p.m. ET.

• NBA Early Entry Application and Withdrawal Deadlines: The deadline for an early entry player to apply for this year’s NBA Draft is Sunday, May 30 at 11:59 p.m. ET. The deadline for an early entry player to withdraw from the NBA Draft is Monday, July 19 at 5 p.m. ET.