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Danny Ainge: I would not have drafted Rajon Rondo without a pre-draft meeting

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In a conference call with the media on Wednesday, Boston Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge was asked about how he’s dealing with the pre-draft process. Ainge spoke about how it’s different without pre-draft meetings. While giving that answer, the Celtics GM dropped a nugget about the drafting of Rajon Rondo in 2006:

“Let’s use Rajon Rondo as an example. Had I not been able to meet with him and look into his eyes, I don’t think I would have drafted him. I needed to get to know him. To understand what kind of person he is.”

Ainge had to swing a draft day trade with the Phoenix Suns in order to acquire Rondo. Boston sent Phoenix a 2007 first-round pick (via the Cleveland Cavaliers) for Rondo’s draft rights as the 21st pick. The Celtics also had to take on Brian Grant’s contract in the deal.

Ainge went on to clarify that he doesn’t always have to meet with a player pre-draft in order to feel comfortable selecting him. Ainge said the Celtics drafted Avery Bradley without a pre-draft workout. He also said that during his time with the Suns, they drafted Steve Nash without meeting him pre-draft.

Ainge said the process is certainly different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that every team is in the same boat. He talked about how teams are only able to meet with seniors currently, as they await the Early Entry list from the NBA. Ainge also said that every team is preparing as best they can by watching film leading up to the draft on June 25, but that he believes the NBA will ultimately push the draft back.

2020 WNBA Draft posts 123% increase in viewers from prior year

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With sports fan starved for fresh content, ESPN not only hit with “The Last Dance, but also the WNBA Draft. The 2020 WNBA Draft was the second-most-watched draft in the league’s history. Per ESPN, the draft averaged nearly 390,000 live viewers. That was an increase of 123% from the prior year.

Sabrina Ionescu of the University of Oregon was the first pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft. Ionescu was drafted by the New York Liberty after a dominating college career.

One factor that helped pushed the WNBA Draft up the ratings was that it aired on ESPN. Last year’s draft was on ESPN2 and ESPNU. The last time the WNBA Draft aired on ESPN was in 2011. This year’s version had an increase of 33% over that year’s, when Maya Moore was selected No.1 overall. The WNBA and NBA both saw increased traffic to their social media account on draft day as well.

The WNBA Draft was conducted virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This week’s NFL Draft will also be conducted virtually. NFL decision-makers reportedly tuned in to a portion of the WNBA Draft to get a feel for how the virtual draft worked.

The success of the virtual WNBA Draft, both technologically and ratings-wise, bodes well for NFL Draft. Without games to watch, sports fans are looking to consume any new or unique content. The NFL Draft is expected to do its highest ratings in years, perhaps ever, as stuck-at-home fans tune in to see who their favorite teams pick.

Andre Drummond: No decision on 2020-21 player option yet

Cavaliers center Andre Drummond
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In a recent interview, Andre Drummond said he hasn’t decided on what he’ll do about his 2020-21 player option. When asked about his option, Drummond told SB Nation’s Michael Pina: “For me, I haven’t really thought too deep into my next decision, because obviously we can’t really do anything yet.”

The Cleveland Cavaliers center has a $28,751,775 player option for next season. The current deadline for Drummond to opt in is June 29. It’s unknown at this point how the NBA’s suspended season could impact that date.

Drummond was acquired by the Cavs at the trade deadline in exchange for John Henson, Brandon Knight and a second-round pick. The Detroit Pistons are kicking off a rebuild, and moved Drummond to clear salary. Both Henson and Knight have expiring contracts. The Pistons could have over $30 million cap space this summer.

Cleveland sees Drummond as a good fit alongside Kevin Love up front. Both players have been two of the better rebounders in the NBA for years. In addition, Drummond is only 26 years old, so he fits with the timeline of the Cavaliers young guards, Darius Garland and Collin Sexton.

If Drummond were to opt out, Cleveland could have more than $23 million in cap space. However, given the uncertain nature of the NBA salary cap due to the suspended season and few teams having cap space this summer, Drummond is expected to opt in. He’ll then hit the market in the summer of 2021. That offseason the cap is expected to have stabilized and more teams should be players in free agency.

Reports: G-League actively recruiting class of 2021 players

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The NBA G-League has begun recruiting players in the class of 2021, per multiple reports. The G-League started recruiting even before Jalen Green and Isaiah Todd made their decisions to bypass college for the NBAGL.

Another top recruit, Greg Brown will announce his decision on Friday and is listing the G-League as one of his options.

RJ Hampton’s father, Rod Hampton, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that his son considered playing in the G-League last season. Hampton eventually played part of the year in Australia because the G-League’s pay wasn’t competitive compared to what he was offered down under.

“I don’t think that they envisioned this program until they were like, ‘Woah, we can’t have guys like RJ going out of the country, playing ball. We have to find something to do here,’” Rod Hampton said.

This year the G-League is offering high-level player who are not draft-eligible up to $500,000 to be part of a unique training/playing structure. The idea is to give these players a path different from the NCAA or going overseas. Players will train and play in exhibition games against other G-League teams and select teams.

This select group will be based in Southern California. Some reports indicate they may play at Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Academy. One of the names mentioned to coach this team is former NBA Coach of the Year Sam Mitchell.

Latvian guard Arturs Kurucs declares for 2020 NBA Draft

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20-year-old Latvian guard Arturs Kurucs has declared for the 2020 NBA Draft.

Kurucs is the younger brother of Brooklyn Nets forward Rodions Kurucs. The elder Kurucs is in his second year with the Nets.

At 6’3’’, Arturs Kurucs is smaller than his combo forward brother. Kurucs is seen as a combo guard at the NBA level.

In 39 games with VEF Riga in 2019-20, Kurucs averaged 13 points per game on 44/40/78 shooting splits. He’s also a solid passer and rebounder for his position. He welcomes contact and plays bigger and stronger than his relatively small frame.

Kurucs also played for the Latvian national team during 2020 EuroBasket Qualifiers. He played 20 minutes per game and scored 6.0 points per game. Kurucs has also been a mainstay on the youth level for the Latvian National team.

Kurucs’ draft stock ranges from late-second round to undrafted. Because he’s just 20 years old, Kurucs, is a good candidate to withdraw from this year’s draft and re-enter as an Early Entry candidate next season.

Early Entry candidates have until Monday, June 25 to withdraw from the draft. All draft deadlines are subject to change due to the NBA’s suspended 2019-20 season.