SI:AM | The NBA’s Next Phenom Announces His Arrival

SI:AM | The NBA’s Next Phenom Announces His Arrival

Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I can’t believe the NBA’s next big prospect is from Maine.

In today’s SI:AM:

🚩 Cooper Flagg’s big game
🏈 The legit Super Bowl contenders
NL rookie roundup

The U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team held its first pre-Paris scrimmages on Sunday and Monday, and the player everyone can’t stop talking about isn’t LeBron James or Stephen Curry. It’s a 17-year-old.

Cooper Flagg is the presumptive No. 1 pick in the 2025 NBA draft. He’ll be attending Duke in the fall, but first he got to test his skills against the best players in the world as part of the USA Basketball select team. And he more than lived up to the hype.

The select team is a collection of mostly young NBA players brought in to work out with the Olympic squad. This year’s team included All-Rookie selections Jaime Jaquez Jr., Brandon Miller, Brandin Podziemski and Amen Thompson, but also players like 32-year-old former NBA guard Langston Galloway and former Wisconsin star Nigel Hayes-Davis.

And then there’s Flagg. USA Basketball touted him as the first college player chosen to the select team since Doug McDermott and Marcus Smart in 2013, but that undersells how unusual Flagg’s inclusion was. McDermott had just completed his junior year at Creighton and finished second in the nation in scoring. He’d go on to win the national player of the year award the next year. Smart had been the Big 12 Player of the Year as a freshman. Flagg just graduated from high school.

But if you watched Flagg on Monday without knowing who he was there’s no way you would have been able to tell that he’s too young to buy a lottery ticket. He made a bunch of impressive plays, including a three over the outstretched arms of Anthony Davis and a turnaround jumper after working on Jrue Holiday in the post. Those two players have a combined 11 All-Defense selections.

He also soared to the rim for a putback over Bam Adebayo (five NBA All-Defensive Team selections).

“I was just competing and trying as hard as I can,” Flagg told reporters after the scrimmage. “Giving it 100%. I’m confident in my ability and skill. I’m confident in who I am and what I can do. It’s a surreal feeling being able to share the court [with the national team]. I’m blessed to have this opportunity to be here. I had no worries. I didn’t put any pressure on myself. I’m here for a reason. I know that.”

Flagg has been a hyped prospect for years. He comes from the small town of Newport, Maine, where he led Nokomis Regional High School to a 21–1 record and its first state championship as a freshman. He was also the first freshman to win the Gatorade Maine Boys Basketball Player of the Year. He then transferred to basketball factory Montverde Academy in Florida, where he played another two seasons and reclassified to graduate in three years and accelerate his path to the pros.

Flagg was already regarded as the unquestioned best player in the 2025 draft, but his performance against Team USA will only make that more of a foregone conclusion. Maybe only true basketball sickos were paying enough attention to a non-televised scrimmage to have Flagg making a lasting impression. But it’s difficult to imagine just how big a deal he’ll become once he starts playing on a massive stage at Duke. Get ready for the draft lottery to become one of the dominant story lines in the NBA this season, just as it did the year Victor Wembanyama entered the league.

Lions running back Jahmyr Gibbs celebrates touchdown with wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown during NFC championship game.

Are the Lions ready to make another leap in 2024? / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

… things I saw last night:

5. Zach Edey’s 14 points and 15 rebounds in his summer league debut.
4. Keyonte George’s bewildering summer league stat line.
3. Diamondbacks announcer Steve Berthiaume’s call of Paul Sewald’s third straight blown save.
2. Novak Djokovic’s salty interview after winning his match at Wimbledon.
1. Elly De La Cruz’s gutsy delayed steal.

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