Scott Howard-Cooper writes about the search for the next Russell Westbrook: “The Thunder’s Russell Westbrook has unavoidably become part of the 2009 draft conversation despite already having completed an encouraging rookie season. That’s nothing. Randy White, a 1989 first-rounder, is back in, too.Four weeks until the draft, and it is impossible to avoid the intersection of past and present in a sign that lottery teams are grabbing for any safety vest while staring at greater risk than usual. So, UCLA’s Jrue Holiday is eerily Russell Westbrook and Memphis’ Tyreke Evans is a little bit. And in breaking news, White didn’t work as the No. 8 pick 20 years ago.”
Jonathan Givony has some interesting info for us Thunder fans – he says OKC favors James Harden: “Most teams we’ve spoken to in Chicago are indicating that they believe Oklahoma City is indeed leaning towards picking Harden. They also believe the Thunder are not enamored with Rubio at all, as they are committed to developing Russell Westbrook at his natural position-point guard.”
Some have seen it already, but a fantastic HoopsWorld profile of Sam Presti: “After just one year with the Spurs, Presti was named the team’s special assistant which led to a defining moment in his career. Coach Gregg Popovich was unimpressed with a young guard, Tony Parker from France, that they had been working out. “You’re wasting my time,” said Popovich to Buford and Presti. “This kid is terrible.” Convinced that Parker had special skills, Presti put an eight-minute videotape together highlighting Parker’s talents which swayed Popovich to give him another look, ultimately leading to the decision to draft him with their 28th pick.” You don’t have to tell me he’s smart. I’m definitely on board with Sam.
Let me ask you guys this: What’s the last negative Oklahoma City story you saw? Because I look around pretty thoroughly each day and I haven’t seen one in a while. We all knew it would pass, but let me tell you, I’m sure glad it finally did. Now instead of Clay Bennett hate stories, we have Sam Presti is a genius and the Thunder is the team of the future stories. I love it.
Is OKC eyeing Jrue Holliday?: “Prior to landing a pick in Ricky Rubio territory (third overall), the Thunder were rumored to be enamoured with Holiday’s play. When I spoke with Head Coach Scott Brooks about the possibility of moving Russell Westbrook to create a two-point guard offense, he seemed very open to it.”
Oh, and it looks like OKC is interested in Stephen Curry too: “The Combine buzz is Oklahoma City, selecting third, also is very interested in Stephen Curry and has scouted him furiously. “Like they had season tickets,” Curry said. Perhaps the Thunder could be a Knicks partner looking to trade down.” Would you imagine that? OKC is interested in guys in the draft! How shocking! I think it’s becoming clear that Sam Presti and Co. are scouting like crazy and so people are taking that as being “very interested,” when really, it’s just the Thunder doing its proper homework.
Wait, wait, wait. Now it’s Demar DeRozen: “Hearing DeRozan to go @ 3 spot, Thabeet @ 2, with Rubio left to Kings @ 4 if they want him.” I think that one is just wishful thinking.
Something about Rubio: “If the Grizzlies give in and pass on Rubio, the Thunder may be in the same predicament. Rubio doesn’t want to play in Oklahoma City, and the Thunder also have a combo guard who is best suited at point guard in Russell Westbrook. With Rubio and Westbrook in the same backcourt, neither is a great shooter, so it may not be the best idea. Both the Thunder and the Grizzlies would be exciting with Rubio, but it may take a few years to be a contender.” Well that’s weird. Rubio hasn’t said he doesn’t want to play in OKC. In fact, Chad Ford reported yesterday that he doesn’t mind OKC.
The draft combine started yesterday: “Jrue Holiday was clearly the biggest and most well-built player in the PG group, and he showed teams why he’s been one of the fastest rising players in the Draft. Holiday looked very explosive finishing around the basket in the transition drills, looking equally adept at dunking or throwing in floaters with either hand. Stephen Curry looked smooth, smart and extremely talented in pretty much everything he did. He appeared to have the most polish of any point guard in attendance, except possibly Jonny Flynn, who also stood out.”
Aran Smith of NBADraft.net’s combine report: DeMar DeRozan USC — Huge hands allow him to coral the ball on ally oops and control the ball on dunks. Had one impressive tomohawk dunk on the 3-2, 2-1 drill. Ty Lawson North Carolina — In the 5 shot shooting drill dropped all 5 looking very good. His release is still extremely low as he doesn;t get much lift and shots the ball from his chest. Wayne Ellington North Carolina — Along with Curry the purest shooter in the draft. Looked very smooth with his effortless release.
James Harden cancelled interviews with teams drafting outside of the top five: “According to DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony, James Harden canceled interviews with teams outside the top five picks. He will reportedly not work out for the Wolves, who pick No. 6, because Harden’s crew believes he will land in OKC at No. 3 or Washington at No. 5. In other news, someone in Harden’s crew is a lunatic in thinking it’s impossible for the kid to fall to Minnesota or further.”
UPDATE! Draft Express has the combine official height and weight measurements up: Blake Griffin is 6’8.5 without shoes and 6’10 with. DeJuan Blair is 6’5.25 without and 6’6.5 with. Steph Curry is 6’2 without and 6’3 with. James Harden 6’4 without and 6’5.25 with. Hasheem Thabeet topped out at 7’2.5. No more, “You can’t teach 7’3!” for Thabeet. (Edit: I see J.G. and I had the same joke.) James Johnson surprisingly was 6’7 without and 6’7.75 with after being listed at 6’10 at Wake. Two things – 1) Why do we even care what they measure without shoes? When’s the last time you saw an NBA player playing barefoot? 2) How does Blake Griffin’s shoes add an inch and a half, but James Johnson’s not even add an inch? Do some guys wear pumps? Insert super-thick Dr. Shoals in there? Also interesting was Blair’s wingspan – 7’2″ for a 6’6 guy. That’s some gangly arms.