Finally, eh? Just four days until this madness is over and then we get to start the next round of it. Right now, there’s so much information, misinformation and whatever else circling around, it’s hard to keep up. So forgive me if I don’t. I think for this week, I’m going to keep the Bolts live, so check back for any potential additional updates throughout the day.
Nick Prevenas of NBADraft.net looking at if this draft is all-time bad: “This year’s draft pales in comparison. It’s highly unlikely that it’ll match last year’s draft in terms of quality depth, and it will have an impossible time measuring up against any of the other terrific drafts of this era (the Durant-Oden 2007, the Roy-Aldridge 2006, the Paul-Williams 2005, the Dwight Howard 2004, and of course the James-Melo-Wade class of 2003). Twenty years from now, hoops scholars will look on that six-year stretch as one of the most pivotal eras in NBA history. The amount of quality talent came into the league during that stretch boggles the mind. Surely, the league was due for a down year eventually, right? Well, it appears as if this is that down year.” I always laugh when people talk about how “bad” this draft is. How do we really know? There could be 10 All-Stars in this class. Sure, on paper it doesn’t look so wonderful but can’t we let guys play out their career or maybe at least just one game before we label this the worst draft ever?
Sean Deveney put prospects on the spot with that question – Is this draft weak?: “James Harden, Arizona State: ‘Weak? I don’t believe that. I think there are a lot of underrated players who could wind up in the bottom of the first round, a lot of good players who aren’t really talked about enough. What matters is whether the guys who get drafted produce when they get to the right team. You can’t judge a draft before it even happens.’”
Report: Rubio’s contract will be reduced: ”The prospect of drafting Ricky Rubio is about to become less risky. A source close to Rubio said the $6.6 million buyout of the Spanish point guard’s contract with his current team, DKV Joventut, was likely to be reduced Sunday or today to an amount where “he knows he’ll be able to make the payments.” Such a resolution will, in effect, clear a major obstacle for teams considering Rubio as their first pick in Thursday’s NBA draft but that have concerns about the financial albatross to which he has been tied.”
John Rohde with a nice piece on Sam Presti: ”If you’re throwing a poker party, you had best steer clear of inviting Thunder general manager Sam Presti. He’d know what you’re thinking before you thought it yourself. He’d know everybody’s odds of winning and losing on every hand. He’d always have enough chips stacked in front of him to make you think twice. He’d know when to hold ‘em, when to fold ‘em, and would do so with little change of expression. Getting a read on Presti would be difficult because the man has no tell. Behind those chic eyeglasses is the ultimate poker face. The NBA Draft is just five days away, and we’re all wondering what Presti is thinking. Those who know Presti best have always wondered.”
Eric Musselman’s draft board: ”This year’s NBA draft is a great draft if a team needs a point guard. Five point guards could be selected in the top 11 picks. The wildcards in the lottery are two Pac 10 players — Arizona big man Jordan Hill and USC swingman DeMar DeRozen. Either could be drafted high or drop in the lottery (i.e. Paul Pierce), depending on team needs. Here is a look at my top prospects by position.”
A defense for Thabeet not working out and news saying he doesn’t like Memphis: ”Digging a bit deeper, though, it simply seems like (Hasheem) Thabeet just isn’t interested in working out for anyone at this point, since he does not feel like that setting is conducive to his strengths. “He’s not going to block shots in a workout, and that’s what he’s going to do in the NBA,” Udezue told us. “What are they going to do, have Hasheem shoot 3-pointers? Ricky Rubio is not doing any workouts either.” Speaking of Rubio, do we have a second player openly telling the Grizzlies that they aren’t interested in playing in Memphis? From what we can gather, it doesn’t seem like Thabeet’s camp is all that enamored with the direction Memphis is heading in, and there seems to be strong indications that he feels very good about his chances of being drafted by Oklahoma City, with one NBA source going as far as to say that the chances of him being picked there if available are “100%.” That would probably be news to Ricky Rubio, who Oklahoma City spent the last day and a half with in Los Angeles meeting with alongside his family.”
The green room invites, as reported by DX: “1. Blake Griffin 2. James Harden 3. Hasheem Thabeet 4. Ricky Rubio 5. Jordan Hill 6. Tyreke Evans 7. Stephen Curry 8. Jonny Flynn 9. Demar DeRozan 10. Jrue Holiday 11. Gerald Henderson 12. Brandon Jennings 13. Tyler Hansbrough 14. B.J. Mullens (potentially declining) 15. James Johnson (declining invite) 16. Eric Maynor (potentially declining)”
Chad Ford’s reason for Thabeet skipping that Memphis workout: ”Maybe the biggest news is about the workout that didn’t happen — UConn big man Hasheem Thabeet dropped out of a workout scheduled for Sunday with the Memphis Grizzlies. The official explanation was a sore shoulder. The unofficial explanation? Thabeet doesn’t want to play in Memphis and wanted to stay in Los Angeles to talk Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti into drafting him at No. 3 … Rubio and Thabeet have said no to Memphis, and James Harden bombed a workout there, so who are the Grizzlies taking? I think it’s likely they still will take Thabeet. But I have no idea how Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley is going to react to this latest twist.”
Presti reportedly came away “intrigued” from Rubio’s interview: ”Presti didn’t conduct any workouts, but he sure was busy this weekend. He met with Rubio and family on Saturday and then Thabeet and Harden on Sunday, all in L.A. The Thunder GM got a chance to look at the results of Rubio’s physical, see his contract and meet the young guard, and he came away “intrigued” by the possibility of taking Rubio at No. 3. While Rubio isn’t the best fit in OKC, he looks like he might be the best player on the board. So what will Presti do? While Harden might be the logical choice in terms of fit, my gut feeling is Rubio goes No. 3.”
Tony Meija’s mock draft: “Oklahoma City – James Harden, G, Arizona State: The Thunder has a few solid young wings and drafted Russell Westbrook last year to run the point, so going Harden over Rubio seems like a declaration that they want to keep the keys in Westbrook’s hands. Rubio is a pretty intriguing prospect with great defensive instincts, so it wouldn’t be shocking if he’s their choice, but Harden seems to be the more natural fit.”
Nick Collison asks a great question I have been wondering as well: “For all those ages 30+..how did anything get done socially in college with no cellphones?Did everyone just run home to sit by the phone?”
Darnell interviewed Chad Ford: “What are your impressions of how Sam Presti has built this team thus far? CF: I think he’s one of the brightest, most intelligent GMs in the league. He’s innovative. He’s willing to experiment. He’ll look at different things rather than the way it’s kind of always been done. If you look at what he’s done in short order to teams in comparison to when he took over the Sonics, he went from a team that was just a disaster to a team that I believe is one of the best up-and-coming teams in the league and a team that’s going to be very well-positioned to be a legitimate title contender. And that’s not easy to do.”
Dime: “Meanwhile, Rubio seems to be slowly dropping down the board. On the night of the Lottery, he appeared a no-brainer for Memphis at #2. Then Memphis grew enamored with Thabeet, and Rubio looked like a lock for OKC at #3 despite Russell Westbrook already being there. James Harden jumped him, though, and lately it’s been Rubio-to-Sacramento as the seemingly obvious pick.”
Excellent story on the professionals who do mock drafts: “For 12 months, Givony – the president of DraftExpress.com – has been traveling, scouting, reporting and scurrying for information on every player who may be taken in the 2009 N.B.A. draft. What results is an exhaustively researched, finely tuned mock draft. That and a feeling of profound ambivalence. “It’s almost pointless to do a mock draft,” Givony said, grumbling. For the self-made draft experts, twisted emotions are implicit this time of year. The draft is Thursday. Fans are devouring mock drafts and player biographies and learning hard-to-pronounce European names. They are refreshing Web pages every few hours to read the latest insights from people like Givony, NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith and ESPN’s Chad Ford. It should be a glorious time. It isn’t. “I hate mock drafts,” Ford said. “I just think they’re a joke.”
In what’s got to be the first power poll of the year, OKC checks in at No. 17: “The Thunder made big strides late in the season, and with a high draft pick and free-agent money, more strides could be ahead.”
In last week’s ESPN the Mag, a representative from each team was asked to stand in as GM of the club and draft a player. Russell Westbrook put on his Sam Presti hat and took James Harden at No. 3 and B.J. Mullens at No. 25. Pretty nice work Russ.
Update: Chad Ford’s newest mock: “Thunder GM Sam Presti flew to L.A. on Saturday to talk to Rubio. He also got a chance to review Rubio’s physical and contract — two important pieces of the puzzle for whoever drafts him. Then, on Sunday, he met with James Harden and Hasheem Thabeet in L.A. And just to make things even more confusing, we hear Presti is now hot for Stephen Curry. Whom will the Thunder draft? I think this one is going down to the wire. I know Presti is a fan of all four players — Rubio and Thabeet have the upside, and Harden and Curry are the better fits. If Presti can get a couple of assets in return for the No. 3 pick, he won’t be afraid to pull the trigger on a trade, either. If the Thunder keep the pick, my brain says Harden is a perfect fit in Oklahoma City next to Russell Westbrook. The scuttle is that Curry is the hot name in the Thunder’s draft war room. And a few think Thabeet’s size will win the day. But I have to believe that Rubio, whom we’ve had here since the night of the lottery, will end up in OKC.”
Update #2: One of Brandon Jennings’ former Roma teammates on the Rubio vs. Jennings thing: “I was allowed to get a pretty good look at two premiere players, and potentially top ten NBA draft picks in Brandon Jennings and Ricky Rubio, playing along side Brandon Jennings and against him everyday in the practice setting, and then on one occasion against Ricky Rubio. Given the caliber of the two players playing the match-up in Barcelona last December between the two quickly turned into a prime-time type of show case. Scouts from all over came to see the game, and they even played the Euroleague game on NBA TV. In my opinion, within that game, both B.J. and Ricky displayed great talent and potential to be successful.”