A Lawrence, KS writer looks at all the pro Jayhawks chances of getting to the Finals next year: “Nick Collison, Oklahoma City Thunder – The No. 3 pick in this month’s draft (whoever it is) certainly will help the cause and the Thunder have a few other nice, young pieces — most notably Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook — but, realistically, this team is still a long way from challenging for an NBA title. If this nucleus stays together and develops and if they can find a way to add a veteran presence somewhere down the road, this team could be one of the hotter clubs in 3-5 years. But for now the thought that Collison and Co. have a shot at winning it all just seems ridiculous.” 35-1? Hey, that’s pretty good!
NBADraft.net on the Combine: “No projected lottery player was more surprising at the combine than James Harden. Many scouting reports on Harden say that he’s not athletic, but his results say otherwise. First, he recorded a 37” vertical and reached the same maximum height (11’8.5”) as Blake Griffin. Second, he ran a 3.13 sprint, which was only one hundredth behind speedster Ty Lawson, and repped 17 on the bench press. It’s been reported that the Thunder are considering him at #3. With no more reservations about his athleticism, is this enough for Harden to leapfrog Rubio?”
First it was the Spurs. Then the Blazers. Now the Magic? Geez Darnell, who’s path are we not following?: “The process that Thunder general manager Sam Presti often speaks of in Oklahoma City is playing out before our eyes in Orlando, where only after five years of rebuilding has the Magic positioned themselves to force their way into this year’s NBA Finals. Orlando’s road took luck, patience, foresight and a few shrewd signings and trades. But it’s a journey that proves the Finals isn’t only reserved for NBA royalty like the Magic’s heavily favored opponent, the Los Angeles Lakers, or last year’s champs, the Boston Celtics, who traded their way to a title.” I guess those paths are all the same in the sense a once bad team is now a good team. So if OKC is following that path, then great.
OKC, among a few other teams, is going to work out Rubio: “One of the more interesting tidbits of information coming out of the pre-draft workouts the last two days in Oakland is word that the agent for Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio is suddenly amenable to participating in interviews and individuals workouts with a select number of teams – the Memphis Grizzlies, Oklahoma City Thunder and Kings. Sources told me that, at this point, Rubio’s agent, Dan Fegan, is limiting the visits to the teams with draft picks 2-4. Given the fact that Jrue Holiday and Jonny Flynn are moving up on most mock draft boards, this makes sense. Plus, Rubio didn’t play particularly well in his season finale. Holiday is expected to return to Sacramento for a second workout, Tyreke Evans is scheduled to work out here next week, and Flynn shortly thereafter. Since the Kings have been unusually accommodating to the media this year – in the past, the team refused to reveal which prospects were working out, and allowed no media access to the workouts – this should be a very interesting few weeks.”
A nice story about Nick Collison from his hometown paper: “The upside for Collison was the move put his family – he and wife Robbie have a 3-year-old daughter, Emma – within driving distance of his parents in Iowa Falls and the in-laws in Kansas City. The downside was that he’d fallen in love with the mountain ranges and temperate climate of the Pacific Northwest. “Summer’s beautiful,” says Collison, who rented in Oklahoma while keeping his offseason home in Seattle. “It’s 80 degrees, no humidity, lots of sunny days in the summer. I can move to Oklahoma City and get traded tomorrow, get traded somewhere else. Eventually, you’ve got to find a place you like and live there and just figure (the rest) out after that.” Not that he’s complaining. It’s Big 12 country, and the Thunder, despite struggling to a 23-59 record, are still firmly within the honeymoon phase locally. Collison and his wife even threw a fashion show this past winter – “It was pretty much my wife, I don’t obviously know the first thing about fashion,” he allows – to raise money for a local charity that promotes HIV awareness.”
Speaking of, watching the Red Sox play the Tigers last night, I noticed something – Kevin Youkalis and Nick Collison may be the same person. Seriously, throw a monster goatee on Nick and shave his head and you have Youk. Maybe that’s Nick’s offseason conditioning program. Playing first base for the Sox. Have you ever seen them both in the same place? I haven’t. (And yes, evidently I am obsessed with look alikes.) Anybody? No?
What to do with the 25th pick?: “Option 4: Take a center – This only happens if Ohio State’s 7′1″ project B.J. Mullens slips. Some NBA scouts think he could be a Tyson Chandler type of player with great size and very limited offensive ability. Most, though, are not enamored with him. At this late point in the draft his project status is not really a hindrance, because if he fails, there weren’t many better options and at least you go down swinging. Josh Heytvelt, a 6′11″ post player out of Gonzaga, is the only other center prospect I could see sneaking into the first round and that’s a long shot.”
I knew it was coming and so that’s why I wrote this. But Chad Ford dropped a rumor about Ben Gordon in OKC yesterday: “Mitchell (Chicago): Please tell me Ben Gordon is staying in Chicago. SportsNation Chad Ford: If he can find a team willing to give him the money he wants … he ‘s gone. I’ve heard OKC has interest. And the Pistons do too if they can find a way to pay him and a big man like Boozer.”
Here’s a shock – mock drafts are meaningless: “I think nowadays, with so many internet outlets covering the draft, you know who the top draft picks are going to be just by looking at the media,” says Blake. “You know Blake Griffin’s going to be one of your top guys coming into this year because you’ve seen him play last year. For us to get a feel for who we want to go see – the guys we call ‘must-tracks,’ meaning we have to track them, get a look at them, monitor them because they’re going to come out – last year that was Michael Beasley, Derrick Rose, you know those guys are going to be up there. Then it’s fueled by a lot of other scouts who actually go to a lot of games, and they’re going to spit that out to the media, as well. In terms of people like Chad Ford, Chad has only a few people who will talk to him and that’s where he gets his information because he doesn’t go see a lot of games. Then you have Draft Express, with guys who are actively going out there, and they do a really super job with what they do. How accurate they are, you never really know.”
FreeDarko kicks off its draft coverage with some good stuff: “Next Russell Westbrook: Rodrique Beaubois. Post-Pietrus (both We Believe and now), where is France in FD Geographical Rankings? Behind Germany (Dirk, Anthony Randolph, Donte Greene) surely.”
DX on James Harden’s impressive workout: ”James Harden tested out far better than anyone could have expected, which will likely cause teams to pay keener attention to his athleticism in competitive workouts. Harden’s 37″ max vert tied him with a player than many consider one of the best athletes at the wing position in this draft in Terrence Williams, and had his 31.5″ no step vert bettered him by a full inch. This is a clear case of a player testing well above the level teams project him at. The best example of that is in Harden’s 11.10 lane agility time, with is only .01 seconds behind the time posted by arguably the quickest point guard in the NBA, Chris Paul. Harden also showed good strength on the bench, throwing up 17 reps, but also recording the highest body fat percentage amongst wings with 10.1%. Those tossing around Brandon Roy comparisons were likely surprised by Harden’s speed and strength, Harden topped the Trailblazers franchise player by 11 reps on the bench and beat him by .14 seconds in the ¾ court sprint. However, Roy out-jumped Harden considerably, posting a 40+” max vert three years ago.”
DeMar DeRozen to OKC?: “One rumor that’s been making the rounds is that the Oklahoma City Thunder could make DeRozan the third pick in the draft, putting him alongside Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook in one of the most promising young lineups in the league. DeRozan likes the sound of that, even if it is premature to actually predict such a move. “That would be great. It would feel good to be in a lineup like that. Kevin Durant’s one of the best players in the league, and that would be an opportunity to help build a program from the ground up. I think we could put Oklahoma City on the map as a top team in the next few years. Playing with a star player would also really help my career. Playing with someone like Kevin Durant, who’s been there and remembers what it takes as a rookie to get where you want to go, that would be great because he just did it. I’d love to play with Kevin and help him build his team up.”
DeJuan Blair was also impressive at the combine and showed some serious athleticism: “It didn’t take long to find a couple of players with measurables similar to DeJuan Blair, as past draftees Craig Smith and Paul Millsap both fit the bill on most levels. Blair posted a lower body fat percentage (12%) than Smith (12.2%), and compares well to Paul Millsap in his numbers across the board. His max vert of 33″ was half an inch better than Millsap’s and while Millsap did marginally better in the no step vert (Blair jumper only 26″ which explains some of the issues he’s had at the rim against good shot blockers) and ¾ court sprint, Blair did three more reps on the bench, finishing with 18 reps, and was .17 seconds better than Millsap in the lane agility drill, finishing in 11.5 seconds. Considering where Blair likely started his trek towards fitness, it wouldn’t be surprising for him to undergo a Craig Smith-like transformation and come into the Summer League looking significantly more fit and moving better because of that.”
Damien Wilkins just completed his degree (Congrats Damien!) but there was this little tidbit: “Still, the ball has bounced well for Wilkins over his NBA career. Five years into a career most didn’t give much of a chance, Wilkins is closing in on almost 100 career starts, and plays most of the game for the Oklahoma City Thunder on an average night. He enters 2010 with one season remaining on his contract, making him one of several free agents available for next summer’s market. “Everyone is going to be trying to sign both me and LeBron next summer,” Wilkins said with a chuckle. James’ free agent signing will likely be the largest in NBA history. That’s not to say Wilkins’ new signing won’t have plenty of zeros behind it. The former Georgia star pocketed a reported $3.1 million for the 2008-09 season alone.” I guess Damien doesn’t have any intentions of opting out. (Kicks dirt.)
A nice feature on D.J. White from his hometown paper: “As he ran out onto the shiny, freshly polished maple-wood court at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, D.J. White rushed a few forced breaths. The National Basketball Association rookie’s stomach was tied in knots, nervous about guarding one of the greatest power forwards the game has ever seen. In just his second career game with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the former Hillcrest High School standout was matched up against the San Antonio Spur’s 11-time All-Star, the 6-foot-11 Tim Duncan.”
Deadspin has a long list of players dubbed “The Chosen One” at some point or another. One of those being Russell Westbrook in 2008. Can someone refresh me on this? I don’t remember him or anyone else ever tagging him The Chosen One.