We’re drawing in folks. Trades are starting to fly, people are feeling it and within 48 hours, we will have one, maybe two new guys in Thunder blue. I’m excited. What say you? (And if you haven’t entered the Daily Thunder MockTest, you best hurry up. All the cool kids are doing it.)
I teamed up with The Lost Ogle to put together an extensive mock draft. Part I is over there and Part II will be here later today: “Memphis – James Harden. This one is tough. With Ricky Rubio’s contract situation seemingly taken care of and there being no way for him to go back as bridges have been burned, Memphis would seemingly be in position to call (Rubio’s agent, Dan) Fegan’s bluff but at the end of the day, there is still risk involved. Harden represents more of a sure thing as he is more NBA ready than either Rubio or Hasheem Thabeet. Memphis needs someone who can give them immediate hope to inspire a deadbeat fanbase. Harden represents that. Look for management to follow through on their word and make O.J. Mayo the point guard of the future with Harden playing the 2 spot.”
Bad news about OKC’s arena deal – we’re a little short right now: “City officials are reassessing an ongoing $100 million renovation of the arena where the Oklahoma City Thunder play, because a sales tax that was supposed to fund it has brought in less money than expected. With shoppers buying less so far this year, the tax approved by voters as a way to lure the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics to town — where they were renamed the Thunder — has produced $4.2 million below projections.” Does anybody know if T. Boone is a Thunder fan?
I joined Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxsym for a podcast. Listen to me talk (first is Kevin Arnovitz and I’m on like 10 minutes in):
Chad Ford reports a rumor that OKC is after the 14 pick:” One rumor that won’t go away has the Suns and Thunder talking about a draft-day swap that would give Oklahoma City the 14th pick and land the Suns the Thunder’s 25th pick and, more importantly for the Suns, the return of their first-round pick in 2010. The Suns traded that pick to the Thunder several years ago as part of the Kurt Thomas trade. The trade is unprotected next year, and with the Suns flirting with rebuilding, they don’t want to lose it. Sources say the Thunder have an eye for Ohio State center B.J. Mullens and likely will take him if he’s available at No. 14.”
Andy Katz reports that OKC is favoring Rubio: “There is a strong possibility that Oklahoma City will select Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio at No. 3, according to sources. If Sacramento then took Evans at No. 4, the Wolves could get Arizona State guard James Harden. A source with direct knowledge of Oklahoma City’s situation told Katz that the Thunder are working on the details of Rubio’s buyout. NBA teams can pay up to a maximum of $500,000 to free players from overseas contracts, but the Thunder want to ensure things go smoothly.”
Henry Abbott looking at the possibility of Rubio in OKC: “If there’s one thing I believe about Thunder GM Sam Presti — who held a camp recently to audition free agents who have the potential to be great defenders, who drafted Westbrook high for his defense, who traded for Thabo Sefolosha for defense, and who comes from the Spurs — it’s that he is dedicated to making the Thunder a solid defensive unit. On the defensive side of the ball, there is simply nothing wrong at all with playing Ricky Rubio and Russell Westbrook together. They are both dedicated and skilled wings. The only trouble would be on offense. And that’s where it’s hard to know how to factor in the fact that Rubio is just 18. You know he’ll improve at a lot of stuff … but what?”
Kevin Arnovitz of TrueHoop with some great info on potential prospects: “Isolation plays accounted for 27% of Curry’s offense — more than any other category. Pro point guards who share this distinction include Chauncey Billups and Deron Williams. Curry’s 0.95 points per possession in isolation is very strong. As the report points out, ‘This bodes well for Stephen … Point guards have the ball most of the time anyway and so a strong isolation point guard is a real plus.’”
Berry Tramel says not even Clay Bennett knows who the Thunder is drafting: ”I chatted with Thunder chairman Clay Bennett on Monday. And yes, I asked him the big question. Who will the Thunder draft Thursday? Bennett said he doesn’t know. And he did say he knew last year that Russell Westbrook would be the choice. No one figured Westbrook would go early in 2008, so general manager Sam Presti was fairly certain Westbrook would be available at No. 4, and sure enough, that’s who the then-Sonics drafted.”
The Big Lead on OKC’s pick: “The Pick: We go with Davidson’s Stephen Curry. Tough to gauge how good of a PG he can be; the guy played with a bunch of kids last season who couldn’t make the NBDL. Even with defenses swarming him – WVU, Oklahoma and Duke, among others – he was still able to get his shot off and keep his team in the game (he beat the Mountaineers by himself). We’re passing on Rubio because it’ll take him at least 2-3 years to become a factor and fill out and develop a jumper. By then, Durant could be gone.”
Ian Thompson looks at questions facing the draft: ”Who goes for Ricky Rubio? Not only has the 18-year-old point guard made it clear he’d just as soon avoid going No. 2 in the draft to Memphis, but he also faces a troublesome buyout worth as much as $8 million to his Spanish club, DKV Joventut. A further complication is that the buyout is now held by the Spanish IRS in lieu of old tax debts incurred by Rubio’s club. Does Memphis risk taking him at No. 2? (Not likely.) Does Oklahoma City use the No. 3 pick on him after taking promising point guard Russell Westbrook at No. 4 last year? Does Sacramento grab him with the fourth pick despite the doubts raised by his buyout? Do concerns about his Spanish contract cause him to slide, or does another team trade up for Rubio at No. 2 or 3?”
Earlier in the week I mentioned how Russell Westbrook picked his own players in the draft, but there was something he said I could shake. When asked about OKC taking Rubio and Russ sliding to the 2 he said, “You trippin’.” We’ve heard Westbrook thinks he’s the point guard of the future and obviously I want what will bring the most wins, but I also don’t want to destroy Westbrook’s building confidence. I think the idea is for them to tag team the point guard position, not one take it over, but still.
Jon Schuhmann of NBA.com looks at teams that could take swingmen: “The Thunder are in a pretty good position. They could draft a point guard like Ricky Rubio with the third pick and move Russell Westbrook to the two. If they feel Westbrook is better suited at the point, they could get another wing like James Harden to complement Durant. Or, they could take Hasheem Thabeet (if he’s still on the board) to give them a defensive presence in the paint and have Nenad Krstic come off the bench.”
Scott Howard-Cooper on Stephen Curry: “The instant-offense machine from Davidson with the quick release, experience and maturity has been working to convince NBA teams that he is capable of being a point guard who gets others involved rather than merely a scoring star. Only the entire lottery depends on the outcome, with Curry a possibility as soon as No. 3 to the Thunder, a lineup able to absorb a 6-foot-3 combo guard as a defensive liability because the primary point, Russell Westbrook, is heading for years as a candidate for the All-Defensive team.”