Monday Bolts – 5.18.09

Tomorrow night I will be busting out another live running diary for the lottery. Last time was a smashing success thunderbolt2311(well, as much as it could be). It will be an open discussion thread of sorts as well, so be sure to by here to discuss the heartbreak victory.

HoopsWorld has the top eight players most likely to be traded: “Earl Watson and Chucky Atkins – The cliché says the hardest two positions to fill are point guard and center. While that’s not always true, Earl Watson is a veteran guard in the last year of his contract playing for a young team that simply doesn’t need him. He defends well, looks for his teammates and is relatively low maintenance. The Oklahoma City Thunder are one of the few teams with significant cap room this summer. In addition to Watson’s $6.6 million contract, Chucky Atkins is only guaranteed $760,000 of his $3.48 million salary. The Thunder can spend on the free agent market. They can make deals where the incoming salaries are far greater than the outgoing. They can cut Atkins to increase their own cap space or send him out in trade (either alone or with Watson). With a bright young roster including Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City could vastly improve their team this summer. The Thunder should have plenty of callers from teams looking for fiscal saving and/or a veteran point in Watson. Both players are eligible to be moved at any point this offseason.”

Chris Silva from the team site attempts to explain the lottery: “The Thunder will receive anywhere between the No. 1 through No. 7 draft selections. By now, you’ve already heard that the Thunder’s odds of landing the top overall pick in the draft are just 11.9 percent. That’s just a gentler way of saying the Thunder has an 88.1 percent chance of NOT drawing the top pick. So, should the Thunder not receive the top pick, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Thunder has a 12.57 percent chance of nabbing the second overall pick, a 13.24 percent chance of getting the third pick, a 9.98 percent chance of landing the fourth pick, a 34.99 percent chance of getting the fifth pick (its highest percentage for a pick), a 16.05 percent chance of having the sixth pick and a 1.26 percent chance of ending up with the seventh pick. But before your brain goes into overdrive with all these possible scenarios, heed this: the Thunder will get a good player wherever it falls in the lottery, whether it keeps or trades the pick. It’s a valuable asset to have. And it’s a pretty simple concept to grasp.”

Evidently, the Knicks would take Rubio over Griffin if given the chance: “If the Knicks beat the odds and surge to No. 1 or 2, they are expected to take Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio, the 19-year-old phenom whom Mike D’Antoni faced in the 2008 Olympics. Blake Griffin, the bullish Oklahoma forward, is the consensus No. 1 pick, but the Knicks prefer the Spanish playmaker. UConn 7-foot-3 center Hasheem Thabeet is the consensus third pick and could fill the Knicks’ glaring lack of shot blocking.” Seems like pretty strong speculation. I can understand D’Antoni trying to find another Steve Nash, but he needs another Amare Stoudemire to make it all work too.

Dime’s Andrew Katz says that could be a horrible mistake by the Knicks: “Right now, they reportedly prefer Spanish PG Ricky Rubio at No. 1 over OU’s terminator Blake Griffin. No matter what people say about the mediocre track record of big men taken at the top of the draft board, make no mistake about Griffin – he’s going to be an all-star multiple times over.Realistically, the Knicks won’t have to worry about making the choice between these two guys. But the notion that they’d pass up a guy who has proven to be a blend between Amar’e Stoudemire and Karl Malone for someone who is rumored to be another Pistol Pete is downright stupid.”

HoopsWorld’s consensus mock, v. 2.0: “Nobody is questioning Ricky Rubio’s status as the draft’s second-most intriguing prospect. However, the issue of his buyout from DKV Joventut is something that people are disagreeing over. Based on current exchange rates, Rubio’s buyout could be worth nearly $8 million. Making matters worse is that the issue might end up in international court since Rubio’s signature is not on his Spanish contract (his parents signed in his place). With teams such as the Wizards and Clippers already heavily invested in the point guard position, Rubio could potentially slide in the draft. He is too talented to fall far, but don’t be surprised if the Thunder land Rubio and slide Russell Westbrook over to shooting guard. One of the advantages of taking Westbrook in last year’s lottery means that G.M. Sam Presti can take a shooting guard or point guard without fear of overloading any one position. This means that DeMar DeRozan, Brandon Jennings, Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holliday and James Harden are all fair game for the Thunder.” I’m curious about this whole thing because the most a team can give is $500,000 to Rubio’s buyout. So what’s it matter? Is the concern simply contact negotiations if he’s a top two pick?

Hoops Daily has updated its “value board” and KD ranks sixth in the league: “If you were wondering what to nickname Durant, behold. The 24 foot layup.” Also, Russell Westbrook came in 29th: “Nobody knows what Westbrook is, but everybody knows that kid has some serious potential.” And of course, Uncle Jeff was forgotten as usual and left off.

The Kings of Leon guested on Jay Leno Friday night and paid wonderful homage to Wayman Tisdale during their performance. I’m not a fan and couldn’t tell you a single song they have, but that’s very, very cool. RIP Wayman.

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SI looks at who should draft who: “James Harden, 6-5 sophomore guard, Arizona State. “He would be good in Oklahoma City because he would give them a second scorer,” the scout said. “He’d be a nice 2 for them, and they have a need at shooting guard. Harden’s got a great basketball IQ, he can really pass and he has the fundamentals of coming from a good program where he was well-coached. The Thunder have been drafting from programs like UCLA [with Russell Westbrook], Georgetown [Jeff Green] and Texas [Kevin Durant], so he fits that profile. And he fills a need.” Harden is one of those players who could vanish if he goes to the wrong team. He’s a blend player who won’t necessarily put up huge numbers but will know how to help teammates. He might also fit nicely in the backcourt of the Raptors or the Knicks, who favor the fluid European style. The choice: Thunder.”

And if you’re wondering why Thompson didn’t have OKC for Blake Griffin, here’s why: “Griffin would make an even bigger impression in Oklahoma City, where he would become an instant local star and make the fans feel it was their team (as opposed to one that had moved from Seattle). But the Thunder would have to move Green either to sixth man or to another team.” Well, I think most of us don’t really agree with that, but whatever.

Bring on the conspiracy theories, because I don’t care as long as we get Blake: “The caller to a popular early-morning show on local sports radio sounded passionate. He came across as pro NBA. It’s fantastic. The league is amazing. You get the picture. The gentleman loves this game. But that was only the preface to his main sentiment. The gist of his call contained words that were just as pointed and emphatic, but filled with skepticism. “If,” the man said, “the Oklahoma City Thunder wins the lottery, I’ll never watch the NBA again.” Of course, he spoke of Blake Griffin — the consensus best player in college basketball and top prize in this year’s NBA draft lottery. Griffin also hails from Oklahoma City, so naturally he’ll end up there as a pro, right? Just like Chicago native Derrick Rose ended up with this hometown Bulls in 2008 and Cleveland-area product LeBron James went to the Cavaliers in 2003.”

Update: Clark sent me this little news story: “Now Kyle Korver is apparently opting out. In an interview with KXNO in Des Moines he didn’t definitely say he was opting out, but he makes it clear if there is any interest at all from around the NBA, he knows it is a business and he is ready to move again. If you are looking for a silver lining, Korver made a shade under $5 million in 2008-09 and has just one year left on his contract. If he and Okur opt out, then the Jazz might have money to afford Boozer and Millsap. Oh, sorry, I forgot, most of you want Boozer to go away.” Hey Kyle, what size jersey you wear? A 42? I think we’ve got that…. yep, we sure do. In white and in blue.

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