Wednesday Bolts – Well I’m glad that’s over… Edition

So we march on to the next step. Harden or Rubio or Thabeet or someone else? I have a feeling some moving around thunderbolt2313is going to happen before or on draft day. I’m sure I’ll be letting you know what I think in the near future. Get ready though, because a large portion of Bolts are coming your way.

Some saw it last night, but here’s Chad Ford’s first mock draft. And it’s got a very interesting twist: “The Thunder will have an easy choice here if Rubio is still on the board. Russell Westbrook can play off the ball, and he and Rubio would give the Thunder one of the best young backcourts in the NBA. Neither guy is a great shooter, but they have Kevin Durant for that. If the Grizzlies take Rubio, Oklahoma City will have a tough choice between Thabeet and James Harden.” I trust Chad Ford’s comments on the Grizzlies potentially taking Thabeet. He knows more people than I do. Though it wouldn’t make a bunch of sense and I’m sure the Grizzly fan base wouldn’t be that psyched.

Tom Ziller of Fanhouse has a mock draft as well and oh boy, he’s got the same scenario as Chad Ford: “No one knows whether Sam Presti believes Russell Westbrook is a point guard or two-guard in the NBA. If Rubio is on the board, we’ll find out in rather quick order. This would also be a tradable pick, depending on how the top two picks shake out.”

This came out late yesterday, but SI evaluates the 14 lottery teams: “Griffin isn’t just the dream sequence because it would mean a team already on the rise would also add the best player in the draft. Griffin grew up just outside of Oklahoma City and starred at OU. His addition would be more popular around the Ford Center than any other Griffin landing spot.No matter what, the Thunder covet interior scoring and interior defense, having been unexpectedly forced to continue the search for a defensive upgrade when they scuttled the Tyson Chandler acquisition because of an injury concern. OKC can also use a dependable shooting guard and should be in the range of Arizona State’s James Harden.”

Sam Amick of the Sac Bee: “With a dire need for improved point guard play and some of the sizzle Rubio is expected to deliver, the Kings may not be out of the Rubio sweepstakes just yet. The Clippers were awarded the first pick and are expected to take Griffin. Memphis picks second, and the improved play of point guard and 2007 No. 4 pick Mike Conley could mean the Grizzlies pass on Rubio and instead opt for 7-foot-3 Hasheem Thabeet of the University of Connecticut. The more mysterious spot is third, where Oklahoma City has a productive young point man in Russell Westbrook and a need to improve its frontline that went unfulfilled thanks to an aborted midseason trade for New Orleans center Tyson Chandler. The counterargument from those who expect the Thunder to select Rubio, of course, is that Westbrook is not a true point guard and Rubio would take their offense to a new level.”

Berry Tramel, and I think he may have overlooked someone: “Could be UConn shot-blocker Hasheem Thabeet. Could be Arizona strong man Jordan Hill. Could, I suppose, be Spanish point guard phenom Ricky Rubio, if the Grizzlies of Memphis lose their mind and bypass him at No. 2. Either way, doesn’t matter. Since Thunder general manager Sam Presti took the basketball reins of this franchise, in June 2007, he’s had overall draft picks 2 (Durant), 5 (Jeff Green), 4 (Russell Westbrook) and now 3. If you can’t build a quality roster with that positioning, nobody to blame but yourself. Not that Presti has done anything to make us think he won’t ace this selection, too.”

NBA.com: “Oklahoma City’s choice seems relatively simple if Memphis decides to take Ricky Rubio at No. 2. They’ve been searching for a dominant defensive big man for years now, and wasted multiple top-10 picks in their search efforts back before this new front office was put in place. Their trade at the deadline for Tyson Chandler indicates that this continues to be a priority, so look for them to take Hasheem Thabeet if he’s indeed on the board here. If not, they will likely go for value and take Rubio, despite the fact that he may not be the greatest fit alongside Russell Westbrook. James Harden may be able to change their mind with a fantastic workout.”

Sam Presti, to the official team site: “We’re thrilled as an organization to pick third. We have a great opportunity in front of us to add a player who we think can grow with our team as we continue to build a franchise. It’s a great day for our fans. We’re truly excited for them as well because this will be their inaugural draft.”

Henry Abbott got behind closed doors for the lottery and spoke with Sam Presti: “Presti has a reputation for being guarded with the media. In a way, it seems ill-founded. We talked for twenty minutes about all kinds of stuff. I took notes the entire time. But then I read those notes and … really … he didn’t say anything that would make headlines. For instance, I asked about his team’s approach to statistical analysis, and whether or not they were one of the teams that charted plays to create their own statistical database, like the Rockets. His response: “I really value information, whether it’s subjective of objective. I always want to have as much of it as I can … I don’t think we’ll all end up doing it the same way, and that’s what makes the NBA what it is. For us, we like information. But not a lot of teams are going to keep up with [Houston GM Morey] Daryl and his crew. They are a really innovative group that has done a great job.” (For what it’s worth, I have it on good authority the Thunder do retain a stat expert.)”

Sportsnet.ca’s mock draft (Canadian website if you’re wondering): “Hasheem Thabeet – C, 7-3, 265, Connecticut, Junior Analysis — Slowly putting together a nice team in Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook and no bad contracts. They could use some muscle on the inside or a shooter on the wing and Thabeet or James Harden would fill either of those holes. They also have another first round pick to look for help filling the holes.”

According to ESPN’s Andy Katz, it’s over – the Clippers will absolutely take Blake Griffin: “There will be no more drama. This isn’t a choice between Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley as there was a year ago for Chicago or Greg Oden and Kevin Durant as was the case two years ago for Portland. It’s over. The Clippers, while they won’t say it publicly — to create some sort of suspense — are already done with their draft work. Schwartz and Goldfeder are only planning one pre-draft visit now, to the Clippers. They were told by all 30 teams that Griffin was the pick … “After spending a lot of time and effort preparing for the possibility that we didn’t get the No. 1 pick, this now allows us a lot of clarity to take Blake Griffin,” said assistant general manager Neil Olshey. “It puts us at ease for the next six weeks.”

Yeah, I think this picture kind of leads to that thinking:

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Oh, and Mike Dunleavy also said this: “Clearly, we’re taking Blake Griffin,” Clippers General Manager and Coach Mike Dunleavy said in a telephone interview from Barcelona, Spain. “This guy is the No. 1 pick. We’re extremely excited. He’s the guy.”

Bleacher Report’s mock draft: “OKC: Ricky Rubio: Rubio would fill the biggest hole in the Thunder lineup if picked at No. 3. The Thunder lack a legitimate play making point guard and that is Rubio’s specialty. Rookie Russell Westbrook played out of position at the point last season but was sufficient. Rubio is wise beyond his years and will only get better as he reaches his 20’s and 30’s. The Thunder could also select a big man to solidify their post for a decade. Nick Collison led the team in rebounding at only 6.9 per game and a player like Arizona’s Jordan Hill could help out on the glass. Hill is long and athletic and has a ton of potential on both ends. Hill finishes tough at the rim and would bring a much needed attitude to the weak-minded Thunder squad.”

3 Shades of Blue’s mock: “OKC : James Harden – Thabeet is supposed to be a lock here and maybe the Thunder trade down but they need some more scoring and I am not sure Thabeet is a great fit for the way has been set up by Presti.” Interesting. Seems like it’s kind of split on what the Grizzlies will do.

Both Draft Express and NBADraft.net have OKC taking Thabeet. But here’s one thing that fires me up to the brilliance of Sam Presti. By acquiring all these “tweeners” he can draft who he dang well pleases. He sets himself up to take the best player available every time. He can draft Rubio because Westbrook can slide right over. He can draft Harden, because Westbrook can play point. Just smart management. As Scott Brooks said: “I think with Russell I played him at both spots,” stated Brooks. “I think he’s as good, as athletic, and has improved every month that he understands he can play both guard spots. He thinks like a point guard, going into the season every month he got better. Towards the end of the year he was doing a good job of distributing the ball and he’s going to have a good summer. He’s a worker, he’s already working now, and I’m going to be out there next week to spend some time with him. We’re looking forward to Russell continuing to get better.”

HoopsWorld looks at if Rubio’s buyout really could be an issue: “One reason team representatives are trying to stay clear of the Rubio talk is because of the complicated nature of his buyout. Rubio’s signature is allegedly not on his current contract. As a 16-year-old, Rubio’s parents signed his deal with DKV Joventut in his place. That distinction lends favor to Rubio and Agent Dan Fegan. However, DKV Joventut does have Rubio’s signature on last season’s addendum to the contract which gave the mop-topped point guard a pay raise. The team is trying to leverage that signature into either 6 million euros this season or as much as 10 million euros next season. That’s right. Rubio’s buyout actually goes up next season, which means if the situation doesn’t get resolved this year, it probably won’t be resolved next season either. There is a remote possibility that Rubio doesn’t arrive in the NBA until the 2011-2012 season. According to one NBA agent, “teams could definitely back off… The buyout itself is sticky.” Rubio and Fegan still fearlessly entered the draft this season and seem confident that a deal can be worked out. NBA rules stipulate that teams can only contribute $500,000 to a foreign player’s buyout, which means Rubio will be paying the rest out of pocket. A lucrative marketing deal could soften the blow for the would-be rookie, but shoe deals have lulled with the economy.”

Fox Sports mock draft: “OKC: Hasheem Thabeet – Assuming Rubio goes second, OKC will likely decided between Thabeet, Hill or Harden. Thabeet would give the Thunder a potential Mutumbo type enforcer in the paint. There is optimism about his offensive game given his free-throw shooting stroke. His defense would be the yin to Durant’s offensive yang.”

Dime’s mock: “Oklahoma City – Hasheem Thabeet, C, UConn Another easy choice. OKC fills its most glaring hole with a guy who can either be the next Mutombo or the next Dalembert. Either way, they’re getting a better center than anyone they have currently, and ideally an interior anchor for Scott Brooks’ defense.”

LA Times: “Oklahoma City: James Harden, 6-4, 215, Arizona State. Thunder likes the idea of pairing this playmaking shooting guard with converted point guard Russell Westbrook.” First guy I’ve seen that has OKC passing Rubio if he’s available.

Pro Basketball News’ (weird) mock draft: “OKC: Jordan Hill, F, Arizona: The Thunder has a few solid young wings and drafted Russell Westbrook last year to run the point, so Hill would be the best fit. That said, Rubio is a pretty intriguing prospect that doesn’t come along all that often, so it wouldn’t be shocking if he’s the choice, stockpiling the arsenal.” And that’s with Hasheem Thabeet going second to Memphis. That’s right, we pass on Rubio as well. Weird, huh?

Ridiculous Upside’s mock: “OKC: Hasheem Thabeet C (UCONN Junior) Thabeet is a rare player, a 7’3 center who blocks everything. Just his presence makes players flinch and blow easy lay-ups. He also can hit a 15-foot jump shot and is not a horrible FT shooter for a player of his size. The ThunderSonics have not had the greatest luck drafting 7-foot+ dudes (Mo Sene, Robert Swift, Johan Petro), but I think Thabeet would fit very well with this team. They have offense, why not draft some defense?” But then again, they still have the Clippers taking Rubio over Griffin even after the Clippers have basically already drafted Blake. That’s why I read Draft Express (wink wink Scott).

And finally, the Daily Thunder Big Board if you missed it or want to refresh on our top 12 players for the Thunder. Remember, not a mock draft, just a “top 12 players.” So if Memphis took Thabeet, our big board says we take Rubio. But if Rubio is gone, we say Harden.

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