Teams are trying not to tip their hands before Thursday's NBA draft
Don't be fooled by the calendar.
Five days remain until the NBA draft, and that means it's already the late fourth quarter in the context of the entire evaluation process of this annual affair. Thus, there's no better time than now to get clever or creative if you're a team looking to come out on top in this game full of gamesmanship.
• From the chatter that continues to come out of Cleveland, I'm starting to wonder if the team with the No. 1 and No. 4 picks isn't doing just that. Numerous sources with direct knowledge of the Cavaliers' thinking privately insist they haven't made up their minds on the top pick, this despite the fact that Duke point guard Kyrie Irving has so long been considered a lock for that spot and no medical problems have arisen relating to his toe injury that kept him out of most of last season.
Cleveland coach Byron Scott said as much as publicly in an interview with Yahoo! Sports recently. It remains unclear whether that's a smokescreen or the truth, but one executive posed a question my way that made a whole lot of sense.
Could Cleveland be attempting to devalue Minnesota's No. 2 pick that is so widely known to be available at a steep price?
Any team with its sights set on a particular prospect -- in this case most likely Arizona's Derrick Williams, Turkish center Enes Kanter or perhaps Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight -- has to think twice about trading for that pick if they can't count on who will be there for the taking. And considering the Cavaliers would be more than happy to give the Timberwolves their No. 4 (with other pieces involved, of course) for a chance to go 1-2, muddying these waters would help their cause and possibly force Minnesota to work with them on that sort of a package.
We're just theorizing about strategy here, but it's clear the No. 1 spot and how it's being handled is worth watching until the end. To that end, Kanter and Knight are expected to workout in Cleveland on Monday and visit with owner Dan Gilbert. The second meeting with Kanter is supposedly intended to involve Gilbert in the process, but the owner's presence -- much like the projections on the top pick -- is not a sure thing.
Klay Thompson thought the skeleton had been removed from his closet.
It's no secret that the Washington State guard was arrested for marijuana possession in early March and missed the Cougars' regular season finale against UCLA as a result. But the renowned shooter had addressed any and all concerns with teams at the Chicago predraft camp in May, when he took the transparent approach and openly discussed the mistake he swore wouldn't happen again.
Yet when representatives from two teams told me this week that they thought he might still be a habitual marijuana user, it became clear that questions remained that could potentially affect his draft standing. I gave Thompson a chance to address the topic yet again after his workout with Sacramento on Saturday, and he was adamant that he remains clean.
"Yeah, I think that's kind of ludicrous to think," he began. "I wouldn't risk the draft or my draft status for something like that, and I put that stuff behind me. That's something I've moved on from. I could be drug tested at the next level, that's fine with me. I'm sure I will be. I won't risk doing that ever again just because I want to fulfill my potential ... I haven't been (smoking), and that's just me being honest."
Thompson could be a top 10 pick, as a source says Milwaukee is very high on him at No. 10, and he isn't likely to get past New York at No. 17. He said he has one more workout remaining at Utah (No. 12).
The film doesn't lie, as they say, so Alec Burks sees no point in even trying to fib about the defense he didn't play at Colorado.
The high-scoring guard who also worked out with the Kings on Saturday had a refreshing take on his perceived weakness, saying he has been showing teams in workouts that he has the ability to defend while admitting he didn't always try to during his two college seasons.
"At Colorado I had some moments where I took off plays, where I didn't play D like I should, but I'm showing people I can play D," he said. "Being young, being athletic, I felt like I could just make (the defense) up with my athleticism. But (teams) watch film. They could see it ... I was showing (teams) that I can be more consistent on the defensive end."
• Maybe Bismack Biyombo's poor showing in Treviso, Italy did wind up hurting him after all. While the Congolese big man certainly
Biyombo, the 6-foot-9 forward who is so intriguing as a defender/rebounder/shot blocker because of his high level athleticism, motor and freakish length -- wound up showcasing his lack of offensive skills in a drills-only workout for teams at the adidas Eurocamp. He is expected to come to America this week and is now believed to be open to conducting 11th-hour workouts with select teams with the hopes of improving his stock.
• Should the Cavs remain in the No. 4 slot on Thursday, any selection other than Lithuanian power forward Jonas Valanciunas could spark the first slide of a big-name prospect.
Taking Kanter, as rival teams have told me they expect Cleveland to, would make it conceivable that Valanciunas could fall out of the top 10. His contract situation will play a big part here, as he has signed on with Lietuvos Rytas for two more seasons. While a buyout could be reached, it's not a certainty as yet. That means any executive who wants to select him must convince their respective owner that he's worth the wait, making him a possible wild card to watch.
• Because any draft story isn't complete without Jimmer Fredette, I can report that his most likely landing spots in the lottery are Sacramento (No. 7), Utah (No. 12) and Phoenix (No. 13). A source confirmed that he was given one of the 15 draft-night invites to the green room at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., which is a good indication of his standing.
New York (No. 17) is among teams that would like to move up to get him. I don't see the Kings taking Fredette if San Diego State's Kawhi Leonard is available, but he could be taken over Connecticut's Kemba Walker. The Maloof brothers that own the Kings are very high on Fredette (especially Gavin), and there is much chatter about the business benefits of that come with adding the one-man brand to a roster that is lacking starpower. But there are standard concerns about his defensive abilities as well, and it remains to be seen which viewpoint wins out when decision time comes. The Suns like Fredette, but are not expected to attempt to move up to take him. Sources reiterated that Utah is expected to be out of the Fredette sweepstakes at No. 12 if they take Knight at No. 3 because they do not want to take two guards.