Weekly Countdown: Rubio's NBA arrival faces many complications
First another question must be answered: Will the 18-year-old point guard be in the NBA next year? The answer, I believe, is yes.
I saw Rubio in Spain last week for an upcoming story in
Is Memphis, which holds the No. 2 pick in the June 25 draft, one of those "bad" teams? The Grizzlies play in a small market with little support; they've slashed payroll and -- as the Rubio family knows well -- they gave away fellow Spaniard
A further complicating issue is the buyout demanded by Rubio's Spanish club DKV Joventut Badalona. The club will set Rubio free from his contract if, before June 30, he pays $6.6 million (4.75 million euros being the exact figure). If he pays the buyout after June 30, the price he owes the club rises to $8 million (5.75 million euros).
It's hard to imagine that the team will be so shortsighted as to refuse to negotiate a much lower buyout. The same club last season was paying Rubio -- its biggest star and best player around whom its marketing was built -- a salary of 70,000 euros, which by today's exchange rate is worth $97,706. For this season only, the club preemptively raised Rubio's salary to 210,000 euros, or $293,118, in an apparent attempt to show it was treating him fairly.
But there is no fairness by today's standard in paying a player less than $100,000 and demanding a buyout of $8 million. Joventut president
One way or another, this will work itself out because both sides have much to lose if it doesn't.
Let's assume Rubio will be free to enter the draft, even if (by one scenario I've heard) he has to file a court injunction to prevent the club from demanding $8 million he can't afford to pay based on his $97,706 salary.
The questions then become whether the Grizzlies will take him at No. 2, and whether Rubio will want to go there. Dealing with the latter issue, one has only to recall Fegan's attempts to steer Chinese power forward
Will the Grizzlies want Rubio? There is all kinds of talk of them preferring UConn center
Let's be realistic about the Grizzlies. They've rid themselves of most of their older, expensive players, going into next season with no one making as much as $8 million. They surely aren't going to be a contender anytime soon, and drafting Thabeet won't change that dynamic. But drafting Rubio and giving him the keys to the car will make them suddenly and surprisingly attractive. He'll create easy baskets for
Does Memphis really want to see Rubio become an instant open-floor phenom for Sacramento next season, while the Grizzlies invest years in developing Thabeet in front of small crowds?
In a small draft overwhelmed by wing players and guards, in particular, Thabeet stands out as a 7-foot-3 shot-blocking center. As such, he could go as high as No. 2 to Memphis. I know of scouts who believe he will prosper in the NBA, based on his rapid improvement since he began playing basketball at age 15.
A less optimistic view held by others is that Thabeet will have trouble developing offensively, and that the history of UConn big men in the NBA does not bode well for him. UConn annually leads the nation in shot-blocking, but its big men --
This is all the talk in New York. The problem is that
This too: If Thabeet looks inclined to slide, a player likely to rise over the next month is a mature scorer like Curry, who will nail the interviews with team management and smoke jumper after jumper in his workouts. He's likely to impress everyone who meets him.
Curry, of course, is small for a shooting guard. The same was said of
The surest thing is that the Knicks will be able to pick an explosive guard at No. 8. Candidates will include Curry,
Lots of them. Among the possibilities:
• The Wizards will be offering to deal No. 5 in an attempt to acquire a veteran, as well as to trim payroll to avoid the luxury tax next season. The last time they held the No. 5 pick, in 2004, they dealt it to Dallas for
• Minnesota could package No. 6 with its other two first-rounders (Nos. 18 and 28) to either move up or acquire a ready-made star.
• Oklahoma City (Nos. 3 and 25) will tirelessly explore all options in search of the best value, but then that's like predicting winter will follow autumn.
Because there are no sure-thing All-Stars in this draft -- not even
In Griffin, the Clippers would receive a younger, healthier and far less expensive replacement for power forward
This has all the makings of a busy month ahead.
Just the opposite: Most of those struggling teams will be looking to unload existing and expensive veteran NBA talent in exchange for a draft pick so they can sign a promising talent to a relatively cheap rookie-scale contract. One of the exceptions is the Wizards, who believe they have the coach and talent (if healthy) to climb back into contention next year. They'll be looking to trade out of the lottery in return for a veteran who can help them next season, though they'll also probably want a team to take a toxic contract off their payroll in a package for the No. 5 pick.
The Hawks have flexibility under the luxury tax, enabling them to move some of their short-term contracts for a longer-term deal. Let's see, too, if
To take the next step, the Hawks will need another star to pair with
The rest of the free agents will be inclined to go for the money whenever it becomes available. If their teams want to retain them, they should sign ASAP. They can't be certain the offer will be available the next day, especially if talks on a new collective bargaining agreement do proceed more quickly than anticipated.
I don't know where he'll wind up playing, but it will be for a contender. Kidd told me last year that he would be willing to come off the bench to contribute to a championship season. He added he'd be willing to help mentor a young point guard starting in front of him. Kidd is still a terrific point guard with leadership qualities that are hard to find. I could see him fitting in well with any of those teams, in addition to the Blazers and the Celtics. Boston has yet to be mentioned as a potential suitor but should be, considering its need for a backup to
The same issue existed in Game 1 for LeBron James, who appeared to be the only consistent scoring threat for Cleveland as it yielded a 16-point advantage in losing at home to Orlando. LeBron is much more than a scorer, and if his playmaking is limited -- if his teammates aren't finishing around him -- the Magic will be able to continue exploiting their mismatches on the perimeter while spacing the floor for
Physical toughness isn't so much a concern for the Cavaliers in their series. But the Magic have demonstrated a different kind of toughness in their insistence on fighting back against any deficit.