Some draft buzz as the big day nears...
Minnesota is still looking to land a high-level, impact player for its No. 2 pick. A source said one of the Timberwolves' many trade proposals was a request for Lakers center Andrew Bynum, which involved sending small forward Michael Beasley to Los Angeles. I don't see this deal or the reported offer involving Pau Gasol actually happening, but it sheds light on the caliber of player general manager David Kahn is hoping to net for his pick.
A source close to the Timberwolves said they haven't settled on whether to take Arizona's Derrick Williams or perhaps Turkish center Enes Kanter, but rival executives expect them to opt for the former over the latter. Yet, with the obvious duplication in skill set that comes with having Williams and Beasley, taking Kanter would be the bold move.
The only question, of course, is whether Kahn would be open to that sort of competition at the center spot, which is currently manned by Darko Milicic. The infamous big man obviously hasn't been the "manna from heaven" that Kahn once contended he would be, but he has done an adequate job earning the four-year, $20 million deal he was given last summer (of which only $16 million is guaranteed, as Kahn told me in November).
Only Cleveland officials know how much was smokescreen and how much was due diligence, but the notion that the Cavaliers might not choose Duke point guard Kyrie Irving No. 1 overall has faded quickly after last week's buzz. Sources expect them to take Irving, but their dream scenario of somehow getting Minnesota's No. 2 pick and selecting Williams as well isn't likely.
The consensus from sources I've spoken with is that they'll take Kanter at No. 4, in part because 19-year-old Lithuanian center Jonas Valanciunas isn't expected to play in the NBA next season. A source confirmed an ESPN.com report that Valanciunas' buyout deal with his Lietuvos Rytas team prohibits him from playing in the NBA until the 2012-13 campaign, although one source reminded that such agreements can "always be ripped up and changed."
Nonetheless, Valanciunas could fall fast if he gets past the Cavaliers. Golden State -- which is eyeing the likes of Washington State guard Klay Thompson, Congolese big man Bismack Biyombo and Florida State forward Chris Singleton at No. 11 -- would be thrilled if he fell that far. Warriors general manager Larry Riley said as much on Monday, indicating that there was an ongoing internal discussion about Valanciunas' significant upside and the merits of waiting on him should he be available.
If it gets interesting at No. 4 -- and it does -- it could get really interesting at No. 5. Sources said Toronto president Bryan Colangelo is all-in on the team's new defensive-minded approach, and he is considering taking Biyombo there despite the widely held belief that the athletic defender/rebounder/shot-blocker would go lower. The Raptors, of course, just hired Dallas assistant and defensive specialist Dwane Casey as their coach and are clearly looking to improve significantly on that end of the floor.
Colangelo has considered moving back to take Biyombo as well. Connecticut guard Kemba Walker, San Diego State small forward Kawhi Leonard and Czech Republic forward Jan Vesely remain possibilities for Toronto, but it sounds as if the love affair is with Biyombo. This comes as a surprise in light of Biyombo's recent workout at Adidas Eurocamp in Treviso, Italy, where he was even worse than expected on the offensive end and appeared to have hurt his stock.
Biyombo worked out in Detroit (No. 8) on Tuesday and a source said he played well, but no one on hand played as well as Kansas power forward Markieff Morris. Despite the fact that his twin brother, Marcus, has long been expected to be taken first between the two brothers, the source said Markieff is legitimately in play there.
New York (No. 17) has attempted to move up, most likely for BYU sharpshooter Jimmer Fredette or Thompson. But the Knicks continued to scout all their options, holding a private workout with 20-year-old, 7-foot forward Donatas Motiejunas (Italy's Benetton Treviso) on Tuesday. He is in play for their pick, and a source said he played much better in New York than he did in an atrocious workout in Treviso. Motiejunas worked out for the 76ers (No. 16) on Monday and, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, is expected to work out for Houston (No. 14) and San Antonio (No. 29) as well.
USC center Nikola Vucevic has had as impressive a rise as anyone, and sources said he could wind up being a lottery pick because Houston is high on him at No. 14. The combination of his strong play in workouts, legitimate size (6-foot-11¾ in with shoes, 260 pounds) and the lack of depth at center in this draft has helped his cause. Center Jeremy Tyler, who skipped his final year at San Diego High School to play in Japan and Israel, has done well for himself as well.
The combination of widespread parity, the international flair and lack of All-Star-level talents in this draft make it even harder to project than in previous years for league executives and media members alike.
"You used to be able to go through the draft you'd get the top 15 guys just right like that," Riley said in a meeting with local reporters on Monday. "You might have two guys flip-flop positions or something, but you would get there. I've been on the phone all morning, and I've got a lot of [general managers] saying, 'Well I wish to heck I knew what's going on in front of me because I don't know what I'm doing.' "
Mock Draft hell, in other words.