Get your gas masks on, folks. The smoke screen is thick in the NBA draft room these days.
As teams and agents continue to play their angles in an attempt to do what's best for their respective teams or clients leading up to June 28, the agendas in play are piling higher than the prospect scouting reports. As such, we caution fans everywhere to embrace the chaos that will come in the next seven days and never forget the qualifier that comes with this time of year: things change daily, if not hourly.
That being said, here's the latest I'm hearing on this draft where -- stop us if you've heard this before -- nothing remains certain beyond the fact that New Orleans will take Kentucky forward Anthony Davis with the No. 1 pick.
• As Charlotte continues to ponder its decision at No. 2, numerous executives expect the Bobcats to be approached by Cleveland (No. 4) about the possibility of swapping picks (if it hasn't happened already) in order for the Cavaliers to land Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal. While Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving is known to be a huge proponent of drafting North Carolina small forward Harrison Barnes, it appears Beal has shot up their big board just as he has so many others, and it's widely believed that he won't get past Washington at No. 3 if they don't make a move.
The Cavs have four picks (Nos. 4, 24, 33, 34), and those could be enticing to the Bobcats as assets should they decide to pursue both quality and quantity in this draft. It would make some sense, considering they're coming off such a horrific season (league-record-low winning percentage of .106) and need so much roster help. What's more, if the widely held opinion that Washington would take Kentucky small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at the No. 3 spot if Beal was gone held true, the Bobcats could still get Barnes at No. 4 if that's the direction they wanted to go. For more on that ...
• If there's no movement of picks in the top five, it remains unclear what the Bobcats would do at No. 2.
Most sources saw Kansas forward Thomas Robinson or Kidd-Gilchrist being taken there in recent weeks, and I put Beal in the No. 2 slot in Mock 3.0 based largely on his stock soaring of late. But sources continue to say Barnes is seriously in play as well.
He worked out for Charlotte on Thursday, and the reviews from the team's official Twitter account couldn't have been more glowing. There was a mention of Barnes burying 80 percent of his midrange jumpers and finishing 15 dunks in one minute -- "all with authority." There was even a too-good-to-be-true tie-in relating to Charlotte owner Michael Jordan, as Barnes -- according to the tweet -- was given the middle name of Bryce-Jordan because his mother was a fan of his.
As for Robinson, Friday looms large for his chances of being the second overall pick as he is scheduled to work out against Connecticut center Andre Drummond for the second time in three days. The two squared off in Cleveland on Wednesday, which never would have happened if Robinson didn't change his own strategy and tell his management team that he just wasn't a one-on-none type of guy.
After flying solo at a workout in Washington on June 13, Robinson told his agents, Tony Dutt and Jason Martin, that he was done with the individual workout approach. To Drummond's credit, he obliged. And Robinson, who I spoke with over the weekend as his strategy was changing, was thrilled to get his way.
"We've been going (in this draft process) for a long while, just practicing and not being in a game atmosphere," he said. "I want to go out there and compete, to get that game feeling. You don't get that just playing (in an individual workout). It's even worse because it's not like you're training for college and you're going back to a place you know. With training, you don't' know where you're going to go."
Yet while Robinson knows he won't be going No. 1, he made it clear at the Chicago predraft camp earlier this month that he thinks he should be the top pick. It's all part of a personality that is the most fiery in this entire bunch and part of the gritty makeup that makes him so attractive to teams who are confident he'll be a high-level, reliable forward for years to come.
"I think (his competitiveness) is something I've always had, just wanting to make it more fun," Robinson said. "I think the game is much better if you're competing anyway. I mean what are you playing for? I don't get people who just go out there and just play. You want to go beat somebody else or take down somebody. That's the whole point of playing. That's my mentality."
• Meanwhile, somebody forgot to give the top five picks a map that included Sacramento.
Despite having the fifth pick, it appears the Kings will not work out the player that they may very well wind up taking. Someone is bound to slide from the top-tier group that includes Beal, Barnes, Kidd-Gilchrist and Robinson, but they have all decided against working out in Sacramento and -- unless something changes -- don't appear to be scheduling anything in the eleventh hour here, either. Nonetheless, the Kings aren't expected to hesitate on taking any of those players just because they didn't take part in a workout.
The Kings have drafted a player who didn't work out for them before, as that was the case with Gerald Wallace when he was taken 25th overall by Sacramento in 2001.
• With so many expecting some version of the aforementioned five players will be taken in the top five, things could get very interesting at No. 6 for Portland.
While Drummond remains the most mysterious talent in this crop and his upside is -- like him -- huge, the Blazers may not be convinced that he's the guy there. If they passed on him, Weber State point guard Damian Lillard could be the chosen one for new general manager Neil Olshey. Lillard got rave reviews in his workout there June 15 and reportedly attended dinner with owner Paul Allen and the team's front office members after.
Lillard is known to like the fit in Portland and wants to be there, but it would be risky to wait until their second pick (No. 11) to get him. The risk could pay off, though, as sources from rival teams say the top candidates to take him (Toronto at No. 8 and New Orleans at No. 10) appear to be fixated more on different prospects than they are on Lillard (specifically, I'm told the Raptors are contemplating between Syracuse guard Dion Waiters, Connecticut guard Jeremy Lamb and Duke guard Austin Rivers, while the Hornets could be locking in on Rivers and Waiters if either of them are still there).
Lillard was expected to work out for the Hornets this week, but his camp continues to resist New Orleans' request that he take part in a group workout. That could play a part as well, as Hornets general manager Dell Demps has plenty of options there who have agreed to a workout. North Carolina center Tyler Zeller is being considered at No. 11 as well.
• Iowa State forward Royce White is the latest prospect who appears to have a promise from a team, as his agent, Andy Miller, confirmed an ESPN.com report that he pulled out of all recent and forthcoming workouts leading into the draft.
Miller would not comment on whether White has a promise, but that is the widely held belief. While the report indicated Boston was the team that issued the promise at the No. 21 pick, a source with knowledge of the situation said that was not the case. He's currently slated to be taken 20th by Denver in our latest Mock Draft, but a source close to the Nuggets insisted that they had not given him a promise either. Waiters is known to have been given a promise as well, with Phoenix (No. 13) widely considered to be the team that has given it to him.