SI.com's NBA draft day blog
"I think the kid is going to do a lot better than I did," said Jennings. "European basketball is more of a big man's game. Big men are always in the key, and there's a lot of zone [in Europe], so I think it will be good for him. He might surprise a lot of people. Everybody's like, He's leaving, he's not finishing his senior year, but overseas is more of a big man's game and they really like to play inside. My thing for him would be to stay strong mentally because it can be tough. You're a long way home, with a different language and different coaches. But if he stays there for two years, he'll be the top draft pick when he comes out."
Given how much David Kahn, Minnesota's new president of basketball operations, had invested emotionally in Rubio as his first of four first-round selections, the former lawyer and sportswriter cooled it on the rhetoric front.
"Nobody here tonight, myself especially, will be banging his fist on the table, saying, 'He must be here!' It's a very complicated matter," Kahn said. "We need to understand that we're not in control of the situation vis a vis the buyout. ... I think it's too early to worry about that. But I said this to the agent tonight: If any team in this league can afford to wait a year, dare I say two, it's us. Y'know? It's us."
Rubio, 18, has played professionally for four seasons already and has a buyout clause estimated at $6 million. Agent Dan Fegan reportedly is trying to negotiate that down, especially with Rubio slotted for a No. 5 pick's guaranteed salary, not a No. 2 or No. 3 as expected.
The Wolves drafted Syracuse guard Jonny Flynn immediately after taking Rubio because they liked him, rather than as insurance against not having Rubio in 2009-10. Kahn said he sees the two point guards playing together in time. He also downplayed any notion that Rubio's reluctance has more to do with Minnesota in general than buyout hurdles.
"I don't think it's a destination problem," Kahn said. "I believe he would have been more than happy to play in Oklahoma City. And with all due respect to Oklahoma City ..."
"Late in the first round, I think Omri Casspi will be interesting this year. We'll see how his game translates, and I think he'll come over this year. Not a great shooter but he is used to big game situations. They have him for the next three years under a cheap contract, and
"I instantly love the Spurs getting DeJuan Blair in the second round [No. 37]. He was viewed as a potential lottery pick until teams got wind of his medical reports. He had surgery on both knees in high school and his long-term were not good. That's why he fell to the second round. Now he's going to a team that wants to see what he can do now as opposed to five years from now. He's going to help them next year. He's a strong, active guy and they won't ask him to play big minutes.
"Earlier today, Jennings was supposed to be in the green room. I heard they were going to pull him out of the room, so I called Bill Duffy the first thing this morning and he said he was going to talk to Brandon about it and make sure that he wasn't put in an uncomfortable situation. As recently as 6 p.m. tonight, Bill still didn't know where Jennings was going to go. He could have slid all the way to No. 17 or worse, but Jrue Holiday turned out to be the one who slid. That opened up room for Jennings to Milwaukee at No. 10. Now everybody should be happy."
"My agent [Dan Fegan] is working on that. I think we can be in agreement," Rubio said, somewhat hesitantly.
But do you want to play in Minnesota this season? "Yeah, I want to play in the NBA," he said.
This year? "I don't know if it will be this year or next year. We'll see, because my buyout is big ($6 million). But we're talking about it with my agent, and he's working hard."
Rubio acknowledged that sliding to No. 5 and the lower guaranteed salary that accompanies that slot could hurt his buyout chances. He denied that the Wolves' recent losing tradition or Minnesota's climate would be a factor. "No, no. Only for my mom, because she doesn't like the cooler weather," Rubio said. "For me, if it's warm or not ... I want to play minutes."
The question remains: In Minneapolis or in Spain?
The other question: If
Daye said he had a very good workout in Detroit and knows he's going to have to put on some muscle to compete in the league. "I'm definitely going to have to bulk up but I think there have been some frail guys who have a had success in the league, including
Daye said he's spoken often with former Gonzaga star
• Blake Griffin is the first player from Oklahoma to be selected with the top overall pick. The late
• Since joining the league in 1995, the Grizzlies have never had the top overall pick but they've picked second four times:
"What's clear is that Minnesota has extended the draft by taking three point guards, though it looks like Ty Lawson is going to Denver. Regarding the other two point guards, I think Rubio would be likely to go because he has the highest value. I think he's clearly not happy to be in Minnesota.
"Out of the top 10 picks, the guy who I think will exceed expectations is Knicks pick Jordan Hill. Mike D'Antoni compares him a little bit to
"Stephen Curry at No. 7 was a surprise because everybody thought Hill would go No. 7. But it makes sense because Curry is a Don Nelson-type of player. I had been thinking for weeks that Curry would not get by Golden State. He was their kind of guy, but then I got talked out of it by everybody. But I always thought of Curry as a Nellie type of player."
Kahn also shared with fans attending a draft rally the possibility that Rubio might not be playing in Minnesota next season at all. It was an odd place to raise the specter that the teenager from Spain might not buy his way out of his European contract -- the Wolves need to generate as much excitement and sell as many tickets as they can before dampening the enthusiasm.
The hunch around Target Center was that Rubio was too valuable an asset to pass up, still sitting there at No. 5, even as the Wolves love Flynn's game more at the moment.
• On the weather in Minneapolis: "It's cold there. My mom hates cold places. But we are going to see."
• On Jonny Flynn getting selected by the Timberwolves: "That's a big surprise for me they took another point guard. But we are going to see what they want. I don't know what they want."
• On whether he was excited to go to Minnesota: "I'm excited to come to the NBA."
Rubio did say that he wants minutes more than anything else. "I want to play basketball, and if they give me minutes, I'm going to come."
One last note on Rubio: An ESPN reporter (who shall remain nameless) told me that Rubio had the longest eyelashes he had ever seen on a man. Hopefully, they won't freeze in Minnesota.
Strangely, not a lot of reaction from the Theater crowd to the announcement of the Vince Carter trade. Shows you that the Nets have no traction outside of New Jersey. Not surprisingly, chants of "We want Ricky," "We want Ricky" went through the auditorium when Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio appeared on the big screen. Knicks fans (and coach
Carter, at age 32, had one of his best seasons with New Jersey while showing newfound leadership skills. If the Magic were able to retain free agent Hedo Turkoglu this summer, he would return next season to an Orlando lineup replete with four All-Stars in Carter,
New Jersey would receive a solid swingman in Lee in addition to the flexibility provided by Alston and Battie, whose contracts expire in 2010 for cap relief amounting to nearly $12 million.
Holiday is the biggest unknown in that regard, and therefore the biggest risk. He played one year at UCLA, in the structured offense of
The opinions of three front-office veterans, when asked which of the pseudo-point guards will have the best career:
One: "I would say Curry is the safest one. He'll be very solid. But the best actual point guard of those guys -- Holiday. He's most natural as a point guard."
Two: "I'm thinking Evans. I just think he's got a physical presence the other two don't. Curry will be fine if he's not expected to be a true point guard. If you make him a true point guard, you're taking away his best skill" as a scorer.
Three: "My sense is that Evans will be best. But Holiday could be a Chauncey Billups situation -- it might take four or five years, but then he gets really good."
No real consensus, in other words. Curry is the best bet for a successful career because he's a scoring weapon and those players always last, but that is not the same as good odds on being a successful prototype point guard who can deliver the right pass. Maybe Oklahoma City takes him third, throws that thinking out the window, and plays Curry at shooting guard at 6-3 with the comfort of having
The big mystery driving these calls involved the choices to be made by Oklahoma City at No. 3 and Sacramento at No. 4. The Thunder have been disciplined about keeping their decisions in-house and not letting rivals know their plans. Then there is Sacramento, which has put out a variety of confusing signals of whether it's looking to take Tyreke Evans, Ricky Rubio or
These mysteries leave Minnesota in a position of uncertainty. If the Timberwolves knew that Evans or Rubio would slide to them at No. 5, then they could sit tight. But they can't count on that possibility.
So here are the options for Minnesota to move up and grab one of the top two point guards in the draft:
• Improve on Wednesday's offer to Memphis of Nos. 5 and 18 and a player (
• Trade up with either Oklahoma City or Sacramento in order to guarantee access to one of the point guards.
Ever since Minnesota traded for the No. 5 pick on Tuesday, the talk has been of a subsequent move up for Rubio. But it may be that the Wolves have shifted their aim. "It could be that the battle is for Tyreke Evans,'' said an executive with an upper-lottery team. --
The Warriors will almost certainly go point guard or Arizona power forward
Wright has not come close to reaching his potential in two seasons, thanks to typical growing pains, a shoulder injury and falling into such disfavor that he wasn't even in Nelson's doghouse; he was in Nelson's dog's doghouse. But Wright is only 21, would have just finished his junior season at North Carolina, and the entire NBA knew when he went eighth in '07 as part of the prearranged
Not only does he still have a big upside, the consensus around the league is that it's bigger than Hill's. That's why a Hill selection is not as simple as saying that whoever plays the best gets the minutes. That's an understandable approach for a coach, and especially understandable for a 69-year-old coach who isn't exactly working on a five-year plan, except that there's little doubt that one of the prospects at power forward would have the chance to build a nice career, if Hill is the pick, and the other has the chance to become special. If he gets the minutes. --
• Arizona State guard James Harden is popular with the brain trust, even though he didn't shoot well in his workout at Target Center. Harden worked out Wednesday in what was a closed workout; the other guys all had media availability.
• Memphis' Tyreke Evans probably had the best individual workout of all the Wolves' invitees.
• GM David Kahn referred to
Not only would the Celtics be seeking equal basketball talent in exchange for Rondo, but the team trading for Rondo would have to give him a new, expensive contract as a restricted free agent in 2010. That's like swimming upstream against the current trends of teams seeking to either steal talent or else slash payroll -- a Rondo trade meets neither demand.
The bottom line is Boston needs to win the championship next year and can't afford to make a deal that damages those hopes.
With that in mind, are the Celtics worried about Rondo's focus next season while he's playing for a new contract? This is one of many questions raised by their recent attempts to gauge his value in a deal.
"I think it could be a great opportunity," he said of playing for Memphis.
Thabeet is arguably the draft's biggest wild card. At 22, and with only seven years of basketball experience under his belt, Thabeet has all the tools to become a Mutombo-type shot-blocking presence. But will he contribute much on the other end? Thabeet said he has spent the last two months working almost entirely on offensive drills, specifically left- and right-handed hook shots and 10-foot jump shots.
"I want to be able to score consistently," Thabeet said.
"He's capable of doing that," said
Roth has been putting Thabeet through two-a-day drills focused on developing his offensive game. Under Roth's watchful eye, and with former NBA center
"The biggest thing with him is building his confidence," Roth said. "When I first got him, I thought he was just another big guy who just stood in front of the rim and took dump-offs. But he's really skilled. He's like a blank canvas. I think eventually he is going to have some really good offensive moves. I think he is going to have a jump hook over his left shoulder, a nice turnaround jump shot and what I call the
"I just felt that he'll be better at the next place,'' Kahn said. `"We're not talking about someone who really struggled. But I think even Randy would say he needs to find his groove.''
How often do you hear NBA execs suggesting that the player they just traded away likely will play better than he had been?
The primary reason Foye should thrive in Washington is he won't constantly hear "
The move backfired immediately. Roy achieved All-Star status, led the Trail Blazers back to the playoffs this year and, though he is a natural shooting guard, already is more adept at running an offense than Foye. Though he's built like a point guard, Foye has played his best when freed to play the other backcourt spot. And while Minnesota was scared off Roy because of injury concerns, it was Foye who had half of 2007-08 wiped out by microfracture knee surgery.
Another reason Foye could thrive in Washington? He'll be with offensive-minded coach
"I think I would be drafted lower," said Hansbrough, projected to go 19th to Atlanta in a
As for mock drafts, Hansbrough does not pay attention to them. "Nope," he said. "But maybe if GMs did it, I would pay attention." --
By my count, the only top-10 teams considering Jennings are the Knicks at No. 8 and the Bucks at No. 10, and Jennings is unlikely to go to either of them unless one or more trades change the order of the draft.
The smart move would be to take Jennings out of the green room, but Jennings and agent
A lot of star players in the NBA --
It's funny how it works, but Jennings may have more fans rooting for him as a low pick than he would as a top-10 choice, because if he were to go high in the draft then he would be expected to play well immediately -- and very few players in this draft will meet that standard.
So Kahn got the Wolves a bigger boat, acquiring the No. 5 pick to go with the Nos. 6, 18 and 28 that Minnesota already held. With four selections out of the first 28, Kahn's team, just through sheer at-bats, might have a shot at improving on a draft average well south of basketball's Mendoza line.
At a session with reporters Wednesday afternoon, confirming the deal that sent
"It's not that we have dismissed or agreed to anything,'' Kahn said. "Right now, we have all this stuff on the table. And we need to now put all this stuff on the table and figure out what would be the best combination of stuff to do. We may not even figure some of this stuff out until the draft.''
That means Minnesota is, for all intents and purposes, already on the clock.
"I'm not trying to be cocky; I'm confident. I'm a competitor. I like to compete," Jennings said. "A couple of GMs asked me why I said what I said about Rubio. ... So I explained to them: I'm just a competitor and I want to be the best. They are saying he's the best point guard in the draft and I want to go against the best. I'm not trying to put anyone down. Ricky is a cool guy, but on the basketball court, I want to be the best."
When asked who was the best point guard in the draft, Jennings smiled. "The best point guard in the draft is whoever gets picked first," he said. "Of course I think it should be me. Of course I think I'm the best point guard in the draft. But Rubio is going to get it and I respect that." --
Even if the Suns take Mullens -- and anywhere around the middle of the first round is a reasonable landing spot -- he is considered talented but far from NBA-ready after one college season. He also been questioned for his heart and dedication to improve. One executive simply said, "I don't think he loves the game."
Said another exec: "If there weren't the doubts, would a guy who looks like that and plays like that be talked about at 15? He'd be a top-five pick.
"He's really, really talented. There's just a lot of holes in that."
Indeed, Mullens has a pro body at 7-foot-1 and 260 pounds, and shows flashes of a real future. There is enough upside that teams want to fall in love with him, especially in the year when
In the meantime, the Suns have