12:01 a.m. Friday: As we close up shop on the 2009 NBA draft, we'll leave you with a futures tip: If you're looking for an early line on the 2011 draft lottery, Brandon Jennings says to keep an eye on Jeremy Tyler, the highly touted high school junior who plans to skip his senior year at San Diego High to play in Europe.
"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." -- Richard Deitsch
11:24 p.m.: No line was drawn in the stand, no ultimatums issued, as the possibility loomed late Thursday that Euroleague sensation Ricky Rubio, who surprisingly slid to Minnesota at No. 5, might not buy his way out of his contract with DKV Joventut for next season.
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 ..." -- Steve Aschburner
11:15 p.m.: Just caught up with SI's Ian Thomsen, who offers some instant analysis as the second round chugs along. Says Thomsen: "We all knew it was going to be a point-guard-heavy draft. I just didn't think all the point guards would go to Minnesota. I think the Knicks improved themselves with Jordan Hill, ToneyDouglas and Darko Milicic. I think this is Darko's last stand. If anybody can get something out of him, it will be Mike [D'Antoni]. They didn't spend a lot of money for these picks but I think they got guys who will produce next year, including Douglas, who is a scoring point guard.
"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 Geoff Petrie has a great eye for guys like him.
"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." -- Richard Deitsch
11:04 p.m.: This from the helpful people at the NBA communications department: The first round began at 7:39 p.m. and ended at 10:22 p.m. -- Richard Deitsch
10:59 p.m.: The 39th pick in the draft -- Swedish small forward Jonas Jerebko -- emerged from a seat in the crowd upon getting selected by Detroit and headed for the stage to shake the hand of NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver. "It's been a long time but when I heard by name, I was very happy," he said. "They have Tayshaun Prince in my position and I can learn a lot from a guy like that." Nice moment. Somewhere, Bjorn Borg is smiling. -- Richard Deitsch
CURRY HEADED TO SUNS? It looks like the rumors Amar'e Stoudemire was headed to Golden State had some truth to them. Hope you like the desert, Mr. Curry.
10:38 p.m.: As one of the 5,000 point guards Minnesota selected this evening, Jonny Flynn sounds like someone who'll be sticking around with the Timberwolves: "Going to Minnesota is a great fit for me," said Flynn. "You've got Kevin Love and Al Jefferson, two big men that can make my life easier. I get them the ball in situations where they can score and they make me a better player." As for the snow, Flynn won't be bothered a bit. He played his college ball at Syracuse and calls Niagara Falls, N.Y., home. -- Richard Deitsch
10:32 p.m.: With the Cavs' selection of small forward Christian Eyenga (Congo) at No. 30, five international players went in the first round of the 2009 draft, up from four players in '08. But it's a low number this decade. Since '00, the draft has had six or more international players selected in the first round with the exception of the last two years. --Richard Deitsch
10:16 p.m.: Ricky Rubio didn't calm fears among Timberwolves fans that his NBA debut might, in fact, have to wait until the fall of 2010. In his first chat with Twin Cities media by conference call, Rubio admitted that his buyout from DKV Joventut Badalona in Spain might not go smoothly or even happen at all.
"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 Kevin McHale had been around to draft Rubio, only to have him stay in Spain, how would Wolves' fans be handling that news? -- Steve Aschburner
10:14 p.m.: My well-connected colleague Ian Thomsen just spent the last couple of minutes chatting with ESPN's Michael Wilbon and NBA commissioner David Stern. (I'm lucky if SI's Chris Mannix will say hello to me.) I'll say this: Wilbon has a nice suit -- no tie, but a crisp yellow shirt and shiny black shoes. Ian has on black and gray sneakers. Very fly, Thomsen. -- Richard Deitsch
10:10 p.m.: Gonzaga small forward Austin Daye (who went No. 15 to Detroit) may be slight (he's only 192 pounds) but the son of former pro Darren Daye thinks he'll have an impact in the NBA. "I [think it's] because I have a unique skill set," Daye said. "I'm 6-11 and can handle the ball, pass and shoot. I think I bring a quality not a lot of tall big men have. I think what Rashard Lewis did for Orlando created a lot of mismatch problems in the playoffs and that helped them advance."
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 Kevin Durant and Tayshaun Prince," he said. "They were able to adjust, but I will put on some weight."
Daye said he's spoken often with former Gonzaga star Ronny Turiaf to get a sense of what the next level will be like. "He said it's a tough jump, but I can do it," Daye said. "He said my skill set will help at the next level. It's a lot of different than college going in, and I think I understand that. I've prepared my game more for the NBA game because of my ability to get my shot off." -- Richard Deitsch
10 p.m.: Some quick notes from the draft, courtesy of the handsome folks at NBA communications:
• Blake Griffin is the first player from Oklahoma to be selected with the top overall pick. The late Wayman Tisdale went No. 2 in the 1985 draft.
• Since joining the league in 1995, the Grizzlies have never had the top overall pick but they've picked second four times: Mike Bibby ('98), Steve Francis ('99), Stromile Swift (2000) and Hasheem Thabeet ('09).
9:55 p.m.: Wish Dell Curry a happy birthday if you see him Thursday night because the father of Stephen and Seth turned 45 today. But make sure you do it quietly. Like most people of a certain age, the senior Curry didn't want to acknowledge it was his birthday when SI.com asked him about it. His wife, Sonya, though, shook her head and smiled affirmatively. In case you forgot, Dell went No. 15 in the 1986 draft to Utah. Steph topped him by eight picks. -- Richard Deitsch
9:49 pm: The Kings' selection of Omri Casspi, the 6-9 forward from Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel, got one of the loudest roars of the night. Some in the crowd waved Israeli flags; others danced in the aisles. New York City has a large Jewish population. The ultra-aggressive forward is a Matt Harpring-type, though not as good a shooter. Ian Thomsen likes the pick. Says Casspi plays "really hard and has a lot of energy." -- Richard Deitsch
9:40 p.m.: We check in with SI's Ian Thomsen for a quick analysis of the first 21 picks. Says Thomsen: "My first thought is that spending hours and hours trying to do a mock draft is a big waste of time. Most of the picks are not surprising because they were all serious options. I heard from one general manager yesterday and today that Oklahoma City was going to take James Harden, but most people around the league seemed to think Tyreke Evans or Ricky Rubio would go at No. 3.
"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 Amar'e Stoudemire -- soft hands, catches the ball well, and he can score in a variety of ways. I just think in that offense, the kind of space a big man receives, he'll be able to do very well."
"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." -- Richard Deitsch
9:29 p.m.: Brandon Jennings, who went to the Bucks at No. 10, has a huge fan in DeMar DeRozan. "Who would I take besides myself? I have to say one player who will be a good pro is Brandon Jennings," said DeRozan. "He would have been the best point guard in college this year, hands down. Just how well he creates, and how good a scorer he is, he's one of those players that can bring excitement to the floor." -- Richard Deitsch
9:23 p.m.: After selecting point guards Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn with the fifth and sixth overall picks, the Timberwolves immediately told anyone who would listen that they planned not only to keep both players but see themselves playing the two in tandem eventually. David Kahn, the team's new president of basketball operations, talked about the old Celtics (Dennis Johnson, Danny Ainge) and Pistons (Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars), and how labels like "point" and "shooting" didn't matter.
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. -- Steve Aschburner
9:21 p.m.: Before the draft, Sixers pick Jrue Holiday thought the Knicks would be a good fit because of his defense. "Why should teams draft me? Because I'm a point guard if that's what you need," Holiday said. "I'm a team leader. I can run a team. I can dish it to the players. I can create my own shot or create a shot for someone else. One of the biggest things is defense. I lot of players don't really play defense but coming out of UCLA, that's something I can do." -- Richard Deitsch
9:16: My colleague Ian Thomsen predicts that the Timberwolves picked TyLawson at No. 18 for another team. Let's see. -- Richard Deitsch
9:15 p.m.: I followed Ricky Rubio after he went No. 5 to the Timberwolves (and breaking the hearts of many Knick fans in attendance). He did his ESPN interview with MarkJones, then chatted up Steve Lavin among others for ESPN Radio. He was smiling throughout, waving to the young people in the crowd who were chanting his name. Security whisked him from the theater floor to the interview room, an experience that felt something akin to the running of the Bulls in Pamplona. In a brisk walk-run to the interview room, Rubio heard screams in Spanish (Viva! Ricky, Muy Caliente!) and wails from Knicks fans who desperately wanted him. He also passed a women dressed up as the Statue of Liberty in tinfoil. (Welcome to New York, amigo.) Rubio smiled and played nice for the press, but its clear he's not loving the fact that Minnesota selected him:
• 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. -- Richard Deitsch
8:59 p.m.: In one of the draft's surreal moments so far, Brandon Jennings came out to meet David Stern after the commissioner announced Earl Clark to the Suns at No. 14. Jennings has been in New York this week, but his agent, Bill Duffy, decided earlier today to keep him away from the actual draft. "Because we do not have a strong grasp of Brandon's draft position, I've advised that he and his family enjoy this day in a more private setting with the people he loves the most," Duffy said in a statement. Well, Jennings must love the people of New York because when he arrived on stage to greet Stern, he blew a kiss to the crowd. -- Richard Deitsch
8:50 p.m.:Tyler Hansbrough was greeted with chants of "overrated, overrated" after David Stern called his name. But Hansbrough going No. 13 clearly reinforced that he had moved up after workouts. "I'm a high-energy guy," he told SI.com when asked about why teams should draft him. "I'm a proven guy that does not need time to develop. I'll come in and help out a team. I'm a very good offensive rebounder and a high energy guy. My mid-range game has really improved and I'm capable of scoring." -- Richard Deitsch
8:48 p.m.: Duke's Gerald Henderson, selected by Bobcats with the No. 12 pick, talked on Wednesday in the pre-draft media session about the laborious process of teams interviewing him about things beyond the court. "A lot of teams want to get a sense of person who are not just good or bad, but what do you like to do off the court, how do you feel in a week, do you get down on yourself, personality-type of things," he said. "I'm sure all the teams have private investigators but that's to be expected. They are making a huge investment and they want to have someone they can rely on and represent their teams well. There are no skeletons in my closet, though. I have conducted myself well. I'm going to bring a certain amount of effort every day and I'll be a professional every day no matter what. I think that is something that is valued at this level." -- Richard Deitsch
8:44 p.m.: Brandon Jennings really wanted to play for the Timberwolves because of his friendship with Kevin Love. "My man Kevin Love is there," Jennings said before the draft. "We played AAU basketball together and we have that bond. Our IQ is pretty strong together." Jennings added that he thought his stock was rising from the workouts. He ended up going No. 10 to the Bucks, higher than most NBA draft experts predicted. "I didn't get a lot of playing time in Italy," Jennings said. "My stats were not as high as everyone they thought they would be. It was an up and down season for me, a real challenging season. But when I stepped into these workouts I think I surprised a lot of people." -- Richard Deitsch
8:40 pm: Louisville guard Terrence Williams, who went to the Nets with the No. 11 pick, was one of the most outgoing guys in New York. Here's Williams' answer to why teams should draft him: "For my smile," he said. "No, really, I'm a hard worker. I'm competitive. I play defense. I think team-first, I want to get guys the ball. I'm an assist-first type of guy. Even if I play great, I still put it on my shoulders." -- Richard Deitsch
8:35: Williams is a huge fan of Jonny Flynn, who went No. 6 to the Timberwolves behind Ricky Rubio. "He is great with the ball and makes great decision with the ball. Just look at six-overtime game against UConn. When I first saw him I thought he was a miniature Chris Paul. He's not Chris Paul right now but he might be Chris Paul one day. I see his game and it reminds me a lot of Chris Paul." -- Richard Deitsch
8:25 p.m.: Knicks fans, listen up: SI.com asked Arizona forward Jordan Hill why teams should draft him. "Why should teams draft me? I would say look at how hard I work on the court," Hill said. "You can tell by my college years how much I have progressed and how much better I can be. I'll do what it takes to win." -- Richard Deitsch
8 p.m.: With the Vince Carter trade earlier today, it's interesting that his name was brought up with USC guard DeMarDeRozan during interviews on Wednesday with the prospective draftees. DeRozan was asked about the comparisons between Carter and him. "I remember when Vince Carter came into the league and how he affected the NBA," said DeRozan. "It seemed like he brought the excitement back to the league. Everybody wanted to see Vince Carter. Everybody fell in love with Vince Carter. I think a lot of people look at me like that and I consider that an honor." -- Richard Deitsch
7:51 p.m.: I spoke some to a couple of college students-cum Knick fans in the rafters. StevenJones, 19, and J.J.Dean, 18, traveled into the city from Garrison and Poughkeepsie, towns in the suburbs north of the city. They woke up at 5 a.m. to get $15 seats to the draft. "I want the Knicks to take Stephen Curry," said J.J. "He's talented and a star and everyone loves him." Both guys said they would boo if the Knicks didn't get who they wanted. So if Ricky Rubio or Gerald Henderson get picked, you'll be hearing boos from their seats. That said, it's clear that most of the Knicks fans here want Rubio. -- Richard Deitsch
7:35 p.m.: Theater fans already getting on Blake Griffin. "Blake is soft...Blake is soft." -- Richard Deitsch
7:22 p.m.: The crowd chanted "Jeff Van Gundy, Jeff Van Gundy" when the former Knicks coach was introduced by ESPN (On Sirius XM Radio this afternoon, Van Gundy ended any notion of coaching college basketball by calling the game a "cesspool. The agents have overtaken major college basketball. At least in the NBA we all pay our players and it's above board. I have no interest in coaching college.")
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 Mike D'Antoni) can dream. -- Richard Deitsch
7:09 p.m.:The Trail Blazers and Nets are discussing a trade involving Portland point guard Sergio Rodriguez, a league source told SI.com. In addition to their planned acquisition of Rodriguez, the Nets were discussing a bold final-hour move that would package All-Star point guard Devin Harris and the No. 11 pick to Minnesota for the No. 5 pick. These talks were described by a league source as "shaky'' but ongoing. -- Ian Thomsen
7:04 p.m.: They were hawking "LeBron James Knicks 2010" outside the Theater at Madison Square Garden (price $10) tonight, which gives you an idea of the buzz on the draft. The crowd is slowly filing in -- more corporate suits than diehards. Tickets for the draft went for $15 but you had to arrive at the Garden long before sunrise to have any shot at them. As far as the fashion goes, we'll channel our inner-Armani late, but No. 1 overall-pick-to-be Blake Griffin opted for a conservative dark suit with a purple shirt and purple tie. Not exactly Dwight Howard when it comes to No. 1 overall pick style. -- Richard Deitsch
VC TO ORLANDO: The Magic reportedly have acquired seven-time All-StarVince Carter from the Nets.
MORE ON THE CARTER DEAL: Assuming the deal that would send rookie Courtney Lee, point guard Rafer Alston and veteran big man Tony Battie to New Jersey in exchange for Vince Carter is consummated, it would be yet another one-sided deal in terms of basketball talent: The Magic would receive the superior player in Carter while providing the Nets with relief from the $51 million over the three years remaining on Carter's contract.
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, Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and JameerNelson.
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. -- Ian Thomsen
POINT-GUARD FALLOUT WILL TAKE YEARS: The Great Point Guard Debate will not end in a few hours. This will be an issue to be tracked for years, actually, to see how the pack thinned out in a draft loaded with ball handlers, and particularly because some prospects will go high in the lottery without much experience getting the ball to others.
Stephen Curry, Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday are a debate unto themselves, guys with limited or no experience as distributors who are projected to run the point in the NBA. Maybe Jeff Teague is in there, as well, though he handled the job all season for Wake Forest and has an outside chance to break the lottery compared to Curry, Evans and Holiday as automatics. Curry was also the starting point guard in 2008-09, but he took 320 more shots than other Davidson player and was not exactly living a past-first world.
Holiday is the biggest unknown in that regard, and therefore the biggest risk. He played one year at UCLA, in the structured offense of Ben Howland and with Darren Collison, likely to land somewhere between the end of the first round and the first 10 or 12 picks of the second round tonight, as the point guard. At least Curry had a lot of decision-making moments, and Evans had the ball in his hands a fair amount. Holiday, though, is considered the best defender of the group and someone with a good chance to make an impact in that area in the NBA as well.
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 Russell Westbrook to send at the opponent's best backcourt threat. Maybe the Kings take him at four or take Evans at four. We'll have an answer on that part in a few hours. But getting the ultimate answer will take years. -- Scott Howard-Cooper
TOP FIVE UNSETTLED: In the final five hours before the draft, potential trade calls were being made to Memphis for the No. 2 pick and Oklahoma City for No. 3.
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 Jonny Flynn with the fourth pick.
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 (Craig Smith being among those mentioned), with the Grizzlies insisting on both Nos. 5 and 6 from Minnesota in exchange for No. 2.
• 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. -- Ian Thomsen
ANOTHER SUNS TRADE?: On the heels of the Shaq trade, the Suns reportedly are considering a deal for Tyson Chandler.
LOVE STAYING PUT: Timberwolves GM David Kahn said on Dan Patrick's radio show that the team would not trade power forward Kevin Love, who had a strong finish to his rookie season.
WARRIORS COULD FACE GREAT DEBATE: The Golden State front office -- new GM Larry Riley, coach Don Nelson, president Robert Rowell -- has more on the line than just the 2009 draft. This could become about '07 as well.
The Warriors will almost certainly go point guard or Arizona power forward Jordan Hill with the No. 7 pick. If Hill is the call, a good possibility, it sets up the very interesting race for minutes starting in training camp and into '09-10: Hill vs. Brandan Wright, the '07 lottery-pick 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 Jason Richardson trade that he wasn't an immediate-impact guy. The results were supposed to start showing in two or three years, or right around next season.
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. -- Scott Howard-Cooper
WOLVES NOTES: If we can step back from all the Minnesota-trading-picks talk and focus on how the Wolves might use them, you might want to know:
• 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 Dan Fegan, Ricky Rubio's agent who is a thorn in the side of many team executives, as "one of the toughest and one of the best'' agents in the NBA. Kahn, himself a lawyer and slick to the max, actually has something of an agent demeanor to him. -- Steve Aschburner
KNICKS-LAKERS TRADE: The Knicks reportedly have acquired the No. 29 pick from the Lakers for cash.
FACTORS WORKING AGAINST RONDO TRADE:I will be surprised if the Celtics are able to package Rajon Rondo in a trade anytime soon, because of their need to get equal value in return. But the market as it exists isn't set up for that kind of deal. Look at the recent moves: Richard Jefferson to San Antonio, Mike Miller and Randy Foye to Washington, Jamal Crawford to Atlanta, Shaquille O'Neal to Cleveland -- all have been one-sided deals in terms of basketball talent, because in each case one team has traded talent for financial reasons (or, in Minnesota's case, to gain the No. 5 pick from the Wizards, which in its own way is a money deal).
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. Kevin Garnett is 33, entering his 15th season and coming off knee surgery. If the Celtics are going to win another championship around Garnett, they need to make it happen next season.
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.
Ultimately, Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge must find a way to manage those concerns and mend their relationship with their young point guard. Unless the Celtics pull off a trade that would be miraculous by current standards, they are going to need all of Rondo's athleticism and defense next season. -- Ian Thomsen
THABEET OK WITH MEMPHIS: Memphis has locked in on center Hasheem Thabeet at No. 2, according to league sources. And Thabeet says he has no problem with that. Rumors that Thabeet wanted no part of Memphis surfaced after he canceled a workout with the Grizzlies over the weekend. But Thabeet said in addition to suffering from a right shoulder injury, he needed to be in New York to renew his visa, which had expired when he left UConn.
"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 Scott Roth, a former NBA assistant coach with Dallas and Memphis who has been working with Thabeet.
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 Sean Rooks there to defend him, Thabeet has worked diligently to fine-tune his offensive game.
"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 'Tim Duncan catch-and-shoot' off the box. He's got a lot of upside." -- Chris Mannix
TRADE BENEFITS FOYE: There is something refreshingly candid about new Timberwolves basketball boss David Kahn, with his expectation that guard Randy Foye will play better for the Wizards than he played with Minnesota. Foye was packaged with swingman Mike Miller for the No. 5 pick (and assorted fringe guys) in Thursday's draft.
"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 "Brandon Roy'' thrown at him on a daily basis. It was three years ago, in the 2006 draft, when Minnesota picked Roy at No. 6, then promptly traded him to Portland for No. 7 pick Foye -- and $1 million.
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 Flip Saunders, who used to be pickier about his point guards' style of play until he got Chauncey Billups the second time around in Detroit. -- Steve Aschburner
RUMOR ROUNDUP: The 76ershave shoppedElton Brand. ... Other teams are "very aggressive" in pursuit of Tracy McGrady, according to Rockets GM Daryl Morey. ... The agent for Rajon Rondo, the subject of trade rumors, is unhappy with Celtics boss Danny Ainge. ... The Knicks are close to acquiringDarko Milicic. ... Is Kirk Hinrichheaded to Portland?
MOCK DRAFT UPDATE, 12:15 P.M.: Ian Thomsenhas just updated his mock draft. His top five: Blake Griffin, Hasheem Thabeet, Ricky Rubio, Tyreke Evans and James Harden. Click here for more.
HANSBROUGH HAS NO DOUBTS: North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough was asked an interesting question during Wednesday's interview session with the top draft prospects: Would you be drafted higher if there were no private workouts with teams and you were judged only on your performance in college?
"I think I would be drafted lower," said Hansbrough, projected to go 19th to Atlanta in a Thursday morning mock draft from SI.com's Ian Thomsen. "I think I really helped myself at the combines, athletic testing and things like that. The one thing that has improved my stock is I proved I am athletic in workouts. People will say what they want, and come up to me and ask, 'Why do people doubt you?' I don't doubt me."
As for mock drafts, Hansbrough does not pay attention to them. "Nope," he said. "But maybe if GMs did it, I would pay attention." -- Richard Deitsch
JENNINGS SLIDING?: As the candidates woke to draft day, the player sliding out of the lottery appeared to be point guard Brandon Jennings, who bypassed his freshman year of college in order to spend last season with the Euroleague club Lottomatica Rome of Italy.
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 Bill Duffy had yet to meet as of Thursday morning. I'm sure Duffy will remind Jennings that the order of the draft is meaningless; what matters is that he joins a team that is happy to have him and therefore invests in developing him.
A lot of star players in the NBA -- Paul Pierce, Caron Butler and Rajon Rondo among them -- talk about how being snubbed in the draft was the best thing that happened because it turned them into underdogs and inspired them to work all-out to prove themselves. Say that Jennings winds up in Philadelphia at No. 17 -- as he might -- he'll be with an uptempo team that suits his style, and a team that will want to help him show the rest of the league that he was a steal so late in the draft.
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. -- Ian Thomsen
MINNESOTA'S PLANS: By acquiring more picks than any other NBA rival heading into Thursday night's talent fair -- four first-rounders and two second-rounders -- the Timberwolves just might be able to stumble into success in spite of their dreary draft history. And really, no one could blame David Kahn, the team's new president, if he had surveyed all he inherited when hired last month -- a 24-victory team, a roster with significant holes and overlaps, a five-year skid out of the playoffs -- and decided, like Roy Scheider in his most famous movie moment, "You're gonna need a bigger boat."
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 Randy Foye and Mike Miller to the Wizards, Kahn wouldn't specify what he planned to do with all those picks (other than to say he would not package Nos. 5 and 6 for No. 2, a statement he repeated Thursday morning on Dan Patrick's radio show). But it was clear he planned to do something, beyond just adding four rookies with guaranteed contracts and spotty minutes to the 2009-10 edition.
"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. -- Steve Aschburner
JENNINGS CLARIFIES RUBIO REMARKS:Brandon Jennings created a stir two weeks when he said Ricky Rubiowas overhyped. While Jennings remains confident (and you can italicize that word when it comes to Jennings) about his own abilities, he dialed it down a notch in New York City on Wednesday.
"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." -- Richard Deitsch
DRAFT IMPACT OF SHAQ TRADE: Draft day arrives hours after news broke of the Phoenix-Cleveland blockbuster that will send Shaquille O'Neal to Cleveland, but that should not be confused with the Suns' chance to find a replacement. The draft is the last place to look, actually, with the Suns at No. 14 in a terrible year for center prospects and staring only at the considerable risk of Ohio State's mercurial B.J. Mullens.
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 Hasheem Thabeet and Mullens will be the only centers off the board in the first round.
In the meantime, the Suns have Ben Wallace, or at least they have Ben Wallace until negotiating a buyout, one of the options that came with acquiring him in the O'Neal trade. There's also Robin Lopez, coming off 10.2 minutes a game as rookie. -- Scott Howard-Cooper