NBA Draft Roundup, May 20

NBA Draft Roundup, May 20
May 20, 2009, 11:48 pm
Will the Clippers entertain offers for the #1 pick?...Rubio not interested in Memphis?...Jonny Flynn to Phoenix?...Jrue Holiday, DeJuan Blair, Austin Daye moving up draft boards...Tyrus Thomas on the trading block?...Which first round picks are available, and who is interested?

• Dunleavy: Clearly, we're taking Blake Griffin

Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times does a phenomenal job of reporting by getting Clippers head coach Mike Dunleavy to announce his intentions immediately after learning that his team will be drafting #1.

"Clearly, we're taking Blake Griffin," Clippers General Manager and Coach Mike Dunleavy said in a telephone interview from Barcelona, Spain.

"This guy is the No. 1 pick. We're extremely excited. He's the guy."

While it may seem strange for the Clippers to so quickly anoint Griffin as their choice before really possessing a full picture of what’s on the table, many in the league think Dunleavy (also the Clippers GM in addition to their head coach) wants to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that Griffin is going first, in an effort to get teams to make their best offers.

“The Clippers need a point guard more than anything. They can easily trade Baron Davis back to the Warriors if they want to. I think they are going to move down to 3 or 4 and try to get Rubio there.”

While Oklahoma City would obviously be extremely interested in the prospect of acquiring the top pick and drafting local product Blake Griffin, there is one team standing in their way – the Memphis Grizzlies, who own the #2 pick. From what people around the league are saying, Rubio’s camp may already be sending out feelers indicating that he’s not interested in the least bit in playing in Memphis.

“Rubio doesn’t want to go to Memphis, and he especially does not want to pay money out of his own pocket with that huge buyout for the honor of doing so. Fegan [Rubio’s agent] wants him in L.A., and if he can’t have him there, he wants him in Sacramento. Definitely not Oklahoma City. “

Unlike Griffin or Hasheem Thabeet, who don’t really have any choice where they will play next season if a team decides to play hardball, Rubio has a reasonably attractive alternative option at his disposal—returning to Spain.

“He’ll pull out if he doesn’t like what he’s hearing,” the NBA source tells us. “Or he can stay in and force the Grizzlies to call his bluff—would they really take him knowing that he may never come over? That’s one way to get him to fall to three.”

Fegan is already highly experienced in these matters, having unsuccessfully attempted to navigate fellow client Yi Jianlian towards the team of his choice in the 2007 draft, only to see Milwaukee foil his plans and pick him anyway. This time, though, he has a lot more leverage, as Rubio would likely have no problem staying in Badalona for another year or two or more if push came to shove. His buyout after all, is yet to be resolved, which in this case may actually be an advantage.

The Grizzlies are clearly aware of the politics surrounding their pick, but do not appear to be in any rush to make any decisions. “We’ll talk about all those things when they come up,” their General Manager Chris Wallace told us. “Right now we’re still in evaluation mode. We haven’t had any conversations with him [Rubio] or anyone else in his camp.”

Wallace shared that he will be headed out to Spain this weekend to watch Rubio compete in game three of the ACB playoffs, where Joventut will try to advance to the semifinals with a road win over Real Madrid. “I sent someone out there last week to watch him in the playoffs just in case we were able to move up,” Wallace told us. “He’s hardly a sleeper and he hasn’t been very difficult to track. We feel very comfortable with what we know about him right now.”

When asked whether Mike Conley’s status as Memphis’ tentative starter will deter the Grizzlies from selecting another point guard, Wallace indicated that that won’t be a factor. “We’re not in a position to be drafting for need. We’re going to go after the biggest talent available, whether that’s a big man or a point guard or whatever.”

What might make the most sense on paper would be for the Clippers and Grizzlies to work out a trade in which Memphis could take Griffin and Los Angeles would get Rubio. For that to happen, Memphis would have to part with one of their core assets, likely Rudy Gay. Obviously we’ll have to stay tuned, because as John Hollinger correctly indicated in his latest column last night’s lottery left more questions than answers for the teams drafting in the top 5.

• Nash not in hurry to extend deal

Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic delivers news from Steve Nash’s camp that should give the Phoenix Suns organization some pause in how they assess this year’s NBA draft class.

Nash, 35, and his agent, Bill Duffy, have let the Suns know that they will wait to see how the Suns roster is altered before getting serious about negotiating a two-year contract extension. If and when that time comes, Duffy said Nash would ask for a raise from the current deal, which is slated to expire after paying him $13.125 million for the 2009-10 season.

"This is kind of a perplexing time because he (Nash) absolutely wants to win and he loves the (Phoenix) market but all the pieces have to line up properly," Duffy said. "We just want to wait and see what their game plan is so we can sign off on it. We respect their willingness to extend his contract but we also are very cognizant of the team dynamic to make sure it will work in terms of Steve's goals, which are to win a championship."

According to sources, the Suns were already extremely high on Syracuse sophomore Jonny Flynn, and this report today may be enough to sway Phoenix into the notion of drafting a point guard in this draft, rather than the best player available. That was believed to be their philosophy going into June, to take the best talent they can find, rather than try to fill a specific need.

The problem for Phoenix is that Flynn is no lock by any stretch to be around with the 14th pick, as teams like Golden State, Milwaukee, New Jersey and Indiana also appear to be in the market at that position. If Flynn is off the board, look for the Suns to try and target the next best point guard available, possibly Ty Lawson or Eric Maynor.

• Draft Buzz

A poll of representatives from a good chunk of the league indicates some interesting trends.

-Jrue Holiday in the words of one executive, is “moving up more than anyone in this draft” right now, and could find himself in the 6-10 range when it’s all said and done. He even has an outside chance of being selected 4th by Sacramento, and he will indeed be working out there tomorrow from what we’re told. New York (8), Toronto (9) and Milwaukee (10) appear to be especially interested.

-The other “big riser” in this draft may be DeJuan Blair. Reports are swirling about Blair measuring a legit 6-7 in shoes (with a 7-2 wingspan) as well as losing as much as 15 pounds since arriving at IMG Academy. A slew of NBA teams have reportedly been out to evaluate him and some of the other top prospects training at the facility, and the buzz is growing around him every day seemingly. Milwaukee at 10, New Jersey at 11 and Indiana at 13 appear to be his sweet spots at the moment, and if he falls past there, he apparently will not get past Phoenix.

-Austin Daye is another player with some strong hype at the moment. “He’s the most skilled player in the draft” one executive told us recently. “He’s not as soft as people think. He’s going to get drafted between 10 and 15. If he works out great, he may even go earlier.”

Daye’s upside seems to be creeping his stock closer to the lottery, as teams evaluate him side by side with some of the more mature prospects in this draft and wonder if what you’re seeing with them is all you’re going to get. “There aren’t that many players in this draft with star potential,” one scout told us. “He looks great in workouts, but is that really a surprise?”

-Players who appear to be tallying off a bit in terms of their draft buzz include James Johnson (“out of sight, out of mind,” one executive says), Jeff Teague and especially Earl Clark, who teams are beginning to get cold feet about as they conduct more and more research. DeMar DeRozan has been difficult to pin down for workouts (oddly demanding to compete against James Harden, or else…) and Tyreke Evans for some reason is still interviewing agents at this late stage in the game.

-Patty Mills is awaiting paperwork from the NCAA that will give him clearance to attend the Reebok Eurocamp in Treviso without affecting his ability to return to St. Mary’s. Since the camp is not a sanctioned event according to the NCAA, Mills will likely have to reimburse Reebok for his travel expenses should he decide to pull his name out of the draft. It appears likely that he will play in Treviso, which should give the camp a major boost.

Another prospect who will add experience and depth to the camp is French combo guard Nando de Colo. According to DraftExpress columnist Joey Whelan, who is writing a feature on De Colo for this weekend, he was extended and accepted an invitation to the prestigious event this week.

-A few potential second rounders who have reportedly been strong in private workouts according to reports we’ve received from teams and other draft prospects in attendance include DeMarre Carroll, Dionte Christmas and Joe Ingles. Danny Green is being mentioned by some as a second rounder who could work his way into the first round.

-The Chicago Bulls are reportedly heavily shopping Tyrus Thomas around the league, trying to see what kind of value they can get for him after the solid season he’s coming off of. It appears that they don’t see him fitting into their long-term plans as he’s too similar to Joakim Noah, and they aren’t interested in giving him a long-term deal that would put them over the luxury tax. It’s possible the Bulls look to package Thomas and Hinrich together and land a big time power forward.

-A number of teams are already reportedly sending out feelers indicating that they would like to acquire a pick in the late first round—including the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors. A few teams that are rumored to be looking to trade or sell their picks are the Oklahoma City Thunder (#25), Minnesota Timberwolves (#28) and New Orleans Hornets (#21).

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