Teams are in their war rooms, and all kinds of strange and interesting information has been trickling out, as you can also hear in our latest podcast. We try not to put too much stock into any of these rumors since we see a barrage of them coming out every single year right around this time, but they are exciting and controversial enough to report regardless.
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The most active teams in trade talks from what we are hearing are certainly the Pacers, Suns, Timberwolves, Supersonics, Hawks and to a lesser extent the Spurs and 76ers. With that said, most NBA people we spoke to expect very little, if anything major to happen today, citing the barrage of trade-talk that always goes on during draft day, which usually just ends up being a tease. There are certainly teams that are willing and able to make something happen, but whether that materializes into anything real is anyones guess.
It is true that Atlanta is receiving heavy pressure from a faction of their ownership group to draft Yi Jianlian. Now that thats been leaked, though, its hard to actually see that happening. The team that has been considering him the most in the lottery is Boston, followed by Sacramento. The Kings could jump into the late first or early second tonight to try and nab Aaron Brooks, who they are big fans of.
Speaking of the Hawks, they decided to pull out of the trade that would have landed them Luke Ridnour in exchange for the #11 pick. That likely secures Acie Laws position at that spot, unless the Hawks decide to bargain with one of the many other teams who would like to move into that position.
Had Seattle been picking at #11, the player they would have taken likely would have been Rodney Stuckey, the favorite of newly hired Assistant General Manager Scott Perry. Perry was the driving force behind getting Joe Dumars and the Detroit Pistons on board with giving Stuckey assurances that he will be drafted at #15, very early in the process.
A few NBA teams suggested that we place Renaldas Seibutis at the #35 slot (Seattle) in our mock draft, citing inside information. Boston apparently will be drafting a European big man they can stash at #32, possibly Stanko Barac.
The New Jersey Nets have offered the Indiana Pacers Nenad Krstic and Richard Jefferson for Jermaine O'Neal. For now, though, Indiana is holding off on it.
Houston is exploring a few trades, with the most interesting rumor being swapping their #26 pick for Ike Diogu and filler.
Golden State is talking about trading Andris Biedrins and the #18 pick for #6, in order to take Yi Jianlian. That might seem like a lopsided pick in favor of the Bucks, but Golden State's salary situation might be bad enough to warrant that.
Portland is trying to package their two high second rounders (#37 and #42) with 3 million dollars in cash to move into the late teens or early 20s. Morris Almond is one player they supposedly like. The Trailblazers wouldnt confirm that to us in a conversation we had with one of their front office members, but he did assure us that they plan on being active. Portland was linked by a few teams to a trade that would move Zach Randolph to the Knicks for Channing Frye and Malik Rose (who must opt-into his contract first), but the same source acted surprised when we mentioned this to him.
Dragusin, Fools Draft Day?
Last Sunday, The Boston Globe surprised us with a story on the 7-3 Romanian Ionut Dragusin. They went as far as quoting a NBA executive saying that he is going to get drafted, and you can never tell, he might even go late in the first round.
Considering the League has drafted the likes of Neznad Sinanovic or Remon Van der Hare in the past, you can never say never, but to assure the 1985-born Dragusin will be picked on draft night is, at the very least, quite a bold statement. First round? Thats an insane thought. Only because he might somehow remind of Pavel Podkolzine doesnt mean NBA teams will make the same (likely worse) mistake again. Just to make sure we arent missing on the next big thing,
Dragusin played in Spain this past season for Bruesa, the worst team in the ACB League. To say he played might be an exaggeration. 37 minutes, thats it. However, he had some burn in the Spanish U-20 Circuit during the season against rather poor competition.
The guy is big, thats for sure, a legit 7-3 with a fairly strong build, but hes basically a stiff, looking pretty slow and showing a mediocre level of activity. Hes virtually a black hole on defense, looking unable to contest almost any jumper even from the mid-range area. Its not only a matter of being slow, but particularly because he barely even tries. If he leaves the paint, then hes easily surpassed by quicker opponents. The only decently effective results come for him when guarding the low post, and still a few quick moves can make him get lost. He can intimidate and come away with some blocks, but he doesnt enjoy the best timing around. In the rebounding area, his size comes in pretty handy on the defensive end, although his inconsistent boxing-out effort sometimes betrays him; meanwhile, his lack of activity gets particularly exposed on the offensive glass.
Offensively, hes an unpolished player. Ionut looks to make some damage in the low post, where he shows some moves looking for his left-handed hook and the strength to operate against opposition. Still, hes sometimes out-hustled when it comes to holding position on the block to receive the ball and either losses good looks or commits turnovers receiving the ball. Anyway, his footwork is very limited and his footspeed underwhelming. When he receives the ball near the basket, it takes him a while to get up and finish around the rim, allowing his opponents to have good chances of stopping him, often with fouls. A left handed player, he shows a very inconsistent touch from the charity stripe, and barely tries from the mid-range area in in-game situations.
Still, forget about his athletic shortcomings, forget about how raw he is or the average feel for the game he shows; his passive attitude on court is the most discouraging characteristic of his game. If he enjoys any potential, thats the quickest way of wasting it. At least Podkolzine tried fairly hard. Actually, I think theres close to zero chance that an NBA team that has actually scouted Dragusin in a real game thinks about drafting him.
Looking Beyond The Draft: Ibaka
Weve been hearing for some months now about a new African sensation that has arrived this year to Spain. His name is Serge Jonas Ibaka, from the Congo, the son of basketball players. He was born in 1989 and shows an impressive 6-10 long, ripped body-- a true physical/athletic monster, particularly by the standards were used to in Europe.
Youtube offers us a wonderful chance to take a look at him, displaying a pretty spectacular compilation of plays that shows some of his best attributes. Keep an eye on his frame and athleticism, the way he gets off the floor, his ability to play above the rim, his coordination, activity on court, his timing going for the block or his nice stroke. Anyway, the images speak for themselves.
Ibaka is signed through 2011 with LHospitalet, LEB team. In the few months hes spent in Spain, he has already played some games with the junior squad and also joined the Joventut U-20 team for the Final round of the U-20 Spanish Circuit played in Inca a few weeks ago. He also had time to make a trip to Vitoria and work out privately for Tau, which probably means that there are chances he can get out of his contract in the mid-term future. This summer, Ibaka will likely go to the USA to work on his game, and for the next season hes expected to play in LHospitalets first team in the LEB (the Spanish second division, although enjoying a better level than many first division leagues across Europe). This is pretty impressive since only two players out of the European Union are allowed per team, and the young Ibaka will fill one of those two key spots (usually spent on American imports).
DraftExpress will try to provide you more detailed information on Ibakas game during the following weeks/months. Just consider this piece as a quick introduction to a name worthy to remember