By Ryan Feldman
Monday, June 1, 2009
This is the best time of the year for basketball fans. The NBA playoffs are in full effect with two good conference finals series. It makes it even better with stars like LeBron and Kobe still playing in late May.
Aside from the NBA playoffs, this time of the year is exciting because it's when college basketball fans and NBA fans come together and enjoy the drama that leads up to the NBA Draft.
It is officially NBA Draft season, and there are plenty of rumors going around.
LA CLIPPERS SAY THEY'LL TAKE GRIFFIN, BUT IS THAT A LOCK?
In a rather rare occurrence, Mike Dunleavy came out and said right after the Draft Lottery that the Clippers have already decided they are selecting Blake Griffin. Some NBA executives have insisted that the Clippers are fielding trade offers for the top pick. It seems that the Clippers will definitely take Griffin if they stay at No. 1, but they want to see what type of trade offers they receive. If they are overwhelmed by a trade offer, they may take it, but if not they will take Griffin.
It comes down to this: Griffin is clearly the best player in this Draft and he's way too good to pass up, but the Clippers have a ton of big men. They have Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby, Zach Randolph and DeAndre Jordan, all of which can play. So, how will Griffin fit in with all those guys in LA? Or more accurately, how will all those guys fit in with Griffin in LA?
Based on this situation, the Clippers wouldn't mind moving down in the Draft if they can acquire a high quality player, especially if they are able to get Ricky Rubio. The Clippers may try to trade Baron Davis, so a point guard would be necessary and Rubio would love to play in Los Angeles. The teams who may inquire about trading for the top pick include the Grizzlies and Thunder.
THE RICKY RUBIO SAGA
Ricky Rubio is the primary news-maker in the 2009 NBA Draft. His situation is unique in that he would have to pay his Spanish team a very large buyout in order to play in the NBA. Because of this, he controls his situation. If he doesn't want to play in Memphis or Oklahoma City, he can convince them not to draft him, withdraw from the Draft, or go back to Spain if a team goes against his orders.
He already said he doesn't want to play for the Grizzlies, but that doesn't mean they aren't trying to convince him they're a good fit for him. The problem is that the Grizzlies have never been very competitive in the NBA, and they have OJ Mayo, who wants to play point guard. In order for Rubio to fit in, Mayo must agree to slide over to the 2-guard. Rubio, Mayo and Rudy Gay would form a formidable trio, but would Mayo and Gay be content with Rubio being the primary ball-handler?
If the Grizzlies give in and pass on Rubio, the Thunder may be in the same predicament. Rubio doesn't want to play in Oklahoma City, and the Thunder also have a combo guard who is best suited at point guard in Russell Westbrook. With Rubio and Westbrook in the same backcourt, neither is a great shooter, so it may not be the best idea. Both the Thunder and the Grizzlies would be exciting with Rubio, but it may take a few years to be a contender.
Although Sacramento is not a top-notch market like Los Angeles or New York, Rubio said he would be fine playing for the Kings. This is interesting because the Grizzlies and Thunder actually have more talent right now than the Kings. But Rubio would fit in better with the Kings because they certainly need a point guard. Of COurse, Rubio prefers to go to LA or New York, but it's doubtful the Knicks would be able to move up to get him.
So, the most likely destination for Rubio appears at this point to be Memphis or Oklahoma City if either team can convince him they will win games, or Sacramento.
GRIZZLIES: IF NOT RUBIO, THEN WHO?
If the Grizzlies don't select Ricky Rubio, Hasheem Thabeet seems to be the only other option. Like many NBA teams, Memphis needs a center, and of course Thabeet is the top center in this Draft. The Grizz have two offensive-minded players in OJ Mayo and Rudy Gay, but now they need defense. They have Marc Gasol as a tough big man inside, so teaming him up with Thabeet would give Memphis one of the strongest frontcourts in the NBA. Thabeet may not be perfect for the Grizzlies' playing style, but with center as a glaring need, it's hard to pass up on a quality 7-foot-3 player like Thabeet. The owner of the Grizzlies loves Thabeet. Now, he just has to convince the rest of the front office staff that Thabeet is the right choice.
NICK CALATHES TO GREECE, BUT MAYBE STILL A FIRST ROUND PICK
Nick Calathes decided to play basketball in Greece next season, a very unexpected move by the former Florida guard, who has a Greek background. He's going to make more money in Greece than he would have in the NBA as a late first round pick because there will be no taxes and expenses for Calathes in Europe. Calathes won't be playing in the NBA next season, but he still may stay in the Draft. A team that doesn't want to add a player and the money attached to its roster next season, they may decided to select Calathes in the first round. This could be possible for a team like the Blazers, Lakers or Cavs. Calathes could always decide to come over to the NBA after a year or two in Greece, and if that happens he may be a valuable asset for one of those NBA teams when he comes over.
EVERY DAY IS A HOLIDAY
The Kings were very impressed with Jrue Holiday when he worked out for them. Holiday is raw, but he has very good size for a point guard, is a solid defender, and is a very smart basketball player. His offense needs some work, but he is capable of consistently hitting mid-range jumpers. For a team like the Kings, a team that is young and is a few years away from being a contender, Holiday would be a good fit. If they can't get Rubio, Holiday is the favorite to move all the way up to No. 4. Other options for the Kings include Brandon Jennings and Jonny Flynn.
PLAYERS WHO COULD SURPRISE AND RISE UP THE DRAFT BOARDS
Austin Daye has been very impressive in draft workouts thus far. He has all the tools to become a terrific NBA player. He's a 6-foot-10 small forward with a 7-foot-4 wingspan. He can shoot from outside the arc, he's athletic, he can score inside, and he can handle the ball exceptionally well for his size. A guy like Daye who is a 6-foot-10 small forward is very attractive to NBA teams. The more that teams watch Daye work out, the higher he is likely to climb on draft boards. Daye has said that the Phoenix Suns would be his first choice for a team to go to, and he could be a good fit there. It appears at this point that Daye is likely to stay in the Draft.
DeJuan Blair is getting a lot of interest from the teams in the No. 11-14 range. The Bucks could use some toughness on their interior to play with Andrew Bogut and Charlie Villanueva. Nets GM Kiki Vandeweghe said his team needs a tough, physical player who can set good screens. Blair fits that profile perfectly. The Pacers need a power forward, and the choice may be between Blair and James Johnson. And Steve Kerr has changed the way the Suns operating, as he has targeted defensive-minded players recently. Blair isn't the best player to get if Phoenix wants to run a lot, but they seem to be slowing down a bit anyway. If the trend continues with Kerr drafting for defense, Blair may be his guy if he's still on the board at 14.
Omri Casspi is a 6-foot-8 strong, athletic small forward from Israel. He may find his way into the first round on June 25. Casspi knows how to finish at the rim, and he's also a very good shooter. Casspi is best on fast breaks, so an up-tempo team that likes to run would be a good fit.