Tuesday, June 26, 2007

(Informal) Mailbag

As the NBA Draft pushes even closer, it should come as no surprise that there is a ton of talk ongoing currently which focuses outside of who will be selected. In fact, it’s a much more pressing topic to discuss which veterans may be on the move, rather than which amateurs are ready to join the professional ranks.

KG and Kobe Bryant, two of the most talented superstars in the past decade of NBA basketball, both seem to want out of Minnesota and Los Angeles respectively.

While neither may actually get what they want…it is becoming more and more likely that these two will be the two biggest names (yes, even over Oden & Durant) on draft night.

We’ve all heard a majority of the supposed offers and potential deals:

Boston’s attempt (including the #5 pick, Al Jefferson, and Gerald Green…allegedly) was apparently shot down by KG himself. However, that won’t stop Boston GM Danny Ainge from trying to talk contract and the benefits of playing alongside Paul Pierce (who if KG isn’t netted, may be dealt himself) to KG.

Chicago has a lot of attractive pieces (Loul Deng, Ben Gordon, Tyrus Thomas, #9 pick); yet, GM John Paxson was far from shy in telling reporters he won’t gut his team to land Bryant. A wise move.

Phoenix, who undoubtedly has the most attractive offers for both players, remains a highly unlikely destination for Kobe (for obvious reasons). The Suns also seems to lack the desire to push towards landing KG. While Shawn Marion’s name has been part of almost every major deal (bring back the Celtics in this case), Steve Kerr may still end moving into the 5 (Boston), 7 (Minnesota), or even 9 spot (Chicago) with Marion all but assuredly involved. The expiring contract of Kurt Thomas, who has netted interest recently, especially out of New Jersey, also gives the Suns a valuable trading piece.

Recently, Atlanta has shown up on the radar (Josh Smith and Josh Childress have expiring contracts next season) alongside that of Sacramento (Bibby & Artest appear to be on the block), Denver (Camby and/or Nene may be expendable), Seattle (Ray Allen appears to be back on the block…remember, Toronto allegedly offered the #1 pick in the ’07 draft for the sharpshooter), and Portland (seemingly intent on selecting Oden) appears ready to move recently revived and rejuvenated big-man Zach Randolph to countless potential suitors.

That’s even before analyzing a few of the guys who have opted out; most notably Detroit PG Chauncey Billups and Seattle SF Rashard Lewis. Gerald Wallace wants to test the waters outside of Charlotte while the Nets seem intent on re-signing Vinsanity.

Deep breaths. Whew. That’s a boatload of information to process.

And yet, there are still plenty of questions to be answered before draft night is over. While some of them have been briefly foreshadowed above; I still feel it’s time to put some thoughts down onto electronic paper (ala the blog), and preview some of the potential big-time stories which may or may not go down in this year’s draft.

1) Will mega-superstars Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett have new teams after draft night?
In my opinion, it’s a big fat NO. Just as in year’s past, specifically with guys like Vince Carter, Tracey McGrady, Allen Iverson, and even Kevin Garnett…draft day mega-deals for veterans aren’t very likely. The All-Star most likely to pack his bags appears to be Phoenix’s Shawn Marion. However, I would have to relent on the notion that KG is far more likely to be dealt than Kobe. Ironically enough, KG might even be heading to LA. But only if Kobe agrees to the deal. Why such power for Bryant? There’s no way Dr. Jerry Buss will bring in Garnett, at the cost of potential Odom/Bynum and a new contract for Garnett, if Kobe is still demanding to bolt. While this will be teased all the way until Thursday night, I find it hard to believe either of these two superstars will have a new jersey to pedal following Thursday night.

2) Will the Portland Trailblazers select Texas Longhorn Kevin Durant?
While it won’t be as shocking as the Houston Texans passing up on Reggie Bush for Mario Williams, the Blazers (even with Zach Randolph in tow) aren’t likely to pass up on a future cornerstone center. While Durant has phenomenal upside, Oden seems to be the closest real-deal bookend/postman since Tim Duncan came out in 1996. One thing is for certain: Seattle is licking their fingers either way.

3) Will the Atlanta Hawks not select Ohio State Buckeye Mike Conley Jr. with the 3rd pick?
Passing up on all-world PGs Chris Paul and Deron Williams just two drafts ago, the Hawks also allowed Randy Foye and Marcus Williams to slip by in ’06 (in order to take Shelden Williams). Now it appears they are backing away from taking Conley at #3 ; instead debating over moving the pick, drafting UNC’s Brandon Wright, or (the most likely of scenarios) drafting Florida big-man Al Horford. Falling back on the 11th pick (from the Al Harrington deal with Indiana), GM Billy Knight may be confident enough in the prospects of Acie Law, Jarvis Crittenton, or potentially waiting yet another year to select a rookie PG.

4) If not selected at #3, where could Conley end up going?
While Atlanta may not view Conley as being worthy of their third pick, plenty of teams situated directly below the Hawks seem fixated on selecting him. Memphis, at #4, may pass on Brandon Wright, assuming Al Horford is gone, and select Conley as their point guard of the future. While at #5 to Boston isn’t out of the question (they did take Rajon Rondo last year in the late 1st-round), Milwaukee, selecting sixth, doesn’t appear to be willing to pass up Conley. With Mo Williams in a contract year and Charlie Bell not a legit starting 1-guard, Conley shouldn’t slip past the 6th pick in this year’s draft.

5) Will the Phoenix Suns make a move to select higher in the 1st round?
With the 24th and 29th picks in this year’s draft, Phoenix may have enough ammunition, alongside Shawn Marion, to make a serious move into the top 10. While losing out on Atlanta’s top selection this season (which was protected inside the top3 of the lottery, all the way back from the Joe Johnson/Boris Diaw deal), new President Steve Kerr has recently worked out likely lottery picks Jeff Green, Joakim Noah, and Corey Brewer. It seems obvious the Suns will make some sort of move, if not the biggest of the night altogether. Marion’s deal is up next season and their luxury tax would be through the roof trying to pay him market value. Nevertheless, as happens in many drafts (cough, last year), rumors and speculation often never come to fruition when the frantic pace of draft night finally sets in. It seems Marion, who needs a new contract if he’s traded it would appear, will be dealt, at the latest, by Thursday afternoon.

6) Who will draft former BC malcontent Sean Williams?
Off the court behavior, which was a constant negative for Williams, finally forced Al Skinner to boot the talented 6’10 Williams off of his BC-squad this past season. While many doubt he would’ve been a lottery talent, Williams is obviously the risk/reward of this draft that’s rooted deeply in his bad behavior off the court trouble. Likely to slip into the late 1st/early 2nd round, Williams, and his 7-5 wingspan, has recently have a few impressive workouts and some promising speculation from several team’s beat writers. Where he ends up (Philly, New York, Phoenix, etc.) is completely unknown. But it’ll be very interesting to watch.

7) Who will be the 1st four-year guy to go?
With tons of freshman, sophomore, juniors, and international talent jam packed into every stage of this draft, the question remains: who will be the first college senior to go? The consensus seems to be, even with recent talk of him slipping to the mid-teens, that Florida State’s Al Thornton will be that man. In fact, Thornton may be one of a select few seniors who will see heavy first-round attention. Other names to consider include Texas A&M’s Acie Law, Vanderbilt’s Derrick Byars, Wisconsin’s Alando Tucker, Rice’s Morris Almond, and Oregon’s Aaron Brooks.

8) When will the European swingmen be selected?
While the first international prospect to go will undoubtedly be the Chinese forward Yi Jianlian; it remains to be seen when Italian Marco Belinelli and Spaniard Rudy Fernandez will be taken. (Two other potential 1st-round targets could end up being Brazlian Tiago Splitter and Pau Gasol’s brother Marc.) Fernandez has peaked into the top 20 on several mock draft boards while Belinelli has rounded well into the 20-30 range. Both teams could end up on contenders, ala Ginobili did, and both could provide immediate impacts as slashing scorers.

9) How many international players will go in the 2nd round?
In recent years, the 2nd round was mainly stocked with high school and international talent. Once a wasteland of 4-year seniors (at least before the late-90s), the 2nd-round has now officially become the time to take a chance on, often unproven, international talent. This year should prove to be no different; especially for teams with plenty of depth and patience (numerous players selected in the 2nd round don’t chose to come to America for a season or two typically). NBADraft.net has 9 of the 30 2nd round picks being international talents, DraftExpress.com has 8, ditto for CollegeHoops.net. Last season, the first in which high schoolers weren’t eligible, 10 international guys went in the 2nd round (with the #1 overall pick Bargnani leading six first round selections).

10) What will Isiah Thomas do?
Last year he stunned a ton of people by taking South Carolina Gamecock Renaldo Balkman. Ironically, it wasn’t a terrible pick in retrospect. Ditto can be said for Channing Frye, David Lee, and Nate Robinson the year before. While the Knicks are still a mess, they swapped picks with Chicago (23 for 9, the last part of the Eddie Curry deal) and now have been laced with tons of draft-day rumors and promises. DePaul’s Wilson Chandler is the latest potential promise that the Knicks GM has made. However, plenty of talk has surrounded team support for Rice’s Morris Almond, media support for Ohio State’s Daequan Cook, brief rumors concerning BC’s Sean Williams, and even talk of dealing the pick altogether (in order to package a sign-and-trade for Rashard Lewis or potentially the likes of Kobe/KG/Jermaine O’Neal/whoever Isiah unrealistically is targeting). Either way, you can’t truly predict what the Knicks will do, as always, on draft night.

So there’s plenty of banter, projections, rejections, and wild rumors-spreading. You didn’t hear it all here first…but, admit it, it never sounded so good.

Until next time…

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here are my answers:

1) Kobe will not be traded. KG will be moved eventually. All the deals sound the same. The Hawks getting Amare? That's not gonna work.

2) Of course.

3) Nope.

4) Anywhere between Memphis and Millwaukee.

5) Steve Kerr will definitely make some sort of a move.

6) Who cares.

7) Thornton. Law reminds me of Jameer Nelson, a top 15 guy who will slip a bit in the 1st.

8) Where you said.

9) ?

10) Even he doesn't know. He thinks he does, but he doesn't.

Good work.