This comes as a big surprise to us as well, but there is some strong evidence that Hakim Warrick could end up being picked #9 by the Golden State Warriors. First of all is the obvious fact that Warrick himself is telling anyone who is willing to listen that he is going to be picked 9th. Further fueling these rumors is the fact that he pulled out of a scheduled workout yesterday with the New Jersey Nets, where he was supposed to go up against Ike Diogu. Also participating were Kelenna Azubuike and Ricky Shields. Shields is a guy who has been shooting lights out in basically every workout hes been to and has seen his stock rise accordingly in recent weeks while other players have fallen. The Nets had to bring in Juan Mendez at the last minute to replace Warrick by the way.
Just to give you some context, keep in mind who his agent is. Warrick is represented by Bill Duffy, who not only is based in the Bay Area, but also orchestrated a promise last year to bring his client Andris Biedrins to the Warriors. Its going to be at least a week before we can really talk about anything substantial when it comes to promises, but this is something that is clearly out there, has some legs to it, and is not just coming from one source either.
Labor Dispute taking its toll on the draft process:
According to numerous draft prospects who were in attendance, a meeting in Chicago earlier this week for a large chunk of the prospects who are eligible for this draft ended up resulting in a walkout. Every year after the pre-draft camp, the players who played at the camp and the top prospects who were invited for measurements and physicals are slated to meet up with the players association in order to conduct the psychological tests that may end up determine (at least somewhat) where they will see themselves drafted. The tests are written by NBA teams. This year, in light of the ongoing standoff between the league, owners and players association, the psychological test never ended up happening. The players union advised the players not to take the test, so the players all got up and left. What that means is that teams will now have to conduct those tests on their own at private workouts, even though thats basically impossible considering how many prospects need to be tested in such little time. NBA teams will probably have to end up sharing information between each themselves, but can they trust each other? This goes to show you how tense the relationship is right now between the players union and NBA teams, as they are fighting over even the most petty of issues. The real losers here will obviously be the hundred plus players who will not be first round draft picks, as theyll most likely have no summer league to prove that they belong in the league. Most of these players are not the types who can just sit around and wait for the lockout to end, which means that the European leagues will be flooded next year with much higher caliber players than we are used to seeing overseas.
Gerald Green to the Lakers?
Weve heard this rumor already for quite some time, although it has been a while since it last resurfaced. It was first reported here on DraftExpress as a possible smokescreen, and later reported by Chad Ford at ESPN Insider as a legit rumor. It might still be a possible smokescreen, its very hard not to take anything we hear these days without a huge grain of salt, but were definitely hearing it from the right places. What they are saying is that Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak is and always has been in love with teenage prep star Gerald Green. 2 months ago he told Laker fans at a town hall meeting for season ticket holders that they are currently trying to decide between drafting a player that can come in and help out right away, but not have as much potential or drafting an unnamed high school prospect that has the potential to become a great player. He said that when they picture three years from now they don't want to see this particular high school player in another uniform.
If this is true, that player is obviously Gerald Green. But how does he fit in with the Lakers? Well there are a couple of ways to look at this. One is the fact that maybe they think he is more ready to come in and play than most people are willing to give him credit for. Since Phil Jacksons triangle offense does not need a true PG in order to function, they could play Gerald next to Kobe, Caron Butler and/or Lamar Odom and not lose too much on the offensive end. Green can shoot, handle and pass the ball, three necessary requisites to get by in a system like that. Or maybe they are looking for a player to *gasp* replace Kobe? If they know right away that he is not going to work with Phil Jackson, now is the time to move him before he starts causing a stink by demanding a trade and lowering his trade value. Kobe will have to agree to any move that is made, because he has a no-trade clause, but getting a high lottery pick in return could be a good way to start off the negotiations, if they were to deal with Portland so the Lakers could get Green. Seems far fetched, but that is whats out there right now.
Yesterday on LA radio, Phil Jackson talked about what the Lakers might be expected to do in the draft. Here is what he had to say: "You know, we'd be really fortunate to think that we could get a center at the 10th pick, it's gonna be a great pick, I mean it just doesn't seem to happen. Those players that are with that type of potential more than likely will have gone somewhere up the ladder. And if we do get someone at that position, probably it's a potential player. More than likely you're going to have small forwards or guards at that position that are quality players. Well as everybody knows, we have 5-6 Small Forwards on this team as it is, if you throw Kobe into that position, it's a team thats made up of a lot of those types of players, so the ultimate thing is that you always say, well, you take the best athlete at that position then. Well, I don't know. You know? This is what we have to make a decision about and Mitch and I will be hammering this out the course of the next 10 days or so before the draft about what is going to be the best potential use of this pick."
Coincidentally, the #3 pick from Portland is on the table and will most likely be sold to the highest bidder. Thats according to anyone you talk to in the league. The Bobcats could trade the #5 and 13 picks for it and get the deal done right now, but that is more than they are willing to offer, and rightfully so. Toronto might be able to get into the mix if they are willing to package the #7 pick and some kind of combination of the #16, Mo Peterson and Denvers 2006 1st rounder, depending on how much the Raptors are willing to give up to get either Chris Paul, Gerald Green or Marvin Williams. Petersons qualifying offer as a restricted free agent was matched last year and hell therefore have to agree to any trade that is made.
If the Lakers stand pat and dont make a deal, the two names that most NBA people think they will take at #10 are (in this order) Jarrett Jack, Ike Diogu or Sean May. Jack seems to fit in perfectly with what Phil Jackson looks for in his point guard as he can distribute the ball unselfishly, shoot a good percentage from behind the arc, defend NBA players better than any PG in this draft thanks to his outstanding height and strength, and also excel when playing off the ball. Jack, who is close to hiring Chicago based agent Henry Thomas according to sources, has a workout scheduled this Saturday at Boston going up against Roko Leni-Ukic. Diogu could be the tough, hustling type player who is essential for Jacksons system. He can rebound extremely well, handle the ball on the perimeter, hit the mid-range jumper and challenge shots around the rim thanks to his vertical leap and incredibly long arms.
*A shout out to Justin for the heads up on Phil Jackson's quotes from LA.
Joey Graham Grades out as top athlete in the Chicago Pre-Draft camp
Were still waiting on Chad Ford to get back from Europe to hear about the results for the combines in Chicago (because we can push all we want, but we sure as hell arent getting them), but a couple of nuggets are already coming out from people who have eyeballed the list. The top athlete in this draft is Joey Graham, followed by Will Bynum at #2. Graham was helped by the fact that he bench pressed the 185 pound bar 26 times, the most amongst any player here. Also grading out very well were Chuck Hayes (#1 SF/PF) Marvin Williams (#3 PF/SF, not a typo), David Lee (#1 pure PF), Pops Mensah-Bonsu (#2 PF).
Coincidentally, the high-flying licensed pilot Joey Graham from Oklahoma State signed a four year, seven figure deal with Nike shortly after the camp, according to his agent Roger Montgomery. Both Joey and his brother Stephen were approached by Nike and a deal was hammered out. Joey is coming off a string of excellent workouts over the past month and has since seen his stock rise into the mid-late lottery. And while Joey has been doing his thing, it was actually his brother, Stevie, who stole the show when the two worked out in front of lottery teams at a private workout during the Chicago pre-draft camp. This might come as a shock to some, but numerous NBA executives over the past month have told DraftExpress flat out that Stevie is going to get drafted. Considering his athletic ability and style of play, it would surprise no one if he ended up with a Nike deal himself after the NBA draft on June 28th.
Rudy Fernandez pulling out?
An NBA team drafting in the late first round has indicated to DraftExpress that Rudy Fernandez pulled out of a workout he had scheduled with them this week. The rumor mill says that Fernandez has not managed to negotiate lowering his buyout sum and will therefore have to most likely return to Spain for another season. According to numerous sources, his buyout sum is sitting firm at 1.7 million dollars, which will be very difficult to satisfy if he is not taken in the teens portion of the first round. Justin Zanik, Fernandezs agent in their New York/New Jersey office, denied that Fernandez has already pulled out of the draft, saying instead that they need to negotiate with his team. Obviously if he is going to go 28 or 29 that wont work. The figure 1.7 million dollar buyout was floated around numerous times in the conversation and Zanik did not confirm or deny it.
Maxiell to Utah?
Another day, another supposed promise. Does this one make sense? Who knows. The latest "promise" this time is supposedly coming from the Utah Jazz, directed towards Cincinnati beast Jason Maxiell. It started obviously after Maxiell pulled out of the Chicago pre-draft camp after only one day. His agent, Richard Katz, told us that there are three reasons why they decided to do that. One was the fact that Maxiell had a graduation to attend. The second was that Maxiell had some personal matters to attend to back home in Texas. The third was that they were told by a couple of teams picking in the late first round that Maxiell was being seriously considered for their pick. In the past few days the team that has emerged as the front runner to pick up Maxiell is Utah. The fact that Maxiell is a prototypical Jerry Sloan player is a no brainer. Katz refused to name any specific teams in our conversation, though, only stating that they were very confident about the fact that he's going to be a first round pick when it's all said and done.
Ilyasova to Denver? Korolev to the Clippers?
The Ilyasova to Denver rumor is one that everyone seems to be taking as a done deal already. The Nuggets have stated numerous times that they want to draft a European player and stash him overseas to develop for a year or two. The skill level that Ilyasova is showing in workouts so far at his young age (?) makes that seem like a good plan of action. The only downside is his ankle, which one NBA executive said reminds him of Grant Hills. Assuming thats just someone trying to damage his stock, the question remains, do you take him at #20 or #22? That all depends on who is on the board and who you think the Suns are going to take. They worked him out during the Chicago Pre-Draft camp at Hoops the Gym and were supposedly impressed. DraftExpress caught up with agent Tugsavul Tolga at the Wyndham Hotel in Chicago and the cheeky smile he had on his face made us think that something was definitely going on. Whats interesting is that Ilyasova shares the same agent in the States, Lon Babby, as Denvers Assistant General Manager, Jeff Weltman. That will definitely make handing out/coordinating a promise and keeping him overseas a lot easier. Where theres smoke theres usually fire? Well see on the 21st. It is so hard to believe anything regarding these promises, but thats all anyone wants to talk about these days. We do know that Ilyasova has not completely shut down workouts at this point he has a workout scheduled on Friday in Buffalo for the Raptors with Roko Leni-Ukic and others.
Another 18 year old European who everyone is supposedly falling over themselves trying to promise and get him to stay in the draft is the 6-9 Russian Yaroslav Korolev. Everyone has their favorite team that they like to think promised him, so your guess is probably as good as ours, but for what its worth the people weve spoken to (including one team drafting shortly after them) think its the Clippers who made the promise. The problem with Korolev besides the fact that hes barely played any real basketball with anyone whos not a teenager is the fact that he has no buyout clause in his contract. That means that whoever drafts him would have to wait at least a year or two on him until CSKA Moscow decides that the time is right to let him go to the NBA, in return for a big chunk of cash presumably. That doesnt sound like the kind of situation an organization like the Clippers would want to be in, but considering their history thats hardly the kind of thing you can put past them.
Chicago in the hunt for a pick?
Dont be surprised to see the Bulls acquire a late 2nd round pick between now and draft night. They are supposedly talking with teams about acquiring a 2nd round pick in return for former draftee Mario Austin. The former Mississippi State big man is in the States and has some workout for teams scheduled already. The Hawks are one of them apparently.
Whos buying Memphis pick?
Youve probably heard by now that Memphis has some financial issues and needs to balance their books now with all the money they are losing and the fact that Jerry West is leaving the team after next season. They would love to dump Jason Williams in return for that pick, but no one is biting. They might just settle for a cool 3 million along with someones 2nd rounder. The teams that are rumored to be most interested are the Cavs, Sixers and Hawks. Both the Cavs and Sixers have yet to work anyone that is first round caliber out. The Cavs have an ace up their sleeve, though, in Intern GM Mark Warkentien who was responsible for drafting both Jermaine Oneal at 17 and Zach Randolph at 19 while he was with the Portland Trailblazers. Clearly he knows how to make a lot out of a little and the Cavs should be in good shape even if they dont get to work anyone out.
Randolph Morris going back to school?
Someone who has been drawing mixed reviews from league executives and is apparently seriously considering going back to school is Kentucky center Randolph Morris. He looks disinterested said one source who saw him work out in Atlanta. Lumbering and too mechanical said a GM who picking in the late 1st round. Go back to school appears to be the best advice he is receiving right now. Pulling out of the pre-draft camp the way he did and then conducting an uninspiring public workout in Chicago are two things in particular that are doing him no favors.
Linas Kleiza most likely pulling out
The highly regarded combo forward Linas Kleiza is having a hard time finding a team in the first round to fall in love with him and get him to stay in the draft. Early-Mid 2nd round appears to be his range right now, as hes measuring out an inch shorter than he was listed at and isnt showing phenomenal skills from the perimeter or outstanding athleticism to make up for it. Missouri fans shouldnt get too excited, though, because apparently there is zero chance that he goes back there. Italy or back home to Lithuania look like the most likely destinations, with Lithuanian powerhouse Zalgiris holding the edge.
*Credit for the term "Mental Masturbation" goes to the one and only Marc Cornstein, who came up with the perfect way to describe the process that NBA teams, agents, players and the media go through when it comes to analyzing what's going on in the world of the NBA draft.