Phoenix is smelling blood coming out of neighboring LA. They think Kobe Bryant is theirs to be had if they can clear up the appropriate amount of cap space. The deal that is being talked about right now around the league involves packaging the #7 pick to Utah along with Jahidi White's ending contract for either the #14 or 16 pick. The Jazz are far enough under the cap to absorb that contract straight up. The Suns are happy enough with Leandro Barbosa at the point to make that trade, which would clear up over 6 million dollars in cap space, leaving them with more then enough to give Kobe the max this summer. A nice backup plan would be trading the #7 along with Jahidi White to Atlanta for the #17 pick. Atlanta also has cap space to absorb such a contract. If that doesn't pan out, a swap with Cleveland is being discussed as well. Keep in mind that the trade exceptions granted to teams who have a player selected in the expansion draft will make this offseason littered with trade rumors as teams who want cap will have numerous locations to try for some.
The expansion draft is going to make a large dent in many a team's mock drafts by the time the dust clears. The teams that appear almost certain to make some kind of move are Dallas, Orlando, Utah and the Grizzlies. Bernie Bickerstaff is quickly becoming our favorite NBA General Manager with the way he honestly sounds off about anything and everything in the media.
What will the Clippers do?
Now that Dwight Howard has gently confirmed what we said a few weeks ago about preferring not to play for the Clippers next year, you would expect Elgin Baylor's phone to be ringing off the hook. That's not really the case. If a better deal doesn't come forward, the most appealing trade for the Clippers might just be the most simple one offered yet. That would involve trading the #2 pick to Charlotte along with a contract or two in return for the #4 pick, presumably Shaun Livingston or Ben Gordon. Unloading Drobnjak and Ely would free up 4.5 million dollars this summer for the Kobe Bryant sweepstakes, or the Bobcats could select one of the many big name (and contract) players in the expansion draft to send to the Clippers if that's what they want. The #2 pick for the 6 and 17 picks which has been widely discussed is still an option as well according to sources close to both teams.
It seems to be the Hawks and Bulls now that are talking about switching picks if the Clippers trade doesn't happen. The Bulls complaining in every paper in Chicago about poor offers seem to back that up. At #3 the Hawks would most likely select Shaun Livingston, and at 6 and 17 the Bulls would be looking at either Andre Iguodala or Josh Childress with the first pick and probably the most interesting player that falls to them at 17, which there are just too many possibilities to mention in this crazy draft.
Who's rising and who's slipping?
You may have noticed that Devin Harris slipped to #13 on our latest mock draft. That's not a mistake at all. Harris had been avoiding going up against some of the big name players in recent weeks and was looking very poor regardless. Now that he is meeting up in some of the same places as the other top point guards in this draft, he is looking flat out awful.
Today there was a high profile workout in Atlanta with Ben Gordon, Jameer Nelson, Shaun Livingston and Devin Harris and that's the exact order they came out of after that workout. Harris reportedly is very weak and is struggling mightily to make his presence felt on the floor, his jump shot has abandoned him now and defensively he struggles to stay in front of anyone. Gordon and Nelson were both very impressive with the way they combine their strength, shooting ability and athleticism, to go along with a healthy dose of confidence and in Nelson's case, leadership. Livingston was the third best player at that workout right now, but showed that he has the potential to become the best of the 4. There's more to where you end up being drafted then just workouts, but Harris doesn't have any edge on Gordon or Nelson based on his NCAA career either
Gordon and Nelson will both be in Miami tomorrow, and will most likely meet up with Devin Harris and possibly Livingston later on in the week in Washington and maybe even in Phoenix too who are all over the board regarding what they might do.
The Heat worked out Peter John Ramos (first NBA workout) today against Ales Chan and David Harrison. Harrison was clearly the most impressive player there, with Chan and Ramos being neck to neck at second. Ramos will also be in Seattle (rumors say against Pavel Podkolzine) and Portland later this week. Ales Chan has almost certainly established himself a mid-2nd rounder at least with his recent workouts.
Another guy that has been taking a tumble lately is Latvian power forward Andris Biedrins. His workouts have also been largely unimpressive as documented in this recent article (link). He is getting by on his reputation right now (being considered a surefire lottery pick for most of the year will do that to you) but no one that's seen him lately has really fallen in love with him. He hasn't done any workouts for anyone since working out with Chicago, claiming an injury as the reason for that, even though he clearly did not get injured in that workout. He appears to be a lot rawer then everyone initially thought, and his agent probably thinks that teams have seen enough of that for now. His agent's ties in the Bay Area along with their specific needs could be a good spot for him at 11 to Golden State (rumors of a guarantee already started), we tried to call Bill Duffy to figure out what the story is, but he might be still holding a grudge against us for not jumping on the Ivan Chiriaev bandwagon, as he never returns phone calls from us.
Josh Smith is someone that rises and falls every day depending on whom you are talking to. Sometimes he looks fantastic (like in Phoenix last week) and sometimes he is downright terrible, like he was today in Philly. His outside shot comes and goes, his ball-handling is not even close to being NBA caliber, and he is pretty clueless when it comes to playing defense. But once he starts throwing down dunks, you tend to forget about all of that. If he falls past #6, its concievable he slips all the way to #17.
Al Jefferson was also in Philly today, and he really have them something to chew on with the way he played. He has an NBA body already at the age of 18, with the potential to add on a lot more bulk to go along with some of the nastiest post moves you will find out of any big man in this draft. He still has a ways to go in terms of understanding basketball situations, but with his confidence and physical attributes he seems like one of those rare youngsters that could actually get playing time under Jim O'Brien. The fact that he measured out at a legit 6-10 with a massive 9-2 standing reach really helps him, and some NBA people are saying that him playing a bit of Center isn't out of the question either. Eddy Curry with a mean streak is the comparison that seems to come up most often. Jefferson moved up to 9th spot on our mock on Tuesday night.
Green Room invites:
The usual suspect got their invites already, Emeka Okafor, Shaun Livingston, Dwight Howard , Luol Deng and others considered lottery locks. Kirk Snyder was invited as well.
on Outside the Lines
ESPN has been following Lawrence Roberts around for the past few weeks and had a TV special on the withdrawal deadline on yesterday's Outside the Lines. Roberts' father was shown browsing through the internet looking at mock drafts and was the one he was viewing at the time. It's nice to see that people are reading our site, but they should keep in mind that this is merely a projection and players should not base their decisions on what they read at a draft site because ultimately it is up to the players and their teams to put them in a good position to be drafted. We just try to compile as much information as possible and share it with whoever is willing to listen.
We just really hope Roberts knows that at the end of the day we aren't the ones living with the decisions. Roberts has a tough call to make, with the deadline being today at 5 PM. We'd like to wish Lawrence and his family (along with all the other underclassmen without an agent) the best of luck in making the right decision for him and his basketball career. It would be fun for us the fans to see him come back to the NCAA next year, but we realize that things are far more complicated then that. For every one Jameer Nelson there are five players like Darius Rice, Rickey Paulding, Arthur Johnson, Marcus Moore, Chris Duhon and countless others who should have taken the money and ran when they could have and now could go undrafted. Roberts, Delonte West, Brandon Bass and the others will have their work cut out for them next year, regardless of whether they return to college or move on to the next level. If they really think they can have a much better season next year and they are prepared to work on their NBA weaknesses then they should go back. Either way, good luck to all.