Word on the Street, June 2nd

Word on the Street, June 2nd
Jun 02, 2009, 03:30 am
• Timberwolves Like Evans

While other prospects in his draft range are declining competitive workouts, Tyreke Evans appears to be welcoming the challenge of earning his draft spot. “Tyreke will work out against anyone,” says a source at Wasserman Media Group, Evans’ agency. “The only problem so far has been that no one is willing to work out against him, especially not DeRozan or Harden.”

While some NBA teams insist that Ricky Rubio and James Harden are the top players on the Minnesota Timberwolves’ draft board at the moment, others suggest that they are beginning to warm up to the prospect of picking Evans at #6.

“He’s definitely a good fit there,” one high ranking NBA executive with a pick just a few spots below Minnesota’s suggests. “He can play with Randy Foye or without him, you can mix and match him with all kinds of guards, as long as you’re willing to put the ball in his hands. With that wingspan, he can even guard some small forwards. He gives you tremendous versatility in that regard.”

The big question mark here surrounds Minnesota’s new GM, David Kahn. It’s not easy to get a handle on his ideology in regards to the draft, as he was not really a traditional basketball hire. Kahn’s connections with NBA commissioner David Stern—single-handedly propping up a number of D-League franchises over the years—is rumored to have played an influential role in securing his new job.

Kahn is reportedly telling NBA teams that he’s not married to the idea of using the #6 pick, and that he would be willing to listen to trade offers for it.

• Dallas Looking at Jordan Hill?

Another interesting tidbit of information coming out of the NBA Combine in Chicago revolves around the Dallas Mavericks and potential interest they may have in Arizona power forward Jordan Hill. The rumor mill indicates that Dallas is seriously considering making a move to acquire the ultra athletic junior, and views him as exactly the type of tough, active rebounder they are missing in their frontcourt rotation at the moment. Brandon Bass currently fills that role for them, but they may not be able to keep him and still maintain ample cap space for 2010.

Hill’s measurements (6-9 ¼ without shoes, 7-1 ½ wingspan, 9-0 standing reach) in Chicago confirmed the notion many people had that he will have no problem seeing minutes at center in today’s NBA, particularly once he puts a little bit more weight on his frame.

One team that could reportedly help Dallas move up high enough to pick Hill is the Washington Wizards at #5, a team they already have a history with making draft-day deals. The two teams swapped Antawn Jamison for Jerry Stackhouse and the #4 pick (Devin Harris) back in 2004, a move that worked out well for both parties.

Dallas can offer either the non-guaranteed contract of Jerry Stackhouse to help the Wizards reduce payroll next year (while taking someone like Mike James or Etan Thomas off their hands) or they can help the Wizards by providing a veteran like Josh Howard or Jason Terry if it’s experience and scoring punch they are after. Either move would allow the Mavericks to stay flexible from a financial standpoint as they look towards the free agent class of 2010. They can also dangle their first round pick (#22).

• Detroit, Oklahoma City Talking Trade?

With the Detroit Pistons looking to get as far under the salary cap as they can this summer, and the Oklahoma City Thunder being one of the few teams who are able to help them shed salary, the two teams have emerged as natural trade partners, multiple NBA sources told DraftExpress this past weekend.

With very few teams projected to have cap space this summer (Oklahoma City, Memphis, Portland, Sacramento and Atlanta being the main ones), it appears that Detroit could be in great position to take advantage of the strength of this free agent class and nab a couple of pieces that would put them right back in the mix to compete for the Eastern conference finals. Detroit is currently slated to be around 20 million dollars underneath the cap, but could shed another five million or so by unloading the contracts of Amir Johnson and their first round pick (#15).

Enter the Oklahoma City Thunder. They are reportedly high on B.J. Mullens (as is Milwaukee), and likely would be able to nab him with the 15th pick. Considering how far under the cap they’ll be this summer, they would have no problem taking on Amir Johnson’s expiring 3.66 million dollar contract. They should be able to find a suitor for their late first round pick if they choose to do so, as teams like San Antonio, Houston, Toronto and Orlando are all in the market for a draft choice in that range.

With the money Detroit frees up, they could go after their top two free agent targets, rumored to be Paul Millsap and Ben Gordon.

•Minnesota Group Workout

42 players converged on Minneapolis for three days of group workouts in front of a good chunk of the NBA. The fact that the sessions in Minnesota were being held at the same time as the 24-player group workout in Golden State meant that teams had to choose which one they would like to attend.

Many of the top players on our initial invite list appear to have pulled out, with the four top remaining prospects being Austin Daye, Jeff Teague, B.J. Mullens and Gani Lawal. Still, many of the teams present were happy to watch the players work out in a competitive three on three setting, after having to settle strictly for drills at the Combine in Chicago.

Daye, Lawal and Mullens competed in the first day of workouts, alongside players such as Omri Casspi, Danny Green, Darren Collison, A.J. Price, Eric Devendorf, Dante Cunnighman, Daniel Hackett, Luke Nevill and others.

The early buzz from the first day was that Omri Casspi may have helped himself more than any other prospect, as he showed a great combination of athleticism, competitiveness, and skill-level. Austin Daye had a sub-par day apparently, being able to create his own shot almost whenever he pleased, but being incapable of finishing plays due to his poor physical strength.

Gani Lawal showed potential, but also looked far from being a finished product, while B.J. Mullens really struggled at times against Utah’s Luke Nevill, looking disinterested in what was going on on the court, and appearing to be at least a few years away from being able to play significant minutes in the NBA.

We’ll have more info as we continue to gather it from both Minnesota and Golden State over the next few days.

•Memphis Not a Lock to Take Thabeet?

Most NBA teams we speak to these days are assuming that the Memphis Grizzlies have been decisively spooked by Ricky Rubio’s threats to pull a Fran Vasquez, and have instead zeroed in on Hasheem Thabeet as their likely selection with the #2 pick.

Memphis coach Lionel Hollins hasn’t necessarily given up on the idea of drafting a point guard, though, and he’s telling NBA-types that he may be interested in picking one with legit size that he can play alongside either Mike Conley or O.J. Mayo depending on the situation on the floor. Tyreke Evans is one that has come up—he comes with the added benefit of having played in Memphis, which might help the team somewhat in the ticket sales department. Jrue Holiday is another name that is beginning to get some mention here.

The assumption is that Memphis will trade down a few spots, possibly to 4th, where Sacramento can offer either Jason Thompson or Spencer Hawes as added compensation. That would surely please Rubio’s camp, as the difference between the 2nd and 4th picks is somewhere around four million dollars over the course of his rookie deal, which would make things infinitely easier as far as his buyout is concerned, and also satisfy his and his family’s initial expectations of being a top-3 pick.

There are some concerns that being selected fourth won’t cut it, and Rubio has already come out publicly in the Spanish media and stated that it’s not a foregone conclusion that he’ll be leaving Joventut this summer.

“There are possibilities of continuing in Joventut. It depends on what number I get picked and the final negotiations, but mainly the buyout clause that my agent is negotiating with the club.”

In the interview, Rubio insists that he will not leave Joventut unless a better future awaits him in the NBA. “If there is not a good project in the NBA then I will not go. If I go it is because there is a good future.”

Would Memphis qualify for that? The answer early on from Rubio’s perspective appears to be no.

Scattered Rumors

•Q Score Up: Players who are being mentioned more and more in a positive light by NBA teams we speak to: B.J. Mullens, Tyler Hansbrough, Rodrigue Beaubois, Josh Heytvelt, Jack McClinton, Jeff Pendergraph, Omri Casspi

•Q Score Down: Players who are being mentioned more and more in a negative light by NBA teams we speak to: Earl Clark, Terrence Williams, Ty Lawson, Eric Maynor, Damion James, Tyler Smith, Wayne Ellington

•Marc Iavaroni appears to be a lock to secure the lead assistant’s role in Toronto, with the only holdup now being his contract with the Memphis Grizzlies. It seems like Iavaroni and Toronto may be in a similar situation to that of Stan Van Gundy and the Orlando Magic a few years back, when the Miami Heat demanded compensation in the form of a second round pick in exchange for releasing him from the last year of his contract. This time, though, the Grizzlies are reportedly demanding cash, somewhere in the range of a few hundred thousand dollars.

•There is a growing sense in NBA circles that Brandon Jennings may be making a mistake by passing up the Reebok Eurocamp in Treviso next week in favor of participating in private NBA workouts. Numerous teams in the lottery have pointed out to us that they do not feel comfortable with the amount of competitive five on five action they’ve seen Jennings partake in, and that they would have a difficult time selecting him based on the body of work he’s put together up until this point.

NBA teams were not allowed to scout Jennings in high school, and many saw their scouting trips to Italy this year come up empty as they only were able to see him play for a few minutes at a time, often at the shooting guard position.

With that in mind, teams like the New York Knicks decided to send out their entire staff to evaluate Jennings in Treviso this upcoming week, with their head coach Mike D’Antoni, General Manager Donnie Walsh, and Director of Player Personnel Misho Ostarcevic all making the trek to Italy, and all bound to be disappointed when they see that Jennings decided to pass on the opportunity to impress them. Jennings may have a difficult time being selected by teams like this solely off what he shows in the three on three portion of their private workout.

Should Jennings slip past Golden State at 7, he may be in for somewhat of a tumble on draft night, as players such as Jonny Flynn and Jrue Holiday appear to be the next point guards on most teams’ boards, and a franchise like Indiana could opt for a more experienced player such as Ty Lawson or Eric Maynor.

It’s easy to understand Jennings’ motivation, as he just arrived back in the States this weekend and would have to fly all the way back to Italy now in order to compete in the Eurocamp. Still, it’s definitely a move that is drawing some criticism early on.

•A number of people have emailed us in the past few days asking why we keep bringing up the measurements of various players without shoes, since “no one ever plays barefoot” in their words. The simple answer is that not all shoes are made alike, and you can clearly see that manifest itself when players like James Johnson or Tyler Smith only get three quarters of an inch added to their listing with shoes, while others such as Jonny Flynn or Jerel McNeal get an inch and a half. Listing how players were measured without shoes simply puts them all on equal footing (no pun intended) and gives us a more precise way of comparing their heights.

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