Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Draft Notes: Promises, sleepers and point guards
By Chad Ford
• For complete analysis of who's in and out of the 2008 NBA draft, click here.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The official NBA pre-draft camp got under way Tuesday evening to a packed gym of NBA executives and coaches.
The opening night of the camp features five-on-five drills on three separate courts. It can be quite a bit of a frenzy and tough to get a great read on everyone.
More importantly, the Orlando pre-draft camp officially kicks off the NBA rumor season. GMs and coaches meet, talk shop, propose trades and then speculate on what everyone else is doing.
Here's what we were hearing on Tuesday night:
Everyone's favorite topic this time of year is promises. In the past, NBA GMs have "promised" to draft a particular player early in the draft process if they will refuse to work out for other teams.
Some of it's based off boasting or positioning by agents. Some is just GM paranoia at this time of the year. Sometimes it's based off reading too much into our latest mock draft. I had a number of GMs asking for more details on why I placed certain players where I did in the mock draft. While I try to make the mock draft a reported piece, at this time in the year, when most, if not all, of the teams haven't come close to making up their minds, a lot of it is an educated guess.
Over the past few days I've gotten calls concerning a number of players who might have a promise. Most of them have turned out to be dead ends.
Jerryd Bayless was supposedly promised to the Sonics, a couple of sources told me. Not true, according to people close to both Bayless and the Sonics. The Sonics are very high on Bayless as I reported in my last mock draft. But they haven't promised him anything and Bayless is set to work out for several teams in the lottery.
Ditto for rumors that Brandon Rush is a lock to go to the Suns at No. 15. I spoke with Steve Kerr and Rush's agent, Mark Bartelstein. Kerr acknowledged that the Suns like Rush and he'd be a great fit, but also said the Suns are bringing in around 20 players for their pick. Bartelstein said Rush is working out for teams drafting before and after the Suns.
Another bad one floating around the Internet has the Pistons promising to take Indiana's D.J. White with the 29th pick. Pistons president Joe Dumars isn't in Orlando, but I contacted him via e-mail and he said the rumor is totally untrue. The Pistons are bringing in a number of players, haven't committed to anyone and are even looking at possibly moving their first for a couple of second-round picks.
|Jerryd Bayless and the Sonics have been a topic of much interest.|
For the second straight time I have Italy's Danilo Gallinari going to the Knicks with the sixth pick in my latest mock draft.
It makes a lot of sense. Gallinari's father played with new coach Mike D'Antoni. D'Antoni likes European players and knows how to use them. Gallinari's style of play is perfect for the offense D'Antoni likes to run.
But there's a hitch. A Suns source swore to me Tuesday night that when they showed D'Antoni tape of Gallinari during the year, he wasn't a fan.
"Mike said he's just not sure the kid has what it takes to make it in the NBA," the source said. "He said he'd be very nervous picking him in the mid-first round. I doubt he's become converted since he joined the Knicks."
Another source made an even more compelling argument: "Whether Mike loves him or hates him, Donnie Walsh is making this pick. He's the guy who has to take the heat and he's not going to pass that decision on to anyone else. What matters most is whether Donnie likes him."
Earlier on Tuesday we broke down the top 10 guys to watch in the camp. After talking with numerous scouts and GMs, they named another sleeper to keep an eye on: Tennessee-Martin's Lester Hudson.
Hudson is a super-athletic guard who once got a quadruple-double in a game this year. He's a dynamic scorer but needs to prove to scouts that he can be a point guard on the floor. He's very undersized to play any other position. Here, Hudson was really impressive, showing great poise, athleticism and shooting ability on the floor. He had a number of GMs saying he's the guy they want to get a closer look at. If he plays as well as he did Tuesday night, he could be the sleeper of the draft.
Everyone is buzzing about point guards. Yes, Derrick Rose, Bayless and O.J. Mayo are a big part of the conversation. But two veteran point guards were also the topic of discussion: Kirk Hinrich and T.J. Ford.
With most executives convinced that the Bulls will draft Rose, they are already waiting for Hinrich to pack his bags. Hinrich is coming off his worst year as a pro, averaging just 11.5 points on 41 percent shooting.
Unfortunately for the Bulls, he's also just starting a big contract. Hinrich still has four years and $37.5 million left on his deal. The good news is that Hinrich's contract number actually goes down each year. Next year he's due $10.2 million. By 2011, he's only due $8.25 million.
Despite his poor numbers and big contract, a number of executives I spoke with on Tuesday said they believed Hinrich will generate trade interest.
"There is a need for good point guards and I think a lot of people think Hinrich just needs a change of scenery," one GM said. "I think the Bulls won't have a hard time moving him."
Ford is the other guy generating some buzz. The Raptors have a logjam at the point and Jose Calderon is heading into restricted free agency. A team source said the Raptors would definitely match any offer for Calderon.
However, there was some tension on the Raptors between Calderon and Ford. If the Raptors are dead-set on bringing back Calderon
could Ford be the guy on the move?
Colangelo declined to elaborate, saying he likes having both point guards
but a source close to the situation said the Raptors are open to moving Ford and he's generated interest from several teams.
Ford, when healthy, has been excellent for the Raptors, but there are concerns about his spinal condition. A source told Insider on Tuesday evening that Ford's health hasn't been a major issue. He's essentially as healthy today as he was when he was drafted. While his condition does pose a real risk to his long-term health, his contract is fully insured -- protecting a team that trades for him from taking a huge financial hit if he were to go down.
Ford has a more reasonable contract than Hinrich. He has three years and $25.8 million left on his deal. He's also younger (25) and statistically, he had his best player efficiency rating of his career last year: an impressive 20.37.
A number of teams will be looking for point guards this summer, including the Heat, Pacers, Kings, Blazers, Cavs, Nuggets, Magic and Rockets.
The NBA competition committee met in Orlando on Tuesday, but it sounds like nothing significant was accomplished.
A couple of sources at the meeting confirmed that there was talk about changing the playoff format and the draft lottery.
While some advocated seeding playoff teams 1 through 16 without regard to conference, that outcome is very unlikely. More likely, teams will no longer be rewarded for winning their division. Each conference will be seeded based simply on record.
The Board of Governors has to approve any changes, so it may be a while before we receive definitive word.
There were also several complaints about the current lottery system. Teams with poor records weren't thrilled that the Bulls (who had the ninth-worst record in the league) ended up walking away with the No. 1 pick.
Last year, the Blazers had the sixth-worst record and won the lottery.
"There's a big difference between a 15-win team and a 35-win team," one GM said. "A huge difference."
A few supported limiting the lottery to the two or three worst teams and then giving them equal chances of winning. Great idea. But don't hold your breath. One source said commissioner David Stern is strongly against changing the lottery format.
"If David is against it," the source said, "it's not going to happen."
Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.