Thursday, May 29, 2008
Draft Notes: The No. 1 question persists for Chicago
By Chad Ford
• For complete analysis of who's in and out of the 2008 NBA draft, click here.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The debate about who should be the No. 1 pick in the draft continued to rage in Orlando on Wednesday -- fueled in part by Memphis big man Joey Dorsey.
Dorsey told reporters that he "knew" where his Memphis teammate, Derrick Rose, was going on draft night.
"Chicago's got a lot of pressure on them because Derrick's from Chicago," Dorsey said. "But they're going to take [Michael] Beasley. I've got the inside. They're going to get Beasley."
Dorsey then said that Rose was told he's going to Miami.
How does Dorsey know something that Bulls GM John Paxson claims to not know himself? The theories were running fast and furious.
At the center of them was the Bulls' relationship with Rose's agents -- Arn Tellem and B.J. Armstrong. Tellem was the agent who orchestrated delivering Ben Wallace to Chicago and has a strong relationship with owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Armstrong used to work in the Bulls' front office. Did someone inside the Bulls give Tellem a heads up?
When Paxson arrived in Orlando for the 5 p.m. game, a group of reporters surrounded him and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Ira Winderman asked how Dorsey could "know" that the Bulls were taking Beasley.
Paxson was not thrilled with the question.
"There's absolutely no reason anyone would have any clue," he said. "It doesn't do me any good to even respond to this stuff. I'm tired of it already.
Nobody has any idea. Anyone who speculates can do that. That's fine. Nobody knows."
Winderman persisted, asking Paxson if he's already made up his mind. Paxson quickly ended the interview telling everyone that he's got a month to make a decision and to back off and just let him do his job.
Clearly Paxson's getting tired of the back and forth speculation that's become a daily fascination among the media and NBA executives.
I've been approached by a number of NBA executives, scouts and NBA player agents who claim to know what the Bulls are doing. Most say the Bulls are taking Rose though a few respected sources continue to insist that Beasley is the guy.
I tend to side with Paxson on this one. He's not going to make a decision until he does all of his research. That includes workouts, background checks, interviews and a review of every game that each player has played. He may be leaning one way or the other, but that can change as the Bulls get deeper in the process.
|When not playing ball Wednesday, Memphis' Joey Dorsey offered his thoughts on where a former teammate might land.|
The word among NBA executives drafting in the lottery is that Stanford's Brook Lopez may be the top name who could slip out of the Top 10. I spoke with a number of executives and scouts who said they thought he was a more appropriate pick in the 10 to 20 range. Some of them had both Kevin Love and DeAndre Jordan ranked ahead of Lopez on their draft boards.
That's out of sorts with what I've been told for months. What's changed?
"This is a process," one NBA GM said. "We are gathering information, going back to the tape and looking at things, and we're just getting a better feel for players. I know a lot of guys on our staff, me included, are worried about Brook. In fact, I'd say half our guys think his brother [Robin Lopez] will be a better NBA player. Workouts will really be important for him. I think we have a lot of questions about him right now."
While Lopez may be in danger of falling later in the lottery than originally projected, another prospect seems to be rising by the minute.
Kansas point guard Mario Chalmers is coming off a huge NCAA championship game and it seems to have worked miracles on his draft stock.
I spoke with two executives that had Chalmers as a potential lottery pick.
"If Russell Westbrook and D.J. Augustin are off the board by the time teams like the Pacers, Kings or Blazers pick, I wouldn't be shocked to hear Chalmers' name called. I think he's much better than you or anyone else has been giving him credit for."
I consistently spoke with scouts and executives throughout the year and only a few had Chalmers as a second-round pick -- let alone a lottery pick.
How can things change so quickly for a college junior who has consistently put up similar numbers throughout his career?
"The point guard position continues to increase in importance," one GM said. "For a team that really needs a leader, I think Chalmers is a really interesting prospect. He's not a spectacular athlete or passer, but he's fearless and he knows how to win. I'd love to have a guy like that on my team."
A few other NBA executives I spoke with said they had Chalmers ranked as a late first-round pick and said they doubted he was good enough to be a regular starter on a good team. However, they acknowledged the appeal and said it was possible in a draft that's starved for point guards, that after the Top 10, a team could reach for Chalmers.
More bad news for the San Antonio Spurs and European draft prospects. It looks like yet another top Euro prospect may spurn the NBA and stay in Europe. A few sources at the Orlando camp said that former Spurs first-round pick Tiago Splitter is leaning strongly toward signing a two-year deal with his current team, Tau Ceramica. According to those same sources, the contract won't have an NBA buyout for two years.
The problem for the Spurs (and other NBA teams that draft European players late in the first round) is the NBA rookie salary cap. The Spurs, who drafted Splitter with the No. 30 pick in the 2007 draft, can't pay Splitter more than $771,000 in Year 1 of his deal. Splitter is coming off an excellent year in Europe and can make significantly more money as a free agent in Europe.
This isn't the first time this has happened. Spain's Fran Vazquez spurned the Magic a few years ago in part because he could sign for more money in Spain. The Blazers' Rudy Fernandez is struggling with the same dilemma.
The fact that the value of the U.S. dollar is low compared to the Euro isn't helping things.
How will that affect this year's draft? Teams are doing more homework on Euro prospects and now have the very real worry that they could draft a player and he'd refuse to come into the league.
In the past, teams looked for Euro projects in the late first round. They would then leave them overseas, hope they developed, and then bring them to the NBA when they were ready.
There's a big concern that if they do develop, they'll never come because of the rookie salary scale. A number of players in this year's draft including Croatia's Ante Tomic and Serbia's Nikola Pekovic have signed significant deals in Europe. They won't be available to come to the NBA for a couple of years. If they are drafted in the first round, they'd have to take a large pay cut to play in the NBA someday.
That has some agents pushing NBA teams to pass on their players in the first round and, instead, take them in the second round because the NBA rookie scale only applies to first-round picks. A team could theoretically pay a second-round pick much more money if they have cap space or use their mid-level exception to pay him.
Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.