Florida's Bradley Beal coveted
NEW YORK -- Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis appears to be a lock to go No. 1 to New Orleans in Thursday's NBA draft, leaving Florida freshman Bradley Beal as the most coveted player.
Charlotte is considering offers for the No. 2 pick, notably from Cleveland at No. 4, and if the Bobcats were to pass on Beal for some reason, Washington at No. 3 is ready to scoop him up.
But the desire to nab Beal isn't limited to the top four.
The chances of a playoff team getting Beal are slim, but Finals runner-up Oklahoma City has invested quality time figuring out a way to get up high enough to land Beal.
Beal told ESPN.com Wednesday that Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti told him during an interview in Chicago that he was interested in trying to move up to draft him. The Thunder's first-round pick isn't until No. 28.
"He told me he was going to decide what they're going to do and considered getting up there," Beal said.
Beal said Denver, which picks at No. 20, also made a similar statement.
To get Beal, the Thunder would undoubtedly have to move James Harden, the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year. League sources said the Thunder wouldn't be able to avoid serious tax issues if they had to pay lucrative contracts to all four of their marquee players in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Harden. The first two won't be moved. But to trade Harden to a team such as Charlotte would be a risk for the receiving team since there is no guarantee Harden would sign a long-term deal beyond the one year remaining on his contract. Also, the Thunder would be disrupting a team that was three wins away from winning an NBA title.
"I've heard it a lot," Beal said of the Thunder scenario. "It's really interesting. I would love to play with Kevin Durant. (Russell) Westbrook, great point guard. Just the whole team. It's young -- I would love to play with a young team. They play fast. I'd love to get up and down, shoot the ball. Overall, whatever situation I Iand in I'll be happy."
Charlotte also just acquired a shooting guard in Ben Gordon in a deal with Detroit, which could mean it may not need to make a move for another veteran wing.
Still, Presti has seriously considered finding a way to get Beal. A number of sources said that Presti spent three days in Gainesville, Fla., during the lockout watching the Gators practice, a fact that Beal confirmed Wednesday.
A source also said that Florida coach Billy Donovan met with Presti in Dallas when he took his two nephews to the Oklahoma City-Dallas first-round playoff series in May. Presti and Donovan have had multiple conversations on the phone about Beal, as well.
A source with direct knowledge of the situation said, "Oklahoma City exhausted every opportunity on campus to find out everything they could find out about Beal. They've done everything they can."
San Antonio, which doesn't pick until No. 59 in the second round, as well as Atlanta, which does have a first-round pick at No. 23, also made a number of calls to Donovan and Florida in the hope that each team could move up to land Beal.
But the source said the teams told Donovan it would have to be the "parting of the red sea" to pull off a move to get up to the top three in the draft.
"They gave (Donovan) the impression that they were trying to move up to get Brad," the source said.
When reached Wednesday, Donovan did say that teams wanted to know why Beal was passive early in the season.
"Brad was very concerned about what other guys think of him on the team, but in a good way," Donovan said. "He's never going to try to come in and take over."
Beal arrived at Florida to a team that had returning guards in Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker off an Elite Eight team. Patric Young was the big man in the middle, expected to be the go-to guy inside.
"He was never going to disrupt chemistry," Donovan said. "He never wanted to inject himself into the team and take over. He really wanted to win and when he came in, he really worked to earn the respect of the rest of the guys. As the year started to unfold, I told him that for us to make the next jump he couldn't be so passive. He went through adversity in November and December and figured out a way to get through it."
Beal had some single-digit games when he struggled -- scoring seven points and missing all five 3s at Syracuse in December and a 2-of-15 game against UAB in early January. But by the heart of the SEC schedule, Beal was putting up consistent scoring numbers in the teens and making a higher percentage of his shots.
"He led us in minutes and was our second-leading rebounder," Donovan said. "His personality lends itself to being a fit-in guy. He reminds me of Al Horford. He has all the intangibles. Davis is going one, but I'm taking (Beal) two. He can flat-out score. He understands team dynamics. He's a constant professional and he's only 18 years old. He's got it."
Beal said that he figured out that he had to be more assertive in the middle of the season and couldn't defer to everybody.
"My teammates kept pushing me," Beal said.
Beal said Wednesday that he struggled with the decision to leave because he had skipped natural steps in his progression. He said he wanted to go to medical school.
"I didn't want to leave school early, honestly," Beal said. "I had just established relationships with my teammates and I knew people there and I didn't want to give that up and start something new."
Donovan also said Beal was torn about not returning to a team that could win the national title had he stayed.
"He made his own decision and it was well thought out," Donovan said. "He wants to be great but didn't want to bypass steps. Bradley Beal will walk into a locker room but knows he can't do it on his own. He needs help. This guy gets it. He understands it and he wants to win."
ESPN.com's Henry Abbott contributed to this report.