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After Wall, nothing is certain

6/14/2010

The draft is only a week and a half away, and here's all we know for sure -- John Wall will be the No. 1 pick on June 24. We've been writing for weeks that the Washington Wizards taking Wall with the No. 1 was a done deal. Multiple team sources, off the record of course, have been telling us for weeks that Wall is their man.

Now, it looks even more official. The Washington Post reported over the weekend that Evan Turner wouldn't even be working out for the Wizards and was conceding the No. 1 spot to Wall.

Why don't the Wizards just go ahead and end the ruse and start plastering Wall posters all over Verizon Center? The league strongly discourages teams from disclosing their picks before the draft, so don't expect the Wiz to make it official, but there is no mystery at No. 1.

Here comes the intrigue

Things are less cut and dry at the No. 2 pick. Turner is in for his one and only workout with the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday. However, the Sixers aren't stopping there. Turner will be followed a day later by DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors, and then on Saturday Wesley Johnson will be in the house. All of the workouts lead to the inevitable question: "Why are they working out those guys if Turner is a sure thing?"

While Sixers' sources continue to insist that Turner is GM Ed Stefanski's man and will be taken No. 2, there are other sources that insist coach Doug Collins has a say in the pick and he prefers to land a big man -- preferably Favors.

Sources insist the Sixers are open to a trade if they can get the right combination of talent and cap relief. To get the most value for the pick, the team needs to project that it's taking Turner at No. 2.

Stefanski has said the team isn't shopping the pick, but if you read what he says closely, it's mostly semantics.

"We're listening to anybody who calls, but we have not shopped the No. 2 pick whatsoever," Stefanski said. "We don't shut our phones off, but it would take a blockbuster for us to consider moving the pick."

OK, the Sixers aren't giving the second pick away and don't need to shop it. But they aren't wedded to it the way the Wizards are wedded to Wall. You hear zero talk around the league about the Wizards being open to trading No. 1.

Jersey boys

Things aren't much clearer in New Jersey at the moment. The New Jersey Nets would take Turner if he is on the board. If he isn't? It's a standoff between Favors and Cousins. The team won't be getting Turner for a workout, but they'll have Favors and Cousins going head-to-head June 21.

The Nets have a bit of a dilemma at No. 3 if Favors and Cousins are on the board. I think from a talent standpoint, Cousins has the edge. You don't draft Cousins to play him 10 minutes a night. He's the most NBA-ready big man in the draft. However, Favors is raw talent and could be brought along more slowly.

Also, the team plans to pursue Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer via free agency. If the Nets are confident they will be getting Bosh, Stoudemire or Boozer, it might make sense for them to swap picks with a team like the Pistons. They could get another critical piece of the puzzle at the 3 and still have a high pick to draft a backup big.

Movin' on up?

The Minnesota Timberwolves are exploring ways of moving up to No. 2 to get their hands on Turner. If they stay at No. 4 and Turner and Favors are off the board, I think you can expect to hear Johnson's name called here. We have had Johnson at No. 4 in the mock draft since May.

In fact, Cousins won't even come in to work out with the team, his agent, John Greig, told me. Greig, along with a league source, disputes a report that Cousins wasn't invited to Minnesota. Greig said he believes Minnesota is already locked into Johnson at No. 4 and wants to keep Cousins focused on places he could realistically go.

Kings for a day

The Sacramento Kings had a series of big workouts last week. The team had Greg Monroe in June 6. Cole Aldrich, Daniel Orton, Ekpe Udoh, Hassan Whiteside and Ryan Richards were there June 8. And it was topped off Saturday when Favors and Cousins came in to work out.

Monroe worked out by himself, and Favors and Cousins didn't actually become the heavyweight bout we thought it would be. The players didn't actually play one-on-one against each other per a request from Favors' agent. Despite the less than ideal workout circumstances, the Kings got a chance to see most of the players they are seriously considering at No. 5.

After speaking with a source on Saturday evening, the following seems clear:

1. The Kings would like a big.

2. GM Geoff Petrie would prefer a player who, like Tyreke Evans, is capable of making an immediate impact in Sacramento.

3. The Kings don't think Favors will be there at No. 5. If they're correct, it looks like Johnson, Monroe and Cousins are battling it out for the spot.

Most likely, Johnson won't be there at No. 5. As we've been reporting since our first mock draft in May, the Wolves are high on Johnson.

Sources say Petrie has been high on Monroe all year and, before the Cousins workout, felt that Monroe was the safer pick. However, Cousins' size and superior talent have put him seriously in the mix at No. 5.

Cousins had a phenomenal workout in Sacramento on Saturday according to multiple sources. He took around 200 shots, all of which the Kings logged, and hit 78 percent of them -- the best clip they've had in the 40 players who've come into town. Cousins is also getting into better shape. He's down to 13 percent body fat from the 16.4 percent number he logged in Chicago. He still needs to drop another 10 pounds, but he's getting there.

At this point, it looks like the team is split between two players. But, for now, Cousins has two legs up on Monroe -- not only did Cousins have a better season, he also had a better workout.

Don't be surprised if the Kings end up trading the pick for a veteran who can help the team improve immediately. With young players like Evans, Omri Casspi, Spencer Hawes and Donte Greene already on team, the Kings would like to add some experience.

"Into the Great Wide Open"

After the Kings select at No. 5, the draft really starts to open up.

With the team for sale, Don Nelson in limbo and Larry Reilly apparently sending lots of mixed signals, it's hard to find anyone with a good handle on what's going to happen with the Golden State Warriors.

If Cousins slides, he would seem like a no-brainer. The team is also high on Johnson should he fall. I've also heard Al-Farouq Aminu, Xavier Henry, Patrick Patterson and Monroe mentioned here.

The Pistons, meanwhile, are playing a wait-and-see game. They've explored trading up to get their hands on Cousins or Favors, but nothing seems to be happening right now.

The Clippers and Pacers are exploring all sorts of options including moving up, moving back and even moving out of the draft entirely.

The Jazz, at No. 9, are hoping Monroe slides. If he doesn't, they like both Luke Babbitt and Henry.

Late-round buzz

The Nets sponsored workouts last week with a number of first-round bubble players and second-round picks. Representatives from 23 teams showed up, but the quality of talent at the workouts couldn't keep all of them for the entire three days.

While no one dramatically improved his draft stock, a few players seemed to have helped themselves a bit according to NBA execs and scouts that were in the gym. Here's a look at who got some buzz, both good and bad.

Dexter Pittman

Pittman has always been a favorite of GMs. He has a ton of talent, soft hands and good athleticism. The question has always been his conditioning. In New Jersey, he drew repeated praise for how hard he worked. I get the sense that GMs want to find a way to take this guy. If they get him in the right conditioning program, he could be a monster down the road.

Jon Scheyer

Scheyer had missed the past few weeks (including the draft combine) battling mono. So, despite being a four-year senior, he was a fresh face for many NBA GMs on the workout circuit. He didn't disappoint. Scheyer, unsurprisingly, shot the lights out and showed to be a better athlete than he's given credit for. I still doubt he'll crack the first round, but there are enough GMs that like him that I think he'll hear his name called somewhere in the second round.

Darington Hobson

Hobson wasn't loved by everyone there, but a number of NBA GMs seem to think he could be an unusual player in the league. An Internet report over the weekend claiming Hobson had multiple promises in the first round is not true according to his agent, Michael Hodges. But Hobson does have a real shot at the first round if he finds the right team.

Ben Uzoh

The Tulsa combo guard didn't get an invite to the combine, but he has played well in workouts and repeated that performance in the New Jersey workout.

"He's got the athleticism to make it and I think he's got some real toughness to him," one NBA exec at the workouts. "He's very intriguing as a second-round pick."

Sherron Collins

Collins has been battling injuries to his groin and hand since the combine. That's limited what he can do, and as a result, he seems to have fallen badly out of shape. Collins weighed 217 pounds at the combine, which is a lot for a player that doesn't crack 6-feet. In New Jersey he weighed a whopping 229. He gained 12 pounds in less than three weeks. Collins struggled with weight issues his whole college career, and it's going to hurt his draft stock. Every GM in the league thinks he has talent, but all of them are concerned he'll lack the discipline to stay in the shape he needs to excel in the league. If he were 6-10 like Pittman, I think GMs would look the other way. But at 5-10, I'm not sure.

Stanley Robinson

We chronicled in May how nerves sometimes get the best of Robinson. That's been a recurring theme in workouts. Teams love his physical tools, but it sounds like Robinson has been struggling with his nerves and his jump shot. It may not be fatal to his draft stock, given his explosive athletic ability and the fact that he's a good kid and a hard worker, but he's yet to really help himself.

The injury bug

It's that time of year, when players doing multiple workouts a week start getting injured. The latest to fall was Avery Bradley. Bradley sprained his left ankle in a workout in Oklahoma City on Sunday, according to his agent, Mitch Butler.

Bradley was doing a 3-on-3 drill when he was going up for an offensive rebound and stepped on a player's foot coming down. X-Rays and an MRI given by the Thunder were negative.

While the sprain is considered mild to a soft medium, the injury was bad enough that it's ending Bradley's workouts.

Butler said he believes the ankle will be healed in time for the NBA's summer league.

The Pacers and Raptors had been looking at Bradley as a potential lottery pick. Several other teams in the first round, including the Heat and Thunder, were also giving him a serious look. It's unclear how the injury will ultimately affect his draft stock, though the timing couldn't be worse. Bradley was scheduled to come in and do a second workout with the Raptors, who may have been the team highest on him, this week.

Bradley had already worked out with the Pistons, Raptors, Heat, Celtics, Pacers, Clippers, Jazz, Thunder and Rockets. The injury will force him to miss workouts with the Grizzlies, Bucks, Spurs and Bulls, along with that second workout with Raptors.

International deadline

The deadline to withdraw from the draft is at 5 p.m. Monday. The NCAA already set a date of May 8 for college underclassmen, so this deadline really only applies to international players.

Here's a list of international players who have declared for the draft:

Pablo Aguilar, SF, Spain

Andrew Albicy, PG, France

Robin Benzing, F, Germany

Bojan Bogdanovic, F, Serbia

Stefan Bircevic, Serbia

Sarra Camara, France

Antoine Diot, G, France

Bangaly Fofana, France

Miralem Halilovic, Bosnia

Thomas Heurtel, France

Edwin Jackson, G, France

Dusan Korac, Montenegro

Mindaugas Kuzminskas, F, Lithuania

Luc Louves, SF, France

Uros Lukovic, Serbia

Donatas Motiejunas, F, Lithuania

Tomasz Nowakowski, PF, Poland

Tibor Pleiss, C, Germany

Xavier Rabaseda, Spain

Fernando Raposo, PF, France

Ryan Richards, F/C, England

Kevin Seraphin, PF, France

Semen Shashkov, SF, Russia

Most of these players will withdraw from the draft. Motiejunas -- the only international player ranked as a potential lottery pick -- announced several weeks ago that he will withdraw.

Two key international players -- big man Seraphin and point guard Heurtel -- will remain in the draft, their agent, Bouna N'diaye, said.

Seraphin is considered a mid- to late-first-round pick by most GMs. A knee injury limited his ability to work out, but several teams in the 20s, including the Thunder, Blazers, Wolves and Grizzlies, are looking at him. Heurtel is a point guard who recently walked away with MVP honors at the Adidas Eurocamp. He is projected as a potential second-round pick.

Two of N'diaye's other clients, Diot and Raposo, will withdraw from the draft.

English big man Richards is staying in the draft according to his agent, Herb Rudoy. The 19-year-old took the combine by storm with his athletic ability at his size. He's had a series of strong workouts, and Rudoy thinks he has a good shot of sliding into the first round. Rudoy stressed that Richards did not have a first-round guarantee. So why stay in the draft?

"He wants to play in the NBA next year," Rudoy said. "He's not a guy that a team stashes over in Europe. I think for him to take the next step as a player, he needs to come over now."

Teams love Richards' size and athleticism, but they worry about his relative lack of game experience since he hasn't played at a high level in Europe.

Several other key players were still on the fence as of late Sunday night, including Benzig and Pleiss. Pleiss is a German big man who has caught the attention of a few teams. He needs to add strength and isn't ready to come to the NBA now, but he could be a good prospect to stash overseas for a few years. Benzig was leaning toward withdrawing from the draft after the Eurocamp. If he stays in the draft, he has the type of size and shooting ability at the small forward position to intrigue someone in the late first or early second.