Draft-buzz roundup: What we're hearing

Updated: June 18, 2009, 2:34 PM ET
ESPN.com
Editor's note: In the days leading up to the draft, we'll be updating this file with the latest draft rumors from around the league.

POSTED: June 18 -- 1:28 p.m. ET

Rubio
Rubio

• Everyone in Sacramento was a little bummed out about the Ricky Rubio visit. Rubio flew into town on Tuesday, had dinner and interviews with the front office and even chatted with the media. However, he came down with a fever and sore throat Tuesday night and wasn't able to work out for the team Wednesday. He was so ill that he didn't even get a chance to sit down with the Maloof family, which owns the Kings.

He was going to try to make a go of it Thursday morning, but he woke up still not feeling well and ended up flying back to L.A.

At this point, Rubio's schedule is up in the air. He'll try to get well and then decide which teams to visit. Another visit with Sacramento is still possible.

One Kings source reiterated that the organization still has doubts about Rubio, and the visit did little to alleviate them. However, there is a split in the camps in Sacramento, with some pushing for Rubio or, if he's gone, Jrue Holiday. Others are pushing for Jonny Flynn and/or Tyreke Evans.

Plus, still more prospects are on their way to Sacramento for workouts. DeMar DeRozan will be in on Saturday. Stephen Curry and Evans will be in town Sunday. This will be the second visit for Evans, whose first visit wasn't terrific, as we reported.

Sources close to the situation continue to insist that, in the end, the most likely scenario is Rubio going to the Kings at No. 4 if he's still on the board. If he's gone, it sounds like Flynn has moved into second place.

However, the focus on Rubio in the coming days may shift to Oklahoma City. The Thunder continue to show strong interest in Rubio and are pushing for a meeting, physical and a review of Rubio's contract in Spain. If Rubio feels better and is up for the visit, that's where he'll head next.


• There obviously has been a lot of talk about what the Suns will do this summer. In the past few weeks, rumors of a Shaquille O'Neal-to-Cleveland deal and an Amare Stoudemire-to-Washington deal have re-emerged. On Wednesday evening, the latest rumor had the Suns dealing Stoudemire to Minnesota for Al Jefferson and the No. 6 pick.

The first two deals were discussed at the February trade deadline, but talks this time around may be premature -- Suns sources say neither deal is hot at the moment. And the one with Minnesota is totally bogus, I'm told. A Suns source says that the team has had zero conversations about it.

Still, rumors are coming out of Phoenix for a reason. The big question continues to be: Where are the Suns headed? Are they still trying to be a championship contender? Or are they blowing things up, cutting costs and rebuilding from scratch?

Trading Shaq or Stoudemire doesn't make much sense in the former scenario. Lose either guy, and the Suns are less likely to be a serious contender. Although the Suns seem way more inclined to move Shaq and keep Stoudemire, a Suns source conceded that both players could be moved, and it could correspond to moving up in this year's draft.

If that's the case, here's a theory (and that's all it is, folks, a theory): What if you combine the two most prominent Suns trade rumors into a mega three-way deal?

It would look like this:

The Suns send Shaquille O'Neal to Cleveland and Amare Stoudemire to Washington.

The Cavs send Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic to Phoenix and Zydrunas Ilgauskas to Washington.

The Wizards send the No. 5 pick, Etan Thomas, Mike James and JaVale McGee to Phoenix and Antawn Jamison to Cleveland.

Call me crazy, but isn't this the ideal deal for all three teams?

The Suns would lose a lot of talent in the deal and basically would be blowing up the team. However, if they think they'll lose Stoudemire next summer anyway and don't believe they have a real shot at winning a title next season, why not get something for Stoudemire now and jump-start the rebuilding process?

In this deal, the Suns would pick up the No. 5 pick and McGee, a talented 7-footer who would be a good fit in Phoenix. More importantly for them, they would save a ton of cash next season. Pavlovic's salary is only partially guaranteed. Wallace likely could be bought out for less than he's owed. And the Suns would take back less money in the deal to begin with. When you factor in the reduction in luxury taxes and consider that they might save enough to eke below the dreaded luxury-tax line ... could owner Robert Sarver really pass on saving potentially $12-14 million in salary and penalties next season?

The Wizards essentially would replace Jamison, a couple of role players (Thomas and James) and two prospects (McGee and the No. 5 pick) with Stoudemire and Ilgauskas. Yes, Jamison is very important to the Wizards, but he'd be replaced by Stoudemire. And Ilgauskas would give them a legit big man in the middle. Suddenly, they would look like contenders for the Eastern Conference crown. And if things don't work out, they'll have cap room in 2010 when Ilgauskas, Stoudemire and Brendan Haywood all come off the books.

And the Cavs? They would get Shaq, whom they apparently like. And Jamison, an athletic scoring 4 who can do what the Cavs' bigs couldn't during the playoffs -- guard someone on the wing.

I'm not saying this will happen. Again, I'm just putting together two deals that have been buzzing for a while. But the deals would give all three teams clearer direction.


POSTED: June 17 -- 8:32 p.m. ET

Lawson
Lawson

Chad Ford: One of the challenges that teams in the late lottery to mid first round are facing is trying to get a good handle on who will be there starting from pick No. 11.

I think we have a good idea of who, roughly, the top 10 picks will be (or as I laid it out in my article today, the top 3 tiers). In some order they go:

Blake Griffin (obviously No. 1)
Ricky Rubio (2 to 6)
Hasheem Thabeet (2 to 6)
James Harden (2 to 5)
Jordan Hill (5 to 10)
Stephen Curry (3 to 8)
Tyreke Evans (4 to 9)
Jrue Holiday (4 to 10)
Jonny Flynn (4 to 10)
DeMar DeRozan (3 to 9)

But, even that list isn't set in stone. After publishing the Tiers story this morning, I got some interesting feedback from several NBA scouts and executives. A couple of players out of Tier 4 threaten to crash the top-10 party. Who are they?

North Carolina's Ty Lawson has taken some abuse during the draft workout process, but it sounds as though teams are starting to come around. Lawson was, without question, the most productive point guard in the draft. Teams are skeptical because of his size and his style of play. But he's been great in several recent workouts according to sources and apparently is in the mix with the Knicks at No. 8 if guys like Curry and Hill are off the board. Lawson also is still on the board at No. 10 to Milwaukee and the Pacers at No. 13 and the Sixers at No. 17 are also giving him a serious look. If Lawson ends up crashing the top 10, that would probably push either Holiday or Flynn out.

Louisville's Terrence Williams is another player who is a potential lottery crasher. The Warriors have been high on Williams all year and will seriously consider him at No. 7. And Williams also seems to have seriously moved into the mix with the Nets at No. 11 and the Bobcats at No. 12. In fact, sources say that Williams has been invited back to Charlotte for a second time. One league source says that he's leapfrogged Duke's Gerald Henderson on Larry Brown's board.

The final guy to watch is Henderson, who is getting a serious look in New York, Toronto and Charlotte. In each case I think there are players ahead of him on each team's draft boards, but under certain scenarios I think he could go 8 to 12. However, if DeMar DeRozan is on the board at No. 9, I think he's going ahead of Henderson in Toronto. And, if the source on Williams is to be believed, it's possible that Henderson could slide out of the lottery.


POSTED: June 17 -- 12:32 p.m. ET

Rubio
Rubio

Chad Ford: Ricky Rubio is in Sacramento today, trying to make his case why he's the guy the Kings should take with the fourth pick in the draft. Rubio will reportedly engage in a light workout with the team.

This is part of a three-team tour that will include the Oklahoma City Thunder and likely the New York Knicks on Rubio's way to New York for the lottery. It's long been thought that the Kings were Rubio's backstop in the draft if the Memphis Grizzlies and Thunder passed on him. Now Rubio seems to be in a dogfight with two other contenders to be picked at No. 4, Jrue Holiday and Jonny Flynn.

A couple of league sources told me on Thursday that they believe Rubio will emerge as the pick if he's still available, otherwise it's a real toss up between Holiday and Flynn.

Rubio, however, may not be there at No. 4. While it seems clearer that neither the Grizzlies nor the Thunder will select Rubio for themselves, the Minnesota Timberwolves are making a strong play to move up in the draft to get Rubio, according to sources. The Wolves have tried to do it by packaging their three first-round picks (Nos. 6, 18 and 28).

There's also been talk about Minnesota trading Kevin Love to Memphis for the No. 2 pick, a rumor that one source insisted was far-fetched. If that happens, it will have to be a deal that's consummated no earlier than June 28, because the Wolves have to wait a full calendar year to trade Love back to the Grizzlies (Love was traded to Minnesota for O.J. Mayo on the night of the draft last year).

If they don't get the No. 2 pick, sources say the Wolves will their No. 6 pick to select either Stephen Curry and Tyreke Evans. Evans seems like the best fit at first glance, but there seems to be a higher comfort level with Curry. We've had both players going to Minnesota in recent mock drafts. Hopefully by the last one we get it right.

• Arizona State's James Harden also seems to be in a pretty strong position. In addition to getting a lot of attention from the Thunder and Wizards, two league sources told ESPN.com that Harden is in the mix with the Grizzlies. Apparently, owner Michael Heisley thinks that a three-man rotation of Harden, O.J. Mayo and Mike Conley is attractive for the Grizzlies.


POSTED: June 16 -- 7:14 p.m. ET

Curry
Curry

Chad Ford: It sounds like the Knicks are coming to grips with the fact that Stephen Curry is unlikely to be there when they pick at No. 8. The Thunder (No. 3), Wizards (No. 5) and Warriors (No. 7) all have interest. But Donnie Walsh's biggest challenge comes from his former protégé, David Kahn in Minnesota, who seems to have focused in on Curry and Tyreke Evans if he can't get Ricky Rubio.

I spoke with Walsh on Tuesday and he said he believes that he's going to get a good pick at No. 8 and is content there. The Knicks have had just about everyone in, including Evans, Curry, Jrue Holiday, Jordan Hill, Jonny Flynn and Brandon Jennings.

I think they'll take Hill if he's still on the board at No. 8. If he isn't there, it sounds like Evans or Jennings could be the pick. The Knicks sounded especially impressed with Jennings, saying he was better than expected in their workout versus Evans. Apparently Jennings brought great energy into the workout, he was confident and competitive and he shot the ball well.

While I think Evans and Hill are likely the top two players in New York if Curry isn't there, I do think Jennings is in the mix.

• We've been trying to get to the bottom of DeJuan Blair's situation for the past few weeks. We've heard from a number of teams that they've had concerns about his knees and it's only come to light in recent days that those concerns have to do with the fact that doctors can't seem to find his ACLs in the MRIs they've taken. There are a lot of different takes on what this means, and I won't bore you with them here.

The bottom line seems to be that some teams are worried about Blair's knees and some teams aren't. There's a long history of guys with reported knee problems slipping (Danny Granger is the poster child) only to go on to long careers in the league. So even when the doctors are wringing their hands, some GMs aren't afraid.

"When you look at the cost of rookie, factor in a two-year commitment, and then understand that a guy like Blair can come in and immediately contribute, I don't understand what people are so worried about," one NBA executive told ESPN.com. "If I had a top-10 pick, I would have to worry about his long-term future. But after that, I think you take him if you think he can help you. The kid played two years at Pittsburgh without a problem and is working out great, so I think he can help you."

Right now it seems like Blair's been scratched off the list at New Jersey, Phoenix and Detroit. However, sources say he's still in the mix at Milwaukee, Charlotte, Indiana and Chicago. In the next few days, Blair will be working out in Atlanta, Utah and Philly.

• And, from the bad rumors department ... sounds like B.J. Mullens does not have a promise in Chicago. I reported on Friday that his agent insisted to New Jersey that the reason he pulled from the big workout there was because he had a promise in the "top 16." While I still have one source who insists he does, it doesn't jibe with the fact that he's working out in Philly (which drafts at No. 17) this week.


POSTED: June 15 -- 7:02 p.m. ET

Calathes
Calathes

Chad Ford: The deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the NBA draft has come and gone without too many surprises.

For the most part, there weren't any surprises, but there are a few that could potentially impact the draft.

• First was the news that Florida's Nick Calathes is staying in the draft, which is more interesting than at first glance. The word from his camp is that Calathes may be getting cold feet about playing in Greece this year. Apparently the team Calathes signed with, Panathinaikos, is going to sign veteran point guard Sarunas Jasikevicius. If that happens, Calathes isn't getting nearly the playing time he thought he would.

If Calathes gets drafted high enough, he may try to convince the team that drafts him to buy him out of his contract now, so he can head directly to the NBA. There isn't a provision in his contract for a buyout until next year, but maybe there's a solution that will make sense. If Calathes slips into the second, most likely he'll stay in Europe and try to get the team that drafts him to buy him out next year.

• Kentucky's Jodie Meeks raised a few eyebrows by staying in the draft. Meeks has talent, but wasn't projected as a first-round pick. There was some question on whether he'd been promised a pick in the late first after he stayed in the draft. We'll be following this one closely.

• Finally, you probably haven't heard of Ukranian 2-guard Sergiy Gladyr or African guard Christian Eyenga, but NBA scouts have.

Gladyr was terrific at the Reebok Eurocamp and was one of the few international underclassmen to stay in the draft. Earlier in the day, his agent, Bouna N'diaye, told me Gladyr was pulling out. Then he texted me right before the deadline to say he changed his mind. That could be an indication that a team ended up promising Gladyr either late in the first or early in the second.

Eyenga is also staying in the draft. He's a great athlete who has terrific upside. I think you'll hear both players names called on draft night.


POSTED: June 15 -- 2:08 p.m. ET

Smith
Smith

Chad Ford: The big trade rumor flying around (if you're already tired of the Shaq-to-Cleveland talk) centers on the Hawks' Josh Smith. Several league sources told ESPN.com that the Hawks have been working hard the past few weeks to see whether they can find a taker for Smith.

The Hawks have some financial issues coming into the summer. Two key players, Mike Bibby and Marvin Williams, are free agents. So are a few others on the roster -- Josh Childress, Zaza Pachulia and Ronald Murray. Although the Hawks would like to keep those players, they can't afford to pay all of them. That has opened the door to the possibility of trading Smith, who, although talented, has a reputation as a difficult player to coach.

The Hawks have had no problem finding teams interested in Smith. The issue is the whopping $6 million trade kicker attached to his contract. The trade kicker essentially would require the team that trades for Smith to pay him the $6 million immediately. In this economic climate, many owners will balk at the payment.

"You are going to see very few owners willing to do things like that anymore," one GM said. "I'm not saying he's impossible to trade. There are a few owners like Paul Allen, James Dolan, Mark Cuban and maybe Daniel Gilbert who would pay the money. But there aren't many."