Word on the Street, June 22nd

Word on the Street, June 22nd
Jun 22, 2009, 01:40 am
Green Room Invites

The list of players that will invited to attend the NBA Draft in Madison Square Garden Theater on June 25th is slowly beginning to trickle out, and we’re here to report what we’ve found thus far. The Green Room invite list is an exclusive group of players that the NBA has done its due diligence to confirm that they will be drafted in the lottery or not far after, compiled from a poll of NBA GM’s conducted by Stu Jackson.

Being invited to the Green Room means the player will sit with his family at the front of the theater in front of the commissioner, have his name called [hopefully] early in the draft, given a hat with his new team’s logo on it, and then brought up to the podium to shake David Stern’s hand.

The day before the draft, the players invited will participate in a media session at the Westin Hotel, which will be attended and covered in great depth by DraftExpress.

Our understanding is that the League had about as tough a time as ever putting the list together this year—due to the extreme uncertainty that goes along with a draft featuring so much parity-- and that there was a great deal of back and forth that went on with teams until the list was finalized on Friday evening. Typically there are 15 players invited to attend, but the NBA reserves the right to bring in less or more at their judgment. Right now we know about 13 players that have confirmed.

Here are the invites, from what we’ve been able to gather:

1. Blake Griffin
2. James Harden
3. Hasheem Thabeet
4. Ricky Rubio
5. Jordan Hill
6. Tyreke Evans
7. Stephen Curry
8. Jonny Flynn
9. Demar DeRozan
10. Jrue Holiday
11. Gerald Henderson
12. Brandon Jennings
13. Tyler Hansbrough
14. B.J. Mullens (potentially declining)
15. James Johnson (declining invite)
16. Eric Maynor (potentially declining)

The first two things that come to mind when looking at this list are, who got snubbed, and who will be the last player sitting in the Green Room?

The biggest snubs would likely be considered Terrence Williams, Austin Daye, Earl Clark and DeJuan Blair. There is apparently still a chance that one or more of them could make it to the Green Room when it’s all said and done, as at least one snubbed agent thinks that “discussions are on-going.” We were unable to confirm whether Ty Lawson was invited or not.

Who will be the last one sitting in the Green Room? Just going off our latest mock draft, the answer to that would be Tyler Hansbrough. A strong workout on Tuesday in New Jersey (drafting 11th) could change that, though.

There seems to be a lot of uncertainty about where Brandon Jennings may end up too. We currently have him slated to be drafted 13th by the Pacers, but sources close to the situation indicate that there are some concerns there that could lead them in the direction of Ty Lawson or Eric Maynor instead. The fact that he worked out for Phoenix on Saturday for the #14 pick is a pretty good indication that he, like most of us, has no idea where he’s going to get drafted at this point. If Jennings begins to slip a bit, look for ESPN’s college basketball crew to not miss the opportunity to get some shots in at his decision to skip the NCAA for Europe.

Running down the Top-5 of the Draft

Today came word from the Associated Press that Hasheem Thabeet canceled his workout with the Memphis Grizzlies, citing a shoulder injury.

"Thabeet was a combination of he's had some shoulder situations and he wanted to talk to some other teams," Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said of the 7-foot-3 center out of Connecticut. "It's also what goes on this time of the year with guys showing, not showing, that type of thing. The gamesmanship of the draft."

A quick call to Thabeet’s agent, Ugo Udezue, seems to indicate differently. “He has scheduling issues,” Udezue told us. “He has to come to New York to see his family real quick.”

Digging a bit deeper, though, it simply seems like Thabeet just isn’t interested in working out for anyone at this point, since he does not feel like that setting is conducive to his strengths. “He’s not going to block shots in a workout, and that’s what he’s going to do in the NBA,” Udezue told us. “What are they going to do, have Hasheem shoot 3-pointers? Ricky Rubio is not doing any workouts either.”

Speaking of Rubio, do we have a second player openly telling the Grizzlies that they aren’t interested in playing in Memphis? From what we can gather, it doesn’t seem like Thabeet’s camp is all that enamored with the direction Memphis is heading in, and there seems to be strong indications that he feels very good about his chances of being drafted by Oklahoma City, with one NBA source going as far as to say that the chances of him being picked there if available are “100%.”

That would probably be news to Ricky Rubio, who Oklahoma City spent the last day and a half with in Los Angeles meeting with alongside his family. Sam Presti also took time out on Sunday evening to meet with James Harden, which is Oklahoma City’s third meeting with him so far, including his workout at their facility and an interview at the NBA combine in Chicago.

While Harden may not have helped himself with his poor workout in Memphis, he may be the last man standing at this point—the only player in the elite tier of prospects that actually is interested in playing there. The fact that highly influential Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley flew into Memphis to watch Thabeet, only to have him cancel his workout at the last minute, could bode very well for Harden.

The wildcard in all this are the Minnesota Timberwolves, who could throw a wrench in things by trading up to #2 to take Ricky Rubio. Sources say that Rubio’s camp has warmed up significantly to David Kahn and the Timberwolves organization as of late, and that they would not be opposed to him landing there. The catch is that the rookie scale salary slot of the #6 pick would not be sufficient in terms of satisfying Rubio’s gigantic buyout from DKV Joventut, so Kahn would have to trade into the top three to make that happen.

At this point, Kahn is holding firm on not putting Kevin Love on the table for the right to move up in the draft, and is instead trying to acquire another pick to entice Memphis to swap with them. As other media outlets have reported, they are targeting Washington’s #5 pick, but are only offering some combination of Randy Foye, Mike Miller and the #18 pick, which probably won’t get it done.

The Wizards have been bombarded with trade offers as of late, some of them more realistic than others, but it’s not a given that they will decide to trade the pick. If Rubio is on the board, all indications are that the Wizards would take him, and worst comes to worse, deal with the repercussions of him staying in Europe for another year or two until his buyout situation gets resolved. There aren’t many teams that are higher on Rubio’s upside than Washington.

As messy as the rest of the top five sounds, Sacramento’s situation might be the most confusing. It’s looking more and more clear that the Kings are not nearly as enamored with Ricky Rubio as they once were, for a number of reasons. The official party line is that Sacramento is concerned that Rubio will struggle to assert his leadership ability on the group of players they currently have in place, due to the fact that he’s only 18 years old and not a native English speaker. One of the biggest issues Sacramento had last year was with the culture of their team lockerroom. On top of that, the Kings are worried that will Rubio will have a huge target on his chest coming into the NBA, and that other players will “try to go at him every single night.”

Something important to keep in mind is that long-time Kings General Manager Geoff Petrie has just one year left on his contract, and that ownership is putting a great deal of pressure on him to ensure that they don’t go through as painful a season as they just did in 08-09, winning just 17 games. With that in mind, they may opt to just put a Band-Aid on the problem and draft a more ready player, such as Tyreke Evans or Jonny Flynn—who is very attractive due to his outgoing personality and terrific leadership skills-- and hope that things magically get better next season.

This is a situation that seemed almost unfathomable a few months ago, as the Kings were supposedly so enamored with Rubio’s talent that they were strongly considering drafting him with the #1 pick before falling to the #4 slot in the lottery. Considering what we know about all these prospects, it’s tough not to think that Sacramento would be making a colossal mistake letting a playmaker of Rubio’s caliber get by them, as his upside is substantially higher than that of Evans or Flynn.

Jonny Flynn happened to work out in Sacramento this weekend, alongside other Kings favorite Tyreke Evans, as well as Stephen Curry, Nick Calathes. It’s well known at this point that Flynn is not getting past Milwaukee’s pick at #10 at worst, but his chances of going 4th seem to be improving by the day. It’s too early to rule out Evans at Sacramento’s pick either, even though Rubio is still very much in the picture as well.

Rubio is reportedly returning to Sacramento tomorrow for a workout, which should ease one of the concerns the team has about being unable to watch him last week.

Scattered Rumors

-B.J. Mullens worked out for the Philadelphia 76ers (#17) on Sunday, and is scheduled to work out for Chicago (#16) on Tuesday. While many NBA teams we spoke with have picked up on the rumor that he may have a promise from Detroit at 15, things don’t really seem to add up here. If anything, the Pistons seem to be most interested in Earl Clark, and have reportedly told him as much, as have the Phoenix Suns, drafting 14th. On the other hand, Detroit continues to be very active in trade-talk, though, and could very well decide to move the pick, which would make all of this moot. Would Mullens really turn down his Green Room invite if he definitely knew he was going 15th? Clark on the other hand just passed up a workout with Chicago this week in order to be with his newborn baby, as he seems to be feeling very good about where’s currently at in this draft.

-Golden State appears to be exploring possibilities to improve on the defensive end in hopes of making a strong run to the playoffs next season. One trade that has reportedly been offered by the Charlotte Bobcats that may help on that front would involve packaging Kelenna Azubuike and Marco Belinelli in exchange for Raja Bell. The Warriors are pondering the offer, but would have to get Azubuike’s consent to make the trade unless they decided to wait until July 24th.

In other Warriors news, it appears that despite not having worked him out, Stephen Curry is the team’s main target should he be available with the 7th pick. Other options include Jordan Hill, Tyreke Evans and James Johnson.

-According to an NBA source, super active Minnesota Timberwolves GM David Kahn has offered Mike Miller to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Chris Kaman. The Clippers shot down that trade, but countered with Marcus Camby.

-A few players that could shake things up on draft night…Taj Gibson to Utah at 20? Wayne Ellington to Philadelphia at 17? Tyler Hansbrough to New Jersey at 11? Ty Lawson to Indiana at 13?

DeJuan Blair’s Outlook Improving?

A pair of MRIs making the rounds amongst NBA teams appear to be easing some concerns about DeJuan Blair’s knees, according to his agent Happy Walters. Blair was red-flagged at the NBA pre-draft camp for the ACL tears he suffered in both knees while in college. He does not appears to have an ACL in either knee now, and there were concerns that he may struggle to stay healthy as his career moves on.

In response, Blair’s camp retrieved an MRI from November of 2008 done at Pittsburgh for doctors to compare with the MRI of his knees from the pre-draft camp earlier this month. The specialists found that there had been “no deterioration in the situation of his knees whatsoever over the course of the season,” which has been conveyed to the doctors of various NBA teams that are most interested in Blair at the moment.

Blair still appears to be strongly in consideration at Indiana (#13) and Chicago (#16), and will indeed visit the Bulls on Tuesday to work out against B.J. Mullens. He’ll be in Utah (picking 20th) on Monday.

DeMarre Carroll’s Health Situation Clarified

Dr. Jeffrey Crippin, one of the leading experts in the world on liver disorders, has given DeMarre Carroll a positive evaluation that has eased the concerns of several NBA teams, Carroll’s agent Mark Bartelstein told DraftExpress.

Carroll was put through a liver biopsy procedure, which showed no signs of deterioration from when he first diagnosed with a disorder a year and a half ago. In a letter sent out to every NBA team outlining the test, results and prognosis, the chances given of something happening to Carroll’s liver that would impact his pro career was estimated at “1-2% at most.” In other words, there is “a negligible risk that his liver situation would have any effect on NBA career,” and that if anything needed to be done, it would be “20-25 years from now.”

Bartelstein indicated that the feedback he had received was that the teams that were apprehensive about the condition had their concerns put to rest.

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