Pre-draft rumors roundup (Updated: 3:18 p.m.)
Uncertainty is the unofficial theme of tonight’s NBA draft. There are only hours to go until the broadcast (6 p.m. CT, ESPN) and unlike years past, there’s no consensus on the top picks. Even the top teams easily could change, if trade rumors are true. In short: we have all the ingredients for a fun night.
Here’s what those in the know are saying about KU’s draft prospects:
6/27, 3:09 p.m. — Sacramento trying to trade up for McLemore
The Kings (seventh pick) may be targeting Ben McLemore and could trade up to grab him, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports. According to USA Today's Sam Amick, talks have been with Phoenix at No. 5. The Sacramento front office has been a bit of a mess in recent years (see: Robinson, Thomas, trade) but with new owners and a new GM, there's some hope for the future if McLemore lands there.
6/27, 12:35 p.m. — McLemore still in play at No. 1
Several media folks are reporting that the Cavs have yet to decide on their pick at No. 1. FOX Sports Ohio's Sam Amico, who predicts McLemore to Cleveland, confirmed the Cavs were still meeting at 11:30 a.m. And Cleveland-based ESPN radio host Kenny Roda tweeted:
And I'm a little excited for the 1st time about this draft, because I'm hearing Cavs haven't ruled out Ben McLemore at this point.
But what about those previous reports about McLemore slipping? A bit of perspective from SBNation's Tom Ziller, who has McLemore heading to Orlando at No. 2:
The whole push by teams further down the top ten to convince everyone that McLemore sucks has been pretty sexy, but it's also pretty obvious to people like (Magic GM) Rob Hennigan who are in the trenches.
6/26 — Timberwolves moving up for McLemore?
ESPN reports the Minnesota Timberwolves may be looking to move from No. 9 to the top 5 in order to draft McLemore or Victor Oladipo of Indiana. That could be great news for McLemore, as earlier this week, Grantland.com pegged the Wolves as McLemore’s best fit. ESPN’s Chad Ford also argued:
Of all the teams in the draft, McLemore's best fit is Minnesota. Fits a huge need, doesn't have to be the alpha dog and has a terrific point guard to help put him in scoring positions. It's in both of their best interests to find each other.
Unfortunately for McLemore, it looks like Oladipo is Minnesota’s top choice.
6/26 — Cavs’ roster still has room for a two-guard
Some have speculated the Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t considering McLemore at No. 1 after selecting shooting guard Dion Waiters at No. 4 in last year’s draft. That may not be the case, according to ESPN’s Chad Ford, who could see McLemore in Cleveland if “The Cavs either believe that Dion Waiters' game is better suited to a sixth-man role or are trying to trade him (I've heard both).” If the Cavs draft McLemore and keep Waiters, expect this scenario to play out.
6/26 — McLemore’s representation not a big deal
Earlier reports indicated missteps by agent Rodney Blackstock might scare teams away from McLemore, but DraftExpress.com’s Jonathan Givony tweeted this Wednesday:
NBA teams telling me the concerns around Ben McLemore's agent are overblown. Exec: "He's maybe guilty of being naïve, but really who cares?"
6/26 — From ‘Hawks to Hawks?
Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Jeff Withey worked out Wednesday for the Atlanta Hawks, who are picking 17th and 18th overall. Draft experts generally are predicting the 20s (late first round) to 30s (early second round) as Withey’s range. Other teams Withey’s worked out for include: Boston (16), Chicago (20), Utah (21), Brooklyn (22), Indiana (23), New York (24), L.A. Clippers (25), Minnesota (26), Denver (27), Phoenix (30), and Philadelphia (35).
6/25 — Draft’s best all-around big man, right now?
ESPN’s Ryan Feldman compared 10 of the draft’s top centers and power forwards by college stats, and Jeff Withey emerged as the only prospect in the top 6 of all six categories. DraftExpress.com's Kyle Nelson is also a fan of Withey's all-around game:
Jeff Withey rounds out the top-five in PER, doing a little bit of everything in his breakout senior season. Withey has just as many weaknesses as strengths, but all in all projects favorably as a role player at the next level.
Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson
Prediction: Undrafted (Draft Express and ESPN)
6/24 — Numbers unkind to KU prospects
It looks like the numbers aren’t fans of the other draft-eligible Jayhawks, Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson (sorry, no Kevin Young). ESPN analyst and former NBA consultant Kevin Pelton ranked the 2013 draft class by projected pro success, and unsurprisingly, Releford and Johnson ended up at the bottom of the list. Using WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player) projections, which factor in college stats, player win percentage and age, Pelton ranked Johnson 87th and Releford 89th out of ESPN’s top 100 prospects. Pelton admits the metric isn't perfect, but it’s had some predictive success in the past.
By comparison, top-5 prospect Ben McLemore ranks just 36th out of 100, with a WARP of 1.1 (2.0 usually means NBA starter; McLemore’s hurt by turnovers, low steal rate and not enough free-throws drawn). Jeff Withey is 39th, with a 1.0 WARP.
Pelton went on a Utah Jazz podcast this week and had this to say about WARP and Withey:
The WARP projection is the most important (predictor of success) because that’s the combination of the win percentage, which is how effective we can expect them to be next season, more or less, in the NBA, and their age. It’s kind of the long-term piece of this. But, also, it can be important to get an immediate contributor. So one guy that doesn’t come out well in terms of WARP projection but I still tend to like is Jeff Withey, because he’ll be a valuable player next year for you. If you’re picking in the 20s or the 30s, I think if you’re a playoff team looking for a contributor, that’s a very valuable piece.
6/22 — Releford could go second round; Johnson undrafted
KUsports.com’s Gary Bedore spoke last weekend with an NBA front-office official and asked about Releford and Johnson:
Travis Releford played well at workouts and may now be a second-round pick. "I hear he’s late 40s," the NBA official said. "The Lakers (18th pick second round) would like to have a big guard like him. I’d say it’s 50-50 whether he gets drafted." ... Elijah Johnson will not be drafted, the NBA official said. "He’s not on the radar. There’s some concern about his knee. If he asked me, I’d tell him to go to Spain and Italy and call it a day, make all that money over there tax-free.”
Teams Releford has worked out for include: Denver (29th overall), Sacramento (36), L.A. Lakers (48) and several others at a Brooklyn combine.
Teams Johnson has worked out for include: L.A. Clippers (25), Houston (34), Detroit (37, 56), Washington (38, 54), Portland (39, 40, 45), Dallas (44) and Utah (46).
6/26 — Houston seeking Robinson trade
Yes, T-Rob, selected fifth overall by the Sacramento Kings last year, may be a name you hear during this year’s draft. The Houston Rockets are looking to shed some salary to pursue free agent center Dwight Howard, according to ESPN’s Chad Ford and Marc Stein. Cleveland and Chicago are mentioned as possible destinations, though the report says the Bulls would likely flip Robinson to another team immediately. The Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen reported that the San Antonio Spurs, led by KU-connected R.C. Buford, also have interest. Any way you slice it, T-Rob looks to be heading to his third (or fourth!) team before the start of his second NBA season.
6/27, 12:14 p.m. — Nets, Celtics talk Pierce, Garnett deal
Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting Brooklyn's interest in a trade for Boston's Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Woj cautions "no deal is imminent" as KG would have to waive his no-trade clause to head to the Nets. It may prove to be more than a rumor, but for now it's just further proof that Pierce's days as a Celtic are numbered.
6/25 — Boston may trade Pierce for pick or players
With coach Doc Rivers now in L.A. and Boston looking at a rebuilding period, there’s speculation that career Celtic Paul Pierce may be moved during the draft, possibly for picks. Hoopsworld’s Alex Kennedy reported that the Celtics, who only have a first-round pick, have scheduled last-minute workouts with second-round prospects. Cleveland, Milwaukee and Atlanta have been mentioned as possible trade partners. Even if Pierce isn't traded, there’s still a chance Boston will buy out his contract by June 30.
The reports are only going to pick up throughout the day today, so share ‘em if you see 'em. And remember: KUsports.com’s Matt Tait will be live from the Barclays Center later tonight.
Hold on tight.