Weekly Countdown (cont.)
4 Questions rescued from the spam
4. What is the wildest draft rumor you're hearing?
I'm hearing three good ones:
(a) Memphis is trying to trade up for Beasley. The story going around is that the Grizzlies are proposing a package that includes Mike Miller and the No. 5 pick in exchange for Miami's No. 2 pick. Why would the Heat not want to take Beasley? "I think they're worried about Beasley playing in Miami,'' theorized a rival GM, referring to the neon distractions of one of America's party capitals.
Others scoff at the idea that Beasley will be more vulnerable in Miami than other players. "Like the rest of the league is choir boys?'' another GM said. "I get the concern with Beasley, but this is the time of the year when everything gets overanalyzed.''
I'm told the trade can work only if the Heat are assured of being able to draft Mayo at No. 5. The problem is that Mayo is still heavily in play at No. 3 for Minnesota, which by all accounts has yet to decide on its pick (and may trade it as well), and Mayo is also on the board for Seattle at No. 4.
For this rumored deal to be consummated, either Minnesota's pick needs to be included in a complicated three-team trade, or else both Miami and Memphis must wait out the third and fourth picks on draft night before launching a Beasley-Mayo exchange.
"I don't believe it's going to happen,'' said an executive of a team with a top 10 pick. "I hear Minnesota is now saying they're going to take Mayo, which is the smart thing for them to do.''
Said Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace: "I can't comment on rumors, but we're going to be active in the draft and looking at all possibilities. It's way too early to speculate what our position will be, because things in this league don't tend to get resolved until the afternoon or evening of the draft. We're on two tracks: We're involved in the evaluation process of our two spots [Nos. 5 and 28] in the first round, and we're also going around the league to see what's out there for us in terms of a trade.''
The bottom line: Beasley is this draft's most talented individual. Until proved otherwise, I'm assuming he winds up in Miami.
(b) The Warriors are strongly considering Jason Thompson at No. 14. Thompson, a senior power forward at Rider, is listed as a second-round pick in many mock drafts. The Warriors were so impressed by his performance in a 24-player workout last week (attended by more than a dozen teams) that Thompson was reportedly headed back to Oakland for a second workout this weekend.
"I'm not so surprised,'' a Western Conference GM said. "He's pretty versatile, and he can shoot it a little bit, so I can see why Nellie [coach Don Nelson] likes him.''
"I've heard from another team in the top 15 that they're looking at Thompson too,'' a team president said.
Said another GM: "Golden State is all over the map. "They have that big trade exception [of $9.9 million from last year's trade of Jason Richardson to Charlotte; the exception expires June 30] and there are 900 ways they could go.''
(c) Serge Ibaka is rising fast. The 18-year-old center from Congo has been playing organized basketball for a few years, but he had a strong Reebok camp in Italy recently and is coveted by a number of teams drafting in the 20s.
"Think about it this way,'' a GM said. "If you're a playoff team and you want to use some or all of your mid-level exception this summer, then you take a guy like Ibaka and let him continue to develop in Europe [he currently plays for CB L'Hospitalet in Spain] while he stays off your cap.''
The threshold for Ibaka appears to be at No. 20. That pick belongs to the Nuggets, whose vice president, Mark Warkentien, has let it be known that he's happy to talk trade, as always.
3. Here's a thought: The Wolves add the talent and star power they need by taking O.J. Mayo at No. 3, and then package their two top-four second-rounders and either Randy Foye or Rashad McCants to move back up into the late first round and take Robin Lopez, who as a scrappy defender and rebounder can complement to Al Jefferson. Realistic? Not?
To get Robin Lopez they'll probably need to be in the teens, and I doubt they would give up Foye to do it. But maybe they can find a big man they like early in the second round.
The Timberwolves have been difficult to project. By many accounts, they've liked Brook Lopez, Mayo and Love. If somebody wants to trade up for their pick to take Mayo at No. 3, they'll be interested in listening.
2. Do you think the league's decision to allow a zone defense has taken away the star players' ability to carry a team? When you see Kobe Bryant and LeBron James having three guys just standing in the paint waiting for them, it makes the game boring. If these rules were in place during the Jordan era, it might have lessened his dominance of the league.
There is no doubt that Jordan played in a different environment. Defenders were far more physical on the perimeter with hand-checking (remember the defense Gary Payton played at his best) It has changed the rules, that's for sure.
"The rules are completely different now,'' Bryant told me in November. "I've always been able to shoot the ball, but the rules have changed since he played in terms of playing a zone defense. You have to be a jump shooter now because there's no way you can get to the basket -- particularly myself because they just stack guys up. I wish we had the rules they had back in the day where you could isolate guys and you could go to the basket anytime. But now you have to be able to shoot.''
I disagree that this style makes the game boring. Few teams execute defensively as the Celtics did this year through Kevin Garnett, but the only way to beat a defense like Boston's is to push tempo before it can set up, and later try to break it down by switching the ball with a lot of passing. I'd much rather see fast breaks and half-court ball movement than one-on-one play.
1. Whose reputation took a bigger hit in the Finals -- Kobe Bryant's or Phil Jackson's?
Kobe's, without a doubt. See below.