SI.com's NBA draft day blog (cont.)
"The biggest thing with him is building his confidence," Roth said. "When I first got him, I thought he was just another big guy who just stood in front of the rim and took dump-offs. But he's really skilled. He's like a blank canvas. I think eventually he is going to have some really good offensive moves. I think he is going to have a jump hook over his left shoulder, a nice turnaround jump shot and what I call the 'Tim Duncan catch-and-shoot' off the box. He's got a lot of upside." -- Chris Mannix
TRADE BENEFITS FOYE: There is something refreshingly candid about new Timberwolves basketball boss David Kahn, with his expectation that guard Randy Foye will play better for the Wizards than he played with Minnesota. Foye was packaged with swingman Mike Miller for the No. 5 pick (and assorted fringe guys) in Thursday's draft.
"I just felt that he'll be better at the next place,'' Kahn said. `"We're not talking about someone who really struggled. But I think even Randy would say he needs to find his groove.''
How often do you hear NBA execs suggesting that the player they just traded away likely will play better than he had been?
The primary reason Foye should thrive in Washington is he won't constantly hear "Brandon Roy'' thrown at him on a daily basis. It was three years ago, in the 2006 draft, when Minnesota picked Roy at No. 6, then promptly traded him to Portland for No. 7 pick Foye -- and $1 million.
The move backfired immediately. Roy achieved All-Star status, led the Trail Blazers back to the playoffs this year and, though he is a natural shooting guard, already is more adept at running an offense than Foye. Though he's built like a point guard, Foye has played his best when freed to play the other backcourt spot. And while Minnesota was scared off Roy because of injury concerns, it was Foye who had half of 2007-08 wiped out by microfracture knee surgery.
Another reason Foye could thrive in Washington? He'll be with offensive-minded coach Flip Saunders, who used to be pickier about his point guards' style of play until he got Chauncey Billups the second time around in Detroit. -- Steve Aschburner
RUMOR ROUNDUP: The 76ers have shopped Elton Brand. ... Other teams are "very aggressive" in pursuit of Tracy McGrady, according to Rockets GM Daryl Morey. ... The agent for Rajon Rondo, the subject of trade rumors, is unhappy with Celtics boss Danny Ainge. ... The Knicks are close to acquiring Darko Milicic. ... Is Kirk Hinrich headed to Portland?
MOCK DRAFT UPDATE, 12:15 P.M.: Ian Thomsen has just updated his mock draft. His top five: Blake Griffin, Hasheem Thabeet, Ricky Rubio, Tyreke Evans and James Harden. Click here for more.
HANSBROUGH HAS NO DOUBTS: North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough was asked an interesting question during Wednesday's interview session with the top draft prospects: Would you be drafted higher if there were no private workouts with teams and you were judged only on your performance in college?
"I think I would be drafted lower," said Hansbrough, projected to go 19th to Atlanta in a Thursday morning mock draft from SI.com's Ian Thomsen. "I think I really helped myself at the combines, athletic testing and things like that. The one thing that has improved my stock is I proved I am athletic in workouts. People will say what they want, and come up to me and ask, 'Why do people doubt you?' I don't doubt me."
As for mock drafts, Hansbrough does not pay attention to them. "Nope," he said. "But maybe if GMs did it, I would pay attention." -- Richard Deitsch
JENNINGS SLIDING?: As the candidates woke to draft day, the player sliding out of the lottery appeared to be point guard Brandon Jennings, who bypassed his freshman year of college in order to spend last season with the Euroleague club Lottomatica Rome of Italy.
By my count, the only top-10 teams considering Jennings are the Knicks at No. 8 and the Bucks at No. 10, and Jennings is unlikely to go to either of them unless one or more trades change the order of the draft.
The smart move would be to take Jennings out of the green room, but Jennings and agent Bill Duffy had yet to meet as of Thursday morning. I'm sure Duffy will remind Jennings that the order of the draft is meaningless; what matters is that he joins a team that is happy to have him and therefore invests in developing him.
A lot of star players in the NBA -- Paul Pierce, Caron Butler and Rajon Rondo among them -- talk about how being snubbed in the draft was the best thing that happened because it turned them into underdogs and inspired them to work all-out to prove themselves. Say that Jennings winds up in Philadelphia at No. 17 -- as he might -- he'll be with an uptempo team that suits his style, and a team that will want to help him show the rest of the league that he was a steal so late in the draft.
It's funny how it works, but Jennings may have more fans rooting for him as a low pick than he would as a top-10 choice, because if he were to go high in the draft then he would be expected to play well immediately -- and very few players in this draft will meet that standard. -- Ian Thomsen
MINNESOTA'S PLANS: By acquiring more picks than any other NBA rival heading into Thursday night's talent fair -- four first-rounders and two second-rounders -- the Timberwolves just might be able to stumble into success in spite of their dreary draft history. And really, no one could blame David Kahn, the team's new president, if he had surveyed all he inherited when hired last month -- a 24-victory team, a roster with significant holes and overlaps, a five-year skid out of the playoffs -- and decided, like Roy Scheider in his most famous movie moment, "You're gonna need a bigger boat."
So Kahn got the Wolves a bigger boat, acquiring the No. 5 pick to go with the Nos. 6, 18 and 28 that Minnesota already held. With four selections out of the first 28, Kahn's team, just through sheer at-bats, might have a shot at improving on a draft average well south of basketball's Mendoza line.
At a session with reporters Wednesday afternoon, confirming the deal that sent Randy Foye and Mike Miller to the Wizards, Kahn wouldn't specify what he planned to do with all those picks (other than to say he would not package Nos. 5 and 6 for No. 2, a statement he repeated Thursday morning on Dan Patrick's radio show). But it was clear he planned to do something, beyond just adding four rookies with guaranteed contracts and spotty minutes to the 2009-10 edition.
"It's not that we have dismissed or agreed to anything,'' Kahn said. "Right now, we have all this stuff on the table. And we need to now put all this stuff on the table and figure out what would be the best combination of stuff to do. We may not even figure some of this stuff out until the draft.''
That means Minnesota is, for all intents and purposes, already on the clock. -- Steve Aschburner
JENNINGS CLARIFIES RUBIO REMARKS: Brandon Jennings created a stir two weeks when he said Ricky Rubio was overhyped. While Jennings remains confident (and you can italicize that word when it comes to Jennings) about his own abilities, he dialed it down a notch in New York City on Wednesday.
"I'm not trying to be cocky; I'm confident. I'm a competitor. I like to compete," Jennings said. "A couple of GMs asked me why I said what I said about Rubio. ... So I explained to them: I'm just a competitor and I want to be the best. They are saying he's the best point guard in the draft and I want to go against the best. I'm not trying to put anyone down. Ricky is a cool guy, but on the basketball court, I want to be the best."
When asked who was the best point guard in the draft, Jennings smiled. "The best point guard in the draft is whoever gets picked first," he said. "Of course I think it should be me. Of course I think I'm the best point guard in the draft. But Rubio is going to get it and I respect that." -- Richard Deitsch
DRAFT IMPACT OF SHAQ TRADE: Draft day arrives hours after news broke of the Phoenix-Cleveland blockbuster that will send Shaquille O'Neal to Cleveland, but that should not be confused with the Suns' chance to find a replacement. The draft is the last place to look, actually, with the Suns at No. 14 in a terrible year for center prospects and staring only at the considerable risk of Ohio State's mercurial B.J. Mullens.
Even if the Suns take Mullens -- and anywhere around the middle of the first round is a reasonable landing spot -- he is considered talented but far from NBA-ready after one college season. He also been questioned for his heart and dedication to improve. One executive simply said, "I don't think he loves the game."
Said another exec: "If there weren't the doubts, would a guy who looks like that and plays like that be talked about at 15? He'd be a top-five pick.
"He's really, really talented. There's just a lot of holes in that."
Indeed, Mullens has a pro body at 7-foot-1 and 260 pounds, and shows flashes of a real future. There is enough upside that teams want to fall in love with him, especially in the year when Hasheem Thabeet and Mullens will be the only centers off the board in the first round.
In the meantime, the Suns have Ben Wallace, or at least they have Ben Wallace until negotiating a buyout, one of the options that came with acquiring him in the O'Neal trade. There's also Robin Lopez, coming off 10.2 minutes a game as rookie. -- Scott Howard-Cooper
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