Draft notes: Evans in play at No. 4, Wolves active in trade talks, more
Tyreke Evans is focused on proving to teams that he can hit perimeter jumpers
Tyler Hansbrough looks to be a good bet to get selected late in the first round
The Timberwolves have three first-round picks and a new boss calling the shots
The latest buzz on the June 25 draft:
Tyreke Evans began individual workouts Tuesday in Sacramento with a meaningful showing in a meaningful place, shooting well enough to immediately address the main concern about his vast skill set. Conceding his perimeter game will receive great scrutiny (he made 27.4 percent from three-point range as a freshman), Evans said extra work since the end of the Memphis season helped him build confidence in his shot. The initial returns were a credible, if streaky, outing and the strong likelihood that the Kings will have him back for another workout as a serious candidate for the fourth pick.
Friday is the next big moment in deciding No. 4 as the Kings look to address their most pressing position need in a deep year for playmakers. UCLA's Jrue Holiday, in Sacramento for a second workout, will go against the Italian League's Brandon Jennings and Syracuse's Jonny Flynn in a point-guard showdown that may reverberate all the way to draft night. The Kings remain hopeful of a visit from Ricky Rubio, but have nothing scheduled.
Tyler Hansbrough continues to project somewhere late in the first round, a downer for someone with the hype of being named college player of the year in 2008 but still better than the incorrect assumptions that North Carolina's workhorse power forward is strictly second-round material with no chance of an NBA career. "In this draft, he has a decent shot of going at the end of the first, in the 20 to 30 range," said one general manager in a back-handed compliment. Another executive, noting how Hansbrough has been routinely disparaged while spending two seasons under a constant spotlight, has gone so far as to say, "I think he's one of the most underrated players in the draft." Some residents of Krzyzewskiville just lost their lunch.
New Timberwolves president David Kahn is not easing into the job. Though typically displaying a relaxed personality and going slowly in deciding the future of Kevin McHale as coach, Kahn has been aggressive in making Minnesota active in trade talks. Three picks in the first round -- No. 6, No. 18 from the Heat and No. 28 from the Celtics -- puts him in ideal maneuvering position. The discussions also provide an opportunity for an executive who was out of the league this season to gauge the market value of his roster.
No other team has the Timberwolves' spending power in this draft, and no other team has the challenge of having a personnel boss who was hired last month without benefit of a single official scouting trip the entire college season. Kahn, a former Pacers general manager under Donnie Walsh, most recently owned and operated D-League franchises in Reno and Albuquerque, before selling in January. Anticipating he would get back into the NBA at some point, Kahn did pay his own way to watch games in Europe, and Minnesota does have a staff in place with Jim Stack and Fred Hoiberg heading the 2008-09 scouting.
"I do feel as though I've spent a lot of time on the draft," Kahn said. "But I'm not going to lie and say it's exactly the same as if I had the job all season. It is different."
It's not just the tangible of measuring 6-5¼ in socks and 6-6½ in shoes that could hurt DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh's undersized power forward. There's also the wonder of why he didn't get in better shape during the season and waited until draft preparations to lose weight in what strikes some teams as more contract drive than long-term commitment. On the other hand, Kevin Love faced the same conditioning questions a year ago and turned in a productive rookie season with the Timberwolves. "It's something you're always concerned about -- if you lost the weight, you can put it back on," one executive said. "But watching him in college, the weight didn't hurt him a lot. He knocked the crap out of people. He's strong." Plus, Blair's bubbly personality will win fans wherever he lands.
Teams are still doing their best to fall in love with DeMar DeRozan, a mega-athlete with star potential but also a 6-foot-6 perimeter player who is no threat to make a shot from the perimeter, which can be a problem. He even managed just 64.6 percent from the free-throw line to go with 16.7 percent from three-point range as a USC freshman. One veteran talent evaluator called DeRozan's shot "poor." But others are more forgiving, or hopeful. "He's not a great shooter, but I'd think he can develop it," one GM said. Added another: "I don't think [he can be dependable] yet, but I think he'll be able to get there. ... He's tremendously athletic. I just think his game is two or three years away from developing."
This could be another Pac-10 draft. A year after conference representatives went third (O.J. Mayo, USC), fourth (Russell Westbrook, UCLA), fifth (Love, UCLA), 10th (Brook Lopez, Stanford) and 11th (Jerryd Bayless, Arizona), the lottery could turn into another showcase. Four of the first six or eight picks could be from the Pac-10, with James Harden of Arizona State, Jordan Hill of Arizona, DeRozan of USC and Holiday of UCLA. Plus, Jennings, who signed with Arizona before choosing a pro contract in Italy rather than a freshman season, gets honorary citizenship.
Ty Lawson of North Carolina, Darren Collison of UCLA and Tyrese Rice of Boston College are among those who owe the 6-foot, 161-pound Aaron Brooks at least a thank you and maybe even a check. Brooks' postseason impact as a tempo-changer for the Rockets, particularly against the Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals, was a reminder of the value of small point guards at a time when Derrick Rose and Westbrook made the All-Rookie team with a physical presence at 6-foot-3. "He definitely made me some money," Collison said of Brooks. Noted Rice: "It makes my life a lot easier."
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