The Minnesota Timberwolves, who reportedly are now armed with four first-round picks in Thursday's NBA Draft, may be in prime position to make a play for the Spanish point guard sensation.
According to multiple reports, Minnesota has acquired the fifth overall pick in Thursday night's NBA draft from Washington in five-player deal that will send Mike Miller and Randy Foye to the Wizards. The deal would give the Wolves selection Nos. 5, 6, 18 and 28 in the first round.
ESPN.com is reporting Minnesota will keep its top two selections. But a report out of Minnesota on Monday said the Wolves were trying to secure last-minute meetings with both Rubio and projected top three pick Hasheem Thabeet.
News of the trade came just hours after The Oklahoman confirmed a Yahoo! Sports report that the Thunder has hired a Spanish law firm to assist with Rubio's troublesome multi-million dollar buyout in case Oklahoma City drafts him.
Memphis owns the No. 2 pick, but there's been nothing to indicate Rubio will land there. The Grizzlies drafted point guard Mike Conley Jr. with the fourth overall pick in 2007 and have a more pressing need for size. Rubio's camp also has refused to allow Rubio to meet with or workout for Memphis officials and Rubio's agent reportedly has advised the Grizzlies to not draft Rubio.
The bind — if Memphis doesn't secretly covet Thabeet — could cause the Grizzlies to explore trading the second pick to Minnesota in exchange for the fifth and sixth selections.
If the Wolves do keep the fifth and sixth picks, Rubio still could fall to the Thunder at No. 3. But if Minnesota is indeed open to trading its first two picks, one scenario that could play out Thursday night could see the Thunder and Wolves swapping top six selections.
Oklahoma City could offer Minnesota a package that includes the No. 3 pick in exchange for picks No. 5 and No. 6, giving the Wolves a chance to still land Rubio if Memphis passes him up.
It would suggest the Thunder isn't sold on Rubio or deems a potential pairing of, say, Arizona State's James Harden and Davidson's Stephen Curry, a better overall fit long term.
But if Oklahoma City is sold on Rubio, the question is does the Thunder covet him enough to enter a potential bidding war?
The Thunder could use some of its assets — the 25th selection or perhaps one of its two first-round selections in 2010 — to flip flop picks with Memphis and allow the Grizzlies to get their man at No. 3.
On a day that saw player movement rev up, the possibilities for Oklahoma City seem endless.
Whatever decision the Thunder makes about Rubio, this week's developments and Sam Presti's background with international players indicate Oklahoma City will cover all of its basis.
Tuesday's news that the Thunder hired a prestigious Spanish law firm was the latest in a series of maneuvers Oklahoma City has made to get a better understanding of Rubio as a player, person and potential problem.
Presti flew to Los Angeles to meet with Rubio last Saturday. It was on that trip that Presti also became one of only two NBA GMs to have dissected Rubio's complicated contract with his Spanish club team, which could cost an estimated $4 million to $6.6 million to get from underneath.
The developments could be part of a high-stakes game of poker in an attempt to drive up the asking price on Rubio or the Thunder genuinely doing its due diligence. But Presti established himself by scouting and advising San Antonio to draft a teenage point guard from France named Tony Parker in 2001.
So Presti's history suggests he will not be apprehensive about selecting Rubio because of any perceived deficiencies in his game. The 18-year-old Rubio is considered a streaky shooter, an average athlete and a questionable defender.
But Presti has repeatedly said and shown he is willing to give young players time and opportunity to develop.
As for any doubts Presti would select a point guard in the top for a second consecutive year after drafting Russell Westbrook fourth overall last June, consider Presti's first draft as GM in 2007.
He didn't hesitate to select two small forwards within three picks of each other. And most observers think that decision is working out quite well.