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Rumors swirl as teams jockey for draft position

MIKE BALDWIN Published: June 25, 2009
In a draft where Blake Griffin is viewed as the only can’t-miss player, trade rumors have been rampant the final two days leading up to tonight’s NBA Draft.

The Oklahoma City Thunder has been mentioned in several trade rumors:

OKC trades its No. 3 pick to Minnesota for the No. 5 and No. 18 picks.

The Thunder acquires the No. 14 pick, possibly earmarked for Ohio State center B.J. Mullens, by giving the Suns its No. 25 pick and Phoenix’s unprotected 2010 pick that general manager Sam Presti acquired two years ago in the Kurt Thomas trade.

What if Spain teenage point guard Ricky Rubio is still available at No. 3? Would Presti select him?

If Presti selects Rubio, does he trade him minutes later or keep him to play alongside Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook?

If OKC trades down to No. 5, does Presti prefer James Harden or Stephen Curry?

The two keys to the draft are what Minnesota does and where Rubio goes tonight.

A source told The Oklahoman on Wednesday that Minnesota, which has the Nos. 5, 6, 18 and 28 picks, might try to move up to No. 3, not to select Hasheem Thabeet or Rubio, but Tyreke Evans.

The Timberwolves are convinced the Sacramento Kings will take Evans at No. 4 and might want to leapfrog the Kings. But Minnesota also has interest in Rubio and Thabeet, so it doesn’t want to overpay and might keep picks 5 and 6.

"There’s not the star power at the top that we had in ’03 or ’05” said ESPN analyst Jay Bilas. "The problem is some of the players that are projected to be more talented, you may have to wait on them for a while. You might have to overpay the top spots, two through nine.”

It’s conceivable that half of the 30 first-round picks could be traded. In the NBA Draft, that’s selecting a player and minutes later shipping them to another team.

"There are so many rumors it’s hard to distinguish which ones are real and which ones are smoke screens, which you often see the final few days before the draft,” said an Eastern Conference scout.