Loud Links: June 2, 2009

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There is plenty of Thunder news floating around the net today. The most interesting information is the athletic results from the NBA Draft Combine. James Harden has a 37-inch vertical. Blake Griffin was one of the strongest players at the Combine. Patrick Mills was one of the quickest players with a ¾ court sprint of 3.10 seconds (Harden wasn’t too shabby with a 3.13 second sprint). There is news from Spain concerning Rubio’s likelihood to play ball in the States this fall. There is more trade rumors concerning the draft, and of course Oklahoma City is right in the middle of the conversation. Seattle laments during the 30th anniversary of the Sonics’ 1979 championship. Damien Wilkins is back in school, and is apparently suffering from delusions of grandeur.

Ricky: "Si no hay un buen proyecto no voy a la NBA"
Ricky Rubio habló por primera vez de su futuro después de que se produjese el sorteo del draft. El base del DKV Joventut afirmó con rotunidad en 'El Punt' que "si no hay un buen proyecto no voy a la NBA". En Estados Unidos se sigue especulando sobre el futuro de Ricky. El español ya ha confirmado que su agente ya está hablando con algunos mánagers de la NBA. "Hay que ver cuál es la mejor opción para mí. Memphis tiene el dos, pero eso no quiere decir nada", afirmó el base.

OR if you prefer English...

Monday Bullets - TrueHoop By Henry Abbott - ESPN
Ricky Rubio tells a Spanish newspaper that if his rights end up with an NBA team that is not headed in the right direction, he will stay in Spain. He also says that a good outcome of the ongoing buyout negotiations with DKV Joventut are key his joining the NBA.

DraftExpress: Pre Draft Measurements
NBA Draft scouting reports, mock drafts, articles on NBA Draft Prospects. Extensive high school, NCAA and international NBA draft coverage.

NBA Draft - D.R.A.F.T. Initiative: Dearth of talent makes wise drafting even more critical - ESPN
When the NBA draft started more than 50 years ago, it was like a bare-knuckles fight -- there was no limit on the number of rounds, allowing teams to draft players for as long as they could stand, including a record 21 rounds in 1960. Times change. Since then, the draft has been shrunk (to 10 rounds by the mid-1970s) and downsized (to seven in 1985) and desiccated (to the current two rounds in 1989). Obviously, drafts can change the course of league history (see: Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan), and every year on draft night, we like to point and stare at the big suits and the Big Suit.

NBA draft: Ranking the top point guards - ESPN
CHICAGO -- The first-ever NBA draft combine is a wrap, and the outcome wasn't as bad as many had predicted. No, there weren't any 5-on-5 games. And yes, several of the top players refused to participate in light drills. But the combine did provide some clarity in several key areas. The first -- and, arguably, the most important -- was a better understanding of the top point guard prospects. While the draft is weak overall, the point guard class is strong, and seeing all the top prospects on the floor (with the exception of Ricky Rubio and Tyreke Evans) was the most interesting part of the combine.

Which teams are willing to sell their picks? - ESPN Insider
With draft day now less than a month away, a number of teams are looking to either get in the draft or grab another first-round pick. The Knicks are trying to use their considerable wealth (a team can pay up to $3 million for a pick) to search for a seller. They have the eighth pick in the draft, but would like another pick. With the team trying to manage its cap, draft picks are a cheap source of labor. And with the economy turning sour for NBA teams, the Knicks might seize the opportunity.

NBA Draft Power Forward Rankings
Blake Griffin will not only be carrying the banner for what is a very interesting 2009 NBA Draft class but he is also the flagship player for one of the deepest positions in the NBA Draft, power forward. And after watching the Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics take the last two Eastern Conference titles it's obvious that power ball is "in" on the hardwood. And if you want to beat the best you have to be able to overpower them near the basket.

American Chronicle | Building Block; Walsh Has Eye on Big Man Thabeet
It is why Walsh is so intrigued with Hasheem Thabeet, UConn's 7- 3 junior shotblocker. Walsh interviewed Thabeet during the Chicago NBA Draft combine Wednesday and is the only prospect he views worthy enough to give up a decent asset to move up from No. 8 in the draft. The Knicks were last in shotblocking the past two seasons. Dikembe Mutombo retired last month and the next Mutombo is ready to join the NBA. If Memphis takes Ricky Rubio at No. 2 instead of Thabeet, there is a feeling Oklahoma City, with the third pick, could be willing to trade down instead of taking the shotblocker from Tanzania.

NBA draft: Jrue Holiday, Earl Clark and DeJuan Blair could go high in 2009 draft - ESPN
At the end of the week, I traveled from the West Coast to Florida to the Pro Training Center at IMG Academy in Bradenton to get a closer look at three players ranked in my top 15 whom scouts are much more divided on -- UCLA's Jrue Holiday, Louisville's Earl Clark and Pittsburgh's DeJuan Blair. Those three are currently ranked eighth, 11th and 12th in my Top 100. But the truth is, they all could end up going significantly higher or lower than the late lottery as teams try to get a better feel for them. Although each player is totally different from the others, all three are a bit of an enigma.

X-Mas and O’s: An Interview with Dionte Christmas
Never have I met a man whose surname so properly captures his demeanor. Dionte Christmas is generous with his smile and his time. Christmas also possesses the two characteristics that I came to find most endearing in the players I met during the Combine: He is mature and appreciative. In some sense they are two sides of the same coin. During his 4 years at Temple he developed his maturity and that has allowed him to recognize that, as a currently projected late second-rounder, he is by no means assured a spot on an NBA roster. Despite draft projections he received a bit more attention than the other players expected to go in the late 50s, by-products of his charming personality and on-court heroics in college (several reporters, including myself, brought up the Temple-Tennessee upset from earlier this season). Those attracted me to Christmas but, more importantly, I wanted to discuss the private workout he had conducted with the Spurs.

2009 NBA MOCK DRAFT - Consensus 4.0
HOOPSWORLD's 2009 NBA Mock Draft team has assembled thier weekly installment of the Consensus Mock Draft, look for weekly updates as we track the latest movement in the 2009...

DraftExpress: Word on the Street, June 2nd
With the Detroit Pistons looking to get as far under the salary cap as they can this summer, and the Oklahoma City Thunder being one of the few teams who are able to help them shed salary, the two teams have emerged as natural trade partners, multiple NBA sources told DraftExpress this past weekend. With very few teams projected to have cap space this summer (Oklahoma City, Memphis, Portland, Sacramento and Atlanta being the main ones), it appears that Detroit could be in great position to take advantage of the strength of this free agent class and nab a couple of pieces that would put them right back in the mix to compete for the Eastern conference finals. Detroit is currently slated to be around 20 million dollars underneath the cap, but could shed another five million or so by unloading the contracts of Amir Johnson and their first round pick (#15).

Hasheem Thabeet vs. James Harden
Thabeet is a defensive force, He blocks and changes countless shots. He also runs the floor very well for his size. His improvement from his freshman year to the end of this past season has been impressive and he still has a high ceiling for future growth. At 7'3'' and 265 lbs i think he still has room to put 15 to 20 more lbs on his frame, which would help him against more stout players. Offensively is where he draws criticism but his offense has improved every year and it is no reason to believe with NBA coaching that it won't continue to improve. He may never be a go to post player, but if he can be a dominant rebounder, shot blocker and on offense just finish strong in the paint then he is worth the pick. I personally think he can be more. He has a soft touch around the basket and he is a underrated free throw shooter. Another asset is the fact that we have Nenad Krstic. We don't have to put Thabeet under immediate pressure, whether he starts or not he can share the Center position initially with Krstic, allowing him to grow as a player under less pressure to pay instant dividends. Thabeet is a guy who can instantly shave points off our points per game allowed average and bring us closer to consistently competing for championships, He is a special defensive presence.

Blake Griffin Ready to be a Clipper
While Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin has been the consensus number one pick for months, his destination became clear on May 19th when the Los Angeles Clippers won the lottery. It didn't take long for the Clippers to acknowledge that Griffin would indeed be their choice; a number of teams may try to pry Blake away but the word out of LA is that the Clippers are steadfast in their decision.

Three decades after huge Sonics celebration, fan turnout is small
As thousands partied in the streets of Pioneer Square, a man climbed a light pole, screaming his admiration for the Seattle SuperSonics. Someone at St. James Cathedral rang the church bells. Fireworks burst over Queen Anne Hill, and thousands wearing green and yellow swarmed downtown. But Monday evening - 30 years after the NBA championship win - the only banner this year at what used to be the Sonics Team Shop was a solid black one draped just past the entrance to the store, which shuttered last year.

Scout.com: Wilkins a New Man
"Everyone is going to be trying to sign both me and LeBron next summer," Wilkins said with a chuckle. James’ free agent signing will likely be the largest in NBA history. That’s not to say Wilkins’ new signing won’t have plenty of zeros behind it. The former Georgia star pocketed a reported $3.1 million for the 2008-09 season alone. That begs the question – why come back to get a degree, when you are already a millionaire?

Varejao opting out
Anderson Varejao did not meet with the media Sunday, but a league source said that he intends to opt out of the final year of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. This option was part of three-year offer sheet Varejao signed with the Charlotte Bobcats that the Cavs matched in 2007.

2009 NBA Draft Workouts
Who is Working Out With Who? The 2009 Draft Workout Schedule! Updated daily.

2009 NBA Mock Draft: Version 3.0 - ESPN
Once again, the Thunder are proving to be a tough nut to crack. Last year, we heard them attached to five or six guys in the draft. This year is no different. In Chicago, rumors were flying all over the place about which player the Thunder are after. I heard Rubio, Thabeet, James Harden, Jordan Hill and even Stephen Curry mentioned this week. I'm told that the Thunder like Rubio and that Rubio isn't averse to playing in OKC. The issue for the Thunder is fit and opportunity. Many on the team see Russell Westbrook as their point guard of the future and aren't sure how he'd fare without the ball in his hands. Maybe more importantly, Thunder GM Sam Presti is an opportunist. If he can get a couple of good assets in return for the No. 3 pick, he won't be afraid to pull the trigger. If Rubio is off the board, this will be a tough decision. Thabeet would give them the shot-blocking they desperately need. Harden would give them the savvy of a veteran. Curry would give them shooting. Hill would give them rebounding and energy. They could use all those things.

NBA draft: Who are the best athletes? - ESPN
Notre Dame's Luke Harangody and Oklahoma's Blake Griffin tested as the strongest athletes in the camp. Harangody bench-pressed 185 pounds 23 times, and Griffin did 22 reps. One other player, Xavier's Derrick Brown, got the bar up 20 times. Daye followed in Kevin Durant's footsteps by being unable to lift the bar once. Vasquez was able to get the bar up only once, and Israel's Omri Casspi got the bar up only twice.

ESPN: Chat with Chad Ford - SportsNation
Bo (OK): Can you tell me a scenario that lands Blake Griffin in a Homeklahoma city thunder uniform? SportsNation Chad Ford: Sorry ... the more I talked to the Clippers last week the more convinced I was that they're keeping him. I think the NBA should ban the Clippers from the the top three picks. It's like buying a new Bentley and then parking it at a Motel 6.

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