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Rumor: Thunder Are High On Stephen Curry and Ricky Rubio

Welcome back to the work week, and what better way to start it off than with fresh rumors concerning the NBA Draft? The draft is now almost precisely 3 days away and all sorts of interesting information is floating around. The Thunder appear to have narrowed down their possibilities to four players: James Harden, Hasheem Thabeet, Ricky Rubio, and Stephen Curry. So, without any further ado, here's your "Rumor Report", which very well could become a daily occurrence up until the draft:

Stephen Curry

Apparently a lot of people in the Thunder organization like Stephen Curry, and he could very well be the pick at #3. The rumor is courtesy of Chad Ford at ESPN who has these quotes on his latest mock draft:

we hear Presti is now hot for Stephen Curry...The scuttle is that Curry is the hot name in the Thunder's draft war room.

Hasheem Thabeet

Some think that Hasheem Thabeet is being steered away from Memphis, much like Ricky Rubio is. He backed out of his workout with the Grizzlies. Chad Ford thinks that Thabeet is attempting to send a message (info on his mock draft):

However, the fact that Thabeet canceled his workout (shoulder injury) with Memphis on Sunday could be a big factor. Chris Wallace has already interviewed him, but owner Michael Heisley hasn't. And the subtle message behind the cancellation can't be what the Grizzlies want to hear -- Thabeet doesn't want to play in Memphis.

More Thabeet News, Plus Very Interesting Rubio Information, After The Jump!

Also, more related to the Thunder, apparently Sam Presti visited Hasheem Thabeet personally on Sunday in Los Angeles, along with James Harden, only a day after he visited Rubio in Los Angeles. Yes, that's right, the Thunder didn't just send anyone to L.A. to talk with the top prospects, Sam Presti went himself. And combine that with the latest news out of DraftExpress:

there seems to be strong indications that he feels very good about his chances of being drafted by Oklahoma City, with one NBA source going as far as to say that the chances of him being picked there if available are "100%."

Ricky Rubio

What did Sam Presti get to take a look at in Los Angeles? Chad Ford:

Thunder GM Sam Presti flew to L.A. on Saturday to talk to Rubio. He also got a chance to review Rubio's physical and contract -- two important pieces of the puzzle for whoever drafts him.

Related to his contract, some positive news for Rubio and anyone who plans to draft him is expected to break today. This was found on HoopsHype, quoted from the Sacramento Bee newspaper:

According to a source close to Rubio, the $6.6 million buyout of the Spanish point guard's contract with his current team, DKV Joventut, will likely be reduced today or tomorrow to an amount where "he knows he'll be able to make the payments," the source said. The resolution of that element of the Rubio equation will, in effect, clear a major obstacle for teams that are considering drafting him Thursday but have concerns about when he would join their team. And that, of course, includes the Kings.

Basically, Rubio could join the team that he gets drafted by for summer camp in July, which obviously makes him a much more attractive prospect now. I'm sure Sam Presti, along with several other GMs, are noticeably more interested. For what it's worth, the team that drafts Rubio can only pay $500,000 of his contract buyout. The buyout should still be reduced as it far exceeds his salary of just under $100,000 playing in Spain.

Let's take a look now at Rubio's chances of being drafted by the Thunder. It appears they are growing by the day. First, we hear news that he is no longer on the Memphis draft board AT ALL (Chad Ford):

As for the rest of the Grizzlies' draft board? Notably absent is Ricky Rubio. Sources say he is off the board after refusing to visit.

With Blake Griffin going #1, it doesn't take a great mathematician or philosopher to figure out that if Chad Ford's info is correct, Rubio will likely be available at #3. Why does this matter? From DraftExpress:

Ricky Rubio, who Oklahoma City spent the last day and a half with in Los Angeles meeting with alongside his family.

A whole day and a half? Seems like the Thunder are quite interested.

James Harden

Let's not slight Harden, who many still consider to be the likely pick for the Thunder. Certainly he seems to fill a need for the Thunder, but the field appears to have opened up in the past few days. Not to mention, Harden could be gone by the third pick (DraftExpress):

While Harden may not have helped himself with his poor workout in Memphis, he may be the last man standing at this point—the only player in the elite tier of prospects that actually is interested in playing there. The fact that highly influential Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley flew into Memphis to watch Thabeet, only to have him cancel his workout at the last minute, could bode very well for Harden.

Meanwhile, the Thunder seem to have done all their homework on Harden, and he'll certainly be in consideration if he's there at the third pick (DraftExpress):

Sam Presti also took time out on Sunday evening to meet with James Harden, which is Oklahoma City’s third meeting with him so far, including his workout at their facility and an interview at the NBA combine in Chicago.

My Analysis

Despite what people consistently said about Rubio wanting to avoid Oklahoma City, I sincerely doubt he would have spent his weekend with the Thunder organization if he wasn't interested. I'm starting to think that Rubio might be the pick if he's there at #3. The big problem is Memphis. Their top two targets - Thabeet and Rubio - seemingly don't want to play in Memphis. If the Grizzlies stay put, they may just go with James Harden, or perhaps Tyreke Evans or Stephen Curry would slide way up the draft board. They apparently really like Harden, and Evans already has a following in Memphis, having played for the college there.

The Timberwolves are actively engaged in trying to trade up to the #2 spot with Memphis, as apparently Rubio has warmed up to the idea of playing in Minnesota. However, Rubio (because of his buyout) is probably going to need the money of a top 3 pick, not the #6 pick where Minnesota currently sits. If the Wolves trade up, Rubio will be off the board. The Kings and the Knicks were also rumored to be interested in trading up for Rubio.

With 4 targets that the Thunder organization is very high on, I doubt they will trade their #3 pick. As I posted in the last story, that's seeming more likely with the later pick. They are probably going to sit put and figure out who to take depending on who goes with the 2nd pick. Despite the information from the NBA source that says the Thunder will definitely take Thabeet if he's there, I'm not so sure. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised to see Rubio get selected by the Thunder. Presti will then get a lot of trade offers, but from the sound of it, he'd also be equally happy having him play for the team.

The big wild card in all of this is Stephen Curry. If the Thunder are indeed wild about him, we could have a big surprise on draft night.

Of course, if Rubio is available at #3, I'm betting that the Thunder will get some very interesting and tempting trade offers. And if the Thunder have two more guys that they are high on, I could see them settling on a deal with maybe the Kings or the Wolves, and dropping back and taking Harden or Curry.

In any case, the draft board seems to have opened up for the Thunder considerably over the weekend, and now I'm not entirely sure who they'll pick. It seems to be about equal chances for Harden, Rubio and Thabeet with lesser chances for Curry, but the outside chance that he'll slide up to the third pick.