Chad Ford of ESPN wrote:
The hottest rumor at the camp Thursday had the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder in hot and heavy talks about a swap of the No. 1 pick for the No. 3 pick. I heard a number of variations, including Oklahoma City sending Jeff Green to Los Angeles and another in which the Thunder take back one of the Clippers' bad contracts, particularly those of Zach Randolph or Chris Kaman.
But Clippers general manager Mike Dunleavy told me Thursday afternoon that all of this talk about his team trading the No. 1 pick to the Thunder (or any other team) is hooey. While Dunleavy has had to backtrack after saying publicly that the Clippers would draft Blake Griffin with the top pick (which violated the unwritten rule that you're not supposed to announce your pick until draft night), all signs are pointing strongly toward L.A. selecting Griffin and keeping him.
"I know there's a lot of talk about who's the best fit or the best team need," Dunleavy said. "But to me you pick the best player available and you make it work. That's what we're going to do."
The Clippers have a glut of highly paid players on their front line, including Randolph ($16 million next year), Kaman ($10.4 million) and Marcus Camby ($9.1 million next year). Add in the roughly $4.9 million that Griffin would earn next year and you're talking about $40 million on the front line of a lottery team.
But Dunleavy is adamant that the Clippers' 2009-10 season could be very different from this past 19-win campaign. He points first to all the injuries the team suffered last season and says that, with a little more luck, the Clippers could be playoff contenders.
"I think when you look at our roster, with everyone healthy and a No. 1 pick, I think we have a lot of talent and will win a lot of basketball games," Dunleavy said.
Dunleavy was emphatic that the team is no longer looking to trade point guard Baron Davis. The team flirted with trading Davis at the February deadline but now feels as though he could be a big asset.
"When he's healthy, he's one of the best point guards in the game," Dunleavy said. "The issue has always been conditioning. This year he's already working out. He wasn't happy with his performance last season. I think you'll see a different Baron this fall."
Dunleavy is high on rookie Eric Gordon, second-year forward Al Thornton and two recent second-round picks, DeAndre Jordan and Mike Taylor. He went as far as to compare Jordan to a young Tyson Chandler.
Could a healthy Clippers team with Davis, Gordon, Thornton, Griffin, Randolph, Kaman and Camby reach the postseason while playing in the ultra-competitive Western Conference?
Said a rival GM: "It will be tough, because there's so many good teams in the West. But yes, if they're healthy and everyone is getting along, they would be tough with Griffin."
• I also caught up with Memphis Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace in Chicago. I was curious about a number of reports that have suggested that the Grizzlies are settling on Ricky Rubio as the No. 2 pick.
Wallace said he, coach Lionel Hollins and center Marc Gasol had traveled to Barcelona to meet Rubio and his family. He said Rubio was in a mix of players that also included UConn's Hasheem Thabeet, among others.
"We don't know who we're taking at No. 2," Wallace said. "There's still a lot of homework we have to do."
I asked Wallace about the team's potential glut of point guards. Mike Conley was the No. 4 pick in the draft just two years ago. And last year's first-rounder, O.J. Mayo, also can play the point.
Wallace said the Grizzlies were happy with Conley's improvement under Hollins and believe Mayo could become a combo guard, playing both the 1 and the 2. But Wallace said that even with those assets, he wouldn't shy away from taking Rubio or another point guard, if the team thought he was the best player.
All that said, I have a hard time believing, given the factors in play, that Rubio will be wearing a Grizzlies uniform next season.
• Speaking of Rubio, I encountered a number of NBA GMs and scouts this week who were pretty skeptical about Rubio's NBA future. They see him as an average athlete who can't shoot well and who is turnover prone, and wonder aloud why he's ranked so high.
A few GMs said Rubio isn't in their top five. While I've heard doubts expressed before, the skepticism was expressed much more strongly this week by more execs. I'm going to keep digging. Maybe Henry Abbott struck a chord with his TrueHoop post on Rubio.
In any case, if Memphis and Oklahoma City decide against Rubio and don't trade either of their picks to a team that wants to move up to get him, it's hard to see the Sacramento Kings passing on Rubio at No. 4.