Draft buzz: Nets consider Johnson at No. 3
Perhaps it won’t be long until panic starts to set into the Minnesota Timberwolves, where two things need to become increasingly clear: They’re far overvaluing Al Jefferson’s(notes) trade value; and Syracuse’s Wesley Johnson is no longer assured to be available to them with the fourth pick in Thursday’s NBA draft.
All along, the Wolves had planned to select Johnson at No. 4, and yet the New Jersey Nets are holding serious discussions about drafting the small forward and taking their chances with trying to sign a power forward in free agency. The Nets had long favored Derrick Favors, but are debating now about how long it will take for him to become a regular contributor. New Jersey is still contemplating DeMarcus Cousins, too.
Under general manager David Kahn, the Wolves are becoming the organization that no one wants to send players. Kahn’s condescending, abrasive style is frustrating to rival GMs and agents because few people believe he has the background, knowledge or credentials to even hold the job. To his credit, Kahn did hire a personable assistant GM, Tony Ronzone, who can work the phones for him.
Nevertheless, Cousins wouldn’t work out for the Wolves. Nor did Georgetown center Greg Monroe, who traveled to the two teams in the next two spots, Sacramento and Golden State. Favors reluctantly worked out for the Wolves only to have Kahn insult him by calling him “out of shape.” This infuriated Favors’ agent Wallace Prather, and has strained the relationship there. It makes no sense for the Wolves to draft another power forward, anyway.
Kahn has tried to assure agents he’s going to move Jefferson before the season, but it won’t be long until he realizes how little value his power forward has with such an expensive contract and a reconstructed knee. The Wolves have two power forwards, Jefferson and Kevin Love(notes), who don’t complement each other, and no center.
Minnesota wants Memphis’ Rudy Gay(notes) in free agency, but sources say the only way Gay will even consider the Wolves is if they massively overpay him. That’s why the Wolves were so determined to draft Johnson and why they have to be terrified that he could be gone at No. 4.
The Wolves are also willing to move point guard Jonny Flynn(notes), and have discussed a deal with the Indiana Pacers, sources said. The Wolves are willing to part with the 16th and 23rd picks as part of a bigger package to move up to No. 10. This way, the Wolves could possibly gain the leverage to make a deal with Philadelphia to secure the No. 2 pick and grab Ohio State’s Evan Turner.
Sources say Flynn was frustrated throughout the season with the triangle offense and clashed with Wolves coach Kurt Rambis over the system. Rambis brought the offense with him from the Los Angeles Lakers, but traditionally it’s worked best with bigger guards. Minnesota could turn its team over to Ramon Sessions(notes) next season or gain another point guard elsewhere. The Wolves own the rights to Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio(notes), but he won’t consider leaving for the NBA until next season. Even then, Rubio’s camp still needs to be sold on the organization.
Suns to make offer to Stoudemire
Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver and coach Alvin Gentry are planning to meet with Amar’e Stoudemire(notes) next week and offer him a contract extension, but a source called it “pretty bleak” that the Suns will be able to convince the All-Star forward to agree to a deal.
The Suns are expected to visit Stoudemire in Chicago at his summer basketball camp, if not wait for him to return to his home in Phoenix, Yahoo! Sports has learned. After rejecting what’s expected to be another counteroffer below the maximum, Stoudemire will opt out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent July 1.
Stoudemire has been disappointed with the resignations of general manager Steve Kerr and his assistant, David Griffin. The Suns’ top two executives plan to work through the draft Thursday, but free agency and trades will be left to Sarver and Gentry. Much of the reason for Kerr’s departure was based on Sarver asking him to take a pay cut and continuing to nickel-and-dime the teams’ front-office employees.
When Griffin was told that there would a search for Kerr’s successor and that he wouldn’t necessarily be promoted to the top basketball job, sources said, he decided to not stay past the expiring of his contract June 30.
Orton stock dropping
There’s a great deal of uncertainty and caution surrounding Kentucky center Daniel Orton, who has cancelled several workouts in the final days before the draft, but has tentatively planned a visit with Indiana on Tuesday.
League executives say Orton has been out of shape and struggling with knee issues during the predraft process. Orton, a 6-foot-10 freshman, had planned to hire agent Raymond Brothers, but sources said an internal family struggle over control has kept him without formal representation. With so much uncertainty surrounding Orton, he could face a steep drop Thursday night.
Orton has been working out with former NBA coach Bob Hill. As one Eastern Conference executive said Monday, “There are too many red flags right now.”
Here’s the great advantage Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen and his embattled GM Kevin Pritchard have over the rest of the NBA: a willingness to spend at draft time. To move up 10 spots in the second round – from 44 to 34 – a league source says the Blazers paid Golden State $2 million to go with the 44th pick. … The Miami Heat’s draft pick at No. 18 is available, league sources say. “They want to sell it to clear cap space,” one Western Conference executive said. … The Washington Wizards have the Nos. 1 and 30 picks of the first round, but league executives says GM Ernie Grunfeld is trying to stockpile more picks. New owner Ted Leonsis had a similar philosophy with the Washington Capitals, and has insisted that building through picks and the draft will be his priority in the NBA, too. … The Nets and Philadelphia 76ers are expected to have interest in Boston Celtics free agent Brian Scalabrine(notes). The reserve forward prefers to re-sign with the Celtics, but it’s unclear if they’ll make him an offer. … Portland is showing strong interest in Cleveland Cavaliers guard Mo Williams(notes). The Blazers have been making calls to check on him. … British center Ryan Richards isn’t expected to get past the Kings with the 33rd pick. … The Denver Nuggets made Linas Kleiza(notes) a $2.3 million qualifying offer, but sources close to the forward say there’s “more than a 50 percent chance” he’ll stay in Greece. Kleiza is due to make $6 million next season if he stays with Olympiakos. The qualifying offer allows the Nuggets to match any offer an NBA team makes to Kleiza.
Yahoo! Sports NBA reporter Marc J. Spears contributed to this report.