Rubio big question mark of the 2009 draft

The only thing that seems rock solid about the June 25 NBA draft is that the Los Angeles Clippers will keep the No. 1 pick and select Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin.

If you believe reports that the Clippers are willing to deal the choice, we’ll send Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy over to talk with you.

The biggest questions are where Ricky Rubio will go, whether he’ll spend another season in Spain if he’s taken and whether he’ll stay in the draft altogether.

The problem is the $6-7 million buyout with the 18-year-old Spanish point guard’s Euroleague team, of which an NBA club can contribute only $600,000. Rubio and his American agent, Dan Fegan, are attempting to redo the buyout deal through arbitration under the threat of litigation. Stay tuned.

  • 1. Los Angeles Clippers – Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma: The 6-foot-10, 250-pound Griffin solidified the Clippers’ intentions with his performance at the Chicago draft combine. Griffin was third among all players with a no-step vertical leap of 32 inches, was second in bench-pressing (he did 185 pounds 22 times) and was excellent in covering the lane agility drill in 10.95 seconds. What that means is the Clippers will be looking to move one of their three interior players from a year ago: Chris Kaman(notes) (three years, $34 million in contract remaining), Marcus Camby(notes) (one year, $7.65 million) or Zach Randolph(notes) (two years, $33.3 million). Their preference would be to move the 7-foot Kaman, who missed 51 games because of injury last season and is not in their plans. Randolph is a serviceable offensive weapon, and the veteran Camby is still one of the more productive centers when healthy, and can serve as a mentor to Griffin.

  • 2. Memphis Grizzlies – Ricky Rubio, PG, Spain: The Grizzlies would prefer to move this pick, and if they keep it, they’ll likely choose between Rubio and Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet. Memphis GM Chris Wallace and coach Lionel Hollins visited Spain last week to watch the 6-4 Rubio play in the Spanish pro league playoffs. Afterward, Rubio and his father met with Wallace, Hollins and Grizzlies center Marc Gasol(notes) – another Spaniard – for 90 minutes. The overriding feeling is that the 18-year-old Rubio’s upside is too good to pass up, but neither Pau Gasol(notes) nor Juan Carlos Navarro(notes), two other Spanish players, were thrilled by their experiences in Memphis. Already, there are reports that Rubio might dissuade the Grizzlies from taking him.

  • 3. Oklahoma City Thunder – Hasheem Thabeet, C, Connecticut: The Thunder have been hitting hard on the trail of Davidson guard Stephen Curry, whose rise up the draft board has been meteoric since his decision to leave school for the draft last month. If Rubio is gone, the Thunder could take the 7-3 Thabeet, who didn’t participate in drills at the Chicago combine. Players with his defensive presence don’t come along every year, and he would be a nice complement to the offensive firepower provided by Kevin Durant(notes), Jeff Green(notes) and Russell Westbrook(notes). Trading down also remains a distinct possibility for the Thunder.

  • 4. Sacramento Kings – James Harden, SG, Arizona State: The 6-5, 220-pound Harden impressed everyone at the Chicago combine with his performance in the tests and drills. Harden had a 37-inch maximum vertical jump, ran the three-quarters-court sprint in 3.13 seconds and bench-pressed 185 pounds 17 times. The Kings have a great shooting guard in Kevin Martin(notes), but team officials believe Harden and Martin might be able to play in the lineup together. Harden is a southpaw who can create for himself off the dribble and score with either hand going to the basket.

  • 5. Washington Wizards – Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona: New Washington coach Flip Saunders has had good luck with power forwards at the No. 5 pick. In Minnesota, he got Kevin Garnett(notes) with that selection. Nobody is suggesting Hill has that kind of potential, but he’s a rugged, athletic big man who improved dramatically between his sophomore and junior seasons at Arizona. The Wizards say they’ll take the best player available regardless of position, but they can use help at power forward.

  • 6. Minnesota Timberwolves – Tyreke Evans, SG, Memphis: The Timberwolves’ best talent is up front, so they’d prefer to get help in the backcourt. The 6-6 Evans is a shooting guard who doesn’t shoot all that well from afar (.274 as a freshman from 3-point range). He is an outstanding ballhandler who is adept at creating opportunities for teammates.

  • 7. Golden State Warriors – DeMar DeRozan, Southern Cal: The Warriors need either a point guard to spell Monta Ellis(notes) or allow him to move back to his natural shooting guard position. They might choose to leave Ellis at the point and take a shooting guard such as DeRozan, whom they worked out recently. Afterward, DeRozan said coach Don Nelson liked him, told him he did well and “he’ll see me soon.” If they opt for a point guard, it would probably be Memphis’ Evans or Davidson’s Curry. Evans, more of a shot-creator than Curry, might be the better fit alongside a volume shooter such as Ellis.

  • 8. New York Knicks – Stephen Curry, PG, Davidson: The Knicks would love to move up and land Thabeet. If that doesn’t happen, Curry, who averaged 28.6 points as a junior and is one of the nation’s top shooters, is the type of player who could flourish in coach Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo offense. Or New York could deal down and trade the pick away to a team such as Portland, which seems to want to move up.

  • 9. Toronto Raptors – Jonny Flynn, PG, Syracuse: The Raptors have a fine point guard in Jose Calderon(notes), but this is a case of taking the best player available in a draft full of capable point guards. Flynn, who topped all candidates at the Chicago combine with a 40-inch vertical, is one of the best athletes in the draft and should be able to help immediately, with or without the missing “h” in his name.

  • 10. Milwaukee Bucks – Jrue Holiday, PG, UCLA: The Bucks’ most pressing need is probably at the point, and Holiday could be the best player remaining on the board. A prototypical point guard who has long arms, a strong basketball IQ and excellent defensive promise, Holiday could apprentice under veteran Luke Ridnour(notes) if Ramon Sessions(notes) leaves via free agency.

  • 11. New Jersey Nets – Earl Clark, PF, Louisville: GM Kiki Vandeweghe says the Nets will keep the pick, and a power forward seems to be the biggest need. That would probably mean the 6-9 Clark, a Rahway, N.J., native who is kind of a combo forward with length and impressive physical ability. Quick for a big man, he can create some and is good scoring around the basket. He’ll need to develop and become a more consistent producer than he was for the Cardinals. If Clark is unavailable, GM Kiki Vandeweghe says the Nets aren’t afraid to take a point guard.

  • 12. Charlotte Bobcats – Gerald Henderson, SG, Duke: Henderson’s jump shot needs work, but that’s not a big problem for coach Larry Brown, who needs help at the two-guard spot. Henderson was impressive in a workout with the Bobcats. A strong defender and rebounder, he had the lowest body fat (4.4 percent) of any player at the Chicago combine.

  • 13. Indiana Pacers – Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy by way of Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., by way of Compton, Calif.: Jennings, who turns 20 in September, opted to play in Italy rather than a year of college last season. He averaged only 5.5 points and 2.3 assists in 17 minutes but is blessed with great potential as a left-handed point guard with wheels and great court vision. He’d be a nice fit in coach Jim O’Brien’s up-tempo offense.

  • 14. Phoenix Suns – James Johnson, SF, Wake Forest: The Suns have a list of six to eight players on their board at this spot, having looked closely at such players as Louisville’s Earl Clark, Arizona’s Chase Budinger, Pittsburgh’s DeJuan Blair and North Carolina’s Ty Lawson. They might be looking for a young point guard as an eventual replacement for Steve Nash(notes), but they also need somebody to replace free agent Grant Hill(notes) as soon as next season. Johnson is 6-8, can score with a variety of moves out to mid-range and shows the versatility coach Alvin Gentry desires in a young player.

  • 15. Detroit Pistons – Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina: Lawson has speed, quickness and ball-control skills that could entice the Pistons to take him. Lawson seems to have slipped on the board, perhaps because of his size (6-0, 195) and limited long-range shooting skills. Blair makes sense here, too.

  • 16. Chicago Bulls – Terrence Williams, SG, Louisville: The Bulls hope to re-sign Ben Gordon(notes), but there’s always the chance they could lose him. Williams has a lot of natural attributes, is rangy, versatile and is a leaper who can defend. NBA scouts love his competitiveness.

  • 17. Philadelphia 76ers – DeJuan Blair, PF, Pittsburgh: Blair might be in for a drop because of concerns about his knees. Weight problems and lack of height also could be a worry, but he’s still one of the best at a weak position in this draft. And he’s bull strong, an outstanding offensive rebounder and physical at both ends of the court.

  • 18. Minnesota Timberwolves – Eric Maynor, PG, VCU: The Timberwolves will look at a point guard at this pick, and it could be one of several players. Maynor is a big-time competitor with a great basketball IQ; he was one of the top decision-makers in college basketball last season. Tall (6-3) but light (165), he’s not particularly quick or explosive for a player at his position.

  • 19. Atlanta Hawks – Jeff Teague, PG, Wake Forest: No matter whether the Hawks re-sign Mike Bibby(notes), 31, they’ll probably be looking to add at point guard. Teague is quick, explosive and consistent – though he averaged only 13.9 points as a sophomore, he scored in double figures in all 30 games for the Demon Deacons. He’d be a comfortable fit in an Atlanta backcourt that features Joe Johnson(notes). The Hawks are said to be looking also at North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough, who is moving up on some draft boards.

  • 20. Utah Jazz– Tyler Hansbrough, PF, North Carolina: With Carlos Boozer(notes) likely headed out of town, Jerry Sloan will be looking for a power forward with a work ethic. Hansbrough is a winner and a relentless pursuant of the basketball, and while not a great scorer, he’d fit in as a fundamentally solid addition as a rookie.

  • 21. New Orleans Hornets – Marcus Thornton, SG, Louisiana State: This falls into the best-player-available category. Thornton is a terrific scorer who adds depth to a thin roster. It doesn’t hurt that he is a local product.

  • 22. Dallas Mavericks – B.J. Mullens, C, Ohio State: A raw talent who might be a future pick to one day replace Erick Dampier(notes) at the post. Not particularly adept offensively, he’s still reasonably athletic, with good hands and what scouts believe is plenty of upside.

  • 23. Sacramento Kings – Darren Collison, PG, UCLA: If Hansbrough is gone, the Kings will look to add a point guard to the backcourt, provided they didn’t take one with the No. 4 pick. Collison is a big-game player with poise and a high basketball IQ. Though only 6-1, he plays good defense, can shoot long distance and create things off the dribble.

  • 24. Portland Trail BlazersGani Lawal, PF, Georgia Tech: Asked what one asset he would like to add through the draft, Portland GM Kevin Pritchard answered, “toughness, at any position.” Lawal is a strong rebounder who could fill a garbage-player role as early as next season for the Blazers.

  • 25. Oklahoma City Thunder – Chase Budinger, SG, Arizona: One of the nation’s top volleyball players, Budinger has athleticism that is off the charts, and he’s a decent perimeter shooter with excellent instincts at the offensive end. He might never become an All-Star, but he should be a productive NBA player for many years.

  • 26. Chicago Bulls – Austin Daye, PF, Gonzaga: Daye is a big-potential player (the son of ex-NBAer Darren Daye) who absolutely flunked all the fitness tests at the Chicago combine and thus has fallen on the boards. He’d be a great pick for a team that can wait for him to develop. The Bulls, with a good nucleus of young talent, fill that bill.

  • 27. Memphis Grizzlies – Sam Young, SF, Pittsburgh: Young is physical, fairly athletic and an accomplished scorer who could fill a bench role right away for the Grizzlies, who would like to trade this pick and move up to get a couple of lottery selections.

  • 28. Minnesota Timberwolves – DaJuan Summers, SF, Georgetown: The Timberwolves might be looking to trade this selection, their third pick in the first round. If they keep it, they’ll want to get someone to help their depth on the front line. The 6-8 Summers – an explosive wing with a versatile offensive game – makes the most sense.

  • 29. Los Angeles Lakers – Nick Calathes, SG, Florida: The Lakers have a pretty fair shooting guard in their starting lineup but wouldn’t mind adding a player who can compete for the backup job. Calathes is a 6-5 combo guard with excellent passing and finishing skills. It remains to be seen whether he’ll play in Greece or return to the States.

  • 30. Cleveland Cavaliers – Wayne Ellington, SG, North Carolina: Ellington could go higher, based on his private workouts and performance in the multi-team “super” workouts. He’s an excellent long-range shooter but not a great athlete or a player who creates much on the way to the basket.