x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

To pick a few good men

Tonight the annual NBA entry draft takes place, with the league's teams selecting the best college and foreign players.

DKV Joventut's Ricky Rubio, right, is expected to be drafted tonight but the Spaniard has made it clear that he does not want to play for the Memphis Grizzlies.
DKV Joventut's Ricky Rubio, right, is expected to be drafted tonight but the Spaniard has made it clear that he does not want to play for the Memphis Grizzlies.

Tonight the annual NBA entry draft takes place, with the league's teams selecting the best college and foreign players. Teams start with one pick per round, but can end up with more through trades and cash transactions. Through a series of trades, the Minnesota Timberwolves have six picks including four first-rounders.

The Portland Trail Blazers and the San Antonio Spurs have four picks each, including three second-round selections each. On draft night, these teams could factor in swaps as wealthy teams such as the Toronto Raptors and Dallas Mavericks look to acquire more picks. First-round picks have league-mandated salaries, pegged to their draft position. Second-round picks have to negotiate their salaries, which is helpful if a player needs to buy his way out of his contract in Europe.

This year, since he is too good to fall into the second round, Spain's Ricky Rubio needs to be drafted high enough so that he can afford his rumoured US$6.6million (Dh24.2m) buy-out with his DKV Joventut club in Badalona, Spain. While reports have said that the buy-out might end up being less, Joventut will be laughing their way to the bank while Rubio counts whatever change is left over. Unlike in the past, a player selected fifth this year could easily be just as good as a player selected 15th or even 25th.

A team's bottom-line might play a greater role than ever before. With the US economy on shaky ground, it has been said that the chief financial officers of NBA teams are increasingly playing a role in the decision-making. Many teams might just sell their first-round picks instead of locking into the financial commitments required by the first round's set salaries. While it is challenging to expect what a team will do on draft night - other than Blake Griffin going No 1 in the draft - this year promises to be unpredictable. Stephen Curry, Hasheem Thabeet and Rubio are all mentioned as potential No 2 picks. All will be selected high in the draft.

Curry is the most hyped shooting guard of this draft. He could go as high as third to the Oklahoma City Thunder. New York Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni loves Curry too. The Knicks need a point guard and D'Antoni thinks Curry can learn to play the position. Critics have suggested that the coach sees a younger version of himself in Curry. Worth noting, both coach and player were stand-outs in college, although D'Antoni was not successful as a player in the NBA. The verdict is out on whether Curry has what it takes to be a legitimate NBA player.

Hasheem Thabeet is tall with long arms. He measured out with a 9ft 5ins reach, meaning he can dunk while standing on the tips of his toes. In college, Thabeet showed that he could block shots, which is enough to earn him decent pay in the league. While many pundits have pointed out the draft talent levels off precipitously following the aforementioned players, enough NBA executives said there are plenty of players to choose from this year.

Jonas Jerebko, a 6ft 9ins small forward from Sweden, shot to prominence following an impressive season for Angelico Biella in Italy and a strong performance at the Reebok Eurocamp two weeks ago. Another name on scouts lips is Anton Ponomarev of the Astana Tigers in Kazakhstan. The excitement of who will go where plays out tonight. gdole@thenational.ae