By David Aldridge, TNT analyst
Posted Jun 24 2009 5:53AM
The Washington Wizards took a bold step toward becoming a contender in the East on Tuesday, while the Minnesota Timberwolves hope they now have enough ammunition to move up to the second pick in Thursday's NBA draft -- their target, Spanish teenage star Ricky Rubio.
The Wizards, as expected, agreed to deal the No. 5 pick in the Draft, picking Minnesota's offer of guard Randy Foye and forward Mike Miller for the fifth pick and three veterans -- centers Etan Thomas and Oleskiy Pecherov, and forward/center Darius Songalia. The Wolves now hope to package their fifth and sixth pick in a deal with Memphis for the second overall pick, which they would use to take Rubio, the 19-year-old guard who played last season with DKV Joventut and starred on the Spanish Olympic team that won the silver medal in an epic battle with the United States last summer.
The Washington-Minnesota deal was not officially done Tuesday night, though it was expected to be completed by Wednesday. The teams were leaning in the direction of making the deal, according to a league source.
Also, a league source says that the Detroit Pistons are likely to waive forward Fabricio Oberto, acquired Tuesday from Milwaukee for center Amir Johnson. Oberto had initially been traded Tuesday, along with Bruce Bowen and Kurt Thomas, to the Bucks for forward Richard Jefferson. Oberto and Bowen, who is likely to be waived, are likely headed back to San Antonio after the 30-day window for re-signing traded and then waived players expires.
By waiving Oberto, the Pistons would save another $1.9 million (Oberto's $3.8 million deal for next season is only partially guaranteed) under the cap, giving them even more flexibilty to be a major player this summer in free agency. Detroit only has $35.4 million committed for next season and can go after two major free agents; the Pistons have been linked to Bulls free agent guard Ben Gordon and Orlando free agent forward Hedo Turkoglu.
As reported on the NBA TV's "Gametime Live" show Tuesday, the Wizards had three potential deals from which to choose for the fifth pick -- potential trades with Dallas, New York and Minnesota. The Mavericks deal had little chance of happening, as Dallas was reluctant to part with guard Jason Terry and had no interest in moving Josh Howard. New York hoped to get the fifth pick in order to select guard Stephen Curry, offering guard Larry Hughes and the eighth pick for Thomas, guard Mike James and the fifth pick.
But Washington opted to take the 25-year-old Foye and the 29-year-old Miller, bolstering its backcourt and adding one of the league's most prolific 3-point shooters in recent years.
With Gilbert Arenas recovering from a third knee surgery (and starting two guard DeShawn Stevenson coming off an injury-plagued season), the Wizards were extremely reluctant to begin another season without a proven, veteran point guard on their roster in case Arenas has any further setbacks. Last year, the Wizards were left with journeyman Dee Brown starting the first part of the season and got little production from James after acquiring him from New Orleans. Backup Javaris Crittenton, whom the Wizards acquired from Memphis, also started 10 games last season. Washington had tried to get Kirk Hinrich from Chicago for the James/Thomas package at the trade deadline last season, but the Bulls opted to hold onto Hinrich, and were vindicated when Hinrich had an excellent playoff series against the Celtics.
Foye gives Washington flexibility at both guard positions, able to play the point and play off the ball. Miller is a career 40-percent shooter from 3-point range who gives the Wizards a proven producer off the bench.
Minnesota's new president of basketball operations, David Kahn, is hoping to make a splash and renew interest in a Wolves team that has fallen off the NBA radar in the last two years and has struggled to sell tickets at the Target Center since Kevin Garnett was traded to Boston two years ago. The Wolves hope Rubio, with his skill and telegenic personality, can be a star and solidify them at the point. With forward Al Jefferson ahead of schedule in his return from an ACL tear last season, and second-year forward Kevin Love, Minnesota has some good young pieces.
The Wolves also have several expiring contracts -- forwards Brian Cardinal, Mark Madsen and Craig Smith -- that they hope will be enticing pieces for teams looking to shed salary in time for the expected 2010 free agent bonanza. And, now, Minnesota has four first-round picks: 5, 6, 18 and 28. At worst, if Memphis turns them down (the Grizzlies are ready to take Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet if they stay at two, and that would leave Sacramento, picking fourth, to take Rubio, with Oklahoma City taking Arizona State guard James Harden at three), the Wolves could select two players from a group that would likely include Davidson's Stephen Curry, Memphis' Tyreke Evans, Arizona forward Jordan Hill and USC swingman DeMar DeRozan.
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