National Spotlight: Jonah Ballow with SI.com's Ian Thomsen
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Senior Writer Sports Illustrated
Jonah Ballow caught up with Sports Illustrated senior writer Ian Thomsen for the latest on the 2010 NBA Draft, possible trade scenarios, and likely free agent targets for the Wolves.
Jonah Ballow: Ian, we obviously looked at your mock draft I have it up on Timberwolves.com and draft central but first I want to get your initial thoughts on the lottery and how this all unfolded on national TV, the Washington Wizards move up to that No. 1 overall pick.
Ian Thomsen: Well it's just a huge win for the Wizards after going through a very traumatic season between the death of their owner and just having the team totally deconstruct itself. Gilbert Arenas with his problems, just a miserable year for a team that was supposed to be contending to go deep in the playoffs this year. And now they have a new owner and they get to start all over with John Wall, I'm pretty sure that's who they'll end up taking with the No. 1 pick. They already have Gilbert Arenas there in the backcourt. John Wall gives them a chance to give themselves a new face. People don't have to think of the Wizards being all about Gilbert now; in fact when they're on the court together I'm sure Gilbert will be playing off the ball and more as a finisher. The way I look at the draft is there's really four top prospects and the other three are Evan Turner, Derek Favors, and DeMarcus Cousins. So as long as you finished in the top four you should do pretty well in this draft.
Jonah Ballow: Well that's good for the Minnesota Timberwolves, they do drop to four from the position they thought they would be in the second spot. Looking at the Minnesota Timberwolves and what their needs are in your mock draft you have one of those top four prospects Demarcus Cousins slotted at the number four position. Why do you think the Timberwolves go with Cousins there?
Ian Thomsen: Well, I think they'll just take whoever is left there. And I don’t see anybody beating out Cousins. And I also don't see him going any earlier as much because of need as anything. You know they've been playing Al Jefferson as center for quite awhile in Minnesota and his numbers have been very good but he's not a true center. And to bring in somebody with Cousin's size to compliment Kevin Love upfront and provide the size that enables Kevin Love to still rebound but also take advantage of his skills out on the perimeter offensively, I think works really well and then gives Minnesota an asset in Al Jefferson if they choose to trade him and if they wanted to I'm sure they could.
Jonah Ballow: DeMarcus Cousins, this guy like you said is a raw talent, 19 years old - big body like you said at the center position. Is there any concern in your mind or maybe some GM's or scouts, that his maturity level isn’t quite there yet, or that he will struggle with that part of the game at the NBA level?
Ian Thomsen: It is something you hear a lot of speculation and innuendo about him and how reliable he can be. And I'm looking forward to the next month. All of this will come out. He'll be interviewed a lot by people like me and also by teams. He'll be under a lot of scrutiny and there will be a lot of questions asked about his past and I think we'll know a lot more about him a month from now but those are concerns I hear from NBA people about him.
Jonah Ballow: Now, the Timberwolves also have a couple assets just right in this 2010 draft, the fourth pick, the 16th pick, and the 23rd pick. Do you think there's a chance that Philly would be interested in a conversation that would involve maybe Minnesota giving up that fourth pick, 16 or 23 in order to move up to number two?
Ian Thomsen: You know I bet they would be interested in that. That's one of those things though you just don't know how highly Philadelphia rates one or two players. Maybe they look at Evan Turner and think 'this guy is the best player in the draft, and at number two we get to get the guy we think should go No.1. Maybe that's something they just will not want to give up under any circumstances. I'm sure no one is going to let anyone know for sure what they're doing over the next few weeks, and try to see if they can get a good offer that will be worth their while.
Jonah Ballow: Now looking at this draft I know you said there are really top four prospects in this draft. As a whole it seems pretty deep to me, you know from top to bottom, do you have that same opinion?
Ian Thomsen: I do, and as deep as it looks now it's going even deeper a couple days before the draft. It could be a bad draft and as you move along towards draft day these teams get themselves all into a frenzy and they fall in love with players that maybe a month earlier they hadn't even liked very much. And so I do think they're starting from a position of strength in this draft and looking forward it's only going to grow more attractive to a lot of these teams. You've got a lot of young players that came out early because they're worried about the next collective bargain agreement or a lock out, and at the same time you've got some very decent three and four year players from college.
Jonah Ballow: Now what about the draft combines? We've seen these expand as they years have gone on, especially the Chicago one, here in Minneapolis next week 42 players in three days it's going to bring the opportunity for a lot of these teams to watch these guys in person. How important are these combines and individual workouts leading up to that June 24th draft?
Ian Thomsen: You know I think they're very important for the few players that maybe a team is focused in on. I don't see anybody coming into a combine and changing someone's opinion wholesale. But if you like a guy and he comes in and works out and he looks good, now maybe you feel even better about him. And just the opposite if he stinks up the joint now all of a sudden you're going to start to consider other players. probably. So I don't think it creates a lot of new ideas, but it sort of helps these GM's who don't go out and scout a lot to see the guy first hand and maybe confirm with their scouts.
Jonah Ballow: What about the chance to speak to these players in a one-on-one setting, how important is that in weighing it with the actual on the court, you know they have a lot of visual evidence of what these players can do from a basketball stand point but really from a perspective of speaking to these young men on a one-on-one basis at these combines at these individual workouts, how much does that weigh in to the draft process?
Ian Thomsen: I think it does weigh in to it. That's something that helped Stephen Curry a lot last year. And you can gauge a player's maturity and just how ready he is to move into the NBA. Where basically you're going to be quoted every day if you're a good player and there's going to be people asking you questions and the franchise is going to be relying on you to be the face of your franchise. And so I do think that's important, but it's not as important as what they show on the court.
Jonah Ballow: Alright, looking towards the free agency period that starts in July, any more news on that front? I know teams really can't get into negotiating or making any deals and everybody's got their opinion on LeBron James. I've asked David Kahn, our president of basketball operations, head coach Kurt Rambis has been asked the same questions. Do you feel that once LeBron makes his decision then we'll see a lot of these other players sign the dotted line and really it all starts with LeBron?
Ian Thomsen: It does all start with LeBron. But I also think that he, and Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, and a couple other guys, Joe Johnson even, they'll all be talking to each other. And they'll all be deciding in concert. And if let's say LeBron wants to go to the Knicks, he's going to be talking about who wants to go there with me or let's say it's Miami or even Chicago well maybe one of us will take less money we can play together. You there's going to be all these kinds of negotiations among themselves. And it's going to be a new thing for the league. Taking a lot of the power out of the hands of the general managers, and team presidents and owners. The players are sort of taking over this whole process and it goes all the way back to when they sign their contracts and they'll make sure they have options to get out in the same summer. It's sort of like the 'AAU-ization' of the NBA. And it's going to be very interesting to see how it all plays out. And it does all start with LeBron, but I think it's going to be synchronized.
Jonah Ballow: Well that will be interesting to watch. And what about some second tier type guys. I know Minnesota will be in the hunt for a free agent they have cap space. They'd love to add a wing, possibly small forward or shooting guard who can stretch out the defense and shoot from the perimeter. Do you see any second tier type of guy that maybe fits in with what the Timberwolves could offer or guys within that range?
Ian Thomsen: Well all season all we've heard about is that Rudy Gay is the guy that Minnesota would want and that he would fit very well. And as much as Memphis has talked about resigning him or matching any offers I don't think you'll know until you actually make the offer and especially if he front loaded make it very difficult for them to live with it for the first couple of years. I'm going to be interested to see what Memphis does in the draft. And see if they sort of draft with the eye towards replacing Rudy Gay. But clearly that would be a guy that would right up Minnesota's ally.
Jonah Ballow: And possibly a sign and trade option there with Rudy Gay as well.
Ian Thomsen: Yeah, for sure, for sure, although you know Memphis just has not been very interested in taking on salaries, so I would think that if they were going to take on salary from Minnesota they'd just as soon pay Rudy Gay themselves and keep the player.
Jonah Ballow: Alright well good stuff, we're going to keep updating your mock draft on Timberwolves.com you can also check out Ian Thomsen's work on SI.com for the latest on playoff coverage and the draft. Well hopefully we can catch up with you in a couple weeks and update the mock draft and talk a little bit more about maybe what the/Timberwolves are doing in the next couple weeks, does that sound good?
Ian Thomsen: Yeah I look forward to that Jonah, thank you.
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