... about the NBA:
1. It was odd that the Thunder passed up Ricky Rubio, given that he is the pure point guard they lack. It was odder still that the Kings didn't take him, either. Rubio fell into the lap of the Minnesota Timberwolves at the fifth pick in Thursday's 2009 NBA Draft, and in a night that was heavy with point guards, the Wolves got quality and quantity. Rubio, an 18-year-old whose passing skills have already been compared to those of the all-time greats, has experience as a professional in his native Spain and at the Olympic level with the Spanish national team, the silver medalists in 2008. The Thunder, and especially the Kings, will regret missing out on him. James Harden, only 19, is a legitimate top four selection, so Oklahoma City is at least getting a player of decent value out of the No. 3 pick. Tyreke Evans is talented, but there are questions about his shooting and athleticism, which doesn't bode well for a two-guard. He plays the same position as Kevin Martin, the best player on the Sacramento roster. The move just doesn't make sense. The Wolves have quite a pair in Rubio and Al Jefferson, but they inexplicably took Jonny Flynn, another point guard, with the sixth pick. GM David Kahn is promoting the idea that the two could play together, but he wouldn't compromise his trade leverage by announcing that one or both is available. The truth is likely that one of them can be had. The Wolves turned heads again when they selected Ty Lawson, yet another point guard, at No. 18, but they quickly traded him to Denver for future considerations.
2. The New York fans were sorely disappointed when Stephen Curry was taken by the Warriors at No. 7, one pick before the Knicks could have nabbed him. Curry, with his ability to shoot and finish, would no doubt have been fun to watch Mike D'Antoni's system, but New York need not shed a tear. Jordan Hill may actually be an even better fit. He is a 6-10 power forward who can rebound and run the floor, which makes for a prototypical D'Antoni center. The Knicks have David Lee at center, too, but often teamed him with Jared Jeffries, a lithe power forward over whom Hill is a significant improvement. Lee is a restricted free agent, so the Knicks have the option now to not match another team's long-term offer if they so desire, opening up even more cap space for 2010. Hill has shown continual improvement in his rebounding numbers while at college, winding up at an average of 11 per game this past season at Arizona, and if that trend continues in the pros, the Knicks may have come up with a steal.
3. The news Thursday was not all about the draft. The Magic acquired Vince Carter, along with second-year power forward Ryan Anderson, for Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee and Tony Battie. It's a surprising move, since it was clear the formula Orlando had this past season worked, at least well enough to get the team to the Finals. Magic GM Otis Smith, to his credit, wants more. Yet it's not clear whether the Magic really got any better. They diversified their offense with a player who can penetrate, create his own shot and gave themselves another ballhandler, all of which was necessary. He's still capable of scoring 20 points a game, dishing out close to five assists and grabbing about five rebounds, but Carter's numbers were down across the board this past year, when he turned 32. It's likely he'll continue his decline this year, but even a diminished Carter may be better than what the Magic had. The tough part of this trade for the Magic is having to give up Lee, an impressive rookie whose game is only going to get better, instead of worse. Orlando may find out they would have been better off keeping him, but they instead decided to go with Carter, whose talents are far more of a known quantity. Anderson's presence in the trade may have been enough to quell Smith's concerns, since like Lee, he seems poised for improvement after a promising rookie year. His 6-foot-10, 240 pounds frame, 4,7 rebounds in 20 minutes a night and 36.5 percent three-point shooting make him a perfect backup for Rashard Lewis. The Nets probably aren't ecstatic about giving him up, especially since they clearly have an eye on the future. The rest of the trade sets up New Jersey quite well for the summer of 2010. Alston and Battie are contracts that expire after next season, when they will look to combine a young nucleus of Devin Harris, Lee and Brook Lopez with cap space to go after a premier free agent class.