CHICAGO – As usual, there wasn’t a shortage of rumors flying around the NBA pre-draft camp.
But the most discussed one, hands down, pertained to the status of Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.
To virtually every NBA official in attendance, it wasn’t a question of whether Thibodeau will remain with the Bulls but where he’ll end up.
Will it be in Orlando?
Or will it be New Orleans?
In the last couple of weeks, there have been whispers that the vacant Orlando job is Thibodeau’s for the taking. In the last couple of days, there has been chatter that the Magic will make Thibodeau an extremely lucrative offer, one that could make him perhaps the highest-paid coach in the game.
Two NBA officials said they heard the Magic will be willing to pay Thibodeau anywhere from $7 million to $9 million annually. What’s more, they said Thibodeau will be accorded extensive input on basketball-oriented decisions.
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The 57-year-old Thibodeau, who has guided the Bulls to five straight playoff appearances, has two years left on his contract with the Bulls.
But he reportedly has a strained relationship with management and their differences, some NBA officials insist, are irreconcilable.
Raising some eyebrows
Several players either enhanced or solidified their draft status.
Among the players who impressed the NBA folks at the pre-draft camp were Terry Rosier of Louisville, Rakeem Christmas of Syracuse, Andrew Harrison of Kentucky, Richaun Holmes of Bowling Green, Jordan Mickey of Louisiana State, J.P. Tokoto of North Carolina, Branden Dawson of Michigan State and Joseph Young of Oregon. Some scouts contend Rosier and Mickey have now moved themselves into the first round.
Holmes, a 6-9 power forward with a 7-2 wing span, played solidly in Chicago after a strong showing at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. Holmes looks like a mid-second round pick.
“I really like Richaun Holmes,’’ said Erick Strickland, who played the last two seasons of his nine-year pro career with the Bucks and who was a coach at the pre-draft camp. “I like his timing and his defense. He knows how to come over and give help and block shots.
"And he impressed me in the shooting drills. He shot the ball 15 to 18 feet and he was able to knock those shots down regularly, which surprised me.
“But he’s a beast as far as rebounding and, as far doing the intangibles. He’s got a nice upside. It’s just a matter of being with the right team that will be able to develop him.’’
Tokoto, who played at Menomonee Falls High School, appears to have improved his chances of being drafted in the mid-to-late second round.
Scouts like Tokoto’s defensive prowess and athleticism, with some saying he reminds them of ex-Buck and current Philadelphia forward Luc Mbah a Moute.
Player rankings are subjective, yet there seems to be a consensus among NBA scouts about the top eight players for the draft. They are, in no particular order, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell, Emmanuel Mudiay, Willie Cauley-Stein, Justise Winslow, Mario Hezonja and Kristaps Porzingis.
Keeping his word
UW-Green Bay point guard Keifer Sykes participated in Chris Paul’s camp last summer and the two struck up a friendship .
“We had a dunk contest and he said, ‘Whoever wins is going to get shoes.’ And I love shoes,’’ Sykes said. “I won the contest and he took my number and then hit me up and said he’s going to send the shoes. And I said to myself, ‘He’s not going to send the shoes.’
"But he did. I got like four pair of shoes within the next week.’’
Sykes, who is regarded as a fringe draft prospect, said he has remained in contact with Paul and will periodically text or tweet him.
One team interviewed Sykes at the camp, that being New Orleans.
Most NBA scouts expect Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky to be chosen between 10-15. However, an NBA general manager told me he thinks Kaminsky could go as high as six. … Rosier certainly doesn’t lack confidence, saying, “I can see myself playing right away, whether starting or coming off the bench.’’ Rosier, by the way, was measured at 6-1 but had a wing span of 6-8¼. … Notre Dame point guard Jerian Grant is a projected mid-first rounder, yet he was interviewed by Minnesota (which currently has the No. 1 pick), New York (No. 2) and Philadelphia (No. 3). … Nearly 200 press credentials were issued for the pre-draft camp. … Georgia State shooting guard R.J. Hunter on meeting with the Bucks: “I was star-struck when I saw Jason Kidd.’’ Hunter, who is quite gregarious, later said of the Milwaukee Bucks coach: “Jason Kidd is definitely on my all-time bi-racial team.’’