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News » Presti: Rubio inquiry doesn't tip Thunder's hand

Presti: Rubio inquiry doesn't tip Thunder's hand

Presti: Rubio inquiry doesn't tip Thunder's hand
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - For a team that's still trying to establish its identity, the first NBA draft in Oklahoma City Thunder history brings the promise of another potential building block.

Around a young core that features three top-5 picks from the past two drafts, the Thunder are positioned to fill another hole on their roster Thursday night with the third overall pick in the NBA draft.

It could produce the shot-blocking presence under the basket the team lacks. Perhaps a playmaker who more appropriately fits into the traditional point guard mold. Or maybe a sharpshooting perimeter player who could boost one of the league's worst 3-point shooting percentages.

"As a ballclub that didn't make the playoffs last year and obviously didn't have the kind of success that we would like from a win-loss standpoint, we've got a lot of needs," general manager Sam Presti said in a phone interview Wednesday on the eve of the NBA draft.

Despite plenty of wishful thinking from locals, the chances of the Thunder landing Oklahoma standout Blake Griffin on Thursday night are bleak. The Los Angeles Clippers have indicated they won't trade the No. 1 pick, and intend to use it on Griffin - the national college player of the year with the Sooners a season ago.

That leaves the Thunder at the mercy of Memphis. The Grizzlies have the No. 2 pick and will get the first crack at picking 7-foot-2 center Hasheem Thabeet from Connecticut or Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio - who has said he doesn't want to play for the Grizzlies.

Presti confirmed that Oklahoma City had hired a Spanish law firm to check into Rubio's contract in Europe, but said that shouldn't be taken as giveaway that the Thunder will make him the first draft pick in Oklahoma City history.

Presti said the Thunder wanted "to be as thorough as we possibly can as we prepare for the draft in all aspects," and it was appropriate to check into Rubio's situation. Whichever team drafts Rubio will have to buy out his European contract.

Among the top prospects to work out in Oklahoma City leading up to the draft were Arizona State shooting guard James Harden, Southern Cal forward DeMar DeRozan and Pitt forward DeJuan Blair. The Thunder haven't acknowledged holding local workouts with any of the projected top three picks - Griffin, Thabeet and Rubio.

Presti said the Thunder have had "ample time" to compile information on all of the draft prospects even prior to the offseason and feel comfortable with their assessments leading up to the draft.

"I wouldn't say that we're going in looking to fill every need that we have as a ballclub in one night," Presti said. "I don't think that would be realistic, but we're going to look to try to get a little bit better on Thursday night and ultimately add another piece to the puzzle."

In Presti's first two drafts as GM, he has picked up the franchise's three current cornerstones: forwards Kevin Durant and Jeff Green in 2007 and point guard Russell Westbrook in 2008. Durant was the No. 2 pick, while Green - the No. 5 pick in that draft - was acquired in a draft-day trade involving Ray Allen.

Westbrook was the fourth overall pick in last year's draft and showed promise as the Thunder's point guard of the future despite an NBA-worst 274 turnovers as a rookie.

Presti said he wants to select a player who'll be able to grow alongside that young nucleus.

"One thing that I think is important for us organizationally and maybe beyond the draft on Thursday is the continued development and improvement from the players on our current roster," Presti said. "As we know, we've got a younger team, and with younger teams, summertime is an important time for development."

The Thunder also have the 25th overall pick in the draft, but don't have a second-round selection.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: June 25, 2009


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