Katz: Draft's stress test
Katz: Casing the draft
Thursday, June 26
Updated: June 26, 5:31 PM ET
Be on the lookout for these 13 things
By Andy Katz
NEW YORK -- Promises occur in the first round of the NBA draft every season. A promise means an NBA team has told a player's agent that he won't slip past its spot in the first round and into the second round. The player could certainly be picked ahead of the team doing the promising, but at least the player knows he won't lose out on that guaranteed first-round money.
Promises are usually given to high school seniors or international players to keep them in the draft. Not every team does it in the NBA, but enough do to ensure that it occurs nearly every draft. The benefit for the team giving out a promise is that an agent could favor the team when a free agent he represents comes up for negotiation.
Kendrick Perkins and Carlos Delfino as two locks to go in the first round, according to multiple sources in and outside the NBA with knowledge of their draft status.
Perkins, a 6-foot-10 center from Ozen High School in Beaumont, Texas, signed with Memphis but chose to stay in the draft. Perkins could end up as the No. 28 pick with San Antonio, where he worked out twice. But the Spurs could be a last stop for Perkins in the first round. He could go higher (No. 25 to Detroit?). Regardless, sources said Perkins is a lock for the first round.
So, too, is Delfino, the 6-6 Argentinean guard who wouldn't have stayed in the draft without a first-round promise. Delfino has a hefty contract situation that could lead him to stick with Skipper Bologna (Italy) for another season. Delfino has one year left on a contract that could cost him nearly $700,000 to get out of it if he chose to play in the NBA next season. NBA teams are only allowed to pay $350,000 toward a buyout.
Perceived promises being made to Perkins and Delfino are one of 13 moves or discussion points to keep an eye on during Thursday night's draft. Here are the others:
2. Trades. There will be deals, possibly a few blockbusters. There always are on draft night. Portland and Denver are talking. A number of teams are trying to get Toronto's No. 4 pick. Seattle had conversations. Memphis wanted to move up. New York would like to entertain the idea of moving higher. Regardless, there will be at least a few occasions where a player will announce how pleased he is to be playing in, say, Toronto but then will have to wear a different hat and give a different answer an hour later after he has been traded to another team. The problem is the NBA can't officially announce the trade until all the pieces have been moved. That means if a second-round pick is part of the trade, it won't be announced until that pick is made -- even though it could affect the No. 4 pick in the draft.
3. No suspense in first three picks. For the first time in years, the NBA draft lacks drama until pick No. 4. The big question is whether LeBron James (Cleveland), Darko Milicic (Detroit) and Carmelo Anthony (Denver) can add any entertainment to the first 15 minutes of the draft. All eyes, millions of them, will be watching how James handles himself in those first few minutes of being selected. He is confident but his composure, so far, has been in check, deferring to Anthony almost in reference to his game. Anthony remains the more finished product and a potential All-Star. James has the potential to be a franchise player and a Hall of Fame talent. No one is quite sure what Milicic will become. Anthony said of Milicic on Wednesday that he had never seen Milicic play, let alone heard of him until recently, but added, "Obviously he must be good. They put him in front of me as the No. 2 pick."
4. The Jay Williams factor. The mood will be subdued when Chicago picks. Williams' recovery from a horrific motorcycle accident that could cost him his career will be the prevailing theme for the Bulls. But the rest of the league is waiting to see if it affects the Bulls' draft pick. Chicago probably wouldn't have looked at a point guard at No. 7 and was seeking a trade. But Williams won't play next season and his career is in jeopardy. That means the Bulls could take a point guard and affect the rest of the lottery if they were to grab T.J. Ford, if he falls, Kirk Hinrich if he's still available, or someone else that isn't being discussed as high as No. 7.
5. Maciej Lampe, Leandro Barbosa and Zarko Cabarkapa. These three international players are the unknowns in the draft who could have a dramatic effect on the order of picks. Lampe is being discussed as going as high as No. 5 to Miami, or he could slide down to the 20s. The 6-11 native of Poland has crisscrossed the country the past week and worked out for the Knicks as late as Wednesday. But no one is quite sure how high the 18-year old forward will go in the first round. One team official told ESPN.com that Barbosa will be discussed in every draft room Thursday, but could easily go from the lottery to the second round. The 6-4 Brazilian point guard is long and wiry and one of the top athletes in the draft. But his English is poor and he might be too much of a risk to go too high. Cabarkapa is the old man in the draft by international standards. He's 22 years old, but the 6-11, 235-pound small forward is rising and could land as high as No. 11 to Golden State or fall to the 20s.
6. Last one sitting in the "green room." The NBA no longer puts the players and their families behind a curtain. Instead, the players are in front of the stage sitting around tables. But there is always one player who goes lower than the NBA expected and is left to sit there as other picks not in attendance get selected. The candidates for that lonely seat in this draft are Cabarkapa, Lampe, Georgetown's Michael Sweetney, Georgia's Jarvis Hayes and Louisville's Reece Gaines. The NBA did a good job of getting the right players so they won't get embarrassed. None of these players will last to the second round.
7. Chris Marcus. The 7-1 Western Kentucky center would have been the No. 3 overall pick in the draft two years ago. Instead, he'll likely be selected in the second round Thursday. Marcus had two surgeries on his left foot after injuring it five times in college. He finally was cleared to work out for teams last week and he's a near certainty to go in the second round. Teams would be more than willing to take a chance on him because of his ability to dominate inside when he's healthy. Marcus was invited to Chicago for the NBA's physicals, but not for the New York draft.
8. The New York fan reaction. Jets and Giants fans make their feelings known during the NFL draft. Knicks (and sometimes Nets) fans always seem to vent their frustration at the pick when his name is announced. The Knicks fans will cheer if Ford gets to them. If names like Lampe or Chris Kaman are announced, then cover your ears.
9. Seniors. Kansas' Hinrich will likely be the first senior taken in the draft. He could go as high as No. 5 to Miami. Last year, the first senior taken was Fresno State's Melvin Ely at No. 12. None of the seven seniors selected in last year's first round, save Tayshaun Prince with Detroit in the playoffs, made an impact. Hinrich isn't speaking for his classmates, but is confident that won't occur again. The other potential lottery seniors are Hinrich's teammate Nick Collison and Louisville's Gaines.
10. International players. There were a record six drafted in the first round last season, 14 overall in the two rounds. There could be nearly as many in the first round this year and possibly 20 or more overall. Expect the foreign invasion in this draft to occur in earnest from picks 16 to 29. The second round could be littered with foreign players. Teams like to draft foreign players so they don't have to take on a contract next season. They can keep the players overseas, have them develop for one to three seasons, and then get them back without having to take a hit financially. Taking on a player in the first round means three seasons, and usually four, of guaranteed money, let alone a chance to push a team over the salary cap and suffer a luxury tax. That's why stashing a first-round pick means more cap space for the coming free-agent frenzy.
11. Chicago pre-draft camp players. Boston College's Troy Bell has the best chance of going from the Chicago pre-draft camp to the first round. Don't be shocked if BYU's Travis Hansen, North Dakota's Jerome Beasley, Duke's Dahntay Jones or Hawaii's Carl English slip into the back end of the first round. Hansen and Beasley also played at the Portsmouth Invitational. Agents kept players away in droves from Chicago, but these players didn't shy away from the competition. In a sense, they could get rewarded for their toughness and aggressive style of play with a guaranteed deal.
12. High school players. Perkins would join James as two high school seniors in the first round. Multiple sources in the NBA say Mississippi State signee Travis Outlaw of Starkville High has a promise to Portland at No. 23 (although that pick could be traded). There is talk that Arizona signee Ndudi Ebi out of Westbury Christian High in Houston may also have a promise. If that were the case, then four high school seniors would be selected in the first round. The only one who seems a lock for the second round is James Lang of Birmingham. He was a solid presence in Chicago at the pre-draft camp, but didn't do enough to distinguish himself to earn a first-round spot.
13. Second-round gems. Arizona senior Luke Walton, Maryland senior Steve Blake, the aforementioned Bell, Hansen, Jones, English and Beasley (if they slip), UCLA senior Jason Kapono, Marquette senior Robert Jackson and Ohio's Brandon Hunter would be solid second-round picks who could stick on a roster. All of these players would end up working extremely hard in the summer league to make the roster. They have been humbled during the draft process and are exhibiting a passion to earn a living playing basketball.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.