Two developments during the past 12 hours have made the order of today's NBA Draft selection even more interesting, particularly as it pertains to the Kings. First, the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors reportedly agreed to a trade that would send Pacers center Jermaine O'Neal to the Raps in a deal for point guard T.J. Ford.
Though reports out of Indianapolis suggest the Pacers still plan to draft diminutive point guard D.J. Augustin at No.11, one spot ahead of the Kings, I have to believe that Kings personnel director Jerry Reynolds is leaning on his longtime buddy (and fellow French Lick native) Larry Bird for some kind of arrangement that would leave the Texas star available for the Kings. From what I'm hearing, the Kings execs are unanimous: if availalble, they absolutely want Augustin. Additionally, it makes little sense for the Pacers to acquire Ford and then draft Augustin, while Jamal Tinsley is already is on the roster as a backup. And given Tinsley's off-court problems, who wants to trade for him?
Bird on the prowl
So why would the Pacers swap O'Neal for Ford? In essence, this is a trade of oft-injured players who could actually help their new teams if they were able to remain healthy. I would be most concerned about O'Neal. Though he regards himself as an elite forward/center - and based on sheer talent, he will receive no argument here - recurring injuries have left executives talking about him in terms of "potential." And frankly, at this point in his career, he is who he is - a graceful 6-11 veteran who can score in the post, convert the mid-range jumper, rebound and defend, but who has not done so consistently for several seasons. I'd be wary of the gimpy knee/injury factor, particularly given O'Neal's bloated salary ($22 and $23 million, respectively). While Ford's history of neck injuries is of concern, the remaining three years of his contract are not nearly as onerous.
Riley's concern is noteworthy
Just a hunch here, but knowing Pat Riley since his days as a Lakers assistant, if the Miami Heat president is having reservations about drafting Michael Beasley at No.2 because of "maturity" issues, my sense is that Riley has done a complete background check and doesn't like what he's hearing. While NBA teams are no longer able to subject players to the the type of extensive psychological testing they were in the 1980s and 1990s - the agents becoming increasingly protective of their clients during pre-draft preparations - Riley comes from an organization (Lakers) known for doing its homework. He wants players who commit to the cause, who eat, breathe, sleep and basically live for basketball. I'm just saying ... he has good instincts.