Draft Rumors: Towns, Okafor, Lakers, Hezonja

The gap between Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns and Duke center Jahlil Okafor has widened over the past few months to the point that it seems like a foregone conclusion that Towns will go No. 1 overall, as Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress writes amid his latest mock draft. That doesn’t mean it’s set in stone just yet, of course, but it does further the notion of Towns as the front-runner for the top pick, one that took hold during the NCAA Tournament. Givony also has Emmanuel Mudiay falling to the Nuggets at No. 7. Chad Ford of ESPN.com suggests in a chat with readers that the Nuggets would like to trade up in search of Mudiay at an earlier pick but have found little traction with the Kings, who hold the No. 6 pick, and others in trade talk involving Ty Lawson. Here’s more with the draft just one week and one day away:
  • The Lakers are worried that finding a quality big man via free agency or trade will be tougher than finding a guard who can score, as Ford reports in his new mock draft, citing it as an edge for Okafor as the team mulls what to do with the No. 2 pick. It appears that the Lakers are debating Okafor and Ohio State combo guard D’Angelo Russell if the Wolves pick Towns, Ford writes.
  • The stock of Arizona small forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is rising, making him a sleeper lottery pick, Ford hears, writing in the same mock draft. Multiple sources told Ford that they believe Oregon shooting guard Joseph Young has a promise from a team picking late in the first round.
  • Agent Arn Tellem is negotiating with Barcelona of Spain to reduce the buyout clause in top-10 prospect Mario Hezonja‘s contract, reports David Pick of Eurobasket.com (Twitter link). The buyout is the equivalent of $2.27MM as it stands, well north of the $625K cap that NBA teams can shell out without it coming out of the player’s salary. Tellem is set to become an executive in the Pistons organization, and Detroit picks eighth.
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