Tuesday's NBA Draft Lottery didn't answer any questions about Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio's future. In fact, it may have added to them.
With the Los Angeles Clippers expected to use the first pick on Oklahoma's Blake Griffin (according head coach and general manger Mike Dunleavy), there is some real concern that the 18-year-old's buyout from Spain's DKV Joventut could push him out of the second spot.
Complicating matters is the fact that the Memphis Grizzlies, owners of that pick, drafted a point guard two years ago (Mike Conley).
"We're at a spot with the second pick and we are going to try and determine who the second best player is," said Memphis Coach Lionel Hollins after the lottery.
But what if the Grizzlies determine that Rubio is in fact the draft's second best player? Is his $8 million or so buyout going to stop a team from drafting him?
"I have no idea," responded Hollins. "I haven't talked to anybody about that."
One reason team representatives are trying to stay clear of the Rubio talk is because of the complicated nature of his buyout.
Rubio's signature is allegedly not on his current contract. As a 16-year-old, Rubio's parents signed his deal with DKV Joventut in his place. That distinction lends favor to Rubio and agent Dan Fegan.
However, DKV Joventut does have Rubio's signature on last season's addendum to the contract which gave the mop-topped point guard a pay raise. The team is trying to leverage that signature into either 6 million euros this season or as much as 10 million euros next season.
That's right. Rubio's buyout actually goes up next season, which means if the situation doesn't get resolved this year, it probably won't be resolved next season either. There is a remote possibility that Rubio doesn't arrive in the NBA until the 2011-2012 season.
According to one NBA agent "teams could definitely back off… The buyout itself is sticky."
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Rubio and Fegan still fearlessly entered the draft this season and seem confident that a deal can be worked out. NBA rules stipulate that teams can only contribute $500,000 to a foreign player's buyout, which means Rubio will be paying the rest out of pocket. A lucrative marketing deal could soften the blow for the would-be rookie, but shoe deals have lulled with the economy.
Regardless, sources close to Rubio have told HOOPSWORLD that he will gain his release and remain in the draft class past the June 15 deadline for all withdrawals.
If Memphis does decide to pass on Rubio, the Oklahoma City Thunder could be a possibility at No. 3.
"I've only watched him a few times," said Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks. "I know that he's a very smart player who knows how to play the game, makes his teammates better but there are a lot of good players in the draft. We're happy today (because) we're going to get a good young player who is going to make us better."
When asked about Rubio's potential buyout, Thunder G.M. Sam Presti was as non-committal as everyone else at the NBA Entertainment Studios, Tuesday.
"All those things are so relative," he said. "I don't have all the necessary information, and that's something that, leading up to the draft, should become more clear."
One thing that is clear though is that the Thunder have the ability to make room for Rubio. Despite drafting UCLA's Russell Westbrook last year, Brooks can envision starting two point guards right next to each other.
"I played (Westbrook) at both spots (this season)," said Brooks. "He has improved every month. He understands that he has the ability to play both spots. He thinks like a point guard."
If the Thunder do decide to pass on Rubio as well, it is unlikely he would slip past the owners of the fourth pick, Sacramento.