Omri Casspi 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Israeli basketball's long wait for an NBA player could finally come to an end on Thursday night.
Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Omri Casspi is projected to be picked late in the first round, or early in the second, in Thursday's NBA Draft at Madison Square Garden in New York. A first-round selection would likely ensure that he will become the first Israeli to play in the best basketball league in the world.
The 21-year-old will watch the draft from his home with his family, choosing not to travel to New York so he could share the moment with his loved ones.
According to the leading mock drafts in the US, Casspi has an excellent chance of going in the first round.
Draftexpress.com is forecasting he will go 26th to the Chicago Bulls, nbadraft.net is estimating he will be selected 23rd by the Sacramento Kings and CNNSI's Ian Thomsen is projecting he will be taken as high as the 20th pick, which belongs to the Utah Jazz.
Meanwhile, Blake Griffin, who is expected to picked by the Los Angeles Clippers with the top pick in Thursday's draft, will have to rewrite the history of a franchise best known for its blunders on and off the court.
"It doesn't bother me at all," Griffin said. "All that stuff happened in the past. That's exactly where it is. If I am with the Clippers, it's going to be all about the future. No disrespect to anybody, but I could care less what happened 20 years ago, 15 years ago."
(Or this past season, when the Clippers went 19-63 to earn the best chance at the top pick in the lottery. But Griffin can worry about that once he gets to LA.)
Another story to look for on draft night will be the multitude of talented backcourt players that are projected to be picked.
Ricky Rubio, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, John Flynn, Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, Jeff Teague, and Ty Lawson are just some of the names who will be called early Thursday by teams needing point guards - assuming you consider all of them point guards.
Curry, the Davidson star who led the nation in scoring and Evans, built like a 2-guard but who shifted to the point for Memphis, fit into the category of combination guards. That means they can play both positions but aren't a natural at either.
Nets general manager Kiki Vandeweghe said it's up to each team to determine which it prefers from its point guard.
"One might pass a little better than another, one might be a little bit more physically mature than the next guy," Vandeweghe said. "One might be a little bit better able to run a team right away, but certainly there's upside in all these guys."
Knicks president Donnie Walsh believes at least 10 point guards could go in the first round, but Vandeweghe said they are not interchangeable.
"There's definite differences in the players, plus the fact there's players who are more ready to play right now and players who are going to take a little while but have tremendous upside," he said.
"All of these guys are going to go high, and you can see all of them have a chance to be really good players in the NBA."