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Well, we're in the home stretch. The draft is looming, Ed Stefanski has changed his tune, sort of. The pundits are spewing rumors left and right. Let's try to catch up a little bit as we head into this fateful week.

First, the dates:

The NBA Draft will take place Thursday, June 26th at 8pm. Teams will be able to begin negotiating with free agents on July 1st. That's also the deadline for most opt-outs, including Elton Brand.

Now some links:

  • If you haven't already done so, make sure you get your draft bracket in to Arin over at Arin It Out. He's running a contest, whoever predicts the first round the best wins some cash. The deadline is looming.
  • If you've been reading here for some time, you know I'm not crazy about John Hollinger's purely statistical look at the game. That being said, his post on a statistical analysis of the players coming out is worth a read. Here's the link to the big men, and the guards. They're both Insider material, so let me break it down for you.
    • Among the bigs, Hollinger ranks Beasley #1, Kevin Love #2, Darrell Arthur #3 and Marreese Speights #4. He also agrees with Stop Mike Lupica and I about Anthony Randolph. Here's his quote on Randolph, "It appears he's going to be drafted in the middle of the first round at worst, but even that appears to be a terrible mistake -- there is no track record whatsoever of a player rated this poorly achieving pro success."
    • Hollinger's guard projections are eye-openers. He projects D.J. Augustin as the best PG in the draft, then Derrick Rose, Mario Chalmers and Jerryd Bayliss. He projects a minimal difference between Augustin and Rose, but the surprising thing is that he projects Beasley head and shoulders above Rose. Basically, he's saying drafting Rose over Beasley would be a monumental mistake.
  • The Sixers worked out Speights, among a bunch of other guys who they won't be drafting.
  • After talking about the shooters he'd like to have at #16 a few weeks back, Ed Stefanski now says he's probably going big with the pick.
  • On the trade front, Chris Broussard thinks there's a better chance of the Sixers landing Josh Smith than Elton Brand. If you read the post carefully, though, you'll see that Broussard is a moron. He says the Sixers can offer Josh Smith $11M in the first year of the deal, with 8% increases. This is patently false. Smith is a restricted free agent, meaning any offer the Sixers make for him has to average the amount of cap space they have this season. Meaning, average $11M. It can be a five-year deal for $55M, not a five-year deal for $63.8M (the end result of starting at $11M w/ 8% yearly increases). That deal would require almost $13M in cap space right now. This is the key difference between signing a restricted free agent and an unrestricted free agent. With unrestricted you only need to fit the first season's salary under the cap. With restricted, you need to fit the average yearly salary under. Broussard also said the Sixers may go after Antawn Jamison.
  • It looks like Shawn Marion will not opt out of his deal. Meaning, the Heat won't have the cap space to sign Elton Brand. They could still work a sign and trade with the Clippers, but would the Clippers want Marion?
  • In other bad news, Chad Ford's latest mock draft has Anthony Randolph dropping to #16, and being taken by the Sixers.
So, as we enter the home stretch I think it's time for a poll. Vote below, leave any and all thoughts in the comments, and prepare yourselves. The future of this franchise will most likely be drastically altered in the next couple of weeks.