NBA Draft: Agent says WVU's Kevin Jones has a taker
MORGANTOWN - Bill Neff is the sports agent in the middle of the story about West Virginia forward Kevin Jones' path to the NBA Draft.
This is Neff's credo when it comes to guarantees in his world:
"Until the contract is signed and the paychecks are in the bank, I don't believe anything," he said.
With that serving as the backdrop of the final few days before Thursday's event in Newark, N.J., consider the latest news from the New York-based agent. He and Jones have a guarantee from one NBA team.
"There is a team picking in the first round that has told us point blank that they are committed to drafting him," Neff said. "Now, what does that mean? Does that mean they'll draft him in their place? Does that mean they'll trade down to draft him somewhere else, which can happen? If they think they can get you at 30, they can drop down and do that. They could drop down into the second round if that's where they think they can get him.
"So I don't know and I can't control that. What I do know is that a team has told us, 'He's our guy.' We're not certain they'll draft him where they are, but they told us that Kevin's their guy."
Jones, the presumed runner-up and perhaps rightful winner of the Big East's player of the year award this past season, hasn't generated buzz quite like this leading up to the draft. He's worked out for a handful of teams. He did pretty well at the pre-draft combine in Chicago.
But he has otherwise had a hard time getting quality workouts against comparable or even superior players. Neff has even had issues with the way some of the online talent evaluators and mock drafters have ranked his client.
So along those lines, would it be out of the realm of possibility, or even near the border, for all of this to pop up at the most opportune time and send teams back to their draft boards? Certainly not.
Then again, no offense to Jones, but he's not the kind of player who will rearrange plans in the 11th hour and even Neff acknowledges that by stating Jones "isn't a sexy pick."
He is not, for example, Dion Waiters, the former Syracuse guard who vanished from the pre-draft process and somehow shot up draft boards after people presumed he was promised to the Phoenix Suns at No. 13.
And larger than that is this: Subterfuge isn't Neff's trade, not in a trust business where he has been historically trusted by underrated, developmental league and CBA types. Neff has known Jones since Jones was in sixth grade, too, and Jones sought out Neff when he was looking for representation, so figure sincerity trumps strategy here.
What Neff and Jones do know is 24 teams have at least one pick in the first round and six (New Orleans Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics) have two picks.
There are 17 teams with picks in the first and second rounds and New Orleans (three), Cleveland (four), Portland (four), Philadelphia 76ers (three), Denver Nuggets (three), Boston (three) and Golden State (four) have more than two.
That doesn't mean they'll keep them, though. Of the 24 with a first-round pick, seven don't pick in the second round (Phoenix Suns, Houston, Memphis Grizzlies, Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls).
Jones has auditioned for many of those teams: Memphis, Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, Miami, Oklahoma City, Chicago and Golden State, as well as the Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers. The Spurs and Lakers are two of the six teams without a first round pick. Jones has also worked out for the Orlando Magic and Dallas Mavericks, who both have one pick in both rounds.
"I had one guy who's drafting in the first round say to me that Kevin was in their top seven or eight power forwards, but he was more ready to play right away than everyone out there except Thomas Robinson," Neff said, referring to the former Kansas forward commonly projected to be picked second by the Charlotte Bobcats.
Neff tends to believe what others tell him this time of year, and not just because it's bad form for a team to lie to an agent and jeopardize future dealings. Neff has actually had good experiences with these promises.
The first came in 1995 when Jerry West, of all people, vowed to draft Frankie King, a slick shooting guard who averaged 26.7 points in two years at Western Carolina. One problem: West was without picks after trading his away in separate deals for Cedric Ceballos and Sedale Threatt.
"Jerry followed through," Neff said.
Early in the second round, West traded two 1997 second-round picks to the Washington Bullets and used the 37th pick to take Martin.
In 2008, Neff made history with Mike Taylor, a guard who led Iowa State in scoring in the 2007 season, but was kicked off the team after a series of arrests and citations in his one year on campus. Taylor, who averaged 16 points and 4.5 assists for the Cyclones, played the 2008 season with the Idaho Stampede in the NBA Developmental League. He averaged 14 points and entered the draft.
No one had ever been drafted out of the D-League, but the Clippers promised Neff they'd take Taylor. Early in the second round, they instead took DeAndre Jordan at No. 35.
"They called to explain and I didn't use nice words with them," Neff said.
The Trail Blazers ended up taking Taylor at No. 55, but the Clippers made a trade later in the night to acquire Taylor.
"I trust people when they say they're going to draft my guy," Neff said. "I don't know where this team wants to take Kevin, but I think they clearly intend to take him."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.