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View Full Version : 6/25 - Draft Day Fallout



kerosene
06-25-2004, 02:18 PM
Friday, June 25, 2004

Did the Magic blow it?

By Chad Ford
ESPN Insider


Also see: Ford's Draft Grades | 2005 Sneak Peek

It was supposed to be unpredictable. Crazy. Filled with trades, rumors and innuendo. It was going to shock us, thrill us and ultimately redistribute the base of power in the league.

Instead, Thursday night's draft pretty much played according to form. There were a few surprises here or there, but nothing like what we saw in last year's draft.

There were no huge trades. No stunning picks. No major shake-ups. Even the guys who fell (with the possible exception of Sergey Monya) were the guys who were supposed to fall.

When the draft did deviate from the script a little bit? Here's a look at how things look the morning after the NBA draft.

Q: Does the fact that the Magic took Dwight Howard over Emeka Okafor mean that Tracy McGrady is as good as gone?

Yes. But I'm not sure it had to be that way. When the Magic traded with Denver for the draft rights to Jameer Nelson, the whole Howard over Okafor thing started bothering me.

McGrady says he prefers to stay with the Magic, but wants out because the team is rebuilding. The Magic landed the No. 1 pick and, as we found out later, the No. 20 pick in the draft. To play a little revisionist history . . .had they taken Okafor at No. 1 and still landed Nelson at No. 20 . . . wouldn't that have been enough to make the Magic a serious playoff team -- especially in the ultra-weak Southeastern Conference?

Hear me out. You take Nelson at the point. McGrady at the two. Grant Hill and Pat Garrity at the three. Juwan Howard and Drew Gooden at the four and Okafor at the five. Isn't that a playoff team?

The word from Hill's camp is that he's finally healthy and will be ready to play this year. We obviously know that Hill will never return to his former glory. But even 20 minutes a night of a rusty Hill is better than what the Magic have had the last four years. Garrity missed almost all of last season and the Magic really missed his lights-out shooting.

Throwing Nelson and Okafor into the mix changees everything. Those two guys are winners. They play hard every minute. They're leaders. They both have the ability to pick their team up and carry it to the finish line. Their bellies are on fire and their hearts are enormous.

The Magic were terrible last year because they lacked presence. They lacked defensive intensity. They lacked any will to win. Nelson and Okafor carry that in abundance. It can become contagious, just ask the Pistons.

Couldn't GM John Weisbrod have gone to T-Mac and said, "Look, I know you want out. Let's see how this team plays for a few months. If we're bad, you'll get your trade. If we're good, you get your wish."

I think they'd be much, much improved from last year.

In other words, why the rush to trade T-Mac? Why not try to build a winner and keep him. If you fail, the market will always be good for a player of McGrady's character. If you win, then you get to keep T-Mac and Okafor.

Instead, Weisbrod chose Howard and sealed T-Mac's fate. This is what's bothering me. In essence, the Magic are choosing to replace McGrady with Howard. McGrady is a proven commodity. He's a scoring machine. An all-star. Howard is a bundle of hopes and projections. If all goes according to plan, he will, someday, become a player like McGrady. But why trade the real thing for a work in serious progress?

I think John Weisbrod could've saved the Magic on draft night. Maybe he did. But with T-Mac ready to bolt and Howard looking a few years away, I think the Magic could be in worse shape than ever.

Q: So T-Mac's gone? Apparently. Thursday night, sources claimed that the Magic and Rockets had resumed talks. Weisbrod is claiming that Steve Francis would go to the Magic along with Kelvin Cato and Cuttino Mobley for McGrady, Juwan Howard, Reece Gaines and Tyronn Lue. Rockets owner Les Alexander told the Houston Chronicle on Thursday that they were nearing in on a deal.

"We think we have a trade that will benefit the team," Alexander said. "We also think it is a good trade for Orlando. They are terrific players we're trading. We'd like to get it done. I think we're going to get it done. But who knows? It's not up to me."

The Orlando Sentinel reported that Francis has dropped his objections to playing for the Magic.

"I couldn't say we're closer to anything but this was a good first step," Weisbrod said. "I do like the determination, conviction I hear from Steve."

Weisbrod also said he will continue talking to other teams interested in McGrady. The Suns appear to have dropped out of the bidding. The Pacers are still interested and may have held up doing a deal with Chicago or Cleveland on Thursday in an effort to preserve their assets for a T-Mac trade.

"We could still go in another direction with this, but I do like what I heard tonight," Weisbrod said. "We meshed."

Q: What happened to all of those trades that the Bulls were talking about?

Ladies and Gentleman, Bulls GM John Paxson.

"One thing I'd like to dispel is this sentiment that we didn't do what we intended," Paxson told the Chicago Tribune. "That's not the case at all.

"Our goal was to get two players out of the draft. If we could've done something to acquire a veteran, we obviously were going to go that route. But some things we had out there fell through."

What exactly fell through. The biggest deal was with the Pacers, who negotiated with the Bulls well into draft night. The Pacers were dangling Al Harrington, but the hang-ups came on what the Bulls were offering in return. The Pacers wanted the No. 3 pick. The Bulls wanted the Pacers to take on Eddie Robinson's salary. They also had serious talks with the Sonics, according to sources. In the end, however, nothing happened, and Paxson is apparently OK with that.

Q: So with the Bulls drafting yet another guard, where does that leave Jamal Crawford?

Crawford's agent, Aaron Goodwin, told Insider that Crawford's first choice is still to play for the Bulls. But the writing is on the wall here. The Bulls believe he'll get an offer above the mid-level exception and it sounds like they don't want to pay it. While Crawford would be a great big guard in their otherwise small lineup, I think the chances are good you'll see him bolt to a team like the Bobcats, who have a lot of cap room.

Q: Why did the Mavs take a point guard, Devin Harris, with No. 5? Is Steve Nash gone or is Harris going to be traded again?

Mark Cuban claims that the team plans to keep Harris. Let's wait and see. They were hoping Shaun Livingston fell to them here, but switched gears and grabbed Harris after the Clippers drafted Livingston at No. 4. The Mavs spent the entire morning on Thursday calling every team in the league offering the No. 5 for more assets.

However, after the pick was made, Donnie Nelson claimed that Harris will stay in Big D. "Devin Harris is staying put as the Mavericks point guard of the future."

So that means Nash is gone, right?

"Steve Nash, along with Michael Finley and Dirk Nowitzki, is the heart and soul of the Mavericks," said Donnie Nelson, president of basketball operations. "We don't take that lightly. We're not kicking him to the side of the curb."

Tell that to his agent. Nash can explore free agency this summer and some believe there's a small chance he'll choose to sign with the Suns instead of the Mavericks.

"It sounds like they're going in a different direction," his agent, Bill Duffy, said. "We'll have to work with it, if that's the case."

If Nash and Harris are staying . . . how do they woo Shaq? The same way they always do -- by trading Dirk Nowitzki. The Lakers insist it's the only way. Cuban claims it won't happen. It may be time to start scribbling the Mavs off the Shaq list.

Q: If the Nets can't afford the No. 22 pick, how can they afford to re-sign Kenyon Martin?

It's clear that new owner Bruce Ratner is in cost-cutting mode right now. The Nets are in the process of slashing payroll, which doesn't bode well for Martin's hopes of getting a max contract this summer.

The word around the league Thursday night was that the Nets are shopping both Martin and Jason Kidd in effort to cut cap. They don't want to move both. Just one should get their cap under control.

The Nuggets and Nets seriously discussed a deal that would send Nene Hilario to New Jersey for Martin in a sign-and-trade. The Nuggets have the cap space to eat Martin's larger deal.

Sources also claim that the team has explored moving Kidd. Maybe that's why San Antonio has been frantically clearing cap. A Tony Parker-for-Kidd swap, the same one that was mentioned so prominently last summer when Kidd was a free agent, may make more sense now. A swap like that would give the Nets a point guard and the extra cap room to re-sign Martin and Richard Jefferson next year.

New Jersey GM Rod Thorn, for his part, denies that he's shopping anyone.

"We are not shopping anybody around," Thorn told the New York Daily News. "We talk about guys all the time. People talk to us. So to say we are shopping him or Kenyon or anybody else is not true."

Q: Sebastian Telfair at No. 13?

Don't get me started. The Blazers passed on Kirk Snyder, a player who they desperately need, to grab Telfair here. He's going to have to be a great point guard to justify the pick. I think this was one of the worst picks of the night.

Q: Can you explain to me how the Celtics are going to be any better after this draft?

That's a tough one. I don't think they got a significant impact player. But that wasn't Danny Ainge's fault. The guys who could've helped them more (especially at center) weren't on the board anymore. I thought the Al Jefferson pick was a solid one at No. 15. Delonte West and Tony Allen are good players, but I don't know how much they help. The bottom line is that if the Celtics lose Mark Blount this summer, it's going to be another long year.

Q: Only six international players in the first round? Has the backlash started?

I think so. But it will likely end after this year. As we've been saying for months, this year's crop of high school players was extraordinary, but the group of international players was ordinary at best. The only international player not drafted in the first round who deserved to be was Brazil's Anderson Varejao. However, he did go with the first pick of the second round.

Next year, the opposite holds true. The high school class of 2005 is very, very weak. The international class, however, is quite strong. When all is said and done, there's a chance that high school kids will get shut out next year. The international kids will get more than six first-round spots.