YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Draft Day Isn't a Big Deal

Magic chooses prep star Howard over Okafor with top pick, but little else happens that could be considered a surprise.

June 25, 2004|Mark Heisler | Times Staff Writer

What if they held an NBA draft ... and it didn't turn into anything else?

After a week of speculation about blockbuster trades for Shaquille O'Neal, Tracy McGrady and Steve Francis, and several deals that were hailed as preliminary steps in the process, no blocks were busted.

O'Neal remained a Laker, McGrady was still in Orlando and Francis was still in Houston.

The draft, itself, ran to form, a surprise, because most teams with top picks explored the possibility of trading it and three of the first five actually did.

Orlando, which began the process focused on Connecticut's Emeka Okafor, because he was developmentally ahead of Dwight Howard and would make a better teammate for McGrady, wound up switching to Howard, the 6-9 prep from Atlanta.

"Tracy, I hope that you stay and play with me a couple of years," Howard said. "I think we'll be a really good combo."

Unfortunately, they're not expected to be a combo much past this weekend.

The trade of McGrady to Houston for Francis, Cuttino Mobley and Kelvin Cato is expected to go through, with Francis dropping his objections to playing in Orlando.

Okafor had back trouble late in the season while leading Connecticut to the NCAA title and doctors red-flagged the injury at the pre-draft camp in Chicago.

After the Grant Hill disaster, with his Orlando career scuttled by a bad ankle, the Magic didn't want to gamble on a medical issue. General Manager John Weisbrod, insisting he was swept off his feet by Howard, acknowledged the injury "did factor in to some degree."

Okafor then went No. 2 to expansion Charlotte, with the pick acquired from the Clippers for taking Predrag Drobjnak off their hands. Charlotte GM Bernie Bickerstaff had insisted all along he would happily take whichever big man dropped.

A record eight high school players went in the first round, including 6-6 point guard Shaun Livingston of Peoria (Ill.) Central to the Clippers.

Six foreign players were selected too, about half the total projected a month ago. When the first round closed with Indiana taking Colorado 7-footer David Harrison at No. 29, it meant U.S. college players still made up a narrow 15-14 majority.

It was also the youngest first round ever, with 14 picks who were 20 or younger.

The biggest surprise was Portland using its first-ever lottery pick, No. 13, to take Sebastian Telfair, a 5-10 point guard from Brooklyn's Lincoln High. The most publicized member of the high school class of 2004, Telfair's stock dropped on the pre-draft circuit and he had been expected to go into the 20s.

Upset at not being invited to the NBA's green room, Telfair celebrated at rapper Jay-Z's nightclub, not far from Madison Square Garden, the site of the draft.

The Dallas-Washington deal, hailed as a first step to the Mavericks' acquiring O'Neal, became official. Dallas unloaded the $12.6-million salary of Antawn Jamison for the rights to Devin Harris, who was the Wizards' No. 5 pick, Jerry Stackhouse and Christian Laettner. Harris, a point guard from Wisconsin, could conceivably be seen as the Mavericks' replacement if Steve Nash is sent to the Lakers.

On the other hand, the Mavericks' Don Nelson also acquired Pavel Podkolzine, the hulking 7-5 Russian with little experience, who's considered a very-long-range project.

Maybe the Mavericks want someone O'Neal's size to make him feel more at home.




How the first-round picks break down:

American-born: 20

Foreign-born: 9

Underclassmen: 11

College seniors: 4

High school: 8

Forwards: 13

Guards: 12

Centers: 4



First round by college conference, country:

*--* Conference No. Pacific 10 3 Big East 2 Big Ten 2 Big 12 2 Atlantic 10 2 Atlantic Coast 1 Southern 1 Mountain West 1 Western Athletic 1


*--* Country No. Russia 3 Slovenia 2 Brazil 1 Sudan 1 England 1 Latvia 1




Los Angeles Times Articles