Dwight Howard Looking to Usurp Emeka Okafor's #1 Spot

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

According to Orlando GM John Weisbrod, Emeka Okafor is no longer the obvious #1 pick. Of the 15 teams that have contacted him looking to trade for the Magic's #1 draft pick, about half are looking to use it on Dwight Howard. Weisbrod himself also has no predispositions, and he says the Magic will work both players out and make an objective decision. Howard's agent Aaron Goodwin, of course, compares Howard to Kevin Garnett, and says there'd be no doubt he'd be the #1 pick had he spent a year in college. Howard calls himself a cross between KG and Tim Duncan. Can Howard usurp the throne or is this just the hype machine working in overdrive?

Okafor has reportedly not played basketball since he won the NCAA championship. His back problems, which may have scared off some people, are apparently no big deal, according to Weisbrod. He says that it appears that Okafor's back is bone and not nerve damage. Bone damage just takes a while to heal. Nerve damage would have been chronic. The Magic doctors will examine Okafor when he visits Orlando.

So if Okafor's medical condition isn't making him drop in the draft, is it really Howard's talent that is making him seem to be rising from #2 to #1? Or is it just publicity?

Okafor has not had much publicity. You don't hear him walking around comparing himself to the current and past MVPs of the league. Howard, meanwhile, has had a full-blitz campaign thanks to his agent.


Is it really to try to move up from #2 to #1?

Nope. It's to move up to #2 or #3 from potentially as low as #6. Howard has in fact been slipping in mock drafts, going anywhere from #2 to #6. Goodwin's attempts to position him in the #1 spot is just his way of trying to raise his stock to at least the top 3 picks.

Consider this math. The #6 pick will earn $7,413,720 over the first three years (supposing he is signed to the maximum allowable rookie contract for the #6 choice). The #2 pick will earn $11,132,520 over the first three years (also supposing he is signed to the maximum allowable rookie contract for the #1 choice). That's a 50% increase in total take-home pay both for Howard and for Goodwin.

For an extra $3,718,800, wouldn't you look to position yourself as the #1? If nothing else, you solidify your position at #2 and make some easy money. Surely Howard would be happier playing for Atlanta if they trade up for the #2 than he would playing for Orlando. The difference in total salary from #2 to #1 is just $1,310,160 over three years: it's something, but it's no big deal.

It's good advice for life. If you're going to aim, aim high. Then if you miss, you still end up higher than if you aimed low and hit.

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Brian Schmitz ofThe Orlando Sentinelwrites: Atlanta high school star Dwight Howard believes he can help persuade Tracy McGrady to stay in Orlando if the Magic -- and T-Mac -- just give him the chance before the NBA draft, then select him with the No. 1 overall pick.Howard told the Sentinel on Thursday he should be the Magic's choice over Connecticut center Emeka Okafor and that he'd "love" for McGrady to watch him work out in Orlando for the Magic. Howard, speaking by phone from Atlanta, says he believes he's a better player than Okafor, describing himself as a "a young KG [Kevin Garnett] and Tim Duncan mixed together. That's me."

John Denton ofFlorida Todaywrites: Dwight Howard has yet to work out for the Magic, owners of the top overall pick in the June 24th NBA Draft, but his stock is apparently on the rise so much so that the Magic are seriously considering him as their primary option.Not only that, but of the calls the Magic have fielded from other teams wanting to talk about trading for the pick, most of them want to do so in order to draft the 6-foot-11 Howard.

Steve Kroner ofThe San Francisco Chroniclewrites: When ABC's Al Michaels calls Game 1 between the Pistons and the Lakers on Sunday night, he will become the first broadcaster to work all four major pro sports championships -- the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup Finals and NBA Finals -- on TV... On a conference call Thursday, Michaels said that he began his first NBA season with ABC with some trepidation. "The best thing that happened to me," Michaels cracked, "was the way the Orlando Magic started."That was a needle and a compliment to his partner, Doc Rivers. Orlando fired Rivers, who was the Magic's head coach, after a 1-10 start. ABC hired Rivers as an analyst shortly thereafter. The network must replace Rivers next season as he has become the Celtics' head man.