Bobcats to Select Second and May Get Emeka Okafor; PLUS: Preview - Ben Gordon/Andre Iguodala/Shaun Livingston

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

The Charlotte Bobcats pulled off their first trade last night, sending their fourth picks in the first and second round to the Clippers in exchange for the second overall pick and a promise to take Predrag Srobnak in the expansion draft tonight. In other widely reported rumors, the Orlando-Houston trade sending Tracy McGrady et al. for Steve Francis et al. may get a hiccup if the Bobcats choose to intervene and select key players needed to match salaries in the trade either from the Rockets or the Magic. One report suggests that the Bobcats could be bribed into silence by an Orlando promise to draft Dwight Howard, letting the Bobcats build around favorite Emeka Okafor.

The expansion draft is tonight and the Bobcats will be the center of attention. Here are the players that appear most likely to be selected:

Orlando: Zaza Pachulia
Utah: Sasha Pavlovic
Philadelphia: Aaron McKie
Cleveland: Jason Kapono
Phoenix: Jahidi White
Sacramento: Gerald Wallace
New Jersey: Tamar Slay?
L.A. Clippers: Predrag Drobnjak
Seattle: Richie Frahm

Less likely but still rumored are such ideas as selecting Antoine Walker to trade him to the Knicks in exchange for a boatload of other expiring contracts, maybe including Dikembe Mutombo. That may not be a bad thing for the Bobcats to get the multiple-time defensive player of the year as a mentor for Okafor, but Mutombo may be very unhappy to be shipped off to Charlotte, even if it is only for a year. Time will tell.

In the meantime, here is the penultimate draft preview. While initially our strategy of previewing players was intended to look at athletes the Bobcats could select at their initially allocated fourth draft pick, the fact that the Bobcats will surely be selecting either Howard or Okafor doesn't mean these other guys aren't interesting. Furthermore, they are supremely interesting for the teams that follow the Bobcats in the draft, and keeping all of the preview information in one place has its advantages. So without further ado, let's preview some of the best guards in the draft.

Ben Gordonis of course Okafor's teammate from the championship UConn team, and reportedly his workouts have only cemented him in the eyes of many GM's as not just the best point guard in the draft, but the best scorer. Gordon impressed scouts with his ability to run the point yet also light it up when necessary. There are rumors that even Chicago is interested in him as high as third.

Andre Iguodalamay be the highest placed sleeper in the draft. He is projected to go surely in the top 10 and possibly in the top five or six. He is simply amazing. He can fly, he can score, and he can dish. He is a swingman guard or at times a small forward and the best comparison may well be Vince Carter, except Iggy's already got a cooler nickname. It is hard to be a sleeper when you are picked so high but he could be this draft's Paul Pierce or Caron Butler, slipping gently into a lucky team's hands.

Shaun Livingstonis either the next coming of Magic Johnson or the next coming of Penny Hardaway. He is as tall as either of them, plays the point, and is still in high school. His potential is huge because of the additional three-four years of professional playing time his career can withstand, since he didn't have the handicap of attending college. (Note the mild sarcasm.) He is physically weaker than he needs to be but his court vision and ability to run a team appear to be top-notch, and he is likely a top-five candidate as well.

Today is the long-anticipated expansion draft held solely for the Bobcats. Charlotte must select at least 14 and may select as many as 29 players, at most one from any team. If they select restricted free agents, those players become unrestricted free agents, with any and all Bird rights accruing to Charlotte. While the Bobcats must have their list into the league by noon, the actual selection announcements will be broadcast live on WJZY and NBA TV tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT. The public is invited to attend the event at Founders Hall in Center City Charlotte.

For a description of the expansion draft tonight, you may consult this articleby our own Dan Maymin also my brother!).

For a transcript of Bobcats GM/coach Bernie Bickerstaff's conference call yesterday, you may consult this article


Our own Kevin Pelton ofHoopsworld.comdetails a team-by-team breakdown of expected expansion draft selections. He even predicted the Charlotte/Clippers trade hours before it went down. Read his article here.

Our own Bill "The Rockey Guy" Ingram ofHoopsworld.comwrites: Perhaps this deal will set off another deal or two. The Magic may have a second deal in the works that would send Francis somewhere else - like Charlotte - and bring an additional draft pick to Orlando.The Magic could send Francis practically home and land the #2 overall pick to go with the #1. Imagine Dwight Howard and Emeka Okafor both landing in Orlando. That would be something.

Jenna Fryer ofThe Chicago Sun-Heraldwrites: Charlotte finalized one major move Monday, acquiring the No. 2 overall pick in Thursday's amateur draft - which the Bobcats will use to select Emeka Okafor or Dwight Howard - from the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for the No. 4 overall pick and Charlotte's second-round pick, 33rd overall.The Bobcats also agreed to select Clippers center Predrag Drobnjak in the expansion draft... The Bobcats tried to acquire the No. 1 overall pick from the Magic, but the Clippers were more receptive to a trade.

John Denton ofFlorida Todaywrites: The Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets are apparently on the verge of pulling off a blockbuster trade involving All-Stars Tracy McGrady and Steve Francis and several others, according to Francis' agent. Jeff Fried told the Houston Chronicle Monday that a deal sending McGrady to Houston and Francis to Orlando was imminent. Because Francis' contract falls under "base-year compensation" rules, the Magic and Rockets might have to involve the expansion Charlotte Bobcats in the deal. Charlotte will take part in the NBA expansion draft today. Contrary to an article that suggested that Howard was the player stalling the deal, the primary hangup is the inclusion of Gaines.Because Gaines was left unprotected by the Magic -- Howard was actually protected -- he could be picked today by the Charlotte Bobcats in the NBA expansion draft. The Magic might have to work out a deal to keep the Bobcats from selecting Gaines and ultimately wrecking the trade with the Rockets. One possible scenario is that the Magic agree to take Dwight Howard and not Emeka Okafor with the first selection in Thursday's NBA Draft. That would allow the Bobcats to snatch Okafor with the second pick. Charlotte general manager/head coach Bernie Bickerstaff has openly raved about wanting to build the new franchise around Okafor.

Tom Moore ofphillyburbs.comwrites: In other Sixers news, there were rumblings that the Sixers could lose Aaron McKie to Charlotte in tonight's expansion draft.One scenario had the Bobcats taking him and dealing him to the Knicks. New York president Isiah Thomas has expressed interest in McKie. 

Lacy J. Banks ofThe Chicago Sun-Timeswrites: Marcus Fizer is hoping his name is called when the Charlotte Bobcats select 14 players in the NBA expansion draft today.''That would mean I'd be getting a fresh start, and I would definitely welcome that,'' Fizer said. Fizer, a 6-9 forward who played sparingly for the Bulls last season after Scott Skiles replaced Bill Cartwright as coach, went to Birmingham, Ala., on Monday for his first-month checkup on his surgically repaired right knee.

Mike McGraw ofThe Chicago Daily Heraldwrites: The last Bulls player to be chosen in an expansion draft was B.J. Armstrong, who went to Toronto in 1995.

Phil Miller ofThe Salt Lake Tribunewrites: No matter what happens tonight, Curtis Borchardt expects to experience a weird kind of semi-deja vu. Either he will be drafted by an NBA team for the second time, or he will be a full-fledged member of the Utah Jazz. For the second time. Such is the strange limbo that Borchardt and Sasha Pavlovic inhabit until around 5 p.m. MDT tonight, when the Charlotte Bobcats reveal which of the two Jazz players (or neither of them) they have selected to stock their inaugural roster.

John Denton ofFlorida Todaywrites: Already poised to trade Tracy McGrady and three other starters to Houston, the Orlando Magic expect to lose promising center Zaza Pachulia today when the expansion draft is held for the newly created Charlotte Bobcats. Pachulia, a 20-year-old native of the Republic of Georgia, showed promising flashes while playing in 59 games as a rookie for the Magic.

Dave Del Grande ofThe Alameda Times-Starwrites: Erick Dampier is expected to inform the Golden State Warriors today of his intention to opt out of the final two years of his contract.Fittingly, the announcement will occur on the same day of the Charlotte Bobcats' expansion draft. The two events definitely are connected.

Mike Tulumello ofThe East Valley Tribunewrites: The NBA expansion draft, where the Suns are expected to make the long-awaited trade that will dump the contract of Jahidi White to the Charlotte Bobcats, is set for 4 p.m. today.The Suns are believed to have left White and guard Howard Eisley unprotected in the draft. The deal involving White is believed to involve at least one first-round pick and $3 million in cash going to Charlotte to induce the Bobcats to pick up the one year and $5.9 million left on White's contract.

AP Sports Writer Jenna Fryer writes inThe Sarasota Herald-Tribune: of In one deal close to being finalized, Charlotte would acquire center Jahidi White, cash and a future draft pick from Phoenix - a deal that would give the Suns enough salary cap flexibility to make a run at free agents Kobe Bryant or Steve Nash... But Bickerstaff insists he wants to take a long-range approach and has hinted he'll pass on the likes of Jerry Stackhouse, Antoine Walker, Eddie Jones and Brian Grant... Among the unprotected players the Bobcats are believed to be interested in are Sacramento's Gerald Wallace and Jason Kapono of Cleveland.

Ohm Youngmisuk ofThe New York Daily Newswrites: The Nets, who didn't want to be stuck with a three-year guaranteed contract for a first-round pick, also will find out if the Bobcats take either Kerry Kittles, Rodney Rogers, Alonzo Mourning or Tamar Slay in tonight's expansion draft. The Bobcats are interested in young players with potential like Slay, but the Nets would like to unload Kittles' or Rogers' contract.

Frank Isola ofThe New York Daily Newswrites: Rumors of a trade that would bring Antoine Walker to New York are alive again.The Knicks and Charlotte Bobcats have had discussions about a deal for Walker, who was left unprotected by the Dallas Mavericks for tonight's expansion draft. Walker's salary could preclude the Bobcats from selecting him, because if they were to deal Walker to the Knicks they would have to take back approximately $14 million in salary.

Rich Myhre ofThe Everett Heraldwrites: The Bobcats, if they are so inclined, could relieve the Sonics of either Jerome James, Calvin Booth or Vitaly Potapenko, a trio of mediocre big men who together will earn close to $18 million in the 2004-05 season. That could happen, but a better bet is that Charlotte will choose the cheapest Sonic from last season's roster. That would be guard Richie Frahm, a restricted free agent who earned $366,931 in 2004-05.

Marc Narducci ofThe Charlotte Observerwrites: If healthy, Okafor would seem to be the class of the college crop, and he is likely to be taken by the Orlando Magic with the No. 1 pick.Measured by the NBA at 6 feet, 8 3/4 inches, he could become one of the league's elite power forwards. But will he be able to flourish on offense in the pros? Like his back, that's not exactly a favorite topic of conversation for him. "I averaged 21 (points) and 10 (rebounds), and I don't know what more I could have done," Okafor said of his performance in UConn's Final Four victories over Duke and Georgia Tech. "Maybe average 30 points per game?" For his junior season as a whole, he averaged 17.6 points and 11.5 rebounds. He finished his three-year college career with 441 blocked shots - the seventh-highest total in NCAA history. Despite the health questions and the concerns about his offense, there probably are few players in the draft who will be able to contribute immediately, which is what Okafor seems likely to do.

Sam Smith ofThe Chicago Tribunewrites: Orlando Magic All-Star Tracy McGrady appears headed to the Houston Rockets in a massive player exchange that includes fellow All-Star Steve Francis and veterans Cuttino Mobley and Chicago native Juwan Howard. The deal is on hold pending Tuesday's expansion draft. Some of the players involved, perhaps as many as eight, could be taken by Charlotte.