The Eerie Calm of Trade Waters Before the Storm

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

The previously reported Houston trade involving essentially a Steve Francis for Tracy McGrady swap has been either shelved or postponed as the Magic continue to entertain both complementary and alternative possibilities. As many as seven teams are involved in serious discussions with the Magic for either McGrady or the top pick or both, ranging from Indiana's well-publicized alternative offer to Seattle and Miami's complementary offers to take Steve Francis in exchange for either Ray Allen or Caron Butler. It could even come out to be a four-or-more team trade.

Orlando is well-posed to be the leading drama queen in tonight's prom-like draft. And its king seems more and more likely to be Dwight Howard.

McGrady trade talks have reportedly shut down for today as the Magic focus all their attention on getting some value for the #1 pick. Indications seem to be that while Orlando likes Emeka Okafor, he may never be the league MVP; Howard could be the next Kevin Garnett. If Orlando is able to trade down with Charlotte in exchange for either a nice veteran or, well, at leastsomething, then it seems they would do it.

It's an interesting little chicken-and-egg problem. The GM's of both Orlando and Charlotte have tried to state as tactfully as they could that they would be happy with either Howard or Okafor. Reading between the lines, it seems that the Magic seem to prefer Howard while the Bobcats seem to prefer Okafor.

But if the Magic approach the Bobcats about a possible swap of the draft picks, then that will indicate to the Bobcats that the Magic really are more interested in Howard. Hence, no need to trade, because that means Okafor will be available. The Magic almost need the Bobcats to come to them, asking about yet another swap up, in order to get the deal done. It's almost a question of who blinks first.

My best guess is that there will be no Orlando-Charlotte trade unless Charlotte gives up something it didn't really want anyway: perhaps one or another of the players it selected in the expansion draft. But who would the Magic want of the low contract young players that have been exposed by their original teams?

And after the draft is done, and the trade waters have settled again, remember the Loch Ness Monster is still lurking below.

Tracy McGradyWILLbe traded. The only question now is for who.

In what will likely be one of the biggest draft parties on the planet, you can go to NBA City in Orlando tonight from 6-9pm for the Magic's Draft Party.

The Magic will host the 2004 Pepsi Pro Summer League July 6-10, with participation from Orlando, Boston, Cleveland, Miami, New Jersey, and Washington.

Dancer auditions begin on July 11.


Chris Sheridan ofThe Waterloo Cedar Falls Courierwrites: With the first pick in the NBA draft, the Orlando Magic will do something. Maybe they'll keep it, maybe they'll trade it.On the eve of the draft, even they weren't sure. "There are plenty of deals out there right now" for both Tracy McGrady and the No. 1 pick, Orlando general manager John Weisbrod said. "But we're certainly not going to rush anything. "These are the two biggest chips we have to use to improve a team that was a pretty bad team last year. There's no time pressure. We're going about it as methodically as we can."

Jorge L. Ortiz ofThe San Francisco Chroniclewrites: Now that Tracy McGrady apparently has forced his way out of Orlando, will the Magic find it more palatable to take a high school player with the first pick?

Brian Schmitz ofThe Orlando Sentinelwrites: For the first time since the tipoff of last season, the Orlando Magic are keeping everybody on the edge of their seats.And what do you know: They finally will be first tonight. The Magic have control of the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, and they've at last delivered some suspense. Who they will pick?

Tim Povtak ofThe Orlando Sentinelwrites: The much-anticipated trade of superstar Tracy McGrady to the Houston Rockets could bring both Seattle all-star guard Ray Allen and Miami Heat small forward Caron Butler, in one of several, multiteam scenarios still being considered by the Orlando Magic.General Manager John Weisbrod -- on the eve today's NBA draft -- refused to talk about any trade specifics involving McGrady, but NBA sources confirmed the interest of both Seattle and Miami in being part of a deal.

David Whitley ofThe Orlando Sentinelwrites: Okafor will be good, maybe real good. Howard could be great.Then again, he could become the next Brown, Tyson Chandler or DeSagna Diop, high-school monsters who may never get the pacifiers out of their mouths. Then again again, he could become the next Kevin Garnett. Therein lies the mystery, the allure, and the risk. Every high-school pick has the physical promise. The key is figuring out which ones aren't knuckleheads. Howard seems about as safe a bet as any 18-year-old... It will be harder to go wrong with Okafor. But things could really go right with Howard. 

John Denton ofFlorida Todaywrites: Magic general manager John Weisbrod has played it straight for weeks, saying the franchise could live with picking either player. But Weisbrod also might have interest in trading down to second in the draft if it meant acquiring an established NBA veteran while still ending up with the player the Magic preferred among Howard and Okafor.Charlotte general manager/head coach Bernie Bickerstaff has professed his fondness for Okafor for weeks and even admitted recently that if he had the No. 1 selection, he would snatch up the 6-foot-9, 257-pound Okafor without hesitation.

John Denton ofFlorida Todaywrites: They [Orlando] like Okafor but are afraid to not take Howard and his enormous potential; could flip-flop with Charlotte and still get Howard.

John Denton ofFlorida Todaywrites: Wanting to fix their focus solely on tonight's NBA Draft, the Orlando Magic have suspended all trade talks involving star guard Tracy McGrady.But that temporary break isn't expected to slow down the soaring interest among teams anxious to get into the running for the services of the league's scoring champion of the past two seasons. In his first public comments in three days, Magic general manager John Weisbrod admitted Wednesday there were still "seven teams under consideration" in the McGrady sweepstakes. Weisbrod also said that a deal between Houston and Orlando that was leaked earlier in the week by the agent for Steve Francis was no longer imminent.