Orlando wants size and a backup point guard, through draft, deal, doesn't matter.
By ROGER MILLS
© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 27, 2001
At a time NBA franchises normally are concerned with secrecy and subterfuge, the Orlando Magic has made no bones about its needs entering tonight's draft.
The Magic covets size, size and more size. It also needs a backup point guard.
Barring trades today, the Magic has the 15th and 22nd overall picks, along with a second-round selection, 32nd overall.
"Well, it's certainly no secret," coach Doc Rivers said. "We have to get some inside presence, and we need a point guard. We have only brought in (power forwards and centers) and point guards for workouts, so I think that pretty much tells the story."
Orlando played the bulk of the season without All-Star Grant Hill, but it rode into the playoffs on the stellar effort of Tracy McGrady (26.8 ppg) and solid contributions from a host of others. But against the Milwaukee Bucks, Orlando's inability to control the inside and to spell point guard Darrell Armstrong led to a first-round exit.
"They've got a true star in Tracy McGrady, who quite possibly could lead the league in scoring next year," NBC basketball analyst Bill Walton said. "But unless somebody could get the ball off the boards, unless somebody can be the defensive stopper in the paint, unless somebody can establish a post-up game, it's going to be another early exit from the playoffs."
Since Shaquille O'Neal left for the Lakers five seasons ago, Orlando has lacked an inside presence. Using a committee of undersized, out-of-position, non-offensive big men including Bo Outlaw, John Amaechi, Michael Doleac, Andrew DeClercq and Don Reid, Rivers has worked enough magic the past two seasons to keep Orlando competitive.
The team recognized its low-post weakness last off-season and made a strong pitch for free-agent center Tim Duncan, who ultimately re-signed with the Spurs. That hole remains unfilled.
Over the past few weeks, Orlando has worked out centers expected to be available at or after the 15th pick, including North Carolina's Brendan Haywood, DePaul's Steven Hunter, Arizona's Loren Woods and Villanova's Michael Bradley.
"I think size is crucial to everyone," Magic general manager John Gabriel said. "We do have good big men on our team, but we may not be as good as we need to be. We've got it narrowed down to a group of seven or eight, which is where we need to have it."
Orlando also has spent extra time looking for someone to take the load off Armstrong. Despite talk that the team could hand over some duties to Hill, Orlando lacks a solid backup who not only can run the offense but is durable and can help defend the likes of Milwaukee's Sam Cassell.
"(Armstrong) is arguably their most important player because he sets the tempo, he sets the pace," Walton said. "Over the years, he has worn down under the burden of having to play the entire game. The backup point guard is a critical area they need to address."
Orlando has worked out the point guards likely to go in the first or early second round: Iowa State's Jamaal Tinsley, St. John's Omar Cook, Clemson's Will Solomon and UCLA's Earl Watson, who was called in twice.
"Our whole dilemma at 15 and 22 is do you go big first, small second, or do you go small first, big second?" Rivers said. "I think that depends on who's there, and from what you hear, no one knows how it's going."
Another scenario is trading up to get one of the touted inside players, such as 6-foot-11 high school sensation Kwame Brown of Brunswick, Ga.
The Orlando Sentinel reported Tuesday the Magic was talking to Washington, the Los Angeles Clippers and Atlanta, which have the top three picks, and offering rookie of the year Mike Miller and both first-round picks. Such a move would get the Magic a big man and save salary-cap room to pursue a free agent, and still allow it to select a point guard in the second round.
"There's some strategy in trying to come up with the best scenario for your team at the end of the day," Gabriel said. "The one thing you do is listen to everybody, and if you have a trade that you want to make, even if there's just a remote chance it's going to happen, you still need to put it out there."
The Magic might not have to get immediate inside help from the draft if it can snag a veteran power forward when the free-agency market opens July 18.
Toronto All-Star power forward Antonio Davis, who has expressed displeasure about living in Canada, owns a home in Orlando and is thought to be a strong possibility to join the Magic.
Davis averaged 13.7 points and 10.1 rebounds last season and last week attended a charity golf classic Rivers hosted.
Sacramento All-Star power forward Chris Webber (27.1 ppg, 11.1 rpg) also has named Orlando as one of the teams he would consider playing for next season. Webber, one of the game's most dominant players, was drafted by the Magic but was traded to Golden State for guard Penny Hardaway.
To catch such high-priced free agents -- Davis and Webber will demand around $8-million a year -- the Magic likely will have to dump or trade a number of veterans.
"I think one thing teams know about us is that we'll make a deal," Gabriel said. "If you're serious about getting something done, we're not going to drag our feet. I can give you an answer pretty quickly."
NBA DRAFT: 7:30 tonight, Madison Square Garden, New York.TV: TNT.