Pat Williams lives right. He's one of the nicest people you'll ever meet, has 19 children (14 adopted), served in the army, has written over 20 books, hosts a radio show and is an avid public speaker, spreading positive vibes.
Clearly, karma counts when it comes to the NBA Draft lottery.
The Orlando Magic senior vice president delivered his third No. 1 pick for the franchise May 26, providing a much-needed boost considering the rumors of relocation amid declining attendance, increased apathy and the need for a new arena that has fallen on deaf ears.
|Pat Williams appears to be the Magic's good-luck charm.(AP)|
That's why you'll see them go for the player who will quickly help recapture the city's fickle fan base, Emeka Okafor.
With Grant Hill due for another comeback and Okafor in the fold, Tracy McGrady might have reason to avoid moping long enough for butts to return to the seats at TD Waterhouse Centre.
See, Orlando isn't a bad basketball city, but it only supports a winner. Like southern neighbor Miami, it's a frontrunner town, and back when Williams landed the team's first two No. 1 picks, Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway (acquired for top pick Chris Webber), there was no hotter ticket.
Even before O'Neal was delivered, the Magic were selling out thanks to the novelty of the NBA. With the big fella and then Penny on board, the team went on to record sellouts in 283 of 284 games from 1989-1997.
Over the past five years, they have sold out just 27 of a possible 205 games, including a franchise-low four during last season's 21-61 debacle.
That's where Okafor comes in. He's no Shaq, LeBron or Carmelo, but is a difference-maker, mature enough to make an immediate impact with his toughness and defense -- imperative to a team whose defense was as imposing as Disney's teacup ride 15 minutes down Interstate 4.
Okafor is also eloquent, well schooled and a model citizen, perfect for the image-conscious franchise that becomes the best bet to be the comeback story of 2004-05.
The rest of the draft doesn't offer too much immediate help, but some teams will be able to strike gold in this year's exceedingly young crapshoot.
Updated June 24
1. Orlando -- Emeka Okafor, PF, Connecticut. The best player in the draft, Okafor is nowhere near a finished product. When you consider how raw he was as a freshman and how quickly he developed into a steady offensive force, this pick should be a no-brainer.
2. Charlotte -- Dwight Howard, PF, SW Atlanta Christian Academy. The Clips already have Elton Brand and Chris Wilcox, so it makes sense that selecting Howard wouldn't fit. Charlotte is the perfect fit for him, keeping him in the South and affording him time to develop and grow and eventually make the Bobcats his team, a la Kevin Garnett. L.A., meanwhile, will get their man at No. 4.
3. Chicago -- Luol Deng, SF, Duke. The player the Bulls have identified as their top choice should fall right in their lap -- if they choose to keep him. Philadelphia is also interested in the powerfully-built wing and has dangled a package of the No. 9 selection and Samuel Dalembert for this choice and former lottery pick Tyson Chandler, whose had his share of back problems.
4. L.A. Clippers -- Shaun Livingston, PG, Peoria Central HS (Ill.). The Clippers most productive point guard over the past decade is Jeff McInnis. With seasoning, patience and a little luck, they should finally find an answer via Livingston. O.K., maybe a lot of luck; these are of course, still the Clips.
5. Washington -- Pavel Podkolzine, C, Varese (Italy). Word out of Cubanvillle is that the 7-5 Siberian giant tops the draft board of the Mavericks, be it as an entincement to acquire Shaquille O'Neal or as a backup plan in case they can't land the coveted big man. He's definitely agile for his massive size, and could one day become a player, but his selection, this high, merits heavy scrutiny.
6. Atlanta -- Devin Harris, PG, Wisconsin. His size and skill set make him the perfect building block for the Hawks to start over with. Better yet, he'd be a great complement to Jason Terry if the smallish off guard sticks around.
7. Chicago -- Luke Jackson, F/G, Oregon. The astronomical rise of the Ducks swingman comes as no surprise to anyone who watched him become a scoring machine over four years of college. His acquisition will be the main cog in getting Al Harrington from Indiana.
8. Toronto -- Ben Gordon, PG, Connecticut. The Raptors haven't had a strong point guard since Damon Stoudamire left town, so Gordon fills a huge need. Although he's not a natural point guard (yet) don't be surprised if he ends up as the best of this draft's talented bunch.
9. Philadelphia -- Andre Iguodala, SG, Arizona. On sheer potential, he's the best player on the board, and the 76ers have long been looking for another backcourt body to take pressure off Allen Iverson. Iguodala isn't going to take shots from AI or Glenn Robinson, but is a glue guy who will make the team better. If the 76ers get their way and acquire Deng at No. 3, Iguodala will still be the choice here, for Chicago.
10. Cleveland -- Josh Smith, SF, Oak Hill Academy (Va.). Exceptional athlete who could eventually form a great tag-team with LeBron James thanks to his versatility and explosion around the rim. It's a kid's league now, and the Cavs should understand that better than anyone.
11. Golden State -- Andris Biedrins, F/C, Skonto Riva (Latvia). Mike Montgomery's pro career begins with a tough choice: the top guy on the team's draft board (Biedrins) or Josh Childress, who essentially capped Montgomery's decision for a career change by going pro himself. Unfortunately for the sliding Childress, the Warriors don't have room for him with Mike Dunleavy and Mickael Pietrus already on board.
12. Seattle -- Rafael Araujo, C, BYU. The Brazilian has impressed with his strong play around the post, leading many to believe he'll be a starting center in the league sooner than later. He's very aggressive, so chronic foul trouble has to be a concern for whatever team selects him.
13. Portland -- Josh Childress, SG/SF, Stanford. Chilress' slide ends with this selection, where he'll become the latest Portland wing project. He's got a better head on his shoulder than the rest of the names that have preceded him: Ruben Patterson, Bonzi Wells, Qyntel Woods, and Darius Miles. Most in that group couldn't shoot their way out of a paper bag, so he has that going for him as well.
14. Utah -- Kirk Snyder, SG, Nevada. If he develops a consistent jumper, he's the steal of this draft. A powerful off guard with great on-court instincts, Snyder would be a great addition to the group of hard-working athletes Utah has already assembled.
15. Boston -- Robert Swift, C, Bakersfield HS (Cal.). Another player who helped himself immensely in workouts, Swift is viewed as a potential star in the post due to his accelerated understanding of the game, 7-foot stature and fabulous footwork.
16. Utah -- Kris Humphries, PF, Minnesota. Made a mistake by coming out after just one season. While there's no denying his skills, he's an undersized, enormously strong kid about to enter a league of men. Would've been better served by at least one more year at Minnesota, as he would've likely been lottery material given his solid workouts.
17. Atlanta -- Al Jefferson, PF, Prentiss HS (Miss.). He's got the frame to bang in the league right now (6-9, 260), but it will no doubt take him a while to get adjusted to the speed of the game and develop the post moves that would allow him to succeed.
18. New Orleans -- Jameer Nelson, PG, Saint Joseph's. Doubts that Nelson is big enough to compete in the NBA will cause his slide, which could end earlier if any of a handful of his admirer make a move to get into position to nab him.
19. Miami -- Peter John Ramos, C, Criollos de Caguas (P.R.). The Puerto Rican center has been playing with pros in his native country for a couple years and has held his own, but scouts are divided on his potential. At the very least, he's a legit 7-footer with mobility who plays with an aggressive demeanor.
20. Denver -- J.R. Smith, SG, St. Benedict's (N.J.). Is he Vince Carter or Harold Miner? The Garden State prep really made a name for himself in prep all-star games, but has a lot of developing to do to become a steady contributor in this league.
21. Utah -- Sergei Monya, SG/SF, CSKA Moscow. Plucked from Andrei Kirilenko's old Russian club, Monya has the build and tenacity to develop into a bulldog defensive stopper. Word is his jumper isn't too bad either.
22. New Jersey -- Sebastian Telfair, PG, Brooklyn Lincoln (N.Y.). The Nets are expected to make this pick for Portland, but if Sebastian Telfair isn't on the board, the best prospects would be prep Dorell Wright and foreigners Vik Khyrapa and Sasha Vujacic.
23. Portland -- Viktor Khyrapa, SF, CSKA Moscow. A powerfully-built Kirilenko wannabe, Khyrapa has opted out of the last two drafts but appears to be safely entrenched in this year's first round.
24. Boston -- Dorell Wright, SF, South Kent Prep (Conn.). This year's Gerald Wallace, Wright is a fabulous athlete whose game must develop considerably. It's rumored that the Celtics have given him a first-round guarantee, which is why he reneged on a scholarship at DePaul.
25. Boston -- Sasha Vujacic, PG, Udine (Italy). Another International early entry who kept his name in the draft, Vujacic fits the same mold of Clippers point guard Marko Jaric.
26. Sacramento -- Donta Smith, SF, Southwestern Illinois JC. Smith should become the fifth JUCO player drafted in the NBA's first round (Qyntel Woods was the last one) and late word is that the Kings have agreed to foster his development. He's got a pro body, but a lot of work to do. Luckily, Sactown has a vacancy on the bench to fill with Gerald Wallace plucked by Charlotte in the expansion draft.
27. L.A. Lakers -- David Harrison, C, Colorado. He's got great upside, but hasn't been able to tap into his full potential. Maybe an apprenticeship under Shaq would wake him up. Either that or push him out of the league.
28. San Antonio -- Anderson Varejao, PF/C, Barcelona (Spain). Varejao has also pulled out of drafts in the past, but is out of options and is hoping to land in the first round. The Kings love their foreign talent.
29. Indiana -- Ha Seung Jin, C, Yonsei University (South Korea). He'll become the first Korean-born NBA player