With the fifth pick in the NBA Draft, the Orlando Magic are almost assured of adding a quality player to their franchise on Thursday. While Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor will be off the board by then, the Magic could have any number of elite prospects from which to choose, including D’Angelo Russell, Justise Winslow and Kristaps Porzingis.
“Well, we’ll see how it plays out,” Orlando Magic senior vice president Pat Williams said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “Right now, it’s a sea of rumors and nobody really knows what’s going to happen, but it is quite a deep draft. Our scouts (and) GM Rob Hennigan have done a very thorough job of traveling the world right now, and that’s what you got to do these days because there are basketball players all over the world. We’ve done our homework throughly. Now we just have to wait and see what happens tomorrow with those teams up ahead of us.”
Whatever happens, it should be a fun night for NBA fans, for the rumors stop and reality begins.
“Draft night is, I think, the most fun night of the year if you’re in pro basketball,” Williams said. “All the work going up to it and then the excitement of the draft night, then comes rookie camp and you get to see your draft picks in action, and then free agency kicks in. So if you’re a basketball fan . . . it’s just utopia for a serious basketball fan with all that’s going to be going on this summer.”
Williams, 75, has worked in professional sports for more than 50 years and has an incredible eye for talent. During his time with the Philadelphia 76ers, for example, he drafted Maurice Cheeks and Andrew Toney and traded for Julius Erving and Moses Malone. That quartet helped the 76ers win an NBA title in 1983.
Williams has also done great things in Orlando. He drafted Shaquille O’Neal in 1992 and engineered one of the biggest draft-day trades in NBA history in 1993, sending Chris Webber to Golden State for Penny Hardaway and three future first-round picks.
Williams said that Magic fans were “ecstatic” when the team drafted Webber first overall that night. The trade for Hardaway went down less than an hour later.
“They were not ecstatic; they were angry,” Williams recalled. “But I told them, ‘Fans, hang in there. You’re going to be very pleased with all of this eventually.”
Williams was right. Two years later, in 1995, the Magic advanced to the NBA Finals. Granted, they were swept by Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets, but Orlando was one of the best teams in basketball in the early-mid 1990s.
“Penny was a great, great player,” Williams said. “Unfortunately, he couldn’t stay healthy, but for about three or four years with us – playing with Shaq – what a marvelous combination those two guys were. And the three future firsts were of great value as well. I think that was a trade that really was beneficial for the Magic.”