NBA DRAFT OUTLOOK : Misdirection Is Name of the Game
As D-Day, meaning Draft Day, approaches in the National Basketball Assn., we have learned to expect the annual half-truths, untruths and everything-but-the-truths normally associated with an event in which teams hitch their futures to players barely out of their teens.
Tuesday’s draft doesn’t look much different. Every team thinks it can find a player who will help, maybe a lot, but no one wants to say exactly who that player might be. Consequently, there’s a lot of, well, call it misdirection , involved.
“I’ve lied so many times, I’m afraid if I go to church, the roof is going to fall in on me,” said one Western Conference general manager, who shall remain nameless, if not blameless.
The New York Knicks are setting the early pace in the Misdirection Derby, but at least they aren’t fibbing to get there. In fact, they just aren’t talking at all. The Knicks are the only team in the league that has resorted to a one-week news blackout until D-Day, presumably so that neither the media nor the Soviets, enemies of roughly equal dimension, will know first who they are going to draft.
This is the idea of first-year Vice President Gordon (Scotty) Stirling, who as an executive with the Golden State Warriors always got upset when everybody knew the Warriors’ draft plans. Stirling is a man who wants to keep a secret.
All right, Scotty, when the Knicks draft Chuck Person, everyone will act surprised.
The Philadelphia 76ers have the No. 1 pick, but they, too, are refusing to reveal the identity of the player they will draft.
“There will be no pre-draft announcement,” said 76er General Manager Pat Williams, whose post-draft whereabouts probably won’t be in Philadelphia.
But in the interest of truth, here is a hint on the 76ers’ choice. His initials are B.D., he is 7 feet tall, he is 20 years old and he went to the University of North Carolina.
Here’s another clue. His name is Brad Daugherty.
Sure, that’s giving it away, but it doesn’t matter, because everyone in the league already knows that the 76ers plan to draft Daugherty.
Unless, of course, they trade the No. 1 draft pick, which could happen only if the 76ers’ front office staff has spent so much time at owner Harold Katz’s diet center that their brains have shrunk.
Trade rumors are probably the best part of preparing for D-Day, but only if you start them. The greatest “trades” are those that are not even loosely based in truth. Merely the whispered suggestion of a trade, however outlandish, is considered great fun. But not if you have to spend all day issuing denials.
Donnie Walsh, the Indiana Pacers’ personnel director, had a busy week explaining exactly what he didn’t say to whom.
First, Walsh denied that there was ever a trade in the works with the Lakers, in which the Pacers would have exchanged Herb Williams and the No. 4 pick for Byron Scott and James Worthy. Why either team would even think about such a deal remains a mystery.
Two days later, Walsh denied another rumor that had the Pacers’ No. 4 choice going to Boston for veteran center Robert Parish and a player to be named later, rumored to be Sam Vincent.
Walsh wasn’t certain who picked him as this year’s rumor victim. “I don’t know why I’m the guy in the middle of the rumor mill,” he said.
Celtic General Manager Jan Volk was more direct in his denial. “It’s untrue and absolutely without substance,” he said. “The only time I spoke to Donnie Walsh in the last six months was when I talked to him a couple of weeks ago.”
So what did he want? Larry Bird for the No. 4?
“He called me for some playoff tickets.” Volk said.
Walsh wouldn’t deny that he might trade the pick, but once he does decide to trade, he can start his own rumor. Walsh wants two or three players in return, although one of them doesn’t have to be a center.
Meanwhile, the 76ers are thinking about trading center Moses Malone, and the Seattle SuperSonics, whose first-round pick belongs to Boston in the No. 2 spot, want to trade center Jack Sikma, according to his wishes.
Other than that, D-Day looks pretty quiet. Since there isn’t a clear-cut No. 1 pick this year, as Patrick Ewing, Akeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson were in previous years, the 76ers are being coy.
As did the Celtics, who got the No. 2 pick from Seattle for Gerald Henderson, the 76ers also received their first-round choice in a trade. In 1979, the Clippers took Joe (Jellybean) Bryant in a trade for their first-round choice in the 1986 draft, which just happens to be the No. 1 pick.
Most experts believe this season’s draft to be extremely deep in the number of quality players, but without the one or two superstar players who can turn their teams around in a short period of time. The best four big men are Daugherty, 6-11 Chris Washburn of North Carolina State, 6-8 Len Bias of Maryland and 7-0 William Bedford of Memphis State.
After that, the talent flattens out a bit, but Williams said there isn’t much difference in selecting any of them unless a team could move up and draft early.
“That’s the one thing with this draft, that you can get a really good player from 1 through 15,” Williams said. “But if you want a tall, good player, you have to pick in the top five.”
Williams may soon be doing his picking in Florida. As an added attraction to the draft, he is probably going to be working for another team next season. He is negotiating a deal with a potential NBA expansion team, so owner Katz is spending a lot of time in front of videotape machines, seeing for himself what the scouts are talking about.
It is the opinion of many that Washburn, the talented but troubled 21-year-old sophomore, could possess more athletic ability than Daugherty, but he is not the safe pick Daugherty is. Washburn had scholastic problems and was involved in a burglary case at North Carolina State.
“The upside to Daugherty is that there’s no downside,” Williams said. “We know what kind of person Daugherty is, where he came from and what kind of program produced him. He can play two positions, and we know that with him, his coach won’t have to deal with anything except games.”
Daugherty, grandson of a full-blooded Cherokee, runs extremely well. He also has good hands, which he used to finish as the Tar Heels’ best all-time shooter, at 61.9%; fourth all-time rebounder with 1,003, and seventh all-time scorer with 1,912 points.
After the 76ers take Daugherty, the Celtics will probably select Bias, the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year who led the league in scoring with 23.2 points a game. A first-team All-American, Bias is not only a good scorer, but also a tremendous leaper.
The Celtics are reportedly leaning toward Bias, although they could draft either Washburn or Bedford as a future replacement for Parish, who is 33. The Warriors are next and new Coach George Karl is known to covet Washburn, although Walsh says he has heard Person will go to Golden State.
If Walsh is wrong, that leaves Indiana with Bedford. The Pacers desperately need a center, since Steve Stipanovich has proven to be a power forward, possibly expendable. In any event, Bedford is the last of this year’s big four.
Bedford is regarded as a good shot-blocking center with better-than-average court speed for someone his size. A third-team All-American this season at Memphis State, Bedford shot 58.4% and averaged 17.3 points a game.
The Knicks, picking in the No. 5 spot, will probably take Person, even if they won’t admit it now. Auburn’s all-time leading scorer, Person averaged 23.8 points and 9.5 rebounds in four NCAA tournament games. As a sophomore, he was runner-up to teammate Charles Barkley for Southeastern Conference Player of the Year honors, and Coach Sonny Smith has called Person the most complete player he has ever coached.
Next is Phoenix, which will probably pick the first guard in the draft, likely 6-6 Ron Harper of Miami (Ohio). Harper, a defensive whiz and one of the best all-around players in the draft, played forward in college. Last season, he finished in the top five in the country in scoring at 24.9 points a game, rebounding at 11.7, and steals at 3.3.
Dallas must decide between 6-10 Roy Tarpley of Michigan and 6-8 Walter Berry of St. John’s. Tarpley, projected as a power forward in the pros, played better as a junior, when he averaged 19 points, than as a senior, when he averaged 15.9. He is graded high for his offense and his ability to run the floor. Berry, the John Wooden Award winner as college basketball’s Player of the Year, may nonetheless fall all the way to No. 11, when Detroit picks.
Cleveland has the eighth pick and probably will use it on another guard, 6-5 Dell Curry of Virginia Tech. As a senior, Curry averaged 24.1 points and finished behind only Keith Lee on the Metro Conference’s all-time scoring list.
The rest of the first round is fairly even in talent, depending on each team’s drafting need, Laker General Manager Jerry West said.
“After about No. 8, there are some really very talented players,” West said. “The other ones are probably a notch below, but all of them could have an equal kind of success, depending on where they go.”
Among the guards, there are Johnny Dawkins of Duke, Dwayne (Pearl) Washington of Syracuse, Maurice Martin of St. Joseph’s, Anthony Jones of Nevada Las Vegas, Scott Skiles of Michigan State and Harold Pressley of Villanova.
Front-court players who should go in the first round are Greg Dreiling of Kansas, Brad Sellers of Ohio State, Kenny Walker of Kentucky, John Williams of LSU, John Salley of Georgia Tech, Mark Alarie of Duke, Billy Thompson of Louisville, Buck Johnson of Alabama, Larry Krystkowiak of Montana and Cedric Henderson, formerly of Georgia, who has been playing professionally in Italy.
What does that leave for the Lakers, picking way down in the 23rd spot? There could still be a good player available, possibly a power forward such as Johnson, Thompson or Krystkowiak.
And what of the Clippers? Unless they make a trade, they don’t have a choice until the third round. Surely, if someone had told the Clippers seven years ago, when they traded their first-round choice to Philadelphia, that they would have the No. 1 pick in the whole draft, they probably would have dismissed it as nothing more than a normal D-Day rumor.
PROJECTING THE DRAFT
The following is the order of the first round of Tuesday’s NBA draft and the likely selections, according to Times staff writer Thomas Bonk--barring any trades that would change a team’s priority:
TEAM PLAYER HT WT PO 1 Philadelphia Brad Daugherty 7-0 245 C-F 2 Boston Len Bias 6-8 210 F 3 Golden State Chris Washburn 6-11 254 C 4 Indiana William Bedford 7-0 225 C 5 New York Chuck Person 6-8 215 F 6 Phoenix Ron Harper 6-6 205 G 7 Dallas Roy Tarpley or 6-10 230 F-C Walter Berry 6-8 215 F 8 Cleveland Dell Curry 6-5 195 G 9 Chicago Johnny Dawkins 6-2 165 G 10 San Antonio Kenny Walker 6-8 210 F 11 Detroit Berry or Brad Sellers 7-0 212 C-F 12 Washington Pearl Washington 6-2 200 G or John Williams 6-9 237 F 13 New Jersey Williams or Washington 14 Portland John Salley 7-0 231 F-C 15 Utah Sellers 16 Denver Maurice Martin 6-6 200 G 17 Sacramento Anthony Jones 6-6 195 G or Mark Alarie 6-8 225 F 18 Denver Alarie 19 Atlanta Cedric Henderson 6-8 1/2 215 F 20 Houston Scott Skiles or 6-1 1/2 190 G Greg Dreiling 7-1 250 C 21 Philadelphia Harold Pressley 6-7 210 F 22 Milwaukee Dreiling or Skiles 23 Lakers Billy Thompson 6-7 195 F or Buck Johnson 6-7 200 F 24 Portland Larry Krystkowiak 6-9 240 F
SCHOOL 1 North Carolina 2 Maryland 3 N. Carolina St. 4 Memphis State 5 Auburn 6 Miami (Ohio) 7 Michigan St. John’s 8 Virginia Tech 9 Duke 10 Kentucky 11 Ohio State 12 Syracuse LSU 13 14 Georgia Tech 15 16 St. Joseph’s 17 UNLV Duke 18 19 Georgia 20 Michigan State Kansas 21 Villanova 22 23 Louisville Alabama 24 Montana