Take heart, Washington Bullets fans.
After the initial disappointment of not landing one of the top three picks in the National Basketball Association lottery on Sunday, the Bullets may discover that getting stuck with the eighth pick is better than it first appears.
Over the past 12 years, a number of solid pros, and even a few All-Stars -- forwards Tom Chambers and Calvin Natt -- have been selected in that spot.
Still, Bullets general manager John Nash is casting his eyes upward, hoping to obtain a higher position in the June 26 draft by trading a veteran or swapping picks.
At a news conference at the Baltimore Arena yesterday, Nash said there was "a 60-40 chance" he would make a deal before draft day.
"Teams with high picks generally like to wait until the last minute before making a trade," Nash said. "But the seeds are being planted now and things should pick up at the pro tryout camp in Chicago next month [June 3 through 6]."
But Nash said moving up will not be an easy task this year.
"I think the teams that own the top six picks believe they can obtain a high-quality player, and then there is the salary cap, which greatly curtails maneuverability," he said.
Most NBA general managers are in agreement as to who will be the top six collegians chosen, although their order of selection may differ.
Billy Owens of Syracuse and Larry Johnson of Nevada-Las Vegas are expected to be the first two forwards picked. Georgetown's Dikembe Mutombo will be the first center. Georgia Tech playmaker Kenny Anderson and Michigan State shooting guard Steve Smith are projected as the premier backcourt men. Doug Smith, Missouri's versatile power forward, is programmed from No. 4 to No. 6.
It will be surprising if another player breaks into the top six, although teams desperately seeking a big man might consider 7-foot-2 Luc Longley of New Mexico or 7-1 Stanley Roberts, the LSU product who played for Real Madrid in the Spanish League last winter.
In considering his options, Nash said he would be reluctant to swap a future draft pick, although he did just that in 1989, his final year in Philadelphia when he traded the 76ers' No. 1 in 1990 and No. 2 picks in 1991 and 1992 to obtain power forward Rick Mahorn from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
"That was a much different situation," Nash said. "The 76ers had won 46 games the year before after drafting Hersey Hawkins. With Mahorn, the team had a shot at winning the title. But with Washington, I consider our future draft picks too valuable."
Swapping a veteran (and young Bullets forwards Pervis Ellison and Harvey Grant now have considerable trade value) is another option. But the salary cap, particularly in the case of Ellison, who is earning more than $2 million per year, minimizes major trades.
With veterans guaranteed raises, it leaves little room for most teams to maneuver.
Picking No. 8
The Washington Bullets own the eighth selection in the 1991 National Basketball Association draft. Here are the players who have been chosen in that spot the past dozen years:
Yr. Player College Pos. Team
1979 Calvin Natt Northeast Louisiana F New Jersey
1980 Andrew Toney S'western Louisiana G Philadelphia
1981 Tom Chambers Utah F S.D. (now L.A. Clippers)
1982 Clark Kellogg Ohio State F Indiana
1983 Antoine Carr Wichita St. F Atlanta
1984 Lancaster Gordon Louisville G L.A. Clippers
1985 Detlef Schrempf Washington F Dallas
1986 Ron Harper Miami of Ohio G Cleveland
1987 Olden Polynice Virginia C Seattle
1988 Rex Chapman Kentucky G Charlotte
1989 Randy White Louisiana Tech F Dallas
1990 Bo Kimble Loyola Marymount G L.A. Clippers