With their need for a point guard apparently satisfied by the recent acquisition of Michael Adams from the Denver Nuggets, the Washington Bullets will be hoping to obtain either a shooting guard or "the best player available" with the 19th selection in the NBA draft tonight.
"If we address a need, we will be looking to improve our guard corps," said Bullets general manager John Nash, who traded the eighth pick to Denver for Adams and the lower draft choice.
"It's hard to get excited about the forwards who might be available when we pick," Nash said. "We already have two reserve forwards, Mark Alarie and Tom Hammonds, who are probably as good as any of the rookie candidates."
But Bullets coach Wes Unseld has a different perspective.
"I'm not locked into picking a guard," he said. "I'd rather take a center, or even a forward, if I believe he's more talented. Sure, we have alot of forwards. But that's something you can work out later."
Nash acknowledged the difficultyof predicting who might be available in the 19th spot.
"Two teams choosing ahead of us -- Cleveland [11th] and Atlanta [15th] -- have both been actively pursuing trades, and that could have a lot of bearing on who is left when we pick," Nash said.
The Cavaliers, Hawks and Bullets are seeking guard help. Cleveland is looking to upgrade holdovers Darrell Valentine and John Morton, and point guard Mark Price, recovering from knee surgery, may be sidelined until December.
Atlanta reportedly is dangling point guard Doc Rivers in an effort to obtain a proven big man. North Carolina State shooting guard Rodney Monroe is high on the Hawks' list.
The two top-rated shooting guards, Michigan State's Steve Smith and Temple's Mark Macon, will, in all likelihood, be claimed among the first 11 selections.
If the Bullets get lucky, LaBradford Smith of Louisville will be available when their turn comes. Smith, 6 feet 3 and 200 pounds, appears to have a well-rounded game. Scouts say he has excellent one-on-one moves, explosive jumping ability and an adequate shooting touch.
But Nash, Unseld and his assistants have been compiling a variety of choices and have reportedly narrowed their priority list six names.
In addition to Smith, the list is said to contain Monroe; Oregon guard Terrell Brandon; Southwestern Louisiana small forward Kevin Brooks; Phillips power forward JohnTurner; and center Stanley Roberts, a Louisiana State dropout who played professionally for Real Madrid in Spain last year.
Smith's name seems to raise the fewest questions. Brandon, listed at 5-11, plays like the Seattle SuperSonics' Dana Barros -- his game is suited more for shooting guard than point guard. With Adams, 5-11, on the Bullets roster, Brandon might prove a luxury.
Brooks, 6-8, 200 pounds, is rated an excellent shooter and was the first player in Southwestern Louisiana history to finish his career with more than 2,000 points and 700 rebounds. But scouts raise questions about the caliber of his college competition.
Monroe, 6-3, 185, a native of Hagerstown, is considered an excellent catch-and-shoot guard with three-point range, but has yet to prove he can create shots.
Turner, 6-9, 245, a former Allegany Community College player who spent a season at Georgetown before leaving in 1989, matured dramatically after transferring to Phillips University in Enid, Okla. An aggressive forward, he boosted his stock by winning Most Valuable Player honors in the Portsmouth Invitation tournament.
Roberts, 7-0, 285, carries the most baggage, figuratively and literally. His considerable bulk seemed to increase with each NBA audition. Several coaches were taken aback by his flaky behavior, but, at the same time, consider him enough of a talent to take a gamble.
It would be a sizable one in thecase of the Bullets, who tried a similar experiment with Mel Turpin two years ago. Last year, Unseld had to contend with two diet candidates, forward John Williams and shooting guard Ledell Eackles.
But Unseld has been intrigued by challenges before, and the marked improvement last season of center-forward Pervis Ellison may make him willing to try again.
If, in fact, the Bullets select Smith, there would be a logjam at guard. Veteran Darrell Walker, seeking a contract extension with a hefty raise, has the most marketability as a strong defender and excellent rebounder.
Eackles has exhibited flashes of brilliance in his three seasons, but his lack of consistency and motivation has worn on management.
Haywoode Workman, who became the starting point guard by default last season, is a restricted free agent.
A.J. English's rookie year was marked by inconsistency, but he showed enough to prove a keeper. Byron Irvin, who saw scant action as the fifth guard last season, is the most vulnerable.