NBA draft goes according to bosses' orders UNLV's Johnson selected at No. 1

June 27, 1991|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Correspondent

LANDOVER. — LANDOVER -- The pecking order in NBA team hierarchies was clearly defined in the draft last night, when the Charlotte Hornets made Nevada-Las Vegas forward Larry Johnson the first pick and the New Jersey Nets followed by choosing Georgia Tech guard Kenny Anderson.

Hornets coach Gene Littles had told the Charlotte media he preferred Syracuse's versatile forward Billy Owens over Johnson, but had been overruled by general manager Allan Bristow.

In New Jersey, coach Bill Fitch and general manager Willis Reed leaned toward picking Owens, who was a college teammate of Nets power forward Derrick Coleman, last season's NBA Rookie of the Year.

But Nets owner Henry Taub, listening to the overwhelming support of the New York media and the fans in favor of Anderson, a New York native, cast the deciding vote.

The Meadowlands long has been a wasteland, with the Nets consistently finishing near the bottom in attendance. Anderson's flamboyant style and legendary prep career in New York is expected to heighten interest in the franchise.

The Sacramento Kings, who had anticipated choosing Anderson with the third choice, settled for Owens. A number of NBA coaches had suggested that Anderson, who favors an up-tempo game, would not have fit in Kings coach Dick Motta's conservative, inside power game.

Most draft projections had a big six of Johnson, Anderson, Owens, Georgetown center Dikembe Mutombo, Michigan State guard Steve Smith and Missouri forward Doug Smith.

The Denver Nuggets, who are expected to trade center Blair Rasmussen, grabbed Mutombo, a 7-foot-1 defensive specialist who improved his offense significantly last season.

The Miami Heat followed by selecting Steve Smith, rated the best shooting guard. The Dallas Mavericks, uncertain of power forward Roy Tarpley's basketball future -- Tarpley has been treated for drug problems -- solidified their frontcourt by taking Doug Smith, who is capable of playing both forward positions.

The remainder of the first round was spiced by a couple of trades involving front-line players.

The Washington Bullets had opened the activity two weeks ago by trading their eighth pick to Denver for point guard Michael Adams. The Nuggets used the higher choice last night to take Temple shooting guard Mark Macon.

The Atlanta Hawks, looking to rebuild after several quick exits from the playoffs, traded veteran floor leader Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers for the ninth selection, plus a second-round picks in 1993 and 1994.

The Hawks used the pick to claim UNLV small forward Stacey Augmon, a Dennis Rodman look-alike whose stock fell with a disappointing Final Four performance.

There were few major surprises among the other high picks. The Minnesota Timberwolves seemed certain to unload one of their holdover centers -- Felton Spencer or Randy Breuer -- after taking Australian-born Luc Longley, a 7- 1/2 , 270-pound center from New Mexico, with the seventh choice.

The New York Knicks created a logjam at point guard by selecting UNLV's Greg Anthony -- the third Runnin' Rebel among the top 12 choices.

Anthony will be competing against Maurice Cheeks, who showed signs of slipping last season, and Mark Jackson, who spent most of the year in the coach's doghouse. Jackson's $1 million-plus salary makes him difficult to trade, however.

The Golden State Warriors, featuring the smallest starting five in the league, used the 16th and 17th picks for two big forwards -- Chris Gatling, 6-10, of Old Dominion and Victor Alexander, 6-9, of Iowa State.

Milwaukee selected Southwestern Louisiana's Kevin Brooks, who finished his college career with 2,294 points and 719 rebounds, but coach Del Harris said last night that the club planned to trade Brooks. Harris didn't say for whom the Bucks would trade Brooks. Last year, Milwaukee drafted Terry Mills, then traded him to Denver for Danny Schayes.

Harris also said the Bucks would release veteran center Jack Sikma.

Top picks

The first 11 selections in the NBA draft, those spots reserved for teams that don't make the playoffs (trades can alter the order):

Team Player

1. Charlotte Larry Johnson

2. New Jersey Kenny Anderson

3. Sacramento Billy Owens

4. Denver Dikembe Mutombo

5. Miami Steve Smith

6. Dallas Doug Smith

7. Minnesota Luc Longley

8. Denver Mark Macon

9. Atlanta Stacey Augmon

10. Orlando Brian Williams

11. Cleveland Terrell Brandon

Draft picks

First round

1, Charlotte, Larry Johnson, 6-5 1/2 , f, UNLV. 2, New Jersey, Kenny Anderson, 6-2, g, Georgia Tech. 3, Sacramento, Billy Owens, 6-9, f, Syracuse. 4, Denver, Dikembe Mutombo, 7-2, c, Georgetown. 5, Miami, Steve Smith, 6-7, g, Michigan State. 6, Dallas, Doug Smith, 6-10, f, Missouri. 7, Minnesota, Luc Longley, 7-2, c, New Mexico.

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