Gugliotta, MacLean find their Bullet way in hurry Rookies show they can make transition 1992-93 NBA PREVIEW

November 05, 1992|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

By standard definition, NBA rookies are: a) intimidated; b) confused; c) overwhelmed; or d) all of the above.

But the Washington Bullets' two first-round draft choices -- forwards Tom Gugliotta and Don MacLean -- do not fit the traditional stereotypes.

In fact, Gugliotta, the 6-foot-10 lottery pick from North Carolina State, is expected to be in the starting lineup tomorrow night in Charlotte, N.C., when the Bullets open their season against the Hornets.

"I've got nothing against rookies starting," said Bullets coach Wes Unseld, who was NBA Rookie of the Year and MVP for the Bullets in 1968-69. "I don't like rookies that can't play, but both these kids can."

They are confident, too, assistant coach Bill Blair added.

"Gugliotta and MacLean have no fear. They're not afraid to go out there and do their thing against anyone in the league."

For the moment, Gugliotta, the sixth player chosen in the June draft, is the superior rebounder and passer of the two rookies, who attended the "Stay In School Jam" at the Baltimore Arena yesterday.

Gugliotta will fill the power forward slot alongside center Pervis Ellison, allowing Harvey Grant to return to small forward.

"I feel comfortable playing forward or center," Gugliotta said. "In our motion offense, it really doesn't matter that much. I pretty much played the same way in college."

The Bullets believe Gugliotta, who can shoot from the outside or put the ball on the floor, will find ways to score. Unseld's main concern is whether he also will provide consistent rebounding help for Ellison.

"That's been the biggest transition from college, seeing how physical and fast the pro game is played," said Gugliotta, who led the Atlantic Coast Conference in rebounding as a senior and averaged 7.0 rebounds during the preseason.

A Sport magazine analyst derided the Bullets' choice of Gugliotta in the lottery, writing, "How does a guy once considered a marginal collegian go No. 6 in the draft? If Gugliotta's a No. 6 pick, [Charlotte forward] Larry Johnson's grandma can cover Pat Ewing."

"Those things don't bother me any more," Gugliotta said. "I heard the same things at N.C. State my first few years."

MacLean also drew his share of skepticism his senior year at UCLA, despite breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's school scoring record.

The Detroit Pistons made him the 19th selection, then immediately swapped him to the Clippers for center Olden Polynice. The Clippers, in turn, shipped him to Washington as part of the John Williams trade.

But, since the day MacLean reported to training camp, Bullets coaches have been impressed with his court demeanor.

"We were straight up with Don from the start," said Blair. "We told him that we'd heard people say he might be a little soft competitively and challenged him to prove otherwise. He's done that so far. He's a lot tougher than I thought."

Like Gugliotta, MacLean is a proven scorer who seldom misses an open shot. His speed is average at best, but he has the ability to get his shot off quickly.

The main concern with MacLean playing small forward is how he will match up against the likes of Scottie Pippin, Dominique Wilkins, James Worthy and Glen Rice.

"Don was embarrassed a few times in the early exhibitions," said Blair. "But he's smart enough to learn that you've got to back off a guy like Pippen or Wilkins. I'm sure the first time Dominique spins by him, he'll say to himself, 'How'd that guy get around me?' But, heck, Dominique does it to everyone."

NBA odds

Odds to win 1992-93 NBA championship:

Chicago....... 6-5

Portland...... 7-2

Cleveland..... 5-1

New York...... 5-1

Golden State.. 8-1

Phoenix....... 10-1

San Antonio... 10-1

Utah ......... 10-1

Boston........ 20-1

Seattle....... 25-1

Houston....... 30-1

L.A. Clippers. 30-1

Detroit ...... 35-1

Miami ........ 40-1

L.A. Lakers... 50-1

New Jersey.... 50-1

Philadelphia.. 50-1

Charlotte..... 60-1

Indiana ...... 60-1

Atlanta....... 75-1

Orlando....... 100-1

Denver ....... 150-1

Milwaukee..... 150-1

Washington.... 150-1

Sacramento.... 200-1

Dallas........ 300-1

Minnesota..... 500-1

Source: Glantz and Culver

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