NBA clubs come prepared to seek order on the court Bullets' assistant GM looks for next big shot

April 11, 1993|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

PORTSMOUTH, Va. -- John Best, a spindly legged forward from Tennessee Tech, out-leaps a couple of bigger rivals for a rebound, quickly throws an outlet pass, fills the lane and slashes to the basket to convert an acrobatic layup.

Washington Bullets assistant general manager Chuck Douglas, viewing the action from the top row of a high school gym housing the four-day Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, nods

in approval.

He pulls out his clipboard and writes under Best's name: "A scorer, runs the floor, fills the wing, slashes to the hoop. Can hit 17-18 footer and get to the foul line."

Douglas, 30, began with the Bullets eight years ago as personal valet, chauffeur, cook and English instructor for then-rookie center Manute Bol of Sudan. He worked his way up the corporate ladder as a public relations man, game film coordinator, training camp organizer, scout and assistant coach to his position as general manager John Nash's principal sounding board.

With the Bullets about to miss the playoffs for the fifth straighyear and their future hinging heavily on the potential of their 1993 draft picks, Douglas, as a principal talent evaluator, realizes he has little margin for error.

Choosing among guaranteed lottery types as Shawn Bradley, Jamal Mashburn, Anfernee Hardaway and J. R. Rider is a no-brainer. With Washington needing help at every position save small forward, Douglas' real challenge is making productive use of the team's three second-round selections, with the extra choices coming from previous deals with Detroit and Denver.

It is here in Portsmouth, a tournament that produced only one first-round selection last year -- Randy Woods of La Salle, who was taken by the Los Angeles Clippers -- that Douglas and some 100 other NBA executives and scouts must weigh the abilities of 64 seniors as potential draft choices.

Most of the big men competing are slow, clumsy and have limited skills. It makes it easy to spot Conrad McRae, an agile 6-foot-10 center from Syracuse whose college career was marred by NCAA sanctions.

Equipped with all the essential skills, McRae, in a draft devoid of centers, save for 7-foot-6 Bradley, could elevate himself to a low first-round position.

"It's obvious he can play," said Douglas, acknowledging McRae is no longer a secret. "He's an agile frontcourt player, quick jumper off the floor, runs the court well, has good instincts to get open and can body his man inside. He has to refine his low-post game and extend his shooting range. But McRae definitely has the strength and size of an NBA player."

It's discovering the so-called sleeper that tests a scout's skill. Two years ago, Douglas pushed strongly for the Bullets to sign forward Larry Stewart of Coppin State, who made the all-rookie team as a free agent. Douglas also was a big supporter of guard Haywoode Workman, who put in a productive season for the Bullets in 1990-1991 and is playing in Italy.

"I try to keep an open mind going into a tournament like this," Douglas said. "For me, whether a guy is a legitimate NBA prospect is a feeling more than anything scientific."

Douglas sets certain criteria in assessing talent, building steadily on first impressions.

Most eligible seniors who have played four years already have a fat dossier on file in the Bullets office containing information compiled by Nash, Douglas, head scout Bill Gardiner, regional scouts and the assistant coaches, who were assigned to NCAA tournament games.

Douglas starts his scouting process with a short checklist.

"First, you want to judge their skill level," he said. "Next, the physical attributes, quickness, end-to-end speed running the court and elevation off the floor. And, third, you study a player's body composition -- strength, size, reach and bulk. Judging the mental part of the game and psychological testing comes in after you have a strong feel for a certain player."

Once Douglas decides a player merits serious consideration, he begins dissecting his particular skills and where to best use them.

"A veteran scout once told me that if a player is going to make it in the pros, he either has to have one outstanding skill -- scoring, passing or rebounding -- or do a lot of things fairly well," he said.

"It was sound advice. In the pros, coaches and rival players will usually find a way of taking some facet of your game away. You've got to develop other ways to stay effective.

"Take [Bullets rookie forward] Tom Gugliotta. Teams started taking away his outside shot by defending him with a smaller forward. But Tommy compensated with his passing or posting up his man. It's a continual learning process. That's why when you judge these guys, you try to conceptualize what they'll be doing two or three years down the road."

After a player catches Douglas' eye, he begins to determine which position he might fill.

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