Shaq-less NBA lottery still houses some tall hopes Webber, 7-6 Bradley top Bullets' wish list Alan Goldstein

May 23, 1993|By Alan Goldstein NBA DRAFT LOTTERY | Alan Goldstein NBA DRAFT LOTTERY,Staff Writer

A year ago, when an ecstatic Pat Williams learned that Orlando had obtained the first selection in the NBA lottery, the general manager was prepared, plucking a black-and-white striped Magic shirt out of his bag, with "O'Neal" written over No. 1.

"The village idiot could have made this pick," said Williams, who only had to find a way of clearing some $40 million to sign the 7-foot center from LSU.

But today at New York's Sheraton Center, during halftime of the New York Knicks-Chicago Bulls game, it hardly will be that simple for representatives of the 11 non-playoff teams possessing from one to 11 pingpong balls in the lottery hopper.

The Washington Bullets, with the third-worst record (22-60), will have nine balls in the bin. Only the Dallas Mavericks (11) and Minnesota Timberwolves (10) have a better mathematical chance of landing the big prize. The Bullets can finish with no worst than the sixth pick, which they used last year to select forward Tom Gugliotta.

In last year's draft, only O'Neal and Georgetown center Alonzo Mourning, taken by the Charlotte Hornets, were considered franchise-type players. This year's talent pool includes no such guarantees.

Most general managers and scouts view Shawn Bradley, the 7-foot-6 center who played only one season at Brigham Young, and muscular power forward Chris Webber, who went to the NCAA finals in his two seasons at Michigan, as the top prospects. Still, Bradley, because of his slight physique and limited experience, and Webber, who lacks a polished inside game, raise as many questions as they provide answers.

Memphis State's Anfernee Hardaway, a 6-7 point guard with excellent court vision, Kentucky forward Jamal Mashburn and Indiana forward Calbert Cheaney carry strong credentials. But none is viewed as a player who will make an also-ran a contender.

The Bullets brass appears divided on whom to choose if #F fortunate enough to get the No. 1 choice. Since the team needs help at almost every position save small forward, there is sentiment for Bradley, Webber and Hardaway.

General manager John Nash seems inclined toward Bradley, and head coach Wes Unseld, seeking to add muscle to his frontcourt, appears to favor Webber.

Asked if long-frustrated Bullets fans, without a playoff team in the past five years, patiently could watch Bradley develop, Nash said: "That's not my concern. I've been told by the owner [Abe Pollin] to pick the best player in my judgment."

But on the eve of the lottery, Nash remained noncommittal.

"There are four guys you might pick first," he said, likely referring to Bradley, Webber, Hardaway and Mashburn. "It's like 1989, when Sacramento picked Pervis Ellison as No. 1. That year, you also had strong sentiment for Danny Ferry, Sean Elliott, Glen Rice and Stacey King."

Two lottery teams, the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors, already have said they would choose Bradley first.

"Five years from now, you might have another Bill Walton on your hands," said Kings general manager Jerry Reynolds.

Said Warriors coach Don Nelson, seeking a big man: "Bradley is a Manute Bol with skills. He's not just a shot blocker. He has great hands, he can score from inside or outside and he can pass. He's an impact player with a huge upside."

Alan Srebnick, who has scouted for the Bullets and Detroit Pistons, saw Bradley play his freshman season and considers him an unusually gifted player.

"The big concern pro teams will have is whether he can stand up to the 82-game schedule," Srebnick said. "Teams that consider picking him will have doctors examining his body with a fine-tooth comb."

No one questions the physical attributes of Webber, 6-9 and 245 pounds, and that is what makes him so appealing.

"Given a choice between Webber and Bradley, I'd definitely take Webber," said an Eastern Conference general manager who requested anonymity.

"He's got a perfect pro body like a Karl Malone, and the strength and speed to develop a strong inside game. He'll help you turn it around long before Bradley."

With the pro game favoring speed, movement and versatility, a point guard such as Magic Johnson or John Stockton becomes almost as valuable as a powerful front-court player. That is why Hardaway could be favored by lottery teams already blessed with big men. In fact, in averaging 8.5 rebounds, the slender guard surpassed Bradley and Mashburn in their final college seasons.

"He's just a wonderful player," said Jerry West, the Hall of Fame guard who is now the Los Angeles Lakers general manager. "He's got a great feel for the game and makes everyone around him play better."

Added Larry Bird, the retired Boston Celtics great who played against Hardaway in the pre-Olympic camp last summer: "I've made some mistakes, but to me, he is the best college player."

If a team wins the third pick, it could use it to select Mashburn, who has both an inside and outside game.

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