Bullets give defense 1-2 punch

July 01, 1994|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Writer

It was a season that will be remembered for the NBA's discovery of defense, but somehow the Washington Bullets missed the boat. The team's average yield of 107.7 points was the second worst in the league, and the Bullets were the only team that allowed opponents to shoot better than 50 percent (50.8).

So Washington went big and with defense in mind in the 1994 NBA draft, selecting 6-foot-9 forward Juwan Howard with the No. 5 pick overall and 7-1 Jim McIlvaine, the nation's top shot blocker, in the second round.

Howard, a third-team All-American at Michigan, will fit right into the Bullets' projected three-forward rotation.

"Juwan is a great basketball player," Bullets coach Jim Lynam said. "He can defend you and he can score over you. I think he will have an immediate impact."

If McIlvaine does stick, the draft adds two more bodies to a frontcourt that's getting more and more crowded. It gives the Bullets three centers, with the return of Kevin Duckworth and the likely return of 7-7 center Gheorghe Muresan (who can seek a new deal starting tomorrow).

The addition of Howard at forward crowds that position, with Tom Gugliotta and Don MacLean already established in their roles.

With the return of Larry Stewart (missed 79 games with injuries), the possible return of Mitchell Butler and an invitation being extended to rookie camp to 6-8, 250-pound forward Tim Burroughs, there could be a huge battle in the frontcourt -- even without Pervis Ellison, who becomes a free agent tomorrow and is not expected to return.

"What we're attempting to do is develop quality and depth," said Bullets general manager John Nash. "We're not necessarily locked in to the people currently on our roster."

What the draft didn't do was address the team's needs in the backcourt. Rex Chapman and Calbert Cheaney give the Bullets two solid scorers at shooting guard, but the point guard trio of Michael Adams, Brent Price and Doug Overton remains a glaring weakness.

Nash mentioned the use of a three-guard rotation.

"Based on what we did at the end of last season -- playing Rex and Calbert in the backcourt at the same time -- we liked what we saw," Nash said. "Now the team is prepared to go with Michael Adams, Rex and Calbert in the three-guard rotation."

Don't count out the Bullets' snaring a point guard in the free-agent market. Miami Heat point guard Brian Shaw could be available, which could be why the team selected Arizona's Khalid Reeves with its first-round pick.

"We will be in the free-agent market, but I'm not at liberty to say who because it may be considered tampering," Nash said.

Among the top five picks, the Bullets were the only team that failed to select a conference player of the year (Howard had the misfortune of playing in the Big Ten with Glenn Robinson). But, based on where the team was selecting, the Bullets are excited with the pick.

"He has no real weakness," Lynam said of Howard. "I think the fact that he is a very complete player will help in his transition to the pros."

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