Youth rules draft -- now comes hard part Record 17 early-entry picks must prove they're ready bTC

June 28, 1996|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

In the minds of the Philadelphia 76ers, there is no doubt that Allen Iverson will have an immediate impact. And why not? The 76ers are coming off an 18-64 season in which they used a string of point guard impostors, including Vernon Maxwell, Greg Grant and Rex Walters.

The Sixers appeared to fare well, but there is still some question of how many players will have immediate impact from a first round that featured the selection of a record 17 early-entry candidates. That exceeds the previous record of 10 underclassmen picked in the first round last year.

Two players who just completed their freshman years, Shareef Abdur-Rahim (California) and Stephon Marbury (Georgia Tech),

were among the first five picks. How well the players from this year's draft develop could determine whether teams will take the same chances in the future.

"If there's going to be an impact, it's going to be after periods of maturation that would normally take place while playing in college," said Washington Bullets general manager Wes Unseld. Teams are really taking chances drafting players as high as they did. Sometimes, the life in the NBA is not conducive to teaching and learning."

Two surprises in the draft were the relatively high selections of the two high school players, Kobe Bryant and Jermaine O'Neal, in the first round. Bryant was expected to go late in the first round, but wound up as the 13th pick of the Charlotte Hornets -- a team in need of front-line help. But Bryant may never play in Charlotte. The Hornets reportedly are shopping him, with the Los Angeles Lakers expressing interest (a possible deal would include Vlade Divac).

"We think he's an incredible prospect," said Lakers vice president Jerry West, who had Bryant in for a workout. "This guy is not a typical 17-year-old; he's just not. He's a potential NBA star."

O'Neal, a 6-foot-11 center who was Mr. Basketball at Eau Claire High School in South Carolina, was taken 17th by the Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers likely will bring O'Neal along slowly, playing him behind -- and maybe at times, alongside -- Arvydas Sabonis.

The teams that perhaps fared the best with the draft were the New York Knicks and the Dallas Mavericks.

New York, one of the oldest teams in the league, had three picks late in the first round and used them to select three quality forwards -- John Wallace (Syracuse), Walter McCarty (Kentucky), and Dontae' Jones (Mississippi State). All offer the versatility to play two positions, and their development could make players like Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason expendable.

Wallace, expected to be a lottery pick, was a surprise pickup for New York and a favorite of the fans at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J.

"I really don't know why he slipped, I'm just glad he did," Knicks general manager Ernie Grunfeld said.

Dallas took care of its need at center in trading the sixth pick to the Boston Celtics for Eric Montross and the ninth pick. With the ninth pick the Mavericks selected Samaki Walker (Louisville), who could play both forward spots.

Dallas added a guard, Shawn Harvey of West Virginia State, with the 34th pick and got yet another front-line player by taking Arkansas center Darnell Robinson with the last pick of the draft (58th).

"We came away with what we wanted," said new coach Jim Cleamons. "I think that's a very good start."

Pub Date: 6/28/96

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