Pro basketball draft picks from 'steadiness' shelf
If those who follow the National Basketball Association the way some people follow the stock market did not react with their customary enthusiasm to this year's college player draft, it was entirely understandable. There were no Wilt Chamberlains, Bill Bradleys, or Bob Cousys to ooh and ah about.
What talented players were available tended to be steady rather than spectacular: the fill-in pieces of a puzzle that would make most teams more complete but not turn any of them around in what would be considered dramatic fashion.
The Dallas Mavericks, an expansion franchise that won only 15 of 82 games last season and had first pick in this year's draft, decided on forward Mark Aguirre of DePaul after early reports that the Mavs would take guard Isiah Thomas of Indiana.
Although questions have been raised about Aguirres's team-related attitude, his size (is he 6 ft. 7 in. or really only 6-5?), and where he would play as a pro (forward or guard); there was no concern about his ability to score. Mark will probably get his 20 points per game or close to it no matter who guards him.
The Detroit Pistons, another have-not team with the second pick in the draft, took Thomas, a starting guard from Indiana's 1981 NCAA champions. Isiah can help, of course, but it will take more than his ball- handling ability to improve on the Pistons' 21-61 record.
The franchise that seemed to come off best overall was New Jersey, which picked up forwards Buck Williams and Albert King of Maryland in the draft and traded with Kansas City for guard Otis Birdsong.
Williams is a Paul Silas type who goes strong to both boards and should score a lot of close-in baskets for new coach Larry Brown, who is back in the pros after two years as the head man at UCLA.
Birdsong, a two-time NBA all-star, finished sixth in the league in scoring last season with a 24.6 average.
Last year's four division champions (Boston, Milwaukee, San Antonio, and Phoenix) all got players who may stick simply because NBA rosters will be increased from 11 to 12 men next season. The Celtics' choice was guard Charles Bradley of Wyoming, the Bucks' center Alton Lister of Arizona State, the Spurs' (on the second round) forward Gene Banks of Duke, and the Suns' forward Larry NAnce of Clemson.
Milwaukee, with veteran center Bob Lanier close to retirement, is hoping that it can improve the seven-foot, 240-pound Lister to the point where he might someday play regularly. Alton had a peak-and-valley season with Arizona State last season, but remained attractive with scouts because of his size and potential.
Others who went in the first round included forward Al Wood of North Carolina (to Atlanta); forward Danny Vranes of Utah (to Seattle); forward Orlando Woolridge of Notre Dame (to Chicago); and center Steve Johnson of Oregon State (to Kansas City).
Johnson, in what may be an NBA first, was the only center among the first 12 players selected. Steve is another diamond in the rough, who could mature into a valuable property, but who must first learn how to play defense without getting himself into foul trouble.
Marty Blake, whose pro connections go back almost to the day the NBA was founded in 1946 and for the past three years has run a scouting service for the entire league, called this season's draft "the year of the small forward."
"To me this is a draft that will go into the records as one with unusual depth, no super talent like a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but with a lot of fundamentally sound small forwards," Blake continued. "I think you'll find that most of this year's first-round picks will be around for a while."
The Los Angeles Lakers, who won the NBA title two seasons ago, think they may have the sleeper of the draft in 6-5 forward Mike McGee of Michigan, who coach Paul Westhead hopes to convert into a swing man.
If McGee turns out to be as good in the backcourt as Westhead thinks he can be, there is a good chance that Magic Johnson may eventually end up as the Lakers' starting forward opposite Jamaal Wilkes.
Other first-round choices not previously mentioned are: forward Tom Chambers of Utah (to San Diego); guard Rolando Blackman of Kansas State (to Dallas); guard Frank Johnson of Wake Forest (to Washington); forward Kelly Tripucka of Notre Dame (to Detroit); center Dan Schayes of Syracuse (to Utah); center Herb Williams of Ohio State (to Indiana); guard/forward Jeff Lamp of Virginia and guard Darnell Valentine of Kansas (to Portland); forward Kevin Loder of Alabama State (to Kansas City), and guard Franklin Edwards of Cleveland State (to Philadelphia).