In retrospect, the 1986 NBA draft would prove to be one of the most puzzling and most disappointing for most of the teams fortunate enough to own high lottery picks.
Three of the top seven choices -- Chris Washburn (3), William Bedford (6) and Roy Tarpley (7) -- would de- velop drug problems. And the No. 4 pick, Len Bias, the brilliant Maryland forward who was viewed by Boston Celtics president Red Auerbach as Larry Bird's successor, died of cocaine intoxication two days after the draft.
"That was a very strange draft," Pat Williams, who was then the Philadelphia 76ers' general manager, recently told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "Usually, when you've got the first choice, you're hysterical, but, quite honestly, there was no consensus as to which player deserved to be No. 1."
But Williams was hardly as ecstatic in 1986 at the thought of selecting Brad Daugherty, the North Carolina center who was considered the best big man available.
"No one thought Daugherty was anything special, certainly not a dominant type like a Patrick Ewing or Hakeem Olajuwon," Williams said. "In fact, a lot of scouts labeled him soft."
So Williams, in his parting act for the 76ers before heading for Florida, traded the rights for Daugherty to the Cleveland Cavaliers for veteran forward Roy Hinson and $800,000.
It proved one of the worst deals in the history of the 76ers, who sent Moses Malone and Terry Catledge to the Washington Bullets for Jeff Ruland and Cliff Robinson during that same draft. Ruland and Hinson soon would develop knee problems, leaving the 76ers without a bona fide big man, for which they are still searching.
"That draft was a total disaster for the 76ers," Williams said. "Everything went wrong, except, of course, for Daugherty."
For the Cavaliers, who play the Bullets in Baltimore tonight, that 1986 trade proved a bonanza. Daugherty became the cornerstone of their rebuilding program and is now regarded as one of the top five centers in the league.
"Mr. Softie" can now flex his muscles with the best. An All-Star selection the past three years, he ranks among NBA leaders in scoring (20.4) and rebounding (9.9) and tops the league in field-goal percentage (57.2).
Ewing, Olajuwon and David Robinson are considered more gifted athletes, and O'Neal is more powerful, but Daugherty can match them statistically and is arguably the best passing center in the bunch.
"Brad is playing as well as any center in the league," said Cavaliers coach Lenny Wilkens. "You can pretty much mark him down for 20 points and 10 rebounds every night."
But it took occasional prodding by Wilkens to get the mild-mannered, North Carolina native to assert himself. "There were times last year Brad was a little passive," said Wilkens. "I just reminded him of all the things he could do, and I wanted him to push himself harder."
Daugherty realized he needed the extra effort to consistently reach double figures in the pros.
"When I came into this league, I thought I could just out-muscle people," he said. "In college, I got a lot of rebounds because I was taller, bigger and stronger than most of the guys I played against. But in the pros, a lot of centers were bigger and stronger than me. To average 10 rebounds a game in the NBA, I don't think the fans realize how hard you have to work."
Offensively, Daugherty has also worked diligently to improve his repertoire. As a rookie, he relied almost exclusively on a jump hook. He has since added a sweeping, unstoppable hook and a reliable 10-foot push shot.
"I can put a lot of pressure on the other team now," he said. "If they double me, we've got outside shooters like Mark Price, Craig Ehlo and Larry Nance who can really burn them."
Said Nance: "Most teams don't know what to do with Brad. He's so strong now, he can get his shot any time he wants, or, at least draw a foul."
Given a chance, Daugherty might have done the same for the 76ers. But it's a trade that will haunt Williams the rest of his life.