The Washington Bullets apparently have decided they'd rather have Indiana small forward Calbert Cheaney than Detlef Schrempf or Mark Price.
If tonight's NBA draft unfolds as anticipated, the Bullets will take Cheaney with the sixth pick, and a team source said they will keep him instead of trading him. The Indiana Pacers reportedly offered Schrempf for the sixth pick, and another ru
mor had the Cleveland Cavaliers offering Price in exchange for the choice.
Bullets general manager John Nash, who auditioned Cheaney, Wake Forest forward Rodney Rogers and Nevada-Las Vegas guard J. R. Rider, described the 6-foot-7, 209-pound Cheaney as the best all-around player" of the three prospects. Rider is expected to be selected by Minnesota with the fifth pick.
A number of teams drafting below the Bullets have expressed interest in Cheaney, who was voted College Player of the Year by the Associated Press, Sporting News and Sports Illustrated after finishing as the Hoosiers' all-time scoring leader.
The most intriguing rumor involved the Pacers, who select 14th. The Pacers' interest in Cheaney is twofold. Cheaney would be a box-office attraction for a team that averaged only 12,700 last season, ranking 24th among the 27 teams in attendance. And Schrempf's contract allows him to become an unrestricted free agent after next season.
Nash acknowledged discussing a trade with Pacers general manager Donnie Walsh, but said nothing was completed. New Pacers coach Larry Brown is expected to have input in any deals.
The Cavaliers, who pick 22nd, apparently believe that TerrelBrandon is ready to run their offense and that Price's market value will never be higher. Cheaney could prove valuable as a replacement for shooting guard Craig Ehlo or small forward Mike Sanders.
But a Bullets source said the team will keep Cheaney rather tha trade him. The source said that Price, 29, and Schrempf, 30, probably have reached their playing peaks and that Cheaney has his whole NBA career ahead of him.
Yet few of Indiana coach Bob Knight's players have made it biin the NBA. The exception is Isiah Thomas, a perennial All-Star with the Detroit Pistons who quit Indiana after his sophomore year.
Former Hoosier stars such as Kent Benson (the first selection in the 1977 draft), Scott May, Quinn Buckner, Bobby Wilkerson and Olympian Steve Alford were either ordinary players or busts as pros. They excelled in Knight's structured system, but lacked the one-on-one skills to survive on the next level.
But Knight, who rarely uses superlatives to describe his players says Cheaney is a "can't-miss" prospect, citing his leadership qualities and his ability to make the critical shot with the game on the line.
"It's a heck of a burden for a kid to be a scorer, to kno everybody is counting on him," Knight said after Cheaney broke Alford's school scoring record in February.
"Buckner was a great leader, but he didn't carry the scoring burden, too," Knight said. "We kept telling Calbert, 'We don't have you out there to set screens. We've got to
have you scoring.' But Calbert can do a bit of everything. He's quick enough to get past you, and he can also post you up. He does everything just better than everyone right now."
The Bullets also have three second-round picks -- 30th, 36th an 38th. Nash said that because of salary cap restrictions and guaranteed contracts, the team will trade at least one of those choices.
"We'll still be looking for size," Nash said, "but we might have to encourage the players we pick to play in Europe next season."
Washington likely would choose Gheorghe Muresan, a 7- prospect from Romania if he is available. Muresan, 21, who averaged 18.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks for the Pau )) Orthez team in the French Basketball League this past season, probably will be claimed in the bottom half of the first round.
The Bullets also have expressed interest in Richard Petruska, 6-10 center from Slovakia who averaged 11.8 points and 6.2 rebounds for UCLA last season after transferring from Loyola Marymount. Other possible picks include Maryland forward Evers Burns, who impressed scouts at the three pro camps, and Syracuse center Conrad McRae.
1993 NBA DRAFT
When: Tonight, 7:30
Where: Palace at Auburn Hills, Mich.
1. Orlando 15. Atlanta
2. Philadelphia 16. New Jersey
3. Golden State 17. Charlotte
4. Dallas 18. Utah
5. Minnesota 19. Boston
6. Washington 20. Charlotte
7. Sacramento 21. Portland
8. Milwaukee 22. Cleveland
9. Denver 23. Seattle
10. Detroit 24. Houston
11. Detroit 25. Chicago
12. L.A. Lakers 26. Orlando
13. L.A. Clippers 27. Phoenix
Local watch: Fans can follow the draft at the Capital Centre in Landover. Doors open at 7 p.m. There is a $5 admission charge for non-season-ticket holders that will go to the Bullets' Stay in School program.
TAKING THE SIXTH
A list of the players who have been chosen with the sixth selection in the NBA draft since 1978:
Year Player .. College .. Team
1978 Larry Bird Indiana State Boston
1979 James Bailey Rutgers Seattle
1980 Mike O'Koren North Carolina New Jersey
1981 Orlando Woolridge Notre Dame Chicago
1982 Trent Tucker Minnesota New York
1983 Russell Cross Purdue Golden State
1984 Mel Turpin Kentucky Washington*
1985 Joe Kleine Arkansas Sacramento
1986 William Bedford Memphis State Phoenix
1987 Kenny Smith North Carolina Sacramento
1988 Hersey Hawkins Bradley L.A. Clippers**
1989 Stacey King Oklahoma Chicago
1990 Felton Spencer Louisville Minnesota
1991 Doug Smith Missouri Dallas
1992 Tom Gugliotta N.C. State Washington
*-traded to Cleveland; **-traded to Philadelphia