LANDOVER -- With the fourth pick in tomorrow's draft, the Washington Bullets have their highest selection since 1977. And by adding either Joe Smith, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace or Antonio McDyess -- assumed to be the top four picks -- the Bullets will add another youthful front-line starter to their lineup.
And yet, regardless of how impressive a front line of Chris Webber, Juwan Howard and one of the four super sophomores would be, the team still would have one glaring weakness: a point guard.
"There's no doubt that our biggest priority after signing [restricted free agent] Chris Webber is to get a point guard," said Bullets coach Jim Lynam.
So barring a last-minute trade before the draft, the job of the Bullets brass will be far from complete as the team attempts to assemble a team that actually could match up to the hype of last season, when Webber and Howard came on board.
Choosing No. 4 and with four solid prospects available, it will be hard even for the hard-luck Bullets to botch this pick (Washington also has the 32nd and 37th picks in the second round).
The Golden State Warriors, with the top pick and in need of a power forward, are expected to select Maryland's Smith. The Los Angeles Clippers, with needs everywhere, probably will take Stackhouse No. 2. If the Philadelphia 76ers go with McDyess as the third pick, that would leave Wallace in position to be drafted by the Bullets.
And with Wallace, 6 feet 10, 225 pounds, expected to play some center and some power forward, that would suit the Bullets just fine.
"Wallace is a big-time talent," said Lynam, who was impressed with the workout of the former North Carolina standout. "He has talent, size, runs the floor, can jump and is a gifted passer. He's probably more suited at [power forward] than center. But he's versatile and a very good basketball player."
If the Sixers pick hometown player Wallace, that could leave the Bullets with McDyess. At 6-9 and 220 pounds, McDyess was relatively unknown until the NCAA tournament, when he had two solid early-round games for Alabama at the Baltimore Arena. That one of those efforts -- 39 points, 19 rebounds -- came against Penn has done nothing to sour teams on his obvious physical ability.
McDyess, a tremendous leaper who's expected to be strictly a power forward, impressed the Bullets with his range.
"He can shoot the ball," Bullets general manager John Nash said. The important thing for the guy who will play with Chris and Juwan is his ability to make a shot.
"Joe Smith was a better perimeter shooter than we anticipated, and so was Rasheed," Nash said. "McDyess' range wasn't as deep. But he has a nice shot."
The Bullets would like to have a shot at an explosive player such as North Carolina's Stackhouse, who can play shooting guard and small forward. But Stackhouse, 6-6, 218 pounds, isn't expected to fall below the top two spots.
"I thought Stackhouse had a good workout with us," Nash said. "He shot [41.1 percent] in three-pointers and improved his range. He may not have NBA range, but Michael [Jordan] didn't have it when he came into the league either."
However, the range of the team's new addition won't mean much if there is not a ball distributor in the lineup. So, though Nash has said the Bullets are inclined to keep the pick, there are no guarantees.
"This team needs a point guard, a high-level point guard to maximize its abilities," Nash said. "Having said that, the question is: Do we use the fourth pick to take the best available player and hope to have the point guard later on, or use the pick in some way to acquire a point guard?
"We'll probably wrestle with that until 7:55 or 8 o'clock [tomorrow]."
The point guard the Bullets would like to see distributing the ball is the Portland Trail Blazers' Rod Strickland, who had several run-ins with coach P. J. Carlesimo last season.
A rumored deal had Rex Chapman and the fourth pick going to Portland for Strickland and the eighth pick. (Portland reportedly would use the fourth pick to select Kevin Garnett, who entered the draft out of high school.)
But with point guards at a premium and Strickland probably one of the top five in the league, the Blazers might be reluctant to make the deal.
Barros, coming off an All-Star season, is expected to re-sign with Philadelphia. Shaw, whom the Bullets made a run at last summer, might have an asking price that's too high. Perry could fit in financially, but there's a question whether he can be the high-level point guard the Bullets would like.
The Bullets can't jump into free agency until the league and players association reach a collective bargaining agreement. With discord in the union, it could be a long off-season.
NOTE: The Bullets will hold a draft party at USAir Arena tomorrow night. It's free for season-ticket holders. Others can buy tickets ($10 adults, $5 children 16 and under) at the arena's Eagle entrance. Doors open at 6 p.m., and parking is free.
TAKING THE FOURTH
The Washington Bullets have the fourth pick in the first round of the draft. Here are the past five players taken at No. 4:
Year Player .. .. .. .. Team
1994 Do. Marshall .. .. Minn.
1993 Ja. Mashburn .. .. Dallas
1992 Jim Jackson ... .. Dallas
1991 D. Mutombo . .. .. Denver
1990 Dennis Scott .. .. Orl.
A look at the past 10 first-round draft picks by the Bullets:
Yr. Player .. .. .. .. .. College
Juwan Howard .. .. .. Michigan
'93 Calbert Cheaney .. .. Indiana
'92 Tom Gugliotta . .. .. N.C. State
LaBradford Smith . .. L'ville
'89 Tom Hammonds .. .. .. Ga. Tech
Harvey Grant .. .. .. Oklahoma
'87 Tyrone Bogues . .. .. W. Forest
John Williams . .. .. LSU
Anthony Jones .. .. .. .. UNLV
'85 Kenny Green ... .. .. W. Forest
TIME: 7:30 p.m.