LANDOVER -- Finally, the Washington Bullets got their man.
Amid all the trade rumors and draft-day moves, the Bullets decided to play it safe and keep their No. 4 pick, selecting North Carolina power forward/center Rasheed Wallace.
But before they could get the 6-foot-10, 225-pound sophomore, they had to wait and see if the first three teams -- the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers -- would draft the three other sensational sophomores, Maryland's Joe Smith, Alabama's Antonio McDyess and North Carolina's Jerry Stackhouse.
"There was a school of thought that maybe Golden State was going to take Jerry Stackhouse and maybe the Clippers were going to take Rasheed Wallace," said general manager John Nash. "I would have taken Rasheed Wallace higher than the fourth pick had we had the opportunity to select higher. I feel very, very fortunate for our team. We got a guy who is going to fit very, very nicely.
"In terms of talent and the areas that we need to reinforce on our team, Wallace will certainly be available to play the forward position, but more importantly in the immediate future, he is going to play some center minutes. Those center minutes may be expanded as he develops additional strength and bulk."
Wallace, an Associated Press second-team All-American, is the Atlantic Coast Conference's all-time leading field-goal percentage leader at .635. He averaged 16.6 points and set a Tar Heels record for blocks in a season with 93 last season.
Bullets coach Jim Lynam now has a frontcourt that consists of 6-10 Chris Webber, 6-9 Juwan Howard, 7-7 Gheorghe Muresan and Wallace. Lynam says Wallace will see minutes at all three frontcourt positions.
The thin Wallace isn't sure he is ready for the banging in the NBA.
"I don't think I'm ready to play that center spot," Wallace said. "I see myself projected to play the power forward. I can bring quickness to the ballclub, run it up and down the floor. I'm another shot-blocker. With big Gheorghe down there and Juwan and Chris and myself, you've got some shot-blockers there.
"I can see all three of us [Wallace, Webber and Howard] playing forward at the same time and causing problems for other teams. You never know what Coach Lynam has in mind for me."
What Lynam has in mind for Wallace is still up in the air.
"I'd put that under the category to be determined," Lynam said. "He is a little lean and needs to put on some weight. His skill level and athleticism . . . he was born with. He certainly will be an integral part of this team and he'll get a lot of playing time. Whether that means Rasheed is one of the starters or not, we'll see.
"I really very, very much like this front line. Granted, it is young, but with a tall player like Muresan and talents of Juwan and Chris, it presents a number of opportunities. Obviously, the challenge for us now is to acquire a point guard."
Nash and Lynam, who both used to work for the 76ers, have had earlier exposure to Philadelphia native Wallace.
"We know a lot of people who know Rasheed, and he is very highly thought of in Philadelphia," Lynam said.
For now, Nash said that the Bullets will keep Wallace and not entertain thoughts of trading him.
"The guy that we think is going to make a big impact on our team is Wallace," Nash said. "For that reason, deep-six all speculation with regards to potential trades.
"When all is said and done, Rasheed Wallace for the Washington Bullets is the most valuable asset that we could acquire today. We acquired him to keep him."
Later last night, in a move to clear more room under the salary cap, Nash dealt shooting guard Rex Chapman and second-round pick Terrence Rencher, a 6-3 point guard from Texas, to the Miami Heat for the rights to 7-foot center Ed Stokes and 6-8 forward Jeff Webster.
The trade removes Chapman's lofty contract -- $2 million for next season -- and allows Nash more room to meet his goals -- re-sign Webber and sign Wallace and a quality free-agent point guard.
"This trade on face value puts us in a position to be very, very aggressive this summer either via trade or free agency. We now believe we have the needed ability to accomplish those goals this summer," Nash said.
Stokes and Webster, who both play overseas, might not ever wear a Bullets uniform. Stokes was a 1993 second-round pick from Arizona and Webster was a second-round pick from Oklahoma last year.
"I don't know if they'll even show up here," Nash said. "The objective of the trade was not necessarily to acquire the players."
On the often-injured Chapman, Nash said, "We had a duplication at the big-guard position with Calbert Cheaney and Chapman. . . . Our coaches made it clear that Calbert would be the big guard of the future."
THE WALLACE FILE
School: North Carolina
Size: 6 feet 10, 225 pounds
1994-95 stats: 16.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.7 blocks
Data: Earned first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors last season as a sophomore and finished his career as the ACC's all-time leader in field-goal percentage (.635). Led the league in field-goal percentage (.654), ranked third in blocks (93), ninth in rebounding (8.2) and 10th in scoring (16.6). Scored a career-high 33 points against Maryland in the ACC tournament. Averaged 9.5 points and 6.6 rebounds as a freshman.
Scouting report: An athletic big man who runs the court like a guard and finishes the break like a small forward. . . . Because of his agility and accurate 10- to 15-footer, he could play mostly at big forward. . . . Long arms, quickness and leaping ability give him the potential to be a top shot-blocker. . . . Needs to improve free-throw shooting and ability to get to the line. . . . Needs to learn to kick the ball out from the post. . . . Has to keep his emotions under control.