NBA Draft '84: Choosing from the Choice
By David Dupree
However, that is no vast basketball wasteland out there after Akeem Olajuwon of Houston, Sam Bowie of Kentucky and Michael Jordan of North Carolina, respectively, are taken with the first three choices.
Last year, 7-4 Ralph Sampson of Virginia was the draft's one and only superstar. This draft, however, has at least 10 players many experts predict are destined for prosperous NBA careers.
In addition to Olajuwon, Bowie and Jordan, they include Sam Perkins of North Carolina, Melvin Turpin of Kentucky, Leon Wood of Fullerton State, Lancaster Gordon of Louisville, Charles Barkley of Auburn, Michael Young of Houston and Alvin Robertson of Arkansas.
Other top players include forwards Michael Cage of San Diego State, Kenny Fields of UCLA and Devin Durrant of Brigham Young; and guards Terence Stansbury of Temple, Steve Burtt of Iona, Ricky Ross of Tulsa and Roosevelt Chapman of Dayton.
Houston finished last in the Western Conference, even with Sampson, and won a coin flip with the Portland Trail Blazers for the first pick. The Rockets already have announced they will take Olajuwon and play him alongside Sampson.
Portland was fined $250,000 by NBA Commissioner David Stern for illegal contacts with Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing of Georgetown, both juniors. But the Trail Blazers still retained the second pick, obtained from the Indiana Pacers in a 1981 trade for Tom Owens. They will use it to take Bowie.
The Trail Blazers also acquired Kiki Vandeweghe, who averaged 29.4 points a game third-best in the league last season from the Denver Nuggets for Calvin Natt, Wayne Cooper, Lafayette Lever and a second-round pick this year and a first-round pick next year. The addition of Vandeweghe and Bowie could make Portland, already one of the top teams, one of the most improved next season.
Chicago Bulls Coach Kevin Loughery said he will use the third pick to take Jordan, a 6-6 swing man. "How can you not take a Michael Jordan?" he said.
The key to the remainder of the draft appears to be the Dallas Mavericks. They have the fourth pick and are undecided between Perkins and Turpin. They'd like to get both and are still negotiating to swing a deal.
They have plenty to offer with an abundance of small forwards Mark Aguirre, the league's second-leading scorer, Jay Vincent and Dale Ellis. They also have the 15th pick in the first round this year and three No. 1 draft choices next season.
The Philadelphia 76ers, picking fifth, have been shopping around guard Andrew Toney in an attempt to move up higher. It seems unlikely they can make a deal, however, and probably will be left with Barkley, a 6-6, 275-pound junior forward/center.
The Washington Bullets have the sixth pick, their highest since they took Greg Ballard with the fourth pick in 1977. General Manager Bob Ferry has indicated that he will most likely take Perkins, Turpin or Barkley, one of whom should be available. Otherwise, he will probably trade the pick.
"It's the underclassmen who make this a good draft," said Ferry. "Without them, it would just be an average group."
Nine players with college eligibility remaining declared for the draft: Olajuwon, Jordan, Barkley, Tim McCormick and Eric Turner of Michigan, Stuart Gray of UCLA, Cory Blackwell of Wisconsin, Sam Norton of Texas-Arlington and Yommy Sangodeyi of Sam Houston State.
Only Olajuwon, Jordan, Barkley and possibly McCormick and Turner are considered first-round draft choices.
Other underclassmen who would have been among the first 10 players picked, had they not decided to remain in school, are Ewing, Chris Mullin of St. John's and Keith Lee of Memphis State.
The nation's top three collegiate scorers of last season 6-5 guard Joe Jakubick of Akron (30.1), 6-6 forward Lewis Jackson of Alabama State (29) and 6-7 Durrant (27.9) are in the draft, but are not expected to go high in the first round.
Jakubick, a left-hander, looks somewhat like Pete Maravich, but lacks quickness. Jackson is still somewhat of an unknown, but is versatile. He was an 86 percent free throw shooter but was not a particularly deft passer.
Durrant, a forward at BYU, will probably play big guard in the NBA. He doesn't have exceptional shooting range, but usually finds some way to score. He shot 58 percent from the field last season.
The best defensive player in the draft is Robertson, who also averaged 15.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, six assists and 2.7 steals a game.
Wood, considered the top point guard, averged 24 points. In the 1982-83 season, he set an NCAA record for assists with 319, an average of 11 a game.
Coaches and general managers look for different things in players, "but the most important things to think about when looking at a prospect are talent, talent and talent," according to Jack McCloskey, the Detroit Pistons' general manager. "The other things, like character, are important, but you could have five priests on your team and go 0-82."
Washington-area players expected to be drafted are 7-foot center/forward Earl Jones, Spingarn High School and UDC; guard Othell Wilson of Gar-Field High School and the University of Virginia; center Ben Coleman of Maryland; forward Tom Sluby of Gonzaga High School and Notre Dame; center Tim Kearney of Marshall High School and West Virginia, and guard Jan Pannell of McKinley Tech and Oklahoma.