THIS WEEK'S National Basketball Association draft was, as usual, a stressful event for coaches, team owners and general managers, who had to make long-term decisions, involving many millions of dollars, about players they hardly know. Not so, however, for our Washington Wizards, who have the good fortune to play in a city full of people who are capable of predicting the future at the mere appearance of a microphone, TV camera or computer terminal. Just this week, for example, both the executive and legislative branches of government are projecting, with nearly scientific certitude, the accumulation of trillion-dollar federal surpluses well into the next century.

Applying similar forecasting methods to the Wizards, we can say right now that the team has made an excellent first-round choice in Richard Hamilton of the University of Connecticut. To begin with, Mr. Hamilton's points per game increased by 35 percent between 1997 and 1999, a productivity improvement rate that would bring his average, in five more years, to nearly 50 points a game. In addition, there is the growth factor: In only 21 years, the recruit has gone from practically zero to six-foot-six. Taking account of today's favorable climate for growth, it can be safely predicted that by the middle years of his long-term contract, Mr. Hamilton will have attained a height of 11 1/2 feet.

With this advantage over other players, he can expect to score between 125 and 140 points a game, depending on whether it takes him three steps or four to run the length of the court. This will reduce the need for teammates and, given that he will be able to block any shot taken from within a 30-foot radius, achieve considerable defense savings as well.

The resulting surpluses will undoubtedly lead to calls for a reduction in admission prices. As usual, we would urge that such ticket cuts be directed to the people in the cheap seats -- but then, there aren't any cheap seats. In any event, it appears there will be sufficient funds for new social programs -- especially free nachos and lite beer forever, or until Mr. Hamilton snaps a hamstring.