The jockeying for position in the college draft and the trading of players, along with a number of highly talented free agents seeking new teams, will begin soon in the National Basketball Association - and the Washington Bullets could be right in the middle of the wheeling and dealing.
The Bullets have read the free-agent list and there are some players on it they like.
One of them is Milwaukee forward Bob Dandridge. The Bullets tried to deal for Dandridge during the regular season and are still interested.
Dandridge, and ideal small forward, can run, shoot, play defense and, at 6-foot-6, matches up well defensively with most other forwards in the league.
Buffalo's 6-11 George Johnson also will become a free agent, and he is the sort of quality back-up center the Bullets have been looking for.
Bullet general manager Bob Ferry said the free agents he will be interested in will depend on what the Bullets plan to do in the draft.
"For example," he said, "if we could draft a good small forward. Dandridge wouldn't be in our plans that much.
"You almost have to play it by ear," Ferry added. "We have a lot of people to make decisions about. We'll sit down and make a master plan. Because of the free-agent rule, though, we're faced with a lot of options. We'll look at everything real close."
Teams are prohibited from negotiating with free agents until June 8, when they actually become free.
As if te free-agent list weren't enough to play around with, the Bullets have two first-round draft picks in the college draft June 10.
Because of the trade of Leonard Robinson to Atlanta for Tom Henderson earlier this season, the Bullets have the fourth pick in the draft plus their own 17th pick in the first round.
"We're excited about the fourth pick," coach Dick Motta said, "We'll really get a player with that pick."
Among the players Ferry said the Bullets are considering drafting are UCLA's Marques Johnson. North Carolina State's Kenny Carr, North Carolina's Tommy LaGarde and Walter Davis. Oregon's Greg Ballard and Minnesota's Michael Thompson.
Johnson, the 6-7 college player of the year, could play either big or small forward and is a tough rebounder and good scorer inside. But his outside shooting is questionable, and he has indicated he wants to stay in California.
The 6-7 Carr, who is still growing, has as much talent as anyone. He's a great shooter, is strong and loves to run.
"He's the type of player you're afraid not to draft," one scout said.
According to the Bullets' Mitch Kupchak, the 6-10 LaGarde is bigger than Kupchak, shoots better and hustles as much.
"How could you go wrong picking a kid like that?" Motts asked.
Davis, LaGarde's teammate, is a 6-6 swing man who is a steady player.
Ballard, 6-8, 225, "is just a real solid player," according to Perry. He's an unspectacular, hard-working type. He's a good shooter and a good passer. He's not as explosive as Johnson, but he's a better shooter."
Thompson is the type of player everyone wants. He's 6-10 and smooht. "He's a little like Alvan Adams," Ferry said. "He's a good shooter and a good passer, but he's not too physical."
There are enough good college players that all 22 teams should get at least one. There also is that impressive list of free agents, many of whom are anxious to change teams.
The free-agent list is headed by Bob McAdoo of the New York Knicks, Robinson and Geoff Petrie of Atlanta, Sidney Wicks and John Havlicek of Boston, Randy Smith and George Johnson of Buffalo, Jamaal Wilkes, Gus Williams and Rick Barry of Golden State, Lucius Allen of Los Angeles, Dandridge, Nick Weatherspoon and Bruce Seals of Seattle and Wes Unseld, Leonard Gray and Mike Riordan of Washington.
The best unofficial records indicate that 57 players will become free agents June 8.
Some, like Unseld and McAdoo, likely will stay where they are. Some aren't sure what they want to do, and others, like Dandridge, are anxious to move on.
NBA sources say either Wilkes or Dandridge, possibly both, will end up in Los Angeles and that Robinson is destined for Golden State.
Many teams will be careful of free agents because of the compensation, the free agent's former team must get.
Settlement of the Oscar Robertson suit last year ended the option clause in NBA player contracts. Once a player's contract expires he is free to deal with any team he chooses. But until the 1980-81 season, teams losing free agents must be compensated.
In the past, when an NBA player's options expired and he signed with another team, the compensation has been a draft choice, often a No. 1 pick.
Now, once a free agent makes known the team he wants to play for, that team and his former team try to agree on compensation.
If they cannot agree, the commissioner decides the compensation, which can be draft choices, money or other players.
Kent Benson of Indiana and Otis Birdsong of Houston are expected to be the first two collegians drafted.
Other players sure to go quickly include Rickey Green of Michigan, Ray Williams of Minnesota, Ernie Grunfeld and Bernard King of Tennessee, Wesley Cox of Louisville and Tree Rollins of Clemson.
Milwaukee has the first pick in the draft and has announced it will take the 6-11 Benson.
Kansas City picks second and is leaning toward Birdsong, the deadyeye 6-4 guard. The Kings wanted Benson badly, but lost the coin toss for the first pick. The Kings want a center and need a guard.
Buffalo picks third and wants Thompson, if he goes hardship as he has indicated.
The team seemingly destined to emerge the strongest from the draft and free-agent singings is Los Aneles. A lot of free agent say they want to play in Los Angeles and the Lakers have three first-round draft picks, the highest being the sixth pick overall. The reportedly will draft Rickey Green.
A look at the 85 first-round draft choices in the NBA over the last five years shows that 74 of them are still in the league, 38 are starters and eight are all-stars.