The Washington Bullets will pick either Greg Ballard of Oregon, or Tom LaGarde or Walte Davis of North Carolina as their first choice in today's National Basketball Association draft of College Players.
"My mind is made up right now as to who ZI will take," Bullet general manager Bob Ferry said yesterday. "The only thing that would affect it is if we made a last-minute deal. Right now, we don't have one close to being made, but I want to keep all options open until the draft starts at 1 o'clock."
Ballard, a 6-foot-7, 220 pound forward, is believed to be the player Ferrp prefers.
In a related surprise move to some, but apparently not to many general managers, Maryland's Brad Davis did not remove his name from the hardship list and, as of now, is eligible to be drafted.
North Carolina State's Kenny Carr, formerly of De Matha High School, two best players on the six-man hardship list and wil probably be among the first 10 players chosen overall.
Carr was at one time considered to be headed for the Bullets, but it now appears he will be tabbed seventh by the New York Nets.
The Bullets have two picks in the first round - the fourth pick, with which they will probably take Ballard, LaGarde or Davis, and the 17th pick.
The Bullets acquired the fourth pick as part of the trade with Atlanta that sent Leonard Robinson to the Hawks in exchange for Tom Henderson. That deal gave the Bullets the option of trading their highest first-round choice for Atlanta's highest choice. The Bullets had previously acquired Detroit's first-round pick as part of the Dave Bing-Kevin Porter trade of two seasons ago. That pick the 14th in the draft, will go to Atlanta in return for the Hawks' pick, the fourth.
Milwaukee has the first and third picks in the first round and has announced it will make 6-foot-11 Indiana center Kent Benson the first player chosen.
Kansas City, picking second, is expected to take University of Houston sharpshooter Otis Birdsong. Milwaukee would then take 6-foot7 Marques Johnson, the college player of the year.
Johnson is the college player the Bullets want most, and if he is available when the Bullets pick, they will take him.
Kansas City yesterday was receiving offers for its second pick. A spokesman for the Kings said that they would probably keep the pick and take Birdsong.
If the draft proceeds as expected, Phoenix, picking fifth, will take Walter Davis, Los Angeles will take LaGarde and the New York Nets will take Carr.
The Lakers, with three first-round draft choices, are one of the teams showing an interest in Brad Davis.
Davis, a 6-foot-3 guard, who would be a senior at Maryland in the fall, is excellent as the lead man on a fast break and has the knack of getting the ball to the open man.
Ferry was one of those who wasn't surprised Davis left his name on the hardship list.
"There is always a place for a player who knows his role and executes it well," Ferry said. "Davis is one of those kind of people."
Davis couldn't be reached for comment yesterday but it is unlikely he would keep his name on the list if he wasn't assured of being drafted high and of signing a good contract.
In addition to Los Angeles, Boston and Atlanta have expressed an interest in him.
Three other undergraduates in addition to Davis, King and Carr remained eligible for the draft. They are Ray Epps of Norfolk State, James Redwine of Eastern Washington State and Ray Tatum of Malone.
Originally, 13 undergraduates had declared themselves eligible. But seven have since withdrawn, most notably Michael Thompson of Minnesota, who probably would have been one of the first four players chosen.
The deadline for withdrawing a name from the hardship list was 1 p.m. yesterday - 24 hours before the draft. But NBA deputy commissioner Simon Gourdine said that deadline is not binding and is imposed only to discourage last-minute moves.
"We set an arbitrary 24-hour deadline but, in all honesty, if a player were to decide at the last minute to change his mind and wanted to remove himself from the draft, we would consider ourselves morally obligated to allow him to do so," said Gourdine.
Marques Johnson, for example, took his name off the list only a few hours before last year's draft and remained at UCLA.
The NCAA said that a player withdrawing anytime before the draft starts would retain his college eligibility.
If a player remains on the list, he will no longer be eligible, however, even if he goes undrafted.
The league will go through 10 rounds of drafting via telephone hookup beginning at 1 p.m.
The addition to the players already mentioned, likely first-round choices are guard Ray Williams of Minnesota, supposedly headed for the Knicks, forward Ernie Grunfeld of Tennessee, probably to Seattle, and guard Rickey Green, reportedly going to Los Angeles. The Lakers are also looking hard at Duke's Tate Armstrong.
Ferry added that the free agent situation will not affect today's draft, as far as the Bullets are concerned.
A number of talented free agents became available Wednesday, among them former Milwaukee forward Bob Dandridge, whom the Bullets have an interest in signing.