When the NBA draft was completed yesterday - after a woman, Lucy Harris, and a Wheaties salesman, Bruce Jenner, were chosen, but the Washington-area player of the year, John Holloran, was not - these teams were the major winners: the Bullets, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bullets' two first-round selections, Greg Ballard and Bo Ellis, were excellent even if they never play for the Bullets. That is possible because Washington still wants to sign free-agent Bob Dandridge, and must compensate Milwaukee if that takes place.
And the Bucks just might be agreeable to either of those players - especially Ellis - to complete the renovation they started yesterday with Kent Benson, Marques Johnson and Ernie Grunfeld. Free-agent compensation is uncharted water for the NBA - and the price is likely to be stiff, to discourage that sort of treason now that a monopoly exists once again.
The view here is that any price that includes Ballard for Dandridge is too high. If not the caliber of player that teams build around, Ballard is smart enough, durable enough and talented enough to satisfy the Bullets' immediate and long-range needs.
Immediately, Ballard projects nicely into the Bullets' playoff lineup, moving past Kevin Grevey into a starting position sometime after Mitch Kupchak replaces Wes Unseld as the regular center.
For long range, Ballard joins Kupchak as cornerstones of a powerful team once Elvin Hayes begins to falter. In truth, the Bullets ought to begin sharing the offensive burden from the start of training camp, so it won't be as much of a shock when others need to score in the playoffs.
Any offense that regularly involves only Hayes and Phil Chenier as the primary shooters is destined to doom in the playoffs. And the Bullets without Hayes would be likely to miss the playoffs for at least a year.
"Physically and facially, Ballard resembles Maurice Lucas," said Bullets general manager Bob Ferry. "Talent-wise, he's a cross between a big forward and a small forward, an excellent passer with a talent for making the big play at the right time."
At Oregon, Ballard was one fine talent surrounded for much of the season by players whose only justification for existence was to play bump and run on defense and work the ball to him for a shot. Still, Oregon beat UCLA twice last season, with a bloodied Ballard sinking the winning foul shots in the final second of the first test.
"And anyone who survives the Oregon program is some kind of player," said Bullet coach Dick Motta. "I couldn't devise anything - short of the rack - that would surprise him.
"(Dick) Harter has a 45-foot rope that hangs from the ceiling of the gym, and players are supposed to climb it, using just their hands. He said Ballard is the only one to make it all the way to the top - and he does it after practice.
"His greatest strength is that he doesn't have any weaknesses. He's a great passer and does all the dirty work it takes to win games."
So Kupchak will not be the only Bullet to get his uniform soiled this season.
"He's ready to play NBA defense now," Motta added. "He's a guy you can live with for 10 years."
Ferry insisted the recently acquired Coniel Norman is superior to any guard the Buyllets could have drafted, although Rickey Green being taken just ahead of Washington's second first-round choice was grounds for a brief conference.
Also, Ferry wincked when Ed Jordan was chosen by the Cavaliers in the second round, seven players before the Bullets took an obscure guard named Phil Walker. Later, Ferry publicly stroked Hayes' delicate ego.
"Other than 7-foot centers like Walton and Abdul-Jabbar there is not a more valuable player in the league than Elvin," Ferry said. "I've been trying to be orderly about rebuilding this team. We've gone through a couple of eras here.
"To me, winning a championship is like making a hole in one in golf. It's a hot harder to consistently shoot par. It's easy to rebuild a team if you want to suffer being in last place long enough."
He pointed to Milwaukee's list of draftess and said: "That's a better team than they had on the court last year."
If the Bucks are instantly competent, the Lakers are much better because they have one player who can free Abdul-Jabbar of at least one defender, Kenny Carr, and another who can get him the ball as well as break pressure defenses, Brad Davis.
"And if the KNicks decide to go with a running game they're really going to like Ray Williams," said Motta. The major question was why Seattle, having just traded for a center, Marvin Webster, would choose another, Jack Sikma, on the eighth pick of the draft.
And what was Philadelphia doing picking more leaping forwards with its early choices, unless George McGinnis and perhaps Darryl Dawkins are destined to move elsewhere?
In the late rounds, it was goofy time as usual, with New Orleans choosing Harris and Kansas City selecting Jenner on the seventh round. The Bullets played it reasonably straight, and publicity director Marc Splaver reminded anyone who cared to listen that Randy Matson, Ron Widby and Bubba Smith all were chosen ahead of a fellow named Mike Riordan one year.