Bullet rookie Bo Ellis had been wondering recently "about how much playing time I'd be getting" at forward once the team straightened out its injury problems. Yesterday, the Bullets answered his question by trading him to Denver for the Nuggets' first-round pick in 1978.

For Ellis, the trade means more playing time. For Denver, it means more depth behind Bobby Jones. For the Bullets, it means fewer bodies at the already crowded forward spots, more flexibility for future roster moves and more strenght in next year's draft.

"We really like Bo, both as a player and as a person," said general manager Bob Ferry. "But he was a victim of too many people at one position. He was trying to beat out Bobby Dandridge, Mitch Kupchak, Kevin Grevey and Greg Ballard, and that's tough.

"We weren't unhappy with him at all. But when you have two young players like Ellis and Ballard fighting for playing time, it doesn't allow normal development and that's not good for the team or the player."

The 6-foot-9 Ellis was a member of Marquette's NCAA championship team last season. Used only sparingly by the Bullets in four preseason games, he scored 16 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

Ellis was the 17th player selected in the draft, the Bullets' second choice in the first round. They had taken Ballard 13 places earlier.

At draft time, however, Washington had not signed Dandridge, who was then a free agent after playing out his contract with Milwaukee. Once Dandridge signed, Ellis became expendable, especially as long as Ballard lived up to expectations, which he has.

"If we had signed Dandridge before the draft, we probably wouldn't have taken Ellis," Ferry admitted, "But at the time of the draft, we weren't sure what was going to happen and we had to cover purselves."

Ellis probably would not have played much thi s season. Now, the Bullets have two No.1 choices in 1978, which increases their ability to make trades.

"Bo has played well," said coach Dick Motta, "but Ballard is ahead of him right now. Greg is a player. He's strong and smart and aggressive. Bo has good court sense and has not disappointed us."

Ellis took the news of the deal philosophically. He was in Little Rock, Ark., where the Bullets played the New Orleans Jazz last night, when he heard the report.

"I was shocked at first," he said, "but now I'm convinced it's the best for me. The position I was in at Washington, it didn't look like I'd play very much. With Denver, I think I'll play more.

"Denver has always been interested in me. That's where I thought I'd end up in the draft. All this shows is that this is a business and you'll never know what is happening to you.

He'll get warm reception in Denver. Nugget coach Larry Brown, who loves to surround himself with players off national championship teams (David Thompson, Bob Wilkerson, Ellis) said he wanted to take Ellis in the draft.

Washington had the 17th pick and we had 21, Brown said, "They just had first shot at him. He'll fit in here. He'll be used to the style we play. We like big guys who can handle the ball.

Denver currently has five forwards on its roster: Jones, Wilkerson, rookie Anthony Roberts, Jackie Dorsey and Byron Back, David Thompson has been switched to guard.

Although Ellis said he was satisfied with his play here, he found out he would have to add strength to his rail thin frame. "It's physical out there," he said. "I've always been more of a finesse player. But I also found out I can survive. It's not that rough."

The Bullets now have 12 players, one more than the current roster limit. Ferry said he now can go into the regular season without making any more moves (other than cutting one player) but he did not rule out picking up players dropped next week by other teams.

Rosters have to be reduced to 11 by 6 p.m. Monday.