The Washington Bullets yesterday traded their No. 1 pick - the 22nd selection - in Monday's National Basketball Association draft to the Phoenix Suns for the rights to 6-foot-10 Steve Malovic of San Diego State.
The Bullet's general manager, Bob Ferry, said Malovic already had agreed to contract terms. He is expected to sign Sunday or Monday. The Bullets also gave up a third-round pick in 1980 in the deal.
In another development, it appears the Bullets will not sign Detroit Piston free agent Kevin Porter.
"There just doesn't seem to be a way compensation can be worked out," Ferry said.
Detroit Coach Dick Vitale agreed, saying, "I'm sure Washington is definitely interested in Kevin, but I'm concerned with just how much interested if they don't want to give us quality in return.
"I'd have to get a good player as compensation for Kevin, and looking at their (Bullets) roster, the only one who excites me is Greg Ballard and we do need a power forward. I think that asking for the seventh man on a club in exchange for Kevin Porter isn't asking too much. But they don't want to give up Ballard, so I don't think we'll be able to reach agreement," Vitale said.
"Bob has been very fair and honest in our talks, but we can't agree and he doesn't want to just sign Kevin and let the commissioner decide compensation, so they probably won't sign him," the Detroit coach added.
With next season's status of Mitch Kupchak still uncertain because of his back injury, Ferry said he can't afford to part with Ballard, who has become one of the most sought-after young forwards in the NBA.
Kupchak's status also was a factor in signing Malovic, who belonged to the Suns because they drafted him as a "future" last season.
Malovic was graduated earlier this month with a degree in business advertising. He said yesterday he planned to return to school and there was never any pressure to sign with the Suns last season.
Malovic, who lives in Phoenix played for Southern California for two seasons before transferring to San Diego State. Under NCAA rules, he had to sit out the 1977-78 season, which made him eligible for last year's draft. The Suns took him in the seventh round.
Before yesterday's trade, the Bullets were to have picked last in the first round of Monday's draft. Ferry said that after "checking every avenue, Malovic is the best player I could get. Let me put it this way, he is the most valuable player I could get."
The Bullets are without a first-round pick for the first time since 1972. They have had two No. 1 picks in each of the last three drafts.
Their first pick Monday will be the last pick of the second round, or the 44th player selected overall.
At 6-10 and 225 pounds, Malovic averaged 17.4 points and 9.8 rebounds last season. He shot 54.9 percent from the field and 83.7 from the foul line.
Ferry called him "a team-oriented player who complements those around him. He runs the court well and plays with maximum effort at all times and is a sound fundamental player.
"He just knows how to play basketball," Ferry added, "and he can play either forward or center. He's a smart player and very agile. I don't think he's going to be a dominating player, but he will be a role player. He's a worker. He'll bang. I don't look at him to be a star, but he will be a darn good basketball player."
Malovic, an outgoing, friendly type, said that being headed for the Bullets "sounds great to me. I like the whole idea. I like the area and I like the team. Because the Bullets are big-man oriented, this is probably the best place for me."
Malovic said he feels comfortable playing forward or center.
"I played center almost all of the time, but in our offense I was outside a lot," Malovic added, "and half of my points came from outside."
The Suns did not have a first-round pick this year, having traded it to Utah (New Orleans) as part of a deal for Leonard (Truck) Robinson earlier in the season.
By trading their first selection away, it appears the Bullets will not make a deal for, or draft, a top quality guard.
Last year's starting guards, Tom Henderson and Kevin Grevey, are free agents and have not been offered contracts for next seasons, although Ferry said contracts would be offered. Neither can be traded because they no longer are Bullet property.
The returning Bullet guards under contract are Larry Wright, Phil Chenier, Charles Johnson and Roger Phegley.
"My guards were talked about a lot," Ferry said, "But we've been to the finals two years in a row with them and they've proved they can play on a winner . . . if everything else is right." CAPTION: Picture, Steve Malovic