Albert King, Maryland's all-America forward, likely would be one of the first five players chosen in the NBA draft if he were to declare hardship this year, league sources report.

Other sources say King probably will opt for the pros if he is certain to be one of the first five players drafted and the price is right.

With less than two weeks remaining before the NBA's April 25 deadline for players to declare their intentions, King will not comment on the situation beyond saying, "As of now, I'm leaning toward coming back next year."

However, King always has maintained that "if someone made me a ridiculous offer, I would have to go."

The Chicago Bulls may be willing to make at least a substantial offer.

"If Albert King were available to be drafted we would be very interested in making him our first pick," Jonathan Kovler, the managing partner, said yesterday. "Our people are very high on him."

The Bulls have the fourth pick in the draft June 10. The Boston Celtics, who have the first pick, would like to have used it to take Ralph Sampson. But the 7-foot-4 Virginia freshman is remaining in school another year, he said yesterday, and the Celtics probably will make Duke's Mike Gminski the first pick.

The Utah Jazz are expected to use the second pick to take Purdue center Joe Barry Carroll. Golden State would then opt for Darrell Griffith of Louisville, or King. If the Warriors take Griffith, Chicago, picking next, probably would go for King.

"If Albert King chooses to turn pro this year he will be one of the first five players chosen," Bulls' General Manager Rod Thorn said. "If he comes out next year he'll be one of the first five players chosen. The difference is that this year, with the option to go back to college, he might be able to get more money because he has the choice."

Thorn has seen King play since King was in high school.

"he's an excellent player," Thorn said. "He has great potential. And we're looking to draft a small forward or a point guard."

Like everyone else, Thorne said he has heard King has not made a decision yet. "I hear he's still weighing things and hasn't decided," he said.

Golden State General Manager Al Attles was less definite than Thorn and Kovler but also expressed interest in King.

"I've always liked Albert King as a player," Attles said. "If he were available we would certainly have to sit down and consider him as a first draft pick. But we have made no attempts to encourage him to leave school."

According to sources, however, King has received feelers from a number of NBA teams. In fact, he has been surprised by the interest shown by the pros.

"Albert's in an excellent position because he's a junior," said one Maryland source. "If he doesn't like what they offer, he can always say no and go back to school. They have to sell themselves to him. It isn't like it is with a senior who has no choice except to turn pro."

King has discussed the situaton with Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell, who told him that it was his decision to make.

"Obviously I want Albert back," Driesell said. "But this isn't something I can control. If someone offers him a million dollars I'm not going to tell him to say no."

King, at 6-foot-6, is quick enough and shoots well enough from outside to play small forward but jumps well enough to play inside, if necessary.

The only question is his weight, currently 190 pounds. King also is considered by almost everyone in basketball to be a player of almost limitless potential. He just began scratching the surface of that potential last season when he was ACC player of the year and a first team all-America.

"Any time you're in a situation like ours where you have the third pick, people are going to speculate that you will go for a player like King," Attles said. "But right now, if the draft were today, I couldn't tell you who we would pick."

King went home to New York this weekend, presumably to discuss the situation with his parents.