With the 14th pick in the first round, the Washington Bullets do not expect to find a player who will turn around their fortunes when the National Basketball Association holds its annual college draft Tuesday.
In fact, Bullets' General Manager Bob Ferry insists it's going to be difficult to find playing time for their first pick, no matter how good he is.
"A lot of people are saying that we need someone who can come in here and start for us," Ferry said. "But assuming that Mitch (Kupchak) and Bobby (Dandridge) come back from their injuries, we're going to be in pretty good shape.
"I'm just not so sure that the most important thing in the draft is getting someone who can help right away. Any rookie we get will have a hard time finding minutes."
Now that Wes Unseld says he will return next season, the Bullets' primary need in the draft is a talented guard.
There aren't many around.
Iowa's Ronnie Lester is probably the best, but he has a questionable knee. Still, he probably won't be available when the Bullets pick.
Other top guards are Louisville's Darrell Griffith and Ohio State's Kelvin Ransey. They both are expected to be long gone by the time the Bullets pick.
The Bullets probably will have to choose from the likes of 6-foot-3 Rich Branning of Notre Dame, 6-5 Bruce Collins of Weber State, 6-4 Chad Kinch of North Carolina-Charlotte, 6-2 Larry Drew of Missouri, 6-3 John Duren of Georgetown, 6-1 Wes Mathews of Wisconsin and 6-5 Sam Worthen of Marquette.
"Certainly if we draft for need, we'll probably go for a guard," Ferry said. "But right now, we're leaning toward just taking the best player available."
If he had his way though, Ferry said, he would draft 6-10 Spingarn High School star Earl Jones, who is headed for the University of the District of Columbia.
Jones thought about skipping college, but didn't apply for undergraduate eligibility and therefore cannot be drafted.
"The kid's a real player," Ferry said. "I'd take him without reservation if he were available."
The Bullets would like to improve their draft position, but the problem is that they have little to trade.
Their most marketable player, Greg Ballard, is almost untouchable and their best statistical player, Elvin Hayes, is 34 and not attractive trade bait.
Hayes has told the Bullets he doesn't want to play in Washington anymore, that he wants to be traded to a Texas team. Ferry said the Bullets have tried to accommodate Hayes but so far there are no takers.
"I could never trade for anyone who would be as important to this team as Elvin," Ferry said. "If I could accommodate his wishes and what I got in return was anything close to his value, I'd go ahead and make a deal.
"You should accommodate any player who wants to go elsewhere if you can. But I know that if Elvin comes back here, he'll give 100 percent."
Of the three Texas teams, Dallas is not interested, and Houston and San Antonio have little to offer unless they are willing to part with a Moses Malone or George Gervin.
"I'm exploring every possibility," Ferry said. "When a player of Elvin's caliber makes it known he wants to play in a specific area, you don't have to call the teams, they call you. No specifics have been talked about, but Elvin's name has been mentioned in discussions with other teams."
The Bullets' second pick will be in the second round, the 35th choice overall. They don't have a third-round pick, having traded it along with last year's No. 1 pick to Phoenix for rights to Steve Malovic.
Malaovic did not stick with the team and therefore no rookies were on the Bullet roster in 1979-80.
If the Bullets look to the future and decide to take a center, they could land 6-10 Roosevelt Bouie of Syracuse, 6-10 Jeff Ruland of Iona or 7-foot Jawan Oldham of Seattle.
If they take the best player available; they probably will end up with a forward, possibly Reggie Johnson of Tennessee, Craig Shelton of Georgetown, Mike Woodson of Indiana, Don Collins of Washington State, Hawkeye Whitney of North Caroline State or DeWayne Scales of LSU.
The Bullets lost Jim Cleamons to Dallas in the expansion draft and Larry Wright is a free agent, so they could lose him. That would leave only three veteran guards, Kevin Porter, Kevin Grevey and John Williamson.
Porter is the only playmaker in the group and none of the returnees is a defensive stopper. If the Bullets don't draft a guard, they almost certainly will have to obtain one.
The front court appears solid -- assuming Dandridge and Kupchak return healthy.
Kupchak has put on 25 pounds since the season ended and says he can't wait to get started again. Dandridge just had his injured leg taken out of a cast and he, too, expects to be recovered next season.
"If Mitch and Bobby are healthy, it's going to be tough to get everyone enough minutes to keep them sharp," Ferry said.
"You have to divide 48 minutes into three positions and you have six people. It could be tough to keep them all happy."
The six players Ferry referred to are Ballard, Hayes, Unseld, Kupchak, Dandridge and Dave Corzine.
The Bullets conducted a three-day tryout camp last week to get a closer look at players they are interested in drafting or are inviting to camp as free agents.
"We're doing everything we can to make sure we pick the right people," Ferry said. "Even with all of that, we're still guessing."
Ferry added that he hasn't made an offer to Wright, a four-year Bullet, "because I'd be negotiating against myself. The best thing to do right now is nothing. Larry is shopping around and if he gets any offers, we'll decide what to do."
The way things stand now, the other four teams in the Atlantic Division with the Bullets will have at least one pick before the Bullets make their first selection Tuesday.
Boston will pick first and 13th, New Jersey sixth and seventh, Philadelphia eighth and New York 12th.