Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Charles Barkley, Moses Malone and, now, Patrick Ewing all are part of the answer to why the Washington Bullets acted so frenetically before and during Tuesday's NBA draft.

One year after acquiring Gus Williams and Cliff Robinson in two striking trades, the Bullets outdid themselves. They traded centers Rick Mahorn and Mike Gibson for power forward Dan Roundfield, and forward Greg Ballard for second-round picks this year and in 1987; the 1985 choice was 7-foot-6, 190-pound Manute Bol.

Those deals almost overshadowed the selection of Kenny Green, a 6-7 small forward from Wake Forest whom the Bullets made the No. 12 pick in the first round. But Bullets Coach Gene Shue and General Manager Bob Ferry are expecting Green to have a major impact.

Of course, it is the impact of players like Bird, Barkley and Ewing that inspired the Bullets to act. The New York Knicks, given Ewing and a healthy Bernard King and Bill Cartwright, could reasonably be expected to challenge the Boston Celtics, who will have Bird and McHale prominent among an extremely talented cast.

And it was hard to top Barkley, the 6-6, 260-pound power forward of the Philadelphia 76ers, for impact in the NBA playoffs.

The expectation is that Barkley will improve next season, which should help relieve Malone. In addition, the 76ers undoubtedly will be inspired to win a championship in what most likely will be the final NBA season for Julius Erving.

Clearly, Ferry felt he had to try to keep pace with the moves his Atlantic Division opponents were making.

"If we had stayed healthy I think we could have won 50 games last season, but this division is so competitive that you almost have to make great strides to improve in order to just stay even," he said.

Washington's activity should produce a team capable of great flexibility. With Roundfield, Cliff Robinson and Jeff Ruland starting, and Charles Jones, Darren Daye and Green off the bench, there are many combinations available up front.

At guard, the Bullets are set with Gus Williams, Jeff Malone and Frank Johnson, with Dudley Bradley making important contributions. In addition, Daye proved quite adept at playing point guard.

The team accomplished one objective -- adding more athletic ability. As more than one observer of Tuesday's activities was quick to say, the Bullets have gone from grinding to greyhound.

"Transition. That's an important-sounding word," Ferry said. "Everybody would like to be able to run with the basketball, but that encompasses a lot of things, like good defense and rebounding, not just fast players."

Washington lost bulk in giving up Mahorn and Ballard. That led the team briefly to consider choosing Karl Malone of Louisiana Tech, a beefy power forward, in the first round.

"Green was the player we wanted all along but we really liked Malone, too," said Ferry. "He's a strong kid but we didn't think he would be there at 12. When he slipped down, it made us think a little bit, but what it came down to was the fact that Gene didn't think he could give him any important minutes and he thought he would with Green."

Over the course of the 1984-85 season, Shue often bemoaned the fact that his team lacked a player explosive and creative enough to take control of a game in the closing stages, when set plays tend to break down. The Bullets' leaders feel Green could be that man, and he would like to be.

"That's what the NBA is really about, beating your man and being able to score," Green said Tuesday. "I don't want to sound conceited, but I think that given a chance I can prove to be a very good one-on-one player."