According to Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Pat Williams, the worst feeling in the world comes after the first round of the NBA draft when "your coach walks up to you and says, 'I don't like him.' "
A year ago, it took the Bullets several months into the NBA season to decide they didn't like first-round pick Kenny Green, a 6-foot-7 forward from Wake Forest, and they traded him to Philadelphia for guard Leon Wood. The Bullets are now in a position, with the 12th pick overall in Tuesday's draft, not to make that sort of mistake again.
Although General Manager Bob Ferry has declined to be specific about his thinking before the draft, he probably will have a chance to take any one of five talented players, including Dwayne (Pearl) Washington, the Syracuse point guard, and John Williams, the LSU forward who left school after only two years in Baton Rouge.
If the team manages to pick another lemon, it will have one more chance in 1987. But its 1988 first-round choice has been sent to the 76ers for the trade that brought the Bullets guard Tom Sewell two seasons ago. Sewell is no longer with the team.
The 1986 draft is considered one of the deepest in recent memory. Last season, the only other player picked in the first round after Green who had a sizable impact in the league was Utah power forward Karl Malone. The Bullets were set at his position with Cliff Robinson, Dan Roundfield and even Jeff Ruland.
Now it is incumbent upon Ferry and Coach Kevin Loughery to find the best prospect for the team's needs, then hope he comes through.
"It's not an exact science, and it's even more difficult to narrow down this season," said Ferry. "You want a guy who will fit in and help your team, considering what our weaknesses are. Then you ask if he can do what Kevin wants to do. Our first option is to take the best player available. Ideally, he'd be big, but I just don't know."
Loughery added: "You try to think and look at the guys for as long as you can. The players today are tremendously prepared for a team's interviews, and they don't seem to go anywhere without their agents, but you have to see what kind of person they are."
Ferry has been known to blow smoke regarding potential selections at draft time. Given the wide variety of players available this season, he may truly be perplexed.
By the time the Bullets were eliminated by the 76ers in the opening round of the playoffs this past season, it was obvious that Washington's most glaring deficency was rebounding.
However, Ferry said: "Suppose Jeff Ruland [who missed most of the regular season for the second straight year] comes back healthy. We pick up tremendously in that area naturally."
Should the Bullets decide to pick a big man, their options likely will include 7-foot Brad Sellers of Ohio State, 6-11 Roy Tarpley of Michigan and 7-foot John Salley of Georgia Tech. None of the three is considered a sure shot to make it in the NBA, and Sellers may even be better suited to a small-forward position, despite his height.
Although the usual NBA thinking is that, given the chance, a team always should choose height, the Bullets may want to consider a point guard.
Starter Gus Williams is a 32-year-old free agent. Frank Johnson played well last year but managed only 15 games as a result of a foot fracture. Wood, acquired from the 76ers in the Green trade, played well in his first two weeks with the Bullets, but, by the conclusion of the playoffs, he was barely getting any time.
Ferry says that Williams is in the team's plans but that would change should the Bullets select Syracuse's Washington in the opening round. Washington is the best pure guard in the draft, but the excessive number of big men may cause him to slide down to the 12th pick.
"I think he would be the safest choice," said one Bullets official.
Said Loughery, "You want to fit a need, and point guard may be critical depending on Gus and Frank. But sometimes there's such a superior talent there when you pick that you have to take him."
On Tuesday, that talent also may be LSU's Williams, a 6-7 forward who is entering the league after only two seasons with the Tigers. Although he plays basically the same position as Robinson and even Roundfield, his potential warrants more than a passing glance. There has been talk in the league that Williams may even be capable of playing guard, which would add to the Bullets' flexibility.
The Bullets were hoping that Green, a 6-7 swing man, would provide that flexibility a year ago, but it never happened. The Bullets were not the only team fooled by the former Wake Forest star, though.
When Washington picked Green with the 12th choice in last June's draft, Milwaukee Bucks Coach Don Nelson was upset. He had wanted Green.
Imagine Nelson's surprise -- and the Bullets' frustration -- when Green failed to make any kind of impact, his bursts of talent overshadowed by less than exemplary work habits.
Eager to ship him off, Ferry found a willing taker in Pat Williams and traded the rookie to the 76ers. Williams projected Green as the eventual replacement for Julius Erving.
Green has a long road to get that far. After a disappointing season, he wasn't even included on the 76ers' playoff roster and was told he would have to attend rookie camp this fall, tantamount to trying out for the team like any free agent.