Even though nobody seems to want the No. 1 pick, even though talent scouts say this is the worst draft in years, even though virtually every team in the league says it would rather trade than pick, the NBA will still hold its annual college draft tonight in prime time, even though few prime-time players are in the talent pool.

By the time the draft has concluded, more players may be traded than drafted. Why? "Because so many teams feel they have a legitimate shot to make a {title} run next year, but they might not be able to find the player who will make a difference in the draft," the Bullets' new general manager, John Nash, said yesterday.

Who's looking to trade? An easier question to answer would be who isn't? Dallas had been shopping its first-round picks, Nos. 14 and 18 overall, and Sacramento wanted them. Last night, the Kings got them, sending the Mavericks forward Rodney McCray. Milwaukee, which still could trade for Atlanta's Moses Malone, wants to remain a playoff team through trades and avoid falling into future lottery contention. If it's blockbusters you're looking for, how about the Celtics? They could easily trade Kevin McHale (to Seattle) and could trade -- whisper it softly -- Larry Bird! The Lakers are said to have offered Byron Scott and A.C. Green for New Jersey's pick, which is No. 1 in the draft, the one so few seem to covet. Atlanta is said to have offered Dominique Wilkins, among other considerations, for that choice.

If the Lakers have backed off their prospective trade, perhaps it's because the player they are interested in, Dennis Scott, appears to be on the John Williams Diet, having gained, by his own estimation, "10 to 15 pounds." Scott, you might remember, was a major doughboy before slimming down and bulking up before his junior season in college. Scott says not to worry. "That's just because the teams have been wining and dining me and I've been off my workout schedule," he said yesterday. "You know these guys, they always have to find something bad to say about you."

These guys are the NBA scouts. This year they have something bad to say about everybody. And they don't have to look that far to find the flaws. Derrick Coleman, the scouts say, has a questionable attitude. Word late yesterday was he might slip out of the top three. Gary Payton has a similar reputation. Not moody like Coleman, but likes to talk. Comes up small in big games too. Still, Seattle -- picking No. 2 -- needs a point guard. Travis Mays from Texas, he of a lesser reputation but a sharper head, ought to be the first point guard taken.

Scott said he had no idea where he was going, but that he shouldn't drop any further than Denver with the third pick. Told that the Nets traded their leading scorer, shooting guard Dennis Hopson, to Chicago, Scott said, "All that says to me is . . . I don't know what is going on."

Scott may be the best player in the draft, but off-guards don't win titles, which is why the Bullets traded Jeff Malone, their best player, for an unproven big man, Pervis Ellison. A good big man, talented enough to be the centerpiece of a contender, is Dwayne Schintzius, the 7-foot-2 ex-Florida Gator.

He is the most intriguing player of the draft. He's put out the maximum effort for only one coach in his life, John Thompson during the Olympic trials, and that was only for a few weeks. Here's something definitive: No matter how many problems Schintzius has, he can't slide past No. 10, where Don Nelson and the Warriors are sitting. With perimeter players Chris Mullin, Mitch Richmond and Tim Hardaway already on the roster, a strong 7-footer is all Golden State needs. Orlando, picking fourth, could change the whole draft picture, though, by taking a chance on him.

The other intriguing player is Chris Jackson from LSU, the young man who isn't a point guard but doesn't appear to be a shooting guard. As a freshman, Jackson looked like the next Isiah Thomas. The longer we see him, however, the less we like him. He's not a natural passer, and at maybe 5-11 rather than his listed 6-1, he'll find it much more difficult to get off his shot in the NBA.

The Bullets are not one of those teams who have a legitimate shot at a title next year, or a first-round pick this year. But Nash and Coach Wes Unseld do not appear to be content with taking this team to camp, not even with 6-foot-10 Ellison on the roster in place of Jeff Malone. Trading for Ellison was not an especially exciting move, not like trading for Moses Malone or Gus Williams and Cliff Robinson. The exciting move, however, never turned out to be the right move.

Trading for Ellison, as Unseld said, "gives us one step in the right direction." That direction very likely does not include the quick fix, such as trading for Wilkins or some other aging star. But it wouldn't surprise anybody who has seen Nash's phone bill the last week if the Bullets pull off one more trade before or during the draft. The Ellison deal appears to be a good one in that the Bullets picked up six inches and six years. But the team still needs a big man (preferably a 7-footer with 250 pounds or more), a shooter and a true point guard.

It's possible, though not likely, the Bullets can find shooting help even if Nash isn't able to trade up in the draft. They found second-round shooting help two years ago in Ledell Eackles. Some scouts think Bo Kimble, who scored 35 a game for Loyola Marymount, might be around in the second round when the Bullets are scheduled to pick. Some think he'll be taken in the top 20.

It's possible the Bullets could move up in the draft by trading one of their five small forwards (Bernard King, Horace Grant, Tom Hammonds, Mark Alarie, John Williams), the only thing they don't need. Can a team that needs as many things as the Bullets afford to keep five of anything?