WHO CAN PICK 'EM--AND WHO CAN'T FROM SAGE TO SCREWUP, WE RATE THE NBA FRONT OFFICES ON HOW THEY'VE USED THEIR DRAFT PICKS

October 22, 1995

He does his work quietly and secretly, avoiding loose talk and
gossip, a solitary man in a sea of chattering magpies. He
works for the Los Angeles Lakers, but he could just as easily
be working for the CIA. Hell, maybe he does. If Jerry West gave
his honest evaluation of a player to a nosy reporter, you see,
he'd have to kill him.

Is it that passion for secrecy, that insistence on keeping his
own counsel, that has enabled West to turn a Hall of Fame
playing career into a Hall of Fame drafting career? Partly. Or
maybe West is just lucky, employed as he is in a town where
questionable talents turn into stars all the time. (Hey, there
must be some explanation for David Hasselhoff.) But obviously
it's much more than that. In this, his 14th year as Laker
personnel guru, West still has that magic sixth sense about
players, just as he did about playing.

An SI analysis (chart, page 40) of the six years of the NBA
draft from 1989 to 1994 indicates that West, the onetime rustic
from Cabin Creek, W.Va., is the most savvy personnel man in the
NBA. The Lakers' point total of 60--and it is, in effect, West's
point total because he has the final say on all picks--puts them
comfortably ahead of Golden State's second-place 48 and
light-years beyond Atlanta's dismal -33. Every "analysis" is in
some ways subjective, of course, but the very fact of West's
supremacy legitimizes this one; even by his competitors in this
high-stakes cattle business, West is regarded as the one man
with a consistent plan.

Few NBA observers, however, would have singled out the Hawks as
the worst-drafting team. To be fair, Atlanta G.M. Pete Babcock
(who took the job in February 1990) has a team that has been in
that never-never land between good and bad for so long that he
has rarely had a high pick and has been forced to choose among
those "mid-majors" who frequently don't work out. But even when
Babcock has had the chance, he has blown it, having selected
Adam Keefe 10th in '92 and both Anthony Avent ('91) and Doug
Edwards ('93) at No. 15. None are with the Hawks now. Moreover,
only three players (Mookie Blaylock, Stacey Augmon and Ken
Norman) in Atlanta's rotation can be traced to any of its picks
since '89. To a certain extent, Atlanta's drafting incompetence
has been masked by good trades and free-agent acquisitions that
have kept them competitive. The same cannot be said for the Nets
(-3), Clippers (-10) and 76ers (-12). Jersey has in its closet
of horrors Yinka Dare (No. 14 in '94) and Tate George (No. 22
in '90). The Clips are trying to forget the selections of Bo
Kimble at No. 8 in 1990 and LeRon Ellis at No. 22 in '91. And
the 76ers profess amnesia when the subjects of Kenny Payne (No.
19 in '89) and B.J. Tyler (No. 20 in '94) are raised.

Those teams have not been able to do what Eastern Conference
powers Chicago and New York (both with one point), Indiana (-10)
and Western stalwart Seattle (7) have done: fare well in recent
years despite a grim drafting history. Their saga is the flip
side of Orlando's rapid-success story, highlighted by Pat
Williams's selections of Nick Anderson ('89), Dennis Scott ('90)
and Shaquille O'Neal ('92), and his draft-day deal for Anfernee
Hardaway ('93); the latter two acquisitions were made possible
by the Magic's winning the top pick in the draft lottery in each
year. Yes, Jerry Krause, Chicago's vice president of operations,
nabbed B.J. Armstrong with the 18th pick in '89 and Toni Kukoc
with the 29th choice in '90, but he has also come up dry in
recent years in his search for a forward, whiffing mightily on
Stacey King with the 6th pick in '89 and missing on
late-first-rounders such as Jeff Sanders (20th in '89), Mark
Randall (26th in '91) and Corie Blount (25th in '93). The Knicks
haven't had any major disasters, but neither do they have a
starter among their six picks in the '89-94 time frame. And
though the Pacers snagged second-round winners Antonio Davis and
Kenny Williams in 1990, they also live with the memory of
washouts George McCloud, the seventh pick in '89, and Scott
Haskin, the 14th pick in '93. The Sonics haven't made a good
drafting move since 1992, when they took Doug Christie and
eventually unloaded him, together with Benoit Benjamin, to the
Lakers for Sam Perkins.

Of course, teams need time to season, and thus the
aforementioned quartet has been successful largely because of
picks made before '89 (do the names Jordan, Ewing and Miller
ring a bell?). It will be interesting to see if, say, the
Bullets, Kings and Timberwolves, three poor teams that have
drafted reasonably well over the last few years, eventually
prosper with the help of second-round keepers such as Gheorghe
Muresan (Bullets, '93), Michael Smith (Kings, '94) and Doug West
(T-wolves, '89).

It's more likely, though, that the example of these three teams
will merely demonstrate the cold, hard fact that good draft
choices do not a championship team make. Minnesota, for example,
has drafted solid players from the beginning--Christian Laettner,
Isaiah Rider, Donyell Marshall, Pooh Richardson and West--but
what's missing from the mix is chemistry and maturity.

But, hey, nobody's perfect. Not even Jerry West. He gave up
Perkins to Seattle, and in '92 he passed over a backcourtman who
became an All-Star, Latrell Sprewell, in favor of Anthony
Peeler, who has shown no signs of becoming one. West is just a
lot closer to perfect than anyone else. In 1989, for example,
there were seven lottery picks who turned out to be relative
busts: Pervis Ellison, Danny Ferry, J.R. Reid, King, McCloud,
Randy White and Tom Hammonds. So what did West do? He tapped
Vlade Divac at No. 26. His perspicacity in recent years has also
resulted in players like Nick Van Exel, Elden Campbell and Tony
Smith, all of whom were drafted after the 25th spot, and has
earned West a spot as the boss of the NBA boardroom.

COLOR PHOTO: JONATHAN DANIEL Master Drafter The Lakers' West, a man with a plan, has mined diamonds in the rough such as Divac, Campbell and Van Exel. [Jerry West] COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH Slumping Bull Krause nabbed Armstrong and Kukoc but has made no forward progress with duds like King, Randall and Blount. [Jerry Krause] COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO Lotto Lucky The Magic's number has come up twice, and Williams has made the most of it, getting O'Neal and Hardaway. [Pat Williams holding lottery ball] COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN Slim Pickin's Mired in mediocrity, Atlanta has had few high picks, and Babcock has blown those on busts such as Keefe. [Pete Babcock] THREE COLOR PHOTOS: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (3) [Gheorghe Muresan; Jim Jackson; Vin Baker] TWO COLOR PHOTOS: AL TIELEMANS (2) [Dino Radja; Felton Spencer] COLOR PHOTO: DAVID LIAM KYLE [Greg Graham] COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER [Dwayne Schintzius] COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN [Jerrod Mustaf] COLOR PHOTO: SAM FORENCICH Golden Warrior Sprewell, picked 24th by the Warriors in '92, rose to All-Star status by his second NBA season. [Latrell Sprewell] COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER Pacer Pariah McCloud, one of seven flops in the '89 lottery, has all but fallen off the basketball map. [George McCloud]

MAKING THE GRADE: OUR FRONT-OFFICE RANKINGS

Grades are for the period from 1989 to '94; they are based on
draft choices and, if applicable, trades of those picks or
players.

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED set out to analyze the six years of the NBA
draft from 1989 to 1994 ('89 was chosen because it was the first
season that the four late-'80s expansion teams all participated
in the draft) and to assign each team a point rating based on
how the front office handled its picks during that period.
Here's how we arrived at our figures. (Pull up a chair, because
on the complexity scale, this falls somewhere between Sanskrit
and the NBA's illegal-defense rules, the latter being the more
inscrutable, of course.)

To begin with, we subjectively rated each drafted player on a
scale of 5 to -5. Keep in mind that player movement related to
that pick was taken into account. For example, the Hawks scored
a positive rating for Rumeal Robinson, whom they drafted with
the 10th pick in 1990, even though Robinson himself has been a
disappointment. That's because Atlanta traded him early (in '92)
to New Jersey for Mookie Blaylock and Roy Hinson, then unloaded
Hinson to Milwaukee for Ken Norman, thus ending up with two
keepers and ridding themselves of a betwixt-and-between guard
who may never make it.

We assigned our marks using these standards:

5 The player drafted or obtained for the draftee is of Dream
Team caliber. Orlando's Shaquille O'Neal is one example, and the
Magic also get 5 for drafting Chris Webber because the net
result was Anfernee Hardaway and three No. 1 picks.

4 The player drafted or obtained for the player who was drafted
is an All-Star or a soon-to-be-All-Star. Kenny Anderson and
Toni Kukoc are 4's for New Jersey and Chicago, respectively. And
Billy Owens rates a 4 (though his talents would currently earn a
3) because the Kings traded him for All-Star Mitch Richmond.

3 The player drafted or obtained for the player drafted is a
solid starter or a reliable sixth man. The Lakers' Vlade Divac
is a 3.

2 The player drafted or obtained for the draftee is someone who
has not yet fulfilled his potential. There is no shortage of
2's, but the Bullets' Calbert Cheaney will do fine as an example.

1 The player drafted or obtained for the player drafted is
strictly a bench player or a so-so starter. Once-promising
Milwaukee point guard Lee Mayberry looks like a perfect 1.

0 This grade was assigned solely for second-round players who
never played or played very little for the team that drafted
them. This is not to be taken personally, Damon Bailey, but so
far you've been a 0 for the Indiana Pacers, who made you the
44th pick of the '94 draft.

And now for the negative ratings, reserved for first-round flops
only:

-1 The player drafted or the player obtained for the draftee is
not a complete washout but a major disappointment, someone like
Pervis Ellison, whom Sacramento made the first pick in '89.

-2 A step worse than a -1, a first-rounder such as Adam Keefe
(drafted 10th by Atlanta in '92), who has played, but never too
well.

-3 All we need to say is ... Dwayne Schintzius. A first-round
draft pick in 1990 (the Spurs got him at 24), he has been a
noncontributor since then.

-4 At least Schintzius is still in the NBA. The player who
epitomizes this rating is Luther Wright. Drafted by Utah at No.
18 in '93, the 7'2" center was released after playing in just 15
games.

-5 This category was set up to identify high first-rounders who
never played a single minute for a team. But we didn't find any
-5's. (And they say this is a cynical business.)

Next, our system factors in "multipliers." We needed a way to
weight each pick based on where he was selected in the draft. We
did this by breaking the two rounds of each 54-player draft into
six nine-player segments. The multiplier for the first nine
players was 1 for a good pick (i.e., a player who received a
positive score), 6 for a bad pick (a player with a negative
score). For the rest of the first round the "good" multipliers
were 2 for picks 10-18 and 3 for picks 19-27; the "bad"
multipliers were 5 and 4, respectively. In the second round the
multipliers for positive selections in each of the three
segments were 4, 5 and 6; there were no "bad" multipliers here
because second-round flops were simply given a score of 0. A
team could therefore score big with a second-round success but
wouldn't be unduly penalized for an unsuccessful late gamble.

A player's actual point total was derived by multiplying his 5
to -5 rating by the appropriate multiplier. To see how this
works, let's look at Detroit's Grant Hill. He's an obvious 5,
but since he was the third pick in the draft, his multiplier is
only 1, making his total score a 5. Anyone with a pulse--and that
includes executives from the Clippers--knew that Hill could play,
so the Pistons do not deserve excessive credit for drafting him.
Now take a look at Cedric Ceballos. He's not as good a player as
Hill, rating a 3, but he achieved his considerable success after
being drafted by the Suns in 1990 way down at No. 48, giving him
a multiplier of 6 and a total score of 18. On the negative side
there's George McCloud. A complete bust after being drafted
seventh by the Pacers in '89, his rating of -4 and his
multiplier of 6 gives him an embarrassing total score of -24.

Each team's final rating is the sum of the scores of all of its
draft picks. Got it?

Rank
1

Team
Lakers

Rating
60

Best draft pick/trade
Nick Van Exel at No. 37 in '93

Worst draft pick/trade
George Lynch at No. 12 in '93

[Rank]
2

[Team]
Warriors

[Rating]
48

[Best draft pick/trade]
Latrell Sprewell at No. 24 in '92

[Worst draft pick/trade]
Traded A. Hardaway and 3 No. 1's for C. Webber in '93

[Rank]
3

[Team]
Kings

[Rating]
27

[Best draft pick/trade]
Traded Billy Owens for Mitch Richmond in '91

[Worst draft pick/trade]
Pervis Ellison at No. 1 in '89

[Rank]
4

[Team]
Suns

[Rating]
26

[Best draft pick/trade]
Cedric Ceballos at No. 48 in '90

[Worst draft pick/trade]
Jayson Williams at No. 21 in '90

[Rank]
[4]

[Team]
Timberwolves

[Rating]
26

[Best draft pick/trade]
Doug West at No. 38 in '89

[Worst draft pick/trade]
Felton Spencer at No. 6 in '90

[Rank]
6

[Team]
Trail Blazers

[Rating]
23

[Best draft pick/trade]
Clifford Robinson at No. 36 in '89

[Worst draft pick/trade]
Dave Johnson at No. 26 in '92

[Rank]
7

[Team]
Bullets

[Rating]
19

[Best draft pick/trade]
Gheorghe Muresan at No. 30 in '93

[Worst draft pick/trade]
Tom Hammonds at No. 9 in '89

[Rank]
8

[Team]
Heat

[Rating]
16

[Best draft pick/trade]
Matt Geiger at No. 42 in '92

[Worst draft pick/trade]
Willie Burton at No. 9 in '90

[Rank]
[8]

[Team]
Magic

[Rating]
16

[Best draft pick/trade]
Traded C. Webber for A. Hardaway and 3 No. 1's in '93

[Worst draft pick/trade]
Brian Williams at No. 10 in '91

[Rank]
10

[Team]
Hornets

[Rating]
15

[Best draft pick/trade]
Alonzo Mourning at No. 2 in '92

[Worst draft pick/trade]
Greg Graham at No. 17 in '93

[Rank]
[10]

[Team]
Jazz

[Rating]
15

[Best draft pick/trade]
Jamie Watson at No. 47 in '94

[Worst draft pick/trade]
Luther Wright at No. 18 in '93

[Rank]
[10]

[Team]
Mavericks

[Rating]
15

[Best draft pick/trade]
Jim Jackson at No. 4 in '92

[Worst draft pick/trade]
Doug Smith at No. 6 in '91

[Rank]
13

[Team]
Cavaliers

[Rating]
14

[Best draft pick/trade]
Chris Mills at No. 22 in '93

[Worst draft pick/trade]
John Morton at No. 25 in '89

[Rank]
[13]

[Team]
Spurs

[Rating]
14

[Best draft pick/trade]
Traded Bill Curley for Sean Elliott in '94

[Worst draft pick/trade]
Dwayne Schintzius at No. 24 in '90

[Rank]
15

[Team]
Bucks

[Rating]
12

[Best draft pick/trade]
Vin Baker at No. 8 in '93

[Worst draft pick/trade]
Kevin Brooks at No. 18 in '91

[Rank]
16

[Team]
Nuggets

[Rating]
7

[Best draft pick/trade]
Dikembe Mutombo at No. 4 in '91

[Worst draft pick/trade]
Mark Macon at No. 8 in '91

[Rank]
[16]

[Team]
Rockets

[Rating]
7

[Best draft pick/trade]
Sam Cassell at No. 24 in '93

[Worst draft pick/trade]
John Turner at No. 20 in '91

[Rank]
[16]

[Team]
SuperSonics

[Rating]
7

[Best draft pick/trade]
Shawn Kemp at No. 17 in '89

[Worst draft pick/trade]
Rich King at No. 14 in '91

[Rank]
19

[Team]
Bulls

[Rating]
1

[Best draft pick/trade]
Toni Kukoc at No. 29 in '90

[Worst draft pick/trade]
Stacey King at No. 6 in '89

[Rank]
[19]

[Team]
Knicks

[Rating]
1

[Best draft pick/trade]
Hubert Davis at No. 20 in '92

[Worst draft pick/trade]
Jerrod Mustaf at No. 17 in '90

[Rank]
21

[Team]
Celtics

[Rating]
-1

[Best draft pick/trade]
Dino Radja at No. 40 in '89

[Worst draft pick/trade]
Michael Smith at No. 13 in '89

[Rank]
22

[Team]
Nets

[Rating]
-3

[Best draft pick/trade]
P.J. Brown at No. 29 in '92

[Worst draft pick/trade]
Tate George at No. 22 in '90

[Rank]
[22]

[Team]
Pistons

[Rating]
-3

[Best draft pick/trade]
Grant Hill at No. 3 in '94

[Worst draft pick/trade]
Kenny Battle at No. 27 in '89

[Rank]
24

[Team]
Clippers

[Rating]
-10

[Best draft pick/trade]
Loy Vaught at No. 13 in '90

[Worst draft pick/trade]
Bo Kimble at No. 8 in '90

[Rank]
[24]

[Team]
Pacers

[Rating]
-10

[Best draft pick/trade]
Antonio Davis at No. 45 in '90

[Worst draft pick/trade]
George McCloud at No. 7 in '89

[Rank]
26

[Team]
76ers

[Rating]
-12

[Best draft pick/trade]
Clarence Weatherspoon at No. 9 in '92

[Worst draft pick/trade]
B.J. Tyler at No. 20 in '94

[Rank]
27

[Team]
Hawks

[Rating]
-33

[Best draft pick/trade]
Traded R. Robinson for M. Blaylock and R. Hinson in '92

[Worst draft pick/trade]
Doug Edwards at No. 15 in '93

Based on their selection number and performance, these players
(with drafting team and point total) wound up at the top and
bottom of our draft ratings.

The Best

Nick Van Exel, Lakers 20
Cedric Ceballos, Suns 18
Clifford Robinson, Trail Blazers 16
Toni Kukoc, Bulls 16
Antonio Davis, Pacers 15
Dino Radja, Celtics 15
Doug West, Timberwolves 15
Jamie Watson, Jazz 12
Gheorghe Muresan, Bullets 12
Sherman Douglas, Heat 12
Latrell Sprewell, Warriors 12
Matt Geiger, Heat 10
Elden Campbell, Lakers 9
Vlade Divac, Lakers 9
Sam Cassell, Rockets 9
Wesley Person, Suns 9
Chris Mills, Cavaliers 9
Scott Burrell, Hornets 9
Tim Hardaway, Warriors 8
Robert Horry, Rockets 8
Shawn Kemp, SuperSonics 8
P.J. Brown, Nets 8
Michael Smith, Kings 8

The Worst

George McCloud, Pacers -24
Bo Kimble, Clippers -24
Luther Wright, Jazz -20
Doug Smith, Mavericks -18
Mark Macon, Nuggets -18
Randy White, Mavericks -18
Geert Hammink, Magic -16
Kenny Battle, Hawks -16
Michael Smith, Celtics -15
Yinka Dare, Nets -15
Scott Haskin, Pacers -15
Rich King, SuperSonics -15
Dave Jamerson, Heat -15
Greg Graham, Hornets -15
Jerrod Mustaf, Knicks -15

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)