A bad draft, your mother probably told you as she closed the window, can make you sick. Nobody knows that better than NBA player personnel directors, general managers and scouts, many of whom were in Chicago for last Sunday's All-Star Game. With the draft only four months away, there were lots of strong opinions blowing around the Windy City about which college stars could be cure-alls for pro teams:
•Kansas's 6'10" senior forward Danny Manning is the best player available, his value untainted by the Jay-hawks' disappointing record (13-8 at week's end). "You put his name down and draw a line after it," says Golden State Warriors general manager Don Nelson, whose team is certain to have one of the seven lottery choices. "The next 10 or 12 players chosen depend on who likes whom."
•This crop is flush with shooting guard prospects. Bradley's Hersey Hawkins is the favorite; next come, in no particular order, Florida's Vernon Maxwell, Georgia's Willie Anderson, Oregon's Anthony Taylor and Kansas State's Mitch Richmond. But there are also a number of midsize forwards who are expected to move to guard in the NBA: Jeff Grayer (Iowa State), Derrick Chievous (Missouri) and Ricky Berry (San Jose State).
•Five centers, all 6'11" or better, could go in the first round. Here's the probable order of selection: Syracuse's Rony Seikaly, Marist's Rik Smits, Vanderbilt's Will Perdue, Wyoming's Eric Leckner and Houston's Rolando Ferreira, a member of Brazil's national team. None is a franchise player, but all have what the scouts like to call "big upsides," meaning huge potential for improvement.
•Gary Grant of Michigan is almost everybody's favorite point guard. As for power forwards, scouts argue for Charles Smith of Pittsburgh or Harvey Grant of Oklahoma. These three would join Manning, Hawkins and the top two or three centers as the lottery picks if the draft were held tomorrow.
•The unknown factor, as always, is which underclassmen will choose to enter the draft. The rumor mill is rich with these names: Derrick Coleman (Syracuse), Sean Elliott (Arizona), J.R. Reid (North Carolina), Pervis Ellison (Louisville), Tito Horford (Miami) and Jerome Lane (Pitt).
•In the comer category there were more than a few whispers about Auburn's 6'9" forward Chris Morris, raw but rapidly improving. In the sleeper column some scouts point to Anthony Mason, a 6'8", 220-pound forward at Tennessee State. "He's a great physical specimen," says Marty Blake, the NBA's loquacious director of scouting, "and he talks more than I do."
For the next four months Blake and his NBA colleagues will be talking a lot. In June it will be time to shut up and deal.