Power Forwards

The role of a power forward in the NBA now is to get lots of rebounds and to be an inside scorer. In many cases, power forwards are asked to block shots and play tough defense on bigger players also. The power forward essentially has evolved into a mini-center, sharing many of the duties of the center and often taking the leadership in rebounds.

First Class

Charles Barkley (Philadelphia 76ers): Charles 'Don't call me an All American boy' Barkley thought he was going to be traded. Philadelphia recognized that they didn't have to trade the franchise for someone else's franchise to be successful and held on to Barkley.

When Barkley came out with his prediction to be traded, I was eating dinner and watching the Detroit-Laker game. I almost choked on dinner and the game almost became secondary as it was already a blowout. I'd considered the possibility of the Sixers trading Barkley only a couple days before when outlining the Philadelphia comment. At first, it seemed like a good idea because of all the possible talent that Philly could get from the deal. Barkley to the Clippers for the #1 pick in the draft? Philly could surely get more than that. Barkley to Sacramento for Otis Thorpe and an '89 number one pick? Barkley to...hmm...? All of a sudden, I couldn't think of teams that needed a player like Barkley or who would give up much to get him. Atlanta might want him, but at what cost? Besides, the Hawks have Dominique, Cliff Levingston, Kevin Willis, and Antoine Carr, which is a frontcourt that could go far. Boston wouldn't want him. Chicago might, but would they want Jordan and Barkley together? Why not? Chicago would have to give up Oakley and something else. Maybe some draft picks. The Cavaliers wouldn't want him. Dallas has lots up front already and would only trade forwards for him. The problems with Aguirre might bring about a trade, but Philly would demand much more. Denver could use him, but don't have much to give. Detroit has Mahorn, Rodman, Salley, and Dantley, which is a very solid frontcourt that shouldn't be broken up. Golden State could use almost anything. Lots to give, also. Maybe Barkley could end up in the Bay Area. Houston? No. Indiana? Not with Person, Tisdale, Stipanovich, and Williams. The Clippers? Their #1 pick and later picks. The Lakers? Realistically never, but some possibilities. Milwaukee? Doesn't need him. New Jersey? Buck Williams would be mad or shipped out and it's not a good idea to make Mr. Williams mad. New York? A team desperately in need of defensive rebounds and possibly willing, though they might not give what Philly wants. Phoenix would have to give up the whole ship unless the Sixers saw someone they really liked. Portland has three power forwards and Kiki Vandeweghe. San Antonio has all its eggs placed in one basket, Mr. Robinson's, and won't need Barkley when the goods arrive. Seattle and Utah have solid power forwards. Washington could use him, but Philadelphia will probably never trade with the Bullets again after the ill-fated Jeff Ruland deal.

What it came down to was that I couldn't be sure how valuable Barkley was around the league. What teams wouldn't accept his attitude? What teams were committed to their youngsters? What teams had something Philadelphia wanted and were willing to part with it for a dominating player with a dominating personality?

Finally, I concluded that the Sixers would never trade Barkley, especially when he's in his prime as he is now. Then came Barkley's prediction. Ugh! Philadelphia management denied any trade dealings. Whew! They wouldn't trade him in his prime. A couple weeks later, the Edmonton Oilers traded the best player in hockey, Wayne Gretsky, who is in his prime. Maybe the Sixers will trade Barkley after all.

Kevin McHale (Boston Celtics): The best low post scorer in the NBA...For several years, especially when he was coming off the bench, he hated to pass the ball. More than once he was called 'The Black Hole' because whenever a ball got too close to him, it never came back. But he's worked on it and has learned to move the ball a lot better...Mike Weber of Basketball Digest wrote last year, "The feeling is that, if he had to play on a team with less talent than the Celtics, he would not be quite as impressive as he is." My feeling is just the opposite. Without Bird or Parish around, McHale would have to pass a lot more because of double teams, raising his assist totals probably to above four per game. He might lose a little on his field goal percentage, but his scoring would go way up. His numbers would actually be more impressive. When Bird and Parish retire, McHale should still be around, but he will be past his prime. Maybe, though, we can find out for sure how he would do without all the talent...What reason is there not to consider McHale a center? Robert Parish is two inches taller, but big deal. I'd be curious to find out if K.C. Jones (or any coach for that matter) actually tries to adjust his players' styles to the positions they play. Surely, the style that a player has developed while growing up has more influence on his play than the position he plays, but how much influence is the position itself on a player's style?

Second Class

Karl Malone (Utah Jazz): There are plenty of reasons not to rank him this high. For example, he led the league in turnovers and had a low free throw percentage, which meant an individual floor % of only .519. But sometimes quantity wins out over quality. Malone was fourth to Jordan, Dominique, and Bird in field goals made, third to Jordan and Barkley in free throws made, and second in total rebounds to Charles Oakley. In terms of helping the Jazz win, Malone is quite valuable. He loves to shoot, unlike other Jazz, and does it pretty well, shooting 52% last year. This is a great help to the Jazz with a non-scorer like Mark Eaton in the lineup for defensive purposes. Defensively, Malone works very well in the tremendous rotating defense employed by the Jazz. Malone hustles enough that he's been able to get 100+ steals in each of his three seasons. He's also very good on the defensive glass, averaging 8.6 defensive rebounds per game. Eaton is not very good on the defensive glass because he blocks so many shots, but Malone solves the problem. On the Jazz, Malone is a great player. On another team, he might not be much more than good. On that basis, he should be ranked lower, but Malone's value to a good Jazz team make him one of the best.

Larry Nance (Cleveland Cavaliers): The Cavs gave up Kevin Johnson, a promising point guard, Mark West, an OK backup center to Daugherty, and Tyrone Corbin, a forward who keeps his bags packed, to get Mike Sanders and Larry Nance from the Phoenix Suns. Agewise, Phoenix got a bargain, inheriting a 22 year old, 27 year old, and a 25 year old and giving up a 27 year old and a 29 year old. Talent-wise, Cleveland pulled off a steal. Larry Nance, at his best, can completely dominate a game. Larry Nance, at his worst, is still several steps above both West and Corbin. Nance is potentially as good a scorer as Barkley, a fine rebounder, valuable defensively for his blocked shots, and the only true veteran leader the Cavaliers now have. Mike Sanders, though not a starter, can be as valuable a sub as West was. Johnson is the only 'what if?' in the trade. What if Johnson turns out great? As long as Mark Price does the point guard job well and Nance stays healthy, the Cavs made a great trade. The Cavs' problem the last two years has been with the offense, but acquiring Nance was a step in the right direction toward solving that problem. His individual floor % the last four years (since '85, in reverse chronological order) has been .567, .600, .569, and .571, which are very good numbers for a forward and will represent the best on the Cleveland team. If Daugherty and Williams continue to improve next year, or rookie Randolph Keys really shows off, the front line of the Cavs, led by Nance, will be on its way to greatness.

Third Class

Jerome Kersey (Portland Trail Blazers): Kersey is another Portland player out of Nowhere State College. Terry Porter came out of the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. Kevin Duckworth came out of Eastern Illinois. Kersey is from Longwood College in Farmville, VA. Those three schools average about 7,000 enrolled, which is nothing compared to a lot of good basketball schools. These are the kind of players who played in gyms rather than arenas. They probably took quite a few busses to road games and saw 6'6" centers every other game. With the lack of quality they faced in college, these are the guys who appreciate and respect the quality of the NBA.

Portland's scouting must be pretty good and Portland's management must be pretty gutsy to take some of these players. Taking Porter with the 24th pick in '85 was especially strange. Most players out of oddball schools last through the second round, but Portland wanted Porter in the first (the 24th pick that year was still the first round). In '86, Portland used its first round 24th pick to take Arvidas Sabonis, another strange pick, but one that could pay off as well as Porter's pick has. Kersey was a late second round pick in '84, so not much was expected from him, but he's been a great surprise. The last two years, he's been a good scorer coming off the bench or starting. A forward duo of Kersey and Vandeweghe would easily be among the top five in basketball, behind Bird and McHale, but somewhere near Dantley and the Rotation (see below).

Rick Mahorn/Dennis Rodman/John Salley (Detroit Pistons): The Rotation. Cumulatively, the Rotation had 1095 scoring possessions in 2021 total possessions last year, for a floor % of .542. Once defensive and rebounding contributions (168 steals, 224 blocks, and 1682 rebounds) are added in, the Rotation looks awful good. Mahorn and Salley are the better scorers, but that's only because Rodman can't shoot free throws. Make Rodman a 75% free throw shooter and he's the starter - and a very good one. Right now, none of these players are good enough to be ranked this high, but, in combination, they're brutal. All three can play good defense, especially Rodman, who will be on the All-Defensive Team next year. None can create his own shots like McHale or Barkley, but Rodman and Salley finish many fast breaks, while Mahorn puts plenty of offensive rebounds in for scores and can occasionally show a good low post move. Of the three, Rodman may be the best, but he is still too raw to make a starter.

A lot has been said about and by Dennis Rodman in the last year and a half. Some of it has been stupid. Some of it has been insightful. Some of it has been complimentary and some has been derogatory. All of it has been very strange.

The whole mess with Rodman started with his comments about Bird "being MVP because he's white." Growing up watching sports, I couldn't remember ever hearing anything like that being said by anyone, black or white. To me, sports had always been absent of racism. The closest thing to it that I'd ever heard were accusations concerning the lack of black quarterbacks in the NFL. There must have been other instances, but I never heard them. Rodman's statement thus took me by complete surprise. When you find out someone you just saw the other day has died and you have a hard time grasping the reality of it - that's how it felt to hear Rodman's statement. I couldn't believe it; it just didn't make sense. Any anger or disappointment I should have felt was lost in confusion and disbelief.

In the next few days, a few of the local columnists ripped into Rodman. They weren't very memorable columns for one reason or another. Maybe they weren't written well. Maybe they all said too much of the same thing. Maybe they weren't really sports columns, but opinion columns that belonged in the Opinion Section next to somebody's view on the death penalty, the seat belt law, or some crooked senator. Those columns didn't make sense to me in the Sports Section. They were too evil, too political, and too much bad news to be placed with stories about someone winning a golf tournament, about some young pitcher throwing a three hit shutout, or about someone's hero finally retiring from a sport he loved to play for so many years. I've never bought a newspaper for the front page, for local news, for Dear Abby, or even for the comics. I've always bought a paper for the Sports Section. A paper without a Sports Section lines the bird cage and is worth about two cents. Those newspapers with columns about Rodman were worth about four cents.

Once in grade school, a guy accidentally tripped another kid, then apologized to him and started walking away. The kid who was tripped got up, ran after the one who had tripped him, then tackled him from behind. A short fight followed, but it was no contest. The kid who was tripped found himself immobilized on the ground with his arm being jerked up behind his back. The kid who had tripped him told him, "I said I was s-sorry. S-s-so forget it. I didn't mean anything. So forget it." Then he let the arm go and walked away, shaken up and uncertain if he was going to be attacked again. The kid on the ground got up, but was too humiliated to do anything more.

When Rodman made a public apology to Bird, Bird didn't accept and said that he hoped Rodman guarded him in the future so that he could make him look bad. The situation with Bird and Rodman is obviously different from two kids' mistakes in that Rodman's mistake was one with intent. Whether Rodman believed what he said or whether his emotions got out of hand makes a difference in that intent, though. The fact that Bird didn't accept Rodman's apology is what is striking. Bird, in essence, said he would despise Rodman forever and would do all he could to get back at him. How could anyone live with that kind of hatred? That kind of hatred torments a whole life. A game played in the spirit of fun and sportsmanship can turn into a war fought for heartless pride and unbounded contempt.

By popular account, Bird didn't play well against the Pistons in the '88 Eastern Finals. I have to wonder why. I also have to wonder how Bird felt when he saw Rodman smiling after the Pistons won. Was he humiliated? Or had he forgotten the whole thing? If he hadn't forgiven, he hadn't forgotten.

I DO NOT intend to make Bird sound like the villain here. Rodman's comments were unjust and inaccurate. Bird is one of the greatest players that ever played basketball. No doubt in my mind. I can't believe Rodman truly has any doubts. The world knows Bird is great. Rodman's comments didn't hurt Bird's reputation with anyone. Bird's denial of Rodman's apology hurt his reputation with me. He should have let it go. That's all.

In the months after the comments, many stories appeared in magazines and newspapers, telling some of the Dennis Rodman Story. Rodman didn't play high school basketball because he was too short. Soon after high school, he had a large growth spurt that brought him to his current height. He didn't go to school for a while, instead working as a janitor. As a counselor at a basketball camp, Rodman found himself playing 'HORSE' and one-on-one with a smaller white kid. The boy had lost his best friend in an accident involving a gun some time before and hadn't gotten over the emotional shock. He and Rodman got along great that day and, at the end of the day, he called his parents to ask if he could bring Rodman over for dinner, neglecting to tell them that Rodman was black. The night went well. The boy's parents finally saw their son coming out of his depression and Rodman had himself a good friend. To make a long story short, Rodman slowly grew into the family, spending nights, having meals, and talking with his new found friends. His basketball career also progressed as he became a standout player at Southeastern Oklahoma State. To this day, Rodman still spends a great deal of time with his adopted white family and his basketball career is still progressing well. Additionally, Rodman's girl friend, the articles say, is white.

Obviously, Rodman doesn't feel uncomfortable around white people. Apparently, most white people don't feel uncomfortable around him. The word 'racist' would never come from anyone who read the articles on Rodman.

After reading about Rodman, his statements about Bird seemed even more unbelievable. How would such thoughts come to his mind? Did someone suggest them to him? Maybe when he was a kid in the south, where racism was more of a problem, someone said something to him and it only came back to him after the toughest loss of his life.

The comments this year about Rodman generally avoided reference to his mistake. They concentrated on his ability to play defense or to get out on the fast break. For almost the whole year, I'd completely forgotten about his comments and looked at him only as a basketball player. What I saw was a player I liked.

Dennis Rodman loves basketball. He plays the game with unending energy and enthusiasm. He doesn't try to show anyone up, but his fist waving after a dunk has been interpreted that way. He just gets such a childlike thrill out of performing and doing well that he doesn't hold back his emotions. Rodman is one of the last people in basketball I'd expect to be on drugs because he gets so high on the game that anything else would be a letdown. Rodman will be around the NBA a long time because he has both the ability and enthusiasm to overcome the obstacles he'll face. He's not going to leave the game easily either. He's going to play until he can't walk. When he's 45, he'll play for $100 a game as long as they just let him be part of the action.

When Dennis Rodman does finally retire, hopefully he'll be remembered for his basketball. The headlines he got for his comments may have been the biggest headlines he'll ever get, but for anyone who doesn't know Rodman, those few words are no way to judge him or to remember him.

Jack Sikma (Milwaukee Bucks): He was the only remaining player from the Sonics' Championship team of 1979 when Seattle traded him in '86 with two second round picks to Milwaukee for Alton Lister and two first round picks. Gus Williams had been gone a couple years. Dennis Johnson, Downtown Freddie Brown, Lonnie Shelton, Johnny Johnson, and Paul Silas had been gone several years. The Golden Boy who was so young in that Championship season was kept around for seven years in the hopes he could help bring another season of great memories to the basketball lovers of the Emerald City. Funny how people think that 'once a championship center, always a championship center'.

The trade was at first look fairly even. Sikma was still a productive player who was needed in Milwaukee. The two first round picks from Milwaukee would be very welcome in Seattle. What changed the outlook on the trade was how Sikma and Lister played in their first seasons with new teams. Sikma had his worst season since he was a rookie and Lister, an offensive nonentity for five years in Milwaukee, played good ball. Seattle thought it had made a steal of a deal and Milwaukee was pretty glum. But, '87-88 straightened things out. Sikma returned to form and Lister stopped dead in his offensive production. Now it's the draft picks for Sikma again. Seattle has improved by 13 games since then and still has an '89 first round draft pick coming. Milwaukee has gotten worse by 15 games and has an '89 second round pick left. If the trade hadn't been made, it's conceivable that both teams would have followed the same paths they did. Seattle had young talent all around, while Milwaukee was an older team with nowhere to go but down. Looking at it that way, it's hard to see how the trade made any difference.

If anything, though, Milwaukee has gotten the better deal so far. Sikma was a good scorer and a solid rebounder last year in Milwaukee and was probably a big reason the Bucks stayed above .500. If Sikma were the center for Seattle, the Sonics would have had a potent offense last year with four scorers in the lineup. Instead, they had three with little to back them up. Seattle's use of Milwaukee's draft pick ultimately ended up as Olden Polynice, who hasn't been anything more than a project player. In other words, the score to this point is Milwaukee: Jack Sikma (.544 floor % over last two years) and Seattle: Alton Lister (.495) and Olden Polynice (.457). Check back in a couple years for an update. Yawn.

Roy Tarpley/Sam Perkins (Dallas Mavericks): In a letter I wrote to Basketball Digest in early June, I suggested that the Clippers trade the number one pick in the draft, which we all knew was going to be Danny Manning, to Dallas for Roy Tarpley and to fire Gene Shue, replacing him with Dick Motta. It made sense at the time and I still think the Clippers would have done well doing so, but I can't be as enthusiastic about it as I was. Roy Tarpley is easily the best rebounder in the NBA, averaging nearly 20 rebounds per 48 minutes last year, the highest figure since Swen Nater averaged 20.4 per 48 minutes in '79-80. Charles Oakley was second with 18.2 rebounds per 48 minutes. Tarpley's offense, though, needs some work; his floor % was only .510 last year. He's not a bad shooter from either the floor or the line, but he's not great. He also commits a few too many turnovers, about the same number as Rodman. In fact, a comparison between Rodman and Tarpley may be quite valid. On the court their similar styles are very obvious as both clear the boards and fill the wings on the break very well. Statistically, they are fairly equivalent despite drastically different field goal and free throw percentages. Rodman's better FG% makes up for his drastically worse FT% and slightly outdoes Tarpley in floor % by .009. Tarpley may soon become a league MVP and almost certainly will be up with Nance and Malone by the end of next year. He's going to be only 24 years old at the end of the season, so his best years are still ahead of him.

As far as Sam Perkins is concerned, he may be moving soon. When he arrived in '84, he started as a center for the team, struggling, but performing admirably. He was moved to power forward his second season where he's more suited to play, but his game didn't really improve. With Tarpley coming on last year, it looks like either Perkins or Donaldson is going to lose his starting job. It will probably be Perkins because Donaldson's low post moves are more unique on the team than Perkins' game. Dallas can probably get a reasonable amount in a trade for Perkins, but they might not want to do that if Perkins accepts a sixth man role and fewer minutes...With all Perkins accomplished at the University of North Carolina, it is very surprising he hasn't been better. He was playing with Michael Jordan and James Worthy during certain seasons there and they may have made him look better than he actually was. But he is playing with some very good players in Dallas also. Perkins may have just peaked too young.

Otis Thorpe (Sacramento Kings): I haven't been keeping up with all the NBA's Most Underrated Teams, but Thorpe has to be on some of those. Last year, Thorpe shot 50.7% from the field, 75.5% from the line, and scored 20.8 points per game. In '86-87, his numbers were just as good. He's also averaged over ten rebounds per game and played in every game, averaging nearly 37 minutes per game. His floor % was .556 last year and .580 the year before, creating about 20.0 ppg and 17.7 ppg, respectively. Basketball Digest's Mike Weber rating of players last year had several glaring omissions. The most obvious was the noninclusion of Larry Nance. He wasn't in Weber's top ten small forwards or his top ten power forwards, presumably just forgetting him. Other notable omissions were Xavier McDaniel, Terry Porter, and Otis Thorpe. Some of the players he ranked higher than Thorpe: Kevin Willis, Terry Cummings, Charles Oakley, and Ralph Sampson. Kevin Willis had a floor % in '87 of .535, approximately 13.7 points created per game, and 10.5 rebounds per game. Cummings: .534, 19.3, and 8.5. Oakley: .496, 14.6, 13.1. Sampson: .483, 14.8, and 8.7. Thorpe was a better scorer than all of them and a better rebounder than Cummings and Sampson, only slightly worse than Willis. How all those players were ranked higher than Thorpe is one of life's mysteries. It looks like Weber considered team records to be important because the others played on better teams, but he also included Michael Cage (.547, 14.5, and 11.5) of the 12-70 Clippers above Thorpe.

Buck Williams (New Jersey Nets): Every year he gets 12+ rebounds per game, about 17 ppg, and plays 36+ minutes per game. He's been the only constant contributor for the Nets for the past seven years, but has seen the team slide from 49 wins to 19. Some people still call him the best rebounder in the NBA (before Tarpley, at least) because of his ability to fight his way from behind a block-out. In fact, very little separates him from the second class power forwards. He commits a few too many turnovers and misses a few too many free throws, but there is little else that can be asked of him. With Malone being in the second class despite worse offensive efficiency numbers, it was hard to make Williams third class. Finally, I had to make Williams third class because he hasn't impressed me as the dominant team player that both Malone and Nance are.

Fourth Class

Michael Cage (Seattle SuperSonics): His '86-87 season was great, a season that wouldn't look out of place in Buck Williams' stats. Last year, Cage fell back a notch, making it difficult to say exactly how good he is. His rebounding was up last year, but there were also a lot more rebounds to get with the Clippers and their opponents both shooting much worse than the year before. What hurt Cage's value last year was his offensive production. After shooting 52.1% from the field and 73% from the line for a .547 floor % in '87, he shot 47.0% and 68.8% for a floor % of .508 in '88. In his two years before '87, Cage's floor %'s were .538 in his rookie year and .477 in his second season. Cage is on some sort of roller coaster that indicates he'll have a good year in '88-89, but how good he'll actually become is unknown.

Bill Cartwright/Horace Grant (Chicago Bulls): Cartwright gets his points the way Moses Malone, Adrian Dantley, and Danny Schayes get theirs - by living at the foul line. When he's healthy, Cartwright is a good offensive weapon because of his ability to score and draw fouls. The problem is that he hasn't been too healthy for a while. He played all 82 games last year with only limited minutes (about 20 per game). Maybe the Knicks didn't want to push him too hard, but the way he played demanded more minutes. As a legitimate scorer, he will take some of the load off Jordan, probably bringing Jordan's scoring average down to about 32 ppg. There are a lot of negative indicators for the Bulls next season, but if Cartwright is healthy, he will offset some of those. . .Horace Grant is a fine player, better than the Bulls' other rookie, Scottie Pippen, and potentially another Larry Nance. Or better. Both are 6'10" forwards out of Clemson, but Grant had much better numbers in college than Nance did. About the only thing Grant doesn't seem to be able to do that Nance can is block shots. There is nothing stopping Grant from being one of the best, which makes me wonder about his twin brother, Harvey. Now that they're in the same league, yearly comparisons of their development are going to be obvious tasks.

A.C. Green (Los Angeles Lakers): Green may not get the points or some of the rebounds, but he's an important part of making the Lakers champions. He's had to learn to play smart, something Oakley, Cage, and even Tarpley haven't learned too well. Playing smart often means taking few shots, which is true in Green's case. Ed Pinckney is like that. So is Cliff Levingston. These types of players look best when they have plenty of good scorers around them, which Green does and Pinckney doesn't. Both players and Levingston may end up shooting a bit more next season, making it interesting to see if they can maintain their efficiency.

Cliff Levingston/Kevin Willis (Atlanta Hawks): Levingston is the better scorer and Willis is the better rebounder. Neither have a great future though there is hope. Willis was counted on last year to at least maintain his '87 production and to help take the Hawks to the Finals. He bombed. He didn't shoot as well and had even fewer assists, down from 62 to 28. His floor % dropped from .535 to .494. His rebounds dropped from 849 to 547. Levingston was the ninth pick in the '82 draft, but didn't score ten points a game until last year. He isn't a great rebounder for his position, but the Hawks aren't hurting for boards. Most indications are that he'll start next year. He may be ready for it as he had a floor % of .582 last season...Antoine Carr has been impressive off the bench and may take the starting spot if both Willis and Levingston don't work out.

Charles Oakley (New York Knicks): He's better than Ennis Whatley and Keith Lee, which is what Chicago gave up to get him. He's not any better than Bill Cartwright, which is what Chicago got by giving him up. His rebounds are going to be missed, but not much. His poor shot selection and mediocre ball handling won't be missed at all. Apparently, he was a good friend of Michael Jordan, so he may be missed more than he should be, based on his physical contributions.

In New York, his defensive rebounds will be very welcome because the Knicks had the fewest in the league, which is not a characteristic of winning teams. The Knicks were a very good offensive rebounding team and Oakley will improve it. He'll also throw up a few more bricks to get offensive rebounds with, which isn't good for the 46.5% shooting Knicks. Hopefully (but not probably), Coach Pitino can tame his wild offensive ways because the Knicks can ill afford another immature shooter. Don't be surprised to see him have a very poor year in '88-89. If he does, I have ranked him too high. If he doesn't and the Knicks win close to fifty games, I've ranked him too low, but that isn't going to happen.

Fifth Class

Frank Brickowski (San Antonio Spurs): His '88 season wasn't all that bad. He scored as well as or better than all of the third class power forwards. But that's where it ends. His rebounding was mediocre on a team that desperately needed rebounds. He may actually be better suited to the small forward position even though he is 6'10" and not as quick as many other small forwards.

For a third round pick, Brickowski has actually done quite well. His scoring ability is pretty good though he commits too many turnovers. His field goal and free throw percentages have improved steadily to good levels. He had a good number of assists last year (266 or 3.8 per game), which is valuable from a forward. If he can cut his turnovers, he'll be a legitimate starter, but he's best suited to coming off the bench now. When David Robinson arrives that's probably where he'll go.

Blair Rasmussen/Wayne Cooper (Denver Nuggets): Neither can play offense, especially Cooper who rivals Manute Bol in his ineptitude, but their defense is a help. Cooper is a very good shot blocker and decent rebounder. Rasmussen isn't Cooper's match in either category, but makes up for it a little with some offensive punch. Doug Moe was hoping that Cooper would return to the form of his '84-85 and '85-86 seasons, but didn't see it. Cooper is going to be 32 years old and probably can't get any offense back now. It's doubtful that his defensive skills will keep him around very long, perhaps not even to opening day '88. Rasmussen, on the other hand, is going to turn 26 next season and has improved every year in the NBA. If that improvement continues, he's going to be OK. His ability to back up Danny Schayes also makes him valuable.

Wayman Tisdale/Herb Williams (Indiana Pacers): I'm not a real big fan of telephones. They always ring as soon as I get in the shower and it's never for me when I go and answer it and an important call when I don't. Long phone conversations usually get boring pretty early and short phone conversations usually are interesting ones that get cut off by the phone company or cut short by time commitments. Commercials for phone companies are some of the most irritating on both TV and radio. And phone answering devices...I guess they're not bad, but the first time I talked to one was one of those embarrassing moments that I don't like to talk about.

Phones can be useful, I guess. They're good for having conversations that can't be held through mail. You don't need to know morse code to use phones. The phone bill comes at the end of the month instead of needing to buy a stamp for each call. Quick questions that have to be addressed to someone across town or forty floors above you are easiest asked by phone than with a short note or with lots of exercise.

One summer, I was working at a place that had a real phone system with built-in clocks, an intercom, transfer abilities, a small directory of phone numbers, and a hold button. It was like one big electronic toy to me. I was able to try most all its functions in the course of ordinary work, but never tried the hold button until I decided to call my brother at home. After I put him on hold, I couldn't figure out how to take him off. I tried all sorts of buttons, but nothing worked. Finally, I got him back and he wasn't too happy. Having to sit and listen to elevator music over the phone for five minutes isn't my brother's idea of fun.

"What was that about?" he asked.

"Nothing. What kind of music did you hear?"

"Junk. Canned music."

"Oh."

"Wait. Hold on," he said, putting down the phone. In a couple seconds, I heard the Beatles coming through the line. He'd obviously brought his tape player over to the phone to put me on 'hold'. After a minute or so, he stopped the music and got back on the phone.

"That's the kind of music I want to hear when I get put on hold," he said.

That's the way it is with phones. So much they can do, but so many small annoyances about them that they're almost not worth it. The fancy phone systems have a lot of initial attraction to them, but they're not a whole lot better than a normal phone to me.

Wayman Tisdale can do so much, but he can be so annoying. When he goes into one of his one-on-one excursions, they often turn into one-on-two excursions with Tisdale throwing the ball away or traveling. He looks so impressively strong, but he doesn't use his muscle to get many rebounds. In three years at Oklahoma, he was a Second Team All-American and twice a First Team All-American. In three years with the Pacers, he's had a hard time staying a starter. He looked so great coming out of college, but hasn't been any better than a normal forward in the pros. Maybe now that Tisdale's been compared to a damn telephone, he'll shape up.

Sixth Class

J.B. Carroll/Jim Petersen (Houston Rockets): Reports say that Houston is offering Carroll to the highest bidder, no matter how low the bid. Carroll was rather pitiful last year, rebounding so-so and scoring with a floor % of only .461. Overall, the blockbuster deal that sent Carroll and Sleepy Floyd to Houston for Ralph Sampson and Steve Harris wasn't much more than a swap of a few overrated and overpaid players...Jim Petersen is very well suited to a backup role and should stay there. As a starter he hasn't matched up too well. When he comes in with fresh legs to face worn out starters, he can get rebounds and score pretty well, as he did in '85-86 when Houston went to the Finals. He started 50 games last year, showing some indication of how poor the situation has gotten in Houston.

Larry Smith/Tellis Frank (Golden State Warriors): Smith works real hard to get all the rebounds he gets, but is a liability offensively. After missing 62 games last year, his health is also a question mark. If he comes back and does as well as he did in '87, he's another Charles Oakley. That's not exactly right because Smith would actually be a bit better than Oakley because he's smarter. Smith knows he's not very good offensively and doesn't waste as many possessions as Oakley does trying to impress girls...Tellis Frank compared himself to James Worthy once, so he may not be a power forward, but he's 6'10", shot worse than, and rebounded better than Worthy, which makes him a power forward. And one who needs some work, but who could be a contributor. Kannard Johnson, a second round pick of the Cavs, and Frank had to be the two highest picks ever from Western Kentucky and both came out last year. With two draft picks that high, WKU must have been a pretty good team in '87.

John Williams/Terry Catledge (Washington Bullets): Williams has the most trade value of the Bullets' veterans and Catledge is third. That doesn't imply, however that these guys are any good. Williams is a bad shooter who has a tendency to want to be a point guard. He also has a tendency to eat too much and may report to training camp overweight. He's not a real good rebounder and doesn't block shots, but passes fairly well, doesn't commit many turnovers, and plays the passing lanes on defense. Catledge shoots better and rebounds better, but doesn't hand out assists, block shots, get many steals, and commits a few more turnovers. Neither player is ever going to be an All-Star; in fact, they should set their sights no higher than Frank Brickowski level right now.

Seventh Class

Armon Gilliam (Phoenix Suns): He was named to most All-Rookie Teams, but really didn't deserve it. He has absolutely no outside shot and hasn't learned to play with the big guys down low yet. The way he dominated in college indicates that he'll learn the power game in the pros, but he has a lot to learn.

Ken Norman/Danny Manning (Los Angeles Clippers): Norman began coming into his own near the end of last season. He was definitely the most interesting part of the team then as he was the one who seemed to be working the hardest to try to get the Clippers away from their laughing stock image. The 'winning traditions' that the Clippers' other first round picks, Reggie Williams and Joe Wolf, were supposed to bring with them didn't show and it was Norman, who had the least success in college, who seemed to bring the most hope to the Clippers. Norman, though, did have extreme difficulties from the foul line. He shot 51.2% from there and had one game when he made only 2 of 13 foul shots. In college he was a 73.6% foul shooter, so his troubles in the pros must be mostly nerves. If he had shot 73.6% from the line last season, his floor % would have been .493 instead of .460. Norman has supposedly been playing well in the Southern California summer leagues, but I haven't heard about his free throw shooting. It's hard to believe that Reggie Williams won't turn out to be at least an average pro, but Norman looks like the best of the Clippers' draft of '87...They say Danny Manning is only 6'9", not 6'11", which means he is not an NBA center. Charles Barkley had himself listed at 6'7" for the draft, though we now find he's only 6'4". A lot of college football players claim times in the 40 yard dash of 4.2 seconds or so, which is world record speed according to experts. It sounds like exaggeration goes a long way in college drafts.

Others

Charlotte Hornets: Nothing very promising at this spot. Tom Tolbert of Arizona and Jeff Moore of Auburn, both 6'7", were drafted in the second and third rounds, respectively, of the college draft. Moore reported to camp overweight, but both players should make it to opening day because the expansion picks have proved that they're bad and they haven't. Kurt Rambis has reportedly signed with the Hornets. Part of his reason for signing was because his wife arranges professional team tennis matches and Charlotte is one of the few cities that actually has a professional tennis team. Rambis will help this team if he doesn't get dragged down by losing. If he can get rebounds like he did in L.A. and score ten points a game, Clark Kent fans will be sprouting up throughout North Carolina.

Miami Heat: Rony Seikaly was looked at before the draft as a power forward, but will definitely play some at center for the Heat.

Seikaly is one of the players drafted this year I've seen the most of. Out in Southern California, about the only college basketball on TV is Pac-10 basketball, which isn't very good at this stage of history. When something different is shown, it's usually a Big East game or the North Carolina game. As a result, last year I saw a lot of Seikaly, Sherman Douglas, Jerome Lane, Charles Smith, J.R. Reid, and Jeff Lebo, in addition to a bunch of obscure players from Washington State, USC, and Cal.

Seikaly has also had a lot of TV exposure because of the NCAA Tournament. In '87, I got into a pool for March Madness and picked (out of a hat) Syracuse to win it all, so I paid extra attention to their television coverage. When they got by North Carolina, it looked like they might actually pull it off. Syracuse was on TV almost every game thereafter and the Douglas to Seikaly alley-oops, which couldn't be stopped, were replayed over and over on the nightly sports newscasts. Seikaly's low post spin moves were occasionally outstanding, leaving him with several easy lay-ins, which...well, he sometimes missed. He'd still get the OR and put it back in and the Orangemen were rolling. Finally, they got to the Championship Game against Indiana Hoosiers, led by chair throwing world record holder Bobby Knight. If Syracuse wins, I get a little bit of money; if they lose, I get a little less money. I shouldn't have been tense and I wasn't at first, but Syracuse had to go out and make it a close game.

The Orangemen got too nervous in that final game. They were too tentative with every pass and every shot. Derrick Coleman, a naive freshman out to prove the nation's recruiters wrong, was the most relaxed player - until the very end, when he had to make two free throws. When Indiana came down on their final possession down by one point, I was saying over and over to the Syracuse players on TV to stay on Keith Smart. "Let Alford shoot! Anybody but Smart! He's hot like fire! Stay on Smart!" They couldn't hear me. They let Smart get the ball and Smart made The Shot, The Shot on every magazine cover, The Shot they were still talking about in December, The Shot that made me a nervous wreck for hours.

General Sherman Douglas didn't come through. Rony Seikaly didn't come through. Howard Triche and Derrick Coleman didn't come through. They played fine team ball until that final game when nerves overcame experience and training.

This year at Tournament time, it was tempting to take Syracuse again (I had a choice this year), but I stayed away. Seikaly wasn't bad, but he seemed a little hung up on trying to be the man in the offense. Overall, the Orangemen still had some real good individual players, but they weren't playing as well as a team. When they lost in the second round, it was sad, but predictable.

Instead of Syracuse, guess who I chose in the '88 NCAA Tournament pool. The stupid second place Oklahoma Sooners.

            Per 48 minutes      Scoring
Player      AST  REB  BLK  FG% PPG Poss   Floor % 
C. Barkley  3.8 14.4 1.56 1.51 .587 28.3  1052 .609
K. McHale   3.4 10.8 1.85 0.54 .604 22.6   653 .620   

K. Malone   3.0 14.8 0.75 1.76 .520 27.7   996 .519
L. Nance    4.2 12.2 3.20 1.27 .529 19.1   606 .567   

J. Kersey   4.0 10.9 1.08 2.11 .499 19.2   712 .549
R. Mahorn   1.5 13.8 1.03 1.05 .574 10.7   322 .553
D. Rodman   2.5 16.0 1.01 1.68 .561 11.6   433 .519
J. Salley   2.7  9.6 3.28 1.27 .566  8.5   340 .562
J. Sikma    4.6 11.6 1.31 1.52 .486 16.5   662 .562
R. Tarpley  1.8 20.0 1.79 2.14 .500 13.5   486 .510
S. Perkins  2.3 11.5 1.04 1.42 .450 14.2   493 .536
O. Thorpe   4.2 13.1 0.88 0.97 .507 20.8   819 .556
B. Williams 2.0 15.2 0.80 1.24 .560 18.3   587 .549   

M. Cage     2.0 16.9 1.05 1.64 .470 14.5   488 .508
Cartwright  2.4 11.0 1.23 1.23 .544 11.1   428 .591
H. Grant    2.3 11.7 1.39 1.34 .501  7.7   287 .513
A.C. Green  1.7 12.9 0.82 1.58 .503 11.4   426 .552
Levingston  1.6 11.3 1.89 1.17 .557 10.0   368 .582
K. Willis   0.6 12.6 0.94 1.56 .518 11.6   368 .494
C. Oakley   4.2 18.2 0.48 1.16 .483 12.4   516 .496   

Brickowski  5.7 10.4 0.78 1.59 .528 16.0   566 .543
Rasmussen   2.1 11.8 2.19 0.59 .492 12.7   435 .521
W. Cooper   1.7 15.0 5.22 0.67 .437  6.4   128 .429
W. Tisdale  2.1  9.9 0.69 1.09 .512 16.1   568 .535
H. Williams 2.4 11.5 3.56 0.90 .425 10.0   347 .450   

JB Carroll  2.7 11.7 2.54 1.20 .435 12.7   451 .461
J. Petersen 2.8 11.7 1.07 0.96 .510  8.9   297 .509
L. Smith    2.4 17.5 1.06 1.15 .472  6.4    61 .410
T. Frank    3.3  9.9 0.69 1.59 .428  8.1   310 .472
J. Williams 4.6  8.8 0.67 2.31 .469 12.8   527 .523
T. Catledge 1.9 11.8 0.27 0.98 .506 10.7   338 .518   

A. Gilliam  1.9 11.5 0.77 1.54 .475 14.8   353 .469
K. Norman   2.6  8.8 1.14 1.47 .482  8.6   263 .460   

K. Rambis   3.1 15.2 0.74 2.22 .548  4.0   135 .533

Basketball Hoopla, 1988, L. Dean Oliver