Small Forwards

The small forward position should be occupied by a player who can score very well. Most top small forwards score from inside, medium range, and long range. Small forwards shouldn't be completely selfish and should be able to find the open man when double-teamed. Small forwards should be able to rebound, though they may not be asked to because of good rebounders at other positions on their team. In general, small forwards should be solid, if not standout, contributors to a good offense. Defensively, most small forwards are nothing special, but some are better than others and that is taken into account in these rankings.

First Class

Larry Bird (Boston Celtics): Most often we see Bird and the Celtics up against the Lakers, the Hawks, the Pistons, or some other good team and Bird is usually very impressive. I finally got to see him play against a bad team last season - I think it was New Jersey - and Bird thoroughly dominated. In the first half, only once did he end a Boston possession without scoring. He was making almost all his shots and the few he missed fell into Kevin McHale's arms. He found open men at will for assists, even making a couple no look passes that fooled the announcers until they got a second look at them...After his poor performance against Detroit in the playoffs, is it worth a guess that he'll not do as well next year? He'll be 32 years old on Pearl Harbor Day (the real one) and in his tenth season in the NBA. Logically, he shouldn't be able to ignore some of those pains anymore and lose some of his effectiveness, but, then again, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar won an MVP in his eleventh season at age 33. Aches and pains? Not with a game on the line.

Second Class

Adrian Dantley (Detroit Pistons): One of the very best scorers of the '80's. Detroit's acquisition of him for Kelly Tripucka and Kent Benson was probably the best trade they've ever made. Watching him go one-on-one is one of the most enjoyable situations in basketball. His ability to sink a shot and/or draw a foul is without comparison anywhere. His individual floor % last year of .626 was second only to John Stockton's .654, which, because Stockton is a point guard, isn't really comparable. Michael Jordan's individual floor % was an incredible .618 and is probably more impressive because he used 1200 more possessions, but there is no doubt Dantley is Hall of Fame bound...Utah tried to excuse its mistake of trading away Dantley by saying that their record went up the season after he left. It did go up, from 42-40 to 44-38. Detroit's record went up their first season with Dantley from 46-36 to 52-30. Dantley is not a negative influence. In Utah, they had several young forwards that deserved playing time so that they could develop. Dantley hindered that. When Dantley left, the Utah offense did get worse, but the defense improved. Such improvement may be explained by saying that Dantley is a bad defensive player, but that is probably incorrect because Dantley isn't bad defensively. Replacing Dantley with younger players is the more likely explanation as younger players usually are better defensively than older players. Overall, the deal of Dantley for Tripucka and Benson didn't bring in any outside talent for the Jazz, but it allowed the younger talent they already had to develop. In that way, the deal wasn't a mistake.

Dominique Wilkins (Atlanta Hawks): He can't compare with Dantley for scoring efficiency, but is a prime example of how a player can make his teammates better. He draws so much attention from the defense that Cliff Levingston, Antoine Carr, and Kevin Willis (when he's not tripping over himself) can clean the glass and get easy shots. The additions of Reggie Theus and Moses Malone will lower Dominique's point production, but his shooting percentage should be its highest since '84. With Dominique getting a little more help next year, it's easy to see him as MVP of the '89 Finals...The Midsummer Night's Magic charity game in Los Angeles was one to remember. The score was 203-202. No overtimes. Forty-eight minutes of offense. No one cares who won. Who was the leading scorer? Michael Jordan, just like in the All-Star Game, but with 54 points instead of just 40. Who was the second leading scorer? Dominique, just like in the All-Star Game, but with 46 points. Who had the most slams? People lost count at ten apiece. This was showtime. Everything that happened was fun. Spud Webb posted up Mugsy Bogues, a match up that looked like two sixth graders. The celebrity coaches, Arsenio Hall and Rob Lowe, were a match that looked like Abbot and Costello. Magic Johnson's and Michael Cooper's fake fight was a match that looked more like Tom and Jerry than Tyson and Spinks, though both are quite funny. Whoever has the video rights to the game could make a fortune.

James Worthy (Los Angeles Lakers): His ability to turn it up a notch in the playoffs is almost without parallel in the NBA. He was NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player in '82 and NBA Finals MVP last year. He shoots 3% better in the playoffs than in the regular season and scores three points per game more in the playoffs. His first step is famous around the basketball world as is his ability to fill the lanes on the fast break. And I almost put him down as a third class small forward because his rebounding has never been exceptional. His contributions to the Lakers' winning tradition have been just as great as Dominique's have been to the Hawks and Dantley's have been to the Jazz and Pistons.

Third Class

Mark Aguirre (Dallas Mavericks): He's deserved better. Problems with his coaches and with his best friends from high school must have taken some toll on his game, but he still has been one of the toughest players to stop in the NBA. His ability to score from the inside or outside rivals the best in the game. The only problem he has is when his outside shot isn't falling and he tries to resort to forcing the drive or the jumper...Like Dantley, the Lakers had a hard time stopping Aguirre in the playoffs until they double-teamed him, forcing a pass. The other thing that stopped Aguirre was his coach. MacLeod took him out at odd times and left him out for oddly long periods of time. Aguirre and Dantley, though Dantley has been consistently better, are quite similar players. They both have also had hard times getting along with their coaches and, as a result, haven't gotten as many minutes as might be expected. I have to wonder what it is going to take for Aguirre to get the perfect environment to play in. Dantley is in a pretty good situation in Detroit, but still was removed in key parts of the Finals. If Coach Daly doesn't trust him, he may be on the way out there. Coach MacLeod obviously doesn't trust Aguirre completely, but would he trade such a great player?

Thurl Bailey (Utah Jazz): Coach Frank Layden wanted Bailey to be Sixth Man of the Year. The writers and broadcasters who vote on the award fortunately aren't imbeciles and recognized that, despite starting only ten games, Bailey is just a starter whose internal clock is a little slow. Any sixth man who comes off the bench four minutes into the game, then plays 35 minutes either takes too long to tie his shoes and misses the tipoff or has a mental block against starting. His high ranking here is based solely on last year's accomplishments because he was nothing special previously. If he turns into a 50+% shooter next year, he should buy John Stockton a yacht for Christmas because that's who he'll owe his career to. Stockton was a big reason for Bailey's improvement last year and will be a big reason for any further improvement.

Terry Cummings (Milwaukee Bucks): He has never matched his rookie season, but has stayed close. And because his rookie season was so incredible, 'close' is pretty good. Some other players who never really followed up outstanding rookie season with improvement or even seasons as good: Alvan Adams, Bill Cartwright, David Greenwood, Clark Kellogg, Ralph Sampson, Marques Johnson. All of these players got drafted very high. Adams was the fourth pick in '75, coming out of Oklahoma after a good junior year with great numbers, but no national awards. Cartwright was the third pick in '79, coming out of San Francisco after an awesome senior season that dwarfed his previous season. Greenwood was the number two pick in '79, coming out of UCLA with good numbers and All-America Second Team Honors. Kellogg was the eighth selection in '82 out of Ohio State where his numbers were good, but he had no national recognition. Sampson was the first pick in '83 out of Virginia, having great numbers, three First Team All-America honors, and a College Player of the Year Award -in his junior year, not his senior year (Jordan got it then). Johnson was the third pick in '77 after being College Player of the Year his senior year at UCLA, which was easily his best in college. Cummings was taken second as an undergraduate out of DePaul in '82, after being named First Team All-American his junior year (the year after Aguirre left). All players were taken by rather poor teams, most of which improved fairly significantly with their talented rookies. What I'm wondering is if there is such a thing as a Plexiglass Principle (see Denver comment) for rookies. It would have something to do with players who have great senior season, but without greatness before, then are drafted high by poor teams that need them to play immediately. They respond well that rookie season, but the league catches on the second year. If I had more time, I might check up on it and refine the conditions of the theory. Maybe next year.

Alex English (Denver Nuggets): Seven straight years of scoring at least 2000 points. He unfortunately is on the way down. A scorer as quietly great as English has been hardly gets much notice during his best years. When his numbers start to slip and the shots that were guaranteed three years ago start to get a lot of the front rim, the quiet star faces retirement and the press begins to pick up on how consistently excellent he's been. English has been in the pros since being a second round draft pick of Milwaukee in '76. He did very little his first two years, scoring little in very few minutes. He left Milwaukee for Indiana before his third season where he became a starter, scoring about sixteen points per game. In the middle of his second season with the Pacers, English was scoring fifteen a game then was traded with a 1980 first round pick to Denver for George McGinnis. At Denver, English immediately became the English we now know. In 24 games with the Nuggets, he scored 21 points per game and became very active in the offense. When Doug Moe came in with his 'shoot now or forever line the bench' approach, English picked it up and scored every chance he got. His first season as a leading scorer, '81-82, was the season Denver broke the season record for scoring. It was also one of the most efficient offenses ever, scoring 113 points per 100 possessions. I'm not a big fan of Doug Moe's coaching,but his style has helped make English into a very entertaining ballplayer... Because of English's reputation as a poet, it would be appropriate to call him 'Poetry in Motion', but English is a lot more exciting than any poem I've ever read.

Rodney McCray (Houston Rockets): Last year was called a bad year for McCray, but it wasn't all that bad. His rebounds and free throw percentage were career highs and his turnovers weren't very high. His other offensive contributions - field goals, field goal percentage, and assists - were down. His '87 floor % was .592. His '88 floor % was .565, still good, but a big fall off. He also had 658 scoring possessions in '87 and saw that fall to only 534 in '88. To maintain his third class ranking, he's going to have to return to his '87 form. It is a good bet that he will.

Xavier McDaniel/Derrick McKey (Seattle SuperSonics): All right, so neither one is really a small forward, but Michael Cage is most definitely a power forward and one of these guys is the other forward. Maybe the forward positions should be renamed number one forward and number two forward for how often each handles the ball. Maybe all forwards should be ranked together next year. It would make the rankings a little more difficult because the players' styles would vary a lot more under the more general category, but that generality would be better for assorting players like Bird, Cummings, Person, Chambers, McDaniel, McKey, and several others...McDaniel likes turnaround fifteen to twenty foot jumpers that look ridiculous when he misses. The thing is, though, he can be very good with it. He single-handedly beat the Lakers once with it. He probably should develop other shots or moves, though, because he is really not an efficient scorer. But McKey is. Or at least he will be. Along with Mark Jackson and Reggie Miller, McKey was the most impressive rookie last season. His numbers look remarkably like Kenny Walker's rookie numbers ('86-87), but he supposedly has the attitude to go much farther than Walker.

Player  Min FG  FGA  FG%  FT% REB AST  TO  PPG 
Walker 1719 285 581 .491 .757 338  75  75 10.4
McKey  1706 255 519 .491 .772 328 107 108  8.5
Walker's individual floor % was .531. McKey's was .533. Essentially identical seasons, but McKey was a year younger in his rookie season than Walker was in his...The Sonics have three McPlayers on their team: McDaniel, McKey, and Nate McMillan. Are these guys Irish? Aren't their uniforms green?

Kiki Vandeweghe (Portland Trail Blazers): Almost every day this summer, he's been at UCLA running through shooting drills. He generally shoots jumpers from about nineteen feet, making 80 to 90 percent of them. I once counted him making 19 straight shots from there. People stand around watching him, waiting for him to miss. Sometimes, they get tired of watching and turn their head, which is when he'll miss. Watching Vandeweghe shoot is a lesson in itself. His wrist is straight up from his elbow. He shoots with his wrist and follows through the way it's taught. He jumps straight up, not to his left or right. He only takes shots that he'll likely get in a game: shots from the corners, at the top of the key, jumpers from fifteen to twenty feet or solid and safe layups - shots that work in a game. These sort of drills have obviously paid off for Vandeweghe in the NBA as his ability to score as a small forward is topped only by Bird and Dantley. That difference is very small, indeed. Where he gets knocked is with his rebounding and defense. The small forward role doesn't call for these as much as scoring and aren't heavily weighted against him...Rumors persist that Portland is going to trade him to the Knicks for fear that he'll end up an overpaid do-nothing like Kelly Tripucka. No way, not Vandeweghe. Such a comparison is stupid as Tripucka never ever was the scorer that Vandeweghe has been throughout his career. Vandeweghe fits into the Portland offense very well and shouldn't be traded by them for any other small forward in the league, except for Bird or Worthy.

Fourth Class

Walter Berry/Mike Mitchell (San Antonio Spurs): Berry must really be a jerk for so many people to not like someone with his ability. The Sporting News ran the following in August: "Walter Berry, who isn't in good stead with Spurs management, also isn't particularly popular with the public. He recently conducted a camp in San Antonio in which only four kids attended the first week." If this means that he's not going to be in San Antonio much longer, the Spurs better be sure to get a lot for him. Last year, Berry was a 60% free throw shooter. If he improves that to 75% and cuts his turnovers a little, he's an awesome scorer. Such improvements seem very possible. Larry Brown is getting paid a lot of money to coach the Spurs. Part of his job, I would think, is to see that Berry makes these improvements... Mike Mitchell, if healthy, could be a worthy sub, but shouldn't start on this team.

The above paragraph, as you might have guessed, was written before the Spurs traded Berry to New Jersey. They didn't get much for him, acquiring Dallas Comegys, who will block shots, but won't score. The fundamentals that Berry needed work in and I thought Brown would coach him in became an issue in the trade. Berry said that he wasn't a 'fundamental player' or something like that and Brown responded that Berry was fundamentally out of there.

Tom Chambers/Eddie Johnson (Phoenix Suns): With as pitifully as Chambers shot last year (45%), I was surprised that Chambers and Johnson had roughly equal floor %'s last year: .522 and .518, respectively. Johnson shot better from the floor and the free throw line and had fewer turnovers. Chambers outdid him in assists, but even that is distorted because Johnson had more assists per minute than Chambers. With all this true, how did their floor %'s end up equal? The answer is free throws. Though Johnson's free throw percentage was better, 85% to 81%, he didn't shoot as many free throws as Chambers, 240 to 519. This means that more of Chambers' possessions involved going to the free throw line, which is an essentially guaranteed scoring possession, in contrast to shooting from the field, which is more difficult. As an example, consider the two following situations of ten possessions each: 1) A player shoots 3 of 8 from the field (no offensive rebounds) and is fouled three times, once to complete a three point play and two other times sending him to the line for two shots. He makes 3 of 4. FG%= 37.5% FT%= 80% Scores on 5 of 10 possessions for 10 points 2) A player shoots 4 of 9 from the field (again no offensive rebounds) and is fouled once, sending him to the line for two shots, which he makes. FG%= 44% FT%= 100% Scores on 5 of 10 possessions for 10 points.

Player 2 had better shooting percentages than player 1, but they accomplished the same thing. As long as player 1's free throw percentage is better than player 2's field goal percentage, he's going to gain in efficiency by going to the line so much more often. Tom Chambers makes a good part of his living at the line. If he didn't he probably wouldn't be a starter. Adrian Dantley, Danny Schayes, Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan, and Moses Malone are others who make good use of the foul line. Mastering the art of drawing fouls is very valuable in the NBA, especially, as in Chamber's case, when shooting field goals doesn't come as easily...Which one is going to start for Phoenix? Chambers is the best guess. Young teams like Phoenix don't go out and sign older expensive free agents to sit them on the bench. Chambers will be looked at to start, score, and provide some leadership for a very young and up-and-coming team.

Rod Higgins (Golden State): Raise your hand if you've never heard of this guy or thought that he was somewhere in the CBA. Along with Danny Schayes, he's the biggest surprise I've found in looking through players. In terms of scoring efficiency, he was the best of this fourth class - by a large margin. He was also the best of the third class, beating out Vandeweghe and English, two of the best around. I double-checked it and triple-checked it. Rod Higgins' individual floor % was .595, an incredible number for a small forward. He only created about 15 points per game, but he didn't waste many shots getting those 15. He shot 52.6% from the floor, 84.8% from the line and went there fairly often, had 188 assists, and committed only 111 turnovers. It looks like Higgins should try to score more next year because Golden State has only one other good threat in Chris Mullin (Sampson has to prove himself). He had the top scoring game for the Warriors last season with 41 points once, so he can score a lot. With such amazing numbers, why didn't he get ranked higher? Because I've never seen him play (at least I don't remember seeing him play) and the press has never said much about him. There must be some weakness in his game that isn't completely obvious in his stats. He's not a great rebounder, but neither is Dantley, Worthy, or Vandeweghe. I know nothing about his defensive skills, so his rating is not based on them. If he makes more noise next year, his stock should go up...'88 wasn't a fluke. In '87, his floor % was .594. He has to be the most underrated player in the league...When he was still a bad player (before '86-87), Higgins played for a record four teams in the '85-86 season.

Roy Hinson (New Jersey Nets): Another power forward playing small forward because of the presence of a true power forward in Buck Williams...Hinson was born in New Jersey, grew up in New Jersey, went to college in New Jersey, and is finally playing pro ball in New Jersey. The trade from Philadelphia seemed to help him. His numbers before the trade were 45.2% from the field, 71.8% from the line, and 11.6 points per game. In New Jersey, he shot 50.2% and 80.6%, scoring 17.6 points per game. Was it a case of Home Sweet Home or just getting out of a bad situation? Hinson was banged up a little early in the season and he might have just taken it easy recovering. His blocked shots should help the Nets' defense, but offense is where they really need help. Hinson won't be of much value that way...New acquisition Walter Berry will help the offense, possibly enormously if he learns 'the fundamentals'.

Bernard King (Washington Bullets): It looked like the Knicks were going to hold on to him, then they released him to go with Kenny Walker. Walker isn't very good, but the new and not improved Bernard King isn't much better. Last year, King was better, but that should change soon. King has little hesitation to shoot, which helps some teams, but he has become quite careless with the ball after a two year layoff. His 211 turnovers were quite high for the number of times he had the ball. With Moses Malone fumbling the ball, too, all the Bullets needed was another klutz. At present, the fact that he shoots adequately is a reason for the Bullets to keep him. Jeff Malone shoots a helpful 47% and Terry Catledge shoots around 50%, but no one else on this team can even shoot halfway decently now that Moses has been given his pink slip.

Chuck Person (Indiana Pacers): Indiana offered Person and their #2 pick in the draft to Boston for Larry Bird. Boston said no...Speaking of Person and Bird, their rookie seasons were fairly similar, but Bird's was just better in every area. A better comparison may be Terry Cummings' rookie season, but Cummings shot considerably better from the field, 52% to 47%. The best comparison I could find was Xavier McDaniel's rookie season. McDaniel shot better from the floor, worse from the line, and committed more turnovers. Rebounds were about equal and Person had an edge in assists. They both fouled anything that moved, but that's not important. McDaniel hasn't developed into a very good scorer in his three years in the league and probably never will. Person may follow that pattern, but is actually a bit behind McDaniel at this stage in his career. He seems to score in single digits too much and his shot selection leaves something to be desired. It would probably be best for the Pacers if he let Wayman Tisdale and Reggie Miller handle more of the scoring next year...In retrospect, Person shouldn't have gotten Rookie of the Year Awards in '87; Daugherty or Harper of Cleveland would have been a better choice. But I didn't complain at the time and have no place arguing now.

Cliff Robinson (Philadelphia 76ers): He seems to represent the other side of the Sixers. When Barkley is sitting on the bench in foul trouble, Robinson becomes the number one option offensively. Barkley does everything with forceful action, leaving the opponents either scared or angry. Robinson just goes through the motions, intimidating people more with his bulk than anything else. He doesn't shoot very well, but can get into short streaks when he dominates. Every time I've seen him play, he's been in one of those streaks. He just doesn't get the ball enough when Barkley is in. His numbers don't suggest that he is much of a scorer, but the five teams he's been with have let him shoot. Four teams have gotten rid of him, too. If he were the type of player who drew fouls, he'd be a bit more valuable.

Fifth Class

Phil Hubbard/Mike Sanders (Cleveland Cavaliers): The Cavs may go to a starting forward lineup of Larry Nance and John Williams, which would make them another team with two power forwards...Hubbard's utility has about run out. He's older and isn't valuable for leadership on the young team. He may not make it to opening day. Sanders was surprisingly protected in the expansion draft over Dell Curry. He does have an OK jump shot and helps defensively, but it will be a surprise if he's protected in next year's expansion draft. He was a star in the CBA, but who isn't...Rookie Randolph Keys just signed a four year contract worth $4.2 million. For that kind of money, he'd better win this spot and be awesome doing it.

Harold Pressley/Ed Pinckney (Sacramento Kings): Both players came out of Villanova, Pinckney in '85, Pressley in '86. Both are about 6'8", 210 pounds. Both were born in the Bronx, N.Y., in 1963. Both have the Villanova philosophy of slowing the game and waiting for only smart shots ingrained in their souls. Neither will ever be called a mad bomber, though Pressley did shoot 110 three pointers last year. Both are essentially defensive players who don't appear to be legitimate starting small forwards. Of the two, Pinckney is probably more valuable. When they were in college, Pinckney was the star and Pressley was the supporting cast. Pinckney shot 60% in college and scored 14.5 points per game. Pressley shot 49% and scored 11.6 points per game. In the NBA, Pinckney has been an efficient scorer and Pressley has not. Pinckney's floor % last year was better than Pressley's, .544 to .483. I see no reason why Pressley got twice the minutes Pinckney did. I see very little reason to keep Pressley around. Pinckney isn't great, but his potential to score is a lot better than Pressley's. If the Kings can find a legitimate small forward to start, Pinckney would probably become very valuable off the bench, like a Dennis Rodman, perhaps.

Brad Sellers/Scottie Pippen (Chicago Bulls): Some draft maneuvers I really don't understand. The one that brought Pippen to Chicago was one of those. Seattle took Pippen with the fifth pick in the '87 draft fully intending to trade him to Chicago for their eighth pick of Olden Polynice, whom Chicago had only agreed to pick (sounds a little like surrogate motherhood). If Polynice had been taken before Chicago's pick, what would have happened? Seattle would have been stuck with a player it didn't particularly want and Chicago would have been looking for someone they could draft and trade to Seattle afterward. I don't see why the two teams just didn't trade draft positions. Obviously, the team with the lower position would have to throw in something extra to make the trade fair. Is there some NBA rule prohibiting such a trade on draft day?

This year, the Clippers and 76ers made some strange dealings on draft day involving Charles Smith and Hersey Hawkins. Everyone was saying before the draft that the Sixers were looking for a shooting guard, either Mitch Richmond or Hersey Hawkins. They had the third pick in the draft and, when their turn came, neither Richmond nor Hawkins were gone. So what did they do? They drafted Charles Smith, a power forward or small forward, depending on whom you ask, but a small forward next to Barkley in Philadelphia even though (this is stupid) Barkley is six inches shorter than Smith. Hawkins, who can be amazing with fade-away twenty footers as in the Auburn game in the NCAA tournament, was a certain lottery pick, needed by several teams, including New Jersey, which had the fourth pick. The Sixers must have been counting on the Nets being content with Dennis Hopson and the Warriors with the fifth pick being content with Chris Mullin and not taking Hawkins. New Jersey followed plans, but Golden State oddly went after Philly's other choice, Mitch Richmond. The Clippers then came up, took Hawkins, traded him to Philadelphia for Smith and everyone was happy. I guess everything worked out, but I'm waiting for someone to blow it in the next few years.

Both Pippen and Sellers have a very very long way to go to be superstars; such a long way, in actuality, that it's a good bet that neither will become a superstar. There is reason to believe that both will improve enough to hang around the league for a while, especially Sellers who is a seven-footer. Pippen is going to have to come back strong from back surgery and show that he can score well against NBA defenses. Otherwise, he's a real longshot.

Charles Smith (Los Angeles Clippers): The problems with evaluating college players are numerous. First, scouts can't really see players enough to know their abilities. They may see players during hot streaks or cold streaks that don't truly indicate their value. If they do see certain players a lot and not others, there may be a tendency to become wrongly biased against or toward those players most well known. This would result in selecting players in the draft who are unfamiliar to a scout or selecting players who got on his good side because they were like 'the home team'. Second, it is sometimes difficult to accurately gauge the quality of competition a player faces in college. Certain conferences are defensive conferences and certain conferences just love offense. These distinctions can distort an individual's statistics, making him look better or worse than he actually is. Third, the All-Star games held for top college players tend to show off certain types of players who may not function well in some offenses, but become stars in other offenses. Fourth, the psychology of twenty-two year old kids staring at hundreds of thousands of dollars is very uncertain. Some can handle it and some just freak out. You'd think that scouts could get to know a player's personality well enough to make good guesses at whether he could handle NBA life. Obviously, they can't - at least not every time.

The Clippers seemingly drafted three very good players in Smith, Danny Manning, and Gary Grant. How well they will do is probably best known by the players themselves. They've all played with some pros before; those pros might have a good idea. My only idea is to presume they're going to be bad and let them surprise me.

Kenny Walker (New York Knicks): He shouldn't be rating low much longer. His rookie season was pretty good, but suffered from the sophomore jinx last year. This coming season should tell the story of how far he's going to go. A big jump forward means he'll be a valuable player as New York marches toward a Championship. No improvement means he'll likely become either a journeyman or dead wood holding the Knicks back.

Others

Charlotte Hornets: Presumably this is Kelly Tripucka's job. He got booed out of both Detroit and Utah and it should be interesting to see how Charlotte receives him. He should lead the team in scoring until the team acquires a great college player or until Chapman develops. When the Mavericks started up in 1980, they didn't have anyone who liked to score as much as Tripucka and ended up with their leading scorer Jim Spanarkel scoring only 14.4 points per game. Dallas fans no longer care who was on that original team (except for Brad Davis), making you wonder how long the names of Tripucka, Curry, Bogues, Green, Toney, Brooks, Lewis, Hoppen, Holton, and Wheeler will matter to the fans of Charlotte. And what about college draft picks Chapman, Tom Tolbert, and Jeff Moore? Dallas' first college pick was Kiki Vandeweghe, but he never played for them.

Miami Heat: Billy Thompson? Is he healed? Grant Long? Arvid Kramer? Sylvester Gray? Orlando Graham? Nate Johnson? Who are these guys? Overgrown members of the Mickey Mouse Club? Or...what about that TV show Head of the Class? Isn't there an Arvid on that show? With this cast of characters, the Heat will be about as successful as whatever show is competing against The Cosby Show.

            Per 48 minutes      Scoring
Player      AST REB   BLK  FG% PPG Poss   Floor % 
L. Bird     7.6 11.4 0.92 .527 29.9 1061  .584

A. Dantley  3.8  5.1 0.22 .514 20.0  665  .626
D. Wilkins  3.6  8.2 0.77 .464 30.7 1074  .542
J. Worthy   5.2  6.8 0.99 .531 19.7  706  .570

M. Aguirre  5.1  8.0 1.05 .475 25.1  899  .548
T. Bailey   2.7  9.1 2.14 .492 19.6  703  .522
T. Cummings 3.3 10.1 0.84 .485 21.3  722  .508
A. English  6.4  6.4 0.39 .495 25.0  969  .549
R. McCray   4.7 11.3 0.91 .481 12.4  534  .565
X. McDaniel 4.7  9.2 0.92 .488 21.4  783  .522
D. McKey    3.0  9.2 1.77 .491  8.5  327  .533
Vandeweghe  3.3  5.0 0.32 .508 20.2  326  .526

W. Berry    2.7  9.9 1.57 .563 17.4  555  .534
M. Mitchell 2.2  6.3 0.42 .482 13.5  397  .546
T. Chambers 3.8  8.8 0.95 .448 20.4  771  .522
E. Johnson  4.0  7.0 0.20 .480 17.7  579  .518
R. Higgins  4.1  6.4 0.68 .526 15.5  512  .595
R. Hinson   1.8  9.6 2.59 .487 15.3  534  .515
B. King     4.5  6.6 0.23 .501 17.2  577  .519
C. Person   5.3  9.2 0.14 .459 17.0  646  .479
C. Robinson 3.0  9.2 0.89 .464 19.0  537  .498

P. Hubbard  2.4  8.3 0.21 .489  8.4  305  .505
M. Sanders  3.0  5.9 0.49 .505  6.2  169  .518
H. Pressley 4.4  8.7 1.30 .453  9.7  371  .483
E. Pinckney 2.7  9.4 1.31 .522  6.2  231  .544
B. Sellers  3.1  5.4 1.43 .457  9.5  368  .464
S. Pippen   4.9  8.7 1.51 .463  7.9  318  .437
K. Walker   1.9  8.7 1.32 .473 10.1  371  .521

Basketball Hoopla, 1988, L. Dean Oliver