- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 28, 2000

The Washington Wizards had two players on last year's roster selected with the 35th pick in the draft which is where they will select at tonight's NBA Draft in Minneapolis who played completely different roles.

Center Calvin Booth was selected in 1999 at No. 35 and barely contributed at all. Booth spent almost the entire season on the injured list before finally being activated in the last three weeks of the season.

But with the 35th pick tonight the Wizards hope to land a player similar to starting power forward Michael Smith, who was drafted by Sacramento in 1994. Smith was the Wizards' starting power forward for most of the season before an elbow injury prematurely ended his season. He was the heart and soul of the team if a team with a 29-53 record can be said to have had either and its best rebounder.

However, the 1994 draft produced such players as Grant Hill, Jason Kidd, Jalen Rose and Eddie Jones at the top, therefore allowing some quality players to slip further into the pack. But this year's draft is quite different. A lot of players are projected to be good players down the road, not any time soon. Many of the lottery picks taken this year will be drafted because of what they could become. There are no stars here, no Tim Duncans, which means the later picks will have more question marks than usual.

Is it possible that the Wizards still could cull a quality player at No. 35?

"It's possible, but it's not likely," said Marty Blake, NBA Director of Scouting Services. "This is what I would call a developmental draft. You have an awful lot of fine players in this draft but there's not Tim Duncan. You might get an Elton Brand."

What does this mean for the Wizards?

"That there's going to be a whole lot of luck involved in them getting the right guy," Blake said.

Some teams have found the right guy in the second round. In 1998, the Houston Rockets selected guard Cuttino Mobley out of Rhode Island with the 41st pick in the draft, two picks ahead of Wizards center Jahidi White. This year Mobley was one of the top reserves in the league. In 1996, Charlotte drafted forward Malik Rose out of Drexel with the 44th pick, and Rose has been a key contributor at San Antonio for the last three seasons. In that same draft, Utah selected Shandon Anderson out of Georgia. And one year earlier, Philadelphia's starting point guard, Eric Snow, was drafted at No. 43.

"It can happen," Seattle general manager Wally Walker said. "But that late in the draft there are no guarantees. You know what you are getting for the most part, you just don't know if you have helped yourself with guys."

Michael Jordan, who will be orchestrating his first draft as the Wizards' president of basketball operations, said it is not reasonable to expect to find an outstanding player that late in the draft.

"We'll just have to see if something slips through the cracks," Jordan said. "We might find a steal. We could get lucky."

The Wizards are not likely to be involved in any type of major trade today, mostly because they are way over the salary cap. With the luxury tax which will force teams to pay dollar-for-dollar the amount they are over the salary cap teams are looking to cut high-end salaries before the tax is enacted in the 2001-02 season.

"We're looking at the 35th pick," Jordan said.

The Wizards would like to find a small forward who can slash to the basket, something they did not have last season. They have not ruled out the possibility that they might take one of the big men that might still be around when they pick, and they also have talked about drafting a point guard.

The Wizards most likely will select Auburn forward Chris Porter if he is still available at No. 35. Porter, had he come out last year, might have been a lottery pick. But he was suspended for contact with an agent and missed the final three weeks of the season and did not play in the postseason.

The Wizards also have looked closely at St. John's forward Lavor Postell, Temple point guard Pepe Sanchez, Kentucky center Jamaal Magloire, and Indiana guard A.J. Guyton.

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