- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Whether Michael Jordan plays this season or returns to his job in the Washington Wizards' front office, the team still needs a small forward for the future.

And when the Wizards make their selection with the 11th pick in tomorrow's NBA Draft, barring a trade in the coming days they hope to fill that position with a player who can contribute immediately.

"Small forward is the place we need the most help," coach Doug Collins said. "Small forward and point guard. But if you pressed me I'd have to say small forward. We're moving ahead as if Michael is not going to play, because that is what he's instructed me to do."

Last year the Wizards were the center of trade talks before they settled on selecting high school forward Kwame Brown with the first overall pick. This year there isn't as much intrigue surrounding their pick, but there are some intriguing prospects in this draft.

"I think that this draft is deeper than last year's; it's a pretty good draft," Wizards general manager Wes Unseld said during a break from working the phones. "We're going to look to help ourselves with that pick. If a good deal presents itself, then we'll go that way, too."

Don't look for the Wizards to be in too much of a rush to make any significant moves. The draft is a priority, but their long-term goal is to clear up precious salary cap space for free agents, and the Wizards are hoping to be a major player after the upcoming season.

What they will do tomorrow is pretty much determined by the makeup of their roster.

The Wizards have two undersized but steady point guards in Chris Whitney and Tyronn Lue. However, even if Jordan does return this year he could be the only small forward on the roster. The Wizards have yet to decide what they will do with free agent Tyrone Nesby, a player whom they like but also one whom they will not extend themselves to resign.

"Looking at their roster, what they have, I'd say that they'll be looking to get a guy who can slash and create his own shot," one Eastern Conference general manager said. "They don't know, at least they say they don't know, what Michael is going to do, even though I think he's going to play. But let's face it; this is going to be Michael's swan song if he does play. They need a guy who can make them more athletic in the frontcourt.

The guy who appears to be capable of making that happen is Connecticut's Caron Butler, a player who in all likelihood will be long off the board when the Wizards make their pick. At 6-foot-7, 235 pounds, Butler is not as tall as the typical NBA small forward, but he has a man's body, exceptional quickness and a sweet shooting touch.

"He doesn't have any real weakness in his game that should limit him from coming in and making an impact right away," said Miami Heat president and general manager Randy Pfund.

The other small forward of their dreams, Duke's Mike Dunleavy, also is projected to be gone.

Unless they can trade up into the top five, both players will be unavailable. More realistically, the best available players could be Indiana's Jared Jeffries and junior college standout Qyntel Woods.

Both have been in for workouts in fact they worked out together and the Wizards invited Woods back for a second look yesterday.

The 6-10, 215-pound Jeffries led the surprising Hoosiers to the NCAA final, where they lost to Maryland. He was named the Big Ten's Most Valuable Player last season as a sophomore, and also earned Second Team All-America after averaging 15 points and 7.6 rebounds.

Jeffries is considered a bright, coachable player. But his frail body reminds many scouts of the guy who got sand kicked in his face at the beach.

Woods is a bit of an enigma in that for the most part scouts are the only ones who have seen him play as he has bounced around the junior college circuit.

As a redshirt freshman at Moberly Area (Mo.) Community College, Woods averaged 23.4 points and 8.3 rebounds. However, he transferred after the season and played last year at Northeast Mississippi CC. There he was even more spectacular. With the handle and jump shot of a guard, Woods, whom some have gone as far to compare to Tracy McGrady, averaged 32.3 points, 10 rebounds and two steals while playing just more than 31 minutes a game.

The big knock on Woods, however, has been the inconsistency of his workouts, which probably explains why the Wizards brought him in for a second look yesterday.

If both Jeffries and Woods are gone, look for the Wizards to consider using the pick on Fresno forward Chris Jefferies or a point guard, namely Frank Williams (Illinois) or Dan Dickau (Gonzaga).

The Wizards have not ruled out trading the pick entirely.


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