A LITTLE R AND R
Until recently, among the most lopsided trades of the year seemed to be the one made by the Nets on Nov. 3, when they dealt point guard Mookie Blaylock and forward Roy Hinson to the Hawks in exchange for guard Rumeal Robinson. While Blaylock has enjoyed a steady season as the Atlanta quarterback (the injured Hinson was a throw-in), Robinson—shooting a woeful .374 from the field—was buried deep on New Jersey coach Chuck Daly's bench, behind starter Kenny Anderson and veteran Maurice Checks, who was signed on Jan. 7 to be a calming influence in reserve. Then when Anderson went down for the season with a broken bone in his left wrist on Feb. 28, the starting nod went to fourth-stringer Tate George, not Robinson. When George played poorly in a loss to the Bulls on March 2, however, Daly finally turned to Robinson. At least Daly could count on Robinson for competitiveness, tough-mindedness and a little muscular defense.
But Daly has gotten much, much more than that. With Robinson at the helm New Jersey won eight of nine games through last week, including one of the season's true shockers, a 124-93 rout of the Suns in Phoenix on March 13. During the run Robinson averaged 16.0 points and 8.3 assists while shooting .483 from the floor, and, just as important, his teammates seemed to accept him as their leader. He's not as good off the pick-and-roll as Anderson is (few guards are), but he is a fearless penetrator who, like Anderson, can get the ball up the floor quickly. And at a solid 6'2" and 200 pounds—Daly has coined a new term for Robinson, whom he calls a "power point guard"—Robinson won't be posted up by opponents as was the slight-as-a-feather Anderson.
"We'd love to say it was the coaching," says Net assistant Brendan Suhr of Robinson's emergence, "but, the fact is, we're as surprised as anyone. Rumeal deserves all the credit. He's come into an uncertain situation and made something out of it."
RANKING THE DRAFTERS
It's the time of year when thoughts turn to the college draft and to LaRue Martin. Martin, you may recall, is probably the biggest dud in NBA history, a 6'11" center whom the Trail Blazers made the first pick of the 1972 draft (Bob McAdoo was the No. 2 choice). LaRue stayed around Portland for four seasons, largely because the Blazers didn't want to admit they had made such a monumental mistake.
In our book Martin is ancient history. Mel Turpin and Bill Garnett are not. They were among the lead balloons who, like Morton Downey Jr., crashed to earth in the 1980s. Here is SI's analysis of the 11 drafts between '80 and '90; it's too early to judge the '91 and '92 drafts or rank the four recent expansion teams.
It was spadework done by the Mavericks' personnel department that led to our analysis. In an effort to show that all teams—not just the Mavs—have made big draft blunders, general manager Norm Sonju recently asked his staff to compile a "could've list," which it gave to SI. For example, in 1985, when the Hawks picked fifth in the first round, they could have selected Chris Mullin, Detlef Schrempf, Karl Malone or Joe Dumars, but they didn't. They chose Jon Koncak.
We created the following point system:
•-10 for a bust, someone who had virtually no NBA career, drafted in the top 10;
•-5 for a near bust picked in the lop 10;
•-3 for a bust not picked in the top 10;
•-2 for passing on an eventual All-Star if the player the team picked turned out not to be as good;
•-1 for passing on a player who became a solid pro for one not so solid;
•+10 for picking a future All-Star after the first round;
•+3 for drafting a future All-Star after the top 10;
•+1 for drafting a future solid pro alter the first round.
To see the system at work, take the Nuggets' selection, at No. 16, in the 1986 draft. Their choosing of Maurice Martin, a bust, counts -3. In his stead they could've had Mark Price (-2), Dennis Rodman (-2) or Scott Skiles (-1). That's a net of -8. Also, a team does not get bonus points if a perspicacious selection blossomed on another team. So the Mavs do not receive +10 for drafting second-rounder Price, because they immediately dealt him to the Cavaliers.
Surprisingly, the winners—losers?—(chart, right) are the two-time defending champion Bulls, who scored -50, worse than the Nuggets (-49), Kings (-47), Clippers (-46) and Mavs (-45).
How did Chicago do it? Among their big losers were top 10 near-busts Quintin Dailey (1982) and Brad Sellers ('86). Among the players they passed over were Ricky Pierce in '82; Malone, Dumars and Terry Porter in '85; and John Salley, Price and Dennis Rodman in '86.
The deftest drafters? The Pistons, who tallied a +4, the only positive score among the teams. Like 11 other teams, Detroit could've had Clyde Drexler ('83). But the Pistons have had no other major screwups and got a +10 for the second-round selection of Rodman ('86).
We found out one thing about the SI polices this week—they're not a bunch of wild-eyed gamblers. Before the start of the 1993 NCAA basketball tournament they were asked to select the eventual national champion; 15 of the 16 voters named a No. 1-seeded team. Only Seattle's Eddie Johnson, who chose second-round loser Seton Hall, the No. 2 seed in the Southeast, failed to name one of the No. 1 seeds, Indiana (Midwest), Kentucky (Southeast), Michigan (West) or North Carolina (East). Let's hope Johnson didn't enter the office pool; the Pirates were stunned 72-68 last Saturday by seventh-seeded Western Kentucky and thus were eliminated from the tournament.
The only voter with the chance to be a homer, the Nets' Sam Bowie, a Kentucky alumnus, did exactly that, choosing the Wildcats, who beat Rider and Utah in the first two rounds. Four others also picked Kentucky—the Bullets' Michael Adams, the Pacers' Reggie Miller, the Knicks' Doc Rivers and the Kings' Wayman Tisdale. Said Adams: " 'I like [Wildcat coach Rick] Pitino's style, having three-pointers and a [Jamal] Mashburn inside."
Indiana, which reached the regional semifinals with wins over Wright State and Xavier, also collected five votes—from the Warriors' Tim Hardaway, the Nuggets' Scott Hastings, the Celtics' Xavier McDaniel, Malone and Drexler.
Michigan, which defeated Coastal Carolina and UCLA en route to the regional semifinals, drew the votes of the Bucks' Danny Schayes, the Hawks' Dominique Wilkins and Dumars, who claimed he was not merely giving the nod to his home-state Wolverines. "Now they've got the experience and the best talent." he said. "They've also got the hunger."
North Carolina, which reached the Sweet 16 for the 13th straight year with impressive victories over East Carolina and Rhode Island, got the final two votes. "The Tar Heels have the depth," said the Mavs' Derek Harper, "and [coach] Dean Smith will find a wav." We'll see.
Now that he is getting a chance with red-hot New Jersey, Robinson is making his point.
KLEINE: PETER READ MILLER
Kleine: Royal pain.
BOWIE: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH
Bowie: Air sickness.
SELLERS: BILL SMITH
Sellers: At what Price?