There's simply no figuring these teams.
Who knows if the NEW YORK KNICKS will ever trot out a frontcourt of Patrick Ewing, Bill Cartwright and Bernard King, who recently added six weeks to his already uncertain recovery by stepping in a hole while jogging. And in a hole the Knicks will continue to be if Cartwright's ailing feet make him nothing except a $1 million per year Medical Bill. But put Ewing and Cartwright together, and the Knicks have to be a better team—even with all those bricklayers in their backcourt—than the one that had a league-trailing 23-59 record last year.
Player to watch: Kenny Walker. Everybody talked about what he can't do. Now, watch what he can do—score inside, rebound, run the floor, play defense.
That unknown masked man pulling strings for the CLEVELAND CAVALIERS on draft day turned out to be Wayne Embry, whose general managership was officially announced a few days later. He definitely improved the Cavs in the draft, landing the 7-foot Daugherty at No. 1 and swing-man Ron Harper at No. 8.
But don't be too quick with the optimism. The Cavs were supposed to be one of the NBA's coming teams last year, and their season turned into a 29-53 disaster that led to the firing of coach Karl. New coach Lenny Wilkens will no doubt help improve the three-guard tandem of John Bagley, Dirk Minniefield and rookie Mark Price, but the Cavs won't be any better unless inside players like John (Hot Rod) Williams, Mel Turpin and Keith Lee do the job.
Player to watch: Daugherty. On draft day, New York fans serenaded him with a taunting chorus of "soft, soft, soft," in reference to his reputation as a quiche eater under the boards.
Washington, Portland, New Jersey
These three teams changed their look—but did they change their essence?
"This was Moses's team from the moment he stepped on the court," said guard Leon Wood of the trade that brought the redoubtable Moses Malone to the WASHINGTON BULLETS. And even with another Malone around—silky-smooth Jeff, who came into his own at shooting guard last year—the offense will indeed revolve around Moses. His mere presence makes the Bullets a contender, but there are mitigating factors. He'll be 32 by playoff time; he's coming off a frightening eye injury; and his field goal percentage has declined in each of the last five seasons. Moreover ex-Mav Jay Vincent, who could take some pressure off Moses, is on the shelf until at least January after undergoing hand surgery.
Player to watch: Terry Catledge. A hard guy with a soft touch.