Winners and Losers
While the cheers from the crowd at the June 26 NBA draft in Madison Square Garden still echo in his memory, UNLV star Greg Anthony—he of the charming smile, the quick wit and the politician's rap—would be wise to consider the lessons of recent history. Four years ago, thousands of New York Knick fans cheered and stomped just as wildly for another young and confident point guard as they did last week for Anthony, whom the Knicks nabbed with the 12th pick. Today, Mark Jackson, the onetime darling of the fans and the 1988 Rookie of the Year, is little more than trade bait.
Nevertheless, Anthony is one of the winners in SI's assessment of the 1991 draft. Here are others, along with some losers.
WINNER—Kenny Anderson of Georgia Tech, chosen No. 2, by the Nets. The flashy point guard would have fit in with either New Jersey or Sacramento, but he's better off close to his New York City roots. Anderson plans to buy a house in New Jersey for his mother, Joan, and says that if he gets out of line, "she can smack me around a little bit." The same can be said, Kenny, of your hard-nosed coach, Bill Fitch.
LOSER—Billy Owens, chosen No. 3, by the Kings. The versatile All-America forward from Syracuse did a fairly good job of disguising his displeasure after being selected by Sacramento (yes, Owens looked as if he were going to the dentist, but only for a filling, not a root canal). Owens had wanted to be reunited in New Jersey with former Syracuse teammate Derrick Coleman; now he faces a more uncertain future with the Kings, whose best player, second-year man Lionel Simmons, is also a small forward.
WINNER—Mark Macon, picked No. 8, by the Nuggets. Think back to last year: Macon, the Temple shooting guard, had, by some accounts, fallen out of the first round because of inconsistent play. Now, having redeemed himself in the '91 NCAA tournament, he's a lottery pick and will probably get a chance to start immediately in the backcourt with Chris Jackson.
LOSER—Stanley Roberts, No. 23, by the Magic. Look at the No. 7 pick, 7'2" center Luc Longley, who was chosen by the Timberwolves. That could've been you, Stanley, if you hadn't let your weight balloon to more than 300 pounds after returning from Spain in May. The NBA is increasingly intolerant of overweight, out-of-shape players, even ones with talent.
WINNER—Jerry Tarkanian, the UNLV coach. In one week, Tark got to publicly blast his nemesis, the NCAA, in a U.S. House subcommittee hearing, then showed up at the draft to hug and mug with his three Runnin' Rebel first-round picks: Larry Johnson (No. 1), who went to the Hornets; Stacey Augmon (No. 9), to the Hawks; and Anthony. One question, Tark: With that kind of talent—plus UNLV center George Ackles, who was chosen early in the second round by the Heat—why didn't you beat Duke?
LOSER—Don Nelson, the Warrior coach. Nellie was unable to use the team's three first-round picks to trade up and snare Longley, the player he wanted. The Warriors would have chosen Roberts had his predraft workout in Oakland not been a joke. (Roberts made calls from a cellular phone while he worked out.) Instead, they landed two 6'10" players, Chris Gatling of Old Dominion and Shaun Vandiver of Colorado; they also got 6'9" Victor Alexander of Iowa State. The Warriors still want to deal for a center, but they will have to part with shooting guard Mitch Richmond to get a player of significance.
WINNER—Guard Terrell Brandon of Oregon, chosen No. 11, by the Cavaliers. Sitting together at the draft, Brandon and Anthony conferred after Arizona power forward Brian Williams was picked No. 10, by the Magic. "I'd like to go next to the Cavs," said Brandon. To which Anthony added, "And I'd like to be there for the Knicks." And that's exactly what happened. A New York audience is perfect for the bold and brassy Anthony, while the quieter Brandon, who had bought a Cavalier cap weeks ago because he so respected coach Lenny Wilkens, said he would be happiest in Cleveland, even if he will be sitting behind Mark Price.