Unlike most young off-guards, the Lakers' Peeler, the No. 15 pick, knows the difference between a good shot and a bad one, as his .490 shooting percentage shows. He also has excellent range, as evidenced by his .372 conversion rate on three-pointers. As soon as Los Angeles general manager Jerry West, the NBA's shrewdest judge of talent, picked Peeler, thereby ignoring a checkered past that included a conviction on a felony weapons charge, we should've known that Peeler was a major talent.
So is Houston's 6'9" Horry, the 11th pick, who has started at small forward since day one. He is a scorer (10.6 points per game), a rebounder (5.4) and, especially, a shot blocker (45 in 34 games), and with some work on his ball handling he could be another Scottie Pippen. Like Gugliotta, Horry was roundly booed by the home fans when his selection was announced at the draft back on June 24—Bullet fans wanted Williams, who attended nearby Maryland, while Rocket watchers preferred Miner—but Horry has proved to be an ideal fit. In more ways than one. Like the H in Hakeem, the H in Horry is silent. Perfect.
Below this sextet of future All-Stars is a trio headed by Ellis, who says of himself, "I feel I'm a great talent. I run the floor very well. I can score. I rebound." And someday he'll become the player he already thinks he is, right, Jack? Put Weatherspoon next to him in that solid-pro category, and don't worry about Spoon's feeling pressure from the inevitable comparisons with Barkley. Besides, Weather-spoon barely opens his mouth. One thing he has said, however, makes a lot of sense: "If I'm not the next Barkley, I don't want to be considered a failure." The other solid pro is power forward Avent, who played last season in Italy after being selected 15th by the Atlanta Hawks in the 1991 draft. (He ended up in Milwaukee as part of a three-way deal involving the Bucks, the Hawks and the Nuggets.) He is Milwaukee's top re-bounder, at 6.1 a game.
Heading the intriguing "maybes" are Daniels, the personal reclamation project of deposed coach Jerry Tarkanian, and Miller, a Big O if there ever was one. Daniels, whose role has diminished under new-coach John Lucas, remains 10th among rookies in scoring (11.5 points per game). But he has come so far so fast (SI, July 8, 1991) that it would be ridiculous to classify him as anything but a question mark.
As for Miller, who spent two weeks on the injured list in December partly because his 300-pound bulk was causing him a variety of aches and pains, he must overcome recent NBA history that says fat is not where it's at. (Pick your example—Benoit Benjamin, Mel Turpin or John [Hot Plate] Williams.) "It's a lot easier to get a player into shape than teach him how to play basketball," says Phoenix coach Paul Westphal. We'll see.
And we'll see about Atlanta power forward-center Adam Keefe (No. 10), who has yet to find his niche but is most assuredly better than Greg Butler, another big frontcourtman out of Stanford. And about the Portland Trailblazers' long-range bomber Tracy Murray (No. 18), who has already shown he can start in a pinch for the NBA's most-talent-laden team. And about the Nuggets' Bryant Stith (No. 13), whose promising start at shooting guard was curtailed by a broken right foot. And about Davis (No. 20), a guard who has continued to draw praise, but not heavy minutes, from Riley.
Still, above them all is Shaquille, who through Sunday was averaging 22.8 points (10th in the league), 15.0 rebounds (second) and 4.00 blocks (third). Here's something for you future rookies to ponder. Shaq's brother, Jamal, a 12-year-old junior high phenom in San Antonio, is, according to his father, Philip, "bigger and better than Shaquille was at that age." Let's see, give Jamal a couple of years in college before applying for early entry into the NBA draft, and that means 2001 won't be a very good year to be a rookie.