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BULLS MAKE BRAND NO. 1; CHICAGO BEGINS REBUILDING.

Byline: Howard Beck Staff Writer

Safe to say, no one is selling Elton Brand short any longer.

The inch-count debate on Duke's talented power forward was settled at the NBA predraft camp last month, and when the yardstick jury rested - declaring him a healthy 6-foot-8, not 6-6 - Elton was branded a legitimate top prospect.

All that was left was for the rebuilding Chicago Bulls to do the rest, drafting Brand with the first selection in Wednesday's draft.

After all the intrigue surrounding the Bulls' first-ever No. 1 pick - Trade it? Gamble on Lamar Odom? Grab Steve Francis? - they settled on the best available big man.

``We considered trade offers in several directions,'' said Bulls general manager Jerry Krause. ``What we didn't want to do is get in a situation where we lost Elton. He's got the makeup and physical ability to be a building block for this team.''

Brand, 20, the first Duke grad selected first overall, averaged 16.2 points and 9.8 rebounds last season, leading the Blue Devils to the NCAA championship game.

``I didn't know where I was going to fit in this draft. I did want to be the No. 1 pick,'' he said. ``I feel I am the best player and I can improve a lot. I think I can be the cornerstone in their rebuilding.''

And he comes without the question marks hovering over Odom, the Rhode Island sophomore widely considered the best talent in the draft. Odom could have been the top pick but his unavailability for workouts and last-minute waffling on entering the draft caused him to slip to No. 4, where the Clippers, denied a chance to draft Davis, leapt at him.

A relatively weak draft made for an immense amount of trade speculation, but most of the deals made were minor ones, the top nine drafting teams kept their picks and proceeded in a semipredictable fashion, with no real surprises.

And while the festivities started with a big man, the draft will probably be remembered for its class of point guards. The fab five were all drafted in the top 14 - Maryland's Steve Francis by Vancouver at No. 2, UCLA's Baron Davis by Charlotte at No. 3, Utah's Andre Miller by Cleveland at No. 8, Arizona's Jason Terry by Atlanta at No. 10 and Duke's William Avery by Minnesota at No. 14.

The selection of Avery made history. Duke became the first school to have four players selected in the first round - Avery, Brand, Trajan Langdon (11th, Cleveland) and Corey Maggette (13th, Seattle).

The Sonics later shipped Maggette to Orlando in a multiplayer deal to get Horace Grant. The Magic also gave up two future second-round picks and will also get Sonics Dale Ellis, Billy Owens and Don MacLean.

Much of the draft action portended other moves to come.

At No. 5, Toronto drafted Jonathan Bender, a 6-11 project from Picayune Memorial High School in Mississippi. But they are reportedly sending him to Indiana for Antonio Davis in anticipation of losing Charles Oakley to free agency.

Minnesota took shooting ace Wally Szczerbiak, the first senior taken, with the No. 5 selection and can pair him with Kevin Garnett to form one of the more talented young tandems in the league. The Timberwolves selected again at 14, taking Avery as insurance against the departure of Terrell Brandon, a free agent.

Washington, worried that Mitch Richmond might leave via free agency, drafted national champion UConn's hero, Richard ``Rip''' Hamilton, at No. 7.

And the Atlanta Hawks, who shipped Mookie Blaylock to Golden State for the No. 10 pick, used the selection to replace him with Terry.

Shawn Marion, a 6-7 forward from UNLV, went ninth overall to the Phoenix Suns, who acquired the pick from Dallas a year ago in the Steve Nash trade.

The glum face of the night belonged to Francis, the draft's top-rated point guard. Taken by the Grizzlies, he buried his face in his hands. Francis could be converted to shooting guard to play alongside Mike Bibby, drafted at No. 2 last year.

``Hopefully, when I wake up tomorrow, I'll be happy,'' said Francis, who has never been to Canada. ``I feel relieved now more than happy.''

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

NBA DRAFT: FIRST ROUND SELECTIONS

MCI Center, Washington D.C.

Pick/Team Player Position School/Country

1. Chicago Elton Brand Forward Duke

2. Vancouver Steve Francis Guard Maryland

3. Charlotte Baron Davis Guard UCLA

4. Clippers Lamar Odom Forward Rhode Island

5. Toronto Jonathan Bender Forward Picayune (Miss.) High

6. Minnesota Wally Szczerbiak Forward Miami (Ohio)

7. Washington Richard Hamilton G-F Connecticut

8. Cleveland Andre Miller Guard Utah

9. Phoenix Shawn Marion Forward UNLV

10. Atlanta Jason Terry Guard Arizona

11. Cleveland Trajan Langdon Guard Duke

12. Toronto Aleksandar Radojevic Center Barton County (Kan.) CC

13. Seattle Corey Maggette Forward Duke

14. Minnesota William Avery Guard Duke

15. New York Frederic Weis Center Limoges (France)

16. Chicago Ron Artest G-F St. John's

17. Atlanta Cal Bowdler Forward Old Dominion

18. Denver James Posey G-F Xavier

19. Utah Quincy LewisForward Minnesota

20. Atlanta Dion Glover Guard Georgia Tech

21. Golden State Jeff Foster F-C Southwest Texas State

22. Houston Kenny Thomas Forward New Mexico

23. Lakers Devean George Forward Augsburg (Minn.)

24. Utah Andrei Kirilenko Forward CSKA (Russia)

25. Miami Tim James Forward Miami

26. Indiana Vonteego Cummings Guard Pittsburgh

27. Atlanta Jumaine Jones Forward Georgia

28. Utah Scott Padgett Forward Kentucky

29. San Antonio Leon Smith Forward ML King High (Chicago)

TRADES

ATLANTA HAWKS - Traded the draft rights to F Jumaine Jones (No. 27) to Philadelphia in exchange for a future first-round pick. Traded the draft rights to F-G Roberto Bergersen (No. 52) to Portland for cash.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS - Traded the draft rights to F-C Jeff Foster (No. 21) to Indiana for the draft rights to G Vonteego Cummings (No. 26) and a future first-round pick.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES - Traded the draft rights to G Louis Bullock (No. 42) to Orlando for cash.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS - Traded the draft rights to F Leon Smith (No. 29) to Dallas for the draft rights to G Gordon Giricek (No. 40) and a future second-round pick.

SEATTLE SUPERSONICS - Traded the draft rights to F Corey Maggette (No. 13) and F Billy Owens, G Dale Ellis and F Don MacLean to Orlando for F Horace Grant and two future second-round picks.

CAPTION(S):

3 Photos, Box

PHOTO THREE FOR THE SHOW: Top three picks in the NBA Draft:

(1--Color) Elton Brand

School: Duke

Position: Forward

Selection: No. 1 (Chicago)

(2--Color) Steve Francis

School: Maryland

Position: Guard

Selection: No. 2 (Vancouver)

(3--Color) Baron Davis

School: UCLA

Position: Guard

Selection: No. 3 (Charlotte)

BOX: NBA DRAFT: FIRST ROUND SELECTIONS (see text)
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 1, 1999
Words:1122
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