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West Gives Rookies High Ratings

December 25, 1991|THOMAS BONK

How good is Dikembe Mutombo?

"Awfully, awfully good," said Laker General Manager Jerry West, who rates this season's crop of NBA rookies as one of the most talented in years.

West cautioned that it takes three years for rookies to be judged accurately, but he offered an optimistic assessment of this season's first-year players.

"These guys have had more of an impact simply because some of these kids are playing better than some of the other recent drafts," said West, regarded as one of the best judges of talent in the NBA. "This looks like a real good draft, and I think these teams are going to benefit from it for a while.

"You watch them play at this stage of their careers and you just wonder what they're going to be like when they get a little experience. They're going to be terrific players. They're already good."

On Mutombo: "He's just a terrific player. I think the way he plays, his enthusiasm, is fabulous. For a team like Denver, which needed a player like him, obviously it's an even bigger plus for them."

On 6-7 Steve Smith of Miami: "I thought he was a player going into the draft who was really, really good. I liked him a lot and I've seen nothing to change my mind. I think he can play anywhere on the court."

On 6-7 Larry Johnson of Charlotte: "He was good when he came in, and he's going to be good when he leaves, period."

On 6-10 Doug Smith of Dallas: "He looks to me like he's going to be a real, real good scorer in this league. He's big, quick and very active."

On 6-9 Billy Owens of Golden State: "This guy is going to be brought along the right way, and then he's really going to take off. He's finding out he can score, and he's going to have more and more of an impact once he gains more confidence."

The biggest disappointment? Point guard Kenny Anderson, drafted No. 2 by the New Jersey Nets.

"The only one who has not relaxed himself and played with confidence like you would expect when he does get a chance is Kenny Anderson," West said.

"An awful lot of it is because, to me, the hardest position to play is the guard. He has to make the decisions for everybody. And in this league, your very best athletes are back there, and he is not a real strong kid physically. Also, that's the place you can work hard and not get anything done."

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