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Ranking the Top 25 Players in Washington Wizards History

Jack OwensCorrespondent IAugust 9, 2013

Ranking the Top 25 Players in Washington Wizards History

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    For a franchise that has undergone a number of changes since its 1961 inaugural season, the Washington Wizards have seen their fair share of All-Star-caliber players.

    Born in Chicago, the franchise began as the Packers, but the nickname was promptly changed the following year to the Zephyrs.

    Where were you on that one, Bears fans?

    Perhaps Bears fans did intervene. After a brief tenure, the Chicago Zephyrs moved to Baltimore in 1963. They would stay for 10 years.

    Each of their three Hall of Famers spent some time in Baltimore. When the Bullets moved to the longtime home of the Washington Redskins, Laurel, Maryland, they became the Capitol Bullets.

    Their 1978 championship remains the franchise's only championship win and was one of three finals appearance in franchise history.

    That championship squad is also the source of the three best players on this list.

    Under the Wizards nickname, Washington has not been able to recapture its storied Bullets past. The modern-day franchise can still lay claim to nine spots on this list, but ultimately, the 16 claimed by the Bullets is telling.

    Without further ado, the top 25 Washington Wizards and Bullets of all time.

     

     

     

25. Brendan Haywood

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    Haywood spent the bulk of his career in Washington, where he was an average center with solid rim protecting and defensive skills.

    His scoring touch developed late, and his 2007-08 campaign saw him average double-figures for the only time in his career.

    Ultimately, his seven plus years in a Wizards uniform leave him surprisingly among the leaders in games played for the franchise. He, if anything else, was the best center on the team for all those years.

    Though he had only the likes of Etan Thomas, Kwame Brown and other mediocre candidates to beat out, he  never gave any ground to his backups.

24. Tom Gugliotta

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    Washington made Gugliotta the No. 6 overall pick in 1992.

    The North Carolina State product often referred to as "Googs" was productive in his first two seasons, averaging 14.7 and 17.1 points and over nine rebounds per game in both seasons.

    While those would be the only two years Gugliotta would play in Washington, his solid averages combined with the value he added to the Bullets through trade make him an important figure in Washington history.

    He and three first-round picks were sent to Golden State for star forward Chris Webber in 1994, a trade that made the Bullets one of the most interesting teams in the mid-1990s.

23. Rex Chapman

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    Chapman played three seasons in the mid-'90s with the Bullets, and always displayed a strong scoring touch.

    Solid from three-point range, the former Kentucky Wildcat shot 39 percent from beyond the arc in his best season as a Wizard (1993-94). He averaged over 18 points per game that season, and though the team won only 24 games under then-head coach Wes Unseld, Chapman was one of the few bright spots.

22. Michael Jordan

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    The greatest player in NBA history was kind enough to close out his career in Washington, where he had two productive years before hanging up his jersey one last time.

    Along with 22.9 and 20.0 scoring averages, Jordan also oversaw personnel decisions for the Wizards.

    He rid the team of large contracts in the form of Rod Strickland and Juwan Howard (both of whom are a part of the ranking), moves hard to criticize at the time.

    A major mistake, and the reason Jordan is below some less-than-impressive names on this list, was the drafting of Kwame Brown with the No. 1 overall selection in 2001.

    Jordan has had to live with the pick for years now, but still, Tyson Chandler, Joe Johnson and even Shane Battier in hindsight would have been picks with much more value.

    Oh, and Gilbert Arenas was there too.

     

21. Calbert Cheaney

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    Drafted with the No. 6 overall pick in 1993 by the then-Washington Bullets, Cheaney was a durable 2-guard with a solid mid-range game.

    His career high average of 16.6 points per contest came in his second season in the NBA. He followed that impressive year with an equally solid 15.1 a game before his scoring dropped off in 1996-97.

    He still made a solid contribution to the 1996-97 playoff team, starting 79 games and averaging just over 10 points.

     

20. Richard Hamilton

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    Richard "Rip" Hamilton, who the Wizards made the No. 7 overall pick of the 1999 draft, spent just three seasons with the team that drafted him.

    After averaging nine points in his rookie year, Hamilton doubled his average to 18.1 his sophomore season and improved even more on that average by his third year.

    In that third season, his last in D.C., Hamilton averaged 20.0 points per game and also posted a career-high 89 percent free throw percentage.

19. Rod Strickland

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    A passing dynamo who spent four seasons in Portland before joining the Bullets in 1996, Strickland set a career high for assists in 1997-98 with 10.5 per contest.

    The point guard was a big factor in the 1996-97 playoff appearance, as he helped maximize the talents of forwards Chris Webber and Juwan Howard.

    Strickland shot poorly from three throughout his Wizards career, never eclipsing the 30 percent mark. He still was an effective scorer, though, twice averaging over 15 points.

18. Moses Malone

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    A pit-stop on a illustrious career path ordinarily would not warrant a spot on a franchise's top-25 list of best players, but Moses Malone is no ordinary player.

    The Hall of Famer led the Wiz to the playoffs in both his seasons, despite a 38-44 mark in 1987-88. That was his second season with the team. He registered 20.3 points a contest that year, his worst total in ten seasons, and added 11.2 boards a game.

    So even in one of his worst years, Malone was still dominant. The year before he averaged 24.1 points per game and made a huge impact on the club.

     

17. John Wall

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    The only current Wizard on this list, Wall has a long way to go before he is challenges the best to have worn a Washington uniform.

    His recent max-contract extension will give him the chance to leave his mark on the franchise; only a few have remained in the nation's capital throughout their entire career.

    What Wall needs to do to improve his standing on this list is turn in a full season. In three years in the NBA, he is the longest-tenured Wizard but has still yet to play over 70 games in a season.

    If he plays the full 82, there is no doubt Wall will put up All-Star-caliber numbers.

16. Manute Bol

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    Bol took the painted areas of the NBA by storm when he racked up 397 blocks in 1985-86.

    For a guy with 80 appearances and 60 starts, that was good for five blocks per game. Though he only played in Washington for three seasons, he remains a beloved player due to America's affinity for shot-blockers.

    Bol is as legendary as shot-blockers get. The 7'7'' center is standing on two feet in the above photo, while guard Muggsy Bogues vaults his 5'3'' frame at the rim.

    Though Dikembe Mutombo's last name may have been synonymous with blocked shots (thanks in part to this commercial,) Bol had also clearly mastered the art of shot-blocking.

15. Caron Butler

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    A star at the University of Connecticut (just like Richard Hamilton), Butler spent the majority of his still-active career in Washington.

    After playing four-and-a-half seasons in the nation's capital, Butler was sent to Dallas as part of a seven-player deal that involved the Wizards attaining former Wake Forest star Josh Howard.

    Butler was part of an NBA championship in Dallas (though he missed the second half of that regular season and the postseason because of injury), but his best days were as a Wizard.

    While he struggled at times to coexist with Gilbert Arenas, Butler's scoring averages of 17.6, 19.1, 20.3, 20.8 in the years before he was traded were impressive.

    Couple those with the 495 steals he registered in four seasons, and you have a high-ranking Wizard on this top 25.

     

14. Larry Hughes

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    Larry Hughes spent three seasons in Washington, but even in that short amount time managed to make a big impact on the franchise.

    Long known for his defensive prowess and ability to create instant transition offense, Hughes took his talents to the next level in a dominant 2004-05 season.

    In helping the Wizards reach the playoffs, Hughes averaged 22.0 points, 6.3 rebound, 4.7 assists and 2.9 steals per game. Each of those numbers were career highs (if his 22.7 scoring average in 32 games during the 1999-00 season is thrown out).

    Hughes was always clutch during the Gilbert Arenas era. Though Arenas always took the last shot, Hughes came up with the necessary hustle plays that kept games close.

13. Bernard King

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    King came to Washington for NBA season No. 10, but you could not tell by the numbers.

    The 20.4 scoring average he posted in his first year in Washington was a dip from his days with the Golden State Warriors and the New YOrk Knicks numbers in years prior, but King and teammate Moses Malone led the Bullets to the playoffs in 1987-88.

    It would be King's only playoff appearance with the Bullets, but his scoring averages for the following three seasons in Washington clearly made him the team's star.

    A Hall of Famer with 19,655 career points (good for No. 45 all time), King finished third in the NBA in scoring in 1990-91, his last year in Washington and second to last in the pros.

    The Brooklyn native was a gritty finisher who made a handsome living at the charity stripe.

12. Chris Webber

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    When Washington (still known as the Bullets) acquired Chris Webber from Golden State in the 1994 offseason, they reunited two former "Fab Five" members and had assembled what looked like a playoff-caliber roster.

    According to this 1994 article by Frank Lawlor, then-Bullets general manager John Nash equated Webber's athleticism at the 4 to Shaquille O'Neal's at the 5.

    Webber did not put up Shaq-like numbers until he headed to Sacramento, where he starred for the Kings from 1998-2004. In his four years in Washington, C-Webb never played more than 72 games in a season.

    His years in Washington were productive, but he led the Bullets to only one playoff appearance.

    Overall, Webber may be the one former Wizard on this list who leaves the sourest taste in the mouths of fans. Despite quality years, such as 1996-97 where he averaged 20.1 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game, Webber only repeated this great effort one other season in Washington (the next one, 2008-09).

    Since they gave up three first-round picks and a quality forward in Tom Gugliotta, they would have liked a little more production from Webber.

11. Juwan Howard

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    The No. 5 overall pick in 1994, Juwan Howard wasted no time making an impact in the NBA.

    The former Michigan All-American averaged 17.0 points per game as a rookie. In his second year, he improved that mark to what would be a career-high 22.1.

    His six-plus years in Washington saw the team change its name from the Bullets to the Wizards. While his Bullets numbers were slightly better, his 18.4 scoring average while in D.C. was good no matter what the team was called.

     

10. Antawn Jamison

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    Jamison spent six seasons in Washington. Outside of the 41 games he played for the franchise before being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2009-10 season, Jamison was always a safe bet to eclipse 70 games played in a given year.

    His games played totals of 82, 81, 79, 70 and 68 in five full seasons made him the most durable Wizard of the mid-2000s, as well as an excellent scoring complement to Gilbert Arenas.

    The former No. 4 overall pick of the Golden State Warriors made a positive impact both tin the scoring column and on the boards. He averaged 20.7 points per game as a Wizard, and had his three best rebounding seasons as a pro in the nation's capital.

    His 21.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game in the 2007-08 campaign was the most productive season of his career, and the only year he averaged a double-double.

    The former captain was both the glue and the talent that kept the Wizards competitive from his arrival in 2005 until things began to go poorly in the 2009-10 season.

9. Jeff Malone

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    The second Malone on this list, Jeff Malone was picked no. 10 overall in 1983 by Washington.

    He played seven full seasons with the team, and from his third NBA campaign until his last season with the Bullets (1989-90), he averaged 20 or more points per game. And he saved his best for last with the Bullets, posting a career high 24.3 scoring average in that 1989-90 season.

    While not a threat from three-point range, Malone was a slashing guard who could get to the rim and the free-throw line.

    A career 87 percent free-throw shooter, Malone was simply a scoring machine.

8. Greg Ballard

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    A durable all-around forward who spent eight seasons with the Bullets from 1977-1985, Ballard shares his name with the current mayor of Indianapolis.

    Though not a mayor himself, Ballard could have given politics a shot considering his steady track record. Having never played fewer than 76 games in a season with the Bullets, Ballard was a model of dependability.

    Add in the 13.5 points he averaged as a Bullet—including back-to-back seasons of 18 points or more—and an NBA championship ring and the former No. 4 overall pick was a shoe-in for the top 10.

7. Phil Chenier

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    The three-time NBA All-Star and one-time All-NBA selection was for a time one of the league's premier guards.

    Posting five straight seasons in which he averaged 19.7 points per game or more, Chenier was a workhorse on the offensive end for Washington.

    That he also averaged 1.6 steals, 3.0 assists and 3.6 rebounds over his career proved his willingness to contribute in all facets of the game.

    If not for a back injury that kept him out of the 1978 NBA Finals, Chenier could be as high as No. 3 on this list.

6. Earl Monroe

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    Earl Monroe, who was often referred to as "The Pearl" and, in some circles, even "Black Jesus", was one of the catalysts that made the Baltimore Bullets so great in the early 1970s.

    Selected No. 2 overall in 1967, Monroe won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award after putting up 24.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists.

    The dominant effort led Monroe to be an early fan favorite. Though he played in Baltimore for only four years before being traded to the Knicks, the Hall of Famer had his best years in the Charm City.

     

5. Gilbert Arenas

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    Arenas deserves all the credit for giving the Washington Wizards their only true era of post-millenium playoff contention.

    An elite scorer with a knack for taking, and often hitting, buzzer-beater threes, Arenas was a sight to behold night in and night out.

    In averaging 25.5, 29.3 and 28.4 from 2005-2007, Arenas was a legitimate star and was named All-NBA all three seasons. His fearless attitude and explosiveness on the offensive end put him in that rarefied air of NBA superstar guards like Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade.

    Nevertheless, this incredible production did not last. Arenas got involved in a number of off-the-court issues that ultimately hurt his career and his image in the eyes of Wizard fans with whom he had once so closely connected.

    He was still great, though.

4. Walt Bellamy

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    The inaugural pick of the franchise, Bellamy went No. 1 overall in 1961 to the aforementioned Chicago Packers.

    Right away, the Packers knew they made the right pick. Bellamy recorded 31.6 points and 19.0 rebounds per game, perhaps the most ridiculous rookie year in NBA history.

    Both would be career highs, and he was rewarded with Rookie of the Year honors.

    His 20-year span in the NBA led him to the Hall of Fame, and while just four of those seasons were spent with the Packers, Zephyrs and Bullets, they were the best four years of his pro career.

3. Gus Johnson

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    Gus Johnson continues a string of dominant rebounders that close out this top 25.

    With career averages of 16.2 points and 12.1 rebounds, Johnson was a dominant force on the boards in the 1960s and '70s.

    That average even takes into consideration two poor statistical seasons he recorded at the very end of his career with the Phoenix Suns and Indiana Pacers.

    The Wizards have retired his jersey No. 25.

2. Elvin Hayes

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    Hayes owns more franchise records than any other player in team history, and its easy to figure out why.

    An unbelievable scorer with a great back-to-the-basket game, the Hall of Famer is No. 10 all time in points with over 27,000.

    Furthermore, in his nine seasons as a Bullet, Hayes missed a total of seven games. Third in NBA History in minutes played, Hayes was nearly indestructible in his 16 NBA seasons.

    A critical part of the 1978 championship team, Hayes is simply one of the greatest NBA players of all time. That he is not No. 1 on this list is more a testament to the unique playing style of the player who claimed the top spot.

    Hayes, for all its worth, was and still is the prototype for any GM's dream NBA forward-center.

    The franchise has retired his No. 11.

1. Wes Unseld

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    His overall numbers were not as impressive as Elvin Hayes and his scoring marks pale in comparison to Walt Bellamy, Gus Johnson, Earl Monroe and many others in Wizards history, Wes Unseld is undoubtedly the best player in franchise history.

    The only player to spend his entire career with the team, Unseld remained a loyal fixture of the Bullets uniform since being drafted No. 2 overall in 1968.

    It was the Bullets second straight No. 2 overall pick; they previous year, they drafted Earl Monroe with second overall selection. Like Monroe, Unseld won Rookie of the Year honors in his first season. Unlike Monroe—and any other player in league history besides Wilt Chamberlain—Unseld also won the NBA MVP in his rookie season.

    Simply put, Unseld was a beast. Only three times in his NBA career did the 6'7'' center have a higher scoring average than rebounding average—those all being his final three years in the NBA.

    That he was only 6'7'' and averaged 14 rebounds per game for his career tells you a little about the kind of force Unseld was.

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