The best-ever player with a sub-11 ppg career scoring average?
A funny thing happens when to take a really good look at Wes Unseld’s career numbers. You realize that while he was good, he really wasn’t that good. And after his first five NBA seasons, during which he was excellent, he was a slightly better version of Dale Davis, and not a Hall-of-Fame-caliber player. In his last eight seasons, Unseld averaged 10+ ppg just once and was selected to only one All-Star team.
However, with all of that said, Unseld was outstanding early in his career- especially considering he was just 6’7”- and was the central figure in turning the Bullets into a winner.
In his first five seasons, Unseld earned four All-Star selections and never averaged worse than 12.5 ppg and 15.9 rpg. In terms of individual achievements, his rookie season of 1968-69 was the pinnacle, as Unseld averaged 13.8- 18.2 and won Rookie of the Year, was named an All-Star, selected to the All-NBA Team and was named league MVP. That season, Earl Monroe’s second in the league, also saw the Bullets win 57 games, an improvement of 21 victories over their previous season’s total.
Unseld’s next three seasons were also exceptional, as he averaged at least 13 ppg each year and posted rebounding averages of 16. 7, 16.9 and 17.6.
Another interesting statistical note: among NBA centers that played 100+ games, Unseld ranks fourth (behind Chamberlain, Russell and Alvan Adams) in career assists per game with 3.9 apg.
With some help from Earl Monroe and later Elvin Hayes, Unseld’s unselfish and hard-nosed play helped transform a franchise that had reached the postseason just twice in seven seasons into a perennial playoff team that made 12 playoff trips in 13 seasons. In addition to the playoff appearances, Unseld’s Bullets made four trips to the NBA Finals in the 1970s, winning it all in 1978.
As for Unseld, as pedestrian as his regular season numbers had become by the middle of the decade, he continued to raise his game in the postseason. He averaged 10.6- 14.9 in his 119 career postseason games, including some monstrous numbers in his first three playoff appearances (18.8- 18.5 in 1968-69; 10.4- 23.5 in 1969-70; 13.2- 18.8 in 1970-71).
Statistically, Unseld doesn’t really compare to Walt Bellamy (27.6- 16.6 rpg in 327 games), the man in the middle during the franchise’s first four seasons. If this were a simple matter of numbers, Bellamy would win here in a landslide.
His rookie season of 1961-62 (for the Chicago Packers, and then Zephyrs, as the Bullets were known for their first two seasons) is still one of the best ever, as Bellamy averaged 31.6 ppg and 19 rpg- second and third all-time for a rookie- and was selected to play in the All-Star Game, where he scored 23 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in 29 minutes.
This would be Bellamy’s best year, although he remained a force in his three additional seasons with the franchise, averaging at least 24.8- 14.6 and earning three more All-Star selections.
Also worthy of a mention here is Moses Malone, who spent a pair of seasons late in his prime with the Bullets, averaging 22.2- 11.2 in 152 games . Moses helped the Bullets earn a pair of playoff berths and is the all-time "Washington Bullets" leader in scoring average.