The Best of the Top Five
The Washington Wizards are guaranteed to finish no worse than fifth in tomorrow's NBA draft lottery, meaning that this will be the 14th time in franchise history that they will select a top five pick. Of the previous 13 picks, the Wizards have managed to select three Hall of Fame players (Wes Unseld, Walt Bellamy and Earl Monroe), a handful of all-stars (Unseld, Bellamy, Monroe, Juwan Howard, Jack Marin, Jerry Sloan, Rasheed Wallace and Devin Harris), one Hall of Fame Coach (Sloan) and someone who went on to become a decorated league executive most-known for drafting Michael Jordan (Rod Thorn).
I thought it would be cool to look back at the five best top-five picks in franchise history. This list is based solely on what the players were able to do while representing the franchise, which would eliminate Sloan, Wallace and Harris, who reached all-star status with other organizations (and probably wouldn't crack this list otherwise).
5. Jack Marin (1966-72)
The Baltimore Bullets selected Marin, a 6-foot-7 swingman, out of Duke with the fifth pick in 1966. He played six of his 11 seasons with team, averaging 16.7 points and making the NBA all-rookie team in 1967 and the all-star team in 1972. Marin's greatest contribution may have been getting dealt to Houston, along with future considerations, for Elvin Hayes in 1972. Hayes, of course, helped the Bullets win their only championship in 1978.
4. Juwan Howard (1994-2001)
A member of the heralded "Fab Five" at Michigan, Howard left after his junior year and was selected fifth overall in 1994. In seven seasons in Washington, Howard averaged 18.4 points and 7.4 rebounds before getting booed out of town. Howard quickly became a darling in his second season, as he made his only all-star team and led the Bullets to 39 wins even with Chris Webber missing significant time due to injuries. His career in the District took a dramatic turn for the worst that summer when he signed a $101 million contract with Miami. The deal was disallowed and he re-signed with the Bullets for $105-million, becoming the first nine-figure player in NBA history. He was traded to Dallas five years later.
3. Earl "The Pearl" Monroe (1967-1971)
Taken second overall out of tiny Winston-Salem State, Monroe became the rookie of the year in 1968 as he averaged 24.3 points and set the franchise record with 56 points in a game (until Gilbert Arenas broke it with 60 points in December 2006). Monroe dazzled with his spin move, circus shots and flashy passes. He made the all-star team twice (in 1969 and 1971), and was first team all-NBA in 1969. In more than four seasons with the Bullets, Monroe averaged 23.7 points and he was traded to the New York Knicks in 1971 because of a contract dispute. He won a championship with the Knicks in 1973.
2. Walt Bellamy (1961-65)
The Chicago Packers used the 1961 No. 1 overall pick to select the starting center from the legendary 1960 Olympic team that also featured Jerry West, Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas. Bellamy won rookie of the year and averaged 31.6 points, the third-best rookie scoring average of all time. Bellamy played more than four seasons with the Packers, Zephyrs and Bullets, averaging 26.6 points and 16.4 rebounds, and making four consecutive trips to the all-star game. He was traded to the New York Knicks after just eight games into the 1965-66 season. In his 14-year, Hall of Fame career, Bellamy also played for Detroit, Atlanta and the New Orleans Jazz.
1. Wes Unseld (1968-81)
There is no debating which player had the greatest impact on the organization. His accomplishments after being selected second overall in 1968 were recently discussed on this blog. Unseld was fortunate to spend his entire 13-year career with the Bullets, and retired in 1981 as the franchise's all-time leader in rebounding (13,769 boards). Unseld remained with the organization after his retirement but had an unheralded career as a coach and later general manager, guiding the team to just one playoff appearance as coach and one playoff appearance as GM. He never had a player like himself.
All-Time Packers/Zephyrs/Bullets/Wizards Top Five Picks
2004 - Devin Harris (No. 5, Wisconsin)
2001 - Kwame Brown (No. 1, Glynn Academy (Ga.))
1995 - Rasheed Wallace (No. 4, North Carolina)
1994 - Juwan Howard (No. 5, Michigan)
1977 - Greg Ballard (No. 4, Oregon)
1968 - Wes Unseld (No. 2, Louisville)
1967 - Earl Monroe (No. 2, Winston-Salem State)
1966 - Jack Marin (No. 5, Duke)
1965 - Jerry Sloan (No. 4, Evansville)
1964 - Gary Bradds (No. 3, Ohio State University)
1963 - Rod Thorn (No. 2, West Virginia)
1962 - Bill McGill (No. 1, Utah)
1961 - Walt Bellamy (No. 1, Indiana)
By Michael Lee |
May 18, 2009; 10:38 AM ET
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