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).

Hey, I brought Elvin Hayes to town.

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)

Would you still love me if I didn't get $100 mil? (Getty Images)

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)

It's good. (Photo by Walter Ioss /Getty Images)

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)

Don't forget about me, Mr. Bellamy.

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)

My 'fro is phenomenal. (Getty Images)

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

Washington Wizards
2004 - Devin Harris (No. 5, Wisconsin)
2001 - Kwame Brown (No. 1, Glynn Academy (Ga.))

Washington Bullets
1995 - Rasheed Wallace (No. 4, North Carolina)
1994 - Juwan Howard (No. 5, Michigan)
1977 - Greg Ballard (No. 4, Oregon)

Baltimore Bullets
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)

Chicago Zephyrs
1962 - Bill McGill (No. 1, Utah)

Chicago Packers
1961 - Walt Bellamy (No. 1, Indiana)

By Michael Lee |  May 18, 2009; 10:38 AM ET
Previous: Roundtable: What Do the Wizards Do If They Pick 5th? | Next: Lottery Day Plans, Instant Reactions


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Nice work Michael, just another 2 days of waiting.

Posted by: closg | May 18, 2009 11:06 AM

The thing I remember most about Jack Marin was the time that he tried to grab Wilt Chamberlain around his forearms to keep him from going up and dunking.Wilt had grabbed a loose ball right under the Lakers basket in the final minutes of a Lakers/Bullets game.

Wilt just went up and dunked with Marin hanging all over him. He just took all 200lbs.+ of Jack up with him.

My older brother had seats in Cole field house that year about 13 rows back under the basket. Most impressive feat of strength I've ever seen on a basketball court. I was about 13 at the time, and to this day I've never seen anyone do anything close to that

Wilt of course made the dunk, but missed both chances at a two for one free throw opportunity...

Posted by: flohrtv | May 18, 2009 11:23 AM

Best backcourt ever:

Earl Monroe/Walt Frazier

The Wiz need a young budding superstar like Stuckey to share the backcourt with Arenas. EG should think about how the two above fit together.

Posted by: Izman | May 18, 2009 11:43 AM

I always wondered why did the Bullets trade Monroe. Seems this franchise has a 40-year or more history of trading away it's talent and getting little in return except the Marin for Hayes trade.

The front office has made a series of bad moves for decades. The Juwan Howard situation would have been 1000-times better if Abe Pollin did not want to establish his own rookie salary cap and just paid the kid on par with the prior #5 pick.

Posted by: oknow1 | May 18, 2009 11:57 AM

who cares? All we're worried about is who we're going to get in THIS years draft!

Posted by: cbmuzik | May 18, 2009 12:05 PM

How can Kwame Brown not crack the top 5! I demand a retraction!

Posted by: jansjay | May 18, 2009 12:26 PM

what is noticeable here is how many times the Bullets were able to get into the top 5 back in the 1960's and then have the chance to select core players who went on to distinguished NBA careers.

The current Wizards have not drafted high often, but they have not drafted well either.

None of the club's starting 5 players was drafted by Washington: Arenas, Stevenson, Butler, Jamison, Haywood.

Pecherov is a bust.

Nick Young is one-dimensional and inconsistent.

Jarvis Hayes was shown the door after continually disappointing the team.

Dominic McGuire and Andray Blatche were decent enough #2 picks as far as that goes, but neither seems likely to develop into a core player for the team down the road.

I would say that right now only JaVale McGee seems to have any kind of true upside that THIS team can definitely use, namely shot-blocking and better interior defense. McGee needs to gain weight to better battle inside, but he shows the instincts and work ethic that Blatche has not.

Posted by: leopard09 | May 18, 2009 12:32 PM

the fact that juwan makes the list is a sad sight.

Posted by: bford1kb | May 18, 2009 12:49 PM

Look at Unseld's body. What a beast!

Posted by: cmecyclist | May 18, 2009 12:50 PM

The Wiz need a young budding superstar like Stuckey to share the backcourt with Arenas. EG should think about how the two above fit together.

Posted by: Izman | May 18, 2009 11:43 AM

Superstar??? Really?? I say all star at best.

Posted by: CBell29 | May 18, 2009 12:50 PM

I am getting out my lucky charms.

Posted by: jeremydvid | May 18, 2009 12:57 PM

Great post. Sorry to be picky, but Monroe only won one championship with the Knicks ('73), since he was with the Bullets for NY's only other championship ('70).

Posted by: Urnesto | May 18, 2009 1:07 PM

I have to agree that the whole Juwan Howard mess could've and should've never happened if we did not try and reinvent the rookie pay system that everyone was going by. The front office just seems to get the wrong side of deals 75% of the time. Even some of the ones that don't look so bad, turn sour. The Brown/Butler move may be the best trade in terms of value in this Franchise's History. You give up a lump of ....coal and get a Diamond in return!!

Posted by: BeltwayBoy | May 18, 2009 1:07 PM

Its surprising how rarely the Bullets/Wizards have had a top 5 pick. I don't think there is a team that has had worst luck in the lottery.

Posted by: bowiemd1 | May 18, 2009 1:21 PM

Are we even going to be able to sign our two draft picks this year? We have only one open roster spot.

Hey, do you think Eddie Jordan, where ever he ends up next season, would be interested in trading for ET and/or Songaila? EJ certainly seemed to love those two while he coached here.

Posted by: yop32 | May 18, 2009 1:29 PM

Great post, Michael. I echo oknow1's point about how remarkable it is that this franchise tends to trade its top picks.

Posted by: disgruntledfan | May 18, 2009 1:42 PM

The fact that Kwame Brown, Devin Harris, Juwan Howard, Rasheed Wallace and Greg Ballard are all on the Bullets/Wizards top draft picks list speaks volumes to the ineptitude of the Wizards brain trust the past thirty years. Wallace and Harris were great picks: if the Bullets had kept them. Should they really be on this list? Kwame Brown? If he isn't the biggest bust in NBA history he's in the discussion.
Certainly bad luck must be factored in as the Wizards never seem to do well in the draft lottery unless Kwame Brown or Tyson Chandler are the top prize. It seems, if anything, they fall backwards from their pre lottery position almost every time.
But there are players the Wizards still could have drafted that would have changed the franchises fortune had they either taken a chance or done a bit more homework:
Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Al Jefferson, Pau Gasol and Tony Parker all come to mind. And to a lesser extent Josh Smith and Kevin Martin.
The Wizards always seem to play it safe. While other teams were willing to gamble on players right out of high school the Wizards chose not to. The result is the missed on Garnett and Bryant. Then they change course and take Kwame Brown with the #1 overall pick a few years later instead of being on the vanguard and taking Gasol, before drafting international players in the lottery became in vogue.
A lack of vision, bad management and ownership as well as lousy lottery luck have combined to sink the Wizards and make them perenial losers the past three decades. Here's hoping the ping pong balls draft their way, for once, and they have the foresight to draft Blake Griffin.

Posted by: manwray | May 18, 2009 1:44 PM

1 more day of anticipation. If you guys aren't able to watch the lottery on TV, come over to and listen in to the radio show. They will be hosting a live lottery pick broadcast.

Posted by: LooseCannon1 | May 18, 2009 2:00 PM

Regardless of whom the Wizards get in the draft, one thing is certain: because of Michael Lee, I will never see or hear the name "Rubio" again without singing that cursed Phil Collins song in my head. Thanks a lot, Michael. I'm sure they're reserving a special place in hell for you.

Posted by: satchmore | May 18, 2009 3:25 PM

Did they draft Jeff Malone? If so, he should be honorary list.

Posted by: Dave381 | May 18, 2009 3:35 PM

If they can't get Blake Griffin then they should trade the pick.

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | May 18, 2009 6:05 PM

Everytime I hear about Rubio possibly being our pick, I can't help but think about the whole Juan Carlos Navarro saga.

Posted by: Darnell1 | May 18, 2009 8:01 PM

Off topic, but finally some good news as of late.

Put this old mule out to pasture.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | May 18, 2009 9:29 PM

When did they draft RICK MAHORN?

Posted by: glawrence007 | May 18, 2009 10:27 PM

While Walt Bellamy got plenty of playing time in the 1960 Olympics, Darrall Imhoff actually was the starting center for the U.S. ahead of Bellamy, according to "A Good Man," Bruce Jenkins' bio of Olympic coach Pete Newell. Imhoff had played for Newell at Cal.

Posted by: modspeed | May 18, 2009 10:58 PM

All eyes rise as CRzay Eddie aproacheds the microphone:, We need Meadowlark Lemon, smakkin and yakkin. A man ahead of his time. The original Gervin/Magic combo. Oh lord, bring sweet meadow back to me!!! Gilbert can lean a few things from tht rammblin character. Not sure how those long shorts woiud go over, bull bring im on freakshow./ oi,,o\\\ ThAT's Who I aAm pickin, dammit, so piss off, butter-dicks

Posted by: creativefunk | May 19, 2009 12:15 AM

Brown may have been a bust for us, but we did get Butler for him. Butler is great so all and all the Brown draft has to be rated very good.

Posted by: bags956 | May 19, 2009 7:33 AM

How about Mugsy Bogues... our draft history is pathetic... Howard, Brown, etc... Only one pick has been what was expected... Unseld!

Posted by: jwabell | May 19, 2009 8:13 AM

12 hours away from finding out if the wiz will ever contend for a championship in my lifetime. I'm 27.

Posted by: detox04 | May 19, 2009 8:53 AM

Certainly the Wiz must take the future All-Star if there is one in this draft. Trading away one of their current All-Stars is a huge gamble. As far as needs go Rubino may be the best fit.

McGee, Blatche, Songailia, and Young are decent players off the bench. Adding another to their number would not be a big help. It would be better to trade.

While Arenas is a great individual player when he’s out there the rest of the team stands around and watches. This past year Kobi and LaBron have both figured out how and when to involve the rest of their team, Arenas (maybe because of injury) has not developed that part of his game.

Moving Arenas to the 2 guard, and Rubio to the 1, might make the team an actual “team,” and transition them from playoff contender to an actual contender for the championship.

Posted by: utilitiesprocessing | May 19, 2009 9:26 AM

Should we land the top pick, there is one respected sports guy out there that is not entirely sold on Blake Griffin.

And it is not because he thinks Blake is not the real deal, but because he feels that the NCAA 'ain't what it used to be.'

With the best players leaving after 1-2 yrs, he feels that Teams don't develop into good Teams and thus what we see now is a watered down version of the NCAA play compared to when players stayed 3-4 yrs. The competition is weak, so players like Blake just roll through the competition.

So, his point is that Blakes #s while good may not bode as well in the NBA. He feels that a more traditional skill set may translate better to the NBA and these Washington Wizards.

He indicates that the Big Mean Tough Guy for for the Washington Wizards should be Hasheem Thabeet.

That repected sports analyst is DOC WALKER.


Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | May 19, 2009 9:26 AM

Moving Arenas to the 2 guard, and Rubio to the 1, might make the team an actual “team,” and transition them from playoff contender to an actual contender for the championship.

Posted by: utilitiesprocessing | May 19, 2009 9:26 AM

Right now if we move Gil to the 2 and let Crit run the 1, I don't see any reason why that move would not be as good and even better than having Rubio at the 1.

I just believe that Crit is better than given credit for right now.


Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | May 19, 2009 10:06 AM

Draft Ricky Sudio if we get the #2 pick !

Posted by: slipperyrichard | May 19, 2009 10:34 AM

BIGGEST MISTAKE IN WIZ/BULLET DRAFT HISTORY:Drafting Kenny Green(Wk.Forest) over Karl Malone(La.Tech) can't recall the draft year but in my mind that's the all time blunder for this franchise,although after i found out how Malone treated his daughter(now playing in the WNBA with Detroit(i believe) i'd take anyone over that piece of s#it,it basically took John Stockon embarrasing Malone in front of his teamates and the local Salt Lake City press for Malone to do the right thing and acknowledge his child,yeah a real stand up guy.

Posted by: dargregmag | May 19, 2009 11:16 AM

Look at Unseld's body now, what a beast.

Posted by: dandyhuffman | May 19, 2009 11:29 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company