Washington Wizards: Ranking Best Players By Position In Team History

Wes Unseld

Wes Unseld, though undersized for a center at 6’7″, held his own against some of the game’s best big men and is the best center in the history of the Washington Wizards’ franchise. Unseld was named both NBA Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in 1968-69, joining Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to win both awards in the same year. (Wikimedia Commons photo)

The Washington Wizards have gone through many changes during their history, starting out as the Chicago Packers in the 1961-62 season. Then in the  1962-63 season, the  Packers became the Chicago Zephyrs before moving to Baltimore, where they became the Baltimore Bullets in 1963, there was a slight relocation to Landover, Md., in 1973-74 and the name was changed to the Capital Bullets. The Bullets changed their name to the Washington Bullets for the 1974-75 season and the Washington franchise remained the Bullets until the 1997-98 season when the Bullets finally became the Wizards upon moving into a new arena in downtown Washington. The only NBA championship for the Washington franchise came in 1978. Lets take a look at the best players in franchise history.

Point Guard: Earl Monroe

The best point guard was Earl Monroe. Monroe was mostly well-known for his play as a member of the  New York Knicks, but statistically Monroe’s best seasons were with the Baltimore Bullets (he never played in Washington). Monroe averaged more than 20 points per game each of his four seasons with the Bullets and along with Wes Unseld helped bring recognition to the Bullets. Monroe had a modern type of game utilizing spin moves in the lane and no-look passes. Monroe is what you would call a scoring point guard as he only averaged four assists per game during his career.

Best Shooting Guard: Phil Chenier

The best shooting guard was Phil Chenier. Chenier was a great all-around player until the 1978 championship season when he was forced to sit out most of the season due to a back injury that he never really was able to recover from. However, after his rookie season Chenier went on a tear offensively. Over the next five seasons he averaged around 20 points per game, picking up the slack once Monroe was traded to the Knicks in 1971. Chenier was also a solid defender as he averaged around two steals per game until the back issues started occurring.

Best Small Forward: Greg Ballard

The best small forward was Greg Ballard. Small forward is the weakest position in Wizards history. Ballard had a solid offensive game average 12 points and six rebounds during his career. However, Ballard’s main contribution came on the defensive end as he and Unseld dominated defensively. Ballard remains the franchise leader in steals (877) for his career with the Bullets. He was also a member of the 1978 NBA title team and played a crucial role in winning the title.

Best Power Forward: Elvin Hayes

The best power forward and best player in franchise history was Elvin Hayes. Hayes joined Unseld to form one of the most potent forward-center duos in NBA history. Hayes was a dominate force on both ends of the court as he is the franchise leader in points and blocks. Hayes put up big numbers averaging 21 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks per game. Hayes’ offensive repertoire was extensive and his go to move was his turn around jumper. Hayes was criticized for not being able to win a championship, but that changed when he helped lead the Bullets to the title in 1978. Hayes played at least 80 games every season during his 16 year NBA career. Hayes is No. 4 in NBA history in rebounds with 16,279 rebounds. Hayes spent nine of his 16 seasons with the Bullets, which is why Hayes has more career rebounds, but is No. 2 in franchise history in rebounds.

Best Center: Wes Unseld

The best center in franchise history was Wes Unseld. While Hayes was the offensive threat for the Bullets front court, Unseld was the defensive stalwart. Unseld was one the most physically impressive players in the league at the time and did all the small things to help the Bullets win the championship in 1978. Unseld is among the best screen-setters in NBA history, not to mention his defensive awareness was also spectacular For his career, Unseld averaged 11 points and 14 rebounds but what made Unseld great was his ability to make a great outlet pass and his relentless pursuit on the glass. Unseld is still the franchise leader in rebounds (13,769) and assists (3,822).

Honorable Mention: Gilbert Arenas

Before knee injuries took away Arenas’ explosiveness, he was one of the best players in the NBA. Arenas averaged 20.7 points, 5.3 assists and 1.6 steals in his career. Arenas is No. 1 in franchise history in 3-point field goals made and is No. 2 in points per game averaging 25 points per game. Arenas was one of those unique point guards that could penetrate into the paint and finish with a dunk or lay up, while also having the ability to step back a sink a 3-point basket. His best season was the 2004-05 season in which Arenas led the Wizards to the Eastern Conference semifinals, losing to the Miami Heat after defeating the Chicago Bulls in the 1st round in six games. Arenas averaged 25.5 points and five assists that season. Arenas led a roster that included shooting guard Larry Hughes and forward Antawn Jamison.

Topics: Earl Monroe, Elvin Hayes, Greg Ballard, Phil Chenier, Washington Wizards, Wes Unseld

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