ESPN.com currently has this “Franchise Five” feature going on for all NBA teams. Basically, they have an interactive page where visitors can vote for the “best” player in franchise history at each position (PG, SG, SF, PF, C).
Here are the candidates:
Gilbert Arenas, Rod Strickland, Archie Clark, Kevin Porter and Michael Adams
Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, Jeff Malone, Phil Chenier, Kevin Loughery and Don Ohl
Bernard King, Caron Butler, Bob Dandridge and Calbert Cheaney
Elvin Hayes, Chris Webber, Antawn Jamison, Gus Johnson and Juwan Howard
Walt Bellamy, Wes Unseld and Jeff Ruland
Of course, having to stick to these positional categories comes on the heels of a summer where eschewing the traditional ideas of player positions has become fashionable. In any case …
Prior to putting any of this together, and again days before the launch, the ESPN.com editors solicited TrueHoop Network bloggers for their input on the respective teams they cover. I can’t remember what I said the first time … but the second time around, I glossed over the candidates, checked some stats, and simply recommended the addition of Gheorghe Muresan.
Now sure, Muresan might not be in the same league as the other center candidates. BUT, he was a crowd favorite, is still often present at games (he works with the team on community efforts), and just might be the best white player to ever suit up for the franchise (for an explanation, check this post: “The Washington Wizards and The White Man“). I figured fans would appreciate Muresan’s presence as an option, even if they weren’t going to vote for him.
But alas, “Ghiţă” seemingly didn’t make the cut.
But I also wasn’t done. I again went back to check stats and history (thanks Basketball-Reference.com, as usual) to make extra sure that no one was missed.
I found a guy who stood out. His name is Kevin Porter, point guard. Here’s part of the email I sent to the ESPN.com editors:
Porter book-ended his career with the franchise, leading the league in assists per game in each stint (’74-75 and ’80-81).
Speaking of that ’74-75 season, not only did he lead the league in assists per game that year (8.0), but also in total assists (650) and assist-percentage (33.9-percent). And this was in the franchise’s first year being known as the “Washington” Bullets; the team moved to Landover, MD from Baltimore in ’73, but was known as the “Capital” Bullets for a year. Porter pointed the team all the way to the 1975 NBA Finals, where they lost to the Golden State Warriors (they got swept 4-0).
In ’80-81, Porter’s 9.1 assists per game were good enough to lead the league again (the fourth total time in his career), and he again led the NBA in total assists (734) and assist percentage (39.3-percent). He also guided an aging Bullets team (Bob Dandridge only played 23 games that season and 11 the next in Milwaukee before retiring; it was Phil Chenier’s last season in Washington, he played three more seasons in Houston; and it was the last season of Wes Unseld’s Hall of Fame career), to 39 victories and a 7th place finish in the East. But that was when only six teams from each conference made the playoffs; the two division winners in each conference received first round byes.
Unfortunately, in October ’81 Porter tore his Achilles tendon. But behind rookie Jeff Ruland, second year player Rick Mahorn, and late-20s veterans Greg Ballard and Kevin Grevey, the ’81-82 Bullets still made the playoffs, losing to the Celtics in the East Finals. John Lucas helped make up for Porter’s absence.
Porter’s NBA career was effectively over prematurely at age 31.
Hence, Porter was added to the list of options. And as the ESPN feature points out, he is third all-time in total assists in franchise history (2,593, after Wes Unseld’s 3,822 and Rod Strickland’s 2,712).
So, head over to ESPN.com to vote on your all-time Wizards/Bullets team … mine is reflected in the image at the top of this post.
I see some voters so far favor Walt Bellamy of Wes Unseld. Bells was great, but anyone at the C spot aside from Unseld is blasphemy. Earl Monroe and Elvin Hayes are automatics at the SG and PF respectively. I’m giving Bernard King the slight edge over Bob Dandridge at the SF, mostly because I actually got to see King play.
And for the point guard? Well, I think King, Hayes and Monroe provide enough scoring. Do you really need Arenas or Strickland? Naw, give me Kevin Porter as the point guard leader of this all-time team.