#WizardsRank: Etan Thomas, No. 16: The Unfinished Opus
Truth About It.net will turn a whole five years old at the end of this October.
Hard to believe/interesting. Nonetheless, over the life of the site from the 2007-08 season to 2011-12, we’ve seen/lived/suffered through 131 wins, 263 losses, four coaches, two owners, one GM/team president, one Phil Chenier mustache removal, and 56 total players (amazingly, 48 players over the last three seasons).
TAI anonymously polled 27 members of the Wizards pixel establishment — from mainstream media to new media, TAI staffers included, to a few pixel consumers (readers of the site) — and got 17 responses.
Participants were given the full list of 56 in alphabetical order, and included for each player were total games, minutes, PER (player efficiency rating), and WS/48 (win-shares per 48 minutes) only from the last five seasons. Participants were asked to rate each player on the scale of 1-to-10 according to this criteria: on court performance; off court performance; intangibles; and own personal memory. Yes, this is totally subjective, but relatively collective.
NOTE: #WizardsRank Nos. 56 to 17 have been posted and links can be found below. Now, we’ll start releasing player rankings one or so at a time. -Kyle W.
5.18 out of 10
(26 games, 306 minutes, 10.1 PER, .018 WS/48)
Where do you begin with Etan Thomas—and how did he rank this high? Is it possible that the Poet is being rewarded for his outstanding public service, his book of verse critisizing Doug Collins or the myriad slap fights that he engaged in with Brendan Haywood? My guess is the latter, as I suspect there is still a large contingent of Haywood haters out there who were more than happy to upgrade Thomas and his dreadlocks to his high position on #WizardsRank. Because the story of Etan Thomas is summed up by two factors, which had nothing to do with his playing ability: the first being that the choice between Haywood or Thomas is still liable to start a civil war between the Wizards faithful, and the second is the fact that Thomas was retained via a $36-plus million contract after the Wizards matched an offer sheet from the Milwaukee Bucks (who have been known to spend unwisely on centers). That contract became an albatross around the Wizards franchise during the parsimonious days of Abe Pollin’s ownership. To be completely fair, that 2004 summer was a ridiculous orgy of expense of second rate centers, as Adonal Foyle and Joel Pryzbilla were given contracts that surpassed those of Thomas’.
Thomas the player always “looked” a lot better than his stats bore out. Mike Prada of BulletsForever.com, who first advanced the Haywood over Thomas argument, made two strong cases against the play of Thomas. The first and most irrefutable fact is that the stats bear out that the Wizards, even with sieves like Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison on the court, were much better defensively with Haywood anchoring the middle. The other, more subjective argument that Prada made during the height of the Thomas-Haywood debate was the fact that Thomas was preferred because he “appeared” to give 110 percent effort on the court while Haywood often appeared disengaged. Thomas would fly around the court, go for blocks and looked every bit the rugged center. Haywood was often accused of being soft and not having the same drive. This, of course, led to the dreadful decision by then-coach Eddie Jordan to start Thomas at center prior to the 2006-07 season. Thomas started, Haywood sulked and the experiment ended after 20 games with Wizards standing at 9-11. The feud would continue with several practices and one memorable occasion where Haywood, during a skirmish, tore out one of Thomas’ dreadlocks. The Lincoln-Douglas debates this was not.
Thomas, of course, then came down with a raft of injuries which kept him from further challenging Haywood’s spot in the lineup. First came the irregular heartbeat, which forced Thomas out for the entire 2007-08 season after he had aortic surgery. After returning, Thomas promptly hurt his ankle and, after working his way back from that, tore his MCL. Never the player he was before the injuries, Thomas became a bench fixture before becoming one of the pieces in the ill-fated Ricky Rubio-Mike Miller trade. He was then promptly traded to Oklahoma City to fill their fetish for over the hill big men.
The value of Thomas therefore lies in the sympathy for they heyday years of the “Big 3” and the cast of characters that populated them. Thomas is remembered as being a long-term Wizard who spoke out against the war, wrote poetry in his spare time and now contributes articles on ESPN.com, among other web outlets like the Huffington Post and HoopsHype. His value on the court, however, had less impact. Thomas never played a full season. He never had a series of dominant games that established him as a viable option as a starter. And he was often a liability on the defensive end, as he did not make up for the mistakes of his peers. Finally, competition did not see neither Thomas nor Haywood as much of a threat; Shaquille O’Neal was known to have many a quip about the Wizards corps at the pivot.
Thomas has retired from basketball, and he is sure to have a long career as a writer and commentator. If only his low post game was as intriguing as his prose, the Wizards may have truly been on to something.
Sean Fagan ][ @McCarrick
No. 56: Cedric Jackson; No. 55: Mike Bibby; No. 54: Paul Davis; No. 53: Edwin Ubiles; No. 52: Quinton Ross.
No. 51: Mike Wilks; No. 50: Mike Harris; No. 49: Javaris Crittenton; No. 48: Dee Brown; No. 47: Morris Almond.
No. 46: Larry Owens; No. 45: Mustafa Shakur; No. 44: Brian Cook; No. 43: Hamady N’diaye; No. 42: Rashard Lewis.
No. 41: Hilton Armstrong; No. 40: Oleksiy Pecherov; No. 39: Mike James; No. 38: Fabricio Oberto; No. 37: Ronny Turiaf.
No. 36: Lester Hudson; No. 35: Yi Jianlian; No. 34: Juan Dixon; No. 33: Josh Howard; No. 32: Chris Singleton.
No. 31: Al Thornton; No. 30: Shelvin Mack; No. 29: Mo Evans; No. 28: Mike Miller; No. 27: Alonzo Gee.
No. 26: Randy Foye; No. 25: Dominic McGuire; No. 24: Andray Blatche; No. 23: Earl Boykins; No. 22: Roger Mason.