#WizardsRank: Ranking Washington Wizards from the Last Five Seasons (Nos. 31 to 27)
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. So let’s get it started…
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.
NOTE: this post will contain players ranked 31 to 27, and we will update one player at a time periodically.
4.12 out of 10
(73 games, 1,743 minutes, 11.9 PER, .055 WS/48)
During mid-February 2010, the plug was finally pulled on the “Big Three” era with Washington jettisoning Deshawn Stevenson, Brendan Haywood, Antwan Jamison, and Caron Butler in a series of trades. The team was able to clear significant cap space and acquired a former All-Star in Josh Howard. Another intriguing asset in these deals was Los Angeles Clippers forward Al Thornton. The former 14th overall draft pick had fallen out of favor in his third season with the Clippers, but had shown promise before — Thornton made the 2008 NBA All-Rookie Team and averaged almost 17 points during his sophomore campaign.
Thornton probably was relieved to be traded to the lowly Wizards, considering his interactions with notoriously bad human (and Clippers owner) Donald Sterling. Thornton was given ample opportunity to succeed Washington; he logged 39 starts in 73 games over parts of two seasons. He battled through a nagging knee injury and occasionally flashed the scoring ability that made him a standout at Florida State. One flash came at home against the Cavaliers on November 6, 2010; Thornton was almost unstoppable through three quarters, only to have Flip Saunders, who admitted his mistake afterward, bench him down the stretch as the Wizards lost. The most memorable moment, however, came when Thornton dunked all over Hawks center Zaza Pachulia — oh my, that was fun to watch live. But throughout his tenure with Washington, he struggled with consistency. The Wizards soon decided that Thornton did not fit into their future plans — thinking the additions of Rashard Lewis, Mo Evans and the return of Josh Howard would suffice — and bought-out /waived him on March 1, 2011. A couple days later, Thornton latched on with the Golden State Warriors for reminder of the season. He spent last season with the Guayama Wizards in Puerto Rico and played for the Brooklyn Nets at the 2012 summer league. Thornton is currently a free agent.
Thornton looked the part of a successful baller — size, strength, length, athleticism and the ability to attack the basket — but he couldn’t combine physical skills with basketball smarts. His one-on-one defense could pass, but he was terrible in team defensive schemes. His career 1.5 assists per 36 minutes average aligns with Nick Young’s, clarifying an inability to create for teammates. In November 2010, Thornton sang a tune in Washington about working harder and changing his diet, but the stigma around the league of him not being a professional (but a good guy) continued to follow Thornton in early 2012 as he continued to look for NBA work. Finding a high-volume, low-percentage shooting wing player is easy, and perhaps why Thornton’s NBA career is likely over at the age of 28. But, to end on a bright note, “Cowboy Al” is still one of my favorite Wizards player nicknames of these last couple of seasons.
Adam McGinnis ][ @AdamMcGinnis
4.12 out of 10
(64 games, 779 minutes, 11.9 PER, .042 WS/48)
Shelvin Mack is still more known for his time at Butler than for anything he’s done in his first NBA season-plus. The 6-foot-3 guard averaged over 20 points in the 2011 NCAA tournament and helped the Bulldogs reach the championship game two years in a row. Declaring for the draft after his junior season, Mack was certainly overlooked. At a restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky, Mack experienced an emotional draft night. The 2011 draft class featured talented and popular college guards such as Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, and the most popular, Jimmer Fredette. Most experts predicted Mack to go in the late-first/early-second round, with Mack himself stating, “I think I’ve got a shot at going in the first round.” After selecting Jan Vesely with the sixth overall pick and then Chris Singleton with the 18th, the Washington Wizards took Mack in the second round with the 34th overall pick. Not long after being selected, tears of joy fell from his eyes. “I hadn’t cried in forever,” he told Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com.
While it was good news to be drafted, the NBA lockout loomed over his decision to leave school early, as well as over the lives of every of NBA player, whether rookie or veteran. With the collective bargaining process failing, the 2011 NBA Summer League was cancelled. Rookies were left to prepare for the league on their own, and when the lockout ended on December 8th, it was a warp-speed integration into life as a pro basketball player.
In an ESPN SportsNation chat after the 2011 Draft, Mack stated: “I think I can be a Jason Terry-type guard and play along with [John Wall], or be a backup type player and get points off the bench.”
While it’s in his nature to score — it’s what he did in college — the Wizards requested that Mack focus more on creating for others. With Roger Mason and Jordan Crawford the closest thing to backup points on the roster, the Wizards were dependent upon Mack to contribute right away. He began to show growth facilitating the basketball toward the end of the season, when John Wall was sometimes used off the ball more. His three highest assist total games of six, seven and eight all came in April, each in less than 20 minutes of action. Mack averaged 3.6 points and 2.0 assists in 12.2 minutes per game on the season; in April, 14.2 minutes, 5.1 points and 3.3 assists. His season high of 12 points came in 16 minutes of action in a six point loss to the Orlando Magic in February.
Mack struggled in the 2012 NBA Summer League and is clearly still trying to make the adjustment to playing point guard in the NBA. The Wizards added veteran A.J. Price from the Indiana Pacers to the roster in late July. The idea is for him to help mentor both Wall and Mack. The path to becoming a productive NBA player is certainly in sight for Shelvin Mack, but it won’t get any easier from here.
Maurice “Mo” Evans
4.12 out of 10
(50 games, 1,055 minutes, 10.3 PER, .053 WS/48)
With the Atlanta Hawks yearning for Kirk Hinrich to put them over the top so much (top of what, I don’t know), they traded two late first round draft picks (Jordan Crawford and a pick that would end up being Chris Singleton), a washed-up Mike Bibby, and a veteran with utility, Maurice “Mo” Evans, to the mess in Washington for “Captain Kirk” in February 2011. The Wizards were 15-41 by the time they traded for Evans. So nobody cared that Flip Saunders was his first NBA coach, in Minnesota. No one cared that his minutes rose from 17.8 to 27.4, his PER from 7.5 to 10.9 in going from Atlanta to D.C. The Wizards concluded the 2010-11 season with a 6-4 record in the last 10 games and Evans started all of them, but no one really cares when you finish 23-59.
Then, a summer consumed by the NBA lockout. Evans, being one of the many VPs of the NBPA, took part in negotiations. He was on television. He dressed nice. Vests were involved — sometimes under jackets, sometimes not. Standing next to Billy Hunter (which, at times, looked foolish), was involved. In the scramble after the lockout, Evans chose to lace them up again in D.C. — he must have seen something he liked.
“We were in disarray from the moment I got here, from the moment I stepped off the plane and seen we were getting blown out by Philly in the preseason, it just wasn’t looking good,” admitted Evans in April after the final game of 2011-12. He was signed not 48 hours before camp was set to begin in December. And upon arrival, his knee was not in the best shape. Evans wouldn’t see a game until mid-January and only appeared in 24 out of 66 total games, 21 of those appearances coming after February.
But as most are aware, the Wizards’ roster, and prospects, changed drastically by the end of the year, and so did Evans’ contributions. In seven April games, he averaged 20.4 minutes and eight points, going 7-for-16 from the 3-point line. The Wizards went 6-1 in those games. Today, Evans still wants to play. The Wizards are reportedly interested in bringing him back in a non-basketball, front office role, but Evans wants to be on the hardwood. Can’t blame him, however real or unrealistic it may be. If Evans never makes it back to the Wizards organization, the pixels of history will always have his cry for help in January 2012: “The sense of entitlement that’s here sometimes, I’ve never seen before.” I guess you’ve got to see it, to live it, before you can be counted on to treat it. So at least someone got something out of the JaVale McGee/Andray Blatche/Nick Young leadership experience in the nation’s capital.
Kyle Weidie ][ @Truth_About_It
4.18 out of 10
(54 games, 1,805 minutes, 14.0 PER, .105 WS/48)
Nothing surprises me about the 54-game, 1,800-minute run Mike Miller had with the Wizards. Not his long, blond hair that would later get trimmed down to nothing. Not that he professed a “man crush” on LeBron James about a month before the Wizards traded for him. Not that Miller wore LeBron’s Nike shoes to the first day of practice — around the old Wizards gang: Gilbert, DeShawn, Caron, Antawn, and Brendan. Not that Stevenson gave Miller flack about his LeBrons. Not that Miller had the fourth best 3-point percentage in the NBA (.453) in his sole season as a Wizard. Not him missing a bunch of games with shoulder and/or calf injuries, in both legs. No surprises at all.
Miller came with credentials, that’s for sure. And “on paper,” he looked like the perfect fit for a gunning Wizards team in need of disciplined outside shooting and offensive facilitation as they looked to change their ways with a bevy of new and returning parts in late 2009. Miller also came from Minnesota with a “buyer beware” sticker slapped on his forehead. And not just because the Wizards traded the fifth overall draft pick in 2009 (Ricky Rubio), along with Etan Thomas, Darius Songaila, and Oleksiy Pecherov to the Timberwolves for two guys (Miller and Randy Foye) who would have meaningless value to Washington for a single year — both Miller and Foye walked as free agents after the season and the Wiz got nothing. The warning from Minnesota came via a piece by Britt Robson on SecretsOfTheCity.com:
But the writers of CSI should set to work on a script that explains Miller’s lone season in Minnesota, which was one of the most perverse, distasteful wastes of a player’s tailor-made role on a ballclub that I’ve ever witnessed. Instead of Mike Miller, the Wolves got a second-rate Jason Kidd, a guy who played like he wanted to patent the no-look inbounds pass; who frequently drove through three opponents in traffic so that he could leap at the hoop and then suddenly contort-spin himself for a zip-pass to an increasingly less surprised Telfair for a clanked trey; who angrily cited the fundamentals of hoops inventor James Naismith to a hapless beat writer who dared to ask why one of the game’s best shooters wasn’t shooting; who lay on the court in writhing agony at least 20 times during the course of the season (I don’t think I’m exaggerating), then would either crawl on his belly to the bench, get helped off by teammates, or, most frequently, move as if walking on glass shards for a good two or three minutes, yet never allow himself to be taken out of the game. Miller was TOUGH and he was UNSELFISH, goddammit, and the more I watched him chew the scenery like Nicholas Cage as Macbeth while the triple-teamed Jefferson and the Wolves sank to the bottom of the league in FG%, the bigger the shingle I hung out as a Mike Miller hater.
Minnesota Mike Miller was the exact same Mike Miller in Washington. And his unique set of “gamer” but frustrating skills ended up serving a niche purpose exactly when they were needed: Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals, when he managed to drain 7-of-8 3-pointers en route to a championship ring with the Miami Heat. Seemingly, Miller’s game can only be as perfect as presumed when he’s surrounded by close-to-perfect athletes; he was the well-traveled roadie trying to catch some scraps from the Heatles in South Beach. In D.C. and locales otherwise, it seems, Miller was just traveled.
People near and far continue to chuckle at Miller’s over-reliance on one of the most overly empty cliches in life: “It is what it is.” Yet, I can’t think of a more perfect way to encapsulate the Mike Miller experience. He was the role player masked behind promise; the willing basketballer masked by unwilling offensive tendencies; the South Dakotan with an affection for MMA fighting and cheek-stuffed wads of chewing tobacco before games (and all that’s still too vague) — “It is what it is,” means everything, yet nothing. Thanks for that, Mike Miller.
Kyle Weidie ][ @Truth_About_It
4.18 out of 10
(22 games, 309 minutes, 13.6 PER, .073 WS/48)
Alonzo Gee’s career in a Washington uniform began in a quiet, unassuming fashion. The Wizards chose not to renew the 10-day contract of Mike Harris, so they extended the 10-day treatment to Gee, an undrafted rookie out of the University of Alabama who was playing for the Austin Toros of the D-League. With the Toros, Gee averaged 21 points, 6.6 rebounds, and he finished runner-up in a dunk contest
Gee was a only a spectator in his first couple of games against the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets, but he slowly worked his way into the lineup. Against the Detroit Pistons, he scored six points during garbage time, but the way he scored gave the Wizards a hint of his versatility. The first two points were scored off the dribble via a floater in the lane, the next two were scored with an elbow jumper, and his final two points of that game came on a reverse, two-handed dunk. In a contest against the Utah Jazz, Gee scored a career-high 10 points, but they were all scored while the Wizards were trailing by 25 to 30 points. At least Gee was able to get in the game, but brilliance in garbage time isn’t exactly how players (or the 27th ranked Wizards player over the last five years) achieve significant recognition.
But Gee’s official coming out party came against the Denver Nuggets. He played tight defense against Camelo Anthony, he battled for defensive rebounds, he fought for extra possessions, and he finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds (his first double-double as a pro), and two steals in just 26 minutes of play. After Gee’s performance, Flip Saunders had this to say:
He’s playing well. There is no question, he’s a guy that can play in this league. I like the things he does. We’re going to keep on playing him, because he’s athletic, he defends, and he hasn’t had a practice yet. We brought him in and he hasn’t had a practice.
The very next day (which also happened to be the day the Wizards learned that Gilbert Arenas would not do jail time for “Gun-Gate”), Gee received a second 10-day contract, and although he did not get anymore double-doubles, he did crack the starting lineup when Al Thornton was forced to sit out with a strained hip flexor. Granted, no one was in the mood to celebrate because the Wizards had dropped 13 straight losses (the tally eventually rose to a franchise-record 16), but that didn’t stop Gee from giving the proverbial 110 percent. He responded to his first start by leading the Wizards in scoring with 19 points. Gee started one more game after that, but this time, when his second 10-day contract expired, the Wizards weren’t the only team to notice his potential.
The San Antonio Spurs, who saw Gee play in their backyard when he was a member of the Spurs-owned Austin Toros, offered to sign him for the remainder of the 2009-10 season and partially guarantee his contract for the 2010-11 season. Washington was only prepared to sign Gee through the remainder of the 2009-10 season, and instead of keeping one of the lone bright spots during an otherwise dismal season, they allowed the Spurs to steal him back. (Luckily, Kyle Weidie and the Washington Post’s Michael Lee caught up with him after his last game.) Cartier Martin took Gee’s place.
The Spurs waived Gee five games into the 2010-11 season, and the Wizards, again, snatched him up, but he was unable to make the impact he made the previous season, despite starting five games. When the Wizards traded Gilbert Arenas for Rashard Lewis, guards were needed more than forwards, which meant Gee was out and Lester Hudson was in. That concluded Gee’s run in Washington, but his story only got better. He played with the Cleveland Cavaliers (along with Antawn Jamison) for the remainder of the 2010-11 season, and after the NBA lockout, he re-joined the Cavaliers and averaged 10.6 points and 5.1 rebounds with a 13.2 PER. Then, just last week, Gee’s three-year journey that took him from being undrafted, to the D-League, to being cut, concluded with him signing a three-year deal with Cleveland worth $10 million. It is still hard to believe, however, that the Wizards didn’t find a way to keep him.