#WizardsRank: Ranking Washington Wizards from the Last Five Seasons (Nos. 36 to 32)
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.
NOTE: this post will contain players ranked 36 to 32, and we will update one player at a time periodically.
3.18 out of 10
(11 games, 73 minutes, 6.0 PER, -0.082 WS/48)
When Ernie Grunfeld signed Lester Hudson (or “Done Ruthless,” as he’s known at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee-Martin) to the 2010 Washington Wizards Summer League team, he wanted a player who would cause his regular season roster decision to be “more challenging.” In order to accomplish that, Hudson had to shine on a roster that included John Wall (the 2010 No. 1 draft pick), JaVale McGee (an electrifying player who thrives in a freewheeling, structure-less summer environment), Nick Young (who had a grand opening and a grand closing in the same night), and Cartier Martin, who was fighting for his own spot on the Wizards roster.
Hudson not only collected yet another nickname during summer league — “Mini-Vinnie,” because he ould heat up off the bench like the “Microwave” — but he also hit a buzzer-beater against the New Orleans Hornets to boot. When the Wizards opened the 2010-11 season, Hudson had convinced Grunfeld and Flip Saunders to offer him a spot on the roster with a few caveats. He had a non-guaranteed contract on a team with Gilbert Arenas, Kirk Hinrich and John Wall. Unfortunately, Hudson did not get a chance to re-create that summer league magic during the regular season. In six appearances, he averaged just 4.2 minutes, 0.3 points and one assist. His best game came against his first and former team, the Boston Celtics (who drafted him 58th overall in 2009), when he had four points, four assists, and four fouls. A few days later, Hudson was waived in favor of Alonzo Gee, who was getting a chance to serve his second tour of duty with the Wizards.
A month later, John wall got hurt, Gilbert Arenas was traded, and Kirk Hinrich was forced to play 47 minutes in a close loss to the Miami Heat (one in which Hinrich missed a breakaway layup in the closing seconds that would have given the Wizards the “W”). Hudson had been cut in favor of Gee because of the point guard backlog, and now Gee was being cut in favor of the return of Hudson (as we found out via Twitter) because of a forward backlog (via the arrival of Rashard Lewis, mostly). In his first game back, Hudson played 17 minutes and contributed eight points, six assists, and three steals, also against the Celtics. Prior to his second game, Lester received a compliment from a former assistant coach of his in Boston (and eventual coach of the year) Tom Thibodeau when the Bulls visited the Wizards.
Sadly, those two nights were the last highlights of Hudson’s career in a Wizards’ uniform. Hudson was cut for good from by Washington on January 5, 2011. He resurfaced last season for 13 games with the Cleveland Cavaliers (this time he and Alonzo Gee were allowed to be on the same roster), and became a “Temporary Quasi-Phenomenon” by averaging 23 points during a four-game stretch. He ended the season playing three games as a garbage player on the Memphis Grizzlies. Hudston is still vying to force a NBA team to keep him on a roster. One of his most recent tweets (written against the backdrop of Hudson in a Wizards uniform) read: “Just got done working out, bout 2 go hoop now.”
Rashad Mobley ][ @Rashad20
3.24 out of 10
(63 games, 1,112 minutes, 10.1 PER, .016 WS/48)
A chair can dream.
It can dream of appearing on national TV with Clint Eastwood. It can have nightmares of being sat on by Fab Melo.
It can hope to play “tough defense” on a 7-foot lottery prospect, getting enough attention that fans create a draft profile for it.
Yes, a chair can dream.
But Yi Jianlian, who famously practiced against a chair in 2007 pre-draft workouts, has to be a little more practical.
After five forgettable years in the NBA — including a mediocre 2010-11 season in DC — no one thinks Yi is the next Yao anymore. If he’s lucky, he’ll be the next Joe Kleine: A seven-footer who carves out a decade-plus role as a rotation player. And even that middling future is in doubt; there’s a chance he’ll miss next year because of a knee injury.
That career arc is especially disappointing because Yi arrived in the NBA touted as a dynamic young big with unlimited range; his supporters swear there’s still untapped talent, waiting to be harnessed. But what we mostly saw in Washington, after the Nets essentially paid the Wizards to take Yi’s contract, was a plodding back-up center with a herky-jerky game.
Although…his biggest performances teased what could have been. Take “Asian Heritage Night,” back on Nov. 10, 2010. Yao and the Houston Rockets were in town; the game was beamed to hundreds of millions of viewers back in China. And Yi rose to the challenge with a solid 13 points, seven boards, and four blocks off the bench in a Wizards win, while Yao got hurt in the first quarter and never stepped foot on the hardwood again.
Yi could’ve, should’ve grabbed the torch for China basketball that night. But he averaged just 5.4 points per game and shot 42% the rest of the season. He was so underwhelming, the Wizards didn’t re-up his contract, despite the potential marketing opportunities that Yi brought to the team in the Far East.
A folding chair may have limited upside, but at least you get what you see. I think Rashad Mobley had it best: We hardly knew Yi.
Dan Diamond ][ @ddiamond
3.65 out of 10
(50 games, 816 minutes, 9.3 PER, -0.031 WS/48)
No way Juan Dixon should be ranked this high. Methinks A) voters may have reflected a Maryland Terps bias, and B) Dixon’s two separate tenures as a Wizard were not fully considered as separate entities. Nonetheless, the second coming of Dixon to Washington was pretty bad, and I’m not sure the first coming of him was that great, either. But I digress… to consider the full picture of Dixon is to consider from where he came — the infamous story of his tough upbringing and the amazing fact that he made it to the NBA in the first place.
To start… Washington drafted Dixon with the 17th overall pick in 2002. He spent his first three NBA seasons as a Wizard — 176 games, 23 starts, and averages of 18.1 minutes, 8.2 points (39.6 FG%), 1.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.2 turnovers. In August 2005, Dixon found himself signing as a free agent with the Portland Trailblazers. He spent some time there, got traded to the Toronto Raptors in February 2007 for Fred Jones “and cash,” got traded “with cash” to the Detroit Pistons for Primo Brezec in February 2008, and that September, the Wizards brought him back for the veteran’s minimum, partially guaranteed. Washington signed him because they knew Gilbert Arenas and his injured knee wouldn’t be around. What a replacement. It didn’t take long for coach Eddie Jordan to be fired that 2008-09 season and for interim coach Ed Tapscott to step in. And, for the purposes of #WizardsRank, this is where this evaluation of Dixon’s time begins.
Dixon’s minutes were understandably sporadic that season, as his play was understandably bad (for an undersized 30-year old guard with no real ability to run a team). Reports surfaced at various points that Dixon was unhappy with his playing time, but you won’t find many people happy on a 63-loss team. Dixon’s second-to-last game as a Wizard, his second-to-last in the NBA, encapsulated the experience. With the Wizards trying not to blow a lead against the almost equally lowly Toronto Raptors, Dixon, not hearing Tapscott trying to call timeout, jetted up the court and threw the ball to a teammate who actually heard his coach and was headed toward the bench. Dixon had five turnovers on the night and the Wizards lost as reports of Flip Saunders riding in to save the day surfaced. Yep, these are your Washington Wizards. Not Juan’s fault, but what do you want me to do, shed praise on him? He played 50 games for the second worst NBA team, put up a career-low 9.3 PER, and shot sub-40 percent from the field. This series isn’t exactly about redeeming qualities, but it won’t take away from Dixon’s 2002 National Championship and Final Four M.O.P. with the University of Maryland.
Kyle Weidie ][ @Truth_About_It
3.88 out of 10
(22 games, 500 minutes, 11.0 PER, .003 WS/48)
The Josh Howard experience is going to be one of those weird trivia questions where casual NBA fans years from now will look at his career and exclaim, “Wait, Josh Howard played for the Wizards? Why the hell did that happen?”
The word “played” of course would be placed in quotes, because Howard spent almost the entirety of his tenure rehabbing his knee and his stay on the team turned into an extended Club Med. Howard arrived in the District as part of the great jettisoning, as DeShawn Stevenson, Brendan Haywood, and Caron Butler were shipped west to Dallas for Howard, James Singleton, and a bag of chips (Quinton Ross). The acquisition of Howard provided the Wizards with a shorter contract and a veteran presence who could take the place of Butler on the wing. The “leadership” that Howard was purported to bring to the team was heavily derided at the time, considering Howard’s past brushes with authorities and a penchant for enjoying a very popular illegal substance. However, after reporting to the Wizards, Howard led the team to play what Flip Saunders called “the best stretch of four games” of the 2009-10 season. That all came crashing to a halt on February 22 in a game against the Chicago Bulls where, just seven minutes into the game, Howard tore his ACL. I was in attendance at the time, and it might be one of the most painful sport injuries I have witnessed in person; Howard writhed on the floor, unable to put any weight on his left leg.
To the surprise of all, however, Howard was re-signed the next season on a one-year deal to provide some more leadership, also allowing the Wizards take a relatively cheap flyer on a former All-Star who had said all the right things the season prior. Unfortunately, the knee refused to come around, and Howard became known better as the go-to quote in the Wizards locker room rather than a competing player. One his better snippets came during the infamous practice that Flip Saunders abruptly cancelled (when Hilton Armstrong, of all people, tried to rally the troops). Howard, who had never seen a coach simply walk out, had this to say about the Wizards effort:
“We are getting ready to get a paycheck on the 15th. And right now, I can honestly say y’all are getting a paycheck for nothing. And I can honestly say that.”
These types of statements were refreshing, considering the pablum that most players dish in interviews, and the fact that Howard had the gravitas to back it up. Howard was always willing to call it like it was, the issue is that the Wizards were a team that responded to actions rather than words. Howard was essentially tuned-out by the young Wizards locker room, and he became almost a ghost of a presence, sometimes attending games, sometimes not, and becoming quieter and quieter as the dreadful 2010-11 season progressed. Rashard Lewis was brought in to serve in Howard’s place as the the “lead by example” veteran, but unlike Howard, Lewis simply went through the motions rather than become a vocal critic of the team’s effort level.
Howard signed the following offseason by the Utah Jazz and was a vital cog for their surprise playoff package. The song, however, remained the same, as Howard had to undergo season-ending surgery on his left knee after playing efficiently in 43 games. Right now Howard is a free agent with several teams pursuing him. The tragic part of the story that he is a player who answered every question about his character positively, but now will be scrutinized on the basis of health.
Sean Fagan ][ @McCarrick
4.06 out of 10
(66 games, 1,431 minutes, 8.3 PER, .052 WS/48)
The name Chris Singleton isn’t one that strikes fear in the heart of men. Unfortunately, it isn’t a name that necessarily inspires a lot of confidence, either. For all of the pre-draft hype that surrounded the 6-foot-8, do-it-all wing out of Florida State, his rookie campaign was lackluster at best. His physical attributes drew early comparisons to players like Josh Smith, Rudy Gay and Crash Wallace—dangerous—but his on-court play for the Wizards was far too tame—he often disappeared like a tiger in reeds. Singleton’s weak handles were exposed, and so was his jump shot; while not terrible, it was certainly inconsistent at .372 (.346 from 3-point range). Opposing teams routinely took advantage of both weaknesses, with high ball pressure to force turnovers and extra space off the ball, taking their chances on an uncertain release (and routinely winning that gamble).
To a certain extent, Singleton, the 18th selection in the 2011 NBA Draft, is a victim of circumstance—the lockout offseason (no summer league) and an accelerated training camp coupled with a thin rotation that required the raw, defensive-minded rookie to play starter’s minutes made the leap to the League tougher than it should have been. But he has also been the victim of comparison, and rightfully so. The Wizards, who needed help at small forward, allegedly considered drafting Singleton at No. 6 overall, but the brass went with Jan Vesely instead. Singleton slipped to No. 18, where the Wizards made good on their promise. Two picks earlier, however, the San Antonio Spurs selected Kawhi Leonard, the coveted but highly criticized small forward out of San Diego State. Defensively, there isn’t much to separate the Singleton and Leonard—their difference between points per play (PPP) allowed is just 0.03 in favor of Singleton. But on the offensive side of the ball, there is no comparison. Overall, Singleton recorded 0.82 PPP, while Leonard’s posted a PPP of 1.06, noticeably developing over the course of the season and even playing a significant role in the Gregg Popovich’s championship chase.
“I think he’s going to be a star,” Popovich said about Leonard in an August 2012 mailbag with fans, to the chagrin of Wizards fans everywhere. “And as time goes on, he’ll be the face of the Spurs I think. At both ends of the court, he is really a special player.”
“And what makes me be so confident about him is that he wants it so badly,” Popovich continued. “He wants to be a good player, I mean a great player. He comes early, he stays late, and he’s coachable, he’s just like a sponge. When you consider he’s only had one year of college and no training camp yet, you can see that he’s going to be something else.”
Singleton, on the other hand, made headlines for dropping $10,000 on lottery tickets. Whether it’s fair or not, Chris Singleton will continue to be compared to Kawhi Leonard, and, at this point, it’s unclear (perhaps unlikely) as to whether he’ll close the gap in talent. And it seems like, once again, the Wizards lost the sweepstakes that is the NBA Draft. Washington could have drafted both Kawhi Leonard and Kenneth Faried (a solid player and great rebounder, who, while undersized vertically, has the same standing reach as Anthony Davis) instead of Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton. That hurts. And if Singleton is hurting, he’d best take a page out of Jared Dudley’s book as use the wicked pixels as motivation.