Washington Wizards: Ranking The Top 5 Big Men In Recent Franchise History

Dec 14, 2015; Memphis, TN, USA; Washington Wizards center <a rel=

Washington Wizards Player Ranking: A team of writers joined forces to rank the top-5 big men in recent Washington Wizards history.

Ranking players is typically difficult to do because of the depth of talent available. The opposite has been true for the Washington Wizards.

Over the past several weeks, the staff and I have been ranking the top-5 Wizards at each position.

We reached a point where the level of talent just didn’t warrant a ranking.

It was either we placed Andray Blatche into the top-5 list, making all of our readers’ heads collectively explode, or just combine the two frontcourt positions into one ranking. We picked the latter because we value your heads and your loyalty to our site.

Nithin Kuchibhotla (@NKuchibhotla) has been traveling the world, so he took this one off.

Osman Baig (@Obtoojiveforyou), David Statman (@DJStatman77), John Cannady (@John_Cannady) and myself (@BenMehicNBA) contributed to the ranking.

Spoiler alert: Captain Dray did not make the cut. These rankings, as the ones prior, included players in recent Wizards history. We did not want to go back to the Paleozoic Era.

5) Pervis Ellison

by Oz Baig

For those who don’t remember, Pervis Ellison was the number 1 overall pick in the 1989 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings and was traded just one year later to Washington for Jeff Malone and a draft pick.

The trade for Ellison signified a reboot for John Nash’s Bullets:

“We have a building block. This might indicate a new direction and a new beginning. We’ve obtained quality youth in Pervis.”

Ellison was a skilled, finesse center for Washington.

In his four seasons, he averaged 13.9 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game on 52 percent shooting from the field.

His best stretch of basketball – the stretch where he looked like a legitimate building block for a rebuilding team – came from 1991-1993.  During that stretch, Ellison averaged 18.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game on 53.2 pecent shooting from the field.

His problem, however, was health.

Injuries quickly ravaged what looked like a burgeoning career. 

During his time in Washington, Ellison only managed to play in 232 games; an average of 58 games per season.

A knee surgery at the end of the 1993 season seemed to be the undoing of Pervis Ellison and he bottomed out in the 1993-1994 season, averaging just 7.3 points per game in 47 games (24 starts).

With the emergence of Tom Gugliotta, who was drafted by the team in 1992, Ellison was allowed to leave in free agency to the Boston Celtics in the 1994 off-season.

Why is Ellison included on this list ahead of the likes of Brendan Haywood, Tom Gugliotta and Harvey Grant?

It’s a fair question and there was debate amongst the staff about who should round out the top-5.  We eventually decided on Ellison because he was a two-way player who played efficiently at his peak in Washington.

In his two best seasons in Washington, he had a TS% of .568 and a WS (Win-share) or 10.7.

His ORtg was 109 and DRtg was 106, signifying the value he added when he was able to take the court.

Watching Pervis Ellison, I will surely remember his shot blocking prowess and especially how Phil Chenier would laud him for his controlled blocks where he retained possession.

Ellison was a good player for part of his short time in Washington and had the potential to be a building block.  If it wasn’t for injuries, he likely would have ended up further up on this list and cemented as a fixture in Bullets/Wizards history.

4) Marcin Gortat

by David Statman

Over the past three years, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’m going to forever go through life as the guy who will always have to stump for Marcin Gortat. I’ll do it again. Quite simply, Marcin Gortat is currently one of the best centers in the NBA, he is perfect for John Wall, he is perfect for the Washington Wizards, he is a crystal gem and he has no flaws.

OK, maybe I went a little overboard there.

But I truly feel that Marcin Gortat has never really truly gotten his due – even this off-season, there were plenty of people advocating dealing Gortat and blowing money on some washed-up loser like Dwight Howard.

And what’s the sense in that?

Over his three seasons in Washington, Gortat has brought a professionalism and consistency to the center position not seen in D.C. in decades.

At just about a double-double a game, Gortat has consistently been one of the smoothest and most effective pick-and-roll scorers in the game, working perfectly in a secondary role to Wall.

Unlike some centers, he doesn’t need time with the ball in his hands to score. He gets his work done quickly, and he can get going quickly.

But where Gortat has really shone in the past few seasons has been on defense, where he doesn’t get a lot of credit. Gortat is mobile, smart and has good length, and he’s consistently been an above-average defender throughout his career.

Compare that to Jamison, who put up gaudier numbers but wouldn’t know how to play defense if it punched him right in the face. Compare Gortat to Pervis Ellison or Nene, neither of whom could stay on the court. Over three seasons with Washington, Gortat has missed a total of eight games.

One of the best abilities is availability. Marcin Gortat has always been available, and he’s actually improved from year-to-year as a Wizard. He’s as solid as a rock, and he deserves to be higher than #4.

3) Nene

by Ben Mehic

It’s really hard to stumble upon true moments of joy. For the most part, I would consider myself a “happy” person, but bliss is something that rarely pops into my life.

In 2014, when the Washington Wizards snapped their playoff drought and eliminated the higher-seeded Chicago Bulls in the first round, I experienced one of those rare moments of bliss. Nene deserves almost all of the credit.

Washington was considered the underdog against Chicago, as they should have been. Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah was a legitimate MVP candidate during the season in the absence of Derrick Rose.

The Bulls were a more experienced, better coached and more tested team than the Wizards. And somehow, with Nene leading the charge, the Wizards managed to annihilate the Bulls.

Nene snatched Noah’s soul in the process, playing the best basketball of his career for the Wizards. It’s almost as if he saved up his talent for that one moment. He wasn’t intimidated by Noah in the least and made it a point to attack him every single time he got the ball.

That was peak Nene. That was the Nene that should have showed up every single night he played. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the Nene the Wizards got every game.

In an alternate universe, Nene would have been ranked number one on this list. In that alternate universe, injuries wouldn’t have existed and Nene would have been more willing to play through pain.

In his four full seasons in D.C., Nene played an average of 59.5 games per season. He missed a ton of time with ailments that others might have pushed through. Setbacks didn’t allow Nene to become the player he should’ve been and it became apparent why Masai Ujiri regretted re-signing the Brazilian in Denver.

Nene doesn’t quite make the “what if” list because he was a valuable contributor, but man, I wish he could’ve stayed healthy.

Regardless, the playoff moments and culture change he brought to the locker room have legitimately changed the way the team operates.

This upcoming season is going to be different without Nene on the bench. It was time to move on, though.

2) Antawn Jamison

by John Cannady

During his prime playing days, Antawn Jamison was sort of a weird hybrid of a big man. Sure, he usually played the power forward position on paper, but on any given night, Jamison could kill your team with either his unorthodox post moves and lighting quick offensive rebounding or his strange, but super effective, jump shot.

Jamison came to the Washington Wizards from Dallas before the 2004-05 season in a monster trade that ironically involved another UNC “superstar” Jerry Stackhouse.

Fresh off a season where he won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award, Jamison teamed with another Wizards legend, Gilbert Arenas, and later Caron Butler to lead some of the best Wizards/Bullets teams in history as one of the members of Washington’s big-three.

As good as Jamison was for the Wizards, he doesn’t really have that signature game that he will be remembered by like other members of those Wizards teams in the mid-2000s.

Arenas had the “take a bow” game in the Staples Center, Paul Pierce had the “I CALLED GAME!” game-winner in the playoffs, and who can forget the DeShawn Stevenson/LeBron James beef game where Soulja Boy himself made an appearance?

Jamison wasn’t that type of player. He was the type of player that teams knew was going to get his numbers, so they had to find a way to limit him.  

Although he was undersized on the block, his quickness and knack for scoring and offensive rebounding evened out his size disadvantage.

His quick moves in the post were very hard to stop and he was a master of the mini jump hook with either hand.

Jamison would also use his odd looking jump shot to gain an advantage.

While it wasn’t a thing of beauty, teams had to game plan for it because he started knocking threes down pretty regularly and drawing their bigs away from the paint.

Looking back, Jamison was definitely one of the NBA’s first stretch four players that all of teams NBA (including the Wizards) are currently trying to emulate.

Jamison made two All-Star teams while playing with the Washington Wizards, but he also had his faults. His defense was always terrible, and if he wasn’t playing well in a game, he looked really bad.

My favorite thing about Jamison was, he was never a “look at me” player.

Jamison knew that in order for the Wizards to have a chance to win, he had to be all business. With other wildcards on the team such as the aforementioned Arenas and Stevenson, Jamison had to play the role of the steady veteran.

Even when the (unfortunate) gun stuff with Arenas ruined the Wizards franchise for quite a while, Jamison always stayed above the fray and never said a bad word about his teammate or about any of the things that went down.

Jamison was the ultimate professional and carried the franchise on his back at times once Gilbert Arenas went down with an injury or…ahem…other reasons.

Jamison will be remembered and loved in D.C. as a hard worker and a class act. Jamison is now on CSN Mid-Atlantic as a color analyst for his former team. Jamison ended up playing five and half successful seasons for the Wizards and is one of the best big men in the franchise’s history.

1) Chris Webber

by Oz Baig

Chris Webber was not only the best big man to suit up for the Washington Wizards/Bullets in the past 25 years, but he is the most talented player to play for this organization since their championship glory day in the 1970s.

Webber was special; a player whose game would have translated to multiple eras.

He had an ability to score, shoot, pass, rebound and defend that was unparalleled by the other players on this list. Unfortunately for Washington fans, Webber symbolizes yet another “what if” – a missed opportunity that set this franchise back for years and robbed us at what was a legitimate chance at a championship contender.

In the 212 games played for Washington between the 1994-1998 seasons, Webber averaged 20.9 points, 9.7 rebounds. 4.4 assists and 1.7 blocks per game.

He was developing as a 3-point shooter as well, shooting 33.6 percent from long distance in his time in Washington.  

At age 23, as Washington pushed to make their first appearance in the playoffs since the 1988 season, Webber was at his best.

He averaged 20.1 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game on 51.8 percent shooting from the field and 39.7 percent from the 3-point line. Webber had an ORtg of 108 and a DRtg of 101 that season, showing the impact he had on both ends of the floor.

After losing to the Michael Jordan led Bulls in the first round, it seemed like we were on the cusp of seeing something special happen in Washington.

“They’re truly one of the teams of the future,” said Bulls guard Michael Jordan

Then came the 1997-98 season; a strong statistical season for Webber but a step back for the team as they regressed from 44 wins to 42 wins and missed the playoffs entirely.

Off-court issues surfaced as well.

The organization reacted strongly to a disappointing season and just as quickly as Webber coming to the Washington Bullets from Golden State came together, it was undone with his trade to the Sacramento Kings.

Webber went on to have a great career, taking his game to the next level in Sacramento where he averaged 23.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 steals per game in seven seasons.

He lifted a franchise that had been dormant in mediocrity to seven consecutive playoff seasons including a 61-win season and an appearance in Game-7 of the Western Conference Finals.

Meanwhile in Washington, Mitch Richmond, the primary player received for Webber, quickly regressed and showed signs of age.

He never quite resembled the player Wes Unseld envisioned when executing this trade, and as such, Washington quickly fell back into being a perennial lottery team.

For those of us who got to witness the Chris Webber era in Washington, from the euphoria surrounding his unexpected arrival to the suddenness of his departure, he will always represent a huge regret – a shooting star who was gone before we realized it.

Webber had charisma on and off the court as well as a style of play that was a pleasure to watch.

The creativity and skill-set he displayed for a player of his size and athleticism was once in a generation. Washington had their franchise player – a true star that could have changed the fortunes and outlook of the franchise. And just like that, he was gone.

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