You’re in your second semester of AP Basketball History, you love really good teams, and you love lists. With precious little drama left in the NBA’s 2015 offseason, why don’t we hit the barroom and/or barbershop, pour ourselves a frosty mug of Barbicide, and get to arguin’ over each franchise’s most formidable starting five-man lineup.
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Because we don’t like making tough decisions, the lineups will reflect the All-NBA line of thinking. There will be no differentiation between separate forward and guard positions, and the squads will be chosen after careful consideration of individual merits only – we don’t really care if your team’s top shooting guard and point guard don’t get along.
These rankings will roll out based on when each franchise began its NBA life. We continue with the Washington Wizards, who have been known by many names.
C: Wes Unseld. OK, so he probably shouldn’t have won the MVP in his rookie season. His Baltimore Bullets were swept out of the first round of the playoffs that year and he averaged 13.7 points per game that season (future teammate Elvin Hayes led the league, as a rookie, in nearly doubling that mark). Unseld still acted as the stabilizing defending, rebounding, passing, leading and sometimes scoring force on a litany of Baltimore-to-Washington squads that tore up the Eastern Conference for years, culminating in the 1978 NBA championship.
F: Elvin Hayes. Just scored and rebounded and scored and rebounded and scored and rebounded. Averaged nearly 22 points and almost 13 rebounds as a member of the franchise, was the leading scorer on the team’s 1978 championship squad, while showing a generation’s worth of fans how, exactly, to nail a turnaround jumper from the low post.
F: Gus Johnson. An astonishingly mobile and athletic player for any era, much less his own, Johnson’s all-around game helped pave the way for the NBA that we’re familiar with in 2015. After bouncing around the AAU circuit, a junior college and one year at the then-remote University of Idaho, Johnson found a home throwing down monstrous dunks and mid-range jumpers as a frontcourt contributor for several standout Bullets clubs. A stellar defender as well, he retired as a five-time NBA All-Star.
G: Earl Monroe. Emerging out of Winston-Salem State, Monroe devious scoring game was too often lauded for its flash by those that misunderstood the fundamentals, footwork, and well-honed touch that went into it. The Pearl spent just four years with the then-Bullets, but he averaged nearly 24 points per game with the team and nearly drove them toward a title in 1971.
G: Gilbert Arenas. He threw up a ton of shots, he acted the part of the doofus (in ways both innocuous and harmful) way too often, and he never played defense, but Arenas was still one of the best players at his position for Wizards teams that routinely made the playoffs. Prior to crippling knee injuries sapping him of his sprightly bounce, Arenas averaged over 28 points per game and six assists on the 2007 Wizards, making three All-Star games in his Washington career.
As it is with seemingly each of these older franchises, Walt Bellamy missed the cut at center. Prior to the team’s move to Baltimore, Bellamy was a reliable go-to scorer and rebounder on an aging and not-all-that-great Chicago Zephyrs expansion franchise right out of the gate, later needlessly panned for his huge numbers put up on a terrible team.
The Wizards (the team that employed Paul Pierce in 2014-15) are forever full of superstars past their primes. Moses Malone, Dave Bing, Bobby Dandridge (who put the 1978 champs over the top), Mitch Richmond, Bernard King and swingman Michael Jordan all enjoyed fruitful if unfulfilling turns with the franchise.
Meanwhile, Phil Chenier has the biggest gripe of them all. Never as flashy as either Earl Monroe or as self-promoting as Arenas, he nevertheless was the rock behind consistently great Washington Bullet teams in the 1970s.
This is the five we’re going with. Who would you take?
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