[Editor's Note: Part 4 of 20. Jeff Ruland's up next -PM]
Don't get me wrong, Jack Marin had an excellent playing career for the Bullets in the late 60s and early 70s, but there's another reason why he's on this list.
Before we get to that reason, we should probably talk about Marin's Bullets career. After being drafted with the fifth pick in the 1966 draft, he emerged as one of the most underrated swingmen in basketball. He entered the starting lineup in his second season, alongside Gus Johnson, Kevin Loughery, Earl Monroe, and Wes Unseld, and still managed to be a consistent double-figure scorer and above-average rebounder for his position. Essentially, he played like Kevin Grevey, only better.
Unfortunately, as Marin continued to improve, the rest of the team crumbled around him. The Bullets dipped to 42-40 in 1970-71, but a surprising run to the finals delayed the inevitable rebuilding of the team. Monroe was spectacular, but was increasingly unhappy, and Johnson and Loughery were starting to slow down. After a tumultuous offseason, Monroe was traded to the Knicks, Loughery was dealt to Philadelphia for Archie Clark, and Johnson's game took an incredible dip. Marin suddenly found himself becoming a top option, and he responded with his best season, scoring 22.3 points a game and reaching his first all-star game. The rebuilt Bullets, with Clark, Unseld, Marin, and a young Phil Chenier, bowed out to the Knicks in the playoffs, but the future looked bright.
But all that is secondary to the real reason why Marin is on this list. While the Bullets' rebuilding plan was taking full flight, the Rockets were in trouble. In their last year in San Diego, they finished 40-42, even though their star, Elvin Hayes, averaged an insane 29 points and 17 rebounds per game. Hayes was producing on the court, but he was feuding with legendary coach Alex Hanum. The Rockets hoped a move to Hayes' hometown, Houston, would make things better, and to make sure, they fired Hanum and replaced him with Tex Winter (yes, that Tex Winter). But things weren't any better in 1971/72. Their record dropped to 33-49, and Hayes and Winter never saw eye-to-eye. The organization concluded that Hayes was the problem, even though he was easily the best player on the team, and put him on the trading block.
The Bullets had a trio of excellent guards in Marin, Clark, and Chenier, and Wes Unseld remained the workhorse inside, but they didn't have another big man to help Unseld. Unseld was the league's premier rebounder and defender, but wasn't much of a scorer, so the Bullets' offense was very one-dimensional. They liked Marin, but were also confident that backup Mike Riordan, who had been acquired in the Earl Monroe trade, could step in adequately. They offered Marin and future considerations for Hayes, and the Rockets bit.
The rest, as they say, is history. Hayes remained a bit of a malcontent, but he teamed with Unseld to form the top front line in basketball. Marin had one more good year, but got traded in 1974 and was out of the league three years later. The Bullets remained perennial contenders, while the Rockets had just two winning seasons out of seven in the decade.
If it weren't for Jack Marin, there would be no Elvin Hayes, and there would be no magical run in 1978. Now you know why Jack Marin made this list.
[Pictures via The Sports E-cyclopedia]