1. The Chris Webber trade cost Washington a chance at Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter
When the Bullets traded for Chris Webber in November 1994, they gave the Warriors Tom Gugliotta and three first rounders to close the deal. That seems like a fair price for a number one overall pick who had just won Rookie of the Year. Still, the exact picks the Bullets chose to give Golden State in the deal proved to be costly.
To avoid invoking the Ted Stepien rule, the Bullets gave up their first round picks in 1996, 1998 and 2000. In 1996, the Bullets could have taken Kobe Bryant two spots ahead of the Hornets with the 11th pick had they not dealt it away. In 1998 the Warriors used the Wizards' pick to draft Vince Carter, only to trade him to Toronto for Antawn Jamison. The 2000 draft was one of the more disastrous draft classes in recent memory, so you can't be too upset for the Wizards avoiding that mess.
Still, it's painful to look back now and think about what could have been if the Wizards had opted to trade their 1995, 1997 and 1999 picks instead. The Bullets used their 1995 pick to draft Rasheed Wallace, who they wound up dealing to Portland a year later for Rod Strickland. The Bullets had to forfeit their 1997 draft pick after the Juwan Howard contract fiasco, and in 1999 they drafted Richard Hamilton, who they flipped to Detroit for Jerry Stackhouse before Hamilton peaked as a Piston.
2. The smartest financial move Chris Webber made in his career was using the early opt-out clause in his rookie deal
Chris Webber entered the NBA in 1993, at a time when rookie contracts were spiraling out of control. There was no rookie scale at the time, so teams were throwing out big wads of money in exchange for long-term security. As a result, Chris Webber signed a 15 year, $74 million deal with the Warriors coming out of college.
When Webber used an early opt-out clause to hit restricted free agency the following season, it looked like he would be giving up a big chunk of money to gain his freedom, especially since he had to sign a 1 year, $2 million deal in order to complete the sign-and-trade and allow the Bullets to maintain his rights in restricted free agency the following season.
The opt-out allowed Webber to reap the benefits of the NBA's surge in popularity and maximize his earning potential. In the 14 years after opting out, Webber earned over $157 million in Washington, Sacramento, Philadelphia and Detroit. He more than doubled what he would have made if he rode out his original deal with Golden State.
3. The Warriors had nothing to show for the Webber trade three months after the deal
Don Nelson, the coach the Warriors refused to fire when Chris Webber held out, resigned in February 1995, after the Warriors started the season 14-31. Five days later, the Warriors traded Tom Gugliotta, the only immediate return they got from the Webber trade, to Minnesota for Donyell Marshall.
The Warriors had to wait until the 1996 Draft to reap more benefits of the Webber trade. They used the pick they received from Washington to draft Todd Fuller ahead of Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojaković, Steve Nash and Jermaine O'Neal. Welp.
4. Chris Webber averaged more steals per game in Washington than Rod Strickland
Webber still has the eighth-highest steals per game average (1.6 per game) of any player in Washington history, even though he played a position you don't normally associate with getting lots of steals. It's a testament to Webber's quick hands and underappreciated defensive instincts that he ranks so high.
5. Chris Webber had a higher PER in Washington than Gilbert Arenas
In fairness, Gilbert Arenas had a higher PER at his peak than Webber, but his post-injury numbers hurt his overall PER in Washington. The only players to have better career Player Efficiency Ratings in Washington than Chris Webber were Walt Bellamy and Moses Malone.
6. There was speculation trading Chris Webber to Sacramento could lead to the Wizards making a run at Grant Hill in free agency
Kevin Durant isn't the first superstar small forward from the D.C. area the Wizards considered making a run at in free agency. Michael Wilbon, who was writing at the Washington Post at the time, hinted Grant Hill would be open to playing in Washington after the Wizards traded Webber to Sacramento:
(In the slightly more expensive category, remember that Grant Hill, besides having an option clause in his contract after next season, isn't quite as beloved in Detroit as he is here at home. Would Hill be amenable to coming home via trade or free agency? Absolutely. I know because a little birdie told me.)
For what it's worth, Hill later said it would have been difficult to play so close to home in a 2010 interview with Wilbon:
Asked if there was ever any real chance for him to play before folks at home, Hill said, "I talked to Michael Jordan back when he was president of the Wizards . . . I think it was in April of 2000 . . . We talked about me coming home, playing for the Wizards. But I didn't do it for the same reason I wouldn't go to Georgetown . . . too close to Janet and Calvin."
7. The Wizards reportedly considered trading Chris Webber for Shawn Kemp
Like Chris Webber, Shawn Kemp had slowly been wearing out his welcome by 1997. For Kemp, the issue was Seattle's refusal to renegotiate Kemp's deal, that made him one of the NBA's best bargains during his prime years in Seattle. As a result, Washington and Seattle discussed a Webber-Kemp swap on more than one occasion.
The Seattle Times reported the Sonics and Wizards discussed a swap before the 1997 draft that would have sent Kemp and former Bullet Jim McIlvane to Washington:
The most prominent speculation was a report out of New York that Kemp and center Jim McIlvaine could be going to Washington (McIlvaine's old team) for Webber, a forward. There are huge obstacles to overcome on that one, not the least of which would be matching salaries.
Together, Kemp and McIlvaine will make $6.9 million next season. Webber is due to make $9 million, 31 percent more than the two Sonics. According to league rules, to make a trade work, the difference in salaries involving teams that are over the cap cannot exceed 15 percent, plus $100,000.
Another negative is that Washington General Manager Wes Unseld is not enamored of McIlvaine. He knows him well and doesn't want him back, even if it is to get Kemp. Although Unseld believes Kemp has had a better career than Webber, he feels Webber had a better season last year and probably will continue to improve.
As it turned out, the Wizards were probably wouldn't have been any better off swapping Webber for Kemp instead of Richmond. Kemp was out of the NBA almost as quickly as Mitch Richmond and similarly wouldn't have solved the Wizards' issues at center.
8. If Chris Webber had stayed in Washington, there's a chance he could have reunited with Latrell Sprewell
After Sprewell was reinstated from his suspension for choking P.J. Carlesimo, he said he would be open to reuniting with Chris Webber, who he played with in Golden State, according to the Washington Post:
Latrell Sprewell said last night that he would like to play for the Washington Wizards next season if the Golden State Warriors decide to trade him when he returns to the team July 1 after being suspended this season for choking Coach P.J. Carlesimo.
In an interview on ESPN's "Up Close," Sprewell said that he and Chris Webber "had good chemistry" when Webber played for the Warriors, and "that was taken away" when Webber was traded to Washington in 1994.
Chris Webber was on board with the idea, and said as much the day after Sprewell went on the record about his desire to join the Wizards:
"It's never been a secret that I want to play with him and I want him to be here," Webber said. "I don't want to lose what we have, but our first priority should be to get Rod [Strickland] back and our next should be to get Spree."
Webber reiterated his stance after the end of the 1997-98 season, before he was traded to Sacramento:
``It takes time [to build a winner],'' Webber said. ``People have a right [to criticize]. But those will be the same people lining the streets at the ticker-tape parade when we win a championship. Our first priority should be to get Rod back and our next should be to get Spree.''
Could you imagine a lineup with Rod Strickland, Latrell Sprewell, Chris Webber and Juwan Howard in 1998? It's anyone's guess how quickly that would have imploded, but it would have been a fun implosion.