There are a few seemingly random guys that I was all-in on while they here and I can’t fully articulate why. Even though there were major red flags I was seduced by their wingspan or their pedigree or their ability to shoot with size. Some of their NBA careers are long since over and I’ve already seen how their time in Washington has played out. However, I’m still convinced if things had broken just a little differently for them they could have been special.
Every fan has these guys, don’t they? You convince yourself that if only the Lakers had helped Lonzo Ball work on his jump-shot sooner he could be an All-Star by now. Or if the Cavaliers had just gotten Anthony Bennett a personal chef...okay, that one’s probably a lost cause in every alternate universe.
But with that premise in mind, here’s my personal starting five Wizards that I still haven’t given up long after they’ve moved on.
Center: Andray Blatche
Even though his NBA career is over, I’m still holding out hope that he might one day turn into the next Chris Webber. I will always be an Andray Blatche apologist and I’m still a card-carrying member of his fan club (potentially the only one left). He clearly had some issues but, wow, was he talented.
Even though he didn’t totally pan out I still think he was one of Ernie Grunfeld’s greatest finds, not that the competition for that is very steep. Grunfeld wasn’t exactly known for being a draft whiz (pun intended) but Blatche was well worth the risk in the second round. I know a reasonable percentage of Wizards Twitter is pelting me with digital rocks right now but I still can’t help myself.
You’ll just never convince me that in a better environment with more structure Blatche couldn’t have grown into a really high-level player. There was too much talent there and that 17 point and 8 rebound season was too enticing.
In a recent episode of the Bleav in Wizards podcast, Brendan Haywood talked about how the locker room at that time was devoid of leadership and professionalism after Larry Hughes left. Maybe with some more adults in the room, Blatche could have figured it out. After all, JaVale McGee ended up being a two-time NBA Champion with the Golden State Warriors so stranger things have happened.
Power forward: Al Thornton
He just feels like he would be a prime stretch-forward candidate in today’s NBA. Except for one little problem...he didn’t really stretch. He shot around 35 percent from three in his first season in Washington but on less than one attempt per game. At a similarly low usage rate the next year, he shot a putrid 16 percent.
But maybe in today’s spaced out league he would have focused more on his three-point shot and turned into a capable option given more opportunities. His jump shot always looked mechanically sound. Or at least that’s how I’m choosing to remember it.
He was an effective scorer in his time with the Clippers and I just really thought he would build on that in Washington. Obviously, it was not to be but I still find myself wondering what his career would have looked like if he had come along a decade later when they would have put more of an emphasis on adding to his shooting range.
Small forward: Cartier Martin
I honestly do not remember why I was so intrigued by Martin. In four partial seasons in Washington, he basically averaged 6 points and 2 rebounds. During the 2011-2012 season, he bumped his average to 9.3 points and he shot 39 percent from three on 4.5 attempts. Granted that was only in a 17-game sample size after he returned from a stint playing in China but it should still count for something!
I’d like to give myself credit and say that I foresaw where the league was headed and thought he would be a potential 3-and-D candidate but that’d be a lie. I just thought he was cool and rooted for the guy because he seemed to be working hard to stick around in the league.
Everyone loves an underdog, right? Okay, maybe everyone doesn’t love an underdog but I bet every NBA fan has a few random G League-type guys that they root for and can’t fully explain why.
Shooting guard: Glen Rice Jr.
That damn 2014 NBA Summer League MVP. I was convinced that was a sign of things to come. And I totally bought into the whole NBA heritage/parentage notion. Klay Thompson and Steph Curry’s dads also played in the league and they turned out great so, of course, that would be the case with Rice Jr.
Rice Jr. can put the ball in the basket, that is indisputable. Whether it’s Summer League, D-League, G League, Israeli League, Australia’s NBL, or the NBA, Rice Jr. has shown a knack for scoring the basketball.
Unfortunately, the other thing he’s shown a knack for is getting into trouble. He just can’t seem to stay out of his own way. He’s fought opponents, punched teammates, and cursed out officials.
This season he signed with the New Zealand Breakers of the NBL (the same team that draft-prospect R.J. Hampton played for). Two games into his tenure he was arrested after a bar fight and he was dismissed soon after for breaking the conditions of his bail.
Rice Jr. had other more public troubles that I won’t detail here but it seems fair to say he’s wasting a lot of talent. In a league where there’s a premium placed on scoring, Rice Jr. should be halfway into a lucrative second contract by now. Maybe, just maybe, the right sports psychologist can help him figure it out!
Point guard: Brandon Jennings
In his NBA debut, Jennings dropped 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists. Two weeks into his career he’d already scored 55 points in a game and 20-year-old me was hooked.
Despite that early success, he never turned into quite the player I expected. He was really more of a score-first point guard who wasn’t particularly good at scoring efficiently. If you’re going to shoot under 40 percent from the field then you better be dropping a whole lot of dimes.
That being said, Jennings was still a starting-caliber point guard for a half-dozen seasons. Ultimately, a torn Achilles in 2015 robbed him of a lot of his athleticism and he was never the same.
Late in the 2017 season, Jennings joined the Wizards who desperately needed a back-up to John Wall. I thought he might be able to use his veteran savvy to come off the bench and set people up. In my mind, a player with talent like his, even diminished, still had to be able to adapt and adjust enough to competently give Wall a breather.
Sadly, that’s not what happened. With Washington, Jennings couldn’t hit the ocean if he were standing on a boat. I truly cannot think of another guard who has shot the ball as poorly as Jennings did during his time here.
The entire time it was happening though, I kept finding myself day-dreaming about “what-if” and how nice of an addition he would be if he ever found a groove.
But, hey, he’s still only 30-years-old so perhaps it’s not too late to rule out a comeback. See? I clearly never learn my lesson.
Please don't judge me too harshly here, you can’t help who you like. I’m hoping that speaking out will give other fans the strength to admit that they too have a problem. So let’s hear in the comments who would wind up on your Island of Misfits. Who are the guys you still haven’t given up on?