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Another look at Wizards/Bullets All-Franchise

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Washington Wizards v Charlotte Hornets
Is John Wall the best guard in franchise history?
Photo by Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

I didn’t expect to come back to this topic so soon, but it’s the offseason, nothing’s going on in the NBA except workout silly season, and there are many ways of looking at All-Franchise.

Best season? Best career with the franchise? Best peak years? How can someone make a determination across eras? We have some old-heads in the Bullets Forever community, but somehow I doubt they much of Walt Bellamy with the Chicago Zephyrs, for example.

One challenge of attempting to compare players across eras is the lack of information from yesteryear. The NBA didn’t tally blocks and steals until 1973-74 and turnovers until 1977-78. They didn’t add three-pointers until 1979-80. Those are all important stats that provide important information — especially turnovers.

I could estimate those numbers, but I don’t like relying on estimates for this kind of analysis. So, I used a version of my era translator on every player in franchise history using only the same statistical categories available in 1961-62 when the franchise entered the league as the Chicago Packers. They became the Zephyrs the following season, moved to Baltimore and became the Bullets the season after that. They moved to DC and played as the Capital Bullets for a season before becoming the Washington Bullets in 1974. They became the Wizards in 1997.

The stats available in 1961-62: games, minutes, field goals and attempts, free throws and attempts, rebounds, fouls and points. That’s it.

For today’s article, I calculated each player’s share of the average team’s total in each of those categories. Then I applied a simple glory stats calculation — points + rebounds + 0.5 x assists - 0.5 x fouls. Let’s call this “metric” GLO, which is short for “glory stats.” In a future analysis, I may try to work apply a shooting efficiency measure. For final rankings, I included an adjustment for team winning percentage — better teams got a bonus, worse teams got penalized, and players on mediocre teams stayed about the same.

Before getting to the top seasons in all franchise history, the approach provides a way to look at some of the great seasons in franchise history by stat category. Let’s start with scoring. Here’s the top 10 seasons by “share” of the average team’s totals (with a little geekery added to give players credit for shooting efficiency:

  1. Gilbert Arenas, 2005-06 — 32.8%
  2. Bradley Beal, 2020-21 — 28.3%
  3. Arenas, 2006-07 — 28.0%
  4. Walt Bellamy, 1961-62 — 27.7%
  5. Arenas, 2004-05 — 27.0%
  6. Bellamy, 1962-63 — 26.0%
  7. Bellamy, 1963-64 — 25.1%
  8. Beal, 2018-19 — 25.0%
  9. Bellamy, 1964-65 — 24.6%
  10. Beal, 2018-19 — 24.3%

With three of the top five scoring seasons, there’s a good argument that Arenas is the greatest scorer in franchise history. Bellamy has a case too with four of the top 10 seasons. Beal could slip past either or both with a few more seasons like the last three.

The top 13 rebounding seasons in franchise history are owned by two men: Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes. Here’s the top 10:

  1. Hayes, 1973-74 — 37.0%
  2. Unseld, 1968-69 — 32.0%
  3. Unseld, 1971-72 — 31.9%
  4. Unseld, 1969-70 — 31.6%
  5. Unseld, 1972-73 — 30.4%
  6. Unseld, 1979-80 — 29.7%
  7. Unseld, 1970-71 — 28.8%
  8. Hayes, 1972-73 — 28.4%
  9. Unseld, 1974-75 — 27.9%
  10. Hayes, 1977-78 — 27.8%

The first non-Unseld, non-Hayes top rebounding season belongs to Bellamy in 1961-62 followed by Jeff Ruland in 1983-84. The best rebounding season since 2000 was Marcin Gortat’s 23.7% in 2016-17.

No one will be shocked to read that the franchise’s best rebounding guard was Russell Westbrook last season. He grabbed 23.5% of the average team’s rebounds over the full season — good for 25th on the franchise’s best rebounding season list.

The top 10 in assists is dominated by John Wall and Rod Strickland, though Russell Westbrook and Kevin Porter make appearances:

  1. John Wall, 2016-17 — 44.8%
  2. Rod Strickland, 1997-98 — 44.4%
  3. John Wall, 2014-15 — 43.8%
  4. John Wall, 2015-16 — 43.2%
  5. Russell Westbrook, 2020-21 — 42.7%
  6. Rod Strickland, 1998-99 — 41.9%
  7. Rod Strickland, 1996-97 — 40.2%
  8. John Wall, 2013-14 — 40.0%
  9. John Wall, 2011-12 — 38.3%
  10. Kevin Porter, 1980-81 — 35.2%

Here are top seasons using this GLO monstrosity metric. Keep in mind, there’s no accounting here for efficiency, which we know is a critical part of playing winning basketball. We’ll leave that for another day. Let’s stick to totals for now.

In GLO, an average score for this franchise is about 12.0. That’s just for reference to the scores I list below.

Centers

  1. Unseld, 1972-73 — 51.7
  2. Unseld, 1969-70 — 50.8
  3. Unseld, 1968-69 — 49.8
  4. Unseld, 1974-75 — 47.8
  5. Unseld, 1975-76 — 44.3
  6. Bellamy, 1964-65 — 44.0
  7. Moses Malone, 1986-87 — 43.5
  8. Jeff Ruland, 1983-84 — 42.9
  9. Bellamy, 1963-64 — 42.3
  10. Unseld, 1970-71 — 42.0

Of the team’s top 20 center seasons by this metric, Unseld had nine.

Forwards

  1. Hayes, 1974-75 — 58.0
  2. Hayes, 1973-74 — 55.2
  3. Hayes, 1976-77 — 48.5
  4. Hayes, 1972-73 — 47.3
  5. Hayes, 1978-79 — 45.9
  6. Juwan Howard, 1995-96 — 44.5
  7. Juwan Howard, 1996-97 — 44.0
  8. Antawn Jamison, 2005-06 — 43.2
  9. Chris Webber, 1996-97 — 42.8
  10. Gus Johnson, 1969-70 — 42.7
  11. Jamison, 2007-08 — 41.9
  12. Bobby Dandridge, 1978-79 — 39.6
  13. Hayes, 1977-78 — 39.1
  14. Gus Johnson, 1970-71 — 38.6
  15. Mike Riordan, 1972-73 — 38.4
  16. Greg Ballard, 1981-82 — 37.4
  17. Hayes, 1975-76 — 37.1
  18. Hayes, 1979-80 — 36.4
  19. Jack Marin, 1968-69 — 34.8
  20. Bailey Howell, 1964-64 — 34.7

I did a top 20 for forwards (and for guards) since two are included in each lineup.

The inclusion of Howard on this list gives me pause about this GLO metric. Virtually every serious advanced stat had him around league average overall. But, he was able to stay healthy while playing heavy minutes (more than 3,200 in each of these seasons), and this metric rewards volume.

Guards

  1. John Wall, 2016-17 — 53.2
  2. Russell Westbrook, 2020-21 — 49.3
  3. Gilbert Arenas, 2005-06 — 48.4
  4. Wall, 2014-15 — 47.2
  5. Rod Strickland, 1997-98 — 45.9
  6. Arenas, 2004-05 — 45.3
  7. Strickland, 1996-97 — 45.3
  8. Wall, 2015-16 — 45.1
  9. Wall, 2013-14 — 44.1
  10. Arenas, 2016-17 — 43.9
  11. Earl Monroe, 1968-69 — 40.6
  12. Michael Jordan, 2002-03 — 38.9
  13. Bradley Beal, 2020-21 — 38.5
  14. Phil Chenier, 1974-75 — 38.2
  15. Beal, 2017-18 — 38.0
  16. Beal, 2018-19 — 36.1
  17. Kevin Loughery, 1968-69 — 36.1
  18. Strickland, 1998-99 — 36.0
  19. Monroe, 1969-70 — 35.0
  20. Beal, 2016-17 — 34.5

Chenier, by the way, has seasons 21 and 22 on this list, followed by Wall’s 2011-12 season. Darrell Walker’s near triple-double season in 1989-90 ranked 24th. Jeff Malone’s best year — 1986-87 — sits 31st.

Let’s roll this up into All-Franchise teams.

First Team

G — John Wall

G — Gilbert Arenas

F — Elvin Hayes

F — Chris Webber

C — Wes Unseld

Yes, I know Juwan Howard and a season from Antawn Jamison rated ahead of Webber. But, this is a junk stat without serious analytical value, and I think Webber was better than either.

Second Team

G — Rod Strickland

G — Bradley Beal

F — Gus Johnson

F — Antawn Jamison

C — Walt Bellamy

Westbrook, according to this GLO thing, had the second best season for a guard in franchise history. But, it was his only season with the team, so I went with Beal, who’s put in the time and seems to want to stay.

Third Team

G — Russell Westbrook

G — Earl Monroe

F — Bobby Dandridge

F — Greg Ballard

C — Moses Malone

I couldn’t bring myself to put Howard on an All-Franchise team. He seemed like a fine person, but his averageness seems to define what this team has been about for decades. Come to think of it, maybe he should be first team.

Coming next: perhaps another look at All-Franchise using criteria I have yet to determine. Perhaps career average? Career totals?