Washington Wizards: 15 greatest draft steals in franchise history

Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /
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Wes Unseld, Washington Bullets
Wes Unseld, Washington Bullets. (Photo by Jerry Wachter/NBAE via Getty Images) /
  • 13 seasons w/Bullets (1968-81)
  • Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (Class of 1988)
  • NBA Champion (1977-78)
  • No. 41 jersey retired by Wizards organization
  • NBA’s 50th Anniversary Team
  • NBA MVP (1968-69)

Wes Unseld is arguably the greatest player in Bullets/Wizards history, alongside power forward Elvin Hayes. Together, they brought the nation’s capital its only NBA championship back in 1978. However, only Unseld was originally drafted by the Bullets, as Baltimore took him No. 2 overall out of Louisville back in 1968.

Coincidentally, the only guy that went ahead of him in that draft would be Hayes, who went No. 1 overall to the then-San Diego Rockets out of the University of Houston. Interestingly enough, the Rockets would relocate to Houston by his third year in the league.

Unseld spent his entire Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame career with the Bullets, totaling 13 NBA seasons in the red, white and blue. He was a five-time NBA All-Star and led the Bullets two four NBA Finals during the 1970s, culminating in an NBA Championship in 1977-78. However, his greatest professional season was his rookie campaign in 1968-69.

Unseld made the All-Rookie First Team and beat out Hayes for NBA Rookie of the Year. He averaged 18.2 rebounds, 13.8 points and 2.6 assists per game that season, helping the Bullets go worst-to-first in their division. Not only did this earn him a spot on the All-NBA First Team, but he won NBA MVP as a rookie! The only other player in NBA history to do that was Wilt Chamberlain.

Every season but the 1973-74 Capital Bullets campaign saw Unseld averaged over 10.0 boards per contest. He was a double-double machine for his first five years in the league, but his scoring efforts subsided in the final two-thirds of his illustrious NBA career.

Unseld retired after the 1980-81 NBA season as a lifelong Bullet. He averaged 14.0 rebounds, 10.8 points and 3.9 assists per game in his NBA career. Post-retirement, Unseld would serve as a front office executive, head coach and general manager of Washington, but never achieved the same hardwood success he did as a player.