Whether it was the towering Walt Bellamy in the early 1960s for the Chicago Packers/Chicago Zephyrs, the “Big E” Elvin Hayes in the 1970s for the Washington Bullets, or modern era elite scorers like Gilbert Arenas and Bradley Beal (who could be on the trading block soon), the Washington Wizards have enlisted the talents of some premier hoopers throughout their history.
They’ve also been known to grab all-time greats at the tail end of their careers, like when Moses Malone came to the nation’s capital for a couple of All-Star campaigns at 31 years old, or when Mitch Richmond joined the squad for the last few years of his standout career, or when the greatest of all-time, Michael Jordan, stopped by for a cup of coffee after the second of his three retirements.
For every Bellamy or Beal, Moses or MJ, however, there is an elite talent that the Wizards let get away. The list includes a whole bunch of All-Stars, a couple of guys who got their jersey numbers retired before going onto legendary coaching careers, and three fifths of the Detroit Pistons iconic 2004 NBA Championship team.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but it seems like regular sight from the Washington front office should have caught a few of these talents before they slipped through Washington’s fingers. Here are eight players that Washington allowed to leave before reaching the height of their powers.
8 Players the Washington Wizards gave up on too soon
8. Muggsy Bogues, Point Guard
Muggsy Bogues was drafted out by the Washington Bullets with the No. 12 pick in the 1987 NBA Draft. He had a very promising start to his career in D.C., going for 10 points, six dimes, and four steals in his debut. He was part of a very unique squad in that at 5’3″ he was the shortest player in the NBA and he was playing on the same team as 7’7″ Manute Bol, who was the association’s tallest player.
Unfortunately the season didn’t start well for the Bullets as a team, and after an 8-19 start head coach Kevin Loughery was sent packing and replaced by Wes Unseld, who cut down on his diminutive point guard’s minutes significantly. However, despite starting only 14 games in his rookie year, Bogues still led the team with 5.1 assists and 1.6 steals a game.
Bogues is left unprotected in 1988 expansion draft
Despite his impressive rookie efforts, the Bullets’ front office didn’t consider Bogues as part of the team’s future, which led to the assist man going into the 1988 expansion draft unprotected. The expansion Charlotte Hornets snapped him up, and while Bogues has said there were no hard feelings toward the Bullets, fans will surely look back now and feel robbed.
Bogues’ playmaking and defensive acumen were clear from his rookie season, and he made good on that potential and then some during a 10-year stay with the Hornets during which he helped lead them to the playoffs three times. He also finished in the top seven in assists for six straight seasons from 1990 to 1995 and finished in the top 10 in steals in three of those campaigns as well.