In 1995, the Washington Bullets traded Chris Webber to the Orlando Magic in exchange for a future first round pick. The Bullets were able to draft Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant instead. However, it is possible that if they had drafted either of those two players, the team could have been much more successful.
The when did kobe get drafted is a question that has been on the minds of many. In 1996, the Washington Bullets had a chance to draft Kobe Bryant or Steve Nash, but they traded Chris Webber for Juwan Howard instead.
Chris Webber was a fantastic player in the NBA. C-Webb was named to five All-Star teams, five All-NBA teams, and was the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1993-94 over the course of 15 seasons. His accomplishments earned him a place in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
His tenure with the Washington Bullets/Wizards, on the other hand, was mostly forgotten. Worse, Washington’s trade to get the reigning Rookie of the Year may have lost them a chance at a number of great players, including Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.
Chris Webber, a dissatisfied player, was acquired by the Washington Bullets.
Webber had hardly finished saying “Orlando Magic” before he was moved for the first time in his career. Webber was chosen first overall by the Magic in 1992 before being traded to the Golden State Warriors for Penny Hardaway and three first-round selections.
Webber seemed to have found a home in the Bay Area at first. C-Webb averaged 17.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game in 76 starts. He was well ahead of his time in terms of being a great passing big man with fast handles at 6-foot-9. The Warriors’ fantasy, however, would soon turn into a nightmare.
To say the least, head coach Don Nelson and Webber had a rocky relationship. The experienced coach wanted Webber to play a more conventional center position, but Webber refused. Former Michigan Wolverine Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, and Alonzo Mourning would have been up against him. Things between the two sides deteriorated to the point that Webber used a one-year termination provision in his rookie contract and informed the Warriors that he would not be returning.
The Bullets (who wouldn’t become the Wizards until 1997) opted to have Webber go sooner rather than later. After a 24-58 season, the Wizards agreed to a sign-and-trade with Golden State, sending three first-round choices and Tom Gugliotta in return for the reigning Rookie of the Year.
One of two transactions that cost Washington a lot of money was the Chris Webber deal.
Washington gave up their first-round selections in 1996, 1998, and 2000 as part of the Webber trade. While the later two didn’t have much of an effect, the 1996 draft was a huge miscalculation.
The Bullets completed 39-43 in the 1995-96 season. From the Webber trade, Golden State received Washington’s first-round selection, which was ranked 11th overall and used to select center Todd Fuller. However, since Orlando’s selection came before Washington’s, the Bullets still had a pick of their own at No. 12 overall.
Washington boasted one of the league’s youngest and most interesting frontcourts at the time. Webber, Juwan Howard, and Rasheed Wallace, all former Fab 5 teammates, created a trio of 22-and-under players with All-Star potential. However, with a youthful frontcourt, the Bullets desired backcourt experience. As a result, the Washington Wizards traded their 12th overall selection to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for four-time All-Star Mark Price.
With Webber taking the 11th selection and Price taking the 12th, the Bullets only had one player in the star-studded 1996 NBA Draft: Ronnie Henderson, who never played in an NBA game. Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Jermaine O’Neal, and Peja Stojakovic would have been available if Washington had kept at least one of those selections.
The Webber and Price trades both failed miserably.
The Washington Bullets’ Chris Webber stands on the floor during a game versus the New Jersey Nets. | Al Bello/Allsport
The Price agreement made sense in Washington at the time. The sharpshooter provided expertise and guard play to a squad that lacked it in the backcourt. Price, on the other hand, was forced to miss all but seven games during his one and only season with the Bullets due to injury.
In the meanwhile, the Webber trade was not as baffling. C-Webb spent four seasons with Washington, appearing in one All-Star game and averaged 20.9 points per game. However, he only managed one postseason appearance and an early departure with the Bullets in 1996-97. Webber was traded to the Sacramento Kings at the conclusion of the 1997-98 season for Mitch Richmond, a 33-year-old forward.
Every NBA team is haunted by a “what if” scenario. It’s rare that a club has two of those situations in the same year, in the same draft, and with potentially back-to-back selections. One can’t help but wonder if, instead of Webber, Washington might have built around Howard and Wallace, retained their draft choices, and ended up with one or two future All-Stars in 1996.
To cut a long tale short, things in D.C. might have turned out quite differently.
Basketball Reference provided all statistics.
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