The finalists for the 2017 Hall of Fame were announced this weekend, and it’s a small, yet interesting list. There are four players we’re going to be concerned with here who were nominated by the North American Committee. For those unfamiliar with the current Hall of Fame structure, the North American Committee is the one that elects players based on their modern-day NBA accomplishments. The other committees (Women’s, Veterans, International, Contributor, and Early African-American Pioneers have different focuses.)
As a reminder, here’s my own categories for how PCS correlates to current Hall of Fame-worthiness:
Tier I: No Questions Asked (650-1000).
Tier II: Still No Doubt, but Not Quite Tier I (350-649).
Tier III: First-Ballot, but I Guess You Could Try to Make an Argument Against if You’re Kind of a Jerk (250-349).
Tier IV: In, but You’d Think about It (200-249).
Tier V: Borderline (150-199).
Tier VI: You Have to Convince Me (125-149).
Tier VII: You REALLY Have to Convince Me (100-124).
Tier VIII: Extenuating Circumstances Only (Below 100).
As you can see, we have no obvious inductees this year. McGrady, Moncrief, and Webber are all borderline, while Hardaway hits the “You have to convince me” category.
Before we go into the cases for the four finalists, here are some notable initial nominees that didn’t make the final cut: Maurice Cheeks (140.1), Kevin Johnson (141.4), Marques Johnson (127.1), Bobby Jones (123.3), Mark Price (97.1), Jack Sikma (157.0), Ben Wallace (183.5), Paul Westphal (141.8).
Price is kind of a no-brainer “good player, but not even close” guy. I just bring him up since he made an All-NBA First Team one year. Cheeks, both Johnsons, and Jones all have their die-hard supporters, but I’m not one of them. I always thought Sikma should have a better case than he seems to get credit for. 112.1 win shares, 7 All-Star selections, one NBA title and another Finals appearance, a really solid five-year peak, and even more solid run of epic hairstyles. I mean, it’s nowhere close to a slam dunk, and I’m certainly not going to lobby that he should get in, but it feels like he should at least be a finalist. (Fun fact: Sikma and Larry Foust are the only players with 7+ All-Star selections not in the Hall of Fame.)
The Westphal omission has always baffled me, and the Wallace omission is even more mind-boggling to me this year. First, Westphal’s case. Yes, he has a relatively low PCS, but it’s hardly unheard of for guys at that level to get in. Lenny Wilkens has a 140.1 and Bernard King has a 139.8. And yes, his career counting numbers are fairly low – he started slow and got injured late. But good lord, look at his peak. From 1977-1980 he made three All-NBA First Teams and one Second Team. Three! Max Zaslofsky is the only guy not in the Hall with a resume like that, and he played in the 1940’s, and he might/definitely should get in this year. Want more stats from his peak (which I’m including 1976, he just didn’t make an All-NBA team that year). From 1976-1980: 21.7 PER, 49.9 win shares, 22.5 points per game, 5.6 assists per game, 1.8 steals per game, 51.8% shooting. He also earned a ring with the 1974 Celtics, took the 1976 Suns to the Finals and facilitated that epic triple-overtime Game 5 (even causing a rule change), with five All-Star selections thrown in for fun. But still, most importantly, the three All-NBA First Team thing blows my mind. He must have seemed like a surefire Hall of Famer in 1980, and now people barely know him, or know him only as Charles Barkley‘s coach in the 1993 Finals.
Speaking of mind-blowing, what are we even doing with Ben Wallace? He has a PCS of 183.5, and that doesn’t take into account any defensive contributions whatsoever. (Well, it includes defensive win shares, but no defensive awards.) The man won four Defensive Player of the Year awards. Why do we even have that award if we’re not doing anything with it. Does it even mean anything? I’m not saying one-time winners like Alvin Robertson or Michael Cooper should get in, but a four-time winner? The most ever with a championship and three All-NBA Second Teams? Come on.
Alright, now that I’m done ranting about the guys that aren’t getting in, let’s take a look at the guys who might.
First up, Tim Hardaway (147.8), “You Have to Convince Me” – 1990-1996 Golden State Warriors (#5, #10), 1996-2001 Miami Heat (#10), 2002 Dallas Mavericks (#10), 2002 Denver Nuggets (#10), 2003 Indiana Pacers (#14)
I just can’t see this happening. Here’s what we’ve got: one All-NBA First Team (good), three All-NBA Second Teams (also good), four All-Star selections (meh, not bad, not great), one All-NBA Third Team (whatever, I think I’ve made my position on the Third Team clear), Gold at the 2000 Olympics (I don’t really put much stock in that, but the Hall of Fame currently does), 85.0 win shares (middling), 0.366 MVP Award Shares (not bad – came in 4th in 1997), one Eastern Conference Finals (1997 Miami, 1.7 win shares). The only member of Run-TMC not in the Hall (Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin being the others), but I really don’t think we should have a team with three Hall of Famers going a collective 80-84 over two seasons.
It’s a solid career, but it’s just nothing that really grabs you and screams “Hall of Famer.”
Also, remember from like 2000-2005 when the Mavericks were just collecting former All-Stars and washed up high draft picks in the hopes that someone still had something left in the tank? Just look at that 2002 team: Shawn Bradley, Michael Finley, Tim Hardaway, Juwan Howard, Avery Johnson, Raef LaFrentz, Danny Manning, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Nick Van Exel. Finley, Nash, and Nowitzki were all still in their primes, but the rest of that cast? Yeesh. Oh, and look at some other names from that era – Cedric Ceballos, Erick Dampier, Devin Harris, Josh Howard, Antawn Jamison, Christian Laettner, Jerry Stackhouse, Jason Terry, Keith Van Horn, Antoine Walker, and a cameo by Dennis Rodman. It was like Knicks West over there.
Next, Chris Webber (161.4), “Borderline” – 1994 Golden State Warriors (#4), 1995-1997 Washington Bullets (#2, #4), 1998 Washington Wizards (#4), 1999-2005 Sacramento Kings (#4), 2005-2007 Philadelphia 76ers (#4), 2007 Detroit Pistons (#84), 2008 Golden State Warriors (#4)
This is weird, but Webber’s career accomplishments are almost identical to Hardaway’s. Both had one All-NBA First Team selection, three All-NBA Second Team selections, one All-NBA Third Team selection, and five All-Star selections. Webber has 84.7 win shares to Hardaway’s 85.0. Webber has 0.587 MVP Award Shares to Hardaway’s 0.366 (Webber finished 4th in 2001).Webber made two conference finals (the Kings in 2002, 2.2 win shares; the Pistons in 2007, 1.1 win shares). And then Webber won Rookie of the Year in 1994.
Webber’s resume is just marginally better, but it feels like he’s got a much stronger case. (He rates about 15 points higher in PCS just due to more MVP award shares and conference finals win shares.) Fifteen points isn’t that much though. That’s basically one fringe-All-Star level season. Gordon Hayward has 13.9 points so far this season. So why does Webber seem that much more qualified? I’m chalking it up to injuries. Webber played 15 seasons, although his final season, he signed mid-season with the Warriors, so let’s say 14 1/2. Hardaway played 13, but his is a little more complicated. He missed all of 1994 with an injury, which would put him at 14, but he ended his career as an end-of-year signing in 2003 for Indiana, where he played only 10 games. Hardly a full season. So I’m going to bump him back down to 13 seasons plus 10 games. And both of them were affected by the lockout-shortened 1999 season. So if I did my math right, Webber played 831 out of a possible 1157 games (71.8%), Hardaway played 867 games out of a possible 1044 games (83.0%). So, I’m not sure we should reward a guy for being hurt more and playing less, but that is, to me, at least, why Webber feels more accomplished. He feels like he would have been able to do much more had he been healthy. But, of course, he wasn’t. And personally, I don’t think this is a Maurice Stokes level of injuredness to judge him on “what could have been.”
Here’s the best argument I can make for Webber, though: When he was healthy, he was phenomenal. He had nine seasons with a PER higher than 20, and one more at 19.5. That’s a lot. (Caveat: he did only play an average of 61.6 games per season for those years, because he was injured so often.) There are 22 guys eligible for the Hall of Fame with nine or more 20+ PER seasons, and all 22 are in. Here’s the list: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Charles Barkley, Elgin Baylor, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Bob Lanier, Karl Malone, Moses Malone, Alonzo Mourning, Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Bob Pettit, Oscar Robertson, David Robinson, Dolph Schayes, John Stockton, Jerry West, and Dominique Wilkins. I mean, what do you even do with a list like that?
So how do we rate Webber? An all-time great tragically marred by injuries, or a really, really good player with bad luck? It’s gotta be somewhere in between, but how far in which direction. I don’t have a good answer, and he’ll be a really tough case when it’s his turn to be debated for our “Newer, Better Hall.” But I think using the standards of the current Hall of Fame, we can say he should be in there.
Alright, on to Sidney Moncrief (179.0), “Borderline” – 1980-1989 Milwaukee Bucks (#4), 1991 Atlanta Hawks (#15)
Again, eerie, but almost identical accomplishments. One All-NBA First Team selection, four All-NBA Second Team selections, five All-Star selections, 90.3 win shares, 0.694 MVP Award Shares (finishing 4th in 1983), two Eastern Conference finals (1983 Bucks, 1984 Bucks, 1986 Bucks; 3.3 total win shares), and then two Defensive Player of the Year Awards, but as we learned earlier from Ben Wallace, those don’t really mean much.
I’m not entirely sure what to say about Moncrief. He was a defensive specialist with a hell of a peak from 1982-1986, racking up 62.2 win shares in those five seasons, averaging 21.0 points per game on 50.3% shooting. And for all I argued about injuries and playing time with Hardaway and Webber, Moncrief managed basically the same numbers in only 11 seasons and 767 games. The Bucks made the playoffs in every year of Moncrief’s ten-year tenure there, notching a combined 522-298 (.637).
Until this year with Wallace, Moncrief was the highest rated player by PCS not in the Hall. It’s not a fun distinction to have, but it’s a distinction somebody has to have. I think Wallace eventually gets in, and it reverts back to Sid. I’d say he was a great player, but not just not quite there. That doesn’t mean the Hall will agree with my assessment. I think they look at those Bucks teams, decide they need at least one representative, and put him in.
Finally, the crazy case of Tracy McGrady (196.9), “Borderline” but right on the edge – 1998-2000 Toronto Raptors (#1), 2001-2004 Orlando Magic (#1), 2005-2010 Houston Rockets (#1, #3), 2010 New York Knicks (#3), 2011 Detroit Pistons (#1), 2012 Atlanta Hawks (#1), 2013 San Antonio Spurs/postseason only (#1)
Things are finally a little bit different for career accomplishments. McGrady had two All-NBA First Team selections, three All-NBA Second Team selections, two All-NBA third team selections, seven All-Star selections, 97.3 win shares, 0.856 MVP Award Shares (finished 4th in 2002 and 2003), Most Improved Player in 2001 – which is probably even more meaningless than the DPOY Award, but it’s there anyway. One Finals loss (2013 Spurs, -0.1 win shares) – I still don’t consider this as negating that he famously never made it out of the first round. The negative 0.1 win share still counts in his score, but McGrady being on that team just for the playoff run is just a weird historical/statistical anomaly.
Look, I’m going to go to the mat for McGrady here. I have no personal investment in the man. He was never my favorite player or on my favorite team. I never particularly considered him a Hall of Famer when he played. And I will fully understand if your gut reaction is to disagree with me here. But after doing all the research on this, this is a man that deserves to get in.
Here’s my argument for: take everything I said about Webber, and then compress his peak to super-hard/ultra-fine diamond of inexplicable brilliance, and then also expand that injured time to a slow morass of Father Time’s cruel, mocking gaze. It wasn’t so much that McGrady was unable to play after he had his injuries, he just wasn’t able to play as Tracy McGrady anymore. Webber basically had a 10-year peak where he fought through injuries to stay at a really high level. McGrady had a seven-year peak from 2001-2007, with a few injuries, but when they caught up to him, he was never the same. (McGrady’s peak even had a peak. 2001-2004/”The Orlando Years” were absolutely statistically insane.)
Take a look at this:
McGrady’s extended peak 2001-2007: 491 games, 25.0 PER, 72.8 win shares, .183 win shares/48 minutes, 26.9 points per game, 6.6 rebounds per game, 5.4 assists per game, 1.5 steals per game, 0.9 blocks per game.
McGrady’s peak’s peak 2001-2004: 295 games, 26.4 PER, 48.2 win shares, .199 WS/48, 28.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 5.2 apg, 1.5 spg, 1.0 bpg
Webber’s extended peak 1994-2003: 596 games, 22.1 PER, 72.3 win shares, .152 WS/48, 22.2 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 4.4 apg, 1.5 spg, 1.7 bpg.
Webber’s peak’s peak 2000-2003: 266 games, 23.3 PER, 37.3 win shares, .172 WS/48, 24.8 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 4.7 rpg, 1.5 spg, 1.5 bpg.
If we’re putting Webber in based on what he could do at his best, don’t we have to put McGrady in? McGrady also posted a PER of 30.3 in 2003. Only eight guys have at least one season with a 30+ PER. The Hall-eligible ones: Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson.
And if we recall Zaslofsky and Westphal are the only guys with 3+ All-NBA First Team selections not in the Hall? Anfernee Hardaway, Bob Feerick, and Alex Groza (who is permanently banned) are the only 2-time All-NBA First Team selections not in the Hall. Feerick only had one other All-NBA Second Team selection to boost his case, and Hardaway had four All-Star selections for his – McGrady’s other accomplishments vastly surpass those.
It’s not a rock-solid case. But it’s close. I think McGrady should get in.
Should get in: McGrady, Webber
Will get in: Moncrief, Webber
(As a final reminder: I’m judging all of this based on how I think the current Hall will vote and the current standards set by that Hall. We’ll have completely different standards when we eventually rebuild our own.)
And, hopefully, I’ll get a chance to take a look at some of the international and veteran players up for induction this year. There’s some names to really dissect this year, especially with those veterans.