GOTME (Part III): Shooting Guard

The Greatest Shooting Guard of the Modern Era: Michael Jordan

Player Best PER Avg 5 Best PER Career PER #1 PER # of top 10 PER
Jordan 31.7 31.1 27.9 7 11
Kobe 28 25.9 23.6 0 10
Wade 30.4 27.5 25.5 0 4
Drexler 24.1 23.2 21.1 0 4

Recently I debunked the notion that Kobe is in the same league as Jordan, and truly no one in the modern era comes close to Jordan. If you had to name a captain to the GOTME team, Michael would be the guy. Future generations of great players are going to have a tough time measuring up to Jordan for one reason: luck.

Let’s assume that we go back in time to an identical alternate universe, grab a young Michael Jordan, and bring him to today’s NBA. Let’s also assume in the best interests of not confusing him with his twin we give him a Star Trek goatee, different hairdo (how about a faux-hawk?), and call him Tommy Sanders. It’s reasonable to believe that Sanders would dominate the league and put up Jordan-esque numbers. But what’s not given is if Tommy would end up with the same number of rings. Jordan didn’t win a championship until he teamed up with Pippen and Phil Jackson. What if Sanders was drafted by an incompetent organization like the Clippers or Timberwolves? It’s possible that this reincarnation would be at the mercy of a bad coach, a bad GM, and surrounded by bad players.

Even if Sanders does hitch on with a great team, what’s the likelihood that he hits nearly every big shot that he needs to? What’s the chance that the 21st century version of Karl Malone lets him strip the ball? That the ref doesn’t call an offensive foul on a final shot against Byron Russell Jr.? That a 6-10 player fails to make a 2 foot basket on 4 consecutive attempts? Not only is it improbable that Sanders misses a few of those big shots, but there’s also the probability that something else could foul up his perfect legacy. Perhaps Robert Horry Jr. decides to slam Sanders into a scorer’s table – causing him to lose a few teammates in a crucial playoff series. Perhaps one of Sanders’ teammates fails to hit a wide open game winning shot (like the ones Paxson and Kerr made).

And hence why it would be nearly impossible for another player to eclipse Jordan’s legend. Not only was Jordan dominant, but he was pretty lucky as well. Save for the steal by Nick Anderson, which was easily excused by his baseball vacation, he was as close to perfection as one can get to in sports. As the narrative goes, Jordan won a championship in his prime whenever he wished. For Tommy Sanders to be better than Jordan, he’d have to win more than 6 championships in his prime, without losing once in the Finals. It’s like Ed Vander Meer’s back to back no-hitters. It’s extremely unlike that someone will tie that record, but virtually impossible for someone to break it. Similarly someone may equal Jordan’s legacy of dominance, but it will be extremely difficult for someone to surpass. One missed shot, by him or a teammate, will put enough doubt into debaters minds that could give Jordan the edge.

Reserves: Kobe Bryant, Clyde Drexler, Dwayne Wade

From the numbers Wade has a good case to be number 2 on this list, except for one thing: his health. “The Flash” averages about 16 missed games per year. And although I’m big on peak over longevity, that’s too much lost productivity to overcome his per minute advantage. Drexler suffers from slightly lower usage, a poor three point percentage, and less free throw attempts. Some might note that I’ve excluded one former MVP winner. But Iverson had only 3 seasons out of 14 where he finished in the top 10 PER. Additionally it’s hard to ignore Iverson’s horribly inefficient shooting (TS% 51.8%).

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

50 thoughts to “GOTME (Part III): Shooting Guard”

  1. Not much to argue with here, Thomas B. notwithstanding ;-) All the coversation would be about 2-whatever.

  2. “It’s like Ed Vander Meer’s back to back no-hitters.”

    or even his better known brother Johnny. :)

  3. Not surprised Jordan wins this one, going away.

    What does surprise me is Kobe comes in #2. He seems to get a lot of detraction from the stat guys on this site. Not a bad showing, though, coming in second only to the captain of the GOTMEs. (What happened to Manu Ginobili. I thought he was #2).

    What also surprises me is that Wade and Drexler are the only other reserves. My initial reaction was that there must be some greats left off the list. But then I thought about it, and there really weren’t many world-class SGs playing with Jordan. The only other one that comes to mind is Reggie Miller. Efficient scoring + longevity + a lot of playoff games + clutch shooting should get him into the conversation, no?

  4. Z-I thought that too. But I’m not sure who’s there. Ron Harper was a lesser Drexler who was a lesser Jordan, then Miller, Ray Allen and who … the combo all-rounder guys like Dumars, Moncrief and maybe Alvin Robertson, the 3 point shooters Glen Rice and Dale Ellis, Spree and Allan Houston. The drop off seems pretty steep.

    Jon, I think since it was a parallel universe Vandermeer would have a different name just like Jordan did.

    And now that I’ve finished boring everyone to tears ….

  5. Z –

    I had the same reaction initially but decided that the list is complete as is. Reggie was an efficient shooter, and Mike’s list seems short but he and the other potential snubs mentioned are just not in the same class as Kobe, Drexler, Wade, and certainly not MJ.

  6. It’s a short list. There are fewer great players at shooting guard than at any other position. It’s hard for me to admit, as ever, but Kobe deserves that number 2, even if Manu has been a better player per minute. As Mike points out though, the gap is enormous between him and Jordan. Probably a bigger gap than between the 1 and 2 at any other position.

  7. Yeah– looking at the comparisons, I think Reggie has a great case to be here over Wade. Through their first 7 seasons, Reggie was a lot more efficient (TS .627 vs .564) and had a higher WS. Wade beats him in in the “athletic” categories of rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks, but Reggie kept up his high level of play for 18 seasons! I’ll be surprised if Dwayne Wade can still walk 10 years from now, let alone put up a .600 TS% in 2254 minutes…

  8. As Reggie goes, it depends completely on the definition of “great” – are we talking career totals, or peak value? On peak value he’s not really close to the big 4, IMO – but he stayed “good” for a long, long time.

    I’d say about the same about Karl Malone. I’d grant that his “peak” was higher than Reggie, but I think his career-long value is a lot more impressive than his value in any one season, MVP notwithstanding. (Do you think there was a single voter that year who actually thought Malone was more valuable OR better, than Michael Jordan)?

    As far as others go… was peak-level Tracy McGrady so far behind Drexler? Or Vince Carter, if you want to call him a 2?

  9. Z,

    Agree on Reggie. His PER is hurt because he would have been a bad rebounder even for a PG. As a guard who shot the ball, though, Reggie was great. Right in the next group, if not this one.

    Wade has led the league in usage the past two seasons (around 35%, vs. 25% at the tops on Reggie’s career). He also has an assist rate that would qualify him for consideration in the GOTME PG category. I can respect putting him behind Kobe for injuries and longevity (to date, not theoretical), but he belongs on the list. At the end of the day, in maybe 5 years, he might take the #2 spot on the list.

  10. I agree with your conclusion, that Michael is the best SG of TME, and better than Kobe, Drexler, and Wade, BUT I disagree with the use of PER as the sole reasoning behind it. PER, while a good tool to judge who the most EFFICIENT players in the league are, does not tell you who is the better player out of a group of players. For example, Greg Oden, David Lee, and Kevin Love all have higher PERs than Steve Nash. Does anyone here think any of these guys is better than Nash? Is Corey Maggette better than Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, or Joe Johnson? I say no. A lot of the stats used to calculate PER contain seemingly random constants in their equations, and a few of the stats are heavily influenced by a player’s teammates (Ex: AST ratio and TO ratio are influenced by players missing or making shots, and catching or dropping passes, etc,). So, maybe Kobe rebounds at a lower rate than Jordan did because he plays with Bynum, Gasol, and Odom, three guys 6’11” and taller, while Jordan played with Wil Perdue, Bill Wennington, etc. Granted, we also give Jordan tons of credit for winning with worse players on his team. He’s still the greatest of the modern era, I just think there are other ways to show it, even while using statistics. The comparison from last May is a much better indicator of the reasons that Jordan is the best 2 of TME, in my opinion.

  11. Yeah the thing about Jordan is his story is near perfect. Even his defeats have a plausible excuse. I think if you replayed Jordan’s career 20 times, you might have one as good as Michael’s.

    In a single game, knowing both were healthy I’d take Flash over Kobe. But Kobe is much more likely to be healthy enough to play, and given the amount of production he’s given so far, it’s clear that he’s ahead of the others. Manu suffers from starting his career a little late, and missing a ton of games.

    The drop off is pretty steep – there are a lot of good shooting guards, but few great ones. Reggie, Allen, Hamilton, Arenas, etc were/are all too flawed in one way or another to be in the conversation.

  12. in addition to his unbelievably high skill level, Jordan had an almost psychopathic level of competitiveness that very few athletes in any sport have had. Larry Bird, maybe Iverson, Monica Seles pre-stabbing, maybe Tiger Woods, but definitely a pretty short list.

  13. ” while Jordan played with Wil Perdue, Bill Wennington, etc.”

    And Rodman…

    As for using PER, it’s an easy stat to get a baseline of a player, but it’s not the only thing I’m looking at. Or Jason Kidd wouldn’t have made the PG list.

  14. Caleb,

    I disagree a bit about Reggie’s peak. At his peak he scored at a .650 TS%. He led the league in offensive rating 4 times. He was a specialist, but an amazing one. It comes down to how valuable scoring is against other stats. Overall I am ok with having him outside of this group, though, I guess. Of course, relying solely on PER leaves most aspects of defense out of the equation.

    I don’t know if you call T-Mac a 2, probably a 3. Is he that much worse than Kobe? He played in a different era than Drexler. I would probably put him right behind this group if he’s a 2, though. He led the league in PER at his peak, but it only lasted a few years (and wasn’t league leading other years, just very good). If he had a ring or two he’d probably be more highly regarded.

    I would call VC a 2, maybe not now but on his career. He’s probably also in group 2 for me, with Reggie, Manu, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, maybe Dumars… maybe even AI. Hard to compare players from the current offensive era to the deadball era to the go-go 80s, it would seem, but maybe I’m wrong.
    It’s a fine line after MJ, really.

    I would not even mention Houston in the conversation, by the way, nor Sprewell.

  15. Hamilton, like Rip Hamilton? Mike… he was even under consideration? Am I missing a Hamilton here? Arenas had only 3 very good years, so I would also not consider him.

    I would be interested to hear people’s next group, sort of the third group after MJ and then these 3.
    I nominate: Reggie, Manu, Pierce, Carter, Allen, and Dumars.

  16. Kobe’s gotta be number two, mainly because of his harassing defense. I’ll take Kobe on my team and you can have Manu Ginobilli any day of the week.

    It’s strange, Kobe seems to be one of those guys who is underrated and overrated at the same time. His “clutch” play is a bit overrated, but his mean-spirited, disruptive defense is sometimes forgotten. He’s the kind of defensive player that gets under your skin and makes you lose your cool. A terrific two-way player.

  17. I’d agree with Ted’s group 3 though Pierce seems more SF but that’s splitting hairs. Houston and Spree, who did make some All-NBA and All-defensive teams if memory serves me correct whiel he was with GS, I put out just as names that popped to mind and Knicks. I might add the following: Moncrief has a TS of .591 and a PER of 18.5 and was perennially all-defense might get a nod. I don’t know what you would consider Dennis Johnson or how you fit his pre 3 pt seasons. George Gervin had a 21.7 PER and .572 TS% in his NBA seasons but 2/3 of his prime was before the 3 pointer.

  18. Is the cut off starting in 79-80 or 80-81?
    They’re both before my time, but even with only a few years in the “modern era” Gervin might make the 2nd group. I don’t know much about Moncrief.

    I guess Pierce could be a 2 or a 3 depending on who he was playing with. If he’s on the court with Eric Williams he’s more SG, with Kenny Anderson and Tony Delk (or Ray Allen) he’s the SF… I always sort of thought of him as a SG personally, but I also think of VC there (until recently, in both cases).

    The Pierce thing gets me thinking that it might be more contentious to do GOTME guard, wing, and big. Positionally is more accurate and I prefer it overall, but you get into Jordan or LeBron, and 90s Cs or 00s PFs. Interesting stuff. Guard would mostly be the PGs, I guess, maybe Wade joins them, Manu and Iverson could be also rans along with some of the others. I guess you’d put a spot-up shooter like Reggie on the wing, but not sure.

  19. “I would be interested to hear people’s next group, sort of the third group after MJ and then these 3.
    I nominate: Reggie, Manu, Pierce, Carter, Allen, and Dumars.”

    Going back a few more years I’ll throw out these nominees:

    Mitch Richmond, Hersey Hawkins, Rolando Blackman, Byron Scott, Danny Ainge, Jeff Hornacek, and Chris Mullin (who played both SG and SF, but his 1st 7 seasons match up pretty well with Wade’s).

  20. I don’t know how fair it is to compare the 90s to the 00s for SGs, but I guess MJ killed it in the 90s so it was possible.

    I’d probably give Richmond, Hawkins, Hornacek, and Blackman more 4th group consideration than 3rd.

    Ainge I would put with Houston in the no thanks pile.

    Hard to say whether playing on such good teams overrated Scott (exposure + passes from Magic) or underrated him (played a role + at 32 had one of his finest seasons in stepping over to Indiana). Based on actual production it’s hard to put him in the 3rd group. Defense is an interesting variable which should be a huge part of the discussion but is so hard to quantify.

    I think Mullin could be in the 3rd group. He was nowhere near the playmaker Wade is, but at the time I suppose there were few wings who assisted on 35% of their teammates FGs: Mullin was a solid passer in his own right. Defense is a question mark for me. Wade is All-Defense, while Mullin was known as a bit of a liability. That might also be based on hype: Wade is All-World, while Mullin was white and played on offensive minded teams. For what it’s worth, though, through 7 seasons Mullin played mostly on George Karl and Don Nelson teams that cracked the top 20 in defensive efficiency once.

  21. I demand a recount!!

    Nah, this is what I expected. A man with a clear pro-Jordan stance tailors the numbers in such a way to serve his position. What you guys don’t know is that I saw Mike’s first draft of the GOTME project. Under a different set of stats it turns out that Kobe is first and Jordan third just behind Vernon Maxwell.

    Shocked by the results, Mike threw out the first set of numbers and tinkered until he found a method of evaluation that fit his needs. You want proof? It turns out the Jerome James’ 2007-08 stats make him the most productive center of all time. James’ 45.3 PER, 1.064 TS%, and 1.000 eFG% combined with his 28.8 pts/per 36 and 21.4 reds/per 36 was dismissed by Mike; “The sample size of 2 games is too small.” He throws out the numbers he doesnt like people. He throws them out like they were named Iyamwhatiyam or Italian Stallion.

    But Seriously, this is great work.

  22. LMAO. Z you got a good memory. I guess a nod can go to Drazen Petrovic, a phenomenal shooter. RIP

  23. G.O.A.T ?

    First, I tend to split between centers and noncenters. too much differences in the role.

    Second,the ’80 are clearly much tougher than the ’90
    there were less team, and that means the elite team got much more talent.

    Look at the dominant players in the ’80:

    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
    Julius Erving
    Larry Bird
    Magic Johnson
    jordan himself
    the pistons

    plus: olajuwon karl malone ewing drexler stockton barkley robinson…

    Jordan is the icon of the game. no doubt. thanks to nike, television, good marketing, his flashy style, his burning desire to win , his endless talent.

    But if I have to chose G.O.A.T., I’ll go with Magic Johnson.
    he dominated the greatest decade of all. 9 finals in 12 years.
    and just the fact that you can play with such a big and creative pg , gives your team an edge every night no matter how crap are his teammates.

    the perception of Magic was changed by HIV.
    but if you watch carefully…

  24. I could maybe be convinced on peak-level Reggie.

    Good call on Sidney Moncrief – I was only hazily aware of half the league in the early 80s and I still remember his game, so he was memorable as well as having the numbers.

    If there’s a 2nd group I would definitely include them – along with McGrady and Pierce if you want to call them 2s… and maybe Ray Allen. No way you can call Mullin a shooting guard – IMO your position is defined by who you defend and I don’t think Mully ever even tried to guard a 2 unless all four of his teammates had fallen down.

    Manu I think would have to play more minutes to qualify, although his best, healthy stretches certainly deserve it. Hardly anyone as fun to watch in the league. Speaking of which — that would be a good discsussion. The MFs (most fun! Keep it clean!).

    Magic over Mike.

    And the current All-Star MFs…
    Chris Paul (MVP)
    Jason Kidd
    Manu Ginobili
    Joakim Noah
    Chris Anderson

    I’d throw in Steve Nash, but you can’t put 3 PGs on the floor at once… Honorable mention to Nash, Aaron Brooks, Nate Robinson, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, Marcus Camby, Tyson Chandler and our own David Lee.

    I like flashy PGs, big men who can run and guys with good hands. Also fun to watch crazed defensive specialists, but Artest has lost flair and I haven’t seen enough Balkman lately to know if he still brings it…

  25. What about Dr. J?? He had some great seasons post-1980, spent time at the two position, and snagged a ring in ’83 SWEEPING THE LAKERS.

    Re Reggie if you swapped out Kobe, Dwayne, and Drexler for Reggie, the Lakers would not have won as many championships, Miami would be ringless, and Portland would not have made 2 Finals Appearances (the ’95 Rockets team may be a diff. story). He clearly takes a back seat to the others. Health aside, he’s the Brad Daugherty of SG’s.

  26. how we rank the late Dennis Johnson?

    crappy stats, 14 ppg on 1100 games, 5 assist, 4 rebound,ts% 51%

    but I ‘d take him over reggie miller…

  27. I’d like to make a few relevant or perhaps not so relevant points. ;-)

    1. “Shooting Guards” are given that name because they are typically good outside shooters. Shooting statistics like TS% and eFG% capture much of that skill because we give extra credit for 3 pointers, but they don’t capture the difference between a dunk/layup vs. a 20 footer or the probability of getting fouled on the inside vs. the outside.

    If you examine things by position, Cs and PFs tend to have a slightly higher average TS% and eFG% than SGs (about 1% or 2% give or take depending on the year). More importantly, if you break it down further into Cs and PFs that score almost exclusively around the basket vs. “stretch PFs and Cs that also take jumpers”, the average gets skewed further.

    I think this makes efficiency comparisons between SGs and other positions somewhat suspect because their role is often to shoot from the outside and help space the floor.

    2. SGs tend to guard each other. So on average they spend more time on the perimeter than some other positions. That means SGs are not in a position to get as many offensive and defensive rebounds as players that spend more time in the paint. There is evidence to indicate that the same player will have a fluctuating rebound rate depending on whether he is playing SG or SF.

    3. Even though SGs are typically good ball handlers, the offense does not run through them often as it does the typical PG. So they can’t accumulate as many assists. In fact, a primary goal of the PG is to get the ball to the SG in good position to shoot.

    4. There have been some super freak SGs that get to the hoop well and score more efficiently, get offensive rebounds because they are inside more often, break down a defense and make the pass for an assist, get fouled nore often, have the offense run through them more frequently etc… but those guys are what it typically referred to as combo guards. They are not pure SGs. (Jordan, Kobe, and Wade probably fall into this category). Elite combo guards often rate very highly statistically.

    5. Slashing combo guards are often teamed with other guards that are very good outside shooters because they spend more time slashing and running the offense than the traditional SG and don’t deliver as much or as high a quality outside shooting as an elite SG (it was no accident that Jordan had Kerr and Armstrong as sidekicks).

    I guess what I am saying is that good outside shooting is a prerequisite for successful basketball but IMO it is not captured perfectly statistically. It is penalized statistically because it has a lower success rate and doesn’t lead to as many foul shots (even though the 3 pointers are reflected properly).

    I am not even sure where I am going with all this other than to “suggest” that “perhaps” guys like Reggie Miller and other traditional elite SGs are better and more valuable than they look based on PER and other broader measurements. Their high TS% and eFG% is actually a testament to how great they were at the required specialty of outside shooting. So much so, they produced efficiency and shooting ratings that are at least close to some of the elite Cs, PFs, and slashers of all time.

  28. I should add one other thing.

    I think it would be difficult to run an extremely effective offense without “X” number of mid range and other jumpers that are occasionally inside the arc. Those are all less efficient shots than dunks, layups, and 3 pointers, but someone has to take them. That impacts their overall statistics.

    It might be interesting to someday compare SGs in terms of the floor location of their shots to see the distribution of inside and outside shots and then look at their companion players to see if those that shot less often from the inside had teammates (like PGs or SFs) that did a lot of outside shooting instead.

  29. Kaine,

    Based on what?


    I think everyone just regarded Dr. J as from before the modern era (at least I did), good point though.

    There’s no way to say what Reggie would have done on other teams. We can say that he was probably the best perimeter shooter of all-time, and that he was a great clutch shooter who wasn’t going to back-down in the playoffs (his numbers are about the same in the playoffs as regular season for his career… shot a bit more a bit less efficiently, but close… PER slightly higher in playoffs for what that’s worth).

    Putting him with Shaq (during prime years for both) certainly might have resulted in multiple titles. Shaq was more the reason the Lakers won those titles than Kobe.

    Terry Porter was just as good as Clyde on that first finals team. Who knows if they make it past the Lakers if you replace Clyde’s playmaking with Reggie’s shooting efficiency (Clyde had a TS% of .505 that season in the playoffs). I really don’t know, I’m not saying that retorically. The second finals trip Clyde was clearly the best player on the team, but still you had Porter and Ainge who could have fed Reggie. Both those Portland teams were slightly better defensively in the regular season than offensively. Swapping Reggie for Clyde might (guessing here) have flipped that around but left them same?/better?/worse? overall.

    I might give you the Miami one, since they won because Wade got a foul call every time he touched the ball even if no one was within 20 feet. Although, Reggie was pretty good at drawing fouls himself.

  30. Stratomatic – I also am not sure what your point is in all that.

    I think it’s pretty clear just how valuable outperformance at the shooting guard position is. It’s basically a prerequisite for a title team. The only team without a great shooting guard to win a championship since 1990 was the Pistons and Rip Hamilton. Ray Allen won a title and falls just short of inclusion in the elite above. But otherwise, every championship team featured either Drexler, Jordan, Manu, Bryant, or Wade.

    So the question is, is there less depth at the shooting guard position than at other positions (which I would argue.) Or do traditional statistics fail to quantify the importance of shooting guards, meaning some players are getting short thrift. Which I think would be your position.

    i definitely think the former proposition is much much much easier to defend. The explanation I would give is that there are many more people with a shooting guard phenotype than a PF/C build. So there is a lot less variation in pure athletic talent there then there is in the frontcourt. You can’t dominate on the wing like players like Dwight Howard, Shaq, Garnett, Nowitizki have dominated, simply because they are freakishly unusual relative to their height segment. For every great shooting guard in the NBA, there are a thousand also-ran Larry Hughes types with similar athleticism.

    I would also add that outside shooting talent and the vaunted ability to “space the floor: is hardly a rare skill. There are a thousand Jason Kapono/Steve Kerr/JJ Redick types out there waiting to step in and do some high efficiency, low turnover bombing. Which is why that quality, which Miller obviously had in spades, isn’t enough to make you a great shooting guard.

    I think it really is the hardest position to be great at, which is why there are so few greats.

  31. “every championship team featured either Drexler, Jordan, Manu, Bryant, or Wade.”

    Thomas B.’s joke aside, Vernon Maxwell really isn’t one of the greatest players of all time, despite being the starting SG on the championship Rockets.

  32. Yeah, one Rockets team joins the Pistons as an exception. It’s an interesting rule, though, that I honestly never thought of.

    Very good analysis, Owen.

    I don’t know that outside shooting is quite as easy as you make it out to be. Kapono and Redick and Korver are all punch lines because of their complete one-dimensionalism. None has an average usage rate of 20 on his career. Kerr hit 50% of his 3s more than once, and there are hardly thousands of guys who can do that. So, I agree that alone doesn’t make you a great shooting guard, but combining that with a good overall game is tough and valuable.

  33. @ 31 Owen

    “But otherwise, every championship team featured either Drexler, Jordan, Manu, Bryant, or Wade.”

    Yes, but didn’t each of those teams except the Bulls feature a dominant post player? Olajuwon, Robinson and Duncan, Shaq and Shaq. Funny, I’d argue the Piston won without a dominant post player or SG. Yeah, yeah Wallace and Wallace. But Ben has no post game to speak of, and ‘Sheed is not in the class of Duncan, Robinson, and Shaq.

    Jordan seems to be the only SG that won a title (6) without a dominant post player to help him. I can’t think of a dominant post player in the modern era, who won without a strong SG.

  34. Hmm, yeah, my mistake. That Rockets team was interesting, they narrowly edge the Heat for worst pythagorean by a championship team in the last three decades. But let’s face it, if Jordan hadn’t retired you could chalk up two more titles for my list.

    Ted – I guess I just think that the overall game, the blend of skills, is much more important. At least these days in the NBA, outside shooting seems to be the easiest talent to find. Just my opinion.

    Simmons has an interesting bit in his mailbag about the MIT conference, where hopefully he learned the difference between +/- and adjusted +/-…

    “I hate labeling this as a “statistical revolution” because it implies upheaval to some degree — not necessarily true — and also because it makes it seem like purely a numbers thing. I believe it goes deeper than that.

    Three groups are involved …

    Group A: Smart people with mathematical backgrounds figuring out new ways to evaluate sports.

    Group B: Smart people without mathematical backgrounds determining which of these advances are more useful than others.

    Group C: Outsiders (fans and media members) figuring out how to digest these concepts without being overwhelmed by them.

    Group A desperately cares about winning Group B over and doesn’t worry enough about Group C sometimes. Group B deals with Group A because they want to improve their product to make Group C happy. And Group C is splintered into different sub-groups of people who either love this stuff, tolerate it or openly loathe it. If there’s been a trend over the past few years, it’s that Group A openly resents anyone in Group C who doesn’t embrace them and/or willfully ignores their data (even undeniably useful information like strand rates or BABIP). The Sloan Conference is really about uniting all three of these groups, although there’s probably too much of the first two groups and not enough of the third one. That will shift as the years pass and the event gets bigger. Which it will.”

  35. “At least these days in the NBA, outside shooting seems to be the easiest talent to find. Just my opinion.”

    So why don’t the Knicks have any?!

  36. “Isola is reporting Joe Johnson to NY in the offseason is a done deal, under the table.”

    I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. Did you say Isola or Berman? Because if it was Berman then there is no way it could possibly be oh crap it was Isola. Honey, are we all out of Pepto?

  37. I guess it depends on what we pay him — he’s a good player, but I wouldn’t shell out more than $8-9 million at the most… and the conventional wisdom seems to be that Johnson will get a max deal. that would be a mini-disaster.

    But I doubt there’s any guarantee… it reads like a plant from Arn Tellem.

  38. “There are a thousand Jason Kapono/Steve Kerr/JJ Redick types out there waiting to step in and do some high efficiency, low turnover bombing”

    It is true, but it is much more difficult to find a SG with a great usage rate (and keeping the percentages reasonable). However, I agree that it is even more difficult to find a good center. (just check Houston that has to settle with Chuck Hayes… not to mention we use Lee at C when it isn’t his position)

    I like the Lebron/Amare/Johnson idea, but it is much more likely to be just Amare/Johnson, :S. That’s not a contender by any means, unless (hopefully) any of Gallo/Chandler/Sergio improves their game to a star level, at least. Well, Amare/Johnson is not that bad, i think we would be a respectable 4th/5th in the East outright. If it is Bosh/Johnson it could be a little better.

  39. @ 31 Ted

    First, I’m old enough and I remember him in his play days.
    he looked always on the right place to be. very smart, very clutch. I remember him hitting some great shots in the playoffs. and it says a lot about a player larry bird trusts enough to take the last shot.
    he won 3 titles and 1 finals mvp.

    in this aspects pf the games, he’s on the same level of miller, if not better.

    Second, he was a great defender. strong body, good legs. he was in nine straight All-Defensive Teams and could defend 3 positions, and all the scary matchups, the magic, erving,jordan type.
    statistically, he had some good years on blocked shots, a rare commodity for a guard.

    that to me balances his “average” offensive game.

    Third, he achieved the All-NBA First Team for a year, and that’s no easy task. Miller just reached the Third team

    So, what ‘s your choice?

  40. it seems silly to have these discussions and not at least mention Bill Simmons’ rankings, from his recent book (which I thought were pretty accurate, and I was really being vigilant for over-Celtic bias, but he made good cases). he has Dennis Johnson as the 52nd best player ever, Miller is at 62.

    by these rankings, Kobe is the clear #2, and this was before the last title, I think Simmons moved him into the top 10 now.

  41. Owen,

    I agree that the smaller pool of very tall people makes for more volatile results among Cs and PFs and that allows some to significantly outperform their peers.

    However, I would argue that the opposite is also true. That is, the larger the pool of people the more likely you are to find many players of super elite talent and skill.

    So in theory, the NBA should be loaded with great SGs that can’t differentiate themselves from their peers!

    What woudl make sense to me is if the broad statistical measurements said that the NBA was loaded with SGs with PERs of 20-25 but that it was hard to find any value at the position because they are a dime a dozen.

    That would be consistent with both out points.

    However, if we look at most broad statistical measurements (like PER), it looks like there’s a real dearth of very good SGs in the NBA these days.

    So what I am suggesting is that perimeter players (typically SGs but not always) may play an important role that does not allow them to accumulate the box score stats we do measure and also lowers their scoring efficiency a little relative to slashers, inside players, and combo guards.

    I believe this is corrected for in some models with positional adjustments (although that is not perfect either because of all the combo players these days).

    In summary, I think we are both right. I just tend to give a little extra weight to the outside shooters when comparing them to slashers and post players. (the exception would be a guy that takes a lot of stupid outside shots)

    I take it you won’t agree with me, but that’s cool. ;-)

  42. Kaine,

    “he looked always on the right place to be. very smart, very clutch. I remember him hitting some great shots in the playoffs. and it says a lot about a player larry bird trusts enough to take the last shot.”

    In comparing him to Reggie Miller, I’m not sure that clutch shooting is what you want to use to decide. Even if you want to argue that Johnson was THE BEST clutch shooter of all-time, it’s not like Reggie was far behind.

    If Larry Bird played with Reggie Miller, I’m pretty sure he would have trusted him to take the last shot.

    “he won 3 titles and 1 finals mvp.”

    He played 7 seasons before getting to Boston. He was an All-Star and played on 6 playoffs teams. He never won a title. While I think it’s fair to say he was a big part of Boston’s titles, those were very good teams.

    “that to me balances his “average” offensive game.”

    Could. It’s hard to say. One thing that makes this discussion so hard is how hard it is to compare defense objectively.
    Reggie Miller played on some good defensive teams. There’s no evidence that he was a real plus defensively, but there’s also no evidence that he was below-average. So, Johnson was average offensively and great defensively. Miller was average defensively and great offensively. I just don’t see why you would jump on Johnson’s side so quickly. Mostly because of the Boston teams he played on, I would suspect. Had he never moved from Phoenix to Boston, would you still be putting him ahead of Reggie?

    “Third, he achieved the All-NBA First Team for a year, and that’s no easy task. Miller just reached the Third team”

    That’s totally subjective. It’s a nice honor, but why did he make it and not Adrian Dantley or Moses Malone?
    Allen Iverson made 1st team All-NBA three separate times. Still not on the list. Latrell Sprewell made it in ’94. Tim Hardaway made it in ’97 and wasn’t strongly featured in our PG discussion. Penny Hardaway made it twice and hasn’t figured into our discussions at PG or SG. Isiah Thomas made it 3 times. Gus Williams made it and I haven’t heard anyone mention him. Amare Stoudamire made 1st Team All-NBA in 2007, he’s no more complete for a PF than Reggie was for a SG. KG and Howard were on the 3rd team that year.

  43. statomatic,

    I agree with a lot of your point, but I just can’t get on board with saying that SGs are necessarily less efficient. That they are at a necessary disadvantage because they take outside shots.

    There are SGs who do score efficiently, and there are those that don’t. There are ones who slash more, and ones that take more outside shots. Some of both groups are efficient/inefficient. It may or may not be theoretically weird, but I can’t get on board with your idea that taking outside jumpers hurts scoring efficiency. Only if you’re a bad shooter (or, at least, not a very good world-class shooter). You could say C is a very demanding position defensively or that setting up the offense is hard on a PG, but in both cases some guys manage to do it better than others.

    Ignoring the fact that Knicks SG Bill Walker leads the league in TS% (haha), you’ve got 2 SGs in the top 10. You’ve got one PG and one SF. In the top 50 you’ve got 10 or more guys I would or could list as SGs. (Put Paul Pierce as a SG, which some people might have a problem with. He can certainly play the 2, though, and has in the past.) Manu, Q Richardson (maybe a SF at this point, but mostly a perimeter shooter), and Raja Bell are right outside or in the top 50 too (not sure since there are injured guys and half-seasons before/after trades… didn’t bother to count them.)

    “I just tend to give a little extra weight to the outside shooters when comparing them to slashers and post players. (the exception would be a guy that takes a lot of stupid outside shots)”

    Slashing to the basket is not necessarily easy, either. Nor is being a high volume post player. If you want to doc the Chris Andersen’s and Mikki Moore’s of the world a little, I have no problem with that.

  44. I should mention that a lot of the SGs in the top 50 are not slashers. Mike Miller, Ray Allen, Anthony Parker, Arron Afflalo, Anthony Morrow… all primarily jump shooters.

  45. Owen, the Wages of Wins was interesting but kinda undermines its credibility by having Fat Lever, Michael Ray Richardson and Nate McMillan on its “shooting guards” list to say nothing of Rodney McCray.

    Ted, I’m pretty sure Dennis Johnson and Seattle went to back to back finals against Washington, mind you it was b4 the 3 point era but he was Finals MVP when they won. He was a much bigger star with Seattle than is generally rememmbered. But, be that as it may, its still a guy who we’re quibbling about putting on 2nd or 3rd or 4th team 2G who played in Boston along Ainge all those years so he might be classed as a PG anyhow.

  46. re: Dennis Johnson

    The Seattle title was before the modern era, so I don’t know if you can count it or not.

    To say someone with a .511 TS% is one of the best SGs of all-time would take him being a truly incredible defender. I just take exception to saying Johnson was clearly better than Reggie Miller.

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