Vinnie Johnson: Was He Any Good?

Since the NBA started tracking Games Started as a stat leaguewide in the 1981-82 season, the top 5 seasons by Win Shares of any player who played in at least 70 games while starting 10 or fewer of them represent the pinnacle of what a sixth man can do. The list, in order? Kevin McHale (10.5 WS, BOS, 1983-84), Detlef Schrempf (9.8, IND, 1991-92), Antawn Jamison (9.0, DAL, 2003-04), Schrempf again (9.0, IND, 1990-91), and Montrezl Harrell (8.7, LAC, 2018-19.) As you look further down that list, you see great bench guys; Steve Kerr is at 7th and 21st for …

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Steve Nash: Was He Any Good?

Steve Nash is a Hall of Famer, one of the best players never to win an NBA championship, and one of the key figures along with Amar’e Stoudamire and coach Mike D’Antoni who helped bring the NBA out of the Dark Ages in the mid-aughts. He is a four-time member of the 50/40/90 Club, an 8-time All-Star, 7-time All-NBA, 5-time NBA leader in assists, and two-time MVP. And speaking of the 50/40/90 Club, he averaged those numbers across 8 years of his prime in Phoenix plus 141 games at the beginning of his career before he went to join the …

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Isiah Thomas: Was He Any Good?

At what point do NBA statistics become completely meaningless? The Detroit Pistons won three straight Eastern Conference championships between 1988 and 1990, initially falling short in the NBA Finals against Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers before slaying the demons from Tinseltown a year later and providing the first of what would be two close-but-no-cigar Finals defeats for Clyde Drexler and the Portland Trail Blazers for their second title. But when you look at those Pistons teams statistically, what you see is what was supposed to be a very good but not quite great team, exactly the team the …

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Antoine Walker: Was He Any Good?

Antoine Walker is as well-known for being a punchline in jokes about broke athletes (thanks to blowing $100 million on bad investments) as he was for anything he ever did on a basketball court. The epitome of both wasted potential and hilariously inefficient shooting—well, it was funny if you were a fan of the other team—Walker is a guy whose legacy is one of a cautionary tale. But he was also the second-best player on a Celtics team that nearly went to the NBA Finals at a time when the Eastern Conference existed entirely to provide cannon fodder for the …

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Mitch Richmond: Was He Any Good?

The early-90s “Run TMC” combination of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, and Chris Mullin was supposed to be the Next Big Thing in the NBA as the sun set on the era of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Isiah Thomas. Michael Jordan inherited the mantle of Eastern Conference dominance that Boston and Detroit vacated, while the new power in the West was supposed to include the Warriors alongside the Gary Payton/Shawn Kemp Sonics, the John Stockton/Karl Malone Jazz, Hakeem Olajuwon‘s Rockets, and the Charles Barkley Show in Phoenix once the 76ers finally got rid of the disgruntled Round Mound of Rebound. …

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Yao Ming: Was He Any Good?

During this long dark tea time of the NBA soul, the debates worth having have gone silent in the current game, replaced by a social media wasteland of pointless and endlessly rehashed fanboy arguments that resonate like we’re all stuck in the Devil’s sports bar for all eternity or until a vaccine is developed for Covid-19, whichever comes first. Indeed, this very site has largely gone dark because (a) traffic in evergreen content is holding up just fine, and (b) I refuse to get suckered into those very arguments on a public NBA soapbox I take too much pride in …

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The Case for Moving the NBA 3-Point Arc to 15 Feet

The NBA, rightly or wrongly, is criticized as a league that is “nothing but 3-pointers and layups.” All the action takes place either right at the basket or way out 24 feet and beyond, the area in between largely reserved as a sort of no-man’s land where there may be plenty of Eurostepping and beating guys off the dribble (Giannis Antetokounmpo and Chris Paul or Dwyane Wade in their primes come to mind respectively) but very little actual shooting. Meanwhile, there is a very simple reason why that no-man’s land exists. As a matter of efficiency, any shot between 4 …

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The 1970s: The NBA’s Weirdest Decade

Since 1959, when Wilt Chamberlain showed up and, along with Bill Russell, took the NBA out of the Stone Age, every decade of the league’s history has followed the same broad pattern that makes life easier for basketball historians to easily define the league by era. In the 1960s, the Celtics won nearly every year, and the Russell-Chamberlain rivalry defined those early days of the league as we know it today. The 1980s gave us Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, and even though it wasn’t quite Lakers-Celtics every single year, eight of the ten titles and 13 of the 20 …

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Just How Bad Was the 1940s NBA?

We take for granted the high-flying, athletic, 3-pointers-from-the-logo NBA of today, where fast-paced, efficient offenses lead to a game seemingly every night where the teams combine to score 250 points, whether it’s a 126-124 “whoever has it last wins” squeaker or a 149-101 blowout. But nearly 75 years ago, when the fledgling Basketball Association of America launched as a way to fill indoor arenas in between hockey games and before anyone could even imagine an entire nation of people going utterly stir crazy cooped up in the house with no sports to watch on TV, the quality of play was…atrocious? …

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Josh Jackson: Is He Any Good?

Josh Jackson, in his first two years in Phoenix, was one of the worst players in the entire league, one of those complete garbage fires that so often end up on draft day as dishonorable mentions for “the biggest bust ever to go No. __ overall” (in Jackson’s case, fourth to the Suns in the 2017 draft, a year after they’d drafted another candidate for “worst 4th pick ever” in Dragan Bender.) How utterly putrid was Jackson in his first two years? Well, how about not just a negative career total for Win Shares but a catastrophically bad one, namely …

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