The Greatest NBA Players Not in the Hall of Fame

There are currently 34 players in NBA history with at least 100 Win Shares who are not in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Of those, nine—in descending order, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Stephen Curry, Carmelo Anthony, and Russell Westbrook—are still active. It’s probably safe to say all nine will eventually end up in the Hall after they retire, and five (James, Paul, Durant, Harden, and Curry) are absolute locks to go in on the first ballot.

Another eight—Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, Vince Carter, Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tyson Chandler, and Jason Terry—aren’t eligible yet, having retired too recently to be considered before next year at the earliest. Of those, six are locks, but Chandler and Terry will probably end up on the outside looking in since neither have the string of All-Star appearances or the All-NBA nods that get Hall voters to take notice. Sure, they both got a ring—on the same team in Dallas in 2011—but you need more than one ring to make a case as a fringe candidate for serious Hall consideration. Just ask Robert Horry, who’s still on the ballot because he still gets the minimum one vote in any three-year period that the Hall requires to keep a guy on the ballot.

That’s worth pointing out. Unlike baseball, which gives a player ten years to get in then drops him, basketball places no limit on how long a player can be Hall eligible as long as they get at least one vote in any rolling three-year period. There are guys who retired forever ago who eventually get voted in—in the past few years, some guys from the 70s got inducted 40 years after they left the league.

That leaves us with 17 players who are Hall eligible, have at least 100 career Win Shares, but aren’t in. Let’s take a look at all 17 in descending order of WS.

No. 1: Paul Pierce (retired 2017, 150.0 WS, .157 career WS/48)

Pierce, perhaps remembered as much for his “you ain’t Kobe” farewell tour in 2017 as for the championship he won in Boston in 2008, had a 20-year career, was a 10-time All-Star, a four-time All-NBA selection, led the league in total points scored in 2002, notched over 26,000 points for his career, and defined an era in Boston. He may even end up indirectly defining the next era, as when he and Kevin Garnett were traded to the Brooklyn Nets, the draft pick haul the Celtics got back formed the core of the team that has been to three Eastern Conference Finals in the past four years. Whiffing in free agency is probably why they haven’t gotten over the hump for another title, but Pierce was the gift that keeps on giving.

Pierce is a Hall of Fame finalist in 2021. For him to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and immediately exit this list would be entirely justified, since of all Hall-eligible players who are not yet actually in the Hall, he has by far the best career stat line in terms of counting stats and aggregated advanced stats.

No. 2: Shawn Marion (retired 2015, 124.9 WS, .150 career WS/48)

“The Matrix” is an interesting case. On the one hand, he’s got the same problem that Chandler and Terry have—his only ring was on that 2011 Mavs team, and he’s just a four-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA guy across a 16-year career.

Similarly, 15.2 points and 8.7 rebounds a game don’t exactly scream “Hall of Famer” at you.

Indeed, Marion spent the last nine years of his career never making an All-Star Game, never putting up advanced stats anything close to what he put up in Phoenix alongside Steve Nash, and generally being a guy who was always very good but never great.

I don’t think he’s a Hall of Famer. “Never great” is not something you want to say of immortals. If he were a Roman emperor, he’d be someone like Antoninus Pius. Sure, he was a good emperor (one of the so-called “Five Good Emperors”, but Rome probably would’ve been better if he’d shuffled off a few years earlier and kept Marcus Aurelius from waiting in the wings too long.

Antoninus Pius isn’t a Roman Hall of Famer, and Shawn Marion’s not a basketball Hall of Famer.

No. 3: Chauncey Billups (retired 2014, 120.8 WS, .176 WS/48)

Do you have any idea how good you have to be as a point guard to post .176 WS/48 for an entire career? That stat is so skewed toward big men that Boban Marjanovic had more WS/48 than Stephen Curry in 2016 (if you’ll recall, that was the year Steph hit over 400 3-pointers and had one of the greatest individual seasons of all time by a guy who actually played starter’s minutes.)

You could argue that Billups runs into the same problem Marion does—he’s only got one ring, he only made five All-Star teams and three All-NBA teams, and 15.2 points and 5.4 assists per game don’t scream Hall of Famer—but Billups was Finals MVP on a Pistons team that pulled a huge upset against the Mercenary Lakers in 2004. That was a legendary playoff performance.

And again, .176 WS/48 over a 17-year career for a little guy speaks volumes about just how good Billups was. Allen Iverson only posted more than .176 WS/48 in one season (.190 in 2001.) Billups was a two-time All-Defensive selection, was part of one of the most stifling defenses in the league year in and year out in the mid-aughts, and hit at least .200 WS/48 five times, including .257 in 2008.

That is, at peak, a superstar. Put Billups in the Hall!

No. 4: Buck Williams (retired 1998, 120.1 WS, .136 WS/48)

Here’s a case of “Win Shares skew toward big men.” Williams was a three-time All-Star in New Jersey early in his career, but besides an ability to hoover up rebounds and make shots in close (leading the league in FG% twice), he was dazzlingly mediocre otherwise.

He made four All-Defensive teams but retired with a DBPM of 0.0. Indeed, his advanced defensive stats were never anything to write home about—he just grabbed a whole lot of rebounds, and in the NBA media universe in the 1980s, that made him a great defender.

In many ways, Williams is the homeless man’s Kevin McHale. McHale was another guy who made a lot of shots close to the basket (he too led the league in FG% twice), but the difference is that McHale made those shots while posting as many as 26.1 points per game in 1987 and 17.9 for his career.

Williams, who also didn’t spend the first six years of his career as a sixth man, averaged just 12.8.

Yeah, he was a rebound eater and a putback guy on offense, but plain and simple, there’s a reason McHale is in the Hall and Williams is not.

No. 5: Horace Grant (retired 2004, 118.2 WS, .147 WS/48)

If you haven’t figured out how much I love Horace Grant as a player, go read my scathing take on Kevin Willis‘s All-Star appearance in 1992 or my other take on the subject from Grant’s point of view.

The guy was only an All-Star once, in 1994. But he was 4-time All-Defensive and got not just the three rings in Chicago but one with the Lakers in 2001.

He wasn’t terribly effective after his 11th year in the league—in Orlando in 1998, the last time he topped two VORP—but “was only good for 11 years” isn’t exactly an indictment.

Sure, he’s a fringe case, but I say he belongs. He was better than anyone realized on those Bulls teams, and he had a peak a lot higher than most.

No. 6: Terry Porter (retired 2002, 110.4 WS, .151 WS/48)

One of the weirdest statistical dropoffs I’ve seen on this list is what happened to Porter’s assist totals between 1991 and ’92. He went from 8.0 assists in ’91 (and a career high of 10.1 in 1988, his third year in the league) to 5.8 the following season and was never an assist machine of any distinction again.

It’s not like he became a more score-first player (his five-year peak was always around 17 or 18 points a game), and Clyde Drexler was still around to be the primary scorer and presumed target of Porter’s passes.

There wasn’t a major philosophical change. Rick Adelman was still the coach.

So what happened?

That’s probably a question to be dealt with another day. As for Porter, he was a two-time All-Star who had three great years and a bunch of mediocre-to-good years. He posted over half his production in a six-year stretch as the second-best player on a contender, but the body of his career suggests there’s a good reason he’s been left out of the festivities in Springfield for 20 years.

No. 7: Elton Brand (retired 2016, 109.6 WS, .151 WS/48)

Brand’s Hall case rests on the idea of whether he gets the “great career shortened by injury” exemption from regular discussion of statistics that accompanies guys like Bill Walton and Yao Ming.

Because Brand was a 20-10 guy night after night for eight years, then he ruptured his Achilles tendon and limped along in his 30s as a shell of that once-great player.

If he’d just retired in 2007 when he got hurt, he might already be in. Sure, two-time All-Star, one time All-NBA, and Rookie of the Year might not be the strongest case for an injury-shortened career, but stranger things have happened (again, Allen Iverson’s in the Hall, and he’s the most overrated player who ever lived.)

But limping along for years as a mediocre at best player and never getting anywhere in the playoffs probably means Brand’s entire body of work will keep him out.

Should’ve quit while you were ahead, bud.

No. 8: Larry Nance (retired 1994, 109.6 WS, .171 WS/48)

Spoiler: The next eight names on this list are going to include a few “Wait, he’s not in the Hall yet? Really?” guys.

Nance is a “wait, really?” guy.

Let’s just start with the 1984 dunk contest. And just because, let’s give Senior bonus points because his own son emulated dad at the 2018 contest with that cradle dunk.

But let’s also consider that Nance was an elite rim protector throughout his career, earning three All-Defensive nods, an excellent shotblocker, a good rebounder for his size and position, and the best player on not just the late-80s/early-90s Cavaliers but also an ’84 Suns team that got hot in the playoffs and took the Lakers to six games in the Western Conference Finals. The Suns could’ve denied the world a Johnson-Bird matchup (the first of three in four years that the two men would have) and instead served up a 1976 Finals rematch.

The difference between a guy with good-but-not-great stats who isn’t a Hall of Famer and one who is can sometimes be described as “the secret sauce.”

Larry Nance had the secret sauce. Anyone who saw him play, especially in his younger days, knew they were watching something special.

Nance belongs in the Hall.

No. 9: Detlef Schrempf (retired 2001, 109.5 WS, .156 WS/48)

Without Detlef Schrempf, the world never gets Dirk Nowitzki. That alone should count for something.

But the case for Schrempf as a Hall of Famer rests on two key points.

One, his presence as a key third guy on those mid-90s Seattle Supersonics teams that got his name into a song lyric (“Supersonics” by The Presidents of the United States of America). He made two All-Star teams in Seattle as the linchpin who forced defenses to respect him and gave Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp room to do the voodoo that they do—or did—in highlight packages still revered in Seattle today as part of the city’s nostalgia for its peak before Amazon and Microsoft ruined everything great about the city (sorry, I live here, can’t help but editorialize about how sterile and corporate a once-weird city has become.)

And two, the most bananas years by any sixth man in history not named Kevin McHale. Schrempf put up 9.8 Win Shares in a year—1992—in which he only started four games for the Pacers. McHale posted 10.5 WS in 1984, a year in which he started just ten games, the only time in NBA history a player has posted 10 WS or better while starting 10 games or less.

The difference between Buck Williams and Detlef Schrempf is the difference between a guy who holds his own in a comparison with a Hall of Famer and a guy who doesn’t.

Schrempf was so good for so long, and he was a transformative figure for European basketball players coming to the NBA—again, no Schrempf, probably no Dirk—that he belongs in the Hall and it’s a travesty that he’s not in yet.

No. 10: Jeff Hornacek (retired 2000, 108.9 WS, .154 WS/48)

Now here’s where things get a little weird.

Hornacek is another one of those “great third-best players on a bunch of good teams”, in his case behind John Stockton and Karl Malone in Utah.

An over-40-percent shooter from 3-point range in his career (40.3 percent on 2055 career attempts, including a bananas 47.8 percent—66-of-138—in his last year in the league), Hornacek is one of those guys who was born 25 years too soon.

Imagine a player with his skillset coming into the league in 2011 rather than 1986. He’d instantly morph into Klay Thompson at best and Bojan Bogdanovic at worst.

But…well…are Klay Thompson and Bojan Bogdanovic Hall of Famers? Thompson, maybe, especially if after he comes back from a busted Achilles he’s able to still contribute from beyond the arc the way he did in five straight All-Star seasons between 2015 and 2019.

But Bogdanovic, whose role and skillset are probably closer to Hornacek’s in an actual apples-to-…hmm…probably not apples, but not oranges either. An apples-to-quinces comparison, I suppose. Not the same, but not wildly divergent either.

Point of the matter is you have to treat Hornacek’s Hall of Fame case based on an argument that probably doesn’t even hold water in 2021, when guys with Horny’s skillset are sought-after third options in offenses on contending teams.

But still, the guy made a name for himself. He was famous, just not Hall of Fame-ous.

No. 11: Otis Thorpe (retired 2001, 106.4 WS, .128 WS/48)

Umm…big man with .128 WS/48? Next!

Thorpe was a one-time All-Star in 1992—holy crap, what a weird, weird All-Star Game. Stay tuned. That game deserves a deep dive, and so do its rosters. We’re going to talk about this next time we get together in this space, folks.

The difference between Thorpe and pre-injury Elton Brand and his “should’ve retired and saved your legacy” numbers was that Thorpe was only a 20-10 guy once, in Sacramento in 1988.

He was otherwise more of a 17-10 guy, less of a scorer, though admittedly when you’re on the same team as Hakeem Olajuwon, Vernon Maxwell, and Kenny Smith, there’s only so much ball to go around for you to score.

Although in fairness to Thorpe, he was the only one of those four guys scoring 17 or more on just 12 shots or so a game. Dude was freaky efficient when it came time for him to put the ball in the basket, and he made 59.2 percent of his shots in that 1992 All-Star year.

The thing with Thorpe, though, is that he was a minutes eater. From 1987 to 1992, he averaged at least 35.9 minutes per game every year, playing all 82 games all six of those seasons, and any reasonably competent player is going to rack up a ton of Win Shares just given that many 48-minute chunks to work with given a decent clip of WS/48.

So it went with Thorpe, who posted 10 WS just once but still managed over half (53.6) of his career WS in those peak years.

He had one more very good year in 1994—9.8 WS—but overall he’s a guy whose Hall of Fame case rests not on any given stretch of greatness. 1987-92 is more of a stretch of competence.

But on the other hand, the guy did top 10,000 rebounds for his career and hit 54.6 percent of his shots.

Not really a Hall of Famer, though, but a name you might think “was he good? I think he was good.”

No. 12: Chris Bosh (retired 2016, 106.0 WS, .159 WS/48)

11 straight All-Star games and then his blood turned into the kind of lumpy oatmeal beloved of Humpty Hump.

Just click that Basketball Reference link to Bosh’s career stats. 11-time All-Star, 2-time champion with LeBron and D-Wade, 2007 All-NBA selection, topped three VORP five times and notched 2.7 VORP in just 53 games in his final season.

If that’s not an “injury-shortened” Hall of Famer, I don’t know what is. Is there some rule saying a player has to actually retire before the 3-year clock starts? Because that’s the only good reason I can think of why Bosh isn’t in already—the league might consider his stint trying to come back while still on Miami’s payroll all the way through 2019 as making him ineligible for another two years.

No. 13: Bill Laimbeer (retired 1994, 105.6 WS, .149 WS/48)

Wait, really? Bill Laimbeer, an icon on the Bad Boys Pistons teams of the 1980s, isn’t in the Hall of Fame? REALLY, guys?

On paper, a four-time All-Star and two-time champion does not automatically ring out with “Hall of Famer!”

But not only does Laimbeer stand as one of those “if he’s not on those Pistons, they don’t win those titles” guys, but he had “secret sauce” in spades. His legendary beef with Larry Bird. His “what, me evil?” tendency to do horribly dirty things on the court and then laugh them off in the media as just playing basketball like a regular guy. His undeniable fame in Detroit and infamy everywhere else.

And if that’s not enough for you, let’s just give him some bonus points for coaching the WNBA’s Detroit Shock to three titles between 2003 and 2008, when basketball fans in the Motor City had great men’s and women’s pro teams to root for at the same time.

I grew up a Celtics fan. I hated Bill Laimbeer as a kid. But no athlete gets to be that hated unless he was worth it.

Put Laimbeer in the Hall. You have got to be kidding me that he isn’t already in.

No. 14: Sam Perkins (retired 2001, 105.4 WS, .138 WS/48)

Look, when you’re best remembered as the guy Dallas picked fourth overall in 1984 when Charles Barkley was right there (and went fifth to Philadelphia), that’s probably not a good sign.

Perkins never averaged more than 16.5 points or 8.8 rebounds per game, couldn’t stick in a starting lineup for half of his career, but somehow managed to play 1,298 career games, letting him rack up those 105.4 WS without ever putting up more than 8.5 WS in a season or topping three VORP even once.

Good sixth man on the Sonics, but unlike, say, Schrempf or McHale, who used transcendent sixth man seasons early in their careers to vault themselves to greater things once they got to start, “Big Smooth” was the guy who was a bench mainstay because he just wasn’t good enough to crack Seattle’s starting lineup—fair when you consider that Shawn Kemp was the power forward, but Perkins played center for a good chunk of his career and couldn’t start ahead of the likes of Benoit Benjamin or Michael Cage, which ultimately led Seattle to first throw too much money at Jim McIlvaine and then to draft Vin Baker.

Being competent for long enough can land you on a career Win Shares list, but it won’t make you a Hall of Famer.

No. 15: Rasheed Wallace (retired 2013, 105.1 WS, .139 WS/48)

Do you really need a writeup here? Everything I said about Billups applies to Sheed, and to Ben Wallace (93.5 WS, not in the Hall), and to every other benighted member of a 2004 Pistons team that has precisely zero of its players in the Hall of Fame.

C’mon, man. I know that 2004 was the worst, most unwatchable, most statistically putrid non-lockout NBA season since the shot clock was invented, but you don’t gotta do the Pistons dirty like this. Maybe in 2024, for the 20th anniversary of that title, you can just put Chauncey and both Wallaces in the Hall and let them have some respect.

No. 16: Andre Miller (retired 2016, 100.8 WS, .120 WS/48)

Except for one tremendous year in Cleveland (2002, when he led the league in assists, posted 10.3 WS, and put up 4.5 VORP), Miller’s entire career is an above-average (but no better) point guard with a knack for finding shooters and not much else for a skillset.

Miller was never an All-Star, never an All-NBA guy, never a key contributor on a contender never mind a champion (he only appeared in the second round once, on the 2014 Wizards, and he played just 9.8 minutes a game in that postseason), never anything other than an above-average (but no better) player who lasted 17 years and 1,304 career games to make it onto this list.

Not a Hall of Famer. Not even close.

No. 17: Eddie Jones (retired 2008, 100.6 WS, .147 WS/48)

I think the single biggest lesson to be learned from this long dive into players with 100 WS but no Hall of Fame presence is that for the most part, anyone who belongs in the Hall of Fame is already in the Hall of Fame.

Sure, there are exceptions—the 2004 Pistons guys mentioned, plus the glaring omission of Bill Laimbeer—but there’s generally a difference between guys who hit statistical milestones because they were genuinely great players and guys who hit statistical milestones only because they played competently for so many years that a bunch of average to above-average seasons just kept adding up.

Everybody with more career WS than Shawn Marion who is eligible—Scottie Pippen, at 125.1, is the next guy on the list of 32 names—is in the Hall of Fame except for Paul Pierce, who is a lock to get elected.

Every active or too-recently-retired player with more WS than Marion is a lock to make the Hall, from Vince Carter on up.

Every guy at less than 125 career WS has to be taken on a basis of something other than cumulative advanced stats, and that’s a tougher bar to clear. You need the “secret sauce”. You need to be an icon who just for whatever reason either dropped off catastrophically after a truly great peak, or got injured, or retired with a sense of nothing left to prove.

And on this list stand 16 interesting cases, both pro and con, for what it means to be a Hall of Famer.

If nothing else, they show that besides that de facto 125 WS cutoff, it’s a real interesting argument.