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The Top 10 Shooting Guards of All Time (*according to statistical +/-)

Posted by Neil Paine on March 24, 2009

This has been a surprisingly popular series so far, so because of reader demand I'm going to accelerate things and go ahead with the Top 10 "statistical +/-" shooting guards in NBA history (excluding seasons prior to 1951-52, when they didn't bother to track minutes). As a quick refresher, SPM is a linear regression formula that tries to predict the well-known adjusted plus-minus stat using just the conventional stats you’d find in the box score. Obviously some defensive value is going to be lost as a result, but so far the results haven't been horrible, so that's encouraging. Anyway, here are the best SGs by the method, in alphabetical order:

Ray Allen

Year Ag Tm Lg G Min P/40 TS% AS/40 OR/40 DR/40 TO/40 ST/40 BK/40 PF/40 V.I. MPG SPM
1997 21 MIL N 82 2532 17.5 54.1 3.3 1.5 3.6 2.4 1.2 0.2 3.5 6.7 30.9 0.11
1998 22 MIL N 82 3287 19.5 53.9 4.3 1.5 3.4 3.2 1.4 0.1 3.0 7.5 40.1 1.39
1999 23 MIL N 50 1719 20.4 56.4 4.2 1.4 3.7 2.9 1.3 0.2 2.8 7.6 34.4 2.33
2000 24 MIL N 82 3070 23.7 57.0 4.0 1.1 3.6 2.4 1.4 0.2 2.4 7.6 37.4 3.80
2001 25 MIL N 82 3129 22.9 61.0 4.7 1.3 4.1 2.6 1.6 0.3 2.4 8.4 38.2 5.83
2002 26 MIL N 69 2525 23.9 59.8 4.3 1.3 3.7 2.5 1.4 0.3 2.5 8.0 36.6 4.59
2003 27 TOT N 76 2880 24.2 56.5 4.7 1.3 4.1 2.8 1.5 0.2 3.1 8.5 38.1 4.60
2004 28 SEA N 56 2152 24.0 56.6 5.0 1.3 4.0 2.9 1.3 0.2 2.5 8.6 38.4 4.13
2005 29 SEA N 78 3064 25.2 55.5 3.9 1.1 3.6 2.3 1.1 0.1 2.3 7.7 39.3 4.91
2006 30 SEA N 78 3022 25.6 59.0 3.7 0.9 3.4 2.5 1.4 0.2 2.0 7.5 38.7 4.49
2007 31 SEA N 55 2219 26.2 56.4 4.1 1.0 3.4 2.8 1.5 0.2 2.0 7.8 40.3 5.12
2008 32 BOS N 73 2624 19.7 58.4 3.5 1.2 3.0 2.0 1.0 0.2 2.3 6.6 35.9 2.44
2009 33 BOS N 71 2588 20.5 63.2 3.1 0.9 2.9 1.9 1.0 0.2 2.2 6.2 36.5 3.37

Kobe Bryant

Year Ag Tm Lg G Min P/40 TS% AS/40 OR/40 DR/40 TO/40 ST/40 BK/40 PF/40 V.I. MPG SPM
1997 18 LAL N 71 1103 19.3 54.4 3.3 1.7 3.0 4.0 1.8 0.8 3.7 6.7 15.5 -2.57
1998 19 LAL N 79 2056 22.9 54.8 3.7 1.5 3.1 2.9 1.4 0.8 3.4 7.3 26.0 1.18
1999 20 LAL N 50 1896 20.4 54.9 3.9 1.1 4.3 3.2 1.5 1.0 3.1 7.5 37.9 1.92
2000 21 LAL N 66 2524 23.5 54.6 5.1 1.7 4.9 2.9 1.7 1.0 3.5 9.2 38.2 5.97
2001 22 LAL N 68 2783 27.7 55.2 4.8 1.5 4.2 3.1 1.6 0.6 3.2 9.1 40.9 5.55
2002 23 LAL N 80 3063 26.0 54.4 5.6 1.4 4.2 2.9 1.5 0.5 2.9 9.4 38.3 5.19
2003 24 LAL N 82 3402 28.5 55.0 5.6 1.2 5.3 3.3 2.1 0.8 2.5 10.1 41.5 8.00
2004 25 LAL N 65 2447 24.8 55.1 5.3 1.6 4.1 2.7 1.8 0.4 2.8 9.1 37.6 7.17
2005 26 LAL N 66 2689 27.1 56.3 5.9 1.4 4.4 4.0 1.3 0.8 2.6 9.8 40.7 6.52
2006 27 LAL N 80 3276 34.4 55.9 4.4 0.9 4.3 3.0 1.8 0.4 2.8 9.2 41.0 10.32
2007 28 LAL N 77 3140 30.4 58.0 5.2 0.9 4.6 3.2 1.4 0.5 2.6 9.5 40.8 7.59
2008 29 LAL N 82 3192 28.1 57.6 5.3 1.1 5.1 3.1 1.8 0.5 2.7 9.8 38.9 8.03
2009 30 LAL N 69 2515 29.4 56.2 5.2 1.2 4.5 2.8 1.4 0.5 2.4 9.6 36.4 6.70

Vince Carter

Year Ag Tm Lg G Min P/40 TS% AS/40 OR/40 DR/40 TO/40 ST/40 BK/40 PF/40 V.I. MPG SPM
1999 22 TOR N 50 1760 20.8 51.6 3.4 2.1 4.3 2.5 1.3 1.8 3.2 7.7 35.2 2.74
2000 23 TOR N 82 3126 27.1 54.3 4.1 1.9 4.2 2.3 1.4 1.2 3.4 8.8 38.1 6.62
2001 24 TOR N 75 2979 27.9 55.1 3.9 2.4 3.2 2.3 1.5 1.1 2.8 8.5 39.7 9.25
2002 25 TOR N 60 2385 25.4 51.5 4.1 2.4 3.0 2.6 1.6 0.7 3.3 8.2 39.8 5.72
2003 26 TOR N 43 1471 24.3 53.2 3.9 1.6 3.6 2.0 1.3 1.1 3.3 7.9 34.2 4.83
2004 27 TOR N 73 2785 24.5 50.1 5.2 1.4 3.8 3.3 1.3 1.0 3.2 8.7 38.2 3.85
2005 28 TOT N 77 2828 27.0 54.1 4.7 1.5 4.2 2.4 1.6 0.7 3.5 9.0 37.1 7.28
2006 29 NJN N 79 2906 26.5 53.6 4.7 1.9 4.5 3.0 1.3 0.7 3.3 9.3 36.8 6.38
2007 30 NJN N 82 3126 26.7 55.9 5.1 1.5 4.9 2.8 1.1 0.4 3.4 9.5 38.1 6.37
2008 31 NJN N 76 2959 22.1 55.0 5.3 1.5 4.7 2.5 1.3 0.5 3.3 9.0 38.9 4.48
2009 32 NJN N 69 2546 23.4 54.6 5.2 1.1 4.5 2.3 1.1 0.5 3.2 8.8 36.9 3.95

Clyde Drexler

Year Ag Tm Lg G Min P/40 TS% AS/40 OR/40 DR/40 TO/40 ST/40 BK/40 PF/40 V.I. MPG SPM
1984 21 POR N 82 1408 17.9 49.6 4.4 3.2 3.5 3.5 3.0 0.8 6.0 8.1 17.2 1.60
1985 22 POR N 80 2555 21.3 53.4 6.8 3.4 4.0 3.4 2.7 1.1 4.1 10.2 31.9 6.46
1986 23 POR N 75 2576 21.1 53.0 9.1 2.6 3.8 4.3 3.0 0.7 4.1 10.7 34.3 6.29
1987 24 POR N 82 3114 22.0 55.2 7.0 2.8 3.6 3.1 2.5 0.9 3.5 9.9 38.0 7.39
1988 25 POR N 81 3060 27.5 56.4 5.9 3.3 3.4 3.0 2.6 0.7 3.1 10.3 37.8 10.07
1989 26 POR N 78 3064 26.8 55.5 5.7 3.7 4.1 3.2 2.7 0.7 3.4 10.6 39.3 10.32
1990 27 POR N 73 2683 24.4 55.1 6.2 3.0 4.3 2.7 2.1 0.7 3.2 10.3 36.8 9.66
1991 28 POR N 82 2852 24.1 56.3 6.7 2.9 4.6 3.2 2.0 0.8 3.1 10.7 34.8 9.05
1992 29 POR N 76 2751 27.0 56.0 7.3 2.4 4.7 3.4 2.0 1.0 3.3 11.2 36.2 10.97
1993 30 POR N 49 1671 22.8 51.7 6.5 2.9 4.3 2.7 2.2 0.9 3.7 10.2 34.1 8.46
1994 31 POR N 68 2334 21.5 51.4 5.5 2.5 4.8 2.8 1.6 0.6 3.3 9.5 34.3 5.17
1995 32 TOT N 76 2728 24.0 57.7 5.2 2.2 4.8 2.7 2.0 0.7 3.0 9.5 35.9 8.54
1996 33 HOU N 52 1997 19.8 55.1 6.0 1.9 5.4 2.6 2.1 0.5 3.0 9.5 38.4 6.15
1997 34 HOU N 62 2271 19.3 54.8 6.1 2.0 4.4 2.7 2.1 0.6 2.6 9.1 36.6 6.60
1998 35 HOU N 70 2473 20.7 53.1 6.1 1.7 3.9 3.0 2.0 0.7 3.1 8.9 35.3 5.39

George Gervin

Year Ag Tm Lg G Min P/40 TS% AS/40 OR/40 DR/40 TO/40 ST/40 BK/40 PF/40 V.I. MPG SPM
1973 20 VIR A 30 689 23.6 54.0 1.9 1.9 5.2 3.0 1.5 1.2 4.0 6.8 23.0 -3.03
1974 21 TOT A 74 2511 27.7 53.1 2.3 2.7 7.3 4.0 1.6 1.9 4.3 8.6 34.0 4.38
1975 22 SAA A 84 3113 25.3 52.9 2.7 3.2 5.8 3.2 1.7 1.8 3.8 8.5 37.1 4.97
1976 23 SAA A 81 2748 25.8 55.6 2.9 2.6 5.4 3.2 1.6 1.7 4.2 8.4 33.9 4.34
1977 24 SAS N 82 2705 26.7 60.4 3.4 1.9 4.5 3.6 1.5 1.5 4.0 8.3 33.0 5.13
1978 25 SAS N 82 2857 30.6 59.4 4.1 1.6 4.1 4.2 1.9 1.5 3.5 9.0 34.8 6.91
1979 26 SAS N 80 2888 31.3 59.1 2.9 1.9 3.4 3.8 1.8 1.2 3.6 7.8 36.1 5.08
1980 27 SAS N 78 2934 33.2 58.7 2.6 2.0 3.2 3.3 1.4 1.0 2.7 7.6 37.6 5.14
1981 28 SAS N 82 2765 31.8 55.5 3.7 1.8 4.2 3.6 1.3 0.8 3.0 8.9 33.7 4.74
1982 29 SAS N 79 2817 35.6 56.2 2.6 1.9 3.5 2.9 1.1 0.6 3.0 8.0 35.7 6.21
1983 30 SAS N 78 2830 28.8 56.1 3.7 1.6 3.5 3.5 1.2 0.9 3.4 8.1 36.3 3.66
1984 31 SAS N 76 2584 29.0 55.1 3.2 1.6 3.1 3.3 1.2 0.7 3.2 7.6 34.0 1.50
1985 32 SAS N 72 2091 28.6 56.4 3.3 1.5 2.9 3.7 1.2 0.9 3.9 7.5 29.0 0.03
1986 33 CHI N 82 2065 26.3 53.4 2.9 1.5 2.7 3.2 1.0 0.5 4.2 6.8 25.2 -3.36

Eddie Jones

Year Ag Tm Lg G Min P/40 TS% AS/40 OR/40 DR/40 TO/40 ST/40 BK/40 PF/40 V.I. MPG SPM
1995 23 LAL N 64 1981 17.7 54.8 2.5 1.6 3.4 1.5 2.6 0.8 3.4 6.0 31.0 2.95
1996 24 LAL N 70 2184 16.3 58.3 4.5 0.8 3.4 1.8 2.3 0.8 2.9 6.8 31.2 4.42
1997 25 LAL N 80 2998 18.1 55.9 3.6 1.2 3.1 2.2 2.5 0.6 3.0 6.5 37.5 4.37
1998 26 LAL N 80 2910 17.9 59.2 3.3 1.1 2.9 1.9 2.1 0.7 2.2 6.2 36.4 3.49
1999 27 TOT N 50 1881 16.3 54.6 3.9 1.0 3.0 2.0 2.6 1.2 2.7 6.4 37.7 5.99
2000 28 CHH N 72 2807 20.4 55.5 4.3 1.1 3.7 2.3 2.7 0.7 2.5 7.5 39.0 6.46
2001 29 MIA N 63 2282 20.1 55.3 3.1 1.4 4.0 2.5 2.0 1.1 3.4 7.0 36.2 5.33
2002 30 MIA N 81 3156 19.5 54.6 3.4 0.8 4.2 1.9 1.5 1.0 3.4 6.9 39.0 5.95
2003 31 MIA N 47 1789 20.1 55.1 4.0 0.8 4.4 2.0 1.5 0.7 3.2 7.5 38.1 7.04
2004 32 MIA N 81 2998 19.1 53.8 3.5 0.5 3.7 1.8 1.3 0.5 3.1 6.6 37.0 3.53
2005 33 MIA N 80 2839 14.4 55.6 3.0 0.5 5.2 1.4 1.2 0.5 3.5 6.3 35.5 2.15
2006 34 MEM N 75 2436 15.2 54.2 3.0 0.6 4.2 1.6 2.3 0.5 3.5 6.1 32.5 3.72
2007 35 TOT N 64 1594 12.5 54.3 2.8 0.8 4.0 1.2 1.7 0.3 3.1 5.5 25.9 1.47
2008 36 DAL N 47 922 7.8 47.3 3.1 0.8 5.1 1.3 1.2 0.4 3.2 5.2 19.6 -1.84

Michael Jordan

Year Ag Tm Lg G Min P/40 TS% AS/40 OR/40 DR/40 TO/40 ST/40 BK/40 PF/40 V.I. MPG SPM
1985 21 CHI N 82 3144 30.2 59.2 6.3 2.2 4.8 3.8 2.6 0.9 3.7 11.0 38.3 12.46
1986 22 CHI N 18 451 37.1 53.3 4.8 2.1 3.7 4.1 3.4 1.9 4.2 10.1 25.1 15.37
1987 23 CHI N 82 3281 39.0 56.2 4.8 2.1 3.4 3.5 3.0 1.6 3.0 10.1 40.0 17.44
1988 24 CHI N 82 3311 36.1 60.3 6.1 1.8 3.9 3.2 3.3 1.7 3.4 10.8 40.4 18.78
1989 25 CHI N 81 3255 33.6 61.4 8.3 1.9 6.4 3.7 3.0 0.8 3.1 13.2 40.2 17.48
1990 26 CHI N 82 3197 35.0 60.6 6.6 1.8 5.4 3.1 2.9 0.7 3.1 11.8 39.0 15.79
1991 27 CHI N 82 3034 34.8 60.5 6.1 1.6 5.0 2.7 3.0 1.1 3.1 11.2 37.0 16.83
1992 28 CHI N 80 3102 31.7 57.9 6.5 1.2 5.5 2.6 2.4 1.0 2.7 11.1 38.8 12.77
1993 29 CHI N 78 3067 34.7 56.4 5.8 1.8 5.3 2.8 3.0 0.8 2.6 11.3 39.3 14.97
1995 31 CHI N 17 668 27.6 49.3 5.4 1.5 5.6 2.1 1.8 0.8 2.8 10.2 39.3 8.40
1996 32 CHI N 82 3090 32.5 58.2 4.6 1.9 5.2 2.6 2.3 0.5 2.5 10.2 37.7 13.03
1997 33 CHI N 82 3106 31.4 56.7 4.5 1.5 4.8 2.1 1.8 0.6 2.0 9.6 37.9 10.34
1998 34 CHI N 82 3181 30.1 53.3 3.6 1.7 4.4 2.4 1.8 0.6 1.9 8.7 38.8 8.03
2002 38 WAS N 60 2092 27.0 46.8 6.1 1.0 5.7 3.2 1.7 0.5 2.3 10.3 34.9 4.37
2003 39 WAS N 82 3034 22.3 49.1 4.2 1.0 5.8 2.4 1.7 0.5 2.3 8.6 37.0 1.57

Tracy McGrady

Year Ag Tm Lg G Min P/40 TS% AS/40 OR/40 DR/40 TO/40 ST/40 BK/40 PF/40 V.I. MPG SPM
1998 18 TOR N 64 1179 14.9 50.5 3.2 3.5 5.4 2.2 1.6 2.0 2.8 7.5 18.4 0.05
1999 19 TOR N 49 1106 16.6 50.4 4.1 4.3 5.7 2.9 1.9 2.4 3.4 8.8 22.6 4.56
2000 20 TOR N 79 2462 19.8 50.9 4.3 3.1 5.1 2.6 1.5 2.5 3.3 8.9 31.2 4.35
2001 21 ORL N 77 3087 26.2 52.1 4.5 2.4 4.9 2.5 1.5 1.5 2.0 9.5 40.1 7.74
2002 22 ORL N 76 2912 26.0 53.2 5.3 2.0 6.0 2.5 1.6 1.0 1.9 10.4 38.3 8.36
2003 23 ORL N 75 2954 31.9 56.4 5.4 1.6 4.9 2.6 1.6 0.8 2.1 10.4 39.4 12.98
2004 24 ORL N 67 2675 27.9 52.6 5.5 1.4 4.6 2.7 1.4 0.6 1.9 9.7 39.9 8.29
2005 25 HOU N 78 3182 25.8 52.6 5.8 0.9 5.3 2.6 1.7 0.7 2.2 9.8 40.8 8.62
2006 26 HOU N 47 1745 27.0 49.4 5.3 1.1 6.2 2.8 1.4 1.0 2.1 10.1 37.1 7.49
2007 27 HOU N 71 2539 27.9 51.5 7.3 0.9 5.1 3.4 1.5 0.6 2.2 10.7 35.8 7.76
2008 28 HOU N 66 2440 23.9 48.7 6.5 0.7 5.0 2.7 1.1 0.5 1.5 9.6 37.0 3.30
2009 29 HOU N 35 1182 18.7 49.2 6.0 0.7 4.6 2.4 1.4 0.5 1.3 8.4 33.8 2.22

Reggie Miller

Year Ag Tm Lg G Min P/40 TS% AS/40 OR/40 DR/40 TO/40 ST/40 BK/40 PF/40 V.I. MPG SPM
1988 22 IND N 82 1840 18.2 58.0 2.9 2.1 2.1 2.2 1.2 0.4 3.5 6.1 22.4 0.11
1989 23 IND N 74 2536 18.9 60.2 3.6 1.2 3.5 2.3 1.5 0.5 2.7 6.8 34.3 3.01
1990 24 IND N 82 3192 25.6 64.5 3.9 1.2 2.5 2.8 1.4 0.2 2.2 7.2 38.9 4.57
1991 25 IND N 82 2972 24.6 65.0 4.4 1.1 2.6 2.2 1.4 0.2 2.2 7.4 36.2 5.20
1992 26 IND N 82 3120 21.2 62.9 3.9 1.0 3.0 2.0 1.3 0.3 2.6 6.9 38.0 3.46
1993 27 IND N 82 2954 23.7 61.7 3.6 0.9 2.6 2.0 1.6 0.4 2.5 6.7 36.0 4.55
1994 28 IND N 79 2638 24.3 63.6 3.8 0.5 2.8 2.7 1.8 0.4 3.0 6.7 33.4 5.00
1995 29 IND N 81 2665 24.6 62.0 3.7 0.5 2.8 2.3 1.5 0.2 2.4 6.7 32.9 5.23
1996 30 IND N 76 2621 25.2 62.5 4.0 0.6 2.8 3.0 1.2 0.2 2.7 7.0 34.5 4.52
1997 31 IND N 81 2966 23.9 60.3 3.7 0.7 3.2 2.3 1.0 0.3 2.3 7.0 36.6 5.58
1998 32 IND N 81 2795 23.2 61.9 2.5 0.7 2.7 1.9 1.1 0.2 2.2 5.8 34.5 3.91
1999 33 IND N 50 1787 21.2 59.0 2.6 0.6 2.5 1.8 0.9 0.2 2.3 5.5 35.7 3.07
2000 34 IND N 81 2987 19.7 60.3 2.5 0.7 2.5 1.7 1.1 0.3 1.7 5.4 36.9 2.60
2001 35 IND N 81 3181 19.6 57.4 3.3 0.5 3.2 1.7 1.0 0.2 2.1 6.2 39.3 2.51
2002 36 IND N 79 2889 17.8 61.7 3.5 0.3 2.7 1.6 1.2 0.1 2.0 5.7 36.6 2.96
2003 37 IND N 70 2119 16.5 59.7 3.2 0.4 2.8 1.2 1.2 0.1 1.7 5.5 30.3 1.92
2004 38 IND N 80 2254 14.6 60.0 4.5 0.3 3.1 1.2 1.2 0.2 1.8 6.1 28.2 3.38
2005 39 IND N 66 2105 19.3 58.2 2.9 0.4 2.7 1.5 1.0 0.1 2.2 5.6 31.9 0.85

Jerry West

Year Ag Tm Lg G Min P/40 TS% AS/40 OR/40 DR/40 TO/40 ST/40 BK/40 PF/40 V.I. MPG SPM
1961 22 LAL N 79 2797 20.3 46.8 4.9 3.3 5.6 4.3 1.4 1.1 3.1 9.6 35.4 1.66
1962 23 LAL N 75 3087 30.6 52.4 5.3 3.0 4.8 4.9 1.7 0.7 2.3 10.8 41.2 7.18
1963 24 LAL N 55 2163 28.3 52.3 5.8 2.8 4.5 4.7 1.5 0.7 2.8 10.6 39.3 5.68
1964 25 LAL N 72 2906 29.7 56.2 5.8 2.2 4.1 4.7 1.4 0.5 2.9 10.2 40.4 7.11
1965 26 LAL N 74 3066 30.8 57.2 4.9 2.1 3.9 4.7 1.4 0.5 3.0 9.7 41.4 7.42
1966 27 LAL N 79 3218 31.0 57.3 6.0 2.4 4.6 4.7 1.5 0.5 3.0 10.9 40.7 9.72
1967 28 LAL N 66 2670 28.0 55.9 6.6 1.9 3.9 4.6 1.6 0.3 2.4 10.3 40.5 6.52
1968 29 LAL N 51 1919 28.5 59.0 6.6 2.1 4.1 4.7 1.6 0.5 3.2 10.5 37.6 6.84
1969 30 LAL N 61 2394 27.5 55.7 7.4 1.4 3.1 4.5 2.1 0.2 2.7 9.7 39.2 4.10
1970 31 LAL N 74 3106 30.7 57.2 7.4 1.4 3.1 3.8 2.2 0.0 2.1 10.1 42.0 7.78
1971 32 LAL N 69 2845 25.9 57.1 9.1 1.1 3.4 4.0 2.5 0.0 2.5 10.2 41.2 5.82
1972 33 LAL N 77 2973 25.7 54.6 9.7 1.2 3.1 4.0 2.5 0.0 2.7 10.2 38.6 5.33
1973 34 LAL N 69 2460 25.3 53.3 9.8 1.2 3.4 4.4 2.1 0.0 2.2 10.5 35.7 3.91
1974 35 LAL N 31 967 25.1 51.9 8.2 1.2 3.4 5.0 3.2 0.9 3.2 9.9 31.2 5.52

Just missed the cut: Brent Barry, Dave Bing, World B. Free, Hal Greer, Ron Harper, Hersey Hawkins, Jeff Hornacek, Dan Majerle, Sidney Moncrief, Mitch Richmond

Over/under-valued: Doesn't it seem like modern players are really over-represented here? At least, that's what I thought at first. But upon further research, there really hasn't been a preponderance of great shooting guards in NBA history. Some positions overflow with talent, for sure, but exactly which great SGs are missing here (keeping in mind that I'm arbitrarily listing Allen Iverson as PG)? Earl Monroe? Look at The Pearl's stats:

Year Ag Tm Lg G Min P/40 TS% AS/40 OR/40 DR/40 TO/40 ST/40 BK/40 PF/40 V.I. MPG SPM
1968 23 BAL N 82 3012 26.2 51.8 4.6 2.4 3.8 4.7 1.5 0.6 3.7 9.0 36.7 3.71
1969 24 BAL N 80 3075 26.0 49.3 4.9 1.4 2.1 4.0 2.0 0.3 3.3 7.7 38.4 2.19
1970 25 BAL N 82 3051 24.5 52.3 5.1 1.1 2.1 3.7 1.8 0.3 3.3 7.4 37.2 0.90
1971 26 BAL N 81 2843 24.1 50.2 4.9 1.1 1.9 3.5 2.0 0.3 3.1 7.1 35.1 -0.10
1972 27 TOT N 63 1337 23.0 49.2 4.4 1.1 2.0 3.1 1.7 0.3 4.3 6.7 21.6 -2.78
1973 28 NYK N 75 2370 20.3 52.5 5.0 1.1 3.1 2.7 1.8 0.5 3.4 7.6 31.6 0.81
1974 29 NYK N 41 1194 20.0 50.9 3.8 0.8 3.5 2.9 1.2 0.7 3.4 6.9 29.1 -0.73
1975 30 NYK N 78 2814 23.5 50.4 3.9 0.8 3.9 2.9 1.6 0.4 2.9 7.6 36.1 1.30
1976 31 NYK N 76 2889 22.1 52.1 4.3 0.7 3.2 2.9 1.6 0.3 2.9 7.1 38.0 1.69
1977 32 NYK N 77 2656 22.7 56.9 5.4 0.7 2.6 3.4 1.4 0.3 2.9 7.4 34.5 1.67
1978 33 NYK N 76 2369 22.2 54.1 5.9 0.8 2.2 2.9 1.0 0.3 3.1 7.3 31.2 -1.69
1979 34 NYK N 64 1393 22.8 51.3 5.5 0.8 1.4 2.8 1.4 0.2 3.6 6.4 21.8 -3.78
1980 35 NYK N 51 633 23.1 49.7 4.1 1.0 1.2 1.7 1.3 0.2 2.8 5.9 12.4 -5.33

For me, there's always been a frustrating disconnect between the Monroe of legend ("Black Jesus") & highlights, and his statistical production. And not just in the arena of SPM, either -- here are his career Basketball on Paper numbers translated to this year's environment of 108.7 pts/100 poss.:

Year Ag Tm Lg Ht Pos G Min trORtg %Poss trDRtg
1968 23 BAL N 75 G 82 3012 113.3 25.1 110.7
1969 24 BAL N 75 G 80 3075 110.6 26.2 108.7
1970 25 BAL N 75 G 82 3051 111.2 24.0 110.3
1971 26 BAL N 75 G 81 2843 109.9 24.4 110.7
1972 27 NYK N 75 G 60 1234 105.5 24.2 109.5
1972 27 BAL N 75 G 3 103 98.4 28.8 112.4
1973 28 NYK N 75 G 75 2370 112.4 20.9 105.5
1974 29 NYK N 75 G 41 1194 108.3 21.3 107.5
1975 30 NYK N 75 G 78 2814 110.5 25.4 110.9
1976 31 NYK N 75 G 76 2889 112.3 23.4 111.2
1977 32 NYK N 75 G 77 2656 117.6 22.9 112.4
1978 33 NYK N 75 G 76 2369 116.2 22.2 114.8
1979 34 NYK N 75 G 64 1393 109.9 23.3 114.2
1980 35 NYK N 75 G 51 633 111.2 22.8 116.0

These numbers, combined with his career PER of 17.2, suggest that Monroe was a good -- but not great -- player. And I'm not sure how to reconcile that with his Hall of Fame reputation. The same goes for Pistol Pete Maravich:

Year Ag Tm Lg G Min P/40 TS% AS/40 OR/40 DR/40 TO/40 ST/40 BK/40 PF/40 V.I. MPG SPM
1971 23 ATL N 81 2926 25.2 51.2 4.8 1.4 2.6 4.1 1.8 0.6 3.2 7.8 36.1 -0.35
1972 24 ATL N 66 2302 22.4 50.2 6.9 1.5 3.0 3.9 2.0 0.4 3.6 8.9 34.9 0.76
1973 25 ATL N 79 3089 26.0 50.2 6.9 1.6 2.8 4.2 2.0 0.2 3.1 9.2 39.1 2.37
1974 26 ATL N 76 2903 28.2 51.6 5.3 1.3 3.7 4.5 1.5 0.2 3.5 9.1 38.2 2.68
1975 27 NOJ N 79 2853 22.8 47.9 6.5 1.2 4.4 4.3 1.6 0.2 3.0 9.4 36.1 1.46
1976 28 NOJ N 62 2373 26.7 52.4 5.5 0.8 4.2 3.9 1.5 0.4 3.3 9.0 38.3 4.18
1977 29 NOJ N 73 3041 29.7 49.2 5.1 1.2 3.7 4.2 1.1 0.3 2.5 9.1 41.7 3.06
1978 30 NOJ N 50 2041 26.1 49.2 6.5 0.9 2.5 4.8 2.0 0.2 2.2 8.3 40.8 -0.60
1979 31 NOJ N 49 1824 23.6 47.8 5.2 0.7 1.9 4.3 1.3 0.4 2.2 6.8 37.2 -5.63
1980 32 TOT N 43 964 25.2 49.9 3.6 0.7 2.6 3.5 1.0 0.3 3.4 6.6 24.4 -6.23

Okay, so what about Joe Dumars?

Year Ag Tm Lg G Min P/40 TS% AS/40 OR/40 DR/40 TO/40 ST/40 BK/40 PF/40 V.I. MPG SPM
1986 22 DET N 82 1957 15.4 54.8 7.8 1.2 1.2 3.2 1.3 0.2 4.0 6.6 23.9 -2.37
1987 23 DET N 79 2439 15.2 54.3 5.8 0.8 1.9 2.8 1.4 0.1 3.2 6.2 30.9 -1.52
1988 24 DET N 82 2732 17.2 53.0 5.7 0.9 2.0 2.6 1.3 0.2 2.3 6.6 33.3 -0.91
1989 25 DET N 69 2408 20.8 57.1 6.8 1.0 2.0 3.1 1.1 0.1 1.8 7.5 34.9 0.11
1990 26 DET N 75 2578 21.6 55.5 5.9 1.0 2.5 2.3 1.0 0.0 2.1 7.6 34.4 1.60
1991 27 DET N 80 3046 22.8 55.2 6.2 0.9 1.7 2.6 1.2 0.1 1.9 7.2 38.1 1.51
1992 28 DET N 82 3192 21.6 53.8 5.0 1.1 1.4 2.6 0.9 0.2 1.9 6.4 38.9 -0.33
1993 29 DET N 77 3094 24.3 55.5 4.1 0.8 1.1 1.9 1.0 0.1 1.9 5.8 40.2 1.42
1994 30 DET N 69 2591 22.0 55.8 4.1 0.5 1.8 2.5 1.0 0.1 1.8 5.9 37.6 -0.56
1995 31 DET N 67 2544 19.0 54.1 5.8 0.7 1.7 3.4 1.1 0.1 2.4 6.5 38.0 -3.43
1996 32 DET N 67 2193 15.1 57.9 5.1 0.5 2.1 1.9 0.8 0.1 2.0 5.9 32.7 0.46
1997 33 DET N 79 2923 16.9 58.6 4.6 0.6 2.2 1.9 0.8 0.0 1.4 6.0 37.0 0.50
1998 34 DET N 72 2326 16.6 54.9 4.5 0.2 1.6 1.5 0.8 0.0 1.7 5.1 32.3 -0.86
1999 35 DET N 38 1116 15.8 56.8 4.9 0.4 2.1 2.0 0.8 0.1 1.9 5.8 29.4 0.23

The counter-argument, of course, is that Dumars in one of those players whose defensive contributions can never be detected from the box score stats. I can buy that to a degree, but the trouble is that the Bad Boys' defenses were predicated more on stats you associate with interior defense (eFG%, DR%) than perimeter play (TO%, FT/FGA). And pretty much every statistical system (despite using radically different methods) considers Dumars to be an average player. So there's another guy whose reputation is difficult to reconcile with the numbers.

Sam Jones has good career numbers, but not on par with the other guys on the list (ditto Bill Sharman), and David Thompson only played 592 career games (basically half of what the others did). Going into this piece, I expected there to be a wealth of great shooting guards in NBA history, but instead I learned it's a very bizarre position -- it's very top-heavy, boasting the Greatest Of All Time and a collection of other stars, but some of it's biggest names appear to be overrated (Maravich, Monroe, etc.) and it may also have the worst depth of any position. Had I included Iverson as a SG, he would have bumped Ray Allen out of the Top 10, but that doesn't really change the fact that, historically, the best guards were almost always point guards, not 2s.

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48 Responses to “The Top 10 Shooting Guards of All Time (*according to statistical +/-)”

  1. ScottR. Says:

    Ro Blackman was also a heckuva shooting guard back in the 80s. This position seems to lend itself to big scorers--Dumars was a great clutch shooter but not a gunner like Miller or Gervin. MJ was the best followed by Kobe, Jerry West then Drexler. This position also seems to be the best athelete on the team.

  2. Eddy Says:

    No surprise at some of the numbers provided.

    I will state that Tracy McGrady had some phenomenal seasons, statistically, while he was with Orlando a few years back. Obviously SPM does a great job of accurately portraying how incredible T-Mac was ..

    What I find slightly humorous is that ESPN, a while back, held its own Top 10 list for greatest SG's of all-time and #2 was Kobe Bryant. I say slightly humorous because it's evident, at least by the numbers here, that #2 is Clyde the Glide.

  3. Anon Says:

    hmmm...
    why does every time APBRmetrics comes up with a new stat to measure player performance (traditonal stats, PER, skill curves, SPM, etc.) Michael Jeffrey Jordan's name comes up number one on those lists EVERY time? it's HAS to be a coincidence, right Neil? :)

    great blog by the way. keep up the good work.

  4. Steve Sailer Says:

    How much are you adjusting for the rise in shooting percentages in the 1960s and 1970s? Also, is the lack of a three point arc hurting old time guards?

    For example, Gail Goodrich's 25.9 ppg on .487 shooting (and .850 free throw shooting) on the great 1971-72 Lakers doesn't sound all that exciting today, but in its time was very good. And Goodrich would have scored even more with today's three point line. (Of course, the tempo was faster and he was getting fast breaks off Chamberlain blocks and outlet passes.) This is not to say that Goodrich was one of the 20 best shooting guards of all time, just that changes in the game may have made it harder for old-timers to make the list.

  5. Steve Sailer Says:

    One reason why there aren't that many great shooting guards is that the best basketball players tend to wind up point guards.

    Consider Jerry West, whom you list as a shooting guard, even though he averaged 6.7 assists per game in his long career, much of it played in the early 1960s in a sloppy, low assist environment where players typically just gunned from off the dribble.

    Looking at the stats, in Gail Goodrich's last two seasons in Phoenix before re-uniting with West, he averaged 6.4 and 7.5 apg, so I would assume he was more or less the point guard there. When he got to LA in 1971, however, his assist totals fell as he became more of a pure shooting guard, while Jerry West's apg's peaked at 9.5, 9.7, and 8.8.

    In other words, the 1972 Lakers had two guys who were both good enough to be NBA point guards. They dealt with that pleasant problem by putting the greater all-around player, West, at the point guard position. I suspect that's a fairly general pattern, which explains why shooting guard has, historically, been a relatively weak position.

  6. Steve Sailer Says:

    Another reason you don't have enough old-time guards on your list is that you are making up steals and blocks stats for them based on a formula that gyps the all-time greats.

    The NBA didn't start counting steals until 1973-1974. The 35-year-old Jerry West, who played only 31 games that season, and was hobbled by his injuries in many of those games, averaged 3.2 steals per 40 minutes. According to the data you made up for steals, that would have been his career high by far! It's much more likely that rather than the 1.5 steals per game you impute to him when he was in his prime at age 27, he was averaging more like 4 or 5 per game.

    Also, you assume that West had 0.0 blocks per 40 minutes in his great 1972 NBA title season, but when the NBA started counting blocks per game two years later, he averaged 0.9. I listened to or watched most games in 1972, and West had a lot of blocks for a 6'3" guard who wasn't that good of a jumper -- he blocked a lot of outside shots from behind. West was simply one of the cleverest basketball men ever, as his executive career illustrates (e.g., picking Kobe at age 17).

  7. Neil Paine Says:

    Like I've said before, I have to use a regression on his other stats to estimate the numbers the NBA neglected to track back in the day. The good news is that I do this for everyone in the early days, and that I'm comparing them to their peers -- the league average for that season (SPM is points above/below average per 100 team possessions) -- so nobody is getting "gypped". The minute-weighted average of SPM across all players for every season in NBA history is by definition 0.0, whether it's 1969 or 2009.

  8. Romain Says:

    For some players it's never easy to determine if they are PG vs SG, SG vs SF, or PF vs C.
    Concerning Iverson I would have put him up in this SG list. Eventhough he likes to handle the ball much, it's clear that he does not have a PG type of game and mentality, and that he is nothing if not a scorer. Besides, in his best years in Philly (including the 2001 play off run) he played alongside starting PG Eric Snow.

  9. Steve Sailer Says:

    "nobody is getting “gypped”."

    Well, no, you are making up blocks and steals numbers based on things like height -- such as your table earlier in the series that claimed that Bill Russell never averaged three blocks per game for a single season because he was only 6'9" -- that those who saw the pre-1973-74 NBA won't believe.

    Look, I understand, it's a difficult methodological problem not having key data for seasons before 1974. I'm sympathetic. But you should understand as well that making up numbers that are run of the mill is gypping the all-timers like Russell, Chamberlain, and West.

    Indeed, that's one of the answers to your question of why there are so few shooting guards on your list from the Old Days -- you are imputing numbers for them based on league norms, not on their unique abilities.

  10. Jason J Says:

    I think it also bears mentioning that prior to MJ, a great offense was rarely built around a great perimeter scorer, because that wasn't seen as a method to win. Then there's the no-handcheck rule that swung the advantage from the interior to the exterior. So maybe it's not that surprising that we see the majority of the shooting guard stars in recent years.

    Speaking of his Airness, I'm not surprised to see MJ way out in front as Neil projected, but the level to which he's way out in front is insane. And not just for SGs, for the entire field.

    Is there a Pace adjustment in the formula? I'm just surprised to see my main man Clyde the Glyde out-performing Bryant and West who are statistical titans and clear picks for the #2 and 3 all time shooting guards.

    Steve brings up an interesting point about trying to use regression to create stats for past stars in any scenario. We're talking about the exceptional players, the ones that skew the curve. We're not talking about the curve itself. So almost by definition, you need to think that when you're approximating the numbers for MVP types like Jerry West, they are not going to fit a statistical norm.

    By the way, I think West is clearly taller than 6' 3" - they measured without shoes back then, and he didn't look to be any more than an inch shorter than Kobe when he was the Lakers GM. If you watch game film of him he did play in a crouch on both ends. For purposes of blocked shots, he's got high shoulders and long arms like a Rondo anyway.

  11. Neil Paine Says:

    But don't you get that the numbers that I'm "making up" (via a regression model based on every NBA player from 1974-2008) are even more "run of the mill" for their peers, and this is purely a comparison to one's in-season peers? In other words, yeah, I'm vastly underestimating Russell's blocks when compared to somebody like Patrick Ewing, who actually had the stat kept during his career... But I'm not comparing Russell to Ewing directly and saying Russell is inferior because his estimated blocks are lower. That would be stupid. Instead, I'm comparing each player to his opponents within a particular season -- and while Russell's estimated B/40 is "too low" compared to players today, he's only being compared to other players whose estimated B/40 have similar been regressed to the mean, so in effect there's no difference between Russell leading a heavily-regressed 1958 with 2.9 estimated B/40 and David Robinson leading 1992 with 4.8. Now, you can argue that Russell's shot-blocking ability went above and beyond what the best shot-blockers of today did, and that it's unfair to put him on equal shot-blocking footing with somebody like Marcus Camby, but the fact remains that it's the best we can do for players prior to 1974.

  12. bastillon Says:

    what about Manu ?

  13. Joe Lynch Says:

    I have been a fan of the NBA since 1955. I do not think that you can guesstimate the statistics that were not kept of players such as Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain. Because those two players stats which were kept during their era were so superior to players of later eras until it is impossible to extrapolate the stats of the ones which not were kept. So, why don't you just compare stats which have been kept from when the NBA began to keep stats.

  14. Neil Paine Says:

    Because then you lose 22 years worth of players (greats like Russell, Robertson, West, Chamberlain, Schayes, Pettit, etc.) -- 26 years if you don't estimate turnovers. I'd rather have some estimate than throw out those players entirely.

  15. Duff Soviet Union Says:

    Interesting that Dennis Johnson didn't get a mention. I assume he doesn't come out too well?

  16. Keith Ellis Says:

    Joe Lynch hits nail on head in noting that Russ & Wilt's Rebounding & Assist stats, for example, were far superior to their contemporary rivals than D-Rob's or Camby's ever have been against theirs. Thus their ShotBlocking superiority may reasonably be assumed to've been off the charts, too.

    Statisticians who don't want to "estimate" might take the ABA statkeeping era more seriously. Louis Dampier's back-to-back 200-HR seasonal marks stood for a quarter-century until the NBA finally moved the arc in & John Starks belted some 220 dingers in '95. ABA veterans kept this & other "modern" statistics (Team Defensive FG%, for example) & thus are compare-able to players of today. The ABA stats provide a window for what might have been in the N-BA. For example, we know Artis Gilmore blocked five shots per game in his rookie season. Thus we can dismiss claims that Laker Wilt was swatting ten shots per nite, but he certainly was getting more than 200-300 blocks per year as league leaders have consistently gotten ever since Manute & Mark Eaton's heydays.

    Regarding Point Guards, it wasn't so long ago that the term "compleat guard" was commonly used to describe the Clyde Fraziers, Jerry Wests, Dave Bings, & Jo Jo Whites who were expected to excel at an all-round game, not merely walk the ball upcourt & pass to the midsized hot-shot. It's ahistorical to label Pistol Pete or Earl the Pearl mere "off-guards" a la George Gervin, who invented the position as we know it today.

    Rather than trying to pigeonhole past players into today's division-of-labor positions, it's helpful to use Bkb Ref as a resource to familiarize ourselves w/ time-tested benchmarks for Guards like the 400-400 Club to which the Charlie Scotts & Jo Jo Whites belonged, or the 100-100 Defensive Club George Gervin routinely entered despite his reputation. Career benchmarks like 20,000 Points, 15,000 Rebounds, or 50,000 Minutes also help separate the men from the boys.

  17. Steve Sailer Says:

    Here's one way to think about the missing blocks and steals data: In the first year when the numbers were kept, 1973-74, Wilt's replacement as Laker center Elmore Smith blocked 393 shots, which remains the third highest in NBA history, or 4.9 per game. I don't recall anybody in LA saying, "Thank God Wilt retired so this kid Smith can block so many more shots than Wilt was doing." To Laker fans, five blocks per game seemed about what was expected for a Laker center.

    However, the imputed data here says that in his prime in his 20s, Wilt never averaged above 3.1 blocks per game.

    And, yes, Chamberlain and Russell _were_ that much better than their contemporaries. You can see it from scanning the league leaders in rebounding. Wilt and Bill were usually 3 to 5 rebounds per game ahead of anybody else in the league.

  18. Steve Sailer Says:

    "By the way, I think West is clearly taller than 6′ 3″ - they measured without shoes back then, and he didn’t look to be any more than an inch shorter than Kobe when he was the Lakers GM. If you watch game film of him he did play in a crouch on both ends. For purposes of blocked shots, he’s got high shoulders and long arms like a Rondo anyway."

    I vaguely recall Chick Hearn in 1972 explaining Jerry West's huge number of steals by pointing out that they were both 6'3", but Chick wore a sportscoat with 35" sleeves (I'm 6'4" and have 34" inch sleeves), but Jerry's sportscoats had 38" sleeves.

  19. Keith Ellis Says:

    Steve Sailer's on the right track re Elmore Smith, but let's don't ignore the much deeper ABA stat-keeping history to provide a window on the NBA players' abilities in the Sixties & Seventies. Artis Gilmore's 5 blocks per game place A-Train in third place all-time behind Eaton & Bol, one spot ahead of Elmore Smith.

    Similarly, Spencer Haywood (who ROY/MVPd just as Gilmore did) set the mark for Offensive Rebounds that nobody not named Moses Malone has matched. And the Denver Rockets for whom Haywood later played to this day still hold the all-time record for Team Defensive FG% at .399.

  20. Steve Sailer Says:

    Bill James wrestles with many of the same problems in ranking baseball players. For example, superstars stood out more in the past statistically, for several reasons.

    One was that they didn't have to work off-season jobs, so they could stay in shape (if they were so inclined). Just as Chamberlain was among the first to take up weightlifting in the NBA, Honus Wagner had stayed great in his 30s by lifting barbells in the off season. After Babe Ruth's hedonism ruined his 1925 season, he hired a personal trainer and worked out in gyms during the offseasons, thus enjoying a great second half to his career.

    Also, I think centers don't stand out as much statistically as they used to because a huge amount of thinking has gone into the problem of how do you keep a superior big man from scoring 50 points per game. How do you stop Shaq is a more semi-solvable problem intellectually than how do you stop Michael Jordan. You can sketch out Xs and Os on the whiteboard for slowing down Shaq better than you can for a very quick mid-sized player like Jordan or Lebron or Kobe.

    Bill James's solution in his Historical Abstract top 100 rankings was to arbitrarily decide how many players he wanted from each general era, and then create a sort of "cosmological constant" number for adjusting for how much better the quality of the game has gotten that would deliver him the results he liked.

    So, I shouldn't be giving Neil too hard a time!

  21. Steve Sailer Says:

    I would guess the NBA in the early 1960s probably resembled the ABA about eight years later -- a league in which genuine talents like Spencer Haywood, Connie Hawkins, and Artis Gilmore (or Wilt Chamberlain, Walt Bellamy, and Jerry Lucas) could walk in and put up eye-popping numbers during their rookie years due to the overall quality of players being a little low and more sloppiness of play being tolerated.

  22. Neil Paine Says:

    Nah, I didn't think you were giving me a hard time; I recognize that it's always an interesting debate about these pre-1974 players, statistically speaking. I think we all just wish that the NBA had taken a page out of baseball's playbook and been more forward-thinking about its stats back then, because the lack of old data makes it difficult to conduct meaningful analysis of past players. And this was only 35-40 years ago! Imagine not knowing how many walks Ted Williams had, or what Mickey Mantle's slugging % was. It's crazy that the league didn't keep the stats we take for granted today (TOV, STL, BLK, ORB) back then.

    And regarding some of the early players' accomplishments, I believe it was Stephen Jay Gould who suggested (speaking of baseball, but it applies to hoops as well) that the more "outlier"-type performances you see in a season indicates a weaker overall league, and that as the top-to-bottom strength of the talent pool gets greater and greater, you start to see the numbers decline for the best of the best. I think Chamberlain's 1962 certainly qualifies as an outlier, and I know it's become vogue to diminish that performance with the "weak competition" argument... but if you buy what Gould says, it definitely suggests that the early-60s NBA was nowhere near as evolved as it is today. The same would go for the early ABA, where, like you said, Rick Barry, Connie Hawkins, etc. could step in and immediately start dominating the league.

  23. mrparker Says:

    re big rebounding numbers back in the day

    Isn't it true that rebounds were credited in a different manner years ago. One player could get 5 rebounds just by tapping the ball to himself. Now that only counts for one rebound.

  24. Steve Sailer Says:

    The funny thing is that even though it seems obvious that the quality of play in pro basketball and baseball got better over the decades, it's hard to prove it from looking at individual players. You don't see that much evidence of players getting worse over their careers as the league average quality goes up, other than from aging. Apparently, the stars who had long careers tended to get better along with the league -- e.g., John Havlicek had a 1960s shooting percentage in the 1960s (around .400) and a 1970s shooting percentage in the 1970s (around .450+). This suggests that techniques and strategy were more the limiting factors in the early years rather than quality of player.

    You see much the same thing in baseball. You would figure that competition in the National League got a lot better from 1946 to 1963 due to desegregation and other reasons, but it's hard to tell from Warren Spahn's statistics.

    One thing I think you can see in the statistical record is Wilt Chamberlain's offensive game being left behind. His fall-away bank shot worked great in a low percentage shooting league, but wasn't good enough in a fairly high percentage shooting game. So, he became a passing god in his early 30s for a couple of years and a defensive god in his later years. It's funny that a man who could become the only center to lead the league in assists couldn't develop a jump shot or a hook shot, but Wilt was like that -- he wasn't Michael Jordan, he had to have his weaknesses.

  25. Steve Sailer Says:

    Jerry Lucas, a 6'8" and 230 pound center, used a two-handed set shot fired from his chest, so you would think he would have gotten outmoded fast in Earl Monroe's NBA. He came into the league in 1963-64 as a college All-American, and scored 17.7ppg, with 17.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists. In his third season he peaked at 21.5 and 20.0 rebounds. Yet, in his 9th season, 1971-72, replacing an injured Willis Reed in NYC, he still averaged 16.7ppg, 13.1 rebounds in a lower rebounding league, and 4.1 assists. And he got the Knicks to the NBA finals (where he got eaten alive by Wilt).

    After that, Willis Reed came back and Lucas' numbers dropped off in his last two seasons.

    But, Lucas still had a longer run than you might think.

  26. David Stern Says:

    re: steals and blocks pre 1974

    maybe some solution will be to use the same method to all player post 1974? don't use theirs real steals, blocks, TOs and off rebs numbers but estimated, just like you did for players pre 1974.

  27. Jason J Says:

    The other thing to remember when you look back at how great some of these guys were as rookies is how old they were when they joined the league. Wilt was 23 his rookie year. That's how old LeBron was in his 5th season and Jordan was in his 3rd season. Hawkins was 25 - a year older than Bron is now. Almost nobody was under 22. So yes they were outliers in terms of talent, but they also skipped some of those stumbling block years by coming in as grown-ups.

  28. Keith Ellis Says:

    Who in the ABA came in and dominated as Lew Alcindor did, leading a champion to a 66-16 record in his 2nd season? Rick Barry never won an ABA scoring title, despite history's claim that 35 games in 1969 amounted to league leadership. Nor did Barry win an ABA title except as an injured reserve on the Oaks. Barry did, however, win an N-BA scoring title & lead the Warriors to a championship.

    Spencer Haywood led the ABA in scoring and rebounding as a rookie, yes, but the Big E also led the N-BA in Scoring his first season and Rebounding the next. Artis Gilmore was taller than Wilt, & reputedly equally strong, but he never approached the 44-to-50-ppg scoring averages in the ABA. Nor did A-Train's Rebounding numbers ever equal Dipper's.

    It's a mystery why we lament that the N-BA didn't track modern stats like 3-pt-FG% & TurnOvers yet rarely if ever celebrate the ABA veterans' modern stats available for comparison to more recent NBA players. My guess is that myths about Rick Barry "dominating" the ABA somehow skew the perception of it as a lesser league, which couldn't be further from the truth. The same type of legendry leads us to conclude the classic NBA of the Sixties-thru-Eighties somehow must've been of lesser quality than what the league became once John Starks, thanks to a shortened arc, finally belted 200 HRs in a season and broke Louis Dampier's longstanding marks.

    It's obvious our national talent pool for hoops has shrunk in comparison to the conditions that created Big O, West, and the generation that followed. Yet the perception persists that today's pro game is somehow perched a higher level than it used to be.

  29. Jason J Says:

    Keith - Could you expand on the notion that "our national talent pool for hoops has shrunk"? I'm not one of those who assumes that newer automatically means better (I actually think there's something to be said for the game before coaches took so much control), but I would think that increased population size + increased popularity + more refined methods of teaching the game would most likely lead to a broader, if not necessarily better, pool of talent.

  30. Steve Sailer Says:

    My question about the NBA talent pool would be: where are all the white American NBA stars these days? We have a large number of white European, Canadian, and South American NBA stars, but hardly any white American stars. Who was the last white American to make the NBA All Star game? Brad Miller?

    My guess would be that white American parents are now channeling their tall, athletic sons away from basketball toward a variety of other sports/positions where height helps: quarterback, pitcher, soccer goalie, volleyball, water polo, swimming, and the like.

  31. Keith Ellis Says:

    I agree with Steve Sailer. When a country of 50-percent white persons that used to produce Bob Pettits, Jerry Wests, John Havliceks, Dan Issels, Bill Waltons, Jack Sikmas, Larry Birds, Kevin McHales, John Stocktons & Mark Prices whose abilities were on a par with Elgin Baylors, Oscar Robertsons, Scottie Pippens, George McGinnises, Artis Gilmores, Robert Parishes, Larry Nances, LeBron Jameses, Mo Cheekses and Kevin Johnsons, respectively, suddenly stops sending the former category to the pro ranks, it may well indicate the national talent pool has thinned. Importing labor and delving deep into the high-school ranks for players also are signs of scarcity.

    Such a notion can't be objectively proven, and plenty of people leap to disagree with it because of all sorts of baggage. From 1985 to 1990 I lived outside the USA. Upon returning to Indiana I went with a friend to shoot baskets at the park where we always had gone before. His first comment to me was that "kids don't come out here anymore." That thought has stayed with me ever since.

    Some years back I renewed interest in hoop history and learned that Indiana once put 800 teams into its annual schoolboy tourney. That meant about 8000 or more boys played highschool basketball here. Nowadays the tournament features 350 teams, which tend to have fewer players than they did in the Fifties and further back. So we have half as many boys competitively playing high-school basketball as we did when the pro game was gaining the popularity that would culminate in the NBA in 1950. Of those 3500 or so boys, only one-quarter will play in Class "4A," Indiana's top level, now that we have class basketball. So the USA's top colleges are likely to pick Indiana prospects from fewer than 1000 boys instead of the 8000 who were considered equals in olden times.

    In 1936 Tony Hinkle of Butler University said at a banquet for Dr J Naismith that fifty-five THOUSAND boys in Indiana played organized basketball. I don't think we have that critical mass today. The AAU leagues have funnelled many good players away from their hometowns during summers at the expense of their local friends & neighbors' improvement.

    Point well taken that I am only talking about the place where I'm from. Perhaps many more boys play basketball in California or Alaska than did in years past. The game may be "more popular" today than it was in some places, but it certainly is not in Indiana.

    Objective & justifiable reasons for the abandonment of bkb-playing abound: Title IX funding gave money to girls that used to go to boys basketball. Soccer emerged to become far more popular than it once was in Indiana. Video games. Obesity. These and other reasons must have diminished the player pool amongst Black youths as well as White. But I think White USAers developed an "attitude" about basketball that whites in other parts of the continent and world did not. Rather than being inspired by Larry Bird's success, US whites seemed to be in awe of him, as a phenomenon that wasn't supposed to happen. This didn't seem to be the case overseas.

    The idea of "white flight" isn't pleasant. But it's centered on culture more than race. My block used to have several garage-band guitarists banging out music each evening; that skill is less common nowadays, too. Our high-school marching bands are half the size they once were, w/out a corresponding decrease in population. Baseball seems to have a "black flight" problem, when black Latinos aren't included in the MLB mix. Over the years some people promulgated the idea that African-Americans are "naturally" better at basketball than others. To believe that we must also believe Bobby Jones, Kiki Vandeweghe, Paul Westphal, and many other All-Stars somehow skated by on an unjust NBA policy of discrimination, and that Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, etc aren't "really" white. Also that when the oldtime all-black New York Rens lost to the all-white New York Celtics the Rens were "throwing" the games. Doesn't seem likely to me.

    When we throw in the "world talent pool" it would seem pro basketball teams should have more to choose from, not less. I think that will be the case someday, but we're not there yet. Our imported pros tend to come from the same places, & very seldom from the African continent. The NBA obviously is interested in Yao Ming making China a better market for its brand, but can't yet put a dozen different-sized Chinese players on a single team in a US city, even if they were the twelve best players a franchise had available.

  32. Steve Sailer Says:

    The situation is analogous to the one in baseball where there are lots and lots of black stars today, but most of them have Spanish surnames. African-Americans as a culture have been losing interest in baseball, so the top African-American players have in the last couple of decades been disproportionately the sons of major leaguers, such as Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., and Gary Matthews Jr. Presumably, in these cases, family interest in baseball trumped declining overall African-American interest in baseball.

    Similarly, Kevin Love is the son of a former NBA player, suggesting that basketball is becoming more of a specialized family trade among white Americans rather than a wide-open field.

  33. Keith Ellis Says:

    Who is Kevin Love the son of -- the famous Stan Love?

  34. Ty Says:

    Nice job as always Neil,

    You're dead on about Earl Monroe... he was overrated. I'm working on a project to assign wins across NBA history, and thus far, though I've only looked at his statistics from the 1970-71 season, Earl Monroe doesn't stack up well against his contemporaries. He was a gunner and mostly just a volume scorer.

    I would question, though, whether he and Jerry West weren't actually point guards. My initial belief was the same as yours -- that they were twos, but if you look at the assist production, the hallmark of a point guard, West had to be the 1 on those early 70s Laker teams (Gail Goodrich was the shooting guard) and the alternative to putting Monroe at point guard for the Baltimore Bullets was Kevin Loughery, and I don't think his game screamed point guard at all.

    Nice work, you're blog has been on my must read list for a while now. Always provocative.

    Ty from Bucks Diary

  35. Keith Ellis Says:

    Jerry West was the oldest player ever to win a first Assist title in 1972 & could've won a couple more before & after that had he been healthy (which he seldom was). A compleat backcourtman like West can't credibly be called a mere Off-Guard. As noted already by Steve Sailer, Gail Goodrich was rather 'compleat' himself. When West retired, Goody brushed aside challenges from Jimmy Price & Lucius Allen as the best playmakers on the Lakers. Sometimes Goodrich is lauded as a great long-range shooter by those who love to talk about what the Seventies NBA would've been like under ABA rules, but his real strength lay in putting his head down & driving his lefty-way to the basket, not too unlike what Manu Ginobili's known for, & drawing FTAs.

    As for Earl the Pearl, he was obviously the two-guard when teamed w/ Walt Frazier. StratOMatic gives Monroe in '71 Baltimore 20 mpg at the point, while Kevin Loughery gets the other 28. Two-guard minutes are apportioned to Fred Carter (22) and Monroe (15), with the balance spread between swingman Eddie Miles (8) and little-used Gary Zeller (5).

  36. Steve Sailer Says:

    Watching a video of Earl Monroe highlights, it seems like he was very creative, but not necessarily very effective. Whereas a highlight film of the young Michael Jordan would show him constantly moving with the ball up and toward the basket, Monroe's highlights don't show him attacking the rim with the same relentlessness. He does a lot of striking horizontal movements, such as spinning, but they don't necessarily get him that much closer to the basket. And he didn't seem really that high-flying. Monroe tended to try to spin around people rather than leap over them, leaving himself with a lot of 3 to 8 foot shots he could still miss a fair amount of the time. In the highlight video I watched, I didn't see one dunk.

    It's a little like watching Jack Nicklaus's tee shots compared to Tiger Woods's. Jack's were very elegant, starting off low, then rising to a dramatic height, then falling straight down and barely rolling. Tiger's teeshots are less beautiful, but they go farther because they go off at the perfect launch angle and don't waste energy on attractive but inefficient vertical movement. Monroe looked like he spent a lot of effort on horizontal movement that still left him with shot that might not go in.

    Jordan and Woods are just a generation later in technique than Monroe and Nicklaus. They pruned their games of cool-looking stuff that didn't help them win, and they were more ruthless in doing things that did help them win even if they seem kind of crass, like dunking or crushing tee shots even if they don't wind up in the fairway.

  37. Jason J Says:

    Now we're coming to definitions of point guard, and that gets tricky.

    West was bigger than Goodrich, maybe handled the ball a little less, but he was a MUCH better creator and passer. Does that make him the point? Was Jordan the point guard for Chicago from 1985-1990? He certainly led the team in assists most of those years and was easily the best creator on the team.

    Why isn't Scottie Pippen's time in Chicago considered point guard work? He brought the ball up, initiated the offense, called the plays (to the point that plays need to be called in the triangle), and kept everybody involved. Like a point guard. Meanwhile he shared the perimeter with a slashing / post-up scoring machine in Jordan, a catch and shoot guard who had trouble handling the ball against pressure in Paxson (later Kerr) and then a defensive specialist / slasher in Harper. What part of that doesn't say point guard? Size? Defensive matchup?

    Well then you've got Magic who for the first 4 years of his career started on the perimeter with Norm Nixon - a point guard - and Jamal Wilkes, who is a classic slashing swingman. Then the next year he started next to Jamal and Byron Scott. A slasher scorer and a catch and shoot guard. He typically defended whoever was the less dangerous of the SG / SF players on the other team, though he could matchup against 4s as well. And how much court time did he share with Cooper & Nixon or Cooper & Scott? He towered over those two and had at least 30 or 40 pounds on them.

    Sounds pretty similar to Scottie, yet Magic is considered unequivocally the greatest PG of all time. No putting him into the forward spot.

    I'm not suggesting any changes in the classic stances on either of these players. If we want to call Magic and Point Guard and Scottie a Small Forward, that's fine. I just think we need to allow that assigning positions can be fairly arbitrary, and someone in Neil's place is going to have to go with the traditional read on the player most of the time.

  38. Ty Says:

    All right, I've sparked a good discussion. I agree totally with the two subsequent commenters. Its difficult to say exactly where a player played. Its not like baseball. But I have a makeshift system. I always designate positions by two criteria: size and division of labor, with division of labor trumping size.

    If a guy produces a high rate of assists, I suspect he was a point guard. If he had a high rate of rebounding, I suspect he was either a power forward or a center. If he neither assisted nor rebounded, or only did a little of each, I suspect he was a 2 or a 3, differentiating he positions based on size.

    Now, Jerry West certainly had the size (back then) of a 2, but if you look at his assist rate it was so much higher than any other "fulltime" option on the team, he simply has to be regarded as the point guard... Goodrich too has a high assist rate, but nowhere near West's. And when you look at playing minutes, the two had to have been on the floor together quite often. Thus, by division of labor, West must be considered the point guard.

    The second commenter is absolutely right when he says Monroe was the 2 guard when he was with the Knicks. And you know what? Now that I take a second look at things, and apply my own standards, Monroe could have been a 2 with the Bullets as well, with Kevin Loughery being the 1. Loughery assist rate was a bit higher. Shit, I guess I fell victim to preconceived notions on that one. Now I have to change it.

    AND both of you are ABSOLUTELY CORRECT when you say that the toughest call to make is when a tall player like Pippen handles the ball. He assumes the duties of point guard on offense, but on defense he usually checks the small forward... so what is he??? The original "dilemma" player, of course, is the Bucks Paul Pressey. Notice how Craig Hodges pops up in most scenarios???

    Thanks for the great discussion.

    Ty --- mvn.com/bucksdiary

  39. Jason J Says:

    "If a guy produces a high rate of assists, I suspect he was a point guard. If he had a high rate of rebounding, I suspect he was either a power forward or a center. If he neither assisted nor rebounded, or only did a little of each, I suspect he was a 2 or a 3, differentiating he positions based on size."

    This is an interesting way to do it, though I have a feeling it may succeed better when dealing with average players than with the really great players. Jordan for instance led his team in assist % quite a few times (though the triangle kept it fairly even, he was the one drawing doubles and dumping down to Grant or kicking out to Paxson) before his first retirement. Drexler led his team in assist % on 4 or 5 occasions, once while playing next to an All-Star PG Porter. Larry Bird did the same. Wade & LeBron I'm sure fit the same bill and may never have missed leading their team in assist %.

    I wonder if finding a way to factor in both assist % and usage (and maybe turnover rate) would help to narrow things down a bit. That way a guy like Wade who gets the lion's share of assists would immediately be written off as a point guard because he shoots so much he's clearly got to be a scoring guard. I have a feeling that would clean up just about everybody except for your combo guards like Arenas who really do function as PGs despite taking the majority of their teams' shots.

    Obviously you don't need it for modern players, who you know already, but it's an interesting (to stat geeks) thing to look at.

  40. Keith Ellis Says:

    A player's size or Assists don't make him nor disqualify him from being a Point Guard. If 6-3 Jerry West's height made him "like a two-guard" or "a bit tall" to be a Point Guard, where would that leave Oscar Robertson? Oscar & Jerry were both point guards, but for much of his career Jerry had to defer & let Elgin Baylor swallow the ball on half the possessions, something Big O didn't do for Lucas or Twyman, who were less prone to overdribbling & didn't have to show they were The Man as Elgin did on the Lakers.

    Remember 6-7 point guards Theus & Penny Hardaway?

    Pippen played Point for the revamped Bulls champs of 1996 thru 1998, after BJ Armstrong was shipped out & Michael "came back" to set the hired-gun standard for future Kobes. Pip gets PG minutes of 31, 26, and 32 mpg from StratOMatic during those three seasons. In Portland Pippen played primarily at the point in 2003 (20 of 30 mpg, the balance at small forward), but was a prime playmaker also in 2002, spelling Damon Stoudamire. So Scottie spent a third of his career at the point.

    Pippen & Paul Pressey were indeed a lot alike, especially when together with their significant others, MJ & Sidney Moncrief. Those four players could seamlessly defend at the 1-2-3 spots; Scottie for stretches could even look like a credible 4. When the Bulls added Ron Harper & Buechler to the mix they reminded a great deal of Nellie's midsizer-laden Milwaukee teams that featured Marques, BridgeMan, Rickey Pierce, & Jerry Reynolds the decade ahead of Jax' clubs.

    The Shaq Magic editions wandered toward this approach with Penny, Nick Anderson, Dennis Scott, big Brian Shaw, and Anthony Bowie all swinging amongst the Trees, but those Magic men weren't agile defenders as the Bucks & Bulls were.

  41. Steve Sailer Says:

    The year Jordan averaged 8.0 assists, he was specifically assigned to be "point guard," and then went back to "shooting guard" the next year. Phil Jackson brought a more fluid outlook.

  42. Eddy Says:

    I agree that the Orlando Magic of the mid-90's weren't agile defenders by any means, but a number of players made up for some of their defensive deficiencies with their insane length. To the names being alluded to ..

    Nick Anderson, 6'6''
    Anthony Bowie, 6'6''
    Penny Hardaway, 6'7''
    Brian Shaw, 6'6''

    All, for the most part, guards. It was crazy, watching back at the time, how big the Magic lineups were. The smallest guy in the starting lineup, at that time, was Nick Anderson at 6'6'' .. smallest guy in the rotation was anyone on the Orlando roster who was 6'6''.

  43. Ryan Says:

    Jordan wasn't point guard for the entire '89 season, rather the home stretch run of something like 19 games if I remember correctly - the period in which he was on a triple double rampage. What's odd about that stretch is that they headed a 6 game losing streak (only twice did that happen in Jordan's career while playing, the other being with the Wizards) and saw their win percentage dwindle.

  44. Jason J Says:

    Ryan - I'm dating myself here, but I remember that stretch of games where Doug moved Jordan to the point. If I recall correctly, it worked okay when Hodges was starting, but after he got hurt, they just couldn't pull anything together. It was sort of like Phili after Larry Brown left and Mutumbo & Hill lost their mojo. Yeah, AI could still do what he wanted, but with few shooters and not enough rebounders and defenders, it was a doomed effort. Chicago minus Oak & Craig and just didn't have the rebounding / defense / firepower to do much. Miraculously they got it together and still made the conference finals.

  45. Ed Says:

    Am I the only one really surprised by how highly this metric rates Eddie Jones. I had no idea he was so good. I guess it's due to the per-minute TOs and steals. I'm also surprised there aren't as many dominant SGs as there are pretty much all other positions. Especially if PER (which correlates to this metric to what extent?) is supposed to overrate volume shooter/scorers. Interesting

  46. Brendan Says:

    Eddie Jones is my favorite recent player and I've watched him closely throughout his career. I was very pleased to see him on this list because his off-ball movement and subtle contributions to offense nearly complement his well-known defensive prowess. Funny thing about Eddie is that Kobe ushered him out of LA and everyone seemed to forget about his crucial years with the Lakers, a few where he was their go-to star. He had excellent follow-up years on weak Charlotte and Miami teams. I'm a Lakers fan and I've always fondly wondered what could have been had EJ stayed for the Phil era. Kobe would've been at small forward I bet and Phil would have LOVED EJ, since he's a big, defensive-oriented guard and a great inside-outside threat. Oh well, said the three-peat.

    I was also pleased to see Ray Allen who is a far defensive player man-to-man than given credit for. He's always been fodder for screens due to his size but he's more than just a proficient offensive player. I'd take him over Reggie Miller any day.

  47. Рубен Says:

    Спасибо за такую хорошую возможность оставлять комментарии на этой странице!

  48. fred f Says:

    i would just look at pts avg'ass avg reb//per game from 51 and on