Posted by Neil Paine on September 11, 2009
Well, it's finally here: today's the big day when we induct BBR blog favorites John Stockton & David Robinson, in addition to Michael Jordan, the greatest who ever played the game, into the Hall of Fame. And what better topic for a post than to see where this year's star-studded class ranks among the great classes of all time. The metric we'll be using, of course, is Win Shares, which luckily enough have recently been expanded to include every NBA (and ABA) season since 1951-52, the first year minutes played were tracked. So we basically have all of modern pro basketball history at our disposal now to run lists like this, which is very cool and makes this kind of exercise possible. Oh, and another note before we move to the numbers -- like we did in this article, I'm valuing an ABA Win Share at 25% less than an NBA Win Share (the reasoning behind this is explained in that article as well).
So, first off, which classes have the most raw Win Shares ever? And where does today's group stand?
In terms of total raw Win Shares, the Class of 2009 only trails 1993, which saw luminaries like Julius Erving get ushered in. But wait... All of the other classes on the list have only 3 inductees, while the Class of '93 has a whopping six! It's not really a fair comparison when one group has twice as many players as the rest, is it?
Okay. So what if we went with the best classes by average career WS per inductee?
Again, today's bunch comes in second, behind the class of 1971. But wait... None of the other classes on the list have 3 players -- in fact, most have just one. I know Wilt Chamberlain was a statistical monster and all, but it's not really fair to say that a class consisting of a single Hall of Famer trumps a class of three. So, what to do about these conundrums?
How about this: If a class has 3 players or more, we use their existing average; if they have less, we fill them with "typical Hall of Famers" until they have 3, and then take their new average. And what's a typical Hall of Famer? The average WS value for all Hall of Famers is 96.0, so we'll add that value to the total for small classes, and divide by 3. This neither overcredits massive classes like '93, who topped the raw list on sheer volume, not overvalues small classes consisting of one transcendent star (like Chamberlain's 1-man class). The results:
That's more like it! Finally facing a fair fight, the Class of 2009 takes the rightful place atop the leaderboard as the greatest HoF class in basketball history. And let's close with a more detailed look at the top 10: