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Is Simmons Right About Russ & Wilt’s Supporting Casts?

Posted by Neil Paine on December 14, 2009

bball_ref_backgroundOne of the long-held NBA aphorisms used to explain the gulf in championships between Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, arguably the two greatest centers of all time (OK, Kareem & Shaq might dispute this notion, but that's another argument for another day), is the idea that Russell played on Celtics teams stacked to the rafters with All-Star and/or Hall of Fame talent, while Chamberlain suited up with lesser teammates who held him back. Certainly that's the impression you'll get from our Quality of Teammates post, where we found that Russell played with the 10th-most talented set of teammates (weighted by career minutes played) of any player in NBA history, while Chamberlain's teammates were average at best, and hardly spectacular like Russell's.

In fact, according to career Win Shares per minute, Russell's teammates were worth 8.10 WS/3000 MP over his career, while Chamberlain's were worth 6.06. So if both men played 3,300 minutes per season, with a schedule of 80 games and 48.3 MPG (the NBA's all-time average), that gives roughly 16,000 minutes to each center's teammates in total for each year:

((8.10 - 6.06) / 3000) * 16000 = 10.88

In other words, Russell's teammates alone were worth approximately 11 more wins than Chamberlain's per regular season... And in the playoffs since 1957, teams with 10-12 more regular-season wins than their opponent won 71 of 85 series (83.5%). So should it have been any surprise that Russell and the C's were coming out ahead of Chamberlain's Warriors & Sixers?

Bill Simmons disagrees. In The Book of Basketball, Simmons tries to make a case that Chamberlain's teammates were in fact closer to Russell's than anyone thinks, going through the rosters on a year-by-year basis to see who had the stronger supporting cast. He finishes by saying:

"Russell played with four members of the NBA's Top 50 at 50 (Havlicek, Cousy, Sharman, and Sam Jones); Wilt played with six members (Baylor, West, Greer, Cunningham, Arizin, and Thurmond). And Russell's teammates from 1957 to 1969 were selected to twenty-six All-Star games, while Wilt's teammates from 1960 to 1973 were selected to twenty-four. Let's never mention the supporting-cast card again with Russell and Chamberlain. Thank you."

Er, sorry Bill, but I'm going to have to take a closer look... Let's go through and see how many minutes Russell and Chamberlain played alongside fellow members of Simmons' own Pyramid, his top 96 players of all time. We'll calculate "minutes together" like this: In 1960, Wilt played 3,338 minutes, or 92.1% of the Warriors' total court time. Tom Gola played 2,870 MP, or 79.2% of the Warriors' total. The probability of Wilt and Gola being on the court at the same time is given as p(Wilt_Gola) = 0.921 * 0.792 = 0.729, and therefore the expected # of minutes Wilt and Gola played together would be 72.9% of Philadelphia's 3,624 total MP, or 2,644 minutes. We can do this with every teammate the two great centers ever had, and see how much court time they logged alongside members of Simmons' Pyramid over the course of their careers.

First, Wilt:

Player MP w/ Wilt SimmonsRk
Wilt Chamberlain 47859 6
Guy Rodgers 14793 NR
Hal Greer 10354 46
Jerry West 10031 8
Tom Gola 8595 NR
Chet Walker 8493 NR
Al Attles 8419 NR
Tom Meschery 8115 NR
Paul Arizin 8097 56
Luke Jackson 7689 NR
Gail Goodrich 7667 88
Jim McMillian 6930 NR
Wali Jones 6249 NR
Happy Hairston 6211 NR
Billy Cunningham 6130 47
Keith Erickson 6081 NR
Gary Phillips 4385 NR
Wayne Hightower 4253 NR
Elgin Baylor 3368 14
Nate Thurmond 3305 44
Andy Johnson 3286 NR
Dave Gambee 2556 NR
Mel Counts 2547 NR
Matt Guokas 2325 NR
Ed Conlin 2242 NR
Bill Bridges 2233 NR
Larry Costello 2193 NR
Joe Graboski 2168 NR
Pat Riley 1996 NR
Johnny Egan 1871 NR
George Lee 1783 NR
Al Bianchi 1725 NR
Woody Sauldsberry 1702 NR
Vern Hatton 1569 NR
Freddie Crawford 1558 NR
Bill Hewitt 1402 NR
Tom Hawkins 1389 NR
Bill Melchionni 1388 NR
Willie McCarter 1367 NR
Kenny Sears 1265 NR
Willie Naulls 1206 NR
Rick Roberson 1090 NR
Leroy Ellis 1089 NR
Gary Hill 1008 NR
Flynn Robinson 926 NR
Joe Ruklick 876 NR
Paul Neumann 865 NR
Gerry Ward 813 NR
McCoy McLemore 780 NR
Ernie Beck 745 NR
Jim Price 742 NR
Red Kerr 732 NR
John Trapp 698 NR
York Larese 646 NR
Ted Luckenbill 594 NR
Fred Hetzel 563 NR
Connie Dierking 549 NR
Ben Warley 370 NR
Howie Montgomery 358 NR
Johnny Green 356 NR
Dick Garrett 295 NR
Bud Koper 284 NR
Hubie White 267 NR
Cliff Anderson 266 NR
Bob McNeill 212 NR
Jay Carty 177 NR
Jim Cleamons 176 NR
Frank Radovich 175 NR
Fred LaCour 168 NR
John Rudometkin 159 NR
Larry Jones 145 NR
Travis Grant 137 NR
Steve Courtin 128 NR
Barry Kramer 124 NR
Bill Turner 105 NR
John Tresvant 89 NR
Cotton Nash 86 NR
Guy Sparrow 74 NR
Ron Filipek 71 NR
John Windsor 65 NR
Bob Weiss 56 NR
Pickles Kennedy 51 NR
Mike Lynn 51 NR
Jim Reid 50 NR
Dave Fedor 27 NR
Jerry Greenspan 20 NR
Art Heyman 19 NR
Jesse Branson 14 NR
Earnie Killum 11 NR
Dave Gunther 5 NR
Roger Brown 4 NR

Now Russell:

Player MP w/ Russ SimmonsRk
Bill Russell 40726 2
Sam Jones 20985 33
Tom Heinsohn 15957 57
Tom Sanders 15922 NR
K.C. Jones 15481 NR
John Havlicek 15197 13
Bob Cousy 13044 21
Frank Ramsey 11443 NR
Bill Sharman 7947 51
Larry Siegfried 7771 NR
Bailey Howell 6299 80
Jim Loscutoff 6046 NR
Don Nelson 5158 NR
Willie Naulls 3848 NR
Gene Conley 2847 NR
Lou Tsioropoulos 2125 NR
Andy Phillip 1602 NR
Jack Nichols 1597 NR
Wayne Embry 1428 NR
Mel Counts 1413 NR
Arnie Risen 1305 NR
Em Bryant 1152 NR
Gene Guarilia 958 NR
Clyde Lovellette 908 NR
John Richter 701 NR
John Thompson 692 NR
Mal Graham 674 NR
Gary Phillips 615 NR
Ron Bonham 607 NR
Bennie Swain 606 NR
Tom Thacker 586 NR
Dick Hemric 514 NR
Jim Barnes 494 NR
Woody Sauldsberry 467 NR
Carl Braun 368 NR
Johnny Jones 356 NR
Jim Barnett 322 NR
Dan Swartz 303 NR
Toby Kimball 187 NR
Johnny McCarthy 186 NR
Don Chaney 173 NR
Rich Johnson 135 NR
Togo Palazzi 114 NR
Si Green 81 NR
Ron Watts 77 NR
Rick Weitzman 56 NR
Al Butler 42 NR
Jack Foley 42 NR
Bud Olsen 36 NR
Gerry Ward 27 NR
Bevo Nordmann 22 NR
Maury King 16 NR

What does this tell us? Well, not much at first glance, except that Russell's teammates were a bit better. But let's turn those rankings into points, giving 96 for 1st place, 95 for 2nd, etc. until 0 for unranked players. Then take a weighted average by minutes played:

Player MP w/ Wilt Points Player MP w/ Russ Points
Wilt Chamberlain 47859 91 Bill Russell 40726 95
Guy Rodgers 14793 0 Sam Jones 20985 64
Hal Greer 10354 51 Tom Heinsohn 15957 40
Jerry West 10031 89 Tom Sanders 15922 0
Tom Gola 8595 0 K.C. Jones 15481 0
Chet Walker 8493 0 John Havlicek 15197 84
Al Attles 8419 0 Bob Cousy 13044 76
Tom Meschery 8115 0 Frank Ramsey 11443 0
Paul Arizin 8097 41 Bill Sharman 7947 46
Luke Jackson 7689 0 Larry Siegfried 7771 0
Gail Goodrich 7667 9 Bailey Howell 6299 17
Jim McMillian 6930 0 Jim Loscutoff 6046 0
Wali Jones 6249 0 Don Nelson 5158 0
Happy Hairston 6211 0 Willie Naulls 3848 0
Billy Cunningham 6130 50 Gene Conley 2847 0
Keith Erickson 6081 0 Lou Tsioropoulos 2125 0
Gary Phillips 4385 0 Andy Phillip 1602 0
Wayne Hightower 4253 0 Jack Nichols 1597 0
Elgin Baylor 3368 83 Wayne Embry 1428 0
Nate Thurmond 3305 53 Mel Counts 1413 0
Andy Johnson 3286 0 Arnie Risen 1305 0
Dave Gambee 2556 0 Em Bryant 1152 0
Mel Counts 2547 0 Gene Guarilia 958 0
Matt Guokas 2325 0 Clyde Lovellette 908 0
Ed Conlin 2242 0 John Richter 701 0
Bill Bridges 2233 0 John Thompson 692 0
Larry Costello 2193 0 Mal Graham 674 0
Joe Graboski 2168 0 Gary Phillips 615 0
Pat Riley 1996 0 Ron Bonham 607 0
Johnny Egan 1871 0 Bennie Swain 606 0
George Lee 1783 0 Tom Thacker 586 0
Al Bianchi 1725 0 Dick Hemric 514 0
Woody Sauldsberry 1702 0 Jim Barnes 494 0
Vern Hatton 1569 0 Woody Sauldsberry 467 0
Freddie Crawford 1558 0 Carl Braun 368 0
Bill Hewitt 1402 0 Johnny Jones 356 0
Tom Hawkins 1389 0 Jim Barnett 322 0
Bill Melchionni 1388 0 Dan Swartz 303 0
Willie McCarter 1367 0 Toby Kimball 187 0
Kenny Sears 1265 0 Johnny McCarthy 186 0
Willie Naulls 1206 0 Don Chaney 173 0
Rick Roberson 1090 0 Rich Johnson 135 0
Leroy Ellis 1089 0 Togo Palazzi 114 0
Gary Hill 1008 0 Si Green 81 0
Flynn Robinson 926 0 Ron Watts 77 0
Joe Ruklick 876 0 Rick Weitzman 56 0
Paul Neumann 865 0 Al Butler 42 0
Gerry Ward 813 0 Jack Foley 42 0
McCoy McLemore 780 0 Bud Olsen 36 0
Ernie Beck 745 0 Gerry Ward 27 0
Jim Price 742 0 Bevo Nordmann 22 0
Red Kerr 732 0 Maury King 16 0
John Trapp 698 0 AVERAGE 27.951063
York Larese 646 0
Ted Luckenbill 594 0
Fred Hetzel 563 0
Connie Dierking 549 0
Ben Warley 370 0
Howie Montgomery 358 0
Johnny Green 356 0
Dick Garrett 295 0
Bud Koper 284 0
Hubie White 267 0
Cliff Anderson 266 0
Bob McNeill 212 0
Jay Carty 177 0
Jim Cleamons 176 0
Frank Radovich 175 0
Fred LaCour 168 0
John Rudometkin 159 0
Larry Jones 145 0
Travis Grant 137 0
Steve Courtin 128 0
Barry Kramer 124 0
Bill Turner 105 0
John Tresvant 89 0
Cotton Nash 86 0
Guy Sparrow 74 0
Ron Filipek 71 0
John Windsor 65 0
Bob Weiss 56 0
Pickles Kennedy 51 0
Mike Lynn 51 0
Jim Reid 50 0
Dave Fedor 27 0
Jerry Greenspan 20 0
Art Heyman 19 0
Jesse Branson 14 0
Earnie Killum 11 0
Dave Gunther 5 0
Roger Brown 4 0
AVERAGE 13.161933

Now you can see Russell's "score" is more than twice that of Wilt, but I think we're also overselling the unranked players by this method -- in essence, we're tying every unranked player as the 97th best of all-time. However, 3,902 players have suited up in NBA history, meaning the typical unranked player's ranking should be more like 2000th overall. So, finally, what if we took another weighted average ranking but assigned #2000 to all unranked players?

Player MP w/ Wilt Rank Player MP w/ Russ Rank
Wilt Chamberlain 47859 6 Bill Russell 40726 2
Guy Rodgers 14793 2000 Sam Jones 20985 33
Hal Greer 10354 46 Tom Heinsohn 15957 57
Jerry West 10031 8 Tom Sanders 15922 2000
Tom Gola 8595 2000 K.C. Jones 15481 2000
Chet Walker 8493 2000 John Havlicek 15197 13
Al Attles 8419 2000 Bob Cousy 13044 21
Tom Meschery 8115 2000 Frank Ramsey 11443 2000
Paul Arizin 8097 56 Bill Sharman 7947 51
Luke Jackson 7689 2000 Larry Siegfried 7771 2000
Gail Goodrich 7667 88 Bailey Howell 6299 80
Jim McMillian 6930 2000 Jim Loscutoff 6046 2000
Wali Jones 6249 2000 Don Nelson 5158 2000
Happy Hairston 6211 2000 Willie Naulls 3848 2000
Billy Cunningham 6130 47 Gene Conley 2847 2000
Keith Erickson 6081 2000 Lou Tsioropoulos 2125 2000
Gary Phillips 4385 2000 Andy Phillip 1602 2000
Wayne Hightower 4253 2000 Jack Nichols 1597 2000
Elgin Baylor 3368 14 Wayne Embry 1428 2000
Nate Thurmond 3305 44 Mel Counts 1413 2000
Andy Johnson 3286 2000 Arnie Risen 1305 2000
Dave Gambee 2556 2000 Em Bryant 1152 2000
Mel Counts 2547 2000 Gene Guarilia 958 2000
Matt Guokas 2325 2000 Clyde Lovellette 908 2000
Ed Conlin 2242 2000 John Richter 701 2000
Bill Bridges 2233 2000 John Thompson 692 2000
Larry Costello 2193 2000 Mal Graham 674 2000
Joe Graboski 2168 2000 Gary Phillips 615 2000
Pat Riley 1996 2000 Ron Bonham 607 2000
Johnny Egan 1871 2000 Bennie Swain 606 2000
George Lee 1783 2000 Tom Thacker 586 2000
Al Bianchi 1725 2000 Dick Hemric 514 2000
Woody Sauldsberry 1702 2000 Jim Barnes 494 2000
Vern Hatton 1569 2000 Woody Sauldsberry 467 2000
Freddie Crawford 1558 2000 Carl Braun 368 2000
Bill Hewitt 1402 2000 Johnny Jones 356 2000
Tom Hawkins 1389 2000 Jim Barnett 322 2000
Bill Melchionni 1388 2000 Dan Swartz 303 2000
Willie McCarter 1367 2000 Toby Kimball 187 2000
Kenny Sears 1265 2000 Johnny McCarthy 186 2000
Willie Naulls 1206 2000 Don Chaney 173 2000
Rick Roberson 1090 2000 Rich Johnson 135 2000
Leroy Ellis 1089 2000 Togo Palazzi 114 2000
Gary Hill 1008 2000 Si Green 81 2000
Flynn Robinson 926 2000 Ron Watts 77 2000
Joe Ruklick 876 2000 Rick Weitzman 56 2000
Paul Neumann 865 2000 Al Butler 42 2000
Gerry Ward 813 2000 Jack Foley 42 2000
McCoy McLemore 780 2000 Bud Olsen 36 2000
Ernie Beck 745 2000 Gerry Ward 27 2000
Jim Price 742 2000 Bevo Nordmann 22 2000
Red Kerr 732 2000 Maury King 16 2000
John Trapp 698 2000 AVERAGE 1077.3
York Larese 646 2000
Ted Luckenbill 594 2000
Fred Hetzel 563 2000
Connie Dierking 549 2000
Ben Warley 370 2000
Howie Montgomery 358 2000
Johnny Green 356 2000
Dick Garrett 295 2000
Bud Koper 284 2000
Hubie White 267 2000
Cliff Anderson 266 2000
Bob McNeill 212 2000
Jay Carty 177 2000
Jim Cleamons 176 2000
Frank Radovich 175 2000
Fred LaCour 168 2000
John Rudometkin 159 2000
Larry Jones 145 2000
Travis Grant 137 2000
Steve Courtin 128 2000
Barry Kramer 124 2000
Bill Turner 105 2000
John Tresvant 89 2000
Cotton Nash 86 2000
Guy Sparrow 74 2000
Ron Filipek 71 2000
John Windsor 65 2000
Bob Weiss 56 2000
Pickles Kennedy 51 2000
Mike Lynn 51 2000
Jim Reid 50 2000
Dave Fedor 27 2000
Jerry Greenspan 20 2000
Art Heyman 19 2000
Jesse Branson 14 2000
Earnie Killum 11 2000
Dave Gunther 5 2000
Roger Brown 4 2000
AVERAGE 1512.2

Obviously this is just a fun exercise, and far from scientific, but you can still see that Chamberlain's teammates were in fact significantly less talented than Russell's, by both our Quality of Teammates metric and even by Bill Simmons' own ranking method. So I don't think it's quite fair to say, "let's never mention the supporting-cast card again with Russell and Chamberlain," because it's still pretty obvious that Wilt's supporting cast was inferior to Russell's by a good margin.

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13 Responses to “Is Simmons Right About Russ & Wilt’s Supporting Casts?”

  1. Dave Hogg Says:

    Thanks.

    That's one of the more egregious ways that Simmons' book shows a huge pro-Celtics bias. The funny thing is that the one time he tries to show the book isn't biased - picking Magic over Bird for #3 all-time - he's completely wrong.

  2. Robert Rosen Says:

    Another fact people always make to support their argument that Russell was better than Chamberlain is that Russell won more rings. Jim Loscutoff, who also played on the Celtics in the '50s and '60s, won 7 championships. His career numbers: 6.2 points and 5.6 rebounds. I don't think there's a single aspect of the game that Russell was better than Chamberlain at.

  3. Sean Says:

    Yeah, Russell wasn't better than Chamberlain, except with winning and playing superb defense. Wilt was great, but I agree with Simmons: Chamberlain was stat-hungry. He didn't lead the league in assists for a season out of altruism.

  4. Sean Says:

    And yes, rings do matter. Bill Russell's rings are more important than Jim Loscutoff's, just like MJ's are more important than Steve Kerr's. Not to go all cliche, but Russell was the greatest winner of his era (and possibly ever) in any sport: 2 NCAA championships, a Gold Medal, and then 11 titles in 13 years. It is no coincidence he dominated every level of the game.

    And sure, he had great supporting casts, but most winners do. The Bulls won 55 games after Jordan's first retirement, but I'm pretty sure no one would be willing to argue that his success was defined by his teammates (as important as they were).

  5. schtevie Says:

    Neil, I think you are fundamentally missing the forest for the trees here (and most of the problem is likely attributable to shortcomings in the estimated WS). Before dis then reaggregating the estimated contributions of teammates, let's look at the big (Bill Russell) picture.

    Question: were the Celtics above average or below average on offense throughout Russell's career. The fact is that the available data strongly suggests that the Cs were only average at best. At best! Though we don't have TO and OR data to confirm the point, we can calculate TS%, and this confirms what is actually readily apparent by looking at the FG(A) and FT(A) data. This might be shocking to some, but the Celtics' offensive prowess was an illusion. They only scored more points because of their faster pace and were at best average in terms of efficiency. (And, to be clear, this conclusion about Russell's "supporting cast" cannot be overturned by separating out his offensive contributions.)

    And how does this inform the question at hand? Well, the true fact of the matter is that the Celtics were only great because of defense. Period. Now, perhaps the story can be modified to say that Bill Russell won a lot because he had teammates who were great on defense, but if that is the story, there is no point to the Wilt vs. Russell question to begin with. For if the Celtics defense is not attributable to Russell, what positive contribution is he left with?

  6. khandor Says:

    Two questions to add to the discussion.

    Q1. If you divide the career stats of Russell's individual teammates between:

    A. When they played with Russell's teams;

    B. When they played on teams without Russell;

    Is there a significant disparity to be found? If there is ... What do you think might account for this distinction?

    [i.e. other than the advanced age of those ones who played with Russell's teams early in their career and then moved on at a later point, once they'd begun to decline physically]

    Q2. Might the supposed superiority of Russell's teammates properly be attributed to the fact that they each had the opportunity to play with the greatest single basketball player in the history of the game ... rather than the other way around?

    [i.e. perceived as, "Russell was only better than Chamberlain because HE had the opportunity to play with a series of superior teammates compared to Chamberlain's inferior supporting cast."]

    ----------------------------------

    IMO, when using the classical assessment of individual greatness ...

    i.e. Can he beat YOURS with HIS, and, then, take YOURS and beat HIS, in return?

    if Mr. Chamberlain's teammates had been fortunate enough to play the bulk of their careers alongside of Mr. Russell, instead of alongside of Mr. Chamberlain, then, they might well be considered today, as superior individual players in their own right, in comparison to the teammates on the dynastic Boston Celtics who were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to play the bulk of their careers alongside the Great Man, himself.

    Point 1. Keeping the proper score for both teams is a fundamental component to the game of basketball.

    Point 2. The objective of the game is to score more points than the opposition team.

    Point 3. Winning games and championships, therefore, is a fundamental component of the game.

    Point 4. Mr. Bill Russell is very simply The Greatest basketball player Of All-Time.

    Point 5. Mr. Russell's teammates were blessed with the opportunity to play alongside of someone with his personal attributes, as a player and a person ... and, vice versa.

    Cheers

  7. Neil Paine Says:

    If Simmons ranked Russell's teammates so highly because they were "made better" by Russell, then he should have given that credit to Russell instead (which surely would have pushed him ahead of Jordan for #1) and knocked his teammates down lower, perhaps even off the list entirely. You can't have it both ways, you can't say Russell should get all the credit for making his teammates great but also credit those teammates for being great at the same time. Either they were great on their own and are justifiably ranked highly (which calls into question Russell's ranking), or Russell deserves the credit for "making" them great, in which case the teammates' rankings are questionable.

  8. Jason J Says:

    I read the Book of Basketball too, Neil, and found a lot of the conclusions, while entertaining, felt predetermined - like he knew exactly what he wanted to prove and executed his research to verify his opinions.

    In this particular case, I think the Wilt fans have another leg to stand on in this argument which Simmons glossed over. Red Aurbach was the coach of the day. The game as we know it was still being formed, and all the equalization that has gone among in terms of scouting, play-books, and player development was not there yet. In an era when the game had not developed yet to where team offenses were good at scoring against team defenses, he came up with the plan to get more attempts. Sure he drafted well, but his early offense strategy was a big deal. Did Wilt have a coach like that? You can qualify the argument by quoting Red when he said he didn't believe he could get Wilt to play his style, but that doesn't change the fact that the Chamberlain did not have the stylistic advantage that Russell had.

  9. Justin Kubatko Says:

    Jason J wrote:

    I read the Book of Basketball too, Neil, and found a lot of the conclusions, while entertaining, felt predetermined - like he knew exactly what he wanted to prove and executed his research to verify his opinions.

    Of course, that happens all the time. Unfortunately, many people use statistics like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support rather than illumination.

  10. Jay Says:

    A quick look at players who had years with and without Russell (Cousy, Sharman, Havlicek, Siegfried, Nelson, Sanders and, looking at the Celtics' late-career additions, Naulls, Lovellette, Braun & Embry) reveals no strong "Russell effect" where he lifted up their stats consistently. Some people's mixes changed because of the Celtics' needs with and without Russell, but things like FG% remained consistent. Havlicek's statistics even improved without Russell, since he had to carry more of the load.

  11. Jay Says:

    Same for Bailey Howell, who I inadvertently omitted, before & after Russell.

  12. kit Says:

    Copied from a poster named bastillion:

    https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=tc2seC-qi36vDqnIMcmNdvQ&hl=en#gid=0

    sorry for the chaos... these are team adv stats copied from B-R. team DWS is on the right (colums U and V). I did 57 first because I forgot 56 could be useful too so like I said, sorry for the chaos.

    nevertheless results are extremely impressive considering all-time defenders:

    KAJ:

    Code:
    year combined DWS
    70 20.7
    71 23.7
    72 28.8
    73 33.3
    74 30.6
    75 19.4
    76 19.1
    77 21.8
    78 20.0
    79 22.7
    80 23.6
    Hakeem

    Code:
    year combined DWS
    84 19.1
    85 24.0
    86 19.5
    87 26.8
    88 25.9
    89 27.6
    90 31.7
    91 29.6
    92 20.4
    93 27.1
    94 31.8
    Thurmond:

    Code:
    year combined DWS
    64 37.3
    65 25.0
    66 22.2
    67 29.7
    68 28.7
    69 28.7
    70 24.5
    71 17.3
    72 29.7
    73 29.0
    74 18.7
    75 29.6
    Eaton:

    Code:
    year combined DWS
    82 9.3
    83 19.8
    84 19.9
    85 30.9
    86 26.6
    87 30.8
    88 31.5
    89 34.9
    90 26.6
    91 26.8
    92 26.5
    Wilt

    Code:
    year combined DWS
    60 31.3
    61 23.8
    62 22.1
    63 17.1
    64 37.3
    66 28.5
    67 22.5
    68 33.6
    69 19.5
    71 17.2
    72 31.3
    73 30.0
    and let's take Russell now, for comparison:

    Code:
    year combined DWS
    56 14.0
    57 32.0
    58 32,5
    59 34,3
    60 35,9
    61 45,2
    62 45,7
    63 46,8
    64 55,7
    65 50,1
    66 41,2
    67 33,7
    68 33,5
    69 40,6
    70 22,2
    Russell didn't play in 56 and 70.

    the advantage Russell has is just too overwhelming to describe it. Celtics were winning ~40 games a year because of their defense alone. their offense pretty much sucked though. they were winning about 15 games with their offense.

    you have to wonder about how much Cousy/Sharman/Heinsohn meant to these teams if they were winning solely because of their defense and were horrifically bad on offense. 64 season is the greatest individual season in league history, perhaps. Celtics have a ridiculous 55.7 DWS (an estimated DRtg of -14, compared to Celtics 08 at -8) while being absolutely retarded on offense (6.8 OWS is the lowest I've seen so far... of any team)... and they still won.

  13. kit Says:

    Oh, and yes, Russell's teammates are quite overrated by Simmons. Cousy particularly, not only had a rep for weak defense and was a poor efficiency scorer even for his day, but his playoff numbers decline during the championship years pretty consistently. Yes, he was the first great assist man, but that hasn't historically correlated strongly with winning. Heinsohn too had a rep for weak defense and mediocre efficiency. Only Sharman turns out to be an above average shooter on those early teams, though Frank Ramsey (never a starter, never an All-Star) had some terrific playoffs. Those teams won with defense despite having guys with poor defensive reps around Russell.

    The later teams were more legitimately stacked, but were facing opposing teams that were also much more stacked (late era Wilt played with Greer/Cunningham/Walker or West/Baylor for example). Their best player, Havlicek, was a terrific defender but again, ever for his day he was a below average shooter. He didn't develop his on the ball game until the team needed him to carry it and just wasn't a great shooter for the catch and shoot, work without the ball style he focused on in the 60s. KC Jones was another great defender but had virtually no offensive impact -- less than Chris Duhon; same for Satch Sanders. The real offensive threats were Sam Jones and Bailey Howell, both very good offensive players -- again, but with poor defensive reps (particularly Howell).

    Those teams won because of Russell and most of those reps were made by playing with Russell. Outside of him, Havlicek is a legit top 50 player, possibly top 25, but mainly for his defense and early 70s heroics. Jones and Howell are probably not top 100 players without the rings; Sharman a bit higher if you look at era differential. And Cousy, while undoubtably a guy that changed the game of basketball, did so in a Pete Maravich way -- without Russell, he's not a guy you count on for winning, just for highlights. So, yeah, the teammates are overrated, Russell isn't.