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Keltner List: Detlef Schrempf

Posted by Neil Paine on May 29, 2009

This past week, a reader asked if we could run one of our world-famous Keltner Lists on Detlef Schrempf, a player he felt had really been underrated by the general public. And I happen to agree, I think Detlef has always been slept on by the media. But does that mean he belongs in the Hall of Fame, or just the lesser-known Hall of Really Underappreciated? Let's find out...

Position: Forward
Height: 6-9 Weight: 214 lbs.
Born: January 21, 1963 in Leverkusen, Germany
High School: Centralia in Centralia, Washington
College: University of Washington
Draft: Selected by the Dallas Mavericks in the 1st round (8th pick, 8th overall) of the 1985 NBA draft.

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in basketball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in basketball? No. In fact, during his playing days you would probably get laughed out of the room for making that suggestion.

2. Was he the best player on his team? No. Whether it was Rolando Blackman, Reggie Miller, Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, or several others, you'd be pretty hard-pressed to find a season where Schrempf was the best player on his own team. Although it does bear mentioning that he led the '95 Sonics in Win Shares.

3. Was he the best player in basketball at his position? No. While he consistently one of the best small forwards in the game during the late 80s and 90s, there was always somebody like Dominique Wilkins, Chris Mullin, Scottie Pippen, or Grant Hill ahead of him.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of NBA Finals or Conference Finals? Schrempf's teams usually made the playoffs, but he only made the Finals once, with Seattle in 1996. He also played a role on the 1988 Mavs team that pushed the Lakers to the brink in the Western Conference Finals (at least until he broke his ankle in Game 5), as well as the infamous 2000 Blazers, but in the final analysis, Schrempf did not have a big impact on a number of deep playoff runs. With a career 6.0 WS/3K in the playoffs, it's not like he played poorly in the postseason, but his teams never really seemed capable of advancing very far once they were there.

5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime? Yes, this was a guy who was still playing 35+ minutes a night for a .500 ballclub at age 36.

6. Is he the very best (eligible) basketball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame? Look, every rational person on Earth wants to see the A-Train in Springfield. And I, for one, want to be able to give a different answer to this question once in a while. So what do we have to do to make it happen?

7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame? Schrempf's key selling point is his efficiency, with a career offensive rating that ranks 22nd all-time. If you include his .586 career TS% as a requirement, the list of similar career players looks pretty good. Lower the shooting standard to a .540 TS%, and you keep the greats but also start to get some good but not HoF-caliber players like Marques Johnson. And the flip side is this: only 5 players have made the Hall with worse per-game numbers than Schrempf, the last of which was Bill Bradley, who retired in 1977. So if we're talking efficiency, yeah, his best comps are HoFers. But if we're looking at raw production, the answer is probably no.

8. Do the player’s numbers meet Hall of Fame standards? Reinforcing the point made under question #7, Schrempf's career Hall of Fame probability is a mere 0.5%, meaning his numbers do not really meet the typical standards of the Hall of Fame.

9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics? Yes and no. Schrempf was not known as a defensive standout, he never garned an All-Defense appearance, and his career translated defensive rating is 108.6, which is slightly worse than the 2009 average of 108.3. However, his career Statistical +/- of 2.43 is better than you'd expect from his raw stats, so there's a good chance he was doing some positive things on the court that weren't picked up by the raw box score numbers.

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame? Scottie Pippen will be eligible next year, so that's going to be a big "no". Besides, there's not a lot of evidence that Schrempf was better than, say, Bernard King or Chris Mullin anyway.

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close? No. Schrempf's best ranking in Win Shares was 5th in 1995, when he was 3rd-Team All-NBA, but he didn't garner any MVP votes that season. In fact, the only time he got any MVP consideration was 1992, and that was the year he started only 4 games & was the league's top Sixth Man, so it's hard to imagine a bench player as a viable MVP candidate.

12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame? Schrempf played in just 3 ASGs, which is certainly not something to boast about on your Hall of Fame résumé. He was of borderline All-Star quality throughout the 1990s, but you can say that about a lot of guys -- it doesn't mean they're necessarily Hall-worthy.

13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win an NBA title? This is merely a thought experiment, seeing as how Schrempf was never actually the best player on any of his teams (see #2). But my best guess is that a team featuring Schrempf as its top dog would not be anywhere close to a "likely" championship squad.

14. What impact did the player have on basketball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way? Was his college and/or international career especially noteworthy? The German-born Schrempf is notable as one of the very first international players in NBA history (his career began even before guys like Drazen Petrovic, Vlade Divac, Rik Smits, & Sarunas Marciulionis hit the scene). Plus, an indie rock group called "Band of Horses" named a song after him in 2007... which, come to think of it, is actually more bizarre than anything else, but still kinda cool.

The Verdict: Schrempf is a pretty borderline candidate, but I'm going to have to take a pass. Yes, he's significant as an international pioneer, I'll grant him that. And yes, he was highly efficient as a 2nd or 3rd banana -- but if you think about it, there was a reason he never carried a team as its alpha dog. And if you get past the (admittedly) great percentages, there's not a whole lot of additional evidence to support his case for the Hall. Was he a very good basketball player? Absolutely. Better than most who ever played the game, in fact. But at the same time there is no shortage of very good players who don't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, a place (theoretically) reserved only for the most elite players in basketball history. And Schrempf was simply never an elite player, no matter how you look at it. My verdict is "no".

19 Responses to “Keltner List: Detlef Schrempf”

  1. Jason J Says:

    Somewhere the Hoff is crying right now.

    Seriously though, the international pioneer to the NBA angle is his only shot into the Hall. Also he might have won a gold medal in 1992 if not for a certain Dream Team entering the field.

  2. ScottR. Says:

    No one would seriously argue that he's a HOF candidate, but Detlef was a solid player with nice all around game.

  3. Jon Says:

    Neil, would love a Keltner list on Mullin.

  4. Gabe Says:

    "Hall of Really Underappreciated"
    Hey Detlef -- while you're in there, say hello to Paul Pressey, Fat Lever, Tim Hardaway, Chauncey Billups, and John Johnson.

    And the flip side is this: only 5 players have made the Hall with worse per-game numbers than Schrempf
    This doesn't make sense to me. If you're going to do an "AND" for the players with better numbers in all the categories, then to look at the inverse you should do an "OR", not another "AND". In other words, <=13.9 PPR, or <=6.2 RPG, or <=3.4 APG.

  5. Gabe Says:

    Neil, would love a Keltner list on Mullin.

    Me too. I think I've asked before, I can't remember. But if not, I'm seconding Jon's request.

  6. Jermaine Says:

    Detlef was a solid 2nd/3rd best player on a team type with a good solid around game and a pioneerer for international players but nowhere near HOF caliber.

  7. izzy Says:

    Given the news of Ben Wallace's potential retirement, I'd like to see aq Keltner list for Big Ben. He's the perfect candidate for this discussion. He has 4 Defensive POY awards, a perennial Eastern Conference Champion, was apart of a major NBA Finals upset...and despote all this is BBR HOF Probability is .002, which is 60 among active players. Another good person would be Chauncy, who has a finals MVP to his name. However, Ben is worth doing especially because he hinted at retirement.

  8. Neil Paine Says:

    I'll do one this week, but my initial thought is this: if Dennis Rodman can't get into the Hall, then Ben Wallace has no business being there, either.

  9. Johnny Says:

    I would love to see one of these done on Penny Hardaway.

  10. Bradlee Says:

    Future Keltner list:

    I think chaunce would be a good one, but he has a lot of basketball left to play. I think we should stick to guy who are retired or their best seasons are far behind them.

    I would personally love to see Dennis Rodman. I can see both sides of the agreement on him very well. Statically dominated of a key category over several seasons like few have done. Key member of several championships. I think he is the best defensive player that when you look at his raw numbers (blocks and steals) you would have no clue. Was he ever the best player on his team? I think he did lead a very good Pistons team in WS one season. How has his antics clouded his perception?

    I also think Mullin would be good, but Penny Hardaway? I think Penny would be a waste of time his peek was too short. I think Grant Hill has a better shot than Penny.

  11. Jason J Says:

    How about Shawn Kemp? KJ?

  12. Bradlee Says:

    KJ has been done.

  13. Bradlee Says:

    I would say no on Kemp, but he might be worth a look.

  14. steve norris Says:

    det was a nice player but no hall 4 me. i think a-train and b.king should be next.i have a question to you guys who do awesome work. in hof probability you have kobe as #12. if he wins a ring where does that rank him and is that list meaning thats the best in that order of all time greats?

  15. Ricardo Says:

    Can we change the wording in question #6 to this?

    6. Is he the very best (eligible) basketball player in history NOT NAMED ARTIS GILMORE who is not in the Hall of Fame?

    That way we can see how he, or anyone else, compares with those on the outside. As the question reads now, there's no reason to ask it. Every one of these Keltner Lists comes up no on question six. For the sake of discussion, alter the question.

  16. HumanVictoryCigar Says:

    2. Was he the best player on his team?

    He probably was the best player on the 92/93 Pacers. He had 19,1 P, 9,0 R and 6,0 A in that season. He led the Pacers in MPG, RPG and APG. And he was the second best scorer behind Reggie Miller.

  17. john dough Says:

    i think the Croatian team would have won it all in 1992 in memory i think they had Kukoc, Dino Radja, Petrovic, Zan Tabak, among others....

  18. Neil Paine Says:

    15. Did he ever appear in an episode of Parks and Recreation? Yes. Yes, he did.

  19. Maria Drost Says:

    Guter Post. Hab ihn via Google entdeckt und mal dein Blog in meine Favoriten aufgenommen. Bis bald ;)