Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Hall of Fame Candidates: International NBA Standouts

The history of the Hall of Fame has been to reward multiple players from teams with multiple championships (we don't necessarily agree with this, that's just the way it is). This would indicate players like Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Pau Gasol are strong candidates strictly on the basis of their NBA careers.

What also helps international standouts is that there's a different threshold to gain HOF entry for players born outside the U.S. We noted in the past that the Hall of Fame had set a tenuous precedent by inducting FIBA legends Drazen Petrovic, Dino Meneghin and Drazen Dalipagic.

Once you factor in Manu and Pau's FIBA accomplishments, those two should be shoo-ins. We already made the case for Pau as a Naismith candidate after leading Spain to the '09 Eurobasket crown.

Also, by those standards, Tony Parker and Yao Ming are likely Hall-of-Famers, because those two players could be considered some of the best players born overseas. The biggest conundrum for the Hall of Fame committee is how to deal with international players going forward, given the precedents which have been set. In '06, we covered some Euro candidates whose Hall of Fame candidacy is tough to evaluate.

We examine the Hall of Fame candidacy of some high-level international NBAers (Ginobili, Gasol, Parker & Yao) below:

Manu Ginobili:

- Nine NBA seasons; 633 games; 28 mins/game
- 15.3 ppg; 4 apg; 4 rpg; 1.5 spg; 2 TOpg: 45% FG pct.; 37% 3PA; 83% FTA
- Two All-Star selections ('05, '11)
- Two All-NBA selections (3rd Team- '07/'08, '10/'11)
- Three NBA Titles ('02/'03, '04/'05, '06/'07)
- '04 Olympic Gold, '08 Olympic Bronze, '02 Worlds Silver, '03 FIBA Amer. Silver

Ginobili has been one of the better all-around shooting guards over the last 10 years and was a key component on three NBA title teams. Wherever he goes, he wins: besides Bill Bradley, he's the only player to win an Olympic Gold, Euroleague title and NBA title.

Would Manu get into a NBA-only HOF? I think so, but it would be debatable. Manu's NBA stats and accomplishments compare favorably to Joe Dumars'. Actually, Manu's numbers (21.7 PER) are even more impressive than Dumars' (15.3 PER). Dumars has more All-Defensive team nominations, but Manu is no slouch on the defensive end, and maybe deserves more recognition for his defense.

Unique, herky-jerky game has caused problems for opposing teams throughout his NBA career. His ability to handle the ball and finish in traffic is legendary. Combines great ball-handling with terrific footwork to slither his way to the rim. Great at playing through contact and doesn't mind giving up his body.

Actually don't think he gets enough credit for his passing skills. One of the best passing off-guards of all-time. Uncanny ability to alter the touch and trajectory of his passes. His use of bounce passes is unparalleled among non-point guards. One of the top entry passers in the NBA.

Really no need for debate--Manu should be elected to Hall of Fame.

Pau Gasol:

- 10 NBA seasons, 731 games, 36 mins/game
- 18.8 ppg; 9 rpg; 3.2 apg; 1.7 bpg; 2.4 TOpg; 52.2% FGA; 75% FTA
- Two NBA titles ('08/'09, '09/'10)
- Four All-Star Games
- Three All-NBA teams (2nd Team- '10/'11), (3rd Team- '08/'09, '09/'10)
- 2002 Rookie of the Year
- 2006 Worlds Gold, '08 Olympic Silver, '09 Euro Gold, Euro Silver ('03 & '07), '01 Euro Bronze

Think Pau's situation is similar to Manu's. Are Pau's NBA accomplishments good enough for entry into the HOF? I think so, but some might see him as a borderline case. But when you factor in his FIBA accolades, and the fact that Pau is one of the top European players of all-time, there's no doubt he belongs in Springfield.

James Worthy got rewarded for being the third-best player on three NBA title teams, so why shouldn't Pau get rewarded for being the second-best player on two NBA title teams. Worthy's storied NCAA career probably also helped his case. But then Gasol has his storied career with the Spanish national team to augment his NBA accolades. Gasol's NBA numbers (22 PER) are clearly better than Worthy's (17.7 PER) as well.

Gasol is currently one of the top bigs in the NBA and probably has 4-5 good years still ahead of him. His length and highly-skilled game should help him age well. With Tim Duncan slowly fading, Gasol probably has the most varied post game in the NBA right now.

Pau should be able to add a few more All-Star games and/or All-NBA selections to his resume. The Lakers are still a contending team and another ring is not out of the question. Plus, Spain should be in the running for medals over the next few summers.

Could make the case that Pau has been the best player in national-team competitions over the last decade. Since 2003, Pau has led Spain to three Eurobasket finals, one World Championship, and one Olympic final in six summers of competition (he missed the 2005 Euro due to injury).

Every summer Pau has participated in FIBA competition, he has been selected for 1st team All-Tournament honors. It's no surprise that the rise of the Spanish national team has coincided with the emergence of Pau Gasol as one of the top players in the world.

Tony Parker:

- 10 NBA seasons; 746 games; 33 mins/game
- 16.7 ppg; 5.7 apg; 3 rpg; 2.5 TOpg; 1 spg; 49% FG pct.; 31% 3PA
- Three All-Star Games ('06, '07, '09)
- One All-NBA (3rd team-'08/'09)
- 2007 NBA Finals MVP

Parker might qualify as a Joe Dumars-type HOF selection--a key figure on a franchise with multiple titles. The Hall voters love players with multiple titles. Tony has three NBA titles under his belt to Joe's two. Tony has a superior PER of 18.5 to Dumars' 15.3 PER. Though, Parker has never been as good as defender as Dumars.

Has steadily improved his perimeter jumper over the years. Dangerous as a one-man fast-break. Like his backcourt partner Manu, has a tremendous ability to finish at the rim in traffic. One of the better finishing point guards of all-time.

Struggled in the Spurs' playoff runs early in his career, but became more reliable as his jumper improved. Was key during the Spurs' '07 playoff campaign, neutralizing Steve Nash in the West Semis and earning the Finals MVP award.

Don't feel as strongly about Tony's case for the Hall as I do for Manu. His game is not as well-rounded as Manu's. Manu's is the better defender, shooter and even better passer than Tony is my estimation.

Nor does Tony have the FIBA resume of Manu or Pau. France has rarely medaled during Parker's tenure. But hard to fault Tony too much considering that he's had very little shooting or scoring around him for most of his national-team career.

Has only one All-NBA selection (3rd team) in 10 seasons. It will be tough for Tony to garner another All-NBA nod during his career with the likes of Rose, Paul, Williams, Westbrook and Wall plying their wares.

Though, Parker does have the advantage of being an international player, which gives him a broader appeal with Hall voters. He's one of the better NBA players to come from Europe and is arguably the best int'l point guard ever not named Steve Nash. I have to imagine this pushes Parker over the edge with Hall voters.

Yao Ming:

- 486 games, 32.5 mins/game, seven seasons* (missed entire '09/'10 season, only played five games in '10/'11).
- 19 ppg; 9.2 rpg; 2 bpg; 2.7 TOpg; 1.6 apg; 52.4% FG pct.; 83.3% FTA
- Eight All-Star selections (did not play in '07 & '11)
- Five All-NBA (2nd Team- '06/'07 & '08/'09), (3rd Team- '03/'04, '05/'06, '07/'08)
- Three FIBA Asia Golds ('01, '03', '05)

The case for electing Yao to the Hall of Fame is a little more murkier than the others. He has no NBA titles, no MVP awards, no major FIBA medals, no NCAA titles, no NCAA MVP awards and no major club titles in Europe (did win a club title in China).

Also, he has played fewer than 500 NBA games and we believe the threshold of NBA games played to be considered for Hall consideration should be around 525, if not at least above 500. Bill Walton has fewer than 500 NBA games played but he does have an NBA MVP trophy, two NBA titles and a legendary NCAA career to fall back on. Though, we wouldn't elect Walton to a NBA-only HOF, if one existed, because of the low games played total.

The one thing that Yao has going for him is his international status. He will be viewed through a different prism than American-born players.

I expect Vlade Divac to be inducted in the near future for contributions on and off the court. Vlade helped break down the door for foreign players to enter the NBA by being part of the first wave of int'l players in the late 80s. As an international player, Yao's one of the best bigs of all-time, like Vlade.

Also, Yao could be considered as an goodwill ambassador for the game of basketball similar to Vlade Divac. Yao has been instrumental in helping the NBA spread its influence to millions of new fans in Asia. From all accounts, Yao is known as a great teammate and terrific human being. I'm sure if David Stern has a HOF vote, he would give one to Yao.

As for Yao's NBA career, he was one of the top-five centers of his era. Elected to five All-NBA teams. Very effective around the paint with hooks and a nice turnaround jumper. His soft shooting touch not only made him a jumpshooting threat--he was one of the best foul-shooting centers ever thanks to his smooth release. His passing skills were never fully utilized--he was a better passer than his pedestrian assist numbers would indicate.

Though he might have not been a technically good defender and could be slow on rotations, his sheer size made him a major defensive presence. He was a big reason the Rockets were a top-rated defensive team and it's no coincidence the Rockets' team defense has struggled the last two years with no Yao around.

If there were a NBA-only HOF, we don't think Yao should belong, much like Walton. But we'd take no issue if Yao were nominated to the Naismith Hall as a combination of contributor to the game and an international standout player.


At 2:00 PM, Blogger jerry said...

what the heck is wrong with you and your four buddies on 5 on 5 roundtable on espn.com you are voting every foreigner in based on some "goodwill" to bball criteria that has nothing to do with how they played the game. i agree w sabonis because he dominated the game for many years before the nba came. yao has never played extremely excellent bball for at least 5 years which i consider the minimum for making the hof. ginobli has barely. parker: not quite. gasol:not yet. u guys r handing hof spots over based on some united nations criteria. europe's interest is hear to stay, stop handing over free passes based on fiba play and goodwill. fiba only matters for sabonis because his prime did not coincide with the nba (which should b the main criteria if that was a man's prime) you guys are treating a guy's nba career as an afterthought

At 11:20 AM, Blogger Jake Whitacre said...

Quick question: Why is Britain participating in Eurobasket '11 if they already have an automatic bid?

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