Friday, March 31, 2017

Did Rick Barry Ever Lead the ABA in Scoring?

According to's biography of Rick Barry:

Hall of Fame forward Rick Barry is the only player ever to lead the NCAA, NBA, and ABA in scoring.

I've heard this statistic quoted a few times before, but after doing a little digging into it I believe that it's technically incorrect (the best kind of incorrect!). shows Rick Barry as the leading scorer for the NBA in the 1966-1967 season, when he averaged 35.6 PPG in 78 games played.

Barry's contract with the San Francisco Warriors ended at the conclusion of that season, and Barry planned to sign with the Oakland Oaks, an ABA team coached by his father-in-law. However, the Warriors had a reserve clause in their contract with Barry (common at the time), meaning that the team retained his rights even after his contract ended. The issue went to the courts (the judicial ones), where it was ruled that Barry had to sit out for a year, but then could play for the Oaks the subsequent year.

In the 1968-69 season Barry averaged 34.0 PPG, which was more than any other player in the ABA. But, he only played 35 games that season due to a knee injury. Now, I'm not sure how many games are required by the ABA to qualify for a statistical season leader, but in the NBA it's 58 games (presuming a full 82 game season). So by that measure, Barry did not lead the ABA in scoring that year. And does not have him as the scoring leader - it gives the honors to Larry Jones, who had 28.4 PPG that year in 75 games played.

So there you have it... Rick Barry certainly had more points per game than anyone in the ABA in the 1968-69 season, but he didn't play enough games to qualify as the scoring leader.

And I'll leave you with this thought... with Barry having to sit out a full year early in his career he lost out on scoring any points (obviously). Presuming he would have scored 2,000 or so points that season, today he's be right around the #10 spot for all time scorers. But because of that missed season he's currently #22 on the list...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Career Three Point FG Leaders - Not Many in the Hall of Fame

The following table lists the 50 players with the most career 3PT FGs (as of November 2016). What's interesting is how few of them are in the Hall of Fame. Only two of the 50 players are currently in the HoF: Reggie Miller (#2) and Mitch Richmond (#33).

1.Ray Allen2973
2.Reggie Miller* 2560
3.Jason Terry 2175
4.Paul Pierce 2131
5.Jason Kidd1988
6.Vince Carter 1961
7.Jamal Crawford 1957
8.Kyle Korver 1918
9.Joe Johnson 1851
10.Chauncey Billups1830
11.Kobe Bryant1827
12.Rashard Lewis1787
13.Peja Stojakovic1760
14.Dale Ellis1719
15.J.R. Smith 1709
16.Dirk Nowitzki 1707
17.Steve Nash1685
18.Stephen Curry 1668
19.Jason Richardson1608
20.Mike Miller 1585
21.Glen Rice1559
22.Eddie Jones1546
23.Tim Hardaway1542
24.Nick Van Exel1528
25.Mike Bibby1517
26.Michael Finley1454
27.Brent Barry1395
28.Antoine Walker1386
29.LeBron James 1365
30.Dan Majerle1360
Manu Ginobili 1360
32.Baron Davis1332
33.Mitch Richmond* 1326
34.Allan Houston1305
35.Terry Porter1297
36.Mookie Blaylock1283
37.Mike Dunleavy 1261
38.Vernon Maxwell1256
39.Clifford Robinson1253
40.Stephen Jackson1252
41.Shane Battier1250
42.Derek Fisher1248
43.Hedo Turkoglu1246
44.Dell Curry1245
45.Jason Williams1238
46.Damon Stoudamire1236
47.Hersey Hawkins1226
48.John Starks1222
49.Chuck Person1220
50.Dennis Scott1214

Why is this?

I think it's due to three factors:
  1. The three point shot wasn't introduced until the 1979-80 season, and until recently, it wasn't heavily utilized except for those few years in the mid-90s when they shortened the arc. Consider the 84/85 season (picked at random). The league leader in 3PT FG shots was Darrell Griffith with 257 attempts. Compare that to 2005/06 season, where Ray Allen shot 653 3 PTs!

    Another example - Larry Bird, who was in the top 10 3 PT FG shooter for six seasons, still has less than half as many 3 PTs as someone like Shane Battier, who was not considered a high volume 3 PT shooter for his time.
  2. Those players in the 80s and 90s who were exceptional 3 PT shooters were more likely to be specialists rather than superstars. Players like MJ and Magic didn't take many 3s (especially compared to the superstars of today). The 3 PT sharpshooters like Kerr, Dell Curry, Dan Majerle and Peja were considered specialists. This has obviously changed, especially with Steph Curry.
  3. The number of 3 PT field goals has exploded in the past decade or so, meaning these players who are racking up 3 PT FGs aren't yet eligible for the HoF. This includes both recently retired players on the list who are definitely HoF bound (Kobe, Ray Allen, Steve Nash, etc.) as well as active players who are definitely HoF bound (LeBron, Curry, Paul Pierce, Manu, etc.)

The graph below shows the most 3 PT FGs made by a player per season. As the trendline indicates, the number of made threes has been inching upward over the past 20 years and really has taken off over the past few.

(Note: For the lockout shortened seasons in 1999 and 2011, I normalized the 3PTs made per an 82-game schedule.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Multiple Finals MVP Award Winners Trivia

The first Finals MVP trophy was awarded to Jerry West of the Los Angeles Lakers at the conclusion of the 1969 NBA Finals. Since then, then have been 29 additional players to be bestowed with this award.

So a total of 30 players have won the Finals MVP. Twenty of those players won the award only once, 10 others won multiple awards. Here's the breakdown of whose won more than one Finals MVP award:

  • Two time winners - Hakeem Olajuwon, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird, Willis Reed
  • Three time winners - LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Shaq, Tim Duncan
  • Six time winners - Michael Jordan
MJ's six Finals MVP awards are a solid argument for him being the GOAT. (As are his four regular season MVPs, six rings, scoring titles, DPOY awards, etc.)

Interestingly, of all the players to win more than one Finals MVP award, only two won Finals MVP awards on different teams. Those two players are:
  • LeBron James - Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers, and
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers

Three players who won their multiple Finals MVP awards did so in consecutive years:
  • Hakeem Olajuwon - 1994 and 1995
  • Kobe Bryant - 2009 and 2010
  • Shaq - 2000, 2001, 2002
And one could add MJ to the list above if you only counted years in which the player participated in the entire season. (Jordan left baseball in 1995, joining the team late in the season. The Bulls were knocked out of the playoffs that year by the Orlando Magic. Over the next three years, however, the Bulls won the title, with MJ nabbing the Finals MVP trophy each time.)

Kareem has the greatest distance between Finals MVP awards - 14 seasons! He won his first with the Bucks in 1971 and his only other Finals MVP award with the Lakers in 1985.

The team with the most Finals MVP awards is the Los Angeles Lakers, with 12. These 12 awards were spread over seven different players:
  • Jerry West - 1969
  • Wilt Chamberlain - 1972
  • Magic Johnson - 1980, 1982, 1987
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - 1985
  • James Worthy - 1988
  • Shaq - 2000, 2001, 2002
  • Kobe Bryant - 2009, 2010
Next are the Bulls and Celtics, with 6 apiece. The Celtics award winners were:
  • John Havlicek - 1974
  • Jo Jo White - 1976
  • Cedric Maxwell - 1981
  • Larry Bird - 1984, 1986
All 6 Bulls Final MVPs were won by one man:
  • Michael Jordan - 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998
The Spurs have 5 Finals MVPs:
  • Tim Duncan - 1999, 2003, 2005
  • Tony Parker - 2007
  • Kawhi Leonard - 2014
After that, the Miami Heat have 3 (LeBron twice and D.Wade once), as do the Pistons (Dumars, Thomas and Billups).

There are two teams with 2 awards (the Rockets and Warriors) and then 9 teams with just one Finals MVP award.

As you would expect, most NBA Finals MVP award winners are in the NBA Hall of Fame. There is one notable exception - the 1981 NBA Finals MVP winner, Cedric Maxwell, is currently the only NBA Finals MVP player who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but has not been inducted. The only question marks for currently non-eligible players are Chauncey Billups, Kawhi Leonard and Andre Iguodala.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Here's why Cavaliers fans should always be thankful to Jason Williams for turning up 10 seconds late to practice

This "sliding doors" gem comes from Reddit's NBA forum, posted by LemmeHollaAtMyBabies earlier this week:
It’s February 2008. Shaq is in Miami now a full season removed from the Heat’s victorious 2006 Finals win. He is averaging career lows in points (14.2), rebounds (7.8) and blocks (1.4). Due to his increasing number of injuries and extremely low production despite the $20 million per year Pat Riley had him signed on till 2010 for, things weren’t looking too good. Come a standard weekly practice and the following happens in Shaq's own words:
" There was a lot of tension between Pat and the players. So we're about to start practice and Jason Williams comes in about ten seconds late. Pat being Pat, he starts swearing at him and screaming, "Get the hell out of here!"... I tell Pat we're a team and we need to stick together, not throw guys out of the gym. Pat is screaming at me and says if I don't like it, then I should get the hell out of practice, too. That's when I said, "Why don't you make me?" I start taking a couple of steps towards Pat. Udonis Haslem steps in and I shove him out of the way. Then Zo tries to grab me. I threw him aside like he was a rag doll. Now it's me and Riley face-to-face, jaw to jaw. I'm poking him in the chest and he keeps slapping my finger away and it's getting nasty. " 
Shaq was on the block by the end of the week. On February 6, 2008, Shaq is traded to the Suns for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks. 
Now with Shaq gone after a year and Mourning recently retired, the Heat needed a third big man alongside Joel Anthony and Mark Blount . On February 13, 2009, Heat trade Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks from the Suns, for Jermaine O’Neal, Jamario Moon, a 2010 2nd round pick and 2011 first round draft pick. They now have the back up big man they need, and 3 trade assets in Moon and two draft picks. 
With the Cavs needing a back-up small forward behind LeBron James, they sign Moon to an offer sheet on July 17, 2009, which Miami chooses not to match. 
Come 2011, the Clippers are no longer interested in their ageing and mildly productive point guard Baron Davis and need a younger point guard, as well as a small-forward considering they only had one prior to drafting Al-Farouq Aminu. On February 24, 2011, they trade Baron Davis and a first round pick for Mo Williams, and the only other player on the Cavs roster that fits within their needs, Jamario Moon. 
Come May 17 and its the NBA Draft Lottery. Cavs have a 19.9% chance of winning the first pick with their own, and a mere 2.8% with the Clippers pick. By half a stroke of a miracle, the Clipper's pick that was gifted in an almost meaningless trade ends up being the number 1 pick. 
On June 23rd, 2011, that pick turns into Kyrie Irving. 
TL;DR - Jason Williams rocks up late to practice, results in a fight between Pat Riley and Shaq that ends in Shaq being traded. Causes a ripple effect of trades that ends up with Clippers trading away a first round pick that turns into Kyrie Irving. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Will Derrick Rose Be The First NBA MVP To NOT Make It Into the Hall of Fame?

To date, every NBA MVP Award winner has made it into the NBA Hall of Fame soon after becoming eligible, a trend that goes back to 1955, when the NBA announced their first MVP winner, Bob Pettit. (Here's a complete list of MVP award winners by year.)

That shouldn't be terribly surprising. A player who is considered to be the most valuable player for an entire season is obviously someone who's quite talented and has had or will continue have a stellar NBA career. Moreover, many players who won MVPs were so dominant that they won several MVPs, e.g., players like Kareem, Russell, Wilt, Magic, Bird, MJ and LeBron.

Currently, there are nine MVP winners who aren't in the Hall of Fame, all because they are still playing (although quite a few on this list will retire this year, most likely) or aren't yet eligible for induction into the HoF (Nash):

  1. Tim Duncan
  2. Kevin Garnett
  3. Steve Nash
  4. Dirk Nowitzki
  5. Kobe Bryant
  6. LeBron James
  7. Derrick Rose
  8. Kevin Durant
  9. Stephen Curry
How likely is it that all of those players will make it into the HoF one day? Clearly, many of those nine players are absolute, guaranteed, don't even talk about it locks for the HoF. But there is one extreme outlier in that list... If we go by's Hall of Fame Probability metric, the list (ordered from most likely to least likely) looks like this:
  1. Tim Duncan - 100%
  2. Kevin Garnett - 100%
  3. Dirk Nowitzki - 100%
  4. Kobe Bryant - 100%
  5. LeBron James - 100%
  6. Kevin Durant - 99.43%
  7. Steve Nash - 98.29%
  8. Stephen Curry - 85.12%
  9. Derrick Rose - 10.52% outlines the math used for determining HoF probability here, but in short it takes into account NBA Championships, what stats they led the league in, Win Shares and All Star Game selections, among other criteria.

All that to say, things are not looking good for Derrick Rose - 10.52% probability! Eep. Looking at just active players, that puts Rose in the same neighborhood as Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Deron Williams, three guys who are good, sure, but not what you'd consider Hall of Famers.

Now, the HoF probability metric isn't perfect. There are players in the HoF who have extremely low probabilities per the formula, the most jarring being Bill Walton, who only has a 2.04% chance per their math. But given that Rose's peak was interrupted so early by injury and that his Bulls team wasn't ablt to win a championship in that small window, it seems quite probable that Rose will have to live with the ignominy of being the only NBA MVP to not make it into the Hall of Fame.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Quirky NBA Rules

Here's a bit of fun trivia... The NBA has an NBA Rules History web page that notes some of the rule changes over the history of the League. There are some odd ball rules that have come and gone throughout the ages.

Reducing Late Game Fouling
There were some... interesting rules passed in the 1950s in order to reduce late game fouling. Although I'm not sure what a team late in a game was supposed to do if they were trailing, the other team had the ball, and there was no shotclock.

In the 1950-51 season, a rule was introduced such that after a free throw was made in the last three minutes, rather than the other team getting the ball out of bounds there would be a jump ball between the player who got fouled and the person who committed the foul. So sending a guy to the line to stop the clock might mean two free throws and a loss of possession, if the jump ball didn't go your way.

Naturally, the response was to have a big man foul a little guy, then no problem on claiming the jump ball. This was countered in the 1952-53 season by a rule change that required that the jump ball be between the person who was fouled and the person and the player who was guarding him.

Next year (1953-54) they added another rule to stem late game fouls - a player is only permitted two fouls per quarter. Pick up a third foul and you had to head to the bench for the remainder of the quarter.

I can think of at least one current NBA player whose game would benefit if these rules were revived...

Fighting Rules
A few fighting-related rules were added in the 70s. Fines increased from $50 to $100 for coaches who were ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct and rules were added to address what happens if there are punching fouls on both teams during the same play. (The team that threw the last punch is penalized, as the other team is award possession.)

In 1976-77 a rule was added to disallow aggressive swinging of the elbows, even if there is no contact made. And at the end of the season a rule was put into place that any player who engages in a fight is fined $10,000 and suspended.

Weird Rules from the Late 70s
I'd love to know what prompted these rules to come about (especially the last one):
  • A $25 fine shall be assessed to any player hanging on the rim during pre-game warm-up.
  • Any field goal that, in the opinion of the officials is intentionally scored in the wrong basket shall be disallowed.

Monday, November 23, 2015

NBA MVPs by Decade

Earlier this week I posted how Centers have dominated the MVP race, with nearly half of the total MVP awards going to Centers.

The following chart shows the MVP winners by decade, color-coded by position. You can see that Centers won the MVP for 16 straight years, from the 64-65 season straight through to the 79-80 season. And if a Center had won instead of Oscar Robinson in the 63-64 season and another in the 80-81 season instead of Dr. J, Centers would have won the award for 24 years in a row!

But it's been 15 years since the last Center won the MVP (Shaq), and 24 out of the 27 Centers who were named MVP won the award prior to the 82-83 season.

Is it because the 60s and 70s were witness to a few transcendent players who happened to be Centers (Wilt, Russell and Kareem)? That was my initial thought, but even in those years where one of those three didn't win, the winner was still another Center: Unseld, Reed, Cowens, McAdoo, Walton, or Moses.

One could look at it the other way, that the reasons Centers didn't keep on winning after the early 80s is because of the introduction of truly transcendent players at other positions: Larry, Magic and MJ being the main three.

Then there is changes to the style of play. Today's game is obviously one that minimizes the impact of a traditional Center. But that doesn't explain the lack of Centers in the 2000s.

My guess is that it's a combination of the above. Arguably, each position should have an equal chance at winning the award. The reason for the dominance of Centers in the first half of the League's history is due in part to the style of play but also to the fact that 3 of the top 5 Centers of All Time were playing. In the 80s and 90s we see a return to the mean with Centers winning 25% of the MVPs. The 2000s and beyond, with more backcourt-friendly rules and an emphasis on slash and kick-style offenses with long range shooting has diminished the impact of Centers on both ends of the court.