Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

February 18, 2011

Reggie Miller and the Hall of Fame

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 6:45 pm

Among NBA analysts, I would consider myself an exception in terms of my all-encompassing basketball fandom. One of the things I like about writing for Basketball Prospectus is the ability to sprinkle in some college analysis along with my NBA coverage, and I spend my summers writing about the WNBA. If there were more hours in the day, I’d probably follow women’s college basketball and the European game just as closely. It makes sense, then, that I’m one of the last holdouts to the concept of a single, pan-basketball Hall of Fame even as friends like John Hollinger and M. Haubs of The Painted Area have been beating the drum for an NBA-only Hall for years. Bill Simmons, of course, centered his entire book around the concept. I find something endearing about gathering the legends from all the different levels of basketball for the annual induction ceremonies at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, with Bob Hurley, Sr. following Karl Malone.
Even if I don’t want a new Hall, I certainly do join the chorus advocating sweeping reform to the Hall of Fame induction process. For one, the various groups (pro players, pro coaches, college coaches, international players/coaches and female players/coaches) should each have their own separate selection committees, with appropriate experts in each field. There is no reason the wildly different groups should in any sense be seen as competing against each other, which isn’t fair to any of the groups.

As Hollinger notes today, a revamped selection process could lead to the same kind of Hall of Fame debates we see in baseball. Granted, the NBA has never been either as respectful of its history or as consumed with career numbers as baseball, but the basketball process by its very nature produces very little discussion. The exception is only when someone is clearly snubbed, as is the case with Reggie Miller. Eligible for the Hall for the first time this year, the NBA’s former all-time three-point leader was excluded from a list of finalists that includes players Maurice Cheeks, Chris Mullin, Dennis Rodman, Ralph Sampson and Jamaal Wilkes.

By the numbers, that’s a ridiculous outcome. In this year’s Pro Basketball Prospectus, our Bradford Doolittle used our WARP statistic to take a look at the Hall. Of eligible players who are not yet in the Hall, Miller’s career total of 172 WARP is easily the best. In fact, just 11 players in modern league history (since WARP figures date back only to 1979-80) surpass that figure. Miller benefits from his longevity, certainly, but even in terms of peak WARP (calculated by Doolittle from ages 23 to 32), Miller is ahead of the career figures for every finalist save Mullin (and even then by an insignificant margin).

There might be an argument that Miller is not a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but there is no question he should have been a finalist. Even besides Miller’s exclusion, this is a weak group. Only Mullin had five All-Star appearances or reached the 100-WARP total Doolittle found was the typical point at which a player entered the Hall of Fame conversation. If I was making a list of five Hall of Fame finalists, I’m not sure any of this group would appear. So it goes with our current, flawed Hall of Fame.

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