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Wednesday, October 19, 2022

NBA Opening Night 2022 Featured Powerful Bill Russell Tribute and Wins by Last Season's NBA Finalists

NBA Opening Night 2022 began with a two and a half hour TNT pregame show. The highlight of that show was a tribute about Bill Russell titled "Answer the Call." The tribute's first segment featured interviews with several NBA legends--including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, Spencer Haywood, Magic Johnson, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, Shaquille O'Neal, Paul Pierce, Isiah Thomas, and Jerry West--talking about how Russell loved to call them and dispense wisdom about basketball and life. 

Erving noted that sometimes he can be "funny" about talking on the phone, but that he answered every time that Russell called. Thomas remembered that Russell called him after his fateful turnover at the end of game five of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals, and Russell told him that he has to keep pushing forward, not letting that moment define him. It is remarkable to think about a Boston Celtics legend calling a Detroit Pistons star to uplift him in the middle of a closely contested playoff series versus the Celtics, but when you consider that Russell also formed a close relationship with L.A. Lakers great Kobe Bryant it is clear that Russell felt that his role as NBA elder statesman was larger than team loyalties and involved raising the game as a whole. 

Johnson said that after he made his 1991 announcement that he was HIV positive, Russell sought him out not for a phone conversation but for an in person meeting during which Russell embraced him, told him that he had been a winner his whole life, and that he would beat HIV. Johnson said that was exactly what he needed at that moment--to literally be embraced at a time when there was so much fear about HIV and HIV positive people.

West treasures a note that Russell sent to him stating how much the players around the league respect him. West said that he will carry Russell with him in his heart until the day he dies.

Haywood said that in 1980, Bill Russell saw him not looking or sounding right during an interview, called him, spoke to him frankly, and put him on the road to recovery from being a cocaine addict.

The tribute's second segment focused on Russell's pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement. After Medgar Evers was assassinated, Russell called Evers' brother Charles and asked what he could do to help. Charles Evers asked Russell to go to Mississippi and run a basketball camp to help desegregate the state--and Russell did that, at the height of segregation and strife in the Deep South. Russell's participation in the famous 1967 Muhammad Ali Summit in Cleveland with (among others) Jim Brown and a very young Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor) was shown as well.

After the tribute aired, TNT's newly re-signed studio crew of Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal, Kenny Smith, and Ernie Johnson shared their personal reflections about Russell. Barkley noted that Russell was an outspoken advocate for social justice at a time when Russell did not have the security of generational wealth, in contrast to many of today's athletes. O'Neal mentioned how much it meant to him to earn Russell's respect, and O'Neal briefly lamented that he never developed that kind of relationship with Wilt Chamberlain or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Smith described how honored he feels to be Bill Russell's first draft choice as Sacramento's coach, and Smith talked about how he and all of his children were able to visit with Russell near the end of Russell's life. Johnson talked about how much he enjoys hosting the NBA's Legends Brunch during All-Star Weekend, recalling that Russell would typically be sitting front and center.

Unfortunately, that great start to the telecast was soon followed by what was essentially a 20 minute infomercial for Draymond Green as father/great team player/upstanding member of the community who enjoys interacting with fans. Draymond Green assaulting and battering teammate Jordan Poole was little more than a postscript to the glowing tribute that could have passed for a paid advertisement produced by Green's public relations team. It could not be more obvious that TNT is hoping that Green will have a major role with the network after his playing career ends.

I give Barkley credit for declaring that Green was "100% wrong" and for pointing out that there is something very jarring about Green saying that he did not give much thought to what he did until the video of his punch was released; Barkley stated what should be obvious: punching a co-worker is unacceptable regardless of whether or not video footage of the punch is seen by the public. Barkley said that he spent the first four seasons of his NBA career playing on edge because he was angry about various things that happened before he made it to the NBA, and he added that when you regularly play on edge then you will also end up going over the edge. Barkley admitted that he had gone over the edge many times before he changed his attitude, and he urged Green to undergo a similar attitude change. Smith suggested that, in light of the NBA's multiple offseason scandals involving various kinds of poor conduct, the NBA should institute counseling programs to help players adjust to having so much money and being under so much scrutiny. 

It says a lot about the current state of the NBA that the entirety of Commissioner Adam Silver's appearance on the pregame show consisted of talking about Green's punch (and Green's use of a racial slur directed at Kendrick Perkins during the summer), Phoenix owner Robert Sarver being suspended for a full season, and Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka being suspended for a full season. Ernie Johnson asked Silver a pointed question about whether--in light of so many incidents and scandals involving different teams--the public should have confidence in the way that the NBA's 30 franchises are being run. Silver conceded that this is a legitimate question, but then said that even though it is legitimate question to ask he has full confidence in how the NBA's franchises are being run. 

Regarding Green not being suspended by the team or by the league, Silver said that the Warriors have earned the league's trust to do the right thing, and that typically the league will only step in when a situation involves two teams as opposed to an internal matter. To understand how absurd that is, just imagine any other workplace in which one employee punches another in the face--or imagine a star player being punched in the face by a non-star player. Do you suppose that the response might be different? 

The NBA's hypocrisy is stunning, yet not surprising: some people can punch other people in the face but face no real consequences, and some people can utter racial slurs while facing no consequences, but other people would face significant consequences for similar (or even lesser) offenses. As always, the NBA cares about profits above all else, and every action that Silver and the league take--or do not take--should be viewed through that lens.

In response to a question from Barkley about Sarver, Silver stated that as Commissioner his power is limited to fining Sarver up to $10,000,000 (which Silver did) and suspending him. Silver added that he does not have the power to force an owner to sell his team. This is technically correct, though it should be recalled that Silver's public statements in 2014 about banning Donald Sterling for life go well beyond what Silver actually is empowered to do.

In the first game of TNT's doubleheader, the Boston Celtics defeated the Philadelphia 76ers, 126-117.  Boston jumped out to a 9-2 lead, and the Celtics were ahead 9-3 when Al Horford had to go to the bench with his second foul; that call was a flagrant foul after Horford put his foot in James Harden's landing space on a three point shot attempt. Harden hit all three free throws, igniting a run that resulted in Philadelphia leading 29-24 at the end of the first quarter as Harden scored 16 points on 3-4 field goal shooting and 8-8 free throw shooting. Harden scored 22 first half points on 5-9 field goal shooting, but Boston rallied to tie the score at 63 by intermission. Joel Embiid scored 11 first half points on 3-7 field goal shooting, and the TNT crew rightly criticized Embiid for being too passive. Jaylen Brown (18 points) and Jayson Tatum (16 points) paced Boston's first half scoring.

The Celtics broke the game open in the third quarter, surging to a 95-82 lead before settling for a 98-88 advantage heading into the final stanza. The 76ers cut the margin to six early in the fourth quarter, but trailed by double digits for most of the final eight minutes before Tobias Harris slammed home a meaningless dunk with just under 30 seconds remaining.

Tatum finished with 35 points on 13-20 field goal shooting plus 12 rebounds, four assists, and a game-high +10 plus/minus number. Brown scored 35 points on 14-24 field goal shooting. The Celtics are not at full strength--they are missing injured center Robert Williams III, an excellent defensive player and powerful finisher in the paint--but they look like they are poised to make a deep playoff run.

The Celtics shot .561 from the field as the 76ers provided little defensive resistance throughout the game; there were several live ball turnovers after which Embiid and/or Harden did not even reach halfcourt before Boston scored or at least attempted a high percentage shot. As Jeff Van Gundy often says, horses trot but players run. You can rest assured that when a team's two highest profile players do not consistently put forth effort on defense that infects the whole team. The 76ers have a lot of talent, and that will enable them to win a decent amount of regular season games, particularly in a league where several teams are tanking--but there is still no reason to believe that this group has the right mentality or will develop the necessary habits to win a playoff series against an elite team. Harden scored 35 points--his single-game high as a 76er--on 9-14 field goal shooting; he looks to be in good shape physically, and he also looks to be primarily focused on what he can do offensively from an individual standpoint, as opposed to what he can do to maximize his team's chances to win a championship. Embiid finished with 26 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, and six turnovers; people who only look at individual numbers will say that Embiid and Harden are on their way to All-NBA caliber seasons, while people who understand the game will recognize that the 76ers still look like a team that will not advance past the second round of the playoffs.  

I would agree with anyone who says that broad conclusions should not be made based on one game, but I would also say (with a nod to Aristotle) that you are what you repeatedly do; the habits formed early in the season provide an indicator of the identity that a team has (or is forming). The Celtics have championship-level habits, which is why they have reached the Eastern Conference Finals four times and the NBA Finals once in the past six years; the 76ers do not have championship-level habits, and that is why--rather than "tanking to the top," as one writer erroneously asserted--they annually fail to advance past the second round of the playoffs.

In the nightcap, the Golden State Warriors received their 2022 NBA championship rings, and then they reminded everyone the difference between being a contender and being a pretender as they routed the L.A. Lakers, 123-109. I don't have a problem with LeBron James chasing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's regular season career scoring record, but James should just admit that the main reason he is playing now is to surpass that mark: his Lakers are not built to win a championship, and James is not playing like a player whose main goal is to win a championship. In the first quarter, James scored three points on 1-5 field goal shooting while posting a -8 plus/minus number as the Warriors led 25-22.

The Warriors led 59-52 at halftime despite shooting just .420 from the field. Stephen Curry (16 points on 5-13 field goal shooting) and Jordan Poole (10 points on 3-7 field goal shooting) were the only Warriors who scored in double figures. Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 15 points while shooting 6-13 from the field, while James added 14 points on 5-15 field goal shooting. Russell Westbrook contributed 11 points on 5-8 field goal shooting and he had the best plus/minus number among the Lakers' starters (-1). At halftime, Barkley succinctly summarized the Lakers with three points: (1) They stink, (2) Davis and James are just out there having fun and getting meaningless numbers, and (3) the Lakers have scapegoated Westbrook to the point that they have stolen from him the joy of playing basketball. Barkley emphasized how much he respects Westbrook, and how upset he is about how Westbrook has been mistreated since joining the Lakers last season.

The Warriors are well known for obliterating their opponents in the third quarter, and this game was no exception as they built a 27 point lead (91-64) before settling for a 91-71 advantage heading into the fourth quarter. The Lakers never threatened in the fourth quarter, and their much-ballyhooed new defense is still a work in progress, to put it charitably. Curry scored a game-high 33 points on 10-22 field goal shooting, while Andrew Wiggins chipped in 20 points, six rebounds, and four assists. Klay Thompson added 18 points in 20 minutes, and Poole finished with 12 points. Green tallied a "triple single" (four points, five rebounds, and five assists), and his plus/minus number (+12) ranked fourth among the Warriors' five starters.

James continued to pad his scoring numbers in the fourth quarter while the Lakers never pulled to within closer than 12 points. James finished with a team-high 31 points, a game-high 14 rebounds, and a game-high eight assists. Those numbers are remarkable for anyone, let alone a nearly 38 year old veteran of 20 seasons--but those numbers also look and feel like "empty calories" in the context of the flow of the game and from the perspective of the Lakers trying to win a title. James is not playing much defense (he had no steals and no blocked shots in 35 minutes), and he attempted three more field goals than any other player on either team; he was never a pass-first player, and he sure is not a pass-first player now. James shot 12-25 from the field and 3-10 from three point range. Is his shot selection based on controlling the pace of the game, slowing down the Warriors and maximizing the Lakers' offensive efficiency, or is his shot selection based on making sure that he averages 28-30 ppg to catch Abdul-Jabbar as soon as possible? 

Davis managed to avoid injury, but he also managed to avoid having any discernible, meaningful impact on the game. He had 27 points on 10-22 field goal shooting, six rebounds, zero assists, and a game-worst -21 plus/minus number. 

Westbrook scored 19 points on 7-12 field goal shooting, he grabbed 11 rebounds, and he dished for three assists, but as I type these words someone is splicing together a clip of his four turnovers and his airball three pointer to "prove" that Westbrook is the Lakers' biggest problem. James had five turnovers and seven missed three pointers, but those 12 squandered possessions will be ignored by the mainstream media and on social media.

There is no denying James' talent and his durability, but it is interesting to look at his championship impact during his era compared to the championship impact of other great players: George Mikan dominated the late 1940s/early 1950s while winning five titles, Bill Russell dominated in the 1950s and 1960s while winning 11 titles in 13 seasons, Julius Erving won three titles in a 10 year span (more than any other star player from 1974-83), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won six titles during his 20 year career, Magic Johnson won five titles in a nine year span, Michael Jordan won six titles in an eight year span, Shaquille O'Neal won four titles in a seven year span, Kobe Bryant won five titles in an 11 year span, and Tim Duncan won five titles in a 15 year span. Entering his 20th season, James won four titles in a nine year span, but he has never been the league's dominant winner during his career: O'Neal, Bryant and Duncan dominated the 2000s, while Stephen Curry has dominated the late 2010s/early 2020s with four titles in an eight year span. I will never understand the notion that the greatest player of all-time conversation is limited to just Jordan versus James--because it is far from clear that James surpassed Bryant, O'Neal, or even Duncan in the post- Jordan era.

Curry's place in history is interesting to evaluate. He was clearly the second best player behind Kevin Durant on two of his four championship teams, but he has also been an All-NBA caliber player for all four of his championship teams. One comparison that comes to mind is John Havlicek. Havlicek won eight championships, but Bill Russell was the best player on six of those teams, and Havlicek earned just one Finals MVP (the award did not exist during Havlicek's first six championship seasons, but he would not have won the award during any of those NBA Finals had the Finals MVP been given out in the 1960s). I would argue that Havlicek was a better all-around player than Curry--Havlicek was bigger and stronger, and Havlicek was elite at both ends of the court while Curry is only elite offensively. As great as Havlicek was, no one has seriously suggested that he was the greatest player of all-time or even the greatest player of his time, but he did make the 11 player 35th Anniversary Team selected in 1980. Since 1980, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Giannis Antetokounmpo have all surpassed Havlicek, so if one buys the premise that Havlicek was better than Curry then it is difficult to accept the notion that Curry should be ranked in the all-time top 10. One of the problems is that many people who do such rankings (1) lack historical knowledge/context and (2) are not consistent with the standards that they apply. 

I have followed James' career from the start--and attended many of his games in person during his first stint in Cleveland--and I have always found him both amazing and baffling. As great as he has been and still is, I would argue that he is missing something when being compared to the dominant winners such as Russell, Abdul-Jabbar, Magic, Jordan, and Bryant. Russell went 11-1 in the NBA Finals, Abdul-Jabbar went 6-4, Magic went 5-4, Jordan went 6-0, and Bryant went 5-2. James' Finals record is 4-6. That is not terrible, and I know that some people would argue that James should not be "punished" for supposedly carrying inferior teams to the NBA Finals (though I don't give much credence to that, because one player cannot carry a team to the NBA Finals, and James has consistently had more help than many media members are willing to admit)--but is a 4-6 NBA Finals mark indicative of being so great that no player other than Jordan is even in the conversation with James? I don't buy the argument that James' longevity is being held against him; if we pretend that he retired after winning the 2016 title, then he has a 3-4 NBA Finals record and he is not close to being the leading scorer of all-time. How does pretending that the past six years did not happen help James' case for being ranked as the greatest player of all-time? 

It is foolish to try to diminish James' status to the extent of pretending that he does not belong in the greatest player of all-time conversation, but it is odd to suggest that James has clearly surpassed every player in pro basketball history with the possible exception of Jordan, because the eye test, the numbers, and historical context do not support that sweeping assertion and that casual dismissal of the accomplishments of other all-time great players.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:59 AM



At Wednesday, October 19, 2022 1:06:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Lebron convo at the end is a little weird.

You grant that one player cannot carry a team to the Finals, then in the same paragraph blast Lebron's Finals record as if it is primarily his fault.

I don't think relative Finals record is a good way to rank folks. Different teammates, different opponents. I don't think Kobe or Magic or even MJ is beating those Warriors teams he lost to either, for instance. Flip side, if you pair him up with Kareem or Shaq or Pippen for nine years they probably do pretty rock solid in the Finals, too.

I think Lebron's case, and I don't mean I'm the one making it 'cause my vote is Kareem, but I think his case is that nobody else has ever really been this good this long. He's been an All-NBA level guy for what, eighteen years now? Even Kareem and Duncan and Kobe topped out at like 15.

If we agree that one guy doesn't determine whether a team makes it to or wins the Finals, then we have to look at the other stuff. Lebron's got the numbers and the tenure, even if a couple of the other guys have more jewelry.

At Wednesday, October 19, 2022 2:18:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Curry/Havlicek comp feels pretty applesy orangsy to me.

Yeah, both guys won with an MVP-level guy and then also without him, but the difference is that Curry was clearly the apex predator on 4/6 GSW Finals teams whereas you can't really find a Finals year where Hondo was definitely their best guy. Yeah he lost Russell but he didn't start winning again until he got Cowens who's another MVP-level center. A weaker than most MVP maybe but still a guy I think we can all agree is miles ahead of Draymond Green or Klay Thompson. And those Celtics had other guys at that Klay/Dray level too like Jojo White, Paul Silas, Charlie Scott. They're closer to the KD teams in total talent than they are to the '15 or '22 versions. And they won in a league that was watered down by over-rapid expansion and the ABA too.

If your science on Havlicek being better than Curry is that both are elite on offense but Havlicek is better on defense I guess that's internally consistent but I'd have to suggest both that the gap on offense is still a chasm and that individual offense matters more than individual defense.

Like, Havlicek is a modestly efficient low-20s scorer. Curry is a ludicrously efficient high 20s to 30s a game scorer.

It's like saying Pippen is better than Bird or Magic because they're both good on offense but Pippen's better on defense.

Yeah, Pippen's a great offensive player. So's Hondo. But there are levels to this spit and Curry's probably the best scoring PG the league has ever seen.

At Wednesday, October 19, 2022 7:50:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


You may have misunderstood my point about one player not being able to carry a team to the NBA Finals. My point is that James had (and has) more help than many media members suggest. He had enough help to reach the NBA Finals 10 times, and his winning percentage in those series is not great.

You are right that context matters, but suffice it to say that I believe that if LeBron were as great as his supporters suggest then with the supporting casts he has had he should have won more than four titles. Regarding some of the specific examples you cited, I will just say that the 2008 Celtics team that Kobe beat with one All-Star teammate is better than any of Golden State's teams.

I agree--and have said--that LeBron has been great for longer than most if not all players in NBA history. That does not necessarily mean that he is the greatest player of all-time, let alone that he is the greatest player of all-time by the margin that some people suggest.

You mentioned LeBron's numbers. That is one of the perplexing things about LeBron. Last night his stat line was 31-14-8. On paper, that looks great. Do you think that he had a great game? Put another way, is LeBron's 31-14-8 better than Jordan's 32-6-6 or Kobe's 25-5-5? The numbers may say yes, but I'd say no. Jordan and Kobe consistently played in ways that elevated their teams. LeBron does that sometimes, but other times it looks like he is just chasing numbers (as Barkley said). LeBron complained after the game that the Lakers don't have many great shooters. What would a smart leader do if he knew that his team lacks shooting and thus may not be great in the halfcourt? He would emphasize playing defense and scoring in transition. LeBron, Davis, and Westbrook could be lethal in transition--but LeBron does not want to run up and down the court, because this may limit his scoring, rebounding, and assist numbers. LeBron wants to walk the ball up the court and decide who shoots the ball (preferably either himself, or someone who he passed to so he gets the assist).

At Wednesday, October 19, 2022 8:25:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


There is no doubt that Havlicek was significantly better than Curry defensively. Havlicek was also much more durable not just in terms of missing fewer games but also in terms of playing more mpg.

So, let's consider offense (and rebounding).

Havlicek's peak season averages (not all in the same season) were 28.9 ppg, 7.5 apg, and 9.0 rpg. Curry's peak season averages thus far (not all in the same season) are 33.0 ppg, 8.5 apg, and 6.0 rpg. Havlicek did not have the benefit of the three point shot, which would have helped him not only if he made them but also by spreading the court for his cuts and drives. On offense, Havlicek did not have the benefit of rules that favor perimeter players on offense in today's game (you could argue that those rules helped him on defense, but there is no evidence that he would not have been an elite defender under today's rules).

It may sound crazy to younger fans, but I don't think that Curry was much better than Havlicek offensively, and I think that a credible argument could be made that Havlicek was just as good as Curry. I think there is no doubt that Havlicek's offense is closer to Curry's offense than Curry's defense is to Havlicek's defense.

When Havlicek retired, he was considered one of the 10 or 11 greatest players of all-time, much like Curry is being mentioned in those conversations now.

No comparison is perfect, but I think that the Havlicek-Curry comparison is reasonable. I think that Havlicek was great but not quite Pantheon level, and I feel similarly about Curry.

At Thursday, October 20, 2022 12:39:00 AM, Anonymous A said...


Your analysis of James above is perfectly on point. It's frustrating to see on every basketball platform, fans and the media diminish all these other all-time greats, as they foolishly believe that James has surpassed them all by leaps and bounds and is on the cusp of passing Jordan once he breaks the scoring record.

He is without a doubt the greatest stat-padder of all-time, but his fans and media does not recognise this fact. He has also played with so many more All-Stars and future HOFs compared to other Pantheon players, but yet has won less championships.

I am also sick of hearing the media including past NBA players say that he is a pass first player. He is absolutely not a pass first player when you look at his career FGA and is on pace to be the all-time scoring leader. However, when we look at Bryant and Westbrook who averages less FGA than him are labelled as 'selfish gunners'. It's ludicrous!

At Thursday, October 20, 2022 3:43:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you may be remembering the 2008 Finals differently than most of us. Kobe got waxed, including a 39-point shame shower to close out the series while your boy went 7-22 with 4 turnovers, 3 boards, and 1 assist. Not exactly a moment I'd point to if I was trying to big up KB24.

If you meant the 2010 Finals, I don't think a team with a post-injury KG averaging 14 & 7, a 32 year old Paul Pierce, and a 34 year old Ray Allen was anywhere close to as good as a team with peak Curry, KD, Klay, and Dray.

Also didn't they have to play the last two games without their starting center, running out the 35 year old carcass of Sheed for 35 minutes in the clinching game?

Come on man. That was a hobbled 50 win team in a weak East that looked it, probably wouldn't even of been there if Lebron didn't take a nap, with 0 All-NBA representation. You're trying to tell me you think it was better than the '17 Warriors winning '67 games in a loaded West with three All-NBA guys (including two who combined to win the last 3 MVPs)?

I'm not making the Lebron case like I said, just quoting it. But Finals record is a sketchy way to discredit him IMO. The 2011 loss is 100% on him but the '07 and '14 losses were against maybe Duncan's best two Spurs teams with not much backup, '15 he was missing his two best guys, and '17 and '18 he was going against a 4-star team with 2 of the best 5 guys in the league on it.

You wanna kill the guy, all you really need is 2010 and 2011. But it's tough to lay most of his Finals losses at his feet IMO.

At Thursday, October 20, 2022 4:31:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You sure Lebron's played with so many more All-Stars than most Pantheon cats? Russell, Bird, and Magic pretty much spent their whole runs on Globetrotters teams. Shaq had Kobe, a better Wade than Lebron got, and that loaded Magic team. Kareem had 15 years with either Oscar or Magic, and usually those came with at least a star SF if not another guard too.

Shoot even Oscar had 19 All-Star teammates across 12 years. I think it's only Duncan and Jordan that are much behind LBJ on that count for the Pantehon crew.

It feels like Bron's had more than he has just because he's been around so long as recency bias is what it is but he's actually on the low end for active All-Star teammates. 16 total across his 18 seasons. Compare a guy like Larry who had 23 over 13 years.

Now really if you wanna be fair about it he had seven years where he had more than one All-Star or near-All-Star teammate, and he got three rings and seven Finals outta those years (and the two he lost to GSW in there are pretty hard to put on him).

And that's not even getting into All-NBA or MVP level guys. Bron's only MVP-wining teammate was the mummy of Shaq in 2010, but Kareem had All-NBA Oscar/Magic and vice versa, Kobe had Shaq and vice versa, Larry got the last year of All-Star Cowens plus McHale & Parish & DJ & Old Man Walton, West & Baylor had Wilt, Russell had Cousy, Erving had Malone, Duncan had D-Rob... it's really just Wilt and Jordan didn't get a MVP teammate (and it's not like West or Pippen were trash).

Again there's plenty of ways to knock LBJ but this is another wacky one that doesn't really bear out.

At Thursday, October 20, 2022 12:58:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Thank you! LeBron is one of the greatest players of all-time, but some of the narratives about him are baffling and frustrating, and are not fair to other great players.

At Thursday, October 20, 2022 1:15:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I wrote about both of those Finals series in depth, so clearly I know which one is which, but it is equally clear that I did a poor job of proofreading my comment before posting it (Blogger eats comments sometimes, so I type a draft and then cut/paste it, but something got lost in translation this time--which is my fault, not yours).

I will not relitigate what you called a "shame shower," but interested readers can easily search this site for my in depth commentary about the 2008 NBA Finals which the Boston Celtics won, as you correctly noted.

The point that I was trying to make was that the 2008 Celtics that beat Kobe's Lakers--one of only two losses Kobe suffered in seven NBA Finals appearances--were better than any of the Warriors' recent championship teams. You are correct that the 2010 Celtics were not as good as the 2008 Celtics. I would say that the 2010 Celtics were better than you suggest, but I don't want to argue the context of every NBA Finals, particularly concerning NBA Finals about which I have already stated my opinions and analysis at great length.

In other words, I agree with you that context matters when looking at NBA Finals won-loss records, but I am not convinced that a detailed, nuanced examination of context helps LeBron as much as you seem to think it does. If the argument is that LeBron is far and away the best player ever, then with the help LeBron had and the opposition he faced he should have won more than he did.

Another factor that must be considered is that LeBron has played a much larger role in building his supporting casts than most of his great predecessors have. To the extent that one argues that his supporting casts were not good enough, LeBron has to be held at least partially responsible. Also, until very recently LeBron insisted on re-signing for no more than one year at a time; this undoubtedly increased his leverage/power, but it also hindered his team's ability to sign star players who were reluctant to join a team to which LeBron was not fully committed.

Also, LeBron's Finals record is not the only factor that I consider when ranking him or any other player. There are many articles on this site explaining in great detail how I would compare LeBron to Kobe, Jordan, and other Pantheon players. West and Baylor have much worse Finals records than LeBron but they are in my Pantheon. It is clear that my rankings are not based on Finals records alone. However, anyone who insists that LeBron is clearly the greatest player of all-time must be prepared to explain LeBron's Finals record, his quitting in 2010 and 2011, and the fact that the individual statistics of most of his All-Star teammates decline when playing alongside him as opposed to playing without him. Again, those are not the only factors, but they are significant factors.

LeBron is great, but he is also baffling. I wrote that about him early in his career, and I feel the same way now as he nears the end of his career.

At Thursday, October 20, 2022 1:34:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


A can speak for himself if he so chooses, but I would just note that in earlier eras the NBA had fewer teams and the great teams had more stars. So, yes, it is true that Kareem had Oscar and Magic, but he also faced teams in the NBA Finals that had multiple HoFers/top 50 Players. Going back further, in the 1960s, even the bad teams often had at least one HoFer, and the good teams had multiple HoFers.

During LeBron's era, the league has expanded, the teams are watered down, and many teams are tanking (which gives the good teams easy wins during the regular season). Relative to his era, LeBron has had excellent supporting casts. LeBron also benefits from playing in an era during which rules changes and style of play changes have reduced the impact of dominant post players. Until the late 1980s, most championship teams had an HoF center. LeBron has never played with an HoF center in his prime but he also generally has not had to beat an HoF center in his prime to win a title. It is worth remembering that LeBron's Finals head to head record against Duncan--the most dominant post player LeBron faced in the NBA Finals--is 1-2. LeBron's fans have this fantasy that if LeBron had played in the 1970s or 1980s he would have won many titles, but I would argue that unless he played with an HoF center he might not have won any titles during that era; I see no evidence that LeBron would have done any better in the Finals against (healthy) Walton, Kareem, Parish, or Moses Malone than he did against Duncan.

At Thursday, October 20, 2022 2:10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like we all but agree that Finals record is a silly way to judge somebody.

On the second topic, I'm not one of those people that thinks Lebron woulda done better back when for the obvious reasons you mentioned.

I think that Lebron did as well as he did partly as because he played his whole career in a weak East... but then Magic played his whole run in a weak West, so he's not alone there, either.

While it's true the Celtics and Sixers also had a ton of talent, LA still had way more-than-average HoFers for their era.

Using 1982 as a test case, the Lakers had three HoF starters, another All-Star level starter in Nixon, and both a DPOY-level defender and a former MVP off the bench.

The next best team in their division had one HoF player (Sikma), two other borderline All-Stars (Williams & Shelton), and a bunch of role players.

The best team in the other Western division had one true HoFer (Gervin), a fringe All-Star, and a bunch of role players.

The Lakers pretty much had a runway in their conference that whole era even moreso than Lebron did; Lebron at least had to deal with the Three Party Celtics for the first half of his run.

Bird and Erving at least had to beat each other up, but I think it's pretty obvious that throughout the early 80s the team's with the best 2-10 guys even absent their megastars were LA, Boston, and Philly.

So, I don't really think Lebron had way more help even adjusting for era. He had seven years with two star-level teammates in an era where every team that's won the title since 2012 (arguably 2011 if we wanna be charitable to Chandler & Kidd) has three star-level players except for his own 2020 Lakers squad.

Really, Kobe's Lakers are the only other team since Duncan's '03 Spurs didn't have at least three star-level dudes.

You wanna get era-specific, most of the big winners had way more help than their competition. How many teams did MJ have to play with two Top 30 all-time guys (plus a third star) on 'em? How many teams did Russell run up against had even half as many HoFers as he did?

There are exceptions, mostly second-stage Kobe and mid-stage Duncan, but generally speaking the guys who win a lot of rings are guys who are both great and have over-loaded teams around 'em.

Lebron's great, he had some really good teams, but I'd say maybe only 2-3 "overloaded" ones that were meaningfully ahead of the rest of the league's contending class in the early Heat days before Wade slowed down. 2010 and 2011 are on him, but outside of those years I think he won about as much as you'd expect his teams to win given their makeup and level of competition, and most of those years I don't think there's a Pantheon guy you can hot-swap in that changes those outcomes.

Anywho, A's original claim was that Lebron had way more help than other Pantheon guys, and I think that's demonstrably bunk both in terms of sheer number of star/All-NBA/MVP teammates and relative to era.

At Thursday, October 20, 2022 3:15:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I never asserted that Finals record is the best or only way to judge a player.

In this article, I noted that James' Finals impact does not match the Finals impact of the top champions of previous eras such as Mikan, Russell, Kareem, etc.

Finals record matters, but it is not the only factor that matters, and there are contextual nuances to consider when evaluating any factor.

It is not "silly" to consider Finals record, assuming that a player had a good enough supporting cast to reasonably expect to reach the NBA Finals and win championships. LeBron checks off both boxes, so his 4-6 record is worth discussing. Great players who did not have sufficient supporting casts should not have their Finals record (or lack of Finals appearances) held against them.

The 1982 Lakers is an interesting choice for comparing eras. I think that is one of the most underrated teams of all-time, not only as one part of the Lakers' 1980-88 run of five titles in nine seasons but also as one of the best single-season teams of all-time. They went 10-2 to close out the regular season, swept their first two playoff series 4-0 each and beat the 76ers in Philadelphia in game one of the Finals. The 76ers won game two at home but the Lakers won three of the next four (all by at least 10 points) to claim the title.

Julius Erving's 76ers won two Finals games against the 1982 Lakers. The 1982 76ers had one All-Star other than Erving (Bobby Jones), though Maurice Cheeks and Andrew Toney both made the All-Star team in 1983. How much help would LeBron have needed to win two games against the 1982 Lakers? How much whining would LeBron have done about his supporting cast? Would LeBron have just quit like he did in 2010 and 2011 when he thought the task was too difficult?

I would favor the 1982 Lakers in a seven game series against most of the teams from the next 40 years. To me, the point is not so much about how much help LeBron has had or not had but that LeBron is playing in a less competitive era and he still did not emerge as the dominant champion of the past 20 years. Put Erving in this era with LeBron's supporting casts, and I could easily see Erving winning at least five titles. Put LeBron in Erving's era with Erving's supporting casts, and I don't see LeBron winning any more than Erving did, and possibly less (not sure that LeBron would have won in 1976 with the supporting cast that Erving had).

I find it odd that so many people act like Michael Jordan set a record by winning six titles, and that any player who wins six titles now could equal or surpass Jordan's all-time great status. The record for NBA titles is 11, set by Bill Russell. Kareem won six NBA titles before Jordan did. I do not believe in pure "ring counting" to determine the all-time pecking order, but anyone who does believe in that has to compare LeBron, Curry, and any other modern player first to Russell, and then move down the line.

At Thursday, October 20, 2022 4:01:00 PM, Blogger beep said...

I think one of the reasons LBJ didn't have as many All-Stars while other great HoFers had is, he makes his teammates play worse or at least suppresses their potential underutilizing them, while other greats make their teammates more involved, so their teammates can reach higher, even become All Stars.
Another factor is, players who spend more seasons together develop connection and certain chemistry, which helps them growth and play better together. Jumping teams didn't help LeBron's case, he managed more to alienate players than to develop a good sidekick. Him throwing his teammates under the bus, and the "all about me" stance had its impact. And he pretty much cherry picked his teams after he left Miami, so that is more on him too.

Just look at the Warriors, they are clearly better than the sum of their parts, which is also the reason why it's hard to place Curry on the map of greats.

At Thursday, October 20, 2022 5:22:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, I think five is probably about how many Erving would get with Lebron's crews, because he'd pick up the one in 2011 Bron fumbled. But I think 5 is about where most Pantheon level dudes would end up with his Finals casts. I don't think Erving or Magic or Kobe or Oscar or whoever is winning in '15 with no Kyrie or Love, and I don't think they're winning in '17 or '18 or '07 either. I think they still lose in '14, too, but I'm higher on that San Antonio team than some.

Some of 'em aren't winning the ones he got in 2020 or 2016, either, IMO.

Beep, you hit on a bunch of the actually good reasons to knock Lebron. I agree with your first two paras. My objections were to the idea he's had way more help than other dudes (provably false) or that his Finals record is a good way to evaluate him when at least four of his Finals were more-or-less unwinnable scenarios IMO.

I'm less sure that Curry's not on "the map of greats" but I know this is the wrong blog to plead his case, at least for now. I think right now he's a fringey case for a Top 15/Pantheon type, but he's got time yet to bolster it.

But I'd still personally already put his resume up against some of the other lower-end Pantheon cats, and if he tacks on a couple more great seasons, maybe wins some more rings and maybe another MVP his CV is gonna comp pretty well against anyone short of the MJ/Russell/Kareem top of the mountain crew.

At Thursday, October 20, 2022 7:36:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I agree with your takes about LeBron's team-hopping and the way that his game often holds his teammates back.

I evaluate players based on skill set, and thus--for reasons that I have explained in depth in other articles--I do not rank Curry as a Pantheon-level player.

At Thursday, October 20, 2022 7:59:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


By stating that Erving and other Pantheon-level players would have won five titles with LeBron's supporting casts you are reinforcing the point that I made in my article: LeBron's championship resume does not establish him definitively as even the greatest player of the post-Jordan era, let alone the greatest player of all-time. I agree with you that Erving is probably not the only Pantheon-level player who would have won at least five titles with LeBron's supporting casts, and that is why it is--to use your word--"silly" that so many people proclaim LeBron to be the greatest player of all-time. You agree with me that LeBron has not done any more with his supporting casts than any of the other top 10 players of all-time would have done.

LeBron is the most durable player among the top 15-20 greatest players of all-time (go further down the list and one could argue that he is not more durable than Karl Malone or John Stockton), but in terms of skill set, mentality, and impact on winning he is elite but not the absolute best.

Regarding Curry being top 15, forget for a moment about the 14 players in my Pantheon. What is the credible case for arguing that Curry is greater than (in no particular order) Moses Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Rick Barry, or John Havlicek? I would not take Curry over Antetokounmpo or Durant, either. There are some other players I could list as well but unless Curry passes every single player in my Pantheon plus those six he is not in the top 20 all-time. Curry has more championships than each of the six players who I listed, but if it is "silly" to rank players based on Finals record then let's ignore that and talk about skill set, mentality and impact.

For the record, I am not saying that the six players listed above are my players ranked 15-20, but I am just using them as examples of non-Pantheon players who have credible cases to be ranked ahead of Curry.

I like Curry's game very much, and I was a big fan of his father Dell back in the day; it is easy to verify that by going through the archives of my articles. Curry is an all-time great, but recency bias and other factors have led to him being a bit overrated (in terms of being spoken about as top 10 all-time when he is more realistically top 25 or so).

At Thursday, October 20, 2022 8:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 2 (Curry/Hondo comment) here.

I think if you want to really compare guys like Hondo and Curry offensively, raw numbers aren't the optimal way to do it, in part for the factors you mention. I think the two useful things to look at for that to get a closer to apples comp are pace and relative-to-their-era.

Let's start with pace.

For Hondo's best scoring season (28.9), his team had 120 possessions per game. For Curry's (32), 102. But if we look at their per 75 numbers to normalize that a little (little bit of pocket math required here for Hondo, but it's easy enough pocket math: use their minutes/48 x pace to figure out how many possessions they were roughly on-court for, and then use that to solve for Per 75), here's how it looks:

Hondo: 19.1
Curry: 35

Not actually close. Hondo's big scoring numbers were more a function of getting to take a lot of shots more than necessarily being deadly efficient in making them.

Now you can argue that maybe Curry couldn't play as many minutes in Hondo's era because the pace is higher or Hondo couldn't be as effective in Curry's because of reduced physicality/increased size/athleticism, whatever. Not really the point, we're just trying to factor out pace on the actual numbers.

You're going to see similar results with rebounding or assists, too, based on the same data, with Curry's going up or staying roughly the same and Havlicek's going down.

More interesting to me though is relative efficiency. You're right that it's tough to directly compare Hondo's in a no-threes era to Curry's in a three era, but we can see how efficient they were relative to the era they played.

In Curry's best scoring season, his eFG% was .605 and his TS% was .655 vs. league averages of .538 and .572. So he was just under 7% ahead of average on eFG% and just over 8% ahead of average on TS%.

For Hondo's, he was at .450 eFG (just regular FG in his era) and .513 TS%. The league as a whole was at .449 eFG and .500 TS%, so he was essentially dead-average in eFG% and a little over 1% ahead of average in TS%.

And sure, his efficiency might go up if he played with the three point line, but so would everyone else's, and I don't see much evidence to suggest his would increase relative to the league at large.

If we want to do a relative comp for volume to factor our Curry being able to get more points from threes, in their two highest scoring seasons Curry led the 2nd place scorer by 0.7 PPG, and the median scorer (getting the average player PPG here is more number-crunching than I want to do since BBREF doesn't track it) by 21.6 PPG. Hondo trailed the leading scorer (he was second) by 2.8 PPG and led the median scorer by 16.

So Curry bears out as a winner there as well, clocking in at about +5.6 points further above average within his own era.

All told, it seems pretty clear Curry was a far superior scorer both in terms of volume and efficiency relative to their peers within their respective peak seasons.

Hondo did play more minutes, so there's certainly a case to be made he helped his team more that way, but it doesn't help his case as a scorer since even with significantly more opportunity in terms of minutes and possessions, he couldn't reach Curry's upper-level scoring numbers.

And hey, being a high-volume scorer on league average efficiency is super valuable! This isn't a demerit to Hondo. It just pales as a direct comp to Curry, who's a high-volume scorer on elite efficiency.

Depending on how one wants to weight rings/durability/defense there is probably a decent case to be made that Havlicek is better than Curry all-time. I don't think there's a reasonable case to be made he's really in the same league as an offensive player, though.

At Thursday, October 20, 2022 9:02:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous 2:

Thank you for taking the time to crunch those numbers, and for providing your perspective.

My perspective is that I am skeptical of the value of using pace-adjusted numbers for players who played decades apart. I am not questioning that you did the math correctly; I am questioning how meaningful the resulting numbers are. Havlicek played under different rules in a league with a smaller number of teams (hence, talent was more concentrated).

Curry has averaged just under 4 3FGM/game during his career, so any comparison should take into account that even if we assume that his shot attempts and shooting numbers would be exactly the same back in the day his scoring average would have been 4 ppg lower--so Curry's career average would have been 20.3, not 24.3, and his peak season would have been 28.0, not 32.0.

Of course, that does not tell the whole story. In Curry's era, shots from 23 feet and beyond are worth an extra point and Curry shoots those shots at such a good percentage that he must be guarded 25 or even 30 feet away from the hoop, which opens up the court for him and for his teammates. In 1970, if Curry had been shooting 30 foot jump shots at a .400 clip the defense would have been happy, and would not have chased him around out there.

We don't know how good of a three point shooter that Havlicek would or could have been, but based on his free throw percentage and his work ethic I am going to assert that he would have been an above average three point shooter--perhaps not as great as Curry, but good enough that defenders would have had to respect his long range shot, which would have opened up driving lanes for him and for his teammates.

This is why I look at skill sets more so than just pure numbers or pace-adjusted numbers. Havlicek was outstanding at moving without the ball, and he maintained his activity despite playing high minutes and being a defensive stopper. He was an excellent driver and an excellent free throw shooter. He had good range for his era. He was a superior passer, and accumulated a lot of assists in an era when assists were awarded far less liberally than they are today.

Havlicek was bigger and stronger than Curry. Havlicek played tight end in football and played both forward and guard in the NBA.

The Havlicek-Curry comparison is much closer than most casual fans may think, and is much more apt than the Jordan-Curry comparison, which Jordan wins by a comfortable margin by any reasonable, objective skill set evaluation.

At Thursday, October 20, 2022 9:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 2 again

We will have to disagree about pace-adjusting. It may be imperfect but it is much closer to "fair" than going purely off raw numbers, which are also effected by all the same external factors as the pace adjusted numbers, as well as being inflated/warped by the pace itself.

I think it's pretty clear that Curry would not be as great in an era without a three point shot, but I don't think that really factors into how great he is; we grade players on when they played, not when they didn't. A lot of older greats, particularly those who were slower laterally (Moses, Shaq, Magic, Bird) would be much more vulnerable on defense if they played in the switch-heavy modern game, but I don't think that plays into where they "rank" either.

I agree with you that Curry benefits from the three, which is why I prefer the relativistic approach; Curry scores more (and more efficiently) relative to other people who have access to the three than Havlicek does relative to other people who don't.

Even if one believes that Havlicek would improve by more than those 5.6 points per game vs. his peers with a three point line, which I see no case for, I struggle to see that as terribly relevant. In the career he had, he was an above average scorer but not an exemplary one.

Within his era, there were a decent number of perimeter players who scored more than Havlicek while also doing so more efficiently, including Rick Barry, Julius Erving, Jerry West, George Gervin, and others. He was a very good offensive player but he was not one of the upper crust.

In seven healthy seasons since his ascendancy in 2015, Curry has been a Top 10 scorer six times (missing only 2018, where he was disqualified for not quite playing enough games but would have ranked seventh), and Top 5 three times. He was also 5x a Top 10 finisher (and 2x Top 1) in efficiency. His closest competition during that span would be Durant (4 Top 10 PPG finishes, 1 Top 5, 5 Top 10 efficiency finishes),
James Harden (6 Top 5 PPG finishes, 1 Top 10 efficiency season), and Lebron James (3 4 Top 10 PPG finishes, 3 Top 5, no Top 10 efficiency finishes). If you shorten the window to five years instead of eight Giannis also profiles as a strong scorer (5 Top 5 finishes, 1 Top 10 efficiency season).

Curry and Durant's volume numbers there are all the more impressive for splitting touches for three seasons, but that's neither here nor there. No one during Curry's prime has a significant statistical case for being a better scorer than he is.

Havlicek, in a smaller league and with several of the best scorers on the planet going uncounted in the ABA for much of his run (including probably the two best scorers at his position in Erving and Barry), finished Top 10 five times total, Top 5 twice, and was never in the Top 20, nor particularly close, in efficiency.

If we include the ABA teams, Havlicek's 2nd place finish drops to 4th, his 3rd place finish drops to 6th, his 8th place finish drops to 14th, and his 9th place finish drops to 14th, though of course the ABA players do benefit from the presence of a three point line.

To sum up, there is great evidence that Havlicek was a very good offensive player, but not much that he was one of the best scorers of his generation. It is difficult to make a case for him as a Top 3 scoring forward during his era, let alone a Top 3 scorer overall. It would be hard to find a seven year stretch in his career where you could credibly argue he was one of the ten best scorers in basketball (factoring in efficiency in addition to raw output), let alone the best.

Curry, meanwhile, statistically profiles as cleanly the best scorer in basketball during his peak. Statistics are not everything and a reasonable claim could be made that perhaps Durant or Lebron is a better scorer for their isolation prowess, but it is all but impossible to rank Curry any lower than third within that eight year window.

Oh my, a character limit. Stay tuned.

At Thursday, October 20, 2022 9:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Part 2/Post-script

As such, I must respectively disagree that Havlicek is in Curry's league as an offensive player. His best volume is still less than Curry's, cavernously so if any reasonable era adjustments are made or their place relative to their peers is considered, and his efficiency is unremarkable, both in a vacuum and relative to his peers. Alleging that the presence of the three point line would somehow benefit him more than his peer group enough to close that gap does not sway me.

If one attributes equal value to offense and defense (I do not), he may yet have Curry beat overall, but as purely offensive players the gap appears very wide both in terms of raw numbers and even moreso when contextualized to their respective peer groups.

At Friday, October 21, 2022 1:31:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous 2:

My skepticism about pace-adjusted numbers is not directed toward you or toward this specific example; I have been skeptical about pace-adjusted numbers for decades, ever since someone tried to argue that Michael Jordan's 37.1 ppg season was actually better than Wilt Chamberlain's 50.4 ppg season. Manipulating the actual numbers based on assumptions about pace without considering any other contextual factors does not impress me. We have no way of knowing how many points Chamberlain would have scored in the 1980s under those rules and against that competition, just like we have no way of knowing how many points Jordan would have scored in the 1960s under those rules and against that competition. If we are going to compare numbers, then we need to compare actual numbers--while considering context--and not imaginary numbers.

Specifically regarding Curry and Havlicek, any analysis that fails to take into account that Curry's scoring average is inflated by 4 ppg compared to the scoring averages of players who played before the three point shot era is not valid. If Curry played in Havlicek's era and took the exact same shots while shooting the exact same percentage then Curry would have scored 4 less ppg because all of his long distance shots would have been worth two points instead of three points. I suspect that Curry's scoring average would actually decline by more than 4 ppg because without the threat of an extra point and with the rules permitting handchecking defenders would have been able to (1) concede all of the long jumpers Curry wanted to shoot at a .400 clip and (2) play him very physically from 20 feet and in.

Havlicek averaged at least 20 ppg in eight seasons, and he ranked in the top 10 in apg in seven seasons. He could drive, shoot the midrange shot, and he was perhaps the best ever at moving without the ball. He was not only a big-time scorer but he was one of the top playmakers of his day. Curry has averaged at least 20 ppg in nine seasons, but he has ranked in the top 10 in apg just three times. His best skill is shooting the long range shot, and that skill is much more valuable now than it was in any other era. Put Havlicek in today's game with his skills, and he could easily average 30 ppg plus 8-10 apg. Put Curry in Havlicek's era, and Curry would likely have been scoring 20-25 ppg while averaging 4 or 5 apg (assists were handed out less liberally back then, and he would have fewer open passing lanes than he does now because teams could guard him more effectively because they would not have to worry about the three point shot).

In any case, my primary method of comparing players is based not on numbers but on skill set. Havlicek was without question a better defensive player than Curry. When evaluating offense, adjusting for pace without taking into account other contextual factors inevitably favors players from certain eras while discounting the value of players from other eras, and that just makes no sense. Skill set comparisons transcend eras.

At Friday, October 21, 2022 1:35:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon Prime again,

With all due respect, I'm not getting suckered into arguing with you about Curry, seen too many others take that bait. Maybe once he's retired and the concrete's dry, because right now there's a lot of story left to tell, maybe. At any rate, you don't believe in his gravity, so naturally you rank him lower than people who do, and at this point you've got your heels good and dug in on that and I don't think he'll change your mind if he wins the next five titles, next five MVPs, and then goes back in time and beats the Dream Team by his lonesome. Shoot, upthread you're arguing with the other anonymous about whether he's even a better offensive player than John Havlicek. A man saying things like that is not a man I can reasonably expect to persuade.

We can just disagree. We're not even that far off is the funny thing, I got him in that 13-20 range someplace, you got him another five or ten spots back without much chance of upward mobility. It's cool.

As for LBJ I think we are more or less on the same page about whether or not he has a legit case as the top dog, I just took issue with his Finals record being the reason he loses that race. Say he doesn't choke in 2011 and he ends up 5-5 instead of 4-6, you think the convo around him would be any different? People'd still be dogging him the same rap but I personally don't know which of those other series he was supposed to win. The three he lost to the Warriors were massive talent deficits due to injury or a certain path-of-least-resistance-seeking Easy Money Sniper stacking the deck. First one against the Spurs he played bad but it wasn't gonna matter. Take him and Duncan off the table and the best Cavs are Drew Gooden and the immortal Boobie Gibson, while the best Spurs are Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili at the peak of their powers. That was only ever gonna go the way it went. Even Kareem woulda had no shot in that series with an equivalent roster deficit.

Maybe there's a case he shoulda beat SAS in 2014 but he played pretty lights out in that series and just got no help. Shy of tossing Dwyane Wade's old ass in a Lazarus Pit I don't know what more he was supposed to do there. It ain't on him the Spurs shot 47% from deep for the series either, that's a team defense problem, but it's one that's just about impossible to survive. Without looking it up I'm thinking no modern team has won a playoff series where the other side was that nuclear from beyond.

Plenty of reasons he should rank behind, say, MJ or Kareem. I just don't think his Finals record is really one of 'em, at least outside of 2011.

At Friday, October 21, 2022 2:22:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 2 again

What we have here is a difference of philosophy. You appear to believe that since Curry would be theoretically worse in 1974 and Havlicek would be in your opinion better in 2022, that is more important than the fact that (relative to their peers) Curry in 2022 is much better than Havlicek in 1974, at least as a scorer.

I, meanwhile, do not think we should evaluate players on what they might have done if they were born in a different decade. We should evaluate them on, as you say, their skillset, as well as their performance in the decade in which they played.

You do not like pace adjusted stats because they do not incorporate additional context, but the stats you do like also do not incorporate that context.

Let us grant your premise that Curry, for comparison purposes, should have 4 points deducted, then. In that case his pace-adjusted numbers are "only" 12 points per 75 better than Havlicek's. Let's further remove another 5 for the spacing change you predict, and he outscores peak Havlicek by seven points, putting him still as far ahead of Havlicek as Havlicek was ahead of Dick Van Arsdale.

However, there is an inconsistency between your arguments. You arrived at that -4 number by assuming his percentage from that range would be unchanged but also argued that he would not be guarded that far out since the shot is not worth more. Here are Curry's shooting percentages on both "open" and "wide open" threes over the relevant seasons:

2015: 46.1/46.4

2016: 47.3/48.0

2017: 41.6/46.4

2018: 41.1/47.1

2019: 38.9/52.3

2021: 43.2/46.9

2022: 35/40.9

Some of those numbers are better than others, but more than half of them are better than John Havlicek's career FG%, so if you are correct that teams would "let him shoot them" that would probably be a mistake on the part of those teams.

Particularly the "wide open" shots, I think every coach would love any attempt with those numbers (barring 2022, where he had his little slump).

On the other hand, if they choose to guard them, that would create space for his teammates and himself much as his three point shot does today.

As for assists, it is much easier to make Top 10 in APG when you are in a 14-18 team league than in a 30 team league, as you are competing with 12-16 fewer primary ballhandlers. In roughest terms, without going year by year, a Top 10 finish now is about equivalent to a Top 5 finish then (of which Havlicek, to his credit, has two).

You say it's more impressive that Havlicek made 7 Top 10s to Curry's 3. I'd counter that, among the fraternity of each team's "best passer," most of those finishes put Havlicek around the 50th percentile (and sometimes lower). For instance, Curry ranking 15th in 2022 places him better against his peers than Havlicek ranking 9th in '68's 14 team league.

This also makes Curry's superior performance on the scoring/efficiency ladders more impressive by the same token, given he had to deal with just about twice as many competing primary scorers.

You also suggest that harsher rules and less spacing would reduce Curry's assists. But I'd counter that him making fewer passes to three point shooters (since they don't exist) and more passes towards the paint (since that's the most efficient shot in the era) might actually increase his numbers. We know Curry's an excellent passer out of the PnR, it seems a very small and reasonable jump to make to assume he might get more assists passing to a larger big with some finishing ability in the 60s or 70s than to a pass-first mini-big like Draymond in the 2010s. Tellingly his best assist season was pre-Draymond ascension, when he had David Lee as a finisher inside. I suspect we'd see a lot more of that if we trapped him in the 70s.

But then all of this cross-era hypothesizing, yours and mine, is purely subjective, as is our respective skill-set analysis.

Drat. Wordcount again.

At Friday, October 21, 2022 2:22:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Continued, briefly.

What is objective is Curry's place relative to his peers, and Havlicek's place relative to his, at least statistically. As scorers, Curry outpaces Havlicek considerably. As passers, they inhabit a similar space in their eras: somewhere in the B+/A- range, but not elite.

We will not agree on pace adjusting, and I'm sure we will not agree on how well who would play when, but I would hope we can at least agree that Curry's statistical scoring and efficiency imprint relative to his own peer group is much more impressive than Havlicek's relative to his.

At Friday, October 21, 2022 11:48:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see too many players get written about in here either get way overrated or way underrated just to make a point or poking fun at the 'stat gurus' for example. Just too many extremes.

Anyway, to Anon Prime, the finals record argument is strange to me, too. What if James didn't make the Finals those 6x he lost? Then, he's 4-0. Why would it ever be a detriment to make 6 more Finals? And being 1-2 vs Duncan isn't a detriment either. James was very young in 2007 and Duncan didn't do much in that Finals either. James outplayed Duncan in their other 2 Finals appearances.

But, I think you're off on a lot of your arguments. In 2007, nobody would expect James to win the Finals, but he played awful. If he played like his average self, that series should've been tied 2-2 at very least through 4 games. In 2009/2010, he had the best teams in the league and couldn't even make the Finals once, in a weak East. In 2011, Wade was probably the best player in the Finals with James arguably just the 4th best player getting outplayed by Terry often. Needed a lockout season in 2012 to finally win a title. A lucky play in 2013 Finals to win another. Then outplayed by a role player in 2014 Finals. Very fortunate Green was suspended a game in 2016 Finals after down 3-1 or else GS wins that likely. Covid year in 2020-Lakers aren't winning that if it's a normal season. And all their opps had serious injuries in the playoffs. Maybe not 2012, but he's very fortunate to have more than 1 title.

It's not that he's necessarily losing these Finals, it's how he's playing in a lot of them. He shouldn't be winning in 2015 as GS was just too good, but he didn't optimize his playing in that Finals and Iggy outplayed him. He's had role players outplay him in the playoffs(Leonard, Iggy, Terry) along with other guys like Rondo who definitely are elite players.

Bottomline for me, James along with Jordan are easily the 2 most overrated players ever. And can't stand James at all, but I have him as one of my 5 guys with cases for best ever. The best argument against James is that he's been ring-chasing his entire career and still only has 4 rings. 3 different super teams, always leaving for greener pastures for younger/better star teammates. And while he didn't have that great #2 in his first stint in CLE, he had great casts overall. Not sure if he'd be expected to win, but he underachieved with those casts.

At Friday, October 21, 2022 3:50:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anon Prime:

Please refrain from exaggerating my stated beliefs, and from hypothesizing about what I would say in the future if certain events happen. I have provided a lot of intelligent analysis about Curry and many other players; if you have an intelligent dissent to what I have written, feel free to provide it.

I can be persuaded by logical arguments. I am not persuaded by hype or subjective biases displayed by people who love a particular player and/or hate a particular player or supposedly objective statistical analysis that does not prove what it is purported to prove.

You are correct that I rank Curry somewhere in the Top 25-30 all-time.

I don't know what others would say about LeBron if his Finals record were 5-5 instead of 4-6. I have written thousands of words about LeBron, so the reasons that I rank him the way that I do are very clearly explained. Finals record is not my main criterion, but my point is that those who state that Finals record is important are not being intellectually honest if they rank LeBron ahead of players whose Finals records are clearly superior. I would also say that most if not all legitimate candidates for top five all-time status have better Finals records than LeBron.

I would say that you are arguing against a point about Finals records that I did not make in this article.

At Friday, October 21, 2022 4:14:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous 2:

In general, I believe the following:

1) Most younger and/or uninformed fans and commentators believe that Curry is vastly superior to Havlicek.
2) Shortly after Havlicek retired, it was credible to rank him in the top 10 or 11 all-time, and he was in fact selected to the NBA's official 11 member 35th Anniversary All-Time Team.
3) Since Havlicek retired, several players have clearly surpassed him, including but not limited to Bird, Magic, Jordan, Shaq, Duncan, Kobe, LeBron, Durant, and Antetokounmpo, relegating Havlicek to somewhere between 20th and 30th all-time.
4) Curry is frequently being mentioned now as a top 10 all-time player, with some people saying that he either is top five now or is one title away from being top five.
5) Ranking individual players is an inherently subjective process, particularly when comparing players from different eras. I reject the notion that "advanced basketball statistics" can make this an objective, precise process.
6) I rank players based on a variety of factors that I have summarized in several different articles, including this one: Revising the NBA's 50 Greatest Players List, Part I
7) People who rank players differently than I do are not necessarily wrong, but I won't be persuaded by what they say if their methods do not make sense to me.

Regarding Havlicek versus Curry, I believe that Havlicek was a vastly superior defensive player. I believe that Havlicek was much more durable both in terms of minutes played per game (which means that his team suffered less minutes with his backup on the court) and in terms of not missing games. I understand that many people are very impressed by Curry's "gravity," but I think that his "gravity" is overrated--not non-existent, but overrated. I also think that Curry's "gravity" would matter much less in the pre-three point shot era. In other words, Havlicek's game translates just fine to the current era and would likely be enhanced; at best, Curry's game would be slightly worse in the non-three point shot era.

It is indisputable that if we sent Curry back in time and he played exactly the same minutes and took exactly the same shots then he would have scored 4 ppg less, because all of his three point shots would have been worth two points. We can speculate about how his skill set may or may not have made up that difference, but that difference cannot be intelligently ignored.

I don't rank players based just on offense, and I don't evaluate offense based just on scoring, and I don't evaluate scoring based just on three point shooting. For reasons that I have already stated, I think that a credible case could be made that Curry and Havlicek are roughly the same caliber as offensive players overall. I understand that the case in Curry's favor relates to "gravity" and to Curry being a more efficient shooter.

We can agree to disagree about the rest, including how being placed in different eras would have affected the players' assist totals, etc.

At Friday, October 21, 2022 4:24:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous 2:

If you are asking me to agree that Curry is a more dominant scorer in this era than Havlicek was in his era, I agree--but that is not how I would go about ranking offensive players. Curry's dominance does not prove that he is a superior all-around offensive player to Havlicek, and it certainly does not prove that he is superior to the extent that many Curry fans may think. I can imagine that many of the popular NBA commentators would be apoplectic at the notion that Havlicek and Curry are comparable, but that is because they are looking at this in a very narrow way.

Curry is a better outside shooter than Havlicek, and Curry plays in an era during which outside shooting is emphasized, so Curry scores more than Havlicek did. Is Curry better at moving without the ball than Havlicek? Is Curry better at creating his own shot? Is Curry better at playmaking? Is Curry big enough and strong enough to withstand contact in the paint consistently the way that Havlicek did?

If someone said that, all things considered, Curry is a bit better than Havlicek offensively, I would consider that a reasonable position (though I may not agree). What I disagree with is the notion that we just look at pace and selected shooting percentage numbers, and then conclude that Curry is much better offensively than Havlicek. I don't buy it. If your point is that if Curry and Havlicek had a shooting contest from 23 feet that Curry would win, I would buy that, but I am not sure how relevant that is. I can win shooting contests against people who are better offensive players (and better overall players) than I am.

At Friday, October 21, 2022 4:34:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Since you did not cite one specific player who I have overrated or underrated--let alone provide credible evidence supporting your position--I will decline to address that part of your comment.

If LeBron did not make the Finals in years during which he clearly had teams that were good enough to make the Finals, that would not help his case. I have never looked at Finals records in a vacuum, and I have never said that Finals records are the most important criterion to me. A lot of energy and bandwidth is being spent attacking a point that I never made.

When a great player has a supporting cast that should reach the Finals he should lead that team to the Finals. If a player is touted as being vastly superior to every other player in NBA history has a reasonable supporting cast and makes it to the Finals, I would expect his purported greatness to impact the outcome of those Finals.

The careers of Kobe and LeBron overlapped for well over a decade. Kobe made the NBA Finals seven times. I don't think that it could be credibly argued that he "should" have made the Finals more than seven times. His teams went 5-2 in the NBA Finals, losing to a superior Boston team and an underrated Detroit team that was healthier than the Lakers. I would argue that Kobe maximized his opportunities to win titles (I know that others may disagree, and after debating that for over a decade during his lifetime I will just let what I wrote during that era speak for itself).

LeBron made the NBA Finals 10 times. It could be credibly argued that he "should" have made the Finals more often, most notably in 2010. His teams went 4-6 in the NBA Finals. It could credibly be argued that he should have gone at least 5-5, and possibly better than that (depending how far ahead of every other player in NBA history he is supposed to be).

LeBron's Finals appearances and championships won are used by some to buttress the argument that he is the greatest player of all-time. All I am saying is that I disagree with that method, and that conclusion.

I never said that great players should be ranked strictly based on titles won and/or Finals winning percentage.

At Friday, October 21, 2022 4:39:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Regarding Jordan and LeBron supposedly being the two most overrated players ever, I am not sure how to answer that. I rank both in my Pantheon (top 14 all-time), and even though I don't rank players within my Pantheon I have made it clear that I rank both in the top 10. If that is considered "overrating" either or both, I have no response beyond the words that I have already written about the Pantheon in general and those players in particular.

At Friday, October 21, 2022 4:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 2

I think most of what you're saying is reasonable, and I think a reasonable case that Havlicek is better than Curry could be made based on defense, durability, and longevity if one chooses to weight those factors in certain proportions.

I do not think the contention that Havlicek is a comparable offensive player to Curry is very credible, based on either their numbers or their skillsets.

You are right that offense is more than scoring, but I do not see Havlicek as having a meaningful advantage in any other offensive area except perhaps for pick-setting.

To answer some of your questions:

I believe that they, along with Reggie Miller, are two of the three best players ever at moving without the ball, and in terms of willingness/efficacy of doing so they are roughly even. However, I believe that this is much more valuable for Curry than for Havlicek because he is a much better jump-shooter than Havlicek was, so defenses must respect his off-ball movement more (or pay a higher price when they don't, even within two-point range).

I believe based on having watched them both that Curry is much better at creating his own shot, both in isolation and pick-and-roll situations. He is a considerably more gifted ballhandler and has a much wider array of scoring "moves." Havlicek has a small size advantage, but a much smaller "kit" as it were.

I think that statistically they are similar passers, though on eye-test and evaluation I would give a slight edge to Curry, mostly due to vision. To me, he identifies more high-leverage passing opportunities than Havlicek does. Put another way, both could be counted upon to make the "right" pass but Curry more often makes the "inspired" pass, in my estimation. Both are very good passers, neither bears mentioning among the truly excellent passers.

I am not sure if Curry could sustain the level of interior abuse Havlicek did or not, but Curry's game does not force him to spend nearly as much time in the paint as Havlicek's did to be effective. Even dispensing with the three point shot, Curry is one of the greatest shooters ever, and is less reliant on getting high-percentage rim shots to remain a high-percentage scorer. Additionally, he is a roughly 10% better free-throw shooter than Havlicek for their careers, so teams may be less willing to foul him in some scenarios.

I feel very comfortable in evaluating Curry as a significantly better offensive player than Havlicek, and I believe that Havlicek's pace-of-play inflating his raw numbers is the only thing that even makes it look as though they're in the same neighborhood. There is perhaps no offensive skill where I feel Havlicek has a clear advantage over Curry, but there are several where I believe Curry has an edge, and I believe his edge in one of the most important offensive skills (scoring) to be prodigious.

I am more receptive to someone claiming Curry was better overall due to longevity, durability, and defense, as you note, though I would probably still ultimately take Curry, as I believe his offense really is that good and that individual perimeter defense can only be so valuable (and while he's no Havlicek, it bears mentioning that Curry himself is a strong net positive as a positional defender), and that he has much more decisively proved that he can be the best player on a consistently contending team (I know Havlicek won and deserved the 1974 FMVP but it is fair to argue that Cowens was comparably valuable to that team, up to and including his work against Kareem in that series).

I understand why you would take Havlicek over Curry based on defense, longevity, and durability, even if I disagree. I confess I still do not truly understand the argument that you think they're comparable offensive players, but I appreciate you taking the time to discuss it with me.

At Friday, October 21, 2022 7:34:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I would put Havlicek in the same neighborhood as Curry as an offensive player without looking at any numbers, pace-adjusted or otherwise. Havlicek had no weaknesses offensively, and he was bigger and stronger than Curry. Curry is better at long range shooting and free throw shooting, but I would take Havlicek from 18-20 feet and in. Havlicek was his team's primary playmaker and, at his peak, an elite playmaker during his era. Curry is not his team's primary playmaker.

The larger point in this comparison is that Havlicek is the superior all-around player, and for that reason I would take him over Curry. There is not a way to take Curry's offense plus Havlicek's defense; you have to take players whole as they are, and I would rather have a 6-5 all-around player than a 6-3 player whose primary skill set strength is long range shooting. I would feel even more strongly about this if I were selecting a player to play in the 1960s and 1970s, but even in today's era I would take Havlicek. I am not saying that there is a huge gap, and I can understand why someone would take Curry, but I would take Havlicek.

Both players are in my top 25-30 all-time.

The larger point overall is that the correct comparisons for Curry are players like Havlicek, not Pantheon players like Jordan, Kobe, and LeBron.

At Saturday, October 22, 2022 11:12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Lebron led the league in 30-point games resulting in a loss last season with 18. The runner-up was Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Thunder who had 16. I think that that statistic, although very narrow in terms of Lebron's 20-year career, is very telling. A lot of calories.

It's funny, Michael Jordan was quite the opposite. Back in the day I remember the word was that a scoring-champion like Jordan couldn't lead his team to the championship. Before the Bulls started their string of championships the thought seemed to be that his scoring prowess and leadership were inversely correlated. Six championships later, we know better. As compared to the Lebron statistic above, I suspect that Jordan's career would reflect the very opposite, that Jordan probably led the league many times in 30-point games resulting in a win. In fact, Jordan probably has the most 30-point-game wins from a career standpoint. I wouldn't be surprised if Lebron were dead last. In fact, Lebron is going to add a lot of 30-point-game losses this year. I don't know what the record is for 30-point-game losses in a season, but I predict that Lebron will break the record this season.

At Saturday, October 22, 2022 1:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 2

Wow, I so strongly disagree with the idea that Havlicek was a better offensive player inside of 18 feet. He did most of his damage either as a jump shooter (which I think we agree Curry is better at), as an off-ball slasher, or in transition situations where his length and speed made him a very tough cover.

Against set defenses, he he had a decent pull-up he could get off over smaller defenders, though not nearly as reliably as Curry can get off his step-backs, nor as accurately. But shy of that he didn't have an especially quick first step nor a tight handle. Quite the contrary, his long arms gave him a higher dribble than many 6'5 players that often got picked off in traffic, though we lack the turnover numbers to know exactly how often. He didn't have a reliable change-of-pace or direction move off the bounce, and mostly relied on his length to get to the rim for a toss-in or finger roll, which worked ok, but not exceptionally.

The Celtics seemed to know this, and generally preferred to rely on Sam Jones or Jojo White in crunchtime against set defenses.

Curry, meanwhile, has one of the tightest handles ever, and despite his size is an elite finisher at the rim thanks to a wide away array of high-angle circus finishes and the ability to easily get by most defenders when they're forced to play up on him to honor his jumper.

While we don't have by-range numbers for Havlicek, we do know that Curry shoots .465 in the 10-16 foot range. Feels safe to assume Havlicek is worse than that, given that his career overall FG% is .439 and that is one of the lower percentage areas of the floor.

At the rim, Havlicek was probably in the 50-55% range for his career. It's possible he was higher, but the higher his rim-finishing percentage was the lower his jumper percentage would have to be in order to add up to his total FG%, and from watching him this feels like the correct ballpark. If we want to provide him some generous curving for hypothetical spacing/reduced rim protection in a 3-point era, let's say that rises to 55-60%.

At any rate, Curry finishes at a 65% clip at within three feet of the basket and a 44% clip in the 3-10 foot range, where he mostly relies on his floater and step-back.

That 65%/44% clip compares favorably with players we consider to be elite at-rim wing scorers like Dwyane Wade (66/46), Kobe Bryant (64/44), Jimmy Butler (66/41) Vince Carter (59%/41%), Kyrie (61/42), or Tracy McGrady (59/38), though it lags behind the elite jumbo-sized interior scorers who are generally in the low 70s (Shaq/Lebron/Giannis/KD/etc).

Curry may benefit slightly from a more spacious era than some of them, but he still profiles as an elite finisher within his era, and I can't find many current player Havlicek's size or smaller who puts up superior numbers relative to Curry's. Devin Booker is the only one in that size-band that's close, with virtually identical numbers, and CP3 beats him in the 3-10 range but not at-rim (62/49), but even All-NBA fixtures like Westbrook (60/35), Harden (64/38), and Lillard (58/34) lag well behind him.

Word limit

At Saturday, October 22, 2022 1:58:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 2 Cont'd

It's not until you get into the 6'7+ range you can find people who truly outshine Curry within 10 feet (Kawhi, KD, Lebron), and even then he still beats George (63/37) and is comparable to Tatum (68/38).

I think people sleep on Curry's finishing ability because his long-range shooting is so other-worldly, but he's arguably also the best sub-6'7 interior scorer in the league. His numbers even understate that a little, as unlike most of the other people on this list he gets comparatively few transition shots at the rim (which are something like a 99% proposition), since he so often prefers to look for transition 3s instead.

All that is to say, at a skill-set level the only thing I see Havlicek having as an edge scoring-wise is a two-inch height advantage, but Curry has a lot more weapons and out-performs many more robust scorers than Havlicek who have similar height advantages, so it is difficult for me to see the case for Havlicek as a better scorer at any range.

At Saturday, October 22, 2022 2:47:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I have not looked up the numbers for which players have the most 30 point performances in losses, but I agree with your general take that LeBron often seems to be putting up gaudy individual numbers that do not impact winning as much as many people may assume.

As I have often said, LeBron is paradoxical. It cannot be said that he is not a champion or does not know how to win: he has won four championships and four Finals MVPs.

Yet, an objective observer of his career must note that LeBron often plays in a way that maximizes his shine while not necessarily helping the team. I don't understand why LeBron does that despite him clearly knowing what it takes to win, and I don't understand why so many people ignore this while praising LeBron as the greatest player of all-time. In other words, if LeBron were a player who had never won anything and never shown an understanding of what it takes to win, then I would understand why he pads his stats--but he does know what it takes to win.

At Saturday, October 22, 2022 2:53:00 PM, Anonymous Bostonymous said...

Hey, Celtics fan here. Fun debate!

Hondo's maybe my favorite Celtic ever behind The Hick, so I just wanna add a few things to the stew.

I would no hesitation take Hondo over Curry, and not just for bias. Curry is better for one game or maybe a playoff sereis but Hondo's gonna be there every game, every series, every season. Best ability is availability and Hondo was always available. When Curry has 16+ healthy years under his belt, maybe we can talk. By my count he's only ten or so away.

But I gotta mostly side with Curry on the "who's a better scorer" argument. We were always better when Hondo was scoring 20 than when he had to go for 30. Scoring wasn't what was great about him. It was the Swiss Army Knife thing. He could give us twenty when we needed it sure but he could also be the passer or the cutter or the screen-setter or chase the other side's point guard around until the guy was gassed out and sucking wind on the bench. He could get 10 boards if we needed them or 10 assists or 5 steals. No matter what the question was, Hondo could be the answer. He was matchup proof.

Propping him up like he was some kind of superstar scorer misses what was special about him. He wasn't that guy but he didn't need to be. What he was instead was better for the Celtics anyway.

Could he have been that guy on another team? Maybe. I don't really think so. He didn't have quite enough scoring touch but even if he did I think he was too unselfish.

You put him today I don't think his scoring changes much. I think his assists go way up. I think his shooting percentage improves like anybody's would. But he wasn't that hungry for his own shot. And the extra space today doesn't just open up scoring lanes it opens up passing lanes and that was always more where his heart was. He was sort of the original point forward.

I think 2022 Hondo is less a 30+ guy and more a 22/11 guy. He'd win more that way and that's what he really cared about.

At Saturday, October 22, 2022 2:57:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I don't understand your analysis of Havlicek's shot selection and offensive skill set.

I would agree that Curry's ball-handling is prettier, flashier, and smoother looking than Havlicek's. This is a function of the evolution of the game, the evolution of how the game is covered, also just different personal/team styles.

How something looks and how effective something is are two different things.

It is no secret that Curry specifically and the Warriors in general often commit careless turnovers. I see no evidence that Havlicek was more turnover prone than Curry.

The greatness of Sam Jones and Jo Jo White in clutch situations does not mean that Havlicek was not great in clutch situations. Havlicek made his fair share of clutch plays at both ends of the court, including perhaps the most famous steal in NBA history.

I seem to recall the Warriors going to Klay Thompson in at least a few clutch situations, including against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the last playoff series before Durant left the Thunder and joined the Warriors. Speaking of Durant, when Curry played alongside Durant it was obvious that Durant was the main threat, as we can see by Durant winning Finals MVP in both championship seasons.

I am not in any way trying to diminish what Curry accomplished. I have even conceded that it is reasonable to assert that Curry is a bit better than Havlicek offensively. I am not convinced that the difference is nearly as great as you believe.

At Saturday, October 22, 2022 3:04:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


That is a reasonable take, and thank you for your perspective as a Boston fan/Havlicek fan.

There is no doubt that Curry has been the more prolific scorer (24.3 ppg career, three 30-plus ppg seasons compared to Havlicek's 20.8 ppg career, 28.9 ppg peak season). My point is that if you subtract 4 ppg for Curry's three point shots and then consider some contextual factors the gap is not quite as large as it may seem at first glance.

I would say that if Havlicek played under today's rules his career scoring average would have been higher, and he would have had at least one 30 ppg season.

I agree that his versatility and his willingness/ability to impact the game in multiple ways are what distinguish him from Curry more than just a straight up comparison of them as scorers or even a comparison of their overall abilities on offense.


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