This first appeared in the Sept. 10 edition of The Washington Post’s NBA newsletter, the Monday Morning Post Up. You can subscribe by clicking here.
This year’s Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class — which included Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Ray Allen and Grant Hill — was about as star-studded as the Hall will ever see. The same can be said for the projected class in 2020, which will include Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, all of whom retired in 2016.
Next year will be different. There are no obvious first-time candidates, as Kidd, Nash and Allen were this year, and Bryant, Duncan and Garnett will be in 2020. But that doesn’t mean the Hall will refrain from adding anyone to its ranks.
Instead, the choice will come from a collection of candidates whose profiles vary, and whose cases are individually compelling but complicated. Here’s a quick look at several, and how their candidacies may unfold (all stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com).
1. Shawn Marion
The do-it-all combo forward likely would’ve been more appreciated had he come along just a few years later, given his exemplary advanced statistics.
Those aren’t his only compelling ones, though. He is one of only 15 players (including another on this list) who averaged at least 15 points per game as well as one assist, one steal and one block. He made four all-star teams and was twice a third-team all-NBA selection. He also has the most win shares (124.9) of any player eligible for enshrinement.
It also probably won’t hurt Marion that his best days came during the heyday of Nash’s Phoenix Suns, who happen to be a team close to the heart of the man running the Hall of Fame, Jerry Colangelo. But that should take nothing away from the strength of Marion’s candidacy.
In a star-studded year, he would very well have to wait his turn. But given the dearth of clear-cut candidates in 2019, he could find himself making it as a first-time nominee.
2. Chauncey Billups
The first of two members of the 2004 champion Detroit Pistons to make this list, Billups could be the first one enshrined in Springfield, Mass. Not only was Billups the Finals MVP, he also was a five-time all-star, made three all-NBA teams (one second, two thirds), earned two second-team all-defense nominations and was a beloved teammate. He is second to Marion in win shares (120.8).
More importantly, as time passes the outlier nature of that Pistons team becomes more and more apparent. Given that, the team will need someone to serve as its face in Springfield. Billups, the point guard and unquestioned leader, is a natural fit. Whether he’s the most deserving honoree from the group is another matter. (More on that in a bit.) But it wouldn’t be the first time those paths diverged on the way to the Hall.
3. Tim Hardaway
Hardaway has been a finalist previously, and next year’s class could serve as his opportunity to make it. He’s a five-time all-star and a five-time all-NBA selection, including a first-team selection in 1997. He was part of iconic teams in Golden State (the other two members of “Run-TMC,” Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond, already have been enshrined) and Miami. He even had an iconic move: his crossover, which routinely left defenders grasping at air.
Injuries did limit Hardaway to less than 900 games, hurting some of his counting stats. But his overall résumé — including averages of 17.7 points and 8.2 assists — is hard to ignore.
4. Chris Webber
It’s confusing, frankly, that Webber isn’t in the Hall already. He was a sensational player — the 1994 rookie of the year, a five-time NBA all-star, a five-time all-NBA player — who was part of not one, but two iconic teams. Webber led the Sacramento Kings of the early 2000s and was the star of the Fab Five at Michigan in the early 1990s. He is the other player, along with Marion, to have averaged at least 15 points and one assist, steal and block per game.
So why isn’t he in there yet? It’s hard to say. Some have attributed it to the legacy of his time at Michigan, his ties to booster Ed Martin and the banners for those Final Four teams being taken down. Still, that should end next year.
If it doesn’t? Well, Webber’s wait to be enshrined might get awfully long.
5. Ben Wallace
Perhaps the most difficult candidate to judge on this list, Wallace was the best defensive player in the NBA over a five-year stretch in the middle of the 2000s but was fairly pedestrian before and after.
Those middle five years, though, may be enough to put Wallace in the Hall of Fame. He made four all-star teams and five all-NBA teams, was a first team all-defense selection five times in a row and won the league’s defensive player of the year award in 2002, ’03, ’05 and ’06.
And, like Billups, Wallace could be looked at as the face of those great Pistons teams, which not only won the title in 2004 and went back to the Finals in 2005 but made it to six straight Eastern Conference finals from 2003 through 2008.
6. Sidney Moncrief
Moncrief has become emblematic of the 1980s Milwaukee Bucks on a couple of levels. He was terrific. But like his teams, he has been somewhat lost to history because other teams of that era — the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Pistons — overshadowed the Bucks, preventing them from breaking through in the East.
Still, Moncrief has a strong case. He made five straight all-star teams from 1982-86 and was either first- or second team all-NBA in all five of those seasons as well. He was one of the best defensive players of his era, earning four straight first-team all-defense selections and winning the defensive player of the year award in 1983 and ’84.
Perhaps those credentials will be given more credence next year, when there will be ample room in the spotlight.
7. Kevin Johnson
Injuries took as much out of Johnson’s career as anyone on this list — he played only 735 games, the fewest of any of these players. But when Johnson was on the court, he was a terrific player.
His résumé is strong. He was a three-time all-star and a five-time all-NBA selection. He’s one of five retired players to finish his career with more than 9.0 assists per game. The others — Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, John Stockton and Isiah Thomas — are enshrined in Springfield.
Like Marion, Johnson, who has been a finalist on multiple occasions, could benefit from Colangelo’s presence: He was the star point guard of the early 1990s Suns under Colangelo’s watch. He also played a role in helping keep the Sacramento Kings in California’s capital city earlier this decade when he was serving as the city’s mayor.
Whether allegations of sexual misconduct have any impact on Johnson’s candidacy remains to be seen.
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