(Editor’s note: We’ve added Embiid to the previously omitted 2021-22 scoring championship nomination.)
Nikola Jokic is a Hall of Famer.
Well, technically, not yet. But he will.
(Wait a minute Rob, this sounds familiar.<ሊንኩን ጠቅ ያድርጉ>> Are you copying from last year on purpose? I mean…) Well, I’ll try to borrow from the best. Last year, I theorized that if Milwaukee Bucks Greek God powerhouse Giannis Antetokounmpo retired before last season, he would be a future surefire lock for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. So, what is this,…
Is this Rob?
What Jokic is buying right now is an apology to the back-to-back MVP, for not writing in last year’s piece that he should be a lock for the Hall of Fame. Because – based on my own measurements – I should have included it in the locker, and I didn’t. (I’ll explain why a little further on.) My bad Nicola.
It felt good, didn’t it?
He did, a fictional narrative foil, he did. And now that’s out of the way, let’s get to the business at hand: revisiting my take on Jokic as a lock and how we got here.
In the opening article, I noted that there are four future accomplishments that warrant an NBA player’s election to the Hall of Fame: MVP, Finals MVP, winning streak, and top 50 all-time career points.
Every Hall-eligible NBA MVP is in Springfield, Mass. Every Hall-eligible NBA single-season scoring champion is in the Hall, except one: Max Zaslofsky. Each Hall-eligible NBA Finals MVP, two sets (Cedric Maxwell and Chauncey Billups). Every NBA Hall of Famer eligible top-50 scorer except Tom Chambers (20,049) and Antoine Jamison (20,042) has been awarded. (Don’t look now, but DeMar DeRozan is No. 50 on the NBA list with 19,869 career points.)
Why did I choose those honors to highlight future Hall of Famers? One, the four have an unsurpassed record when it comes to deciding which NBA player is in the Hall. Two, because basketball doesn’t have to stick to certain career numbers like baseball’s Hall of Fame (3,000 hits, 300 wins, 500 home runs). (Or had, but that’s a different column). Those NBA honors and accomplishments are easy for even the most casual fan to understand.
I also chose those two for another reason; Because the Hall’s selection process is notoriously secret. As ESPN’s Baxter Holmes wrote:
There is always the question of what qualifies someone to be a Hall of Famer: What are the criteria? For Colangelo, the answer is simply their “body of work,” which leaves room for interpretation.
While the basketball hall of famers have their reasons, these are my definitions of an NBA player’s body.
Back to Jokic. Why did I have a mental breakdown last year? I hedged.
By MVP standards, Jokic should be a lock, right? correct. But if he retired today, would he still be in the Hall? More than likely, but the difference between him and, say, any other one-time MVP is his level of sustained excellence. Jokic doesn’t need to have another MVP season to become a Hall of Famer, but he does need to stay in the MVP conversation and add All-NBA nods and All-Star games to the mix over the next few seasons. Lock-lock. Plus, if he plays 15 seasons and accumulates the counting stats, there’s no doubt he’ll be in Springfield.
“no doubt.” Yes, about that…
I soft-pedaled his HOF candidacy because of one number: 453. After his first MVP season, Jokic played 453 regular season games over six seasons. Was it enough for a career? And, if he’s injured and doesn’t return to superstar status, will his career be comparable to that of Derrick Rose, another former MVP whose career is borderline better than Hall of Fame? We talked about Rose’s special situation in class last year and it was at the front of my mind when I approached Jokic.
Apparently, it wasn’t just a question for me.
As we put together The Athletic’s NBA 75, ranking the greatest players of all time, I asked the panelists why Jokic failed to make the list. That conversationalist basically said, “Too soon.” (For the record, I had Jokic on my NBA 75 picks, but neither did the NBA’s 75th Anniversary team, which features every former NBA MVP except Rose. If we were to re-evaluate NBA 75, Jokic would. No doubt. (I’d argue, he’s at least top 40 , probably top 30).
With Jokic now entering his eighth NBA season as back-to-back MVPs, the fear of not having enough of that successful resume is no longer valid. He is one of 13 players in NBA history to win consecutive MVPs and one of 15 players to win at least two in his career. He is a four-time All-NBA selection and four-time All-Star. In addition, Naismith Hall is part of the international game, so its international contribution makes it the first choice lock.
So, sorry, Mr. Jokic, you deserve better than me. I look forward to your talk.
As for another future Hall of Famer playing in the NBA, let’s look at some stats (standard, advanced and new to the equation) in an attempt to predict the future credentials of an active player.
The big four
Mentioned above: MVP, Finals MVP, Championship Game, Top 50 in scoring. If you are a member of these groups, you may be able to speak in Springfield.
I didn’t use this last year, but it’s a good indicator of which active players will be next. Every Hall-eligible player has made at least five All-NBA teams (first, second or third)…except Amar’e Stoudemire and Kevin Johnson. Every Hall-eligible player with at least three first-team All-NBA honors is in the Hall…except for poor Max Zaslofsky, who has four.
Why do I mention three first-team honors? Because it might hurt some Slovenia.
Other major awardees
We’ve already established MVPs as the gold standard for induction into the Hall, but Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Most Improved? And should we consider All-Star Game MVPs?
For DPO, 10 of the 16 Hall of Fame eligible players who have won the award are in the Hall, including two four-time winners, Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace. That’s good for Dwight Howard and Rudy Gobert, who each won the award three times.
The Player of the Year award is the only award that a player can win only once, and there have been 73 official winners. Of the 57 players eligible for the Hall (16 are still active), 30 of those players are inducted. That’s not bad.
What’s not so good is that it’s the most improved win. Tracy McGrady is the only one in the hall. He will be joined by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who won in 2016-17. Eleven active players have won the award, and these names – Kevin Love, Paul George, Goran Dragic, Jimmy Butler, CJ McCollum, Victor Oladipo, Pascal Siakam, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle and Jae Morant – are worth watching.
All-Star Game MVP may be another honor as close to a lock. Every Hall-eligible player to win All-Star MVP is in the Hall, except Adrian Smith (1966), Randy Smith (1978), Tom Chambers (1987) and Glenn Rice (1997). Everyone else is active or outside the Hall window, and every active one, from Giannis to Dwyane Wade, will be in the Hall one day.
NBA 75th Anniversary Team
You won’t be surprised to learn that every NBA member is in the Hall at age 50. But what about the 75? Of the 26 players added to the 50 (26 because they had a tie), 13 are already in the Hall, two – Dirk Nowitzki and Wade – are locks and the other 11 are active.
Among players, nine lockouts are due to MVPs, title results and/or point accumulation. The other two — Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard — haven’t reached either of those thresholds, but they have enough All-NBA nods — six overall for Lillard, four first-team selections for Davis. And when blue-ribbon players, coaches and media think you’re one of the 76-best players in league history, that “body of work” bodes well for your Hall of Fame candidacy.
What about advanced stats?
Top 60 in Peer (Player Rating), Career
Always an interesting category. There are 20 active players in their 60s, and Stoudemire is the only Hall-eligible player in Springfield.
Top 50 winning shares, work
There are six active players in this category and four outside the Hall window. Only four Hall-eligible players in the top 50 — Shawn Marion, Billups, Buck Williams and Horace Grant — were excluded.
Top 50 win shares / 48, work
This list hasn’t changed much from last year — yes, it still includes Jonas Valanciones in the top 50 — but now there are 13 active players. Of those Hall of Fame inductees, only Kevin Johnson was excluded.
Top 50 VORP (Value Replaced Player), career
There are 10 active players here, and they all seem to be locked in the hall. Only five Hall-eligible players — Marion, Billups, Larry Nance Sr., Terry Porter and Eddie Jones — are no longer in the Hall.
This weekend, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will welcome its 63rd class across 16 buildings. That includes two NBA players (Tim Hardaway and Manu Ginobili, the latter one of the locks we retired from last year), three former coaches who spent a lot of time with the Bucks (Larry Costello, Del Harris and George Karl) and members of the media. Like Walt Frazier, second in the Hall and MA Voepel.
So, let’s have some fun and take a look at some active and recently retired players more than likely to make it to Springfield.
(Editor’s note: Players in each division are listed in alphabetical order.)
Active Keys: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Carmelo Anthony, Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green*, James Harden, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Nikola Jokić*, Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard*, Chris Paul, Klay Thompson* Russell Westbrook * New for active locks
Okay guys, take a deep breath here. This team has a combined 13 regular season MVPs, 10 Finals MVPs, 12 All-Star Game MVPs, 13 combined scoring titles and 106 All-NBA nods. Throw in 20 Olympic golds, and we’re piling on. This team did a lot of things that other future Hall of Famers didn’t.
With 37,062 career points, LeBron must pass Rime (38,387) as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer this season. Kareem held that record for 38 seasons, more than half the NBA’s tenure. Do you know how long LeBron will hold that record? Unless Luka Doncic doesn’t play for 20 years or KD is out for a while, LeBron will hold this record, possibly forever. His other accolades are numerous: four MVPs, four Finals MVPs, eight straight Finals appearances, 10 Finals appearances overall, one scoring win and one assist title at age 35, all while leading three different franchises to NBA championships. He is seventh in assists and 10th in steals. If you combine his regular season points with the playoffs, he has 44,693. We have never seen a career like this. We may never see him again.
Antetokounmpo is the only player in history to win MVP, Most Improved Player and Defensive Player of the Year. Melo is one of only two players to win an NCAA title, scoring title and gold medal. (Hey, MJ!) Anthony is ninth in career points. Curry just won his fourth championship, earned his first Finals MVP, set the all-time 3-pointer record and is the only unanimous MVP in league history. Howard has three DPOs and has made five consecutive first-team All-NBA appearances. Durant has an impressive list of accomplishments: four points scored, three Olympic golds, two Finals MVPs (and two titles) and one regular season MVP. He also scored 1,884 points, moving from 21st all-time to 10th. Harden is the only player to win the Sixth Man of the Year, MVP and scoring titles. Leonard is one of three players to win Finals MVP with two different teams. In ’15 and ’16, he was one of the greatest defensemen we’ve seen in the game and earned back-to-back DPOYs. CP3 is the only player to lead the league with six steals per game. Love him or hate him (and we know there’s a bit of an in-between), Westbrook is the only player to have triple-doubles in four different seasons. In his first season, he led the league in scoring. He also led the league in assists the other three seasons. And we’ve covered Jokin’s Bona Fides above.
AD He didn’t have any of the Big Four, but he led the league in blocks three times, was a four-time first-team All-NBA, an All-Star MVP, an NBA champion, a gold medalist and a member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team. Lillard doesn’t have any of the big four, but he does have a plus one: MVP of the Seeding Games. But from A.D. He has more than six All-NBA selections, as well as a gold medal and was named to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team. (For the record, AD and Dame were in our NBA 75 as well.)
Draymond has a DPOY, seven All-Defensive nods, two All-NBA nods, four NBA titles and two gold medals to his credit. Klay is one of the game’s greatest shooters and is a five-time All-NBA, two-time All-NBA and has four NBA titles and a gold medal to his credit. Clay’s all-time numbers would have been higher had he not missed two seasons due to injury. Although the lack of individual awards and control numbers may give some respite, this pair has been active, winning four titles in six finals since 2015. From a boat.
Retired Keys: Vince Carter, Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Dwyane Wade
As I mentioned above, GINOBILI! This year he was inducted into the Hall of Fame from this team. Congratulations Manu!
“Is he or isn’t he retired?” asked Gasol. We put it in the . basket last year. (There were rumors of a comeback.) But now that he hasn’t played an NBA game since 2019, he’ll be in the Hall. He is 40th in career points, 28th in career rebounds, 21st in blocks and has four All-NBA games. He is a two-time champion and his role as one of the key players in Spain’s golden era helps as international contributions come in.
Parker will be the last of the Spurs’ big three to be inducted into the Hall. He has made four All-NBA teams, four titles and one Finals MVP. He’ll be in Springfield next year with the rest of the guys on this list: Gasol, Nowitzki and Wade, the last two to win Finals MVPs, with Dirk winning the MVP in 2007 and Wade winning the scoring title in 2009.
Finally, I know Vince Carter caused a bit of a kerfuffle over his comments last year, but he was the rookie of the year, made eight All-Star games, is 19th in scoring, averaged 20-plus points per game for 10 straight seasons and played. An amazing 22 seasons. twenty two. Quibble is not leading the league in the category if you are with his lack of big four, but there are players in the hall who have done much less than Vince Carter.
Active, Lockdowns: Luka Doncic*, Joel Embiid*, Paul George*, Rudy Gobert*, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry* New from Lockdowns
One of the fun things about losing yourself on the Basketball Reference.com website is the Hall of Fame Probability index (BBRHOFP). Let’s see how this team rates there: “Ctrl+F Doncic.”
Oh, he only appears in “News” below. That’s right, Luca isn’t on BBRHOFP. Not in the top 250 of all time, not in the top 100 active players.
So why is he on our list? Three is his magic number. Luca played four seasons and was selected to three All-NBA first teams. There is only one player in NBA history with more first-team All-NBA nods and not in the Hall: poor Max Zaslofsky.
Is it too early to call Luca a lock? Or even a close lock? I probably corrected more than last year. in case; But three first-team nods, career averages of 26.4, 8.5 boards and 8.0 assists, and excellence on the international stage make his Hall of Fame credentials hard to ignore.
Gobert is one of three players to win three DPOs. He has four All-NBA nods, but no first-team recognition yet. Still, DPOYs and All-NBAs make it a near-lock. Add a fourth DPO in the future, and he’ll be one of three if he wins four. The other two are Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace in … George has six All-NBA teams, seven All-Star Games and one Most Improved Player award to his credit. He also has four All-Defensive games. Injuries have played a big role in his career and those injuries probably have him in the near lock position and not in the sure Hall of Famer class. … Embiid is getting closer to Springfield because he has one of the Big Four: scoring titles, which he won last season, the first center to do so since Shaquille O’Neal. He also has four All-NBA nods, all second team, but he’s in good company. There are 18 Hall-eligible players with four All-NBA nods, and all but two are in the Hall of Fame. Being a perennial MVP candidate and five-time All-Star doesn’t hurt either. … Lowry has a title, an All-NBA nod, six All-Star Games and is 81st all-time in Win Shares. His BBRHOFP is 85.7 and is 12th among active players in that category. He’s 89th, with Billups behind him, and every other Hall-eligible player ahead of him, with only one, Larry Foust, not enshrined. … Irving is a Hall of Fame talent, perhaps one of the best undersized finishers in NBA history and has perhaps the most ball-handling show the game has ever seen. He has a title, three All-NBA nods, seven All-Star games, an All-Star Game MVP, Rookie of the Year honors and will reach the sacred 50-40-90 mark in 2021. Yes, his availability is limited. Because of the injury and the decision, but I’m guessing, down the road, the voters could pass this one and vote him to Springfield.
Active, in the mix: Devin Booker*, Jimmy Butler, DeMar DeRozan, Jayson Tatum *** Newly added
Booker and Tatum are two of the NBA’s brightest young stars. Each has an NBA Finals appearance and Tatum won his first Eastern Conference Finals MVP award. Booker made first team All-NBA last season and is a three-time All-Star. His offensive production has been one of metronomic efficiency, averaging 26.6, 26.6, 25.6 and 26.8 points over the past four seasons. … Tatum, too, joined Booker on the first team last season and made two All-NBA teams. It’s hard to see these making multiple All-NBA teams and appearing deep into the postseason. If they continue to do that, they are the next generation of Hall of Famers. … Through a lot of hard work and coffee, Butler has built himself into a great NBA player and one in the HOF mix. He is a six-time All-Star, four-time All-NBA and Most Improved Player Award winner. According to the BBRHOFP, he has 71.5 percent in making the Hall of Fame, which is 105th all-time. Being outside of the top 100 seems less likely than not, with every Hall-eligible player from 90 to 120 in the Hall except Shawn Marion. As I mentioned above, DeRozan is a top 50 scorer in NBA history. Those bucket-masters often enter the hall. He has five All-Star appearances and three All-NBA nods. His BBRHOFP is lower but higher than Gobert’s. Still, if he can put together another solid three to four seasons, his overall career score will be too hard for Hall of Fame voters to ignore.
Active, can see it happen: LaMarcus Aldridge, Bradley Beal, Blake Griffin, Al Horford, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo.
Here I have combined some categories from last year. I had Beal “in the mix” last year, but he doesn’t have enough individual awards to be considered in the mix these days. If he’s leading the league in scoring right now, that’s a different debate. But he has the potential to score more points in the future and could do well. … Aldridge and Griffin are at the end of their respective careers. They each have five All-NBA nods and a combined 13 All-Star appearances. Aldridge is 48th in NBA career points and Griffin has the Rookie of the Year award. … Horford in 2011 He had a run to the postseason for the Celtics in 2022, but he’s also a five-time All-Star and has one All-NBA team. His two titles at Florida could help any candidacy… Iguodala, famously, has a Finals MVP on his resume. He has four NBA titles and is in the top 20 in NBA steals. … Love has a title, the 2011 Most Improved Player Award, led the NBA in rebounding that season and is a five-time All-Star. He played center, but he’s one of the premier stretch-fours of this era. … Rondo is a name that came up a lot in the comments last year, so let’s take a look: He’s a three-time assists champion, steals champion and two-time NBA champion. His BBRHOFP is 60 percent, so it can happen.
Derrick Rose’s Special Case As I mentioned last year, Rose is the only NBA MVP we can’t call a lock for the Hall. He had a great start with 2009 Rookie of the Year and 2011 MVP, but has battled injuries since 2012 and hasn’t had a Hall of Famer in sight since. However, if there is any hope for a Hall of Fame nomination, one can look to Bill Walton. The biggest difference between Rose and Walton is that Walton is the Finals MVP, has two NBA titles and is one of the greatest college players of all time. Maybe Rose can pull off La Grant Hill’s late career renaissance. But he turns 34 in October and his time is short. I can see him doing it because of his early successes, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him wait a little longer before he gets the call.
So take a look at the squad of players we mentioned above and realize that we are looking at an unprecedentedly talented group of players. We are lucky. Enjoy them on the court while you can.
(Top photo of Nikola Jokic and Damian Lillard: Steph Chambers / Getty Images)