Tag Archives: Bobby Jones

NBA History: Best ‘Career’ Sixth Man

Miami Heat center Chris Andersen has never started more than three games in an NBA season.  Birdman has played in 69 playoff games coming off the bench in every one.  In his entire career Anderson has started ten games.   For a guy who has earned nearly $30 million dollars playing a dozen seasons in the NBA this is quite unique.

His career per 36 minute numbers are 11 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks with a 58% true shooting.  Throw in the ring he won with Miami last season and we are looking at a really good career.  Further, is it possible that Chris Andersen is the best sixth man in NBA history?

Thanks to Basketball-Reference.com we can attempt to answer this question.  Using ‘win shares’ as an estimate of career value let’s start with players who have accumulated over 30 career win shares.  This is a comprehensive list of nearly every substantial player in league history.  There are 626 players (and counting) at this level of production.

Unfortunately, we don’t have solid ‘games started’ data before 1980.  Of course most great players are starters so there are probably only a few key sixth men who were really good before the early ’80s.  To be accurate we will just include players who were primarily coming off the bench after 1980 in this study.

A few notable points:

  • Bobby Jones won the first sixth man of the year award in 1983 while playing for the NBA champion Philadelphia 76’ers.
  • Boston Celtics forward Kevin McHale took home the award in each of the next two seasons.
  • Only Detlef Schrempf and Ricky Pierce would ever win sixth man of the year multiple times after McHale.
  • McHale, Schrempf and Pierce would start over 250 games in their NBA career’s.

Back to the study.  Using 250 career games started as a cut-off we find forty-five players with 30+ win shares and less than 250 starts.  This criteria yields us with Michael Cooper, Vinnie Johnson and Kyle Korver as the best ‘career’ sixth-men.

Korver is going to finish with well over 250 starts so we should exclude him.  Cooper and Johnson are both great candidates for best of all-time.  The Microwave won two titles with the Detroit Pistons while not starting any games in their playoff runs.  He averaged 14 points/game off the bench in the ’89 playoffs for the Pistons.

Mike won at least three titles with the Lakers while not starting a game.  In the ’87 playoffs he averaged 13 points, 5 assists in 29 minutes while shooting 49% from three and making almost two three’s per game.  Plus Cooper played great defense against Larry Bird and Danny Ainge in the Lakers win in the NBA Finals.  We are probably looking at the greatest single year performance for a sixth man right here.

On the note of career value, the only players who started fewer games than Michael Cooper but still compiled over 30 win shares are:

Looking at the career value (including the playoffs) of these six players it’s hard to choose against Kerr.  Five championship rings and the career record for three-point percentage he’s got my vote.

Chris Andersen is probably the best minute-for-minute ‘career’ sixth man in NBA history.  He just won’t have the longevity of Kerr.

So it depends on how you want to define your terms but the finalists for greatest career sixth man are Michael Cooper, Steve Kerr and Chris Andersen.

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The Mavericks Secret Defensive Weapon

The Dallas Mavericks defense is just league average this season.  Rick Carlisle‘s team tends to commit a lot of fouls (DeJuan Blair averages 5 PF/36 minutes) in addition to allowing an abundance of offensive rebounds (their starting guards combine for less than 6 rebs/game).

The one area that Dallas does excel on “D” is forcing turnovers (third best in NBA).  Forcing turns is a total team effort as five Mavs average more than one steal per game.  DeJuan Blair in particular is great at intercepting the ball from opposing bigs.  

Here is the complete list of “Possession Abolishers” (20% Defensive Rebound rate and 3% Steal rate).

Totals

Advanced

Player

Season

Tm

G

MP

DRB

STL

DRB%

STL%

DeJuan Blair

2013-14

DAL

34

687

146

41

24.3

3.0

DeMarcus Cousins

2013-14

SAC

32

1034

264

60

29.8

2.9

Paul Millsap

2011-12

UTA

64

2100

383

118

21.2

2.9

Jerome Williams

2003-04

TOT

68

1637

298

90

20.6

2.9

Hakeem Olajuwon*

2001-02

TOR

61

1378

268

74

23.1

2.9

Jerome Williams

1998-99

DET

50

1154

191

63

20.4

3.0

Tom Gugliotta

1993-94

WSB

78

2795

539

172

23.0

3.1

David Robinson*

1991-92

SAS

68

2564

568

158

24.0

3.1

Hakeem Olajuwon*

1988-89

HOU

82

3024

767

213

27.2

3.3

Chris McNealy

1985-86

NYK

30

627

141

38

26.7

3.0

George McGinnis

1981-82

IND

76

1341

305

96

25.2

3.5

George Johnson

1978-79

MIL

67

1157

254

75

24.3

2.9

Bobby Jones

1976-77

DEN

82

2419

504

186

20.8

3.3

George McGinnis

1975-76

PHI

77

2946

707

198

23.1

3.0

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/9/2014.

Considering Dallas is paying Blair less than $1,000,000 this season I would argue that his unique defensive talents and average offensive production make him a steal for Mark Cuban and Co.

these games move fast on YouTube

pick it up half way through the 3rd:

Despite hobbling around on a twisted ankle Andrew Toney is pouring in jumpers AND getting back on defense.  Just one of a dozen incredible athletes in this game.

Wilkes and Bobby Jones are having an old-fashioned shoot out, nearing 20 pts each.

A few Kareem sky-hooks and Norm Nixon jumpers cap an 11-0 run for the Lakers.  They pull within 4.  We have a game!  Let’s go to the 4th…..