Tag Archives: Michael Cooper

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.


for you kids at home, Michael Cooper was an athlete!

Despite giving up 6″ Lionel Hollins is doing a great job keeping Magic outside the paint.  The only problem is Magic has a bird’s eye view to the open man.

Did I mention we have athletes?  Toney takes a 18 footer thinking he has space to get it off but Rambis makes a great play to deflect it to Michael Cooper who stands 7 feet behind him.  Then in one motion Cooper jumps 3 feet off the ground to secure the ball and make a pinpoint pass 30 feet on a line to Rambis breaking to the Lakers basket for two.  Wow!!  Watch it here @ 4:15…

Lakers defense triggering their offense.  Up 11 with 9:34 left.

Magic with a reverse layup.  Looking for another triple-double.  LA leading 114-100.  Philly better start playing tenacious D.

1:58 left LA’s lead now 11.  Billy Cunningham calls a TO and sets the offensive play.  Toney playing point guard passes it into Steve Mix and he bounces the ball off his foot.  Turnover & ballgame.  Nixon and Wilkes get player of the game honors as each goes for 24 points and 10 (reb for Wilkes and ast for Nixon).  LA steals one in The Spectrum as Pat Riley notches his first ever Finals victory at the ripe old age of 37.

live blogging the 1982 NBA Finals

Keeping with my obsessive personality, my new goal is to watch every NBA Finals game prior to 1993.

Live Blog – Part 1

It’s 12:21 AM on July 16, 2011 here in the Capitol of Texas and 8:07 pm on May 27, 1982 in Philadelphia, let’s get started with the tip of Game 1….

1st Qtr – We have a very aggressive Julius Erving taking it to the rim on 3 early possessions.  Dick Stockton tells us that Dr. J’s “belly is burning for the ring”.  Do ABA rings not count?

2nd Qtr – We have athletes!!  The Lakers run the “Coop-aloop” as Michael goes back door and catches a lob pass from Norm Nixon to slam home.  Back-and-forth game.

Kareem rejecting Andrew Toney into the fifth row.  Even with Bill Russell doing the color commentary these guys don’t block it to their team-mates.

Sweet, a little early Showtime Lakers feel with Cooper, Nixon and Wilkes running the fast break to perfection.

Kareem another block on Caldwell Jones.  At 35 years old the Power Memorial product could still get the top of the box!

Mo Cheeks was a FAST MAN!  Like Devin Harris on the Mavs.  Wow!

The Doctor with a fast break dunk.  The Philly crowd is pumped.  Then he finds the offensive glass and converts a follow-up stuff.  He’s got 14 points.

Timeout.  There is a midget on the Sixers bench!  Wait is that a trainer???

LA down by 11 at halftime.  “A big lead of 10 or 12 points is not that meaningful unless it’s at the end of the game” -Dick Stockton

From the rafters an 18 year-old Brent Musberger impersonator chat’s with Hubie Brown and Kevin Loughery.  Did you know the alternate title to this blog was “Respect Hubie Brown”.  He is lots of fun.