Predicting Which Current NBA Stars Will Make the Hall of Fame
At the moment, we're experiencing a star-driven Renaissance in the NBA that's driving the league to heights not seen since the height of Michael Jordan.
LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Dwyane Wade top the list of superstars with a championship ring to their credit, while younger players such as Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose remain ringless for now.
In short, we're able to witness no shortage of future members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on a nightly basis in 2012.
Who's definitely in already? Who's close, but still has work to do?
Here are the 20 current NBA players who are locks to end up in the Hall of Fame someday, in alphabetical order.
Ray Allen, Miami Heat
Let's kick this thing off with Ray Allen, the NBA's all-time leader in both three-point shots made and attempted.
A 10-time NBA All-Star, Allen won his one and only championship in his first year with the Boston Celtics in 2008. Allen came within 12 minutes of winning a second title in 2010, but his Celtics lost Game 7 to the L.A. Lakers.
Statistically speaking, Allen is the most prolific three-point shooter in NBA history, having averaged 40 percent shooting from downtown over his career.
That sharpshooting ability should only pay dividends for the Miami Heat this year, as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade find Allen spotting up open on the wing over and over again.
Given the longevity of his career (he's going on his 17th season) and his unmatched three-point shooting ability, Allen's bust in the Hall of Fame should be near completion.
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
Carmelo Anthony might not ever win an NBA championship, but his contributions to the Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks and USA Basketball should earn him a one-way ticket to the Hall of Fame regardless.
Over his 10-year career, Anthony has averaged just under 25 points per game, proving he's willing to shoulder the offensive load of whatever team he's playing for.
Anthony likely won't be remembered for much more than a scorer, as he's not often a willing passer and plays inconsistent defense (at best).
Still, having been one of the top draftees of the vaunted 2003 draft class, Anthony will get into the Hall of Fame by at least somewhat following through on his talent.
Chris Bosh, Miami Heat
Laugh now, but realize Chris Bosh has an NBA championship ring—with a real chance to win at least one or two more—and a 2008 Olympic gold medal to his name.
Bosh, like Carmelo Anthony, was a top-five pick in the 2003 draft. Like Anthony, Bosh has lived up to that draft status.
Bosh's averages the past two years in Miami (18.4 points, 8.1 rebounds) aren't as far off from his career averages (19.8 points, 9.1 rebounds) as some would have you believe.
Despite going from being a No. 1 option in Toronto to a No. 3 option in Miami, Bosh has still been a force. With a few more years under his belt, and that championship ring he just earned, he'll be a Hall of Famer once he retires.
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
If there's any question about Kobe Bean Bryant's Hall of Fame candidacy, please go re-watch the 2000-04 NBA seasons.
With five NBA championships, two NBA Finals MVPs, a regular-season MVP and 14 All-Star appearances, Bryant is only playing for one thing at this point: matching Michael Jordan's ring total.
With the Lakers' acquisition of two-time MVP Steve Nash and Dwight Howard this summer, Bryant appears well equipped to make a final run or two at that sixth ring.
Even without it, Bryant goes in as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, no questions asked. With a sixth ring, the Bryant vs. Jordan conversation becomes that much more interesting.
Vince Carter, Dallas Mavericks
When a guy averages 21.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.2 steals per game over a 14-year career, he's got a real shot at the Hall of Fame based on statistical output alone.
Throw in Vince Carter's 1999 Rookie of the Year award, eight NBA All-Star game appearances and a gold medal from the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, and it's safe to say that "Air Canada" will be making his way to the Hall of Fame one day.
If Carter retired today, he'd finish as the 36th-highest scorer in NBA history, having scored 21,135 points in his career. He may have never advanced past the Eastern conference finals, but his long-term dominance is what still earns him the Hall of Fame spot.
If Slam Dunk Contest titles count in Hall of Fame voting, Carter has one of those (in 2000) to his name too.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
Despite being 36 years old and having played 15 NBA seasons, Tim Duncan basically remained a 20-point, 10 rebound-per-game player per 36 minutes in the 2011-12 season.
That's patently absurd.
Duncan has four NBA championships, three NBA Finals MVPs and two regular-season MVPs to his name, and the San Antonio Spurs were only six games away last season from earning Duncan his fifth ring.
The Spurs didn't make any major splashes in free agency this summer, essentially deciding to bring the same group back for another chance at the championship in 2012-13.
Regardless of whether Duncan ever wins another ring, like Kobe Bryant, he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer due to his tremendously successful career.
Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
Heading into the 2012-13 season, Kevin Garnett carries averages of 19.3 points and 10.6 rebounds over his 17-year career. Need I say more?
"The Big Ticket" led the league in rebounds per game from 2003-04 through 2006-07 back in his time with the Minnesota Timberwolves and, like Ray Allen, cashed in on his only NBA championship in his first year with the Boston Celtics in 2008.
In said 2008 playoffs, Garnett led the entire league in both defensive win shares and win shares, according to Basketball-Reference.com. While Garnett could score with the best of them, defense has long been his true calling card.
Garnett has 14 All-Star game appearances under his belt, along with the 2003 All-Star Game MVP, the 2004 regular-season MVP and the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year award.
Four appearances on the All-NBA first team (2000, 2003, 2004, 2008) and nine on the All-Defensive first team only further bolster Garnett's Hall of Fame credentials.
Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
At first glance, Pau Gasol might not feel like a Hall of Fame lock.
Over his 11-year career, Gasol has averaged between 18-20 points and 7-11 rebounds per game. Since coming to the L.A. Lakers in 2008, his rebounding averages actually jumped by at least two caroms per game, with notably increased production on the offensive boards.
Playing alongside Andrew Bynum these past four years (and soon, Dwight Howard), Gasol spends the majority of his time at the 4, which allows him to take advantage of his shockingly efficient midrange jumper.
Throw in his international experience with the Spanish Olympic team (two silver medals), and it's clear this two-time NBA champion will be yet another Hall of Famer for the Lakers once he retires.
Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs
In terms of Basketball-Reference.com's Hall-of-Fame odds, Manu Ginobili is the biggest reach on this list. B-R only gives Ginobili a 14.5 percent chance of making it in the Hall.
To me, that seems crazy. Ginobili lacks the multitude of All-Star appearances that many others on this list possess (Ginobili only appeared twice, in 2005 and 2011), but his three NBA championship rings make up for that.
In the NBA, Ginobili proved that if a player could put his ego aside, playing off the bench isn't necessarily a reflection of talent (or lack thereof). By winning the 2007-08 Sixth Man of the Year award, Ginobili ushered in a trend that other teams have tried to emulate, evidenced by James Harden of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In 2004, Ginobili led Argentina with 29 points to upset the United States in the Olympic semifinals, then dropped a 16-6-6 stat line in the final against Italy to win a gold medal.
Ginobili won't be a first-ballot Hall of Famer like many of the other players on this list, but he deserves a spot without a doubt.
Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers
Now that the Dwightmare has officially ended, and Dwight Howard is happily settling in Los Angeles for (at least) the next year, we'll all soon go back to remembering just how dominant of a force he's been over the past eight seasons.
Thus far in his career, Howard has led the league in total rebounds six times, total defensive rebounds five times, total free-throw attempts four times, total blocks twice and field-goal percentage in the 2009-10 season.
Add in leading the league four times in total rebounds per game and twice in blocks per game, and it's evident that Howard has been the most statistically dominant center since coming into the league. Unsurprisingly, he's already earned three Defensive Player of the Year awards as a result.
If Howard were to retire today, he'd rank fifth all time in field-goal percentage (57.7 percent) and 12th in career rebounds per game (13). With Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol now surrounding him, Howard has a very real chance to fill the one major hole on his resume: the lack of NBA championships.
LeBron James, Miami Heat
When the NBA comes back this fall, hide yo' kids, hide yo' wife, because LeBron James finally has the monkey of not winning an NBA championship off his back.
Even if James retires today after only nine years in the league, he'd still be in the Hall of Fame. That's what career averages of 27.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists typically earn a player.
James already has eight All-Star game appearances, three regular-season MVPs, two All-Star game MVPs and a Finals MVP, not to mention 26 Eastern Conference Player of the Month awards.
Throw in his defensive prowess (four appearances on the NBA All-Defensive first team), the aforementioned championship and two Olympic gold medals, and King James will be seeing his name in the Hall of Fame someday, no matter what happens from this point forward.
Jason Kidd, New York Knicks
Jason Kidd may not be thought of as a "star" in 2012, but the 18-year veteran has posted a more-than-Hall of Fame-worthy career, culminating with his 2011 NBA championship with the Dallas Mavericks.
Back in his younger days with the Phoenix Suns and New Jersey Nets, Kidd led the league in assists per game five times (1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004), in total assists three times (1999, 2001, 2003) and steals once (2002).
Kidd also led the league four times in assists per game in the playoffs (1997, 1999, 2001, 2004) and twice in steals per playoff game, remarkably including the 2012 playoffs at age 39.
The championship is icing on his Hall of Fame resume, but Kidd also won the 1994-95 NBA Rookie of the Year award, has 10 All-Star game appearances to his name and ranks fifth all time in terms of total minutes played (48,068) heading into the 2012-13 season.
Kidd also ranks second all time with 2,559 steals, trailing only John Stockton's 3,265.
Tracy McGrady may be teamless at the moment, although the Charlotte Observer reported (via CBSSports.com) that the Charlotte Bobcats have interest, but the 15-year veteran did enough earlier in his career to justify his placement in the Hall of Fame.
Back in McGrady's heyday, also known as the early 2000s, T-Mac led the league twice in scoring average, with 32.1 points per game in 2002-03 and 28.0 PPG in 2003-04 for the Orlando Magic.
In that 2002-03 season, McGrady also led the league with 13.2 offensive win shares in the playoffs, according to Basketball-Reference.com. T-Mac led the playoffs in points-per-game scoring the two seasons prior, with 33.8 PPG in 2000-01 and 30.8 PPG in 2001-02.
McGrady doesn't rank as highly as many of the other players on this list in terms of career statistical accomplishments and never even made it to a conference finals, much less an NBA Finals.
Still, with 18,000-plus points to his name, his early-2000s dominance should earn McGrady a spot in the Hall of Fame.
Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers
Say what you will about Steve Nash not deserving his two regular-season MVP awards, but the fact remains: Only 12 players in NBA history have won more than one MVP award.
Every single one of those 12 players besides Nash, LeBron James and Tim Duncan, has already been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Once Duncan and James retire, they won't be far behind, and the same is true for Nash.
Nash hasn't won a championship thus far in his 16-year career, but he may have his best chance ever this upcoming season with Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers.
On the plus side, Nash led the NBA in total assists six times and assists per game five times, not to mention free-throw percentage twice. In each of the last three seasons, Nash led the league in assist percentage, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
Nash ranks second all time in free-throw percentage (90.3), fifth all time in assists with 9,916 total dimes and 10th all time for three-point field goals made (1,620). Even without a ring, Nash would be a Hall of Fame lock, but there's no harm in adding some extra jewelry, right?
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
When Dirk Nowitzki broke through in the 2011 playoffs and led his Dallas Mavericks over the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, his future Hall of Fame status became all but certain.
Nowitzki helped shatter two preconceived notions in the NBA: seven-footers couldn't shoot, and international players couldn't thrive as NBA superstars.
Nowitzki's 38 percent career average from three-point range takes care of the big-man-can't-shoot theory, and with career averages of 22.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game over 14 seasons, suffice it to say that the top international players have no problem thriving in the NBA.
His 2007 regular-season MVP and 2011 Finals MVP only makes Nowitzki's Hall of Fame case that much easier to make. The fact that he ranks 20th all time in career defensive rebounds (7,489), 21st in free throws (5,997) and 24th in total points (24,134) effectively seals the deal.
Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
What Tony Parker lacks in All-Star game appearances compared to the Kobe Bryants and Kevin Garnetts of the world, he makes up for with championship rings. Three of them, in fact.
His 2003, 2005 and 2007 titles with the San Antonio Spurs, along with a Finals MVP award in 2007, serve as the cornerstone of Parker's Hall of Fame credentials.
Despite already having played 11 NBA seasons, Parker only just turned 30 this past May, suggesting that he has at least another solid five years in the tank, if he so desires.
With 13,576 points in his career already, it's not unrealistic to believe Parker will one day cross the 20,000-point barrier. Combined with the fact that if he retired today, he'd already rank 62nd in all-time career assists, one can only imagine what another five years of playing time will do for Parker's resume, as if it needs much more help.
Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Fun fact: Despite having only been in the NBA for seven years now, Chris Paul has already led the league in total steals five times and total assists twice.
The diminutive Paul doesn't let his stature (he's listed as 6'0", and that's likely generous) get in the way of pure, unadulterated dominance from the 1. Paul has no reservations about dropping 20-plus points in a game, but he'd much rather rack up a double-digit assist total and let his teammates do the heavy lifting.
Behind Steve Nash, there may be no better pure point guard in the NBA. And Nash, in his late 30s, can only dream of still lighting it up like Paul, who's more than a decade younger.
Paul has the 2006 NBA Rookie of the Year award already on his mantelpiece, along with two Olympic gold medals. Even if Paul never wins an NBA championship (and here's guessing that he does eventually win one), he'll be a Hall of Famer just by maintaining his current trajectory.
Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
As the 34-year-old Paul Pierce heads into the twilight of his career, his 14-year averages of 22 points, six rebounds and nearly four assists per game would give him a relatively strong Hall of Fame case right now.
That 2008 championship that Pierce won once Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett joined him on the Boston Celtics? Priceless. Winning the 2008 Finals MVP? Priceless, too.
His 11 All-Star game appearances speak to both his career's longevity and dominance, as does his being ninth on the NBA's all-time three-point field-goals list with 1,678, or 58 more than the 10th-place Steve Nash.
Pierce ranks 17th all time in free throws, 30th in points, 33rd in minutes per game and 40th in steals. Adding his numbers to his 2008 championship equals a surefire Hall of Famer once Pierce hangs up the basketball shoes for good.
Amar'e Stoudemire, New York Knicks
How can a guy with a self-appointed nickname like "Standing Tall and Talented" not make it into the basketball Hall of Fame?
To Amar'e Stoudemire's credit, he was once one of the NBA's more dominant scoring big men, having averaged 26 points per game with the Phoenix Suns in the 2004-05 season and 25.2 PPG three seasons later with Phoenix.
Stoudemire has never rebounded like you'd expect a man of his size and athleticism to do, although his career average of 8.8 boards per game isn't paltry. Luckily for "STAT," the box score can't accurately capture his flakiness on defense.
With six All-Star game appearances to his credit, along with the 2003 NBA Rookie of the Year award, Stoudemire has plenty of time to further bolster his Hall of Fame resume. Believe it or not, he doesn't even turn 30 until Nov. 16 of this year.
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
As if personally leading the Miami Heat to the 2006 NBA championship wasn't enough, Dwyane Wade decided to encore with LeBron James in 2012 for a second NBA title.
Terrifyingly enough for the rest of the league, the party could only be getting started down in Miami.
Wade's days of being the league's leading scorer (like he was in 2008-09, with 30.2 PPG) are long gone thanks to James' arrival in Miami in 2010. D-Wade may be an eight-time All-Star and the 2006 NBA Finals MVP, but James has relegated him to second fiddle on his own team.
Not that Wade should mind one bit. With the pressure of being his team's leading scorer off his shoulders, Wade could prolong his career well into his 30s, provided his body allows it.
Even if he retired today with his two rings, he'd have a real argument to become a Hall of Famer. It's what likely lies ahead that negates any questions about his Hall of Fame worthiness.
Too Young to Tell
In alphabetical order, these six are players that could prove to be Hall of Famers one day, but don't have enough NBA experience to be considered locks at this point:
Surprised to see him here? Bynum's only 24 years old, despite having seven NBA seasons under his belt. He also already has two championship rings, largely thanks to Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
If Bynum can a) stay healthy; b) continue to improve upon the career-high 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game he averaged last season, while c) acting as the Philadelphia 76ers' No. 1 option for the next half decade, his Hall of Fame bid wouldn't be preposterous.
Leading the league in scoring three times by age 23 makes Durant just about guaranteed of being a member of the Hall of Fame. Of these six players, I'd be most confident in Durant's Hall of Fame chances.
Assuming Durant can avoid a catastrophic injury and continue averaging somewhere around 25 points per game for the next five to 10 years, he'll be a Hall of Fame lock, no matter whether he ever wins an NBA championship.
That Olympic gold medal from this summer and 2010 FIBA World Championship gold medal certainly don't hurt Durant's case, either.
I don't care if Griffin had averaged 40 points and 40 rebounds in his first two seasons; two seasons is far too early to declare a player an absolute Hall of Fame lock.
Griffin's career averages of 21.7 points and 11.5 rebounds per game undoubtedly jump off the screen, much like he jumps through the roof while skying for a dunk.
If Griffin can somehow dodge the "Clippers Curse" and maintain his health, he's got a real shot to be a Hall of Famer someday down the line, but it's too early to make that call.
Next to Bynum, Rondo has the most NBA experience of any player on this list, having already played six seasons with the Boston Celtics. His overall statistical averages aren't necessarily extraordinary, but there are few greater triple-double threats in the NBA.
Rondo led the league in assists per game last season (11.7), led the league with 2.3 steals per game in the 2009-10 season and won a championship ring with Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in 2008. Another ring or two and Rondo suddenly has a real Hall of Fame case.
If Derrick Rose was one day guaranteed to come back 100 percent healthy from his torn ACL, he'd be as close to a Hall of Fame lock as a player can be after only four NBA seasons.
Rose won the league MVP award in 2011 at age 22, becoming the youngest player in league history to take home such an honor.
His explosiveness, creativity and drive should allow him to eventually come back basically good as new, but until we see him back in action, it's tough to confidently project him as a guaranteed, unquestionable Hall of Famer.
It's premature to be putting Westbrook's name near a Hall of Fame list, despite the undisputed talent he possesses. He's led the league twice in turnovers (doing so once in the playoffs too), which gives detractors plenty of ammunition when claiming Westbrook can't be an effective point guard.
Westbrook won't ever be a pure point guard like Steve Nash, but he's more built in Rose's mold, anyway.
Assuming Westbrook learns when to pass and when to take matters into his own hands, he and Durant should build upon each others' Hall of Fame resumes for the next five years.