Predicting 2014 Basketball Hall of Fame Finalists and Snubs
On Friday, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will announce its list of 2014 finalists.
You know what that means: controversy, controversy and more controversy as the Hall’s committee parses who gets in and who’s left waiting until next year.
And while this year’s crop of candidates might not boast the star power of classes past, that might well mean an even tighter race for the handful of plaques up for grabs.
We’ve selected nine finalist candidates we feel could end up generating the most buzz: three shoe-ins, three probables and three players at risk of being snubbed.
Shoe-In: Tim Hardaway
A somewhat controversial holdover from last year’s group of finalists, Hardaway should be a lock this time around.
One of the best all-around point guards of his generation, Hardaway's career averages of 17.7 points and 8.2 assists per game are made even more impressive by the fact that he played until he was 36.
Over 14 seasons, Hardaway amassed five All-Star appearances, one All-NBA First Team nod, and three inclusions on the All-NBA Third team. Pretty impressive for a guy whose peers included John Stockton, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Gary Payton, Mark Price and… Well, you get the point.
Shoe-In: Alonzo Mourning
Few centers can tout the kind of hardware mantle that Alonzo Mourning built over 16 steady seasons anchoring the Charlotte Hornets, New Jersey Nets and Miami Heat, the latter of which Zo helped to snag an NBA title in 2006.
Among Mourning’s myriad basketball accolades: seven Al-Star appearances, two Defensive Player of the Year awards, two block titles and a pair of collegiate All-America nods.
Mourning’s prime was the epitome of consistent, with the fiery center averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds over his first 8 years in the league.
All of that, coupled with his new roles as Heat executive and global basketball ambassador, makes Mourning one of the more broadly-decorated candidates of this year’s crop.
Shoe-In: Maurice Cheeks
Cheeks has been a finalist each of the last three years—the most you’re allowed is five in a row—which means he’s almost assured to be included in this year’s list.
Over 15 seasons, Cheeks’ play was as steady as it gets: 11.1 points, 6.7, 2.1 steals and a memorable championship run with the vaunted 1983 Philadelphia 76ers.
It’s not clear how much the voters will take extracurricular matters into consideration, but if they do, Mo might be a good candidate: Having just been fired by the Detroit Pistons, it might make for the kind of feel-good redemption story that just about everyone can get behind.
Probable: Mitch Richmond
In his prime—and it was a long one—Richmond was considered by many to be the second best shooting guard in the NBA behind Michael Jordan.
Historical gap between the two notwithstanding, Richmond’s stats are formidable to say the least: 21 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists over 14 seasons, with a true shooting percentage of 57 percent and a career clip of 39 percent from three-point range.
As a member of Dream Team II, Richmond helped the U.S. Men’s National Team capture its second straight gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
The icing on the Naismith cake: six All-Star nods, and five All-NBA selections (three for Second Team, two for third team).
He might’ve been the poor man’s Michael Jordan, but the association alone makes Richmond a borderline-shoe-in finalist following being a finalist a year ago.
Probable: Chris Webber
Perhaps no player has been haunted more by the charges of what-could-have-been than the über-versatile, über-talented pivot-man.
Hand any basketball expert a list of Webber’s career stats, without showing her who they belong to, chances are the consensus will be they deserve the trip to Springfield: 20.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists and 1.4 blocks with a player efficiency rating of 20.9—staggering for a 15-year career.
The big knock: From his infamous timeout in the 1993 NCAA title game to the many near-misses with the Sacramento Kings in the early 2000s, Webber was never able to bring home the biggest bacon of all: a championship.
Probable: Spencer Haywood
Another of the 2013 finalists, Haywood will once again present the committee with a unique challenge: considering a very good career in the context of a very different era.
As a 20-year-old with the ABA’s Denver Nuggets in 1969-70, Haywood averaged 30 points and 19.5 rebounds per game.
The next year, Haywood made the leap to the NBA signing with the Seattle Supersonics. And while he’d finish his career with averages of 20.3 points and 10.3 rebounds, Haywood—like Webber—never quite lived up to his enormous potential. And his case made worse by the era in which he played, when stat-stuffers were much easier to come by.
Still, the numbers are the numbers, and Haywood's unique basketball story makes him ripe for a return as a finalist in 2014.
Snub: Kevin Johnson
His numbers weren't too shabby, either: Over 13 seasons, Johnson registered 17.9 point and 9.1 assists on 49 percent shooting from the floor. He was an integral part of the vaunted early '90s Phoenix Suns teams that included Charles Barkley, Dan Majerle and Cedric Cebalos.
Sadly, the lack of a title might be the biggest deciding factor for voters.
It might take him a few years for Johnson get his nod—if he'll ever get it at all. Luckily, the Mayor of Sacramento has plenty to keep himself occupied.
Snub: Sidney Moncrief
In his look-ahead following last year’s induction, our very own Charles Bennett had this to say about Moncrief:
He is one of only a very few players to be All-NBA five times, including an All-NBA First Team selection in 1983, and not be enshrined in the Naismith Hall of Fame. He finished in the top eight in MVP voting each of those years, which is good enough for .695 career award shares...more than anyone else who isn't in Hall of Fame.
Moncrief also won two Defensive Player of the Year Awards and was selected to the All-Defensive team four times. Furthermore, he's one of the 30 most efficient in win shares per 48 minutes.
That’s, uh, impressive. As is the fact that, of all the 2014 candidates with at least 50 career win shares, Moncrief touts the highest career win shares per 48 minutes (.187).
It just might not be quite enough.
The numbers don’t exactly jump off the page, but Moncrief’s statistical accomplishments—particularly at an undersized 6’3”—are no less impressive: 15.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.2 steals on 50 percent shooting.
Moncrief will eventually find his way onto the list of finalists, but it might take some time for the full scope of his impact to register.
Snub: Robert Horry
Here’s how Scott Howard Cooper of NBA.com’s Hangtime blog summed up Horry’s career:
Webber and Mourning would have been good point-counterpoint no matter what. Then add in Horry, an extreme longshot … except enough people are making a case that the NBA’s Forrest Gump has such a unique role in league history that his case for the Hall allows one to disregard his career averages of 7.0 ppg and 4.8 rpg.
It’s a strong case—not to mention a funny one.
That “Big Shot Bob” earns himself a spot in the Hall by dint of serendipity and circumstance is a compelling argument. It’s just not quite enough to gloss over an otherwise above-average—but by no means extraordinary—career.
In an interview with David Aldridge back in 2006, even Horry seemed to appreciate the context of his own success:
“Twenty, ten years down the line, nobody’s going to know me. But people are always going to remember Charles [Barkley], Patrick [Ewing], Dream [Hakeem Olajuwon] – well, Dream won a championship, but all these guy that didn’t win a championship, [like] Karl Malone. These guys are major players."