B/R NBA Legends 100: Ranking the Greatest Shooting Guards of All Time

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 25, 2015

B/R NBA Legends 100: Ranking the Greatest Shooting Guards of All Time

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    Plenty of big-name shooting guards have dominated the NBA throughout its history. 

    Players like Sam Jones, Hal Greer and Bill Sharman thrived during the early years of the league's star-studded tenure, but the position has always been in good hands. Even though it's tough to find many standouts today, they'll eventually show up, just as Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade followed up Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler, with plenty of great players spanning the two eras.

    But how does everyone stack up throughout NBA history? 

    This is about more than those few superstars who still suit up in the Association. We're interested in how the legends of the shooting guard position compare to one another, from Gail Goodrich's tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers all the way through those playing out their careers in today's NBA landscape. 

    We're not just concerned with the best peaks. It's not about the longest careers. Instead, we're interested in the strength of an entire career evaluated largely by using numbers. But the prominence of metrics and advanced statistics doesn't mean context can be thrown out the window either. 

    Everything matters. 

    Note: All stats come from Basketball-Reference.com and are current through March 21 unless otherwise indicated. That's also the source of positional decisions throughout this series of articles. Whichever position a player is listed at for the majority of the seasons in his career is where he'll be placed in the series. 

Important: Glossary of New Metrics That Factor into Evaluation

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    Chris Hampson/Getty Images

    Though this article will rely heavily on established advanced metrics like win shares, player efficiency rating, true shooting percentage and more, I've also developed a new set of performance metrics that can be used to compare players across eras. 

    As you'll soon see, these metrics will be displayed for every featured player, and they'll be discussed quite often throughout the descriptions of the players in question. Therefore, it's best to familiarize yourself with them now. 

    Understanding the exact calculations is unnecessary for these purposes, but do take the time to understand the principles and purposes, as that will allow you to fully grasp the justifications for the order of this countdown. 

    With traditional metrics, we can gauge how well a player performed during the regular season throughout his career. But with these new ones, we have insight into his playoff performances as well as how valuable he was to his team and throughout the league in general. 

    Playoff Performance (PP)

    Derived by multiplying game score by the number of playoff appearances, this simply shows the strength of a player's statistical production during the postseason. It rewards both quality of play and longevity, as the top scores are only achieved by maintaining excellent performances over the course of multiple deep playoff runs. 

    Advancement Share (AS)

    This shows how deep a player advanced into the playoffs. Different rounds are weighted differently—250 possible points for a title, 100 for an unsuccessful appearance in the NBA Finals and 50 for a conference finals exit—but not every player earns all of the possible points. 

    To recognize that some players are bigger contributors than others, the advancement scores are weighted by how much time a player spends on the court. Someone who wins a title but only plays 20 minutes per game will receive a lower percentage of the possible points than a teammate who played 35 minutes per contest. 

    As a result, this shows both playoff success and relative importance during the run of the player in question. 

    Career Contributions (CC)

    Win shares are supposed to be an approximation of how many wins a player provided to his team during a given season, so dividing win shares by team wins should give an estimate of the percentage of value that player was responsible for. Multiplying that by how successful a team was that year (based on TeamRtng+, a combination of DRtng+ and ORtng+) accounts for both a player's value and the strength of the team he was contributing to. 

    Career Contributions sums a player's scores for every season of his career, showing how much value he provided during his NBA life. 

    Career Contributions per Season (CC/Season)

    This shows the number of Career Contributions that a player earned during an average season. It's no more complicated than that. 

    Literal MVPs (LMVPs)

    MVP literally stands for "Most Valuable Player," though the award is usually given to the best player on one of the best teams, depending on the narrative, the glamorous play of the candidate and other factors. A Literal MVP, or LMVP, is given instead to the player with the top Career Contributions value during the season in question. 

    An LMVP can go to a player on the best team in the league, but it can also be handed to a player who was essentially a one-man wrecking crew on one of the bottom-feeders. The strength of the team doesn't matter save for the Career Contributions calculation. 

    Literal MVP Shares (LMVP Shares)

    Rather than only rewarding the LMVP, we're giving credit to every player who was the top contributor for his team during a given season. Team-leading win-share producers were sorted by Career Contributions before being handed LMVP shares according to their finish on that leaderboard. 

    The LMVP himself gets a full LMVP share. Second place receives 0.5 LMVP shares. Third place gets 0.33 LMVP shares and so on and so forth. 

    Ultimate Season

    This appears in the information of each slide, and it's a method of representing a player's peak. Rather than arbitrarily selecting his best season, we're meshing together the best performances of his career for each per-game stat. 

    That means his points per game could come from his rookie year, while his rebounds per game could be drawn from a season five years down the road. The only qualifier is that he must have played in at least 30 games during the season in question, thereby avoiding small-sample-size effects. 

Honorable Mentions

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    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    Walter Davis

    A scoring machine throughout his career—most of which came in the service of the Phoenix Suns, though he also played for the Denver Nuggets and very briefly the Portland Trail Blazers—Walter Davis never had much trouble finding the bottom of the net. Kicking things off by averaging 24.2 points per game during his rookie season in 1977-78, he topped the 20-point barrier during six distinct campaigns. 

    Problem is, he was never all that valuable to his teams, whether he was playing for the Suns or the Denver Nuggets. Davis averaged only 12.09 Career Contributions per season, a mark that trails three of the other four honorable mentions at shooting guard and all 25 featured players.

    The top mark of his NBA tenure came during that rookie go-round, when his 10.1 win shares for the 49-win Suns led to just over 22 Career Contributions, a number that trails the lifetime average of two different 2-guards featured in this article. 

    Anfernee Hardaway

    With only 9.82 Career Contributions per season, Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway just wasn't valuable enough over the duration of his career. Plus, with only 704 games under his belt, it's tough to make a case that the length of his tenure can trump the short prime. 

    Hardaway is one of the league's great what-if players, as injuries completely derailed his career. He earned 54.1 of his 61.9 career win shares during his first seven seasons, one of which saw him limited to just 19 contests played for the Orlando Magic.

    One malady after another held him back, turning him from superstar material into a mere role player. The 6'7" guard who sometimes ran the point could've been a transcendent, philosophy-altering legend, but instead he's a sad reminder that that pesky injury imp can strike at any time.

    Hersey Hawkins

    A one-time All-Star for the Philadelphia 76ers due mostly to his exploits during the 1990-91 season (22.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game), Hersey Hawkins didn't enjoy enough long-term success to move up into the featured portion of these rankings. Additionally, his playoff resume is severely lacking, with an Advancement Share of just 35.42. 

    Hawkins worked his way into the postseason eight times throughout his career, but only once did he make a deep run. With the 1995-96 Seattle SuperSonics, he advanced to the NBA Finals before Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls tore him apart. 

    Beyond that, it's a litany of early exits, three of which came at the conclusion of the first round. A stellar playoff record can do wonders for a flash-in-the-pan star, but Hawkins doesn't have one to boast about. 

    Lou Hudson

    The closest to making a featured spot of the five honorable mentions featured here, Lou Hudson was a pure-shooting, high-scoring 2-guard who thrived with the Atlanta Hawks during the late 1960s and most of the 1970s.

    Peaking at 27.1 points per game during the 1972-73 season, he actually went seven consecutive seasons without letting his scoring average dip into the teens. But he wasn't ever much more than a scorer, and that's what holds Hudson back in this analysis. 

    In addition to a distinct lack of playoff success, Hudson struggled when he was asked to distribute the ball. His career assist percentage is a decidedly lackluster 12.4, a number that's boosted by his relatively pass-happy years with the Atlanta Hawks. Of the 50 shooting guards analyzed in detail for these rankings, only Reggie Lewis, Jerry Sloan and Glen Rice fared worse in that category. 

    Steve Smith

    From one Hawk to another we go. Steve Smith played with plenty of different organizations—the Miami Heat, Hawks, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, New Orleans Hornets and Charlotte Bobcats—but it was with Atlanta that he made the one and only All-Star Game appearance of his career. 

    While Smith enjoyed a long tenure in the NBA, retiring in 2005 with 942 professional contests under his belt (not including his work in the playoffs), he's held back by a failure to ever stand out as one of the true studs at his position.

    He has that one All-Star appearance, but his career averages of 14.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game are lackluster, his 16.1 lifetime PER isn't anything to write home about and he never made a single All-NBA or All-Defensive squad. 

25. Gail Goodrich

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    Years Played: 1965-79

    Teams: Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, New Orleans Jazz

    Career Per-Game Stats: 18.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 25.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 16.7 PER, .514 TS%, 104 ORtg, 104 DRtg, 76.3 WS, 0.109 WS/48, 0 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1166.4 PP, 459.04 AS, 188.44 CC, 13.46 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0 LMVP Shares

    Gail Goodrich is an interesting case study. 

    He had the fortune of playing for the Los Angeles Lakers when they were quite competitive, which led to some pretty incredible postseason numbers. His 1,166.4 Playoff Performance score ranks 11th among the 25 featured shooting guards and five honorable mentions, while his impressive 459.04 Advancement Share puts him at No. 7 in the same group. Though he only has one ring to brag about, he was a part of numerous deep runs. 

    But during the regular season, it was abundantly clear that Goodrich wasn't usually his team's best player. With his ahead-of-its-time shooting stroke and feel for the distributing aspects of the game, this particular shooting guard put up great per-game numbers. Those certainly aren't anything to sniff at, but his career average of 13.46 Career Contributions per season is.

    In fact, Goodrich never once led his team in win shares, something that's true of only one other featured shooting guard who played with an even more talented set of teammates. 

    A Hall of Famer, Goodrich will always be remembered for his intelligence and tenacity on the court, as well as his supreme ball-handling skills. But even with a 33-game win streak under his belt and plenty of deep ventures into the postseason, he can only move so far up the 2-guard hierarchy when he was never the best player on one of his squads.   


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

24. Eddie Jones

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    Years Played: 1994-2008

    Teams: Los Angeles Lakers, Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks

    Career Per-Game Stats: 14.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.6 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 20.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.7 steals, 1.2 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 16.7 PER, .554 TS%, 111 ORtg, 103 DRtg, 100.6 WS, 0.147 WS/48, 0 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 838.35 PP, 80.13 AS, 236.16 CC, 16.87 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.37 LMVP Shares

    Eddie Jones certainly has consistency and long-lasting excellence working to his advantage, even if his peak doesn't match up against some of the other players featured in this section of the rankings. After all, his career-best PER came in 1999-00 with the Charlotte Hornets (19.9), but it also didn't dip below 16.3 for a decade-long stretch to open his professional body of work. 

    A 16.3 PER might not sound too impressive, but it's important to remember that number typically tends to reward offensive performances. Blocks and steals come into play, but neither of those is a great indicator of defensive ability. For all of the points and assists that Jones racked up at the 2-guard spot, he was still a specialist on the less glamorous end first and foremost. 

    A member of three All-Defensive teams early in his careerhe might have enjoyed more appearances if he'd experienced more year-to-year continuity with his teamsJones became an unselfish role player in his older and wiser days, which helped him enjoy more team-oriented success. 

    "A lot of guys get worried about what their matchup is or playing out of position," Heat head coach Stan Van Gundy said about Jones back in 2005, via USA Today's Roscoe Nance. "If I had Eddie guard Shaq or Brendan Haywood, I don't think it would work, but he wouldn't look at me sideways. He'd say, 'What do you want me to do, front him?' He'd go out and try to do it. He's not a guy looking for excuses or a way out. He's looking to get the job done."

    Jones' career might have turned out quite differently if he'd been allowed to continue growing with the Los Angeles Lakers rather than be traded when it was clear Kobe Bryant was going to take over his job, but he certainly made the best of the situations he was placed in. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

23. Alvin Robertson

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    Years Played: 1984-96

    Teams: San Antonio Spurs, Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons, Toronto Raptors

    Career Per-Game Stats: 14.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.7 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 19.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 3.7 steals, 0.8 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 17.0 PER, .527 TS%, 106 ORtg, 106 DRtg, 52.1 WS, 0.101 WS/48, 0.004 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 226.85 PP, 0 AS, 150.16 CC, 15.02 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.157 LMVP Shares

    Despite standing only 6'3", Alvin Robertson thrived at the 2 throughout his short NBA career, even sliding over and lining up at small forward when the need arose. A back injury kept him out for two entire seasons (1993-94 and 1994-95), and he retired after an ineffective return campaign with the Toronto Raptors. But even during just his nine pre-injury seasons, Robertson made a name for himself as a versatile contributor with some serious defensive chops. 

    Limited size and all, he averaged 5.2 rebounds per game throughout his career, topping out at 6.9 during the 1989-90 season, his first with the Milwaukee Bucks. Throughout all his NBA days, he earned a 9.4 total rebounding percentage, a mark topped by only three of the 50 shooting guards analyzed in detail for these rankings. 

    He also made up for his lack of elite scoring ability with some advanced court vision, allowing him to rack up a wealth of assists throughout his career; Robertson's lifetime 23.1 assist percentage puts him at No. 14 among those same 50 players. 

    And, of course, there was his defensive presence.

    Robertson—who sits at No. 9 on the NBA's all-time steals leaderboard despite having a pretty short career—made six All-Defensive teams throughout his time in the NBA and was even named Defensive Player of the Year in 1986, making him one of just four shooting guards in NBA history to earn such an honor.

    And speaking of those thefts, no player in NBA history has averaged more swipes per game than Robertson over the course of his career. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

22. Pete Maravich

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    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1970-80

    Teams: Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans/Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics

    Career Per-Game Stats: 24.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 31.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 18.4 PER, .500 TS%, 96 ORtg, 102 DRtg, 46.7 WS, 0.092 WS/48, 0.069 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 304.72 PP, 12.08 AS, 124.63 CC, 12.46 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.167 LMVP Shares

    You might be surprised to see Pete Maravich popping up this fast, and it's largely because his reputation significantly outpaces what he actually did in the NBA. If his incredible collegiate career at LSU were factored in, he'd rocket up the leaderboard. The same is true if we were only looking at peak performance, because his 1976-77 season with the New Orleans Jazz was one of the best ever by a shooting guard. 

    But injuries and the weight of expectations took their toll on the man so famously known as "Pistol Pete." With his deep jumpers and fancy dribbling skills, he played in the wrong era and likely would've achieved much more success if he'd come around a few decades later, especially due to the implementation of the three-point arc. 

    Ultimately, Maravich suited up in only 658 career games and didn't add all that many postseason outings to his tally. After all, he won just a single playoff series, and that came late in his career while he was a member of the Boston Celtics. During that series, he was so much of a role player that he wasn't even on the court for 12 minutes per game during the short-lived postseason run. 

    Chances are Maravich was one of the best some of our older readers have ever seen. He was flashy, fun and undeniably effective when letting those jumpers leave his hands. But was he valuable? That's a different question. 

    The NBA tracked turnovers per game for the first time in 1977-78, near the tail end of Maravich's prime. He averaged five cough-ups per game that season, and there's no telling whether he would've had more or less in the years just prior. Nonetheless, he wasn't exactly the most efficient volume scorer, and that's reflected in his win-share totals. 

    Maravich topped out at 7.6 during the 1972-73 and 1973-74 seasons with the Atlanta Hawks (the same number David Lee and Chandler Parsons earned in 2013-14, to put that in perspective), and his lifetime total of just 46.7 leaves him at No. 45 among the 50 analyzed shooting guards.   


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

21. Earl Monroe

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    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1967-80

    Teams: Baltimore Bullets, New York Knicks

    Career Per-Game Stats: 18.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 25.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 17.2 PER, .517 TS%, 107 ORtg, 103 DRtg, 77.4 WS, 0.125 WS/48, 0.017 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1001.22 PP, 331.56 AS, 181.32 CC, 13.95 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.233 LMVP Shares

    For Earl Monroe, it was often about pizzazz as much as production, though he would never sacrifice the latter for the former. NBA.com has a great description of him in his official profile: 

    Before the arrival of 'Magic' Johnson there was another 'Magic' -- 'Black Magic,' also known as 'Earl the Pearl.' He was Earl Monroe, a dazzling ballhandler and one-on-one virtuoso who made crowds gasp with his slashing drives to the hoop.

    ...

    Spectators were amazed not only by the number of points that Monroe scored but also by how he scored them. 'The ultimate playground player,' is how Bill Bradley once described him to the New York Post. He loved to spin and twist through the paint and then launch off-balance, circus-like shots in the tradition of the Harlem Globetrotters. His shots went in often enough for Monroe to compile a respectable .464 career field-goal percentage and earn four All-Star Game appearances. More importantly, he was a key leader on two excellent teams of the late 1960s and early 1970s-the Baltimore Bullets and the New York Knicks.

    But while Monroe dazzled crowds for years and won a title with the New York Knicks in 1973, he wasn't a particularly well-rounded player, nor was he the most efficient at his position. It led to limited value, as his career 77.4 win shares can attest. In fact, Monroe earned only 13.95 Career Contributions per season, a number that pushes him ahead of just two of the featured shooting guards, both of whom have already appeared in this countdown. 

    In these rankings, we aren't concerned with style. Flashy play might win over crowds, but this is not Gladiator. Monroe was not Maximus, trying to win crowds rather than just win fights.

    Well, he was at times. But the point is, that doesn't help him earn higher placement now that he's retired. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

20. Jeff Hornacek

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    Brian Drake/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1986-2000

    Teams: Phoenix Suns, Philadelphia 76ers, Utah Jazz

    Career Per-Game Stats: 14.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 20.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 17.7 PER, .582 TS%, 117 ORtg, 108 DRtg, 108.9 WS, 0.154 WS/48, 0 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1689.8 PP, 282.52 AS, 245.1 CC, 17.58 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.13 LMVP Shares

    Jeff Hornacek's career is a fantastic testimony to how you can be remarkably effective without ever truly filling that "superstar" role. 

    Throughout his lengthy NBA tenure, Hornacek's usage rate was just 19.7 percent. Among all 50 shooting guards who were analyzed for these rankings, he, Hersey Hawkins, Dan Majerle and Danny Ainge were the only ones on the wrong side of 20. But Hornacek made up for that by maximizing his possessions. He shot efficiently (.582 true shooting percentage) and emerged as a brilliant distributor from the 2, posting a lifetime 23.4 assist percentage

    So, here's a fun question: How many of the 50 shooting guards managed to have a true shooting percentage and assist percentage on the right side of 58 and 23, respectively? 

    Including Hornacek, only seven managed to qualify for the first criterion. Once more counting the player in question, just 14 meet the second part. But the overlap includes only two standouts: Hornacek and Manu Ginobili. 

    Hornacek was certainly a unique player throughout his career, and he was also quite valuable to his teams, as evidenced by his 17.58 Career Contributions per season. Though he emerged ringless from his NBA life, he still stood out as a central figure on plenty of high-quality squads. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

19. Mitch Richmond

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    Years Played: 1988-2002

    Teams: Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, Washington Wizards, Los Angeles Lakers

    Career Per-Game Stats: 21.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 25.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 17.6 PER, .557 TS%, 110 ORtg, 110 DRtg, 79.3 WS, 0.111 WS/48, 0.009 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 314.64 PP, 10.42 AS, 231.97 CC, 16.6 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.515 LMVP Shares

    Whether he was forming Run TMC along with Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin for the Golden State Warriors or racking up All-Star appearances with the Sacramento Kings, Mitch Richmond was something to behold when he was truly feeling it. This 6'5" shooting guard averaged at least 21.9 points per game during each of his first 10 professional seasons. 

    His scoring numbers peaked during his age-31 season, when he put up 25.9 points for the 1996-97 Kings. While he shot more efficiently earlier in his career, his defensive work and care for the ball allowed him to earn 10.8 win shares that season, the most of any single go-round throughout his NBA tenure. 

    The Kings won only 34 games that year, as Richmond's best teammates were Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Olden Polynice and Corliss Williamson, and that makes his individual total all the more impressive. In fact, he racked up 29.64 Career Contributions during that season alone, a number topped by only seven players throughout the Association in 1996-97. 

    Underrated for much of his career, Richmond is now finally getting the respect he deserves, as he told ESPN.com's Israel Gutierrez after his 2014 acceptance into the Hall of Fame: 

    When you watch NBATV and those guys are talking and they ask, 'Who was the most underrated guard at the 2-guard spot?' They bring up my name. I felt like I was underrated a lot. No one kind of gave me the credit because I wasn't on these teams in the postseason.

    It was so easy for me to play with Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin, because every night I knew they were giving me 30 or 25 points a night. No one knew who to key in on. You know how hard it is every night when every team knows who's gonna get the ball? You think that's easier for me or harder?

    So when I got the call that I was in the Hall of Fame, I was like, 'Man, you can't call me underrated anymore. I've risen. I'm there.' That call has erased all of the memories of the bad stuff that had happened in the NBA.

    Richmond may only have made the playoffs twice after Run TMC broke up, and one of those appearances came as a reserve with the Los Angeles Lakers at the end of his career. But even without that team success, there's no denying the talent of this 2-guard. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

18. David Thompson

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    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1976-84

    Teams: Denver Nuggets (ABA and NBA), Seattle SuperSonics

    Career Per-Game Stats: 22.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.8 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 27.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.2 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 19.7 PER, .566 TS%, 111 ORtg, 107 DRtg, 50.8 WS, 0.150 WS/48, 0.154 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 379.08 PP, 38.54 AS, 116.25 CC, 14.53 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.2 LMVP Shares

    "I'm confident just like they are," David Thompson said in November 2013, per Bleacher Report's David Daniels, referring to his ability to beat Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James in a one-on-one battle. "We all would think we would win. I'm the same way. I was really good at one-on-one. That was my strong suit. Anytime you can score 73 points in a ballgame, you got to have some good one-on-one skills."

    Thompson, known as "Skywalker" for his high-flying ways, wasn't lying. He really did score 73 points during a 1978 loss to the Detroit Pistons, and it was one of the many standout performances that helped him average a career-best 27.2 points per game. 

    In a single-season vacuum, Thompson was one of the true elites at his position, but his overall ranking here is depressed by the shortened nature of his NBA career. When removing his one ABA season with the Denver Nuggets from the equation, he played in only 509 regular-season games, which makes it tough for him to stand out any more, 19.7 career PER and all. 

    Unfortunately, a few seasons after he signed the biggest contract in NBA history (at that point in history, at least), recurring injuries and substance-abuse issues forced him out of the league prematurely. He retired after his age-29 season with the Seattle SuperSonics, missing out on a chance to further pad his resume. And considering Thompson could still dunk when he was 59, per Daniels, there's a strong possibility his dominance would have extended rather deep into his 30s. 

    "I built my talents on the shoulders of someone else's talent," Jordan wrote in his 1998 autobiography, according to Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears. "I believe greatness is an evolutionary process that changes and evolves era to era. Without Julius Erving, David Thompson, Walter Davis, and Elgin Baylor, there would never have been a Michael Jordan. I evolved from them."

    That's saying something, isn't it? 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

17. Paul Westphal

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    NBA Photo Library/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1972-84

    Teams: Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns, Seattle SuperSonics, New York Knicks

    Career Per-Game Stats: 15.6 points, 1.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 25.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 2.6 steals, 0.5 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 19.4 PER, .558 TS%, 109 ORtg, 101 DRtg, 67.7 WS, 0.155 WS/48, 0.014 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 864.56 PP, 219.85 AS, 154.01 CC, 12.83 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.539 LMVP Shares

    Though Paul Westphal always struggled on the boards and had an extraordinarily short peak as a go-to scorer, his incredible efficiency throughout his career—as well as his passing chops—allows him to elevate quite nicely up the ranks of shooting guards. 

    The 6'4" standout from USC did manage to average 25.2 points per game during his 1977-78 season with the Phoenix Suns, but it was one of only five campaigns in which he surpassed the 20-point barrier. Early in his career, he was merely a role player with the Boston Celtics. After his time in the desert, his scoring average dipped every year until he rejoined the Suns for his final professional season and retired at 33. 

    All the while, though, he was a turnover-conscious backcourt member who shot the ball with remarkable efficiency and thrived as a distributor.

    Putting that in perspective, only 47 individual seasons—coming from 21 different players—recorded between 1976-77 and 1979-80 managed to top 20 points per game while making over half of their shots from the field. Westphal, George Gervin and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were the only three players to qualify during all four seasons in question, and the Phoenix standout was one of five guards to make it onto the list even once. 

    And how about the passing? 

    Even topping 30 during each of his two seasons with the New York Knicks, Westphal finished his career with an 26.2 assist percentage. Only Tracy McGrady, Dwyane Wade and Allen Iverson finished ahead of him in that particular category. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

16. Joe Dumars

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1985-99

    Teams: Detroit Pistons 

    Career Per-Game Stats: 16.1 points, 2.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.1 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 23.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 15.3 PER, .554 TS%, 113 ORtg, 110 DRtg, 86.2 WS, 0.118 WS/48, 0.012 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1291.36 PP, 650 AS, 202.54 CC, 14.47 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.13 LMVP Shares

    They say defense wins championships, and for Joe Dumars, that was literally true. 

    One of the best point-preventing shooting guards the NBA has ever seen, No. 4 made five All-Defensive squads during his tenure with the Detroit Pistons. He was one of the central figures on the Bad Boys squads, and he managed to add a pair of championship trophies to his mantle as a result.

    Dumars may never have racked up steals or blocks, but when he settled down into his defensive stance, he was quite difficult to score on. 

    Of course, it's not as though he was terrible on offense. Quite the contrary, despite a lackluster career PER of only 15.3. At his peak, he scored 23.5 points per game, and he was a valuable distributor from the 2 throughout his time with the Pistons. Though the ball was typically in Isiah Thomas' hands while they were both there, Detroit could count on offensive flow whenever Dumars was functioning as a main playmaker.

    It's also worth noting just how good he was during the postseason.

    Throughout his 112 playoff games (all starts), he averaged 15.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.1 blocks per game with a 14.4 PER. Again, those are not the most impressive traditional numbers, but he was a standout defender all the while and tended to do things that didn't necessarily show up in a box score. 

    Plus, it helps that he has the No. 14 Playoff Performance score and No. 9 Advancement Share among all 50 analyzed shooting guards.   


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

15. Bill Sharman

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    NBA Photos/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1950-61

    Teams: Washington Capitols, Boston Celtics

    Career Per-Game Stats: 17.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists

    Ultimate Season: 22.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists

    Career Advanced Stats: 18.2 PER, .497 TS%, 82.8 WS, 0.178 WS/48, 0.052 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 957.06 PP, 795.01 AS, 209.39 CC, 19.04 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.333 LMVP Shares

    Now it's time to go old-school for one of three shooting guards whose career ran its entire course before the ABA and NBA merged in the mid-'70s. 

    Just as is so often the case with premerger Boston Celtics, Bill Sharman's ultimate legacy revolves around the number of rings he won throughout his career. For this particular 2-guard, that would be four, though it's worth noting all of them came while he was teamed up with a certain center named Bill Russell. You may have heard of him. 

    But it's not as if Sharman was just riding the coattails. 

    The NBA's first great free-throw shooter (he led the league in free-throw percentage during seven of his 11 seasons), the diminutive 2-guard was a well-rounded player who consistently made the right play for the C's. He was one of the league's more efficient backcourt scorers during the opening salvo of NBA history, and he made a solid defensive impact year in and year out. 

    What's most impressive, though, is how valuable Sharman was to his Boston teams, even though the number of Hall of Famers on the rosters was just eye-popping. Despite playing next to so many legends, he still averaged 19.04 Career Contributions per season, leading Boston in win shares during both the 1955-56 and 1956-57 seasons, the latter being Russell's rookie go-round. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

14. Hal Greer

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    NBA Photos/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1958-73

    Teams: Syracuse Nationals, Philadelphia 76ers 

    Career Per-Game Stats: 19.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists

    Ultimate Season: 24.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists

    Career Advanced Stats: 15.7 PER, .506 TS%, 102.7 WS, 0.124 WS/48, 0.006 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1346.88 PP, 404.29 AS, 238.62 CC, 15.91 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.419 LMVP Shares

    Though he did win a ring in 1966-67, Hal Greer is defined more by his regular-season success than the body of work he put together in the playoffs. And that's saying something, as this particular shooting guard has a Playoff Performance score of 1,346.88, one that trails only 11 players at his position. 

    Greer's career lasted quite a while, and he was rather successful throughout it. Though his rebounding numbers aren't the most impressive (remember, there were far more opportunities on the boards during the 1950s and '60s) and he rarely focused on his distributing, he was a key contributor for a decade and a half. 

    During one seven-year stretch, he averaged over 20 points per game in each and every season. Just the 1962-63 campaign with the Syracuse Nationals, one in which he scored "only" 19.5 points during the average contest, prevented that streak from running for nine years.

    Perhaps even more impressively, Greer was named to the All-NBA squad seven seasons in a row during the '60s. He made the second team during each of those years in question, but that's still quite impressive given the stretch of consistent excellence. And speaking of long-standing dominance, how about this profile from HoopHall.com, describing the man with the one-handed jumper?

    A 6-foot-2 fantastically athletic guard, Hal Greer had a sweet-shooting touch and was deadly on the fast break. Greer's career was an assault on the NBA's record books: at the time of his enshrinement, he ranked among the top ten all-time in points scored (21,586), field goals attempted (18,811), field goals made (8,504), minutes played (39,788), and personal fouls (3,825)....The only player to jump shoot his free throws, the productive Greer had logged 1,122 games when he retired from the NBA in 1973, setting another league record.

    Greer's accomplishments may not have withstood the test of the time, but he was still one of the true pioneers of the game, an original superstar from an era long ago. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

13. Manu Ginobili

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    Chris Birck/Getty Images

    Years Played: 2002-Current

    Teams: San Antonio Spurs 

    Career Per-Game Stats: 14.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 19.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 21.2 PER, .587 TS%, 113 ORtg, 101 DRtg, 96.8 WS, .203 WS/48, 0.026 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 2196 PP, 695.92 AS, 187.94 CC, 15.66 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.096 LMVP Shares

    How many of the all-time greats have primarily come off the bench during their illustrious careers? 

    Manu Ginobili was a full-time starter for two years earlier in his tenure with the San Antonio Spurs, and he resumed that role during the 2010-11 season, which coincided with his second All-Star appearance. But beyond that, he's been an on-and-off starter or almost strictly a sixth man. That's not even remotely a negative, though it's likely kept him from earning just as much widespread recognition as he deserves. 

    As mentioned earlier, Ginobili is one of only two ranked shooting guards with a career true shooting percentage over .580 (his is .589) and a career assist percentage on the right side of 23 (his is 24.8, which ranks No. 8 among the 50 analyzed 2-guards). He's always been an incredibly efficient and crafty player, dazzling with his between-the-legs passes, how-did-he-see-that court vision and unstoppable Eurostep. 

    But Ginobili's career—which could've been even longer and more impressive if he'd entered the league earlier rather than earning awards and recognition overseas—has also been one of sacrifice. 

    Had he left the Spurs, he likely could've emerged as one of the best individual shooting guards in the NBA during any given season. Instead, he remained loyal and was consistently excellent (but not quite elite), fitting in with Gregg Popovich's vaunted system and winning one game after another. 

    As a result, the Argentine shooting guard has a Playoff Performance score of 2,196, one topped by only four shooting guards in the research process. His Advancement Share (695.92) is just as impressive, checking in at No. 6 and likely to be further bolstered by one more playoff run in 2014-15. 

    With four rings to his credit, he likely wouldn't have it any other way.  


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

12. Vince Carter

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    Gary Dineen/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1998-Current

    Teams: Toronto Raptors, New Jersey Nets, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies

    Career Per-Game Stats: 19.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.6 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 27.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.6 steals, 1.5 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 19.8 PER, .537 TS%, 109 ORtg, 107 DRtg, 116.5 WS, 0.140 WS/48, 0.051 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1013.73 PP, 35.73 AS, 288.35 CC, 18.02 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.615 LMVP Shares

    Vince Carter has enjoyed quite the interesting career. 

    Arguably the greatest in-game dunker of all time, the young prodigy thrived early in his career with the Toronto Raptors, putting up high-scoring performances, destroying rims and generally wreaking havoc as an individual. But he couldn't find much team-oriented success, and it wasn't until later in his career that he figured out how to play without filling the superstar role.

    Especially with the Dallas Mavericks, Carter proved that he could successfully make the transition from star to key role player, which he deserves plenty of credit for. Without the luxury of his insane athleticism, he morphed into a stellar shooter and lockdown perimeter defender, both of which gave him plenty of value as Father Time continued to take away the asset that made his early career so special. 

    Though he never came close to replicating the 12.9 win shares he racked up during the 2000-01 season north of the border, he managed to produce six while playing alongside Dirk Nowitzki in 2012-13. Not many players can claim that they averaged at least 20 points per game for a decade straight and then were able to put aside their ego and make the right type of transition into the twilight of their careers. 

    Carter will be remembered historically as a dunking and scoring machine, one who might have been even better if he'd played more passionately on a nightly basis, but it could be the late stages of his NBA life that push him into the Hall of Fame, strange as that may be to think about.   


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

11. Tracy McGrady

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    Sam Forencich/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1997-2012

    Teams: Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, San Antonio Spurs

    Career Per-Game Stats: 19.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.9 blocks 

    Ultimate Season: 32.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.9 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 22.1 PER, .519 TS%, 108 ORtg, 104 DRtg, 97.3 WS, 0.152 WS/48, 0.855 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 812.5 PP, 10.83 AS, 252.42 CC, 16.83 CC/Season, 1 LMVP, 1.911 LMVP Shares

    It's a shame that Tracy McGrady had so much trouble in the postseason. 

    Despite advancing to the playoffs nine times throughout his career, he only made it past the opening round once, and that was while he was mostly glued to the San Antonio Spurs' bench in 2013. He only spent 31 minutes on the floor during their entire run to the NBA Finals. It's not as though McGrady and his career 23.4 PER in the playoffs failed to rise to the occasion, though, just that he never was put in the right situation to succeed during the most crucial part of the year. 

    In the regular season, injuries may have taken their toll and shortened McGrady's prime, but his peak was astoundingly, mind-bogglingly good.

    During the 2002-03 season, he was Kobe Bryant's chief rival, the heir apparent to the "best player in the NBA" title while averaging 32.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. His 30.3 PER paced the Association, and with 16.1 win shares and a league-best 0.262 win shares per 48 minutes, it has to resonate historically. 

    There's a serious argument to be made: That campaign was statistically better than any produced by legends like Kobe Bryant and Larry Bird. The rest of their careers trump his with room to spare, but McGrady at his best was transcendent. 

    Thanks to his prime, the 6'8" wing player has 1.911 LMVP Shares (No. 26 all time, regardless of position, and trailing only Michael Jordan among shooting guards), and that 2002-03 season allows him to join Jordan as one of only two 2-guards to actually take home the LMVP title. 

    It's an enduring shame that everything had to fall apart so quickly while he was with the Houston Rockets. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

10. Sidney Moncrief

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    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1979-91

    Teams: Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks

    Career Per-Game Stats: 15.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 22.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.5 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 18.7 PER, .591 TS%, 119 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 90.3 WS, 0.187 WS/48, 0.695 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1157.85 PP, 121.51 AS, 188.38 CC, 17.13 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 1.063 LMVP Shares

    Throughout all of NBA history, only four shooting guards have been named Defensive Player of the Year: Michael Cooper, Michael Jordan, Sidney Moncrief and Alvin Robertson. Moncrief won the award in its initial year (1982-83) and defended the honor successfully during the next, making him the only 2-guard with multiple trophies on his resume. 

    Simply put, the longtime Milwaukee Buck was one of the best the NBA has seen on that end of the court, and it's one of the many reasons he was once called "the best pentathlete of the NBA" in a 1985 Sports Illustrated article by Jaime Diaz:

    At 28 Moncrief is the best pentathlete of the NBA—no one does so many things so well. Moncrief is a relentless rebounder and inside scorer, a reliable outside shooter, a creative passer and a master of the man-to-man, switching and rotation defenses in coach Don Nelson's hefty defensive playbook. This has made him a member of four NBA All-Star teams and three All-Defensive teams, and Defensive Player of the Year twice. Remarkably, however, he has never been in the top 10 in any category. In a sport where coaches strive to find the best blend of specialists, Moncrief has become its most accomplished generalist.

    "Nothing stands out with Sidney, and everything does," then-Bucks head coach Don Nelson told Diaz for that piece. "It's not one minute, it's 48. It's not one play, it's every play."

    The five-time All-Star might not be in the Hall of Fame, but he's one of the most notable snubs out there. His resume proves that he belongs, and the only two issues are the same ones that hold him back in these rankings. 

    Moncrief never found much playoff success—his 121.51 Advancement Share ranks No. 26 among the researched 2-guards—and his career was a bit too short. The defensive ace entered the league in 1979 and retired in 1989 rather than play his age-32 season. He'd attempt a comeback with the Atlanta Hawks one year later, but knee injuries had forced him to morph into nothing more than a limited role player.

    He called it quits for good after the season, free to pursue his business-related ventures, ones his elevated kneecaps couldn't derail. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

9. Reggie Miller

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1987-2005

    Teams: Indiana Pacers

    Career Per-Game Stats: 18.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 24.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 18.4 PER, .614 TS%, 121 ORtg, 109 DRtg, 174.4 WS, 0.176 WS/48, 0.003 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 2095.2 PP, 275.68 AS, 411.22 CC, 22.85 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 1.736 LMVP Shares

    It's hard to tell what Reggie Miller is most famous for at this point because so many things he's done are now firmly ingrained in the collective consciousness of the basketball-watching community. 

    Who could forget him scoring eight points in nine seconds to stun the crowd at Madison Square Garden during a playoff game? What about the infamous choke sign he gave to Spike Lee in the very same building? And, of course, there's the sheer quantity of triples he made throughout his career, as his 2,560 lifetime makes stood as the all-time record until Ray Allen topped it in 2011. 

    Miller was a remarkable shooter and scorer, one who could knock down looks from all over the court. He had no trouble drilling two-pointers, his lifetime numbers from beyond the arc stand at 1.8 makes per game on 39.5 percent shooting and he led the NBA in free-throw percentage on five separate occasions. But beyond that, he didn't stand out in too many areas, which is why he can't move up any higher in the rankings. 

    One of the best specialists of all time, Miller was a deadly enough shooter that he still earned a sensational 22.85 Career Contributions per season. But without elite rebounding, passing or defensive skills and no rings on his resume, he's doomed to remain exactly that—a sensational specialist. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

8. Ray Allen

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    Fernando Medina/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1996-2014

    Teams: Milwaukee Bucks, Seattle SuperSonics, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat

    Career Per-Game Stats: 18.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 26.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 18.6 PER, .580 TS%, 114 ORtg, 108 DRtg, 145.1 WS, 0.150 WS/48, 0.038 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 2016.09 PP, 537.25 AS, 338.92 CC, 18.83 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.567 LMVP Shares

    Ray Allen may have broken Reggie Miller's record for most triples made in a career, but that's not the only reason he ranks just ahead of the Indiana Pacers legend here.

    Though it's easy to forget now, as Allen has spent the last few years filling the part of role player, in his prime, he was one of the more versatile contributors at his position. The young Allen was an athletic specimen, one with enough game to put together plenty of posters while providing his teams—yes, his teams—with some solid perimeter defense. 

    Between the two sharpshooting legends, Allen has the higher total rebounding percentage, the better assist percentage, the superior career PER and was relied on more prominently within the confines of their respective offenses. While Miller was perhaps slightly more valuable, that was partially due to playing for teams that weren't as strong. Allen's comparable Playoff Performance score but vastly superior Advancement Share is a testament to that. 

    And while Miller does have Allen beat in the Career Contributions and LMVP departments, the more recent 2-guard has two accolades that his older counterpart does not: rings. One he earned as a central figure with the Boston Celtics; the other he won after making one of the biggest shots in NBA history—that falling-away three-pointer in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, one that only he could have been prepared for thanks to his borderline-psychotic workout regimen and practice sessions.  


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

7. Sam Jones

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    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1957-69

    Teams: Boston Celtics

    Career Per-Game Stats: 17.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists

    Ultimate Season: 25.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists

    Career Advanced Stats: 18.7 PER, .503 TS%, 92.3 WS, 0.182 WS/48, 0.067 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1972.74 PP, 1713.66 AS, 184.61 CC, 15.38 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0 LMVP Shares

    Whatever day of the week Sam Jones was playing on, the bank was bound to be open. 

    As a scorer, the talented 2-guard was money throughout his career, and he was one of the first stars to make a habit out of using the glass to his advantage from virtually any spot within the half-court set. With picture-perfect shooting form and a 6'4" frame, Jones was tough for any defender to slow, and he also used his size and toughness both on defense and when crashing the boards. 

    The results were spectacular. Though this shooting guard never led his team in win shares, he still managed to earn 15.38 Career Contributions per season. There's no shame in being consistently overshadowed by players like Bill Russell and John Havlicek, especially when you manage to fill up both hands with rings. 

    Literally. 

    Russell is the only player in NBA history with more championships than Jones, who was the Robin to Russell's Batman for so many years.

    And it's not as though he was just a standard second fiddle either. Not while earning 0.182 win shares per 48 minutes over the course of his career and retiring with a lifetime PER of 18.7. And certainly not when Russell thinks so highly of him, as this passage from the big man's autobiography, Second Wind, makes quite clear:

    I never could guess what Sam was going to do or say, with one major exception: I knew exactly how would react in our huddle during the final seconds of a crucial game. I'm talking about a situation when we'd be one point behind, with five seconds to go in a game that meant not just first place or pride but a whole season, when everything was on the line. You're standing there feeling weak. The pressure weighs down on you so brutally that it crushes your heart as flat as a pizza, and you feel it thudding down around your stomach. During that time-out the question will be who'll take the shot that means the season, and Red would be looking around at faces, trying to decide what play to call. It's a moment when even the better players in the NBA will start coughing, tying their shoelaces and looking the other way. At such moments I knew what Sam would do as well as I know my own names. 'Gimme the ball,' he'd say. 'I'll make it.' And all of us would look at him, and we'd know by looking that he meant what he said. Not only that, you knew that he'd make it.

    Jones is one of the more overlooked players in NBA history, and it's partially his own doing if Russell is to believed.

    "No, I don't want to do that," he quotes Jones as saying after he was asked why he doesn't take over games more often, even though he knew he could. "I don't want the responsibility of having to play like that every night."

    But he won't be overlooked here. Especially after producing the No. 8 Playoff Performance score and the very best Advancement Share among the crop of shooting guards, he belongs right up there with the best of the best.   


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

6. George Gervin

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    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1976-86

    Teams: Virginia Squires (ABA), San Antonio Spurs (ABA and NBA), Chicago Bulls

    Career Per-Game Stats: 26.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.8 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 33.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.3 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 21.7 PER, .572 TS%, 112 ORtg, 108 DRtg, 88.1 WS, 0.159 WS/48, 0.911 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1085.01 PP, 121.6 AS, 199.49 CC, 19.95 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.703 LMVP Shares

    George Gervin and his legendary finger-roll existed long before he and the San Antonio Spurs came to the NBA in 1976-77. But only the portion of his career after the NBA-ABA merger matters here, putting the kibosh on the impact of his fantastic days—which included two All-ABA appearances—in the lesser league.

    From Day 1, he excelled as a scorer in the bigger league. He'd pace the NBA in scoring during four of his first six seasons, and it wasn't until the final year of his career (which strangely came with the Chicago Bulls while Michael Jordan was a rookie) that his per-game average dipped below 20. 

    But as ridiculous as his scoring prowess may have been, the ultimate flaw was that he was still a limited player. Not much of a defensive standout, Gervin struggled distributing the ball as well, maxing out with 3.7 assists per game during the 1977-78 season. 

    His scoring was incredibly valuable, and it likely would've been strong enough to move him up a few more spots if all of his playing days had come during the NBA portion of his career. But with limited playoff success, a game that wasn't exactly well-rounded and an NBA career that only stretched out for 791 games, he can only rise so high. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

5. Allen Iverson

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    Glenn James/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1996-2010

    Teams: Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Memphis Grizzlies

    Career Per-Game Stats: 26.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 2.2 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 33.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 7.9 assists, 2.8 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 20.9 PER, .518 TS%, 105 ORtg, 106 DRtg, 99.0 WS, 0.126 WS/48, 1.567 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 1342.61 PP, 96.25 AS, 250.36 CC, 17.88 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.584 LMVP Shares

    The 6'0" Allen Iverson and his ankle-breaking crossovers made people believe that you didn't have to be big in order to put the ball in the basket. 

    Arguably the greatest pound-for-pound player of all time—according to ESPN.com's Tom Haberstroh, LeBron James will give him that title, for what it's worth—this diminutive combo guard was placed in the perfect situation to thrive as an individual.

    Not only was he on a lackluster Philadelphia 76ers squad during his prime, one in which he could take over all the ball-handling duties from Eric Snow, but he played in the ideal era for his talents. The late 1990s and early 2000s promoted hero ball and inefficient volume shooting, allowing Iverson to thrive when he might be held in check by a coaching staff in today's NBA. 

    Iverson is one of the greatest offensive talents the sport has ever witnessed. He flat-out carried his team far too often for us to decry his low shooting percentages and Career Contributions that are brought down by his non-peak years.

    Lest we forget, the dynamic guard—listed at the 2 because Basketball-Reference.com has him at shooting guard in 9.5 seasons and point guard in 4.5—averaged at least 30 points per game during four distinct seasons and won the same number of scoring titles. 

    Was he controversial? Yes. Did he believe in practice? No. Did he enjoy much playoff success? Nope. 

    However, despite all the flaws and argument-inducing aspects of his game, Iverson was one of the best at what he did—score points in bunches.   


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

4. Clyde Drexler

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    Bill Baptist/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1983-98

    Teams: Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets

    Career Per-Game Stats: 20.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.7 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 2.7 steals, 0.9 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 21.1 PER, .547 TS%, 114 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 135.6 WS, 0.173 WS/48, 0.778 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 2504.15 PP, 449.57 AS, 295.85 CC, 19.72 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.475 LMVP Shares

    Clyde Drexler's gliding exploits above the rim are the stuff of legend, even if he was forced to play second fiddle to Michael Jordan at the shooting guard position throughout his lengthy career. However, we can't just overlook everything else he brought to the table during a career that included an NBA title with the Houston Rockets and two more Finals appearances with the Portland Trail Blazers.  

    Though he was by no means a consistent stopper and was rather undisciplined at times, Drexler was a high-quality defender on his best nights. He racked up 49.9 defensive win shares during his 16-year career, a total that leaves him in the top 50 of all time.

    And how about his passing and rebounding?

    With a total rebounding percentage of 9.9, Drexler trails only Jerry Sloan among all 50 shooting guards researched. He got better as his career progressed, though, even topping out at 15.3 during his 1995-96 campaign with the Rockets. 

    Additionally, the 6'7" standout put together a career assist percentage of 25.2, one that leaves him behind just Dwyane Wade, Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, Paul Westphal and Reggie Theus. He was a consistently deft distributor, even if his scoring managed to trump the work he did as a facilitator. How many remember the season in which he averaged eight assists per game for the Blazers? 

    Though Drexler's numbers in the ultimate season listed up above all came from different stages of his lengthy and multifaceted career, they're quite telling. Few shooting guards have managed to dominate in so many different ways. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

3. Dwyane Wade

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    Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

    Years Played: 2003-Current

    Teams: Miami Heat

    Career Per-Game Stats: 24.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.9 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 30.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 2.2 steals, 1.3 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 25.1 PER, .567 TS%, 111 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 108.9 WS, 0.187 WS/48, 0.793 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 2644.8 PP, 807.96 AS, 236.61 CC, 21.51 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 0.683 LMVP Shares

    Dwyane Wade's legacy is still being written, but he's already thrived in two entirely distinct situations. 

    Early in his career, he was unquestionably "the man" for the Miami Heat, excelling as a superstar who was able to use his pump-faking, slashing, Eurostepping, rim-attacking ways to find incredible success. He led the league in scoring during the 2008-09 season, pumping in 30.2 points per game, and that came a few seasons after carrying his Heat to a title with one of the greatest prolonged postseason performances the sport has witnessed. 

    Then LeBron James came to town in 2010. While it took Wade awhile to adjust properly, he eventually did. Instead of taking over games, he became the league's best beta dog, turning into a remarkably efficient scorer who knew how to pick his spots.

    The result? Two more rings. 

    It remains to be seen how the twilight of his career will play out, as his balky knees have forced him into a premature decline. But Wade at his best was an absolutely incredible player, one who could carry the offensive load and still function as a defensive stopper. 

    He's the best shot-blocking guard of all time, arguably the premier distributing shooting guard the sport has seen (his 31.9 assist percentage is the only one produced by an analyzed 2-guard who's on the right side of 30) and a player who thrives in those performance metrics. 

    In addition to having 21.51 Career Contributions per season (No. 3 among the 50 shooting guards we studied intensely), he ranks No. 7 in LMVP Shares, No. 3 in Playoff Performance and No. 5 in Advancement Share. 

    Sure, he had only played in 719 games heading into the 2014-15 campaign—and the rest of his career is a huge question mark—but the body of work he's already put together is undeniably strong.


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

2. Kobe Bryant

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    Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1996-Current

    Teams: Los Angeles Lakers

    Career Per-Game Stats: 25.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 35.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 2.2 steals, 1.0 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 23.2 PER, .553 TS%, 111 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 173.3 WS, 0.178 WS/48, 4.206 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 3960 PP, 1289.2 AS, 368.15 CC, 20.45 CC/Season, 0 LMVPs, 1.729 LMVP Shares

    Feared by everyone, admired by many and the bane of jaws everywhere (he's caused so many to hit the floor), Kobe Bryant has put together a remarkable legacy ever since leaving Lower Merion (Pa.) High School nearly two decades ago.

    Bryant is one of the most interesting characters in NBA history if for no other reason than the fervent following he's inspired throughout his career. Arguments about his placement in these rankings are sure to be dominant, and that would've been the case no matter where he ranked. Some will claim he's too high at No. 2; others will insist he should've taken the top spot. 

    But the same schism would've been created no matter what number we attached to No. 24. 

    At this point, the numbers are just insane. 

    Bryant has been one of the league's top scorers for over a decade (81 points, anyone?), and his injury-plagued 2013-14 season, one in which he was limited to just six games, was the first time he had failed to average at least 24 points since the 1999-00 season. He even won back-to-back scoring crowns in the mid-2000s, one by averaging a remarkable 35.4 points per contest. 

    However, he's more than just a scorer. Though he has a black-hole reputation, Bryant is one of the best passers at his position and has been for quite some time. He also thrives on the boards, and though some of his recent All-Defense nods have been due to reputation more than production, he earned that reputation during his early days in the league when he really was a premier stopper.

    Above all else, though, he's a winner. You don't even need the three-peat alongside Shaquille O'Neal or the back-to-back championships he won with Pau Gasol to prove that. Bryant lives, breathes, eats and sleeps basketball more than any player has since Michael Jordan, and that will be his ultimate legacy. 

    He's the shooting guard who worked to make his footwork the best in the league, the one who sometimes alienated teammates because he demanded perfection and the one who so often felt as though he could come close to attaining that same unachievable and abstract concept. 

    Bryant's numbers—traditional stats, advanced metrics and performance metrics alike—speak for themselves. It's still everything else that's turned him from mere mortal into oft-infallible legend. 


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year) 

1. Michael Jordan

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    Jerry Wachter/Getty Images

    Years Played: 1984-2003

    Teams: Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards

    Career Per-Game Stats: 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.3 steals, 0.8 blocks

    Ultimate Season: 37.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 3.2 steals, 1.6 blocks

    Career Advanced Stats: 27.9 PER, .569 TS%, 118 ORtg, 103 DRtg, 214.0 WS, 0.250 WS/48, 8.138 MVP Shares

    Performance Metrics: 4591.35 PP, 1379.96 AS, 444.7 CC, 29.65 CC/Season, 7 LMVPs. 7.75 LMVP Shares

    Michael Jordan is commonly viewed as the greatest basketball player of all time for a reason. Many reasons, in fact.

    Among the 50 shooting guards analyzed, the Chicago Bulls legend and six-time champion paced the group in points per game, PER, usage rate, win shares, win shares per 48 minutes, MVPs and MVP shares. He also finished with a top-three ranking in championships, rebounds per game, steals per game, offensive rating, All-Star selections, All-NBA selections and Defensive Player of the Year awards. In fact, his only non-single-digit rankings came in turnovers per game, where he was in the bottom half. 

    Somehow, his performance metrics are even more impressive. 

    Not only does Jordan lead all 2-guards in both Career Contributions and the per-season version of that stat, but there are only a handful of players who beat him in either category, regardless of position.

    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Adrian Dantley, Wilt Chamberlain and Karl Malone are the lone players to top his total, while his per-season mark is surpassed by only eight players in NBA history. Kevin Love, LeBron James and Dantley are the only post-merger standouts in that group.  

    Jordan's Playoff Performance score leads shooting guards and trails only Abdul-Jabbar. His Advancement Share similarly tops every other 2-guard and leaves him behind just six players. But how important was he to his teams? 

    No one can match Jordan's seven LMVPs. And while Chamberlain did manage to surpass him in LMVP shares, Jordan still finishes No. 2 and played in an entirely different era. 

    You've heard the stories. You've seen the numbers. You've watched the highlights. 

    Plenty have come for his crown, but Jordan stands supreme.   


    Metric Cheat Sheet (refer to the second slide for more detailed descriptions) 

    PP = Playoff Performance (individual success and longevity in the playoffs)

    AS = Advancement Shares (team postseason success weighted by importance of contributions)

    CC = Career Contributions (scaled importance to team with team quality factored in)

    LMVP = Literal MVP (earned with highest Career Contributions score in the league)

    LMVP Shares = Literal MVP Shares (gives credit to non-first-place finishers in the LMVP standings each year)