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NBA AM: Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame

Chris Webber is among the NBA greats still waiting for Hall of Fame enshrinement.

Joel Brigham



The 2016 class of Hall of Fame inductees is a rather high-profile one, with Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson leading the list of candidates who were enshrined as soon as they possibly could be. Every year there are guys like that – no-brainers who did more than enough over the course of their career to get themselves a fast pass into the sport’s most revered shrine.

But what about those players who had really, really good careers but aren’t sure thing first-ballot Hall of Famers? What must it feel like to have been among the most talented, most dominant players in the game during their respective eras, only to be told they’re just not quite good enough to be awarded basketball’s most prestigious individual honor?

It still could happen for any of these guys, but while they wait plenty of other players make it in ahead of them, not all of them more deserving. The following are the best players in NBA and ABA history not to have been named to the Hall of Fame, along with why perhaps they should be:

Jack Sikma – Of all the players who have not yet been admitted into the Hall of Fame, few players generate quite as many interesting points on both sides of the argument as Sikma. He was a seven-time All-Star, but his career stats (15.6 PPG and 9.8 RPG) are good but not awe-inspiring. He dominated in college and won an NBA championship, but he attended tiny Illinois Wesleyan University, a Division III school, and his championship was one of the less memorable in league history as a member of the 1979 Seattle SuperSonics. He never made an All-NBA Team, but how could he when up against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Moses Malone? Despite all the back-and-forth, Sikma really was a consistently excellent NBA player who absolutely was elite in his era and has a ring to show for his efforts. In fact, he’s the only seven-time All-Star in league history not to be enshrined. If any of the old-school snubs should find his way into the Hall, he should be the one.

Shawn Kemp – Maybe the most exciting Sonics player of all-time, the Reign Man treated rims like demolition crews treat decrepit buildings. Athleticism alone does not a Hall of Fame player make, but Kemp has a resume that should at least garner him some consideration for the Hall in the years to come. He was named to the All-NBA Second Team three times and earned six All-Star selections, and while Kemp didn’t retire with any rings, he did make it to the Finals in 1996 and helped give Michael Jordan’s Bulls a decent run for their money. He finished his career with over 15,000 points and 9,000 rebounds, and he was an absolute joy to watch in his prime – all of which counts in his favor in terms of Hall of Fame potential.

Mark Aguirre – To be fair, Aguirre is a member of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, but he is still waiting for his admission into the Hall that really matters. After his star career at the University of DePaul in Chicago, Aguirre was drafted first overall in 1981, at which point he immediately helped turn the Dallas Mavericks into one of the best teams in the league. He won his two rings after being traded to the Bad Boy Pistons of the late ‘80s, and he was named to three All-Star teams over the course of his career. He averaged 20 PPG over 14 years in the league, making him one of the most effective and consistent scorers of his era. That, added to his laundry list of college accolades, make him an intriguing possibility for enshrinement.

Ben Wallace – If admitted, Wallace would be the first undrafted NBA star to make the Hall of Fame, which is pretty incredible, frankly. At only 6’9, Wallace never should have been as dominant defensively as he was, but he still put up amazing defensive numbers in his prime—enough to earn him four Defensive Player of the Year Awards and five All-Defensive First Team designations. In 2002-03, he averaged a career-high 15.4 RPG and the following season he swatted away a career-high 3.5 BPG, all of which came right around the same time he won a title with the Detroit Pistons. His career 6 PPG and atrocious free-throw shooting might work against him, but he’s one of the best defenders ever. Even with dismal offense, he’ll be one of those guys who at least ends up in the conversation every single year until he makes it in.

Tim Hardaway – The man who popularized the “Killer Crossover” has been on the brink of Hall of Fame enshrinement for a few years now but has continually come up just a bit short as voters can’t quite seem to agree on whether or not he belongs. Over the course of his career he was named to five All-Star teams, one All-NBA First Team, three All-NBA Second Teams and one All-NBA Third Team. He helped turn the Miami HEAT into a contender, and while he didn’t win a ring there, he did set the table for the group that did a couple years after he left. His career was a long and successful one, making him one of the best eligible players not to be in the Hall.

Chris Webber – Whether he deserves it or not, Webber’s career always has been defined by that ill-fated timeout he called during the national championship as a member of the University of Michigan team that lost in heartbreaking fashion to the University of North Carolina in 1993, but Webber’s career was so much more than that. As a contemporary of Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett, two sure-thing Hall of Famers, there once was a real argument that Webber was the best of them. He ran the break like a point guard, passed as well as any big man the game has ever seen, and played some of the most efficient and exciting basketball of the era. Nobody could stop Webber in his prime, which is a big reason why he made five All-Star Teams and five All-NBA Teams, including an All-NBA First Team selection. He was an elite player in his era, and one of the most unfair Hall snubs alive.

Kevin Johnson – The numbers are there for KJ, who averaged 17.9 PPG, 9.1 APG and 1.5 SPG over the course of 12 NBA seasons. He made five All-Star teams, was named to five All-NBA Teams and played in the 1993 NBA Finals against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Had he spent more seasons healthy, he’d probably be a lock for the Hall of Fame, but he played 70 games or fewer in six of his 12 seasons. That apparently has made it hard enough to get him inducted, even though he was named a finalist earlier this year. He fell short this time around, but he won’t always. It seems like only a matter of time before he finds his way into the Hall of Fame.

George McGinnis – It’s been so long since McGinnis retired in 1982 that it gets less and less likely every year that he’ll get his shot at enshrinement, but considering he’s the only eligible NBA or ABA MVP not to have been named makes his lack of inclusion all the more painful. McGinnis himself has said that he probably won’t get inducted, which is sad for a guy who was as successful as he was in the ABA. He won two championships there with the Pacers, but was named an All-Star in the NBA three times and played in the 1977 NBA Finals after the merger as well. The fact that Indiana foolishly traded away Alex English to reacquire him late in his career is an unfair mark against him, as his career 17.2 PPG and 9.8 RPG are really good numbers that deserve more of a look at the Hall than he’s ever gotten.


The Hall of Fame can’t let every halfway decent NBA player into its ranks, but there are a handful of players who genuinely deserve to be added. Many of these players either are in serious conversation for enshrinement right now or have been for years. Hopefully each of them gets his due while he’s still alive to enjoy it.

Joel Brigham is a senior writer for Basketball Insiders, covering the Central Division and fantasy basketball.


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NBA Daily: Checking In With Terrance Ferguson

Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Terrance Ferguson talks to Basketball Insiders about learning from his teammates, earning minutes and being mentally tough.

Ben Nadeau



Before he reached the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Terrance Ferguson was once often referred to as a man of mystery. After changing course on two different programs in a two-month span, Ferguson ditched the typical one-and-done collegiate season for an adventure on the other side of the planet. But even after the Thunder selected Ferguson with the No. 21 overall pick in last year’s draft — the questions still lingered. How would a teenager with one season overseas adjust to the world’s most physical basketball league?

Not many rookies can contribute to a 40-plus win squad out in the cutthroat Western Conference so quickly — but down the stretch, here Ferguson is doing just that. With the Thunder locked in a tight playoff battle with six others teams, the 19-year-old’s hard-working personality has fit alongside the roster’s three perennial All-Stars — Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. And although his rookie season has come with some growing pains, Ferguson is earning meaningful minutes and making the most of them.

“I think it’s my work ethic, I come in every day with the same mentality,” Ferguson said. “I work my butt off — inside the game, being physical. Even though I’m a skinny guy, as everyone can see, I’m still everywhere on the floor being physical. I think [the coaching staff] really likes that, especially on the defensive end.”

Skinny or not, Ferguson is one of the league’s youngest players, so the 6-foot-7 guard has plenty of room to grow — literally. But for now, he’s playing an integral role on an Oklahoma City team looking to protect its high postseason seed. Late January brought the unfortunate season-ending injury to Andre Roberson — an All-Defensive Second Team honoree in 2016-17 — so the Thunder have needed both new and old players to step up in bigger roles.

While those candidates included the three-point shooting Alex Abrines, veteran Raymond Felton and the newly-acquired Corey Brewer, Ferguson’s recent rise in the rotation has arguably been the most interesting development. Since the calendar flipped to January, Ferguson has featured in almost all of the Thunder’s games, tallying just two DNP-CDs and one missed contest following a concussion. This steady diet of opportunity comes as a stark contrast to the 15 games in which he received no playing time, spanning from the season’s opening tip to the new year.

Of course, playing time is not always indicative of success, but Ferguson himself isn’t surprised that he’s carved out a crucial role ahead of the playoffs.

“Not really, it’s all up to coach’s decision,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I’m just here playing my part, staying ready at all times and some minutes came, so I’mma take them and play to the best of my ability.”

Back in October, Basketball Insiders’ own Joel Brigham spoke to Ferguson about his unconventional path to NBA and the choice to spend a year grinding with the Adelaide 36ers, an Australian outfit. In the land down under, Ferguson averaged just 15 minutes a night, considerably less than he would’ve likely received as a highly-recruited prospect here in America. Some five months later, Ferguson’s early-season stance on the move still stands out.

“I’m living the dream now, right? I must have done the right thing,” Ferguson said.

Today, it’s hard to disagree with Ferguson’s decisions considering that they’re currently paying off. In 2009, Brandon Jennings became the first to skip college and play in Europe before being drafted, with Emmanuel Mudiay most notably following in his footsteps six years later. While those two point guards both were selected in the top ten of their draft classes — at No. 10 and No. 7, respectively — it still remains the road far less traveled.

Considered raw by most pre-draft evaluations, an early expectation was that Ferguson would spend much of the season with the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s G-League affiliate. Instead, Ferguson has played in only three games with the Blue, where he has averaged a commendable 14.7 points, four rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.

But as of late, the Thunder have found somebody that’ll always work hard, learn from others and do the little things that don’t show up in the box score.

“I’ve learned a lot more from when I first started,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I got great teammates — I got Nick Collison, I got Russ, PG, Melo, so just picking their brains. I got Corey now, so just the work ethic they put in, just picking their brains each and every day about what I can do better, watching game film, it’s a lot of things.”

When he was drafted, Ferguson had a reputation as a skyscraping leaper with the athleticism to become an elite perimeter defender. Although his current averages with the Thunder understate his innate potential, Ferguson knows he can contribute without scoring — even noting that he can make up for it “on the other side of the court.” Playing defense and competing hard every night, he has slowly made a name for himself.

And while Ferguson has tallied far more single-digit scoring outings than his 24-point breakout performance in early January, he’s earned the trust of head coach Billy Donovan and his veteran teammates, which is something the rookie will never take for granted.

“Coach believes in me and that means a lot to me,” Ferguson said. “But my teammates believe in me, so I’m not gonna let them down. I’m gonna go out every day and play my hardest, compete and try to get the win each and every night.”

One might assume that his year abroad in Australia helped to mentally mold him into the high-flying, hard-nosed rookie we see today. Ferguson, however, contends that he’s had that edge from the very beginning.

“I’ve been mentally tough, it wasn’t overseas that did that,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I had to be mentally tough just to go over there — so I’ve always had that mentality, the [desire] to just dominate, play to the best of my ability and compete.”

And now he’s doing just that in the NBA.

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Is Kyrie Irving’s Second Opinion a Cause for Concern?

Shane Rhodes breaks down the tough situation the Celtics are in with Kyrie Irving.

Shane Rhodes



The Boston Celtics are in one awful predicament.

With a third of the roster out due to injury, Brad Stevens has been forced into the impossible task of maintaining Boston’s championship aspirations with some subpar talent; while they have performed admirably, the likes of Abdel Nader and Semi Ojeleye wouldn’t see the same run they are currently on with most contenders. Gordon Hayward has missed the entire season, save a few minutes on opening night. Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis are all currently out, some for the year and others not. Key contributors Al Horford, Marcus Morris and others have missed time as well.

It couldn’t get worse, could it?

Well, it may just have. Reports surfaced Tuesday that Irving, who had missed time this season — including the last four games — with left knee soreness, is seeking a second opinion after a lack of progress in his recovery.

In the wake of the Isaiah Thomas fiasco and his ailing hip last Summer, an injury that lingered deep into this season, the Celtics will likely be more than cautious with Irving, whom they gave up a haul (the rights to the 2018 Brooklyn Nets first round pick, most notably), to acquire. But one can only wonder if these persistent issues — Irving’s left knee was surgically repaired after he sustained a fractured kneecap in 2015, and he reportedly threatened the Cleveland Cavaliers with surgery this offseason before his trade to Boston — are a cause for concern for general manager Danny Ainge and the Celtics.

The situation presents the Celtics with a quandary, to say the least.

Knee injuries aren’t exactly a death-knell, but fans need not look far for to see the devastating effect they can have on NBA players (e.g. Derrick Rose). They can snowball and, over time, even the best players will break down. Regardless of the severity, Irving’s knee issue presents problems both now and in the future.

The problems now are obvious: the Celtics, already down Gordon Hayward, cannot afford to lose Irving if they are at all interested in making a Finals run this season. Boston struggles mightily on the offensive end when Irving and his 24.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists aren’t on the court. In a playoff atmosphere, especially, the team would sorely miss his scoring prowess.

Looking ahead, if Irving is dealing with these problems at the age of 25, what could the future hold for the All-Star guard? Knee issues, most lower body issues in general, are often of the chronic variety, and constant maintenance can wear on people, both mentally and physically.

Just a season separated from a likely super-max payday, will the Celtics want to commit big-money long-term to potentially damaged goods?

If there is a silver lining in it all, it is the fact that 20-year-old rookie Jayson Tatum must now shoulder the scoring load, something that should go a long way in building on the potential that made him the No. 3 overall pick last June. And, should Irving miss the remainder of this season, exposure to the fires of the playoffs should only temper the Celtics’ young roster. In the event that Irving’s absence isn’t prolonged, time like this could only serve to strengthen the roster around him.

Still, Ainge brought Irving to Boston for a reason: he was meant to lead the Celtics into battle, alongside Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, in their quest for a title. Obviously, he can’t do that from the bench. Without Irving at 100 percent, the Celtics are not a championship caliber squad, healthy Gordon Hayward or not. That fact alone will make Irving’s situation one to monitor going forward and for the foreseeable future.

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NBA Daily: Houston Has It All

Deciphering whether Houston is a contender or pretender is tough, but they’re making it easy.

Lang Greene



It is very easy to get caught up in the NBA regular-season hyperbole. The past is littered with a plethora of NBA teams that looked like world-beaters in the regular season only to pull up lame in the playoffs and emerge as a bunch of pretenders.

So when it comes to the Houston Rockets, it’s no surprise many pundits and fans of the game fall heavily on one side or the other. The 2017-18 Rockets are a polarizing squad in that respect. On one side of the fence, you have the folks that are struggling to get behind Houston until they see how the franchise performs in the playoffs under the brightest of lights and on the biggest of stages. On the other, folks that place a great deal of weight on the 82-game regular season and the ability to sustain consistency throughout the marathon.

As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

At the top of Houston’s lineup are two future Hall of Famers in James Harden and Chris Paul. The latter was a perennial star in his heyday and is still a top-tier talent in the league. Harden, on the other hand, is closing in on his first MVP award and had serious cases for winning the honors in prior seasons, as well. Both Harden and Paul are criticized for their past playoff failures.

Paul entered the league during the 2006 season and has been dogged by the ever looming fact that he’s never reached a Conference Finals. Harden has been to the NBA Finals but has been dogged for multiple playoff missteps and shaky performances that remain etched in everyone’s memory. But something about this season’s Rockets team (57-14) seems different as the duo closes in on 60 wins.

One way to measure the true greatness of a NBA team is evaluating how many ways the roster can win playing a variety of styles. From the eyeball test, Houston checks the boxes in this category. The team sustains leads during blowouts. They have an offense built to erase large deficits quickly. The team possesses the talent to employ an array of versatile lineups to withstand top heat from opposing teams. Head coach Mike D’Antoni has shown the ability to adjust on the fly during certain situations. Houston is seemingly comprised of a bunch of guys that are selfless and ready to sacrifice at this stage of their respective careers.

Time will tell on all of those aforementioned aspects, but the Rockets are built to compete and win now. On paper at least, the team fits the criteria.

Floor Generalship

Paul has a chance to go down as a top five point guard in NBA history .His court vision is unquestioned and his big men always seem to end up being in the top five of field goal percentage each season (i.e. Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan and now Clint Capela). In years past, the Rockets faltered down the stretch of games because the entire system ran through Harden. But this year’s club has the luxury of taking some of the on-ball expectation away from Harden and by giving the rock to Paul who naturally thrives in this role the squad doesn’t take a step back on the floor.

This is going to be big for Houston which has seen Harden gassed late in playoff games from carrying the entire load.

Small Ball Ready

Presumably standing between the Rockets and an appearance in the NBA Finals are the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors turned the NBA upside down with their free-flowing offense, long range accuracy and the successful ability to push the pace while playing small ball.

At the height of Golden State’s success they employed the “death lineup” which places All-Star forward Draymond Green at center. In different variations this gives the Warriors five guys on the court who can dribble, drive, pass and shoot. Versatility is important and if you look at this year’s Rockets team they have the ability to match the death lineup with their own version. Veteran forward P.J. Tucker would be able to guard Green in this scenario at center or Houston could just rely on the athleticism of Capela.


When it comes to defense, the Rockets will never be confused for the bad boy Detroit Pistons of yesteryear, however, the team has an assortment of individually capable defenders on the roster. Paul has all defensive team honors hanging on his mantle during his time in the league. Small forward Trevor Ariza made his bones in the league by placing an emphasis on defense. Before Capela emerged as a double-digit scorer, he was relied on as a defensive spark off the bench. Luc Mbah a Moute has a reputation and consistent track record of being a very willing defender.

Shooting, Versatility and Experience

All of this success, leads to the variation D’Antoni can put out onto the floor. The versatility to go with a small ball lineup or a lineup heavily skewed toward defenders is a luxury amenity. Houston also features five guys with 125 or more three-pointers made this season with Harden, Eric Gordon, Ariza, Paul and Ryan Anderson leading the way. A sixth, Tucker, should join the +100 club before season’s end. Veteran Gerald Green has only played 30 games with the franchise but has already knocked down 76 attempts from distance.

Experience is key as well. This year’s Rockets team features only one player under 25, receiving 25 or more minutes per night in the rotation. Look at NBA history, title winning teams are full of veterans not second or third year players.


Again, the Rockets will never be confused with the late 80s or early 90s Pistons but the team has more than a few guys that don’t shy away from contact or physical play. The collection of Nene, Tucker, Green and Ariza have had more than their share of shoving matches when things get heated on the floor.

With the start of the NBA playoffs (April 14) under a month away, the Rockets continue to build momentum toward a title run. Will Harden and Paul’s playoff demons from the past emerge or is their first true shot at greatness with a complete team? These questions will soon be answered.

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