All-Star voting is coming to an end, and the game is just around the corner in Chicago, where the NBA will announce that Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett are among the 2020 inductees for the Hall of Fame. Chris Bosh should be in, too, and hopefully Chris Webber gets his due this year as well, but those are stories for a different day. I want to know which active players are Hall of Famers right now.
Not down the line. Not if they win a championship. Who would be a Hall of Famer if he retired right now? We need tangible criteria to curb the debate about a player’s worthiness, so here is what I came up with:
• Of the 63 eligible players who have made at least seven All-Star appearances, all but one are in the Hall of Fame. Eight-time All-Star Larry Foust is the exception. Don’t ask me why. He played in the 1950s.
• Every eligible MVP is in the Hall. Bryant, Duncan, Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki will join them soon enough.
• Nineteen of the 21 eligible Finals MVPs are memorialized in Springfield. Bryant, Duncan, Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Paul Pierce and Tony Parker will all eventually join them. Cedric Maxwell and Chauncey Billups are the only ones who are not. Maxwell was never an All-Star, and Billups has the highest Hall of Fame probability of any eligible player not named Larry Foust, per Basketball Reference’s metrics.
• Every eligible player with at least six All-NBA selections and 21 of the 25 eligible players with five All-NBA bids are embronzed. Tim Hardaway, Kevin Johnson, Ben Wallace and Chris Webber are the odd men out. Only Johnson and Wallace made a Finals, with Wallace winning in 2004. And only Hardaway and Webber made a First Team. Off-court controversies — one more egregious than the other — have likely contributed to keeping Hardaway and Johnson out. Wallace and Webber were finalists last year.
• Only four players with multiple First Team All-NBA honors have not been inducted: Max Zaslofsky (4), Bob Feerick (2), Penny Hardaway (2) and Alex Groza (2). Zaslofsky is the only the only scoring champion not be in the Hall. Feerick played just four seasons (three in the BAA). Hardaway was Hall-bound before injuries derailed his career at age 26. And Groza was banned from the NBA in a point-shaving scandal.
• Eight of the 14 eligible Defensive Players of the Year are enshrined in Springfield. Garnett will make it nine of 15. Mark Eaton, Alvin Robertson, Michael Cooper, Ben Wallace, Ron Artest and Marcus Camby are not. Eaton (2) and Wallace (3) are the only players to have won multiple DPOYs and not make it.
• Every eligible player with at least nine All-Defensive selections is in Springfield.
• A ring count is no guarantee for a Hall call, as seven-time champion Robert Horry can attest, but every player who has won at least three titles and made an All-NBA roster at some point in his career has been inducted, except Sam Cassell. Cassell won his three titles bookending his career as a reserve and made Second Team All-NBA in 2004, the same year he earned his only All-Star Game invitation in 15 seasons.
• Of the 45 players to have scored 20,000 career points, 30 of the 32 who are eligible are in the Hall. Bryant, Nowitzki, Duncan, Pierce, Garnett and Wade will make it 36 of 38. Tom Chambers and Antawn Jamison (the 44th and 45th members of that club) are the odd men out. The other seven are still active.
Hall of Fame locks
With all that in mind, there are 10 active players who are locks for the Hall of Fame right now:
• LeBron James (4x MVP, 15x All-NBA, 15x All-Star, 3x champion, 3x Finals MVP, 2008 scoring champion, 33,532 points)
• Kevin Durant (2014 MVP, 9x All-NBA, 10x All-Star, 2x champion, 2x Finals MVP, 4x scoring champion, 22,940 points)
• Stephen Curry (2x MVP, 5x All-NBA, 6x All-Star, 3x champion, 2016 scoring champion, 16,396 points)
• Russell Westbrook (2017 MVP, 8x All-NBA, 8x All-Star, 2x scoring champion, 19,701 points)
• James Harden (2018 MVP, 6x All-NBA, 7x All-Star, 2x scoring champion, 20,076 points)
• Chris Paul (8x All-NBA, 9x All-Star, 9x All-Defense, 18,273 points)
• Dwight Howard (8x All-NBA, 8x All-Star, 3x DPOY, 18,429 points)
• Kawhi Leonard (3x All-NBA, 3x All-Star, 2x DPOY, 2x champion, 2x Finals MVP, 9,098 points)
• Carmelo Anthony (6x All-NBA, 10x All-Star, 2013 scoring champion, 25,992 points)
• Vince Carter (2x All-NBA, 8x All-Star, 25,588 points)
Borderline Hall of Famers
There are a dozen or so others who are teetering on the edge or just toppled into the aforementioned criteria, all of whom would join guys like Webber and Wallace as anomalies were they not to make it.
Keep in mind, 12 of the 18 eligible players with six All-Star nods to their names are in the Hall of Fame, 17 of the 26 players with five selections have been inducted and 16 of the 36 players with four bids are in. The odds drop significantly after that, although 14 Hall of Famers have three selections or fewer. (Amar’e Stoudemire, a six-time All-Star, became eligible this year and may be a bellwether for the future.)
The 10 active borderline Hall of Famers:
• LaMarcus Aldridge (5x All-NBA, 7x All-Star, 19,292 points)
Having fit two of key criteria, Aldridge might be a lock right now, even if he has never won a conference finals game. Add 20,000 points to the ledger, and it would be almost impossible to ignore his résumé.
• Giannis Antetokounmpo (2019 MVP, 3x All-NBA, 3x All-Star, 9,947 points)
He would maybe be the most fascinating case. If he retired right now, midseason, I am not sure he is a Hall of Famer, despite his brilliance over the past three seasons, his historic 2019 MVP campaign and the fact that he is the favorite to repeat as MVP as of this moment. That second award would seal it.
• Anthony Davis (3x First Team All-NBA, 6x All-Star, 12,007 points)
Davis is 26 years old, already a three-time First Team All-NBA selection and about to be named to his seventh All-Star Game. That might be there already, and a title this season would leave no doubt.
• Draymond Green (2x All-NBA, 3x All-Star, 2017 DPOY, 3x champion, 5,095 points)
• Klay Thompson (2x All-NBA, 5x All-Star, 3x champion, 11,995 points)
Green (an all-time defender) and Thompson (all-time shooter) would be the lone three-time champions and two-time All-NBA selections not in the Hall of Fame if they were to retire today and not make it.
• Blake Griffin (5x All-NBA, 6x All-Star, 13,479 points)
• Paul George (5x All-NBA, 6x All-Star, 12,593 points)
With another All-Star selection this season, George would fit two key criteria. A title would clinch it.
• Andre Iguodala (1x All-Star, 3x champion, 2015 Finals MVP, 13,456 points)
Never an All-NBA player, Iguodala will be a fascinating test of the Finals MVP criteria. His All-Star appearance and two All-Defensive selections make him a superior Hall of Fame candidate to Maxwell, and while Billups is a five-time All-Star, four-time All-Defensive pick and three-time All-NBA honoree, Iguodala was vital to a team that made five straight Finals, including three titles and a 73-win campaign.
• Kyrie Irving (2x All-NBA, 6x All-Star, 2016 champion, 11,675 points)
The fans want Irving in a seventh All-Star Game this season, although injuries make that a question mark. He was the second-best player on a championship team but has never been First Team All-NBA, even if he has played at that level between bouts with injuries. He is well on his way at 27 years old.
• Derrick Rose (2011 MVP, 1x All-NBA, 3x All-Star, 10,932 points)
Rose may end his career as the lone MVP not to make the Hall of Fame. At age 22, he was the youngest player ever to win the award, and he tore his ACL a year later. He has never been the same, playing 51 games or fewer in five of his seven seasons since, to say nothing of his off-court transgressions.
A tier to themselves
There are a handful more active players who are worth mentioning in this Hall of Fame conversation:
• Marc Gasol (2x All-NBA, 3x All-Star, 2013 DPOY, 2019 champion, 12,114 points)
• Kyle Lowry (2016 All-NBA Third Team, 5x All-Star, 2019 champion, 12,949 points)
The 2019 title made things more interesting for Gasol and Lowry. The former may already be a Hall of Famer, given his additional contributions abroad as a two-time FIBA World Cup champion, a two-time EuroBasket champion and both a Spanish League champion and MVP. Lowry may earn a sixth All-Star bid this season, and — should he remain in a watered-down East — may reach that seven-time club.
• Kevin Love (2x All-NBA, 5x All-Star, 2016 champion)
The last two seasons in Cleveland have been a waste for Love, but he is only 31 years old, and a few more playoff runs combined with a couple more All-Star appearances could inch him closer to the Hall.
• Rajon Rondo (2012 All-NBA Third Team, 4x All-Star, 2008 champion)
Rondo was incredible in reaching three Eastern Conference finals and two Finals in a five-year period, and he was working on his fourth straight All-Star campaign when he tore his ACL in 2013. That sent his career spiraling to five teams in his next five seasons, but what if Playoff Rondo were to show up en route to another ring or two as a bit player for the Lakers? He might be able to at least build a case.
If you think Shawn Marion — a four-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA Third Team selection and 2011 champion — is a Hall of Famer, as some apparently do, it would be hard for you to exclude these guys.
Hall of Famers in waiting
We would be remiss if we did not mention Pau Gasol and Joe Johnson, who both signed with teams this season and have yet to officially retire. The elder Gasol — a six-time All-Star, four-time All-NBA selection, two-time champion and legendary international player — is a lock. Johnson, meanwhile, will be a real test of the seven-time All-Star and 20,000-point clubs. Does his BIG3 MVP count for anything?
I will leave you with the nine retired players who are surefire locks to make the Hall of Fame, pending either February’s announcement or future eligibility: Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. What a group.
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