We now turn to the Central Division in our Hall of Fame segment. Just as a reminder, we are looking for the next player most likely to make the Hall of Fame for each franchise. The guidelines, can be found here. Let’s begin…
1. Chicago Bulls: Outside of the Michael Jordan Era, the Hall of Fame doesn’t have much in the way of candidates. As great as the 1990s were, the Bulls franchise has few other highlights. Currently, Derrick Rose is on the path but needs a lot more time before we actually assess him. From the pre-MJ days, Artis Gilmore was a great candidate but: (1) he just got in and (2) is, arguably, not best remembered as a Bull (he played equal stints with Kentucky and San Antonio).
Now that Gilmore is off the list, the clear best candidate is Chet Walker. We noted Walker last time when we looked at the 76er candidates and found him to the best non-Iverson candidate. Last time, we also noted that we would try to avoid assessing a player as potential Hall of Famer for more than one franchise unless that player was truly Hall worthy for both teams. In Walker’s case, he played slightly longer for Philly than he did for the Bulls. Still, Walker was actually better for the Bulls and he really is the best candidate (Walker was in the top ten in win shares each year he played on the Bulls).
Speaking of Walker, his teammates from the 1970s are marginal candidates. Bob Love was an effective scoring forward and Norm Van Lier a solid guard but neither had PERs over 18 ever and both had relatively short careers. For a wild card candidate, we have Toni Kukoc. Kukoc played at an All-Star level from 1994-95 to 1996-97 but no one noticed because the team was so star heavy at the time (Kukoc mostly came off the bench). If you don’t remember Kukoc, he was hyped as the European Magic Johnson in Croatia before he came over to the United States. The Bulls (actually GM Jerry Krause) obsessed about pairing him with Jordan to the point that Krause seemed willing to discard better-than-expected Scottie Pippen for Kukoc, which caused periodic rifts between Pippen and the Bulls.
Kukoc hemmed and hawed about coming to the NBA for several years before finally coming over at age-25 in 1993-94, shortly before MJ’s first retirement. Kukoc soldiered on and was part of three title teams with Jordan. As mentioned, Kukoc was an All-Star level player during that time. After Jordan retired, Kukoc spent another eight years as a valuable reserve with Philly, Atlanta, and Milwaukee. Kukoc was never a Hall of Famer on his NBA accomplishments but if Drazen Petrovic is in, a fellow Euro legend with a nice pro career could make it in too. Walker is the choice here on all levels but Kukoc is far from a crazy pick.
-Best Non-Hall of Famer in Franchise: Chet Walker
-Best Eligible Hall of Famer in Franchise: Chet Walker
-If Springfield Had to Choose One Now: Chet Walker
We just took a month off from writing in hopes that the NBA labor stalemate would move forward while we all thought of other things. Unfortunately, the world of the NBA present is still stuck in neutral (and possibly even reverse). On the bright side, we can spend as much time talking about the NBA’s past here as its present. I thought we could use some our time to take another look at the Hall of Fame.
I know that discussion of the Hall of Fame tends to be a lightning rod. There are some fans who believe the institution has made the wrong choices and needs fixing and hate the confidential selection process. There are other fans who are agnostic about the Hall and wonder, for many different reasons, whether there is value to intensely debating which former players gets official recognition for deeds that were accomplished long ago. I tend to fall into the latter group. Sure, I don’t think Dennis Johnson was a strong Hall of Famer but he was good and it would’ve been really cool if he had gotten that honor when he was still alive.
Having said all that, I do have my opinions on who belongs in the Hall, though I lack the passion to really worry about it. Watching the Hall ceremony last month, I did find myself wondering whether Chris Mullin or Dennis Rodman really belonged in the Hall. I won’t do the analysis now but both certainly have good cases, even if I think there may be better options out there. In so wondering, it was the “better options” thought that really stuck in my mind. I wondered, who is the best player, per franchise, not currently in the Hall. In the next few weeks, we’ll run through this question, by division, starting today with the Atlantic Division. Continue reading Who Is Your Most Likely Hall of Famer? (Atlantic Division)…