In the spirit of this weekend’s Naismith Hall of Fame festivities, Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated recently took a look at some NBA veterans in the late stages of their careers who might have a chance at enshrinement someday. Quite a few Pistons and former Pistons are included. Here’s a rundown:
Wallace is No. 8 all-time in the NBA in rebounding rate, won a ring as part of a Detroit team that played in six straight conference finals, made five straight first-team All-Defensive teams and guarded Shaquille O’Neal decently during the 2004 Finals. But his career got off to a slow start, with three fairly low-minutes seasons in Washington, and it has ended with unspectacular (but solid) play in Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit again. Wallace was a horrid free throw shooter and less of an offensive threat than Camby, but he made up for it to some degree with nasty screen-setting and decent passing.
I’m going to take his case up more vigorously once he officially retires. Although I am admittedly biased, Wallace getting in the Hall of Fame is a no-brainer.
Voters love Finals MVPs, and though Billups never quite lived up to the “Mr. Big Shot” moniker — his clutch numbers are pretty average overall — he did make some huge shots for the Pistons, upgraded Denver as soon as he got there and has won universal respect as a locker-room leader. He could finish with close to 17,000 points and a PER around 19.0 — a top-100 mark — if he stays healthy and productive for two more seasons. He has proven himself very smart at remaining very efficient as his athleticism declines by focusing almost entirely on threes and free throws. A five-time All-Star and a solid, smart defender during his prime, Billups has had trouble cracking the All-NBA teams with so many elite point guards, old and young, scattered around the league. Gun to my head, I bet Billups gets in.
I’m in the same boat as Wallace when it comes to Billups — no question he should get in.
Hill is going to get in, even though a series of devastating ankle injuries limited him to six truly dominant seasons at the start of his career — a streak that ended right after he signed a massive free-agent contract with the Magic during the same summer spending bonanza that netted the next guy on this list. But Hill was one of the league’s top half-dozen or so players during that six-season stretch, and he has since reinvented himself as an effective two-way third/fourth option on the wing.
Lowe also notes that because the Naismith Hall of Fame factors in more than just professional career, Hills outstanding four-year run at Duke will put him over the top.
McGrady’s apex was incredible, peaking with a 2002-03 season that ranks among the very best in the sport’s history. At top form, McGrady shot 45 percent, hit an above-average percentage from deep, sported perhaps the best wing passing skills in the pre-LeBron era and even bought in on defense — most famously in the 2005 playoffs, when McGrady guarded Dirk Nowitzki effectively as a depleted Rockets team pushed the Mavs to seven games in a losing effort.
As I’ve written before, McGrady is one of my favorites. He made some truly bad Orlando teams formidable. I hope he gets in.
Lowe lists former Pistons Richard Hamilton and Jerry Stackhouse among the players who had great careers but probably aren’t quite Hall of Fame level.