Thursday, April 02, 2015

6th Best NBA Player of All-Time -- Earvin "Magic" Johnson

So, we are down to our Final 6.  Magic comes in at #6, behind, in alphabetical order, Abdul-Jabbar, Chamberlain, Duncan, James and Jordan.

Magic Johnson -- took his team to the Finals in 1980, 82, 83, 84, 85, 87, 88, 89, and 91.  Remarkable.  Now, the next best teams in the league during those years were generally in the East (Boston, Philly, Milwaukee), but may never see another run of 9 finals in 12 years (Moses Malone's Houston team, the Twin Towers Rockets team and the Drexler-led Trailblazers were the three teams to appear other than the Lakers.)

Now, some like to say that Magic was the greatest player of all-time, even greater than Jordan.  He has 3 MVPs.    9X first-team all-NBA, 3X Finals MVP.  His career "MVP shares" ( a measure of how many MVP votes you get, even if you don't win) is 5th all-time, behind Jordan, Kareem, LeBron and Bird. 

If you start tightening down the advanced stats requirements so that you eliminate most players, you see that Magic ranks high on advance stats as well -- of guys who have over 150 Win Shares and .2 WS/48 and a 20 PER,
Magic ranks 14th in Win Shares, 6th in WS/48, and 9th in PER on the list.

In the playoffs, if you tighten down the advance stats requirements so that you get the best 10 playoff performers of all-time statistically,, you get Magic at 5th in Win Shares, 3rd in WS/48, and 8th in PER on this all-time playoff greats list.

No question - one of the greatest of all-time.  So why is he behind 5 guys?  Well:

1) He never was a good defender.  Look for an All-defense award.  You won't find any.  Because he was 6'9" tall, he played the worst offensive player the other team had who wasn't the center.  Despite playing on many great teams, his defensive rating was never low.  The Lakers had Kareem, Worthy, Byron Scott, Michael Cooper.  Magic never had to lock down anyone good, and it is doubtful that he ever could have done so.

2) He didn't play that long.  It wasn't his fault.  He got HIV and the entire world freaked out.  But you do lose a couple points when you stop playing early.  Also, not to be cruel, but you would think that a man struck down in his prime with no "bad" seasons weighing him down due to age would be ranked higher in PER and WS/48 (stats that do not require longevity).  He isn't top 1 or top 2.  Jordan had two retirements and the ill advised two years with the Wizards.  His stats are still far better, even on per minute stats.

3)   I have to mark him down for playing with Kareem.  Sorry, but if you watch an NBATV game with the Lakers 1979-80 through 1983-84, they go to Kareem virtually every time down the floor.   Magic's career PPG is under 20.  He was far more impressive 1984-85 and after, but you have to wonder whether he could have won all of those titles without Kareem. 

One could argue that Magic's lack of longevity and poor defense and the fact that he always played with Hall of Famers (Kareem, Worthy, they had Bob McAdoo off the bench for goodness sake) should rank him down closer to Bird (whom I have at #13).  But that ignores his ridiculous playoff success and the fact that Magic hated to lose and rarely did he ever lose when he was playing at full speed and ability. 

I think #6 is a fair compromise. 

No comments: