Like it or not, the nerds have changed how we look at sports. Thanks to sabermetricians, statistics like OPS and WAR are as recognizable as HR and RBI. Similar to WAR (wins above replacement) for baseball, WiSh (win shares) is an all-encompassing statistic for basketball. Ranked by WiSh, the Top 5 players in NBA history are: 1) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; 2) Wilt Chamberlain; 3) Karl Malone; 4) Michael Jordan; and 5) John Stockton. Without a doubt, each one of those players is a legend of the game. As an all-time NBA ranking, however, it’s just doesn’t work.
Alternatively, the Top 5 players ranked by total MVPs are: 1) Michael Jordan; 2) Bill Russell; 3) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; 4) LeBron James; and 5) Wilt Chamberlain. Aaahhh, much better. Arguably, MVP awards provide a better proxy for all-time greatness than win shares. Regardless, WiSh still can be useful to establish a threshold above which a superstar can be defined. Similarly, it can determine a threshold below which a bust can be defined.
As described in my previous post, NBA Commissioner David Stern implemented a draft lottery in 1985 as a way to remove the implicit incentive teams had to lose games intentionally in order to improve their draft status. Clearly, Stern was a genius because the accusations of teams tanking have been removed from the game. Actually, not only have the accusations increased over the years, but also the league’s handling of the lottery system has led to conspiracy theories that the process is rigged (e.g. the bent envelope resulting in Patrick Ewing going to the Knicks). Whether fair or not, the NBA has a shoddy reputation regarding the integrity of its draft process. Perhaps more accurately, replace the “odd” from shoddy in the previous sentence with the cousin from the Adams Family (i.e. replace “odd” with “itt”). Either way, the NBA Draft seems to create enough controversy year after year for it to be considered a bust in its own right.
If you were interested enough to search for and find this site, you already know about the failure of Darko Milicic as an NBA player. However, you may be less familiar with the media hype that transformed the unproved Serbian player into the 2nd overall pick of the 2003 NBA Draft. With respect to all of the participants involved in creating or perpetuating the hype, perhaps the most egregious was ESPN Draft Analyst Chad Ford. As an aside, it was recently reported that someone revised Ford’s historical mock draft rankings on ESPN’s website. Unlike the North Korean hackers who effectively caused the resignation of Sony Pictures Co-Chair Amy Pascal, this hacker was kind to Ford and only made him seem better at his job. ESPN seems to believe Ford, who denied being personally involved, so I will too because what incentive does the network have to cover up such a scandal? Whether or not he should be believed, Ford has earned an Honorable Mention in my countdown of Top 10 Busts simply for his role in the Milicic debacle.