by Micah Hart
You may have noticed it’s the offseason, which means we have plenty of time to sit around and think about many of the things that make it fun to be an NBA fan. Here at All Ball, we’ll be passing the time until the start of the season with a new series, the Fave Five. Each week will count down a list of the five best, or worst … somethings. We’ll try to get creative with it. Plus we’re taking requests! If you have a suggestion for a Fave Five post, give us a shout and you may see it appear in this space over the next several weeks.
Remember last year when the Nets had four Williams on their team? Crazy right? Maybe not, actually. As it turns out, Williams is the most populous last name in professional basketball history, with 69 players.
Williams is the most popular surname — but is it the best? For this week’s Fave Five, we took a look at the history books to pull out the five best teams by last name.
A couple quick notes: This list is entirely subjective, but there was a little method to the madness. First off, given the sheer mass of players who have competed over the years in the NBA and ABA, we narrowed the list to last names with at least 10 players listed in the Basketball Reference database.
Then, to help whittle down the contenders even more, we used Win Shares (if you are unfamiliar with them, here’s a brief description) as a baseline for judging performance. With a few exceptions, the five players we chose for each team had the most career Win Shares within each last name. To help further guide our hand, we then averaged the win share totals per starting five. I’m sure anyone with basic skills in statistical analysis could poke any number of holes in this methodology, but like I say, this list is ultimately subjective. So too bad.
Also — we used statistics to help frame the debate, but ultimately the rankings came down to answering this question: If these teams played each other head to head, with each player in their individual primes, who would win?
Here we go!
Total Millers: 16 (including 2012 Draft picks Quincy and Darius)
Starting Five: Reggie Miller (174.4), Andre Miller (90.1), Brad Miller (76.5), Mike Miller (53.5), Oliver Miller (21.1)
Hall of Famers: One, as of Friday
Average career WS of starting five: 83.1
The Miller name is pretty top heavy. Reggie, making his way into the Hall of Fame this weekend, is 15th on the all-time list in Win Shares, while Oliver has the least amount of any starter in the top five. In fact, only one other Miller (Larry, a G/F who played seven seasons in the ABA from 1968-75), has put up even double-digit career WS totals*.
*Quincy and Darius, you have your work cut out for you.
This isn’t the flashiest bunch of players, Reggie aside, but the rest of this lineup put together a fine collection of NBA careers in their time. And yeah, Oliver is the weak link here, but the dude — when he was fit enough, which perhaps wasn’t so often — could ball.
Total Williams: 69
Starting Five: Buck Williams (120.1), Hot Rod Williams (70.5), Gus Williams (67.9), Deron Williams (51.4), Jason Williams (38.5)
Hall of Famers: Amazingly, Williams is the most popular last name in basketball, but there isn’t a single one in the Hall of Fame. I imagine Deron will be the one to break that streak when the time comes though.
Average career WS of starting five: 69.7
White Chocolate gets the nod for the starting five here due to WS totals, but there are several players just below him that could easily pitch in. Of the currently active players, Louis Williams has 25.2, Marvin Williams has 31.5 (a somewhat surprising figure given the current arc of his career), and Mo Williams has 32.8. Any of them could surpass Jason in a few years time.
The Williams’ WS average is the lowest of our top five, but I get the feeling that when Deron’s career is said and done, the number should raise up a few points at least.
Total Jones: 47 (including 2012 Draft picks Terrence and Perry)
Starting Five: Eddie Jones (100.6), Bobby Jones (93.6), Sam Jones (92.3), Caldwell Jones (66.2), Larry Jones (56.4)
Hall of Famers: Two. Sam and K.C.
Average career WS of starting five: 81.9
Sam is the class of the Jones family, as the sweet-shooting member of the Celtics’ 1960s dynasty was named one of the NBA’s 50 greats back in 1996. You may notice his teammate (in real life and for the purposes of this blog post), K.C. Jones, is not in the starting five, despite being in the Hall of Fame. K.C. is pretty much in the HOF on the strength of being a member of those Celtics title-winners, and for his career only put up 38.6 WS. Frankly I’m not sure I understand exactly why he’s in the Hall as a player, but I’m sure someone out there is smart enough to explain it to me.
I actually almost considered putting K.C. in the starting lineup, but only so Bobby Jones, the league’s first Sixth Man of the Year, could come off the bench. By the way I love the fact that Eddie Jones, one of the more underrated players of the past couple decades in my opinion, has more career WS than any other Jones.
Total Robinsons: 21 (including 2012 Draft pick Thomas Robinson)
Starting Five: David Robinson (178.7), Clifford Robinson (89.7), Truck Robinson (52.7), Glenn Robinson (39.8), Flynn Robinson (32.6)
Hall of Fame Robinsons: 1
Average career WS of starting five: 78.7
In thinking about how these games would play out, I can’t help but think about the fact that there aren’t a tremendous amount of Hall of Fame caliber centers with super popular last names. The rest of the Robinson crew is a collection of outstanding players, as the other starters each made the All-Star game at least once in their careers, but it’s definitely the Admiral who lifts this group near the top. His 178.7 career WS is the tops of any player we considered. I was dying to put my hometown hero James “Hollywood” Robinson on the list somewhere, but I have to protect the integrity of this list at some level.
Total Johnsons: 58
Starting Five: Magic Johnson (155.8), Kevin Johnson (92.8), Dennis Johnson (82.6), Marques Johnson (79.8), Larry Johnson (69.7)
Hall of Fame Johnsons: 3
Average career WS of starting five: 96.1
Honestly, this isn’t even that close. By WS totals, the Johnson five average 13 more per starter than their nearest competitor. Every guy in the starting lineup** made multiple All-Star teams, and Larry and KJ were well on their way to Hall of Fame caliber careers before injuries took their toll. Having one of the top five players of all time doesn’t hurt either. The Johnsons might struggle with David Robinson’s size in the post, but I seem to recall Magic holding down the pivot with ease one time.
** You could easily slide Gus into the lineup over Larry or Marques. His WS totals are much smaller due to the NBA not keeping records for several stats during his playing career, so he probably should rate much higher. But Larry was Grandmama, and Marques is in White Men Can’t Jump, and this is subjective, and the Johnsons aren’t losing to anyone regardless, so he’s out.
So that’s our list. Honorable mention goes to the Davis family (Baron, Antonio, Brad, Dale, and Walter), the Smiths (Steve, Joe, Josh, Kenny, and Randy), and the Browns (P.J., Fred, Roger, Dee, and Kwame).
How do you see these teams stacking up?