ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Andre Miller is one of the craftiest players in the NBA, a guy who gets by almost completely on guile instead of athleticism, on experience instead of ability. Which doesn’t mean he’s not a great athlete — he must be if he’s going to battle other elite basketball players each night. But maybe he’s just good at getting by without having to dunk to score buckets.
Which brings us to last night, where everything lined up perfectly: A shot missed and the rebound bounced forward, just as Miller cut down the lane. The ball flew right into Miller’s path, and he soared through the air for what looked to be a gorgeous put-back dunk.
Welcome to Throwback Thursday here on the All Ball Blog. Each week, we’ll delve into the NBA’s photo archives and uncover a topic and some great images from way back when. Hit us up here if you have suggestions for a future TBT on All Ball.
Today’s Topic: All-Time Assists Leaders
We continue our Throwback Thursday All-Time Statistical Leaders series today by looking at the Top 10 All-Time Assist Leaders.
(NOTE:Click the “caption” icon below the photo for details about each moment.)
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.
Nicolas Batum‘s tip-in GWBB is the second this season off an inbounds lob, following Andrew Bogut‘s heroics for the Bucks against the Pacers back in December. I continue to marvel at this play’s success — when there is less than a second left, the lob towards the basket seems like something the defense has to account for. The Spurs put Antonio McDyess on the inbounds pass, which does make the lob a little more difficult, but didn’t put anyone near the basket, and they paid for it with the loss.
Of course, the Spurs’ mistake should come as no surprise, as San Antonio did pretty much everything in its power to hand this game to the Blazers down the stretch with a collection of turnovers and mistakes. I’m curious how many players have scored four points in the final second of an NBA game — maybe I can get StatsCube master John Schuhmann to look into it.
Once again, the Horry scale examines a shot in the categories of difficulty, game situation (was the team tied or behind at the time), importance (playoff game or garden-variety Clippers-Nets game), and celebration, and give it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys.
How did Tricky Nic do? Let’s investigate:
This was a very difficult play and a very simple one all at the same time. On the one hand, you only have 0.9 seconds to work with, so the lob has to be right on the money to allow Batum to get the shot off (technically there is enough time allowed to catch and shoot, but practically speaking the tip-in is Batum’s only choice). On the other hand, Batum has at least a six-inch advantage on Tony Parker, so he meets with very little resistance once the lob arrives. I think that’s nitpicking though — Andre Miller is generally recognized as the best lob-tosser in the NBA*, and he puts this one right on the money, making a very difficult play look very easy.
*After the game, Miller would say it was the best pass he’d ever thrown.
Tie ballgame, but with extraordinarily unique circumstances. Think of all that had to go wrong for the Spurs to lose this game. Leading by four with half-a-minute remaining, both of the Spurs’ best ballhandlers (Parker and Manu Ginobili) get their pockets picked, allowing the Blazers to tie the game after a Miller layup and then a pair of Batum free throws with 0.9 left. Then, Steve Novak throws an errant inbounds pass, the third San Antonio turnover in 30 seconds, with no time running off the clock to boot, setting Portland up for a final crack at it. Maybe the game was tied, but it sure didn’t feel like it.
Not to say that Dallas is a team to be trifled with, but the win keeps the Blazers a half-game ahead of the Hornets for the 6-seed in the West, which keeps them (for the moment) from facing the Lakers in the first round. Portland also remains only 1.5 games behind Denver for the 5-spot, so all in all a very big win.
Man – is there a better arena in the NBA for GWBBs? The fans at the Rose Garden always seem right on top of the court, and the crowd goes ballistic as soon as the ball drops through.
4.5 Horrys. Between the amazing comeback, the perfectly-executed lob, and the outstanding celebration, I have to give this one pretty high marks. I’ll only take off half-a-Horry for the fact that it was a tie game, but otherwise, this one had it all.
What do you think?
Seen something that belongs on All Ball? Let us know viaemail or Twitter.