Introduction by Kevin Connors:
And so that lusciously lazy, all-too-fleeting progression of idling days and carefree nights we call summer has nearly run its annual course. No more will the daylight hours stretch taffy-long across the amber afternoons. No longer will the nights burst with firework romance and the sun-fed magic of endless possibility. Not ever will the frayed hems of our denim cutoffs whisk stray strands across our sunburnt thighs as we stroll the boulevard with a soft serve at our lips and a banana on reserve.
At least, not until next year.
And to that we say…good riddance! What are you lookin’ at? Get out! Can’t you see we’re closed?!? After all, the unpacking of flannels and thermals that accompany the quadruple-shot of increasingly bitter months that end with “er” can only mean one glorious thing: the God-blessed basketball season is just around the corner.
With a few weeks of Olympic ball and a whirlwind of off-season player movement to tide us over, this year’s bout with Chronic Hoops Deficiency Syndrome (CHDS) has been less severe than usual. Even so, there is much tunnel left to traverse before we reach the light of October 30’s season opener (or even the Celtics’ October 5 preseason tip with Istanbul’s Fenerbahce Ulker).
To keep the madness (CHDS’ most impactful symptom) at bay, we at the Houdini have utilized a proactive treatment regimen built around obsessive list-making and curating of all things Association. We’ve given you the top 25 players in NBA history, the top 25 oftoday, and the best defenders of all time. To carry us home, we’re putting together a sort of historical mix tape highlighting a class of player that we’ve come to lovingly refer to as “The Other Guys.” They’re the 50 Greatest Players to Never Make an All-Star Team and we’ve got 50 – that’s right, 50 – of ‘em for you.
How did we come to settle upon the band of miscreants and ne’er-do-wells that we intend to spend the next several weeks remembering? It was really quite simple. Using Basketball-Reference’s handy Play Index, we generated a list of every player in NBA history with a career PER of at least 13.0, and a minimum average of 20 minutes per game over at least 410 games (five full seasons) played who never made an All-Star team. We then used a modified version of the K. Score formula we devised to determine the 25 greatest players in NBA history to rank the players from most productive to least. Finally, we subjected our newly-sorted list to a rigorous series of run-throughs with the old eyeball test to separate the wheat (Michael Cage, #94, in) from the chaff (Corey Maggette, #40, out – we just can’t abide that nonsense).
It should be noted that this is not really a list per se. It’s more of a museum exhibit. The players will not be presented in any particular order. We don’t intend to suggest that any one of them is or was all that much better than any of the others, or even that they’re better than any of the players who didn’t make the cut.
Though the title of this series claims that these are the 50 “Greatest” Players to Never Make an All-Star Team, it’s probably more accurate to say that these are simply 50 “Great” Players Who Deserve to Be Recognized.
So, without further ado, we humbly present our first installment of five players, courtesy of Brett David Roberts, Esq.
Allow me to introduce myself, kind sirs.
I am the editor here at Hardwood Houdini and we’ve saved some good stuff for you in the aforementioned summer lull, courtesy of the great benevolent Connors, or the artist formerly known as K Factor.
I am going to start out with short details on five guards who never made an All-Star team. One even led the league in assists, while another averaged over 21 points per game as part of a championship squad and was left off the AS team. Work horses, former Rookie of the Year talent, Sixth men awards…these five have accolades. Just none of them feature an All-Star appearance…
Terry has won a Sixth Man of the Year award in 2008-09 and has consistently been one of the league’s best shooters. He ranked 4th in effective field goal percentage in 2004-05 and has ranked in the top 10 in offensive rating three times (2004-05, 05-06, 06-07). He won a championship with Dirk and crew in 2011 and is looking for more hardware in Boston this year. He already sports a tattoo predicting such success. Terry’s confidence is outstanding and he’s been in the league for 12 seasons yet never made an All-Star team.
Scott was the perfect complement to Magic Johnson. Quick enough of a shooting guard to cover point guards, Scott enabled Magic to slack back on defense and cover bigger and slower guards. Scott was an effective three point shooter (37% career) who could run the point competently when Magic needed a rest. Scott was an elite defender and and averaged over a steal per game for his first nine years in the league.
His best season came in 1987-88, when he averaged 21.7 points per game, 4.1 assists per game, 4.1 rebounds per game, on 34% three point shooting and 52.7% from the floor. Scott’s career playoffs stats are 13.4 points per game on 48% field goal in 183 career playoff games.
Harper twice made the NBA All Defensive Second team, but never cracked an All-Star team. He ranks 42nd all-time in minutes played with over 37,000 minutes over the course of 15 NBA seasons. His win share ranks in the same range as Lenny Wilkins, Mitch Richmond, Isiah Thomas, and Joe Dumars, yet he never made a single All-Star team. Harper was an elite defender and a quality floor general, but never seemed to get his due. He led the 1985-86 playoffs in steals per game with 23 steals in 10 games of play. Harper appeared in the NBA playoffs a total of 10 seasons, with 97 total career playoff games.
Bibby looked like one of the all-time clutch point guards in the early 2000s. He led a Chris Webber-fied Sacramento Kings team deep into the Playoffs, and within a Tim Donaguey whistle away from the NBA Finals. From 2003-04, Bibby averaged over 19 points per game and yet didn’t sniff an All-Star selection. He averaged 13-plus points per game for his first 12 seasons in the league and posted 5.5 assists per game over his career. Bibby was destined for greatness since his days at Arizona with Miles Simon, and while Bibby had an NBA career that Simon was never treated to, he made the same number of all star teams as Simon, zero.
Strickland has the distinction of appearing in a Wu-Tang Clan song. The closing lines of “The Triumph” off of the double album “Forever” ends with, “Most undividin’, slidin’, sick’nen, guaranteed made ‘em jump like Rod Strickland.”
When you have rappers writing about your moves, you’re good. And Strickland was. He had one of the nastiest crossovers in the league and was quick. Strickland even led the league in assists per game in 1997-98 as a member of the Washington Wizards, in their first season since formerly having been named the Bullets. Strickland also has longevity, despite the fact that he played only 31 games in his final two seasons. The 6’3″ guard from DePaul played from 1988-89 until 2004-05.
Strickland came into the league as Mark Jackson’s back up, but proved himself to be too good to be a backup, and he was traded to the San Antonio Spurs for Maurice Cheeks. It was with David Robinson and Sean Elliot that Strickland began to carve out a career which would have a number of highlights statistically, and even with a couple of honors, but never an All-Star appearance.
Strickland made the All NBA second team in 1997-98 when he averaged 17.8 points per game, a league leading 10.5 assists per game, while playing 39.7 minutes per night.