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These aren’t tough battles. The runaway GOATs may have needed to topple some legendary names and memorable faces, but they did so with plenty of room to spare.
Brooklyn Nets: Jason Kidd
Career Per-Game Stats for Nets: 14.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 9.1 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.3 blocks
Vince Carter was great for a few seasons. Ditto for Micheal Ray Richardson and Derrick Coleman. But none of those top performers in Brooklyn Nets history (which includes the New Jersey Nets era) stuck around as long as Jason Kidd, who played out much of his prime for the organization in question.
Somewhat shockingly, only three players in a Nets uniform have ever made the All-Star squad on multiple occasions, though 11 more have done so once. Buck Williams and Carter each accounted for three such appearances, while Kidd checked in with five. Shift the focus to All-NBA recognition, and the story remains the same:
- Jason Kidd (three times)
- Derrick Coleman (twice)
- Stephon Marbury, Drazen Petrovic and Buck Williams (once)
Kidd reached the highest level in franchise history, and he sustained that peak for quite a bit longer than the other leading standouts.
Houston Rockets: Hakeem Olajuwon
Career Per-Game Stats for Rockets: 22.5 points, 11.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.8 steals, 3.2 blocks
If it weren’t for James Harden, who’s played MVP-caliber basketball for a few consecutive seasons and established himself as an offensive deity, Hakeem Olajuwon would fall into the next grouping. Putting him in the runaway section is still almost selling him short.
But who else is challenging the man known for the Dream Shake?
Steve Francis, Tracy McGrady or Moses Malone? Please.
Otis Thorpe, Yao Ming, Shane Battier or Calvin Murphy? C’mon now.
Olajuwon meant everything to the Rockets, carrying them to the franchise’s lone titles in the mid-’90s while capitalizing on a Jordan-less Association. He was a defensive dynamo capable of using his athleticism and lanky arms to swat shots into oblivion, and he was a walking nightmare when he went to work with his back to the basket. Few centers have been superior on one end of the court, much less both at the same time.
Kudos to Harden for preventing freight-train status, but Olajuwon—the career leader in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocks for Houston—still wins in a runaway.
Los Angeles Clippers: Chris Paul
Career Per-Game Stats for Clippers: 18.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 9.8 assists, 2.2 steals, 0.1 blocks
The Los Angeles Clippers don’t have a storied history. Though they’ve been around for 48 seasons, they’ve only advanced to the playoffs 13 times and never worked past the conference semifinals. Worse still, they’ve earned a total of 27 All-Star appearances—accounted for by just a dozen players.
First came the Bob McAdoo era. Decades later, after so many dry spells and forgettable campaigns, Elton Brand dominated. Most recently, Paul led the charge for the first squad in the franchise archives to advance past the regular season in more than three consecutive go-arounds.
That level of team-oriented success pushes Paul, who is the only man in NBA lore to earn the GOAT spot for multiple organizations, into the runaway category. Though he’s the all-time leader in PER, win shares, win shares per 48 minutes, BPM and VORP, he only wins the volume sections by minimal margins—a function of spending so much time in other uniforms throughout his ongoing career.
But combine those slim advantages with the team’s success, his leadership and his overwhelming superiority in rate statistics, and you get the distance necessary to give him this spot.
Phoenix Suns: Steve Nash
Career Per-Game Stats for Suns: 14.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 9.4 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.1 blocks
Steve Nash’s numbers don’t necessarily blow Shawn Marion, Amar’e Stoudemire, Kevin Johnson, Alvan Adams, Charles Barkley, Larry Nance, Dan Majerle and others out of the water.
The Phoenix Suns have a rich history filled with high-level figures, and they tend to keep pace with the legendary point guard because of his unabashed defensive incompetence…and the inability of many common-use metrics to properly evaluate the impact he had on his team’s offensive success. He’s No. 3 in career win shares, for example, sitting behind both Johnson and Marion.
But Nash was so vital to those seven-seconds-or-less Suns that he can still earn that coveted runaway status, and we can prove it by turning to MVP award shares. Take a gander at this franchise leaderboard:
- Steve Nash (2.423)
- Charles Barkley (0.955)
- Jason Kidd (0.175)
- Dennis Johnson (0.073)
- Kevin Johnson (0.063)
- Amar’e Stoudemire (0.059)
- Connie Hawkins (0.041)
- Tom Chambers (0.037)
- Walter Davis (0.03)
- Paul Westphal (0.014)
Not only does Nash win the competition with room to spare, demonstrating his unmatched value to the teams he led, but he also has nearly a full MVP award share more than the combined efforts of every other Sun in the record books.
San Antonio Spurs: Tim Duncan
Career Per-Game Stats for Spurs: 19.0 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.7 steals, 2.2 blocks
Though the San Antonio Spurs haven’t boasted a short-term dynasty in the traditional sense, they’ve basically been a dynastic force since Gregg Popovich took over as head coach early in the 1996-97 campaign. They got David Robinson back from injury that offseason and selected Tim Duncan with the No. 1 pick of the 1997 NBA draft, and they haven’t missed the playoffs since.
Truthfully, Popovich should receive consideration for status as the franchise GOAT. But we’re limiting the scope of our analysis to players, which allows Duncan to separate himself from Robinson, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, George Gervin and all the other stars in this model franchise’s history.
The big man played nearly 200 more games than anyone else in Spurs digs, and his career-minutes advantage over No. 2 Parker stands at 10,092. For perspective, that’s the equivalent of just over 210 full games. But most impressively, Duncan didn’t let that jaw-dropping volume affect his per-minute efficacy at any stage of his career.
As a rookie fresh out of Wake Forest, he averaged 19.4 points and 11.0 rebounds per 36 minutes with a 5.5 BPM. Throughout his peak season in 2001-02, he posted 22.6 points and 11.3 rebounds per 36 minutes with a 7.6 BPM. During his final go-around, he threw up 12.2 points and 10.5 rebounds with a 4.1 BPM.
Duncan was eerily consistent, and his contributions never dropped below an impressive, seemingly unattainable level. Even during that final season, he paced the entire qualified NBA in the defensive portion of BPM.