Case for the Hall: 7 with Detroit Pistons ties who bear watching
Allen Einstein (NBAE/Getty)
The 2020 Hall of Fame class would’ve been inducted over the weekend but like everything else in 2020, plans changed. A class headlined by Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett will have to wait until May 2021 now.
There was no direct Pistons connection to the nine-member class and it remains to the Naismith Hall’s shame that Jack McCloskey, who built the rosters that won the first two NBA titles in franchise history, remains outside its walls.
We’ve built the case for McCloskey’s induction previously – not only his stint as Pistons general manager but as a player in the old Eastern league and briefly in the NBA, his time as a college head coach at Penn and Wake Forest and his run as both a coach and executive in the NBA. Until his death in 2017, McCloskey was a living, breathing basketball encyclopedia whose Hall worthiness is beyond question.
At a time there was no meaningful free agency in the NBA, McCloskey worked with the tools he had – the draft and trade market. He inherited a roster almost bereft of NBA talent and built the Bad Boys from scratch, piece by piece.
He drafted Isiah Thomas with the No. 2 pick and Kelly Tripucka 10 spots later in 1981 to get things rolling, swindled Cleveland and Seattle in trades for Bill Laimbeer and Vinnie Johnson next and drafted future Hall of Famers in consecutive years – with the 18th and 27th picks, no less – Joe Dumars and Dennis Rodman.
John Salley also came in that ’86 draft with Rodman, which McCloskey followed up by dealing Tripucka for Adrian Dantley. Rick Mahorn and James Edwards were trade pickups and Dantley was flipped for Mark Aguirre, the final piece.
All of McCloskey’s maneuverings came amid the heaviest concentration of dynastic teams in NBA history – the Larry Bird Celtics, the Magic Johnson Lakers and the Michael Jordan Bulls.
Whenever the 2021 Naismith class is ushered into Springfield, maybe McCloskey will finally get his due. It would have been more satisfying had he been alive to experience it, but maybe some other Pistons tie will make up for the slight. Here’s a look at seven others with Pistons ties and their Hall of Fame outlook:
Chauncey Billups – Basketball Reference says Mr. Big Shot has an 84.4 percent probability at Hall of Fame induction, a ranking that puts him just behind a slew of players already enshrined – James Worthy, Grant Hill, Dantley, Jack Sikma and Jo Jo White – and ahead of several others with busts in Springfield, including Detroit native Dave DeBusschere and ex-Pistons Dumars and Rodman.
Case for the Hall: The 2004 NBA Finals MVP and a five-time All-Star who was a two-time All-NBA second team honoree and another year landing on the third team. Billups also was twice voted to the All-Defense second team. He finished fifth in MVP balloting in 2006 and sixth in 2009. Billups was the 2007-08 winner of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award and in 2013 was the inaugural winner of the Teammate of the Year Award.
Blake Griffin – Griffin ranks 18th among active players, according to Basketball Reference, with a 54.8 percent probability to make the Hall of Fame, though as an active player he can build a stronger case with a few more productive seasons. His current standing puts him ahead of several Hall of Famers, including Maurice Cheeks, Yao Ming and Dennis Johnson. He’s also ahead of active NBA stars Klay Thompson and LaMarcus Aldridge.
Case for the Hall: A six-time All-Star with a 22.4 points per game career scoring average who was the 2011 Rookie of the Year. Griffin has been an All-NBA honoree six times, including first team once, second team three times and third team twice, including 2019 with the Pistons. He’s finished in the top 10 in MVP balloting three times, including third in 2014. He was also a first-team All-American at Oklahoma in 2009 and, remember, the Naismith Hall of Fame includes all basketball achievements.
Ben Wallace – Wallace comes in at 45.3 percent as a Hall of Fame candidate, Basketball Reference says. That puts him just behind Joe Johnson and Sidney Moncrief and just ahead of Chris Mullin, Paul Westphal and Jimmy Butler.
Case for the Hall: A four-time Defensive Player of the Year, a record matched only by Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo. Wallace was a first-team All-Defense honoree five times and made second team another time. He was a five-time All-NBA honoree, three times on the second team and twice on the third. Wallace played in four All-Star games and three times finished in the top 10 in MVP balloting.
Bill Laimbeer – Laimbeer ranks at 26 percent according to Basketball Reference for Hall of Fame candidacy, putting him on par with Marques Johnson and Penny Hardaway.
Case for the Hall: Laimbeer played on the first two NBA champions in Pistons history and played in four All-Star games. He’s the franchise’s all-time leading rebounder, led the NBA in total rebounds twice and was among the league’s top 20 rebounders in 10 seasons. Laimbeer played in 685 consecutive games, fifth-longest in NBA history, snapped only when he was suspended during the 1988-89 season.
Derrick Rose – Rose has an 11.9 percent chance to make the Hall of Fame, which puts him just ahead of another phenomenal player whose career resume was limited by catastrophic injuries, Bernard King.
Case for the Hall: Start with Rose winning the MVP award at 22, youngest in NBA history, during his third season when he averaged 25.0 points and 7.7 assists. Rose was also the 2009 Rookie of the Year, has played in three All-Star games and was a first-team All-NBA player in 2011, his MVP season. As an amateur, Rose led Memphis to the NCAA title game in 2008.
Rasheed Wallace – Wallace has an 8.5 percent chance at Hall of Fame induction, putting him between Glen Rice and Mark Aguirre, according to Basketball Reference.
Case for the Hall: Wallace played in four All-Star games and was a member of the 2004 NBA championship Pistons. Wallace was a second-team All-American in 1995 as a sophomore when he led North Carolina to the Final Four.
Rip Hamilton – Hamilton has a 1.7 percent chance at the Hall of Fame according to Basketball Reference.
Case for the Hall: Hamilton played in three All-Star games and led the Pistons in scoring when they won the 2004 NBA championship. He led the Pistons in scoring in for eight straight seasons starting with his first with the franchise, 2002-03. A two-time All-American including in 1999 when Hamilton led Connecticut to the NCAA title while leading the Huskies in scoring.