Speedburner’s Countdown of the Top 150 Players in NBA History (#120 – #116) – BasketballMonday, December 19, 2011 22:26
Posted in category NBA
#120 – #116 of Speedburner’s countdown of the Top 150 players in NBA History.
#120 – #116
- 120) Ron Harper – 6′ 6″ G/F from 1986 – 2001…Yes, Ron is an NBA all-timer, even if very few acknowledge it, including SLAM Magazine (ranking him #327) and every all-star team during his career (he made none). The 8th pick of the ’86 Draft, he came off a dominating senior year which saw him average 24.4, 11.7 rebs, 4.3 dimes, and over 3 steals with 2+ blks/gm as a high-flying athletic wing playing SF. His athletic explosiveness combined with ample skills and game were on display immediately in the NBA, as he averaged 22.9 pts and exactly 4.8 for both rebs & assts his rookie year. And he showed the heavy steals & blocks at Miami of Ohio were no fluke as well, averaging 2.5 and 1.0 respectively. He was part of one of the most legendary draft classes in the history of the league, as the Cavs took center Brad Dougherty 1st overall (career 19.0, 9.5, 53.2%), Harper 8th, Mark Price as the first pick of the 2nd round (Dallas gave him up for a 1989 2nd rounder), and then nabbed John ‘Hot Rod’ Williams with their own 2nd round pick, 45th overall. As rookies, Harper, Dougherty, and Williams were 1,2, & 3 on the team in scoring. By year two, Price was the starting PG (16 & 6 dimes), Larry Nance was acquired, and they were a playoff team, with 4 of their top 5 guys acquired via the 1986 Draft. For the first 3.5 years of his career, Harper was an excellent poor man’s Clyde Drexler, putting up explosive and acrobatic highlights like this (focus on the Clev clips, esp at the 1:42 mark where he picks Barkley’s pocket and goes in for a 360 degree spinning layup). His pre Clipper Curse knee injury numbers were a robust 19.8, 4.8 rebs, 5 asst, 2.3 stl, .98 blk, and 47.5% shooting. Choosing among the Cavs Big 4 at the time, it was hard to say who was the best and most valuable – Price, Dougherty, or Harper – I’ll put Nance as 4th. But certainly Harper, more than the other three, had the whole package – Price was somewhat a defensive liability and undersized, Dougherty couldn’t jump and wasn’t a shot blocker at all, while Nance was happy to be a complementary option, not the go to guy. After wrecking his knee (and too bad it was fixed with 1990 procedures, not 2011 methods), Harper still managed to put up almost similar numbers (18.9, 5.5 reb, 4.8 asst, 1.9 stl, .85 blk, 43.1%) with the Clippers the next 4 years, just not in as spectacular a manner. Two of those years he and Danny Manning led the team to the playoffs as the Clips co-number 1 guys. He then joined the Bulls in 1995, eventually playing about 27 minutes a night in the three championship postseasons (’96 – ’98) as a co-number 4 guy with Toni Kukoc, contributing nice buckets (7.5 pts), boards (3.9), dimes (2.6), thefts (1.2), and fly swats (.67 blks) at age 32, 33, & 34. He then virtually duplicated those exact numbers as a co-number 4 guy with Robert Horry in L.A. during the 2000 postseason, at 36 yrs old, as Kobe & Shaq won their first title. He played one last year with L.A. in ’01 before calling it quits, garnering his 5th ring despite being injured much of regular season and playoffs. Basically, without the bad knee injury and playing in the shadow of Greatness (MJ), Harper would have had much larger playoff success (Clev lost to Chi in both the ’88 and ’89 playoffs), an even deeper ‘wow’ highlight reel, and Top 70 or 80 all-time status. He was an athlete who adjusted beautifully to his less athletic body, and on four championship teams played the role of solid defense and smooth facilitator on offense. He ended his career #18 on the all-time steals list with 1,716, at 1.7/gm (#29 all-time), 3,916 assists (#99 all-time), and finally, as one of the top 5 shot-blocking guards of all time alongside Dwyane Wade (#1), David Thompson, Michael Jordan, and Vince Carter.
- 119) Charlie Scott – 6′ 5″ PG/SG from 1970 – 1980…The ABA ‘s all-time single season scoring champ (34.6 in 1972), Charlie Scott was a pioneer in the ACC as the first black scholarship athlete at North Carolina . Scott grew up in Harlem and played at the legendary Rucker Park before moving to North Carolina for high school, playing at Laurinburg Academy where Sam Jones and Jimmy Walker (Jalen Rose’s dad) had played prior. After making 2nd team All-America his final two years at N.C., Scott chose to play in the ABA with the Virginia Squires. He tied Dan Issel for Rookie of the Year honors after averaging 27.1 pts (4th in the league) and 5.6 assists (also 4th) to go along with 5.2 rebs. Dismayed at his mediocre team and the ABA’s low budget and small crowds, while also yearning to test himself against the best, Scott had his lawyer exploit a breach in his ABA contract and jumped to the NBA after playing 73 games of his 2nd ABA season (where he only he made 2nd team all-league despite that 34.6 pts/gm with 5.1 rebs & 4.8 asst). He played three full seasons with the Phoenix Suns, averaging around 25 pts, 5 rebs, and 4 assists playing with very mediocre talent, before being traded to the Celtics for Paul Westphal & draft picks – a classic outhouse to penthouse story. Scott fit right in on a loaded Celtics squad (Dave Cowens, Jo Jo White, John Havlicek, Paul Silas) that ironically met Phoenix in the 1976 NBA Finals. Boston won in 6, with Scott coming through big in the final game, scoring 25 points, pulling down 11 boards, and nabbing 5 steals. After almost three productive years in Boston, Scott was traded to the Lakers in 1978 before eventually winding down his career in Denver. He had a quirky release on his jump shot, but it went in often enough and combined with solid athleticism, impressive all-around game, and good defensive skills, made Charlie Scott one of the better combo guards of the 1970′s. He ended up making 5 All-Star teams, three of those in the NBA, while averaging at least 4 rebs & 4 assts the first seven years of his career (first 5 years – at least 24/4/4 every year). He was also named to the 30-man all-time ABA team despite playing less than two years in the league. His son Shannon will be a 6’2″ freshman PG for Ohio St. this year.
- 118) Mark Price – 6′ 0″ PG from 1986 – 1998…Mark Price could shoot the basketball. He was a solid leader and distributor as well, actually a great passer who dished with flair, but it’s his shooting that set him apart as the late 80′s, early/mid 90′s version of Steve Nash. He was a 4 year starter at Georgia Tech, paving the way for the more heralded but far less NBA-impactful Kenny Anderson and Stephon Marbury to follow in his Yellow Jacket footsteps (maybe they shoulda stayed a little longer, just 2 yrs for Kenny, 1 for Stephon). Price didn’t do much as a rookie, playing just 18 minutes a night, never starting, and shooting only 40.8% with just 3 dimes/gm. Ironically, this may have been the best thing that ever happened to him, because management went out and drafted an even more talented PG the next year, Kevin Johnson, 7th overall (Price was just the 25th overall pick in 1986). Seeing this forced Price to step up his game, knowing he had a battle coming into training camp. He earned the starting job, and after 52 games they traded Johnson to Phoenix, the rest being history for both clubs – a talented Cleveland team consistently thwarted by Jordan’s Bulls in the playoffs, losing to them 4 times in Price’s first six seasons as a starter, while KJ & Chuck Barkley took their Bulls medicine in the 1993 Finals. As mentioned, Price was a supreme shooter, one of only 5 players in NBA history to record a 50/40/90 season, posting a 52.6 FG%, 44.1% on threes, and nailing 90.1% of his free throws in 1989. The other four guys? Nash (4 times), Bird (twice), Reggie Miller, and Dirk. His shot was as fundamentally sound as anyone’s – feet set together, perfect form, release, and follow through – a beautiful thing to watch, and a pretty player to watch. He always played under control, even at top speed, knowing what he was going to do with the ball while often coming up with creative layups or passes on fast breaks. Watch him here in his 2nd-to-last season schooling an overly athletic but also over-eager rookie named Allen Iverson. In bridging the gap from Magic and Isiah’s later years to Iverson and Kidd’s early years, Price ended up a 4 time All-Star, 2 time All-Star three point shootout champ, and finished top 10 in assists five times. His free throw shooting was almost unparalleled, as he won the league title 3 times, finished his career tied with Nash at #1 with a 90.4% success ratio, and was even better in the playoffs, hitting 94.4% for his career including 30 for 30 in 1990. And his overall career playoff production was quite solid at 17.4/7.0 dimes in 47 games, including an impressive 19.2/7.5/49.6% shooting when they made the Eastern Conference finals in 1992. Price finished his career #30 on the assist/gm list at 6.7, and now trains NBA players in the off-season on shooting and PG skills in Atlanta – what a perfect teacher!
- 117) Zelmo Beaty – 6′ 9″ C from 1962 – 1975…The original Big Z, aka ‘The Franchise’ when he played for Utah in the ABA as their undisputed leader and best player, Beaty is an almost forgotten All-Star big man from the 60′s and 70′s. He played at a small NAIA all-black college called Prairie View A&M in Texas, posting monster numbers (20+ rebs) in an impressive style that caught the eye of legendary NBA scout Marty Blake, who was the St. Louis Hawks GM at the time. Blake took Beaty with #3 pick, (ahead of Havlicek – woops!), having him join an already talented squad that included Bob Pettit, Richie Guerin, Cliff Hagan (#123), and Lenny Wilkins. In Zelmo’s first 4 seasons the Hawks played a game 7 in the conference final three times, coming up short to the Baylor/West Lakers in ’63, the Wilt Warriors in ’64, and then Lakers again in ’66. Before the decade would close, Beaty’s Hawks lost two more times in the conference finals – to the Golden St. Warriors in ’67 with Rick Barry and Nate Thurmond (6 games), and then the great ’69 Laker squad that had added Wilt to the Baylor/West combo (5 games). Beaty signed a far more lucrative ABA deal after those ’69 playoffs, but had to sit out a year due to a stipulation in his NBA contract. He finally joined the Utah Stars, who had just moved from Los Angeles, and immediately led the team to an ABA title, earning playoff MVP honors after averaging 23.2 pts & 14.6 rebs while shooting 53.6% and draining over 5 free throws a game at an 84.6% clip. At 6′ 9″ and 225lbs, Zelmo was very undersized for center in the NBA. He played a physical, intelligent game, but at the same time was a skilled, athletic enough big man whose game would likely translate well in today’s NBA, especially combined with his dignified, professional approach to the game. Think of a better David West at power forward. In all, Beaty made 5 all-star teams, 2 in the NBA, had five 20/10 seasons (3 in NBA), and averaged 1.0 blk/gm on arthritic knees (eventually 9 knee operations) the first year they kept track of blocks, making 2.0 a figure likely reached in his prime. Beaty’s wider impact on the game was subtle but not to be underestimated. He was one of the first NBA stars to sign with the 2 yr old ABA in 1969, giving the league more legitimacy and attraction to future ABA stars like Artis Gilmore and Julius Erving. He acted as an ambassador to Salt Lake City, which before Zelmo got there had a poor reputation among blacks. He was fearless and extremely competitive in his style, but one night got too physical with Chamberlain. As my dad told me the story years ago, Wilt finally just turned to face Zelmo, put one hand on his chest and shoved him, watching him fall to the ground and slide about 15 – 20 feet. Big Z just got up and continued to play, acknowledging the message by not even pondering retaliation against one of the all-time physical athletic marvels. Beaty had always wanted to be a carpenter before he realized basketball was his calling, but eventually did build his dream house in the Pikes Peak area of Washington. Despite averaging well over a double/double for both his NBA and ABA careers – 17.1 with 10.9 rebs (#31 all-time) combined and a fat 18/12 in 115 playoff games, Beaty remains out of the Hall of Fame.
- 116) Ben Wallace – 6′ 9″ PF/C from 1996 – present…Ben Wallace was quite simply one of the most athletic, explosive, and versatile defensive big men to ever play the game. I remember the first time I saw him play, his 2nd season in the league playing for the Wizards at the Sports Arena vs. the Clippers. It was immediately evident that this guy was extraordinarily quick and explosive…but very raw. So raw in fact, that the Wizards traded him to Orlando for Issac Austin after his 3rd season, and Orlando only held onto him for one year before trading him & Chucky Atkins to Detroit to get Grant Hill. It wasn’t until his 5th year in the league, the 2000-01 season, that he finally played 30+ min/gm, and responded with big rebounds (13.2), solid blocks (2.3), surprising steals (1.3), and epic defense in the post night in and night out. The 10th child of 11 kids, Wallace developed his speed because he knew in family basketball games the only way he’d get the ball was to steal, rebound, or hustle for it. He ended up an all-state football, basketball, and baseball player in Alabama where he was discovered by Charles Oakley, who eventually guided him to Oakley’s alma mater,Virginia Union. But before that, he put up absurd rebounding (17.0/gm) and block shot (6.9) numbers at a small Cleveland area junior college. Despite averaging 10.5 rebs and 3.7 blocks his last year at Virginia Union, he was not taken in the 1996 Draft, and Washington signed him as a free agent. Wallace was a perfect complement to Rasheed Wallace in Detroit (as Rasheed was allergic to rebounding and rugged inside play), where along with Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, and Tayshaun Prince, the Pistons became a dominant team in the East, eventually playing in the NBA Finals in 2004 and ’05. They won the title in ’04 over the Lakers, but lost to the Spurs in ’05. Wallace’s defense on Shaquille O’Neal in those 2004 Finals was unbelievable, as he was giving up 4 inches and 80 pounds to the Lakers behemoth big man, but still bodied up on him strongly, frustrating him with intensity, quick hands, and great footwork. In 93 career playoff games for Detroit, Wallace averaged 13.3 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, and 1.8 thefts a contest. He could go out and guard shooting guards and small forwards if he had to, he was that good a defender. Four times he was named Defensive Player of the Year, while making all-NBA 2nd team twice and 3rd team twice…even though he never averaged double figures scoring in his career!! And then of course, there was that Buckwheat afro – the best hairstyle in the NBA the last 25 years. Further resume highlights: four All-Star games, three times averaging over 3 blks/gm (1 blocks title), two rebounding titles, and 3 times averaged over 1.7 stl/gm. He also instigated the infamous Palace Brawl in November 2004 when he shoved Ron Artest after Artest had fouled him hard on a layup. Now 36, Wallace is still playing, and though Father Time has completely taken away the explosiveness that once made him so special, he still managed to grab 6.5 rebs in 23 min/night last season, including a 23 point, 14 rebound, 4 assist, 5 steal effort vs. the ‘imposing’ Raptor big men in December.
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