Which current NBA players are Hall of Fame bound? An analytical look at who makes it and who doesn’t

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a Hall of Famer.

Well, technically, not yet. But he will be. And all you need to do is look at his resume and that of those already in the hall of fame to jump to that conclusion.

Even if the two-time NBA MVP and Finals MVP stunned everyone by calling a news conference for Sept. 15th, 2021, and announced his decision to retire at the prime and tender age of 26, Antetokounmpo would be headed for a place in Springfield. Why? Because Antetokounmpo, fresh off a Finals MVP performance where he became the second player in history to score 50 points in a deciding game, has built a Hall of Fame career in eight seasons with the Bucks. And while some may claim eight isn’t enough, there were two milestones Antetokounmpo reached this past season that put him squarely in the Hall of Fame conversation: NBA champion and Finals MVP, with the latter being more important for Hall chances than the former.

While basketball doesn’t have the nice round numbers that fans often associate with, say, the Baseball Hall of Fame (3,000 hits, 500 HRs, 300 wins), there are some counting stats that are important.

Let’s look at some of them:

Regular Season MVP

Every single eligible regular-season NBA MVP is in the Hall of Fame. Every. Single. One. You win a regular-season MVP, and it’s a red carpet to the Hall. Dirk Nowitzki, who is retired but not yet eligible, will breeze because of this (and many other reasons). And nearly every active MVP will more than likely be selected, except for one. Maybe. (More on that outlier later.)

Finals MVP

Of the 32 players who have been named Finals MVP since 1969, when the award debuted, all but two Hall-eligible players — Cedric Maxwell and Chauncey Billups — are in Springfield. All other Finals MVPs are either active or, like Dwyane Wade or Nowitzki, outside of their enshrinement window of being retired for three years. Spoiler alert: D-Wade and Dirk will be in the Hall.

Top 50 Scoring, Career

Every player eligible for the Hall, except for two — Tom Chambers and Antawn Jamison — are in the Hall. Joe Johnson, who has 20,405 points, is eligible in 2022. Is he a Hall of Famer? Basketball-Reference says there’s a 50 percent chance.

Top 50 PER (Player Efficiency Rating), Career

This is an interesting one. There are 16 active players (Hello, DeMarcus Cousins! I see you there between Hall of Famers Moses Malone and Tracy McGrady) in the top 50, and everyone not named Amar’e Stoudemire is either in the Hall or outside of their eligibility window.

Top 50 Win Shares, Career

Here, there are only five active players on this list, and only three players — Billups, Williams and Horace Grant — have been eligible for the Hall and not made it (so far). Everyone else on the list is either in or has a great shot to get in.

Top 50 Win Shares/48, Career

This list has 12 active players, including Jonas Valanciunas(?) in the top 50. Of those 50, only Kevin Johnson isn’t in the Hall.

Top 50 VORP (Value Over Replacement Player), Career

Again, this list is chock full of Hall of Famers, and there are six active players, led by LeBron James, who grades out as the most valuable by a wide margin. (Yes, even over MJ.)

Box +/-

Here’s a fun one. This measures a player’s contribution when he’s on the floor using standard box scores, but it’s an advanced stat.

So, this weekend as the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame welcomes its 62nd class with 16 enshrinees, including six NBA players, let’s use counting stats, advanced stats and some subjectivity to look at the active players and see there chances of making the hall of fame.

Active locks:

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Carmelo Anthony, Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook

Let’s start with the most obvious Hall of Famer here: LeBron James. Not only is a lock for Springfield, but also, whether you like it or not, he’s in the NBA’s GOAT conversation, and you wouldn’t be wrong if you think he’s the greatest player in NBA history with four MVPs, four Finals MVPs, four titles with three different teams, eight consecutive trips to the Finals, and 10 in all. He’s third all-time in career points (35,367), 42nd in rebounding, eighth in assists, and just for kicks, 13th in steals. He has the second-best PER, third in win shares behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain, sixth in win shares/48 and leads VORP by a mile. Add in all the playoff points, records, and … why are we still here? You know this. Lock.

Giannis is far down the Basketball-Reference Hall of Fame probability index (BBRHOFPI), but as we noted above, the regular-season MVPs and Finals MVP make him a certainty. Antetokounmpo is one of 14 players in NBA history to win two MVPs. He’s five-time All-NBA (with likely more to come) and a five-time All-Star (with more to come). Add a Defensive Player of the Year in 2020 (one of three players, MJ and Hakeem Olajuwon being the others, to win DPoY and MVP in the same season) onto that pile, and you have one of the best players in history. Yes, already. Everything from here is icing.

Melo also is a lock because of his one great skill: putting the basketball in the hole. Currently, he’s 10th all-time with 27,370 points and is 40 points shy of passing Moses Malone for ninth place. He’s also 1,226 points shy of Shaquille O’Neal, giving himself an outside shot (see what I did there?) of moving into eighth. Here are two other factors that will get him into the Hall, and this is the fun one: Every player who has ever led the NBA in scoring is in the Hall. Yes. Every. Single. One. You come for the Hall, you best not miss (too much), and Melo led the NBA in scoring 2012-13. Finally, two other things that will help Melo: The 2003 NCAA title with Syracuse and three Olympic golds will seal the deal.

Remember what we said about multiple-MVP winners? That brings us to Curry, who is one of 14 players to win more than one MVP, and, and, and, he’s the only one to be named a unanimous MVP. Not MJ, not Magic, not Bird, no one. That alone makes Curry a Hall of Famer. Add to that he’s the greatest shooter in NBA history, who is well on his way to 20,000 points and will likely reach that this season, vaulting him into the top 50; that he will shatter every 3-point record, including becoming the all-time leader at some point this season; that he’s led the league in scoring twice; that he’s seven-time All-NBA and a three-time NBA champ; and let’s throw in a league-leading 2.1 steals per game in 2016, the year he was named unanimous MVP. Unanimous! And an unparalleled career.

AD may be the easiest lock to nitpick on this list, because, in this examination, he doesn’t have the hardware that others do, and he’s light on league-leading black ink (the bold font Sports-Reference sites use to denote a league leader in a category). But, he’s led the league in blocks three times, he’s four-time All-NBA First Team, an eight-time All-Star, and, finally, an NBA champion. Also, as a modern big who can stretch the floor, advanced stats love him. He’s third all-time in PER behind MJ and Bron and ahead of other Hall of Fame bigs such as Shaq, Wilt and David Robinson. He’s also 15th in win shares/48 and he’s 12th in career Box +/-. While injuries have hampered him throughout his career, AD’s career has been Hall of Fame worthy. He is still in his prime.

Next to LeBron, KD is the lockiest of locks on this list. His personal list is stupendous: NBA MVP, two-time Finals MVP, two-time NBA champ, four-time scoring champ, nine-time All-NBA, 11-time All-Star. He needs 1,741 points to pass Hall of Famer Alex English to reach the all-time top 20. The advanced stats are nice too: top 25 in win shares, 12th in win shares/48, top 20 in VORP, eighth all-time in PER and 10th for Box +/-. Let’s throw in his three gold medals for good measure, and the greatest scorer of his generation will be giving a Hall of Fame speech soon after he retires.

It’s kind of crazy Harden has a 99.97 percent chance to make the Hall according to BBRHOFPI, but based on mine, he’s 100 percent. A savant on offense, Harden has led the league in scoring three times in a row, assists once and was the 2018 MVP. His 36.1 points per game in 2019 is the seventh-best scoring average in league history behind some dudes name Chamberlain and Jordan. He’s 33rd in career points and 42nd in assists, and if he has a monster season, he can be on the cusp of the top 25 in each. His advanced metrics are great too: 30th in win shares, eighth in win shares/48, 10th in PER, 20th in VORP and sixth in Box +/-. If the Nets win the title this season, as they are one of the favorites, you can add that to the list. But he won’t need it. Harden’s already a HOFer.

Dwight Howard? Why is Howard a Hall of Famer? If you weren’t of age to fully understand mid 200’s and early 2010’s baseball, let me tell you about Howard. In his prime, he was a force on the boards and on defense. From 2008 to 2013, he won five of six rebounding titles, led the league in blocked shots twice and was named Defensive Player of the Year for three straight seasons starting in 2008-09, made five consecutive All-NBA First Teams and reached an NBA Finals as the centerpiece of the 2009 Magic. With 14,271 career rebounds, he’s 11th on the list. He needs 391 to pass Kevin Garnett for ninth. He’s also 32nd in all-time win shares with 138.21. Every eligible player ahead of him in that category is in the Hall. He hasn’t been dominant for a while as he does the once-great center tour of the NBA that older centers often do (which added a ring to his resume in 2020), but his early dominance will put him in Springfield.

There have been only three players in NBA history who have won Finals MVP with different franchises. LeBron is one, and he’s done it with three. Kareem is another, winning with the Bucks in 1971 and the Lakers in 1985. The other? Kawhi Leonard, winning Finals MVP with the Spurs in 2014 and with the Raptors in 2019. That’s elite company. You can’t question the impact he’s had on leading two NBA franchises to titles. He also has two Defensive Player of the Year awards and has been All-NBA First Team three times. He’s also 11th in win shares/48 behind Rudy Gobert, eighth in Box +/- and 23rd in all-time PER. He’s also the subject of one of the greatest oral histories of all time. At 77.69 percent on the BBRHOFPI, Kawhi has the lowest percentage on the lock list, but I can’t see The Klaw losing his grip on a spot in the HOF. I can see how people would make an argument against his candidacy. Still, his body of work, his two-way ability (and on occasion, dominance) and his two Finals MVPs should put him in the Hall. Plus, hey, hey, hey, who doesn’t want to hear Kawhi’s induction speech?

If you feel queasy about Kawhi’s lock status, no need to feel nervous about Chris Paul, “The Point God.” He’s at 100 percent on the BBRHOFPI, and with the exception of winning a title or regular-season MVP, CP3 has done just about everything a superstar point guard should do in the NBA. Lead the league in assists? Yes, four times. He’s 60 assists from fourth place and 61 from third. He could get that by the third week of this season. Steals? Uh, yeah, six times, which is three seasons more than any player in NBA history. He’s fifth all-time there too. Points? Good there too. He needs 22 points to become the 47th player to reach 20,000. And advanced stats? Check, CP3 is a killer there: 10th in win shares, fifth in win shares/48, ninth in PER, seventh in VORP, fifth in Box +/-. You could argue he’s one of the top-three point guards of all time.

Westbrook’s Hall of Fame candidacy is built on his MVP season of 2016-17, his being a two-time scoring champ and that he’s averaged a triple-double in four different seasons, including his MVP season, which was the start of an amazing three-year run of averaging a triple-double each season. Oscar Robertson, the only other player to average a triple-double in a season — in 1961-62, when everyone in the league was putting up insane digits — put up 30.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 10.6 assists per game over his first five seasons. Westbrook is averaging 26.0/10.3/10.1 over his last five seasons. Not too shabby. He’s also led the league in assists three times and he’s been named First or Second Team All-NBA seven times. He’s top 25 in PER and top 30 in VORP. Regardless of how you feel about Westbrook, he’s headed for the Hall.

(And, in case you hadn’t noticed, the Lakers have five locks on their roster this season, where the Nets have two, and a near-lock.)

Active, near-locks:

Draymond Green, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Nikola Jokic, Kyle Lowry, Klay Thompson

Based on the MVP metric, Jokic should be a lock, correct? Correct. But if he retired today, would he be in the Hall? More than likely, yet the difference between him and say any other one-time MVP is sustained excellence. Jokic doesn’t need to have another MVP season to be a Hall of Famer, but he needs to continue to be in the MVP conversation and adds All-NBA nods and All-Star Games to the mix in the next few seasons to be a lock-lock. Plus, if he plays 15 seasons and accumulates the counting stats, he’ll be in Springfield, no doubt.

Draymond, Kyrie, Lowry and Klay all have titles to their credit, which should help as they all played pivotal roles on their respective championship teams. What they lack is individual hardware and black ink, but a combination of winning championships, accumulation stats, All-Star appearances and advanced metrics should help each of them. Klay is one of the greatest shooters in NBA history and is in the top 20 for 3-pointers made; Draymond doesn’t have the numbers but was critical to the Warriors’ dynasty on both ends of the floor (and as a recruiter); Kyrie, who may be the best ballhandler of all time and one of the best finishers for his size in NBA history, is top 30 in VORP and Box +/-; and Lowry has an 85.7 percent chance of making the Hall according to the BBRHOFPI. Lowry also has Win Share similarity scores to Allen Iverson, Lenny Wilkens, Sam Jones and Joe Dumars, all Hall of Famers.

Lillard has carved out a wonderful career for himself in the Pacific Northwest, making six All-NBA teams and six All-Star teams. He doesn’t have the hardware and he doesn’t have a title, but he has numbers. He’s averaging 24.7 points for his career and 27.6 points his last five seasons on .505/.379/.908 shooting. That’s pretty good. Of the players on this list, Lillard has the highest BBRHOFPI at 90.6 percent.

Active, in the mix

Bradley Beal, Jimmy Butler, DeMar DeRozan, Joel Embiid, Marc Gasol, Paul George, Rudy Gobert, Rajon Rondo, Ben Simmons

This is an interesting group that I based on comments from others (Beal, DeRozan and Simmons) and other metrics we’ve used above.

Embiid is a force on both ends of the floor and one of the top players in the NBA right now, finishing second in MVP voting to Jokic in 2021. He missed his first two seasons because of injuries, and that’s always the worry with Embiid. He has four All-Star appearances in five seasons. If he continues to be in the MVP mix and stays healthy enough to build up the counting stats and lead his team to playoff success, Embiid could be headed to Springfield, and might secure it this season by winning league MVP.

Let’s pivot to Gobert. His BBRHOFPI is a minuscule 6.2 percent, but those three Defensive Player of the Year awards loom large in his legacy — and his Hall of Fame chances. Ten players have won multiple DPoYs, and four have won three or more, Gobert being one of them. Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace are in the Hall. Dwight Howard is on his way. If form holds, Gobert should be in, especially if you factor in his impact with the French national team. Coincidentally, and apologies Jazz fans, there’s only one Hall-eligible multi-DPoY winner who is not in the Hall: Mark Eaton.

As for Simmons, it may seem crazy, especially with the drama in Philly this offseason. But why is he in the mix? As Zach Harper pointed out, Simmons is on pace for 16K points, 8K rebounds and 8K assists. Do you know who’s done that in NBA history? LeBron James and Jason Kidd. OK, then. If Simmons plays another 10 to 11 seasons, he could hit those milestones. If you think 11 more seasons is a lot, Simmons is 24. He has time. And regardless of how you feel about his offense, that’s elite company. He’s also a terror on defense, having made First Team All-Defense the past two seasons, leading the league in steals in 2020.

Beal is working his way up the scoring chart. He has 13,303 points, 9,345 of which have come in the last five years at 26.2 points per game. If he stays healthy and averages 21.2 points for the next five seasons, he’ll pass Hall of Famer Bob Pettit. Beal’s career average 22.0 per game. It’s doable.

I’m going to lump PG13, Butler and DeRozan in the same group, though one of the things people pointed out in August on Twitter was George had a higher BBRHOFPI at 84.1 percent than Kawhi’s 77.69 despite Kawhi’s two Finals MVPs. But that metric doesn’t take Finals MVPs into account and this article does. Still, PG13 has made six All-NBA teams, four NBA All-Defensive teams, seven All-Star teams, led the league in steals in 2019 and has averaged close to 24 points per game in the last six seasons. If he stays healthy, he could be headed to the Hall. Butler has four All-NBA nods and four All-Defensive nods in his career. He also led the NBA in steals this past season. He’s also top 60 in PER, 26th in win shares/48 all time and top 40 in Box +/-. His BBRHOFPI is under 50 at 46.8 percent. DeRozan’s BBRHOFPI is the smallest of this group at 6.8 percent, but he does have 17,751 career points. A few more solid seasons could vault him into the top 40 all-time. But is solid Hall of Fame worthy? We’ll see.

Rondo‘s candidacy always gets passionate arguments for and against. He has been a part of two title teams, has four All-Defensive nods, including two First Team appearances, led the league in steals in 2010 and is 14th all-time in total assists. At 60.6 percent on the BBRHOFPI, he’s more of a candidate than some people think.

Marc Gasol has an NBA title under his belt with Toronto in 2019, was Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 and First Team All-NBA in 2015. He’s 64th all-time in Box +/- and 70th in VORP. Add in his international play with Spain, and there’s a possibility there will be two Gasols in the Hall.

Active, haven’t seen enough yet:

Bam Adebayo, Devin Booker, Luka Doncic, Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, Zion Williamson, Trae Young

All of these guys have Hall of Fame talent, but it’s far too soon to make a call on whether or not they’re headed for the Hall. It’s also not hard to imagine more than a few MVPs, Finals MVPs and champions will eventually spring from this group.

And then there is the single most intriguing MVP case the NBA has ever seen: Derrick Rose. 

In 2011, at age 22, Rose was the youngest player to win MVP, which came two years after he won Rookie of the Year. In the span of three years, he earned two major awards and seemingly had a Hall of Fame career in front of him. But two devastating knee injuries, one in 2012 and another in 2013, robbed him of his explosiveness, and his game and the impact he had on it hasn’t been the same since.

Does Rose get in for what should’ve and would’ve been accumulated if those devastating injuries didn’t occur? His career projections were guaranteed looks for the Hall.

But his second act as a role player combined with his previous greatness should equal a trip to the Hall of Fame. The only other person we could relate Rose to was Grant Hill, who made his way to the Hall.

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