Send in the Clones! (of the best players ever)

I was all set with today’s post and then I read Prof. Berri’s piece for the day (see here).

Damn you to Hell!

The piece poses the question:

“Who would win, five prime Dennis Rodmans vs. five prime Kobe Bryants?”

Dave answered:

“As for Rodman vs. Kobe… people often argue that a team of Rodmans (or a team of just Ben Wallace, or a team of Bieidrins) wouldn’t be very good since no one can score.  That might be true, but a team a team of just Kobe or just Iverson wouldn’t be too good either.  After all, Kobe can’t guard a center and he can’t rebound as well either. As for a team of Kobe vs. a team of Rodman… well, Rodman can’t bring the ball up the court.  So that is a problem. He also isn’t much of a scorer.  But he would tend to dominate the boards, which might be good since he would miss a lot of shots.  On the other hand, Kobe could bring the ball up the court and get his shot off.  But he better make it, since he won’t get many second shots.  Put it all together…. I think I take Kobe. Rodman is going to lose too many possessions before he ever takes a shot.”

This is a well reasoned response and it inspired a lively discussion on who the best clone team ever would be.

Like this but cool and able to jam it down

Some chose Magic and this would be good. Some chose Gasol or Odom (which would either break the flop-o-meter or finally provide Bruce Jenner with enough son-in laws). Garnett, Bird,Barkley and  Jordan were also thrown in. This naturally hit my wheelhouse like a runaway train.

A Basketball what-if?!?!? Quick to the Excel Cave!!!!

So we now interrupt you’re regularly scheduled blog post for my response.

If I were building a team and I only got to choose one player to clone over and over, who would I choose? He’d have to be able to play multiple positions. He would need to score efficiently and handle the ball. He would have to be an insane producer of wins. There are a few names that pop to mind and I could hazard a guess but we don’t roll like that here. We’re going to try science.

The Best Players of all Time

I’ve been saving this table for a rainy day. This is my ultimate ranking of the best 30 players in the NBA since the merger (sorry Kareem,Wilt,Russell etc…).  I use Wins Produced, Wins over Replacement Player and the per 48 equivalents (see here for explanations) and rank players accordingly. This awesome table looks like this:

So the top five is a bit surprising as Jordan is left out (he’s probably out golfing or playing baseball ;-)). The top five is the natural place to chose our modern day Jango Fett. Magic seems  the obvious choice except for the fact that he played no defense. Given my criteria (flexibility, size, shooting, all around game), Team Clone is going with the college center from Auburn who was by all accounts the best player on the 1992 Dream Team.

That's not so terrible

Barkley can do all five positions offensively and defensively, dominate the boards and score. The help defense would be good, the poker and the golf fivesomes will be legendary.

Shut up and Jam (do yourself a favor and click here)

and here

Chaos Dunk, bitches.

This is the coolest game ever.
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  1. 9/3/2010

    Gonna snub my work like that? Magic did it all, multiple times! The first five years of his career he got over 2 steals, 7 boards and .5 blocks a game! With that said I think Magic vs Barkley might be the most exciting fake matchup. Maybe Robinson vs. Garnett. Obviously as soon as you go ridiculous with a guard vs. a Power Forward as in Kobe vs. Rodman you start getting into positional battles more than skill. Don’t overlook the fact that Larry Bird is up there too!

    • Andres,
      You know I love your work. I’m choosing Barkley because he’s the only guy on that list and on my top ten that I can see playing 1-5 on offense and defense (at the end of day he gets the nod barely over Bird because he played 5 in college and the pros). He could score/defend with his back to the basket and from distance and he was a more physical presence that is the edge.

      I will say that Team Lebron is the darkhorse candidate for exactly the same reasons. The Barkley/Lebron matchup I give to Barkley because he’ll back Lebron up and post him up (and Lebron still has no post game).

      I actually think The Shaq-opolys Now vs Team Air would be the most exciting and ridiculous.

    • I’d forgotten about the ridiculous hops. And the blocks, my god the blocks.

  2. Andres,

    Really? Did you just quote Hollinger at me?

    Magic isn’t covering anybody with size on that list. Note that even Hollinger clarifies that he had defensive help. Teams Lebron, Bird, Jordan, Pippen, Barkley,Garnett and Hakeem all have a field day offensively against the Magic Hour. I’d pay to see team Nash vs team Magic.

    P.S. This is fun right Andre :-)

  3. 9/4/2010

    I just needed the stat line (BR’s game by game don’t go back that day.) Funny day when I disagree with you and Hollinger at the same time :) Ok so how about the following match ups, Chris Paul vs Steve Nash, Dwyane Wade vs. Michael Jordan (I expect Jordan in a walk, but fun SG battle), Larry vs Magic (classic), Lebron vs Barkley and Garnett vs. Robinson. Frankly if we could just arrange such matchups we’d all win!

  4. some dude

    Team Shaq would destroy team Barkley. Barkley would have no shot. I don’t care about dribbling because Shaq could get the ball into the post without ever having to dribble due to the height advantage.

    In order to pick the one player, you have to think of things like this. No one under 6’5 can be chosen.

    Nash against Magic? Magic would score on 90% of possessions just by posting up on Nash. 5 Nash’s on offense would be fun to watch, but couldn’t stand a chance against any good offensive player.

    TBH, the best answer might be Kevin Garnett. height, defense, rebounding, handles, dribbling, post up, outside shot. You need to have someone who could beat the 5 Shaqs and the 5 Magics/Jordans/Barkleys. only KG might be able to do it.

    • SD,
      I worry about Shaq’s shooting (FG and FT), his fouling and his handle. For KG, I worry about moving the ball up and down the court. Barkley had experience covering the 4/5 slot. Shaq Barkley is a rough matchup for Chuck but I don’t think Shaq makes it that far (KG,Rodman,Robinson,Hakeem or Duncan would all beat him).

      Barkley, Garnett, Lebron and Bird might be your final four.

  5. some dude

    Yao is another interesting one. He could set up the Great Wall and pretty much 0wn everyone that isn’t near 7 feet at least.

    Unfortunately, he’ll be played 3 on 5 as the season wears on…

    • He’s not an awesome defender. Shaq,Duncan,Garnett or Hakeem would own him.

  6. Dan Rosenberry

    Don’t forget Barkley’s best attribute… The quotes! In addition to playing very well, he also could be counted on for quotes that no other player would ever really make.

  7. some dude

    Arturo – that’s why i said “not near 7 feet,” and yet you proceed to list only 7 footers.

  8. sd,
    It’s a bit of a circular argument. Shaq is matchup problem for non seven footers but he was historically owned by many of his peers (seven footers).

  9. Fred Bush

    Could you play any of these out in one of the commercially-available basketball console games?

    • FB,
      Yes. I could do it on my PS2 NBA2k8 (I’d have to create the player using stats I found on the internet) . Might make for a good series. Clone Wars anyone?

  10. some dude

    arturo, what does that have to do with Yao?

    As to Shaq, I don’t recall prime Shaq being owned by anyone.

    • Brain Fart. For Yao, his defense kills him. Any big on the list should beat him. He couldn’t stop Karl Malone with a two by four.

      For Shaq, Rodman and Hakeem owned him in Conference finals and Finals. I’d take Duncan and the Admiral over him as well in a 5 on 5. Healthy Young Patrick and D-Howard would be intriguing as well.

  11. Tim,
    Two points on this.

    According to Phil Jackson, Rodman is the greatest athlete he’s ever coached.

    As for Jordan :

    Jordan’s numbers as pointed out in this piece are affected by his retirements. If you project and include those his numbers rate the top five (Magic,Chuck, Rodman, Bird, Jordan).

    For individual peak greatness (see here- ) once we include individual man defense (which is not reflected completely in the WP numbers) I have to imagine 1989 Jordan would rate number one in that mythical Defense Adjusted Wins Produced but Rodman makes him sweat for it. I don’t think you can go wrong with Jordan or Rodman on your team ( and if you get both watch out :-) )

    However for Building a clone team I need someone who can do a credible job at all five positions and preferably center and can play defense so Chuck gets the call.

  12. some dude

    Arturo, I specifically said Yao vs non-bigs. Why do you keep mentioning bigs?

    As to Shaq…Hakeem played him well before Shaq’s prime while he was in his. I don’t know who comes out on top, tbh. That’s about as close as you could get (and Shaq did hold his own and who knows what happens if Nick Anderson doesn’t have the greatest choke ever).

    As for Robinson, Shaq 0wned him his entire career, as did Hakeem. Robinson is a NINNY who was a great regular season player that diminished in the playoffs.

    Shaq routinely outplayed Duncan. Duncan, a career 51% shooter has shot 45% vs Shaq. SHaq has put up the same offensive numbers with better efficiency against Duncan in 2 less minutes played. To be fair, if we take out Shaq’s last 3 years where’s he’s just wobbled around the court, the numbers wouldn’t be that close (and rebounding nearly equal).

    I’m a huuuuuuge Duncan fan, but as a Laker fan I saw them battle in their primes a lot and Shaq almost always outplayed Duncan head to head, especially in the playoffs.

    In the ’01 sweep with both in their primes

    Shaq: 27 & 13 on like 55% shooting
    Duncan: 23 & 12 on like 48% shooting. playing more minutes than Shaq.

    Following year Duncan upped his scoring at the expense of shooting (shot horribly in 2 games). And even in ’03 when the Spurs finally beat LA, Shaq still outplayed Duncan head to head but of course outside of Kobe the team became very old (and Horry missing the only clutch 3 of his life happened).

    And to say Dwight would be intriguing is absurd. Dwight is nothing compared to prime Shaq. Shaq was obliterate him. Hell, Dwight still has trouble versus this old and fat Shaq, how would he handle the legit one? And Ewing….HAH.

    The ONLY bigs would could compete with prime Shaq are Hakeem and Kareem. That’s it.

    • sd,
      For Duncan, I’ imagining the insane help defense you’d get with 5 of him. For Howard I’m projecting his prime (which he hasn’t reached). Robinson I have to give to you. For Ewing, It has to be young Ewing who could move around the court. It’s a fun discussion though (feels like I should have a beer in hand while doing it).

  13. some dude

    Where did you come up with this notion that Chuck plays defense? You watched him play, yes?

    Even he admits he stunk on defense…

    • SD,
      He was ok. Very,very physical (similar to Lebron). You have to take what Barkley says about himself with a grain of salt.

  14. Chicago Tim

    Something is wrong with your link, but I found the peak year list:

    That looks like exactly the same link, so it must have been the parenthetical.

    Anyway, based on that list maybe five Kevin Garnetts would beat five Dennis Rodmans.

    Also, based on that list Dennis Rodman is still listed ahead of Michael Jordan. So how can Prof. Berri state with such confidence that Michael Jordan was better? Is it possible that he is shying away from the idea because it so contradicts conventional wisdom? Or is he looking at something you are not? Statistical deviation by position? Just years with the Bulls?

  15. Chicago Tim

    Whoops, I meant to say maybe five Kevin Garnetts would beat five Charles Barkleys.

    • Tim,
      It’s splitting hairs. Rodman was a specialist. To use Andres scorer,defender,playmaker breakdown: Rodman is a pure defender (and the best pure defender in the numbers). Jordan gives you all three. So Jordan is the best all around player of all time.

      Garnett is like the evolutionary Rodman (awesome defender but he is good as a playmaker and scorer). His biggest flaw is that he never developed a back to the basket game. But Garnett v. Barkley would come down to bringing the ball up.

  16. 9/5/2010

    Chicago Tim,
    Man always with the good questions :) So Jordan vs. Rodman to start. Let’s just point out career, Jordan’s career winnings are among the highest of all players. Dr. Berri’s next book I am sure will focus on Jordan’s career in the history of the NBA. Next Jordan was a smaller player that was significantly beyond his peers (other SG) in terms of productivity. Basically Rodman in his peak was more productive for his team. Jordan was productive for more seasons, relatively close in productivity to Rodman, could do everything and was arguably (like straw man argument) the greatest Shooting Guard of the last forty years.

    Garnett vs. Barkley would be an awesome matchup, but I still choose Magic to rule them all!

  17. some dude

    that’s a nice backtrack arturo, from good to just ok defender.

    5 KGs destroys Barkley easily. KG should just shoot over him all day.

  18. some dude

    Rebounding is NOT defense. Where the hell did you come up with that one?

    And the difference between Barkley and KG is 1% in rebound%, which wouldn’t even be there if KG’s knee didn’t get shot last year.

    Also, Barkley was a better OFFENSIVE rebounder, not defensive rebounder.

    Barkley’s career: 23.71; KG’s career: 25.57

    KG had 3 seasons over 30% DRB% in his prime. Barkley has none over 28. IN fact, KG’s top 5 seasons are better than Barkley best at defensive rebounding %.

    In their primes, KG was a better defensive rebounder, period.

    And the difference in their “best seasons total rebounding %” is not even a whole percent. Really…you’re going to claim an advantage on the boards between 20.9% and 20.3%? What does that even come out to over a whole game. a single rebound?

    Barkley could dribble and run the PnR? And KG couldn’t. Hello, KG has the best handles of all time for anyone 6’10 and above. He has the handles of a PG. He could PnR CB a lot, who wasn’t good at pick n roll defense to begin with.

    barley’s career defensive rating: 105. KG’s: 99.

    barkley’s career turnover rating: 15%, KG: 12% KG also blocked more shots and had more assists.

    Barkley did 2 things and only 2 things better than KG. Offensive rebound (not big enough to matter head to head) and score inside the post. But KG’s an all-time defender and would neutralize Barkley’s post game as best as anyone could, while having a significant height advantage that would allow him to post up and shoot over Barkley at will.

    The rebounding battle would be about equal, but Barkley would turn the ball over more and take tougher shots and shoot a lower % while ALSO committing more fouls leading to more made FTs.

    I swear, I wonder if you even watch basketball. KG would kill Charles one on one. It’s not even close. turn it to 5 on 5 and it is no different.

    That doesn’t mean KG is better than Barkley, but it’s a matchup nightmare for CB.

    Look, this is still the greatest fundamental mistake NBA statistical analysts make. They ignore matchups which is why they’re routinely surprised when a team liek Cleveland loses to Orlando or Boston when a lot of other people keep telling them to pay attention to matchups.

  19. Mark Wylie

    Arturo, I’m really enjoying these posts (this one, Team Kobe vs. Team Rodman, Top 30 Supermen of the Turnover Era). Is there anywhere we can look at wins produced earlier than 2006? Also has there ever been a post on the all time WP48 or wins produced team?

    • Mark,
      That’s coming. Andres has been working on the older data set and will post it to the automated Wins produced site at some point in the near future.

      As for the all time Wp48 team, not yet but there probably will be one in the near future now that you’ve suggested it.

  20. Jeff

    Late to the party but I am just happy to see the A-train (Artis Gilmore!) on the list. I acutally had courtside seats when I was 15 or so and got to see the A-train school the rookie Patrick Ewing on how to play center in the NBA.

    • Jeff,
      Artis is double impressive since he’s missing five years. He’ll be better once we figure out how to include those years.

  21. jbrett


    Did you ever see the SI photo from an Auburn-UK game, where Mel Turpin is at the apex of a McAdoo-like jump shot, with the ball high above his head–and Barkley’s hand is ON TOP OF THE BALL? I’m a Magic guy all the way, but Chuck had quite the skill set.

  22. jbrett,
    Yes. He was a force of nature (much like Lebron) except he could play with his back to the basket.

  23. […] Basketball Reference is a big part of my life. Some one asks a question about basketball and it allows me to find answer 95% of the time.  All the data from 1986 to now in one convenient searchable database. Add in the fact that it makes Automated Wins produced possible and this blog could not exist without it. It let’s me analyze. It let’s me compare. It let’s me make crazy points. […]

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