Is Manu Ginobili a Hall of Famer?

The Keltner List is a series of subjective questions formulated by famed sabermetrician Bill James used to help assess whether or not a player deserves to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Although the system was designed to evaluate baseball players, with a few minor tweaks it can also be used to assess the Hall-worthiness of basketball players. Today I will assess the Hall of Fame chances of Manu Ginobili.

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in basketball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in basketball?

No and no.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

Ginobili has had a season or two where he was the best player on his team (e.g., 2010-11). But generally speaking the answer is no, as he has spent his entire career playing with Tim Duncan, arguably one of the 10 best players in NBA history.

3. Was he the best player in basketball at his position?

No, he was not.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of NBA Finals or Conference Finals?

Yes, he has. Ginobili has played in the Western Conference Finals six times and will play in his fifth NBA Finals tonight, thus far winning three championships.

Overall, Ginobili has played in 61 games in the Western Conference and NBA Finals, and his averages in those games mirror his averages from the regular season:

PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% FT% TS%
Regular Season 14.7 3.8 4.0 .452 .370 .833 .589
WC and NBA Finals 14.7 4.2 3.6 .448 .381 .828 .596

That’s very impressive considering the quality of competition he’s had to face in the those playoff games.

5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?

Yes. Ginobili will turn 37 in July and yet he continues to play at a very high level, albeit in fewer minutes.

6. Is he the very best (eligible) basketball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?

Ginobili is not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame, but even if he was I would probably place him behind Sidney Moncrief and Kevin Johnson if I was prioritizing selections.

7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?

It depends on how you look at it.

If you look at standard per game statistics, then the answer is no. Ginobili’s slash* line is just 14.7/3.8/4.0. There are 63 players in NBA history (minimum 400 games played) to average a 14/3/4 slash line, but fewer than half of them — 25, to be exact — are in the Hall of Fame.

* Per game averages for points, rebounds and assists.

But if you look at a comprehensive statistic like win shares, then the answer is yes. Keep in mind that Ginobili is active, so some of these numbers could change, but for now:

  • Ginobili’s career average of .209 win shares per 48 minutes ranks 13th all time among players with at least 50 win shares. Of the 12 players above him on that list, nine are in the Hall of Fame and the three remaining players — Chris Paul, LeBron James, and Tim Duncan — are virtual locks to join them.
  • Ginobili is one of just 20 players with at least 90 career win shares and an average of at least .200 win shares per 48 minutes. Among the 18 other players on that list, 13 are Hall of Famers, one is retired and will be (Shaquille O’Neal), and the remaining players — Paul, James, Duncan, and Dirk Nowitzki — are active but will surely be elected in their first year of eligibility.

Let’s create a peer group for Ginobili. Here are the 10 former players who come within 20 percent of both Ginobili’s career win shares (93.8) and his career win shares per 48 minutes (.209):

Player WS WS/48
Paul Arizin 108.8 .183
Julius Erving 106.3 .178
Artis Gilmore 107.6 .174
Dan Issel 82.3 .177
Kevin Johnson 92.8 .178
Neil Johnston 92.0 .241
Sam Jones 92.3 .182
Sidney Moncrief 90.3 .187
Larry Nance 109.6 .171
Bill Sharman 82.8 .178

A few observations:

  • Arizin, Erving, Gilmore, Issel, Johnston, Jones, and Sharman are Hall of Famers.
  • Johnson and Moncrief are very strong candidates. In fact, I’ve made arguments for each of them in the past.*
  • Nance is also a strong candidate.**
  • Like Ginobili, three of these players had notable professional careers outside the NBA — Erving, Gilmore, and Issel were all ABA stars.

* Here are links to the Keltner lists for Johnson and Moncrief.
** Note to self: Do a Keltner List for Nance in the near future.

8. Do the player’s numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

Ginobili’s Hall of Fame probability is just .122, a very low figure.

His Hall of Fame Standards score is 31, which suggests he is at best a fringe candidate.

9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

Possibly. Ginobili’s totals — and thus his per game statistics — have been held back by three things:

  1. He did not come to the NBA until he was already 25 years old.
  2. Ginobili’s head coach, Gregg Popovich, closely monitors the minutes of his stars during the regular season.*
  3. Ginobili has been a starter in less than half of the games he has played.

* Of course, one could also make the case that Ginobili’s longevity is due in part to the way Popovich manages his minutes. I can see both sides.

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?

Again, Ginobili isn’t eligible, but even if he was I would probably put another shooting guard, Sidney Moncrief, ahead of him.

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?

Ginobili received MVP votes three in three different seasons — 2007-08, 2009-10, and 2010-11 — but he never finished higher than eighth in the balloting.

12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?

Ginobili was only selected to play in two All-Star Games (2005 and 2011), an extremely low total for a a Hall of Fame candidate. That said, Dennis Rodman, Jerry Sloan, and Bill Walton were all inducted into the Hall with just two All-Star selections, so it would not be unprecedented.

Ginobili also had several other seasons — 2006-07, 2007-08, and 2009-10, to name three — where he put up All-Star caliber numbers but did not make the All-Star team.

13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win an NBA title?

Probably not. As I noted above there have been one or two seasons where he was the best player on the Spurs, who have been a perennial contender throughout his career, but he’s also had the luxury of playing alongside Tim Duncan and Tony Parker the entire time.

14. What impact did the player have on basketball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way? Was his college and/or international career especially noteworthy?

Ginobili had an impressive international career before coming to the NBA at the age of 25, as his teams won two Italian Cups (2001 and 2002), one Italian Championship (2001), and one Euroleague championship (2001). He was named the Italian League MVP in both 2000-01 and 2001-02 and was MVP of the 2001 Euroleague Finals.

Ginobili also led the Argentine national basketball team to the gold medal in the 2004 Summer Olympics. Argentina became the first team other than the United States to win a gold medal in the “Dream Team” era, as Ginobili led the team in scoring (19.3 points per game) and assists (3.3 per game).

The Verdict

I would put Ginobili in the Hall. Based solely on his NBA career I think it would be a more difficult call — although I would probably be inclined to include him — but to me his international career pushes him well past the line.

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24 thoughts on “Is Manu Ginobili a Hall of Famer?

  1. I don’t know if it’s 100% true, but I’ve seen at least one article claiming that Manu brought the ‘Eurostep’ to the NBA. I don’t know if it counts as an ‘impact on the game’, but it’s potentially notable.

    1. I think it was Sarunas Marciulionis who first brought it to the NBA. Sarunas was a fantastic scorer in the healthy seasons he had with the warriors.

  2. I don’t care for Win Shares as a metric (per 48 minutes or not), but I think that the case for Ginobili will be decent, especially given his international contributions. A fourth championship would help.

    Kevin Johnson was a much better player than Ginobili, but then Mitch Richmond wasn’t necessarily a much better player than Ginobili, and Richmond is now a Hall inductee. One could certainly argue that Ginobili, although not averaging as many points per game, belongs in the same class as Richmond and Hall of Fame members Reggie Miller and Joe Dumars.

  3. The big knock on Ginobili, to me, is that he never really played major minutes in the NBA on a per-game basis (a high of 31.1 in the regular season, only reaching 30.0 twice, and a career average of 27.1), and thus never needed to truly carry a club. But his vital role on so many championship teams probably negates that deficit. As I said, a fourth championship could make his case.

  4. And I don’t think that Ginobili was ever the best player on his team. Okay, one could make a case for the ’10-’11 season, when he led the Spurs in Win Shares, but Win Shares constitute too faulty of a metric to prove reliable (based on Win Shares, Amar’e Stoudemire was usually a more valuable player to the Suns than Steve Nash). Ginobili shot .433 from the field that season, he was a below-average three-point shooter, and he led his team in neither points per game nor assists per game (Tony Parker led in both while shooting .519 from the field). Moreover, Win Shares are not going to account for Tim Duncan’s total defensive contribution. To be sure, Ginobili constituted a highly efficient scorer by shooting .871 from the free throw line in 5.1 FTA per contest, but calling him the Spurs’ best player that season is debatable at best. Again, Win Shares do not amount to a reliable metric at all.

    1. Other than hand-picked, anecdotal examples, do you have any evidence that win shares is not a “reliable” metric?

  5. I’m a Spurs fan but I’m not sure Parker or Ginobili were ever consensus top-10 players over a prolonged stretch of time. But Parker could end up with his 2nd finals MVP which would make him hard to leave out, and Manu should definitely be in the *basketball* hall of fame because of his international career, but if it were just an *nba* hall of fame I don’t think he would belong – it’s supposed to be very selective, only for “greats” imo, not for “really goods”.

  6. Maybe it is supposed to be for greats, but look at the list of who is in. Manu is better than quite a few guys who are already there. On a per-minute basis, he is more than good enough, and the titles and gold medal are surely a sufficient bonus to cover his limited minutes per game. Plus, he is special; that counts, and should.

  7. Dear writer: it’s not the NBA Hall of Fame, it’s the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Your analysis focuses solely on NBA players and is thus a massive fail when considering a player with huge international accomplishments such as those owed by Manu Ginobili.

  8. Metrics are designed to evaluate a player’s performance on his own. None of them evaluate the effect a player has in his team. Instead of asking “would Manu Ginobili have won NBA 3 rings (well, as of tonight, 4) without his Spur partners, one could ask “would the SAS have won 4 rings without him?” And the answer is a “maybe not”. Ginobili has an added value which is typical FIBA (where team-work is more valued than individual dexterity), and that is what he can do to and for the team he plays in. Popovich hasn’t cuddled Manu for 15 years just because he likes him. He has always said his competitiveness is beyond what he has ever seen. Even tonight’s slam-dunk, in the 3rd quarter, ignited his whole team. If you want to know whether Ginobili deserves to be in the HOF, ask his long-term teammates and the coaches of the teams that have faced him.

  9. Per 36 Manu is a 19/5/5. I would argue that if he landed on a franchise where he’d have to carry a heavier minutes burden, his number would have been better, but he ‘d probably be retired now.

    I think the rings, the ultra-fun style of play and the international achievements are more than enough to put him in.

    I have two more very interesting names for your Keltner List: Shawn Marion and Vlade Divac(another International Legend who had a sucessful NBA career).

  10. Numbers don’t tell the whole story on this guy. He really has no weaknesses as a player.
    Can score from 3 point line, and take it to the hole with the best of them. Excellent ball handler and passer. Has anybody made more passes between defenders legs than Manu? No slouch on the defensive end either, with some highlight blocks on some great players. Most of all he’s a winner. He’s won championships at every level, including putting his Argentina team on his back,and defeating an American team loaded with NBA all stars in the Olympics for the Gold medal. In my book, he should be in the Hall one day.

    1. His weakness is his turnovers. That’s a drawback the Spurs lived with because they needed a spark at times. Most of the time it worked. In 2006, it cost them another chance at a ring. I’m still a huge fan.

  11. I just love Manu Ginóbili’s game, and yes, I’m from Argentina.
    When I think of his acomplishments with the San antonio Spurs, I think about two guys who played similar roles (not the same) for the Los Angeles Lakers: Michael Cooper & Byron Scott, who are not in the Hall of Fame.

    Recently, Ginóbili-Duncan-Parker Trio, broke a record of playoffs wins as a trio set by Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Cooper in the ’80s.

    Yeah, I know, Michael Cooper is not in the Hall of Fame and most of those 110 playoffs wins weren’t by his performance. But in his best Playoffs, in 1986-87, he averaged 13.0, 5 assists, close to 49% from the field and 85% from the FT line. Manu scored 13.0 or more in 9 different Playoff Seasons and the rest of his numbers look a lot like those of Michael Cooper.

    Byron Scott was a pure shooting guard who scored almost the same amount of points Manu averaged with the Spurs. But the rest of his game wasn’t good enough.

    So I think if you use some kind of “unrealistic” math and take ( Michael Cooper + Byron Scott ) / 2 = Manu Ginóbili. Even the number of titles is right… (5+3)/2 = 4.

    So I think if Cooper and Scott have failed to reach the Hall of Fame, Manu is that “average” guy who has no weakness in his game, and although he never had to carry a franchise in the NBA, he has proven he can with the National Team and before the NBA in Italy.

    Yes, he’s Hall of Fame material, for us in Argentina he’s the Maradona or Messi of Basketball, and everything he accomplishes is amazing and well deserved, let’s hope he is remembered in years to come.

  12. After Šarūnas Marčiulionis and Arvydas Sabonis were inducted, how can anybody refuse Ginobili’s admission? Even if we carve-out a niche for the international player using some different standard, Ginobili is at least on par with these guys.

    I also have a hard time assuming Chris Paul is a virtual lock and Ginobili is a fringe candidate. Paul’s All-Star ballots are fan driven. They have little weight. His All-NBA selections are of significance. He’s been the best player on several playoff teams. But making the second round of the playoffs twice (once with Blake Griffin) at your side, hardly seems that impressive. If making the playoffs with the perennial cellar-dweller Clips makes you a HOFer, then what does helping win 4 NBA championships and 5 conference titles mean? I also consider Ginobili’s gold medal on par with Paul’s two — playing with the next pool of U.S. talent is not as difficult as task as taking Argentina to a gold medal win.

    I like Martin Horacio’s math above. Interesting way to differentiate Byron Scott and Michael Cooper from Ginobili.

    Last, Ginobili has/had Charles Barkeley screaming his name before, during and after games. I’m not sure if that hurts or helps his candidacy though.

  13. What a stupid question for anyone that some what knows basketball. Manu was limited by his coach and of course team ball. This guy can score 50 no problem. Did you not see him in the finals this year?!? Did you not see how players react to him, he gets respect from everyone, including the greats. Top tier athlete all over the floor, defense and offense, shoots from anywhere, Bball IQ as high as it gets, dunks on anyone! He’s always been like this. Mark Jackson was calling him an absolute first round HOF. And what he did with his Argentina team “wow” lol

  14. ginobili is just amazing! he deserves to be considered one of the best players in all nba’s history. no doubt about it. just see the man play, it’s all there, his magic, his air, his talent, his precision. it’s beautiful, and it’s basket ball.

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