Is Chauncey Billups 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 Chauncey Billups.

Here are the questions as adapted by me:

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?

Yes. The Detroit Pistons were a deep and talented team from 2002-03 through 2007-08 — they reached the conference finals all six seasons — but I believe that Billups was their best player.

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

Although he only made three All-NBA teams (second team in 2005-06, third team in 2006-07 and 2008-09), in my opinion Billups was the best point guard of the 2000s.

It really comes down to three players: Billups, Steve Nash, and Jason Kidd. First, here are their regular season statistics:

Regular Season
Name GP MP/G PTS/G REB/G AST/G STL/G TS% WS WS/48
Chauncey Billups 712 32.5 15.6 3.1 5.9 1.0 .583 95.3 .198
Jason Kidd 760 37.3 14.0 7.0 9.2 1.9 .509 86.5 .147
Steve Nash 753 33.7 16.2 3.2 9.1 0.8 .612 95.3 .180

I think Billups and Nash have a leg up on Kidd here, but it’s tough to pick one over the other. But Nash won two MVP awards and made six All-NBA teams in the decade, so let’s be conservative and give him the edge.

Now here are their postseason statistics:

Postseason
Name GP MP/G PTS/G REB/G AST/G STL/G TS% WS WS/48
Chauncey Billups 133 37.3 17.7 3.5 5.9 1.1 .580 20.3 .196
Jason Kidd 103 40.8 15.3 7.7 8.8 1.9 .500 11.2 .128
Steve Nash 94 38.5 18.5 3.8 9.4 0.6 .579 9.9 .131

This is a big edge for Billups. While Nash and Kidd were noticeably less effective on a per minute basis, Billups was about the same. This is even more impressive when you consider the quality of the competition, as Billups was a member of seven conference finalists and appeared in two NBA Finals.

I know there are people out there who are going to think I’m crazy, but I would absolutely choose Billups as my point guard for the All-Decade team of the 2000s.

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

Yes, he did. As I mentioned above, Billups appeared in six consecutive conference finals with the Detroit Pistons, then extended that streak to seven with the Denver Nuggets in 2008-09.

Two of those teams — the 2003-04 and 2004-05 Pistons — reached the NBA Finals. The Pistons won the NBA championship in 2004, with Billups claiming the Finals MVP award. In 2005, the Pistons lost a tough seven-game series to the San Antonio Spurs, but Billups played extremely well and probably would have been named Finals MVP once again had they won.

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

Yes, he was. Billups was one of the best point guards in the NBA through his age 34 season. In his final three seasons (age 35 to 37), Billups was still a highly effective player when he played. Unfortunately, Billups took the floor in just 61 out of a possible 230 regular season games over that span.

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

Billups is not eligible yet, but I think he has a better Hall of Fame case than every other eligible player who has not been elected.

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

Billups is one of eight players to average at least 15 points and five assists per game while playing at least 1,000 games:

Name GP PTS/G AST/G
Chauncey Billups 1043 15.2 5.4
Clyde Drexler* 1086 20.4 5.6
Michael Jordan* 1072 30.1 5.3
Gary Payton* 1335 16.3 6.7
Scottie Pippen* 1178 16.1 5.2
Oscar Robertson* 1040 25.7 9.5
Reggie Theus 1026 18.5 6.3
Lenny Wilkens* 1077 16.5 6.7

The only one of those players who is not in the Hall of Fame — other than Billups — is Theus, and Billups was a much better player than Theus.

Let’s look at win shares, a more comprehensive statistic. Billups finished his career with 120.8 win shares, a very good figure. Here is a list of all retired players who finished their careers with between 110 and 130 win shares:

Name WS WS/48
Patrick Ewing* 126.5 .150
Scottie Pippen* 125.2 .146
Chauncey Billups 120.8 .176
Elvin Hayes* 120.7 .116
Buck Williams 120.2 .136
Horace Grant 118.2 .147
Chet Walker* 117.4 .168
Dominique Wilkins* 117.4 .148
Bob Lanier* 117.1 .175
Dikembe Mutombo 117.0 .153
Bailey Howell* 114.8 .180
Walt Frazier* 113.5 .176
Kevin McHale* 113.1 .180
Jack Sikma 112.4 .146
Terry Porter 110.5 .150
Wes Unseld* 110.0 .147

Billups is joined by 15 other players on this list. Ten of these 15 are in the Hall of Fame. Four of these players — Buck Williams, Horace Grant, Jack Sikma, and Terry Porter — are eligible but have not been elected to the Hall. The remaining player — Dikembe Mutombo — is eligible for the first time next year and stands a strong chance of being selected.

I should also note that just two of these players — Bailey Howell and Kevin McHale — earned more win shares per 48 minutes than Billups (Walt Frazier is tied with Billups).

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

Billups’ Hall of Fame probability is .205, which is not overly impressive.

His Hall of Fame Standards score is 38, a score that puts him very close to the “viable” candidate line.

Please remember that the two methods above are designed to model the behavior of the voters. They do not reflect my personal opinion.

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

Billups took a lot of three-pointers, so his field goal percentages look bad without taking into account the extra point provided by a made three-point shot.

Another skill that Billups had that is often overlooked is free throw efficiency, not just shooting a high percentage from the line but getting there as well.

Billups averaged almost five free throw attempts per game, and his career free throw percentage of .894 is the fifth highest in NBA history (minimum 1,200 free throws made).

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

Although Billups is not yet eligible for the Hall, I do believe he was better than any other eligible point guard.

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

Billups received MVP votes in four different seasons. His best showing came in 2005-06, when he finished fifth in the balloting and earned 15 first-place votes.

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?

As a rule of thumb, I consider a season with 10 or more win shares to be an “All-Star-type” season. Billups had six such seasons, tying him with Julius Erving, Patrick Ewing, George Gervin, Robert Parish, Scottie Pippen, and Dominique Wilkins, among others.

Billups was selected to five All-Star Games, a good but not great total. There are 24 other retired players with exactly five All-Star selections, and a little over half — 13 to be exact — are in the Hall of Fame.

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

Yes, with a talented supporting cast. Billups was not the type of player who could put a team on his back and carry them to the Finals, but there are very few players in NBA history you can say that about.

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?

Nothing in particular is noteworthy.

The Verdict

This is the easiest Keltner List I have done so far. In my view, Billups was undoubtedly a Hall of Fame caliber player, and he should be elected in his first year of eligibility.

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11 thoughts on “Is Chauncey Billups a Hall of Famer?

  1. interesting analysis…I think among guards not in the Hall, I would put jojo white, paul westphal and mark price in ahead of billups. not sure he was a true point guard.

  2. I forgot about Sidney moncrief too. I don’t think lou Hudson is in either, and probably deserves serious consideration. doug Collins was is another guard who I think was better, but injuries ended his career at 30. of course those 3 were not point guards, and hudson played a lot of small forward too.

  3. Billups is certainly an advanced stat HOFer, along with Ginobili and Pau Gasol, but is he a real HOFer? I think the voters for the actual hall care more about per game stats than per possession ones. And the relative lack of assists at the point guard position might not matter in advanced metrics, but it will matter to voters. If you set the minimum for games played at, say, 600 games instead of 1000, you get 36 players averaging 15/5, including forgettable names like Ray Williams and the other Eddie Johnson.

    The biggest thing going for Billups is his finals MVP award, but is that enough? It hasn’t been for Jo Jo White so far….Also, I think most people regard Ben Wallace as the best player on the 04 Pistons.

  4. Once again, great analysis – I like the way you combine objectivity (stats) and subjectivity – You make me see players in a different light

  5. Billups is not HoF material, this coming from a DIEHARD Pistons fan, and Chauncey as my favorite player during those years… but to say he’s a HoF is stretching it a bit

  6. except Steve Nash (who never reach NBA Finals) and Jason Kidd and they top him a little bit : Billups (Carmelo must thank him ) is certainly the best point guard of his generation and Hall of Famer definitively !

  7. I think Chauncey is good HOF material.He played hard and was able to beat an amazing Laker team in the 2004 finals.

  8. Chauncey Billups deserves to be in the HOF.If you look on the top 100 NBA players of all- time [Reddit] Chauncey Billups is higher than Hall of Famer Yao Ming.

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