I saw that Chris Bosh believes he’s a no-doubt Hall of Famer. Wow. Can we give him a reality check and actually outline the sure-thing HOFers in the league right now?
– Lou, New York City
This is what Bosh told Fox Sports’ Chris Tomasson on Friday: “I’ve been a Hall of Famer like four years ago. And I say that very serious, though. I’ve talked about it before with my friends.”
I’m glad you brought this up, Lou, and I have to disagree with Bosh on one count: He wasn’t necessarily a Hall of Famer four years ago. But he is looking like one now.
Which players in the league today are likely to make the Hall of Fame? By my count there are 18, with another five on the bubble. Here are the categories as I see them:
League MVPs: Every player who has won the NBA’s highest individual award has been elected to the Hall of Fame, and these six stars are certain to follow them to Springfield.
Kobe Bryant (1 MVP, 5 NBA championships)
LeBron James (3 MVPs, 1 championship)
Tim Duncan (2 MVPs, 4 championships)
Kevin Garnett (1 MVP, 1 championship)
Dirk Nowitzki (1 MVP, 1 championship)
Steve Nash (2 MVPs)
[GOLLIVER: LeBron, Heat celebrate title at White House]
NBA champions: The collections of NBA titles in addition to personal awards have assured these seven stars a trip to Springfield.
Dwyane Wade (7 All-NBA teams, 9 All-Star selections) — Won two championships with two entirely different rosters in Miami.
Paul Pierce (4 All-NBA, 10 All-Star) — Won one championship and is the No. 2 all-time scorer for the league’s winningest franchise.
Jason Kidd (6 All-NBA, 10 All-Star) — Won one championship with Dallas and is one of the greatest point guards in history.
Ray Allen (2 All-NBA, 10 All-Star) — Won one championship with Boston and is the greatest three-point shooter in history.
Tony Parker (2 All-NBA, 5 All-Star) — Won three championships with San Antonio and was MVP of the 2007 NBA Finals.
Pau Gasol (3 All-NBA, 4 All-Star) — Won two championships with the Lakers and has been one of the world’s top international stars in FIBA tournaments.
Manu Ginobili (2 All-NBA, 2 All-Star) — Won three championships with the Spurs and led Argentina to the 2004 Olympic gold medal.
Likely risers: Unless something changes to alter the trend, these five stars in their 20s are on their way to becoming Hall of Famers.
Kevin Durant, 24 (3 All-NBA, 4 All-Star) — Currently the league’s second-best player behind James, he has won three straight scoring titles, an Olympic gold medal and a FIBA world championship, and led OKC to the NBA Finals last year.
Derrick Rose, 24 (1 All-NBA, 3 All-Star) — Only 22 when he won his MVP, Rose hasn’t done enough yet to earn the HOF. But give him time — and hope for his sake that he recovers from major knee surgery and enjoys a healthy decade to come.
Chris Paul, 27 (4 All-NBA, 6 All-Star) — Arguably the league’s strongest leader, he transformed the Clippers and has won two Olympic gold medals.
Chris Bosh, 28 (1 All-NBA, 8 All-Star) — His career numbers (19.7 points and nine rebounds) are worthy of the HOF in combination with his All-Star selections and NBA championship — which the Heat would not have won if Bosh hadn’t recovered from injury in time to help them survive the conference finals last year. Another championship this spring will solidify his place in the HOF.
Dwight Howard, 27, (6 All-NBA, 7 All-Star) — Though he has enabled free agency to serve as a negative drain on his career in recent years, Howard is undeniably the most talented center in basketball and a three-time Defensive Player of the Year who as a young star led his teams to one NBA Finals and two conference finals. He is likely to make the HOF even if he doesn’t win a championship.
[SI.com writers hand out midseason awards]
On the bubble: These five stars have a chance.
Carmelo Anthony, 28 (5 All-NBA, 6 All-Star) — He needs to either continue posting big individual numbers or succeed in leading his teams deep into the playoffs in years to come. His two Olympic gold medals have moved him closer to the HOF.
Vince Carter, 36 (2 All-NBA, 8 All-Star) — He’ll have a chance to make it as his era’s Dominique Wilkins, a player who was appreciated more favorably after retirement than he was during a career in which he never reached a conference final.
Amar’e Stoudemire, 30 (5 All-NBA, 6 All-Star) — Given that injuries have limited him for the last two years, will he be able to maintain a high level for a long enough span of time? It would make a huge difference if he could somehow rally the Knicks to an NBA Finals.
Chauncey Billups, 36 (3 All-NBA, 5 All-Star) — As years go by, he may be recognized for his leadership of the Pistons teams that won a championship while reaching six straight conference finals.
Grant Hill, 40 (5 All-NBA, 7 All-Star) — What will be the perspective on Hill’s candidacy five to 10 years after his retirement? His career has been both frustrating and inspiring.
Am I wrong or are the Celtics stuck with what they have unless they attach one of their untouchables (i.e., Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger) to Brandon Bass, Jason Terry or Jeff Green? No one is touching those guys unless A) they trade trash with the C’s or B) they come with one of the aforementioned.
– Jeff Wright, Watertown, Mass.
Jeff sent this question before Rondo’s season-ending ACL injury had been diagnosed Sunday. But it’s still worth answering.
[MAHONEY: Celtics hard-pressed to stay afloat without Rondo]
For starters, Rondo can’t be traded, at least not until he proves himself healthy next season. Garnett has a no-trade clause in his three-year contract, but in any case I can’t imagine the Celtics moving him. Lead owner Wyc Grousbeck credits Garnett with elevating the entire Celtics organization beyond the locker room, and no one values Garnett more than coach Doc Rivers. Team president Danny Ainge’s strategy for building a new era depends in no small part on Garnett mentoring and serving as a daily example for the younger Celtics. For the Celtics to trade Garnett is almost as preposterous as the idea of Red Auerbach ever considering a trade of Bill Russell.
Maybe Pierce could be moved to a contender in exchange for a draft pick and a couple of younger prospects. The Celtics will surely investigate trades for Pierce, but his $16.8 million salary next season will make dealing him difficult.
Bradley and Sullinger are valuable young players who would need to bring back more than a protected first-round pick in a deal. Because they are on cheap rookie contracts, they’d need to be paired with a more expensive player such as Green or Bass, which would make them less attractive.
[COURT VISION: Reaction around the NBA to Rondo injury]
Terry might have value for a contender, though the additional two years on his deal will be oppressive as the new luxury tax sets in next season. For the Celtics to deal Pierce or Terry would probably be equivalent to blowing up the season, as Boston couldn’t afford the loss of another leading wing player in the absence of Rondo.
It’s important to consider that their three elderly stars — Garnett, Pierce and Terry — are all 35 or older and have yet to miss a game. Can the Celtics expect that trend to continue over the second half of what promises to be a highly demanding season?
Every SI.com writer agrees that Damian Lillard is the front-runner for Rookie of the Year. But which rookies have disappointed the most?
– Donald James, Tulsa, Okla.
Thomas Robinson (the No. 5 pick) has given Sacramento 16 minutes and 4.9 points per game. Terrence Ross (No. 8) has been limited to 17.8 minutes and 7.2 points, though it should be noted that he has been playing behind Toronto’s leading scorer, DeMar DeRozan. Austin Rivers (No. 10) is shooting 33.3 percent for the Hornets, and Kendall Marshall (No. 13) has played hardly at all for the Suns. (Neither has No. 12 pick Jeremy Lamb, but there has been no room for him in Oklahoma City’s rotation since he arrived from Houston in the James Harden trade.)
Then, of course, there is No. 16 pick Royce White, who is expected to make his debut Feb. 11 in the D-League after he and the Rockets spent this season negotiating the terms of his employment.
Every player mentioned here is 21 or younger, and only Robinson played more than two years of college. No one should be writing off any of them so early in their careers.
Josh Smith is going to get paid this offseason. Chris Paul seems likely to stay in L.A., so does Dwight Howard, in my opinion. Does that make Smith the top free agent? Do you think he’s worthy of a max deal?
– Kelly, Utah
If Paul and Howard remain in Los Angeles, you’ll be right, Kelly — there will be no franchise star available as a free agent this summer.
[GOLLIVER: Smith believes he's worth max contract]
Smith will probably emerge as the top free agent (unless he’s traded next month at the deadline to a team that believes it can sign him for the long term). He has never been an All-Star. Will he seek another market in hopes of raising his profile? At 27, he is entering his peak years as one of the league’s most versatile power forwards at both ends of the floor. Smith is currently making $13.2 million, so the bidding will probably push him close to the max.
If we assume that David West re-signs with Indiana, then the other big names next summer will include Andre Iguodala, Paul Millsap, Monta Ellis and Al Jefferson. But none of them should receive max offers.