Friday, July 22, 2011

Hall of Fame Candidates: What to do with Detlef?

In our continuing series on reviewing possible Naismith Hall of Fame candidates we'll focus on international born players who played their entire pro career (plus college) in the U.S.

In the previous HOF post we tackled the candidacies of outstanding international players (Divac, Kukoc, Radja, Marciulionis) who split their pro careers between Europe and the NBA.

But what will be the standards for internationals who played most, if not, their entire pro career in US but didn't have HOF-caliber careers?

All of the int'l players currently in the Hall played either their entire pro career in Europe (Sergei Belov, Dino Meneghin, Kresimir Cosic & Drazen Dalipagic) or a chunk of their career in Europe (Drazen Petrovic and Sabonis).

How does the selection committee interpret Detlet Schrempf's status? Arguably one of the best player ever born and raised in Europe. But Detlef played his entire pro career in America, not to mention four years of college and a year of high school in the U.S. Detlef had a solid, underrated NBA career but would not qualify it as HOF-caliber.

Very interesting to see how the HOF committee, particularly the international arm, decides to interpret the careers of players like Schrempf and Rik Smits.

The committee might have to postulate how Detlef and Rik's career would have played out if they played mostly in Europe.

If Detlef stayed in Europe, he would have likely been a perennial top 10 talent on the Euro club circuit. Smits possibly could have been dominant as well. Don't think it's absurd to say Detlef could have had a career that paralleled Toni Kukoc in Europe.

Another drawback for Detlef and Smits--they have very little in the way of FIBA accomplishments like Kukoc or Divac for the HOF to consider. No Euro club titles like Kukoc and no national team medals for Det and Rik. Their respective national teams did not have the overwhelming talent that the Yugoslavian or Russian teams had.

How the HOF candidate handles Detlef or Smits could set a precedent on how they handle current int'l NBA like Z. Ilgauskas. Maybe in a weird way the international committee views Detlef (and Smits) as de-facto North American players as they played basketball in America their entire adult life (besides a few national team competitions). Not sure.

But a dilemma the HOF is going to have to figure out because you will have more Euros (who played most of their pro career in the US) retiring in the next decade.


Let's take a closer look at Schrempf's and Smits' resumes:

NBA stats- 1136 games; 30 mpg; 16 seasons
- 14 ppg; 6.2 rpg; 3.4 apg; 2 TOpg; 49% FG; 38.4% 3pt,; 80% FT
- Three All-Star selections ('93, '95, '97)
- One All-NBA (3rd team - '94/'95)
- Two-time Sixth-Man of Year ('90/'91 & '91/'92)

Detlef was a groundbreaker as one of the first Euros to ever have any type of success in the NBA. Just could say Swen Nater was the only European player to have success in American pro ball before Detlef.

Began his NBA career with the Mavs then was traded to the Pacers in '89 where he took his game to another level. Came off the bench during his stint with the Pacers where he won two Sixth Man of the Year awards. Played both forward spots for the Pacers.

Finally got to start when he was traded to the Sonics in '93 and played mostly at the SF. Was the third-option behind Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton on those powerful mid-90s Sonic teams.

Possessed an impressive multi-skilled game. Great passer for his size and could make plays & passes off the dibble. Mismatch threat thanks to his 6-10 frame. Could drill from behind the arc and punish smaller SFs in post.

Appeared in two Olympic games ('84, '92) and played in few Eurobasket tournies but was never able to medal. Played four years at U. of Washington after coming over to the US for his senior year of high school.

Schrempf has been eligible for induction for five years after ending in his career with the Blazers in 2001. I think Detlef deserves his place in Springfield. Detlef was as good as any international player in the NBA during the '80s and '90s. Safe to say that he was equal the talent that Kukoc was in the NBA. Detlef just doesn't have the three NBA rings that Toni has.

NBA Stats: 867 games; 27 mpg; 12 seasons
- 14.8 ppg; 6 rpg; 1.3 bpg; 1.4 apg; 1.8 TOpg; 51% FG; 77% FT

Played his entire 12-season NBA career with the Pacers where he played a nice second fiddle to Reggie Miller during the '90s. Helped Indy reach the Eastern Conf. Finals four times in the second half of the decade.

Feathery touch allowed the Dutchmen to draw opposing bigs out to the perimeter. Could also score in the basket area with a hook. Subpar rebounder for his size and a mediocre defensive presence. Rarely played more than 30 mpg in any season, parrtly due to being foul-prone.

His NBA trophy case is pretty bare: one All-Star selection ('98), first-team All-Rookie ('88/'89) and one ECF banner ('99/'00).

Made a few appearances on the Netherlands national team but earned no medals. Like Detlef, he did not have the caliber of teammates to consistently compete for medals.

Smits had a pretty solid NBA career that was of similar quality to Detlef's. Smits' HOF status will be a tricky call for the committee.


Other international-born retired NBAers to give some possible consideration: Swen Nater and Rony Seikaly. Nater played before my time, only faintly remember him as a bench player on the Lakers, but his numbers are good.

Nater was born in the Netherlands then moved to the US at age nine and didn't start playing organized ball until college (see Chris Broussard's great 2004 piece on Nater). No idea how you caterogize Nater--does he even qualify as an international player? If the HOF powers-that-be determine he qualifies as an international player, then he needs serious consideration for being the first Euro to have impact in American pro ball.

Nater split his career between the ABA and NBA. In his 11 pro seasons, the big Dutchmen averaged (combined) 12.4 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 1.7 apg, 53.5% FG and 75% FT. Nater was an exceptional rebounder who was the fourth-best boarder in ABA history (22nd overall on combined ABA/NBA list). Also, the fifth-best field goal shooter in ABA history.

Impressive ABA resume: Rookie of the Year in '73/'74, two-time All-Star ('74 & '75) and two All-ABA 2nd-team selections ('73/'74 & '74/'75). Won two NCAA title backing-up Bill Walton at UCLA.

Seikaly is another foreign-born big (born in Lebanon but also spent some of his youth in Greece), who had a solid career in America. Seikaly did play one year in Europe in 2000 after finishing his 11-year NBA career.

Rony had a solid career playing mostly for the expansion-era Heat. Rony averaged 14.7 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 2.8 TOpg, 48% FG & 68% FT.

Rony was often at an advantage athletically vs. other centers and was a very effective offensive rebounder. Was never on a team that got out of the first round. No NBA awards besides an Most Improved trophy in '89/'90.

Seikaly actually does own a FIBA Worlds gold medal. Rony was a member of the 1986 USA team that slipped by the Sabonis-led USSR squad, though Rony played sparingly. Very good college career at Syracuse--was integral part of '87 runner-up team. Earned All-American honors his senior year.


At 6:54 PM, Blogger john marzan said...

"Don't think it's absurd to say Detlef could have had a career that paralleled Kukoc in Europe."

Detlef is better than Kukoc in the NBA.

At 9:36 PM, Anonymous Ian said...

I imagine that lots of guys who went to high school and college in the US and then became strong NBA players could have had great careers in Europe. But I don't see why that hypothetical would be relevant to their basketball hall of fame credentials. And I also don't see why the fact that Detlef was born in Germany should be relevant to his.

At 1:17 PM, Blogger jay aych said...

Not saying I necessarily agree with the way the Naismith Hall of Fame does business. I'm just trying to accurately assess Detlef's chances of getting into the HOF based on past precedents that the selection committee has put forward.

The HOF has four subsets of selection committees: North American, Women, College and Int'l. Detlef's career would likely be compared to other Euros.

But it's tricky since all the Euros in the HOF spent all, if not a big chunk, of their career playing in Europe while Detlef was playing vs. superior talent his whole pro career.

I think it's reasonable to make the assumption that if Detlef stayed in Europe, he would've been equal (if not close to) the talent that Toni Kukoc was--a likely int'l inductee.

You could also make the case that Detlef was a trail blazer being one of the first successful Euros in the NBA. The HOF inducts not only players and coaches, but also contributors to the game.

Helping opening up the NBA to Euros and the Euro market could be considered a huge contribution to the game.

At 9:17 PM, Blogger john marzan said...

would be cool to have 2 germans in the HOF.

At 2:20 PM, Blogger bhoy said...

I think that both of them had played in Eurobasket 87 in Athens.But I am sure that Detlef had played in Olympic Qualifying Tournament in which had helped his National Team goes to Olympic Games in 1992 and took the 7th position.

As Rick,was a player that as I remember as little kid,he was the "next big thing| since 1987...

In my opinion it's a very bad situation fro FIBA basketball all of these players (i.e. Ilgauskas) not have been participated in their national teams or international tournaments because of the tactic about insurance matter etc..etc..

Of course this is an Eurocentric view.

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