View Full Version : What your favorite (ATG)Players worst playoff series say about them

04-04-2017, 11:11 PM
Defining All-Time Greats as the players who most have seen in the Top-10 range, those who have won multiple titles and no, I wont be covering all 10, at least not yet. The purpose here is to identify which players have looked MOST mortal or if any stood out for magnanimous play in defeat.

I wonder if we should punish athletes as much for their failures as we praise them for their ultimate successes. Or do the W's offset all failures? Players lose series in all sorts of ways, one of the questions I found myself asking is if its better to see 1 player thoroughly dominate, via his individual production in a sweep or if its more impressive seeing a guy struggle to produce but pushing the opposition to the brink of elimination.

Keep in mind I try to dismiss series in which the player was beyond his prime run but even that can get hazy. Limiting myself to as few series as I can for simplicity, feel free to add or challenge anything.


The Pros: Dominating individual numbers/Elite Competition
Outside of his first playoff series, Shaq has never truly had an uninspired individual run, least not until his toe injury and even then it took a few seasons to fully manifest. From the 1995 to the 2006 Playoffs, Shaq has either won it himself, lost to the eventual champion or in the case of the Jazz/Pistons, his conferences respective champion. His 2nd Post Season run he took his team to the Finals and posted 28-12-6 whilst doubled more than Hakeem to boot. The man was simply a monster the likes of which was hard to contain individually, it was more his team influence you could limit IMO. He also never lost in R.1 throughout his prime and this is when the West was no picnic 1-8.

The Cons: Sweeps Galore
During a 95-99 stretch, Shaq was swept in 4 of 5 series losses. Phil Jackson once suggested it was due to his struggles at the line and his then approach to opening/closing games or series. He was then swept out of his final Championship defense in the opening round of 2007 but that guy was no longer The Diesel. He was also a part of what some call a 5 game sweep in the 04 Finals but at least he was his teams best player and arguably the best player in the series. Some of the guys on this list look even worse in defeat.

Why hes #1 in "Heroic Defeat Rating" (HDR)
His aforementioned NBA Finals was pretty impressive for the stage in his career and his competition. His 2nd year he ran into the greatest team in NBA history so I can forgive some struggles there, though it deserves to be mentioned what a force Rodman/Phil were in shutting down his 2nd half offense(Something that Rodman claimed SAS never understood). The only series you could say he didn't individually tear up was the 99 WCSF and thats when he was taking on the Twin Towers in San Antonio. Aside from not being ready, the Lakers were amidst plenty coaching turmoil in an already hectic lockout season. For what its worth, sandwiched in between his 3-peat, Shaq led the playoffs in PER twice (ironically enough, Penny beat him out for his series vs the Heat one year).

Tim Duncan

The Pros: Traditional TD Consistency+Longevity/Mediocre Spacing
Similar to Shaq in how he either lost to champions or Finalists, in fact, both lost to the Jazz in Duncan's rookie year, hes also led the playoffs in PER in non champ years(+BPM). Victories don't count here but hes won in what I consider one of his weaker series vs the Wallace Bros+Dice. He doesn't really have any truly awful series until hes where I would safely consider the end of his prime, around say during Kobe's reign of terror in the West and even then he remained a quality rebounder/defender (20-17 that series). In fact, he only failed to crack double digit rebounds in a series loss in that Jazz series all the way up to his first round defeat vs Dallas at 32 years old. He then enjoyed a reconnaissance later in his career when he reshaped his body/game that we wont focus too much on because some were actually quite impressive given his age.

The Cons: Relative inefficiency
Duncan was always getting his 20-10 with superb defense, here are his numbers in every series loss throughout his prime (including his rookie year cuz he was nearly prime from the start IMO); 21-8-1(1.6BLK), 23-12-4(4.3BLK), 29-17-4.6(3.2BLK), 20-12-3(1.7BLK), 32-11-4(2.6BLK), 22-17-5 (2BLK)

Dominating numbers but some abit more humbling when you consider the O-RTG those successive years; 108, 99, 103, 99, 111, 98

His greatest series in defeat was insane, he and Dirk had a battle for the ages. Outside of that he was below 100 in 3 years. With whats left you have his rookie season there that wasn't dominating in the boxscore and thats his 2nd most efficient series. I know all his series vs the Lakers are understandable in terms of the decline in his efficiency, particularly the ones where he really lacked the spacing or when D-Rob was injured. Still for perspective, the Finals that Bron was all alone vs the Warriors and shot 39%, he actually sports the higher O-RTG that series than all but 2 of Duncan's best.

(Semi JK, IDK where to put him but I wanted to make the comparison)

The Pros AND Cons:
Bron has a weird mix of somewhat overachieving yet struggling individually, dominating in another or flat out looking horrendous. Perhaps its entirely a result of his teammates and system but it could also be a symptom of his singular attack as a scorer. In that it comes with shaky confidence in his perimeter game, which can be a fairly big deal for a guy who shied away from the post because he found it "boring". Still its hard to deny some of the results, heres the statistical Duncan exercise from above with Bron, which I feel might be more important for a lesser defender like Bron IMO.

Boxscore: 26-8-6, 22-7-7, 27-6-7, 38.5-8.3-8, 27-9-7, 18-7-7, 28-8-4, 36-13-9
O-RTG: 102, 83, 96, 118, 106, 102, 120, 103

I dont know about you guys but those numbers are so all over the place I can almost tell which series they were just by the disparity. He always got his "Brons" in Cleveland, but there was a drastic dropoff in his efficiency his first playoffs (no surprise), he got swept and couldn't generate efficient offense for **** vs the Spurs but this is also the year he should have lost a round prior so you could still look at the season as a strong positive if you wanted. Then there was that series he struggled against vs that vaunted Boston defense yet at the same time his team pushed them to 7, which was more than you could say for Kobe's vastly superior Lakers and Detroits 60-Win team. At the same time, Joe Johnsons sub.500 Hawks also pushed those C's to 7. Then he just eviscerated the Magic but his team couldn't defend for **** so they were ousted in R.1, then you have his struggles vs Boston again. Im sure everyone can tell which one is the Dallas showing.

Anyways, TL;DR version of this threads question is this, of the 10 best players you can think of, which have looked best/worst in defeat? And should that matter as much as how these players have won?

04-05-2017, 02:13 PM
Hmmm.. Def gotta ponder on this one a bit. I do think how a player loses matters for sure. I'm not sure if it should matter as much as how they won or not. I guess I could see the argument for both sides.

04-05-2017, 02:19 PM
There's so many variables and context to simplify a player's achievements down to 1 series, though you're right people often do that for a good series but not for a bad one.

I think it's mostly about whether you have more good ones than bad ones and when in the playoffs they happen. A good example to me is Dirk. Now he is lauded as some clutch performer who carried his team to a Finals win vs the Heat, and he did. But he also choked HARD vs the Heat in 06 and his team lost as the #1 seed to the Warriors (who admittedly had their number that season).

In Dirk's case, the clutch came after and totally overshadowed the disappointing series. Which is why I think when you disappoint and when you win matters. Winning early will absolve you of a lot of accusations of not being clutch. Conversely, not winning for awhile will intensify that feeling until you finally win.

Would LeBron be considered such a choker if he won his first 2 Finals and lost the subsequent 4? Who knows, but I bet he would have been considered as big a choker as he was for losing his first 2 Finals.