Gus Williams

Born: October 10, 1953
Position: Point Guard and Shooting Guard
Professional Career:
Golden State Warriors (NBA): 1975-’77
Seattle SuperSonics (NBA): 1977-’84
Washington Bullets (NBA): 1984-’86
Atlanta Hawks (NBA): 1987

Gus Williams
Gus Williams

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, few, if any, guards could match the greatness of Gus Williams.

From 1978 to 1985, Gus averaged 20 points, 6 assists and 2.3 steals a game. At 6’2″, Williams was able to play either guard position. He was at his best busting out on the break and creating sublime scoring opportunities on the run. As time wore on and his team’s needs changed, Gus became more and more of a play-maker topping off with 8.5 APG in 1984.

Williams’ heyday was certainly with the Seattle SuperSonics, but his illustrious career began in Golden State.

Drafted by the Warriors in 1975, Williams was a sturdy backup in his first two years (1976 and 1977). That Warriors squad should have been a perennial contender in the late 1970s. Rick Barry was moving just a touch past his prime but with Williams, Jamaal Wilkes, Phil Smith, Clifford Ray and Robert Parish, that team initially had more than enough talent to contend. Indeed, The Warriors won the NBA title the year before Gus showed up (1975) and they reeled off an NBA best 59 wins in his rookie season (1976).

Ultimately, the Warriors fell apart in the 1976 postseason, losing the Western Conference Finals to 42-win Phoenix, and never recovered. Overlooked as a prized asset, the Warriors let Gus leave and sign with the Sonics after the 1976-77 season. One man’s afterthought is another’s franchise cornerstone.


Williams was inserted into Seattle’s starting lineup and his career truly took off. With Dennis Johnson playing alongside him, Williams wasn’t a full-time point guard or a full-time shooting guard. He just went out and played in the backcourt to stunning results. The Sonics made the NBA Finals in 1978, losing to the Washington Bullets in 7 games. The next year, Seattle returned to the Finals in a rematch with Washington. This time they captured the title in just 5 games with Gus averaging 29 points in the series.

Much like the Golden State year’s though, Gus’s time in Seattle was marred by a team that fell apart at the seams and didn’t maintain its greatest potential. Gus was no bystander in the Sonics’ fall. Offered a 3-year, $1.5 million deal by management, Williams rejected the deal and held out in the summer of 1980. The hold out continued into the fall. Then into the new year. The contract dispute ending up lasting the duration of the 1980-81 season.

Finally, Gus and Seattle agreed to a deal that paid him $700,000 a year, but the Sonics won just one more playoff series through the rest of Williams’ tenure with the club. In the summer of 1984, he was traded to the Washington Bullets where enjoyed one final campaign of brilliance in 1985 before the undefeated Father Time began to take his toll on Gus.

Gus Williams’ career unfortunately gets lost in what is sometimes perceived as the NBA’s doldrums, the late 1970s. His Sonics were a top-shelf contender in 1978, 1979, and 1980, losing in the NBA Finals, winning the title, and losing in the Western Conference Finals, respectively. But they lost in the WCF to the Showtime Lakers who ran away with the West, and the subsequent media attention, for the 1980s leaving Gus and his accomplishments in the dust.

However, it’s never too late to appreciate greatness. Memory may not instantly recognize Gus Williams and his Sonics of the era as great, but the history shows that indeed they were, and indeed he was.


Champion (1979)
All-NBA 1st Team (1982)
All-NBA 2nd Team (1980)
2x All-Star (1982-’83)
All-Rookie Team (1976)


Regular Season Career Averages (825 games):
17.1 PPG, 5.6 APG, 2.7 RPG, 2.0 SPG
.505 TS%, .461 FG%, .756 FT%
18.5 PER, .127 WS/48

Playoff Career Averages (99 games):
19.5 PPG, 4.7 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.8 SPG
.542 TS%, .476 FG%, .737 FT%
20.4 PER, .150 WS/48


Jack Sikma

Born: November 14, 1955
Position: Center
Professional Career:
Seattle SuperSonics (NBA): 1977-’86
Milwaukee Bucks (NBA): 1986-’91

Jack SIkma card

Four years ago someone asked the Sonics’ then-general manager, Zollie Volchok, if he would consider trading Sikma for Moses Malone. “I wouldn’t trade Jack Sikma for the resurrection of Marilyn Monroe in my bedroom,” was Volchok’s reply, and the feeling was that he spoke for a majority of the bedrooms in Seattle.

Via A Buck, For a Change

You can say this about lots of players, but Jack Sikma’s NBA career truly was an improbable success story. He played college ball at Illinois Wesleyan, a small university in the NAIA garnering very little attention nationwide. However, he did catch the eye of Seattle Supersonics executive Lenny Wilkens. Much to the disbelief, chagrin and jeers of Sonics fans, Sikma was selected 8th overall in the 1977 draft. By the time he was traded to Milwaukee nearly a decade later, Sikma had become a cherished idol of Sonics fans with his rock steady play.

Sikma’s game was a curious blend of power and finesse. Until his senior year in high school, he played guard. However, his height exploded to 6’10” shifting him to the post. Barely able to hop over a phonebook and still figuring out his own dimensions and abilities in his new body, Sikma routinely had his shot blocked by opponents. As he recalled it, “I had SPALDING written across my forehead a few times.”

Continue reading

Paul Silas

Born: July 12, 1941
Position: Power Forward
Professional Career:
St. Louis Hawks (NBA): 1964-’68
Atlanta Hawks (NBA): 1968-’69
Phoenix Suns (NBA): 1969-’72
Boston Celtics (NBA): 1972-’76
Denver Nuggets (NBA): 1976-’77
Seattle SuperSonics (NBA): 1977-’80

Paul Silas (spokeo)

The Lowdown: Paul Silas was never much of a scorer, but his NBA career lasted 16 years thanks to his grinding defensive play and tireless effort on the boards. Silas was also heralded for the accountability he demanded from all teammates. He could begrudgingly forgive mistakes, but never a lack of effort. With this ensemble of talent, hustle, and personality, Silas carved out a place on two All-Star Teams and three NBA champions during his lengthy career.
Continue reading

The 6’2″-and-Under Champions Club


Life should be grand for Chris Paul. He delivered 22.5 points, 12 assists, and 2.5 steals per game while shooting 51% FG, 75% FT, and 45.5% 3PT in the Western Conference Semi-Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder. His regular season saw some injury woes but he’s still likely to make another All-NBA 1st Team, which would be the 4th such selection of his career. Of course the Clippers losing their series against Oklahoma City is dispiriting, but basketball fans can bask in Paul’s great efforts.

Well, some can. Not all.

Roll that beautiful Chris Paul critique footage!

The criticism will start anew after the Clippers playmaker delivered more heartache during his team’s season-ending 104-98 loss to Oklahoma City in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals Thursday night at Staples Center.

Paul finished with 25 points and 11 assists but will be recalled mostly for the offensive foul with 3 minutes 35 seconds left that probably sealed the Clippers’ fate.

Paul was dejected after the loss and his continued failure to reach the Conference Finals, let alone the NBA Finals:

“It’s not just to get out of the second round. It’s to win a championship. I don’t know anybody in our league that plays for the Western Conference finals. That’s not enough.”

Well, given the circumstances of the NBA, having a 6’0″ tall player as your leading man rarely means winning a championship. Extending the height to 6’2″, only five NBA franchises have garnered a title with a player that tall reasonably, not unequivocally, considered their best player.

The Rochester Royals 1950-51

The first franchise was the Rochester Royals back in the 1950-51 season. Their best player was Bob Davies, a 6’1″ guard/forward who was one of the first players in the major pro leagues to dribble behind his back. The Royals, however, were a well-balanced machine with Bob Wanzer and especially Arnie Risen contesting best player honors. Indeed during the postseason, the 31-year old Davies had a miserable time averaging 16 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3 assists on 34% shooting over 14 games. However, Risen and Wanzer rose to the ocassion. Wanzer notched 12.5 PPG, 5 RPG, and 4 APG while shooting 47% FG and 91% FT. Risen was a beast in the post with 19.5 PPG and 14 RPG including a dominating NBA Finals against the Knicks which would have secured a Finals MVP for Risen had it existed then. There was also defensive ace Jack Coleman who threw in 10 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists per game in the postseason.

Davies may have been the best player, but it was truly a full team effort.

The Boston Celtics 1956-57

The Celtics were the next NBA champ to exhibit a wondrous 6’1″ dribbler as their best player. Bob Cousy was the regular season MVP for the NBA and had appeared in the All-Star Game all seven seasons of  his pro career. The Celtics had also made the postseason every year of his career, but had never made the Finals. Finally, in 1957 Boston won the Finals as Cousy averaged 20 points, 9 assists and 6 rebounds in the playoffs.

Don’t be too quick to give Cooz all the credit, though. His longtime running mate Bill Sharman averaged 21 PPG. Rookie forward Tommy Heinsohn dropped 23 PPG and 12 RPG. Oh yeah, another rookie – Bill Russell – contributed 14 points and 24 rebounds nightly. Russell would wind up winning MVP the very next season in 1958 quickly supplanting Cousy as the Celtics’ best player.

But in 1957 was Cousy or Russell the better Celtic? It’s debatable. Nonetheless, the point is still standing: a short star needs a some equitable talent.

The Los Angeles Lakers 1971-72

No one can still figure out who was better for the Lakers in 1972: Wilt Chamberlain or Jerry West. The team won 33 straight games on their way to 69 wins in the regular season. They trounced opponents in the playoffs breezing to the title with 12 wins and 3 losses. West and Wilt played vastly different but complementary roles. Wilt cleaned the glass, defended the paint like crazy, and produced highlight dunks here and there. West pestered the perimeter, ran the offense as the point guard, and drained long-range bombs.

Their regular season stats reveal their productive schism.
Wilt – 15 PPG, 19 RPG, 4 APG
West – 26 PPG, 4 RPG, 10 APG

Jerry West, however, played the worst postseason of his career that year. Prior to 1972, he had averaged 31 PPG, 6 APG, and 6 RPG on 48% FG and 81% FT shooting. In 1972 he bottomed out at 23/9/5 – still great for a 33-year old guard – but shot a miserable 37.5% from the field. It was even worse in the Finals where Mr. Clutch put up 20/9/4 on 32.5% shooting. The Big Dipper meanwhile feasted on the Knicks to the tune of 19.5 points and 23 rebounds a game on 60% shooting.

In the end, it’s likely a wash as to who was more instrumental for those Lakers.

The Seattle SuperSonics 1978-79

The champion oft-forgot, the 1979 Sonics were one of the most egalitarian teams to take the title. The youthful trio of Jack Sikma (23 years old), Dennis Johnson (24) and Gus Williams (25) did the heaviest lifting while veterans like Paul Silas, Freddie Brown, and John Johnson capably helped out the young bucks.

The splits of three contenders for Sonics’ best player don’t concretely solve the question, but it gives a tentative answer…

Regular Season

Gus Williams 19.2 3.2 4.0 0.4 2.0 49.5% 77.5%
Jack Sikma 15.6 12.4 3.2 0.8 1.0 46.0% 81.4%
Dennis Johnson 15.9 4.7 3.5 1.2 1.3 43.4% 76.0%


Gus Williams 26.7 4.1 3.7 0.6 2.0 47.6% 70.9%
Jack Sikma 14.8 11.7 2.5 1.4 0.9 45.5% 78.7%
Dennis Johnson 20.9 6.1 4.1 1.5 1.6 45.0% 77.1%

On balance, Gus Williams emerges as the premier, but not definitive, candidate for best player on the 1979 Sonics. The 6’2″ guard would lose out on Finals MVP to the 6’4″ Dennis Johnson. Guess that didn’t help settle matters.

The Detroit Pistons 1988-89 and 1989-90

The only time a multiple championship teams were led by a diminutive player. Still in his prime, but maybe a hair past his peak, Isiah Thomas was the linchpin of the Bad Boys Pistons. If ever a team won a title based on gang tactics, it was these Pistons squads. Bill Laimbeer, James Edwards, Dennis Rodman, and John Salley delivered body blows to frustrate opponents. But the real threat to Thomas’s claim to best player on these teams came from his young, stoic backcourt mate: Joe Dumars.

Dumars proved so valuable he snared the 1989 Finals MVP in a sweep over the LA Lakers. Put winning Finals MVP doesn’t automatically catapult you to best player on the team. When it’s all said and done, Isiah was the orchestrator of the Pistons’s assault even if the disparity between himself and his teammates wasn’t the chasm we like to imagine exists between a team’s best player and the secondary pieces.

So what does any of this mean for Chris Paul? Or for any future pipsqueak star?

It means that they can be the best player on a team that wins an NBA title, but the team has to be extremely well-balanced. And even if that short star plays the role of best player, it’ll be hard for contemporaries and future generations to easily discern that.

ProHoopsHistory HOF: Shawn Kemp

Shawn Kemp
Shawn Kemp

Few players have driven fans to a frenzy in the way Shawn Kemp was able to.

His soaring dunks were the stuff of legend… if we still told legends. But imagine if we did. Imagine telling some 12-year old today about a slender 6’10” power forward fresh from a junior college. This 19-year old scrawny forward galloped around the floor and didn’t quite seem in his element. Well, until he got his hands on the ball and began rising for slam dunks.

As time went on the the somewhat un-coordinated player got his legs beneath him in more facets of the game. He became a better defender, a better rebounder, a better shooter, but all the while maintained his salacious slamming ability. But, he had indeed become a better player, a player worthy of legend.

For as mythical as Shawn Kemp’s dunks were, that alone isn’t worthy of being a Hall of Famer. Otherwise, Terrence Stansbury would be in these vaunted digital halls.

For a solid decade (1991 – 2000), Kemp averaged 18 points, 10 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and 50% field goal shooting. He was thrice named to the All-NBA 2nd Team and was selected for six All-Star Games. Teaming with Gary Payton, Kemp made the Seattle SuperSonics a perennial powerhouse in the Western Conference. Particularly, in the 1994, ’95, ’96, and ’97 seasons Kemp was at his absolute peak.

His overall averages were about the same, except his FG% which jumped into the mid .500s. His oncourt intensity and impact was just somehow more striking these seasons. The Sonics famously flamed out in the 1994 and 1995 first rounds. Kemp played miserably in the ’94 playoffs, but in 1995 he was a whirlwind force averaging 25 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 58% FG.

In 1996, he was never better in helping take the Sonics to the NBA Finals. In Game 4 of the Western Semis against the Houston Rockets, Kemp decimated Clutch City with 32 points and 15 rebounds. He shot 13-19 from the field and 6-7 from the free throw line. The Sonics win completed the sweep of the two-time defending NBA champs. In Game 7 of the Western Finals against the Utah Jazz, Kemp obliterated the opposition with 26 points and 14 rebounds. He shot 8-12 from the field and 10-11 from the line. The victory catapulted Seattle to the Finals.

Against the 72-win Bulls, Kemp averaged 23 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks, 55% FG and 86% FT as Chicago had no answer for the Reign Man. But the Bulls were the better team and Seattle lost in six games.

Thereafter Kemp famously dealt with the embarrassment of having backup center Jim McIlvaine make more money than him, weight problems, and drug addiction. By 2001, he was grossly overweight and it was impossible to believe that just 5 years earlier he was the same man who could slice his way through defenses for overwhelming tomahawk slams.

But, it was the same man. It was Shawn Kemp who rained down, perhaps, more highlight dunks per capita than any other man in basketball history. And he was a damn good player while he did it.

Years Played: 1989 – 2003

Seattle SuperSonics
Seattle SuperSonics


3x All-NBA 2nd Team (1994-’96)
6x All-Star (1993-’98)


NBA – 1051 Games
14.6 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.2 BPG, 1.1 SPG, 48.8% FG, 74.1% FT

Contemporary NBA Ranks (1989-90 through 2002-03 season)
15th Points, 5th FTs Made
15th FGs Made, 32nd FG%
9th Rebounds, 20th RPG
9th Blocks, 15th BPG
23rd Steals
6th Games Played, 23rd Minutes Played

ProHoopsHistory HOF: Dennis Johnson

Dennis Johnson
Dennis Johnson

Was Dennis Johnson a point guard or a shooting guard?

It’s a question with no easy answer. While with the SuperSonics, Johnson played alongside Gus Williams and Freddie Brown in the backcourt. All three men were under 6’4″ in height and all had assists tallies around 3 or 4 per game. While with the Phoenix Suns a somewhat clearer picture emerged with Johnson being the point guard, but the Suns distributed the burden of orchestrating offense widely, even to center Alvan Adams. Things got murkier yet in Boston. Danny Ainge, Gerald Henderson, and Larry Bird could all assume ball-handling and/or orchestration duties. Adding Bill Walton to the mix in 1986 didn’t do much to resolve the impasse.

Not until the late 1980s when Dennis Johnson was on the back nine of his career could you say the man was truly a classical definition of point guard. All this long while, though, Johnson was tremendous guard, whether shooting, point, or any other arbitrary signifier.

He was a highly effective offensive player who could drive into a defense and finish strong by bodying up for layups. When he was on defense, he was even better. He had tremendous anticipation and a wit about him. He knew the right moment to pounce on a lazy pass or to sneak behind an unsuspecting post player to swipe the ball. That anticipation made him a selection to the All-Defensive Team nine straight times from 1979 to 1987.

The greatness of Johnson was revealed fairly early in his NBA career. In 1978 he helped lead the club to the NBA Finals where they lost in seven games to the Washington Bullets. In a rematch the next season, the Sonics won four-games-to-one and Johnson was named Finals MVP with averages of 22.5 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals a game. The success went to Johnson’s head, though, and the Sonics locker room imploded the next year.

In the aftermath, Johnson was traded to Phoenix where he played fine basketball for the Suns. Questions lingered on whether DJ was merely a great individual talent with no way to integrate into a team. After three years in Arizona, Johnson was dealt to Boston in 1983 for backup center Rick Robey, which is an embarrassing sentence to write about a Hall of Fame guard. With the Celtics, though, Johnson redeemed his reputation and helped Boston capture its last two titles of the 1980s. He summoned all the best of his Sonics days without the worst of it. Like most people, he became wiser and better as time passed by.

So, whether Johnson was a true point guard, combo guard, or a shooting guard who could command the offense doesn’t really matter. He was a fantastic player who filled the role his team needed. Sometimes that meant more scoring, sometimes that meant more passing. And with DJ it always meant some hard-nosed, unrelenting D.

Years Played: 1976-1990


3x Champion (1979, 1984, 1986)
Finals MVP (1979)
All-NBA 1st Team (1981)
All-NBA 2nd Team (1980)
6x All-Defensive 1st Team (1979-’83, 1987)
3x All-Defensive 2nd Team (1984-’86)
5x All-Star (1979-’82, 1985)


NBA – 1100 Games
14.1 PPG, 5.0 APG, 3.9 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 44.5 FG%, 79.7 FT%

Contemporary NBA Ranks (1976-77 through 1989-90 season)
18th Points, 18th FGs Made
14th FTs Made, 35th FT%
7th Assists, 22nd APG
6th Steals, 27th SPG
28th Blocks
2nd Games Played, 3rd Minutes Played

Pro Hoops History HOF: Ricky Pierce

Ricky Pierce

A quick look at Ricky Pierce’s career ledger reveals some underwhelming statistics.

Out of 969 career games, Pierce started just 269 of them. In only two seasons of his 16-year career did he start a majority of games for his teams. Only twice did he play over 30 minutes per game for an entire season. Seems like teams were afraid to use Ricky, right?


Ricky Pierce is one of those great players who backs up arguments for substance over volume and quality over quantity. The swingman was hardly ever a starter, but was always instrumental in the success of his teams. He didn’t play a heavy load of minutes, but produced an instantaneous deluge of points.

The most striking thing about Pierce’s attack was just how much of it came on exquisite jump shots. He could come in off the bench cold and be instantly hot. Vinnie Johnson may have got the nickname, but Pierce was even more of a microwave. Johnson averaged 17.5 points per 36 minutes in his career, Pierce averaged 22.0. Indeed, from 1984 to 1997, Pierce possessed the 14th highest points per 36 minutes average. All of the players ahead of him were full-time starters.

Ricky just came in and knocked down the jumpers flawlessly and he was able to break down defenses off the dribble. Shooting just a shade under 50% for his career from the field, Pierce was also unstoppable at the line. From the charity stripe he nailed 88% of his shots.

His best years came with the Milwaukee Bucks and Seattle SuperSonics. In 1990 with the Bucks, he averaged 23 points per game in just 29 minutes. The next year, split between Milwaukee and Seattle, Pierce averaged 20.5 points in 28 minutes. This made him the first and only player ever to log 20+ points in less than 30 minutes a game in back-to-back seasons. In fact, just Clyde Lovellette has done that during any two seasons. In further fact, just five other players have done that in a single season. And none have done it since Pierce in 1991.

In 1987 and 1990 he was named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year. In 1991, he was an all-star.  In 1989, he enjoyed his finest playoff moments against the Atlanta Hawks and the Detroit Pistons. The whole postseason was remarkable, however, one game against Atlanta steals the show. It was Game 3 of the 1st Round and Pierce ignited for 35 points in 32 minutes. He was nearly perfect going 13-for-17 from the field, including 2 of 2 from downtown, and 7-for-7 from the free throw line.

One of the best performances from one of the best scorers to ever play basketball. As usual, though, words can only do so much. Just watch the smooth shooting Pierce score a silky 38 points to truly appreciate his game…

Years Played: 1982 – 1998


2x Sixth Man of the Year (1987, 1990)
All-Star (1991)


NBA Career: 1982-83 through 1997-98
Peak Career Production:
1986-87 through 1992-93

Average and Advanced Stats

Stat Career Playoff Peak Peak Rank
Games 969 97 483 80th
PPG 14.9 14.9 19.7 20th
RPG 2.4 2.4 2.8 222nd
APG 1.9 1.9 2.3 126th
SPG 0.79 0.72 0.95 91st
BPG 0.15 0.21 0.2 195th
TS% 0.573 0.548 0.58 29th
2PT% 0.509 0.476 0.517 51st
3PT% 0.322 0.355 0.321 72nd
FT% 0.875 0.866 0.885 6th
PER 17.7 15.2 19.2 21st
WS/48 0.146 0.085 0.159 21st
Ortg 116 112 117
Drtg 110 116 111

Aggregate Stats

Stat Career Playoff Peak Peak Rank
Games 969 97 483 80th
Minutes 23665 2656 14300 68th
Points 14467 1447 9513 21st
Rebounds 2296 229 1329 169th
Assists 1826 187 1135 96th
Steals 768 70 458 82nd
Blocks 147 20 97 184th
2PTs 5095 499 3377 27th
3PTs 296 33 181 62nd
FTs 3389 350 2216 17th
WS 72.2 4.7 47.5 38th