I don’t know what it is about Bill Simmons, and his alleged disdain for the Utah Jazz. Is it because John Stockton was a great American player of non-African descent and he didn’t play for the Boston Celtics? (Like Boston has some sort of Braveheart “Prima Nocta” on white guys who are good? Is this why he wants Gordon Hayward so badly?) Is it because when his Celtics were good the Jazz were nothing, and then the inverse happened during the switch between his fan years and his professional years? Is it because Karl Malone, it could be argued, displaced the aging Larry Bird as one of the best offensive forwards in the NBA during the NBA on NBC media heyday? Is it because it’s ‘cool’ to make fun of Mormons (Utah has a bunch) while Boston has a lot of Catholics (non-Protestant Evangelical race for second place)? Did he not like the movie Celtic Pride?
Whatever it is, it’s beyond the Jazz fan small market chip on their shoulder. There’s years of evidence of Simmons being dismissive (at best) to being unreasonably critical to the Jazz franchise. And it continues today during this super information saturation era of facts and, well, and of Alt-Facts / Fake News. Behold:
LeBron is going to make first team All-NBA for the 11th straight season which is ridiculous and unprecedented and pretty much impossible.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) March 1, 2017
(Karl Malone made 11 straight first team all-NBAs from 1989-1999 ... so maybe "unprecedented" was wrong choice of words.)— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) March 1, 2017
(Not to get all NBA history dorky, but Mailman made '93-94 1st team All-NBA over Scottie Pippen which was an all-time voting travesty.)— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) March 1, 2017
Of course, hours later Bill retracts his original statement.
I screwed up - Scottie made 1st-team in '94, remembered it wrong. I'm old. Mailman's 11 straight is pretty great. Every year is defensible. https://t.co/6URaPSMLlS— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) March 1, 2017
But I’m not going to let him off so easily. (Especially not after spending a few hours on crunching the numbers on this original slight.) I took a core sample All-NBA Years, the 15 season between 1986-87 and 2000-01. There were All-NBA 1st, 2nd, and 3rd teams for 13 of those 15 seasons, and just 1st and 2nd team for two of them. But all-in-all, any individual NBA player could have been on 15 combined teams.
Karl Malone was on 14 (1st, 2nd, or 3rd) teams during those 15 years. Scottie Pippen, as a point of direct comparison, made just 7. The issue here seems to be issues of when Malone made the 1st team when Pippen did not. So we have to delve into it.
- Karl Malone 1st / 2nd / 3rd Teams: 14 / 15
- Scottie Pippen 1st / 2nd / 3rd Teams: 7 / 15
- Karl Malone 1st Teams: 11 / 15
- Scottie Pippen 1st Teams: 3 / 15
- Situations where Malone is 1st Team, and Pippen is 1st Team: 3 / 15
- Situations where Malone is 1st Team, and Pippen is 2nd or 3rd Team: 4 / 15
- Situations where Malone is 1st Team, and Pippen isn’t All-NBA: 4 / 15
So the question here is: “In the situations where Malone is 1st Team and Pippen is 2nd or 3rd Team - did Karl not deserve it?” That’s happened four times: 1998, 1997, 1993, 1992. (N.B. The 94 year doesn’t count, which was Simmons’ original statement.)
I’m not going to break down each Advanced stat here, or ORTG/DRTG or whatever. Just the simple stuff. Team success also means a lot, and you’d say that the Jazz and Bulls were both contenders during these four years. The Bulls won four championships during these four years though. So there’s that.
- 1992 Malone: 81/82 G, 37.7 MPG, 28.0 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.6 BPG
- 1992 Pippen: 82/82 G, 38.6 MPG, 21.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 7.0 APG, 1.9 SPG, 1.1 BPG
It’s very likely that THIS was the season (Not ‘94) that Simmons was upset about. Pippen at 21/8/7/2/1 is a GREAT year. Somehow he was placed at 2nd team this year. The first team was Malone and Chris Mullin. Second team was Pippen and Charles Barkley. Third team was Dennis Rodman and Kevin Willis. So the question here is Simmons not have a problem with Chris Mullin getting 1st Team votes, while having a problem with Malone getting 1st Team votes? Mullin played 81/82 games that season and averaged 41.3 MPG. In that time he averaged (rounding up) 26/6/4/2/1. Is that 26/6/4/2/1 better than The Mailman’s 28/11/3/1/1 of that same season? The difference is 5 more boards for Karl and 1 assist and 1 steal for Chris. Yeah, I think if Simmons needs to be upset about someone it’s probably Mullin here, not Malone. (Unless the American white guy thing kicks in, does anyone know if Bill Simmons had that Prima Nocta thing for Mullin back in the day?)
If we’re arguing straight up Malone against Pippen then you have to give it to Pippen for his assists. That’s pretty damn great. But Karl still wins points and boards. Points and boards are more important in my mind. They were in the minds of the people who voted for the All-NBA teams too.
- 1993 Malone: (82/82 G, 37.8 MPG) 27.0 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.0 BPG
- 1993 Pippen: (81/82 G, 38.6 MPG) 18.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 6.3 APG, 2.1 SPG, 0.9 BPG
I really think that Karl is better here. 27/11/4/2/1 is better than 19/8/6/2/1. Pippen’s 6 assists and 2 steals is better than Malone’s 4 assists and 2 steals. (I’m rounding up, but if you want to round to halves instead of wholes, 2 is better than 1.5) But for reals? Karl is scoring almost +10 more PPG here. That’s the difference between a 1st option and a second banana.
- 1997 Malone: (82/82 G, 36.6 MPG) 27.4 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.6 BPG
- 1997 Pippen: (82/82 G, 37.7 MPG) 20.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 5.7 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.5 BPG
This was one of Karl’s two MVP seasons. He didn’t have the double-double, but whatever defensive advantage Pippen used to have seems to be gone here. Malone’s passing, steals, and blocks were pretty much the same. So who do you want, a 27/10 guy or a 20/7 guy? The 27/10 guy doing that while being triple teamed seems like a better player to me.
- 1998 Malone: (81/82 G, 37.4 MPG) 27.0 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.9 BPG
- 1998 Pippen: (44/82 G, 37.5 MPG) 19.1 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1.0 BPG
This one isn’t even close.
Karl Malone, overall, was a different player than Scottie Pippen. Pippen was an alpha defender but a second banana on offense. I have never seen him double teamed, let alone triple teamed. Karl was the first option. The entire point of the other team’s defense was ALWAYS to try to stop Karl Malone. And he still averaged a billion points per game. Other coaches weren’t losing sleep about Scottie -- heck, they didn’t even have to design ways to stop him. Pippen would take himself out of games by his own ego. (Go back to the ‘94 Season.)
I appreciate Simmons retracting his statement. I think he was talking about ‘92. Pippen was a beast in ‘92. But I don’t think he was better than Karl. And if he was, well, Karl was better than Chris in that year. So it’s a no-win situation if you are trying to marginalize the Jazz.
Karl wasn’t a steals hog. But he was no slouch on defense either. Pippen has 10 All-NBA 1st or 2nd Defense team honors. Malone only has four. The difference in defensive ability isn’t that bad as national perception. The difference in national perception is mainly based upon playoff success (which is something the GM wins or loses). I’m not mad at Simmons for being a Jazz hater. We need people to hate them in order to find our center. That’s just how we Jazz fans are wired.
But Karl is better than Scottie. And It’s not even close when you look at their peak seasons. (And Karl’s peak of 31/11 isn’t even brought up in this investigation.)
DATA via Basketball-Reference.com:
A less busy, more Karl/Scottie version of that:
WOO! I constantly waste my life on stuff like this.