Remember when the whole "Who is better: Josh Smith / Gerald Wallace / Tayshaun Prince / Andrei Kirilenko?" thing was a big deal? Well, they are all past their All-Star days and their play has fallen off noticeably. Prince, a huge part of those Eastern Conference dominating Detroit Pistons, has taken his ring and Finals experience to the Memphis Grizzlies where he is playing 22.5 minutes per game on one of the best teams in the West. Gerald Wallace is now with the Boston Celtics, a team that just traded away their star player, and he himself is playing 7.9 mpg. Andrei Kirilenko's career continues to baffle, as an All-Star, European MVP, and Olympic Bronze medalist, he is now out of the rotation with the Brooklyn Nets and will possibly be traded after his wife Masha delivers their fourth child. And well, the most talented player who was in so many YouTube mixes back in the day, Josh Smith, was just cut from the team he signed with a year ago as a free agent.
Crazy. Or, perhaps, how the mighty have fallen?
Only Smith is 29, the rest are in their early 30s. Prince and Kirilenko may not be long for the NBA, with one retiring and the other, perhaps, playing elsewhere. Gerald Wallace is really out of place as a low minute vet on a lotto team. It's just sad when you try to compare them for what they've done this season. So let's look back at their entire careers -- regular season and playoffs combined -- and take stock.
The Numbers -- all in one place:
So, if you add it all up, Andrei is the winner by ordinal rank. Which seems fishy like some sort of Russian Judge / Figure Skating type of joke is ready to be made. Andrei didn't start the most games, but he was part of a few important playoff runs -- getting to the Western Conference Finals once, which is much more than everyone else buy Prince, who has gone to the Finals a few times, and won a ring.
Josh Smith is more of an offensive force because he takes more shots, and misses a lot. His shot selection is horrible; as opposed to Prince who was a great system player. Andrei, who did have issues with his role on offense at times, didn't want to take more shots -- but be involved more. But overall from the assisting point of view, Andrei was pretty solid, even if he was a bit too creative at times. The rest of the 'regular' stats seem to favor AK-47 as one of the best players from this foursome.
The calculated stats (BARPS) favor Smith, but he played a lot of minutes and was always one of the big fish on his team. Wallace, Prince, and Kirilenko were more apt to take a back seat role. But when you get to the advanced stats it's all Andrei's world.
Obviously I'm a numbers guy and I am biased for Andrei. Prince has maintained a high level of play for years and is a solid defender and role player. Wallace perhaps had one of the highest peaks as a player but his style has left him with many serious injuries. Smith has the physical tools, is the youngest, and has been on a lot of teams that let him do his thing -- but he was waived. He will be picked up again, and play in the NBA for another few seasons. But I think that his numbers are mostly empty. Really, how far has he gone in the NBA playoffs?
I felt like Prince would have been my #1 all things considered, but Andrei's numbers are just so tantalizing. If he could only have been more healthy, and played more minutes it would have been a non-question all these seasons.
With Smith being recently waived, and AK-47 on the block soon, I felt like it would be good to see what all the fuss was about. And looking back all four were fantastic players; but history should only remember one of them as truly remarkable -- and it shouldn't be the guy who shoots 17% from downtown in the playoffs.