After 16 seasons, Manu Ginobili has retired. Considering his international career and major role on four championships teams in San Antonio, it's hard to think of Ginobili as anything but a Hall of Famer.
Examining him strictly through the lens of on-court production - and placing aside the titles and international impact - just how good was Ginobili?
- All-Star game appearances (2005, 2011)
- NBA Sixth Man of the Year award (2007)
- March 2003 Rookie of the Month
- 2002-03 All-NBA Rookie Second Team
- 2007-08 All-NBA Third Team
- 2010-11 All-NBA Third Team
- Mar. 11, 2007 NBA Player of the Week
- Feb. 24, 2008 NBA Player of the Week
- Mar. 28, 2010 NBA Player of the Week
- NBA champion (2003, 2005, 2007, 2014)
- 2 time Italian league champ
- 1 Euroleague champ
- 2 time italian top scorer
Watching Ginobili at his best - Euro stepping, changing pace, finishing off balance and turning defenders into tap dancers - it's clear to many that he's a player who simply shouldn't be defined by the box score, someone with numbers deflated due to circumstance. This was a player after all that was by far the best on the floor in Argentina's win over the United States at the 2004 Olympics, a game that also featured Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson in their primes not to mention young versions of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Ginobili was one of the best of his generation.
Given Ginobili's game is steeped in craftiness and guile, it makes sense that you'd need to go beyond the back of a basketball card to fully examine his on-court worth.
For our purposes, let's focus in on the seven-year stretch spanning his two All-Star selections in 2004-05 and 2010-11. Though certainly impactful before and after that range, this represents Ginobili's prime and thus a good barometer to gauge just how he stacked up to his peers.
If you look at the players during that time, there are 13 including Ginobili that averaged at least 16 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Decent company and All-Star worthy but perhaps not quite Hall of Fame caliber. Here's where crucial context comes into play and why per-game averages don't begin to tell the whole story.
In addition to playing a somewhat limited role coming off the bench in two-thirds of his games, it's also important to note the pace at which his teams played. During his seven-year prime, bookended by his two All-Star selections in 2004-05 and 2010-11, just once did the Spurs finish inside the top 20 in pace. So not only did Ginobili player fewer minutes than he would have in pretty much any other situation, his minutes also led to significantly fewer opportunities to rack up stats which is why even his per-36 numbers don't quite do to him justice.
Over that same period, Ginobili averaged over
- 30 points
- 7 rebounds and
- 7 assists per 100 possessions.
- The only other players to reach those thresholds over that span? LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Tracy McGrady.
Going beyond his prime and focusing on Ginobili's career on a whole, you'll find that on a per possession basis
- He ranks among the most productive and well-rounded players in modern NBA history.
- Since 1973-74 which is when the NBA began tracking turnovers and thus, possessions, there are 1,358 players that have appeared in at least 250 games. Of them, only nine - including Ginobili - managed to contribute
- 27 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists per 100 possessions over a career.
It's impossible to consider Ginobili's career and not gravitate towards a legacy built largely on team success both in the NBA and internationally. Yet it should also not distract from the simple fact that at his best, he performed at a level that very few could match.
Just how good was Manu Ginobili?
Hall of Fame good.