And now the top dozen postseason performers. To get this list I'm looking at postseason win shares, above and beyond what you would expect given their regular season win shares per minute rates. An adjustment has been made for the fact that with improved competition, WS/48 is on average 0.018 lower in the postseason.
12. Reggie Miller (+3.0 wins) If you need 8 points and only have 9 seconds to get them, then you want Reggie on your team.
11. Scottie Pippen (+3.2 wins) Scottie was a forward who had the skills of a guard because he was a 6 foot 1 or so guard when he went to college, and a late growth spurt made him a 6 foot 7 lottery pick 4 years later. What some people don't know is that he kept growing the longer the postseason went on (to be reset after the season to 6'7). Scottie was HUGE in the playoffs. By the time he got to the finals he was 7 foot 4, and still could handle the ball like a guard.
10. Ben Wallace (+3.4 wins) - here's a speech from the 2004 NBA finals, never before reported:
Piston: The Lakers are too many.
BW: Sons of Detroit,
I am Benjamin Wallace...
Piston: Benjamin Wallace
is seven feet tall (including his fro).
WW: Yes, I've heard.
Blocks shots by the hundreds,
and if he were here,
he'd consume the Lakers with fireballs from his eyes
and bolts of lightning from his arse < laughter >
I AM Benjamin Wallace,
and I see a whole army of my countrymen
here in defiance of tyranny.
You've come to fight as free men,
and free men you are.
What will you do with that freedom?
Will you fight?
Piston: Against that? No, we will run, and we will live.
BW: Aye, fight and you may die.
Run, and you'll live... at least a while.
And dying in your beds many years from now,
would you be willing to trade all the days,
from this day to that,
for one chance,
just one chance,
to come back here and tell our enemies
that they may take our lives,
but they'll never take our Championship Trophy!!!
9. Derek Fisher (+3.6 wins)
Fisher has gotten a lot of criticism lately because he's too old andslow to guard speedy point guards. But he had a fine career and was an important part of 5 Laker championship
teams. Shot 40% (37 from 3) for his career, but in the playoffs he upped that to 43% and 40%.
8. Walt Frazier (+4.1 wins) Improved both his volume (PPG) and efficiency (FG%) in leading the Knicks to two championships.
7. John Havlicek (+4.6)
Won 8 championships, including two after the Bill Russell era was over. He took on more of a scoring role in the playoffs, and from what I understand had a pretty important steal in one game.
6. Elvin Hayes (+4.7) This one is a bit of a surprise. He did improve his FG% while shooting more and rebounding more. Won one championship with the Bullets, towards the end of his career.
5. Robert Horry (+4.8)
I would not trust this list if the numbers didn't give me Big Shot Bob. In the playoffs his 3 pointers made jumped from 0.7 per game to 1.1, with an increased percentage, but these numbers can't even tell you how big some of those were, at the last second to win or tie games. Won 7 championships, 2 with the Rockets, 3 with the Lakers, and 2 with the Spurs.
3T. Jojo White and Dave Cowens (+5.0). These were the big stars of the 1970's Celtic championship teams, in between the Russell and Bird eras. White was the 1976 Finals MVP, leading the NBA playoffs in field goals, free throws, and assists that year. For Cowens my numbers show him getting better in the playoffs, Basketball-reference's numbers do not. He did increase his rebounds and scoring, but his FG% is slightly lower.
2. Isiah Thomas (+6.3)
To be frank about it, by regular season numbers Thomas looks like a very good but hardly dominant point guard. 19 points, 9 assists, 45% shooting. You can find a ton of players who could do that. What makes Thomas the all-time great is his playoffs. His WS48 is .146 for the regular season (very good, .100 is average) but .200 for the playoffs (among top 25 all time for all positions). His biggest statistical jump in the playoffs is his rebounding (4.7 vs. 3.5), he scored more while playing on a team that shut down opponents and made every point more valuable. He just got better as the games got bigger, and even a severely twisted ankle could not stop him when he got on a roll.
1. Michael Jordan (+7.3)
It's really not fair - he's already the best player in the game and then when everyone else's stats drop in the playoffs he gets even better? Jordan's WS48 is .286 for the regular season (actually slightly behind David Robinson) but .315 for the playoffs (100 points ahead of the Admiral).