Last night, as I was watching Game 3 of the Cleveland-Toronto NBA conference semifinal series, Jordan Clarkson drove to the basket and made a tough reverse layup, and the announcers waxed generic about his offensive potential.
Clarkson would finish the game with only five points on seven shots — obviously not his best outing — but that sent me down a rabbit hole of sorts. I ended up at Basketball Reference, sorting through the stats of former Mizzou players in the pros.
At the moment, Clarkson’s career scoring average is the best that any Mizzou player has produced at the NBA level. This could obviously change when a couple of Porters enter the league soon.
Top 5 Mizzou products in the NBA, per career scoring average:
- Jordan Clarkson (14.1 in 301 career games)
- Steve Stipanovich (13.2 in 403 career games)
- Jabari Brown (11.9 in 19 career games)
- Larry Drew (11.7 in 714 career games)
- Anthony Peeler (9.7 in 827 career games)
That doesn’t mean that Clarkson is Mizzou’s best NBA player, of course. There’s a lot more to this sport than putting the ball in the basket. If that’s all there was, then Kobe Bryant (No. 3 all-time in career points) was better than Michael Jordan (No. 4). Uh, no.
The NBA is a meritocracy of sorts — scoring points is great, but you (usually) have to be a good all-around player to see the court.
Top 5 Mizzou products in the NBA, per career minutes:
- Peeler (20,464)
- Drew (18,370)
- Keyon Dooling (14,134)
- Stipo (12,591)
- DeMarre Carroll (11,682)
Ask a semi-knowledgeable Mizzou fan who the greatest Mizzou players ever are, and they might spit out that exact list. So that’s pretty good.
Clarkson, by the way, is up to 8,313 career minutes, eighth on the list. He’ll pass Jon Sundvold (8,811) next year and could pass John Brown (10,108) as well.
But what do the advanced stats have to say? Using Basketball Ref’s version of Win Shares (“An estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player”), a more organized, cohesive version of the Adjusted Game Score that I have been producing in post-game hoops pieces for years (which was designed to incorporate all of the box score into a single contribution stat), Stipo’s name starts to creep up the list.
Top 10 Mizzou products in the NBA, per career Win Shares:
- Peeler (30.7)
- Stipo (30.4)
- Carroll (26.1)
- Drew (24.4)
- Dooling (18.5)
- John Brown (16.2)
- Linas Kleiza (13.6)
- Sundvold (8.9)
- Clarkson (8.7)
- Med Park (7.5)
(Who’s Med Park? A Mizzou star from the early-1950s who played for the St. Louis Hawks and Cincinnati Royals. He won a ring with St. Louis in 1958.)
So now we’re really getting somewhere. Carroll, the junkyard dog and a hell of a box score filler and defender, starts to get his due a bit more.
Plus, we’re quickly reminded that, while Steve Stipanovich is remembered in the NBA primarily for the simple fact that he was drafted above future hall-of-famer Clyde Drexler (and that there was a debate between taking him or Ralph Sampson at No. 1), he was a solid pro. And if a severe knee injury hadn’t forced him out of the game at the age of 28, he’d have likely been second or third among Mizzou pros in minutes and an easy first in win shares.
This is reinforced by taking the win shares output and taking it down to the per-minute level.
Top 10 Mizzou products in the NBA, per career Win Shares Per 48 Minutes:
- Byron Irvin (0.121 in 849 minutes)
- Stipo (0.116 in 12,591)
- Carroll (0.107 in 11,682)
- Kleiza (0.080 in 8,185)
- Brown (0.077 in 10,108)
- Peeler (0.072 in 20,464)
- Drew (0.064 in 18,370)
- Park (0.064 in 5,632)
- Dooling (0.063 in 14,134)
- Al Eberhard (0.062 in 4,138)
In this measure, Clarkson’s got some catching up to do. His 0.050 per 48 places him 13th, behind Derrick Chievous (0.057) and Willie Smith (0.052) and just ahead of Jon Sundvold (0.048) and Clay Johnson (0.046).
If we limit this to players with at least 1,000 minutes (sorry, Byron Irvin), Stipo is a pretty easy No. 1, and only Carroll comes close. Some of these box score ratings end up skewing pretty big-man-friendly, which helps Kleiza (another awesome player who lost time to injury ... and playing overseas, I guess) and hurts guards like Peeler and Drew. Still, with three or four more healthy years, Stipo ends up easily regarded as the top Mizzou Tiger of all-time in the NBA. As it stands, though, guys like Peeler, Dooling, Drew, and, increasingly, Carroll, all have a claim of sorts.
Mizzou players in the NBA