Dumars and Hornacek: Two Hall of Famers?


Recently former Detroit Piston Joe Dumars was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.  While reflecting on Dumars’ career accomplishments, one player kept springing to mind here at Dr. Dick’s Splog: former Sun, Sixer and Jazzman guard Jeff Hornacek.  Dumars and Hornacek are two players ripe for comparison, entering the NBA one year apart and each playing the same position for 14 seasons.  While Dumars is basking in his enshrinement in the Hall of Fame, Hornacek has virtually no chance of receiving such an accolade.


However, looking at the numbers, Horny was a consistently better shooter (from the field, the line and 3 point land), while Dumars took more shots, shot more free throws and scored more points.  Dumars scored 16,401 points to Hornacek’s 15,659.  Expressed as a percentage, Horny scored 95 percent as many points as Dumars.  However, Horny was more efficient, averaging 1.31 points per shot attempt to Dumars’ 1.26.


In other offensive categories Hornacek also holds the advantage.  In his career he had 15 percent more assists (669 more) and 5 percent fewer turnovers (113 fewer) than Joe D.  This data certainly suggests that Horny was a superior ball handler.  If Hornacek was a better shooter and better ball handler, it seems plausible to infer that he was the better offensive player.


However, Dumars was known as a much better defender, as evidenced by his being named to the All-Defense Team 5 times.  Yet Hornacek was a better thief, recording 70 percent more steals  – 634 more – in his career.  Horny was also a considerably better rebounder, gathering 66 percent more caroms than Dumars – a whopping 1443 more career rebounds.  Totaling these differences in steals and rebounds, Horny was responsible for his teams’ receiving more than 2,000 additional possessions than Dumars’ Pistons.  It seems unlikely that anyone – Dumars included – could be such an excellent on-ball defender as to benefit his team by 2,000 possessions.  Thus, despite the evidence from the voters, I am willing to assert that Hornacek was more valuable defensively than Dumars.


It appears Joe Dumars was elected to the Hall of Fame because his team won NBA Championships during the prime of his career.  As a result he won many awards including being named MVP of the 1989 Finals, being selected as an All-Star 6 times, and being named twice 2nd Team All-NBA, once 3rd Team All-NBA, and the All-Defense recognition mentioned earlier.  However, all of these awards were voted on by subjective observers. 

A critical analysis of their actual production suggests that Hornacek was at least as valuable, and probably more so than Dumars.  Another stumbling block in Hornacek’s candidacy is that his two trips to the NBA Finals were at the end of his career, dragging one leg behind him as his Utah Jazz squad lost in successive Finals to the Bulls.  Finally, Dumars has remained highly visible as the architect of the Piston’s recent successes, while Hornacek has retired to quiet obscurity.


This comparison is not an indictment of Joe Dumars’ fantastic career or the voters who selected the aforementioned awards.  Rather it is a cautionary tale of how the analysis of basketball players’ resumes remains tied to subjective evaluations made during their careers and can be prejudiced by players’ post-career visibility.  It may be more useful to consider playing careers in their entirety, rather than just totaling awards won, because those awards are heavily influenced by the publicity that comes with being a cog on a Championship team.


Perhaps fifty years from now an Old-Timers Committee will recognize Jeff Hornacek’s contributions to the NBA and elect him to the Hall of Fame, where he can join Joe Dumars, appropriately recognized as one of the greats of the game.


2 Responses to “Dumars and Hornacek: Two Hall of Famers?”

  1. Randy Ferino Says:

    While I agree the Hornacek was quite a baller and one hell of a lights out shooter, I must say that he is by no means hall of fame material, unless you compare him to Joe Dumars. Joe Dumars is a borderline Hall of Famer by talent alone, but while he didn’t steal the ball as much as Horny and had less rebounds, I am sure that the shooting percentage of the man he guarded was much lower. Quite frankly, he shut down the 2 guard every night. Now I’m no genious but if you can shut down most teams two guard, then you are doing ok. One might even say that Dumars night in and night out shut down the best, well not shut down, lets just say slowed down the best #2 in the history of the game. Does #23 come to mind. Had it not been for Joe Dumars defense one may argue that Chicago keeps Detroit from winning those titles in 89 and 90 because the representatives from the West were weak those years (A tried Lakers team and the Trail Blazers). I didn’t break down the numbers here but I think Joe deserves this nod hands down. Hornacek was a terrific player but so was Kevin Johnson. Will he ever be in the Hall? I saw him put up 42 and 17 assits one night in Phoenix. It was Walter Davis night. Hmmm, is The Greyhound in the HOF or how about Paul Westphaul for that matter. I don’t think so. Nice try though….

  2. drdickssplog Says:

    Nice, thoughtful feedback. The reason KJ won’t get in (without looking up the #s to support it) is injuries. The guy had HOF talent, but durability was an issue. Walter Davis awesome, but derailed by drug problem.

    Perhaps create a “could have been HOF” and those two might be in the first class!!


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