Greatest NBA Player #18: Bill Russell-163.51
It is ironic that the greatest winner in NBA history, Bill Russell, ranks just 18th in all-time win shares. After all, he won 11 championships in 13 seasons and was the backbone of those Boston Celtics teams. Only some of that can be blamed on win shares, however. The NBA didn’t keep blocks or steals as an official stat until well after Russell retired. That does him a major disservice since we are left to wonder just how dominant of a defensive player he actually was.
Of course, he is widely considered to be one of the greatest defensive players ever, but just how good was he? Did he average more than 5 blocks and 2 steals a game during his peak, particularly in a much faster-paced NBA? Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing, and the formula for win shares was adjusted for players of his era in an attempt to come up with reasonable estimates.
On the other hand, we have a much better idea of his offensive play. Despite being an all-time great, Russell was a poor scorer by today’s standards. He averaged just 15.1 points per game over the course of his career on an abysmal 47.1% true shooting percentage.
As a result, Russell’s impact in terms of this particular stat is almost guaranteed to dramatically undervalue him. Even still, most view him as a top-10 player, so his ranking of 16th isn’t totally off the mark.