NBA 50 Greatest Players: Joe Dumars #44

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Joe Dumars has built a reputation around his professionalism and his ability to win. He was a fantastic leader and was clutch in big moments. He was a tremendous defender and the 2nd best 2-way player on 2 championship teams (wow that was a lot of “2’s” in one sentence) in 1989 and 1990. He was the missing piece to the Detroit Pistons despite not being the ideal fit physically for the role he played (he was 6-2 and 195 lbs and playing the shooting guard position), but his versatility allowed him to be a critical component of those teams. He was the finals MVP in ’89 and a 6 time all-star. In 1993, he was selected to the all-nba 2nd team, and was twice selected to the 3rd team (90 and 91). He was chosen to the all-defensive 1st team 4 times and his number 4 has been retired by Detroit. But despite all these accomplishments, perhaps his highest honour came from his fiercest rival; Michael Jordan. MJ has said he feels that Joe Dumars was “the best defender that [he] ever faced.” That’s some high praise when you consider the competition he received from Gary Payton, John Starks, Jeff Malone, Gerald Wilkins, Dennis Rodman, Reggie Miller etc.

Overrated or Underrated?

I have actually spent hours trying to answer this question. I have no doubt in my mind that Dumars was a critical piece to the Pistons’ back to back championships, but was he a product of that environment? I mentioned before that Jordan claimed that Dumars was the best defender he’s played against, but it was Rodman and not Dumars, that would be guarding him in the 4th quarters. It was Isiah Thomas that was the unquestioned leader of those Detroit teams. Sure, Dumars claimed finals MVP in 1989 after Magic and Byron Scott were injured halfway the series, but we can’t ignore that in the 1990 finals, Dumars was on the bench in Game 5 against the Blazers as The Pistons came storming back to take the championship (It also just occurred to me that after their game 7 loss in the ’88 finals, The Pistons went 12-2 in their next 14 finals games…)

Joe Dumars and Michael Jordan had some legendary battles.

Joe Dumars and Michael Jordan had some legendary battles.

From 86 to 93, Dumars averaged: 18 ppg on 48% shooting, 4.8 apg, 2.3 rpg and 1 spg. Those numbers don’t jump off the page at all, but they have to be placed in the right context. Dumars was an excellent fit in Detroit, and he was almost a pure addition player. Certain players, like Dwight Howard for example, they need to be placed in the right environment, with the right structure, to get them to perform and help their team. In short, they demand the team be built around them rather than adapting. Joe Dumars was the exact opposite, he just fit into that Pistons team. I give him huge marks for doing that. But the reality is I think a lot of the praise he received, including from Jordan, is because he was the only likeable member of the Bad Boy Pistons. I personally couldn’t care less about that, but it has to be acknowledged as to why he is overrated.

Joe Dumars vs Chris Paul

This is the first time we have in the countdown a winner vs stats guy, and let me make this clear: Joe Dumars is not ahead of Chris Paul because of rings alone. Sure, they count, there’s no way they can’t be part of the discussion. But it’s not just a 2-rings-to-zero-argument-over situation. I had to ask myself, if Chris Paul was on Detroit, would they have been better? On paper, yeah, sure, they’re better. But the game isn’t decided on box-scores and talent. It’s also about cohesion and accepting a role. I can’t lie to myself and you guys and be comfortable in saying that I believe Chris Paul would play any role other than the one that he is suited to. If he was on the Showtime Laker teams, he wouldn’t let Magic play point because he’d want the ball in his hands. Same with the Pistons, he wouldn’t shift to a scoring role to allow Isiah to run the show. Dumars wasn’t just a winner because of his teammates, it was because Joe Dumars accepted the role that was required for Detroit to become contenders. I haven’t seen that from Chris Paul yet, and that is why Dumars is ahead at this stage.

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Next: Tony Parker (#43)