Horace Grant was the third best player for the Chicago Bulls first three-peat title teams. Grant was good on both ends of the floor but was better on defense. He made four NBA All Defense 2nd teams but only one All Star game. Grant was a solid, winning NBA starter who slots a tier below Hall of Fame type players.
How Good was Horace Grant’s Career?
Horace Grant was the 10th pick in the 1987 NBA Draft out of the University of Clemson where he averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds per game as a senior.
His twin brother Harvey was picked the following year and went on to have the 12th most win shares of his 1988 NBA Draft Class.
Horace joined the Chicago Bulls the same year as Scottie Pippen. Grant did not start his first year but became a starter in his second year with the Bulls.
He would be an NBA starter for 15 straight years after that, only coming off the bench in his final year in the league. During his Bulls years, Grant became known for his goggles, his defense and for being a good but limited scorer.
The Bulls won titles in 1991, 1992 & 1993. Grant made the first of his 4 straight All NBA Defensive 2nd Teams in the last of those championship years. He would go to his only All Star Game the next year in 1994 after Michael Jordan’s first retirement.
The ‘93-’94 season was Grant’s statistical peak: he averaged over 15 points and 11 rebounds per game – both career highs.
After that year, Grant left the Bulls and signed a deal with the Orlando Magic to provide leadership, defense and experience to complement their two young stars: Penny Hardaway and Shaq. That Orlando team made the 1995 NBA Finals where they would lose to Hakeem Olajuwon’s Houston Rockets.
Grant kicked around the league a bit after leaving the Magic in 1999. He did win a title in one of two stints with the Lakers in 2001 before moving around the league again and retiring in 2004.
How Good Was Horace Grant on Offense?
Rather than look at a player’s stats in isolation, I think it is good to compare them to others.
I am choosing to compare Horace Grant to two other famous championship third players in relatively recent NBA history. The Worm, of course, took Grant’s role in the Bulls second three-peat. Bosh took the third spot for LeBron and D-Wade’s Heat.
The usage numbers are not surprising. Usage measures how many of your team’s possessions you use. If your team was 100% fair in sharing the ball, everyone would have a 20% usage rate since there are 5 players on the court.
Bosh was a lead player for the Raptors before agreeing to join the Heat. He averaged more than 20 points per game for those teams and was their best offensive player.
Bosh could lead an offense. He was also clearly the best shooter of these three players as well.
Neither Rodman nor Grant were ever the leading offensive player for their teams. But Grant slots in as clearly the 2nd best on offense. He got more touches than Rodman, had more assists and was more effective overall on the offensive end of the floor.
While there are many overall numbers that try to measure offense, including offensive rating which I have included, I think the best one to highlight here is offensive box plus/minus.
You can see that Rodman was not a negative on offense, but did not offer much there either being barely above the league average 0.0. Meanwhile, Grant had a good box plus/minus at 1.0. He was not the equal of the obviously best offensive player of the trio (Bosh had a 2.2). But Horace Grant was a solid offensive player.
How Good Was Horace Grant on Defense?
While Rodman was a defensive player who played almost no offense and Bosh was a star on offense who played much better defense as a third wheel with the Heat, Grant was somewhere in the middle.
Horace Grant played really good, but maybe not all-time, defense. Dennis Rodman was a different dude. He guarded Michael Jordan in the playoffs one-on-one early in his career then guarded Shaq one-on-one for the Bulls.
Not many players have that kind of versatility and Horace Grant was no exception. But Grant was a really good defender. He made those 4 All NBA Defensive 2nd teams.
Now the voters are not always right. But being voted to All NBA Defensive teams does speak to a player being a net positive on defense. And Grant certainly was. In addition to having the votes for four years, he has the career numbers.
He was a good, if not historic, defensive rebounder and shot blocker. He finished in the top 200 all-time for the NBA in both defensive rebounding percentage and block percentage. He is in the top 50 all time for total defensive rebounds.
Now Rodman may have been the greatest rebounder of all time, so it makes Grant’s number look bad, but against mortal competition he looked pretty good.
The defensive box plus/minus tells a strong story for Grant as well.
In my article on Bosh’s defense I noted how much his numbers and the reviews of his defense changed when he went to the Heat. So his career numbers are lower than what he was putting up for the Heat and that explains why he is so far behind the others here.
But Horace Grant’s career box plus/minus is right there with Dennis Rodman’s. And his career defensive Win Shares is pretty close too, finishing 48th all time to Rodman’s 36th.
Horace Grant had the 2nd best defensive career in this trio, but there is hardly any shame in being 2nd best defensively to Dennis Rodman. Horace Grant was a very good defender who falls just shy of the all-time great tier.
How Good Was Horace Grant overall?
The three stats in the table above all attempt to measure a player’s overall contribution to their team. Player Efficiency Rating, or PER, came first and many other stats like it have since been developed.
As you can see, none of them is perfect! Two of these players are NBA Hall of Famers while one is not. You’d think the numbers would all favor the Hall of Famers, but that is not the case.
Despite the fact that no one stat like these is perfect, I still find it useful to look at several of them for any player to try to measure their effectiveness.
PER tries to measure everything a player does on the court, but it is limited by stats that are countable. Some of Rodman’s best attributes – defending any player one-on-one for instance, could not be easily measured by a stat.
So PER favors Grant over Rodman while viewers of their careers would almost certainly take Rodman. But he was unique. You can see that PER heavily favors Bosh, the more traditional player in many ways.
Grant actually leads in Win Shares as well, but, as I have learned in writing about Defensive Win Shares, even really bad defensive players, like Dominique Wilkins, can pile up DWS by playing a long time and being on the court.
So Horace Grant’s Win Shares lead is likely due to his lengthy career: he played more than 270 games more than Chris Bosh and was a starter throughout his career.
In any case, the Box Plus/Minus favors Bosh. He was clearly the better player. But Grant’s number puts him in the top 200 in the NBA all time.
Rodman’s stats just don’t make as much sense as a traditional player, and I can understand that. He did unique things that weren’t easily measured and he did them at levels almost never seen before or since in the NBA
I am going to look at one more stat here for Horace Grant: Hall of Fame probability. It’s a Basketball Reference number. They explain it here. They basically input a bunch of numbers from a player’s career and try to predict their chances for the Hall of Fame.
Rodman has a 75%, which makes some sense because he was a less numbers-based player. Bosh, meanwhile, finished at 99%. Magic, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan and a bunch of others finished at 100% (not because they made it but using the numbers).
Horace Grant’s Hall of Fame probability is 15%. Players that are close to him include: Al Horford at 12% and Brad Daugherty at 16%.
That makes a whole lot of sense to me. Could an Al Horford or a Brad Daugherty type of player have been a good third player on a championship team? I think so. Especially if the first two were Jordan and Pippen or even Kobe and Shaq.
That is exactly what Horace Grant was. A good third player on some strong championship teams. He helped them win and contributed in multiple ways.
Was he a star player in his own right like Chirs Bosh? No. Was he an all-time great at two basketball skills (defense and rebounding) like Dennis Rodman? No.
But Horace Grant was pretty darn good. He was a starting, winning NBA player for many, many years. There are not that many of them around!
Summary: How Good Was Horace Grant?
Horace Grant was not quite an NBA Hall of Famer, but he was a solid winning player. He started for four NBA title teams and was the third best player on the Bulls first three-peat. He had a balanced game but was mostly known for defense, making 4 NBA All Defensive 2nd Teams.
I have been a Boston sports fan for more than forty years. I write about games, players and seasons from the past.