The best NBA players from Boston College have all been little guys. Michael Adams, Dana Barros, Reggie Jackson and John Bagley are among the guards from BC who have flourished in the NBA. The only bigger player from BC with real success in the NBA is Jared Dudley, who won a ring with the 2020 Lakers.
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Who Are the Best NBA Players from Boston College?
The 7 best players in NBA history from Boston College are ranked below. I ranked the players using a combination of traditional stats, advanced stats and career accomplishments.
- Michael Adams
- Dana Barros
- Reggie Jackson
- Jared Dudley
- John Bagley
- Howard Eisley
- Craig Smith
Because it became obvious as I was looking at their careers that the best BC players in the NBA were mostly guards, I used assists per game as my 2nd career stat.
Rebounds would, of course, be more fair to the big guys. But the leading rebounder per game is Terry Driscoll at 4.1 per game. The only two players with any chance of making this list with more than 3 rebounds are Jared Dudley at 3.2 per game and Craig Smith at 3.9.
Also, for those of you not familiar with them, let me briefly explain some of the stats used. Games played, points and assists per game are obvious.
Win shares are a complicated stat that tries to assign credit for wins to players on the team based on how much they contributed. I know from some of my other work that players who play a lot of minutes and have long careers often get more win shares than you’d think.
For example, Dominique Wilkins, an awful defender by any measure, still racked up a decent number of defensive win shares. But, if you look at the list of all-time NBA leaders in win shares, you’ll see a list of the greatest players to ever play, so there is something there.
Player efficiency rating or PER was the first of its kind stat to try to measure everything a player contributes while on the floor with one stat. It’s not perfect by any means. I think it values big men more than little guys – you can see that in Craig Smith ranking way higher than you’d expect. But it is worth looking at to measure NBA careers quickly.
Finally, value over replacement player or VORP is another PER style stat. It does basically what it says: value how much a player contributes in total over a league average player who is set at -2.00 for some reason I do not understand.
1st: Michael Adams
Michael Adams could fill it up! In the video above, he is putting up an incredible 31 points and 17 assists vs a pretty good Celtics team featuring a guy named Bird and a few other decent players. Adams averaged an insane 27 points per game that season.
Now the Nuggets were playing at a ridiculous pace at that time. But Adams averaged 15 points per game for his entire career.
Among BC grads in the NBA with at least 100 games played, Adams ranks 1st in points per game, 1st in assists, 2nd in career Win Shares and 1st in PER and VORP. He was one of only 2 BC guys to be an All Star, making the 1992 game.
It is hard for me to see how he did not have the best career of any BC guy in the NBA. He is the leader in traditional stats and in advanced stats among BC players in the NBA. He also has among the best accomplishments in the league for any BC player, admittedly a fairly low bar – but you can only win the game you’re playing.
2nd: Dana Barros
As a short kid growing up in the Boston area who was about 7 years younger than him, I loved Dana Barros. I don’t remember Michael Adams in college (he was only 5’10” too). But I watched Dana Barros at BC.
Man could he shoot. He was a first round pick of the Sonics but did not explode until he went to the Sixers. In the video above, he not only scored 50 points, he had 6 rebounds, 8 assists and shot 21-26 from the field.
There are simply not that many people in the world who can put those types of numbers in an NBA game. He averaged 21 points per game that year, made the All Star game and won Most Improved Player.
This fantastic blog post details Dana’s incredible ’94-’95 season. It’s worth reading the whole thing, but let me point to just two incredible facts from the article.
First, Barros finished second in the NBA in offensive win shares, behind only MVP David Robinson. Also, he finished 6th in VORP. Those ahead of him. Robinson, John Stockton, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone and Clyde Drexler. One spot behind Dana Barros: Shaquille O’Neal. So, yeah it was a pretty amazing year.
I think it is the best NBA season by a BC player. At the same time, the whole point of the Patrick’s post is that this was an incredible outlier season for Dana. If he had a bunch of years like this, he’d be #1 on this list without a doubt.
Barros finished with a .411 career 3 point percentage. I can only imagine how he would have fared in the modern league that is less dominated by big men and much more dependent on the 3 point shot.
But this is not a list of potential, rather accomplishment. Of the BC players in the NBA, Barros is 2nd in career games played, 3rd in points per game, 6th in assists.
Those are nice stats but what puts him this high on the list for me is he finished 1st in win shares, 2nd in PER and 2nd VORP among the BC players.
Adams clearly outranks him. I could see Reggie Jackson being ranked above him. But due to the advanced stats love, and maybe my own fandom, I am going with Dana Barros as the 2nd best player in the NBA from Boston College.
3rd: Reggie Jackson
I don’t have the kind of time in my adult life to watch basketball like I did as a kid. So in truth, I have seen more of John Bagley, Michael Adams and Dana Barros playing than I have Jackson.
But I have watched him, and he can play. You probably know that already. In a career in which he has averaged 13 points and 4 assists, he is averaging even more than that this year: 16 points with 4 assists as of the writing of this article.
That is part of the problem of ranking current players. If he keeps up his current pace for a few more seasons, maybe he ends up ranked 1st or 2nd all time on this list.
But often, careers end with a few, or even more than a few, seasons of lowered stats. That dropoff often leads to the end of the career. So we’ll see.
As of now, he is second in points and third in assists (both on a per game basis). But he is fourth in win shares, PER and VORP. Those slightly lesser advanced stats keep Jackson below Barros and Adams while his good scoring and assists numbers put him above Dudley and Bagley for me.
4th: Jared Dudley
It is waaaaay easier to find Youtube videos featuring Jared Dudley annoying people and starting fights than it is to find videos of him making plays. That says something.
But like Rick Mahorn and Kurt Rambis in my 1980 NBA Draft rankings, you have to figure out if and how to rank players who do not fill up traditional stat sheets but still have long careers and find success
I am putting Dudley here. He ranks first in games played but only 6th in points per game and 7th in assists (among the top 10 BC players for games played in their NBA career). But he is 3rd in career win shares, 6th in PER and 3rd in VORP.
Also, of note, he is the only BC player, among those on this list at least, who won an NBA title. Dudley, of course, was a leader on the 2020 Lakers title squad. He really didn’t do much on the floor to help them win though, and that is the challenge he poses.
Given the title and the advanced stats, I am ranking Jared Dudley 4th among BC players who have played in the NBA. He does not have the skill or the individual stats of the first 3 on this list. There are others below him who are more skilled and have better stats.
But simply playing for as long as he did means teammates, coaches and GM’s wanted him on the team. That was mostly for things you cannot easily measure with a stat like toughness, leadership, hard work and being a good teammate. It is very hard to judge those from the outside, but this is where I’ve landed.
Also, in fairness to him, he did make a few plays. Here are some.
5th: John Bagley
Like Dana Barros, I rooted pretty hard for John Bagley. I did not watch him at BC, really. I was too young when he was there. But he came back to the Celtics when I was in high school and I had been rooting for him from afar before that.
He had a good run the first seven or so years of his NBA career with Cleveland and then the Nets. During those years he had a couple seasons where he averaged 12 points per game.
He was 5th in games played, fourth in points per game and 2nd assists per game among the leading Eagles. He was also 6th in win shares and 5th in both PER and VORP in this group.
Because he had decent traditional stats and advanced stats, I am ranking him 5th in the group. The top 3 guys clearly have better stats and have had better careers than Bagley. The question is about a guy like Dudley, and I already explained why I am putting him 4th. You could argue Bagley did more, but I’ll stick by Jared as the 4th best Eagle in the NBA.
6th: Howard Eisley
Howard Eisley is another BC little guy: surprise, surprise! He had a nice 12 year NBA career.
I watched Eisley pretty extensively at BC because he played on the Bill Curley teams.Curley grew up a few towns away, so I followed him closely at BC and saw Eisley and the entire Elite Eight squad quite a bit.
I remember wondering how well Bill Curley was going to do in the NBA, but I never remember thinking Howard Eisley was going to play a dozen years in the league. He was a nice player but overshadowed.
I guess that’s par for the course for a guy who played high school ball with not just Jalen Rose but also Voshon Lenard. Eisley got overlooked a lot.
But I don’t think I’m overlooking him here. He played twelve years in the league and that is no joke. But he only played starter minutes one year – the year in the video above where he was starting for the Mavs.
He peaked that year, 2000-2001, with about 9 points per game in 29 minutes. He was a nice backup point guard and lasted for a dozen years kicking around the league for 9 teams. That is a nice run in the NBA.
He’s 3rd in games played, 7th in points per game and 5th in assists per game – one spot behind his former coach Jimmy O’Brien who played 303 games in the league himself. He is 5th in win shares and 7th in PER and VORP among the NBA Eagles.
The numbers, like the player himself, are nice. Nothing special but good enough.
7th: Craig Smith
Please forgive the too-loud DMX music in that video. I didn’t think I’d be able to find a video of Craig Smith NBA highlights at all, so beggars can’t be choosers.
Seriously, Craig Smith was really good at BC but he did not have the size for the NBA. He got almost 20 minutes per game his first three years then fell off consistently until he was out of the league after 6 seasons.
He averaged 7.5 points and 4 rebounds a game for those 6 seasons. He maxed out in his 3rd and final season in Minnesota with 10 points a game before falling back in three more years split between the Clippers and the Blazers.
He finished 7th in games played, 5th in points per game and 9th in assists per game among the top Eagles in the NBA. He was 7th in win shares, 3rd in PER and 6th in VORP.
Remember, PER tends to favor big men and he is the only real big man on this list. All told, those numbers get Smith on the list, but just barely in 7th.
Who else from BC played in the NBA?
Jimmy O’Brien, Terry Driscoll and Gerry Ward were the next three BC players on the games played in the NBA list. I did not give serious consideration to ranking any of them.
O’Brien had a good coaching career at BC and beyond. He also was the best of these three finishishing with 6 points and 4 assists per game for his career.
Bill Curley played 147 games after being a 1st round pick. He did not put up much in the way of NBA stats.
Sean Williams was an elite athlete in a way that few of the BC guys on this list were. He only made it 147 games and scored only 4 points per game.
He was second in career blocks on the list behind only Dudley. His personal issues helped usher him out of the league.
Jerome Robinson is the only other player to make it to 100 games in the NBA out of BC. There is still some chance he and Ky Bowman could make this list. But they are not there quite yet.
Basketball Reference has the full list here. When you search it, don’t get tricked by Kevin Loughery as I did at first. He played only one season at BC before transferring to St. John’s.
I think that makes him a St. John’s guy and not a BC one. If he had been a BC guy, he’d be the leading scorer in the group.
Summary: NBA Player from Boston College
The best Boston College players in the NBA have mostly been guards. Michael Adams played in a wide open Denver Nuggets offense and put up the best stats of any BC player. Reggie Jackson, Dana Barros, John Bagley and Howard Eisley all have had nice NBA careers at the guard position. Jared Dudley, the lone forward from BC to have a decent NBA career, played the most games in the NBA of anyone from the school.
Featured Image Credit: Adapted from: “Boston College, first building and second building, Newton, Mass.” by Boston Public Library is licensed under CC BY 2.0
I have been a Boston sports fan for more than forty years. I write about games, players and seasons from the past.