Doctor MJ wrote:
So, I have specific concerns with Johnston:
His presence and stats don't appear to correlate strongly at all with team performance, and his playoff performance seems a bit suspect. Specifically you mention him as being a "co-leader" along with Arizin, but the winning really seems to correlate with Arizin and in that championship year it was Arizin who blew the doors off in the playoffs while Johnston really seemed to struggle.
I'm not going to pretend to have all the answers, and I do understand if you say "I understand the concerns, but I still think rating Johnston as I do yields the best estimate", but I will say this:
Johnston was a volume scorer as a center who was 6'8" and who to me has always seemed particularly thin.
I kind of wonder how well he was able to be a bucket against a defense with muscle that needs to get a stop.
I kind of wonder if we're seeing a guy who had something of a shorter career because he wasn't going to be scaling with the next generation of big men.
In contrast to him I'd note Cliff Hagan.
For specific point of comparison:
The highest PPG Johnston ever got in the playoffs was 20.3 (during the year his team won the title with Arizin as the main threat), and in that year Johnston shot 48.5% TS in the playoffs which was above his career playoff average.
The issue I have with what you say here is that you are referring to 23 games total when you refer to Johnston's playoff career. 10 of which came in a title run during which Johnston averaged 20.3/14.5/5.1 on 48.5%ts(when league average was 45.8) and Arizin averaged 28.9/8.4/2.9 on 53.0 ts. Overall I don't see that much difference here. Arizin was scoring more while Johnston was doing more rebounding and playmaking.
Touching on him being small and somewhat thin which wouldn't have translated as well to the 60's. That may be true but I don't think it diminishes what he actually accomplished from 53-58 and this is awfully similar to criticisms we heard of Mikan who got in at #19 though obviously Mikan was the more accomplished player but what I'm referring to more specifically is the level of competition he went up against. Lack of team success is also a factor you brought up and which I'm aware of but I think the title he won is a pretty big counter balance to the idea that he couldn't win(more so him basically going from a bench player to filling in for Arizin when Arizin went into the marines in 53). Even if you consider Arizin the better player there's no denying that he was a huge part of that team and that his peers viewed him as a top player based on him being 1st team all nba most years. The hypothetical of what he would have done in the 60's doesn't matter that much to me. Perhaps less so than when looking at the numbers someone like Connie Hawkins put up in the aba when it was just starting up.
It's also worth noting that Johnston had good length and had pretty good skills for a big man. He could dribble fairly well and you can see him doing things like spin moves towards the basket. He also seems to be pretty fluid and quick for his height/era with an outside shot. Which obviously shows in him being hugely efficient as a scorer. I don't think all of this can just get swept under the rug because we see him as undersized and playing in a weaker era. He was also a good enough athlete to start out as a pitcher in mlb before switching full time to basketball.