With fruit, you consult Granny Smith. With NBA players, you consult John Hollinger's Player Efficiency Rating (PER).
When looking at Shawn Bradley's career through the context of PER, he was clearly an above average center.
PER is the best advanced metric to measure a player's overall per-minute productivity as it incorporates all of a player's accomplishments, including the positives like points and rebounds and the negatives like missed shots and turnovers. PER is standardized so that the league average is 15.0.
In the seven seasons between 1996-97 and 2002-03, Shawn Bradley's 17.2 PER was 11th best among NBA centers:
Highest PER - NBA Centers 1997-2003*
1. Shaquille O'Neal - 29.6
2. David Robinson - 23.5
3. Alonzo Mourning - 22.7
4. Arvydas Sabonis - 20.5
5. Hakeem Olajuwon - 20.4
6. Brad Miller - 19.0
7. Dikembe Mutombo - 18.2
8. Marcus Camby - 18.0
9. Patrick Ewing - 18.0
10. Vlade Divac - 17.6
11. Shawn Bradley - 17.2
(*Min. 271 games played, representing half of all games between 1997 and 2003, including the 50-game 1999 season.)
That's right. For seven full seasons, Shawn Bradley's Player Efficiency Rating was within one point of solid centers like Vlade Divac, Patrick Ewing, Marcus Camby, and Dikembe Mutomto.
Between 1997 and 2003, Shawn Bradley was a good center as measured by PER.
Bradley's Longevity + Career PER is Top-30 All-Time Among Centers
But Shawn Bradley's above-average PER was not only limited to his solid seven-year run between 1997 and 2003. In his 12-year career, Bradley played 832 games while retiring with a career PER of 16.0.
Getting above-average production (16+ PER) from the center position over the long term (800+ games) is rare in the NBA.
In fact, fewer than 30 centers in NBA history have joined Shawn Bradley in recording at least 800 career games while retiring with a career PER of 16.0 or higher. Most of them are (or will be) in the Hall of Fame:
Centers with 800+ Games and 16.0+ PER
Legends (17): Shaq, D-Rob, Wilt, Kareem, Hakeem, Moses Malone, Bob Lanier, Mourning, Ewing, Bob McAdoo, Artis Gilmore, Walt Bellamy, Robert Parish, Bill Russell, Mutombo, Nate Thurmond, Wes Unseld.
All-Stars (8): Ilgauskas, Alvan Adams, Rik Smits, Vlade Divac, Brad Miller, Jack Sikma, Redd Kerr, Bill Laimbeer.
Others (3): Marcus Camby, Mike Gminski, Shawn Bradley.
When looking at PER - basketball's best productivity metric - Shawn Bradley was clearly a solid center. During his prime (1997-2003), Bradley nearly cracked the list of the NBA's Top-10 centers. Over the span of his 12-year career, he registered numbers (800+ games, 16+ PER) that fewer than 30 centers have ever replicated.
No, Shawn Bradley was not a Hall of Famer.
But when looking strictly at PER, this much is abundantly clear:
Shawn Bradley Was Good!