Stats: roughly 10 PTS, 7.5 REB, 2.9 BLK per game
Accolades: All-star (2000-01), 2nd all-defense team (1998-99)
Theo Ratliff was, at one point, really good.
People my age generally don’t remember Theo’s prime that well. When at his best, in between injuries of different kinds, Theo was one of the NBA’s better defenders. He even made an all-star team, as I mentioned above. He was more than the butt of a few jokes, more than a rotting corpse of a player, more than “Theo Ratliff’s Expiring Contract”, more than a 5th big who would only play a few games. He was really good.
Really good isn’t much of a description. But I think it, overall, describes Ratliff very well in his first run as a Sixer. Acquired, along with Aaron McKie, for Jerry Stackhouse, Theo came on board and subsequently had the best years of a long and productive career. In four seasons in his first stint with the team, Ratliff averaged more than 3 blocks per game. Including his second stint, Ratliff’s 2.9 blocks per game is second in team history, behind only (gulp) Shawn Bradley, who could block shots but do very little outside of that. Theo was different.
Ratliff was a strong defender aside from the blocks. He was named to an all-defensive team in 98-99, his only “full” season (that was the lockout-shortened year, if you remember) and centered one of the NBA’s better defensive units (with defensive ratings of 100 or lower in his last three seasons as a starter). He even rebounded well while surrounded by above-average rebounders in George Lynch and Tyrone Hill.
Theo Ratliff became a journeyman big later in his career. Teams will always have a use for a big like Theo, who can defend and take some time against the NBA’s best centers and not be embarrassed. However, Theo was more than that early in his career, despite the injuries (including the one that sent him to the Hawks for Dikembe Mutombo). He started for the Sixers for 4 seasons, being very productive in each. According to me, he’s the 16th best Sixer of the past 30 years.
In other words, he’s really good.