With the current lack of sports to cover globally, we’ve come up with a thought-evoking topic regarding NBA teams and their former players. It’s always fun to compare across eras and build “All Time Starting 5s” with players from your favorite team. But what if you could bring back only one former player from a teams’ history to join the current day squad? Would you automatically choose the best player in the franchise’s history? Or would you first look at what the current squad needs help with and who would fit the best? We dive a little deeper into these questions in this NBA Throwback series.
NBA Throwback Rules
For this articles, we are operating under two main rules. All throwback players have to be retired. All throwback players chosen to join the current squads will be assumed to be at their peak abilities while they played for their given team. This means that we cannot put 2000 Lakers caliber Shaquille O’Neal on the Boston Celtics simply because he played there late in his career. Those two versions of Shaq were very different players.
We are also answering the above questions with yes; the players chosen are based on team need more than individual standing. Every team does not automatically get the best player in their franchise’s history. They get the player that best fits the position, skill set, and strengths that would most benefit the current roster. For example, Larry Bird and Bill Russell arguably rank number one and two in Celtics history, but neither of them were chosen to join the current Celtics. This is due to the Celtic’s lowest ranking stats and positional needs.
NBA Throwback: Positional Need
Another major aspect of current rosters considered is positional need. To determine this, we looked at the NBA rosters the day the league was postponed. From these final rosters, we only considered players that averaged at least 11.5 minutes per game this season. These players will be considered to have played “meaningful minutes” for the remainder of this article. This means that teams like Atlanta that are lacking in stats such as defensive rebounds are not considered in need of a center because they have Clint Capela on their roster. Capela was traded midseason and did not contribute to Atlanta’s actual stats, but he still counts toward the team’s success in this scenario since he played meaningful minutes on his former team, the Rockets.
After the teams have been evaluated and the players have been determined, the rosters will be adjusted accordingly on NBA 2K20. The 2019-2020 season will then be simulated a set number of times. Team win/loss records, individual accolades, and playoff success will be recorded in an attempt to help us determine which NBA Throwback player most affected their team. Below, with each team discussed, I will list my projected rotation with the NBA Throwback player included. This will include the projected starting five as well as five to eight bench players, which will be the rotation used during the simulations on NBA 2K20. All players from all rosters will be considered healthy for the sake of the simulations.
NBA Throwback: Southeast Division
At 20-47 this season, the Hawks were once again out of the playoff race. Trae Young had a breakout season in year two, solidifying his place among the elite point guards in the league. He averaged 29.6 points and 9.3 assists, but his efforts were to no avail. The team as a whole struggled mightily from the three point arc, ranking dead last in 3P%. They were also in the bottom 1/3 of the league in DRTG, ORTG, and FG%. Basically, the Hawks need help with everything, so we deferred to positional need more than anything else. Atlanta only had one player listed at PF that averaged more than 11.5 minutes per game, and their SF’s that played meaningful minutes were Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter, and Vince Carter. Reddish and Hunter are both capable of playing other positions, and 43-year-old Vince Carter can easily be moved out of the regular rotation. Given all of this, I decided to give the Hawks the most versatile and impactful forward in their team’s history.
Wilkins is one of the most well-known players in NBA history, largely due to his emphatic dunking ability. However, many don’t remember Wilkins’s elite scoring ability as well. He averaged 20+ points in 11 different seasons with Atlanta, as well as 38% 3P shooting in his final season. He also averaged more than one steal per game in every one of his seasons with the Hawks. Most impressively of all might be his 9.0 rebounds per game in his best season with Atlanta as a small forward. He fills the hole of complimentary scorer alongside Trae Young, as well as plugging holes defensively, on the glass, and as a secondary playmaker.
With the departure of Kemba Walker, the Charlotte Hornets were destined to miss the playoffs this season. At 23-42, they were well on their way to making that prediction come true. They have a decent PG rotation in breakout shooter, Devonte’ Graham and former Celtics’ backup, Terry Rozier. However, the guard rotation as a whole is where the Hornets are weakest, which is a large part of why the Hornets finished dead last in PTS and 26th in STL. Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon make up the majority of the two spot rotation, and they are clearly not ready to be a starter on a decent team. The team as a whole was in the bottom 1/3 of the league in many of the major stat categories, so there was really no wrong answer for this team. They just need help. I once again focused on team need and fit.
Jones averaged a career high 20.1 PPG during one of his seasons with the Hornets. He also led the league in steals at 2.7 per game during his time in Charlotte. His length at the shooting guard position makes him an easy fit on most teams. He averaged 4.8 rebounds as a guard and made one of his three All Star appearances as a Hornet. Despite not being a household name, Jones is a Hornets legend in his own right, and I believe that his fit and defensive prowess will benefit this team as much if not more than any other Charlotte legend.
It’s hard to picture the Heat getting an NBA Throwback player not named Dwyane Wade. He leads the franchise in numerous career stats including games, minutes, points, steals, and assists. However, he does not lead the team in blocks or rebounding, two of the current Miami squad’s biggest weak spots. Not to mention the Heat have 10 different players listed at SG or SF that played meaningful minutes this season. They already have Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn, Andre Igoudala, and more filling out their wing rotation. The fit just isn’t there. Dwyane Wade is the greatest player in Heat history, and my all-time personal favorite, but he is not the throwback legend we have chosen to join the present day Heat. Their only two stats in the bottom 1/3 of the league are offensive rebounds and blocks, meaning it’s time to look at the bigger picture.
Aside from Bam Adebayo who plays a majority of his minutes at the center position, the Heat have no listed PF’s that played meaningful minutes this year. Bam can fill the slot along versatile players like Winslow, Jae Crowder, and Solomon Hill. The Heat’s true centers are Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard, both known for their ability to stretch the floor. Adding Mourning to this mix of big men allows Bam to take more of a playmaking role that he’s already proven capable of, as well as allowing the Heat to always have an offense/defense duo on the court with one of Olynyk/Leonard alongside Bam/Mourning.
Bench: Kendrick Nunn, Tyler Herro, Andre Igoudala/Derrick Jones Jr., Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk/Meyers Leonard
Orlando is in the bottom three teams in the league in FG% and PPG. They are also in the lower half of the league in both defensive rebounds and assists. This leaves the door open yet again for exactly who would benefit this squad the most. The Magic are near opposites of the Heat in terms of positional need. With players like Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Al-Farouq Aminu, Nikola Vucevic, and Mo Bamba crowding their frontcourt, it was clear to see that the Magic could stand to gain more guards than forwards. Then comes the question, what former Magic guard could provide scoring, efficiency, rebounds, and assists?
Standing at 6’7, Hardaway could excel at either guard position, as well as fill in minutes at the SF spot. The Magic only have one true PG in DJ Augustin, who typically shares his minutes with Markelle Fultz. Adding the talent, length, and versatility of Penny to this squad allows both current guards to play more off ball. Hardaway’s versatility can be easily seen in his well-rounded stats. He averaged 19 ppg, 6.3 apg, and 4.7 rpg as a guard in Orlando. These numbers would help any team, especially one that already has the big men and supporting guards to match.
Starters: DJ Augustin, Penny Hardaway, Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic
Bradley Beal’s elite offensive prowess can only carry this bottom feeder so far. John Wall’s prolonged absence has dropped the Wizards firmly out of championship contention. However, along with Beal’s scoring abilities, the Wizards actually posted some of the best offensive numbers in the league. Their problem came on the defensive side of the ball. They ranked dead last in DRTG, and bottom 26th or worse in TRB, DRB, and BLK per game, not to mention bottom half in FG%. With John Wall being assumed healthy in this fantasy scenario, it is clear the Wizards need a defensive big that can cure that struggles around the rim.
Hayes’s 21.0 ppg and 12.5 rpg speak for themselves. Those are elite numbers. Toss in more than one steal and two blocks per game, and we’re looking at an all-time elite big man. The former Wizard (Bullet) had the perfect frame for today’s NBA. Hayes was listed at 6’9, allowing him to play the PF or C position depending on lineups and matchups. This bodes perfectly for Washington as he can play C in smaller lineups, as well as PF alongside the improved shooting center Thomas Bryant.
Starters: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Rui Hachimura, Elvin Hayes, Thomas Bryant
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