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 called NBA Throwback. 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 more information about the rules we followed, assumptions we made, and simulated results we will have soon, check out the first piece in this series by clicking here or on the Southeast Division link below.
NBA Throwback: Central Division
The Bulls have a plethora of young talent trying to find their place in the league. Their best player, Zach LaVine, is a combo guard that plays all three guard spots. He is the team’s primary scorer and a boarder-line All Star already in his young career. But his Bulls are dysfunctional and in need of a leader. They rank in the bottom seven teams in the league in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, turnovers, FG%, 3P%, and offensive rating. They need help. A lot of it. So we looked at their roster and the depth of their young talent. With three different centers, three power forwards, and four players capable of playing small forward, the guard rotation is in need of the most help. Which former Chicago guard can provide leadership and the most help to the current Bulls squad?
This list was made in an attempt to not provide each team with the best player in their franchise’s history. However, based on positional need, weak stats, and lack of leadership, a well-rounded combo wing player makes the most sense to place on the current squad. What better wing player from Chicago’s history than His Airness himself. Jordan’s stats speak for themselves, but pairing him with the rising star in LaVine is an underrated aspect of this pairing that will help the Bulls not only this season, but for years to come. Although we checked ourselves several times in attempt to not give every franchise their best historical player, Jordan was the perfect NBA Throwback player for the current Bulls.
Another rebuild year so the Cavs fall to the bottom of the East again. They drafted guards in back to back draft lotteries, but still only have two listed point guards playing meaningful minutes. A majority of the teams’ poor stats come around the rim, including blocks and defensive rating. However, adding Andre Drummond to the lineup will cure many of those issues. What the Cavs need is a floor general and go-to scorer. They rank in the bottom six in the league in assists, points, steals, and turnovers per game. That leaves us with a point guard who can score, get steals, and distribute the ball to a roster in need of leadership.
Price averaged 7.2 assists per game during his time in Cleveland, good for top 10 in franchise history. He also averaged 16.4 points and 1.3 steals per game. His role on the current team would be that of a distributor above all else. Another overlooked aspect of this addition would be his mentorship to the two young guards on Cleveland’s roster in Darius Garland and Collin Sexton. This dynamic trio would be a fearsome force in the league if they could figure out how to play together.
After trading away their starting center, Drummond, the Pistons have only one true center on their roster. Even with Drummond playing out most of the season in Detroit, the team still finished 29th in total rebound and 27th in defensive rebounds. They also finished 8th worst in defensive rating and blocks per game. After Blake Griffin’s injury again this season, Detroit went from having a front court duo of All Stars to relying heavily on Christian Wood and Thon Maker. The need is clear.
Wallace’s most prominent strength is his tenacity, both on defense and the boards. He averaged 2.8 blocks per game and 12.9 rebounds per game as a Piston. The paint beast does not need the ball in his hands to positively impact a game. This bodes well for playing alongside the offensive minded Griffin. The undersized Wallace fits perfectly into the Motor City lineup both alongside Blake Griffin and as a defensive anchor in a small-ball lineup.
The Pacers found themselves in the middle of another playoff caliber season before it was cut short. The combo of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner is a formidable duo. However, they finished 26th in offensive rebounds, 23rd in total rebounds, and 20th in defensive rebounds. They also only have one listed power forward playing meaningful minutes. Their guard rotation isn’t exactly stellar, but the return of the injured Victor Oladipo will mend most of the problems in the backcourt. When you added in their 8th worst scoring offense in the league, it’s clear we needed to find a third big for the rotation that can both score and rebound with the best of them.
O’Neal averaged 9.6 rebounds per game during his time in Indiana, including 2.4 offensive rebounds per game. His 18.6 points per game could provide the scoring spark the Pacers need to climb the ladder in the East. It’s not hard to picture O’Neal playing alongside Sabonis since they are both versatile on both ends of the court.
This team presented the toughest decision amongst all 30 teams for multiple reasons. First of all, they did not have a ton of real weaknesses this season. Their 27th ranked FT% and 25th ranked offensive rebounds were there only truly bad stats. This is not much to go on. So instead, we looked to the positional need of the roster. The positions with the fewest significant playing time were PG’s and C’s, which leads well into our second dilemma. The two best options to choose from in Milwaukee’s history are legendary a legendary point guard and the number one center in history on most people’s list. Our decision then came down to play style and who would complement the reigning MVP most.
Despite Kareem Abdul-Jabbar being widely considered as the greatest Buck of all time, we believe Robertson fits the bill for this experiment better. Kareem would be a great addition to any team that does not already have an inside presence. While the Bucks appear to be that type of team at first glance, you must first consider where Giannis Antetokounmpo scores most of his points: in the paint. Oscar Robertson’s ability to play on the perimeter and not clog up the team’s offense as it flows around Giannis gives him the edge in this decision. Robertson can easily contribute another five rebounds and five assists while being a pest on the defensive side of the ball. All of this translates nicely into him affecting the game without needing the ball in his hands at all times, a skill Giannis also has. Always having one of the Big O or The Greek Freak on the court running your offense is an NBA Throwback duo we’re not sure the league is ready for.
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