After sifting through the player pool for all 30 teams, discussing the final decisions over six articles, and testing the choices through 170 different simulations, we finally have some tangible results. The NBA Throwback players were added to their respective squads separately for each of these experiments in attempt to truly pick out who would be the most beneficially in today’s NBA. More information about these simulations and assumptions can be found here or at the links below.
Rankings: 30 – 21
NBA Throwback Improvements
Once the simulations had been ran, we needed to figure out a method for comparing the improvement of each team. One thing we looked at heavily was the difference in regular season wins between the current roster and with their “new” player in the rotation. Next, we looked at how often they made the playoffs, won the championship, and appeared in each round in between. Finally, we took into consideration the individual accolades accumulated by the NBA Throwback player such as All NBA teams, MVPs, and Finals MVPs. Based on all three levels of improvement, we’ve ranked each NBA Throwback player’s added value to their team.
NBA Throwback Ranked
20. Detroit Pistons: Ben Wallace
The Pistons land so high on this list solely because of how low they started. With their current roster led by aging former All Stars, they only managed to win 19 game on average through 20 sims. With Wallace in the fold they upped their average total to 33 wins a year, a significant increase. Amazingly, Wallace was able to lead the depleted Pistons all the way to the Playoffs in one of his five years on the team, but they got no further than the first round. Wallace showed his defensive worth early and often, racking up five consecutive 1st Team All Defense honors.
19. Philadelphia 76ers: Allen Iverson
Iverson was one of the bigger disappointments for me in this experiment. Adding an All-Time scoring threat to an already loaded team, I assumed they would be title favorites every season. This was not quite the case. They did manage to make the Finals in three of the five simulated seasons, but they only hoisted the trophy once. Even then, Joel Embiid won Finals MVP over The Answer. Iverson didn’t acquire any individual accolades other than a handful of All Star Appearances.
18. Charlotte Hornets: Eddie Jones
As a relatively newer franchise, the player pool for this squad was not deep. Jones was a fantastic player in his own right, but he doesn’t compare to other NBA Throwback players like Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Iverson. Nevertheless, he managed to improve the current Hornets team by nearly 11 regular season wins per year. Without Jones, the team’s playoff appearances totaled 1/20. With him they made it 3/5 times, even advancing to the second round once. This is notable improvement for a team generally floating towards the bottom of the league this season.
17. Brooklyn Nets: Jason Kidd
This combination of guards was an intriguing one to watch unfold. Kyrie Irving, as ball dominant as he is, was forced to pair up with one of the greatest floor generals in NBA history, and it actually worked. With Kidd in the rotation, the Nets averaged seven more wins in the regular season, made it to the second round of the playoffs 25% more often, and appeared in the Finals three out of five runs. However, believe it or not, the Nets lost all three Finals appearances with Kidd, yet managed to win one of their two appearances without him. Kidd managed to make four All NBA Teams and five All Defensive Teams in his five seasons with Brooklyn. Their inability to win it all coupled with how good the healthy Nets were without Kidd is the only reason they fell outside the top half of this ranking.
16. Sacramento Kings: Chris Webber
The current Kings roster is full of youth and athleticism. Webber seemed like a good fit for the run and gun style play in Sactown, and he didn’t disappoint. After averaging only 39 wins per season without him, Webber led his new look Kings to more than 52 wins a year. Thirteen wins is a sizable improvement. They never missed the playoffs with Webber in the mix and advanced to the second round 60% of the time. However, the current Kings made it all the way to the Conference Finals twice, something Webber couldn’t accomplish in his five attempts. Webber also made an All NBA Team each of his five seasons, earning one 3rd Team appearance and four 2nd team nods.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Dominique Wilkins
After blazing onto the scene his rookie season, Trae Young became an All Star starter in year two. John Collins and Clint Capela set the foundation for a formidable frontcourt, but it was the addition of high-flying Dominique Wilkins that put this team over the top. Improving their yearly win total by nearly 13 wins per season, the young Hawks played their way to five straight playoff appearances. They made it the second round all but one year, and even found themselves in the Finals once. Ironically, their Cinderella-run would end at the hands of the Clippers, a team Wilkins played for later in his career. Nonetheless, his five straight All NBA Appearances are just icing on the cake to leading this team into the top half of this NBA Throwback Results list.
14. Indiana Pacers: Jermaine O’Neal
With a well-rounded guard rotation intact, the thought of the most dominant big-man trio in the league was born. O’Neal joins Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner in Indiana on a Pacers squad that averaged less than 32 wins per season without him. With him, the gained more than 14 additional wins per season, never missing the playoffs. In 20 seasons, Victor Oladipo and company only made it to two post seasons. Although the regular season was improved, O’Neal was unable to lead Indy past the second round despite two appearances there in five seasons. O’Neal’s only individual accolades came in the form of two All-NBA 3rd Team Appearances.
13. Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant
For a team to start out with LeBron James and Anthony Davis and improve enough to be Top 13 on this list is impressive. Without Kobe, the Lakers made the playoffs all 20 seasons and managed to win three rings. Incredibly, they were able to win the same number of rings, three, in only five runs with Kobe. That’s a difference of winning 15% of the time versus 60% of the time! The Lakers averaged upwards of 65 wins per season with Bryant in the lineup, joining elite company to say the least. Kobe was also able to pick up four All NBA Appearances and five consecutive 1st Team All-Defensive honors. Rest in peace Mamba.
12. Milwaukee Bucks: Oscar Robertson
Robertson got the nod for this experiment over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar purely based on fit alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo. The decision seemed to pay off in a big way. In five seasons with Big O available, the Bucks made four Finals runs, winning every single appearance. They added an extra 10 wins per season to boost their average to 65+ wins. However, despite all of this success, it isn’t clear just how much Robertson was responsible for. He didn’t win any MVPs or FMVPs. Playing alongside Giannis obviously has an effect on individual accolades, but does the reigning MVP deserve most of this credit? Robertson’s biggest achievement in his five attempts was making the All-NBA 2nd Team twice. Could Kareem have done more with this opportunity?
11. Chicago Bulls: Michael Jordan
The most disappointing results from the simulation came from the GOAT himself. Despite attempts to not give every team the best player in franchise history, the Bulls were bad enough to get their best player. Unfortunately, not even MJ could cure the current Bulls’ dysfunction. They land just outside the Top 10 largely in part to their regular season success.
They won a whopping 15.7 more wins per season with Jordan in the fold. His Airness was also the only NBA Throwback player to dethrone Kawhi Leonard from his reign as Defensive Player of the Year, winning the award in all five of his seasons. He landed on all five All NBA 1st Team However, Jordan led the Bulls to five straight playoff appearances and never even sniffed the second round. The player considered to be the greatest of all time couldn’t even get the current day Bulls out of the first round of the playoffs. I’m not sure who that says more about.
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