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 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: Atlantic Division
Names like Larry Bird, Bill Russell, and John Havlicek are typically the names that come in the same breath with the phrase Celtics Legends. However, the current Celtics squad is loaded with wing scorers, and ranks top 10 in the league in rebounds per game. This all but eliminates the need for wing players like Bird and Havlicek and a rebound-centric big like Russell. Instead, we noticed that the team only had one SG and two PG’s that played meaningful minutes last season. They also ranked as the 5th worst team in the league in assists per game. These combined facts lead us to look into the history of Celtic’s point guards.
The famed Houdini of the Hardwood made his NBA career throughout the 50’s, making it nearly impossible to compare him to modern day players. That won’t stop us. Cousy averaged 7.6 assists per game over his Celtic’s career, leading the league eight different times. He’s second in Celtic’s history in assists per game, behind Rajon Rondo. He also averaged nearly 20 points per game over his career, and likely more than a steal per game if steals had been recorded during his NBA tenure.
The Nets were obviously not as good in real life as they will be in this simulation in large part due to the major injuries to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. However, even with the absence of their stars, the Nets lacked severely in steals per game, as well as all three team shooting percentages. While also ranking in the bottom 1/3 of the league in offensive rating, they had two point guards who played significant minutes this season. This makes the guard rotation appear as a position of need despite already having Irving.
Kidd’s 1.9 steals per game during his time with the Nets would all but cure the current team’s worst category. That’s a given. However, an easily overlooked aspect of his likely contributions would be his assists. While the Nets are not struggling in this category, Kidd’s ability to set up his teammates in optimal positions to score could drastically boost the team field goal percentages. This also doesn’t account for his own 35% 3P shooting.
New York Knicks
The Knicks once again became the butt end of the joke when they failed to sign any of their major targets this offseason. They rank dead last in FT%, 28th in fouls, and 27th in ORTG, 3P%, and AST. The Knicks do not have any one particular need that will cure their roster. Because of this, we decided to focus on points, where they ranked 29th. Despite signing three players considered to be power forwards this off season, they only ended the season with one PF, Julius Randle, who played significant minutes. Bobby Portis and Taj Gibson were both considered centers, meaning the forward rotation for the Knicks is relatively thin. That leaves us in need of a combo forward that can be a primary scorer while contributing in other aspects of the game.
King was known as a dominant scorer during his prime. His time with the Knicks saw him averaging 26.5 points per contest, elite numbers in any era. At 6’7, he is capable of playing both the SF and PF position in today’s league. His other stats contribute well to a team in need of so much. King averaged 5.2 rpg, 2.8 apg, and 1.2 spg during his New York tenure. King’s scoring, versatility, and leadership are the best fit for the current disaster that is the Knicks.
Despite being a playoff lock this season, the star-studded Sixers finished outside the top 20 teams in scoring. With their unusually tall lineup, the Sixers have arguably the most versatile lineup in the league. Starting point guard Ben Simmons could realistically play PG, SF, or PF in different lineups. This reigns true for several other players across their roster as well, making positional need less important. This means we can focus more on who was actually the best talent in the franchise’s history, along with the team’s weakest stat: scoring.
The Sixer’s overwhelming length at every position all but masks Iverson’s lack of height. AI averaged 27.6 points per game as a Sixer, and led a below average team to the NBA Finals. Surrounded with the talent of the current Philly team, there’s no doubt Iverson could thrive as the primary scorer. Along with his scoring prowess, Iverson averaged 2.3 steals and 6.1 assists per game. His all-around, two-way game clearly fits well with the current roster. Most importantly of all, he would provide the Sixers with the definitive leader they so desperately need.
After winning the title and losing their MVP within a few months, the Raptors came out of the gates on fire again this season. They remain a powerhouse in the East, jockeying for the 2nd seed behind the Bucks. You would think after losing Kawhi Leonard, a combo guard-forward would be exactly what this squad needs. However, after a deeper look at the roster, they were able to bring in a few players to fill the gap Leonard left. Norman Powell, OG Anunoby, Patrick McCaw, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson make up most of the SF minutes, clearly holding their own playing with the talented roster around them.
Surprisingly, it’s the Raptors stats around the rim that stand the most to gain. They rank as the 7th worst team in offensive rebounds, 10th worst in FG%, and they’re in the bottom half of the league in blocks per game as well.
Despite already having three serviceable bigs, the Raptors are still lacking even average interior stats. This could be due to Marc Gasol’s age or Serge Ibaka’s tendency to play around the three point line on offense. Regardless, adding Bosh to an already stacked rotation might just push this Raptors team over the top for a second straight season. He averaged 2.2 offensive rpg, 1.2 bpg, and 49% FG shooting, not to mention 2.2 assists and upwards of 30% from 3P range as a PF/C. With the numerous options the Raptors have on the wing, a fourth big man in the rotation logically seems like a better fit than the clear favorite, Vince Carter.
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