I went really big on the 1980′s pace-adjusted stars list. We have four players who only played the latter half of the decade which I’ve cut off from the rest here. Much like the separation of the ABA and NBA players in the 70′s, having the shorter time span and age range made the comparisons seem strange. The rest of the list is super-sized because I wanted to get all the important names listed and to show how some of the lesser known players from non-title teams stack up to the legends with the jewelry. Once again, this is former players adjusted to a 2013 pace.
We’ll examine the youngsters from the end of the decade first, because they are so few.
1 – Michael Jordan: Age 21-25 MJ produced 31 points on 52% eFG, 6 rebounds, almost 6 assists, 2.5 steals, a full block, and just 3 turnovers. Now the best offensive match would be a prime Kobe, but the only possible match at the 21-25 age range is actually LeBron. Jordan scored more. LeBron assisted more. Otherwise pretty similar. Defensively the best match for DPoY Jordan was DPoY Artest. Obviously the pace adjustment didn’t take any of the MVP out of Jordan’s numbers.
2 – Charles Barkley: Age 21-25 Chuck posted 21 points on 59% eFG with 11 boards (4 ORB) and 3 dimes. I really thought I’d have trouble finding a match for this one. Chuck was so efficient in scoring his 21 and he grabbed so many offensive rebounds, I thought I might have to go into the centers to find a comp, but Blake Griffin is actually pretty close at the same age. The caveat is that this really only includes Blake’s third season (he was under 21 for the first 2). Defensively, there were plenty of tweener forwards with decent steals and blocks and defensive boards but no defensive rep to choose from. I settled on Shareef.
3 – Hakeem Olajuwon: Age 22-26 Dream put up 21 points like Barkley but did so at a Jordan efficiency level eFG of 52%. He grabbed 11 boards (4 offensive), and added an amazing 2 steals and 3 blocks per game. Hakeem’s best offensive comp at the same age range was not-surprisingly MVP Tim Duncan, and his best defensive comp was not-surprisingly DPoY Dwight Howard. Nobody, but nobody, could combine Hakeem’s steals and blocks though. You’d probably have to go back to Bill Russell.
4 – Clyde Drexler: Age 21-26 Glide gave 18 points, 5 boards (2.5 ORB), 5 dimes, 2 steals, and a block. I did Drexler a disservice by including his rookie year. If I’d matched his ages to Hakeem’s he’d have come out even better. Still his best offensive match turned out to be Andre Igudala, and his best defensive comp Dwyane Wade. Not too shabby.
Clyde and the ’84 draft class MVPs are just an appetizer. Here’s the main course:
Top 14 1980′s Players List
1 – Larry Bird: Age 23-32 LB had a very unique statline with 23 points on 52% eFG, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, over 1 steal and almost 1 block. I thought I was going to be going stereotype and taking Dirk here for sure as the offensive comp, but while Diggler had the scoring and efficiency he wasn’t close on the offensive rebounding or assists. Bron had the passing and efficiency, but he scored too much. The best offensive comp actually wound up being a small selection of Scottie Pippen years (1995-1998) which I happened upon by setting the age range to 23-32 and limiting the time frame from 1995-today. Pretty good match actually except that Bird scored a few more points per game. Defensively Dirk really was the match.
2 – Magic Johnson: Age 20-29 Magic was the most difficult match I’ve come across yet. 18 pts on 54% eFG, 10 assists, 7 rebounds (2 offensive). J Kidd gives the assists and rebounds (almost) at that age range, but he’s 4 points off and nowhere near as efficient. Chris Paul gives the scoring and assists at the right efficiency, but he’s not close as a rebounder. I gave it to CP3 because the majority of Magic’s rebounding was done at the defensive end. The best defensive match turned out to be the next biggest point guard I could find, Penny Hardaway.
3 – Moses Malone: Age 24-33 Moses was another odd one. 23 not-so-efficient points on 49% eFG complemented by an unreal 5 offensive rebounds (12 total rebounds) and an underwhelming 1.3 blocks per game. Not easy to find a center who scored that much while taking down that many offensive boards while shooting less than 50% eFG. In fact it was downright impossible. The closest I could come at the age range was David Robinson. Defensively I went with fellow undersized but strong and determined center, Emeka Okafur.
4 – Isaiah Thomas: Age 20-27 Zeke had a few decent matches. He produced 18 points and 9 assists with pretty high turnovers and pedestrian shooting for a guard at 47% eFG. The two best matches were Stephon Marbury and Deron Williams. I went with Deron because actually watching him reminds me slightly more of Zeke. Defensively the best match was fellow ultra-quick mini-mite Allen Iverson.
In defense of my sanity and to keep this post at around 1000 words, I’m going to stop the summaries here. Please follow the links to find out things like: Dantley’s best offensive comp is Amare; Just like young Dr. J was similar to young KG, old Dr. J is similar to old KG; Carmelo and Vince really might be the second comings of Dominique; Pau Gasol is in fact the modern equivalent of Kevin McHale, and finally James Worthy is either a guy who sacrificed his stats for the good of his team, or he’s Danny Granger mis-labeled as a Hall of Famer.
Because I couldn’t really use ’80s or early ’90s players as comps for the these ’80s stars, it severely limited the number of players available as modern equivalents. Still, it was very interesting to do, and in the process, it made me ask two important questions. First, is there any real value in trying to gauge player performance by pace (team possessions)? Would I be better off worrying about actual possessions used by each player rather than how many total possessions were available to each player? I’ll look into that soon. Also, how good is Dwight Howard? We should figure out that out. Maybe later this week or in a podcast if I can get Neil and Paul nailed down.