NBA Stars of the 1970s Pace-Adjusted Stats


By popular demand (one request from a reader), I’m bringing back the pace adjusted stars of yesteryear and giving you 1970-79.

Just like with the ’60s guys I used a list of the top players for the decade per total Win Share. The work was considerably easier with the ’70s players because they kept track of steals, blocks, turnovers, and offensive rebounds, which meant I had to do a lot less statistical tomfoolery to get the numbers. I did a league adjustment on both pace and effective field goal percentage. So if Doctor J shot 5% better than the league average effective field goal percentage in the ’70s, I would set his adjusted eFG at 5% better than the average 2012-13 eFG%. Like with the ’60s I don’t have a way to estimate 3Pt attempts and so I can’t give made FGs or made and attempted 3 pointers.

Click here to see the full list.

I went with 11 players for two reasons. As I mentioned, it was much easier work than the ’60s math, and I felt the need to add some extra NBA guys because ABA players took 3 of the top 6 spots, and I had absolutely no idea how to estimate what the different competition level may have meant to the ABA players’ production and efficiency. It seemed best to simply put them in a separate category altogether.

ABA Stars of the 70s

1 – Julius “The Doctor” Erving: Even with the pace adjustments, Doc’s numbers are phenomenal and unique. 24 pts on 53% eFG, 9 boards, 4 assists, almost 2 steals and 1.5 blocks. That is ridiculous considering the fact that rebounding number is pace adjusted. Nobody quite fit as a modern comparison on offense. The points and scoring efficiency at the same age range matched up with Dirk, but Nowitzki did not offensive rebound or assist at the same level. Barkley put up similar numbers at the same age range, but he was too big a rebounder to really compare. The best fit on offense was a young Kevin Garnett. Defensively the best match is Shawn Marion. Tremendous numbers.

2 – Artis Gilmore: 20 points, 14 boards, and almost 3 blocks. The comparisons here are Dwight on offense and Shaq on defense, which makes perfect sense as Gilmore was the man-mountain of his day. Now obviously if you were building the perfect power center, you’d want Shaq’s offense and Dwight’s defense instead of the other way around as we see here, but those numbers would still make Gilmore the best center playing this year.

3 – Dan Issel: 22 efficient points and 9 rebounds. Issel’s best offensive comparison at the same age range turned out to be Alonzo Mourning. Defensively I wasn’t sure how to rate him. His blocks were low for a center but his defensive rebounds were pretty good. I went with Boozer, a solid but not spectacular modern big.

NBA Stars of the ’70s

1 – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: After the pace adjustment, prime Kareem looks like he would still be the best player in the league today, or at least in the argument with LeBron. 26 points on 58% eFG, 12 boards, 4 dimes, and 3 blocks. Best comparison on offense was Shaquille. Note – that is not to say that Cap played like Shaq only that he was similarly productive and efficient. Defensively the best match was Patrick Ewing, which is to say DPoY level. Add the reliability and reputation for coming through in big moments, and you couldn’t ask for a better center.

2 – Bob Lanier: A forgotten star for the Pistons, Bob’s pace adjusted numbers are 21 and 10 with 2 blocks. Mourning and Daugherty were the best comparisons on offense. Defensively his numbers matched up well with a Pau Gasol.

3 – Rick Barry: Rick’s the first player who gets into his mid-30s in the 1970-79 decade, so we might not be seeing his best numbers. He’s giving 22 points, 5 boards, and 5 dimes. His best offensive comparison at his age range was Paul Pierce. His best defensive comparison was Chris Mullin.

4 – Walt Clyde Frazier: Walt’s a guy whose reputation is bigger than his stats, and it was very satisfying to see him match up very well with a modern scoring point guard whose reputation and success outstrip his numbers. The statline is 18 efficient points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds with ver low turnovers. The best offensive comparison at the same ages is Chauncey B-B-B-B-Billups. Perfect. On defense the best comparison for a guy with Clyde’s stats is, I think, Kobe Bryant, another big guard with a great reputation as a lockdown defender.

5 – Elvin Hayes: I’ve heard a mixed bag of opinions about Hayes. Bob Ryan thought he was stat-hoarding team killer. Other people thought he was the prototype for the modern scoring power forward. The pace adjustment took some of the start out of Elvin’s statline, but he’s still great. 21 points and 11 rebounds with 2 blocks. The best offensive comparison is the great Tim Duncan, the best PF of his era. The defensive comparison isn’t on Duncan’s level but rather the versatile Larry Nance. All-around tremendous numbers.

6 – John “Hondo” Havlicek: John is by far the oldest player on this list, extending out to age 37, and in addition, he’s one of the best examples of a player whose contributions to winning teams are almost unmeasurable using standard stats. How do you quantify the value of a player who never stopped moving, disrupting team defense just by pure activity? All that being said, Hondo still put up 20 points, grabbed 4 boards, and dished out 5 dimes a night. His best offensive comparison at that age was Clyde Drexler, and his best defensive match Dan Majerle.

7 – Dave Cowens: Another effort guy whose last years are included in this study, Cowens’s numbers are very solid but unspectacular after the pace adjustment. He scored 17 points, grabbed 12 boards, and dished out 3.5 assists. His best offensive comparison is Pau Gasol, a very good second option on multiple title teams. His best defensive comparison is Tyson Chandler, the anchor of a title team and a DPoY recipient. Combined those two into one player, and that does sound like the kind of player who could win an MVP.

8 – Wes Unseld: Keep in mind when you look at these numbers that Wes won an MVP, and you can see that in the ’70s the voters were looking for winners far more than they were statistical producers. Unseld scored 10 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and dished 3.5 assists. Cowens is looking better now, huh? The best offensive comparison for Wes is Horace Grant, a third option finisher / offensive rebounder on multiple title teams. The best defensive comparison was Charles Oakley, the second best defender on one of the best defensive teams of all time, and a guy who did his work with strength and position rather than length and athleticism.


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7 Responses to “NBA Stars of the 1970s Pace-Adjusted Stats”

  1. Dee Says:

    Well, thank you! Great work as usual. Like you, I am really surprised by how good Dr. J’s numbers turned out to be. Also, a bit ‘disappointed’ by Frazier, so to speak (though I like Chauncey a lot!). And Unseld…well, even his un-adjusted stats in his MVP year weren’t that great.

    And of course, now that you’ve done both ’60s and ’70s stars, you can’t really get away with not doing Magic, Bird, Isiah, and 80s Jordan, can you? :))

    • jpalumbo Says:

      Thank you much!

      I definitely will get the ’80s worked out. Going to be tough to find comps for them though… Running out of decades!

  2. boyer Says:

    Dr. J is always lost in the shuffle. The ABA is often forgotten, which is kind of understandable since it was mostly during the 70s, which were the worst years of NBA history, though still not right, and some very excellent players played then. Dr. J has 3 MVPs and 3 rings. And he was pretty good defensively. We all heard that 5 players have scored 30,000 pts. since Kobe accomplished that, but there’s really 6. Dr. J. scored 30,026 pts.

  3. Fascinating Pace Adjusted Stats Says:

    […] 70s NBA Stars of the 1970s Pace-Adjusted Stats | Double Dribble […]

  4. me Says:

    Adjusting for “pace” is retarded unless the level of competition is weak and in a Neanderthal, un-modern era, like the 50’s and early 60’s.

    How the hell are you gonna punish guys for playing “faster”? That makes about as much sense as punishing guys for playing slow.

    Should we adjust Nash’s numbers b/c the Suns played SSOL in the 2000’s?

    This is a nerdy, dickless, never-played-basketball-in-your-life dork’s DREAM. To mash up numbers and try and quantify them to mean something other than what they actually WERE. Winning is all that counts anyways.

    The 70’s were fairly modern, especially after the ABA was shut down. That’s when all the talent was integrated back together. And naturally, Dr. J’s numbers SANK as he had to face actual REAL competition day in and day out. And no, his numbers don’t look “great”. They look OK. There’s a reason he only won 1 MVP in the NBA. And he probably didn’t even deserve that one either. Also, Kareem’s rebounding numbers SHRANK after 75-76 as well. Gilmore’s numbers DROPPED like a rock. Surprise? Hell no. In all honesty, the modern NBA started in 76-77. No split up of talent anymore, no more disingenuous stats based on lack of competition, no more bulbous, unsustainable MPG.

    But like I said, unless guys are playing WAY more MPG than guys today, which they really weren’t in the late 70’s and 80’s, than this pace argument is stupid and should be shut the hell down. No offense man, but some guys play slow and methodical for a REASON, others play faster for a REASON. There’s advantages and disadvantages to both.

    If you’re going to adjust for ANYTHING, it should ONLY be MPG and ONLY in the NBA, where atleast there was a better collection of talent relative to the ABA.

    For example – Kareem playing a ridiculous 43 and 44 MPG in some seasons is obviously inflated. Adjusting that down to say 40 MPG would be far more in line with the upper limits of what Centers (well really ANY players) realistically achieved in more modern settings.

    So at his PEAK, you’d simply take 90% of the numbers he actually put up. When you adjust for THAT, his numbers look more realistic and believable.

    It’s not even WORTH adjusting for 50’s/60’s stats. Level of competition was relatively pathetic, the game was played at a Neanderthal level and in its infancy, and without the physicality or athletic level that it went on to become.

    There’s NOTHING you can do to adjust for pre-modern NBA. NOTHING. The stats are skewed to hell. How the hell are you gonna adjust for a guy scoring 50 ppg on 6-9 forwards when the 2nd highest after that EVER is 37 ppg? Adjusting minutes won’t help. Pace only explains how fucked up basketball was back then. Reckless, inefficient, scattered. There’s no TELLING what Russell would’ve accomplished in today’s game. Guys averaging 20+ rebounds? I don’t think so bro. They weren’t any more talented or dedicated than any modern players so it’s just not worth it.

    and no, I wont be back to read dorky retorts.

    oh and ws and per is bullshit garbage too.

  5. javierfhcortez Says:

    How do you do the math for this? I would like to learn.

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