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.
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.