Which Classic NBA Players Would Make a Splash in the Modern NBA?
Whenever there is a conversation about old NBA stars, the question of, “Could they succeed in today’s league?” is an inevitability. While the game has changed over the decades dramatically, there are some timeless players who could make an impact in the modern NBA.
The use retro players will be put on a team that could use their skills; lottery-bound franchises where the players would mix well with the current roster and genuinely improve the team.
They will also be compared to modern NBA players who have similar styles to them. This list will exclude the obvious all-time greats because it’s easy to see how Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, or Wilt Chamberlain could thrive in the modern league.
“Pistol” Pete Maravich
Pistol Pete is like a character out of a storybook. His work ethic is legendary, his ball handling skills are second to none, and his 3,667 career points is still the most in college basketball (all over the span of just three years).
Averaging 24.2 PPG and 5.2 APG over the course of his professional career for sub-par teams, Pistol Pete would make a seamless transition in the modern NBA due to his limitless range, unrivaled court vision, and wizardly passing abilities. He is most aptly compared to Chris Paul or Steve Nash due to his style of being a “pure point guard”.
Best Team Fit: Minnesota Timberwolves
The Iceman is the definition of a slashing wing. Being the de-facto founder of the finger roll, it’s hard to see how Gervin wouldn’t fit into the slashing, athleticism-predicated culture of the modern league. Add in a silky smooth jumper from 25 feet in, and you have a recipe for success.
Gervin became a four-time scoring champ due to his versatility on the offensive end. But George’s skill is not only in his offense; he was a skilled defender as well. Through the course of his career, he averaged 1.2 steals per game and 1.0 blocks per game. He reminds me of a Kevin Durant or Brandon Ingram-esque player on offense, and a Kawhi-lite player on defense.
Best Team Fit: Atlanta Hawks
The Offspring were most likely watching Rick Barry highlights when they wrote “Pretty Fly For a White Guy”. Barry has been remembered for his fake hair and underhand free throws, but he was so much more than the details; Rick was one of the early death-stroke shooters in the league, even though most of his career was played before the dawn of the three-point era.
Averaging 24.8 PPG over his career and shooting 89.3% from the free throw line, there’s a consistency and pure shooter aspect that reminds me of Danilo Galinari. Rick also nabbed 2.0 steals per game over his career due to his high BBIQ and ability to jam up passing lanes.
He is somewhat reminiscent of Paul George. There’s one more player, however, who reminds me of Rick Barry; Alex Caruso. If a white guy who shot underhand and had a toupee played in todays league, fans would latch onto him like they latched onto Caruso in recent months.
Best Team Fit: New York Knicks
The story of Len Bias is a tragic one. Len Bias was the two time ACC player of the year in 85’ and 86’ at Maryland. He was chosen by the Boston Celtics with the second pick in the 86’ draft, but tragically died of a drug overdose later that night. Len was heralded to be the next Michael Jordan, but in modern times reminds me of Zion Williamson or LeBron James. He was strong, could shoot, and played incredible defense.
Being one of the biggest “what ifs” in NBA history, it's hard to tell what Len’s career would look like. I imagine it much like a Kevin Garnett scenario where he is the most intimidating player on the floor and can do just about anything he wants on either end. Len averaged 23.2 PPG and 7 RPG in his senior season which led many to think he was the next big thing not only in the NBA, but across the world of sports media.
Best Team Fit: Sacramento Kings