Reggie Miller (1987-2005)
The former all-time three-point leader, Reggie Miller was the most prolific shooter in league history by the time his career had concluded. Miller’s shooting ability and unwavering confidence endeared him to the Indiana fanbase. He played 18 seasons (all with the Pacers), making four All-Star teams and one NBA Finals appearance.
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: Miller’s sharpshooting prowess would be more coveted in today’s league. In 1996-97, Miller set a career high for three-point attempts per game with 6.6. In 2022, 43 players averaged more than 6.6 attempts per contest. Additionally, the league’s move towards star players teaming up would have greatly benefited Miller. The lifetime Pacer never played alongside a superstar. Pairing him alongside a facilitator like Luka Doncic or LeBron James would have been a scary sight.
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Shawn Marion (2000-2015)
Known as “The Matrix”, Shawn Marion was one of the league’s premier two-way players in the 2000s. Marion was drafted to a Suns team that boasted a ton of talent (he played with Jason Kidd, Penny Hardaway, Tom Gugliotta, and Clifford Robinson as a rookie), but his career didn’t really take off until Steve Nash and Mike D’Antoni came to town. Starring for the Suns’ high-octane attack, Marion made four All-Star teams from ’03-07. Though Phoenix always seemed to come up short in the postseason, Marion finally captured that elusive championship ring as an integral member of the 2011 title-winning Dallas Mavericks.
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: In 2022, Marion is the prototypical two-way wing that every team so desperately covets. He had the versatility to play multiple positions, he could guard just about anybody, and was even a 20-point scorer for a couple of seasons. And, with how player development starts at an even earlier age today, perhaps a shooting coach could have gotten to Marion earlier and helped him work on that unorthodox form.
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Rasheed Wallace (1995-2013)
Rasheed Wallace was often overlooked throughout his career. The North Carolina alum played in arguably the best era for the power forward position. Wallace was constantly battling against the likes of Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Chris Webber, Dirk Nowitzki, Jermaine O’Neal, Elton Brand, and Amar’e Stoudamire, among others. That’s likely the reason why Wallace’s career accolades (four All-Stars, no All-NBA teams) don’t exactly pop off the page. Still, Wallace managed to score 16,000 points in his career and was the key acquisition which ignited a title run for the 2004 Detroit Pistons.
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: Wallace possessed an advanced offensive game for the time. He was a true three-level scorer who would have likely stretched the floor even more in 2022. Also, Wallace doesn’t get nearly enough credit for being a strong defensive player. His teammates in Detroit — Ben Wallace and Tayshaun Prince — garnered most of the praise, but Wallace averaged a steal and a block per game over 16 seasons.
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Chris Mullin (1986-2001)
Before the Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, the Golden State Warrior splashing the nets from beyond the arc was Chris Mullin. Mullin was drafted to Golden State in ’85 and immediately became one of the league’s most potent scorers. From ’89-92, Mullin was named to an All-NBA team each year including a First-Team selection in 1992.
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: With the Warriors, Mullin was eventually joined by Mitch Richmond and Tim Hardaway to form the famed “Run TMC” trio. The team was revered for their up-tempo, fast-paced style which served as one of many precursors to the offenses of today. Mullin wasn’t just a gunner, he scored with immense efficiency. He regularly shot over 50-percent from the field was adept at getting to the foul line. Mullin also made 41-percent of his threes over the last 10 years of his career.
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Andrei Kirilenko (2001-2015)
It took two years for Andrei Kirilenko to make his NBA debut after being selected in the first-round of the 1999 NBA Draft. It was quickly realized that the wait was well worth it for the Jazz. Kirilenko immediately became one of the league’s premier defenders. His length, athleticism, and anticipation made him suitable to guard just about any player in the league. From his rookie campaign in 2002 until ’07, Kirilenko averaged 2.5 blocks per game and 1.5 steals per game — numbers only achieved previously by Hakeem Olajuwon.
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: Kirilenko’s defensive prowess would make him one of the most sought-after role players in the modern NBA. He had the speed and size to bother the league’s best perimeter players, but could also protect the rim like a center. Putting Kirilenko on a team like the current Warriors is an ideal match as he wouldn’t have to worry about offense and can primarily focus on being a defensive stopper.
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Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (1991-2001)
Formerly known as Chris Jackson, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was a pioneer in a lot of ways. Abdul-Rauf was a scoring guard who used to break down defenders and knock down pull-up jumpers from all over the floor. Defenses weren’t quite used to stopping a player with such a wide-array of dribble moves and crossovers, especially one who was potent at shooting from beyond the arc.
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: Abdul-Rauf’s playstyle can be seen in multiple star guards today. That free-flowing style that always had defenders guessing. When he was still playing, point guards were expected to facilitate not score. Today, point guards are often the team’s primary scorer. Abdul-Rauf would be encouraged not only as a scorer, but as an activist. The NBA suspended Abdul-Rauf for a brief time in 1996 for refusing to stand during the Star-Spangled banner. That would certainly not be the case today.
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Lamar Odom (1999-2013)
Two-time NBA Champion Lamar Odom enjoyed a bountiful 14-year career in the league. The former No. 4 overall pick bounced around a bit before eventually settling in with the Los Angeles Lakers in the trade that sent Shaquille O’Neal to Miami. Odom proved to be the perfect sidekick next to Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, excelling as both a starter and reserve for a Lakers team that reached the NBA Finals three-straight years. Odom was named Sixth Man of the Year in 2011, averaging 14.0 PPG, 8.7 RPG and 3.0 APG.
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: The versatile forward was far too ahead of his time. In an era dominated by low-post power forwards, Odom didn’t match the physicality of the elite players at his position. Though, he was a gifted playmaker who thrived with the ball in his hands. Odom’s passing was integral for the Lakers’ triangle offense to work effectively. He would control the ball even more in today’s NBA, akin to Ben Simmons without the shooting hesitancy.
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Anfernee (Penny) Hardaway (1993-2008)
It didn’t take long for Penny Hardaway to establish himself as one of the elite guards in the league. Playing alongside Shaquille O’Neal in Orlando, the Magic duo appeared primed to take over the Eastern Conference during Michael Jordan’s hiatus. Hardaway was named All-NBA First-Team in back-to-back seasons, and made a Third-Team appearance in ’97 following Shaq’s departure to Los Angeles. From there, Hardaway’s career was riddled with injuries before becoming a role player and eventually retiring in 2008.
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: Big guards are all the rage in 2022, and Hardaway had elite size at 6-foot-7. Hardaway used his size to see over defenses, shoot over smaller defenders, and finish at the rim. He was plenty quick, as well. Hardaway had a deep bag of dribble moves and was a blur in transition. He would create matchup nightmares all over the floor just like LaMelo Ball or Cade Cunningham.
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Ray Allen (1997-2014)
One of the great shooters in league history, Ray Allen often does not get the credit he deserves. Allen entered the league as a tremendous athlete, but his perimeter shot gained him the most notoriety. His perfect shooting form allowed him to shoot the same exact way from any spot on the floor. He led Milwaukee and Seattle to postseason appearances before ultimately winning titles with the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat.
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: Allen probably wishes he was born a few years later. Looking at modern-day stats, Allen likely would have shot more than 10-plus threes per game. It should be noted that Allen ranks first all-time in career three-point attempts (7,429), but his highest single-season in attempts ranks 21st all-time. Allen averaged 26 PPG in 2007 taking the same amount of threes as Malik Beasley and Terry Rozier did last year.
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Jason Kidd (1995-2013)
Kidd was a general on the floor. He ran the break unlike any other, and set up his teammates in the best possible position to score. In many ways, Kidd was the quintessential point guard. He had great size, speed, toughness, defensive instincts, and playmaking ability. Over his career, he even developed a reliable outside shot which has him 12th all-time in made threes.
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: Essentially, Kidd would be a better version of Lonzo Ball. With the emphasis on the three-point shot today, he likely would have entered the league already making threes. His potency in transition would pair wonderfully with the modern game. Kidd would be the ideal facilitator to lead a fast-paced attack. Also, his rebounding ability would be highly valuable. Coaches love a player who can grab a missed shot off the defensive glass and instantly spark a transition opportunity.
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Pete Maravich (1970-1980)
After an illustrious career at LSU, Pete Maravich entered the NBA in 1970 and instantly became one of the league’s premier attractions. He spent his first four seasons with the Hawks, making two All-Star teams, though he blossomed into an offensive star with the New Orleans Jazz. Maravich led the league in scoring in 1977 with 31.1 PPG.
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: Maravich put up 31.1 PPG in the NBA without a three-point line. He averaged 44.2 PPG at LSU (yes, you read that correctly) without a three-point line. Pistol Pete was considered a great shooter. Give him an extra point for shooting from a long-distance and he may have led the league in scoring for an entire decade.
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Chris Webber (1993-2008)
There were simply no holes in Chris Webber’s game. The Michigan standout went No. 1 overall in the 1993 NBA Draft and began his career with the Golden State Warriors. It was clear early on that Webber would soon be one of the best big men in the league. It didn’t take long for him to reach that level, as C-Webb was named an All-NBA player each year from 1999-2003 (with a First-Team selection in 2001). Webber was undoubtedly the best player for a handful of Sacramento Kings teams that came close to winning a title.
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: Webber had everything teams look for in a frontcourt player nowadays. From anywhere on the floor, Webber had the ability to break down a defense and set up a shot for himself or a teammate. The Kings ran a ton of offense through Webber in the post, and his usage would have been even higher in ’22. Keep a close eye on No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero to better visualize how a player of Webber’s ilk would fare in today’s league.
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Steve Nash (1996-2014)
It could be argued Steve Nash played at the perfect time for his skill-set. Though undersized and outmatched athletically by many, Nash slashed and dashed his way to two MVP trophies and seven All-NBA selections. Defenses simply were not equipped to defend Nash’s style of play as he danced around with the ball until he found an open shot for himself or others. Nash led the league in assists five times and is 11th all-time in three-point percentage (.428).
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: The current Brooklyn Nets coach watches the game from the sideline today. Nash himself has admitted that he didn’t shoot enough threes throughout his career, and how shooting more could have made him an even bigger threat offensively. We’re not going to argue with one of the best point guards in league history.
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Scottie Pippen (1988-2004)
Of course, Michael Jordan gets most of the praise for the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 90s. However, it should be recognized that Jordan didn’t win anything of consequence until Scottie Pippen joined the team. Pippen’s ascension put the Bulls over the top, and allowed Chicago to topple the top teams (Detroit and Los Angeles) that were dominating the league at the time. One of the league’s most versatile forwards, Pippen was a seven-time All-NBA selection and 10-time All-Defensive selection.
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: As we’ve already mentioned a number of times, two-way wings are all the rage in today’s league. You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and having a player like Pippen who can excel as both an individual and team defender goes a long way — especially in the postseason when intensity is ramped up. Pippen was also a gifted passer. He led Chicago in assists for a majority of its run and operated as a point forward.
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Allen Iverson (1997-2010)
The Answer revolutionized the game both on and off the floor. As a player, Iverson was an electric scorer who never backed down from an opponent. Iverson relentlessly attacked the basket despite his stature (listed at 6-foot). The diminutive guard led the league in scoring on four occasions, including during his 2001 MVP campaign. Iverson may have been an even bigger icon away from the court where his unique style was often imitated, but never duplicated.
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: While some may be wary of Iverson’s shot-chucking ways, he would have benefitted immensely from today’s rule set. With his ability to absorb contact and finish through traffic, Iverson would have lived at the free throw line in ’22. Arguably the quickest player in league history, there aren’t a whole lot of defenders that could check Iverson one-on-one. Granted a bit of floor spacing, there was no way you were going to stop Iverson from getting to the rim.
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Bill Walton (1974-1987)
Bill Walton segued a dominant collegiate career at UCLA into being the No. 1 pick of the 1974 NBA Draft. It didn’t take long for him to get acclimated to the NBA level, as Walton led the Blazers to the franchise’s first (and only) NBA title in 1977. In the Finals versus Julius Erving’s 76ers, Walton averaged 18.5 PPG, 19.0 RPG, 5.2 APG, and 3.7 BPG. All signs pointed to him becoming one of the best centers of his era, but injuries ultimately derailed a potentially all-time great career.
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: The most obvious advantage for Walton playing in 2022 would be the advances in the medical field. With how teams treat their star players today — with ample time for rest and recuperation — Walton’s career could have been prolonged a considerable amount. The former MVP was limited to just 468 games in the NBA, and was primarily a bench player towards the latter portion. He was a tremendous talent who was thwarted by persistent foot injuries.
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Jerry West (1960-1974)
The Logo was an all-time great player before he became an all-time great executive. Starring for the Los Angeles Lakers, West was an elite scorer who torched opposing defenses for 14 seasons. West was the quintessential combo guard, capable of getting to the basket, shooting from the perimeter, and creating for his teammates. His 29 PPG playoff career average ranks fifth all-time.
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: Take a close look at Jerry West’s highlight reel and you’ll soon realize he’d be a perfect fit for the league today. West almost looks unnatural against his peers at the time. He had exceptional burst and the ability to stop on a dime, raise up over his defender, and launch a picture-perfect jumpshot towards the basket. In a league ruled by big men, West stuck out like a sore thumb. He would fit right in with the guard-centric play of today.
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Shaquille O’Neal (1992-2011)
Nobody in NBA history compares to Shaquille O’Neal. Equipped with a larger-than-life personality, O’Neal used his herculean frame to bully any and every defender that stood in his way of the basket. He never needed to develop an outside shot because teams simply did not have an answer for him in the paint. A four-time NBA Champion, O’Neal’s run with the Lakers from 2000-02 is arguably the most dominant three-year stretch in league history. During that period, O’Neal won three Finals MVP’s while averaging 35.9 PPG and 15.2 RPG on 60-percent shooting in those series.
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: Sure, O’Neal playing in ’22 would be targeted relentlessly in pick-and-rolls just like the Pistons did to massive success in ’04. Teams would foul him even more, forcing O’Neal to knock down shots at the free throw line. That being said, who in the league today would have any chance of stopping Shaq from getting to the basket in his prime? Sending a double-team would eventually lead to a wide-open three-pointer for one of his teammates (O’Neal was vastly underrated as a passer). Imagine if Zion Williamson was also taller than every center in the league…that’s the closest you’d get to a modern-day Shaq.
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Kevin Garnett (1995-2016)
A highly intense player, Garnett competed on every possession until the final whistle. His presence completely shifted the balance in Minnesota. After missing the postseason in his rookie year, the T’Wolves reached the playoffs eight consecutive times from ’97-’04. Since he left the team, Minnesota has been playoff eligible just twice in 16 years. Being traded ultimately ended up being the best thing for Garnett as he won an NBA title with the Boston Celtics in 2008.
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: Kevin Garnett won an NBA MVP in ’04 and there’s an argument to be made that he’d be even better today. Defensively, Garnett was one of the best to ever do it. We’ve seen Anthony Davis tap into this for stretches in the past, but Garnett was the absolute best in terms of front court players switching onto and holding their own against guards. There was also some untapped playmaking potential. We’re talking about a power forward who averaged 6.0 APG in a season. The Big Ticket would have been a big problem in the modern day.
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Oscar Robertson (1960-1974)
Before Russell Westbrook rewrote history books, Robertson had been the only player in NBA history to have averaged a triple-double through an entire season. This was a mark that lasted nearly 60 years before being broken by Westbrook in 2017 (and again in ’18 and ’19). Robertson stuffed the shat sheets and excelled in all areas of the game. He ended his career with one MVP, 11 All-NBA nods, and also helped the Milwaukee Bucks capture their first title in 1971.
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: Don’t overthink this one. Robertson had all the traits to excel in any era, though he may be particularly valuable for the modern game. A 6-foot-5 guard who was an efficient scorer, a willing passer and relentless rebounder? We think he’d be just fine.
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Hakeem Olajuwon (1984-2002)
When discussing the greatest centers of all-time, Hakeem Olajuwon must be featured near the top of every list. The 1994 NBA MVP was a devastating player on both ends of the floor. He could dribble the ball and move his feet like a guard despite his 7-foot frame. Hakeem is a two-time NBA Champion, blocked the most shots in league history (3,830), and his signature “Dream Shake” move is still used by players today.
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: Defense, defense, defense. Olajuwon would be a premier defender in any era. Among the elite center’s of yesteryear, he would be the most equipped to defend modern offenses at a high level. His background as a goalie suited him to protect the rim, as he boasted lightning-quick reflexes and anticipation skills. On the other end, Olajuwon would torture smaller defenders with his elite footwork and shooting touch.
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Larry Bird (1979-1992)
Alongside Magic Johnson, Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird helped revitalize basketball through the 1980’s. Bird was an all-around superstar who did everything well. He was a knockdown shooter, creative passer, pesky defender, and always seemed to rise to the occasion on the game’s biggest stage. Bird won three NBA titles with the Celtics and was named league MVP three straight years from ’84-’86.
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: Just like others who had their careers shortened due to injuries, Bird would have benefitted from an upgraded training staff and a better understanding of how to maintain pristine health. Bird lasted just 13 seasons in the league and missed 142 games over the final four years. In terms of on-the-floor, Bird launching more threes couldn’t have hurt. He attempted just 1,727 over his entire career. That’s about as much as a high-volume outside shooter takes over the course of two seasons in today’s game.
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Magic Johnson (1979-1996)
The catalyst for the “Showtime Lakers”, Magic Johnson is widely considered to be the greatest point guard ever. And, he certainly has the accomplishments to back up that notion. Johnson immediately became one of the league’s best players in just his rookie season, leading the Lakers to the 1980 NBA Championship. He went on to win four more titles in Los Angeles and added three regular season MVP trophies. A passing savant, Johnson made his teammates better to a degree which is virtually unmatched.
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: It doesn’t matter what time period, Johnson was (and would be) and absolute terror in transition. Guards with size and vision are the ultimate mismatch. If he were playing today, there would be times where Johnson would be the biggest player on the floor at 6-foot-9. Think about what two-time MVP Nikola Jokic can do to defenses as a huge playmaker who can see the entire floor. Johnson would pick defenses apart with his passing precision and accuracy.
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Kobe Bryant (1996-2016)
The late, great Kobe Bryant was a delight to watch play the game of basketball. There was no tool Bryant did not have in his arsenal. If he was weak in a certain area it seemed like he’d go into the offseason working on that one particular skill and suddenly turn it into a strength. He was the best scorer of his era, and an underrated defensive player who was named to 12 All-Defensive teams throughout his career.
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: Bryant’s impact on the modern game is perhaps the most apparent of any NBA legend. The stars of today grew up idolizing Bryant and it shows in their skill-set, approach, and demeanor. You can’t watch Jayson Tatum or Devin Booker without seeing bits and pieces of Bryant’s influence. Additionally, the injury which ultimately derailed Bryant’s career — an Achilles tear — wouldn’t be as daunting today. We’ve seen numerous players return to full strength from that particular ailment in recent years including Kevin Durant.
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Michael Jordan (1985-2003)
The debate has raged on for years: “How good would Michael Jordan be in today’s NBA?” It’s been the topic for countless arguments between friends, family, coworkers, and media pundits, alike. We all know Jordan’s accolades well enough that we don’t have to rehash them all here. “His Airness” was a transcendent star who dominated the NBA throughout his illustrious career. Would it have gone down in a similar fashion if he was born 20 years later?
Why he would dominate today’s NBA: To put it plainly, yes. Jordan was an elite two-way player who would have shined in any era. MJ playing in ’22 would have been a nightmare for the league. He was a tremendous athlete even by today’s standards. His only fatal flaw — three-point shooting — likely would have been corrected early on with the modern emphasis on the perimeter game. Pit him against the stars of today and Jordan would still be the cream of the crop.
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