Ranking Julius Erving's Teams From WhatIfSports.com image

Julius Erving Tribute: Ranking Dr. J's Squads

We play a tournament featuring each of Julius Erving's NBA and ABA teams

June 11, 2013

Julius Erving's illustrious career has been thrust back into the spotlight thanks to an NBA TV documentary, appropriately called, "The Doctor." We're taking the opportunity to offer tribute to Erving.

Dr. J began his professional career in 1971 with the Virginia Squires of the ABA. Two seasons later, he joined the ABA's New York Nets and was awarded three consecutive MVPs while leading his team to championships in 1974 and 1976. Following the 1975-76 season, the Nets, along with the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs, joined the NBA in a merger. Due to financial obligations, the Nets were unable to afford Erving's contract and he became a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, where he played for 11 seasons.

His skills immediately translated to the NBA. In his first season with the 76ers, Erving teamed with George McGinnis, Doug Collins and World B. Free as the squad reached the NBA Finals, losing to the Portland Trailblazers.

Erving lost in the NBA Finals two more times, in 1980 and 1982, before finally capturing an NBA championship in 1983. Andrew Toney and Maurice Cheeks were catalysts, but the newly acquired Moses Malone propelled the 76ers. The team finished 12-1 in the playoffs, including a sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers in the championship.

Using our basketball simulation engine, we "played" a tournament in which each of Dr. J's teams - from the 1971-72 Squires to the 1986-87 76ers - played each other 51 times. The teams are ranked by win percentage in the simulation.

Dr. J Power Rankings
RankTeamWin %Avg. PPGRecordResult
11981-82 Philadelphia 76ers65.8108.958-24NBA Finals
21984-85 Philadelphia 76ers63.9110.858-24Conference Finals
31982-83 Philadelphia 76ers61.0109.265-17NBA Champs
41985-86 Philadelphia 76ers59.0109.954-28Conference Semis
51983-84 Philadelphia 76ers57.8107.852-30First Round
61980-81 Philadelphia 76ers57.8109.562-20Conference Finals
71986-87 Philadelphia 76ers51.4107.645-37First Round
81979-80 Philadelphia 76ers48.8107.659-23NBA Finals
91974-75 New York Nets47.4110.358-26Division Semis
101975-76 New York Nets47.3110.255-29ABA Champs
111977-78 Philadelphia 76ers47.1115.155-27Conference Finals
121976-77 Philadelphia 76ers46.6109.750-32NBA Finals
131978-79 Philadelphia 76ers46.2112.947-35Conference Semis
141973-74 New York Nets36.9109.455-29ABA Champs
151971-72 Virginia Squires32.7114.045-39Division Finals
161972-73 Virginia Squires30.5112.942-42Division Semis

The tournament's biggest upset was submitted by the 1981-82 76ers, which topped the simulation with a 65.8 winning percentage. Though the team achieved great on-court success, advancing to the NBA Finals before falling to the Lakers in six games, conventional wisdom would have placed a team featuring Malone on top of the rankings. In fact, the four teams on which Malone appeared finished No. 2 through No. 5 in the simulation. Perhaps Erving's career-best 54.6 field goal percentage during the 1981-82 season proved the difference-maker.

Though the ABA played a brand of basketball that was arguably more exciting, the NBA was believed to possess more talent during the era, a conviction confirmed by the performance of Dr. J's ABA teams in the simulation. Erving's best New York Nets squads edged out some 76ers teams, but failed to crack the top of the rankings. Erving's Squires teams, meanwhile, proved flawed defensively. The two teams had the worst winning percentages in the simulation despite ranking among the top in average points per game.

View Julius Erving's Player Card

Add Julius Erving to your NBA Dream Team


Jake Westrich is the Digital Content Coordinator for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at jwestrich@whatifsports.com.

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