We play a tournament featuring each of Julius Erving's NBA and ABA teams
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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
|Rank||Team||Win %||Avg. PPG||Record||Result|
|1||1981-82 Philadelphia 76ers||65.8||108.9||58-24||NBA Finals|
|2||1984-85 Philadelphia 76ers||63.9||110.8||58-24||Conference Finals|
|3||1982-83 Philadelphia 76ers||61.0||109.2||65-17||NBA Champs|
|4||1985-86 Philadelphia 76ers||59.0||109.9||54-28||Conference Semis|
|5||1983-84 Philadelphia 76ers||57.8||107.8||52-30||First Round|
|6||1980-81 Philadelphia 76ers||57.8||109.5||62-20||Conference Finals|
|7||1986-87 Philadelphia 76ers||51.4||107.6||45-37||First Round|
|8||1979-80 Philadelphia 76ers||48.8||107.6||59-23||NBA Finals|
|9||1974-75 New York Nets||47.4||110.3||58-26||Division Semis|
|10||1975-76 New York Nets||47.3||110.2||55-29||ABA Champs|
|11||1977-78 Philadelphia 76ers||47.1||115.1||55-27||Conference Finals|
|12||1976-77 Philadelphia 76ers||46.6||109.7||50-32||NBA Finals|
|13||1978-79 Philadelphia 76ers||46.2||112.9||47-35||Conference Semis|
|14||1973-74 New York Nets||36.9||109.4||55-29||ABA Champs|
|15||1971-72 Virginia Squires||32.7||114.0||45-39||Division Finals|
|16||1972-73 Virginia Squires||30.5||112.9||42-42||Division 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.
Jake Westrich is the Digital Content Coordinator for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.