Glenn Guzzo

 

NBA Evolution On Display In New Ratings
We’ve Never Seen Anything Quite Like the Ratings in the ’66-67 Season
 
 
By Glenn Guzzo
 
            This is not your grandfather’s NBA.
 
            Comparing the new Strat-O-Matic ratings for the 2007-08 National Basketball Association with those of the just-released 1966-67 season shows what a difference two generations make.
 
            Strat-O-Matic has never rated an older season. And the looks at such all-time greats as Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Jerry Lucas, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Oscar Robertson in their primes is a great way to learn how the pro game has evolved.
 
            Some of the changes are obvious. There were 10 teams in 1966-67 and 30 teams today. No three-pointers then. No players dominating in the NBA without playing a minute of college ball.
 
            Other changes show up in the Strat ratings. And nothing shows it better than the rebounding:
 
1966-67 (10 teams in league)
 
2007-08 (30 teams in league)
Center
 
Off
Def
 
Center
 
Off
Def
W. Chamberlain
Phi
21
57
 
M. Camby
Den
1
24
B. Russell
Bos
18
51
 
D. Howard
Orl
1
20
N. Thurmond
SF
16
47
 
 
 
 
 
D. Imhoff
LA
4
12
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
L.Forward
 
 
 
 
L.Forward
 
 
 
J. Lucas
Cin
15
45
 
T. Duncan
SA
3
20
W. Reed
NY
10
34
 
Z. Randolph
NY
2
16
B. Bridges
Stl
7
27
 
C. Boozer
Ut
2
13
G. Johnson
Bal
4
9
 
K. Garnett
Bos
1
10
D. Debusschere
Det
3
7
 
R. Evans
Phi
4
6
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
R. Forward
 
 
 
 
R. Forward
 
 
 
E. Baylor
LA
7
46
 
S. Marion
Mia
2
43
B. Cunningham
Phi
2
27
 
J. Smith
Atl
2
23
H. Hairston
Cin
3
22
 
J. Moon
Tor
1
25
C. Walker
Phi
3
18
 
L. James
Cle
1
11
R. Barry
SF
3
12
 
J. Howard
Dal
1
10
 
            These are the top front-line rebounders, based on men who played at least 50 games, and at least 20 minutes per game, rated at their primary position (so we don’t count ’66-67 backup C Toby Kimball, whose rebounds in 6 mpg for 38 games earned him ratings of Offense-41, Defense-97).
 
            Yes, there’s a talent divide, even with several future Hall of Famers on the right side. The stratospheric rebound ratings on the left side are the more remarkable when considering there are so many dominant board men in a league with only one-third of the teams in today’s NBA.
 
SHOTS, STYLES AND MINUTES
 
            The ratings also reflect the shoot-‘em-up style of 41 seasons ago. Compared to today, in 1966-67 shots were up and shooting percentages were down. The lowest-scoring team then (Detroit, 111.3) averaged slightly more points than the highest-scoring team today (Golden State, 111.0). Where today’s Strat-O-Matic teams may have two or three players with a 1 or 2 shot-frequency rate, the ’66-67 teams have five to nine rated shooters each, many with 2 or 3 ratings. Almost all those “pass to any +1 player” will be a shot in the historic season.
 
            In short, rebounds were more plentiful.
 
            But a deeper examination shows that centers stuck to an inside role back in the day. Nine of the 10 starting centers in ’66-67 are at least Offense-2, Defense-3 rebounders. Compare that to the half dozen 0-0 men in today’s game and another half dozen who have at least one zero. And the Big Three centers of yesteryear – Chamberlain, Russell and San Francisco’s Nate Thurmond all have 1-20 block ratings and blank X-columns Inside. But unlike some of the mobile modern centers, you won’t see the graybeards shooting from outside
 
            The elder generation also rebounded more, in part, because they played more.
 
            Today, it’s rare (LeBron James, Joe Johnson) for a player to average 40 minutes per game. In ’66-67, eight men did that, including six on the list above. Chamberlain led the way at 45.5 mpg. Two teams had a pair of 40-minute men: Cincinnati’s Robertson and Lucas each averaged 44 minutes; San Francisco’s center Nate Thurmond averaged 42 and small forward Rick Barry averaged 41. Russell averaged 41, West averaged 41 and St. Louis power forward Bill Bridges averaged 40.