It’s always fun to imagine what would happen if certain NBA players had played in certain eras, just to see how they would fare. While Allen Iverson seems like a fairly recent player – he last played in the NBA in 2010 – his best years came in the early- and mid-2000s with the Philadelphia 76ers.
So, what would happen if an in-his-prime Allen Iverson played in the NBA today?
The Answer: He would dominate – at least according to one former teammate.
“His ability to score and score in transition and put so much pressure on a team with his speed hasn’t been matched in NBA history, in my opinion,” Eric Snow said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “If he played now with these rules, it’d be incredible what he would do. If you could not touch him, it would be incredible what he would do.”
Snow and Iverson were teammates in Philadelphia from 1998 to 2004. In 2001, Iverson was named MVP and led the Sixers to the Finals, where they lost to a stacked Lakers squad in five games.
The 2000-01 Philly squad remains one of the most hard-nosed teams in NBA history.
“Guys made sacrifices on that team,” Snow said. “You look at that team, everyone thinks that we had guys that couldn’t score. We had four or five guys that averaged double figures, but we (decided) that we wanted to be a top defensive team, and that’s what we were. We were the top defensive team in the NBA, and Allen Iverson took the bulk of our shots. That was the sacrifice. Everybody scored off of him, and we had a bunch of guys that really didn’t care who shot it as long as we got good shots.”
The 76ers had the top scorer in the league in Iverson, the Sixth Man of the Year in Aaron McKie and the Defensive Player of the Year in Dikembe Mutombo.
“To me, to us, it looked like a good combination,” Snow said. “Everybody else just thought it was one guy scoring, but they didn’t look at all the other intangibles that we did.”
The 76ers also had the Coach of the Year in Larry Brown. Iverson butted heads with Brown – as well as Sixers management – from time to time, but when it came time to play, Iverson gave the organization everything he had. So did all of the other players on that team: Snow, Mutombo, McKie, George Lynch, Tyrone Hill, Matt Geiger, Jumaine Jones, Raja Bell, Todd MacCulloch, Rodney Buford and Kevin Ollie, among others.
“Guys came from good coaches,” Snow said. “We had Jud Heathcote, John Chaney, Dean Smith, John Thompson – that’s where they came from. So those guys knew about making sacrifices. Those guys knew about defending. So it was a certain type of player that needed to be around Allen. Everybody talked about we needed more scorers, but not every scorer can do that. They tried to put scorers with Allen in Philly and it never worked outside of us. So if you wanted Iverson to play the way he played, then you had to have particular guys and personalities around him. I just think that Coach Brown put the best team out there that he felt (gave us) a chance to win, and we gave ourselves a chance to win every year we were there.”
Snow said that Iverson would be the best scorer in today’s NBA “without a doubt” and that “it wouldn’t even be close.” Iverson averaged 31.1 points in his MVP season and a career-high 33.0 in 2005-06.
Snow was asked how many points Iverson would average today.
“Minimum 35, 36,” Snow said. “Easily.”
The difference, Snow said, would be Iverson’s ability to get to the free-throw line. Steph Curry is a better and more efficient shooter than Iverson, but he averaged “only” 23.8 points this season because he rarely got to the free-throw line. Curry averaged 4.2 free-throw attempts per game this season; Iverson regularly averaged nine or 10 – and he did so in an era when games weren’t officiated as tightly.
If Iverson played today? Wow.
Said Snow, “He’ll get you 20 points a half.”