The 2014 NBA playoffs are shaping up to be some of the best ever. In the first round alone, we were treated to five Game 7s, a number of down-to-the-wire finishes, and one, unforgettablebuzzer-beater. The second round hasn't been quite as eventful thus far, but with match-ups like the San Antonio Spurs versus the Portland Trail Blazers and the Oklahoma City Thunderversus the Los Angeles Clippers, it doesn't figure to be long before the competition starts to heat up.
Indeed, it will remind any basketball fan of the league's best days, when stars like Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Isiah Thomas ruled the hardwood. After all, with players likeLeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Chris Paul still playing, how could we not think of how they fit in with the all-time greats?

With that idea in mind, we thought it'd be best to match-up all the best players of today with all the best players of yesterday, giving us the Stars of This Year's Playoffs And Their Golden Era NBA Equivalents

Note: Players who have already been knocked out of the playoffs were not included on this list. So don't expect to see Stephen Curry or James Harden anywhere.

Lance Stephenson / John Starks

Statistical comparison: Stephenson: 9.1 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.1 APG Starks: 12.5 PPG, 3.6 APG, 2.5 RPG

Even with just four seasons under his belt, Stephenson has proven to have a number of similar qualities to former New York Knicks shooting guard John Starks: swagger, toughness, and a frustrating polarity that can leave fans either thrilled or deflated. Starks had a number of moments both heroic and bone-headed throughout his days as a Knick that will forever be etched in the minds of countless New Yorkers. Shots were missed and made in moments both big and small. Big wins were earned and championships were lost.

With the Indiana Pacers, Stephenson has shown himself to be a similarly unpredictable player. One moment, he's crossing up an opponent with jaw-dropping ease, and then the next moment he's talking smack to LeBron James. Born Ready is way more talented than Starks ever was but both share a fearlessness that teammates can appreciate.

Tony Parker / Kevin Johnson

Statistical comparison: Parker: 17.1 PPG, 6.0 APG, 3.0 RPG / Johnson: 17.9 PPG, 9.1 APG, 3.3 RPG

With fellow superstar Charles Barkley on the roster, Kevin Johnson led the Phoenix Suns to some of the franchise's best years, taking Phoenix to the NBA Finals in the 1992-1993 season after finishing the regular season with a 62-20 record.

Similarly, Tony Parker has been a part of San Antonio's formidable one-two punch with Tim Duncan for years now—not to mention their other All-Star teammate Manu Ginobili. Of course, Parker has been able to sustain a longer impact than the game than Johnson, racking up six All-Star nods compared to Johnson's three. And rings? Parker's got a few to share if KJ ever feels empty-handed. But one thing is for sure, both guys share similar games.

Like K.J., Parker is the engine that makes his team go. His scoring and passing make up a good chunk of San Antonio's offense. 

Paul George / Scottie Pippen

Statistical comparison: George: 15.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.9 APG / Pippen: 16.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 5.2 APG

As one of the game's best small forwards, Scottie Pippen defined the role of a star sidekick throughout the '90s, playing second fiddle to his legendary teammate Michael Jordan. With the Indiana Pacers, Paul George has been thrust into the lead role as a superstar, but as the regular season and this post-season have revealed to us, he is perhaps better off in a secondary role like Pippen.

When Jordan left the NBA to go play baseball in the mid-'90s, his talent was confirmed as a necessary element to Chicago's success. Without Jordan, Pippen was forced to play the alpha-dog role, and while he was able to lead the Bulls back to the playoffs, he could only take them so far. Their build and ability to play both ends of the floor at a high level mirror each other, but George isn't at a Hall of Fame level just yet.

If George wants to make good on the MVP and superstar talk that was following him throughout last year's post-season and early this season, then he'll have to raise his game a few notches. Beating Washington would be a good start. 

Bradley Beal / Joe Dumars

Statistical comparison: Beal: 15.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.9 APG / Dumars: 16.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.2 APG 

Joe Dumars may seem like a boring equivalent to make for a player like Beal, who is currently making his name as a potential star in this year's playoffs. In Game 1 of his current series against the Indiana Pacers, Beal lit up Indiana for the Wizards, posting a 25-7-7-5 stat line in a 102-96 victory. Though Washington lost in Game 2, nothing is certain yet for Indiana so long as they let Beal and Wall running wild.

However, that's exactly the point you have to make with Beal: it's hard to see him thriving without Wall. Beal is still incredibly green at just 20 years old, and didn't prove himself as much of anything other than a scorer this season. While his playoff statistics have been promising thus far, we have yet to see Beal elevate to this level for a full season. 

So, as of now, Dumars seems like the best fit for Beal. Joe D was no slouch himself, winning the 1989 Finals MVP for the Detroit Pistons as the sidekick to Isiah Thomas. And throughout his award-winning championship series, Dumars posted 27.3 PPG. Right now, the Wizards would love to see Beal do his best Dumars impression, especially with John Wall maturing right before our very eyes.

Chris Bosh / Horace Grant

Statistical comparison: Bosh: 19.2 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.0 APG / Grant: 11.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 2.2 APG

Chris Bosh is surely a better player than Horace Grant ever was, even when Grant earned an All-Star nod during his days with the Chicago Bulls. Since joining the Big Three, Bosh has been continually underrated by the media, and his strengths as a Toronto Raptor are often unfairly forgotten because of the spotlight on Dwayne Wade and LeBron James. 

However, it was also by joining the Big Three that Chris Bosh was able to play a key role on a championship team, and that's ultimately what makes his comparison to Horace—a role player next to stars like Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan—so fitting. Like Grant, Bosh has been better suited to a supporting role on a team, stepping in when he needs to, but ultimately deferring to his more talented teammates.

John Wall / Tim Hardaway

Statistical comparison: Wall: 17.7 PPG, 8.3 APG, 4.3 RPG / Hardaway: 17.7 PPG, 8.2 APG, 3.3 RPG

One way or another, Tim Hardaway and John Wall are the type of players who are going to put their opponents on their ass. With Hardaway, we remember his lethal crossover as a move that fooled more than a few players, including Michael Jordan. In Wall's case, it's his gut-busting quickness that will wear down his defenders. On the break, Wall is able to cut through any defense, beating the opposition down the court for a thundering dunk or a too-easy lay-in.

A fast-break pace is something that Hardaway knows all about as well, as the former All-Star once formed one part of the Run-TMC trio alongside Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond with the Golden State Warriors. In fact, Hardaway was so prolific during that time that he reached 5,000 points and 2,500 assists faster than any player in NBA history aside from Oscar Robertson. Wall isn't quite at that level, but he has the potential to be a fast, athletic All-Star in Hardaway's mold.

Tim Duncan / David Robinson

Statistical comparison: Duncan: 19.9 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 3.1 APG / Robinson: 21.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 2.5 APG

When you take a look at their numbers side-by-side, it's easy to see who Tim Duncan learned all of his skills from. David Robinson served as a mentor to a young Timmy for years before finally hanging it up after the 2002-2003 season. Of course, by that time, Duncan had already wrapped up back-to-back MVPs after learning so much under Robinson's tutelage. 

Like Robinson towards the end of his career, it's Duncan's leadership that will be a crucial element for the San Antonio Spurs. Duncan's veteran presence is a key component to San Antonio's success in the playoffs this year, and it could ultimately be what makes the difference against their current, less experienced opponent, the Portland Trail Blazers.

Blake Griffin / Shawn Kemp

Statistical comparison: Griffin: 21.4 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 3.7 APG / Kemp: 14.6 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.6 APG

If you want eye-popping, jump-out-of-the-gym athleticism in today's NBA, Blake Griffin remains one of your best options. The former Slam Dunk champion has succeeded in refining and diversifying his game in various ways this season, but as a whole, Griffin's defining trait is the leaping ability that allows him to finish out alley-oops and hurdle Kias.

Of course, he's not the only big man who has ever blown us away with his leaping ability. Once upon a time, it was Shawn Kemp who was running the league ragged in the post, back when he was in his prime with the Seattle SuperSonics. Unfortunately, Kemp's reign as Reign Man was relatively short-lived, but before his weight ballooned and other problems began to emerge, Kemp was known for rocking rims in an utterly ruthless fashion.

Given that Griffin is essentially the mayor of Lob City, he's also proven his status as an all-time great dunker more than enough times. And to be fair to Blake, with the help of Doc Rivers, his game is much improved and is on his way to being more skilled than Kemp.

LaMarcus Aldridge / Tim Duncan

Statistical comparison: Aldridge: 18.9 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.0 APG / Duncan: 19.9 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 3.1 APG

Comparing a young Big Fundamental and LaMarcus Aldridge makes sense on a couple of different levels. A) Neither player is known for having a flashy trademark maneuver. The defining element to Aldridge's game is that he has a silky mid-range jumper. Meanwhile, the only thing people can pin down on Duncan is that he likes to use the backboard.

Secondly, both players have been models of consistency throughout their respective careers. While Aldridge made a decent leap in his scoring output a few seasons back, he's been able to average 20-plus PPG in every season since while shooting over 45 percent in each year.

Meanwhile, Duncan has shot over 48 percent throughout his entire career, and averaged over 20 PPG in nine of his first 10 seasons. You can be sure that LaMarcus has been taking notes.

Chris Paul / Isiah Thomas

Statistical comparison: Paul: 18.6 PPG, 9.9 APG, 2.4 SPG / Thomas: 19.2 PPG, 9.3 APG, 1.9 SPG

Chris Paul has already earned comparisons to Isiah Thomas this year, and for good reason. Much like Thomas, Paul is one of the defining point guards of his generation, standing far and away as the best floor general currently in the game. Furthermore, both players have been defined by their toughness and attitude, often evincing a distinct caginess and unwillingness to back down.

With Thomas, these qualities, along with his floor vision and scoring ability, eventually yielded two NBA titles for him and his Detroit Pistons. For years, Paul has been waiting for the same opportunity, and with his teammate Blake Griffin playing at an all-time high, now seems like his best chance to further legitimize his standing next to Thomas.

LeBron James / Magic Johnson

Statistical comparison: James: 27.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 6.9 APG / Johnson: 19.5 PPG, 11.2 APG, 7.2 RPG

When it comes to describing their respective games, versatility will always be a common thread between Magic Johnson and LeBron James. We have all heard the story or remember seeing Magic Johnson when he stepped in at center for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in a dominating Game 6 performance during the 1980 NBA Finals. However, James has displayed a similar willingness and flexibility with his position on the court.

Playing for the undersized Heat, James has often had to step into a power forward or center role for the team, even matching up with big men like Tim Duncan when it's absolutely necessary. One look at his frame tells you that James is no physical slouch, and his body has allowed him to emerge as one of the most unique physical specimens in NBA history. As a 6'9" former point guard, Johnson could surely relate.

Kevin Durant / Michael Jordan

Statistical comparison: Durant: 27.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 3.4 APG / Jordan: 30.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.3 APG

Everyone loves to compare Michael Jordan and LeBron James, but now that Kevin Durant has one MVP under his belt and is looking to get over the championship hump, a comparison to young Michael Jordan feels more apt for KD. Jordan and Durant both possess phenomenal scoring abilities, evidenced by the multiple scoring titles they each racked up within their first seven seasons in the league.

While Jordan was able to capture an MVP earlier in his career than Durant, it was in M.J.'s second MVP season that he won his first NBA title. Is similar success on the way for Durant? Early in his career, Jordan had the Celtics and the Bad Boy Pistons standing in the way of his championship aspirations, while Durant has had to contend with the Lakers, Mavs, Spurs, and the Miami Heat.

Perhaps this will be the year that Durant is able to add not only an MVP to his mantle, but a Finals MVP as well.

Source: complex.com BY GUS TURNER
 


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