In ESPN Insider's "What if they played now?" series, we'll translate the statistics of stars of the '80s and '90s to the present-day environment to give an idea of how they might have stacked up to their new contemporaries. Each season's stat line is compared to league average at the time, then projected using the current NBA averages. The latest subject is three-time MVP Moses Malone.
Center is no longer the marquee position in the NBA that it once was. Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic is the only real throwback to an era when 7-footers dominated the paint at both ends and served as their team's first option on offense in the post. Howard suffers in part from the lack of a true rival. Whereas Bill Russell had Wilt Chamberlain and Hakeem Olajuwon had David Robinson and Patrick Ewing, Howard has no equivalent center to test him.
So let's give him one. Few centers ruled below the rim as effectively as Moses Malone, who won three MVPs from 1979 through 1983 and helped lead the Philadelphia 76ers to the 1983 championship. Like Howard, Malone went pro straight out of high school, and he played all the way to the verge of his 40th birthday. In our scenario, we'll imagine that he was part of the same high school class as Amare Stoudemire. Had Malone been able to spend two years in a rival league like the ABA, he would have reached the NBA in 2004-05, just as Howard was beginning his career, and would now be in his prime.
Because the NBA did not yet track turnovers in 1977-78, we can't translate Malone's stat line for that season, so we'll begin with his first MVP campaign -- 2005-06, in our vision. Here are his statistics updated to modern times.