James Worthy is considered, by many, to be one of the 50 greatest players of all time. Tom Chambers is considered, by many, to be one of the 100 greatest players of all time. James Worthy was lucky enough to play with one of the greatest fast break offenses of all time. He also played with the greatest point guard ever (Magic), one of the greatest centers ever (Kareem), and one of the greatest coaches ever (Riley). Chambers played with an awful Clippers team, average Sonic teams, and a very good Suns team (Nothing close to the Lakers). Chambers played with Kevin Johnson (Nothing close to Magic), a great power forward (Barkley, who is not even close to Kareem), and two coaches (Cotton Fitzsimmons who is a good coach, and Westphal a great coach). I'm not saying he played with poor teammates, (in fact he played with great teammates) but Worthy played with one of the greatest franchises of all time. Not only did his team fit his system, but he was fit with some of the greatest fast breakers of all time. Here is where it raises the question. What if Chambers and Worthy switched positions in history? Would Chambers be one of the 50-60 greatest players of all time? Would Worthy be considered one of the 90-100 greatest players of all time? Please feel free to comment your opinion and follow me on twitter @CJ_H_12.
How did they turn out without switching roles?
Worthy - 12 year Laker career, 17.6 PPG, 3 APG, 5 RPG for his career, and 3 time NBA Champion.
Chambers - 16 year Clipper, Sonic, Sun, Jazz, Hornet, and 76er career, 18 PPG, 2 APG, 6 RPG for his career, and 0 time NBA Champion.
Obviously, Chambers has proven that he can play well without a great supporting cast. Did Worthy? I looked at the years after Magic retired, and his PPG and RPG dropped. His APG rose though. This doesn't surprise me. Without Magic feeding Worthy on every fast break, he had to score in the half court offense. When he was on the fast break it was almost impossible to stop him, but on the half-court offense he was definitely not unstoppable. He was still good, but not very good. That's why his PPG dropped about 5 points. His RPG dropped because he was getting older and without the fast break, I imagine there were fewer shots which meant less rebound opportunities. His APG rose because he could he feed more people. He could feed more people because he didn't have wide open dunks and lay ups anymore. All in all, this is what his stats look like without Magic:
Without Magic: 14.4 PPG, 3.2 APG, 3.4 RPG, and 43.5% FG%.
With Magic: 18.6 PPG, 3 APG, 5.6 RPG, and 54.6% FG%.
We have to remember that Worthy was growing old. Still, 54% to 43% from the field! If Chambers had 54% from the field, he would be scoring in the mid 20's. This shows what an impact Magic had on easy shots. If Chambers played with Magic, he might be scoring more than Worthy!
How might they have turned out if they switched roles?
To determine this I took Worthy's FG% with Magic, and mixed it with Chambers FGA in 1989 (Kareem shot a career low 9 FGA that year). Worthy's FG% with Magic is 54.6%. Tom Chambers FGA in 1989 was 20 FGA (I will not lower this because 5 players on the 1989 Suns shot 10 or higher field goals a game. On the 1989 Lakers, only 3 players shot 10 or higher field goals a game). When you combine this you get 10.92 FGM a game. THIS IS NOT PPG. Knowing Chambers shot 1 three pointer a game, the approximate PPG would be 23 PPG. Now we have to calculate the free throws. Worthy averaged 4 free throws a game. Chambers FT% was 85% in 1989. Combine those two and you get 3.4 FTM a game. 3.4 added to 23 equals 26.4 PPG. That's about 6 points higher than Worthy and 1 point higher than his average in 1989. We can never find out how many exact field goals Chambers would have shot, but we can estimate. 23-26 PPG is my estimate.
Could Chambers fit with the Lakers fast break offense?
He would, without a doubt, fit with the Lakers. He was a fast breaking forward like Worthy.
Q: What if Magic played with Chambers instead of Worthy?
A: The Lakers (83-94) still win 3 championships, Magic's assist total goes up (Passes Mark Jackson most likely), Chambers is considered one of the 50 greatest players of all time, Worthy is considered one of the 100-150 greatest players of all time, and history is changed forever.