Originally Posted by Owl
Could he play the 3 as he did back then, well, I wouldn't want him defending the 3 versus the present athletes at the position(and indeed he didn't necessarily do so back then, when on court with McHale, McHale usually took the better offensive player).
Well at some point he guarded dudes like Wilkins, Worthy, Erving, Woolridge, Pressey, great athletes in any era, plus really strong guys like King, Dantley and Aguirre.
Yeah since '86 McHale guarded more the 3, basically because he was inserted into the starting lineup, they needed to rest Bird and he already had back issues.
The defense back then is being overhyped somewhat. People seemed to concede the J back then a lot more (possibly a relic of the pre-3 point line era), and the percentages do seem to show that defense wasn't as good (relative to the eras offense), and that so many of the eras scorers were small forwards (Dantley, King, English, Wilkins, Vandeweghe, Tripucka, Aguirre, Marques Johnson, Purvis Short, Jay Vincent, Orlando Woolridge, Xavier McDaniel, Mike Mitchell, John Drew plus others that verged on the era and/or swung between the 2 and 3 like Wilkes, Erving, Walter Davis (mostly a 2 in the 80s but played both), Dale Ellis, Ricky Pierce, Chuck Person, Eddie Johnson and Calvin Natt). So I do think that was a position it was easy get points from.
Don't forget that the midrange and off-ball game was definitely better back then, that helps a lot, scorers nowadays on most cases, learn more to drive and shoot 3's and can only mostly play with the ball in their hands. Also you had SF's with much better postgames.
I don't think it was easier to get points from, you just had great scorers at the 3 in the 80's, not like everyone you mentioned were getting like 25 PPG.
Of the defenders OP lists, the first set of genuine elite defenders, few played their prime with Birds prime (and there are some like MJ who I'm guessing weren't regularly covering him). Maybe only Cooper and he wasn't a starter.
Sellers was lousy, most of the "athletes" were poor defenders, I would have assumed Cummings and Grant were covering McHale, and Clifford Robinson played Bird a grand total of 6 times and played less than 20 minutes per game.
I saw many games with Bird vs. MJ, they tried to put MJ on him many times at first but then just gave up because he murdered him in the post.
Bobby Jones was an elite defender and was still in his prime in the 80's, Rodman was in perimeter D prime in the late 80's, eraly 90's, Pip was already a great defender in the early 90's, Cooper was put many times on the floor to cover Bird.
Sellers was never a great player but you still see him contest Bird's shot pretty well, and he was a 7 footer that could jump and very mobile, still Bird scored over him easily.
Pressey, McCray, Erving, Bobby Jones, Cooper, Rodman, Pippen, Kersey, McDaniel, Wilkes, Nance, Roundfield, Buck Williams, Worthy... Were great athletes and (at least) nice defensive players.
Grant covered Bird many times in the early 90's. Yeah he didn't play much against Clifford but like the vid shows he could easily shoot over him, old, overweight and with a wrecked back.