Fantasy basketball history: 1982’s best wasn’t Larry Bird or Magic, but Don Buse

Basketball

We’re going back nearly 30 years, to 1982 when the MVP was Moses Malone and the careers of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were just getting started. The same can be said for a few stats and elements of the NBA. Steals and blocks were eight years old but turnovers became official as late as 1978. The three-point line came even later, making its appearance in the 1979-80 season. 

Don Buse, a point guard for the Indiana Pacers, took advantage of all of those, save for blocks. He led the NBA in steals in 1977 (67 more than second-place Slick Watts), was rarely ever turnover prone, and in 1982 led the league in made threes (73). All of those relatively new statistics made him the best fantasy basketball player for ’82’s 9-category leagues, according to RotoMonster, narrowly beating out Larry Bird, Julius Erving, and Alex English. In 8-category ones, Buse was 10th.

Bird, Erving, and English were better contributors across the board but they all hurt themselves in 9-cats with their turnovers, something only Buse and Kyle Macy were positives in when looking at the top 10 players of ’82. That, and three-point shooting was nowhere close to a category several players contributed to. You could get scoring, rebounding and plenty other stats in later rounds of the draft but miss out on Buse, who made more threes than 19 of the 22 other teams in the league, and that category was all but lost.

That’s not to say Buse was an obvious draft pick for those who played fantasy basketball in the ’80s. (You’re pretty awesome if you did.) His #1 ranking in ’82 is sandwiched between two finishes outside the top 100, according to RotoMonster. Fantasy basketball would’ve been interesting back then, a time when the league had seven less teams than today. You could probably draft five Lakers or Celtics and, since five of each team were often ranked in the top 60, you would fare pretty dang well.

But you might miss out on hidden gems. In 1982, that was Don Buse.

For another post about players who came out of nowhere in fantasy basketball, check this out.

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