The modern NBA is a far cry from the NBA of the late 90s and early 2000s. The NBA is well known to have been a more physical era and an era that was slower in terms of pace. It is known that one of the reasons that the NBA has gone to a more offensive style is Stephen Curry and the Warriors. The defense that you can play in the modern NBA isn't as tough as the one from the 90s, and that has led to an explosion in offensive talent.
While a lot of older players say they could have played in the modern era, one of the people that doesn't think so is Kevin Garnett. Kevin Garnett is a former MVP and has won a championship ring with the Boston Celtics. Kevin Garnett commented on the issue in an article by David Marchese:
The game is at another level. I know you said that you made the team with Vancouver, but I want you to get on a court, sprint corner to corner, stop on a dime and shoot a 3. I want you to do 10 of those. Then I want you to focus on how tired you are. Because these players do that for 48 minutes. I don’t think guys from 20 years ago could play in this game. Twenty years ago, guys used their hands to control players. Now you can’t use your hands. That makes defense damn near impossible. Can you imagine not hand-checking Michael Jordan? Naw. The fact that you can’t touch players gives the offensive player so much flexibility. Defensive players have to take angles away and stuff like that. But if you have any creativity and ambition, you can be a great offensive player in this league. The fadeaways, one-leg runners, the one-leg balance shots — that’s stuff that Dirk Nowitzki brought to our game. And now when I watch Joker play, it feels like he has taken that Dirkness and mixed it with his own talent. And Steph Curry revolutionized things with being able to shoot it from distance with such consistency. Klay Thompson. Dame Lillard. These guards changed the game. I don’t know if even the guards from 20 or 30 years ago could play in this time right here. It’s creative. It’s competitive. It’s saucy. You’ll get dropped! A [expletive] will cross you over and break your A.C.L. these days. The game is in a great place.
Kevin Garnett highlights the creativity on offense that modern players possess, talking about Joker mixing Dirk's game with his own, and Stephen Curry consistently shooting from range. The NBA is completely evolving, and Kevin Garnett recognizes that. He realizes that a key difference now is the lessened ability of the defender to use their hands on the player. The defenders of prior eras wouldn't be able to use their physicality or hand check the opponent, meaning that the offensive players of today could light them up.
While Kevin Garnett has a point with the offensive flexibility that the league has, there are certainly some players who would transcend eras like Shaquille O'Neal. We will never see players of the past play in today's league, but it's always fun to speculate on what players could do with the new offensive freedom in the NBA.