This is the 14th week of NBA Tuesday, and we have arrived in 1963. This season is interesting as the Warriors franchise moved to San Francisco, and the Chicago Packers changed their name to the Chicago Zephyrs.
We had another season, too, where the voted MVP was not the real MVP. How did this happen again? Enjoy our analysis and explanation below … this was difficult.
1963 MVP: Bill Russell (original), Elgin Baylor (revised)
Boston Celtics center Bill Russell won the MVP award again, despite finishing seventh in Win Shares (WS) and outside the Top 10 in Player Efficiency Rating (PER). The Celtics won 58 games to win the Eastern Division by 10 games over the Syracuse Nationals, and that clearly influenced the voters (again).
Warrior center Wilt Chamberlain topped the NBA in both WS (20.94) and PER (31.82) again, and he finished seventh in the MVP vote—that may have been understandable, as San Francisco won just 31 games and missed the playoffs, finishing three games behind the Detroit Pistons for the final postseason berth in the Western Division.
However, it’s interesting to see the Stilt’s WS number and the team’s win total. That’s an insane ratio … and something to keep in mind.
Who else should be considered for the award? Cincinnati Royals point guard Oscar Robertson was second in WS (16.80) and fifth in PER (24.63), and his team won 42 games to finish third in the Eastern Division and make the playoffs.
Los Angeles Lakers small forward Elgin Baylor helped his team to 53 wins and the Western Division crown, while finishing third in WS (14.39) and second in PER (26.63). After Chamberlain, he was probably the second-best player in the NBA during this year.
Finally, at age 30, St. Louis Hawks power forward Bob Pettit finished fourth in WS (14.28) and third in PER (24.97) as his team won 48 games to finish five wins behind the Lakers in the Western Division.
The question is really this: Chamberlain almost single-handedly carried the terrible Warriors to a playoff berth. He was by far the best player in the league, but was he the most valuable? Without him, S.F. finishes as the worst team in the NBA. Was he dominant enough to claim another MVP award over (in order) Baylor, Robertson, or Pettit?
The Stilt topped his peers in scoring (44.8 points per game), rebounding (24.3 boards per game), shooting percentage (.528), and minutes played (47.6 per game). None of the other three players worthy of the MVP award led the league in anything, although Baylor, Chamberlain, and Robertson all tied for an NBA-best 80 games played.
What this tells us once more is that Chamberlain had the highest usage rating in the league, as well as the best PER mark. The rest of his starting teammates were obviously not stellar:
- PG Al Attles: 3.4 WAR
- PF Tom Meschery: 3.0 WAR
- SG Guy Rodgers: 2.5 WAR
- SF Willie Nauls: 1.2 WAR
Now, we have to account for Wilt’s usage rate; these guys didn’t have a very good chance to compile a high WS total, because Chamberlain’s PER was so good that it mandated him getting the ball more often than not. If the coach—Bob Feerick, who would not be the coach the following season—thought this was the best strategy, it was what it was.
However, Rodgers actually led the NBA in assists (10.4 per game), a feat he repeated in the 1966-67 season without Wilt to toss the ball to for easy buckets. It is quite possible Feerick sunk the Warriors by not letting Rodgers get the ball to other players more often, even if Chamberlain was the best option more often than not. Isn’t that the point’s job, to figure it out each time down the court?
Rodgers was more than capable of finding the open guy: Attles averaged double digits in scoring without averaging double digits in shot attempts, for example. Each of those four starters above, too, averaged double digits in scoring. This really may have been coaching that hurt the Warriors more than Wilt’s supporting cast as a better offensive strategy—or a defensive one, for that matter—really would have helped.
With that in mind, we lean toward Baylor for the MVP award, as Robertson picked the wrong season (1961-62) to average a triple double, and he did not manage that stellar feat again during this season—and Rodgers’ ability to top the NBA in assists, Robertson’s best stat category, minimizes the Big O’s value a wee bit.
This was a tough decision, because Chamberlain was obviously still so good: Yet we will point out that Baylor finished second in the MVP vote at the time, so he’s the best candidate for the award on multiple levels. For the record, Baylor averaged 34.0 ppg, 14.3 rpg, and 4.8 apg, while shooting a career-high 83.7 percent from the free-throw line, too.
That’s good enough for the sabermetrics and common sense.