We enter a new phase in the NBA Tuesday world as we reach 1964, in the 15th week of our journey into professional basketball’s past. Not only will we continue with our analyses of MVP awards, but we are adding the Rookie of the Year (ROTY) to our plate this year as well.
Why? Well, the award had been given out since the 1952-53 season, but this season marks the first vote in a continuous tradition that has lasted to this day, and that is a significant legitimization of the award as meaningful. So we are going with it now.
Enjoy our version of NBA expansion …
1964 MVP: Oscar Robertson (original), Wilt Chamberlain (revised)
The Cincinnati Royals finished 55-25, just four games behind the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Division. The San Francisco Warriors won the Western Division with a 48-32 record, topping the St. Louis Hawks by two games in the standings.
The top two players in the NBA were Cincinnati point guard Oscar Robertson and San Francisco center Wilt Chamberlain, but not in that order. Chamberlain topped the league in both Win Shares (24.98) and Player Efficiency Rating (31.63), and Robertson was second in both sabermetric categories (20.65 WS, 27.64 PER).
On paper, the Stilt had the better season, and the Big O had a lot of help from a rookie stud, too (see below). So, despite the fact Chamberlain averaged a mere 36.9 points per game to lead the league, he posted the highest WS mark of his career. Coincidentally, his PER was the third best of his career.
There’s no doubt Robertson was an MVP-level performer, and Wilt did finish second in the MVP vote at the time. It’s just hard to ignore the best single-season WS effort of Chamberlain’s career, especially when he played on a division winner.
For the record, the Stilt also led the NBA in minutes played for the fifth straight year (46.1 per game), while grabbing 22.3 rebounds per contest. He averaged 5.0 assists per game, too, which was the best number of his career at that point, all while shooting 52.4 percent from the floor. This is his fourth MVP award in our analyses, as no other player has more than two right now.
1964 ROTY: Jerry Lucas (original, confirmed)
The Royals got a stellar season from their new power forward, Jerry Lucas, who averaged 17.7 points and 17.4 rebounds per outing in support of Robertson’s stellar backcourt play.
Only three players garnered votes for this award at the time, and Lucas was the best of them by far. Was anyone left out of the ballot process unfairly? No, as a quick glance of the top WS and PER producers for the season shows us that Lucas was topped only by veteran players.
This an easy award vote to confirm.