Well, the time has come for a significant change to NBA Tuesday, where we now get to analyze the American Basketball Association (ABA), too, for the next nine seasons. From the 1967-68 season to the 1975-76 season, the ABA did to the NBA what the AFL did to the NFL: mixed it up and forced a merger.
Exciting times, and there’s not a moment to lose getting to it—even if we did end up confirming all four award winners this time around, a definite first for NBA Tuesday!
1968 NBA MVP: Wilt Chamberlain (original, confirmed)
In this season where a 29-win Chicago Bulls team made the postseason, it’s an easy MVP Award to announce: The Philadelphia 76ers posted the league’s best record (62-20), and their center Wilt Chamberlain once again led the NBA in both Win Shares (20.38) and Player Efficiency Rating (24.71).
This is the Stilt’s seventh MVP Award, and no one else has more than two in our analyses. For this season, Chamberlain led the NBA in minutes played (46.8 per game), field-goal percentage (.595), and rebounds (23.8 per game), while adding 24.3 points each contest.
We should not that while Chamberlain’s WS mark beat the next-best player by over 8 wins, his PER was barely better than the runner up (24.56). That’s how close Cincinnati Royals point guard Oscar Robertson came to making this a decent debate—although with just 39 wins in the East, his team missed the postseason.
1968 ABA MVP: Connie Hawkins (original, confirmed)
We have an open-and-shut case in the ABA as well, because the Pittsburgh Pipers posted a league-best 54-24 record, and their center Connie Hawkins pulled the double double, too—topping the new league in WS (17.87) and PER (28.78).
Hawkins, who has a fascinating backstory tinged with racist discrimination by the NCAA and the NBA, topped the ABA in minutes played (44.9 mpg) and scoring average (26.8 ppg), while also posting a .519 shooting percentage, 13.5 rpg, and 4.6 assists per game. At age 25, he was playing his first real professional season, and he was pretty darn good.
1968 NBA ROTY: Earl Monroe (original, confirmed)
The rookie first team consisted of New York Knicks teammates point guard Walt Frazier and power forward Phil Jackson—yes, that Phil Jackson—in addition to Baltimore Bullets shooting guard Earl Monroe and a pair of Seattle SuperSonics teammates: center Bob Rule and power forward Al Tucker.
The two Knickerbockers rookie combined for just 4.0 WS, while Tucker posted a modest 2.3 WS. Meanwhile, Monroe was tops with 9.3 WS, and Rule’s 6.4 WS was impressive as well. In a WS/48 context, Monroe comes out as the best with his .148 mark topping Rule’s .127 mark. By all standards, Rule was a very good rookie.
But Monroe—famously nicknamed The Pearl, Black Jesus, Black Magic, and Einstein—was obviously better. He averaged 24.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, and 4.3 apg for a last-place team, while Rule averaged 18.1 ppg, 9.5 rpg, and 1.2 apg for a team that won 13 games fewer than Baltimore. Neither guy had postseason “value” obviously, so that’s irrelevant here.
1968 ABA ROTY: Mel Daniels (original, confirmed)
In the new league, Hawkins was not considered a rookie due his professional status playing in minor leagues since his college suspension. So the first team was comprised of Pipers power forward Trooper Washington, Kentucky Colonels point guard Louie Dampier, Minnesota Muskies center Mel Daniels, New Orleans Buccaneers shooting guard Jimmy Jones, and Indiana Pacers power forward Bob Netolicky.
All these guys posted serious WS totals overall and per 48 minutes: Washington (6.0, .157); Dampier (5.4, .088); Daniels (9.2, 1.50); Jones (9.3, .137); and Netolicky (7.4, .139) were a great bunch of rookies. However, the Pipers and the Buccaneers won their respective divisions, giving a leg up to Washington and Jones there.
The Colonels and the Pacers did make the postseason, but both teams finished under. 500 on the season, while the Muskies managed a second-place finish just four games behind the Pipers. That leaves us with Washington, Daniels, and Jones. Here is a comparison:
- Washington: .157 WS/48, league-high .525 effective FG%, 11.6 ppg, 10.7 rpg
- Daniels: .150 WS/48, league-high 15.6 rpg, 22.2 ppg
- Jones: .137 WS/48, 18.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.3 apg
Jones looks to be out, for having the lowest WS/48 and not leading the league in any category. The key here is that Daniels played in 15 more games than Washington did, and that is a significant chunk of the season. Value comes in all forms, but doing what Daniels did for 20 percent of the season more than what Washington did is key.