It’s a special year for this NBA Tuesday series, for secret reasons we cannot divulge. But trust us on this one … both the ABA and the NBA had interesting award votes (see below) worth firm analysis in 1971.
So enjoy the read!
1971 NBA MVP: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (original, confirmed)
This is one of the easiest confirmations we’ve ever done here in this space. Milwaukee Bucks center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was No. 1 in Win Shares (22.31) and Player Efficiency Rating (28.95), and the Bucks won 66 games during the regular season—14 more victories than any other team earned.
For the record, the Big Fella led the NBA in scoring (31.7 points per game), while adding 16.0 rebounds per game and 3.3 assists per night as well. He shot 57.7 percent from the floor, too. We suspect he may win a few more of these awards, too, so stay tuned there.
1971 ABA MVP: Mel Daniels (original), Zelmo Beaty (revised)
Utah Stars center Zelmo Beaty was the best player in the league, as the Stars finished with 57 victories. He led the ABA in WS (16.04) and PER (25.22), achieving the same feat as the NBA MVP. However, Indiana Pacers center Mel Daniels was voted the MVP, as his team outdid Utah by one victory.
Daniels was second in WS (16.04) and fourth in PER (21.88), so he clearly was a very good player … but Beaty was better; it’s that simple. At age 31, Beaty led the ABA in shooting percentage (.555), while Daniels topped his peers in rebounding (18.0 rpg).
We wouldn’t argue hard against Daniels for this award, yet it’s impossible to overlook Beaty’s sabermetric value for the second-best (barely) team in the league.
1971 NBA ROTY: Dave Cowens & Geoff Petrie (original), Calvin Murphy (revised)
Look at the All-Rookie Team for this season: Boston Celtics center Dave Cowens, Detroit Pistons center Bob Lanier, Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Pete Maravich, San Diego Rockets point guard Calvin Murphy, and Portland Trailblazers shooting guard Geoff Petrie. That’s an incredible level of talent.
Murphy had the highest WS mark (8.0), by far, while Lanier posted the higher PER mark (20.0). Murphy wasn’t far behind Lanier there, either, with a 19.4 PER number. The Rockets finished 40-42, just one game out of the playoffs, which obviously has a lot to do with Murphy’s contributions.
Cowens (6.4 WS, 15.4 PER) and Petrie (6.2 WS, 17.2 PER) played for teams that also missed the postseason, while Maravich’s team won just 36 games while making the postseason. Considering all factors, Murphy gets this revised award in a relatively easy decision.
1971 ABA ROTY: Dan Issel & Charlie Scott (original), Issel (revised)
Another tie vote here, as Kentucky Colonels center Dan Issel (10.7 WS, 25.0 PER) and Virginia Squires shooting guard Charlie Scott (7.2 WS, 18.8 PER) earned the split award. Clearly, Issel was the better player, and the two teams finished 1-2 in the Eastern Division, both making the playoffs.
No other rookies had the impact these two players did, but Issel topped the ABA in scoring at 29.9 ppg, while Scott scored 27.1 ppg. The Colonels rookie was the better of the two, so we have no issue making this a singular award.
Check in every Tuesday for our NBA awards historical analysis on The Daily McPlay!