It’s September 1 here on NBA Tuesday, and there is another fun season to unpack and analyze in terms of awards: 1973. The New York Knicks won the NBA title for the last time (so far?), which is interesting enough in itself. And the Indiana Pacers emerged as the ABA champions … go figure!
Here is our assessment of the awards for both leagues.
1973 NBA MVP: Dave Cowens (original), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (revised)
Boston Celtics center Dave Cowens won the MVP vote by finishing sixth in Win Shares (11.96) and out of the Top 10 for Player Efficiency Rating. We can’t take him seriously as a contender here for that reason, even if the Celtics won 68 games to post the best record in the league. Clearly, Cowens wasn’t dominant enough to be the primary reason Boston was so good.
Besides, again, the same player led the NBA in WS (21.86) and PER (28.45), while also leading his team to 60 victories and a division title: guess who? Milwaukee Bucks center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was once again the best player in the league, hands down. Like Wilt Chamberlain before him, the sabermetric realities just cannot be ignored, year-in and year-out.
The Big Fella didn’t lead the NBA in any statistical categories, strangely, but he scored 30.2 points per game, while grabbing 16.1 rebounds per game and dishing out 5.0 assist per game. The assists were a career high at this point in his career, and Abdul-Jabbar also shot 55.4 percent from the floor.
1973 ABA MVP: Billy Cunningham (original), Artis Gilmore (revised)
The two best players in the league were Kentucky Colonels center Artis Gilmore (1st in WS, 3rd in PER) and Carolina Cougars power forward Billy Cunningham (3rd in WS, 2nd in PER). The Cougars edged the Colonels by one game for the Eastern Division crown.
On paper and in sabermetric terms, Gilmore was still the better player, just as Cunningham’s team was better overall. However, Gilmore and his teammate Dan Issel carried the Colonels quite dominantly as a duo, whereas Cunningham was the leader of a very deep roster.
Gilmore’s WS edge (18.5 to 11.9) was much higher than Cunningham’s PER edge (24.7 to 24.1) as well, meaning we have to go with Gilmore here again for overall excellence and value.
1973 NBA ROTY: Bob McAdoo (original, confirmed)
The Buffalo Braves won just 21 games, but rookie center Bob McAdoo posted 3.8 WS for the team nonetheless. However, the Portland Trail Blazers also won 21 games behind their rookie center Lloyd Neal and his 4.8 WS mark.
No other rookie topped 2.3 WS on the season, so these were really the best two first-year guys in the league. In terms of PER, McAdoo had a distinct edge (16.8 to 15.2). McAdoo also went on to have the better career, although that is irrelevant to this analysis.
We will err on the side of caution and confirm McAdoo’s award, since we can’t really find any flaw with either player’s credentials here. We would not argue if someone told us we were “wrong” either.
1973 ABA ROTY: Brian Taylor (original), James Silas (revised)
The New York Nets posted a 30-54 record, while their rookie point guard Brian Taylor won the ROTY vote by posting 3.6 WS and 13.6 PER. However, there may have been a better candidate for the award, according to sabermetrics.
The Dallas Chapparals won just 28 games, but their rookie shooting guard James Silas bested Taylor with 7.4 WS and 14.5 PER marks. Silas also played 15 more games on the season than Taylor did, and even though Taylor’s team finished a little better overall, it’s clear Silas was the better player for a more significant amount of the season overall.